Something has been happening beneath my Zoom frame. I’m happy to share that my spouse and I are expecting our second child very soon, and I’ll be taking maternity leave. My pregnancy hasn’t been a secret, but being pregnant when we’re social distancing and avoiding unnecessary outings has certainly made it less obvious to colleagues and friends. At a time when there’s simply not enough good news in the world, we’re excited to celebrate our new family member.
This will be the second time I take maternity leave in the six years I’ve been a business owner. There was some real romance to being a solo entrepreneur back in early 2018 when I became pregnant with my first child. I quickly realized that if I wanted to take the kind of family leave I was helping my clients fight for, I’d need to build a team.
Jennifer Watkins Bielasiak was the first not-me team member of ACM Strategies, and she came aboard shortly before my daughter was born. With Jen’s support, I was able to truly step away from day-to-day work for the first time, knowing that our clients would be well-served.
I treasure my memories of that time. Instead of getting up every morning and logging onto my computer, I was able to recover and bond with little Eleanor. We went walking in the park twice a week with other new babies and parents on leave. Because I am who I am, I never disengaged from protesting some of the darkest policies of the Trump era. Instead, some other new moms and I took our infants with us to Capitol Hill and had meetings with House leadership staff about the horrendous family separation policy. I slept when I could. I returned from that leave as energized, well-rested, grateful, and happy as any working new parent could be.
As a business owner, it’s important to me that I lead by example. If I don’t prioritize my own physical, mental, and emotional health, why would my team think it’s OK and encouraged that they prioritize theirs? As someone who believes that paid family and medical leave should be available to every worker, I know that I can’t be exempt. Nobody can do their best work when they’re caregiving or recovering from a bodily trauma full time.
Because this is my second family leave, I have some idea how my brain and body will react to childbirth and having an infant at home. I know there will be days when my wheels are turning and I HAVE to email a client a great idea or pursue a new opportunity. There will also be a lot of days when I struggle to get out of bed or just need to relax and enjoy my family. I’m going to indulge that need.
We’ve done a lot of prep work to make sure my leave doesn’t disrupt client service or operations. Over the past year, we’ve made a concerted effort to document our systems and share institutional knowledge so no one person bears the burden of being the sole keeper of key information. Sometimes it feels really good to be the only one on a team who knows how to do something, but without redundancies in place, nobody on our team could truly step away from work. This was a big undertaking for a small business, but it’s been worth it. One of the benefits of this knowledge-sharing effort is that everyone on our team has been able to take vacation days without being interrupted by a work call.
Our team has grown since 2018, but I’m grateful to say Jen will again be at the helm while I’m working a reduced schedule. I’ll be in regular communication with Jen, Angela, Erin, and Nicole while I’m out, and I’m prepared to step in in the event of a true emergency (such as, you know, a pandemic changing all of our plans). But I’m excited to take a back seat for a while. Together, we’ve built a powerful, capable, expert team, and business will continue on as usual without my daily presence.
That freedom is an extraordinary feeling to have as a small business owner. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done to get to this point where each member of our team, including me, can take time for our families, health, interests, and needs. I truly believe that a company culture that values each team member as a whole person makes our work output infinitely better.
ACM Strategies is a women-led team of digital organizers and strategists that specializes in helping progressive leaders and organizations get off defense and win uphill battles. We use our expertise to transform big ideas into a comprehensive digital strategy that achieves your goals.
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