Two years ago I shared our family’s preparations and experience with my husband taking a parental leave after the birth of our 4th child. When we decided to have a 5th child we immediately started preparing for my husband to once again take a parental leave. Having my husband home to help wth the children and bond with the baby is such a wonderful experience. I wanted to share our experience and some of the logistics involved in being able to live with less than 50% of my husband’s income. Hopefully, this will spark some ideas for others looking to make a parental leave a reality.
Start Planning NOW
I know that this is not always possible but starting as early as possible will save you money in the long run. As soon as we made the decision to have another child we both got to work right away. We sat down and figured out what was the bare minimum amount of money we need each month to live on and how much above the EI payments we would need to make that workout. We cut our expenses as much as possible and dialed back our spending. I switched our budget from a pen/paper and spreadsheet combo to using You Need A Budget (which I can not recommend highly enough!). We also started to purposefully collect Shoppers Points and PC points which we would be able to later redeem for food.
Our family started to stock our pantry and freezer as we were able to. We canned applesauce, pears, peaches, strawberry and raspberry jam, pickles and diced tomatoes. I froze pounds upon pounds of raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. We started stockpiling items as they went on sale and while I was pregnant we did a large grocery shopping trip in which to get the items we needed to make a bunch of freezer meals.
Since we had given away or sold most of our baby items we started to collect the things again that we would need. We searched second-hand stores, garage sales, and free sites.
I actually went back to work in May of 2015 with the plan for me to be eligible for maternity leave. Three months in though my heart just wasn’t in it so when my child care fell through I knew I needed to be at home. (Little did I know that 6 months later he I would be giving up my RSW and a few months after that we would make the decision to start homeschooling!) This change in plans meant we would need to find a way to survive on much less income than we previously had when we were both receiving EI benefits last time. We started to figure things out and pushed ahead.
We found out that we expecting in early December 2015 and while thrilled we were nervous too. Like with my other children I immediately got sick and thought “here we go!”. Boy, was that an understatement, though. I closed out 2015 sitting in an ER waiting for a diagnosis on my leg which was swollen and sore. When I was finally diagnosed correctly with a DVT it threw some more hurdles in our way.
My husband ended up having to take 2 months off of work as I wasn’t even able to sit up let alone take care of kids or the house etc. This time frame can be summed up in 3 words.
IT WAS ROUGH.
Not only, the physical, mental and emotional toll that it took on me and our entire family but the financial one too. My first week of Tinzaparin (Innohep) came to over $300 (that was only my 20% I had to pay as well!). We had planned that I would need blood thinners during the pregnancy but normally the Fragmin I took was about $400 a month… just a quarter of this new medicine. With the other meds I was on as well (Diclectin, Zofran) It was a major hit.
We started looking for out of the box solutions on how we could afford this medication. Thankfully one of the clinics at the hospital gave me a month worth of the medication while another clinic gave me some needles and alcohol swaps as those were additional costs as well.
Meanwhile, I brought my financial concerns up with one of my doctors and she ended up filling out a request for the drug company to cover my 20% of the cost. This was a massive financial relief for us.
It was also during this time that we made the decision for my husband to take 16 weeks off after the baby was born instead of 12. We knew that I would have extra medical appointments and I would likely have more trouble moving around and would need the additional help. This meant another adjustment to our financial plan.
Work Every Financial Angle That You Can
Saving money often means getting creative and that is exactly what we did.
In late 2015 we had refinanced our mortgage taking advantage of a much lower interest rate. This reduced our housing costs slightly giving us a bit more room in our monthly budget. We also started putting $5 to $10 a month extra in categories such as utilities and insurance.
We decluttered and sold items that we no longer needed in our home. My husband worked as much overtime and extra hours as were available to him, especially towards the end of my pregnancy. We even ramped up our home search and lowered the budget we had set for it. We had hoped to move before the baby arrived thereby lowering our monthly expenses. This, unfortunately, did not pan out (we are still looking for a place!) but it was an idea we threw ourselves into and explored from very angle possible.
My husband’s car was just about to hit the 20-year mark and was starting to cost us more in maintenance than it was worth. He is required to have a vehicle for his job so we decided that his parental leave would be the perfect time to sell his vehicle and live as a single car family for a few months. Doing this saved us some money on gas, maintenance, and insurance. He bought a new car (which we had been saving a few years for) the week before returning to work.
We connected with local resources like the Good Food Box which is a local produce group buying program and worked to combine other food related deals. In the end, we put aside approximately $1600 in PC and Shoppers points. This money was used to supplement our grocery budget over the 16 weeks.
Once my husbands leave started we moved to an absolute bare minimum lifestyle and budget. We stopped contributing to our RRSPs and RESP’s. We used the money we had saved in our utility budget to underbudget in those categories for those 4 months. I stopped putting our monthly property taxes aside (we had pre-paid for those months already and were working on saving for next years payment). Our family did not buy any ‘extras’ unless it had been pre-planned to do so such as birthday gifts. Halloween and Christmas were trimmed back and we spent lots of time at home or doing free activities.
Some Last Thoughts
Last time I shared how it took 8 weeks for us to receive my husbands first EI payment. Thankfully, this time it was closer to two weeks but after our last experience, I would always recommend you be prepared just in case.
I cringe a bit when I hear people say that we are ‘lucky’ that my husband stayed home for 4 months. I prefer to use the word blessed. We are blessed that we live in a country where parental leave is an option. We are blessed that he has a job, especially in today’s economy, where we could save money before hand. That said though it was a long 21-month process for us with many challenges and sacrifices.
The first few months of a baby’s life will absolutely fly by. Money is just money- it is the memories and the time spent together which you (and other children) will remember. A parental leave may not be for everyone but I definitely recommend trying to make it work.