Money and work for new parents

If you're in the pregnancy phase, or if you've just had a child, you may be facing some unique relationship challenges.

Some of those challenges will come from the changes to your financial circumstances, which can have a significant impact on your relationship.

Money troubles while pregnant
When you and your partner are expecting a baby, the pressure you’re under can cause regular issues and arguments to be amplified. Arguments about money are particularly common during pregnancy, partly because of changes to working arrangements, and partly because of the extra expense of having a baby. A stressful time of life Many couples (around 40-67%) experience a drop in relationship quality, usually from the start of pregnancy until the child is around 15 months old. Everyone is different, but that’s generally when things start to feel a bit better again. Set some ground rules about what you will do next time an argument breaks out. You may want to decide to take a break from the conversation and return to it when you’re both feeling calmer. Try saying something like, “Can we talk about this again once we’ve calmed down a bit?” If you’re really struggling to reach compromises, our online course “How to argue better” might help. Try to avoid having these discussions in public places where the money pressures feel prevalent, like in the supermarket, or the bank. It’s usually much easier to resolve things privately in your own home. Making a budget You may both have different ideas about spending and saving. A budget can be very helpful in bringing you together to plan for the day to day. Budgets are especially useful if you intend to reduce your working hours.  You may also find that existing money problems that you’ve managed to keep on the back burner are suddenly coming into focus. Whatever stage you’re at, it’s never too late to start planning. If you’re not sure how to get started with a budget, you can find a free planner and some online guides through the Money Advice Service. Include work and childcare in your discussions and think about any new expenses. If you’ve never been parents before, you may want to sit down with some friends who’ve recently had babies and ask them to list all the things you’ll need to buy. Your midwife can help with that too. Find out your entitlements You may not know what benefits or state-funded support you’re entitled to. Benefits and financial support can be tricky because they are liable to change over time and will depend on your circumstances. Check out Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service, who will be able to talk through your budget and help you learn what you are entitled to. You may be entitled to grants such as Healthy Start or the Sure Start Maternity Grant to help cover the basics and support you with essential one-off costs, or longer-term support like tax credits towards childcare costs, and Child Benefit. You can find out what you are entitled to using a free online benefits calculator, such as entitledto or Turn2Us. Finally, be honest with yourselves and kind to each other and you’ll significantly improve the chances of talking about money without an argument.
Article | pregnancy, finance
4 min read
Deciding who will stay home with the baby
When your child is born, the decision around who will stay at home and who will return to work can be a tricky one. If an assumption has been made that you will be the one staying home on full-time caring duties – perhaps because of traditional roles, or because your partner has a higher paid job – it might not necessarily be what you had in mind. While it may make sense financially, and while you may want to support your partner’s career, it’s possible you’ll still have reservations about being a stay-at-home parent. Exploring the options It may be that the decision makes so much sense financially that you feel like you don’t have a choice. This could make you feel trapped or uncomfortable. If it has felt like a forced or assumed decision, try explaining to your partner how you feel. The first step is to open up a conversation, so you can explore different options rather than assuming you will be the one to stay at home. Using language like “I feel like” rather than “You make me feel”, can really help here. Draw up a few plans together to see how things might play out if your partner stays home and you return to work, or consider some compromises, like reducing your hours and sharing childcare. You may discover that your partner is more willing than you expected to look at the alternatives. Wanting to keep working If you love your job or are invested in building a career, it may be that finances aren’t the only consideration. Consider your partner’s point of view too if the situation is reversed. Find a calm moment where you can talk freely and establish an agreement to hear each other out properly. Put your child’s needs first and decide what is really going to be best. Once you and your partner agree on who is going to be the main carer, establish some ground rules about how it’s going to work. Talk about how the working parent would like to be involved too – video calls at lunch time, bedtime stories after work, weekend outings, or whatever works. A non-traditional upbringing The phrase ‘primary carer’ just means the parent who stays at home with the child or spends the most time with the child. Like many parents, you or your partner may feel that mums are better as primary carers and dads are better at providing, ie putting food on the table [1]: One survey revealed that the majority of parents (76% of mothers, 56% of fathers) say that the mother has primary responsibility for childcare at home [2]. This is a popular view, but it’s not necessarily true. Traditions are already changing – as many as one in five dads are insole charge of childcare at some point during their week and dads represent one in ten of all parents who stay at home to care for their children full time [3]. Many dads, including those who have a primary caring role, still feel the weight of society’s pressure to conform to a traditional role of breadwinner [4], but studies have shown that fathers can be just as good as mothers in giving care and responding to their children’s needs [5]. There is no evidence to suggest that children will have a better start in life with a more traditional setup [6]. Whichever of you is going to be the primary carer may need some support and encouragement. Nobody is a perfect parent right away but talking things through can help provide a reassuring confidence boost. After all, whatever the setup, you’re both learning together.   References [1] Jordan (2009) [2] EHRC, (2009) [3] Lammy, (2013) [4] Doucet & Lee, (2014) [5] Kovner Kline & Wilcox, (2014) [6] Cabrera, et al., (2007)
Article | parenting, work
Dealing with debt problems
What does money mean to you? We all have different dreams about what we would do if we had lots of it, but we also have different plans about how we would cope if it were to run out. Couples who talk openly about money tend to cope better in tough times, and yet far too many of us keep quiet about our finances. Exaggerating our money management skills and hiding debts from partners are common issues. Your money or your wife? Relationship problems and money problems are directly linked. When you’re struggling with money, you might argue more, have less time together, or feel that things are unfair – particularly if one partner built up the debt without the other knowing [1]. Often, when one partner goes through financial troubles, it’s the other partner who starts to feel less satisfied with the relationship [2]. You can counter these negative effects by talking things through and working together to resolve the debt. In one study, couples who consciously worked together were better at maintaining their relationship through difficult financial periods. These couples made the decision to see their money problems as separate from the relationship, focusing on the importance of communicating well and working together [3]. Aside from overspending, one of the biggest money problems relationships face is appointing one partner to manage all the household finances while the other takes a back seat [4]. While this might seem simpler, it can often increase stress in relationships, creating an extra burden for the person in control [5], and leaving the other person in the dark. The couples who have the most success at dealing with their issues are those who recognise the need for trust and communication around financial matters. When you can trust each other to pay bills on time, discuss big purchases, and avoid overspending, you’re likely to feel more confident in your finances and in your relationship [3]. If you’re worried about debt, be open with your partner. Seek emotional support as well as practical help – research has shown that emotional support like relationship counselling can help people cope better with financial problems [6]. Relationship counselling, in combination with practical debt management, can help you develop your communication skills and build trust in a structured environment.  Talk about money Having regular conversations about money with your partner might be one of the best things you can do for your relationship. Check in a couple of times a year or even once a month. Try to understand and respect each other’s perspectives – you don’t have to have the same money habits, but learning to accept your differences could mean you’ll cope better as a couple if things get tricky in the future [4]. Learning to discuss money with your partner will help you on the road to financial peace [4]. Talk about your long-term financial goals – how much you want to save, big things you want to spend money on, and any issues you might run into. Don’t minimise your problems and don’t boast about how well you manage your finances – particularly if you’re flying by the seat of your pants. Make sure you have the difficult conversations as well as the easy ones. If you’ve been hiding debt from your partner, or if you suspect your partner has been hiding debt from you, have a look at our debt and relationships section. How to manage debts If you’ve gotten into debt, set goals as to how you are going to manage it and work together to carry them out. You may need to make some sacrifices – working more, spending less, or both – so talk about how you are going to handle any lifestyle changes. A clear budget is especially valuable when finances are tight. Set yourself a programme of essentials, alongside optional spending, and review it regularly together. Keep talking. It’s important to have a regular dialogue about money – not just about what has gone wrong, but also about how you will work together to manage your finances. Be open and transparent in conversations about money. Support each other. This could be practical, like paying bills, writing a budget, or making phone calls to creditors; or emotional, like helping each other feel better about the situation. Recognise that you and your partner may have different spending habits and money management styles. Talk about how you will manage your savings and big purchases. Make sure your plans take account of each other’s money preferences – you may want to allow for occasional impulse buys, while also setting aside some savings for the future. If you are in debt, and don’t know how to manage it, speak to a debt management agency. There are many free services available where you can get help with your debts, including tips on which ones to prioritise, and how to set up manageable repayment plans. The most important thing is to support each other and work together to come to solutions. Offer your support wholly and without resentment. Don’t minimise your partner’s concerns and don’t act like you’re above it all. Whether it was your fault or not, you’re a part of it now, and engaging in the solution is the best thing you can do to help get your partner, and yourself, out of the woods [6]. For more information on debt and relationships, see our debt animations and guidance articles. References [1] Dew, J. (2008). Debt Change and Marital Satisfaction Change in Recently Married Couples. Family Relations, 57: 60–71. [2] Karademas, E. C., and Roussi, P. (2016). Financial strain, dyadic coping, relationship satisfaction, and psychological distress: A dyadic mediation study in Greek couples. Stress and Health, 1-10. [3] Skogrand, L., Johnson, A.C., Horrocks, A.M., DeFrain, J. (2011). Financial Management Practices of Couples with Great Marriages. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 32: 27. [4] Doherty, H. F. (2006). Communication is vital to a couple's successful financial life. Dental Economics, 96(11), 92-93. [5] Rowlingston, K. & Joseph, R. (2009). Assets and Debts Within Couples: Ownership and Decision-Making. Friends Provident Foundation. [6] Falconier, M. K., & Epstein, N. B. (2011). Couples Experiencing Financial Strain: What We Know and What We Can Do. Family Relations, 60(3), 303-317.
Article | debt, communication
5 min read
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