Many a studio owner might agree that the idea of maternity leave is laughable. "So many people say, 'I was back after two weeks—we had a competition,'" says Meagan Ziebarth, a former owner who sold her studio two years ago. "If that works for you, and you feel great, wonderful. But I feel passionately that having a baby is one of the most transformational life events, and you don't need to put that kind of pressure on yourself and accept that that's the norm."
So how can you take the maternity leave you want and make sure your studio doesn't run itself into the ground? We asked three who did it for their best advice—including what they wish they'd done differently.
Find Your #2
Meagan Ziebarth and Colleen Rubio
Millennium Dance Center
Carol Stream, Illinois
In business 2008–16
When Meagan Ziebarth had her first child, she had a secret weapon: her sister, Colleen Rubio. When Ziebarth went on maternity leave, Rubio—who'd been teaching off and on at Ziebarth's studio for a few years—officially stepped in and took over her classes for four months. Ziebarth was able to repay the favor, too: Upon her return, Rubio—who was also pregnant—took her own maternity leave as a staff member.
- Know who's your #2. "A lot of studio owners are one-woman shows," says Rubio. "When you first find out you're pregnant, find your number two—someone who can step in and, at the bare minimum, open and close the studio, find subs last-minute and be at the studio physically." When you've figured out who that will be, Rubio recommends writing down every task you do at the studio: answering phones, responding to e-mails, ordering costumes. "Then it's easy to see what the essential operation tasks are," says Rubio, "and pass that list on to someone else."
- Arrange childcare for administrative time, too. "I arranged childcare for the hours when I started teaching again," says Ziebarth, "but I completely underestimated all the administrative tasks that come with being a business owner. I just assumed I'd be fine. I thought, 'I'll do it when the baby naps.' I ended up feeling like I was falling behind."
- Build a financial cushion."We couldn't pay ourselves during maternity leave, and that's why I had to get back to teaching earlier than I would've liked—we had bills to pay," says Rubio. "It would've helped to build a cushion financially, even if that meant just adding in a new revenue stream that was set aside to bring in money for maternity leave—a parents' night out, for example."