Got a career? Think you may have kids sometime in the next decade? This is for you. I know you want to know, because other women ask me all the time: these are the things I wish someone had told me...
1. Pay close attention to the benefits packages of potential employers
... and terms, eg. how long you have to work there to get maternity pay. If you take a lower pay deal for it, so be it.
Six months off at full pay is worth more than a couple of grand elsewhere. And when you’ve had one baby, you may well find you want one (or two) more. So choose somewhere you can stay and build up your tenure: you don’t want to move in-between kids unless you have to.
2. Plan your budget
Make the assumption that when you have a child, either you’ll lose a salary or gain a massive childcare bill or a bit of both. For full-time childcare around London, you could be spending between £1,250 and £2,500 a month after tax.
But the nursery’s definition of full-time is probably three hours shorter than your boss’s. Moving in next door to your mother-in-law is not a bad idea. Alternatively, spend a bit extra to get a place with a spare room: if you have space for an au pair and some flexibility on hours, you may be able to save yourself a fortune.
3. Factor in your commute
A 14-hour day may not bother you now, but it will hurt like hell when the nursery is charging you ten quid a minute for being late.
4. If you are buying a house...
... choose it based on the locations of good primary AND secondary schools. Yep, you think I’m nuts - you’ve not even had the baby yet. Trust me, though.
The primary is the (relatively) easy bit. Secondary is a horror. Also check the admissions policies. A friend of ours had to be a member of a specific church before conception to get into a good school. To help, there is brilliant website that matches schools (ranked by Ofsted) with commuter lines and houses for rent and sale: locrating.com.
5. Save or invest your money
Chances are you are better off now that you will be for years after you’ve had the baby. So you will be endlessly grateful later for bothering to chuck a bit of cash into an ISA or savings account.
When you shop, buy clothes that will last you ten years and withstand baby puke. Likewise with home furnishings: run screaming from elegant cream sofas, beige carpets, spiral staircases and glass.
6. Say yes to everything
Every networking dinner, every leaving drinks, every birthday party. That way, when you spend your Friday nights locked in battle with a pissed-off two year old running amuck, you know you’ve already done it all.
7. When you do get pregnant...
... keep your counsel about how your relationship with work might change: partly to keep options open but mostly because everything you are certain of may turn out to be wrong. I wince at the memory of petulantly declaring to my wise, father-of-three boss that I’d always been career focused and no baby was going to change that. To his eternal credit he smiled kindly and said absolutely nothing.
8. Act like a total flouncing princess...
... throughout your first pregnancy. Be as demanding, fussy and temperamental as you can manage. It is the last time anything will be all about you.