“What I would have done differently in maternity leave as a business owner”

Solo Episode

Show notes:

How much have you reflected on your mat leave experience?

With 2 wildly different mat leaves under my belt – one employed but only 12 weeks long, and one as a business owner with a NICU baby it’s hard to draw parallels. But looking back on my maternity leave as a business owner, there are a few things that I might change.

I’m sharing what I would do differently from a practical POV, what I would change about my perspective as a new mum, and what the best best best decision I made was.

Bump to business owner links:



Hello and welcome to Bump to Business Owner, thank you so much for tuning in today. This podcast is inspired by my mission to find out why more and more mums are leaving the employment world for the entrepreneur life. I’ll be talking to some of the people I believe to be the most inspiring women in business about their journey building their businesses alongside motherhood. I’ll be also sharing some of my own experiences of juggling my award winning virtual assistant agency Upsource, while raising my two young children. Right now they are two and four, and trust me, it can be chaos.

Caroline [00:00:05]:

Hello and welcome to Bump to Business Owner. Thank you so much for tuning in today. This podcast is inspired by my mission to find out why more and more mums are leaving the employment world for the entrepreneur life. I’ll be talking to some of the people I believe to be the most inspiring women in business about their journey, building their businesses along side motherhood. I’ll be also sharing some of my own experiences of juggling my award winning virtual assistant agency, Upsource, while raising my two young children. Right now, they are two and four and trust me, it can be chaos. Hello. I’m Caroline, and this is Bumped.

Caroline [00:00:48]:

Thank you for joining me today for this podcast. I feel like sometimes this could be a little bit of a maternity leave podcast, but I think it’s just an area I’m quite passionate about and I feel there’s a lot to do with maternity leave in the early years. I’m still in that stage, so also, that’s partly what I know. I don’t know what it’s like to have a teenager and that stage, but what I do know is what it’s like in the early years to feel like you’re failing or your maternity leave hasn’t gone to plan and everything feels so much harder than you imagined. And also, hormones come into play. I going to be honest today, at that point, I’ve got a four and a two year old and I feel and I just have the normal woman hormones. The hormones.

Caroline [00:01:32]:

Is anyone else like this? They took over so much of my life while pregnant and breastfeeding. I don’t think it helped because my second was in neonatal intensive care and so there’s been some trauma recovery from that. So obviously that doesn’t help. But I feel like I’m at a stage right now where I can be a bit more reflective of my maternity leave journey and hopefully can share it and help others because I’ve had a couple of VAs on my team go on maternity leave and some of them with first babies. And it’s been really nice to chat with them about it and see how they’re doing. So I run a virtual assistant agency called Upsource and I launched it in April 2020. I was fully booked by the summer with billable clients and had enough billable work that I wanted, which I think was 120 hours at the time. And my plan was to hand them over to a team of associates so I could go on maternity leave.

Caroline [00:02:27]:

And that was my plan. And I didn’t have a huge amount of structure in place for how long this maternity leave would look, but all I know was I wanted time with my newborn baby and it would not feel pressured like the first one, and so intense and all come crashing down around me like it did. There’s a whole other podcast on this, go listen to it. But I’ve never really reviewed my first time. I’ve kind of always just seen it as success. It definitely was a success in my version of a success, but also just review it to kind of share my learnings from it. It’s good to review things and look back on it. You never know, I might do maternity leave again, don’t tell my husband, he’ll tell me not and that’s not happening.

Caroline [00:03:09]:

I think it was such a small period and it will always look like, especially at this stage, such a small period of my overall, hopefully business journey, hopefully Upsource will be running for many years to come and growing and things. So I think it will look back at such a small time. But it’s intense being pregnant and having a baby and I think especially during COVID, Well, actually I found the first one more intense, but COVID was hard. You went to appointments on your own, you didn’t know if your partner would be allowed to give birth with you. I felt a little bit sometimes to remind us all of this because I had friends who had babies less than a year later and their experience was completely different. It was such a small amount of time some of us went through where we were like, people are allowed in pubs, but I might not be able to have the father of my child in the birth room. So it was a bit of an intense time in the world, but for me it just kind of emphasised I really wanted my business to work and for it to work, it couldn’t fall down while I was on maternity leave. I had to have confidence that I could step away and the team would do a great job with the clients and which they did.

Caroline [00:04:27]:

I had no churn during my maternity leave and client churn obviously comes at a certain stage and VA churn, things like that. But my business stayed, my business stayed running. I had the clients, I had the team, they were happy, it worked. So my first best decision, which I would have spoken about, is that I had a lead person in place, like a lead contact. It wasn’t just the team, it was actually someone I knew. So I was really fortunate. I had a connection. Importance of community.

Caroline [00:05:00]:

There’s another podcast on this. Keep great people around you. I had someone who I’d worked with, who the client had worked with, who I knew would just be like on it if things didn’t go to plan. And it’s very hard and I never want to be that person, be like, you never know what’s going to happen. But I think there’s like a healthy dose of reality if you’ve gone through anything traumatic, especially by baptism of fire, which can be how it feels when you’ve ended up on a neonatal intensive care unit with your baby, you start to realize the stuff that is outside of your control. And maybe people realize that earlier than me, maybe I’m just a late believer, but I think the best decision I think it was also because I’ve mentioned before, I knew was in such a bubble, newborn bubble. With my first child, I was so lucky and in a way I didn’t want to be hassled then either, by anyone. I didn’t talk to many people in my newborn few days.

Caroline [00:06:04]:

I was so happy in the other direction with my second. So all I had to do was I mean, I probably should have given her contact details to my husband before. That’s probably a learning right there. Give the contact details to your husband, maybe a mum, a friend as well, like a doula. I think that was the best decision. I literally just said to Greg, my husband, tell them what’s happened, and I’m out of action. Like I did with everyone. Like she was on the list of people to be like, this has happened, give us space.

Caroline [00:06:38]:

And that was the best decision I made. So I never want to be doom and gloom and especially if you’re here listening to some pregnant this is rare. It’s just great to have a lead person in place. If you’ve got a team, just a contact, someone on the out of office, someone who the team can go to and clients can go to. If I was taking maternity leave, my team was small then, it was small, but it didn’t mean it meant any less to me at the time. Some learnings I’ve had is that I could have outsourced further, but I had budget constraints. There’s only so much you’ve got to work out your finances and there’s only so much you can afford.

Caroline [00:07:26]:

So I kept invoicing, I used a kit day. As soon as my child was off neonatal intensive care, I came home and I did invoicing and to be fair versus now, it wasn’t like I had many invoices to do, but paying people as well. Although that’s still if you’ve got like I use Starling Bank, it’s quite hard to not do that yourself. They don’t allow you to do that yet. That’s something Starling really needs to sort out. I’d like to give someone else access to my bank account. Yeah, the invoicing, I could have totally handed that over and if I’d had more of a budget, I would have definitely handed over my social media, to be honest. How much is social media needed? I definitely could have paused that more.

Caroline [00:08:12]:

I was out of action for a good while after neonatal and sense of care on the social media side, but that’s budget, you got to stick with what you know. So I think those were two things that kind of kept my kit days for and then any check ins I needed to with the team and things like that. And if a sales call did come along but yeah, so I think potentially if I would do it again and not do that again, but if I had more of a budget, I would just outsource more things, take things off your plate. I think that’s so good. You can always take them back. That’s the beauty of it. You’re not committed long term and things you can say, I’d rather do this myself, that’s fine. So, yeah, that’s my second learning.

Caroline [00:08:58]:

Okay. And my third. Okay. I think this was a really good learning and I think a lot of people relate to this, that I would have put less pressure on myself. I think my business meant so much to me. I didn’t put as much pressure on my career as I did with my first child. I think an example of this is when my child was twelve weeks old, I was so lucky to win UK Best Newcomer VA 2021. I always get the date wrong on that.

Caroline [00:09:35]:

I’m going to just say it’s still my baby brain from that time. It was literally during lockdown on a Zoom call. I actually ended up feeding my child. When the winner was announced, I was like, my child needed feeding. Like, do I get my boob out? Do I not? That age old question do you get your boob out or do you not? On a zoom call. Who else has got their boobs out on Zoom calls? I won’t do that now, just for the record. Anyway, so I did and yeah, I ended up winning, which was great. Had to put my boob away and actually weirdly, that’s what I was reflecting on.

Caroline [00:10:08]:

I think I then felt a bit of pressure. As it is, you bask in the glory of winning and I’ve never won a business award before. That was amazing. Considering how badly I was made redundant from the virtual assistant agency. To feel then like my own agency got welcomed back into the fold of VAS was just lovely. It was lovely. But then I put pressure on myself. So I know some of the other finest from that category now and they’ve got great businesses and things, but I gave myself a bit of comparatonitis.

Caroline [00:10:48]:

Like if it felt like they were taking on loads of clients and doing well, I was like, oh well, I won the award, I should be doing well too. And I just had a baby, I should have chilled out on that. I was comparing myself when I shouldn’t have done, because everyone’s on their own journey and I think now, or post hormones and stuff, I’m very good at sticking in my lane. I do think that I have really high standards for myself. So I think when you’re like that, the last thing you need is to compare yourself to other people as well. But I think I did a little bit of that. I felt the pressure of like, oh, I should grow now. I won the awards, I need to put my money where my mouth is.

Caroline [00:11:33]:

So I did feel the pressure on that. I’m not going to exaggerate. It wasn’t a huge amount. I just feel if we’re going to review my maternity leave here and be honest, I could have just chilled out, but maybe by not chilling out is how I managed to grow my business and have an income when we needed it. Because I think that’s kind of the final piece of this, putting pressure on myself, was, fortunately, this time we’re in a position where we could live off my maternity pay because my husband had got promoted and actually, no, he was made redundant while I was on maternity. Completely forget that we didn’t go through a great time, but then he got a really good job, so it was fine. I suppose there was pressure in our house. My husband needed to get another job as well.

Caroline [00:12:21]:

That’s nothing to do in my business, just life, isn’t it? But, yeah, I felt the pressure that the business needed to grow so I could pay myself a better income when I returned kind of thing. So, yeah, I guess there’s pressure around that as well. Like, not just the comparing myself to others things, but I’m being really kind of nit picky, I have to say, on that. I think I did a great job taking maternity leave. I’m going to say it, I’m going to pat myself on the back. I think I did a good job and I also feel that was the right leave for my business at the time. It would look different now, absolutely. But I’m not going on maternity leave, so I don’t need to plan for that.

Caroline [00:13:08]:

Those are my learnings. Do you have learnings from your maternity leave? I’d also love to hear from people who like to share their experience of employed maternity leave. I’ve spoken to women sometimes because I feel when you run a business and self employed, it seems quite short leave. But I’ve spoken to women who have been like, I did not need to take a year off. And it’s interesting that I wonder if there was more flexibility in the workplace and that would people want a year off and then in exchange for just more flexibility, more summer holidays, time with their kids instead? This is an ideal world. I don’t know how that would work in practicality, but just starting a conversation, just interested on that, probably because I’ve never taken a year off work, so I literally don’t know what it’s like one day when I’m retired. Yeah. So this is Caroline, founder of Upsource, and my learnings from my maternity leave journey.

Caroline [00:14:07]:

Please share them with me. Leave me a message. Please subscribe to my next podcast. And I look forward to chatting again with you. Thank you.

You have been listening to Bump to Business Owner, the podcast for mums running businesses, aspiring to run businesses, or simply supporters of mums who go on this crazy business journey. I’m your host Caroline Marshall and I run a virtual assistant agency called Upsource. I started it in lockdown 2020, I’ve seen it through maternity leave and it is growing alongside my two growing boys. Thank you so much, please connect me at Bump to Business Owner, my name is Caroline Marshall.

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