Starting a business while on maternity leave…
When growing up, I (like so many girls of my generation) felt like there were two paths to take in life.
Career OR motherhood. Mutually exclusive. Never combined.
And then I had daughters…
I always knew I wanted to be a Mum, and after the birth of my first child I was heartbroken at the inferiority I felt when returning to work. Going back into an office and leaving my beautiful daughter behind was tough enough. And yet, with the disregard and disrespect that I endured, it made the process so much harder. Of course this isn’t the case in so many companies and thankfully nowadays businesses are brilliantly supportive of women in the workplace no matter their personal life choices. But for me, I felt I had to endure the situation and so my plan for a second child became an uncomfortable one.
This left me at a nerve wracking crossroads when I became pregnant for the second time. I knew I didn’t want to return to an unsupportive workplace but I also felt a little lost as to what the solution could be.
So, I took a step back and focused on my strengths.
I’ve always loved being creative. I had been a graphic designer for over a decade as an in-house designer for various firms. I loved being able to evoke emotion for clients. Seeing that powerful hold beautiful design can have over how someone feels is truly captivating. With this in mind, I knew I wanted to develop a brand new business that gave me the flexibility (school runs and Mum’s race at sports day here I come!), and autonomy over my career that also used my creative skills.
And so, sleepy-eyed from the night-feeds, I balanced my laptop on my knees as my 7 week-old breastfed and my 2 year old played beside me, Keepsakes By Rebecca was born.
I began by creating items using handprints and footprints. After all, baby hands and feet are so beautiful, and it’s a great opportunity to capture them because before you know it, they aren’t so little anymore! I developed this idea into crafting stunning artwork using these prints with heartfelt quotes or getting creative to turn them into a fun, creative shape. In fact, this is how it all works.
Anyone that’s started a business with a young family will tell you, this was definitely not the simplest of choices I’ve ever made! Breastfeeding and juggling the demands of a playful toddler meant I was on call 24/7 as ‘Mum’, so finding the time for business too wasn’t easy at all.
Coffee, time management, coffee, determination. And coffee.
Over the coming weeks and months I developed a shrewd system of splitting all of my projects into mini tasks to squeeze in during naps times, feeds, play time and more. I was exhausted. I was drained. I felt mum guilty aplenty as my mind was always in two places wanting to be the best at everything. But, I kept reminding myself what it was all for, and that powered me through. The long game would be worth it.
I’d always worked with start-ups and various sizes of businesses in different stages of their progression, but starting a new business was a whole new ball game! I had to learn fast (just like in parenting!), but it was exhilarating. It gave my brain something else to focus on too when things got tiring and tough with the girls. After all, I’m still Rebecca, not just Mum. The business allowed me to remember who I was and let myself be ME at the same time as my new found Mum role. I adored both and I was proud to hold both titles. And yet, that pride was sometimes something that held me back. I was almost too proud to prove to everyone (myself included), that I could do it all. Being able to juggle everything felt like a badge of honour. Looking back? It really isn’t. Asking for help when you need it is a sensational strength and I think more of us need to recognise that to help our mental wellbeing as parents and business owners. We have nothing to prove, and whatever it takes to be the best we can be, that is absolutely ok.
Now, as my daughters grow, I’m really excited to show them what I’ve achieved. I hope to inspire other women in a similar position to switch it up for a better work-life balance and enable them to have the parenting journey AND career they dream of, all rolled into one.
And, as my daughters indeed grow, so is the business! I now offer an alternative wedding guestbook, new home gifts and more. It’s really exciting to see what the future holds for the business from those early new born days!
Yes, it’s tiring. It’s often frustrating. It’s sometimes even lonely. But reaching out to others in a similar position online was my saving grace. And so, it has also been inspiring, exciting and motivating.
Now, when my daughters get asked what they want to do when they grow up?
I hope with a combination of the path I’ve taken, the work I’ve put in and the progression of society will allow them to become mothers AND careerwomen, should they desire it.
After all, they are what it’s all been for.