This week in the “what if” series we talk about having children and the loss of a spouse. While adding a child to your life can turn your world upside-down, losing your spouse is listed as the #1 most stressful life event, according to (Thomas) Holmes and (Richard) Rahe stress scale. Even though having children doesn’t rank for Thomas and Richard, it’s still a big enough life change to plan for… as much as one can.
A Quick Note About Stress
If you are interested to see how your life rates on the Holmes and Rahe scale, take the Stress Assessment, provided by the American Institute of Stress (AIS). Remember, don’t “stress” yourself out if you score high. (Yes, I had to go there. :)) It’s just a point in time and can be changed. Knowledge is power.
Starting a Family?
When you are a kid, there is nothing better than going to grandma and grandpas house. Sunday dinner with family, friends and of course, mom & dad. In what seems like the blink of an eye, we grow up. Our lives get busy. Eventually you may decide to start a family of your own and continue your own family traditions.
If you are thinking of starting a family, Congratulations! Having a baby will change your life, no question. It is the hardest and most rewarding job you can ever have. Nothing can really prepare you when that bundle of joy moves in. (Even though there are literally hundreds of books out there about it. Ha-ha :)) What we can do, is determine if you are financially ready to have a baby move in.
Before I had my own kids, my mom used to ask (what seemed like weekly) “When are you going to have my grandchildren?” I used to smile and say, “We have cats. They are your grandchildren.” (She never did find that funny. LOL.) 😀 After my smart-alecky response, I would say, “Mom we can’t afford kids. We can barely make ends meet with just the 2 cats!” She would laugh and say “if your are waiting to have enough money, you’ll never have children. Once the kids come, you just make it work”. Eventually, that is exactly what we did.
Fast forward to today, I would agree with part of mom's statement.. it would take too long to save up all the money one would need to feel comfortable to have a child (let alone two or three). BUT … there are things we can do proactively to prepare us for at least the first year … and maybe even longer.
Enter the challenges…
Yes, I know, it’s not the most creative name (I started with Baby Challenge). 🙂 If you have a suggestion… please leave a comment below.
The challenge is to live as if you have a baby… for 6 months. I am not saying become sleep deprived (there is plenty of time for that. ha-ha). What I mean is, every month for 6 months, pay into a savings account the amount you would actually pay for childcare. Depending on where you live, the cost can vary widely. Here in the US, annual costs can be anywhere from about $5,500 in Alabama to just north of $14,000 in New York.
I think this challenge’s name is a little better if I do say so myself. 🙂
If you are a two-income household and plan on having one of you (not necessarily the mom) be the stay-at-home parent, I commend you!! Being a stay-at-home parent is a rewarding and deceivingly tough job. Sure its sounds easy, no office to go to, no deadlines and sleeping in with your bundle of joy all sounds great but caring for a baby is really hard work (especially the first one).
Here, the challenge is to live on the “working” parent paycheck and bank the “stay-at-home” parent. And, yes, try this for 6 months.
You will also want to
1) Check into your companies maternity/paternity benefits,
2) Save up your vacation time,
3) Ask about options to use sick time
4) Determine the best time to leave your job.
Still not the most creative person with these names. Seriously, need some suggestions. haha. I suppose I could call this one “The Full Monty” because it is the hardest one.
Pocket the to-be stay-at-home paycheck AND a little extra for occasional daycare, mommy and me classes, etc… The truth is when being the stay-at-home parent is it can be isolating AND as your baby grows, they will need to socialize and be around other children.
Yes, you can teach them their colors, letters and count to 10 but to start kindergarten, you may want to start them out a year or two ahead of time learning to be away from you in a safe environment.
If you are not fortunate enough to live near family (who are willing to pitch in) then you have daycare. The nice thing is daycare doesn’t need to be 5 days/week, it can be 2 or even 3 days. If you have more than one child, hiring a babysitter or nanny may be more cost effective.
Before we go onto benefits, I have one more story to share. One day, at the park with my own then little one, I met a parent who told me that his family along with 4 other families hired ONE babysitter to watch all 5 kids. How they managed it was that each one of them took 1 day off from their jobs and spent the day with the babysitter. Basically 4 of them had the flexibility to work 4 – 10 hour days, one of them was a stay-at-home parent who could step in at a moment’s notice. It was the perfect setup. Two adults watching 5 kids! The kids LOVED it! Parents were able to spend more time with their own kids and feel comfortable leaving their kids on their work days. It was a win-win all the way around.
1) It gives you a sense of how your life will change financially
2) If you miscalculate a month of expenses, you still have that money to fall back on.
3) At the end of 6 months, you will have a buffer of cash.
A Word about Guilt
This is a little off topic but important. Whether you decide to stay home or go the day care route, you will have some level of guilt. Guilt from having kids and hiring someone else to raise them. Guilt from giving up your career and being home. On top of that, some people can be a little judgmental in whatever lifestyle you choose. Just remember that you walk in your shoes, no one else. You don’t owe anyone an explanation on the choices you make for your own life. Remember that. So long as you are doing your best for yourself and your family that is all that matters.
Loss Of a Spouse
This is a tough subject. No one wants to think about losing a loved one. So the sooner we have this talk and get things in order the sooner we can move onto other conversations.
Both of you should talk to a lawyer about estate planning and the best way to handle assets in the event your spouse passes. This is especially important if you have children. Remember to keep the originals of all legal documents (along with wishes – see below) in a safe place.
Both of you should talk to an insurance professional to determine the best type of insurance to have as well as how much. If you have a good paying job and your spouse is the stay at home, then having more insurance on the paying job spouse is important to cover the loss of income.
If you have children, it is best to determine who would raise your children in the event you both pass at the same time. The person that manages your estate could be different from the person that raises your children.
May want to contact the social security office to know what you are eligible for. Depending on your age and other criteria this could be a good some of money.
Make sure to have a list of contacts, not only of friends and family but of your tax accountant, lawyer & financial advisor. Remember, your friends are your friends because they love you. Let them help you during this time.
Make a list of your wishes for when you pass. The type of funeral. A donation to your favorite charity. Keep this with your legal documents.
Talk to your tax accountant to understand any tax implications and your options.
Above all, take care of yourself. Be patient and kind. Take some time off and just be. Write in your journal. Grieving can be a long process and there is no one size fits all on how to do it. Grieve the way you need to and then live again. That last part is important. You are here, do those things you always talked about but never got around to it. Whatever your definition of “living” is, once grieving is over, do that.
The only consistent in life is change. There are plenty of things that will happen where we won’t be ready. For changes that we know about, we should prepare as much as possible.
[bctt tweet=”Life is a journey not a destination. Do take some time to enjoy the little moments today.” username=”PieLadyFI”]