When I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was plan for a maternity leave. I knew I would need some time away from business to focus on this new baby and my family and it was important to me to be able to take time to rest and savor this season. After I thought about it some more, it made sense to take a 3 month maternity leave because our due date was so close to the holidays. I planned ahead and made preparations to be able to start my maternity leave a month before the baby was due and give me 2 months after she was born before returning to work full time. But even with the best intentions and all the planning, I still couldn't stay away from my business completely for those 3 months. In those 3 months of leave, I learned a lot about taking a break from your business and how to get the most from it and how to make your return to work a smooth transition.
think about how much time you need
I decided that 3 months would work well for me, and it did, but I ended up starting to work again before my maternity leave was over because I felt like I needed to get back to work. I wasn't sure how things would go after our daughter was born so I wanted to give myself plenty of time to adjust. I didn't book any clients so that I wouldn't have commitments to uphold in the event that things were crazy and I didn't have time to work on client projects. Thankfully, we've all adjusted well and we have a really good baby who is a good sleeper so I was able to jump back in early and work on some miscellaneous projects to get a head start. Three months sounds like a long time to be away from a business, but things did not fall apart while I was gone. Taking 3 months may not work for you and your situation, so I recommend really thinking about how much time you need.
Learn how to stay away
Like I said, I had a hard time staying away. When I decided to take a 3 month maternity leave, I knew it wasn't going to be shut down completely. I actually planned on having to do some work so that I wouldn't lose touch and feel overwhelmed when I returned. I mainly did not want to be committed to projects so that my time could be flexible until I was able to figure out a good routine with 2 kids and schedule for working. But if there is anything I learned from taking a break from my business it's this: don't check your emails and don't make plans for your break.
I checked my emails daily and it led to me working more than I planned. I run my business by myself, so I wanted to check emails and take care of any pressing matters, but when I read an email from a client, I felt like I needed to respond right away and get the item taken care of as soon as possible. My clients were very understanding and even told me not to worry about it until after my maternity leave, but my personality couldn't. I like to be on top of things and take care of people, so when I checked my email, I answered.
I also planned way too much to do while I was on leave. I know that sounds counterproductive. Why would I plan things to do while I was on leave? I was hoping to use this time to catch up on things for my own business so I wrote out a long to do list of things I need to do to take my business to the next level. These are things I've had on my mind for several months, documents that need to be updated, and projects that I want to take on for me. Nothing on the list was something that couldn't wait a little bit longer, but I felt like I would have a little free time to really focus on my own business. It turns out I was over ambitious and didn't get to many of the items on the list.
Enjoy your time away
Whether you've taken a maternity leave to adjust to life with a new baby, or are just taking a leave from your business for personal reasons, it's important to enjoy that time away. You took a leave for a reason; enjoy it. I felt guilty several times while I was away. I felt like I should have been working, like I was supposed to be answering emails and moving forward with things. It's not easy to walk away from your business for an extended amount of time. But in the end, I was so glad when I did fully step away and focus on the reason why I took a leave in the first place.
Start back slow
I'm an all or nothing kid of girl. Usually I go all in on something and do it will all my heart. But coming back to work after a maternity leave is a little different. You can't really jump in full force until you get a feel for how your life is going to be by adding in a new baby. Whether it's your first or your fifth baby, things will change. And whether your kids stay home with you while you work or you have childcare for your work hours, it takes time to adjust to the new routine. Don't plan on completing a bunch of big projects that first week back. Go easy on yourself and take it one day at a time. I have this philosophy about life in general, but trying to do too much will put too much pressure on you and end up causing overwhelm, stress, and burn out. Starting back slow will allow you to get your feet wet first and figure out where you need to go from there.
Taking a break from your business to focus on life can be such a great thing for you and for your business. It is a great way to feel refreshed about the work you are doing and give yourself time to focus on you. Have you ever taken an extended break from your business? What did you learn from your experience? Would you do it again, and would you do it differently?