women small business | woman thinking with hand under chin

Is Maternity Leave Possible for Women Small Business Owners?

I was simultaneously inspired and flabbergasted by one of our clients recently. She runs a successful small business and is an absolute joy to work with. Two weeks ago, I sent her an article to review but didn’t hear back for a few days (which is not like her). I knew she was pregnant and that her due date was coming up, and Monika confirmed it in a text: our client had given birth to a beautiful baby girl a few days before. Now the radio silence made sense.

I assumed I wouldn’t hear from her for a few months—but then she emailed me. She had a four-day-old baby, and she was working?

She asked me to give her a few days, and she promised to respond with edits the next week. A few days later, she made good on her word and emailed me edits. I was stunned. She was running her business after just having a baby. It was mind-blowing.

This brought up a crazy slew of questions:

Can women small business owners take maternity leave? What does that look like? Is it possible to not take a maternity leave and keep everything on the rails while taking care of an infant? Is this something I can consider as a possibility for my future?

While these questions bounced around in my brain, I suddenly remembered my mom.

When my mom was pregnant with me back in the early 80’s, she decided to start her own typing business (yes, typing was something you could build a business around back then—crazy, right?). The need to start the business was born out of necessity for money (apparently babies can be expensive) and my mom’s desire to build her own career. She was also faced with the choice so many new mothers are forced to make: put the baby in daycare or give up the ability to make money. Not thrilled with either of those choices, my mom decided that starting her own business was a way for her to stay home with me AND make money.

There were days, right after I was born, that were excruciating. One day she sat at the computer, trying to type while I was screaming in her arms. Eventually, she cried right along with me. Yet, she persevered and built the business. With a lot of research and hard work, she eventually landed clients in the publishing industry.

Five years later, when my sister decided to come along, my mom was running her business from the living room. The baby would be by her desk, and I’d be playing close by. Because of this I’ll never know whether it was nature or nurture that drove me to start my own business, but I do know I have the most incredibly strong woman as my role model.

In light of my mom’s experience and that of our Jansen Communications client, I started to think about the options for women small business owners. The career path our culture makes available to young women is very limiting. Get a job with benefits, get pregnant, take maternity leave and either go back to work or stay home with the kids. But what about the women who want to be trailblazers, inventors, and innovators and start a family?

The options out there aren’t a good as they could be. But in light of the awe-inspiring women small business owners I’m surrounded by, I’ve discovered that, as a gender, we are tough and resilient, and can do anything we want. The only thing we need to do is decide what’s right for our life and our business, and just do it.

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