There has been a tremendous amount of pressure on U.S. businesses to update and expand their maternity leave policies. Even famous CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg announced that he would be taking a two month paternity leave and offers four months of maternity or paternity leave to his employees at Facebook.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky. According to the United States Department of Labor, “only 12 percent of U.S. private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer,” and many of those who don’t can’t afford unpaid leave even if it’s offered to them.
Needless to say, if you’re one of the few who can take a maternity leave, there are a number of things you should do to prepare both personally and financially to make sure it’s successful. Below are some examples:
1. Have an Emergency Fund
No one ever wants to think of the worst, especially not when they’re planning on bringing a beautiful bundle of joy home, but sometimes emergencies happen. Sometimes new babies get sick, and sometimes babies have to go the NICU before going home.
An emergency fund is especially important if you are taking an unpaid maternity leave. You don’t want an unexpected expense to force you to go back to work earlier than you planned. If you don’t have an emergency fund established, start putting away money each pay period.
You’ll want to put it in an online savings account so it can remain liquid while also earn a little something on the cash.
2. Enlist Help
If you’re lucky enough to live close to friends and family, you should enlist help to come during your maternity leave. One thing moms are absolutely terrible at doing is asking for help. Sometimes people bring over food, but they might not know what else to do.
If someone asks you if there’s something they can do for you, give them a specific day where they can come over, wash your laundry and do your dishes. A little bit of help goes a long way, and if you plan for help to come, it won’t be as overwhelming when you’re in the thick of newborn days.
You can also find ways to get free baby stuff to help lower costs.
3. Contact Your Health Insurance Provider
One of the biggest expenses people incur every year is healthcare expenses. So, if you know you’re going to have hospital bills, call your hospital and try to get an estimate of what they will be ahead of time. I pre-paid $800 for my birth which was the doctor’s fee and then had hospital bills on top of that.
It was good to know ahead of time what to expect, and if you have to add your child to your health insurance policy, it’s good to know what that added cost will be as well just so you’re prepared.
4. Get Childcare Estimates
The last thing you want to be doing when you have a newborn baby is calling around to day care centers asking if they have a spot and how much their monthly fee is. Take care of this ahead of time. Whether you have a family member watch your child or put them in a daycare, it’s good to know how much the expense will be. Some mothers find that the expense is so much, they decide to not return to work. Either way, it’s good to get an idea of the expenses ahead of time.
5. Plan Something Just for You During Your Maternity Leave
When you have a new baby, especially if it’s your first, you’re not going to want to spend time away from them. Everything is just too new! However, you can plan on something just for you. You can have someone to come to your house and give you a massage while your mom watches the baby for 30 minutes. The same goes for nails or even hair and makeup. Budget in a little something for you because a few weeks in you’re going to feel like the walking dead and it will feel so nice to be pampered a little bit!
Overall preparing for a new baby is exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. There are so many expenses and so many things to handle. However, if you take care of some of the larger financial decisions ahead of time, like researching childcare options and finding out how much your delivery will cost, you can then take the time to enjoy your baby once he or she (or a he and a she) make it into the world safely.
What did you do to prepare financially and personally for your child? What was one of the simple pleasures you took time to enjoy during your maternity leave? Do you think paternity and maternity leave should be longer in the U.S.? Why or why not?