By Tobi Asare
For so many women the salary drop that comes with maternity leave is probably the least favourite part of the whole journey. I certainly found this to be the case, although we planned ahead and made sure that we were in a good position financially before starting a family. One part I completely ignored is how I would feel about the drop in earnings.
A little bit of my background: I was born in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, Lagos, Nigeria to two incredibly hard-working parents who were qualified pharmacists. They, like many of their peers, decided to take an opportunity to progress their careers in the UK. There are many moments of this journey that I am far too young to remember, but what does remain clear is how hard they worked to provide the very best they could for my sister and I. As qualified pharmacists in Nigeria, they had to re-qualify in the UK and did so when my sister and I were very small; in fact my sister was less than eight weeks old when they sat their final exams. In essence they had to rebuild their lives from scratch with two young children. In my eyes they are living legends and have since gone on to build a portfolio of successful businesses.
So I’ve always equated money to working hard; for me, money is an important tool for the betterment of your immediate, wider family and community. Long before my journey to motherhood I did exactly that—I worked hard to establish a career I was incredibly proud of. I found it really difficult to get my head around the period of time that I was on maternity leave and not earning my regular salary. Motherhood is a crazy, beautiful rollercoaster and I certainly didn’t prepare myself for the emotional side of taking on this new role on a very different salary to my non-maternity-leave life.
I found I wasn’t alone. I had several conversations with many ambitious women who had experienced this tension between wanting to enjoy time with their new baby, their careers and their earnings. A big part of our identity was working and then being compensated for our efforts. It became very clear to me that work is very important to a sense of self and meaning, and also that many women (new mums included) value financial independence. Thinking back to my upbringing it felt strange to me that my husband was carrying the bulk of the financial responsibilities for our newly formed family, when I had seen my parents contribute together. I felt that I was letting the team down—even though I really wasn’t.
I’m incredibly passionate about women being able to excel in all walks of life and the area of finances is no exception. Naturally I became incredibly passionate about maternity pay. I started speaking to friends about the amount of maternity pay they would receive and understood that there was an incredible range of offerings. For the large majority maternity pay brings many practical and financial challenges. The more I spoke to women, the more I became obsessed with the idea of how women can thrive on this journey to motherhood. This was one of the catalysts behind setting up My Bump Pay.
To start with, many women found the whole concept of maternity pay and the way worked wrapped up in jargon and unnecessarily complex. That can be frustrating when you just want to work out how much money you will have, when you will be paid, and what you are eligible for. Policies like maternity allowance and shared parental leave are straightforward in principle but can take a while to fully understand in relation to one’s personal circumstances. Additional challenges are also presented by the big unknowns, such as the amount it even costs to have a baby, or the cost of childcare. One of the very first things I did after I found out I was pregnant was to build two spreadsheets. The first was to help me to understand how much it would cost to have a baby and the second was a maternity leave budget planner. I have made both free and available on the My Bump Pay website to give parents as much information ahead of time as possible
Once the maternity leave is over, the immense challenge of childcare costs comes. I had heard crazy stories of expensive childcare and crazy waiting lists in our area from our GP . So the following day after my 12-week scan, I called almost every nursery close to us to find out their prices and the length and price of their waiting list, as well as the size of deposit required to confirm a place. By the 16th week of pregnancy my husband and I were on a tour of our top five. I always advise anyone who is thinking about having a baby to think of all the childcare options available to them and to find out how much it will cost ahead of time including the deposit.
Now we are leaving the baby stage. My mind fast-forwards to the future often and I think about how I can set my kids up financially. How can I help them get on the property ladder? What smart decisions can I make now to give them even better opportunities than my parents afforded me? My current relationship around money is largely driven by the sacrifices my parents made, so I’m focused on being a wise steward of money for the betterment of my little ones and those around me.
Having been the first in her office location to go through the maternity process, Tobi went on a steep learning curve and became fascinated by how mums to be and mums go on to build successful careers amidst the barriers that surround working mothers.
This soon became Tobi’s passion as she was navigating this journey to help other mums and soon to be mums create a lasting and positive impact in the workplace. Giving them the tools to smash the glass ceiling with a baby on the way and beyond.