Momprenuers and Maternity Leave

research has shown that taking more maternity time is one of the top five wishes for do-overs for women with MBAs.
research has shown that taking more maternity time is one of the top five wishes for do-overs for women with MBAs. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Julia Rohan was still in her hospital bed, recovering from a cesarean section, when she returned to work.

The owner and founder of Rover-Time Dog Walking & Pet Sitting had planned to step away from direct client contact during her maternity leave.

"I had two people who needed my guidance to keep everything afloat," says Rohan, whose son just turned 1.

Though she'd planned to go back to work part-time after having her son, Rohan soon was clocking 60 hours a week.

Between 1997 and 2013, the number of female-owned companies increased by 59 percent, and today more than 8.6 million businesses in the United States are owned by women, according to a 2013 American Express report.

But while these women are taking the lead in business ownership, they're finding it difficult to take a break from their companies to have a child. For many, being a business owner and a mother is a burden because they feel they have it all but can't enjoy any of it.

Even if they can give themselves maternity leave, some owners say taking 12 weeks away can be a death sentence for a business.

Still, research has shown that taking more maternity time is one of the top five wishes for do-overs for women with MBAs, said Laraine Zappert, clinical psychologist and author of "Getting It Right," a book about women, work and wellness.

"Even the most career-committed woman sometimes wish they had allowed themselves more time before returning to work," Zappert said.

Rohan said she loved her job but became resentful because she felt her company was tearing her away from her baby during those first three months.

"It drastically affected my relationship to my job," she said. "The business I had was my first baby, but to fall so out of love with it was very difficult, and to shift this back and to make myself love it again was hard."

Rohan said she felt she was going through a trauma when she returned to work soon after her son's birth but did so to keep her company afloat.

"I'm happy that I could have a business to return to, but I realized that I needed to work on my relationship with my business," Rohan said.

Resentment about not being able to take time off to care for a newborn can linger for years, which is why female leaders need a plan, said Allyson Downey, CEO and a founder of weeSpring, an online shopping platform for parents, and author of "Here's the Plan."

"I think open, candid conversations about who will be handling what is crucial," Downey said. "I talked to a pair of female entrepreneurs who had so much resentment simmering beneath the surface of their relationship." Downey said one of the co-founders of the company was worried that all the burden would be placed on her after her business partner became pregnant. She said she was fearful about speaking not being supportive.

Downey suggested inviting the entire team to share concerns and fears.

"Be proactive in initiating those conversations, and work together to develop a plan that'll leave them feeling confident in your absence," Downey said.

She said that the upfront investment of time is worthwhile because it will help avoid resentments on both ends.

Tiana Kubik, who co-owns TK photography with her husband, said that she didn't take maternity leave with her first child 3 years ago and worked from the hospital.

"It was just doing what we had to do to keep our business going," she said.

But, Kubik said, it will be different with her second child, due in October.

She now has a studio manager, administrative support and a plan: Most of her work duties will shift to the studio manager.

Still, Kubik thinks she won't be completely removed.

"I'm sure I'll still be doing something, but I just won't have to be in the front lines," she said.

Stepping away from an important position may sound scary to a business owner, but it's a great opportunity to send a message to your company, said Amanda Brown, executive director of the National Women's Business Council.

"It sends a strong message about who you are and the values that you have and the culture that you want to create in your business," Brown said. "I have spoken with many women who have actually taken extended leaves from their CEO roles with the specific intent of serving as a leader and a role model within that organization."

And, perhaps, as a leader and a role model to their children too.

(c)2016 Chicago Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.