I probably took a lot for granted when my husband and I decided to try for our first baby. This was most likely due to a couple of things but mostly because we didn’t expect to fall pregnant quite so quickly, and at the time we were living in the UK which has (I think) has pretty good maternity leave entitlements. Of course, we realised that having a new baby was going to incur some additional costs but in the depths of 11 months of Hyperemesis gravidarum, lightening crotch and all the things none tells you about pregnancy. Our focus shifted to getting through the day to day.
So here we are, starting to think about baby number two and these are the things I wish I’d thought about first time around.
Here are a few tips for financially planning for your new bundle of joy.
Maternity leave entitlements
This one seems glaringly obvious but there is a lot to understand before you head off on maternity leave and my experience is that employers and managers are not great at communicating. If you are lucky, when you let your employer know you are pregnant they will allocate you a maternity contact who will take you through your entitlements. Unfortunately you may end up on the other end of the scale and just get a very impersonal letter in the post. Either way you will more than likely already be suffering from baby brain, exhaustion and (in my case) projectile vomiting, meaning you won’t remember anything you’ve been told anyway.
- Firstly if you do have a meeting to discuss your entitlements ask to record the conversation or have your partner attend with you. this helps with recall later on and your partner might think of questions that hadn’t occurred to you.
- Ask for a monthly breakdown of you pay in advance for the duration of your maternity leave. I wish I had done this first time around. Every month my pay was slightly different, I couldn’t work out why and it caused much unnecessary stress. After a few calls to payroll they explained that payments we calculated weekly rather than monthly like regular salaried pay.
There are so many books you can read when preparing to be a new parent and being a somewhat pragmatic person I really enjoyed How to Grow a Baby and Push It Out. This is a very practical guide to pregnancy and all things new mamma. I remember ready the list of things you need for a baby and thinking ok, that’s actually not too bad. I followed that list to a T, some of it we bought ourselves and other things we added to our baby gift list. Many of you will want to celebrate the pending arrival of your new baby with a shower or similar celebration. Ask for things you will really need (albeit not very glamourous), like nappies, wipes, nappy bag etc… as the cost all piles up and you’ll be surprised at the cost over time. We were very grateful to our supportive friends and family and managed to get through the first four months without purchasing the basics we needed to look after our boy.
Superannuation (pension) gap
If the gender pay gap isn’t enough to deal with, we have to add in what some term ‘The Motherhood Penalty’. Deciding to become a mother and take time out on maternity leave, followed by a transition into part time work results in a massive gap in women’s superannuation. As maternity leave is generally paid at a lesser rate, you may want to plan to bolster your superannuation in some way during your maternity leave. or at least understand how much it is you have missed out on and find a way to recoup that cost down the track. If you work for yourself
I remember reading somewhere that a woman should have a recovery fund in place for after giving birth. I thought what is this person talking about? Now I get it!
Almost all the support you receive from a healthcare perspective is during pregnancy and once your baby is born, the new mum is somewhat of a second class citizen. Everything is now geared towards your baby.
All the appointments, developmental checks and immunisations are all about baby. Most countries are pretty good at trying to support mums in the first few weeks after birth, and especially on high alert for postnatal depression and anxiety.
I don’t know about you but months or carrying a giant watermelon had left my already knackered back, completely out of whack, my pelvis wasn’t much cop either and oh did I mention I lost a tooth during pregnancy, so I needed to get my nashers sorted out also. I needed all this physical support to try and recover from my pregnancy, I also needed help from a nutritional perspective as my nutrient stores were and still are depleted from the months of sickness I suffered.
And then to top that off, there is the mental recovery that you may need. Birthing a child can bring up all sorts of unresolved feelings, emotions and trauma experiences and being able to access mental health support is really important to ensure your experience as a new mother is one of enjoyment and understanding. So I added it all up, the cost of the physio, osteo, naturopathic and psychology treatments I had over the 12 months post birth and it totalled almost $10,000. I am insanely fortunate to live in a country that has a subsidised healthcare system, where I was covered by private healthcare by my job and I can afford private health care for those times I cannot wait on the public service. Honestly, I had not even began to factor this cost in when thinking about having a baby. New mothers are mostly, the primary care givers so if you cannot look after yourself physical and mental, you are going to struggle to look after your baby and your family.
Childcare was really way down the line in our thinking while looking at our little man’s beautiful face. I knew I had 12 months up my sleeve, before I had to make an real decisions about going back to work and what childcare solution I would put in place for our bub. I really don’t know the solution for this financial situation, my words can only be of things to consider, to go away and ruminate on. As the childcare structure is pretty much $@#*ed up situation (here in Australia).
All I see and hear from the government and from corporate business is that there is a massive push towards encouraging women back to work, being flexible, equal pay but that can’t be so, when you start to look at the childcare structure and the fees involved.
Our childcare costs basically wipe out one of our full time salaries in our family. So to put that in perspective, if we were to buy a house in Sydney for around $890,000 our monthly mortgage repayments would be about $3,500 per month. And that my friends is equivalent to our monthly childcare costs. Oh and the cost is after we receive some government support.
When it comes to financial planning, childcare actually is one I would put to the top of the list. I would recommend looking at it and working backwards and try to figure out a way that works best for you. We have friends with young families and each of us have a very different solution to childcare. Some have decided to take the hit and pay up, others have had one parent stay home and be the primary care giver, others have in-home help.
I’d love to hear from our mama’s and our dad’s on what things were useful to think about from a financial perspective before you had your kids.