You’ve just found out you’re having a baby, and then it hits you - there’s so much preparation to do before the big day. One of the biggest decisions parents will make is whether one of them will stay at home after maternity leave, or pay for childcare and return to work – which can be quite costly. As living costs rising alongside childcare costs, more parents feel they have to stay at home until their child goes to school.
Our recent Protecting Our Families Report1 revealed a nation of families concerned about their finances. More than half (57%) of families said their most trusted source of financial support during a worst-case scenario would be the government, and a quarter (24%) would have to cut back on their childcare costs.
We got in touch with Claire Paye, Vice Chair of family-charity Mothers At Home Matter, for her expertise and advice on guiding parents - of any background - reaching the childcare crossroad.
What are the benefits of being a stay-at-home parent?
One of the biggest benefits is the time spent together; not just the amount, but the quality as well – meaning you don’t miss any of their first babbles or baby steps. Paye begins by telling us:
“All babies need loving, responsive, one on one care from their parents,” Paye continues, “the more time you can commit to your baby or child, the more emotionally stable and resilient they are likely to be.”
Staying at home presents opportunities to meet local parents – whether it’s through community groups or online forums. Not only does this help you meet others in your position, but your child can also meet other children and start learning basic social skills – while making friends.
Paye highlighted another benefit, that you’re not torn between feeling pressured at work and home - which is beneficial for your partnership. “It can clarify your roles and remove compromise. You know who’s available to care for your sick child and who can attend preschool and school events without arguing over who has to take time off work.”
Can I afford to be a stay-at-home parent?
We recently published our Home DIY Report2, showing two fifths (43%) of families had reduced hours or given up work after having children because childcare was too expensive. This is reflected in the recent Childcare Survey3, showing how parents spend almost half (45%) of their disposable income on childcare, with many struggling to find local, quality childcare. We noted some starting points for financial considerations to discuss with your partner.
- Start with your household income and expenditure. How would one salary impact your household spending?
- Investigate whether you’re entitled to child benefits or child tax credits. Paye points out that some parents may have to pay Child Benefit Tax Charge (for those earning over £50,0004.) Parents having their first child (or expecting twins) are entitled to the Sure Start Maternity Grant5.
- Think about day-to-day child costs, such as clothes, food, nappies and other essential items.
What if I'm a single parent?
There’s several benefits the government provides for single parents worth investigating, such as the New Deal for Lone Parents programme – this can help you with essential training for employment opportunities at a later stage. There’s also Child Maintenance, Child Credits and the Sure Start Maternity Grant as well as the Healthy Start6 scheme. If you’re currently in work and preparing to leave, it’s worth building up some savings – particularly useful for those unexpected rainy day costs.
If stopping work altogether isn’t an option, there’s benefits for single working parents. It might be worth talking to your employer about the potential of flexible work time or working from home. If you’re currently not in work, explore online opportunities where you can work from the comfort of home – that can help diversify your household income.
What about other costs in the future?
Take into account other costs you may not think about straight away, such as days out and family holidays, any childcare costs for if you and your partner want to spend an evening out together. Looking further into the future there’s: school costs, extra curriculum activities and pocket money to think about as well, to name a few.
How can I prepare towards becoming a stay-at-home parent?
It’s important to be prepared for the big day, to avoid unnecessary stress and strain. Paye says to remember that “you don’t need to decide to leave work until towards the end of your maternity leave, so don’t commit to returning at too early a stage.”
It’s important to note fathers and same sex partners are also entitled to Shared Parental Leave and Paternity Leave7, further help for your new born or adoption. Here, we’ve listed a few considerations for those looking to get prepared before the big day arrives.
- Plan ahead. Look to see if you can make cutbacks in your current routine, to build up savings before the baby arrives, but also consider how long you’ll be off work for.
- Do your research. Find out whether there’s any local play groups, and whether there’s a cost to attend them. Are there places you can bulk-buy nappies online – to save on costs?
- Buy second hand. Look at purchasing second-hand clothes to save on costs later as they grow rapidly. You could save money buying the pram second-hand – as these items can be quite expensive brand new.
- Create a household budget. As mentioned before, finances will change significantly once you’re on one salary, so it’s worth preparing a new budget so essential costs are covered.
- Get covered. To help protect what matters most to you, it’s worth taking out Life Insurance – so your family is protected when the unexpected happens.
All parents want their child to have the best start in life, so it’s important the essentials are covered when planning to stay at home. For extra piece of mind, families should read more about our Free Parent Life Cover and get covered against the unexpected today.
How to discuss finances with your partner
Discussing finances can be hard. We chat to money-saving power couple Elisha and Dylan to find out how they approach managing their money.
How to create a household budget
Budgets are a useful tool for anyone who wants to keep on top of their in and outgoings. Read our extensive guide on creating your own.
Additional SourcesAviva Protecting Our Families Report 2017
Aviva Home DIY Report 2017