Chef Carla was grateful enough to tell us about her experience with her two babes, as late as 2016. Read on!
1. When was your baby due / did you welcome a child?
Ella was born in February 2015, and Massimo was born in July 2016.
2. What was your maternity leave plan? ex. Did your social channels go dark? did you have a backlog of content? Did you keep creating but at a lower output?
With Ella, everything was really difficult. She had colic and wouldn’t sleep at all. I brought her to the doctor what seemed to be all the time. My blog and social media were spotty. I went back to work at a cooking school in New York City, 11 weeks after she was born. Between the two-hour commute each way and the pumping, it wasn’t sustainable for me. I got pregnant with Massimo when she was just 8 months old. I started to work on a plan to move my business online and to start a postpartum health coaching business. I launched that coaching business and the new website just weeks before Massimo was born. I was very active on social postpartum and went to back to work just six weeks after he was born.
3. Did you have a partner that was able to take mat/ pat leave at the same time? Can you describe the type of role they played in supporting you?
Ed went back to work two hours after Ella was born. He left immediately after Massimo was born and took one day off while I was in the hospital to be with Ella. Ed would come home every night from work and I would literally hand him Ella and go to sleep. He would take the first night shift until the babies woke up to be fed. I was exhausted and depleted with Ella. With Massimo, I went to upstate New York with my sisters so they could help with Ella.
4. What was something you think you did really well during the first few months postpartum, in terms of work-life balance?
After I had Ella, I tried to keep up with life. I didn’t rest enough. I tried to do ALL the things. I really burnt myself out. With Massimo, I became very aware of how much you heal those first 40 days matters. You have to rest, you have to sleep, and you have to nourish yourself. I took those six weeks after I had him and really sunk into rest. I felt like a new person and was able to work from a place of rest and deep nourishment as opposed to the crazy person I felt like after I had Ella.
5. What’s something you could have done better during the first few months, in terms of work-life balance?
When I had Ella, I was deep into the bounce-back and the “I can do anything” attitude. For those eight months before I became pregnant with Massimo, all I did was focus on her. I didn’t take care of myself at all. I ran myself ragged. Getting pregnant with Massimo forced me to rest, nourish myself, and get really intentional about my work.
6. Did you have a work team to support you during your initial months / year? What kind of role did they play?
The real support came from my mom’s best friend, Lyn, who came to stay with us after Ella was born for two weeks. She cooked for me and let me sleep and heal. After Massimo was born, I went to upstate New York, and both of my sisters took care of me. I wrote about that postpartum on my blog.
I also had a really tight-knit community on Instagram of mothers who were having babies at the same time. I am grateful for my friends and the other mothers who helped guide me through those dark days of the first year of motherhood. With Massimo, I had PPA. It started to take over. I took off the summer after he was born from social and from my business. It was too much to handle with two children under 2. I took some time again to really heal and recover from having two babies back to back. That’s when I decided that coaching was not my model and that my true dream was to create an online cooking school. Once I started to shift my work and the way I was taking care of myself, the PPA lifted.
7. Business wise, did you anticipate and plan for a shift in content to reflect your changing situation? Or did your brand not change at all?
I took a slight detour when Massimo was born and thought that I wanted to be a postpartum coach. I had two babies back to back with midwives. I learned a TON of info about birthing, babies, and postpartum. I really wanted to share that knowledge with other women. I am grateful for where it led me and that I came back to cooking. I love sharing the resources I learned from my year as a postpartum coach.
8. How did you manage the transition back to “full time” working life once you were ready? (nanny, more studio/work help, shorter work days)
I have not gone back full-time as of yet. Both of my children go to school part-time now. They will go to school full-time this fall, and it will give me more space. For a long time, I worked from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m., through their naps, and after they went down for the night. It was not easy. As I have partnered with brands and have had more paid food photography and writing work, I have been able to hire more help. I am much more efficient with my time. I only take on work now that I love and brings in income. It’s important to me that work is a “hell yes” or a “hell no.”
9. Having done it once, are you considering doing it a second time? *wink wink*
I have two babes. I am very grateful to have them. They are my gurus and my life teachers. When they placed Massimo in my arms, I knew I was complete.
10. Is there one piece of advice you wish other self-employed moms knew about?
Nothing is more important than your physical health. You are now the center of your family, and how you take care of yourself affects everyone else in your household. Ditch your phone at night and sleep as much as you can. Those late-night Insta sessions and email-checking will really mess up your sleep. Eat nourishing foods, drink tons of water, and move your body. If you’re breastfeeding, keep snacks and water near you at all times! There are always creative solutions to your problems, and when in doubt, reach out! You aren’t alone EVER. There’s always help even if it’s just a DM or text away.