They say that having a baby is an exercise in instantly achieving a sense of perspective about everything. It’s as if the hormonal rush that accompanies the separation of the placenta from the uterus elevates you to a place from which you can immediately discern what’s important. Hint: it’s the baby. The baby is important.
You are no longer the most significant person in your life. And in our consumerist society, how do we show people that they are significant? We spend money on them. So, as soon as you have produced a tiny, pink, mewling human, blam! There’s a whole lot of money that gets allocated to them, and almost none left over for you.
Here’s how my life changed. I stopped shopping for clothes. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left the house with the intention of shopping for clothes and nothing else in the past seven years. Functional clothes are now hastily purchased in passing, while trying to distract a child with a telephone or simultaneously shop for groceries.
I haven’t read a magazine since my daughter was born. I used to grab a couple every month at the supermarket. Now, even if I am given a free magazine, I struggle to find the time to read it. This is particularly concerning, since I am a journalist and should really be keeping these kinds of publications in business. So after a few months of buying but not reading, I gave that up as a bad budgetary exercise.
I will never be able to afford to go overseas again!
And OK, in that first year after you have a child, you are unlikely to want to do anything much with your own life. You change nappies, feed the baby, work out how to put her to sleep, and then collapse on to the sofa, barely able to make adult conversation for more than ten minutes after an episode of 30 Rock. If anyone says words like “cinema” or “restaurant”, you give them The Look, because those things are from BEFORE.
A year or two later, when you’ve got bedtime and babysitters all worked out, you suddenly find that you’d like to start spending money on getting out of the house again. And you learn that while you were nesting, this thing called Uber happened – which is great because it means you can have a second glass of wine. But it also means that after dinner, drinks, Uber and babysitter, you’re easily R1 000 out of pocket. And since you prioritise your children’s shoes, clothes, schooling, toys, literature and Babybel cheeses before any of this, you find that you can probably only afford to do it once a month, if you’re very careful.
But two of the biggest, roaring-in-my-ears senses of obligation that arose from having a baby were to make a will and to get good life insurance. I once had a colleague whose son died without leaving a will, and there was a terrible, unhappy mess as two sets of warring grandparents tried to argue their case for guardianship of the children. This story retold itself in my head over and over again as my due date approached.
You see, I know that if my husband and I weren’t here, there would be people who would be willing to love and care for my children. But to me, it’s vital that those people know that I have chosen them, are willing to take on the responsibility, and are able to do so!
I also know that raising children is an expensive and demanding commitment. If I weren’t there to provide the love and deep understanding that a mother has for her children, I would like to be able to make up for that with money – which can’t buy you love, but can buy you comfort.
It’s quite simply the most terrifying notion for me that my children might become a burden to someone else, and so, because of this fear, soon after my daughter was born, I succumbed to being prodded and poked and interrogated by a number of different nurses, to make sure that I had the best life cover for my family.
I would still most assuredly rather not be dead, ever, but when I drive long distance or have to catch a plane (or, you know, leave the house), I am not filled with quite the same levels of dread about something happening to me, and about what would happen to my children as a result, as I would be if I had no cover in place.
So that’s where my money goes these days. Life insurance, school fees and Babybels. I miss new boots. I miss designer jeans. I really miss Thailand. But my children’s financial future is secure and their lunch boxes are full, and that’s what really matters to me now.
DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know 22seven is owned by an insurance company. No, they didn’t ask me to write on this topic.
Photo via Pexels.com.