December: We’ve made it! I’m officially in my last month of pregnancy. The house is clean and the nursery is ready. We have our route to the hospital all planned and everything is on track. As far as the personal aspects of my life, my husband and I are prepared and ready for the birth of our first child.
However, one part of future planning that’s often glossed over is the work that goes into making sure your job or business is ready for you to be away for at least six weeks — and then come back. I’ve spent months creating systems and processes to ensure my business runs smoothly while I’m on maternity leave.
Do the prep work beforehand!
Although at this point I’m so ready to meet my son, I can honestly say one of the best parts about pregnancy taking nine months is that we have a lot of time to prepare for what’s to come. For example: At Lightning AI, I told my whole team “early” back in the summer when I was only three months pregnant. This let everyone not only get mentally prepared that their CEO was going to be MIA for a few months, but also helped reinforce values of transparency in the workplace.
Checkpoints were also key. I started creating checkpoints six months ago to note everything that had to be done before I went on leave. This helped my team feel prepared for my absence.
The important checkpoints
Six months ago: I started tracking my time and my projects.
This led to further transparency, which ultimately helped the team feel even more cohesive. People knew what our priorities were as a company — people knew not only the projects we were working on, but also the prioritization.
Three months ago: I started taking diligent notes on all calls and during all meetings.
If an emergency happened and I was going to be at the doctor’s or just on bed rest, I wanted someone else from my team to be able to fill in without needing explicit instructions from me beforehand. By taking notes on calls and meetings, I was able to provide my team with in-depth information that they may not have otherwise received.
One month ago: I had someone shadow me for each call or meeting and started cc-ing others on all of my emails.
I prepped our clients that there would be someone new working with them and what it means for them. Most of the time, it meant instead of just working with me, they would have 2–3 people each responsible for different aspects of projects.
Now, as I write this heading into maternity leave in January, I feel confident that my team is ready to take over and will not have too many surprises thrown their way.
Maternity Leave as a CEO
Here’s the thing… I’m a first time mom, so I’m in for a world of surprises no matter what. But speaking as a CEO, I don’t know if anyone running a business can truly take a lot of time off. When I vacation, my brain still doesn’t fully turn off. And even my husband jokes that I’ll be back reading emails after a few weeks.
However, I don’t want to glorify this type of thinking. I believe new parents should be able to take all the time they need after having a child. But the truth is, some people can turn off the part of their mind that focuses on work, while others just can’t. I don’t think you become a founder of a company if you can put all of your work on hold. That’s just simply my belief.
Regardless, I won’t be on calls or in meetings, so at the very most I would only be available sporadically via email or Slack. And if this means the business only operates at break-even, or even if it takes a hit, that’s the sacrifice I have to be prepared to make for my growing family.
So, I’ll see you all in 2 months!
In general, even if I’m around for emergencies or to give opinions, I’m at least 90% out of office for six weeks. That’s the decision I’ve made and what I feel is the best for my family and business. This is really the minimum amount of time it takes for women to recuperate in mind and body from the trauma of a real-life child the size of a watermelon coming out of us.
My plan is that starting at six weeks, I’ll begin to come back part-time. That will probably mean some meetings, calls, and getting back on track with planning for the second quarter in 2020. I’m hoping to do part-time work for another six weeks, and then fully return after three months of life with a new baby.
What are your plans? Are you pregnant and thinking about maternity leave when you run your own business (or your own team within a business)?
Let’s support each other! Leave a comment below and let’s chat. You can also reach me at email@example.com.
*Disclaimer: This article was written in December right before I had my baby. I am officially on maternity leave and will see you all in two months!