Can I Afford Maternity Leave?
Let me start off by saying that ranting incessantly was never the aim of this blog - but recently this topic has plagued me, and I’m better off ranting here in my little corner of the internet, than at the next poor old biddy that unbeknowlingly brings up maternity leave in conversation.
I have always been of the mindset that you don’t bring a child into the world unless you are in a financial position to do so, accompanied by a stable relationship - I’m traditional, sue me. I’ve now realised though that is an idealist approach, and generally, it doesn’t work out that way. My pregnancy was unplanned. In saying that, I’m fortunate enough that both myself and my partner are in full time employment in fairly secure job sectors, and therefore should have steady income as our child grows up. What I didn’t factor in was the lack of income I would have during my maternity leave, and further the lack of support I’d have from the UK government during that time.
I’ve been employed since I was 16, as has my partner. With the exception of our university fees, neither of us have ever claimed a penny in the way of benefits - we’ve never been in a position where we have had to. On finding out I was pregnant, and realising I did not qualify for Occupational Maternity Pay because of how long I had been in my current job, we looked into the help we could receive. NA-DA. Essentially nothing.
I’ve only been in my current job for 6 months, therefore I also don’t qualify for the Statutory Maternity Pay - despite the fact that I moved straight into this job from another I’d been in for years. I’m entitled to Maternity Allowance - which barely covers rent, never mind anything else. I cannot get Low Income Support, as my salary is too high, despite the fact I won’t receive a penny of that salary whilst on maternity leave. The Scottish Government offers a Sure Start grant of £500 for all new parents with their first child, or so they say… Look into it closer and you’ll realise that to be liable for this, you must also be receiving some other form of state benefit… job seekers allowance, low income support etc, all of those benefits we are not entitled to. That baffled me the most. You get rewarded for being unemployed in this country, whilst those of us who pay our taxes throughout our entire adulthood, are given no help whatsoever. It’s simply encouraging a benefit state. Why would people bother working 9-5 Monday to Friday, when they could get the same income sitting on their arse at home? I know we will have no problem raising a child on our combined wages when I go back to work, but I can’t help but be frustrated beyond belief at the fact that I’ll have to go back to work almost instantly to maintain our income, missing out on such important moments with my child, continuing to pay taxes so that scroungers can live lovely lives on the dole. I’ll be the first to admit here that I’m generalising, and the majority of people who do receive benefits are in an amicable position to do so and completely deserve them, but I can’t help but read the news stories of these people who have never worked, and get angry.
Each situation is different, but even a little help would go a long way right now.
Rant over. Having accepted that we’ll have half the income for the next 6 months or so, we’ve had to look at different ways we can not only reduce our spending, but prepare for a child on a budget. These are a few of the steps we’ve taken to do this.
1. STOCKPILE WHAT YOU CAN
In the run up to the birth I’ve been stocking up on nappies, wipes, sudocreme, muslin cloths… All of the little things your guaranteed to need, but don’t have to question wether or not they’ll be used up. Surely you can never have too many baby wipes? Although they seem like redundant little things now, it’s having to buy excessive amounts of those when the baby arrives that will impact our savings the most probably, so this takes the pressure off slightly. Take advantage of baby events, right now, Asda, Morissons, Babies r Us and Boots are all running baby events which offer fairly significant discounts on the basics, it’s worth checking out!
I love Ebay normally, but I was reluctant to put my child in second hand bits and bobs, I won’t lie. I was being a snob. A mere few minutes trawling though and I’d already amassed a pile of 8 brand new next baby grows in first size, for a mere 4.50, all because the baby who they were originally bought for a was a little chunk and went straight to 0-3 months. I’m all for being snobby about clothes that are in obvious second hand condition, but paying a tenth of the price for the simple sake of having the tags removed and been put through an initial pre-baby wash, who can really say no to that? At this point now, Baby J has drawers full to the brim of almost new vests and sleep suits, that have been passed along by friends or purchased in bundles - yet none are used, but I’ve spent pennies. (I will say I am concerned as this is pre-baby shower, and prior to me going out and buying all of my own items that I’ve been putting off until 36 weeks, where am I going to put everything?)
3. JUST RETURN
Returning gifts is always taboo - wether it’s a baby shower present or that dodgy jumper from your great aunt at christmas, it’s frowned up, but really, it shouldn’t be. Already, Baby J has the entire Next newborn range, and that is before his birth and before we’ve had our shower. It’s inevitable he will have duplicates. He will also most likely have hundreds upon hundreds of newborn items, when in reality, it makes sense to size these up to 0-3. It’s not cheeky to exchange these for the size up, it just makes sense. Everyone understands, and I’m sure they would rather you actually got something you would get use out of, than one wear in the house and then never again. Which brings me to my next point…
If you know what you still need, then ask for it. If your pregnant, think about how many people have already asked you what they can get you for your shower. Chances are your already on to two hands, I know I am… If you need a steriliser, why not tell them this? If you don’t, then that’s one more steriliser you have to buy personally, and one more baby memory book you’ll have to find somewhere to store.. It’s harsh, but true. And everyone will thank-you for the direction anyway.
5. CHECK YOUR FINANCES
Pre-maternity, between myself and Jordan we had 5 gym memberships. 2 separate Netflix accounts. 2 separate spotify accounts. A recurring muscle-food order for £60 every 2 weeks. Phone contracts and insurance that amounted to just under £100. Why? All of this could be reduced so so easily, and without us noticing any difference in our lives. Give your own finances a quick once over, you might be surprised! We will be fine financially, I moan, but we’ll make it work. I just can’t help but be frustrated at the complete divide there seems to be between the working population and those scrounging on the dole (I say those scrounging because there are people who do completely deserve everything they get!). Yes, it is the green eyed monster talking here, but it’s hard not to be frustrated. Has anyone else had a similar experience with government assistance? Or can anyone shed light on the subject that has completely boiled my blood… Thanks for reading