Money stuff: Learning to share

12:0AM, Jun 11th 2010

Transforming from a working woman to a no-income earner can be a bit of a shock. Justine Davies, P&B's finance expert, reveals how to get prepared

Transforming from a working woman to a no-income earner can be a bit of a shock. Justine Davies, P&B's finance expert, reveals how to get prepared

This article appeared in the September-October 2009 issue of Pregnancy & Birth magazine. Click here to subscribe.

So many things in life change when you have a baby. There are the obvious changes to your family dynamic, and the inevitable physical and hormonal changes you experience. There are also the mental changes as your priorities shift, not to mention major time-management changes. Then there’s another permanent shift that sometimes goes ignored until the baby arrives: financial change.

A new way of life Sarah, 32, vividly remembers her first Melbourne Cup day as a mum. "I was at home with my two-month-old baby. I turned on the television, sat on the couch and cried," she said. "It was the first year I hadn't been at work, having a fancy lunch and a silly hat competition.

"I was wearing daggy shorts and a T-shirt. Money was tight so I hadn’t even placed a $5 bet. It sounds like such a small thing but I really felt forgotten."

It's a generational dilemma: women are now raised with the expectation of being equal across all fields. We’re encouraged to work and achieve professional and personal goals that our grandmothers could only dream of. So it can be a shock to transform from a two to a single-income family.

Lola Mashado, venue manager for Relationships Australia, says that couples quite often seek counselling after having a baby, and that money problems can influence that. "If finances aren’t properly organised it can create great upheaval when a baby comes into the house. There's an old saying: ‘when money worries come in the door, love flies out the window.' Financial stress can take away from what should be a very happy time for new parents," Lola says.

It's not only money stresses that can impact on a new mum — there's also the financial dependency that comes with a reduced family income. This can really batter self-confidence, as Sarah found. "It was so difficult to some to terms with not earning an income. I didn't realise until I went on maternity leave how much I measured my value as a person by how much I earned. It was silly because I was looking after our baby, which was far more important than anything I could ever do at work, but I couldn't help feeling that I wasn’t pulling my weight," she says.

And while it may mean tuning into a completely different mindset to the one you've had for many years, Lola encourages couples to consciously value each other’s financial and non-financial contribution to the family equally.

So take heart: one day you may trade the jeans and T-shirt for a business suit again. Financial independence will be an option once again. In the meantime, through, you're involved in one of the most challenging and rewarding roles of your life: raising a happy family.

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