Can you see me?

Can you see me?  image
Hello. Can you see me - there in the photograph? No, not the baby, look again.
That’s right – the legs. The single hand holding the baby. I’m always there, in the background. I’m there even when you can’t see my face. I’m there providing support and helping to create solid foundations for little ones to grow and to flourish. I’m a dad.

I know that mums go through so much during their baby experience – from conception and pregnancy through to labour and child-birth – all of which are intense, emotional and life changing … and all encompassing.  Once you become a mum you are never the same as you were before you had children. Yet this is also true for dads.

And although it’s something that isn’t discussed or debated that often, men also go through a huge transition when they become fathers.  Often in the background throughout the pregnancy, labour and birth, new dads can end up feeling completely helpless – but hopeful at the same time.  We feel a sense of connection to our newborn just as strongly, our paternal instincts also kick in at that first sight of our child in the delivery room.  

The fatherhood transition also creates a desire to be involved and have a voice in the parenting partnership, but all too often the burden of parenting is placed on mums, not dads. Mothers are expected to take maternity leave, even though shared parental leave does exist (when both pay and leave can be shared by both parents). Mothers often think in terms of their income having to cover childcare even though they are more likely to reduce to part-time work than fathers. They are also the ones who are going to research, compare and ultimately buy big ticket baby items – think of who chose the cot, car seat, travel system and furniture?

So many times, whilst preparing for the birth of our daughter, and many more since, I have wanted to be more proactive, to help make the decisions about how we will raise her; to be involved in deciding what travel system we buy, to discuss how we will use paid-for childcare or if we do. Even to discuss the possibility of me being the one to go part-time at work, to be more hands on.  But I found that I didn’t know how to raise those questions, articulate those thoughts with my wife without appearing to be insensitive to her bonding and nurturing instincts.

I felt unconfident, certain that raising my desire to be involved would somehow imply that she wasn’t coping or not a natural mother. And so, to avoid any conflict or confrontation, I said nothing.  I felt that it was better to stay mute rather than say the wrong thing, in the wrong way.

I now know that such a strategy is the wrong one.  Fathers need to be open and honest with their partners about their feelings and emotions.  They need to have a conversation about their role and their desire to actively participate in the family they help co-create, without sounding like they are dismissing or diminishing everything that their partners manage to achieve.

I asked my husband to contribute to this blog because having children is a collaborative process. It is, after all, involvement from both the man and the woman that creates a child; whatever form the process takes.

The thing is that once we have those children we tend to default everything to mum. As a society at large we tend to put all the obligations of raising a child onto mothers; including the money matters.  After all, we expect them to take maternity leave (and all the knock-on effects that has on careers and salaries), we might even expect them to give up work, if their income alone cannot cover the costs of childcare.

I believe that those cost calculations, those financial decisions about the family future; should not rest on the shoulders of one parent in families where both parents are present. That’s why I created my business, The Money Mummy.

I am Charlotte, The Money Mummy, and the writer at the beginning was Richard, The Money ‘Daddy’. We co-wrote this blog as a testament to my business principles; that new and expectant parents should collaborate with each other to design the family vision that works for, and respects, the desires and wishes of them both.

My business is financial coaching for families – and at the core of it is a belief that conversations around how best to blend your family finances into your unique recipe should not have to be a confrontational process.

It might feel uncomfortable, raw even. One client told me that it felt like ‘the first time of undressing in front of my partner all over again' to have to discuss how you each really feel about the finances and the effect of them on your family vision. Yet that’s exactly the point, in a way. We don’t talk enough, clearly or honestly enough about what we want, how we want to achieve it and why it matters to us – so it does feel alien to do it.

But for all its awkwardness, it is also – as some of my clients have said - “cathartic”, “rewarding” and “an opportunity to see my partner in a way I had ignored”.  

Instead of writing this split-piece blog, I could have written a post that introduced you to the costs of raising a child or given you my top conversational techniques to talk money with your partner – I know both of those types of blog do well.  Quick answers to both of those are: £940 a month roughly; and remember that our attitudes to money are formed in childhood – meaning you’re actually talking to your partner’s inner child in each conversation, so be gentle.  Yet the very simple reason that I didn’t write a ‘do this’ type post is that I’m not in the business of ‘selling’ financial coaching to you – of making you feel anxious about the future and then marketing you a quick fix. The truth is that there isn’t a quick fix to talking family finances – there isn’t a simple balm you can put onto your relationship and magically become master money conversationalists.

Talking about your family vision (and how to use your money to achieve that vision) in a way that isn’t confrontational or accusatory takes time and practice, empathy and honesty on all sides.
It is a long road to travel to your family financial future and it’s one that neither of you will have travelled before (because even if you have had different partners in the past, or even had a baby before, each relationship is unique, each additional child requires a re-write of the family recipe).  

The good news is that you don’t have to travel that road alone. Help is out there if you would like it - and one such option is The Money Mummy


Make sure you check out Charlotte's blogs here, like 'How much does a baby cost?'