STANDING in line at one of those over-priced coffee shops, buying an over-priced coffee (my third of the day), I got a notification from my banking app. “Your credit card balance is now overdue,” it pinged. I winced a bit as I swiped to see the amount.
It wasn’t loads loads (in pre-baby, pre-Covid days I could easily do double that), but it wasn’t nothing either. And I started to panic.
Not because of the caffeine, but about how I’d pay it off. You see, I’ve said goodbye to most of my salary now I’m on maternity leave. And with it, a lot of my identity.
I’ve had a job since I was 14. I’m proud to say I’ve done stints at a hairdressers, a dry cleaners and a call centre, among others. When I started interning in journalism, I worked all day at a glossy magazine for free, then left the office and clocked in to my (less glossy) waitressing job.
Earning my own money, and feeling independent and self-sufficient make up a huge part of who I am.
So now, self-employed and having reduced my capacity to make my own cash, I feel vulnerable (the government maternity allowance of £151.20 a week doesn’t even cover half my rent).
And although I had some savings – a pandemic meant the money I’d earmarked for a babymoon stayed in the bank – they haven’t lasted long.
Blame my chai latte habit or occasional Zara baby clothes splurge, but my bank balance is now redder than a nasty case of nappy rash.
Which is why I had to sit down to have that conversation with my partner Guy: who will pay for what, and for how long. It’s a delicate subject, but one that every couple who go on maternity and/or paternity leave has to have at some point.
I’ve long been fascinated by how couples organise their finances. I’ve got a friend who just has one joint bank account that her and her husband’s entire salaries go into, which worked fine until he started questioning what an acceptable amount to spend on cushions really is.
I have another friend whose partner earns three times as much as her, but who is splitting everything down the middle with him. It meant that while she was on maternity leave, she had to borrow money off him, which he insisted she pay back, down to the very last penny.
I remember being shocked when a colleague complained about how she couldn’t get her hair done while on maternity leave, because her husband gave her a strict stipend each month, which didn’t stretch to highlights. I suggested she start charging him for childcare.
It’s completely unacceptable for women to bear the brunt of the financial hit just because they’re the ones taking maternity leave. They’ll probably face another one when they return to work, thanks to the gender pay gap.
THIS WEEK I’M…
Watching… The Flight Attendant
Kaley Cuoco is brilliant as an air stewardess with a drinking problem on Sky Atlantic.
Loving… Arran Sense of Scotland
Room fragrance is the new perfume, and these reed diffusers smell just like spring.
Reading… Motherhood Your Way
Celebrity birth coach Hollie de Cruz guides you through your first year of motherhood.
Thankfully, Guy takes the “my money, is our money” attitude, even when I wasn’t on maternity leave. He’s happy to shoulder the extra pressure of being the breadwinner for a while.
In an ideal world, we’d value raising children enough to ensure maternity (and paternity) leave matched your salary, and that you received it for as long as either of you (or both of you) wanted to stay home.
But until that happens, it’s up to couples to thrash it out. And for me, it means staying away from that coffee shop for a while.
- Follow Kate on Instagram @katewillswrites.
- Stockist: Arran Sense of Scotland (Arran.com)
- Motherhood Your Way: How To Worry Less And Enjoy More In Your Baby’s First Year by Hollie de Cruz (£12.99, Ebury) is out now
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