For the last few weeks, I’ve been telling any brands that ask me to collaborate with them that I’m currently “winding down for maternity leave” and unable to help.
Then I’ve been quietly panicking just in case they look at the blog, see that I’m still publishing regular content on it, and assume I just hate them, and don’t want to work with them: and then they’ll hate me, obviously, and will tell all of their friends how awful I am, and I’ll end up having to go and work down the mine, or as a chimney sweep, or something.
(In other news, my therapist tells me I have a tendency to catastrophize. I wonder where she gets THAT from?)
The thing is, though, when you blog for a living, you don’t actually GET “maternity leave” as such. Or you DO – but you have to plan for it well in advance, and probably continue working as much as you can, both before and after the birth – something I suspect is probably true for anyone who’s self-employed in some capacity.
(This isn’t a complaint, by the way: for me, there are so many positive to blogging for a living that I’m willing to live with the occasional negative: I just wanted to write about this one, because it’s something I think a lot of bloggers have to grapple with at some point, whether it be around maternity leave specifically, or anything else that people in “normal” jobs would generally be able to take paid leave for…)
Here in the UK, for instance, most women are able to take up to 12 months maternity leave: not all at full pay, necessarily, but at least with the security that comes from knowing their job will still be there for them when they come back to it, anything up to a year later.
In my case, I CAN also claim maternity pay from the government: not a lot of people know this, but although I work for myself, running this blog, I’m NOT technically “self-employed”, but an employee of the limited company Terry and I own together. (I believe there’s also financial help available for people who ARE self-employed, but I’m absolutely clueless about that, I’m afraid…) The problem is, though, that even if I were to claim maternity pay, I still wouldn’t be able to just take 12 months off work – or not without seriously damaging my business and future livelihood, anyway.
This is something I’ve found a lot of people struggle to understand. I’ve had a few people telling me that I should, “just take some time off!” and that it’ll be fine, because my readers will totally understand. Which I’m sure they would, of course, but the problem is that my regular readers, as awesome as they are, account for only a small percentage of the daily visitors to my blog – and while I know they WOULD understand me needing to take some time off once the baby is here, what they WOULDN’T do would be to continue to visit my blog, anyway.
So, my traffic would plummet, my advertising revenue would go with it, and by the end of my maternity leave, I’d have a real struggle on my hands to build my income back up to where it was before. As Terry put it when we were discussing this last week, if my business was a shop, say, rather than a blog, then no one would expect me to just close down for 12 months (or even two or three months) without it having a huge impact on my business, which I’d essentially have to build up from nothing again once I went back to it. Blogging – when you’re doing it full-time – is no different, really: which means I’ve had to think long and hard about how to handle maternity leave, and how much time off I can reasonably afford to take.
Because, the fact is, I DO want to take some time off once the baby’s here: of course I do. I absolutely hate the thought of bringing this new little person into the world, and then just continuing to be glued to my computer or phone for the first few weeks/months of his life – I mean, how miserable would that be?
No, I want to be able to enjoy the baby: to take some time to get used to our new normal, and, of course, to recover from the surgery.
At the same time, though, I know myself well enough to know that I’m ALSO going to want to blog about a lot of the huge life changes I’ll be going through. I know a lot of people will turn their noses up at that, and tell me I SHOULD be spending every spare second with the baby, and not even THINKING about opening my laptop, but honestly, it’s just who I am. If something happens to me, I have to write about it: always have, always will, and I can’t really see this being any exception, really. Why would it? One of the hardest things about my first trimester, for instance, wasn’t the fact that I felt so ill for most of it: it was the fact that I wasn’t able to write about it and share it all with you guys (Er, not literally, obviously: I didn’t want to actually share my NAUSEA with you all, although, if someone had been offering to take it off my hands…), the same way I do with everything else in my life.
So, I’m not going to put any pressure on myself to blog once the baby is here – but I’m not going to put any pressure on myself NOT to, either. I’ve already written a bunch of posts which are ready to be published in January (or whenever he turns up), so you can rest assured that I won’t be sitting here hammering out blog posts, as if nothing has changed. I’m also, however, planning (And I use that word in its loosest possible sense – I’m very aware that I’ve no idea how I’m going to feel once the baby arrives, and, well, the best-laid plans, and all that…) to supplement those posts with new ones that I’ll write as and when I feel like it: so, no pressure, no set blog schedule, and absolutely no guilt if I decide that, actually, I’d rather catch up on some sleep rather than writing that blog post I was so sure I’d be dying to get out of my system.