It's an exciting feeling when you and your partner finally decide that it's time to start a family! Or perhaps you fall into the "surprise!" category and it's, "ready or not, here we go!" As exciting as it is, it can be scary as well. Tons of different emotions and thoughts go through your head, just like anytime you step into The Great Unknown.
The notion of pregnancy itself is daunting enough, but what about your career? Will you be able to afford a baby? Take a deep breath; the bottom line is you will make it work one way or another, but a little planning is always helpful.
Here are some important things to consider:
- Baby expenses – In addition to monthly expenses, there is the upfront cost of all of the gear to prepare for baby's arrival. Babycenter.com estimates the total upfront cost of all of the gear you'll need at $2K. If you're fortunate enough to have your family or friends throw you a baby shower, that is a huge help. Monthly expenses can vary between $150-$500 or more, depending on several factors such as whether you'll use formula, diapering choice, childcare, etc.
- Life insurance – You will need to purchase life insurance policies as a safety net for your family; for some guidelines on how much you need, see my previous article, "Life Insurance: How Much Does Your Family Need?"
- Health Insurance – Your health insurance policy will need to be expanded to the "family" option. Policies can be changed mid-year for life events such as the birth or adoption of a child.
- Will – If you don't already have one, you absolutely need one once you start your family. As part of the process, you and your partner will need to decide who you would want to be the guardian(s) of your children if something were to happen to both of you.
- Taxes – Your new little one will bring a change in tax status. Be aware of the various deductions available related to children; you also will have the option to change paycheck withholdings.
- Saving for college – It's never too early to start saving for your children's higher education; in fact, the earlier the better! Look into the various 529 plans available.
The million dollar question is whether you will go back to work after your maternity leave or become a stay at home mom. This is a huge decision with many things to consider on either side of the fence.
- Going Back to Work
- Check your maternity leave policy with your HR department
- Explore different childcare options to determine the right fit for your family
- Consider the other costs associated with going back to work (fuel, eating meals out, wardrobe maintenance, etc.)
- Prepare for the emotional adjustment of going back; it is helpful to have a support group of working moms at work
- Be sure your child's caretaker is aware of your child-raising values and methods so they are consistent (mealtime or naptime rituals, discipline, etc.)
- Becoming a Stay at Home Mom
- Your spouse will need to be able to provide health insurance for the whole family
- Evaluate what changes you need to make to your retirement savings to still meet your goals as a one-income household
- Other perks from your job will you be forgoing, such as corporate discounts
- Brainstorm ways to get involved in activities for mental and social stimulation
- What are the options in your field for possible future career re-entry?
- To help you sort through the chaos of emotions and questions when planning for parenthood, you may want to consider a baby planning service like [MOD] Momma, Inc. This kind of service assists you with issues like: what to expect during pregnancy, childbirth options, feeding issues, baby product choices, baby registries, child safety, childcare, transitioning back to work, and much more.
Remember, planning is important since you won't have the time or inclination to think about such things once you're headfirst in the sleep-deprived, lovesick fog of new motherhood. However, don't overstress—you can always make necessary adjustments if something isn't working out the way you planned. Try to go with the flow; it is good practice for motherhood!