2018 was a quiet year on our blog, but it was a roller coaster year in our lives. In December 2017, we found out that we were expecting our first baby. Deciding to take this big step into parenthood came after months of thoughtful consideration, planning and discussion between us. There are very few decisions we make in life that don’t come with an Undo Ctrl+Z Command, and this is definitely one of those!
Some of our friends have asked us to share a “parental readiness checklist” based on our experiences so far. Why is this important? Because whatever issues/problems/concerns/uncertainties you have in your life pre-baby gets magnified 10x post-baby. Taking care of the infant in your house becomes your number #1 priority for months (years?) before you can remotely focus on anything else.
The truth is that you will have no time to invest in making other aspects of your life better. So what’s the best thing you can do for you and your spouse? Make sure that all the important parts of your life are in a great steady-state, running like a well-oiled machine, so that you can devote every ounce of your mental and physical energy to this new baby (or babies!).
Welcoming a new baby to your family is a special time in life and by getting the basics figured out ahead of time, you can actually give yourself the joy of bonding with your newborn.
Get your finances in order
So mundane, right? But this is 100% the most important thing you need to have figured out prior to baby. Expenses can (will) soar, and you need to have an amazing handle on your income/expenses/savings/financial plan. I won’t go into all the detail here, but if you haven’t already, you should read this post: How to be Fantastic with Money.
Team work makes the dream work
When you’re running on low sleep, your energy levels drop substantially and it becomes too easy to get on each other’s nerves. Our #1 advantage going into this journey is that we invested many years (nearly a decade) of getting to know each other. Not in a “what’s your favorite color” kind of way. In our case, getting to know each other really well means that we could practically finish off each other’s sentences if we wanted to.
Settle into stable jobs with good leave policies
There are a million things to worry about when taking on new responsibilities as parents, but a steady paycheck doesn’t have to be one of them. If you’re already financially independent, fantastic! If not, you should do the math on what taking time off work means for your family’s finances. Most countries in the developed world have government mandated paid parental leave. We live in the USA, however, where there is no such thing.
Navigating the various federal, state and local parental leave laws deserves its own post, but we were able to take four months (Mrs) and two months (Mr) of fully paid parental leave right after the birth of our daughter. Do your own research and understand the financial implications of parental leave before you plan the pregnancy. Talk to your HR department ahead of time if needed. Schedule a meeting with them and tell them you’re planning to have a baby and are curious to learn about the company’s policies surrounding parental leave, both before and after the delivery of the baby. Find out exactly what your pay cut is going to be, if any.
Get the best medical insurance plan you can afford
I had a normal pregnancy and normal delivery with minimal medical intervention. I stayed in the hospital for one day after the birth of our daughter. The medical bill from the hospital was in the ballpark of $50,000 USD. I am not kidding you. If you have even the slightest medical complication, or if your newborn has any issues that require additional medical attention, your bill (in the USA) can get close to $85,000 - $100,000 for a pregnancy.
We had a chance to change our insurance a few months after we found out that I was pregnant. Thankfully, we had access to a great HMO Medical Plan through Mr. FH’s workplace which resulted in a fixed copay for pregnancies. We got away with paying only $500 (!!) which covered all my pregnancy appointments, my hospital stay, as well as the baby’s (short) hospital stay post-delivery.
This is not the time to skimp out on insurance premiums by choosing a high deductible plan, or choosing one with a coinsurance percentage with a high out-of-pocket maximum. If you’re confused by all the terms in the insurance plan, take the time to understand it. Ask your HR person to explain things to you until you’re 100% sure of how much things will cost you in the worst case. It’s well worth the effort.
Plan for childcare
There are many childcare options ranging from one of the parents taking time off from work to care for the baby to having a full time live-in nanny. You should explore the cost/convenience trade offs for all of the following options: center based daycare, family day care, having a grandparent/other relative stay with you to care for the baby, nanny share with another family or hosting an Au Pair student in exchange for childcare.
Some of these options have a long waitlist and in cities like San Francisco, it’s considered normal to get on a waiting list for childcare as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
Invest in your physical fitness
Taking charge of your fitness by regularly exercising and eating a healthy diet is important at any stage in your life, but absolutely non-negotiable when you’re thinking of getting a baby. Pregnancy is tough. Labor, delivery and post-partum recovery are even tougher.
Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on your entire body, so if you’re not feeling 100% when you start, you will certainly have a much harder time dealing with the additional strain. Besides, once the baby arrives, it will become 10x harder to make time for a workout, especially in the first couple of months.
I started pregnancy at a healthy weight with a good amount of strength, flexibility and endurance. I continued to walk and hike regularly throughout pregnancy, and ate a healthy vegetarian diet. It wasn’t marathon training, but just staying on “maintenance mode” did the trick for me.
Find your support system
It truly takes a village to raise a child. No matter how much you adore your newborn, rocking the baby 24/7 will tire you out. Sleep deprivation is real, and post-delivery hormone changes will wreak havoc on your mood and energy levels. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can rely entirely on our parents (i.e. grandparents) to take care of Baby Hacker when we returned to work. If you don’t have grandparents close by and/or available to help, reach out to other family members and friends for help. When people ask you how they can help, don’t be shy to ask for some homemade meals or a few hours of help watching the baby while you take a nap or step outside for some fresh air.
Coming up next
Becoming parents has changed our lives in so many ways already, and it’s only been a few months now! Over the next few posts, we will be sharing how the new addition to our family impacts our FI journey. Stay tuned!