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The three messages I wish I hadn’t heard while preparing for maternity leave

Women of Influence co-owner and co-CEO, Stephania Varalli, is expecting her first child in early June. She’s learned a lot while preparing for maternity leave, and in partnership with SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU.—Putting Women’s Health Firstshe’s sharing her best lessons from running a business while getting ready for motherhood.

By Stephania Varalli

Motherhood changes everything. This is the message that I’ve heard most often throughout my pregnancy. And I have no doubt that welcoming my daughter into the world will change every aspect of my life, including my role as co-owner and co-CEO of Women of Influence.

As my bump has grown from noticeable to prominent to ready-to-pop, I’ve both heard and read many other messages about pregnancy and motherhood. In my final week (provided I have a punctual child), I’ve been reflecting on these messages, and what I would say to another woman starting her own journey towards her first child.

The truth: there are a few things I would say differently, including…

  1. You’re going to feel like you’re pregnant forever.

Yes, nine months is a relatively long time, and as many mothers will attest, by the home stretch it will feel like you’ve been carrying a baby for an eternity. Here’s the catch: it also takes a long time to prepare for a stress-free exit, so if you don’t start planning early, you’ll find yourself scrambling to juggle your work load with your nesting needs.

What I wish someone had said to me? Start getting ready for the kind of maternity leave you want from the very beginning. Even though nine months feels long, time still flies. My suggestion: create a monthly schedule that will help you to gradually tackle the tasks and projects that you need to complete before you go. Also, leave your last month a blank slate. That doesn’t mean you need to offramp early—I’m still a highly functional, contributing member of the team—but you can’t predict when your baby will make his or her debut, so it’s better if the big items are taken care of. And in the final stretch, you’ll feel much less stressed if the only big item on the To Do List is having a baby.

  1. Get your sleep in now.

This was just one variation of the many things I was supposed to get in now, from traveling to quality time with my spouse to showering regularly. These were most often offered up with a comical tone—in the “it’s funny because it’s true” genre of comedy—but on the more extreme end of the scale, I also heard “Your life will never be about you anymore.” Yes, I believe my priorities will change as a parent, but I never liked the sentiment that having a baby would somehow mark an ending to me as a person.

I have the great fortune of knowing many entrepreneurial and corporate moms who are still very much their own person, and are balancing raising children with their own ambitions and dreams. Instead of warning me about sleep, they’ve assured me that I, too, will discover how to pair motherhood with a career on my own terms. It’s a simple message that I’ve loved hearing and would quickly offer to any woman nervous about becoming a mom: You’ll figure it out.

  1. Here’s how to do this right…

I have read countless articles and solicited an overwhelming amount of advice on pregnancy and preparing for maternity leave. For a brief time, all that information had me convinced of one thing: I was doing it wrong. And then I reflected on just how personal and unique this experience is, and it changed my mind completely. I was doing it exactly right, for me.

I didn’t go to parenting classes. I’ve learned a lot online (if you haven’t discovered Motherisk, it’s a great resource). I don’t have a birth plan. I put a solid week into researching products for my baby registry. The out of office will go on when labour starts. My husband and I will try to split childcare evenly, but if it’s not working, he’s the one that will take over. I’m sure I’ll share these and other details with expectant moms in the future if their looking for guidance, but I’ll always add on what I think is the most important piece of advice: Whatever you think is right for you, is right.



What is SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. all about?

We truly believe that when you put your health first, you’re giving the people close to you the best gift of all—a better you.

SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. – Putting Women’s Health First – is our commitment to helping you stay focused on being your best in body, mind and spirit. It shares the expertise of our partners and connects you with others in support of local, community-based Women’s Health initiatives across Canada. Find one that moves you and join our journey to strengthen Women’s Health across Canada!
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