When I tell people I set up my business whilst I was pregnant and working full time (with a toddler) I usually get pretty polarised reactions. When I say I wished I had done it on my first maternity leave, reactions get more extreme.
I truly believe that maternity leave can be a brilliant time to start up your own business and here is why:
1) You have a financial cushion
Starting up a new business is expensive, whatever industry you are in.
When you are on maternity leave you are receiving your maternity pay, this does depend on your company and individual circumstances but it is something and will help you to pay those day to day expenses.
I had saved up for my second maternity leave and instead of investing in lots of things for the baby (mine are less than two years apart and both girls so she had loads of things) I decided to spend the money investing in my business so I paid for my post graduate qualification, I signed up to a group coaching program, I got a coach and I paid a lot of the start up costs.
2) There is less risk
You do have a job to return to so it is a relatively low risk way of starting up your own business as you have that security net.
I am one of those uber honest people so I told my boss very early on what my plans were and the fact that I wouldn't be returning.
When you decide to tell your boss is up to you and dependent on your relationship and your industry.
3) You have time
I am not suggesting you work a 40 hour week with a tiny baby but you do have time that you can be creating your business.
Whether that is getting up earlier in the morning or working when they sleep you can do it. I worked around Sophia's naps and did some work in the evening when I had childcare. It meant I was working probably 2-3 hours every day in the beginning and this allowed me to complete training, get my website up and running and really start developing my business.
My two maternity leaves are very different - during my first maternity leave I had a great group of NCT friends and I had six close friends with babies born within three months of each other. It was a whirl of baby classes, lunches, coffees and park dates. If I am honest I started to get bored as hell towards the end and was looking forward to getting back to work.
This time I still go to baby classes - we did a great baby pilates class, we swim and we go to nursery rhymes. I meet people for lunch and coffee a lot less but I feel I am probably more switched on with my baby than I was before as I value the time more.
4) You prioritise your time
If you have an hour when your baby is asleep you are going to be mega productive.
I have stopped looking at social media for anything other than work, I no longer read magazines or the Daily Mail sidebar of shame. When I am working I am completely focused and get stuff done as I know that, at times, I don't have the luxury of lots of time to do things.
I have found that I am a better mum and partner when I am working as it isn't all about me and the kids. I love my daughters more than anything but I will admit when it is just me and them day in, day out I think I go a bit stir crazy. Having the balance where I work and create time for me has meant I am so much more relaxed around them and my partner.
5) There are brilliant networks to tap into
When you work from home or work on your own it can be really lonely. Maternity leave can also be lonely.
When you are setting up a business there are some fantastic networking events you can attend that are aimed at mums, plus there are groups on social media of mums doing the same thing. These are really valuable places to go and chat to other mums - to talk about the guilt when your kid doesn't sleep and how you haven't been able to do that task and to reflect on how you will handle it differently.
6) You are doing it for them
I knew that full time work as a senior leader in a secondary school and two little girls wouldn't work for me. I knew that I wanted to be around for them every day and to have quality time with them rather than the frantic nursery rush and snatched moments around bed time.
I knew that if I started working on my business before my second child was born it would be in a place that meant I wouldn't have to go back when the time came. It is certainly not easy but I have created a lifestyle that suits my family by using my maternity leave - my only regret is I didn't do it the first time round.
My final piece of advice, working around kids is tough. They don't always do what you want them to so be flexible, if something doesn't get done because of your kids stop and think about the bigger picture. It can sometimes be slow going and when you get ill you need to sideline a lot of things but keep going and it will be incredibly rewarding.