Freelancer Maternity Leave: Create the Benefits that Work Best for Your Family

Normally, I would shudder at a blog as neglected as mine, especially for a writer. It’s been since September 30…four months and one week. I’ve used words like, “languish,” and “rot,” to warn people to take care of their blog.

Because if you don’t have a blog, no one judges you for not posting. But once you put one up and leave it up, the first thing people see is the date of your last post.

BUT.

But, but, but, but, but.

Sometimes life delivers the most achingly beautiful diversion.

The reason I haven’t been blogging is…I’VE BEEN ON MATERNITY LEAVE!!

My husband and I recently finalized the adoption of our beautiful baby boy.

Maternity Leave with Adoption Presents Unique Challenges, Both as a Freelancer and an Employee

My freelancer maternity leave was different, both because I’m self-employed and because we adopted.

Primarily, I didn’t want to say anything before my son was born, because he wasn’t my son yet. That meant no blog post letting everyone know why I was going quiet.

In fact, in terms of adoption lingo, his birth mom wasn’t even technically a birth mom yet. The phrase “birth mom” refers to someone who has definitively, legally placed her child for adoption.

So, before she made that decision legally binding, she was a woman we knew and we also hoped she would allow us to adopt her baby. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but it’s also more sensitive to her rights and experience.

I didn’t relish the idea of having to write the “No baby right now, after all” blog post if things didn’t go as expected. Luckily for us, his birth mom still felt this was best for her baby and signed.

The Highlights of My Freelancer Maternity Leave

Photo by Momma Got Soul

Once he was born and we had him in our arms, well, we had our hands full. Midnight feedings, a couple of “just-in-case” visits to the ER. Plus all the diapers and hours spent staring at his amazing little face.

And not much sleeping or typing for more than twenty minutes at a time.

I was amazed how fun and freeing it was. As a freelancer, I was able to manage my obligations, move my business forward a little, and enjoy the experience untethered by office worries. It all felt natural and manageable, despite the unpredictable journey we’d embarked on, and less predictable, last-minute need for child care.

When I was employed, I worried maternity leave would be lonely and boring. While I did need my community more than ever (I’m still ALL extrovert), my son changes a little bit each day.

Discovering the Joys of Parenting

I still remember the first moment I met him–his eyes were closed and his face covered in tears (being born doesn’t seem that pleasant from his point of view) and he grabbed my finger and pulled it to his cheek. “This person is mine,” he seemed to say.

And I still remember the moment we realized we would get to keep him. And constantly turning his clear bassinet around in the hospital so he was always facing us. The moment we realized he knew us. The first time he smiled. The first giggle. When we learned his favorite song (not a baby song, by the way, he’s more sophisticated than that).

The first time I used a snot extractor on him. Don’t laugh, I was nervous about that one!

At some point, I had to work again, because I wanted to. My brain missed strategy and challenges. I missed regular adult conversation. And so just like that, I returned. On my terms.

My clients have been more than understanding, because they see how hard I’m working for them with an infant. They’ve responded with flexibility and enthusiasm to knowing I can only meet in person on certain days and how I’m structuring my deadlines.

Now, I’m not saying maternity leave from a job is bad or wrong and it may be flexible. And if you’re enormously lucky, it may even be paid.

A Few Things to Note About My Freelancer Maternity Leave

I guaranteed myself paid maternity leave.
 
One of the most elusive, valuable benefits seemingly only found at the most generous employers. As a freelancer, I knew it was best for my family, so I planned for it and took it.

I faced no worries or awkward conversations wondering if my boss was truly supportive.
 
Adoption almost never gives you nine months to plan for covering your work. If your company isn’t willing to grant you leave at the drop of a hat (or stork as the case may be), you have to either quit or find a new job to adopt. It’s part of the application to have a supportive employer. I checked. I was supportive. 😉

My ambition has blossomed right alongside my baby.
 
I want him to be proud of his Momma and have even more financial security and opportunities. Being a mom has changed the way I view myself, my business, and opened my eyes to a new world of value I can create for my clients. Employers, take note. Mommy-track people to your detriment and theirs.

I read Lean In well before I got the child I was dreaming of. I don’t know exactly what I expected, but many things have clicked into place since I returned. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate what exactly was missing, but I have a momentum now that defies logic of the new demands on my time and attention.

Before now, I would have thought maternity leave was harder as a freelancer. It doesn’t have to be. So, if you’ve always wanted to be a freelancer and things like maternity leave are stopping you, ask yourself if you could do more for your family working for yourself.

Best blog post ever.


Originally published at sharongwriting.com on February 7, 2018.