About four years ago, my wife entered our living room waving a pregnancy stick above her head like she was Mitchell Johnson triumphantly screaming HOWZAT! at the umpire. “We’re pregnant!” she cheered.
I was like a defiant Indian batsman disputing the inside edge. “Give me a look.”
We both stared at the plastic stick under the fluoro light in the kitchen. There wasn’t a second blue line.
“Not out”, I boldly declared.
We ended up taking it to the third umpire — our local GP — who confirmed one of the great learning lessons of my life: my wife was right (she was pregnant). She’s always right. Even when she’s wrong, she’s right.
And if my life was a telemovie, the next scene would be a fast-moving montage (with Johnny Farnham’s ‘Playing to Win’ as the soundtrack), as we get married at our farm, have the baby (I almost pass out), the house burns down (I almost pass out), and we have another baby (thankfully, I’m now strong enough to cut the cord), and then the music fades down and we return to the present moment where I’m typing this to you … as my three-year-old clean-bowls my one-year-old, and my wife yells at me like it’s my fault.
If you’re planning to start a family — or even if you’re not — the news that you are expecting a baby can knock you for six. Here’s how to have a good opening partnership.
It costs $10,000 to have a baby? Howzat!?
In the year leading up to the pregnancy you should save up — at the very least — $10,000.
The average cost of having a baby in a private hospital is $8,500 per birth according to Medibank Private, and that doesn’t include obstetricians, nappies or ‘push presents’ that fathers are apparently supposed to buy to motivate their pregnant partners (like a bowling ball pressing down on them isn’t motivation enough).
Do you really need that much if you’re planning on delivering in a public hospital?
Yes, you do.
Sure, giving birth as a public patient in a public hospital is free — but it’s what happens during the pregnancy that can really cost you. Think of all the visits to the doctor, the blood tests … and then there’s the ‘little emperor syndrome’. You see, most first-time parents go a little ga-ga when they are expecting.
I’m a classic case study of stupidity.
In the months leading up to my first son being born, I put more research into choosing a pram than I did into buying my first car (and I spent roughly the same amount). And when that state-of-the-art ‘all-terrain’ stroller was destroyed in our house fire … I replaced it with a cheap and nasty $25 job from Kmart.
Think of having a baby as like starting a business. There are significant upfront costs that can be amortised over subsequent product releases, but these upfront costs are really going to hit you.
What you can do — like any good business owner — is to lower your costs by buying strollers, cribs and the like from Gumtree or eBay. Remember, it’s not child abuse for kids to wear hand-me-downs or, later, to share a room.
Still, that doesn’t alter the fact that you need a big chunk of change on hand for your first baby. You’re about to enter one of the most expensive periods of your life … and you’ll be doing it on one wage — with sleep deprivation and cracked nipples. So for your sanity make sure you have at least $10,000 saved up.
Should We Go Private or Public?
We’ve done both, and I’d take public any day of the week. (That said — I’m basing my opinion on the comfort of the chair I dozed off in, the cost of parking, and the fact that it was … free). So I asked my wife and she agreed with me. We’ve got one of the greatest public health systems in the world, and you’re already paying for it.
How Do I Know What I’m Entitled to?
New parents receive 18 weeks of paid parental leave, which works out to be $657 a week before tax, on top of whatever scheme their employer offers (and around half of all employers have some form of paid maternity leave). Once your baby is born, you could be eligible for some Centrelink benefits, including the Family Tax Benefit, parenting payment, rent assistance or a health care card.
To work out what you are entitled to go to Centrelink’s online ‘payment finder’. Then go to Moneysmart’s ‘parental leave calculator’ which will help you get a bird’s eye view of your finances over the next 12 months. My recommendation is that any parenting payments you receive should be in addition to the $10,000 you’ve saved up.
Should We Buy a House?
I get this question a lot from expecting first-time parents who currently rent. Some write to me in a state of panic at the thought of bringing their kid home to a rented home. But unless you have a 20 per cent deposit — in addition to your $10,000 baby bounty — I’d hold off buying a home for at least a few years. Life is going to be very stressful without adding a move and a mortgage to the mix.
How Do I Ensure My Kid Gets a Good Start in Life?
By looking after yourself.
The first 12 months of being a parent are stressful. You have no idea what you’re doing. There’s very little sleep (at least in the beginning). You basically surrender yourself and serve the baby. And so the best gift you can give yourself in that first year is not having to fight or worry about money. And we’re planning on long innings with plenty of bouncers being thrown your way. Howzat?
Tread Your Own Path!