Others are on a countdown until home time, trying to hide their screens so they scroll on Facebook. Others dread this time of day. But, why? Missed deadlines? The race to beat the traffic? Fear of being fired?
Often, the fear lies in our imagination - ‘What if I can’t get to the childminder/nursery/after school club on time?’. ‘Will I have to do the grown-up walk of shame, that involves you rushing to pick up your cherubs who are the last ones standing as of course, all the other kids have perfect parents with great work/life balance or a live-in nanny. Miles away from stumbling through town the morning after the night before, in what you wore last night (or was that just the younger, more carefree me?)When you do arrive on time, there is a palpable relief – your sometimes latchkey kids are looking at you with excitement and you mentally high-five yourself, happy that you have avoided the “£15 for every five minutes you are late” penalty, not to mention the moral outrage projected on you as the last parent at pick-up.
As if these everyday micro-stresses weren’t enough, the cost of having a kid, although variable, is always significant. The level of investment you make when it comes to raising the fruit of your loins will ebb and flow depending on your attitude to risk (what does that even mean?) and personal circumstances. As a new mum or dad you might ask:“
How long will I take off work?”
“Which one of us will ‘stay-at-home’ for weeks/months/years?”
“What will this do to my budget?!”
“Can I afford child care?!”
“How much maternity/paternity leave am I entitled to and what will I get?”
“Will I just be working to pay off child care?”
“How on earth can I afford the astronomical pieces of useless stuff as a new parent I need to buy?” - my favourite here was the ‘wet wipe warmer’ to avoid any cold shocks on little bottoms when changing nappies. Yes, this is a thing.
Many new parents, or those planning on starting a family will not yet have clarity on whether or not they can use/are entitled to child care vouchers, when funding for child care might kick in and what the parameters are and the bottom line - how much is it all going to cost in the first few years of sleep deprivation and the annihilation of your social life (a money saving exercise; every cloud has a silver lining)!
Protecting our mental health
The impact on the mental health of a new parent can be directly impacted by the financial wellbeing of the family. Being a new mum or dad is exhilarating, daunting, terrifying, joyous and frankly, bloody hard. It can often also be an isolating experience – especially if you are more used to being around people over the age of seven months on a daily basis, in general.
‘Are you good enough?’, ‘Are you providing/contributing/setting a good example?’ are also questions that you will ask yourself far too frequently.
I think the time has come for the financial services industry to recognize that the traditional family model is not as common as it was. Many families have both parents who have to work and yet are blindsided by huge unforseen drains on their family budget.
Financial planning is about looking ahead, thinking about your lifestyle now and the lifestyle you want in the future and helping you prepare for that. Great financial planning is about being proactive not reactive. I would like the financial services industry to stop assuming that everyone follows an eight-stage financial life cycle. Education, marriage, kids, university fees, paying off the mortgage, retiring comfortably – it is not the norm for everyone in society.
The new ‘normal’
Let us adapt to the 40-somethings having their first child and the dad taking three years off to bond with his babies. Or, the couple who both want to work and show their kids a great work ethic but need to plan ahead to get the best possible child care and financial wellbeing for their growing family. Or the single parent facing it all alone. Or the family who follow the more traditional route. Whether you’re funding a live-in nanny or wondering how the heck you will afford formula this week – your financial wellbeing will no doubt impact your mental health in varying degrees and everyone should be able to get affordable and accessible guidance and advice to help plan ahead.
The point is, there is no route is ‘normal’ and the future of financial advice in my view is about adapting to reflect society today and help us reach goals that may simply be to work hard, play hard and enjoy time with those we love the most, whilst keeping our financial wellbeing on track.
Don’t get me started on reaching these groups of parents without jargon, without reams of paperwork and striving to appeal to a time-poor generation.
Must dash. Walk of shame awaits.
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