As I inched closer to my due date and people saw my belly grow more and more, I was getting the question same question over and over. “Are you taking time off?” or “Are you taking a maternity leave?”
When you work for an employer, it’s usually not a question or it’s more of a question of how many weeks are you taking leave. But when you work for yourself and not working means no income for your family, what does maternity leave really look like? There is time “off,” it’s just a little different.
I am an Associate Broker/Realtor. As an independent contractor, although I work under a brokerage, how often I work is totally up to me.
Selling real estate is a side gig for some people, but for me, it’s not. It’s my full-time job and a full-time income that my family depends on to survive and thrive.
During each pregnancy, I worried when people asked me about taking time off. I worried that they wouldn’t hire me because I was pregnant and thought I wouldn’t be able to help them buy or sell a home after I had the baby. I didn’t want them to think I couldn’t help them or give them the same level of service as I did when I wasn’t expecting a baby.
This past year throughout my 3rd pregnancy, my approach to maternity leave and preparation was different than with my first two babies. I really didn’t announce my pregnancy, and you only knew I was pregnant if you saw me or if you got my Christmas card. The fear of business slowing down was a real fear of mine. But I answered the question the same way every time someone asked about taking time off …. “I will be working while home with the baby, but I also have a good support system of agents to help me to ensure my clients get the same level of service.” And that has been the key to get through “maternity leave” with all 3 of my babies: Preparation and a support system.
No, I don’t have maternity leave in the traditional sense. I have been working while I am also home caring for my newborn. I am getting work done in between her naps, and my own naps when needed. I have had other agents help me by going to inspections and a few other appointments in the beginning but after a while, I am out and about. Often, she comes along with me until she starts daycare soon. I am also fortunate enough that my husband can be home sometimes while I run to appointments. I think Covid has helped us to realize he can do work from home from time to time.
I realize this type of maternity leave may not be for everyone. I’m working from home during this precious time. I do remember to take some no work or slow days to cherish every snuggle and have moments to just sit and be with my baby. I am also not working in the sense of the hustle of looking for new business but maintaining the work I do have to ensure I have time with my newborn and take care of clients.
There have been moments where I am torn; I wish I didn’t have to work at these times. But I am so grateful to have work that supports my family. I am also grateful for work that will allow me flexibility in the future to take time to go on school field trips or stay home when they are sick without a boss to report to.
Do you work for yourself or have an untraditional maternity leave? What did it look like, and how did you handle both caring for your newborn and work?