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I Don’t Get a Maternity Leave (But I’m Taking One Anyway)

When I made the decision to quit my full-time job and start my own business, I knew there were sacrifices to be made.

Sure, I no longer had to suffer through the long commute to the city. Instead, I was the one who got to decide at what time I started my day. But I also had to find my own clients and do the work that would pay the bills (not to mention handle my own bookkeeping).

And yet, perhaps the most difficult sacrifice to accept as a young, female self-employed person is this: I don’t get a paid maternity leave.

There are other options, of course. I could have starting paying into employment insurance, for example. But I would have been forced to continue paying into it for as long as the business existed – even if that meant decades after taking time off to raise our family. This really didn’t appeal to me.

Instead, I decided to pursue an approach that has served me well so far in my life as an entrepreneur: I took matters into my own hands.

Luke and I made a plan together for building up our financial cushion, which we’ll be able to lean on when necessary. I created a bare bones budget for us to follow in the months ahead (I’ve been tracking our monthly spending and budgeting for four years now so this isn’t a new routine for me). And together with the support of our team at Web of Words, we planned ahead to take care of our clients, ensuring all of the pieces are in place so the business will continue to run as smoothly as possible.

Now, knowing the fallback is there if/when we need it, our plan is to continue living off of the income generated by the business while I step away from work to focus on our baby.

I don’t have a set schedule for how long this will be. But my top priority is being the best mom I can be for my baby. I know there will be a big learning curve to tackle. Fortunately, after nine years together (five married, and four as business partners), Luke and I have figured out how to be a pretty damn good team.

And yet, I can’t help but feel like I am missing out.

I see other mothers around me taking 18 months off to stay at home with their baby, cashing in on steady paycheques from the government along the way, and I know I will never have that experience.

But the reality is, this is the life I chose. And I’m confident it’s the right choice for my family.

While I won’t have a set time off in my daughter’s first year, I’ll have the flexibility to re-arrange my schedule so I can be there for her whenever she needs me in the years to come. While I will struggle to balance work and life in the months (and years) ahead, I’ll have the opportunity to challenge myself in new and exciting ways: by figuring out how to be a business owner, a wife and a mom.

I’ve come to realize that rather than resenting the fact my path is different than the ones many of the moms around me are experiencing, I should feel grateful for it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I have a set plan for how I’m going to manage it all. It doesn’t mean I feel like I have any sense of control over my immediate future.

But if being an entrepreneur has taught me anything over the years it’s this: I always find a way.

Now, I get to find my way with the support of my husband and business partner, and the determination to be an example for my child. One day, I’ll look back on this time in my life with a deep longing and, hopefully, a sense of pride over the decisions I made.

Until then, I’ll find a way to embrace the chaos. Because I know it’s what my future self would want me to do.

Do (or did) you get a maternity leave? How much time did you take off, and how did you feel about the decision to go back to work when you did?

Author:

Charlotte Ottaway

Charlotte is the founder of Web of Words. She helps solopreneurs and small business owners create real human connections online through blogging and social media. Her work has been published in Maclean's, Canadian Business, Zoomer, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post Canada and other Canadian publications. Better known by family and friends as Carly, she currently resides in Newmarket with her husband and fur-babe. To learn more, check out her portfolio at charlotteottaway.com and follow her on Twitter @charlottaway.

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