Is it a boy or a girl? Do you have a name picked out? Will you breastfeed or use formula? Once you and your partner announce your pregnancy, you’re likely to be bombarded with questions and most of them aren’t easy to answer. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is what you’ll do after your bundle of joy arrives: Are you going to stay home or go back to work? If you go back work, will you hire home care or use a daycare?
What’s Best For You And Your Family
…is ultimately what’s best for your baby, too. Everyone’s situation is different and no one’s choice is easy. There is no wrong or right decision because everyone who makes this choice is doing what’s best for themselves and for their families. With that being said, here are some financial questions you can ask yourself as you decide what’s best for you:
- One of the biggest questions – If your spouse works, can you afford to live on one income?
- Do you have paid maternity or paternity leave?
- Do you want to leave your career at this point?
- Do you have a support system around you to help care for the child?
- Will staying at home hamper your career later in your life?
Taking The Time Off
If your company offers paid maternity (or paternity) leave, you have an opportunity to ‘test the waters’ without taking an extreme financial hit. If parental leave isn’t offered, you’re still eligible for FMLA leave for up to 12 weeks unpaid and a guaranteed position upon your return.
Typically, it’s better for everyone involved if you make your decision and inform your work before giving birth, but some working parents experience a change of heart. It’s financially critical to see what percentage of income your leave covers and how many weeks it covers. You don’t want to have any surprises when you start leave.
A Dual Focus
As the due date approaches, your thoughts may turn to tiny outfits and nursery preparation. Or, you may be thinking about finishing everything at work and delegating tasks before you go. You might be thinking about both.
Many men and women are satisfied with their careers and in positions that not only allow them to support their family, but help fulfill them emotionally or socially as well. Some people are also at critical junctures in their careers and want to have a family while securing their position at work. With both parents working, the obligations of home and the office can be a challenge but also very rewarding. Prepare yourself to return to work by establishing routines.
If you are looking into daycares, you cannot start too early! Some institutions require a deposit and have up to a year wait list, so identify what’s important to you in a childcare option and schedule site visits in your first trimester, if possible. Take notes about requirements and your own observations.
One Income Family
If you’ve decided that you or your spouse is going to stay home, it’s time to consider how it will affect your primary and long-term budget. Typically, whoever has the higher income becomes the primary breadwinner but take into account schedules, benefits, travel time and opportunities for advancement. A short-term financial gain could very well carry long-term consequences.
Adjusting to a single income requires a bit of strategy, too. You will want to start saving before the baby is born. Write out a list of your most nonessential spending and start cutting- for this you’ll need to start at square one with a basic budgeting worksheet budgeting worksheet.
For some families, sacrifices may be cable television, a gym membership or magazine subscriptions. It’s smart to clip coupons and re-examine your grocery list, too. This will feel like a bit of a shock at first, but trust me, you will be so busy with baby you won’t notice the extras are gone. To acclimate yourself early, start practicing with your new budget before baby arrives to get used to the changes. This will also help you boost your savings.
Is Help Around?
Your surroundings, especially the people in them, will likely have the biggest influence on whether or not you choose to stay home or go back to work. Being a stay at home parent is a full-time job and usually, there’s no time-off or lunch breaks. You’ll need all the help you can get no matter what choice you make.
Some families chose home care help rather than a daycare, which can be a nice (it really does take a village). Some parents divide up their options, working part-time and utilizing a daycare provider on the other days. Start conversations with your employer early on to see what your options are and that may just be the right choice for you.
Many stay-at-home parents rely on ‘co-ops’ or ‘mom groups’ as a means to stay connected (and sane). They meet with other new moms or dads to not only remain social, but to help ease the stress of being a primary caretaker. Some parents even participate in babysitting exchanges. Talk with your significant other about time for you to regroup and recharge, too! Balance allows you to be a focused parent.
No matter how you stay involved, it’s important to try and gauge how much support you’ll have from your family and friends when deciding if you’re staying home or going back to work. There are always options for every situation, it just may take a bit of flexibility and financial creativity to make it all work.
For more advice on navigating financials or saving up for your growing family, click here for friendly advice from the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Savin’ Mavens. This post was written by Maven Dana Gering.