When it comes to having a family and running a business, there’s no denying it’s hard work. In fact, many female entrepreneurs are faced with the tough balancing act of growing their business, whilst juggling early motherhood. As a result, female entrepreneurs are taking little to no maternity leave.
Studies have shown that over 40% of female business owners are returning to work after just a couple of weeks of maternity leave. The majority said they made that choice because they felt they guilty about the workload their team had to manage. It’s clear that something has to change to decrease the pressure on female business owners taking maternity leave.
Mother of three, Sarah Kauter is CEO of multi-award-winning marketing company, VerriBerri. She returned to work within weeks after having each of her daughters and has continued to grow and expand the business. She understands first-hand the pressures of managing the balancing act between owning a business and motherhood.
Here she discusses the challenges she faced and overcame and offers her advice on how you can manage the balance as both a female entrepreneur and full-time mother.
There’s no two ways about it, taking maternity leave when you own a business can feel a little overwhelming. You have to take at least some time off to adjust to motherhood – but can easily fall into the trap of worrying about the business whilst your away. At a time when your priorities are shifting, it’s a hard predicament to address.
It’s important to put things into perspective. Whether it’s your first time or not, having a baby is an experience to be cherished and those first few weeks is precious time you’ll never have again. Allow yourself to make the most of it, even if you can’t take as much time as you’d like. Sarah says that in order to embrace motherhood, you must learn to let go, as difficult as that may be.
“A business should never heavily rely on one person, after all, we’re only human and there’s only so much we can do. Training your team ensures you are creating long-term structure for your company. Having processes and procedures in place results in less pressure on you, and everyone is on the same page. If someone needs to take longer maternity leave, you’re covered. Or, if something unexpected was to happen, be it sickness or a resignation; there is a plan B already in place. Learning to take a step back is essential.”
Sarah adds “Of course It isn’t easy to pass the reigns of the business over, especially when you have poured your heart and soul into it, growing it from the ground up. However, when my youngest child was born with Septooptic dysplasia, her father and I lived out of a hospital room for months on end. Life’s hurdles mean you have no choice but to entrust someone else to run the company you have built.” If the appropriate strategies are in place, your business becomes future proof and the pressure significantly lessens. Besides, with technology, checking in with your team has never been easier”.
Upon returning to work, many women experience feelings of guilt that they should be at home with their little one. There’s added pressure of feeling like you need to be super mum and that you should have everything under control. The reality is that it simply cannot all be done at once and there is no shame in asking for help.
Sarah explains “My first two daughters were born less than a year apart and at a time when my business really started picking up. As a new entrepreneur, I found things were difficult to juggle and luckily, my mother was able to assist with childcare. That support helped me so much and it worked wonders for us.” It’s important to keep in mind that help is always accessible and a necessity we needn’t feel bad about for motherhood and career to comfortably co-exist.
Everybody’s journey in life is different. With the presence of social media dominating our downtime, we inevitably end up looking at other people’s lives, and comparing them to our own. After falling down the rabbit hole, we then worry about judgement and maybe even begin to question our life choices. Being present and following the path that you believe is right for you and your family should be paramount. It’s a slippery slope once you start measuring yourself up against other people.
Sarah explains “I experienced a surprising reaction from other parents when they found out I was running a business alongside bringing up my children. It was difficult and I definitely had moments where I questioned if I was a bad mum or a poor businesswoman. It can be hard to accept, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. What I have found best is to be upfront with the fact that I have my three girls, and that does not make me any less capable, in fact, it makes me human. As a successful woman, remind yourself that you’re doing this for your family; to provide them with the life you want them to have”.
There is no right or wrong way to balance a business and motherhood. There will always be challenges to face and overcome because it’s part of life. What is important is that you focus on what you want to achieve and make it work for you.