Longer-Term Challenges & Strategies

“There’s day-to day-costs like diapers and supplies, but then you’re starting to think about
family trips and a college fund—how to secure your baby's future.”
— New Mom

Longer-Term Challenges & Strategies

“There’s day-to day-costs like diapers and supplies, but then you’re starting to think about
family trips and a college fund—how to secure your baby's future.”
— New Mom

Longer-Terms Challenges & Strategies

Finances

Family finance is a subject that’s hard to discuss in any way other than broad terms, because every family is different and there are many possible approaches. If you’re just beginning to wrap your brain around finances or resources are tight, here are some basic strategies to get you started…

Build a Budget

This is always Step One in financial planning. Finance apps like mint.com can make budget building super easy, but a basic Excel spreadsheet will do the trick, too: the key is to track your expenses, stay on top of it, and reevaluate from time to time so you can adjust as things change.

Types of Budget Goals

SHORT-TERM: Period of less than 1 year (buy a new car or save for vacation).

MID-TERM: Between 1 to 5 years (starting grad school or purchasing a home).

LONG-TERM: Up to 10 years and beyond (retirement or college savings).

If you already have a budget going, you’ll need to make adjustments for parenthood, and factor in all baby-related costs like supplies, pediatrician co-pays, and health insurance. Also, consider things you regularly spent money on that you might not be doing as much once the baby is born (concerts or weekend getaways). And make sure there’s still “fun funds,” so it’s not all work and no play—making memories is an important part of life as a couple and family.

READ! Budgets for New Parents

Spend Less, Save More

In terms of saving, know that you don’t have to buy every single baby item under the sun. Lots of parents just get the essentials and then play it by ear, and shopping second hand or borrowing gear is a great way to save. Gently used baby gear is 30% to 40% off the original price tag, and borrowing items from family or friends lets you try it out without committing—if Baby doesn’t love the swing, no money lost!  

“I over planned and I didn’t need half the stuff, and that’s just a testament to the fact that you don’t need nearly as much stuff as you think you do.”— New Mom

Ways to Save….

One thing many people discover when creating a budget for the first time is just how much money is spent on frivolous things. There’s nothing like seeing your spending habits laid out in front of you to help get your budget under control.

Health & Lifestyle

  • Meal Planning
  • Take Your Lunch to Work
  • Start A Garden
  • Cancel Gym Memberships
  • Nix Your Cable Bill
  • Cancel Auto Subscriptions

Restructure Debt

  • Consolidate Loans
  • Balance Transfer
  • Refinance

Other Options

  • Reduce Cell Phone Bill
  • Cut Back on Clothing
  • Reduce Consumable Habits (smoking, drinking, etc.)
  • Move To A New Location

Insurance & Estate Planning

Having life insurance will create security for your family; no one likes to think about the need for these things, but it’s important you have them in place. Internet research and brokers can advise on your options for life insurance.

  • Living Will
    Details desires regarding medical treatment when it’s no longer possible to express consent.
  • Power of Attorney
    The authority to act for another person in legal or financial matters.
  • Revocable Living Trust
    Terms can be altered/canceled.

 

College Funds

Even before Baby’s birth, parents are worrying about how to save for their child’s education. And the worry isn’t for nothing: the average cost of college in the United States is a hefty six figures, so read this to get a handle on college savings funds.

Common Feelings Around Finances

We grow up with personal values about money that get magnified when making family decisions. Finance conversations are often about bigger, more deeply held beliefs and the discussion can quickly get heated. There are common feelings that tend to come to light:

  • Couples often focus on money: it’s in their control when so much of life isn’t.
  • Moms tend to focus on the daily needs of their baby while dads focus on the bigger picture, like college.
  • Dads consider their career to be the major contribution to the family.
  • A stay-at-home mom may resent her spouse for doing less household labor, and he might resent her for being less focused on finances.

So it makes sense to get a handle on the family budget before the baby comes, when things are less emotionally intense and it’s just the two of you. It also makes sense to approach this talk gently and in a spirit of mutual understanding. If you can successfully work together on finances, you will have checked off a major box, which  gives you bandwidth to focus on other things together.

Returning to Work

If ever there was an emotional tinderbox, this is it.

Parents often agonize over finances and child care decisions, and for many moms, it feels like choosing between being a good parent or bad parent. But a huge percentage of women work outside the home, and childcare is considered an extension of their support “village.”  If you love your work and/or you're contributing to your family’s security, you’re fulfilling important personal and family needs, and a happier, more complete mom is a massive plus for your child. Also, the modern workplace is ever-changing and now offers more flexibility for moms and dads needing work-life balance.

To prepare for a return to work, sit down with Dad to sketch out long and short-term goals:

  • What will going back to work look like for your family?
  • How will child care  be handled and what are your options?
  • As as a family, where would you like to be in five or ten years?

And remember there’s no “one solution fits all”—the right decision is what’s right for your unique family.

To-Do Before Maternity Leave

Before your leave starts, meet with your HR person to review your leave plan and get a handle on what to expect when you return. This will keep you from being blindsided and scrambling for information when you’re fully focused on your new baby. Create a file to keep all your paperwork organized.

Edel & Ryan: Preparing for Maternity Leave (1:12)

Longer version is available here.

Amanda: "You're Not Gonna Write The Great American Novel" (2:03)

CHILD CARE OPTIONS:

Center Based

  • Formal, group setting.
  • May be privately owned or publicly funded.
  • Required to be licensed and follow government mandated regulations.
  • Enrolls children starting at 6 weeks old.

Home Based

  • Smaller group setting.
  • Less regulated and more affordable than center-based care.
  • Caregiver-child ratios are usually low and children of varying ages are accepted.

Nanny / Au Pair

  • Most expensive option.
  • Ensures one-on-one child care.
  • Within arm’s reach in the comfort of your own home.

Co-op Programs

  • Parents and members of the community band together to provide care services.
  • Flexible arrangement, no cost but requires a time commitment.
  • Generally, not licensed or regulated.

Family & Friends

  • In-home, informal care.
  • May be the most affordable option (Hello, Grandma!).

The Blended Approach

  • You can get creative with options.
  • Blended approach: Half family/friends care, half formal care.
  • Is sharing a nanny with another family possible?

“One thing that helped me a lot is we picked daycare close to my work, so I can see her at lunch. I spend all morning thinking, 'I can go see her!'"

- New Mom

“I take her to client dinners with me, so she is literally sitting at the table when I don't have a babysitter. She comes to work with me, and I went back to work at two weeks; she sat under my desk, and I just rolled with it.”

- New Mom

CHOOSING A PROVIDER

Once you’ve figured out the type of care needed, reach out to family, friends, and your community for referrals. Also, online services offer guidance and recommendations.

Important things to keep in mind when evaluating caregivers:

Tour/Interview/Observe

Tours should always be encouraged and staff open and attentive to any questions you have. Any provider that isn't forthcoming with information or one who takes issue with your thoroughness should be scratched off the list. Consider making a drop in/unscheduled visit in addition to the scheduled tour—in case there is something you might “catch.”

  • Child to caregiver ratio shouldn't exceed 4:1 (under 3 months: 3:1).
  • Observe how staff interact with each other and the children.
  • Ask about employee turnover rates—the lower, the better.
  • Check inside and out for cleanliness and safety standards.
  • Are snacks/meals included?
  • How are food allergies handled?
  • What types of toys/learning materials are provided?
  • Are emergency plans are in place?
  • What are the protocols for illnesses/emergencies?
  • Are streaming videos or nanny cams provided?
  • Are employees current with their CPR certification?

Verify Accreditation/Licensing/References

Child Care Aware is a great resource for general info, determining state licensing requirements, and checking for past complaints. Remember, some states don’t require providers to be accredited, so be extra thorough when researching.

  • Run a background check and contact multiple previous employers for references.
  • Center-based care: Ask for a list of “reference families” to contact about their past or present experiences.

If you or your partner are uncertain about a provider, even if you can’t put your finger on what bothers you, trust your instincts and continue searching for someone you absolutely trust.

More information available at Care.com and CCRCCA.

Moms on Teamwork & Dad's Support

“My husband stayed home for the first three months of my return and took on a lot of the household duties such as cleaning, washing bottles, laundry. This was sooo helpful. It allowed me to come home, drop everything, and be 100% present with my son. We would also check in and talk after our son when to bed. He would talk about how difficult it was being home with an infant all day, and I would talk about how difficult it was being away all day. My husband allowed me to have my feelings and would ask me what he could do to help. All I really needed was to be heard and understood. He did a great job of this without trying to fix my feelings.”

“My husband had six weeks of paternity leave that we set up to start the day I went back to work. Knowing my daughter was home with him made my transition those first few weeks much easier. My husband and I both worked full time before we had our daughter. Even though it would be a financial strain, my husband supported me in only going back part-time and agreed it was in our daughter’s best interest for one of us to be home as much as possible. I asked my husband not to send me pictures or videos the first few days because they made me too emotional, but he still texted me to let me know what they were up to and that everything was okay. After about a week, I okay’d photos and videos, which now I very much look forward, too.”

Read More

"My husband worked really hard to develop a strong bond with our daughter from the beginning, and I made sure to keep my gatekeeping in check as much as possible when he was taking care of her so they could figure each other out. This helped to build his confidence and their relationship. There was still a learning curve those first few weeks I was back at work, but they did great. Now I barely give it a second thought when I'm leaving the two of them together."

 “Because I left for work very early in the morning and returned very late, my husband would take my daughter to daycare and also pick her up each day. This was extremely helpful as it allowed me to get to work on time and manage a very long workday.”  

“He was accepting that even though I wanted to do everything I used to do, I really couldn’t. Certain things that used to happen during the week would need to happen on the weekends. Ever since the baby was born, my husband did the bedtime routine. I would come home after work and figure out after work time and dinner, but after dinner, I was free to relax while he focused on dinner clean up and bedtime. Approaching it as a team helped immensely. He also outwardly expressed that he didn’t want me to feel like I needed to be supermom. He told me not to cook dinner every night and that if I needed to go for a walk alone in the evenings to clear my head I was more than welcome to do that.”

“My husband took four weeks off when I went back to work so it was an easier transition to leave the baby.”

“Any day my husband was home with our son, he would try to come to meet me for lunch. My co-workers loved it when he brought our son in for a visit and they all got to see him. My mother-in-law would do the same, especially if we had a doctor’s appointment to go to after work. We also have a routine where one of us spends time with our son while the other makes dinner, and we switch off bath time each night while the other cleans up dinner. It gives each of us our own time with him—and each of us a small break, as well. Trust me, don't feel guilty for five minutes of alone time, even if it means you are up to your elbows in dish soap. It’s just as important as catching all of the memories with your little one.”

“We have a pretty good system…We split up bath time and storytime, and we both try to go to the pool or park in the afternoon when we are both home for playtime. We both pitch in with the housework on the weekends, especially during nap times when we’re both free. I usually do most of the laundry, while my husband does any meal prep or cooking we need to be done. The most important thing is communication. If I’m not feeling up to something that night, I tell him and vice-versa. If the dishes sit for another night or the laundry doesn't quite get put away for a couple of days, we don't stress about it. We make our son is the priority and his needs are taken care of first. We also make time for each other after our son is down for the night. We watch a TV show, or sometimes we just lay in bed quietly, but we almost always have time together, just the two of us to talk or unwind before bed.”

The “Soft” Return

Before going on maternity leave, confirm your benefits and eligibility and how your company handles returning to work. Some businesses offer a phase-back (“soft”) return with flexible hours. Is telecommuting or job sharing an option? If company guidelines aren’t firmly in place, there may be some trailblazing and negotiating necessary to get what you need, but it’s well worth the effort. 

Preparation & Organization

This is huge. Once you’ve had a baby, it’s hard enough just to squeeze in a five minute shower, so the idea of pulling it together for a day at the office might make your head spin. When returning to work, organization and preparation are your allies. The more time you give yourself to sort out the details, the better you’ll feel.

If both you and your spouse are working full time, you’ll need to plan how to manage tasks like getting the baby ready, child care drop off and pick up, meal prep, etc. If one of you travels for work or works longer hours (fireman, doctor), you’ll need to do some additional planning. And be sure to stay flexible with your plans in case your pre-return date trial run shows your plan needs some tweaking.

Tips for Staying Organized

  • Create a checklist of morning tasks and what you and your baby need each day.
  • Keep a list of important numbers and  info on the fridge for easy access.
  • Organize work/diaper bags the night before to save time in the A.M.
  • For energy boosts, have healthy snacks in your bag and at your desk.
  • Use a notepad/journal for your child care provider to track feedings, naps, etc.
  • Have a back-up plan in case your caregiver is sick or unavailable.
  • Share a calendar with Dad for business and family appointments.
  • Grocery shop, plan, and meal prep on weekends.
  • Make a plan for dividing up household tasks with Dad.

“Start your first week back on a Thursday, or when there’s a holiday weekend, so you can ease into your new schedule. With the weekend only a couple of days away, things will feel less stressful.”

- New Mom

“Going back to work was a blessing for me. Having a career is important to me and having time away from my baby is important because I’m rejuvenated when I’m with him. I love just getting even a couple of hours of work done, and then when I’m with my son I’m focused on him. I feel like I need those pieces to be a whole person.”

 - New Mom

Breastfeeding & Pumping

If you’re breastfeeding and plan to pump at work, know that it’s mandatory for employers to provide working moms with clean, private spaces (no, the bathroom doesn’t count!). If you’re unsure where this space is, contact your employer so you know what to expect, and try to connect with other new moms at work for support.

READ! Your Rights as a Breastfeeding Employee

The Trial Run

No matter how organized and prepared you might feel, a trial run will give you added insurance that your bases are covered. A trial run gives you a chance to go through the motions, emotionally prep for the actual day, see how you and the baby handled it, and if any changes in your routine are needed.

Before returning to work, do a run-through of the morning routine and get ready just as if you were going to work. If you have in-home care, have your nanny stay with the baby for a stretch of time (they get a chance to get comfortable too) and exit the house. If you’re going with center-based care, drop your baby off (with your spouse or take a friend for support) then use the window of time to get things done or take some much-needed downtime.

From Working Moms...

“Keep in touch with coworkers so you know what’s happening at work and aren’t blind-sided by any major changes. Plus, you’ll get some time out of the house and be around adults while on leave.”

“Have lunch with your manager before you start work again to nail down what your role will be when you return and to make it clear it will take you some time to get back up to speed.”

Read More

My husband worked really hard to develop a strong bond with our daughter from the beginning, and I made sure to keep my gatekeeping in check as much as possible when he was taking care of her so they could figure each other out. This helped to build his confidence and their relationship. There was still a learning curve those first few weeks I was back at work, but they did great. Now I barely give it a second thought when I'm leaving the two of them together.

 “Because I left for work very early in the morning and returned very late, my husband would take my daughter to day care and also pick her up each day. This was extremely helpful as it allowed me to get to work on time and manage a very long work day.”  

“He was accepting that even though I wanted to do everything I used to do, I really couldn’t. Certain things that used to happen during the week would need to happen on the weekends. Ever since the baby was born, my husband did the bedtime routine. I would come home after work and figure out after work time and dinner, but after dinner, I was free to relax while he focused on dinner clean up and bedtime. Approaching it as a team helped immensely. He also outwardly expressed that he didn’t want me to feel like I needed to be supermom. He told me not to cook dinner every night and that if I needed to go for a walk alone in the evenings to clear my head I was more than welcome to do that.”

“My husband took four weeks off when I went back to work so it was an easier transition to leave baby.”

“Any day my husband was home with our son, he would try to come meet me for lunch. My co-workers loved when he brought our son in for a visit and they all got to see him. My mother-in-law would do the same, especially if we had a doctor’s appointment to go to after work. We also have a routine where one of us spends time with our son while the other makes dinner, and we switch off bath time each night while the other cleans up dinner. It gives each of us our own time with him—and each of us a small break, as well. Trust me, don't feel guilty for five minutes of alone time, even if it means you are up to your elbows in dish soap. It’s just as important as catching all of the memories with your little one.”

“We have a pretty good system…We split up bath times and story times, and we both try to go to the pool or park in the afternoon when we are both home for play time. We both pitch in with the house work on the weekends, especially during nap times when we’re both free. I usually do most of the laundry, while my husband does any meal prep or cooking we need done. The most important thing is communication. If I’m not feeling up to something that night, I tell him and vice-versa. If the dishes sit for another night or the laundry doesn't quite get put away for a couple days, we don't stress about it. We make our son is the priority and his needs are taken care of first. We also make time for each other after our son is down for the night. We watch a TV show, or sometimes we just lay in bed quietly, but we almost always have time together, just the two of us to talk or unwind before bed.”

“We did some meal prep and planning when we first came home from the hospital, but it was even more important once we were both working again. Set some time aside each weekend (or whatever day you can set aside) to do the grocery shopping and as much meal planning and prep as possible. It will leave you more time with your little one during the week and ease the stress of getting dinner ready after a long day at work.”

- New Mom

Staying at Home

The rewards and benefits of being a stay-at-home-mom are plentiful, but it can also come with conflicting feelings and big adjustments. Daily, long stretches of caring for a newborn can feel isolating and take an emotional toll, and self-care will go a long way in helping you manage the day-to-day challenges.

Communication & Teamwork
Stay-at-home-moms (and stay-at-home-dads!) work exceptionally hard—all day every day. So make sure you and Dad agree on how to manage home care and dividing up tasks. Staying in communication during the day and doing a check-in before you’re both home at night, will also keep you synced up and supporting each other. Check out our teamwork section for more tips on working together to keep your family running smoothly.

Find Your Tribe

When you’re in the trenches of dealing with the changes that come with motherhood, being able to reach out to friends who are also tired, disheveled, and finding their way is a spirit-lifter.

A UCLA study found that when a woman is under stress, her body chemically reacts by producing a desire to “tend and befriend,” meaning tend to the children and befriend other women. This tending and befriending releases the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, which is calming and stress-reducing. In short: our female friends are stress-relievers.

Mom friends keep us from feeling alone, reassure us our feelings and experiences are normal, and pick us up in the biggest of slumps. Parenting is a big undertaking and building your “village” is key to thriving: no new mom should have to go it alone.   

  • Join a moms group. Check out Facebook, Meetup, community centers (library, park, pool, schools, or churches), and apps like Momco and Hellomamas to link up with local moms.  
  • Reach out to people. Call, text, and Facetime/Skype with friends, and family; being in communication will lift your spirits and help with feelings of isolation.
  • Meet up with a mom friend for coffee or strolling around a mall. Try to make it a weekly routine and invite other friends to start up your own mom group!
  • Get Active. If you like the idea of meeting and moving, check online for mommy & me fitness gatherings. You can find a lot of groups online like Stroller Strides or swim classes. If hiking’s your thing, Hike It Baby brings parents together for hikes with baby in tow. You can also check yoga studios in your area for mommy/baby classes; don’t worry, your baby won’t have to do any poses and you tend to your little one as needed.
  • Take the initiative. It can feel intimidating at first, but, trust us, you’ll be glad you did. If you find you’re connecting with another mom (on the playground, or wherever!), ask for their contact info and set up a playdate. Meet at a park or a coffee shop, your home, wherever you’re both comfortable.

"If you're a stay at home mom, you definitely need to make an effort to schedule things for the day. I had to know: Okay, I'm going to the library for story time, and then I'm going to a moms meet up group. I had to plan it, or I would never leave the house...it's so important to get out and keep that social aspect."   New Mom

Get a Routine

“I was afraid to take him anywhere, because he was so difficult for so long. But now that he's gotten better, I've started getting into Facebook groups and park meet-ups with a couple other friends…it’s nice to get out of the house and feel like you're doing something.” — New Mom

The days can feel long and when your life regains a little more predictability, setting the structure for the day will help you feel more in control. When it comes to managing things around the house, don’t overload yourself; try organizing tasks by day (Tuesdays I’ll clean the bathroom, and Thursdays I’ll vacuum.”). Arrange to see mom-friends each week, and/or find a weekly moms group for you and your baby. The commitment to be somewhere will motivate you to get moving, and being with other moms will strengthen your sense of community and support.

“After being at home for a week and not leaving the house, I had cabin fever really bad…I started taking her out every day. Literally. Something, whether it was going for a walk, or to the park, or store….She got used to getting ready for the car.” — New Mom

Practice Self Care

This is huge. Caring for a newborn is a nonstop loop of feeding, burping, diaper-changing, wash, rinse, repeat; it’s really easy for moms to feel depleted and stir-crazy. The antidote is keeping self-care at the top of your priority list, so you can give your baby 100%.  

  • Lean on Dad. The more hands on Dad is in parenting, the more supported you will feel. From the start, make sure he’s getting lots of one-on-one time with the baby; it will boost his confidence and help you feel comfortable taking time out to do things for yourself.
  • Recruit help. Find a friend, family member, or sitter who can help with the baby during the day when you need some time to yourself, or if you’re feeling under the weather (it’s also good to have backup for emergencies). If you can schedule a regular block of time to yourself—FANTASTIC! Knowing that window of time is always there will do wonders for you.
  • Nurture your body and mind. For some, this means a hot bath and cold beer at the end of the day. For others, it’s a giant nap, yoga, reading, or a solo stroll around a store—if it restores you, keep it up as much as possible.

“Just remember to make time for yourself, too, and ask for help when you need it. Really try and focus on giving yourself some me time and not focusing exclusively on the baby.”  - New Mom

 

READ! 25 Self-Care Ideas for Exhausted Parents

Ninette - The Importance of Talking About Staying Home (1:03)

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