Podcast: 2018 goals update, and what to do before having kids

Sarah and I are both big goal setters. We love setting resolutions around New Year’s, and we have rather elaborate rubrics for them. This week’s podcast goes through all of them and looks at how we’re doing.

Sarah decided to set her goals in quintiles: maternity leave, the “fifth trimester,” summer, back-to-school and holidays. During maternity leave, she was flying along on various projects and reading like a mad woman. It is funny what you can do when you have full time childcare and you’re not going to work! The first three months back at work were a bit more about survival mode, but she did survive. She also did things like plan her oldest daughter’s first drop-off birthday party. She started a parenting book club (they read Naomi Schaefer Riley’s book Be the Parent, Please). Now she’s moving onto the new residents starting, and some summer travel.

As for me, I set my goals quarterly, and set a career, relationship, and self goal for each quarter. The first half of the year has been decent. I did some big stuff: launch a book, take the kids to the UK, finish my house renovation. I also ran a long race with my husband (not the half marathon, but we did a 10-miler together, which I think should count).

However — I did not do everything. Intriguingly enough, the two small goals I didn’t accomplish were completely within my control. I set a goal to write a dozen sonnets. I wrote three. Each of those three took about an hour, so I’m pretty sure I could have found another 9 hours during the first quarter. I didn’t.

I also wanted to get a new PR mile time. This sounds like it might be a more complicated goal, involving intense training, but it isn’t. I know my current best mile time (7:35) is not the best I can do. So why didn’t I just go jump on my treadmill some day, set it at 8 mph and run a mile under that? I’m not really sure. Maybe I forgot? Bit of a mystery.

(I wonder what it says that I set goals and then don’t really hold myself to them…)

Then the Q&A: we heard from a listener who doesn’t have kids yet (we are surprised how many of these listeners we have — it is awesome!). Anyway, she’s thinking about it in the future and wants to know what we wish we would have done pre-kids and in pregnancy.

We had a long discussion of this, partly because this gets at one of my least favorite genres of blog posts: lists of, say, 30 things to do before having kids. Because it implies that your life is over once you have them. Which it is not!

The only thing we really put out there is any big bucket list trips that might be more difficult with kids. Like 3 weeks in New Zealand. But since our listener traveled for work anyway, it’s unclear that she won’t be doing that after kids.

As for pregnancy: spend less time thinking about your registry and more time thinking through your childcare situation. People who think “oh, let me see how I feel after I have the baby” are setting themselves up to be stuck with whatever childcare is available after they go back to work. It might not be good, and that is setting yourself up for problems. Which sometimes might be the point — some people have trouble admitting what they want, and pinning the decision to stay home with a baby on a lack of good childcare may sound more socially acceptable. But it is not inevitable. Sarah and I both got ourselves on the lists for very good daycares shortly after learning we were pregnant with our first kids. You might ask around with friends who maybe know of a good nanny who will soon be available (because a family is moving, or kids are aging out, or whatever).

Anyway, do you have any advice for our listener? Feel free to share it — or how you’re doing on your 2018 goals — in the comments.

15 thoughts on “Podcast: 2018 goals update, and what to do before having kids

  1. I enjoyed hearing about your progress on your goals. Since my planner follows the academic year I have a natural goal check in as I transfer my 2018 goals to my new planner. I’m seeing this as a chance to update my list and set some realistic expectations for the 3 & 4 quarters.

    My advice for the Q&A listener about what we wish we’d done before kids – I recommend being out of debt and then also I wish I’d set aside $100-$200 per month as a baby supply buffer. You don’t know exactly how much stuff is going to cost (diapers etc) since for the first you get lots of gifts. I’d recommend starting to set aside at least $100 as both a buffer and a way to practice living on less since some of your income will now go towards baby stuff. Of course some expenses (eating out) might reduce to cover this increase in baby stuff but you might also have some unexpected medical costs so it’s nice to have a little baby line item built up.

  2. I’m pregnant with my first child and definitely second your suggestion to find good childcare early in your pregnancy. I’m sure it depends on where you live, but I found this to be one of the potential trickier aspects of preparing for parenthood. I’m a librarian and pretty much do research for a living, but it can be really tough to find information–I live in the largest city in NH and most daycares here do not have much of a web presence (they are too busy caring for children!). Also check if your state licenses daycares, and if so if they release reports to the public. (Most places have minor infractions, but you can see if they have the same ones year after year or if they have major issues, and this can save you the effort of contacting and visiting a place if the infractions seem like too much. I was told about one place that several people raved about, but the state report listed many infractions for several years and it was pretty expensive for our area.)

    Also ask up front if they will hold your spot with a deposit–a couple of places I contacted told me to contact them closer to the time I needed care, but that is close to when I need to be back at work–not very helpful.

    Definitely tell people you are looking, even people who don’t have young kids or grandkids–you never know who knows someone with a place they love. I found mine through word of mouth and got the last infant spot. From my friends’ experiences–if you plan to have a family member watch your child, whether for pay or for free, consider setting expectations in writing and being clear about them, such as the time you need to leave for work (consider adding a buffer) and the time you generally expect to be home.

    It also seems easier to err on the side of having good childcare set up and then to cancel it if you change your mind rather than scrambling at the end of maternity leave.

  3. Love two different but effective approaches to goals – I might adopt Sarah’s quintiles. I have spent some time this week clearing the decks of old projects and thinking about what I need to get done in July and August (prime writing time as the university is quiet).

    Work is a mix of old and new. The old: write a book proposal based on my dissertation, and finish + submit an article based on a chapter. The new: get started on two new research projects – one independent and one collaborative.

    Home involves getting the house painted (I have a painter booked for second half of July but haven’t decided on a colour, my husband is refusing to paint any more samples) and getting little one settled in at nursery. We also live in a festival city so hoping to have a bit of festival related fun.

  4. For the Q&A, I agree with all of the advice here in the comments and from Laura and Sarah. And honestly, don’t feel bad about putting yourself on the waiting list for two or three childcare centers that you would be comfortable with. I did this when I was about 10 weeks pregnant, we got into our first choice, and there were no hard feelings when I called the other centers to let them know our decision. Something my husband and I wished we had done–if your employer has an enrollment deadline for pre-tax childcare savings accounts, find out as soon as you know you’re expecting. For example, if open enrollment is November, and your baby will be born the following February, you may be paying for childcare starting in May. If you have the account set up you’ll be able to make the contributions (and draw out the funds) in the same year. This may seem obvious to everyone else, but we had no idea our first go around.

    1. @Robin- agreed that it would be totally find to put yourself on the wait list multiple places. If you get a spot at two, no worries – some other family will be happy to get that call that there’s an available place.

  5. I don’t have children, but follow the podcast precisely because learning from others is part of how I’m preparing to have a kid. Although you guys just offer a lot of practical advice for life with or without kids. Just to preface my list – I’m kinda intense when it comes to long term project planning. I focused on a lot of financial stuff because that’s what I needed to feel comfortable with before moving forward. I’ve been putting off kids years, so I’ve had a lot of time to work through these items…

    But here goes:
    – got life insurance (You’ll get cheaper rates pre-pregancy than during pregnancy, also helpful to get it before any pregnancy or birth related health issues come up. Insurers will use some temporary pregnancy specific issues like gestational diabetes against you in determining rates after birth.)
    – got disability insurance
    – evaluated whether I needed to change health insurance
    – got serious about emergency savings. We basically started setting aside the expected cost of daycare in my city. Currently up to 5 months of living expenses, and will have the 6th soon. Given that I’m not even pregnant yet, we’ll likely exceed our 6 months of savings goal, which means we can fund more of my unpaid maternity leave without eating into our emergency fund.
    – Continuously having conversations with my husband about expectations for family life. Everything from brainstorming what we needed to do to get ready for a kid (admittedly a stall tactic, since he’s been ready for a kid for years), to what we want our family culture to be like, to what kind of character traits we’d like to instill in our kid, to the concretely identifying compromises we’ll have to make to deal with foreseeable issues given our current set up.
    – Attended a FMLA training at work (easy to do unnoticed at my workplace). I cannot stress enough how useful this was, and the number of different technical issues that come up with FMLA. Interestingly, most of the people attending the training were people who had already recovered from medical issues for which they had used FMLA, but had various problems in using it. Some were trying to correct lingering issues, others just wanted validation they were right and supervisors were wrong. But really, it drove home how complex it can be!
    – Started sketching out a leave plan. I’d like to do six months of (unpaid) leave, which is doable in terms of office politics, but has to be planned for financially and logistically (which I learned in the FMLA training!).
    – Got to the point where my home felt decorated, and are tackling non-urgent house maintenance – changing light fixtures, getting blinds, having some custom made storage built, etc. This was majorly important for me.
    – Travelled more, particularly on trips with my girlfriends. I’m more worried on missing out on those trips than on trips with my husband – I know those will continue to happen in some form.
    – Identified books I wanted to read about fertility, pregnancy, parenting, etc. Read some of the pregnancy parenting books my husband kept picking up from little free libraries in the neighborhood.
    – The typical health related stuff: exercise more consistently, eat more nutritiously, getting regular acupuncture (which, OMG, I love)
    – Occasionally perusing craigslist for big ticket baby items (crib, stroller, glider, etc) that I scoop up if I can get them at a good price. We have the storage space in the basement, and if a kid never happens, I’ll sell them for a profit.
    – Having more fun with my husband (planning our weekend was a fabulous help here!)
    – Exploring hobbies – pottery classes, sewing lessons, kombucha brewing, ukulele lessons, horseback riding lessons, a women’s singing group. I’ve become a dilettante, and I love it.

    Other things I haven’t done yet but plan to do:
    – Identify childcare places to reserve spots after I’m actually pregnant
    – Get wills/advanced directives written
    – Go on an international trip with my mom (and maybe my sister)
    – Talk with my in-laws (who live locally) about how frequently they’d be interested in assisting time-wise, since that will go into my planning.
    – Consider buying a newer car
    – Research college savings options
    – More travel with my husband
    – Identify big ticket baby items to continue to source more affordably.

    1. OMG. You speak my planning love language. I LOVE THIS LIST!

      I will also add that savings were really important – we were just residents when we were TTC but I remember socking away something like $500/month that we saved for future day care. It took me so long to get pregnant (2.5 yrs) that by the time I did, we had a fund that covered essentially ALL of the day care we needed while in NC (and living on fellowship salaries). It was great not to have to feel like this was an ‘extra’ expense at that time! You really do have more disposable income while child-free – better to leverage some of it for the future!!

      1. @Alyce + SHU – agreed on the savings. I guess in my mind this pretty much went without saying – this is the way we frugal people think! Having a financial cushion is helpful for any life transition. And it’s especially true for babies, as there are some pretty foreseeable expenses (covering unpaid leave, childcare, etc.)

    2. I second the life insurance comment – that was the thing that popped into my head that I wish we’d done pre-pregnancy. We didn’t have a need for it until there was a dependent on the horizon and it would have been nice not to deal with the extra hassle on top of all the pregnancy doctor’s appointments. I was 6 months pregnant when we sorted it out and I was initially flagged for higher rates due to the increased BMI and blood cholesterol though I was eventually able to sort that out. Paying an extra year of premium would have been worth not dealing while pregnant (and may have wound up being partially offset by lower rates since we’d both have been a year younger and my husband would have been in a completely different bucket).

      On a completely different note, my bigger regret is not cherishing pregnancy more. I have similar thoughts looking back on my engagement period. I was so set on being sane and practical and not getting bridezilla-y or going overboard on pinterest nursery stuff that I didn’t really acknowledge and honor what a special time either of those were. I at least wish I’d spent a *little* more money on some nicer maternity clothes….

      1. @Jennifer- Good point on the life insurance. I’m not sure how possible it is to cherish pregnancy, though! I agree that nicer maternity clothes can help, though most of those are pretty terrible too.

  6. I’m also a reader/podcast listener with no kids (note the lack of the word ‘yet’ – I’m not sure either way at this stage) – I’ve started following both your blogs ages ago for the time management and planning aspects, and stayed for these and other interests such as running, barre, paleo and reading. I only listen to podcast episodes that sound like they’ll be relevant to me – if it’s specifically about childcare or maternity leave I don’t listen, if it’s about planning or time management then I do. I figure if it helps people with kids manage the juggle, it must help me, as I’m struggle to juggle it all even without little ones to worry about. Thought I’d share as I’m sure there may be other listeners in the same situation – for me it would be awesome if the Q&A for such episodes was also less kid-focused as then the whole episode would be relevant.

    1. @Lily- thanks for your feedback! It is good to know that a reasonable percentage of our listeners/readers are into the productivity aspects – that’s certainly something we can cover more of.

  7. I second Lily, as I’m another listener without kids. And to the list about important details to figure out in life (even those of us without kids) – yes to a disability insurance policy. I bought mine when I was in my early 30s. A family friend mentioned she had one and it ended up being a lifesafer (literally) when she was in a car accident and could no longer work full time. It’s an expensive annual premium, but I know I’m protected if something happens to me.

  8. Get term life insurance on yourself and your partner. More than you think you need. It doesn’t cost much, especially if you don’t smoke and are relatively young.

    Get a will, including figuring out who will raise your children if you and your partner both die.

    Think through FSA/HSA and dependent care account needs. You can adjust these outside the open enrollment term once you have a kid.

    It’s not fun stuff, but it’s Responsible Adult stuff.

  9. I agree with all of the advice here in the comments. I second the life insurance comment – that was the thing that popped into my head that I wish we’d done pre-pregnancy. We didn’t have a need for it until there was a dependent on the horizon and it would have been nice not to deal with the extra hassle on top of all the pregnancy doctor’s appointments. Thanks for your informative article.

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