4 Investments New Parents Can Make to Preserve Their Sanity
One of the most magical and simultaneously difficult aspects of new parenthood is losing yourself in the care of your baby. In addition to the time invested in doting on your new little bundle of joy, chances are you’re probably spending a pretty penny on their care as well – money that previously went to taking care of and treating yourself.
Determining what’s an appropriate amount to spend on baby gear and toys is hard enough on the family budget, but an even more difficult question might be what’s appropriate for parents to spend on themselves. It’s the nature of parents to be self-sacrificing for their children, but devoting all the family funds to your kids and leaving nothing for yourself might backfire.
“Children need healthy environments to thrive, and that starts with the parent,” explains Liz Higgins, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “It’s like the passenger flight instructions on an airplane: in the event of an emergency, you need to put your own oxygen mask on before placing it on your child.”
Below are a few guilt-free expenditures that pay off in healthier, happier parents better able to care for their newborn, and are essentially a healthy dosage of money saving tips for new parents.
Even if you’re still on parental leave, hiring an extra pair of hands for childcare and housework can make a world of difference. Many new parents rely on friends and family to offer support when a new baby arrives, but if your next of kin is across the country or asking your BFF to fold your laundry is too awkward of a request, it might be better to pay for help. Spending a few hundred dollars per month outsourcing household chores might seem like a luxury, but on the days when the stresses of parenthood become overwhelming, you’ll realize it’s some of the best money you’ve ever spent.
If the flurry of managing a family is manifesting itself in an unkempt home, don’t hesitate to hire a cleaning service if you can afford it. This doesn’t mean you need a maid twice weekly. If you’re keeping up with the daily grind of dishes and laundry but notice the more labor intensive monthly cleaning rituals are falling by the wayside, go ahead and pay for a house cleaner to come once or twice per month. Not only will a clean home feel serene and welcoming, taking “scrub the baseboards” off your to-do list will free up much needed hours for me-time or quality time you can spend with your partner.
Invest in childcare
A post-partum doula can help you with childcare, light housework, and meal preparation in those first few weeks of the newborn haze. In addition to helping you with day-to-day tasks, many doulas can offer breastfeeding support as well. Having an experienced professional who specializes in the care of brand-new babies and brand-new moms can make your transition into parenthood easier.
Once your baby’s age is measurable in months instead of weeks, you might look for a babysitter or part-time nanny to come to your home to help with childcare. When people hear the word “nanny” they often think of having someone come live in their home full-time, but you can find someone to come as few or as many hours per week as you need. Once my baby turned 3 months old, I hired a part-time nanny to come two mornings per week. I use this time for everything from catching up on work to meeting friends for brunch. Sometimes I simply use it to go to a café by myself and enjoy an overpriced latte while watching YouTube videos on my phone. Maybe that doesn’t look like anything special to anyone else, but I wager any parent knows that two carefree hours without tears and spit-up is of far greater value than the fee I pay the babysitter.
If you choose to go back to work part or full time, you might wrestle with the guilt of leaving your children in the care of someone else.
It’s important to recognize that making the investment in childcare is really an investment in your career, which ultimately provides greater financial stability and security to your family in the long run.
Take care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being
In addition to parenthood being a colossal time-suck, it takes its toll on your body and mind. Rocking a baby to sleep eight times per day will tie knots in your back and shoulders that only the best massage therapist can undo, and a colicky baby that cannot be soothed will erode your sense of self-worth faster than any demanding boss ever did.
A well-rested and physically healthy parent is better than a worn-down and frazzled one, which is why you need to carve out time and money for things that will improve your day-to-day well-being. This can be anything from a weekly yoga class to a monthly massage, or even a regular meeting with a therapist or counselor. Adjusting to your new role as a parent and its impact on your identity, relationships, and lifestyle is not easy, and getting help when you need it can prevent post-partum anxiety and depression.
Higgins encourages parents to invest in parenting groups or classes that not only provide an opportunity to receive information about childcare, but also the chance to connect and socialize with other new parents. “Becoming part of something that will give you resources to ground you through the emotional ups and downs of new parenthood is essential. One of the things new parents need most is to feel normal.”
Keep up with your financial goals
With the high cost of diapers, formula, baby clothes, and college fund contributions, spending a dollar on yourself can seem like a betrayal of the family budget. It’s one thing to dine out and vacation less, but financial commitments that provide you with long-term security should never fall by the wayside.
Your family needs an emergency fund more than your child needs any material goods or extra-curricular activities. Likewise, it makes sense to prioritize your RRSP over your child’s RESP as your child will be able to take out student loans, whereas you’ll never be able to take out retirement loans. Don’t fall into the trap of promising to “save later” once your children are older or more independent – nearly half of Canadian twenty-somethings are still living at home, which means you might not see an empty nest and the corresponding boost in your budget for years longer than you think.
The birth of a child always throws family dynamics and finances for a loop, but spending your money in the right place can help you better cope with transitioning into this new role. Don’t buy into the falsehood that spending money on yourself, and not your child, somehow makes you an irresponsible or uncaring parent.