It’s no secret that having a baby isn’t cheap, but some of the most frustrating bills are those that you just don’t anticipate. From pregnancy to pre-school, here’s a heads-up on what costs to expect when you’re expecting.
- The pregnancy cravings and sickness
While some pregnant women cite unusual cravings such as soil and chalk (both cheap, to be fair), most will have the urge for something available from the supermarket. Mine included smoked salmon and frozen yoghurt – very middle class – meaning frequent trips to the shop. And while you’re there you might as well throw in a magazine, some chocolate and some ginger biscuits. It all adds up. My solution? Get your husband to go – it’s win-win as he’ll only buy what’s on the list, and you get to stay on the couch.
If you’re suffering from nausea, be sure to ask your doctor for a prescription, as there are several medications that can help and are safe during pregnancy.
- Maternity clothes and essentials
It’s difficult to justify spending big money on clothes that you’ll only wear for a couple of months, but some key items can make a big difference to your pregnancy wardrobe and sense of wellbeing. In the UAE you can find well-priced pieces at Old Navy in Dubai Festival City, at H&M, and online at Next, but it’s also worth scouring Facebook groups – or posting to ask your friends – to see if someone is selling or happy to lend you theirs. You’ll also need a pregnancy pillow, especially for the last trimester, and borrowing one can be a great solution (though I love mine so much I want to sleep with it forever).
- Lost wages
Many women negotiate with their employers to extend their maternity leave beyond the statutory 45 days, but sadly this often means taking weeks or months off work, unpaid. While there is talk of the paid time being extended, until then there is little you can do. However if you have a particularly forward-thinking boss or HR department, it might be worth requesting a partial advance on future paycheques (or those leading up to the birth) so you at least have some money coming in. It’s surprisingly expensive being on maternity leave, from overpriced coffees to last-minute trips to the shops to buy another brand of baby bottle, so even a small sum coming in can make a big difference.
- Medical bills
I cannot stress this enough; check and double-check what your medical insurance covers. From limited scans with your doctor to not paying for epidurals (double ouch), every policy differs somewhat, and the last thing you need when you leave the hospital with your new baby is a nasty bill. You’ll find that bills are itemised, much like at a hotel, with everything listed such as nappies, swabs and food, so it’s definitely worth taking along baby essentials, plus snacks for you, when you deliver if you want to save money. In the long run, try to choose a clinic or paediatrician who is covered by direct billing by your insurer to save on hassle and paperwork.
- Day care
Weighing up your options in terms of returning to work, getting home help or finding the perfect nursery is easier said than done, with emotions as complicated as the bottom line. For many, home help is the most cost-effective solution, with live-in salaries currently around AED2,500, compared with nurseries weighing in at around AED 10,000 per term for part-time hours. Whatever you decide, a contingency plan is necessary, whether it’s to cover annual leave for your help, or to make sure the child has somewhere to go when the nursery is off for holidays (though some offer camps at an additional fee). Don’t just look at the face value price, as there are lots of potential add-ons, from transportation and meals for nursery to visa costs and flights for line-in help. Do your maths, ask people in a similar situation what they have been surprised by, then get the calculator out again.
Helen Farmer is founder of The Mothership, a blog that takes an honest look at living, working and parenting in the UAE, covering everything from family-friendly activities to real issues facing mums. She has been in the Middle East for 10 years, working in publishing and broadcasting, and has one daughter – and another baby on the way. The Mothership won the Time Out Dubai Kids award for Parent Blog of 2016.