My plan for my self-employed maternity leave + why I’ll be taking maternity leave 6 months late!
In October I’m expecting my third baby and my mind is already turning to my self-employed maternity leave. It isn’t easy to manage maternity leave when you work for yourself but I did OK with my first two babies and plan to do something similar again.
I took my maternity leave the opposite way around to most parents and worked a lot during the newborn phase and worked less once the baby got to about 6-9 months.
I get a lot of questions about maternity leave when you’re a blogger and I want to begin by holding my hands up and admitting I’m not an expert at this kind of thing. I don’t know a lot about Maternity Allowance, claiming it and if I should have claimed it, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t. If I’m wrong about anything here, please do let me know!
I love my job as a blogger but I felt particularly lucky to have chosen this career when my children were very young. It gave me a lot of freedom and flexibility and that’s something I plan to make the most of right up until my kids go to school.
This style of maternity leave won’t work for everyone but this is what worked for me!
Why won’t I claim Maternity Allowance?
Even if you’re self-employed, you are entitled to Maternity Allowance from the government.
But, as a blogger, I won’t be claiming it because even with 2-3 hours work per week I can earn more than I would with Maternity Allowance. I don’t want to suggest blogging is a ‘get rich quick’ scheme but after 10 years of blogging I have a couple of regular brands I work with and I don’t plan to stop. You can’t build a business on these small gigs but they can certainly keep you ticking over for a few months.
Also, part of my income is passive income. This means I earn money through adverts on my blog and sales commissions. I earn this regardless of whether or not I’m ‘working’.
It’s not quite as simple as ‘earning money in your sleep’ but…well that’s sort of what it is. Every time someone reads my blog I earn a teeny, tiny amount. I focus on creating ‘evergreen content’ which is basically blog posts that people would be searching for and reading all year round so, even if I take a few months off, people will still be reading my old blog posts.
Having passive income is amazing because it means you don’t need to stress too much about taking time off work or turning down jobs that don’t feel right. While some people have suggested you can claim Maternity Allowance even if you’re earning passive income, I think it’s dodgy ground.
Maternity Allowance is about £140 a week so if you don’t have any passive income it’s definitely worth looking into!
While we’re on the topic of passive income, I’ll be spending the time before the baby arrives to write as many blog posts as I possibly can. This ensures my blog pageviews are high and therefore my passive income is high.
When will my maternity leave begin?
I’ll work right up until the baby arrives as most of what I do isn’t strenuous and I can sit at home on my sofa doing it. Many people think I do most of my work while I’m travelling but that’s actually just a small part of it. Like with many jobs, most of the real work takes places at a desk with a computer (sorry to ruin the illusion!)
When I was at the hospital and about to have Joseph I was actually replying to emails while I was waiting to go into surgery for a c-section. I know I sound like a crazy workaholic but it kept me busy and distracted during a very tense time!
At the moment I work at my laptop for 3 mornings a week but from September my youngest son will probably go to nursery 5 mornings a week, so I’ll work all 5 mornings. It’s only for 3 hours but it’s enough to get a nice chunk of work done.
When will I stop travelling?
Obviously travelling is also a huge part of my work (and the thing I love to do, of course!) and one of the hardest things for me is stopping for a few months.
I’ll probably be stopping the trips abroad from the end of June and the trips in the UK at the end of August. One of the main reasons for stopping is because I don’t want to sign up to any work and drop out at the last minute.
The main issue with the trips abroad is that I often do them on my own and I feel like it’s a risk to travel solo while heavily pregnant. My trips are very physical and constantly go, go, go so it wouldn’t be enjoyable and I’d find it stressful.
^6 months pregnant in France when I was expecting Joseph
Recovery from a cesarean
I’ll be having a caesarean again with this baby so I’m planning to basically hibernate for at least 3-4 weeks after the baby is born. With my previous two cesareans I recovered really quickly and was up and about and walking the following morning, but I won’t be in a rush to leave the house.
I’ll be taking it easy, establishing breastfeeding, getting used to having three children (three, gosh that’s a lot!) sleeping as much as I possibly can, welcoming visitors, watching trashy TV and making sure my two older children get lots of attention.
If there’s time in there to update my social media channels and keep on top of my emails I will, but I won’t be stressing about it.
One month after birth
After one month I’m planning to get back to normal and continue doing about 10 hours of ‘laptop work’ and a few hours of other work each week.
This might sound soon after having a baby but remember that newborns sleep for the majority of the time. It’s also likely I’ll be working from my laptop on the sofa while the baby sleeps next to me so it’s not like I’ll be commuting to an office of anything.
Unlike other new mums, I won’t be making a massive effort to attend lots of baby groups because I already have a lovely, supportive group of mum-friends so it’s unlikely I’ll feel isolated or lonely.
Three months after birth
From January 2020, Joseph will will be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare and I plan to use every one of those hours! Joseph is a very active, busy, noisy child. He needs constant stimulation and he LOVES nursery (he actually cries when I pick him up because he doesn’t want to come home!) I try not to take this personally and just enjoy the fact he wants to go to nursery!
So from January I’ll have a lot more time on my hands to possibly do a bit more work.
Six to nine months after birth
Now this is where I’ll be doing things differently and where I’ll be taking advantage of the flexibility my career allows.
At around six months I’m planning to slow down with working and take some time off. This is when I plan to go to all the baby activity classes like swimming and music sessions. This is when babies become much more alert and they need some stimulation. They also start napping less so it’s harder to get anything done when they’re around!
This is the time when many other mums are thinking about going back to work but I’m going to do the opposite!
One year after birth
From one year onwards I’m just going to play it by ear and see what the baby is like. If we have an energetic, sociably baby then I’m sure we’ll send it to nursery. If we have a calm, quiet baby then maybe we’ll wait a bit longer. It all depends on our financial situation too so we’ll just see what happens!
When will I start travelling again?
This is another question I can’t answer just yet because I just don’t know. With my first two babies I began travelling again fairly quickly and either left them at home with Sam and my mum or I took them with me. But this time it might be different because we already have two young children!
Will we want to travel with a 3 year old, a 4 year old and a newborn baby? I’m not so sure!
So, again, we’ll just wait and see and start booking holidays when it feels right.
^ Looking forward to having a fifth person in photos like this!
What will I do differently third time around?
The main thing I plan to do differently is letting any brand I’m working with know I’ll be uncontactable for at least two months. I know, I know, I’ve just said I’ll be working for the majority of the time but I made this mistake when I was expecting Joseph. I was working on a big project that finished two months before his due date and I’d told the brand I wanted to sign off everything at least one month before he was due. Of course, they were totally happy with that and were lovely and very understanding.
But the project was pushed back, things were delayed, someone quit and then there was a replacement and for various reasons I was still working on the project the day before Joseph was due and I was having frantic, stressful phone calls trying to get things signed off.
I won’t be doing that again.
I’ll be working on my own things but I won’t be working on anything that relies on other people sticking to deadlines. (I want to point out that this isn’t a passive aggressive dig at anyone, I understand that almost all projects are delayed and optimistic deadlines are rarely kept to when there are lots of people in different timezones involved!)
Tips for other mums who plan to work with a newborn
If you plan to do bits of work from home with a newborn around, I do have a few tips.
Get a sling
First of all, get yourself a good baby sling. Newborn babies want to be held and cuddled all the time so don’t fight this instinct by trying to get them to sleep in a cot or bassinet. Of course, holding a baby makes it difficult to do anything so my solution was to use a sling. Whether you want to get some household chores done or sit down at your computer for an hour, it can make life so much easier.
Read reviews of my favourite newborn baby carriers:
The Lalabu Soothe Shirt – best for newborns
Pao Papoose Baby Carrier – can be used with babies from 12lb
Izmi baby carrier – my favourite all-round carrier
Make yourself a packed lunch
I’ve mentioned this a few times and people always message me to say they tried it and it was a game-changer! It was my midwife who initially suggested it to me and it really helped. When you’ve got a newborn around it can be easy to forget about looking after yourself. I’d often find I’d get hungry at 11am but then the baby would want feeding (20 minutes) and then need changing (5 minutes) and then they do an enormous poo and need a full change of clothes (10 minutes) and then they’ve got wind so they’re unsettled (20 minutes) and then your house looks like a bomb site so you tidy up (20 minutes) and put the washing on (5 minutes) and get a clean load out of the tumble drier and blah blah blah. You get my point. You were hungry two hours ago and now you’re ravenous and now the baby wants feeding again!
Make yourself a packed lunch to make sure you eat a decent meal!
^I like to prep colourful mason jar salads for healthy lunches – obviously eaten with a slide of chocolate spread on toast!
I know it’s tempting to stay in your PJs all day but you’ll feel so much better if you have a shower, get dressed and put a bit of makeup on.
I used to put the boys in a little bouncer next to the shower and they’d happily sit by the edge of the shower.
For the first few months after our first two babies were born we used Cookfood.net for freezer meals delivered to your door. They’re a little bit expensive but they’re delicious and will make your evenings a little easier.
Accept that early evenings are difficult
This one isn’t especially about working with a newborn, more about staying sane when you have a newborn!
I’m not sure why but many newborn babies are unsettled between about 6pm-8pm. Oh yes, the exact time you plan to sit down and eat your dinner, relax and watch TV. George wasn’t too bad but Joseph spent this entire time cluster feeding and crying. I remember it being frustrating, but this time around I’m expecting it so I plan to have early dinners (5pm with the older kids) so I’m not hangry during this time!