From CEO to motherhood and back again (with a baby in tow)

working mum on maternity leave

For a lot of business owners, handing over the reins (even for a short amount of time) can be a big ask.

As CEO of a marketing agency that I bootstrapped into existence during the recession, I completely understand where they’re coming from.

But, as a recovering workaholic, I’m all too aware of the flaws in this ‘always at the helm’ style of management. Nowadays, rather than simply surround myself with a stellar team, I make a point of utilising their various skillsets and assigning more responsibility.

This new approach stood me in good stead when I fell pregnant last year. I went on maternity leave confident in the knowledge that it would be business as usual while I was away. And now that I’m ready to go back to work, it’s going to stand me in equally good stead.

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, but I have no intention of slotting back into my old role. For starters, I’ll only be working half days. I’ll also spend the bulk of my time on the ‘high view’ stuff (finances, new business, etc.), leaving the day-to-day operations to my team.

Until my little one arrived, TopLine was always my main priority. Now, I need to figure out how to take the work/life balance I achieved before becoming a mum to another level. I’m under no illusions that it will be plain sailing, but I do believe that forward planning will help when the seas get choppy.

Getting help

Step one in the transition process is finding a trustworthy nanny for Jackson. If I know he’s in good hands, I’ll feel okay about leaving him. This in turn means that when I’m at the office my attention will be 100% on the task at hand. There’s nothing productive about being somewhere in body with your mind elsewhere.

Setting boundaries

I used to work ridiculously long hours and then I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and that all changed. One of the things the book taught me was to set clear boundaries between work and home (a novel concept at the time). Now that I have Jackson to consider, I plan on being even more vigilant about leaving work at the office.

I used to pride myself on my ability to multi-task, but I’ve since realised that it’s a counter-productive approach to life and work. Nowadays, I’m all about single-tasking. My productivity levels have shot up and I’m much happier.

The right stuff

Another big lesson I learnt from reading Essentialism, is the importance of focusing on the right stuff. Like most women, I wanted to do it all and saw no reason why I couldn’t (or shouldn’t). With my work day halved, it’s more important than ever that I focus only on those things only I can do. If a task can be completed without me, then I’ll leave my team to handle it.

Freeing up my weekends

Pre-essentialism, I’d spend at least half (often more) of my weekend working. I managed to put a stop to it some time ago, but before Jackson arrived I’d still find myself attending to admin tasks that I didn’t get to during the week.

Time is a funny thing. We’ll often convince ourselves we don’t have enough of it, when in fact we really do. For me, this means being more proactive about those small pockets of time that often present themselves e.g. in-between meetings. That way my weekends will be free to spend how I please.

Share the load

Jackson’s dad and I work together at TopLine and share the same passion for the business. We’re also equally besotted with our little guy, so it’s a given that we’ll be sharing the responsibility of taking care of him. For both of us, just knowing we have each other’s full support has already made all the difference. Raising a child in a household where both parents work can be tricky, but we’ve made a point of talking through the details to avoid the possibility of resentment creeping in.

Babies don’t come with a manual, so being a parent means learning as you go and trusting that you’re always doing your best. Some days will be easier than others, but knowing I have a solid support structure in place has allowed me to relax into my new dual-role with relative ease.

About the author

Heather Baker is founder and CEO of TopLine Comms, a video, SEO and inbound marketing agency with offices in London and Cape Town. She’s also mum to a three-month old and human to London’s office dog about town.

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