Savings? What Savings? Or How We Survived Maternity Leave Twice

maternity leave savingTwo years ago I started my first maternity leave utterly convinced that I’d be back at my desk six months later. I couldn’t afford to take any longer than that off work, or so I thought. Here’s what really happened – I’m still laughing about how naive I was back then!

A month into my maternity leave, the day after my daughter was born, I realised I couldn’t go back to work in five months time. So Mr L and I agreed I’d take a total of nine months off, mostly because that’s when my maternity pay ran out.

Then I realised I couldn’t face working full time and went back to work two days per week. Somehow our budget still just about worked out.

Then I found out I was pregnant again. Big shock. Our finances got tighter, but we coped. After four and half months back at work, I was on maternity leave again.

A month ago I passed the nine-month mark on my second maternity leave, meaning my maternity pay has run out again. Now we’re in the gap between my maternity pay ending and my new business bringing in an income. This is when we start to spend our savings in a big way.

I can feel my stomach clenching at the thought of it.

I’ve always been fairly sensible with money. True, there were times I could have been better, but I’ve always had a bit of cash tucked away in an online savings account for a rainy day. So I’m uncomfortable about spending it all now.

I’m also uncomfortable about being (temporarily) without an income and not contributing into a pension for a few years. At a time in my life where I’ve just picked up a lot more responsibility, I’m not being very responsible with my finances.

But maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I keep reminding myself that we are in exceptional circumstances. Life will get easier and I will find the time and energy to earn an income again soon. And if I can plan a business while having two babies fifteen months apart, then I can do anything!

In a way, this is the rainy day we were saving for.

Having babies has booted me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. The gap in my income isn’t a failure; it’s me being out of my financial comfort zone.  If you’d told me two years ago about the battering our finances were about to receive, I’d have told you there’s no way we could have coped, but we have.

I’m actually quite proud of us.

Photo by Alan Cleaver

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Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Me

I‘ve been tagged by Antonia of Family Friendly Working and Sam of Keep Calm Eat Cake (and Mum’s The Boss), so I thought I should get around to doing a post on seven things you didn’t know about me. Sam also sent me the Kreative Blogger award, so I’m quite tickled by that. Thanks Sam!

1. I was a clumsy child. I’d broken both my legs by the time I was three. I was quite proud of this when I was a child, but now I’ve got a daughter who is almost two I’m horrified at the thought of it! I’ve always been a bit clumsy and uncoordinated but this improved when I…

2. …Spent seven years learning tai chi. Then I moved to Bedford three years ago and gave it up. Well, not exactly gave it up. More like never got around to continuing it. It’s a real shame because I must have forgotten most of it by now.

3. When I was 35 I found out I was Irish. Kind of. My maiden name was McClagish and my Grandad was born in Glasgow, so we’d always assumed we had Scottish roots. Then I checked the censuses for my Scottish ancestors and found every one of them had parents or grandparents who were born in Ireland. I don’t think my Dad believes me.

4. My little brother used to go out with Sam Pearce’s (of Mums the Boss fame’s) little sister. But Sam and I didn’t meet until fifteeen years later at the first Mum’s The Boss meeting. Sam worked out who I was when she read my Facebook wall a couple of weeks later and saw my brother had written ‘My big sis stinks’ on it (he was 33 at the time!).

5. I’m a rubbish snowboarder. It’s probably something to do with point number 1. I’ve spent five days learning in France, another five in Bulgaria and I’ve slid on my bottom down the Tamworth Snowdome on many happy occasions but I’m still awful. I tried Cairngorm too, but it was hardest of all there because of the horizontal snow causing a white-out  (I certainly didn’t feel any affinity with Scotland that day).

6. Come to think of it, I don’t have much luck with outdoorsy stuff. When I went white water rafting the raft capsized (it was in Nottingham in November). I perforated an eardrum during my first outdoor scuba dive. I went zorbing and had a panic attack. These days I just stay in and watch Cbeebies instead.

7. I lived in Cardiff for three years, but it was a long time before Torchwood and Gavin and Stacey made it cool. Back in those days, Captain Jack’s office would have been under the Severn Estuary. I don’t think Barry Island has changed much though.

I now have to pass this award on to seven other bloggers. If they want, they can also take up the challenge, which is:

1.Copy the award to your blog
2.Insert a link to the person who nominated me
3.Tell you seven things about myself that I haven’t told you before
4.Nominate seven other bloggers for the award
5.Link to their blogs
6.Tell the nominees about their award

So here are my seven nominees (I hope you’ve not been tagged already!):

Becky at Baby Budgeting

Maggy at The Good Life

Sam at Mumazing

Mummy’s Little Monkey

Andrea Daly, the Accidental Business Mum

Susie at Wise Genius

Toniann at Knot Just Jigs

I Started a Business with a Baby: Elizabeth Geldart

Well, a toddler actually. But the challenges are much the same!

Welcome to my first profile of a mum who has succeeded in starting a business with a small child. Introducing Elizabeth Geldart of Chiggs Ltd…

Tell us a little about your business

My business, Chiggs Ltd, based in Harrogate, retails and wholesales my own inventions- the Baby Feed Wheel, Baby Medicine Wheel and the Get Well Wheel. These are parenting products, cards and gifts with rotating numbered dials to keep track of baby’s feed and everyone’s medicine times! I have been running my business since 2005, and now supply my products to online and bricks & mortar shops throughout the UK, and further afield!

What was your job before starting your business?

I used to be an Air Stewardess, but I was a stay-at-home Mum when I had the idea for my first product, the Baby Feed Wheel.

What were your reasons for starting a business?

I didn’t really sit down and plan to start a business, but I had an idea for a product that I thought would be useful for new parents- too good not to take further, so I set about designing and making it!

Did you use any childcare?

I mainly worked around my daughter, Holly, by working in the evenings or when my husband, who works shifts was around to help with childcare. Holly was just 2 when I had the idea and was doing all the initial research and design, and she had just started going to a local nursery for a couple of hours twice a week which was also small window of opportunity!

How did you get your business idea?

The inspiration for my first invention, the Baby Feed Wheel, came in October 2005 when I was visiting a friend who’d just had a baby. In the midst of sleep deprivation, she couldn’t remember her little boy’s last feed time, so I jokingly suggested she used a car parking disc to set the time whenever he had a feed. A couple of days later I took round a little ‘homemade’ version (covered in blue paper with a little picture stuck on the front!)

Remembering my own ‘hazy days’ after my daughter Holly’s birth, when I would write all her feed times down on pieces of paper, I realised what a useful idea this would be for new parents.

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

My main challenge was a lack of experience!  I had no experience of running a business, or of bringing a brand new product to market, and there were so many things to do:- product development, patents, production, branding, sales and marketing….

What training, information or advice did you need to get started?

I did lots and lots of research on the internet, but it was mainly a case of learning by experience!

If you could give one  piece of advice to a mum of a baby or toddler starting a business, what would it be?

Go for it! Particularly if you have an idea for a new product- you’ll kick yourself if someone else invents ‘your’ product!

Did you start a business as mum to a baby or toddler? Would you like your story to appear on Business Plus Baby?

Why Mumpreneurs Should Make a Decent Profit

mumpreneur profitI've been reading Mum Ultrapreneur, partly because I'm doing some business book reviews for Mums The Blog, but also because I just love a good how-to-start-your-own-business book.

(What did I think of the book? I'll let you know when Mums The Blog publish my post…)

As I was doing a final skim through Mum Ultrapreneur's interviews with business mums, I nearly choked on my biscuit when I read:

"…lots of business mums I've come across said their husbands aren't at all [supportive]. Which I think is something important to mention. I've found that a lot of husbands, because they're so money focused, find it difficult to understand what they're wives are doing because they're not bringing in that much money. Lots of mums in business are only doing it because they really enjoy it and it's creative"

Alli Price of

Photo by showmeone

It wasn't the bit about the unsupportive husbands. Not everyone has an entrepreneurial streak, and if you don't have one yourself, coping with  one in your partner can be unnerving.

What made my crumbs fly was this –

"Lots of mums in business are only doing it because they really enjoy it and it's creative"

One huge advantage of running your own business is that you can do it your way. But surely making a decent profit has to be a central goal of any business? True, most of us mumpreneurs have two aims – to make money and to fit our work around our families. But I'd assumed that the making money part was a no-brainer. After all, a business that you enjoy, is creative but only makes peanuts isn't a business. It's a hobby.

Many businesses go through periods where they make no profit at all, especially at the beginning. But the aim to make a decent profit has to be there for it to be a bona fide business.

I wondered why I was so rattled by Alli's quotation and I've nailed it down to three things:

1. A creative, enjoyable business that makes very little money is a huge wasted opportunity.

If the business makes some money, there's every chance that with a few tweaks it could make a lot more. Perhaps it needs more of a focus,  a business plan or marketing plan, a review of pricing, more training or business advice.

2. What's really going on here? Are we selling ourselves short as business mums?

Many of us Brits still see money as a slightly grubby subject and I suspect British women are particularly affected by this.

The trouble is that this belief can lead to women not having the confidence to ask for what they are entitled. I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the jobs that are done by female workers are the lowest paid. That, in turn, lowers the status of work that women do. Perhaps lurking behind all this enjoyment and creativity is a woman afraid to ask for what she is really worth?

3. I don't want anyone to think of my new business as a little hobby to keep me busy while I care for my babies

I may work part time, but I take my business every bit a seriously as I took my previous career. In fact, the stakes are even higher now. I need the money to keep a roof over my family's head and I want to set a good example for my children. I aim to do work that I enjoy, but if it doesn't pay me what I'm worth I'll find another business idea.

None of this is meant as a criticism of Alli Price or Mum Ultrapreneur. Both are passionate about helping mums to start businesses exactly as I am. I hope the quotation has been just a starting point for my thoughts and that these help a mum somewhere to get a decent profit for all her hard work.

Because it's hard work even if you do enjoy it.

What are your thoughts? Please do drop me a comment below.

Did you start a business with a baby (or a toddler)?

Would you like to appear on Business Plus Baby? Could  sharing your story help an aspiring  mumpreneur start her business? Or maybe telling your story could you inspire a mum who is already running her business? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

If you like the sound of this (and you’d like a link to your website) this is what I’d like to know:

  • Tell us a little about your business
  • What was your job before starting your business?
  • How did you go from your old career to your new business? Did you hand in your notice when your maternity leave ended? Or work part time after having your baby, then leave your job later on?
  • What were your reasons for starting a business? Wanting to spend more time with your child(ren)? The cost of childcare? To be able to work flexibly?
  • Did you use any childcare? If yes, how much? If no, how did you find the time to do any work? How did you manage your time? Did you work mainly in the evenings and nap times?
  • How did you get your business idea?
  • What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?
  • What training, information or advice did you need to get started? Did you get this, if so where from?
  • If you could give one  piece of advice to a mum of a baby or toddler starting a business, what would it be?

Drop me a message using my contact page. Looking forward to hearing from you!