Some new mothers find that maternity leave is best spent focusing on their baby – and not on work. While for others – like Kim Palmer, founder of Clementine App – it presents an opportunity to try something new…
I’ve been on leave from my job as a strategy director for a leading digital agency in London since March 2018. In the nine months before having our second son and leaving for maternity leave, I started building a women’s wellness app called Clementine.
I worked every evening after work, weekends and holidays so that I could launch Clementine before I went on maternity leave. This wasn’t easy. Being pregnant, with one son already, a very stressful job and then going home every night to start working again was bloody tiring. But I had a clear vision for Clementine and was on a mission.
My plan was that I would spend my maternity leave looking after my new baby – Kingsley – and our family, while also working on Clementine. This meant I wasn’t really taking any time off work. But rather, focussing on one business rather than two jobs.
Interestingly, quite a few people raised questions and eyebrows about whether I could, or even should, be considering building a new business whilst looking after a new baby. Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind that I couldn’t. I wanted to. I was excited. I wanted to see if we could get it to a place where I was able to transition away from my job towards being my own boss.
The reality hasn’t been so easy to execute.
We’ve had a fantastic year with Clementine – growing our community so that we now have 50,000+ women engaging with the hypnotherapy sessions and mantras in our (free) app and the associated content we produce on the blog and social media. We’ve been learning what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve been doing presentations and sharing my story.
But I think it’s important to be honest about how hard it’s been, too. The first six months were the easiest because Kinglsey was a very content baby: slept a lot, fed well and we went everywhere together. He came to meetings in London with me (I live in Kent). I absolutely loved having him with me and I thought ‘this is the dream’.
And during this time, my confidence was building rather than diminishing – the opposite to what happened the first time I took maternity leave with our son Louis. Having my brain and energy focussed on family and Clementine meant I never started to question my abilities. I didn’t worry about ‘being out of the game’ as I was still in it, but just doing it on my terms. I felt like I was thriving.
But when Kingsley hit six months, things changed. He became more active and I started getting huge amounts of guilt about working during the day when he was awake. I felt that I wasn’t really being present with him and then I felt guilty for not being able to get the work done that I needed to. I felt torn in two directions.
I knew that I couldn’t continue in this way but I wanted to do both.
A couple of people asked if I would consider putting Clementine on hold. That wasn’t an option, because I love working on it and it fills me with so much joy. My husband also suggested that we get some childcare for Kingsley during the day. Again, that was not an option. Kingsley is our last child and I just wasn’t ready to give up the precious time we had together. So, what I decided to do was work less.
I stopped working during the day unless Kingsley was napping. By giving myself the permission to not work I felt so much happier spending my days with him. Then I decided that I would work in the evenings but focussing on big important things vs noodling around on Instagram for hours on end, or faffing about with stuff that wasn’t going to significantly move the dial.
Again – this wasn’t easy. I’m a morning person and have the most amount of energy in the morning. But by only working on the big stuff – like writing our business plan and developing our strategy for partnerships – I’ve ensured that all the work I’m doing it moving the business forward in a really positive way.
The hope is that we will be taking a significant step forward this year when we secure our first round of investment.
It’s also important to share that whilst I’ve been working on Clementine and looking after the family, I have not been looking after our house. The house is a mess. But I made the decision to let it get messy, as I didn’t have time to deal with it.
When I was on maternity leave the first time I put all my energy into making the house perfect. It was like I needed a new purpose and the house was it. It didn’t make me happy. It stressed me out.
Recently, my husband said that when Kingsely and I were in New Zealand a few months ago, his mental health was at its best. Why? Because the house was spick and span whilst we were away. It is a fair point.
I love the house being tidy but it doesn’t impact my wellbeing. We’re working on ways to help each other. It’s an ongoing discussion.
At the beginning of 2019, looking back over 2018, I can hand-on-heart say that I wouldn’t change how I’ve approached the juggle of work with family life. Yes, I’m tired. But this past year has been filled with so much joy. I feel more confident than ever. We’re building a sustainable business, our way. We’re about to secure investment. The transition towards becoming my own boss and getting paid is closer. It’s been worth it.
Next year will become easier as Kingsley will slowly settle into nursery, which means I can focus more time during the day on Clementine. I will reclaim some of my evenings so I can enjoy ‘me-time’ and time with my husband, who has been a bit neglected this year. The house might become a bit tidier. But maybe not, let’s see.
If you would like to feel calmer, more confident and get better sleep, check out Clementine App. It’s free to use and thousands of women around the world say it works.