Author Topic: Unpaid maternity leave + crazy grocery/medical bills + unemployed spouse-help?  (Read 24671 times)

CommonCents

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It sounds like the peas was a one-off bad result, rather than a common happenstance, so I would suggest catering to her less.  Meal rotation for the week on a daily basis is a good idea.

We only have a finite amount of money, so we have to spend it on our priorities.  Sometimes we get into a rock/hard place and need to make decisions we don't like.  Please prioritize for us the following items:
- DD's allergy treatment
- 18 weeks maternity leave (versus 9, 12, or some variant in between)
- Going into debt

Shy of DH getting a job (which it sounds like he's working on), those are your big choices.  You plan for the worst case scenario, such as not getting a job.  You can save a bit here and there on cutting out luxuries like Pandora (really?  I listen all day and put up with the ads), but ultimately you need to prioritize the above because that's the big costs.  It sounds like #3 is your least priority.  (Me, I'd choose #2 and have a 12 week maternity leave.  And I'm entitled to 6 months unpaid at my job too.  But that's why we need you to say what's most important.)

btw, the "fairness" of your husband having had time at home doesn't wash with me.  Sometimes that happens, that one parents gets more bonding time than the other.  Often it's the reverse genders.  That's life.  Be happy you got that time for your DD rather than feeling it has to be even with your new baby.

Great to work on cutting the grocery bill down.  Hopefully your husband can step it up here until after you are back on your feet.  There was a potato thread around here a while ago you might hunt up. 

athomeintheworld

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I completely respect your decision to stay home as long as possible, or whatever feels right to you. Your employer has let you work from home for the end of your pregnancy - would you be able to work from home (or do PT work from home/etc) after baby? Like maybe take 12 weeks off completely, then wks 12-18 you could work (some) at home? Then you could still be available to feed and bond with baby and could maybe help close your $ gap?

netskyblue

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Forgive me if I'm being insensitive, but why do you need 18 weeks of maternity leave?  12 weeks is the federally mandated maximum for FMLA and all most employers even offer.  Especially with your husband working only part time?  And your employer is currently allowing you to work from home.

Cassie

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As the mom of a now adult child that had asthma from the time he was 1, many allergies, illnesses, etc I would not skimp on the food bill especially since the treatments are working. People with severe allergies die from having contact with allergens & the less things she is allergic to as an adult the better.   I would also continue the treatments. Hopefully, the new baby is allergy free.

TerriM

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Forgive me if I'm being insensitive, but why do you need 18 weeks of maternity leave?  12 weeks is the federally mandated maximum for FMLA and all most employers even offer.  Especially with your husband working only part time?  And your employer is currently allowing you to work from home.

Because caring for and breastfeeding a newborn is draining.   Husband isn't the one waking up every couple of hours nursing, and even if he were to get up and bottle feed, she still has to pump at night or else suffer the wrath of clogged ducts.

Seems like he should be able to find some sort of part time work even if just temporary jobs to make it through.

Working part time from home is possible if he's around.

Just because federal law says 12weeks is good, doesn't mean it was based on any sort of sound medical data or talking to a bunch of moms.  I'm sure if corporations had their way, they'd vote for 0 weeks off so that they could minimize their own hassle.

CommonCents

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Because caring for and breastfeeding a newborn is draining.   Husband isn't the one waking up every couple of hours nursing, and even if he were to get up and bottle feed, she still has to pump at night or else suffer the wrath of clogged ducts.

Seems like he should be able to find some sort of part time work even if just temporary jobs to make it through.

Working part time from home is possible if he's around.

Just because federal law says 12weeks is good, doesn't mean it was based on any sort of sound medical data or talking to a bunch of moms.  I'm sure if corporations had their way, they'd vote for 0 weeks off so that they could minimize their own hassle.

Sure, but knowing how much this is a priority to her, I would have expected cutting of the fun money, Pandora, Netflix, etc well before the point when they can't afford to have her quit without going into debt.  I just think the advice we can offer is limited at this point, when she's on bedrest and can't adopt a lot of other strategies for cutting groceries, etc.

Spondulix

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The concern here I see is that their hair is about to be on serious fire and the latest gameplan is for the husband to go apply to three or four "cool company" jobs.

Maybe there's a control issue going on here, because it sounds like a lot of excuses protecting the spouse for doing a half-efforted employment search, while wife is digging harder and harder to plan because she can't take action herself. Sure, I understand the bed rest part of it and that there is a child that needs extra care in the meantime, but I would expect them to be acting as though their was a massive fireball under their ass TWO months ago. McDonalds is always hiring. There are night jobs where he could still help care for daughter/wife during the day. Are there no friends to come help for a few hours every afternoon if needed? Even a minimum wage job for 10 hours a week would bring in as much money as he's making on freelance - that would be doubling income at this point.

I think this situation might be more dire than they are willing to face: What happens if second child is born with serious allergies or complications and Dad still doesn't have a job? Not to stress out a pregnant woman, but its time to make him go out and get employment - even if it's slaughtering cows or driving a bus. It might be an ego thing (for both of you) to go from graphic designer to minimum wage, but this is about survival.

I'm not trying to be harsh, but just looking at the reality of the situation. You're acting like a middle class NY family with two incomes when you are about to be living on less than ONE minimum wage income - for four months. That sounds like a debt emergency in the making.

CommonCents

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I'm not trying to be harsh, but just looking at the reality of the situation. You're acting like a middle class NY family with two incomes when you are about to be living on less than ONE minimum wage income - for four months. That sounds like a debt emergency in the making.

+1

iris lily

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I'm not trying to be harsh, but just looking at the reality of the situation. You're acting like a middle class NY family with two incomes when you are about to be living on less than ONE minimum wage income - for four months. That sounds like a debt emergency in the making.

+1
and ++1. I haven't added to this thread because all I can think to do is to run around screaming "hair on Fire! Hair on fire!"

The health of daughter #1 is primary, everything else secondary until baby #2 comes along. Her allergies are extreme and web docs here can't address that. spend whatever it takes to keep her allergies in check.

I forsee a long next few years where this couple will have little time to do anything other than work to bring in income and take care of small children. Birth control should be a priority in there because another child can sink them.

daymare

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I'll echo the concerns of other posters - you and your husband appear to have been ignoring reality for quite awhile (you've admitted you might have been in denial a bit about how long it would take your husband to find a job).  It's time to really open your eyes and make some plans - you can't afford not to.

I'm glad you realize that unnecessary discretionary spending like Netflix, pandora, alcohol, and restaurants has to be gone, like, yesterday.  Enjoy requesting books/movies/TV shows from the library, or exchanging your favorite movies with friends and family to see some new things.  I don't even understand paying for Pandora - I never have, the ads aren't that bad.  And takeout (paying someone else to cook for you and bring you food) is not a luxury you can afford.

Your husband needs to be working a job, hustling, anything.  I understand that he was limiting his search to salaried positions in his field, but it is no longer smart and reasonable to do so.  Sure, he applied to Apple and Whole Foods and Trader Joes.  What about every other retail or food service position he can find?  Has he posted fliers advertising himself for SAT or other tutoring, or graphic design lessons?  Do you have any friends that could help him get some part-time or seasonal work?

You mentioned an allergy & lifestyle blog you've been neglecting, and a knitting blog.  Perhaps you (and especially your barely working husband) can put some time into the blogs.  Has your husband shared his resume with friends and ex-colleagues in his field to see if they have any suggestions?  Perhaps there are some reasons that he's barely gotten any interviews.  Does he have a great website that showcases his graphic design work?  Has he reached out to his college's alumni relations/career services to connect with other graduates in his field and look for work?

I ... am amazed you didn't cut all your extra spending 7-8 months ago when you found out you were expecting, and that your husband didn't start applying to any and every job.  At this point there isn't much you guys can do, so I wish you the best of luck in staying sane and taking care of yourselves and your daughter.

randomstring

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your apartment situation could be a hidden asset. how restrictive is your lease? can you sublet? how close are you to your family? can you move in with them for 3.5-5 months? if yes.. once your baby is born, pack up your bags and move it with your family for the summer. your husband can continue his from home freelance job, maybe your family can help out with the oldest, and you can get a nice amount of money for your apartment for the summer -- scratch that, I did not catch that your leave starts soon. but perhaps subletting could be profitable anyway, to visiting students/professors, here for semester? (interns, visiting scholars etc. all need places to live. maybe find out how cool hip companies like google source their interns' accomodations? you could easily collect 5k/month for your location.)

i would not do airbnb since it is probably not legal under your lease (and you don't want to loose your place). but sublets are usually legit!
« Last Edit: December 28, 2014, 07:57:44 PM by randomstring »

Peony

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If their apartment is rent stabilized, they cannot legally charge more than a small percentage above the lease amount (to cover the use of furniture etc.). They could not legally charge $5,000 a month. If it's not rent stabilized, that may be a different story, but still could be dicey depending on the relationship with the landlord and terms of the lease.

athomeintheworld

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Sometimes this forum is a little too negative and judgemental.  The girl is here asking for helpful opinions and advice. There is nothing good to come of making her feel worse than she already does about this situation.

Love the idea of working on the blog/etc and maybe that can be helpful for you sometime down the road.

Any updates with the husband and work ideas/considerations?

rmendpara

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Rough situation. First priority is to intelligently keep your first child and future child healthy. There are no shortcuts there; however, you may have to change your habits and start making things yourselves. No one can afford $7 for a loaf of bread. That's nuts! Where possible, homemade needs to be your friend.

I mostly agree with others. I wish you were asking this 6 months ago. Spouse needs to get a steady job and build freelance/design experience and business on the side. Once it regularly outpaces work income, then they can legitimately quit and do that full time.

Anyway, since you're asking now, it's really simple. It's a bit too late for some things, so cut back where you can, and try your best to get through the next few months. Hopefully delivery goes well and new child is healthy! That's what most important after all.

Short term, try your best to minimize the damage from lack of good planning.

Long term, I see this as more of an income problem. 1.3k is not horrible for food in an allergen free diet, and rent and other stuff really isn't that unreasonable, but your big issue is being in your 30s and 40s with barely anything saved and looking forward to the same in the future.

Do you live in a family owned home? You could easily lose your rent control and your life would be turned upside down. I'm not trying to scare you, but since you (admittedly) lived in denial for a while, it may be time to start thinking of ways to stop living on the edge. I'm sure you love your family and would do anything for them, so how about addressing the structural problems in your family's budget?

Best wishes. Hoping the new little one is doing great.

TerriM

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Hi.  A friend of mine lurking on the forums, and was suggesting that you look into moving to the Bronx.  She acknowledges that it might not be best from a commute standpoint, and you already said you have amazingly low rent, but she wanted to throw that out there.

TrMama

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Forgive me if I've misunderstood, but did you say earlier that you own a car? But that you hardly ever drive it? And have been taking cabs to your Dr appointments? If so, why not sell the car? The proceeds can be used to get you through the next few months.

I'm also super curious about this allergy/asthma cure. Can you tell us what it is? I have asthma myself and it seems to be getting worse as I get older. I'd love to be able to reverse the process.

Unique User

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The concern here I see is that their hair is about to be on serious fire and the latest gameplan is for the husband to go apply to three or four "cool company" jobs.

Maybe there's a control issue going on here, because it sounds like a lot of excuses protecting the spouse for doing a half-efforted employment search, while wife is digging harder and harder to plan because she can't take action herself. Sure, I understand the bed rest part of it and that there is a child that needs extra care in the meantime, but I would expect them to be acting as though their was a massive fireball under their ass TWO months ago. McDonalds is always hiring. There are night jobs where he could still help care for daughter/wife during the day. Are there no friends to come help for a few hours every afternoon if needed? Even a minimum wage job for 10 hours a week would bring in as much money as he's making on freelance - that would be doubling income at this point.

I think this situation might be more dire than they are willing to face: What happens if second child is born with serious allergies or complications and Dad still doesn't have a job? Not to stress out a pregnant woman, but its time to make him go out and get employment - even if it's slaughtering cows or driving a bus. It might be an ego thing (for both of you) to go from graphic designer to minimum wage, but this is about survival.

I'm not trying to be harsh, but just looking at the reality of the situation. You're acting like a middle class NY family with two incomes when you are about to be living on less than ONE minimum wage income - for four months. That sounds like a debt emergency in the making.

+1

He needs to apply for everything and anything he can.  Some other ideas since someone else mentioned working from home, there are two companies that hire independent customer service.  I know nothing about them, but you could probably google them and get some work pretty quickly - www.liveops.com and http://www.workathomeagent.com.  The best is usually the easiest though, apply for any and all jobs. 

randomstring

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If their apartment is rent stabilized, they cannot legally charge more than a small percentage above the lease amount (to cover the use of furniture etc.). They could not legally charge $5,000 a month. If it's not rent stabilized, that may be a different story, but still could be dicey depending on the relationship with the landlord and terms of the lease.

Interesting point, I did not know about sublease restrictions on rent stabilized dwellings. In this case really no point risking loosing a lease over a few k.

MrsPete

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I'd keep your daughter in the medical program -- but I'd ask if they could waive fees while you're on maternity leave.  This has great long-term value. 

I also agree with searching for real-food options instead of "fake food"; homemade bread, for example, is easy. 

I totally agree that the discretionary spending should've been gone long ago. 

I also agree that you can't afford the extra 9-weeks of maternity leave -- not when your husband is home already.  Whether you feel it's enough or not, you don't seem to have the option to take more. 

Blonde Lawyer

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Just chiming in on the allergy stuff.  I have 6 - though knock wood, not life threatening.  Two are "categories" though which actually ups the number. These are medically necessary restrictions.  I'm gluten free, dairy free ( including whey and caesin) and allergic to strawberry, red dye 40, avocado and mango. I also have Crohns and HS so I get being an autoimmune disaster.  That said, with my allergies, my grocery bill went down! I just eat non-processed foods. No cross contamination there.  I buy store brand organic meats and fish and regular veggies.  I don't eat desserts and rarely snack.  When I do its usually chips and a homemade bean dip.  This is gestational diabetes friendly too.  Today's dinner was salmon and asparagus.  Yesterday was ground hamburger and a seasonal vegetable medley stir fry (sweet potato, squash) and apples.  Tomorrow might be pork chop and string bean. Lunch is trickier and I do some canned stuff.  I eat tuna and pickles and chips or a can of organic soup. There are allergy free MREs at Rite Aid that are under $4 each. My fave is a chicken gumbo one but I can't say if it is allergy free for her. Sometimes I microwave a couple of sausages.

You don't need bread. You don't need milk or fake cheese. The Bold Pizza or Ian's chicken nuggets are special occasion only. If you stick with real foods, there are tons of things she can safely eat. 

You might enjoy the book Epidemic of Absence about allergies and autoimmune conditions. The author treated himself with whip worms. It is an interesting read.  ETA: also check out "clean" by Dr. Junger. It is an elimination diet but gives lots of safe meal ideas. 
« Last Edit: December 29, 2014, 08:44:16 PM by Blonde Lawyer »

blake201

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Hi everyone,

Sorry I haven't responded lately—my daughter and I both got horribly sick for over a week with a nasty cold and we're just now recovering. Thanks for the continued ideas!

I do worry that it seems some of the most recent responses are a bit harsh/judgmental about us. I was definitely asking for advice, critique, ideas, etc, to try to achieve my goals here and I'm not easily offended. BUT I don't see why so many people think wanting 18 weeks at home with a newborn is so crazy—maybe it's not typical in the United States, but the United States has the worst maternity leave in the developed world. Breastfeeding and being at home and bonding with baby is really, really important to me, and I'm asking for ideas on how to achieve that rather modest goal, not slice it down. If someone in this forum was asking for ideas on how to retire early to spend more time with their kids--would everyone suggest early retirement is silly and they should just keep working?

Every baby and mom is different, but my daughter was still nursing around the clock every 1 1/2 to 2 hours (which is totally normal for a nursing baby) when I returned to work after 11 weeks with her last time...  I could barely function at work. Time with a newborn is more precious to me than delaying our other financial goals by a few months, and I would hate to go into debt, but I know we'd be able to pay it off quickly if we had to, we've done it before with our loans and such. 

Someone asked what the priorities were between daughter's medical treatment, 18 weeks of maternity leave and going into debt. I'm not going to choose between the maternity leave or daughter's medical treatment—kids come first. Look, if we HAVE to go into debt temporarily, we will -- even if somehow husband did not find more income by the time the unpaid portion of my leave starts (which I doubt--he is bound to find SOMETHING in the next few months), we might rack up $3,000-$4,000 in debt at most over those unpaid 9 weeks. Which totally sucks, but we could pay it back in less than a year if we had to, and in the end we will have maybe delayed saving as much for retirement as we'd like, but we'd be OK.

Obviously we need to do something to make things better and we have been a bit in denial and made some mistakes here... but—I'm not sure how "on fire" our hair really is here at the moment. I'm more trying to prevent our hair from catching fire and seeing what we can do to fix things. As I mentioned a few times—we have low rent, NO credit card or student loan debt (we used to have over $50,000 in debt about 5 years ago and finished paying it off last year before trying for a second baby), no car, and a decent (if not amazing) chunk saved for retirement. Aside from our high grocery and medical bills, we spend very little and are finding ways to spend less. (And we are HEAVY users of the library, the great outdoors and other free entertainment).

I think someone else implied that we are somehow not using birth control carefully--that's definitely not what happened here. Both kids were fully planned and decided on, and we spaced them out by four years for financial reasons (we waited til all our debts were paid off older kid was in free public school before trying for younger) ... it was just that the unexpected medical bills and higher grocery bill hit right AFTER I got the good news on my very planned second pregnancy.

Someone else mentioned they thought husband looking at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, etc. was a bit fancy or whatnot—he didn't apply there because of name brands, but more because those places pay better by the hour than many other retail jobs around here.

And as for a general update — we did get the December grocery bill bumped down from last month's by nearly $200 by being a bit more careful to avoid convenience allergy-free foods. Husband has a few job leads though no offers yet (Trader Joe's wasn't hiring unfortunately either) and is still looking (last week was rather a dead week due to the holidays). He also brought in more freelance income in December than previous months—$1,100 instead of $400, which isn't amazing but still an improvement.

Anyway, will update on how things are going when I can — I'm 37 weeks along now, so might not post much for a bit when baby arrives.

blake201

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You don't need bread. You don't need milk or fake cheese. The Bold Pizza or Ian's chicken nuggets are special occasion only. If you stick with real foods, there are tons of things she can safely eat. 


It's true that no one needs chicken nuggets or the like...  though I do think whole grain bread is pretty essential in our house. We don't have to avoid gluten or wheat, so it is actually very cheap to make when we have the energy/time -- the reason we can't buy regular inexpensive commercial bread is because of her sesame seed allergy.

But the principle is sound—the less processed the item, and the more whole foods based, the cheaper (at least for fruits, veggies and meats--though as I mentioned even canned or dried beans we have to buy from the one safe supply source, etc).

merula

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Thanks for the update and I'm glad to hear things are looking up. I was one of the people who asked if cutting down the maternity leave was a viable option, because I did just that. I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't think wanting 18 or 36 or 52 weeks home with newborn is crazy, only that it isn't always possible or affordable.

I think there was a lot of sense in the post that asked you to rank your priorities of your daughter's treatment, long maternity leave and avoiding debt. I'm glad you have an answer and are committed to your priorities. You sound like you'll do fine. If you're feeling judged harshly, just try to remember that you asked a forum dedicated to avoiding debt.

CommonCents

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Thanks for the update and I'm glad to hear things are looking up. I was one of the people who asked if cutting down the maternity leave was a viable option, because I did just that. I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't think wanting 18 or 36 or 52 weeks home with newborn is crazy, only that it isn't always possible or affordable.

I think there was a lot of sense in the post that asked you to rank your priorities of your daughter's treatment, long maternity leave and avoiding debt. I'm glad you have an answer and are committed to your priorities. You sound like you'll do fine. If you're feeling judged harshly, just try to remember that you asked a forum dedicated to avoiding debt.

I agree - a lot of people don't disagree that more time home with a newborn is better, only as Merula puts it, that it isn't always possible or affordable.  Sometimes you lose your job, or you go into massive debt to do so.  That's why I asked about your priorities, because I was seeing that the time for small cuts to have a significant impact was a while ago (the latte factor).  I'm reminded of the sign that basically said: "Service. Quality. Cost.  Pick any two of the three."  I think you can accomplish two of the three priorities I listed.  Debt is ok to you, when going into debt for a longer than 12 week maternity leave wouldn't be ok to me.  But we're working with your priorities, not mine.

Additional idea: Have your husband look into a short term job doing tax prep.

Spondulix

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You know what... I somehow missed that part of this is paid leave (9 weeks paid, 9 weeks unpaid). I could not figure out why my response was coming across as so harsh, but I seriously thought you were putting yourself in the hole $3k a month and trying to justify taking off an additional 2 months like that! That would have been a $10k-15k debt hole for 18 weeks off. It totally explains why you guys aren't acting like your hair is on fire - you've got a couple months before that regular income goes away.

Do you have to let your work know now about the extra 9 weeks? Do you have the option of waiting 6 weeks (just to see if your spouse finds a job, better assess your spending cutbacks, etc)?

blake201

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You know what... I somehow missed that part of this is paid leave (9 weeks paid, 9 weeks unpaid). I could not figure out why my response was coming across as so harsh, but I seriously thought you were putting yourself in the hole $3k a month and trying to justify taking off an additional 2 months like that! That would have been a $10k-15k debt hole for 18 weeks off. It totally explains why you guys aren't acting like your hair is on fire - you've got a couple months before that regular income goes away.

Do you have to let your work know now about the extra 9 weeks? Do you have the option of waiting 6 weeks (just to see if your spouse finds a job, better assess your spending cutbacks, etc)?

Yes, that's why I'm panicking but not PANICKING yet -- I would definitely not be acting so blasé about a $10K-$15K debt. (Not that I'm feeling blase about my current worst-case scenario of $3K-$4K debt, but I feel like we will somehow be able to avoid that, and hopefully not go into debt at all).

My paid maternity leave runs until mid-March. And it's definitely flexible—my work would be thrilled to have me back earlier if we couldn't figure something else out... or if somehow things dramatically improved for us financially (husband landing great paying job) I would even be allowed to request an extension of the maternity leave for another 8 weeks unpaid. So there's time... just not much time... to fix this. :)

blake201

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Thanks for the update and I'm glad to hear things are looking up. I was one of the people who asked if cutting down the maternity leave was a viable option, because I did just that. I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't think wanting 18 or 36 or 52 weeks home with newborn is crazy, only that it isn't always possible or affordable.

I think there was a lot of sense in the post that asked you to rank your priorities of your daughter's treatment, long maternity leave and avoiding debt. I'm glad you have an answer and are committed to your priorities. You sound like you'll do fine. If you're feeling judged harshly, just try to remember that you asked a forum dedicated to avoiding debt.

Fair enough! :) And it's not that I am not also dedicated to avoiding debt ... I mean, we just finished paying off $50,000 in student loan debt last year and hoped to never be in the hole for even a penny again. My hope is that we can get through that gap without doing so at all... and the ideas I'm getting here from all of your are definitely a big help.   

Daisy

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I skimmed through this topic and what stood out for me was the allergy treatments for eczema. Sorry to intrude, but as a lifelong eczema sufferer I ended up going the holistic route and am pretty much clear of it now. I am not sure if you mentioned what treatment you were going through earlier in the thread or if it was working. If you are interested in my experience, please PM me and I can give you more information. I know it's frustrating when everyone starts to give out medical advice, especially online. It wasn't until my 30s until I found this after many years of frustrating "experimental" treatments.

One trick I found to avoiding bread was to start eating rice crackers or rice thins. Personally, I like the thin cakes better. I slather on some type of nut butter or hummus on it and I like it much better than regular store bought bread now. They also sell thin crackers made from corn & quinoa, among other things. Check it out in the rice cakes section of Whole Foods. I have never made the price comparison with bread. I think a pack costs in the $3 range, which is probably comparable to bread. I always like what I put on the bread, rather than the bread, anyways. That was a good tip someone gave me.

shellyrr

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Because you are pregnant the income requirements for Medicare/Medicaid and food stamps is substantially higher.  I would also look into chipotle seriously for husband.  My co-workers says the health insurance alone is crazy good and your daughter could get a lot of allergy free food there.  Some friends of mine adopted a baby from Korea and he is super allergic to everything made of Apple's wheat  and he can only eat out at chipotle.

blake201

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I skimmed through this topic and what stood out for me was the allergy treatments for eczema. Sorry to intrude, but as a lifelong eczema sufferer I ended up going the holistic route and am pretty much clear of it now. I am not sure if you mentioned what treatment you were going through earlier in the thread or if it was working. If you are interested in my experience, please PM me and I can give you more information. I know it's frustrating when everyone starts to give out medical advice, especially online. It wasn't until my 30s until I found this after many years of frustrating "experimental" treatments.

One trick I found to avoiding bread was to start eating rice crackers or rice thins. Personally, I like the thin cakes better. I slather on some type of nut butter or hummus on it and I like it much better than regular store bought bread now. They also sell thin crackers made from corn & quinoa, among other things. Check it out in the rice cakes section of Whole Foods. I have never made the price comparison with bread. I think a pack costs in the $3 range, which is probably comparable to bread. I always like what I put on the bread, rather than the bread, anyways. That was a good tip someone gave me.

Hi Daisy--the experimental treatment program she is in through doctors at the Mount Sinai hospital in NYC is mainly for her severe multiple food allergies and asthma, though it is also helping her eczema a lot. It has been highly effective for her so far. It is actually considered to be a possible cure, and she no longer needs all the strong steroid creams and daily wet wraps for her eczema and has been able to step down significantly from her steroid treatments for asthma and her lung function is way up and number of asthma attacks is almost none now ... she may not need the asthma meds at all within a year. As for the food allergies, she just passed a baked milk challenge where she was able to eat a tiny bit of milk baked into a muffin—a challenge she had failed previously—though we will have more proof if she starts to outgrow other allergies (milk is often outgrown naturally, whereas nut and seed allergies are not).

The treatments have all been through double-blind placebo-controlled trials for safety and early efficacy trials... alas, she does not qualify for the free trials running now because she isn't old enough, which is why we are paying out of pocket.

She is severely allergic to sesame, which puts most rice crackers or cakes in the danger cross contamination zone — there are some safe rice breads or rice crackers out there, but they cost a lot more than her safe brand of wheat bread.

blake201

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Because you are pregnant the income requirements for Medicare/Medicaid and food stamps is substantially higher.  I would also look into chipotle seriously for husband.  My co-workers says the health insurance alone is crazy good and your daughter could get a lot of allergy free food there.  Some friends of mine adopted a baby from Korea and he is super allergic to everything made of Apple's wheat  and he can only eat out at chipotle.

Will definitely look at that, there are several Chipotles in my area. We don't need Medicare/Medicaid (I have great health insurance through work, it just doesn't cover kid's monthly allergy/asthma medical treatment because it is still experimental and still in clinical trials) ... but when I looked at food stamps even though pregnant our resources (money saved for retirement) disqualifies us. I do qualify for WIC while on leave, though, which was a great idea from another poster here. And I found a few food pantries in my area I will be looking at too if necessary. 

Alas, while Chipotle is truly amazing for people with allergies and WOULD be our only safe restaurant for my kid, she's allergic to cumin seed, which is in most Chipotle items. If the food allergy treatment keeps working, I am hoping she will pass a cumin challenge next year.

Right now she's allergic to sesame, dairy, eggs, tree nuts (except almonds), peanuts, green peas, cumin, poppy, canola and mustard. (These are all based on actual reactions she had that were later confirmed by testing, and not just by testing alone). She has passed challenges to almonds, coconut and shrimp and to small amounts of highly baked milk.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2014, 03:46:34 PM by blake201 »

MrsPete

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BUT I don't see why so many people think wanting 18 weeks at home with a newborn is so crazy—maybe it's not typical in the United States, but the United States has the worst maternity leave in the developed world.
Wanting to stay home 18 weeks isn't crazy at all; wanting something and being able to afford it aren't the same thing. 

Maybe the US is wrong, but keep in mind that in all those "better" countries, you'd pay taxes towards other people's maternity leaves . . . for your entire life.  I took two lengthy maternity leaves, and I saved for each one beforehand -- but now that they're done, I'm not paying for other people's leaves. 

MrsPete

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Debt is ok to you, when going into debt for a longer than 12 week maternity leave wouldn't be ok to me.  But we're working with your priorities, not mine.

Additional idea: Have your husband look into a short term job doing tax prep.
Yes, well said.  Given that the husband is already home, my priority would be bringing in some income after Week 9, but it is up to the OP to make that call.  We can point out options, prompt new thought processes, but in the end, only she and her husband can make the decision.

Tax prep is a good idea -- tax season will be upon us shortly, and it's almost criminally easy to become qualified to do computer-based taxes at places like Walmart. 

Blonde Lawyer

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I can't figure out how to quote just a section.  OP - do you keep your health insurance while on maternity leave? Even when you are on unpaid maternity leave? At most jobs, once you go into unpaid status you have to pay your employer's portion of your health care.  Just something to consider if you haven't already looked into that. 

gaja

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Has your husband looked at the stock photo market himself? I know many artists dislike selling their art cheaply, but it can produce an extra income. I'm only earning a couple of hundred a month, but then I'm no artist. Maybe he has some sketches or stuff that is not 100% perfect that he could test?

freya

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My sympathies to you regarding your daughter's health problems.  Chronic conditions like this are so painful to manage - my sister has two children with genetic syndromes so I know how bad it can get.  It sounds like you've been managing that very well.  I agree that you should definitely talk to that allergy treatment program about getting at least a temporary break on payments.  They may have a sliding scale system based on income, for example.

However, don't take this the wrong way, but I was really struck by what is coming across as your husband not pulling his weight.  It sounds like you're the only one doing all the worrying and planning, but it took a family conference to get him to give up the beer.  I suggest you show him this post and then read him the riot act.  He needs to do everything suggested so far and more...like, why isn't he waiting tables, putting signs up advertising tutoring or guitar lessons or whatever, or for heaven's sakes, begging in the subways if that's what it takes?  Why isn't he volunteering to bake bread and crackers and make sunflower butter at night?  Why isn't he the one looking into financial assistance programs? 

This problem is far more serious than a temporary cash shortage:  it could be that the prolonged gap in employment history is a big factor in his not getting a job offer, and this is only going to get worse.   I know a couple of people who were in this situation, and both were nursing relatively unproductive side businesses similar to your husbands'.  Both husbands ended up becoming "Mr. Mom" and never worked again, so I guess it worked out for them.  Would this outcome be OK with you, though?

Unique User

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putting signs up advertising tutoring

This seems like a great idea.  Ads on Craiglist and even Facebook if you do that also.  My sister's kids used to attend a fancy-schmancy private school in Manhattan (like 40k per kid per year) and she said it seemed like all the kids had tutors except hers.  SAT/ACT tutoring could be a good deal as well, I thought about doing that once we quit the full time work. 
« Last Edit: December 31, 2014, 01:18:23 PM by Unique User »

Blonde Lawyer

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OP - I wanted to come back and clarify one of my posts.  When I said you don't "need" certain foods, I wasn't trying to be judgmental in the spending money sense.  Obviously that is the point of questions here and this blog so I'm sure that is how my post read.  What I was actually trying to say is that in the health and nutrition sense, I was shocked that I didn't "need" some of the foods I grew up believing were staples.  I thought you HAD to eat refined carbs.  I was an athlete so every meet was after a big spaghetti dinner with bread, etc.  It was very eye opening to see that I could be healthy, if not healthier, not eating that stuff.  When I found out I had food issues, I went immediately to substitutes instead of elimination.  Took me awhile to figure out I didn't need (health and nutrition wise) the substitutes.  I hope that makes sense!  I was shocked the first time I ate a meal of meat and veggies with no starch but was still full and satisfied after.  I know the starches aren't your family's issue but the dairy is and for the other allergies the situations are probably comparable.

Daisy

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OP - I wanted to come back and clarify one of my posts.  When I said you don't "need" certain foods, I wasn't trying to be judgmental in the spending money sense.  Obviously that is the point of questions here and this blog so I'm sure that is how my post read.  What I was actually trying to say is that in the health and nutrition sense, I was shocked that I didn't "need" some of the foods I grew up believing were staples.  I thought you HAD to eat refined carbs.  I was an athlete so every meet was after a big spaghetti dinner with bread, etc.  It was very eye opening to see that I could be healthy, if not healthier, not eating that stuff.  When I found out I had food issues, I went immediately to substitutes instead of elimination.  Took me awhile to figure out I didn't need (health and nutrition wise) the substitutes.  I hope that makes sense!  I was shocked the first time I ate a meal of meat and veggies with no starch but was still full and satisfied after.  I know the starches aren't your family's issue but the dairy is and for the other allergies the situations are probably comparable.

I agree. I've had to cut some things out of my diet, and sometimes it was things I never really liked anyways.

I remember going to dermatologists when I was a child with my eczema and they would try to get me to eat "fake" chocolate bars made of carob. They were disgusting. I wouldn't eat them. I wish I had found just something else to eat. Funnily, chocolate wasn't my issue, but that's another topic...

My mom has issues with lactose, so she buys this disgusting lactose free milk. OK, maybe only me finds it disgusting. But that's such a heavily processed product I can't see how that can be so healthy. I told her to try almond or soy milk, but she wants nothing to do with it. My father decided to take my advice on almond milk and realized his lifelong diarrhea ended. He happily announced this to me. We do have weird conversations, but that's another topic...

Recently, I realized I never really liked pasta. It's just a big blob of stuff that absorbs certain sauces well. So I found spaghetti squash, which has good texture and could be argued to be healthier. It absorbs sauces well too.

I had a conversation with an old friend recently and he was telling me how he carbo-loads with pasta before big bike rides. I told him I didn't eat pasta and he was flabbergasted and started telling me how healthy it would be to eat it pre-workout. Now, the topic of conversation right before this was him commenting on how nicely I was aging. I do look a bit younger than my age (part genetics, part healthy habits - I think). So then I told reminded him that maybe he shouldn't critique my eating habits too much after just telling me I must be doing something right. He then agreed. This was all said with some humor back and forth.

Oh well, not sure where this is going, but wanted to chime in to think outside of the box. Instead of buying "replacement" products, find ways to eat other things. Easier said than done with a child, I know. I'm not sure if any of these things are actually cheaper though, so not sure if I've been of help.

I would reiterate my previous suggestion to consult a holistic practitioner. They seem to be more nutrition oriented and have been a huge life changer for me and my eczema.

blake201

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My sympathies to you regarding your daughter's health problems.  Chronic conditions like this are so painful to manage - my sister has two children with genetic syndromes so I know how bad it can get.  It sounds like you've been managing that very well.  I agree that you should definitely talk to that allergy treatment program about getting at least a temporary break on payments.  They may have a sliding scale system based on income, for example.

However, don't take this the wrong way, but I was really struck by what is coming across as your husband not pulling his weight.  It sounds like you're the only one doing all the worrying and planning, but it took a family conference to get him to give up the beer.  I suggest you show him this post and then read him the riot act.  He needs to do everything suggested so far and more...like, why isn't he waiting tables, putting signs up advertising tutoring or guitar lessons or whatever, or for heaven's sakes, begging in the subways if that's what it takes?  Why isn't he volunteering to bake bread and crackers and make sunflower butter at night?  Why isn't he the one looking into financial assistance programs? 

This problem is far more serious than a temporary cash shortage:  it could be that the prolonged gap in employment history is a big factor in his not getting a job offer, and this is only going to get worse.   I know a couple of people who were in this situation, and both were nursing relatively unproductive side businesses similar to your husbands'.  Both husbands ended up becoming "Mr. Mom" and never worked again, so I guess it worked out for them.  Would this outcome be OK with you, though?

Not taking it the wrong way! First, just to clarify that husband has not been lazing around here — he was a stay-at-home dad for about two years, doing 90% of household chores and caring for our daughter during the day from when she was 3 months old til she was 2 (until we finally found a daycare program that could handle her allergies). Since then he has been trying to either build his freelance business or find a good full-time job, neither of which has panned out. So he stayed at home with the kiddo again this summer, and started job-hunting in earnest only in September when she was in free public pre-K.

Right now with me on partial bedrest... he does ALL household chores (all dishes, all laundry, all the cooking and grocery shopping, all cleaning), as well as picking up daughter from public school at 3 each day and trying to freelance and job-hunt AND taking care of me and the kiddo. Lazy is not the word here.

BUT I think he would freely admit he is super shy and not great at networking or career-building or job-hunting... I have always had good steady fulfilling jobs with benefits and decent pay, whereas he has mostly had low-paying temp jobs of various kinds.

But I think part of the challenge here is while that certainly put him on a "Mr. Mom" type track (and this has definitely affected his ability to find jobs), and he is wonderful with kids, he doesn't really WANT to be a stay-at-home dad forever, so he was focusing his job search on jobs that would actually pay enough for him to not be.

That's why he wasn't really looking much at lower-paying jobs that would just bring in income, because none of those would pay enough to put the baby in daycare once I go back to work. The CHEAPEST daycare or nanny share arrangements in our neighborhood are $10-$12/hour, so if he gets something with take-home pay less than that that doesn't actually help his resume, it's not really worth it.

So any lower-paying jobs would just be a temporary income boost while I'm on maternity leave—once my leave is over, he would still have to quit a low-paying job and stay at home with baby til he finds a decent-paying job.

blake201

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OK, two little updates (both positive):

  • I MAY be able to get a temporary break or discount on daughter's medical treatments during the unpaid portion of my leave. I just have to speak to the doctor again to see what that will actually entail.
  • It is not 100% certain til approved by HR, but my boss told me yesterday she put in for a merit pay increase for me linked to my performance review because I took on a lot of huge new projects at work this year that were out of my current job description and very successful... if it goes through (which I will find out next week) it will amount to $5,000 additional or so in income each year, effective in January. Which I think is at least a few hundred extra in take-home pay each month.

Also, I did a little math to see what possible scenarios are here, which is making me slightly calmer:

  • Scenario 1 (worst case): Husband doesn't find any work at all (which seems really unlikely to me) by March when unpaid leave starts, and we only slightly reduce the grocery bill. At our current rate of savings, that puts us in $3,000 of debt.
  • Scenario 2 (middle case): Husband finds low-paying or temp job bringing in $1,200-$1,600 or so takehome pay per month before I go on leave, and we reduce grocery bill by at least a few hundred dollars per month. That would probably mean $0 in debt during unpaid part of my leave, and maybe even a little savings. He quits job when I go back to work to be stay-at-home dad, hopefully just temporarily.
  • Scenario 3 (best case): Husband finds good job with more than $2,000 in takehome pay per month, and we reduce expenses to boot. We continue to save money and can begin socking away for retirement again and new baby will start daycare when I go back to work after 18 weeks.

marty998

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Congrats on the (potential) pay increase. Will certainly be very helpful and timely for you.

Please don't take the responses to heart. If some of us were in charge no one in the world would be allowed to have kids until their financial shit was perfectly in order.

The human race would naturally grind to a cliff-diving halt...

athomeintheworld

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Congrats - hoping for the best on everything you updated about. Keep us posted.

freya

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Good on you for raise, and here's hoping for reduced payments for that allergy program...

There is nothing wrong with the stay at home Dad scenario as long as you are both happy with it.  In which case, temp job during your leave and working from home sounds like the best option.   The latter particularly, because I'm afraid by now that his chances of getting a solid job offer are slim.  What about tutoring, which can be done from home?  And have you checked out tutor.com?  It won't pay as well as a free lance arrangement but it's all done over the computer, and he can tutor in the evenings or other time that's convenient.

As regards networking...maybe your husband can look for Meetup groups to make that easier.

Spending reduction will be important too, and the food bill is the obvious place.  Making as much as you can from scratch will be key, those special little jars of this and that are what's killing you.  It's not that difficult to make nut butters and milks, bread, and eggless pasta.  You might look for an old copy of Laurel's Kitchen, which has instructions for things you might never think to make from scratch, plus some nice simple recipes for good, kid-safe foods without dairy & eggs.  And you need to look into joining Costco for nonfood items as well as things like organic meats and maybe a few other items that are "safe".  You would be shocked at how much less it is than what you're probably paying.  The car service will run you $12 but probably still worth it if you make, say, one big trip per month.



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Hope you were able to get some help/discount on the allergy treatments for your daughter, though I would say do not cut those out if they are helping! Lots of foods can be made at home as others have pointed out, by you or husband if you use a good crock pot. Easy & frugal dinners would be a meat and a side vegetable - very simple and healthy.

Did you decide what to do about maternity? My job provided no paid leave and I took 16 weeks (some my own accrued leave), so any paid leave sounds awesome. I would have loved to do 6 months but it wasn't affordable  - bills and retirement contributions - so I hope you find a way to take the leave without debt by cutting now and saving! Maybe the baby will be a little late lol and you have a little more time to save... :)

sassy1234

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Give cloth diapers a try. I never thought that I would use them, I opened my mind, and now I love them.  Cloth diaper babies smell so much better too! 

goodlife

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Again, not a parent, but has anyone here ever tried letting their kid...not eat for one meal if they don't want oatmeal two days in a row? And then she'll be hungry at some point and will HAVE to eat whatever is in front of her (within her allergen guidelines of course) at the next meal. Or maybe doing oatmeal first week of the month, waffles the second week, etc?


When I grew up and my sister and I didn't like the food that was placed in front of us....we were allowed to not eat and go to our rooms...we were not allowed to eat something else instead. That wasn't that long ago, I am 30 and my sister is 28. We did that on occasion when we really didn't like something...didn't do us any harm to skip a meal once in a while. And if we were really hungry...we would eat it eventually later on, lol. My sister wanted to be a vegetarian at some point and asked if my parents can cook sth else for her that's vegetarian if we are having meat/fish. I still remember the laughter that this suggestion elicited. She was then allowed to cook her own food...provided she bought the ingredients from her allowance money...which we didn't get very much of. I think her vegetarianism lasted less than a month.

blake201

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Just wanted to throw in an update for those of you who gave advice and thoughts on this thread (thank you!)

I had my baby at the end of January (an awesome little guy, now almost 6 months old), and everything all worked out amazingly after all.

I got 19 weeks of leave with him in total (10 of them paid), and even though my husband never found a job (he's a stay at home dad now and actually loving it for the moment) we cut our expenses, sold LOTS of old things from around the house on eBay and Amazon (bringing in over $700) and signed up for a rewards credit card with bonus points (which we pay in full each month and got a $650 bonus) so we never went into any debt.

The biggest cuts we were able to make were to the grocery bill—we cut it by about $400 each month by cooking more from scratch (mostly husband's doing as I was too busy with the baby)... we got a bread machine as a gift which enabled us to make lots of allergy-free bread to keep our daughter happy with her Sunbutter sandwiches. We were also able to negotiate a discount on our daughter's medications.

I'm back at work now and the first month was super rough but things are going well and I just got a nice little merit raise.

AND it has actually turned out to be a good thing that husband has been unable to find work—we are now in the running for an income-restricted affordable housing 3-bedroom apartment. If all works out, we will be able to BUY a 3-bedroom apartment in NYC for $50,000 that on the open market would be worth maybe $750,000. If husband had a good job, we would not qualify, but still wouldn't have enough money to buy a market-rate apartment of that size for our little family of four.

So... I suppose that panic served to get us in better financial shape. :)