Your entire life shifts a gear when you become a parent, and you have to think about and plan for things that never crossed your mind before. As quickly as you can blink, your life has changed from what you were used to before.
Having children and growing your family is something that takes a lot of energy. That first child can feel like the best thing that ever happened to you, while at the same time being the most exhausting ordeal you’ve ever been through. It always pays to be prepared, so below are some of the biggest changes that will occur, not only when you have your first child, but if your family expands with a second, third, or even fourth child.
More room for more people
The first big change if you are planning on starting or growing your family, is that your current home is most likely too small. That one or two bedroom apartment might have started out spacious and relaxing when it was just the two of you, but with a whole other person to fit in, not to mention all the extra furniture that comes with a having a baby to look after and transport, it can start to feel a little bit too cosy quicker than you think. It’s best to look for properties that are bigger than your current needs so as to avoid having to be relocating every few years as your children grow, or a new addition to the family arrives. You may not have enough savings for a deposit (especially in Sydney’s current housing market), or be unable to afford a mortgage at the current rates, in which case it would be wise to look into house rental. This way you will still have the space you need to live comfortably and expand your family, but don’t have the headache of saving for a deposit or worrying about interest rates. Also, it leaves you with more time and energy to look after your little ones.
Your car isn’t up to scratch
As soon as you have children, you suddenly become a lot more safety conscious. When you start looking at the latest advancements in automobile safety, and how they can assist you in avoiding accidents in your everyday life, you realise how few of them your current car has. Parking assist, automatic braking, and rain sensitive wipers are all useful gadgets that seem to be everywhere, so why doesn’t your car come with them? You also realize that try as you might, you just can’t fit a child seat, your partner, a stroller, and the big bag of mom-stuff you carry around everywhere, in your gorgeous little convertible. It’s time to trade up for something bigger, better, and safer. There are a lot of options, and it can be easy to get caught up in all the advertising hype. Think about your needs over the next few years; how many seats are you going to need? Will you need a boot/trunk big enough to fit luggage for a two week holiday (or even just a weekend away) in it? How economical will it need to be? How much can you afford to spend on purchasing and running it? Have a list of what you consider to be essentials for your car, and what you would consider a bonus, then go hunting. Don’t budge on the essentials and keep a cool head when looking at the different models available. If in doubt, walk away and sleep on it. The important thing is that you have a vehicle that you know you can live with, and will transport your family safely for many years to come. With all the different models available, you’re bound to find something perfect for your needs; just because it’s practical, doesn’t mean it has to be unsightly or unfashionable.
You have to plan your budget much more carefully
This will probably be one of the biggest changes you’ll notice when you start a family – it certainly was for me! Keeping to a budget can be tough, especially if your outgoings are increasing but your income hasn’t changed or has even decreased if you’re on parental leave. That’s one of the few things that you can guarantee about parenthood; the amount of money you have to spend each month will rise. As your children grow, you will find yourself amazed at how much food they can eat, especially if you end up having a couple of six-footers. The clothes they wear either wear out too quickly or are simply outgrown in a matter of months. (You can save a little in situations like these by passing the still usable clothing down the line to the younger kids.) Utilities will steadily rise as they start to take record-breaking amounts of time in the bathroom getting ready, not to mention the cost of holidays and extra-curricular activities.
It can be a little overwhelming adding up all the costs, so it might be worth stripping back on a few of the non-essential luxuries to give you some wiggle room in your budget. Maybe you don’t need to be subscribed to the premium TV channel package, or have the latest iPhone the second it comes out. Consider maybe not taking that second vacation and instead put the money towards starting a college fund. Start to ask yourself if the thing you are about to spend money on is something you need or something you want. If it’s something you want; walk away. If you still want it the next day, then consider how much value it will add to your life and make a sensible decision. Buying things because they’re on sale is not an excuse either (we’ve all done it), you’ll save a lot more money if you don’t buy anything at all. Maybe start yourself small by going a month without buying anything other than essentials. Going cold turkey for a short period of time can do wonders to change your perspective.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as being strict with your budget can help you to teach your children the value of money. It’s very tempting to want to give your children everything you might not have had when you were growing up, but telling them ‘no’ every now and then can do wonders in making them appreciate how hard you do work to provide for their needs. There are plenty of free or cheap activities that can entertain the whole family and provide an opportunity to bond. A simple games night once a week is a great way to spend quality time together and costs you nothing.
Where did all that relaxation time go?
As your family expands and grows up, the word ‘busy’ will begin to take on entirely new meanings for you. The school run, the extra-curricular activities, the homework, the lifts to their friends’ houses, the parties, the gatherings. It all takes time out of your day and saps you of energy. It’s very easy to allow the day to day tasks to overcome you and take hold of your life. Set an early precedent for you and your partner to make time for each other. Even if it’s only once a month, make sure you have an evening or day to do an activity you both love together. Something as simple as going to see a movie, or going for a few games of bowling, can help to keep the romance alive, allowing you to stay more connected (which can be key when you need to present a united front to your children). Remember that you are both teammates in this venture, and it’s important that you keep that team spirit alive.
Despite all of these immense changes in your life and the stress that parenting can sometimes bring, you wouldn’t trade a single day of it away. Yes, raising a family can be expensive, tiring, and at times frustrating; but it’s all worth it for those landmark moments in their lives. From their first steps or first day at school, right up to the day they move out or get married, it’s a fantastic and exhilarating journey that will always be worth so much more than the money or time it costs you over the years.
A word of advice
If reading through this information has made you worried or anxious about parenthood, or it seems like there is far more involved than you expected, don’t panic. It is always better to be fully prepared and aware of what raising a family involves. However, for every temper-tantrum or month you have to tighten your budget and struggle through, there are many years of perfect bliss. Everyone goes through the same struggles that you are or will be going through so try not to be overwhelmed. There’s bound to be rough seas in life, but the calm is always on the horizon, and the trials and tribulations will bond your family closer together and give you many fond memories as the years roll by. Parenthood is one of the most rewarding adventures you can embark on and not a day will go by without you thinking, at least once, that it was the best decision you ever made.
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