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In August 2018, my world turned upside down in the best possible way. My husband and I welcomed our first (and likely only) child into our lives.
I was two days past my due date, but yet a part of me didn’t really grasp that I was about to have a baby – and certainly not what it would mean. I remember I had a to-do list for that day:
- Go to the supermarket for ice cream and laundry detergent
- Finish an article
- Visit Gram
Needless to say, none of that happened. I didn’t finish that article for 12 days, I didn’t see my grandmother for several weeks, and I never got that detergent. Instead, we headed to the hospital at 5 a.m. and were holding our son by 1 p.m.
Every parent knows what I’m talking about when I say nothing has ever been the same. Our lives have gotten more chaotic than I could have imagined, but at the same time, the wonder and joy are unparalleled.
The way I think about a lot of things (healthy meals, sleep, screen time, showering) have changed. My relationship with time and money have changed, too.
My feelings about money are kind of complicated. I’m not ashamed to say I love earning money and the freedom it provides. But I’m no longer willing or able to allocate my time the way I used to. Becoming a parent has changed my money mindset.
Here’s what I mean.
Time Has Become My Most Valuable Resource
Technically, time is everyone’s most valuable resource. But when you have lots of it, you don’t tend to think of it that way.
Before I was a mama, I worked Monday to Friday, 8 to 4, at a university research unit. After work, I had tons of free time.
One evening a week, I’d work a shift at a part-time job. The others, I’d walk my dog, cook dinner, and often spend a couple of hours on my side hustle. I wrote content for blogs and websites just like this one, earning a nice side income if I do say so myself.
I could basically work as much as I wanted. I could stay up late to meet a deadline or take an extra assignment and work on Saturday. And I often did. I loved making extra money, I enjoyed the work, and I had the time to spare, so why not?
But once I had my son, that all changed.
I was blessed to be able to take some time away from work after he was born, but once I resumed my routine, well…as anyone with kids can probably guess, it wasn’t the same routine. Not even close.
Now when I get home from work at 5 p.m., the last thing I want to do is more work. There’s an adorable blonde cherub waiting to give me hugs, and there’s literally nothing in the world I’d rather do.
I also have to make sure that cherub eats a healthy dinner, gets a bath, brushes his teeth, has two stories, and gets his daily dose of snuggles before bed.
I used to gladly trade my time for money, but now I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
And yet…when I look at his sweet, mischievous little face (he‘s not always a cherub), I know I want to give him an incredible life full of opportunities. While I truly believe that some of the most valuable gifts we can give our kids are free, I also know that many enriching experiences cost money. A lot of it.
Which brings me to my next point.
Saving Up Money is Even More Essential
Saving money has been important to me for a long time. For years, I’ve treated my savings goals as expenses, automating them just like bill payments. That has allowed my husband and I to build a cushy emergency fund and save for some big purchases.
But when our kiddo came into the picture, our savings goals changed – and so did our cash flow.
For one thing, we knew we wanted to start saving for his post-secondary education early so compound interest would have time to work its magic. That’s why I opened his education savings plan when he was just nine weeks old. We set up an automatic biweekly transfer into that account. Check! Parenting gold star for us.
But I also wanted to make sure we started saving for some of those experiences we wanted to give him…like music lessons and travel.
The reality, though, is that we spend almost $1,000 a month on childcare, an expense we obviously didn’t have before our bambino came along. That limits the amount we have available for savings outside of our retirement accounts.
So, it seems I’m faced with competing ideals. Part of me wants to jealously guard the time I have with my family, while part of me wants to find time to earn more money for them.
But what if the two don’t have to be at odds?
I Try to Work Smarter, Not Longer
Conversations about time and money always come around to the fact that trading time for dollars isn’t the most efficient way to make money.
As I know all too well, time is a finite resource. When it’s directly proportional to your income, there will always be a ceiling on how much you can earn. My work-from-home side hustle allows me to capitalize on any bit of free time I get – I can write anytime, anywhere.
But there are only so many hours in a day, and even the most productive person is limited by that.
I know if I want to stop relying on trading my precious time for money, I need to find ways to work smarter; that is, develop residual income streams so I don’t feel compelled to work every minute my kid sleeps (I need sleep, too).
Technically, I already generate some passive income. My investments earn money while I sleep, and that’s fantastic. But I’ll be honest: those accounts aren’t as large as I’d like them to be.
To that end, I’ve developed a strategy:
- Freelance several hours a week, mostly when my son is sleeping, but maybe for a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday mornings
- Channel at least half that extra money into passive income-generating vehicles
- Give myself permission to spend the rest of my time with the people most important to me
For my income-generating vehicles, I’m currently focusing on a tax-sheltered growth portfolio of exchange-traded funds. But more and more, I’ve also been considering purchasing a rental property.
Why Being a Landlord Intrigues Me
I view rental property as a smart long-term investment. In the initial years, the tenants pay the mortgage. Later, when the house is paid off, the rent is income. Later again, you (hopefully!) sell the house for more than you paid for it. To me, that’s a win-win-win.
Obviously, I’m simplifying things. Buying a home is a big financial undertaking and being a landlord is a lot of work. My friends have horror stories to prove it. And I admit, part of my enthusiasm might be related to recently reading The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner by David Bach. I still need to consider whether it’s really the best move for my family.
Becoming a parent has changed just about every aspect of my life, including my money mindset.
I’m still committed to earning and saving more, but I’m no longer willing to trade the majority of my time in pursuit of that goal. More than anything, I want to give my son the time and attention he deserves – and that means managing my time with my true priorities in mind.
The other side of the coin is that I desperately want to give my boy the best life I can. To do that, I need to build up my existing passive income streams and maybe even develop some new ones.
How do you balance the pressure of earning more money with the desire to be present for your family?