The conversation you need to have before getting pregnant

What to eat when you're pregnant

You've heard the rumours that pregnant women in some countries are chowing down on soft cheese and raw fish? Here's what science has to say about it.

Before Rachelone* became pregnant, it didn’t occur to her to ask her partner if he would support her and their baby financially when she was on maternity leave.

Because, hey, why would she? Even men who cling most fervently to traditional models of masculinity tell us that providing is central to their identity. You know, that whole hunter ethos that has apparently survived since we lived in caves.

When the mother is taking time out of the workforce, struggling through sleep deprivation and cracked nipples, the least you’d expect of the father – who in this case, according to Rachelone “earns a very high wage” – is to cough up for the nappies and groceries.

It seems unthinkable, until it happens.
It seems unthinkable, until it happens. Photo: Shutterstock

But when Rachelone, already with her growing belly, raised the money subject, it turned out that this whole concept of actually paying to support the kid you just made was a bit of a surprise to her partner. He insisted Rachelone continue to pay half of the mortgage and living expenses when she was on maternity leave.

This meant that Rachelone would have to use the payout she received when she was made redundant during the early stages of her pregnancy.

Rachelone turned to the online mother forum Mumsnet, to gauge which one of them was being unreasonable. She asked: “Should the mother pay 50/50 towards bills when on maternity leave?”

The responses were pretty much unanimous.

“[O]nly if you invoice him for all the baby bills and child care… 24hrs a day”.

“Absolutely, as long as he pushes half the baby out of his vagina and takes 50 per cent of the parental leave and associated pay drop. What a f---ing dick. Leave the bastard.”

Advertisement

“Maybe you could suggest he takes paternity leave and looks after baby full time and pays 50 per cent of everything while you return to work and your full income.”

The solidarity from other mothers may make Rachelone feel better, but it’s unlikely to actually help with the very real and worrying financial insecurity she’s facing.

Babies and children are expensive. From conception to the their first birthday, a baby is likely to set you back in excess of $40,000. Motherhood is also one of the surest ways to stall a woman’s career and dent her future earning potential, while ensuring she’s put on the “mummy track”. And it’s not just their current salary that women need to worry about. Reduced salary today means reduced superannuation and reduced financial security in older age.

In addition to Rachelone’s reduced life-long income, she will potentially use up her savings from her redundancy payout – savings that she’s unlikely to ever recoup due to her reduced “mother income” and increased cost of supporting a child.

What Rachelone’s partner thinks is 50/50 and presumably fair in principle, is grossly unjust in reality and has the potential to force the mother of his child into a life of increasing financial insecurity.

Perhaps the most perverse part of Rachelone’s story is that her partner, and men like him, are beneficiaries of feminism. Feminists have been fighting for decades for mothers’ rights to paid work, meaning that men are often not the sole breadwinners in families.

This has essentially enabled these men to contribute even less to their families. They know their kid is not going to starve because their wife wouldn’t let it happen, no matter how difficult and unfair it is for her.

Men often justify leaving all the domestic work and childcare to mothers because they are bringing home the bacon. But in cases like Rachelone’s, these men aren’t even doing much of that.

Examples like Rachelone’s are a cautionary tale to any woman thinking about a serious relationship. We need to have a detailed money conversation with our partner before making a permanent commitment — whether it’s buying a house together, getting married or having children. It’s only before the fact that women have power to negotiate. Unless you have the option to easily walk away and potentially find a more suitable partner, your ability to negotiate is always going to be less.

But to be fair to Rachelone, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to her to even ask her partner if he would support her and their child. Like many mothers who find themselves struggling with financial inequality in their own relationships, the idea of the man she loves insisting on a financial arrangement where she is worse off than him was probably unthinkable.

*Mumsnet handle