Updated June 14, 2014

Today's New Moms: Expenses and Employment Challenges

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Few things change a woman's life more than becoming a mother. Physically, emotionally, and financially, post-baby life is a whole new country full of its own joys and terrors.

The good news is, there are plenty of travel guides to this new land—after all, more than 80 million mothers are in the United States, and 1.6 million babies were born to first-time moms in 2010 alone.

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Infographic: New Moms
Infographic: New Moms © CreditDonkey

Buy, Baby, Buy

You want the best for your new little person. But what does that mean? Is a fancy jogging stroller worth the price tag? Aside from the basics—a super-safe car seat, a couple dozen onesies to avoid daily laundry battles—some things are better left until you see what you’ll really use. Plenty of parents go for the gorgeous hardwood crib only to discover co-sleeping works best for their family. Try to register for shower gifts you know you’ll use and save your own money for post-birth shopping. And, while you’re saving money, consider starting a college account for your little one. Read up on the basics of setting up an account here.

Back to Work

Nearly three quarters of mothers with children under 18 work full time. For many, it’s an economic necessity, and plenty of women also don’t want to give up the rewarding challenges of their jobs. With advances in technology expanding telecommuting opportunities and flexible work times offered by many employers, some mothers can figure out ways to make working and spending time with their baby more compatible.

Some full-time employees stay home one day a week, using naptimes to catch up on email, and put in a few hours working from home on the weekend to make up for the lost work day. If you and your husband or partner can both make that sort of arrangement, it drops the five days each week you need to pay for childcare to just three days.

If you’re looking for some ammunition to take into a meeting with your boss for such a deal, check out some of the data and stories collected by Corporate Voice for Working Families.

Part-Timing It

The concept of part-time jobs can evoke visions of stocking shelves and running a cash register, but it’s really not unusual for professionals to find part-time work in their field as well, particularly those who have already proven themselves on the job. Moms (and dads too!) won’t know whether this is a possibility unless they ask.

Mom vs. Mom
Speaking of work arrangements, it’s hard to spend much time looking at magazines or blogs about parenthood without coming across the “mommy wars.” There’s a lot of media attention focused on debates between mothers about whether, and how, to combine work and parenting. The fact is, most moms aren’t trying to tear each other down, but it’s easy to get defensive about our own choices. If you’re stressed out about work-life balance issues, look for people to hang out with—in real life and online—who bring a positive outlook.

The Team Approach
There’s really no perfect answers to any of the questions about motherhood, and each family needs to figure out what works for them. But new mothers need to remember they’re not alone. For one thing, fathers are doing more of the work of parenting these days, from picking up the kids at childcare to taking a year off work to stay home. And don’t forget about grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. Those guys aren’t kidding when they say they love time with the baby. If they can spend a couple of hours bouncing the little one while you wrap up a work project or take a long, relaxing walk, it’s a win for everyone.

Keeping Your Options Open
Maybe working full time is great now, but you might want to take a year off when you have your second baby. Or maybe your husband wants to step back from a 60-hour-a-week gig to something less high pressure so he can spend time with the kids. One of the best ways to keep your life less stressful is to make sure your spending isn’t forcing your hand when it comes to decisions about work. Check out these ways that credit cards can save you money on gas or groceries. And, if debt is weighing down your family’s budget, try this calculator to figure out how to pay off your credit cards.

(Graphic Writing by Maria; Graphic Design by Dex; Additional Writing by Livia; Editing by Sarah)

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