Once my husband and I decided that we wanted to start a family, I started thinking about ways that I could stay home with our baby for the first six months on her life, even if it were to be unpaid. In this piece, I talk about the various ways to leverage baby showers, family favors, and an entrepreneurial spirit to make maternity leave and the loss of income as painless as possible.
Decide to create a maternity leave fund as soon as you’re ready to get pregnant. We’re a country that stresses college funds, retirement funds, and emergency funds. But I hear little discussion or emphasis on the preparation for taking time off to be with a baby, which requires as much forethought and long-term planning as any other worthwhile goal or experience. When it came to planning for a six-month maternity leave, I started a fund shortly after the decision to get pregnant, which was a year before we actually conceived.
To be honest, I was on the fence about motherhood for nearly a decade. But if I were certain that I wanted to be a mom, I would have started financially planning for it shortly after.
Build your maternity fund as if it were an emergency fund. My approach to building a maternity fund paralleled how I create an emergency fund. By the time that I started my maternity fund, I had already established an emergency fund that held nine months of net income. Since I already stashed this cash away, I figured that I could squirrel away the equivalent of four months of net income for my maternity fund. I chose a lesser money goal. As a mother, I would be home-bound or doing things locally with the baby. I didn’t foresee burning through large amount of money. The maternity fund was established to cover all fixed expenses.I could dip into my emergency fund if I needed to.
Use your nesting syndrome to clear clutter and make money. I can’t personally stay that I had the “nesting” syndrome, where you need to clean everything and declutter before the baby comes. That feeling came after my chocolate drop arrived. Everything had to go! I mean, everything. I made use of sites like ThredUp.com to sell clothes that could bring in a few dollars. I returned a lot of the clothes that she outgrew before she could use for either store credit or the purchase price.
Steer your baby shower gifts toward the necessities and the long-term. My baby shower was one of the most memories that I could have shared with my friends and family. I had a lot of veteran and new moms as part of my tribe so their gifts were practical. I didn’t know how grateful I was to be until I was in full mommy mode during maternity leave. The three-month supply of diapers and baby wipes were priceless. The crib, swaddles, diaper bags, and rocker were everything. My baby girl was blessed with reading materials as well. If I could go back, the only thing different I would do was to create a registry that helped me better plan out what her baby clothes’ needs would be over the first two years. What I noticed was that she couldn’t enjoy many of her clothes because most of them were bought with her immediate size in mind.
Hustle while on maternity leave. Before giving birth, I was told that I would need to rest because I would be exhausted. And they were right. I took to my bed for two weeks. But after that, I seemed to have so much energy and wanted to get back to my creative and entrepreneurial interests. During my maternity leave, I continued to pitch ideas and take on projects that I enjoyed; this low-stakes hustling helped me gained a lot of clarity about my business next steps.
Be sure to spend money on your health and happiness regularly. I promised myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to use my daughter as an excuse as for why I wasn’t myself. And what I mean “myself,” I was referring to how I took care of my physical and emotional needs before motherhood. When planning for maternity leave, I knew I wanted to use that time to work with a personal trainer. I also knew that I wanted to still see my friends, go to plays, and explore the City, so I created a budget for it.
Maternity leave is as much about taking care of the new baby as it is about caring for the new mommy. Since we’re still making strides as a nation to see the importance of maternity leave and creating viable workplace options around it that include partial or full compensation, we’ll continue to have to be creative and strategic about making it happen for ourselves.