It can be a somewhat touchy subject – how much or how little maternity leave women should take when they're self-employed. The Danish lawyer Eva Persson recently caused quite a stir when she revealed in the Danish newspaper Børsen that she had opted to take just one week's maternity leave before returning to work. I don't wish to stick my oar in on her decision or sound judgemental – it's none of mine or anyone else's business. If it's right for her, she should do it.
Everyone is different, and no way of taking maternity leave is more "proper" than another, but one thing is certain: becoming pregnant has an impact on a woman's career. The way you work alters once the baby has arrived, and your priorities with regard to how to spend your time change. In my opinion, you have to decide what it is that makes you happy: prestige, money, doing what you love. So it is also easier to spend time on what feels right.
I am now in the privileged position of being able to decide how much time I spend working. Some days, it's only five hours, others, ten. However, in the hours I do work, I'm really efficient and I always get the most important tasks done. Many people can spend ten hours at work, but still don't get it done. Prioritisation and focus can save you from many hours of work...
For me, it's not so much about how much time my employees – or myself for that matter – spend at work. It's the result that counts. I could never bring myself to check whether they are spending "enough" time on what they're doing, as long as I am happy with what they provide. But it can't be like that in all industries – I realise that.
This said, I have spent days and nights and more hours than I can count building up Rudolph Care. And I did it when Isolde was little – and I was ten years younger and didn't have a whole extended family to look after. When I met Claus, something happened in terms of how I would spend my time. Before that, I spent the days and weekends when Isolde was with her father working. Now I would rather spend my time kissing! And the company was also at a place where I didn't need to spend as much time there.
The first time round, I took a long maternity leave. When I was pregnant with Isolde ten years ago, I quit my job three months before my due date. The place where I worked didn't have a maternity scheme, and I simply couldn't be doing with that. So I quit and went on maternity leave, and didn't start working again until a year and a half later – as a presenter on "Vild med Dans", the Danish version of "Strictly Come Dancing". But, in the meantime, I started Rudolph Care, and Isolde was just 15 days old when she and I went to the first production meeting in Jutland. So a traditional maternity, it was not.
With Alfred, it was a different kind of maternity. I loved being on maternity leave with Isolde, and now I had the chance to do it again. That is why I insisted on taking maternity leave, even though I am self-employed and it's hard for me to be away from the company for too long. Well, most difficult for me personally, because the people I have employed have complete control of things, so it's not the running of the company I'm worried about. I just find it hard to stay away.
At last years Danish Fashion Week - good seats....
I can confidently take maternity leave because the company is in safe hands with my team, and I know that the responsibility is well delegated. We've put together a plan for the months I'm away, and all the employees know what they have to do and who is responsible. This gives me peace of mind, and gives them the peace to work. The crew all know what they have to do – it's transparent for everyone – so everyone can help where help is needed. Planning and structure and delegation of responsibility – that's the key. My maternity leave with Alfred was a good exercise in flying a little higher in the helicopter as a leader, and training in the world's most difficult task: prioritisation – at work and at home. The less time you have at your disposal, the better you have to become at cutting to the chase. Not everything is life and death – even if you might think it is. But you won't find this out until you dare to say no...
And now, another maternity is just around the corner, and I can't wait. I'm going to take six months' maternity leave, where I'm not part of the day-to-day management, but still involved in the development and strategy. However, it is important to make it clear that I do not bear the responsibility while I'm gone. Both for them and for me. It's about taking some of the pressure off – and some of the responsibility – so I can focus on being a mother. And I have the peace of mind to do it...
I'm available for one hour every 14 days, and that's it. But... I'll probably stop by a little more often than that. I live right around the corner from the office, and it will probably be hard to go past without sticking my head in the door and saying hello. I will also miss my friends – and the employees are my friends.
Three tips for women who are self-employed – and pregnant.
1. Clarify the tasks, make them visible – and delegate! Together with your colleagues.
2. Be brave enough to relinquish your responsibility – this can be a big problem for a lot people. But hopefully, you have the best people behind you in your employees.
3. Put together a plan for updates – a little meeting activity may be required for this.
3. Læg en plan for opdateringer – lidt mødeaktivitet kan være påkrævet.