Our boy recently turned two, so I’ve been reflecting on my time as a mother. Any honest parent will tell you that having kids is both wonderful and terrible. Personally, the challenging parts stand out in my memory more than the good times (due to the negativity effect). To overcome this cognitive bias, I try to consciously shift my perspective so I focus on the pros rather than the cons of becoming a mother.
Specifically I’ve been reflecting on how having a child has impacted my career and finances. While we were expecting my two biggest anxieties were how having a child would kill my career aspirations and how it would send us to the poor house. I confess that I had a very doom and gloom attitude. Surely a kid would ruin both, I thought. However, while reflecting on the last two years, it became clear that the outcomes have been unexpected.
Having a child has made me more ambitious than ever. Initially, I assumed motherhood would have the opposite effect. But I am now more focused on my career than I’ve ever been before. Having a kid makes you worry about finances all the time, and I want to be able to provide for the Beast, not just with material things, but more importantly with experiences that will make him happy and shape his character.
While pregnant I wasn’t sure whether I would end up working from home so I could spend more time with the Beast or working full-time and placing the kid in daycare. I was leaning towards the former. But while on maternity leave it became very clear that working at home and doing childcare was not the the option for me. To be frank, taking care of a child all day is just not my thing. It simply does not provide the mental stimulation I need. Soon after the Beast turned one, I started making moves to find a full-time job as a graphic and/or web designer. I beefed up my portfolio and hit the pavement applying for jobs in Vancouver. Within four months I landed my current job working as a full-time graphic designer. This was the shortest job search I’ve ever conducted. I was extremely motivated to secure a full-time job because by that point I was fed up with working from home and doing childcare, so I really hustled.
There were two books that really inspired me to pursue my career goals post-baby. I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In while I was on maternity leave. Reading Lean In showed me that I do not have to compromise my career goals simply because I am a mother. I owe to it that book for going back to work full-time. More recently, I read another book on mothers and careers called The MomShift by Reva Seth, which I found inspiring, as it was filled with stories of mothers who achieved career success after having children. And these weren’t Sheryl Sandberg types who have millions in the bank and round-the-clock nannies. They were your typical everyday women.
I feel ambitious career-wise more than ever because motherhood is not the end all be all for me. There is more to my identity than being a mother. Motherhood is just one aspect of my life.
Like I mentioned before, having a child has caused me to fret about our finances more than ever. I worried about financial ruin constantly while pregnant. (Did I mention I have a tendency to catastrophize?). Midway through my pregnancy we became a single-income family so I really agonized about how we were going to afford raising a child, especially in a pricey place like Vancouver.
Expecting a baby definitely motivated us get our finances in order and be disciplined about our money. We paid off our student debt, saved up enough for an emergency fund, started contributing monthly to our RRSP (retirement savings), got life insurance, and wrote our will. We track every dollar we spend and review our budget on a regular basis. There is nothing like the fear of living in a cardboard box to whip me into financial shape. Having two incomes again definitely helps. But financially things remain tight mainly due to the insanely high daycare fee we pay every month and did I mention we live in Vancouver, a.k.a. No Funds City? Amazingly, though, we are able to put money away every month for our future because we live within our means and we carefully consider every purchase that’s not a fixed cost. Every dollar of income is accounted for so no more mindless spending!
Therefore, having a kid, to my pleasant surprise, did not ruin my career nor did it bankrupt us. The Beast motivated us to be more responsible when it comes to career and finances. Of course, he has also brought a lot of good into other parts of our lives. There is more joy and laughter. Yes, it’s challenging being a mother. And there are aspects of motherhood I definitely dislike, but that’s another blog post!
How has raising a kid(s) impacted your career and finances?