This is a post about entrepreneurial motherhood.
It’s about what it looks like to work for yourself – like being a writer, or a blogger, or a business owner – and also have a baby, which means anyone under 18 years old. Babies, all of them.
It’s about answering these questions:
- Can you get work done with a baby at home?
- How do you set a schedule?
- How many hours is too many hours?
- Should you take a maternity leave?
- Will you have time to create?
- What if you just want to quit and be done?
- Or what if you want to work more than ever?
- How do you make the most of the freedom and flexibility?
- When do you STOP working?
When you are making your own way with your work, you don’t really have a handbook for this sort of thing. There’s no “standard” for maternity leave, if you even take one, and no official rules around how to structure your work once you go back.
And this was the post – the conversation, really – that I wish I would have been able to have with a handful of mindful women who are putting their whole heart into both the Business and Baby parts of their lives.
I’m so excited to share the experiences, reflections, and all-around wisdom that these women have shared. My hope is that this is an encouraging celebration of other moms who are thinking YAY WORK and YAY BABY and maybe a little bit of WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING, which, to be honest, is all of us.
It does not feel good to be half there. When I’m with Solvi, I want to be ALL there.
Name: Lindsay Ostrom (hi it’s me!)
Business: All-around content producer and director for Pinch of Yum
Baby: Solvi (8 month old squisher)
Maternity Leave: I took a solid three months off – like, 100% off! And I chose not to prepare posts in advance. Our team worked on a few things while I was out so that Pinch of Yum wouldn’t be totally stagnant, but for the most part, things were quiet. I was at home with Solvi, undistracted, just being a new mom, and everything about that was so, so right for me.
Schedule Now: We have childcare so I can work three days a week, and I’m home with Solvi two days a week. There’s still a lot of grey area – I often work during nights, weekends, and naps. But the more I move towards boundaries, the more I like my schedule.
Biggest Challenge: Staying present. I often find myself playing with Solvi, reading books, watching her reach for toys, and then in the next moment I am grabbing my phone to answer some emails or do a quick check-in on Slack. And it does not feel good to be half there. When I’m with Solvi, I want to be ALL there. I set a goal of spending at least an hour of uninterrupted, phone-free time with her each day which has been awesome. But yeah, as a business owner, it’s surprisingly hard to do that well.
Biggest Surprise: That going back to work was not just “going back to work.” It was leaving my baby – often crying and unsettled – with someone else. It was figuring out when and where to pump (coffee shop bathroom?). It was coming home and realizing we still needed to figure out dinner. It was accepting new limitations on how much I could get done in a day. That whole transition back to work was so much more emotionally and physically exhausting than I was ready for, and I wish I would have done things more slowly. Now, six months in, I am finding my feet again. And by that I mean I am more confident as a mom and I’m realizing that working at “full capacity” is forever going to look different for me than it did for the last 8 years. Splitting my energy between my business and my family is a new skill that I get to learn in this season. And I’m excited about it.
Advice to Yourself: Focus on what will matter 5 years from now. Go slow. Be good to yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I get to tell her “I missed you” when I pick her up every day from preschool now. And I mean it.
Name: Melissa Coleman
Business: Blogger, designer, writer at The Faux Martha
Baby: Hallie, age 5
Maternity Leave: I can’t remember! How telling is that? A little over a year before having Hallie, I took the leap towards working full-time for myself. Juggling new clients, with a husband in grad school, we weren’t in a position for me to take adequate time off—financially or business-wise. I’m also one of those annoying people who thinks I can figure out a better way to do things. Sometimes, I can. But I fell flat on my face with the whole working-mom thing.
Schedule Now: I try to work part-time hours, but always end up working more. Managing my workload, calendar, and expectations have slowly gotten better over the years. I’ve learned my capabilities (and lack thereof) and organized my time accordingly. Hallie is in school every day from 9am-1pm. Next year she starts full-day kindergarten.
Biggest Challenge: I’ve always tried to do everything. Everything all at once. I thought that must be the beauty of a flexible schedule, of being able to work for yourself. It was my best idea that turned out to be, well, maybe not my best idea. Five years deep into motherhood, I’ve finally learned that even a flexible schedule needs a lot of boundaries and structure. I’m not a natural planner, so this has added to my rough transition into working mom-hood. If we were ever to add to our family, I would put a consistent childcare system in place from the start. I have always been in too many places at once and seemingly nowhere at all, if you know what I’m saying.
Biggest Surprise: It’s really good to get the chance to miss someone you love a whole lot. I didn’t get or give myself that chance her first couple years of life, which resulted in a lot of resentment. I get to tell her “I missed you” when I pick her up every day from preschool now. And I mean it.
Advice to Yourself: Know yourself well. Advocate for your needs. For her needs. You can do both.
It’s been such a learning experience for me. I don’t always get it right, but I learn daily, which I’m leaning into with pride & grace lately.
Name: Alex Elle
Business: Author, wellness consultant, and podcast host.
Babies: Charleigh (like Charlie) age 11, Ila (like eye-la) age 15 months, and baby girl number 3 who is due in September.
Maternity Leave: Each pregnancy has been very different. With my first daughter, I was working and in school. My second (10 years later), I was well into my career as an author, so I made time and space for healing and connecting after her birth. I turned in my last manuscript of the year, went on a hiatus from my podcast, and took a step back from teaching retreats and workshops. When I was ready, I took my time easing back into work. With this third baby, I plan to do the same.
Schedule Now: I’m home with the little one 5 days out of the week, and my husband takes over fully every evening, and on his off days which are Tuesday and Wednesday. His schedule is perfect for our familial flow because I get the bulk of my work and recording done when he’s off. And after he’s home from work, I sneak away and get my writing done. We have such a great rhythm down. I’m not sure what that will be like when our new daughter joins us. We will likely get a nanny to help out.
Biggest Challenge: Harmonizing motherhood, wife-life, career, and self-care. It’s been such a learning experience for me. I don’t always get it right, but I learn daily, which I’m leaning into with pride & grace lately.
Biggest Surprise: How fast time really does fly! It has wings.
Advice to Yourself: Slow down, enjoy the mundane moments, and know that all will be well.
I felt immensely guilty when working. I suppose it’s because my business isn’t a traditional job. It’s more personal, so I felt selfish to work. In reality, that’s not the case at all because I’m supporting my family and doing something I love.
Name: Sally Quinn (McKenney
Business: Sally’s Baking Addiction (food blog)
Baby: Noelle, age 19 months
Maternity Leave: I tried to take a maternity leave by preparing blog content for the 12 weeks after my daughter was born. I worked my tail off photographing and developing recipes in my 3rd trimester, but never had the chance to write the blog posts because I was so tired. After my daughter was born, it was nice to be off my feet in the kitchen, but when I wasn’t caring for Noelle, I was working on the computer. It was incredibly hard and I wish I gave myself more of a break.
Biggest Challenge: Dealing with the unnecessary guilt I placed on myself. When we put childcare in place, I felt immensely guilty when working. I suppose it’s because my business isn’t a traditional job. It’s more personal, so I felt selfish to work. In reality, that’s not the case at all because I’m supporting my family and doing something I love.
Biggest Surprise: I work less now! With childcare, I only have a limited amount of work hours each week, but I make the very most of those working hours. Work stops at 5pm, so there’s no more wasting time or mindlessly scrolling on social media. It’s taken months of adjusting, but now I work smarter, not harder… and my business is stronger than ever!
Advice to Yourself: As a business owner, it’s difficult to prepare for and understand the workings of life after having your first baby. Just relax, everything falls into place, and if you make the most of your family time and work time, your business can bounce back stronger than ever.
I love being a mom way more than I even expected and so getting to be with her during the day or taking time away from work to feed her is cherished time for me. Motherhood definitely softened me in a new way.
Name: Jenna Kutcher
Business: Podcaster, educator, influencer — basically I inspired people online to chase their biggest goals and pursue a life that’s filled with passion and presence.
Baby: We had two miscarriages in two years and were then blessed with our baby girl, Conley Kate who is almost 5 months old.
Maternity Leave: It was amazing – the lead up, not so much! It was a ton of work to prepare content for three months of down time. The truth was though, while I didn’t HAVE to work, I did find that logging in an hour here and there was fun for me and helpful as I transitioned into motherhood. I wasn’t sure what I would want and it turns out a mix of motherhood and then work felt best for me. I am thankful I prepared so well that nothing HAD to be done, but that I could login and check in with my team and tinker away at ideas while still being a present mama.
Schedule Now: To be honest, we’re still figuring it out. Drew is a stay-at-home-dad and is so helpful but it’s still hard to get focused work done when we’re all home together. My mom comes over one day a week so we can both get out of the house and run errands and get work done, but right now I am just working in 2-hour time chunks between feedings and trying to figure out what will be most conducive to running my business and not feeling split between entrepreneurship and motherhood. The balancing act is tough and so we’re exploring a few different options whether it be getting an office space, building a she shed in the backyard, or creating a better schedule for work!
Biggest Challenge: I love my time in the mornings with Conley, it’s my favorite. Drew loves to workout, so he usually goes to the gym in the morning and I have a few hours with her to read, feed, go on walks. She usually takes her first nap and that’s when I start working but I hate when I could be snuggling her and have to choose work. I always feel like I’m half in on both business and motherhood and yearning for full presence in both aspects of my life.
Biggest Surprise: How much I love being a mom… seriously. I wasn’t sure if I would feel held back or selfish, I worried what having a baby would do to my drive and it’s safe to say I am more driven than ever but more relaxed and mindful. I’ve learned to go with the flow, to do what I can, to focus when I sit down to work, and then to shut down for family. I love being a mom way more than I even expected and so getting to be with her during the day or taking time away from work to feed her is cherished time for me. Motherhood definitely softened me in a new way.
Advice to Yourself: Honor the slow down, honor the desire to work, honor each step of this uncharted territory and feel the growing pains and allow them to truly represent the growth you’re experiencing in this season!
Working for myself and continuing to do what I love has made me a better mom.
Name: Jessica Merchant
Business: Entrepreneur, food blogger and author
Babies: Max (4 years old) and Emilia (17 months)
Maternity Leave: With both babies, I created enough content ahead of time to have blog posts for 10 to 12 weeks. I still actively worked on my blog from the computer (and loved having something to do!), but had all recipe development, photography, styling, photo editing, etc. done ahead of time.
Schedule Now: I have childcare 2 full days per week. I could probably use more, but I don’t want to miss out on the fun moments with my kids – the ones that I remember my mom being present for when I was young!
Biggest Challenge: I wish I could do both, all the time, at 100%. I love being a mom even more than I thought that I would. I also love my career that I didn’t expect or anticipate creating! It’s tricky to feel like I’m giving both things I love enough attention.
Biggest Surprise: Working for myself and continuing to do what I love has made me a better mom. I never expected to have a job that allowed me to spend so much time with my kids and I am so insanely grateful.
Advice to Yourself: I give this advice to myself frequently: I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and will always remember and treasure these moments that I get to spend with my kids. Comparing myself to others on social media totally steals that joy!
Photo credit: Brandon Werth
Watching two people I loved dearly die without realizing their full potential really lit a fire in me to contribute something important to this world. I’ll teach the kids that part of life.
Name: Nora McInerny
Babies: We have 4 children ranging in age from 2-17 years old, in a messy, blended family full of love and noise.
Maternity Leave: Almost nonexistent. With my last baby, I had recently written my first book and got a podcast deal. I hid my pregnancy (probably not that well) until I called my producer one day and told him I just had a baby and I would be back to work 3 days later. That’s how afraid I was and how eager I was to prove I could do this work. I’m not recommending it as a strategy and I think lots of women share this fear. Honestly, I never wanted to stay home with kids, but I do hope to make enough money that my husband can work less or be the stay-at-home parent.
Schedule Now: My husband handles most of it, but at one point we had two little kids in daycare and wow that is like another mortgage expensive! I also have two amazing mother-in-laws who are very good at showing up for the whole family. I travel a lot and trust that my children will see that while I was not a parent who made every talent show and soccer game, I was a parent who helped finance their college funds. I want to model how to be ambitious and show them what it looks like to pursue creative dreams. Watching two people I loved dearly die without realizing their full potential really lit a fire in me to contribute something important to this world. I’ll teach the kids that part of life.
Biggest Challenge: Feeling needed in every corner of my life and like I’m not doing any one thing particularly well.
Biggest Surprise: How little guilt I feel about loving my work. Sometimes I feel guilty for not feeling guilty which is a fun little gift courtesy of the patriarchy.
Advice to Yourself: Slow down enough to actually enjoy your accomplishments. Let them sink in more. Don’t make work that makes everyone happy. If you’ve made everyone happy, you’re doing it wrong.
Photo credit: Paisley Ann Photography
It took my third baby to realize it is okay to slow down. I’m measuring my success a little differently these days and it’s made me a whole lot happier!
Name: Patti Wagner
Business: Rental Property Owner + Content Creator + Product Designer at Target
Babies: Ava (5), Livy (2), and Jack (4 months)
Maternity Leave: I took 16 weeks off vs. the 12 weeks with my first two and learned to truly enjoy this “time off.” That meant putting projects on hold and only doing a few partnerships on my social media platform that I felt were manageable. But for the most part, I truly wanted to savor this time because I learned from my first two how quickly it flies by.
Schedule Now: My husband and I both have a salaried full time job working Monday – Friday so our littles are at a neighborhood daycare center. Anything related to our rental properties or my social media, we work on in the evenings or weekends when the kids are in bed. We really value the time with them and make an effort to not be on our phones and laptops when they’re present.
Biggest Challenge: There’s not enough time in the day! My kids are my first priority so I find myself working late into the night trying to finish a deadline for work after they are in bed. People often don’t see that back side when they see someone’s success story. It takes dedication + hard work + late nights and it’s important that my audience see that I’m a human being behind the content that I create, so there is genuine appreciation for it.
Biggest Surprise: I’m kind of a workaholic and have been delightfully surprised that it took my third baby to realize it is okay to slow down. I’m measuring my success a little differently these days and it’s made me a whole lot happier!
Advice to Yourself: My best advice to myself and others is value your time. I want to be smarter with how I work while feeling like I’ve been the best mom that I could be at the end of each night.
Time is so much more precious these days and my working hours have to be SO MUCH MORE productive than ever before.
Name: Kate Kordsmeier
Business: I’m the founder and CEO of Root + Revel, a food and wellness blog empowering people to live a more non-toxic life with real food, natural + holistic wellness advice.
Baby: I had my first child, Jackson Owen, on September 18, 2018. I also have 3 fur babies – 2 cats (Scout and Boo) and a wild and crazy Border Collie named Finch. Yes, like the book. 😉
Maternity Leave: My husband took 4 weeks off (I took 3.5 months “off”) and it was the first time in our entire lives that we had nothing to do but just be; be present, be with our new baby, be with each other. We definitely got lucky and our little Jackie is basically a perfect angel baby who eats and sleeps really well and has a generally very happy and content disposition, but breastfeeding was super hard for me, and as a business owner, it was difficult to completely check out while still keeping the business running. it took A LOT of pre-planning and getting posts and emails done in advance; and my assistant worked part-time while I was on leave. Without her, I would’ve been very, er, screwed.
Schedule Now: I am so fortunate in that we found an amazing holistic daycare a mile from our house where Jackson goes 3 days per week. Then on Thursdays, my mom comes down for the day and essentially is my nanny and housekeeper (I totally hit the Mom jackpot with her!) so I can get some more work done. And on Fridays, I’m home with Jackson and it’s our day together.
Biggest Challenge: Time is so much more precious these days and my working hours have to be SO MUCH MORE productive than ever before because there isn’t time for me to waste on social media or online shopping or reading all the blogs like there used to be. My first 3 months back to work were really hard. I just felt spread so thin and like I was never going to catch up, let alone get ahead. But with lots of therapy and yoga and support from my husband, I’ve learned how to give myself a bit more grace, and slow down my schedule/shorten my to do list so that I’m actually able to enjoy my life and my business.
Biggest Surprise: The fact that nobody really knows what they’re doing – social media can lead you to believe that everyone else has it figured out, that they’ve mastered the work-life-mom balance. The more I talked with other moms, the more I realized that nobody is putting away their laundry the day it’s done, nobody feels confident in their post-baby body, everyone second guesses themselves and deals with guilt and overwhelm.
Advice to Yourself: I wish I’d eased back into work a bit more. I came back in January full-force and burnt myself out really quickly. Learning to take time for myself to exercise, meet friends/colleagues for lunch, go for a walk and just take breaks during the day was so important – at first, I felt like because Jackson was in childcare, I had to use every free moment I had to work. But that’s no way to live and everything suffered when I approached it that way.
I’ve embraced more of my intuition and my spiritual side and that’s led me to have more space for everything. What seemed to be overwhelming is now something I can (mostly) embrace.
Name: Saukok Tiampo
Business: I own SeeFood Media with my husband, we make videos and take pictures of food, with some healthy living and lifestyle videos in the mix too.
Baby: My little man T is 3 years old.
Maternity Leave: I took three full months for maternity leave (my dear husband picked up my duties while I was out). After 3 months I slowly dipped my toe back in part-time, doing some easy shoots, going in the office a few hours a day, and gradually ramping back to full-time. It wasn’t until about one year out when I was done breastfeeding that I fully got back in the swing of things.
Schedule Now: I have a full-time nanny who’s here Monday to Friday. This is when I work, do yoga, breathwork, see my friends, go to the doctor. I usually pop into work around 10ish and head up home at 6ish. Nights and weekends are baby time – nothing messes with my baby time.
Biggest Challenge: I was really walloped by how much having a baby changed me. My relationship with myself, my body, my husband, my work. For two years, it was incredibly difficult. I struggled, and my relationship with my husband really suffered. When things were at their toughest, I took a week off to go on a retreat where I really looked inward and made some deep changes in how I see life. That time really changed me.
Biggest Surprise: How much my child teaches me. He is always present, always open, he knows what he needs. I want to be just like that. I’ve embraced more of my intuition and my spiritual side and that’s led me to have more space for everything. What seemed to be overwhelming is now something I can (mostly) embrace.
Advice to Yourself: I am not what happens to me, I am what I choose to become. And another good one from Eckhart Tollet (who has a great IG): “Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no real purpose.”
And now, it’s your turn. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Are you an entrepreneur? Blogger? Creative? Business owner? What has it been like for you to merge both of these big loves of your life?
Or are you a mom who has a regular day job? What is good and bad and hard and awesome about your experience?
Or what has it been like for you to choose to be with your babies full-time? Fun fact: my mom was a stay-at-homer and I always thought I would do the same! I ended up in a strangely different place, which one of those “surprise! this is your life!” moments, but I have Level 10 love and respect for both working and stay-at-home moms.
One last thought: there is an often invisible group of people whose hearts hurt when things turn to Mom Talk, and I know this because I was in that group after we lost our son Afton in 2017. If that is you right now, I just want you to know that we see you, we love you, and we hold space for you. ♡