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4 ways to maximise your maternity leave

4 ways to maximise your maternity leave

So, you’re pregnant and counting down the days until your swollen ankles can give up the commute for a while when you start your maternity leave.

Typically, maternity leave is a time for you and your baby to bond, a time to work out what the hell you are doing and muddle through sleepless nights, swaddling and messy nappies. But what if you could use your maternity leave to do something even more extraordinary?

Barring a gap year and retirement, maternity leave marks the first time in a woman’s life she can take an extended period of time off work.

Barring a gap year and retirement, maternity leave marks the first time in a woman’s life she can take an extended period of time off work.

Although ‘free time’ might be few and far between, for many their maternity leave is fast becoming a route to a whole new life.

The rise of the ‘Mumpreneur’

With childcare costs rising above the rate of inflation (source) making returning to work more of a compromise than ever, it’s little wonder more women than ever before are using this precious time to find an alternative income source.

In 2013, Sophie Green was dreading going back to work after her three months of maternity leave with baby Florence. So along with her twin sister Lulu she decided to start selling the bespoke gifts they made from their dining room table online. Their brand Hendog is now available on Not On The High Street and Etsy.

Creativity seems to be a driving force for many women keen to ditch their 9-5 office jobs and start something new.

Writer & vintage Expert Kate Beavis, who started her company over two stints of maternity leave agrees: “For me it was to earn some extra money but also to use my brain and be creative, which I craved.” Kate started her blog back in 2008, and got her first book deal (Style Your Modern Vintage Home) in 2012 which was published in 2013.

Change your career

Juggling childcare and work is all well and good when you like your job, but what if you don’t. What if you crave more flexibility, a new challenge and something that’ll work around your lifestyle?

That’s why Digital Mums started their company, to provide women with a path to ‘#WorkThatWorks’ by training them in social media marketing.  Offering two different online courses they have grown into a thriving community as well as a vital learning platform.

Beth, founder of Wilder & Wren, left her job in PR when her son Wilder was 11 months old after a particularly traumatic birth experience which left Wilder suffering from Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopothy (HIE).  She explains: “The traumatic way my son arrived into the world made me so determined not to return to the 9-5, and to do something on my own terms.”

She now sells her own pressed wild flower art prints, along with bespoke gifts and handcrafted products on Etsy and through boutique retailers too.

Take time out to travel

Maybe you never took that gap year, backpacking around India and are keen to explore the world through the eyes of your little one.  Although travelling with a tot can be a challenge, more than ever parents are seeing the benefits of a life spent exploring.

The recent supreme court judgement upholding the rule parents can be prosecuted for taking children out of school for holidays during term-time, maternity leave provides even more of an impetus to travel.

Alex, a doctor from Devon and her partner decided to utilise shared parental leave to take 10 weeks to travel through Canada and the USA. She explains: “Shared parental leave is great if it suits. Our theory was when in life do you get a chance to have such a break as a family?”

Set up a charity

Becky (along with friends Eva and Melissa) saw a problem that needed fixing while on her maternity leave so she decided to do something about it.

She helped create the Baby Bank Network to alleviate the financial and emotional stress a new baby can bring by providing pre-loved clothes, toiletries, cots and prams to parents who couldn’t otherwise afford them. Their work relies on donations and fundraising, and is helping thousands of UK families.

Of course, you can also choose to take the more conventional route and spend your maternity leave bonding with your baby at home. How did you spend your maternity leave? Let us know in the comments below.

 
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