Are we a nation of mothers who equate childbirth with debt?

Does choosing to start a family always lead to debt? Jacqueline Cohen, from ClearDebt’s Marketing team, shares her experiences.

This month comparison website uSwitch.com claims one in ten women are forced to cut short maternity stay with their newborn babies due to money worries. The report also confirms the belief that nearly a third of mothers end up £2,500 in debt while preparing for their new arrival.

As someone who has been through this very experience, I decided to swallow my pride and share my story with The Sun to try and show people that this can happen to anyone; more often than not, it’s not about overspending or being careless with money, it’s about a change of situation which means that your income decreases and therefore the challenge of covering your monthly costs becomes a constant worry.

My story started in the summer of 2008 when I was six months pregnant. My husband and I had savings prepared for the new arrival and we were confident that all costs would be covered when I took a few months off after the birth before returning back to work.

Jacqueline and her daughter Savannah
Jacqueline and her daughter Savannah

But unfortunately, the first signs of the recession hit and as we worked for the same company, when it went into administration, we were both made redundant. Whilst we had saved for one of us being out of work for a few months after the baby, we certainly didn’t have enough savings to cover both of us being out of work. Our world was truly turned upside down and it was time to sit down and go through our income (which was pretty much zero) and our outgoings, and work out how on earth we would cover our essential costs.

I was lucky enough to join the Marketing team at ClearDebt around a month after we went into administration but left for maternity leave just 12 weeks later. My husband was unable to get permanent work until just before my daughter was born, however his new employers had overestimated their budgets and shortly afterwards, let him go. My daughter was just two weeks old. Again we had no money coming in and the savings which were originally saved for when the baby arrived had been used to supplement the single income we’d had for the previous four months. I had no choice but to return to work when she was just 6 weeks old.

Luckily, five months later my husband found work and my daughter went into full time child care. So, the story does have a happy ending after all 😉

The point of it all? Of sharing this with you and the readers of The Sun?

Because it matters and because sometimes, tough situations come to face good people – like you, like me.
The perception of what kind of people fall into debt is changing – most people in this country have debt – be it a credit card bill, a mortgage or much more; the emotional burden of paying off that debt is huge. So when the issue of women on maternity returning to work early hits the headlines, I feel it’s time to hold my hands up and share my story – after all, I’ve certainly been there, done it and got the t-shirt.

What now?

The problem with a lot of these reports is that they come out, hit the headlines and then go away quietly to the back of beyond until the next report with similar statistics comes along. I’m hoping this time it will be different. Doubtful though.

Many women on maternity receive just £135.45 per week after the first six weeks of their maternity leave – this just about covers the cost of the milk, nappies and wipes – but doesn’t help contribute to living costs of a family who have committed to a mortgage and utility bill payments based on two salaries. I’m not suggesting in any way the government should pay for the missing second income, but I do think more thought should be given to this situation and how families can prepare better and be better supported through these times – even if circumstances unexpectedly change.

After speaking on BBC Radio Kent last year about the number of women putting off having children because of financial worries, this is a much bigger issue than some would believe.

My personal opinion is that in this day and age, you can save your pennies in preparation of new arrivals and those who say “If you wait until you have enough money, you’ll wait forever” are out of touch with the effects of the recession. We shouldn’t be opting into debt by having children, we should be saving and preparing financially to provide a secure environment. However, circumstances can change which are out of our control and I’m asking, when that happens, what additional support could be provided?

If you’ve gone through a similar experience, why not share your thoughts with us now too?

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Comments:3

  1. This story is so familiar to many. I am sure that ClearDebt, just like Payplan have a large number of people calling on a daily basis with the same financial problems as yours. Unfortunately with the changes to benefits, increased cost of living and increases in childcare this will not go away.

  2. Good on you for highlighting it.  A lot of my friends are having babies at the moment and when I ask are you going to go back to work they say ‘I have to, I’ve got no choice’

  3. Last year, found out we were expecting our first. Three weeks later I was put at risk of redundancy. Luckily they found a new role for me, but with a 35% pay cut. Even more lucky that my mum gave us a couple of grand to help us and we get 4.5k with a PPI reclaim. That will get us through the maternirty period. Unluckily when my wife goes back to work, she has been told her hours are being cut. To be honest, no amount of planning could have legislated for all that happening. Baby is worth the financial hardship though. Wouldnt swap it.

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