For most people, 2020 will be remembered as a horrible year. The COVID-19 pandemic, the restrictions, the lockdowns, the masks, the toilet paper. It seems as if this year can be summed up by tiers and tears. Poor future history students who will have to learn and be tested on 2020.
At the time of writing this post, we are quickly approaching 100 million cases worldwide, not an easy year indeed. However, I am not here to depress you. This is actually a happy post.
My experience of 2020 and COVID as a couple
For me, 2020 was the best year ever. Luckily, no one close to me had a bad case of the virus but more important- I became a dad!
Update: COVID did eventually hit home in February 2021. You can read about it here.
My daughter was born during the first half of 2020. That meant that Lazy FI Mum’s biggest fear before the birth was that I catch COVID and will therefore not be able to be there with her during the birth. That’s why we implemented a self-imposed lockdown. We did not leave our block for 2-3 months except for medical appointments. I am happy to report that not only was I able to be there and meet my daughter during her first few seconds in the world, we actually got along amazingly well despite being locked up in an apartment for a few months. It was a test for our marriage and I think we passed with flying colours.
We learned to share the space as we were both lucky enough to keep our jobs and work from home. We also learned to share sleep hours with the night broken into shifts, we made it work. Oh yeah, and having a helpful retired mother in law never hurts.
Advantages and disadvantages of having COVID babies
Raising a baby during a world pandemic has it’s disadvantages:
- We couldn’t meet friends as much as we wanted to. This part was harder for Lazy FI Mum. She was on maternity leave and dreamed about spending it in Cafes with other mum-friends.
- Travelling abroad to Israel so our families can meet the new addition to the Lazy FI family was also a bit difficult. We still made it happen.
- No clear distinction between work time and family time as “home” has become the new “office”.
- The fact that our daughter couldn’t have any playdates, which might harm her social skills in the future.
- The fear that our daughter will think masks are a normal part of a face. That one is not an issue anymore. She learned to grab the masks off of the people who pick her up.
I can go on and on about the disadvantages of the 2020 life that we all got accustomed to. Some people lost dear friends and family members, it was definitely not an easy year for us as a society.
“Dude, you promised us a happy post”
OK, so let me give you some advantages, a bit of background on my dream to reach FI. Then I’ll explain how COVID changed our views on raising kids.
Of course there are loads of advantages to raising a baby during a world pandemic :
- We save a lot of money as we don’t eat out or commute to work. This means we can reach FI quicker.
- Having both parents at home (I know some people still have to go into their workplace, we are both working from home at the moment). That means the responsibilities are split between both parents and don’t all fall on one person.
- Most important- Loads of time spent with family. This is time that would otherwise be spent commuting to and from work.
Our thoughts before COVID
Before COVID and before becoming parents, whenever I and Lazy FI Mum used to discuss life after FI, it was always something like this:
Lazy FI Mum wants to keep working forever.
I want to be a stay-at-home dad and do some tutoring.
However, saying I want to be a stay-at-home dad before having kids is easy.
While I have not yet experienced being a stay-at-home dad, because we are both home and are both working, I am still happy to report that being a dad is way more fun than I ever imagined!
My experience as a COVID dad
Being at home during my daughter’s first eight months (and counting) has been absolutely amazing. I got to spend so much time with her and I know our bond is much stronger because of that. For comparison, my old workplace (we’ll get to that shortly) allows three weeks of fully paid paternity leave. I got to be home for more than six months! Yes, I had to work as well but being able to leave the laptop for two minutes each time and play with my daughter was, and still is, priceless.
The fact that I have been working from home also meant that Lazy FI Mum’s life was easier. While most of the “burden” fell (and still does fall) on her, having another adult (or two) at home to share the responsibilities makes life easier.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is we got used to a very high standard of parenthood life. That’s why we decided to do the same with future kids. We agreed to take as much time off work as possible (with the rest working from home), ideally both of us being home for the first nine months after each birth.
The “lightbulb” moment
Lazy FI Mum is a very organised person. That meant we were looking at childcare before our daughter was even born. When my daughter was about three months old, the childcare provider we signed up with sent us the timetable. I was shocked and depressed. A “full-day” is 8:00 to 17:45.
My daughter, at the time, woke up at around 07:00 and went to sleep at around 18:00. Putting her in “full-day” childcare basically meant that I only get to see her on weekends (and a few minutes each morning and evening). I could not accept that fact. That thought shocked me for a good day or two.
Lazy FI Mum (and other people) tried to explain to me that most parents have to work in order to provide for their children and pay the bills. I also know that this means the child has to stay in childcare for standard working hours (9-to-5 plus commute to work). I really understand this.
However, most people also barely save for the future and end up working until the age of 60-70. This whole blog is about taking another path rather than the “normal” path.
I knew that was not the life I wanted for myself, it was my “lightbulb moment”. I knew something had to change and I knew my motivation is to spend as much time as possible with her and with Lazy FI Mum.
Even before becoming a dad, pursuing FI made sense to me because I believe having options (including the option to stop working full time) means freedom, which is a very worthy cause. However, I was aiming for FI mainly so I don’t have to work until the age of 60-70. Since my daughter was born, my reason (my “Why”) for FI changed completely.
Now, I am pursuing FI so I can spend as much time with her (and her future siblings) as possible. I can honestly say, I am more motivated than ever.
Back to reality- I have not reached FI yet. I am already a father and working from home will probably not last forever, what should I do?
I had three options:
1. Quitting my job and spending all my time with her
Sadly, I have not reached FI yet so this was too risky in my opinion.
2. Going part-time
In my industry (I checked), part-time roles are mainly for very senior people who want to enjoy their retirement years without the need to fully stop working, so that was not an option either.
3. Switch to a higher paying job that will get me to FI quicker
The thought process behind that option was that if I could earn more (without spending less time with my daughter today), I could reach FI quicker and at least be there for her when she comes home from school. This is the option I went with, with more than a 20% pay increase compared to my previous role.
I ran my financial model Excel spreadsheet and saw this new role would help me reach FI 2-3 years earlier!
However, that only fixes the future, what about the present? Does that mean we’re putting our daughter in “full-day” childcare and only spending time with her during weekends?
Luckily, Lazy FI Mum already agreed with her employer to work three days a week from home even after the pandemic. I also agreed with my new employer (before signing the contract) to work two days a week from home.
This means one of us will be able to pick her up early every day. We are currently aiming at 15:00. That leaves us a lot of time to work but also gives us priceless time to spend with her each afternoon.
I think it is also important to mention that me and Lazy FI Mum both believe that childcare has advantages besides allowing us to work. Spending time with other kids forces the child to learn to share (toys) and develop social skills. Spending all that time with other kids also forces them to learn to get along. This means that even if we became parents after reaching FI, we would still send our children to childcare but probably for fewer hours (maybe 3-4 a day).
COVID-19 and the whole 2020 year was a very tough one for mankind and I am aware we are extremely fortunate to have such a young baby during the pandemic. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have older children that want to go out and are bored at home. If you have kids that age- you are my hero.
For us, it’s been an amazing experience and taught us a very important lesson about our priorities. We’re now looking forward to spending the afternoons, evenings, and weekends as a family while getting closer and closer to FI every day.