As I prepare to welcome my fifth child into the world this summer, I see many women my age — many of whom are just now preparing for their first — and not only do I suddenly feel ancient at 33, but I also want to scoop them all up and impart to them the hard-earned lessons of having a baby from someone who has done this many, many times.
If I could, my pep talk would look something like this.
ADJUST YOUR BUDGET NOW
If your income flow will change after having a baby, start living with your new adjusted budget sooner rather than later. Not only will it jump-start embracing your new normal, but it will also prepare you should baby make an early entrance. My maternity leave will be a mix of two weeks of paid leave and the rest unpaid, so I started saving as soon as I was out of my first trimester. I worked with a financial professional to help us review our monthly cash flow so I could maximize my time off instead of feeling rushed to start working again.
My husband and I also built some “splurges” into our budget, like monthly house-cleaning in my last trimester, when the thought of bending over to scrub behind a toilet seems a bit much. If feasible, consider working some bonuses into your budget to get through your pregnancy, too. Weekly pizza delivery, anyone?
WORK AS A TEAM TO KEEP THINGS RUNNING
If you have a partner who contributes to the household financially, it's important to remember that your time "off" is not solely your responsibility. Though I’ve been working double- and triple-time to minimize the disruption to our finances, having a baby is a family decision — and a family expenditure. With my first few (or four) babies, I felt guilty about the financial burden of taking time off, or even asking my husband to take off work when I had postpartum complications. Thankfully, I’ve gotten a lot older and wiser on that front.
I've realized that with every baby, every other part of my life — including my career desires, goals and needs — goes through its own 'rebirth’ too.
KNOW YOUR CAREER MIGHT COMPLETELY CHANGE (AND THAT’S OK)
With each baby, my career has shifted in huge ways. I’ve gone from full-time work to part-time to freelance and back again, and each addition to our family has meant readjusting what’s best for all of us. With this fifth baby, for instance, I’ve been working a traditional full-time job. But after my maternity leave ends, I plan on reevaluating if full-time work will still be feasible.
I refuse to feel guilty about giving myself time to decide.
I've realized that with every baby, every other part of my life — including my career desires, goals and needs — goes through its own "rebirth" too. You will not be the same person you were before you had that baby, and that is totally fine. Embrace that rebirth and reevaluate how you want your life to look. Then give yourself permission to make some changes. And don’t let anyone else pressure you into thinking you have to do things a certain way on a certain schedule; you’re allowed to change your mind, make your own plan and forge your own path as a working mom.
REMEMBER: YOU’LL WORK AGAIN
I struggle with this one. As a content creator, my work world changes by the minute, and it's a constant cycle to keep up with new technologies and methods of supplying my clients with what they need. So the thought of taking any time off — let alone months to care for a newborn — is terrifying. In my mind, dropping off the radar for even a few weeks will make me obsolete. But the truth is, you can come back into any field. Time away might even reenergize your career.
VIEW TIME OFF AFTER BABY AS A LONG-TERM INVESTMENT
Consider the long-term impact of a purposeful and thoughtful maternity leave. I’ve made the mistake (four times now) of viewing my leave as something temporary to "get through" until I could get back to real life.
I rushed my own physical healing, I pushed away help, I took on work projects when I wasn't sleeping enough. And each time, it backfired. I dealt with postpartum complications and mental health struggles. I wish I had viewed maternity leave as a long-term investment in both my health and my career. In the end, they’re connected.