Updated: Mar 23
According to current labor laws, working women in the United Arab Emirates receive 45 calendar days of paid maternity leave. Female founders may have the freedom to set their own policies but it's important to keep building their business. After speaking with the region’s top mom entrepreneurs to find out how they navigated their own maternity leave, here are seven rules to keep in mind.
Rule #1: There are no rules
Many trusted female entrepreneurs advise to find what suits your own unique situation. Don’t stress about ‘getting it right’ because there is no one-size solution.
Start with listing out all your responsibilities. Then work out a delegation structure to keep the business running smoothly during your maternity leave.
Rule #2: Plan and adapt
Allow for some flexibility because even the best plans can fail. Christina Andreassen, Co-Founder and COO at Maia Network decided to delegate some work to her team, but is allowing for flexibility as she prepares to go on maternity leave. Like other aspiring moms, she is still undecided on how much time off work she’ll take.
“My co-founder and I have a ‘let’s take it as it comes’ approach, as neither of us have any experience with the realities of having a baby,” says Christina.
Rule #3: Talk to your team
You won’t get by without a little help. Maheen Adamjee, Co-Founder of Dot and Line, an after-school mathematics program, advises working mothers to develop a deep and meaningful rapport with teammates to get through life’s next big chapter.
“They are your support system, and an honest, transparent and collaborative relationship sets you up for success. The official leave granted is just a number on a paper, but the connection and updates you receive from your workplace while you're away, your eventual transition back to the office, and the team members who will help take on your work responsibilities in your absence has to be based on human connection,” she says.
Rule #4: Focus on your priorities
There is no right amount of time to spend with work or your baby, so figure out what’s important to you at the time.
Entrepreneur, investor and podcast host Loulou Khazen Baz believes that there is ‘off switch’ so finding the right balance is key: “The beauty of having your own business is that you can have flexible work hours. It is important to take some time off so that you can give the baby and yourself the time you need to bond. Build up to planning a few hours a day for important tasks that no one else can do, and then into full entrepreneur mode when you’re ready.”
Ozlem Erbas, Co-Founder of Sprout.ae, a meal delivery service for children, takes a different view. “If you can, forget about your career, sit back and enjoy every second you have with your baby. Savour every moment, every smile. Indulge in every hug. Each day is unique and none of it is going to come back. You only have that chance once, but chances are you can still run your business 12 months later.”
Rule #5: Take regular time outs
Nothing is achieved with exhaustion. “There is always the next fire to put out, the next big decision pending, or the phone that is ringing off the hook. As a mother, drawing clear boundaries means you bring a clear and calm head to work and to your home,” says Dot and Line’s Maheen.
“I’ve learned to value my time more, treat myself with more compassion when I feel overwhelmed, reach out for help before I burnt out, and embrace the idea that I need to heal before I can give more of myself, even to my business.”
Rule #6: Keep your calendar flexible
There is no neat division between maternity leave and returning to work – life is not linear. Add in some free time to your daily calendar, which you’ll find will quickly be taken up with impromptu playdates, doctor visits and other unplanned surprises.
Also accept that there will be some guilt over not being able to fully focus on the business or the baby during your maternity leave. There is no right or wrong. It is what you, as an entrepreneur, feel is the right amount of time to devote to tasks.
Rule #7: Don’t aim for 100%
We all want to be the best but no one is perfect. “The most difficult thing is to want to do both things equally perfect – 100% mom, 100% entrepreneur. But that's not possible, since the sum can only really be 100%. Something has to give somewhere and every mom entrepreneur has to cut their losses and manage guilt,” says Sprout.ae’s Ozlem.
You may not feel like you have it together most of the time but the important thing is to keep going.