No work for me - Day one of maternity leave

22 September 2008

8.48 and I am up, washed, dressed , with 1 pretty good home made cup of coffee inside me. Thinking, what’s next? What’s going on in the world today?

I am of today 36 weeks pregnant and starting my first week of real ‘me time’ before the baby is born. So far so good. Husband very considerately asked me last night whether he should wake me up or let me sleep in. Well I said, since cat with no patience normally awakens me by gently climbing onto me and ‘paddling’ me with his claws until I get up and feed him, I probably wont sleep late in any case. But it was a nice thought. Especially since I don’t remember the last night that I went right the way through without my 2 trips to the loo. Pregnancy eh. I cant complain too much on that score though as my poor sister who is 6 weeks behind me in pregnancy is making 6 trips a night and struggling to get back to sleep in between.

So as husband was up and into the bath by 7.15, probably thanking his lucky stars that he no longer has to wait for slow pregnant wife to get ready in the mornings, often causing him to miss his 8am bus, I went downstairs to see about a cup of coffee. I literally just ran out of my favourite Illy espresso coffee yesterday so I am back on the Sainsburys fair trade brew until I go out for more supplies. As I filled up the cafetiere I was surprised to see a large fox walking along the garden wall outside. We’ve been hearing foxes a lot in the past week, sometimes they sound as though they are being murdered, but although we regularly see them going into the waste ground at the top of our road and often running down the streets of an evening, seeing one in your garden is somehow quite exotic.

Coffee made I pad into the lounge, draw the curtains and stick the BBC breakfast news on. Bill is interviewing Alastair Darling . Darling is saying that now is not a good time to pull more money out of the economy, and in fact comments on the fact that this month all basic rate tax payers will receive a £60 rebate, and £10 a month subsequently until February. He is cunning however and when Bill asks if that means income tax will not go up, he becomes coy and claims to have already answered the question.

The £60 extra will be handy, we are currently renovating our home, it was very run down when we took it on in December last year, and there is still so much to do. In the limited weekend time that we have, we, or mainly husband at the moment due to my condition, do as much as we can, without going mad. Our next planned job is to tile the splash back in the kitchen. £60 will cover 66% of the tiles we’ve chosen, some very nice high gloss black ones shaped like small bricks. We have a black Baumatic hob so the black will pick that up nicely

I’ve promised I wont do too much whilst on maternity leave as I totally understand that as a first time Mum this is the only time I will ever have this chance to rest undisturbed . Once you have a child, they will need caring for through subsequent pregnancies so I must make the effort to relax.

That said, it doesn’t come naturally to me, having worked full time since leaving uni 8 years ago, the longest I’ve ever had off in one block is 3 weeks. That was when we got married 2 years ago. So the idea that I am suddenly staring at 6-9 months out of the corporate world is a very odd one to me.

There are still a few baby related things I need to do before the birth. Since we are planning a home birth, I want to be organised about hiring a Ten’s machine and birthing pool fairly shortly. Plus I am yet to buy the babies car seat. My Mum is paying for that and I’m just waiting for the cheque to come through. We have all the other big kit such as buggy and Moses basket. I was given a Mother Care voucher by people at work, and I’m thinking perhaps I’ll pop down there today and get some fitted covers for the Moses basket, and see what else there is on offer. If I walk there it will take around 30 minutes so that will also count as my exercise for the day, if I can make it back again great, if not there is regular buses.

I am very fortunate with my maternity package from work compared to many people. I am taking these first 2 weeks as annual leave, which I was owed in any case. Following that the first 4 months will be at full pay. I get my last normal salary on Friday this week, then up to March at full pay before it drops to statutory 90% for 6 weeks and £108 a week up to 39 weeks, I think.
The other thing my company do which I think is really good, is during my maternity leave my pension contributions, which are an excellent 7% from the company, will continue. Up to the point of the end of paid maternity leave, which is about 39 weeks I think, the company will also make up my contributions which normally total 3%. So when my pay drops at the end of the 4 months, if 3% of my take home at that point is less than the £90 I normally put in, they will continue their contribution plus top up mine. I don’t feel too worried about how we will manage during my lower paid maternity leave yet. But I have already looked into the cost of nursery and child minders in the area and that is quite a scary monthly figure. If I want to put my son or daughter into nursery full time it will be £850 a month working on 8am-6pm 5 days a week. If we went with a childminder the bill is marginally lower but still working out around £750 a month.

My ideal world solution at the moment, given I am a total rookie and have no idea what it feels like to be a mother and parted from my child, will be 3 days at nursery and I’m hoping to be able to work from home 2 days a week, on which I will have my child for a half day if that works. Husband also has a good employer that support flexible working, so he is hoping 1 day a week from home would be practical. We both realise that it isn’t massively possible to do good work with a baby present, if they are awake, but we thought we could fit our working days around them. So if it means getting up and starting checking emails etc by 7am and doing 2 hours work before taking them to the childminder for the morning, working through the morning, collecting them, and then logging back on in the late afternoon, we will try that option rather than pay through the nose for external care. Or maybe I’ll want to reduce my hours and that will be possible. Who can say at this stage.

Had my companies annual share offer paperwork through this weekend. As I work for a large financial company, the share price of late has been abysmal. So its actually worked out really well for me in terms of what I can get for my money this year. The company operates what they call a reference period which means for 20 days preceding the share offer they record the price each day, then take an average, set that and discount it by 20%. Final outcome this year was we have an opportunity to buy in at £13 per share roughly. Even in the time its taken to get the share offer out, which isn’t long, the shares have climbed back to around £19.50 a share, so as the shares are locked in for 5 years anyway it’s a good time to pick them up. I bought £1,000 worth last year and this year Im going to do the same on the traditional plan, plus put in another £1,000 on what they call the leverage plan. You can only put in up to 2.5% of your salary on that one, but then a finance partner will multiply your exposure by 9 times. If the share price goes up they will pay you 70% of the capital gains at the end of the 5 years. If it goes down then they give you back the exact value of your original investment. The only catch is that you get no dividends using that option, they go to the finance partner. But your ability to make money goes up massively as a result of the leverage effect. 70% of £10,000 worth of shares as opposed to 100% of £1,000. I figure if I back both horses then I’ve got it covered.

I have also made a bit of a cheeky bet based on some other shares I’m watching. I have a small holding of them already, but last week they pitched downwards to the lowest point this year. I had a think and decided that if I had a punt with £500 worth at that value, the return, once they regain their lost ground will be pretty good. They are only a small cap company so the price is small. I had a punt at the £1.15 per share price on Wednesday last week, just checked and they are going for £1.24 today so the movement is in the right direction. Ideally I want £1.80 per share, but they haven’t been at that level since March/April time, most recent highs were about £1.50. If they hit £1.50 I’ll make £100 for my troubles after dealing costs, so its more me playing about than making huge gains. But considering the money I have in my cash ISA and the interest in relation, it is a good gain to have.

Right, other things on my hit list for today….well we got ripped off by a low life rogue builder in March, he owes us £2,500 and we’ve had an ongoing battle to get anything back from him. I think we have now reached the decision that if we cant get any money from him then we’ll do as much as possible to mess him up. He already has a CCJ against him because he didn’t bother to answer any of the courts letters, but now I think we are ready to go in with bankruptcy proceedings. We’ll see if he really is as broke as he claims. We tried the bailiffs’ route but to be honest, what a joke. I always thought that bailiffs’ could enter your home and take goods to the value of X to settle your debts. Ha. They can only come in if you invite them! What a pointless exercise. Particularly as this slippery customer has told the bailiffs that he isn’t the man they are looking for so they’ve closed the warrant at this stage. I sound vindictive I know, but that man really did take the biscuit, as well as cash that didn’t belong to him. A PI has recently verified that the guy is still living at the address he claimed he wasnt, so game on.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough this morning. The high point of my week will be that I’ve been lucky enough to get tickets to It Pays to Watch, the money programme that Martin Lewis presents. I’m going to be part of the studio audience whilst they talk about how to boost your savings. Am really looking forward to it. My friend has asked me to ask about Northen Rock mortgages if I get chance. She has a 100% mortgage with them and needs to remortgage in Feb, she wants to know if her best bet is moving the 90% that is secured and then paying off the remaining 10% with Northen Rock as a loan. Hopefully Martin will have some tips.

10.10am time to check my emails and make another hot drink.