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How can something so small cause such a major upheaval in your life?

A part of this upheaval is financial. The government of Manitoba estimates that the average middle-income family will spend about $160,000 raising a child until age 18. And that does not include university costs.

But just as you find the extra time and energy you will need to take care of the little bundle of consuming joy, you will find ways to work it out financially.

Planning for Parenthood

Brace yourself. You will be expected to buy things you never even thought of. Start planning financially for having a baby as soon as you can — even before conception if possible.

Set aside as much as you can every month in a savings account. Think of all the first time purchases you'll need to make, and don't forget to save some money for your maternity or paternity leave. Although the Canadian government does provide maternity leave benefits for a one year period, this may be significantly less than you are used to earning.

How much do you need? As much as you can save. Any funds left over make a great starter for a college fund. If you've amassed a considerable amount well before the due date, you can invest in a short-term GIC or other insured investment. But don't tie up your entire fund in investments. Babies will not sign contracts and they have not agreed to your schedule.

Have a brainstorming session with an experienced parent to figure out all the things you need to purchase before the delivery. It will be extremely helpful to have most of what you need before the baby is born. Your spare shopping time after birth is reduced drastically. If you need to shop after the baby is born, try shopping online. Nobody on the Internet cares how loud your baby is crying, what you are wearing or what time it is when your baby gives you a free moment to shop.

Here's a starter list for your brainstorming session. This is far from a complete list, but it will help get you thinking.

  • Car Seat By law, you can't even take the baby home from the hospital without one.

  • Crib You want one that meets current safety standards. If it's sold in a second-hand store, you'll have to look that up yourself; if it's new, you can be assured that it does.

  • Bassinet One with wheels will add to your mobility around the house.

  • Bedding Make sure to read up on safety standards for bedding as well – certain types of cushions and crib pads are no longer considered safe.

  • Changing Table Sure, you could use the kitchen counter or your bed. But do you want to?

  • Dresser With two or three spit-up changes a day, your baby will need somewhere to store his/her wardrobe.

  • Rocking Chair While not a must-have, a rocker can be a place to spend some special time with your baby.

  • Stroller Consider getting one that's part of a stroller/car seat combo. It makes transitions easier.

  • Baby Monitor "Baby calling Parents, come in, Parents."

  • Safety Gate Keep your newly mobile child away from staircases and other hazards.

  • Diaper Bag A diaper bag will be your constant companion. Get one you like.

  • Diapers Decide on disposables or cloth diapers. If you feel strongly about cloth, you might consider a diaper service – do some research to see what’s available in your area.

  • Bathtub It's easier to bathe baby in his/her own tub than cleaning out the kitchen sink each time.

  • Formula If you are not breastfeeding, formula can cost up to $3,400 a year.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

Most companies don't provide paid maternity leave — and don't have to. For couples considering starting, or adding to, their families, the length of time they'll be granted for maternity leave plays an important role.

Canada compares well to other first-world countries in this regard, with its one-year maternity leave policy. Specifically, the Canada Labour Code provides for up to 17 weeks of maternity leave. In addition, an employee who assumes care of a newborn or newly adopted child is entitled to parental leave of up to 37 weeks. However, the total duration of the maternity/parental leaves must not exceed 52 weeks.

Some important facts about maternity and paternity leave include:

  • The Benefits During the year allowed for maternity leave, the Canadian government pays mothers Employment Insurance of up to $447 a week, depending on her working income. This limited gesture amounts to a dramatic drop in income for many Canadian families. As well, maternity leave is not extended to self-employed individuals or in some cases, those who work on a contract basis, if they do not contribute to Employment Insurance, the fund from which maternity payments are drawn. While generous with leave time, Canada rates far lower than European countries when it comes to maternity-leave compensation.

  • Maternity Leave Eligibility Female employees who have completed six consecutive months of continuous employment with the same employer when their leave begins.

  • Parental Leave Eligibility Natural or adoptive parents who have completed six consecutive months of continuous employment with their employer at the time their leave begins. In Canada, fathers have been permitted to take parental leave under Employment Insurance and to stay at home with a newborn or adopted child since 1990.

  • Can Both Parents Take Leave? Yes. The two parents together are entitled to combined parental leave of up to 37 weeks. Parents have the option of taking their parental leave at the same time, or one after the other.

Plan monetarily for maternity and paternity leave, as in most cases, it is unpaid. You may be able to save up sick time and vacation time to continue receiving income for several weeks. But most likely, you will lose some income during this time.