I’m taking some time off to have a baby. I am self-employed, and even if I weren’t, maternity leave is kind of a thing. I made sure to give all my clients plenty of advance notice so that I could wrap up any ongoing projects and they could work out alternate solutions for any problems/updates/edits that may come up while I’m unavailable. Reactions to this have been…interesting:
“…when you get back from your vacation…”
“I know you’re going to be hanging out with your baby, but can you just take this one project at the end of August?” (Note: my due date is August 26.)
“Okay, but you haven’t had the baby yet – why aren’t you taking any new work?”
“Oh of course, you’re going to spend some time doing the mommy thing – but you’ll still be able to do little updates to my site, right?”
“I understand you’re going on sabbatical, but…”
Call me unreasonable, but I am sort of baffled by this. It’s not a “vacation.” I am not taking an extended break to work on my French. I’m going to be giving birth, recovering from giving birth, and caring for a newborn. Even if I have some downtime (in between extended bouts of breastfeeding and the minutiae of parenting a baby and a seven year old) I’ll be severely sleep-deprived. All of which is why I am taking some time off from work.
(I’d assumed that by calling it “maternity leave,” I wouldn’t have to explain any of that.)
I love my day job, and I’m looking forward to jumping back into it when I’m ready. In the US there are no laws or benefits that allow self-employed and freelance folks to go on maternity leave, and I feel lucky to be in a position where I can take time off to recover from childbirth and care for my new baby. I don’t think any of that means I’m suffering from a lack of commitment to my work or a sudden attack of A Woman’s Place Is In The Kitchen. I think it means I’m being realistic, knowing my limits, and choosing the best course of action for my business as well as my family.
And I love that, too.