Category Archives: planet parenthood

Maybe Two

Despite the challenges of parenting, every day I feel like we’ve hit the kid-jackpot. Our kiddos are goldmines of giggles and treasures of enthusiasm and delight. I couldn’t imagine a better way to invest my energy, and they take every bit. The dividends of smooches and stories are worth it all, and it’s hard to imagine life without a family.

Yet, lately the idea of staying a family of four has permeated my conscious. After having Girly we were both on the fence about whether to have a third child, and Hubby was even tilted toward three. Knowing how nice it has been to have a three year space between kids, I wasn’t ready to be swayed until there was the prospect having a break in washing cloth diapers It’s not my personal energy that limits me from wanting another child, it’s the energy required from the planet. 

I know it’s a personal decision, and I certainly don’t judge families with three or more. Many who opt to have a single child for environmental reasons. One of favorite activists Bill McKibben, wrote the case in Maybe One. Personally, I yearned for a second child, and it would have been too great a sacrifice. Yet, at this point I feel that having a third child would be a bit greedy. Two is my happy medium.

While finances don’t dictate our choice, there are financial considerations to your family size. Costs begin in utero, through birth, paternity leave, and won’t lighten up for about two decades. That’s before college. Grandparents out there will remind me that the expense never really goes away, it just changes. 

How do your family finances and sustainable values impact your family size?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Nitty Gritty

Now I’m typically not one to air my dirty laundry, and particularly not our nitty laundry. But  I’m willing to share my story, because it shouldn’t be a stigma to catch head lice. Sure it’s a major hassle, but it’s a likely ordeal of parenthood.

My saga includes some sweet serendipity, which started back when I bought a old fashioned fainting couch at a neighborhood yard sale that had been on my  home wish list . Then when Hubby was leaving for his backpacking trip, he ran into the same neighbor and it turned out that her daughter was more than happy to take care of our doggy for some cash. So, then I got the call that our Big Guy caught head lice (1 of about 8 kids). When our neighbor called me back to remind that I still hadn’t picked up my chase sofa, I told her that I had simply been booked and now dealing with lice. Then a miracle happened. My neighbor called back to offer her “expert nit-picker” skills, as she could sympathize with the challenge. I was overjoyed by her gracious offer.

Now you may wonder about the connection to finances or sustainability here, and my reply is that when your quality of life is down there is simply no way to focus on either. Plus, if you’ve been diligent about washing on cold and air drying to reduce your footprint, all that effort goes out the window once you have to do a month’s worth of laundry in a few days!

There is also an intriguing connection to class-ism. Admittedly when I told Hubby, one of his first reactions was that he was surprised that so many kids in expensive child care would catch lice. Another friend told me that in her son’s t-ball team head lice had gotten out of control because none of the parents were willing to tell each other. 

I’m the first to agree that the very thought of head lice makes my scalp crawl, but it shouldn’t be taboo and we should learn how to support each other. Here are a few very helpful tips from my neighbor/guardian angel:

  • Prepare yourself, head lice never comes at a convenient time!
  • Get a good metal comb, the plastic ones do NOT work.
  • Focus your energy on combing thoroughly and repeatedly.
  • Cleaning is important, but nowhere near as important as vigilant combing.
  • Comb every day until there is nothing for 3 days in a row, then comb every few days, then every week for about a month.
  • Comb at the first the sign of suspicion. Always better to stop it early on. 

If you need some basic education, this brochure says it all simply.

Have you had to put your life on hold for head lice? 
What advice to do you have for other families?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Milking It

Now that I’ve weaned Girly, I can finally talk about lactating without getting sentimental or engorged.  I chose to breastfeed for health reasons, both for my children and myself. But it was also convenient and saved us a lot of money. 

Rough estimates show that you can save at least $1500 in the first year of life . The Journal of Pediatrics research shows that breastfeeding could save billions of dollars ! The statistics are pretty startling:

The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says…About 43 percent of U.S. mothers do at least some breast-feeding for six months, but only 12 percent follow government guidelines recommending that babies receive only breast milk for six months. 

The beauty of breastfeeding is that it’s free and natural. If case you can’t help yourself, there some great green breastfeeding paraphernalia you may “need.”

I never really researched myself, but I found an in-depth article about why breastfeeding is better for the environment too. Here’s another “eco-mama’s” take on overcoming breastfeeding challenges.

Pumping is certainly the least glamorous aspect, especially if you accidentally flash the mailman like I did! I pumped for a year with both kiddos, and it can be physically exhausting, but the pay is worth it. I bought a standard Medela pump, but I found the second time around that an inexpensive hand pump actually expressed the same amount in the same time, plus at home I could nurse while pumping. You’ll need some BPA-free bottles too. I also chose cloth breast pads, rather than disposal ones, and my Big Guy loved calling them “booby socks.”

Sadly there are toxic pollutants in breastmilk , but feeding is still encouraged. It only makes me want to take action so that my Girly will be able to feed her family. I’ve been active online with MOMS: Making Our Milk Safe for almost five years now, and despite the circumstances progress is possible. 

Do feel supported or judged about breast feeding?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Ask For It

The world is abundant, but you still have to ask for want you want and need.

A few weeks ago I happened to get an interesting article on women and negotiations from a co-worker. It made a great case for why part of the pay disparity between sexes is because women simply don’t speak up and ask for it.  This should peak your attention especially if you have a daughter. The NYT article wrote about how we need to teach young girls the skill of negotiating and asking for what you want. It referenced a really intriguing  program aimed at teaching these skills to girls and women

It dawned on me that I actually didn’t know when to expect my next merit increase, as my manager had mentioned when I returned from maternity leave that my absence would affect it. It turns out after talking with HR that the leave did not affect when an increase would be allowed, and that I was actually due retroactively back to January. The kicker was that if I hadn’t asked before the end of the fiscal year I would have lost it!

I ended up with a stellar performance review and the maximum 4% increase.  Thankfully I didn’t have to learn the hard way, but it did teach me to speak up.  I will certainly keep this lesson in mind with our Girly, and work to model the skills that I’m learning mid-career.

This isn’t just a personal story or women’s issue though, its a family one. Most families need two incomes to make ends meet. Wage disparity hurts families and perpetuates inequality. If we don’t ask for change, who will?

Do you have tips for asking for raises or negotiating salaries?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Paternity Leave Finances

Figuring out your family finances during paternity can be complex and highly personal. Often it can make you question whether you are financially prepared for a child, and all the pressure that comes with parenthood.

With my first pregnancy I was working for a small non-profit, and quickly realized I was not guaranteed any leave under the FMLA policy (not even unpaid with workplace under 50 employees).  Yes,  U.S. maternity leave ranks the same Ghana, Swaziland, and Zambia . As a result I opted to leave my job, and hope to find a position that would work with motherhood.

The next big question was,  “How the hell were we going to manage an unpaid maternity leave?”   So, I remember creating a spreadsheet of various timelines and how much we could manage to scrape by on. Perhaps our saving grace was that I had been making very little in my part-time non-profit gig through grad school, so we were used to paying the bulk of our bills on Hubby’s paycheck. Sadly and honestly, the only way I managed to stay home to raise our Big Guy for his first four months was with a small inheritance of a few thousand dollars. As it was, Hubby only managed to take a week of vacation time off.

Fortunately, our financial circumstances improved substantially between our first and second children, so at least I didn’t have to wonder whether we could afford our mortgage and groceries.  I still had to figure our finances out to see how long we could manage on a single income, turns out that I started working part-time from home when Girly was six weeks and returned to full-time when she was eight months when I drained every last hour of unpaid leave.  Hard to believe that this wouldn’t have been possible if our family wasn’t covered by Hubby’s employer paid health insurance.

How did you manage your finances during your family leave?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.