Sometime next month—roughly around the middle of March, I can't say for sure—a lightening bolt of pain is going to hit me at some unsuspecting moment and render me sore, under-slept and suddenly in charge of the survival of a completely helpless stranger.
I've known this was coming and have been prepping for a while now, but the imminence and inevitability of this life change is really starting to sink in. I am excited—really excited—don't get me wrong, but there is a healthy dose of fear packed in there.
This sums up my sentiments exactly:
Maggie and I have been diligently planning and working ahead to develop an auto-pilot system to cover me while I'm out. This has been a good exercise in any case, as it's forced us to map out internal processes so that anyone could come in and take over. We're trying to build a scaleable business after all, and it must be able to operate with or without us.
Our plan is to remove as many non-urgent responsibilities from my plate as possible for 6 months. Then when I come back after 3 months, we won't be behind. There are some things we're not in a position to offload (laying out orders to print, designing custom orders as they come in, the surprise daily "fires"), so I will still be working a bit throughout the first 3 months. All major activities, however, will be queued up and ready to go.
The idea is that when I come back from maternity leave and am a high performing working mom / model of efficiency, HLO will be in an even better position than we are today.
This plan has no flaws.
Our first big move in this prep was hiring our amazing, amazing production assistant Sofie. So orders will be fulfilled with or without me. Check.
Then I wanted to make the studio work a bit better so that I can bring the baby in and try to gracefully do the Working-While-Momming-Multitask-Dance. The most exciting part of that was buying this amazing green couch for the studio which I'm already sure is good luck.
Elizabeth sure seems to approve, anyway.
Finally, there is the business of growing the business. Marketing is the most important thing we are working on right now (ever?), and it's an incredibly difficult thing to automate. Nevertheless, we've mapped out our efforts and campaigns for the next 6 months (something we should be doing anyway, but hey). Simultaneously planning and working ahead has been super difficult, I can't sugarcoat that. But I can see as we make headway on our roadmap how beneficial this will be moving forward. Having our day-to-day items ready to go will give us so much more flexibility in our schedules and allow us to be more responsive for on the fly opportunities.
So I've been busy designing new styles and creative, not to mention our new site (!!), and it's all, very slowly, starting to feel like we might actually reach this 6 month goal.
I think the most stressful and scariest part of this planning for me is creating a realistic picture of what my work/life schedule will look like once I'm back at 'em. I have always liked working—even at jobs I haven't liked that much. Being productive makes me feel good. Throughout this planning process I've tried to be more cognizant of how long each activity takes, and I am beginning to realize the incredible luxury in being free to work as much as I want, whenever I want.
It's not unusual for me to stay at the studio until 9 working becuase I had an idea at 5:30 that just had to be acted on immediately. When you're a mom, do your ideas start to come at more productive times?
I am lucky to be surrounded by extremely strong women who have become mothers and maintained a work life "balance". Maybe a better way to say it is they have been able to make sure their careers have not taken a back seat to motherhood—or vice versa. It doesn't look easy or honestly that fun all the time, but as I sit here (however naively) I feel up for the challenge.
I also have two really good partners, my sister and my husband, so I don't at all feel like I'm going this alone. I feel lucky, excited and completely scared sh!tless. I've revisited some of my favorite get-er-done books (Lean In & Here's the Plan) and am even reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in an effort to be well, more effective. This is the biggest challenged I've ever faced, so of course I want to prepare as much as possible. But I'm also aware that I'm already doing it wrong! The future is so unknown. Again, this person is a complete stranger to me and already has already shown his/herself to be pretty bossy. I've been told not to worry, I will for sure, for sure love him/her. But based on the heartburn alone, I'm not yet convinced.
So who has this all figured out? Give a sister some advice?