I made a post nearly three years ago about becoming a new mom. Looking back has allowed me to get some perspective about what I wish I would have focused on back then.
Being pregnant is a time of baby gear, getting parenting advice and dealing with pregnancy symptoms and doctors.
However, there are only two things that matter when you are a new parent, and that you should focus on preparing this next 9 months:
1) Financial support
This is the big one! Nothing is more important than defining your financial situation, whether you will be a stay-at-home mom or work-outside-home. You need to be clear on the numbers!
Start defining your relationship with your significant other. Will you have separate or joint finances? Who will cover baby expenses and percentage? Don’t wait until the baby gets here! Don’t bury your head in the sand like an ostrich and hope for the best, you can do this.
Here are some baby steps to get you started in dealing with your financial situation:
- Make a budget of your current income and expenses. Here is a budget template to help you get started:
Common Budget Categories
(list smallest to largest by total due, include monthly minimum)
(add anything else you have here – credit cards, rent to own, whatever)
(Take the amount you expect to spend in a year, divide by 12 and set aside this amount each month in savings.)
clothing & shoes
home maintenance (1% of house value per year)
car maintenance/tags ($75/car recommended)
medical (rx, copays, contacts, dental)
property taxes (if not included in mortgage)
new car fund
- Next, submit your budget for review to other moms, see what you will need to tweak. A great board for financial advice lives in BabyCenter’s “We’re Debt Free” board, inspired by Dave Ramsey’s teachings.
- Consider who will be taking care of baby once they are born and you go back to work, or how you will get some relief from your duties as a stay at home mom.
- Figure out your maternity leave.
- Make a plan B in case you need more time with your baby, whether it’s because you changed your mind about working or staying at home.
- Here are some examples of expenses that you will go through with a new baby.
- Large hospital and ob/gyn bills, co-pays and health insurance related premiums. We spent $4500 on a natural birth with a midwife. Hospital bills and ob/gyn fees can be as large as your deductible, if you have health insurance, or as large as $5,000-20,000 if you don’t have insurance.
- Pediatrician co-pays. This are not too pricey, and vaccines aren’t either. However, ER visit for worried parents can get pricey, so find a pediatrician that does after hours or urgent care with long hours to avoid ERs.
- Daycare expenses: can range from $500-1000 per child per month, check local prices in your area.
- Diapers and wipes: this expense has a life of it’s own. Newborn babies go through 12-16 diapers per day, at 6 months it lowers down to 5-10 diapers a day and can go all the way to toddler (3 years old) with 3-6 diapers or pull-ups a day, depending on when they potty train. Plan to go through 2-4 boxes of diapers and 2 boxes of baby wipes per month. Here’s where buying in bulk in Costco and couponing (or cloth diapering) comes in.
- Life insurance: now that you have someone that depends on you, consider what will happen if one or both parents have a disease/disability/pass away. Who will replace that income (mortgage, rent, living expenses), and who will cover their debts (mortgage, credit card debt, etc)? For about $15-50/month, depending on your age and health, you can have peace of mind of knowing that if something terrible happens, you will at least have financial security for yourself and your children, allowing you for time to grieve/recover, and cover your living expenses while you figure out your newfound situation.
- Babysitter expenses: for datenights or if you have a medical/other emergency. From $12-20/hour, depending on your area.
- Formula: even if you plan to exclusively breastfeed, you should try consider having formula as backup. A can of formula costs $16-30/each, and some babies only tolerate the more expensive kind. Plan to have 1 can of formula last you for half a week to a week for a newborn, maybe less. Your results may vary.
2) Emotional support
The second big one! Trust me, every mom I’ve talked to, including me, has struggled more with the emotional changes of having a baby more than any physical ones.
- Expect to have the baby blues, and be extremely grateful if you don’t.
- Expect to feel overwhelmed and like you’re doing it wrong, and then celebrate yourself for figuring it out.
- Take breaks! Every mom stresses the importance of taking breaks but they never get into why or how. First of all, you need to plan for several care providers for your new child. It’s harder than it looks. For many moms it’s about trust, as they would only leave their babies with family or very close friends. The reality is that moms that do this burn out quickly.
- As a personal anecdote, I stayed home with my child for the first two years of his life, and I am NOT proud of it. I had severe postpartum depression and struggled feeling overwhelmed. A detail to add: I loved my child so much that I would cry every time someone else held him, and it felt like someone had cut off a part of me, like an arm. Needless to say, I burned out VERY quickly. I refused anyone babysitting him and refused to even let his dad hold him. After two years of losing my own identify and diving into my role as a mom, I realized that I needed to take back control of my life. I put my child on daycare and decided to work outside home. It was the best decision I ever made, as my toddler became more social and independent and I regained my mental health: I had more patience, less stress, quality time with my toddler and of course, a newfound identity that contributed to making me feel a happier mom.
- To figure out who can help with the baby, go through this list:
- First in line are grandparents. They are most likely to want to spend time with their grandchild and will likely not charge you for watching them a few hours (yay! Free babysitters!). If this is not possible because they don’t live nearby or your relationship isn’t the best, then move on fast to your next step.
- Second in line are family members and friends. Be very careful navigating this waters… make sure that whoever watches your child will respect your parenting decisions and is willing and capable of babysitting. Do not expect anyone to babysit your child for free! Not even your closest family members. However, since you know them for the most amount of time, you know their personality and if they are to be trusted.
- Third option is babysitters. We have two to three babysitters that we cycle around. Do not expect to have only one reliable babysitter be available for you all the time, no matter how wonderful she is to your child. Warning: Do not depend on only one babysitter!! The best babysitters are women who have grown older children outside the home, as they have the most time to spare and will likely be more available. Again, find at least three babysitters, so that when one is out of town, and the other is busy working another job that weekend, you are not stuck staying at home staring at your ceiling. Yay for you! You had that third babysitter that was willing and able to give you that very much needed break during the weekend! Babysitters go from $12 to 20/hour, depending on their level of experience and your local area because it might be more expensive than other cities/towns. Expect to pay at least $20/hour in high cost of living areas like New York, San Diego, San Francisco, L.A., etc and work this into your budget.
- Daycare. There are two options for daycares: in-home daycares run by moms in their homes and regular daycares. In-home daycares tend to be slightly cheaper and have less kids (a really big plus), however you cannot expect the same level of “professionalism (let me explain this further)” as a business daycare. They also tend to be flexible in hours, for those that work night shifts and weekends. Regular daycares usually are open from 7am to 6:30pm, they are heavily regulated and have procedures and systems in place to deal with all sorts of issues, which is what I mean with “professionalism”. Expect that regular daycares will usually hand out a paper at the end of the day explaining your child’s day (nap time, what they ate, # of diapers, what they learned, mood, etc), and will also call you as needed to explain incidents. The most “responsive” daycares will report biting incidents, small falls, child being sick, child crying for longer than 15 minutes, among other issues, as was our experience with a “chain” daycare called Kindercare. Most regular daycares also will have meals for your little one included in the price (not formula or milk for newborns), and will let you know what supplies are needed. The most important features of a daycare are: teacher who is in charge and class size. If the teacher seems responsive and caring of the kids, you will feel relieved to have your child with someone you trust at drop-off time. Class size is important relative to how many teachers are available, you want a smaller class size so that your child can get the most attention and make sure they have enough space. You can tell right away if a teacher is overwhelmed by the number of children under her care because she is scrambling to take back control of the class. Expect the cost of daycare for one child to be around $700-1000/month, per child, depending on your area. Work this into your budget.
- Personal anecdote: I used to refuse the idea of my child in daycare and thought it was unnecessary. In my perfect world, I would stay at home with him until he started school or even homeschool him. As described above, I burned out quickly and realized that daycare is a fantastic tool to help my child socialize and become more outgoing. Before daycare, he barely talked to other kids and was shy. After daycare, he was more communicative and also learned valuable skills that made him more independent such as washing his own hands, eating at the table with other kids, learn to be clean when eating and not spill, waiting for his turn, better hand control/coordination, potty training, etc. Those things he would have picked up eventually but he learned faster by imitating and being around other kids and having a great teacher. Expect daycare to be an adjustment, and your child to get sick often for the first few months (yes, months) until they build up an immune system but in the end it will all be worth it. It’s also normal that your child will resist daycare, as they prefer to be with their moms/dads. However, at one point or another they will actually enjoy it and be playing with other kids. If you sense something is off, or you are not happy with your daycare, definitely change it!
- Last, remember that your significant other is a parent too. You need to work out your schedules so that you both get regular breaks. For example, one watches the baby while the other goes to the supermarket or out for coffee/a bike ride. After baby, it’s easy to “keep score” and become resentful towards one another. Keep your expectations low and consider that you are both trying to do your best to survive parenthood. Taking frequent breaks from each other and baby really helps to keep both your minds clear and be more patient/tolerant/happier parents.
- Remember to also take care of your relationship with your significant other. It’s easy to get lost in your routine of work and kids, but you need to at least dedicate some time to your relationship if you want to keep it. Divorces and breaking up are no fun. Taking care of your relationship involves date nights, communicating with each other frequently about issues and remembering to be “nice” (or as nice as you can be while sleep deprived and stressed out) to each other.
That’s pretty much it. Those are the two main points that I wish I would have focused on earlier, instead of baby gear and birthing options.
Good luck with your newborn adventures!
Comment below if you have any experiences you’d like to share regarding family finances, experiences with daycare or any other fun new parent stuff: