Maternity leave for the self-employed

So I’ve been mulling something over.  How much, if any, time should I try to take off after the baby’s born?

With my last full-time job and my last pregnancy, the company offered something like 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave, so it was pretty well-established what would be available. This time, I’m the boss, so I get to decide.  But how to decide? A freelancer’s schedule is such that if you’re not working, you’re not only not making any money, you’re probably not making any progress on making any future money, too. I don’t want to be a total cliche and say “you snooze (even for a well-deserved nap after going through childbirth), you lose” but well…

I have told one client for whom I’m working on an ongoing project to give me a couple of weeks to recuperate, and they said sure. I told them that they could certainly call me or email me during that time, but I probably wouldn’t have a lot of energy to spare to get actual work done during that time, and they were completely understanding.  But what if a great assignment comes along? Do I take it? Do I take it and potentially risk failing because I’m so darn exhausted? Do I take it and ask for a longer amount of time to work on it? Do I politely and regretfully decline while I take some time to recover from having a baby? Do I take the assignment and pound it out, no matter what? And what if I don’t get any assignments? Should I just be glad for a break or should I be worried about the future? Should I try to carve out some time to send out more queries and pitch stories to editors? Is it realistic to think I’d be able to even do that two or four or six weeks postpartum? Would it be fair to my family, especially my new baby and my three-year-old who will already be reeling from the change to our family, to try to do real work really soon? Will this annoying carpal tunnel syndrome finally go away so I can type for longer periods of time again?

What does maternity leave for the self-employed look like?

I have no idea. But I’ve been thinking about it….


About jenniferlarsonwrites

I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree in English from Rhodes College. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner who spent a few years in Southern California, a rabid baseball fan and a would-be grower of tomatoes. You can also visit me at LinkedIn or on Twitter at @JenniferLarson.
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6 Responses to Maternity leave for the self-employed

  1. John says:

    Jenn, you worry way to much!!!

  2. rachelc says:

    This is my first visit here. Congrats, by the way! I stopped going to my full-time job with the idea that I would work from home until the baby was born, then go freelance.

    Of course, I gave birth THE NEXT DAY.

    That said, my little guy was in the NICU for a bit, so it helped to go back to work right away. Also, I just took assignments and guessed the whole thing. It worked out, but PLEASE do not overwork yourself.


  3. jenniferlarsonwrites says:

    Rachel, thanks for commenting!

    When I stopped working to go on maternity leave with my now-three-year-old, I figured I’d have a couple of weeks to rest up. I was home two days, and then my water broke. Argh. (“Where’s my rest time?” I remember grumbling afterward. ) I’m sorry your son ended up in the NICU, because I can only imagine how stressful that must have been for you. I hope he’s okay now!

    I may just take a wait-and-see approach on how much freelancing I feel that I can handle after the birth. It may go great, and I may be ready to work. Or…it might not. I’ve learned that, with children, they’re always going to find a way to throw a wrench into the best plans…

  4. Susan says:

    Jennifer- you are crazy if you think you will have the slightest desire to work after said baby arrives! William will want what little attention/energy you have to give. Just give yourself a break for a few months! By the way, love both websites!! S

  5. Susan says:

    oops- I forgot to tell you which Susan I am (Johnny’s mother). Can’t wait to meet new baby! S

  6. Brynna says:

    Hi! I found this post via Google, and I know it’s old, so hopefully you’re still around. I’d love to hear how this ended up working out for you. I’m expecting my first in September and I’m a freelancer, although a slightly nontraditional one as I contract regularly with two agencies — so in ways it really feels like I’m leaving an employer hanging for a few months (even worse!!). Feel free to reply here (I’ll subscribe to comments) or email me back if you’re able to offer any words of wisdom. I appreciate it!

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