Wedding planners are in charge of guiding people through one of the biggest transitions in life but who takes care of the wedding planners when it’s time for baby? How do you plan for maternity leave as an entrepreneur? How does being pregnant impact daily business? We sat down with Francine Ribeau, owner of Francine Ribeau Events, to talk about planning weddings while planning for baby.
Is there anything that really surprised you about being pregnant and running your own business? Two things surprised me and they are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. The first was how accepting people were. I was so nervous to tell my couples I was expecting because I didn’t want them to think that I wouldn’t be able to do my job to the fullest or that my priorities would shift. In my business, my number one priority is my couples. They are so important to me. I had this fear that once I told them, they would either fire me or express their unhappiness. Ironically, what also surprised me was how un-accepting people were. I kind of prepped myself for this but I was amazed that when meeting with new potential clients who knew I was pregnant, they would steer away. They were deterred from hiring me even when their wedding was 10 months away from my due date. It really instilled this defeatist attitude in me. It’s a shame because when I have consults with couples that don’t know I’m pregnant, they book. But those that know I’m pregnant don’t. It’s a shame that they feel pregnant women can’t manage work and life at the same time. I feel and have always felt I can take on the world. The only difference is that now I just need a little more help.
What has been the hardest thing to plan for? To be honest, planning for taking any time off. I have such a go-go-go mentality and get-things-done way about me that taking time off was and is still such a foreign thought. People asked me when I plan to stop working and I would look at them with a blank stare. What do you mean, “Stop working?” That was never an option for me. As of now, I’m still not planning on not working after the baby is born. I will have my phone for quick emails while nursing and a Mei Tai wrap while sitting at my computer. And, yes, I will be back working my first wedding 20 days after Novak’s due date. I’ll let ya know how that goes... Of course I’m a little nervous but I’ve always been able to accomplish anything I set my mind to.
People asked me when I plan to stop working and I would look at them with a blank stare. What do you mean, 'Stop working?' That was never an option for me.
Are you making adjustments to your process at all? If so, what has been most impactful? I had to make several adjustments. Over the last couple of years, I was rethinking my business model and was on the way to a full rollout. With the loss of one of my top employees and finding out I was pregnant nearly at the same time, panic set in. After weeks of living in this sort of uncertainty for the future, I actually considered going to work for someone else and a planner friend of mine told me I was nuts. She reminded me that I built my business from scratch and that pregnancy is a normal life event. So, that day, I called up my old business coach and rehired her to get me ready for the big day. Hiring my coach was the number one best thing that helped me feel at ease about what I was in for. Without her, I’d be totally lost and by now, I’d probably be having a mental breakdown. She helped me create an extensive maternity exit strategy. This included asking my mom to reasonably take time off from her job to babysit during all the fall and winter weddings I am obligated to. She also helped me hire a few new coordinators and consultants whom I could train long before I was due. Training them now has helped me let go and trust they can get the job done the FRE (Francine Ribeau Events) way. Admittedly, I don’t ever expect to be gone completely, except while I’m at the hospital (the life of a business owner requires that your finger is always on the pulse, no matter what) but I will be able to rest assured our couples are taken care of. In that vein, asking for help was a major adjustment for me, not only with the team but with my husband. I’m the type of person that does it all. I run a business, I’m the domestic one in the family, I make all the appointments, and I pay all the bills. It never crossed my mind to ask for his help. He has a full-time job; he’s a man’s sort of man. Plus, I could never really picture him taking care of a teeny baby. Boy, was I wrong. He has been the most supportive person ever and I know what an amazing father he is going to be.
Finally, I think the last major adjustment I’ve had to make to my process was taking necessary breaks. During the first trimester I was insanely exhausted. I’d go to bed at 7:30PM, wake up at 10:30AM and by 1:00PM, I’d be dead to the world. This is so unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. What I learned was to work between naps, not 9-5. Being a zombie wasn’t helping, so that 15 min nap would rejuvenate me enough to bust out a couple more hours of work before having to nap again. I think this is to prep me for when the baby is born. To get into the mindset that work will be in between naps (not a straight 8, 9, 10 hours like I am used to doing) has been easier than I thought.
Asking for help was a major adjustment for me, not only with the team, but with my husband.
Now that I’m in my third trimester, granted, I’m not as exhausted as when I was in the first, but I do need to lay down for about 15 minutes at least once during the work day. I am also really trying to only work eight hours a day. My husband and I now have 3 days each that we make dinner, so I’m not doing everything all the time and I can just zone out on the days I don’t have to cook. So, yeah, I guess in a nutshell, my process changes were: 1) Ask for help from your resources. Mine was from my business coach, my team and my family. And, 2) It’s okay to take breaks. Fifteen minutes to an hour isn’t going to send any one into a frenzy.
How has planning for maternity changed your overall process and how you are prepping for leave? Standard procedure for FRE is that about 4-6 weeks prior to a couple’s wedding, I have what is called our Final Details Meeting. For my fall couples, I am pushing that meeting to about 8-10 weeks prior to ensure I have a large enough head start to work on their wedding before I have the baby. Not only do my couples feel they are getting more value from me, they aren’t feeling that month-of surge of having to get things done 4 weeks. I know how much can actually get done in a month, but when “month of” rolls around, they feel time is running out. Starting the Final Details Meeting so far in advance actually gives them a sense of calm.
What are the 3 most important things you are planning for when you start your maternity leave? One — To ensure my couples are 100% happy and at ease with the break in their planning or working with other FRE team members. Two — To ensure I have a large enough head start on the work I need to accomplish for each of my couples so I am not stressing to get all the details getting taken care of. I have no idea what to expect with the arrival of Novak, so I’m trying to prep ahead the most I can. I’m assuming my 60 hours a week will be cut in half...I think! Three — I am now spacing out my 2016 events. Before, I would work two maybe three) weekends in a row. Now I feel I don’t want to be away from my baby like that. And, a great thing for my team is I’m divvying out the weddings to them now. Previously, they wouldn’t really get any bookings until the latter half of the year, after I was pretty much maxed out.
What are you most excited about in terms of being an entrepreneur and a mom? I am so thankful I have the option of working from home. I’m really excited about wearing Novak in my Moby Wrap or Mei Tai while working and just being present in his life. I was a latch key kid, which was fine for me, but I get to be present all the time and watch Novak grow up.
Learn more about this talented momma-to-be in our Featured Planner interview with Francine and Team FRE