Having a babyI’m the first to admit we were totally unprepared for the arrival of our daughter, financially anyway.

While we had necessities like clothes, diapers and a bed for her to sleep in, I actually had no idea how we were going to manage financially. I really wanted to capitalize on my full 52-week maternity leave (thanks Canada!) but was approaching it by rolling with the punches so-to-speak. I had no plan in place, and with her arrival I quickly realized how troubled we really were financially.

The Way We Were

For years we ignored our financial situation. I knew we had debt from school in various forms — from standard student loans to tuition paid on credit cards — but I didn’t know how much. We always made the minimum payments when the bills arrived, but never looked into it further.

We had a vehicle which we bought new, and I couldn’t even tell you how much we financed it for (or at what rate). I didn’t pay attention to our credit, and had no idea how to improve our credit score.

Considering how smart and well-educated my husband and I are, we were completely ignorant when it came to our finances. It wasn’t until our duo changed to a trio that a light was shed on our situation.

Changes to Our Financial Journey

One day, a few weeks into my maternity leave, I decided to capitalize on my newborn baby’s three hour morning nap (those were the days…) and face my fears. I was going to add up our debts, and figure out how much money we had coming in each month. I knew I needed to figure out how we were going to manage with me being on maternity leave, diapers to buy and eventually a new mouth to feed. The truth hit me like a freight train.

We were over $100,000 in debt.

I took one look at her sweet sleeping face, and realized I needed to change — and fast. I couldn’t be the mom I needed to be with my lackadaisical money management skills. I needed to get a grip on reality.

It was through this new responsibility of being a mom, and the shift in my role as a wife (which does change when children arrive) that I taught myself how to budget and get on track. I learned how to plan, and how to be financially responsible. I started a side hustle that brought in more cash. My daughter became the biggest thing in my life, and I didn’t want to harm her inadvertently in any way — finances included.

Changing Financial Priorities

The biggest change in my financial life hasn’t been living on a budget, finally paying off our debt, or building an emergency fund.

The biggest change in my financial life has been the shift in my priorities. Today, I feel like I know what’s really important.

I don’t need to justify why I’m not spending money on that $20 movie tomorrow night — the answer is simple. That $20 could be used for a family event creating memories, invested in my daughter’s post-secondary savings account, or for a decent meal.

My now two-year-old has taught me more about myself. She’s also helped my recognize what I’m capable of, and highlighted the life I want for myself — and more importantly, her.