Amid all the congratulary posts on baby Mika’s arrival on 19 May 2023, I received a thought-provoking question via DM, pic below. I thought it deserves a full post, so shoutout to this person for inspiring this article 🙂
The questions are (1) how I changed my mind and be open to having a baby, and (2) How I planned the finances for it.
These are not easy questions to answer, but I will start with this: Some people have always known they want to become parents. Me, I questioned it.
It’s not like I reject the idea of children. I just didn’t want to become a parent ‘because that’s what people do by age X/ after getting married’.
I want the decision to have children to be a lot more intentional than that. I have long believed it is better to regret not having children than regret having children.
Let me explain my thought process, starting with..
Who says one *have* to have kids?
First of all, I see motherhood or parenthood as optional. You don’t have to have children if you don’t want to.
‘But what about’ – who cares? People are going to judge your choices either way – working mother, SAHM, no children, have them early, have them late, number of children, parenting style etc. So do what you want, as long as you don’t hurt other people, all good.
Additionally, being childless is a non-issue for me. I would be happy to continue being one half of a DINK family – dual income, no kids sounds fun as heck.
To be honest, I already have a complete and joyful life with no baby. I’m not looking to fill a missing piece in my life or anything.
But all that – that’s the ‘rational’ part of my brain talking.
Like it or not, hormones drive our behaviour
There’s a reason why the human race have survived, nay, thrived until there’s like 8 billion of us worldwide: we’re all driven by hormones, which means
sometimes all the effing time we do things that are not particularly rational.
In my case, the fact that I love my partner meant that I was open to have a child with him, despite knowing there are SO MANY downsides to doing so, especially for the mother. This is so well-documented that there’s even a term for it: the motherhood penalty.
The below is a snippet of how motherhood penalty looks like. Sucks, right? (Note: Data is not from Malaysia, but this is a universal experience)
So if things are so bad, why have a kid anyway? I actually wondered to myself – why the heck am I still open to motherhood even after knowing the consequences? Why put myself in a more vulnerable position? Why give myself less pay?
At 1 month pregnant, I asked the above question publicly, and in the end concluded – the best I can hope for is to be the outlier to the statistics.
(Stop working is not even an option. Of course I will continue to work after having a child – I like my work, I’m good at it, as it’s practical as heck in this economy. Already explored this thought in the How Money Affects My Dating Life and Thoughts I Have About Marriage (and Money Management) articles)
Overconfident, overoptimistic, call it what you want to call it. What can I say. Love makes us stupid. As my good sis Selena Gomez once said, the heart wants what it wants.
HOWEVER! I may be in love and stupid, but I still have some rational sense in me. That’s why…
I knew I would only have a child if I was financially stable
A huge reason why I decided to have a baby is because I am financially stable and have a comfortable amount in savings. Note: MY savings. Not my partner, not my family’s. MINE.
I NEED to be financially stable before even considering a child because:
- It costs money to raise a child. Duh. Six, even seven figures in total, easy.
- You need to pay for pregnancy, childbirth and baby stuff. As per my own calculations, it is possible to have a baby under RM10k, or even under RM5k if you want (or have) to, but it’ll be stressful
- If anything happens to my partner/relationship, I want to be able to take care of my child financially. You can shout nafkah and responsibilities but it’s risky to 100% depend on it. I also don’t trust the Syariah system to execute the order
I am self-employed, but employed women have more to think about:
- Employers aren’t technically allowed to fire employees due to pregnancy or children, but it happens anyway. Sure one can sue but that’s a whole process that not everyone can or want to go through
- Some employers also might be hesitant to hire pregnant women (or even married women). The problem isn’t long maternity leave, but short paternity leave.
Don’t ever gloss over this issue. Many caregivers including working mothers get so pressured by inflexible work demands and end up quitting, preferring to be self-employed instead. That’s why only 55.5% of Malaysian women are in the labour force.
So anyway, I was open to being pregnant, I have the savings for it, then I got pregnant. What followed was a very confusing 9 months.
Most of the time I was pregnant, as in the whole 9 months, I had mixed feelings; happy, surreal, sad, worry, grief, grateful, I felt it all.
It was weird because my pregnancy was both wanted and planned, so why the negative feelings? It was disorienting, confusing.
But then I found out the term to describe this feeling: Pregnancy Ambivalence. It’s defined as “unresolved or contradictory feelings about whether one wants to have a child at a particular moment”.
Ah, that explains it.
When I dug into it, I found out pregnancy ambivalence is very common. The sample size is small (n = 84), but a 2017 study found that 55% of women “described feelings of ambivalence” about their pregnancy.
Pregnancy Ambivalence was also the reason I kept a low profile about being pregnant. Our families were informed, some friends as well, but that was it. Unless necessary or for work purposes, no one else knew.
Even when I did have to disclose my pregnancy, it felt weird. I heard the obligatory ‘Congratulations!’ and more often than not had to fake being happy because that was expected of pregnant women everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong. I did feel happy, sometimes. It’s just mixed with other, equally strong feelings. There’s grief for sure – I knew motherhood is a commitment, and I found it hard to say goodbye to my responsibility-free, life. But I also felt intense curiosity towards the motherhood experience.
Like I said, confusing. I would’ve gone crazy if not for a couple of therapy sessions (cost: RM500++), as well as having…
Tasks that kept me distracted and busy
There are a LOT of things to do to prepare for a baby’s arrival. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, my organised side started planning. In fact, one of my early journal entries was a to-do list.
These checklists included things like:
- Research things I should eat / stop eating / do / stop doing
- List of things to buy for myself and for baby
- Places to get check ups and schedules suitable for both of us
- Pros/cons list of having a baby
- Useful apps to download
- Calculating estimated costs and expenses
Expanding on that last part..
Planning the financial side of having a baby
Ngl, doing research and making plans didn’t just keep me sane. I also found it the most fun aspect of the whole experience. I got to do cost/value-for-money comparisons between different maternity/baby products, make a new expense category just to track baby-related stuff, things like that.
Much of the info was compiled in the Baby Cost Breakdown article, so go check that out if you are expecting, or simply curious 🙂 I’ve listed products and services we paid for, and ways to save costs.
Additionally, my husband and I also had a lot of chats about the financial side of things. Some of our conversations and activities:
- Going to various baby expos to check out deals and offers
- Listing out maternity and baby expenses and deciding who covers which expense/purchase
- Initial discussions on estate-planning and insurance
- Opening SSPN (yes, both Mom and Dad can individually open SSPN account and make individual deposits to max out the RM8k tax relief)
- Claiming the Itizam Anak Selangor initiative
One amazing thing that I re-realised in this whole process is how both me and my husband are conscientious people. Ngl, this increased my love. I’m happy I married my person <3
Having realistic expectations
Look, I had Mika at 35 years old. At this age, I’ve learned it’s practical to be realistic rather than idealistic. I knew parenthood is hard and exhausting, not easy.
It’s ok not to gloss over the hard part. Many of you confirmed it as well (click to see replies) (I was 2 months’ pregnant here)
Aside from asking the audience, I also scoured the internet and read all the horror stories, like
- pregnancy’s toll on the body (morning sickness, hair might fall out, hormonal acne, etc),
- how having a kid negatively impact a couple’s relationship,
- spending way more than expected,
- possibly dying during childbirth…
I may have freaked myself out a little, but I don’t regret it. The good thing about expecting parts of pregnancy/motherhood to suck is when it does, I’m like, OK this matches my expectations. So when I do experience blissful and happy moments, I get super grateful for it.
No wonder they said parenthood is basically like going on an emotional roller coaster 🙂 I get it now.
All in all, I can say I satisfied my curiosity on the pregnancy experience. I made a human in my body. Like, I literally made a human in my body. Isn’t that cool!!!
As for the motherhood experience… well that’s a lifelong journey now, isn’t it? As of time of writing, I’m still in ‘babymoon’ phase, so I’m in a pretty happy place. It’s too optimistic to think this will last forever, and I know I will face lots of challenges, but I hope I have the strength in me to overcome them as it happens.
(Or hope my savings can prevent or solve those problems. That works too)
I think, this is where I end this article. It’s messy and long – I didn’t know how to answer in a shorter way. Hope you enjoyed this personal post and until next time <3