We stood in awe as the immense doors slid silently apart. Sweetly scented air rushed over us as we stepped tentatively towards the light, squinting at the marble floor and the towering pillars. A calm voice welcomed us.
But this was not heaven – it was Mamas & Papas. We made our way across the vast room, between minimalist displays of cute pyjamas and spot-lit cots. I wandered over to a three-wheeled pushchair that wouldn’t have been out of place on the set of a sci-fi movie, picked up the price tag, then uttered an involuntary expletive that echoed around the room.
“Have you seen the price of this?” I said to Rachel. “£150 for a pram!”
“No,” she explained. “That says that there’s £150 off the marked price.”
By the time we left, I was feeling rather ill.
Down to earth
My naivety about the practical cost of parenthood had been well and truly shattered. We made a list of everything we might need: pram, Moses basket, cot, car seat, stair gates, steriliser…needless to say, it was a very long list. And looking at what we had coming in financially, I wondered how anyone actually manages to afford to have a baby. What if you had twins – or more?! I began to realise that I had so far taken my relatively generous disposable income for granted.
There was hope however. Rachel’s sister told us about a website, www.freecycle.org , on which people give away unwanted items. We signed up and it quickly became apparent that people have a lot of unused baby stud that they want to get rid of. We found a pram (good, but in need of a clean), a steriliser and tons of clothes. We also found about 20 reusable nappies. This was something we had talked about, and had decided to give them a go.
- Mum’s story – budgeting for your baby
- Dad’s story – budgeting for a baby
- Dad’s story – supporting your partner through pregnancy
Looking on the internet, though, I realised there was quite a debate about the impact of different types of nappies, both environmentally and financially. The stance of the pro-reusable camp is that disposable nappies are expensive and are non-biodegradable, thus filling up landfill sites at an alarming rate. The pro-disposables on the other hand, argue that reusables have greater impact on the environment and wallet, as they require a great deal of water and energy to wash. It was hard to know which way to go, but eventually we decided we would we would try half disposable, half reusable, and see how it went.
Maternity leave was also a bit of a worry. We though it would be a good idea for Rachel to take a full year, but we knew it was going to be tight. She was entitled to 6 months at full pay and then 6 months at the ‘statutory rate’ which was next to nothing. Luckily though, Rachel had thought about it well in advance. As such, we had saved up enough to cover her half of the essentials during this time – but we wouldn’t be left with much on the way of savings later on.
But the biggest bombshell was yet to drop: childcare. This, I discovered, was going to be almost the equivalent of another mortgage. The cost per day seemed to make sense – after all, you would hope that the people looking after your child were happy and well paid – but added up over the course of a month it made for an eye-watering figure.
Time well spent
Our original plan was for Rachel to go back to work part-time after her maternity leave, so she could look after the baby for half the week. However, this meant that she would only get half her wage! Despite this, we agreed that the baby would benefit from spending as much time as possible with Rachel, even if that meant we would be pretty skint for a while. After all, these precious early years could not be reclaimed.
Not having a good head for figures, worries about ‘baby finance’ had thoroughly frazzled my brain. But I told myself that whatever happened financially, I just had to remember it was not a number or monetary figure that we were about to bring into the world, it was something upon which you couldn’t put a price: a new life!