There are some serious questions about money and work couples should ask themselves and each other before deciding to have a baby, and I’m not talking about whether you’ll be able to afford a top-of-the-range pram.
Instead, you and your partner need to have an honest discussion about how you’ll look after your child once it arrives and combine caring with work.
A frank conversation around what each partner expects from the other and what they’re willing to do themselves will tell you both where you stand upfront and could save a lot of heartache down the road.
It’s a subject that, 16 years after having our first child and despite having two more, remains a sore point between myself and my partner. These are the four work and money questions I wish we’d discussed before having a baby.
1. How much parental leave will we take and who will take it?
It’s still the reality that women take the 88 percent of government-funded primary carer-paid parental leave in Australia. This is partly because the current system stipulates that the primary claimant must be the 'birth parent' (i.e. mother) and in order for her partner to take this leave she has to apply for it and then transfer it to them.
The current system gives 18 weeks for the ‘primary carer’ and just two weeks for ‘dads and partners’. But changes announced by the government in the recent federal budget are removing these labels, which will make it easier for families to decide how they’ll share the leave between themselves. A 'use it or lose it' provision will also be added, which will mean if each parent doesn’t take a set amount of leave, the family will lose it. These changes should all make it easier for partners to take more parental leave and normalise this in our society.
When it comes to how long to take, it’s important to know that government parental leave is only paid at the minimum wage, so a conversation about how you can adjust your spending to live off a reduced income will show you whether taking the full combined 20 weeks currently offered (scaling up to 26 weeks by mid-2026) is something your family can afford.