When starting a new family it is helpful to have a secure and steady income to rely on to cover all the expenses of daily life. But not all pregnancies wait until you’re financially ready. Sometimes they surprise you and turn up a little earlier than expected.
An unexpected surprise
When Natasha found out she was pregnant she was only working part time and her partner was studying at university. They knew it would be tough but they battled away and tried to make the most of this ‘lean’ time in their lives.
“I was working two part-time jobs, one during the week and the other was usually Friday and Saturday nights,” said Natasha.
“This really suited my lifestyle and I was making plenty of money to live comfortably.
“My partner was getting a student allowance from the government and worked a couple of days a week to supplement that income.
“We both lived in a share house so our housing and utility bills were pretty low.
“We were obviously quite shocked when we found out that we would be having a baby and the money side of things was a major factor we had to consider.
“We had only been dating for less than a year when I fell pregnant, so that was something that influenced our thinking.
“We never really discussed the idea of an abortion but I guess we both thought about it internally, if either one of us thought that it was a serious option then we would of talked it over.
“I think the reason we decided to keep the baby despite our circumstances is because we are so madly in love with one another and the idea of starting our own family was just too beautiful an idea to not pursue.
“We also have very supportive family and friends so in the end the decision was actually pretty easy for us, in fact I think we instinctively knew as soon as we got the pregnancy test results that we would be having a baby.”
The balancing act begins
After much deliberation, Natasha and her partner decided they would love nothing more than to start a new family. From the moment they decided to have a baby they had to start balancing work and family life.
“It was a tough decision but we thought it would be best if my partner stayed at uni and tried to finish his degree while the baby was still young,” said Natasha.
“We figured that babies only get more expensive as they get older so making the sacrifice and staying in school to earn a degree would hopefully mean a better job in the future.
“But we hit a speed bump almost straight away. For the first three months I was so ill with morning sickness I was barely able to work. I was able to go back during the second trimester but it meant less income during that time.
“The morning sickness was very debilitating for me and I spent a good portion of those first twelve weeks curled up in bed or on the couch.
“I was fortunate that I had enough savings to get by until I felt better again, plus I would work every now and then on weekends when I was feeling up to it.
“But it was a time of extreme belt tightening and I had to very disciplined with my money which is hard when you’re at home all day feeling sick because I was constantly fighting the urge for some retail therapy.
“One positive side to being bailed up at home with morning sickness was that I had heaps of time to search the net for rentals for my partner and I to inspect and hopefully move into.
But even with Natasha dedicating a lot of time to finding a house she was having some difficulties finding a suitable place in such a competitive market.
“There were so many people looking to rent at the same time,” she said.
“Every place we went to inspect there would be at least 15 to 20 people or couples all interested in the same house.
“I lost count of how many places we applied for and were knocked back, it can get pretty disheartening and stressful especially when your search enters its third or fourth month as ours did.
“I expect the fact that we had a very low budget and only part-time income was severely limiting our chances and I can see how other candidates might be picked before us.
“But we knew we were good tenants with a great rental history and we were capable of paying our rent each week so each rejection just compounded our frustration.
“Eventually we got a little bit creative on our application forms and combined this with a house that needed at bit more TLC than most people were prepared to put in and we were accepted, a little over four months after starting our search.”
Luckily Natasha and her partner were able to move into a granny flat at his parent’s house for the duration of their house hunting which not only gave them piece of mind but also provided an opportunity to squirrel away a few extra dollars before they went back out on their own.
“Moving in with the in-laws was a blessing,” said Natasha.
“It was very nice of them to allow us to stay there and it made our house hunting much less stressful.”
“This is also part of the reason that we knew that having a baby would be ok, we have such tight knit and supportive families that we never have to go wanting.”
Nesting on a budget
Natasha was about five months along when she and her partner eventually secured a rental. They used the rest of their time before the birth to prepare the house for bubs and settle into a new routine.
“Our little house is great, its old and a little run down but it’s affordable and I love it,” said Natasha.
“We worked on our budget for a few months, fine tuning to allow for the extra expenses we’d incur once our baby was born.
“The nursery was set up with a lot of gear that we bought second hand.
“I was still working when I could and my partner landed a great job during uni breaks which allowed us to put some money away for the leaner times during semester when he wasn’t able to work as much.
“Now we knew that we would be pretty financially secure, at least for the time being.”
The budding young family was becoming very savvy at making what little money they did have go as far as possible.
“When you are forced to be tighter with your money you find heaps of ways to save,” said Natasha.
“I always know what meals we are going to cook so I never spend more than I have to at the supermarket, plus I try to keep my eye on specials.
“A lot of our fruit and veg come from the market so it lasts longer and we have far less food going off in the fridge before we have a chance to eat it.
“There is heaps of money to be saved by buying cleaning products such as washing powder and toilet paper in bulk.
Time to be together
By the time the baby arrived, with a bit of careful planning and a lot of commitment Natasha and her partner where able to make ends meet while still being able to spend lots of time with their new baby.
“During this period I was basically a full-time mum while my partner was studying and working,” said Natasha.
“As most mothers know caring for a newborn is a full time job in itself and because of that I never really missed being at work. Although you do miss the social aspect, it’s not like I was sitting around pining to get back to work, I was too busy enjoying being a new mum. It is a time in my life that I will cherish forever.
“I did work very occasionally, just doing a couple hours here and there to help out a friend. Depending on how long I would express some breastmilk and my partner would have no problems in taking over while I was gone.
“My partner and I have always made a point of sharing the parenting responsibilities as evenly as we could, which I feel has benefitted our baby by not letting him become overly reliant on just mum.
“But in the early days I found myself missing my baby a lot while I was at work and for that reason I only did it on rare occasions.
But as baby grew, Natasha found she needed some more time to keep the housework in order and to give herself some ‘me’ time.
“My partner was able to be home more often than he would if he was working full-time but he couldn’t afford a full day at home during semester. The grandparents all work still and we couldn’t afford day-care so we had to look elsewhere,” said Natasha.
“I was chatting to a friend of mine, who is also a mother, about our situation and she suggested that we each take turns in looking after one another’s child.
“I would take her daughter on Tuesday and she would take my son the following Tuesday.
“This gave me a full day to get stuff done around the house or pop out for coffee without having to pay someone to look after my baby.
“And there is the added benefit of personally knowing the person that is looking after him so I don’t have to worry about the type or quality of care and love that he is receiving.”
Changing of the guard
However, after 13 months of staying at home full-time Natasha started to get the urge to re-enter the work force.
When the summer uni break rolled around Natasha and her partner decided that they would switch rolls for the summer and she took a job 4 days a week.
“I really love spending time with my baby but I got to a point where I needed some more independence and new challenges to stimulate me,” she said.
“I wouldn’t say it was overly difficult to leave my baby behind on that first day back at work because after 13 months of life our son had been for sleepovers at the grandparents’ house and my partner and I had been on plenty of date nights.
“I think having that solid block of over a year with my baby pretty much full-time meant that deciding to go back to work for a while was quite an easy decision, especially considering the job kind of fell in my lap, it might have been different if I needed to go out and actively job hunt.
“My partner was also really excited to be officially ‘in charge’ on a full-time basis which provided new challenges for him to accommodate.
“He is a super dad who already had oodles of experience looking after bubs but he did say there were a few unexpected challenges that came with the territory.
“He told me that he would sometimes feel isolated at home with just the baby and that the world was passing him by but after he developed more confidence fathering solo he was able to head out more often to meet up with people or visit grandparents.
“Taking over as a full time dad would definitely be a difficult thing to do if you had been working full time but because my partner had been around the house working and studying from home he was familiar with all the routines and warning signs that bubs would give so he made the transition fairly smoothly.
“Because it was only four days a week there was still time for my partner to do a few hours a week of his own part-time work so it was really win-win for us.
“I wasn’t making quite as much as my partner did when he worked full-time during the breaks but I think the slight difference in income is far outweighed by the benefits we have, mainly that everyone is happy and doing something new and exciting.
“The work is only temporary and once uni goes back we’ll return to our usual routine but I think by that time I will be missing my baby so much that I will be happy to be back with him every day.”
For Natasha and her partner the decision to start a family is the best thing they have ever done, despite knowing that money was always going to be tight they have managed to provide themselves with everything they need while still investing in their future by staying in school.
Natasha said that as long as love is your motivation you will always find a way to get by.
“My best advice to any young parents in a similar situation is to work out a very comprehensive budget and stick to it with military precision,” she said.
“There might not be much luxury in our lives at the moment but we have always managed to keep a roof over our heads, food on our plates and most importantly love in our hearts.”