By Tracy Tanner & Blake Howard Norton, The Accidental Job Share
when your business is your baby
For many business owners, their business is their baby. They’ve brought it to life, pouring their heart and soul into nurturing and growing it. They swell with pride, rejoicing in how it benefits the world. But women business owners face a unique dilemma when they have a baby: how to care for both babies.
We’ve had the opportunity (yes, we said it, ‘opportunity’) to go through three maternity leaves together. This June will be our fourth!
As moms, therapists, and business owners, just saying that makes us feel… well, tired. If we hadn’t fallen into our accidental job share, it might be enough to do us in.
job share business owners
You see, we’re not only business partners but job share partners. Meaning we’re able to work in a way that’s compatible with the lives we live as primary caregivers. As therapists, we know how critical mom-infant time is in those first months to bond. Sadly, most business owners or private practice therapists can’t fathom taking real maternity leave, much less a partially-paid maternity leave. Fortunately, job sharing our practice means we can.
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As our business has grown and evolved, so has our partnership, roles, responsibilities and ultimately, our approach to maternity leave. During each of our first leaves, we hadn’t yet formed our current job share relationship. Instead, we were partnering as a side gig to our independent practices. As a result, we can unequivocally say that going through the life-changing experience of welcoming a new child into the world is infinitely better by being part of this accidental job share.
Below are lessons we’ve learned about taking maternity leave while job sharing our psychotherapy group practice:
5 lessons in job sharing your maternity leave
Job sharing allows us to take maternity leave and have absolute trust in our partner to keep the ship afloat. As co-directors who share every aspect of running our business together, there is no doubt when one of us is away, our business is in the best possible hands. We’ve built this trust through hard work, reciprocity, transparency, and a whole lot of good luck to have a partner we have full confidence in.
Taking an extended leave can be next to impossible when you’re the boss. It can be equally stressful if you’re worried about having a job to come back to or whether your work deliverables will fall through the cracks while you’re out.
Job sharing allows us the freedom to relinquish a lot of the anxiety most working mothers face around maternity leave and instead enjoy more peace of mind. We know fires will be put out, we have a job to return to, and our partner is 100% on board with us being fully present with our new little one.
Fortunately, we’ve had the freedom to structure a customized maternity leave in a way that best suits our individual needs and circumstances. At the same time, all four leaves have required careful planning and preparation of time.
Pretty much as soon as we even start contemplating getting pregnant, we start talking about maternity leave. We put time into the logistics including:
- What support systems our partner will need while holding down the fort,
- How to plan ahead for the financial impact of one partner taking leave, and
- Ways to itemize, track and delegate (or decide to put on hold) certain tasks ahead of time.
Job share partners are highly accountable to one another. Subsequently, we’ve both succumbed to our own internal pressure to carry our weight, before and after maternity leave. We know this can lead to feeling a whole lot of guilt and anxiety.
That’s why we’ve developed tools to manage this stress while job sharing. We approach our job share from the perspective of always giving as much as we’re able while taking into account our capacity may vary due to life circumstances. Shifts in energy, attention, and focus as well as physical, mental and emotional wellbeing in the months leading up to birth (as well as in the year postpartum), can be a tough adjustment. We practice giving ourselves and our partner a lot of grace in the process.
5 Ways to Put Your Job Share Partner First
Often mothers are expected to downplay or compartmentalize how motherhood changes you, your life and work. In our job share partnership (we are therapists after all), we make room for the evolution occurring inside our bodies and in our lives to prepare for maternity leave. Fear, anxiety, doubt, uncertainty as well as joy, excitement, and distraction are all a normal part of carrying a new life for the mom-to-be. While your job share partner may not be expecting, the chances are they may experience some of the exact same feelings! We create space for open dialogue about these feelings and identify ways to support each other during the maternity leave process. And this means supporting the emotional health of both the mom-to-be and the partner holding down the fort while she’s on leave.
We mentioned that planning is key, but so is flexibility. In our opinion, flexibility is essential when a force of nature so utterly unpredictable is gearing up to make its entrance to the world! Before and after the baby arrives, things may need to shift to make the maternity leave work.
What happens if:
- The baby comes early?
- Something comes up in which maternity leave needs to extend?
- Your partner experiences post-partum depression or anxiety?
Circle back and check in on how you both are feeling. When unexpected circumstances derail plans, it can trigger big feelings.
Flexibility is about making space for the possibility that things will not go as planned. Job share partners do this all the time! So relax, job share teams are seasoned improvisers who go with the flow when life throws curveballs. Prepare as much as possible and talk about ways in which you can each be flexible as well as what additional support could be useful for contingency situations.
Most business owners or private practice therapists can’t fathom taking real maternity leave, much less a partially-paid maternity leave. Job sharing our practice means we can.
u.s. can do better by mothers
Maternity and paternity leave are critical needs that require more structural and systemic support. Shamefully, the U.S is the only high-income country to not offer paid maternity leave on a federal level. Job sharing has allowed us to take a creative approach for maternity leave as small business owners, and we’re grateful. But women deserve more.
When 40% of women don’t qualify for maternity leave under the Family Medical Leave Act and 25% return to work within 2 weeks of giving birth to support their families, the U.S. has unfinished business to support working parents.
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This article is part of a series of how to build and maintain a successful job share business partnership by GT Therapy Group Co-founders & Co-directors Tracy Tanner & Blake Howard Norton.
Musings featuring or written by Tracy Tanner & Blake Howard Norton:
Melissa Nicholson job shared for nearly a decade and is the Founder & CEO of Work Muse. Work Muse drives the adoption of job sharing in business as a source of competitive advantage while helping individuals find work-life balance. Join the #JobshareRevolution here.