Babies don’t cost much; they are as expensive as you make them. The real impact is the drop from two incomes to one …or one income to Sweet FA.
There is no one size fits all solution to all circumstances, so all I can do is share what I, and those I know, did to slow this sonogramed freight train of stress hurtling at you.
The simple truth is, it’s doable. How hard it will be depends on how much of your life you’re willing to change, kind of like trying to get a six-pack.
The terrifying theme of becoming a new Dad is The Unknown. A faceless asshole of a thought that will barnacle onto you for 9 months. Women will immediately have the intimate knowledge of how they’re feeling. She has a connection with the baby from the second those little butterfly kicks are first felt (full disclosure: I thought butterfly kicks sounded like a really nice way to describe those first movements of a baby – I’ve since Googled what a Butterfly Kick is and those will come much later in the pregnancy!). Women have conversations with their mothers, sisters, friends and doctors. If you manage to hear any of those, you’ll only catch moments as if you’re sitting in the stands of an F1 race.
As a Dad, you’re somewhat left to your own devices to process it all. Like most men – we forecast problems and then try to solve those imaginary issues. Inevitably we end up at worst-case scenarios ‘What if I lose my job?’ ‘What if we lose the house?’
You may go more existential and think ‘Why aren’t I at a higher level at work?’, “Have I been dicking around too much?” “Where are my savings?” “Why wasn’t I ready for this?” – Now you’re so deep in the rabbit hole you’re probably also looking up Flat Earth conspiracy theories at 3am.
Very rarely do babies come along at a good time or when you’re ready, yet it’s been happening for a couple hundred thousand years with clear success. So take solace in the fact you’re not special. Tyler Durden was right.
There are some reasons why the financial bearing hits guys so hard; we have consciously (and subconsciously) been trained to be the earner, the provider through hundreds of generations. It’s quite literally still in our blood. After I managed to stop screaming at the mirror and clawing the skin from my face, I recognised the one major issue affecting me the most and it’s embarrassingly simple. Stop spending.
Well, slow down your spending – but that doesn’t look as cool in bold at the end of a paragraph.
Back when you were without a baby and had an income of two wages (assuming it’s two, but this still applies to the single guy who ended up with a big ol’ responsibility, real quick), you didn’t realise how much you waste cash. How easily could you wipe out $100 on a night out drinking or stoppoing into Dan Murphy’s a couple times a week on the way home? How easy it was to drop $50 on a brunch because you slept until 10.30am? Could you wander through Myer grabbing a handful of work shirts at $59 each? Or just bought them online through the app on your phone you didn’t need to upgrade while you were ignoring the HBO series on Foxtel drinking a quality Shiraz that you bought on your weekend away in the Yarra Valley? (Hell of a long sentence, but you get my point)
None of these are necessary. Fun? Yes. Necessary? No. Money was spent because it could be. There was no real second thought once the impulses hit. When your little cherub arrives and stares at you with those terrifying newborn black eyes, you will reconsider every single purchase you make. Very soon you’ll find that it’s not a matter of needing more money, but just thinking about with what you have. In reality this mindset should have been applied much earlier in life. Our parents had it.
So many of us are starting our families later in life, as a result we have a good ten years to get to used to the income going up without any major changes. Of course there are the usual staples like a house, overseas holidays or hunting down that Audi that Statham drove in Transporter, but we got comfortable, selfish and spoilt ourselves. I’m not one to say that we shouldn’t have enjoyed our child-free lives at all. I look back now and I’m really happy about how I’ve pissed my money against European walls of great historical significance. When that all ends very suddenly, it’s pretty bloody jarring.
Only one generation ago it was perfectly acceptable, if not encouraged, to start your family in your early twenties (but it was also fine to go to war at 15, so maybe they didn’t get everything right). At that life-stage it was the man who had the job and odds are it was entry level with a pay to match. You could expect within a couple of years there would be a wedding, house and baby. The bloke would rarely have seen a cent that wasn’t pre-claimed elsewhere. So spending wisely was a necessity from the time your parents started getting any money. It was normal, there wasn’t the sudden plunge that we get and with anxiety and depression rife – it becomes a real issue.
It sounds overly simplistic to say suck it up and tighten the belt to its traditional notch, but it’s a good baseline to work with.
Give it 3 months and you’ll be riding a whole new rhythm and odds are you’ll want to go back and smack yourself around like Don Corleone did to Johnny Fontane.
In all honesty where the hell are you going to find the energy to go anyway?