Note: We work with many clients through challenging transitions, including retirement, selling a business or starting a family. We want to share our personal experiences of major life changes. They help us provide thoughtful advice. This is the second installment of our series. It features Molly Stanifer.
Being a parent requires flexibility. This is probably obvious, even to those who are not parents. However, it is a transition in which I am increasingly aware, and I now realize what great impact it has on my life. I must embrace flexibility and constantly reevaluate my core values as I move into the different stages of parenthood. The value of flexibility in financial plans can be hard to quantify. I think it’s easier to see it through daily life.
Before kids - ability to juggle big priorities and multi-task
I prided myself in how nimbly and efficiently I could operate. In the week gap between graduating college and starting my first real job, I squeezed in a trip with my brother to Italy. (I was weeks away from no longer being able to fly stand-by using my father’s airline employee benefits.) When I took an internal job change, I just packed all my belongings into my car and moved to Memphis to start my new position a couple days later. My husband and I took many spur of the moment weekend getaways in Copenhagen, Ireland, and even Cape Town. I would wake up early to study for the CFP® exam before work when I was planning my wedding. Starting a masters degree program while living in Tanzania and teaching at an NGO was also completely manageable.
Having kids - I didn’t fully expect the unexpected … and the village a baby involves
When I was pregnant with our first daughter, we were (still are) extremely grateful to land on a neighborhood email posting about a family’s nanny being available as their youngest child headed to kindergarten. Another neighborhood family who was expecting at the same time also leapt on that posting and magically, a nanny share was created.
Childcare is expensive in our country. For that reason, along with our desire for our extended family to bond with our growing family, my infinitely generous mom agreed to be a supplemental caregiver for our baby while my husband and I worked.
Suddenly, my return to work became dependent on the alignment of many factors we couldn't control. We had to plan around the whims of our baby’s completely unpredictable schedule, nursing and pumping. We had to factor in our nanny's timely arrival, and also my mother’s travel schedule as she flew to North Carolina every other week to help us with childcare.
In the midst of kids, finding time for personal growth (or not, which is okay too)
Change is an inevitable part of life, and I constantly remind myself to see change as an opportunity for growth. You could probably spot this with a scroll of my revolving 10+ books that I complain about not having enough time to read, essentially all of which can be found in the personal growth section of the bookstore/library.
Planning and organization enable flexibility
Every single activity or decision we make is now significantly more involved. Planning has become imperative – for work and leisure. Getting into a car or on our bikes means running a mental checklist: change of clothes, snacks, water bottle, wipes, hand sanitizer, masks, keys/bike lock/helmets, wallet, crayons, paper. Okay, all set … to be back in 45 minutes for nap time!
Finding perspective and letting go
One of the most challenging aspects for me evolving into parenthood was learning to accept that I may not be able to show up the way I did in the past. And with that, I have been exposed to a new level of grace from others that I would not have known existed.
It's a beautiful thing becoming a parent. I recently witnessed my older child learning to tie her shoes and my younger one figuring out what makes me laugh. Six years into parenthood, it still is a transition I am working through. Habitually revisiting core values and priorities and allowing some more give along the line is my lesson learned … so far.