Generally, I wouldn’t class myself as a worrier. Sure, there have been things throughout my life that I’ve worried about, but I’ve always tried to take the approach of ‘what’s the point of stressing over something if I can’t do anything about it?’. Since becoming a parent though, I definitely worry more than I used to – the increasing number of grey hairs on my head is testament to that!
I think that this probably comes down to the fact that you are ultimately responsible for someone else. Every decision you make has a direct result on that little person. They are fully dependent on you and it’s your job to do everything you can to give them the best start in life. This, understandably, can create huge pressures.
During my nearly four years as a parent, I think the most worrying times have been during both pregnancies and as a newbie parent when L was born. As the partner, pregnancy brings a sense of helplessness and uncertainty which I disliked, whilst having a newborn for the first time is a totally unprecedented experience where you are required to learn as you go along.
I’m hardly alone in the fact that I had worries as a new parent. I’m pretty sure every parent out there has worried about an array of logical – and illogical – situations directly related to the fact that they have a child.
In fact, recent research undertaken by Post Office has highlighted 12 common concerns when it comes to new parents. This includes the likes of freak accidents happening (46%), other people dropping my baby (42%), not connecting with my baby (34%) and my parenting being judged by others (34%).
Although these four specific examples weren’t any of my worries as a new parent, interestingly, three of my top four fears did make the list – being able to afford to raise my baby (42%), knowing how to parent my baby (43%) and what would happen if I / my partner died (37%).
With that in mind, below are the four main concerns I had as a soon-to-be / newbie parent and some of the things I did to try and alleviate these worries:
1) Will we have enough money?
Money was a big concern when we found out the missus was pregnant. Everyone knows that kids are expensive – we’re talking over £230,000 for a typical family to raise a child from birth to 21 years old. That’s eye-watering stuff.
The prospect of another mouth to feed was therefore worrying – particularly at a time when I’d left my previous job, so was only bringing in a fraction of what I used to earn. What’s more, the plan was for me to become the stay-at-home parent, so the likely scenario was that we’d be a one-income household for the foreseeable future. Would we cope? Was our plan flawed?
To help overcome these stresses, we did a number of things. This including doing a full audit of our finances (e.g. detailing all income and expenditure), cutting back on ‘nice-to-have’ expenses (e.g. downgrading our TV package), finding new, cheaper ways of doing things (e.g. making lunch rather than buying) and ensuring our savings were getting the best return (e.g. switching to higher interest savings accounts and putting money in ISAs).
This allowed us to fully understand our financial situation, and therefore know that we were in a decent position, plus also ensure our money was working as hard as it could. Sure, we may not be as extravagant financially as we once were, but having a good grip on our finances has meant that we can still buy what we want and enjoy plenty of experiences as a family.
2) How do you actually ‘parent’?
Another concern was about how to actually be a parent. At that time, I’d never really been around young kids – let alone babies – so the prospect of being responsible for one myself was daunting. I literally had no clue about anything pregnancy or baby-related, so was worried I’d get it all wrong.
How do you change a nappy? How do you hold a baby? What do you do if they cry? How do you put them into a car seat? What if you accidentally hurt them? How will you know when they’re ill? Just some of the questions that went through my head prior to – and after – becoming a dad. It’s a new situation, and as such, there’s a lot of unknown.
To help answer some of these questions and alleviate any worries, the missus and I spent a lot of time reading and researching – this included baby / parenting books, blogs and forums. In addition, we also did NCT Antenatal Courses prior to the birth as another form of preparing ourselves.
This strategy definitely helped as it gave us a lot of information we didn’t previously know. However, we soon realised that all babies are different and that there’s only so much you can learn from secondary sources. The best way of learning how to become an actual parent is to get stuck in, give it a go and do what you think is best!
3) Is being a stay-at-home dad the ‘right’ thing?
As mentioned above, the plan was for me to be the primary carer for our daughter when the missus went back to work after maternity leave. It made sense for us as a family to take this non-traditional approach, and three-years later, it’s still the best thing we could have done.
However, at the time, I did have some concerns about being a stay-at-home dad. It seems silly to worry about it now, but I did stress about things like society’s perception of me, whether I’d be ostracised at baby groups or whether L would be at a disadvantage because Hayley was at work.
In reality, the only thing I could do to alleviate these fears was just to parent and get stuck in. We just did – and continue to do – what any parent does with their child. We went to baby and toddler groups, we went to the park, we had days out etc. Sure, it was a little daunting at the start to be the only dad in a roomful of mums, but it was all for L’s benefit and I’ve experienced very little negativity along the way.
Let’s be honest, why does me being a dad mean I have any less right to be with my child? The fact that I’m a dad in a (primarily) mum’s world has had very little impact at all. We’re all parents doing our best, regardless of our gender. Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding and L has grown up to be an amazing nearly four year old – I have to take some credit for that!
4) What will happen if one of us dies?
Partly linked to the point above about money, something else that was in the back of my mind was around death. Not the cheeriest of subjects I know, but there’s nothing like bringing life into this world to make you realise just how fragile and precious life actually is. At any point, something could happen and it would change our kid’s lives forever.
It’s a little pointless worrying about this stuff, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t. Thinking about how you’d cope if your partner died, or how they’d cope if you died, is just a natural fear. Even now, there’s always a little niggle in the back of my mind when the missus goes out on her own or takes the kids with her, just because life can be a bitch.
Although I’d not be able to do anything about it if the worst happened, I’ve always felt that it’s important to prepare. For instance, we made sure that we had adequate life insurance – the missus is covered through work and I have private life insurance as I’m self employed – plus we recently took out free parent cover with Post Office (more on that below).
Of course, there’s also the question of what would happen if we both died, which actually reminds me that we need to update our wills now that ‘Beetle’ is with us. Ultimately though, you’ve just got to live life, not do anything stupid and hope that nothing bad happens – there’s no point worrying about things outside of your control.
So those are four of my top worries as a new parent. Do any of these sound familiar? What were your top concerns as a new parent?
Free Parent Cover With Post Office
Free parent cover basically gives free life insurance for a year to parents with kids under 4-years old. Each parent is able to sign up independently and the cover provided is to the value of £15,000 per child (up to eight kids). So, as an example, if you have three kids under 4-years old and both parents sign up, then your family is covered for £90,000 – or £45,000 per parent – completely free for the next year.
I was totally unaware about the free parent cover prior to this campaign, so I’m really chuffed to have discovered it. Both the missus and I have since taken out the free parent cover for our two kids – if one of us pops our clogs, then the other would receive cover to the value of £30,000. It’s a depressing and morbid thought, but it’s important to ensure the family is taken care of financially.
For us personally, I know that this free parent cover, on top of our own private life insurance, would give us one less thing to worry about if the worst happened. In the event of a spouse’s death, I imagine there’s enough to stress about without focusing on things like ‘will the mortgage get paid’ or ‘can I afford the food shop this week’.
What’s more, it’s completely free and only takes a few minutes to do online. You can find out more about Post Office’s free parent cover and sign up here.
Disclosure: This is a commissioned post in collaboration with Post Office.