Money and Matrescence

Talk about your family finances BEFORE the baby arrives

Photo by li tzuni on Unsplash

Couples enter parenthood with all sorts of financial arrangements. Some have been pooling their money in a joint bank account, some have separate bank accounts but share one credit card, some split everything 50/50, and others have been entirely independent from each other. Of course, single moms and co-parents who aren’t coupled have financial arrangements specific to them, too.

While you’re pregnant (ideally, before the baby comes) I recommend that you and your partner sit down now and decide how you’re going to handle your baby related expenses. You should look carefully at your current credit card statements and bank accounts to assess how you’ve been spending your money pre-pregnancy. Then, you should educate yourselves about baby related expenses and figure out what you can afford, where you have to make cuts, and who is going to pay for what.

Even if one of you feels like you’re “bad at money” and would prefer the other partner to be in charge, I recommend that you consider making these financial decisions, which impact both of your lives, together. Aside from planning for new baby-related expenses, this is an important time to discuss any ongoing frustrations about your spending patterns.

Do you resent your partner for paying for an expensive cable plan when he could cut costs by watching shows on his computer? Do you agree that staying in and cooking would save money, but both hate cooking and resent the other for not taking the lead? Now is a good time to bring up these ongoing disagreements so that they’re not exacerbated by the stress — financial and emotional — of a new baby. The following are some questions that may help to guide the conversation:

  • How does the person who gives up her paycheck have access to funds? For example, if you’re a stay at home mom, you probably don’t want to have to ask your partner for money to pay for personal items that you used to pick up in private (and the same is true for stay at home dads).
  • How will you monitor your budget together? If only one of you is the primary caregiver, does the less hands-on person get a say in baby related spending? For example, if you’re the one pushing the stroller most of the time, do you get to decide how much money to spend on a particular model, or does your partner also get input?
  • What about domestic work: If one of you is going from not to working outside the home to being a stay at home parent, will that person also be expected to do all of the cooking, cleaning and laundry? How will your change in roles change your chores routine?

Money may seem to be a practical aspect of your relationship, but it’s also deeply psychological and rooted in other aspects of your individual identities. Your overall attitude about spending in your new family will probably connect back to feelings about how your childhood family handled finances when you were growing up.

Were your parents so thrifty that you never had an allowance for recreation, so now you want to enjoy your income instead of saving? Did growing up with limited resources leave you with constant anxiety about your checking account, even after you secured a well-paying job? Did your parents constantly fight about money, leaving you afraid of talking about a budget with your partner at all?

If you and your partner end up fighting about money, ask yourself if you’re working too hard to protect yourself from — or defend — the financial model you grew up with. You may end up too stubborn and unable to compromise if you’re scared about repeating patterns or intent on resolving patterns you observed in childhood.

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