Being an entrepreneur means working through challenges. But running a business while pregnant comes with a unique set of challenges. "The minute I knew I was pregnant, my first thought was 'yay' and my second thought was 'oh crap, I just killed my business'," says Darla DeMorrow, New Jersey-based professional organizer and decorator and author of The Pregnant Entrepreneur (Blue Tudor Books, 2011). Rebecca Rescate, founder of CitiKitty, a toilet-training system for cats, worked up to contractions and was back a couple of days after giving birth.
The two women, each with different pregnancy experiences and businesses, offer their advice on how to be a mom-to-be and run a business.
1. Give birth to the business before the baby.
DeMorrow was three years into her business when she got pregnant and says having a stable business before introducing a baby to the mix was crucial to her success as an entrepreneur. "There's a learning curve in any business [and in my experience] small business takes about three years to percolate," she says. A mature business with a strong client base allowed DeMorrow to take a three month maternity leave and feel comfortable knowing she could kick-start the business again when she was ready.
2. Decide whether your business can survive maternity leave.
While DeMorrow was able to schedule clients three months in advance and had a full schedule upon her return from maternity leave, Rescate had only launched her business three months before getting pregnant and says time off would have caused the business to suffer. "My company was in its infancy and I was the only employee. To take maternity leave all the momentum I worked so hard to gain would have been lost," she says. Although Rescate worked throughout her pregnancy and post-birth, only taking a few days off to recuperate, she says now that her company is mature, she would most certainly take a four week leave were she to have another child.
3. Project-manage your pregnancy.
DeMorrow advises treating a pregnancy as you would any other large-scale project. Take a critical look at your business team and decide who may be able to take on tasks that you may not be able or willing to perform. "Pregnancy and motherhood teaches you how to delegate better," says DeMorrow.
4. Be flexible.
"You don't know what kind of pregnancy you're going to have until you have it," says DeMorrow. While DeMorrow says she had a perfect pregnancy with little morning sickness, Rescate was plagued with nausea and exhaustion which meant she had to adjust her workload and expectations, creating a schedule that worked around her pregnancy.
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5. Plan the fourth trimester.
Getting through the pregnancy is the easy part compared to a new baby's early months; a period DeMorrow terms "the fourth trimester." Rescate says one of the best things about being an entrepreneur is the ability to schedule your own working hours. She worked in the early morning hours before her baby woke up, at nap time and after bedtime. Decide how your working hours will change and start making the switch before the baby arrives so you and your clients, venders and employees have an opportunity to adjust before D-day comes.
6. Decide when to disclose.
Telling clients about her pregnancy was a struggle for DeMorrow. "I didn't really want people to know I was pregnant because I do a lot of physical work in clients' homes and I didn't want them to say no, you can't lift that," she says. DeMorrow was also concerned that clients may think she was leaving the business now that she was pregnant and decided not to disclose the news until it became physically obvious.
Rescate, on the other hand, didn't hide her pregnancy. "If clients, employees and vendors can't accept your pregnancy, a condition that only lasts nine months, how will they accept you having an infant, a toddler and a grade-schooler?" she says. DeMorrow advises entrepreneurial moms-to-be announce the pregnancy with enthusiasm and a plan for what the new being in your life will mean for the business both before and after birth to quell concerns about your ability to run the business effectively.