What It Was Like Traveling with A 6 Month Old Infant in Japan

A fellow mom-traveler once told me that six months was the best time to travel with an infant. This was after I had voiced to her my fear of giving up our favorite hobby (traveling to international countries) when I found out I was pregnant with Casey. When Japan reopened to the rest of the world Fall 2022, I knew that we had to go. Japan has been a bucket list destination for Mike and I for YEARS. We literally had plane tickets March of 2020. For three years, my biggest regret was not getting on that plane. So we decided to book a trip and I am so glad we did! These are my thoughts, tips, and gripes with traveling with a 6-month-old infant. The trip, by the way, was nothing short of amazing.

What Age Is Best for Traveling with Infants?

My mom-friend recommended six months but we booked our flight at 5.5 months. Why? Because we wanted to fly to Japan before starting solids at six months. It made meal-times with our little one easier, as he was 100% fed on baby formula, and we didn’t have to worry about exotic foods and microbacteria from another country causing sickness during our trip.

However, if I could have a re-do, I would choose to travel to Japan at 4 or 4.5 months because we set ourselves back with sleep-training. I felt like Casey was getting the hang of sleeping through the night around 4.5 months. Unfortunately with this trip, it took two weeks to set back his clock. At which point, Daylight Savings time occurred, so we are still adjusting.

Also, at 4.5 months, Casey was less energetic, mobile, talkative and demanding. At around 5.5 months, he could already voice his discontent, hunger, and tiredness with banshee shrieks and temper tantrums. We had to cater more to his desires. I think at 4.5 months, we would have to cater to his needs, but not so much his wants.

On the flip-side, I am SO happy we went to Japan at this age. Mike and I agreed that at 1 years old, we would have to worry about a toddler starting to walk (or run?) away from us. This would be a nightmare to manage with Japan’s heavy foot-traffic and metro crowds. And if he were a bit older still, we would have to deal with whining, complaining, and general resistance. Odds are a toddler would not be keen on hours of site seeing, miles of walking, and the general shopping and food scene. I could see Casey begging to go back to the hotel where there’s at least a pool! So next time we go to Japan, we already decided that Casey will be staying home with the grandparents.

What Items Did We Bring?

Let me start by saying that we brought way too much stuff. I heard that it was a bit difficult to secure baby items such as diapers and formula in Japan, so we decided to bring those with us. I was glad we did because we didn’t have to waste time trying to find these items on our trip. Since we travel much slower with a child in general, wasting time was not something we wanted to do. But for a ten day trip, I brought 100 diapers and 2 containers of Similac. We could have probably gotten away with 75 diapers (with enough to spare!) and 1.25 containers of formula.

We also brought an umbrella stroller. This was a great decision on our part. The umbrella stroller we had was this one and costs $40. It is lightweight at less than 5 pounds, which was useful for me. When we experienced rough terrain (aka cobblestone streets or temple hikes), we carried Casey and folded up the stroller. Mike carried Casey in a dual-facing carrier (another MUST!), while I lugged the stroller. It folds up into a slim profile and is similar to carrying an umbrella around! Plus it doubled as a staff when we were hiking up Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Mikey preferred to use the ErgoBaby Omni Carrier and I prefered to push the stroller. This worked out well, since we needed to do a lot of adjustments if we shared the same carrier. He is 6’3″ and I am 5’1″. There is one thing the carrier did better than the stroller! Casey loved to sleep in the carrier. The stroller was upright and uncomfortable for him to sleep in. The bumpy roads didn’t help either. So whenever it was nap-time, or when we wanted to stroll through a busy market, we popped Casey into the carrier and called it a day.

Other than that, we brought ten days worth of day-time and night-time outfits for Casey. In my opinion, we could have probably cut the night-time outfits in half and reused some of them, as he only really slept in them. We brought bibs, and socks. At this age, he could care less about shoes and accessories. And we brought three jackets, which was two too many in October. Japan was fairly warm during our entire stay, raining for only 2 of the 10 days.

How Was Transportation with an Infant in Japan?

In many ways, Japan was the perfect place to travel with an infant. Japan is one of the few countries where we do not have to bring a carseat or rent one out. Their public transportation system was simple, easy, and clean! We bought a Japan Rail Pass ahead of time, but to be honest, you can get by fine without one. One app that we downloaded that really helped was the SUICA app. It lets you direct transfer from your bank account funds to use for trains and metros.

There was a train every few minutes so you didn’t have to stress if you missed one. And they were reliably on time too! If you hop on a bus, no worries. They let you as long as your small infant is in a carrier. And if you are worried about crowded trains, I never once experienced the horrible videos that you see online. Part of that could be that October is not one of their peak seasons for visitors. Either way, I wouldn’t worry too much. Just avoid the peak hours if you do go during cherry blossom season!

What Are the Best Things To Do With An Infant?

There were definitely some things that were great activities for parents with infants, and others that were not. My favorites could be different from other moms, but I wanted to share them here. In general, the best activities involved being outdoors.

I loved walking through markets in Japan with Casey. There were many things to look at and he was enthralled by the lights and colors at the stands. We carried him in the carrier for the markets, so if he ever got tired, he would just fall asleep. When he got fussy, we would just point at an object in the stand and curiosity would get the better of him. He would stop fussing right away.

The same goes for temples. Because it was a lot of strolling through gardens and mini hikes outdoors, temples and shrine sight-seeing was wonderful. We avoided going inside the temples and shrines because it was fairly crowded and because indoor spaces got Casey riled up in general. We did not want to disturb the peace in the sacred spaces. But I greatly enjoyed seeing shrines and temples in Kyoto with Casey and Mike. Just like the markets, we carried him in the carrier for most of the time and he would fall asleep as he got tired.

As far as indoor activities go, one of my favorites was shopping. Japan has so many different stores to see. I had a blast just learning about their culture, seeing handcrafted items, and shopping at some of the most futuristic stores I have ever seen. We did not even BUY a ton of items or souvenirs, but walking around was enjoyable. For these adventures, Casey was mostly in a stroller. The best part about Japanese stores and temples was that they had many clean public restrooms specifically for infants, mothers, and handicapped persons. I never had an issue finding a place to change Casey’s diaper in these spaces.

What Were the Difficulties of Traveling Japan with an Infant?

In general, being in a restaurant in Japan was tough. The restaurants were typically small spaces, with counter seating or tiny booths. Some could only seat 8 people. Most of the time, the cooking is done directly behind the counter or at your table. Because of these facts, restaurants tended to be crowded, loud, and smoky. We hardly had a place to put the stroller, and the carrier was no good when we sat down and ate. So most of the time, we had to take turns holding and occupying Casey, who wanted to nab whatever was on the table.

This meant that sit-down meals were usually not that enjoyable. Our coffee dates also required us to be mindful of where Casey’s flailing arms and legs were. I much preferred to pick up food from a convenience store, at one of the train stations, or from a market. Eating standing up, outdoors, and on-the-go was a much more enjoyable experience for me than going to a restaurant. There WAS one evening where Mike and I were able to enjoy an omikase sushi meal for two. We hired a baby sitter and if I had known that that would’ve made dinners more pleasurable, I would have hired a sitter every night we were in Tokyo!

How Was It Hiring a Baby Sitter?

When I posted about hiring a baby sitter on Instagram, everyone and their mom wanted to know what that experience was like. Mostly, everyone was concerned about the safety of leaving Casey with a stranger at a hotel in a foreign country. But let me tell you, it was the best thing we did and I would 100% do it again next time.

Our hotel managed the booking of the nanny. We went to the concierge one morning and inquired. They reached out to a babysitting agency and found that none were available for that evening but one was available for the following night so we booked it. The minimum time was 2 hours of baby sitting. The price came out to $30 per hour. And if we went past 10pm, we had to pay a little extra for the sitter’s fare home (because it was pricier late at night to get a cab). Everything was paid for and managed through the hotel.

When the sitter arrived at the hotel, they called our room and asked to escort her upstairs. She came dressed up in a black dress, and promptly took off her shoes when she entered the room. She put on a white apron and slippers. And then she told us to have a great night, bowing until we were out the door.

Casey was easy to watch. His bed time was around 7pm. We had the sitter arrive at 8pm and went to dinner from 8-10pm. We stayed out a bit later, which the nanny did not mind. Casey did not wake up during the entire time she watched him. Which meant it was fairly easy for her, too! We felt comfortable and relaxed with her. Because it was through an official agency, and because the hotel concierge was aware of her presence, we just felt safe. Japan, in general, made us feel safe. I would 10/10 recommend doing this for young parents who want time to themselves.

In Conclusion

I hope this post was helpful for those who wish to travel to Japan with an infant but have reservations about doing so. I am so happy we did it as Japan was on our bucket list for a long time. It was a great trip. Of course, you have to be prepared for baby melt-downs and slowing down in general. But otherwise, go have fun!

If you want to know how we travel hacked our way to Japan using credit card points, this post is for you! We booked 8 FREE hotel nights in Kyoto and Tokyo. And we had our flights partially paid for too. In order to live our frugal life, we have travel hacked our way to 10 countries and all over the USA. If you want to save money but still live out your travel dreams, definitely check that post out!

The First Few Months of Cloth Diapering with Esembly

Casey was born on Earth Day, something both me and Mike are proud of. As a couple attempting to live sustainably, we felt that his birthday was somehow symbolic of what we hoped for our son. Someone who appreciates nature, understands ecology, respects our place in biology and becomes a tenant of this planet we love. In line with all that, we made the decision to use cloth diapers years before we even planned on having children. I remember vowing that if we ever did have kids, we would opt to reduce our contribution to the landfills. I remember his skepticism. But what I love about Mike is his openness to new things. By the time we decided to start a family five years later, he was totally on board.

I read about cloth diapering via Erin Boyle’s blog back in 2017. It was the first time I considered an alternative to disposable diapers. I didn’t realize at the time that my siblings and I were all reared on loincloths wrapped around our bums, pinned with a clothespin. But cloth diapering has (thankfully) come a long way. Cities like the Big Apple can tout cloth diapering services wherein they pick up used cloths at your doorstep and launder them for you. But where we live has no such services. So it’s a godsend that Esembly created a diapering system that can be done at home.

The First Few Months of Diapering with Esembly

Of all the questions I’ve received as a new parent, I have not gotten as many inquiries as I have with cloth diapering. Moms all over the web are asking how it’s going. As if they couldn’t believe it could be done. But as my mom said when I showed her our Esembly diapers, “it’s as easy as cake!”. Esembly has gone above and beyond to take care of the logistics. “I wish we had something like this when you were a baby,” my mom said as she gleefully analyzed the thick, cotton inners in her hands.

To be honest, I had my doubts too. But let me tell you, I love using cloth diapers! It is just as easy as disposable diapers, but better for the environment. For the first few weeks, we solely used disposable diapers. We couldn’t use the high-waisted Esembly inners since it would rub the umbilical cord. It took 10 days to fall off. Because of this, we have something to compare Esembly to. Those who argue that cloth diapering is too much work is wrong. Yes, you need to wash the diapers, but you never will run out of them or have to dash to the store to get more.

Changing nappies are a breeze thanks to the button closures at the front. Multiple snaps make the diaper customizable to your growing child’s size. No wasted diapers that your baby outgrew. The outer fits snugly and keeps wet inners from soiling clothes. Yet the elastic band around the legs and waist make these comfortable to wear. Plus the outers have cute designs, to boot! We have six different outers and we can change them based on his outfit for the day.

How to Clean Esembly’s Cloth Diapers

People always ask, “What do you do with the soiled diapers?” You remove them and toss them directly into the Esembly diaper bag. Since Casey isn’t eating solids for now, there is no need to remove anything from the nappies. Poop, pee, nappy – all of it gets tossed into the bag. You don’t get your hands messy at all. The diaper bag, by the way, fits into this Dekor Diaper Pail pretty well in case you are searching for one. However, a pail isn’t necessary as you can hang the bag on a hook quite easily.

To clean, all we do is toss dirty diapers and bag into the wash. We use Esembly’s washing powder with their agitators (the best invention ever!) and run a normal cycle, followed by a heavy duty cycle. It takes 40-60 minutes to dry in the dryer and voila! If you wish to reduce your footprint even more, laying them under the sun works wonders. It actually results in a neater looking nappy.

To my surprise, the inners haven’t stained one bit. They haven’t shrunk in the wash and they don’t stink. They haven’t caused diaper rash (whereas the disposables started to) which goes to show how nice they are for your baby’s bottom. They store nicely in a basket on our changing cart, and take up less room than a box of disposable diapers.

Some Caveats

To be completely transparent, there are a few caveats. We bought the fewest amount of inners and outers needed to sustain us. We have 21 inners and 6 outers. To be honest, I think we could have survived with 3 outers. Meanwhile, 21 inners could have been 24. Minor changes aside, one caveat is that no matter how many you buy, you have to do laundry every 2-3 days. For us, 2 days seems to be the number. Of course, not everyone has the time. Balancing laundry amongst other chores and working full-time is a difficult feat. The privilege of having job flexibility cannot be ignored.

Second, it is an investment. We bought the diaper system, agitators, wash powder, and diaper bag. We were gifted 3 inners and one outer. We nabbed the rest during a sale. (Check out their clearance section for awesome deals on outers.) The total cost was $250. I would recommend adding it to your baby registry if you want to save money. For the curious, this is my curated baby registry list.

Lastly, Esembly works for most situations. Whether you are at home or away, it isn’t much different from disposable diapers. However, the cloth diapers aren’t as absorbent as disposables. Meaning, if you want your baby to sleep through the night, using disposables in the evenings may be better. Likewise, if you’ll be out of the house for a while with nary a changing table in site, then a disposable diaper will make your child more comfortable. There is always the option of purchasing overnight liners from Esembly which absorbs more. We opted not to go that route and still use disposable diapers part time.

Trying is Better Than Perfect

Let me be the first to say that we aren’t perfect, and Esembly isn’t either. But trying is better than being perfect, so don’t let the caveats stop you. Don’t let perfection get in the way of reducing your landfill contribution, even if its a little bit. Using Esembly half the time still reduces 3,000+ disposable diapers per baby! So give it a go. Their try-it kit is a great place to start.

Esembly is a partner brand for TheDebtist. I try to promote companies that I have tried and love. Whenever I choose to partner, I consider the ethics and values behind the company. This is no different. The thoughts and opinions in this post are mine own, as are the experiences. Thank you for supporting the brands that support my post.

Our Curated Road Trip Packing List for an Infant

Well, there we’ve done it. Our one month old has his first road trip under his belt. This past weekend, we trekked to Phoenix, Arizona to meet Casey’s uncle for the first time. It was also his uncle’s graduation from dental school. We used the occasion to test our tolerance for traveling with infants. Total trip time was 8 hours each way, including 2 hours of charging time for our Rivian EV. The charging time was divvied into two breaks, allowing us to feed, change and play with Casey. The verdict: Much easier with family around, adequate planning is a must, and staying minimalist helps reduce stress. I curated a road trip packing list for a one-month old infant, in case you don’t have the time to make one yourself.

Please note: This list is curated to our particular needs. For example, our hotel room provided a crib, which means we didn’t need to pack anything for our sleeping situation.( In case you are curious, we stayed with IHG this time around using points we earned from opening the IHG Premiere Rewards Credit Card a few months earlier. That’s the first step in planning ahead!) If your housing option did not provide a sleeping spot for your infant, a portable bassinet for a one month old will suffice. My favorite travel bassinet is Dock-A-Tot’s Kind Bassinet. It weights 5 pounds, folds flat into a box, and has a firm, quality mattress for your baby. I wrote my thoughts on it here. A pack-and-play works just as well but is much bulkier and heavier to carry. We own the Chico Alfa Lift Travel Playyard.

Our Curated Road Trip Packing List for Infants

  • Nuna Infant Car Seat which doubled as a rocker when set on the floor.
  • Uppababy Cruz V2 Stroller which carried him to and from events and restaurants.
  • YogaSleep Rohm Travel Sound Machine which is perfect for long car rides and to drown out loud hotel neighbors.
  • Product of the North Elkin Diaper Bag perfect for lugging essentials during site seeing. It comes with a changing pad which us all we needed to change diapers both in public restrooms and on the hotel bed
  • Crane Top Fill Humidifier  – I did not pack a humidifier and instantly regretted it. Due to Arizona’s hot, dry weather, my infant’s skin shriveled up on the car ride there. I luckily was able to borrow a humidifier from my brother’s apartment, but I will bring ours the next time I visit!
  • Baby Clothes (2 outfits a day, plus pajamas at night). When packing, I like to bring layers so the outfits are customizable to the weather. I definitely brought a sun hat for the bright Arizona sun. I also prefer onesies as pajamas.
  • Diapers. We have Esembly diapers at home, but I recommend going with disposable diapers while traveling. There may not be frequent enough stops to address changing cloth diapers, and the laundry situation may be non-existent depending on where you stay.
  • Dock a Tot Swaddle or Sleep Sack.
  • Plenty of baby bottles and formula. If you breastfeed, consider a hand pump for the long car ride. Unless you want to stop for thirty minutes every two hours on your road trip, a hand-pump is a must! A hand pump is more portable and versatile than an electric one. You can discreetly pump in the back seat and then feed baby the breastmilk without taking him out of his car seat. Anything to shorten the trip is key! I brought the Medela hand pump and it was a life saver. I am excited to use this on the 12 hour plane ride to Japan in October. Leave the bulky electric pump at home.
  • If you don’t breastfeed: formula, bottles, and a bottle brush. Sterilizing musts: Dr. Brown’s sterilizer bags work well! Just pop them in a microwave at your hotel room and sterilize parts in less than two minutes! Bring paper towels to dry them. We also brought our Munchkin Pacifier Sterilizer. On-the-go sterilization for when we drop the paci.
  • Infants don’t require daily bathing at this age. We gave Casey a bath the night before we left, and just wiped him down with a washcloth dipped in water. However, we were only gone three days. For a longer trip, I recommend the Frida Soft Sink Baby Bath. We love ours! It fits in most sinks, dries quickly, and folds neatly into a small suitcase.
  • Toiletries. Diaper rash cream and moisturizing lotion is great. We didn’t bring ours but I wish I had because Arizona is just way too dry for his delicate newborn skin.

While this list seems long, this is all we needed.

Less Waste: Blueland

This post is sponsored by Blueland. Blueland is created by a fellow mum who wished to reduce the microplastics in our oceans and landfills. When her kids were born, she realized how much these microplastics end up in the food she was feeding her kids. At the time, finding sustainably packaged household products was almost impossible. Hence, she created a company that offers everyday household cleaning items packaged in biodegradable packaging. Blueland is making refillable house products easily accessible and affordable. I partnered with Blueland to try a few of their products for this year’s Earth Day.

I started my less waste journey in 2017. It remember clearly how lost, angry, and helpless I felt after watching the documentary Plastic Oceans on Netflix. I raged on the web about the indecency of plastic products, and sought out eco-conscious companies. This was before sustainability became popularized. Ethical companies were few and far between. I struggled to grocery shop for things without plastic. A lot has changed since then. Thanks to companies such as Blueland, these products are now easily accessible everywhere.

Blueland is offering a one-stop shop for everyday cleaning supplies packaged sans plastic. My two favorite products that they offer are the toilet bowl cleaner and the plastic-less dish pods for the dishwasher. Despite the plethora of sustainably packaged products out there, these two in particular are difficult to find. I love that they come with refillable tins if you don’t already have some at home. These items arrive packaged in paper bags and the online shop makes ordering refills a jiff. I like to store mine in glass jars under the bathroom and kitchen sink.

The Toilet Bowl Cleaner Starter Pack has everything you need to keep your toilet nice and shiny. We clean ours at least once a month per our ultimate cleaning list. Other toilet bowl cleaners on the market are liquid solutions packaged in a squeezable plastic bottle. I love that these are simple tabs that you drop directly into the toilet bowl. It’s crazy to think that there is no bleach or hydrochloric acid in this product, as it does a fabulous job cleaning the toilet! Plus I love the lemony scent. You can easily order the refills here, and if you subscribe, you do save 10%.

Likewise, the dishwasher starter set is equally as amazing. Most dishwasher soaps come as pods packaged in plastic or in a plastic bottle as liquid soap. Occasionally, I see the cheaper, boxed powder version, which is great for the environment but has all these nasty chemicals in it. You can tell from the strong smell of those soaps that they can’t honestly be good for the dishes we eat from. On the contrary, Blueland’s plastic-free tabs feature clean ingredients. There is no petroleum, artificial dyes or fragrances, ammonia, or parabens. As a soon-to-be-mom, these are the things I’ve started to care about. The refill packs can be ordered here and also come with 10% off if you subscribe.

But here’s a sweeter deal!

Not only is April 22nd Earth Day, it’s also Blueland’s anniversary! The home essentials brand launched four years ago this Earth Day to to help eliminate single-use plastic and make it easy for people to make sustainable choices with no-waste, tablet-based refillable products. To celebrate, Blueland is making the first step to a more eco-friendly lifestyle/home easier than ever by offering 20% off sitewide—no minimum purchase needed. This offer lasts 4/21/23 – 4/23/23.

Other Blueland Products I am Excited About

As always, thank you for supporting the companies that support this space.

Questions Expecting Working Moms Should Be Asking Their Significant Other

I am currently reading the book Power Moms: How Executive Mothers Navigate Work and Life by Joann S. Lublin and it resonates with me really well. The book addresses the pervading dichotomy between mother and father societal expectations when it comes to parenting at home. I am comforted to see gender roles starting to blend more on the homefront, but this traditional “second-shift” still exists in many households and should not go unmentioned.

I, myself, delayed child-rearing after learning that the discrepancy between male and female salaries depend not on your gender, but rather, if you chose to have a child as a woman. A childless female makes comparable career moves up the social ladder but a mother does not. Because I took out a looming student loan, I knew when we married six months out of dental school that I did not want to impede my ability to make money and live my life. Now that we’ve set ourselves up financially and have financial freedom, I feel more ready and able to move forward.

Still, working moms need to have conversations with their significant others about expectations. If anything, as a courtesy to the other person. More importantly, as a team-effort to set both parents up for familial success. You may be surprised to learn that despite awareness around gender equality, the traditional roles are still discreetly embedded in everyday language and thereby everyday thinking. Even now, at a time when parenting roles are at their most equal, I got comments from people such as, “You’re not going to want to come back to work after becoming a mom”, “You’re leaving too early for your maternity leave” (I left 2.5 weeks before my due date), and one boss even cut my work a few weeks earlier than when I originally requested for my time off.

Not that I complained about any of it, because I’ve established financial independence from work either way. And I was quite looking forward to my maternity leave. But that’s kind of exactly my point. We should complain about it. Or at least bring it up with someone, somewhere. I would say, with significant others to start.

Look. You are a power mom. You work a career that you want to move up in. You have your own life, needs, and wants. You can make sacrifices, but in an equal manner. And let’s be totally clear. There is no TRUE equality when it comes to divvying up household responsibilities but at least have peace with what you end up doing. Having these conversations early allows time for adjustment. We started talking about stuff even before we became pregnant. Doing so provides a guideline for how to handle “problems” before they even happen. Both parents will be more prepared for rising challenges. The answers are by no means rigid, but its a starting place.

Questions Expecting Working Moms Should Ask

  • What roles is each parent responsible for at home? What chores do you like to do? What do you wish you didn’t have to do? Which ones can we divvy up evenly? For example, I love doing dishes, and Mike is great at cooking. His best quality in the kitchen is cutting and dicing, while I am particularly keen on stirring, frying, organizing ingredients and putting things away. He hates folding laundry, and I hate cat litter. He pulls the trashcan out every week, but I usually clean the bathroom stall. Find what you excel at, love to do, and try to volunteer for those first. As for the rest, find a way to share the task or get someone else to do it.
  • What is one way to organize family life? I bought a monthly calendar for our bedroom so we can keep track of appointments. You can also share a Google Drive which a friend of ours does, but I find that Mike never looks at it and then it’s just wasted effort. At least the monthly calendar in our room is in the hallway between the bed and the bathroom. Plenty of opportunity to pass it by both in the morning and at night. Another thing to consider is using to-doist or some other app to keep track of household chores that need to get done. As a team, make an effort to check off something from the list that could help lighten the load for the other person. A to-doist list could include making doctor appointments for the kids, picking up grocery items, or planning future events with the in-laws.
  • If the baby is sick, which one of us stays home? We have decided that it will be Mike as he can technically do his work remotely. He has actually been WFH since 2020. Because I see patients at the clinic, canceling my day of dentistry will affect way more people than him working from home. At the same time, we can call on grandparents to help support him while he works from home. As compromise, I promise to try to move patients around my schedule (perhaps skip lunch) so that I could have a shorter day and come home sooner to help him with our sick child. My office is also only 5 miles away, making it easy for me to jet home and help the family out. In comparison, his office is 28 miles away, which would make it more difficult if the roles were reversed.
  • Who cares about their career more? I think it’s fair to say that the person who cares about their career more should get first dibs on career moves. Mike LOVES his job. I like mine just fine, but I also dabble in other passions such as dog-sitting that I don’t think mine is as important to bend over backwards for. My career also has more flexibility in general, as I can pick up shifts at other offices, work at multiple offices as an associate or even open my own practice. When it comes to risking losing a job, I would give mine up in a heartbeat if it means Mike gets to keep his.
  • Who can have the most flexible schedule? The person with the more flexible schedule has more opportunity to help at home. It does not meet they have to bear the weight. But acknowledging the flexibility is a great starting point to setting boundaries or limitations to that flexibility.
  • Can we split time with baby at home? As someone who grew up with one stay-at-home parent and one always-away parent, I was very aware of the inequality of time allocation. My dad actually traveled a lot for work. He was gone a week at a time, meeting with clients in Asia. He also worked multiple jobs and did night and weekend shifts at Staples, Blockbuster, and Robinson’s May. It affected me a lot to always have one missing parent, so even when we got married, I told Mike that I prefer his jobs don’t take him away on travel. Growing up with that, I wanted to try my best to share our time with baby. Not only was it enough that I was home, but I want him to be home too. We are lucky in that we both have work flexibility. He plans to go into the office Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I plan to go into a dental office Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Both of us will be home on Sundays. That gives us 4 days to be at home every week. Not everyone has this flexibility, although there are plenty of ways to make it work. For example, I know of a couple wherein the dad works night shifts and mom works day shifts. They take turns spending time and raising their two kids, even if it means they hardly see each other. To them, that was a priority.
  • How much money do we actually have to make? Where can we cut? You may be surprised to learn that post-baby’s birth, you don’t have the same desires as you once did. Those late nights at the bar, loud concerts, and constant travel may be a chapter in your life that ends. It isn’t a bad thing. But realizing where you can cut can actually alleviate or remove financial stress, which is what many parents struggle with. Figure out the amount of money you really need, then establish a way to achieve that goal while reallocating the other work hours you used to spend doing new things at home.
  • What will we do for an emergency fund? This should definitely be a question answered, as there will be emergencies. Knowing where the money will come from (whether that be from a savings account, from family and friends, from stocks, or by selling off something you own) will make it more seamless when you need money right away for an emergency.
  • How often will we do finance check ins? In our family, we do weekly budgeting meetings since we got married. Making sure your finances are squared away will make the family unit run so much more smoothly. We use YNAB as our budgeting tool and it is easy, efficient, and accessible to both of us.
  • How often will we do mental health check-ins? Role equality check-ins? I think once a quarter, we will voice our resentments, difficulties, and hopes. We also plan to re-evaluate our roles. Are the tasks we are doing at home equal? Is someone slipping on their duties? Is it a matter of needing to re-assign tasks or hire a third-party to outsource a task in order to prioritize other things?
  • What are ways in which we can get increased support shall we need it? Call on the grandparents to take shifts on weekdays? Ask for grandparents to do babysitting on weekends so we can do errands or go on a date night? Hire an au pair if the grandparents aren’t working out or if it is too heavy of a burden on them and us? Hire a part-time nanny or sign them up for daycare or pre-school?
  • What are things that rejuvenate you and your partner? When I see my partner struggling, I know that he either needs sleep, space, or time to himself. Things that rejuvenate him are music, whiling away on the phone or computer, video games, or the TV. I am quite the opposite. Things that rejuvenate me include working out, taking a shower, getting some sunlight either by walking or swimming, writing/journaling, or reading a book. But like him, I also need that space or time to myself to feel human. That being said, you need to find space in the schedule for you-time. For example, we’ve talked about carving out a few hours a week before or after work for our own sanity.
  • How often shall we make time for us? The all-important question. It was you two before any of this started. Make sure it’s still you two when it ends.

A Word on Modern Dads Pulling Their Weight At Home

I must say, I swell with pride when I see amazing dads take to the homefront more. There are a lot of you out there, and I see you. In fact, as of 2016, 17% of men are stay-at-home dads. One of our best friends recently decided to be the stay-at-home dad while his career-driven wife does the bread-winning. We have another friend who works-from-home and brings their baby daughter on his wife’s conference trips, since she travels a lot and works directly under the VP of the company. Because the entire family travels with her on these trips, his wife is still able to breast feed their 6+ month baby during conference breaks. Another father in our neighborhood is home with his son every day and takes him out on walks a few times a day. I’ve seen him diligently care for their boy while his wife goes into work.

My own dad became a work-from-home dad in 2008, thereby allowing my mom (who gave up her job in the 90’s in order to raise three children) to go back to work again. Today my dad preps my mom’s lunches for the day, walks the dog, and does household errands on his down-time from work. And now that I am on my own parenting journey, my own husband has been able to secure WFH every Tuesday and Friday, thereby allowing me to work at a dental office on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. I am excited to know that our son will be raised with both of his parents at home equally. But none of this would have happened if we did not talk about our expectations first!

Photo by Rachel Moenning on Unsplash

Simple Things: Baby Gym

Of all the hand-me-downs I received, this eco-friendly, collapsible play gym is my favorite. I love the story behind this play gym. It was gifted to me by a high-school best-friend whose two boys have outgrown it. She packed it in her luggage on a recent visit home, along with a bag of clothes which the boys have also outgrown. To forgo luggage space whilst traveling by plane with two children is a sacrifice. Going beyond that to lug it to me meant the world.

When I thanked her profusely for making the effort, she brushed me off gracefully. She even demonstrated how to put it back together. It took her less than a minute to reassemble it in my living room. No tools required! When in folded position, it’s easy to carry by the top bar. The gym slides nicely in a crevice between the couch and the wall. A perfect tiny space solution for a tiny person like me!

One might notice one of the dangling toys feature a green ribbon. This is a result of her husband accidentally stepping on the gym and breaking the wooden ring from which the toy originally hung. Instead of chucking the gym set because of the accident, she resourcefully remedied it in her own, simple way. Mike and I also made an addition to the gym set. In the middle we hung Mike’s cousin’s hand-made macrame planter. (His cousin also made a macrame paci-holder for baby which I adore.) With this play gym, it’s easy to add and subtract hangings from the bar. The legs on either side unscrew from the rod, allowing you to slip in more dangling points of interest.

This beautiful gym looks amazing in any space. It is light, portable, and easy to disassemble. Despite the light weight, it’s sturdy too! And the wood material looks minimal but feels luxe. Since we want to teach our baby about human impact on the environment, we prefer toys and books made with wood, cardboard, or paper over plastic. Our closest friends and family know this of us. We also did not list any toys or books on our curated, minimalist baby registry, which limited the amount we received. Another of our friends gifted us these wood toys by Gathre, and this local toy shop contains other great options for new parents who wish to be mindful over their toy selection too.

I am not sure what brand this gym is, but similar ones can be found online under the brand Poppyseed. There’s this Black and Wood one at West Elm, and this all natural one at Baby List.

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Essential Finance Moves Parents Can Make For A Newborn Baby

Well, here’s the fun stuff about becoming parents. There are plenty of things you can do to set your kid up for financial success! YAY! This is the stuff that excites me to my bones. Of course, finance isn’t for everyone. That’s why I wanted to share a few actionable tips for people who love a set-it-and-forget-it type of financial life. By doing these few finance moves early on, you are making your family’s life a lot easier. Even before they can even babble, you can already do so much! Here is a list of finance moves we are going to make for our newborn in the first few months after birth.

Set Up your Baby for Financial Success with these easy finance moves

  1. Add baby as an authorized user to your credit card. You can do this once they are born, which allows them to start building credit. Of course, you want to make sure you yourself are paying back those credit cards every month. We don’t want you to ruin their credit scores by racking up a terrible history. But as long as you do, this is a sure-fire way to give them a good score! If you have trouble paying off your credit card debts, you can always try The Credit Pros. They will help identify the most damaging and most helpful credit items, as well as provide advice and educationalools.
  2. Start a 529 plan. You can open this through a brokerage account such as Fidelity or Vanguard. A 529 plan allows you to save up for educational expenses for your child. It is a tax-advantaged savings account. As long as money stays in the account, there are no taxes on earnings. As long as the money is used to pay for qualifying educational expenses, there are no federal taxes. And most of the time, there are no state taxes either! If your child doesn’t end up going needing educational expenses, you can rename the beneficiary to someone else. A grandchild, for example. Or you can transfer funds to an IRA.
  3. Add them to the HSA plan. Having a child is a qualifying life event that allows you to add them to your HSA plan mid-year. Make sure to claim them as a dependent under the person who owns the HSA plan.
  4. Claim child as a dependent with your employer.
  5. Take care of health insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance. Adding your newborn to existing insurance plans is a must!
  6. Create a budget category for your new family member. We budget every dollar, and now that we have an additional person, we need to financially account for them. We added a specific spending bucket for our baby’s additional monthly expenses. We’ve actually tried to not increase our spending by much even though we have a new family member. Check out the list of baby stuff we did not buy if you also want to limit spending. As for our budgeting tool, we have used YNAB for years and I recommend it to everyone. It is a tool that gave us the lifestyle we wanted. You can try it for free for 34 days using my referral link here. Personally, we find so much value in YNAB that we pay a yearly subscription.
  7. Add them to your living trust and will. I wrote our living trust on my own with Legal Zoom. By doing so, I saved thousands of dollars on lawyer fees. It was super easy to do on my own, too. All we had to pay for were notary fees. I talked a lot about the importance of living trusts in this post. The living trust is crucial in avoiding state interferences that usually occur prior to the will being carried out.
  8. Add child as beneficiary to accounts. Do this as a safety measure to the living trust and will.
  9. Take advantage of tax breaks. Did you know that there is the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit? It allows you to get 20-35% of tax credit for up to $3000 (one dependent) or $6000 (two or more qualifying dependents). The percent depends on your adjusted gross income. There is also the option of opening an FSA account with your employer and funding up to $5000 tax-free in an FSA account. This money can be used to pay for pre-K programs such as nursery school or pre-school. Higher income earners may benefit more from an FSA account than the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (you can’t use both!). However, FSA money must be spent within the same year. So use it or lose it! Plus, check to see if you qualify for the Child Tax Credit (CTC) which gives up to $2k per child, or the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  10. Sign them up for a frequent flyer account with an airline so they can accumulate miles for award flights simultaneously. Most of the time, we travel hack our trips so that we use points to book flights and hotels instead of our hard-earned dollars. We actually did this for our upcoming trip to Japan in October. We paid for our hotels 100% with points (that means we spent $0 for 11 days of stay in Japan!), and 50% of our flights using a credit card sign up bonus cash redemption with this credit card (this referral link of ours will give you an additional $200 cash back if you sign up by 6/7/23). You can read how we travel hacked our Japan trip in this post. But for the times such as this when we can’t cover the flights solely through credit card rewards, it is very important to collect the frequent flyer miles. I think it will be harder to travel hack for a family of three than it was when it was just us two. So I would love for them to earn the points so they can accrue enough to cover their future trips.

Of course, this probably isn’t everything, but it’s a good place to start when you don’t want to do much work. If there are other intricacies that I come across, I will try to let the community know. I would love to know any hacks you may have too, so do leave a comment below!

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Books I Read on Pregnancy and Parenting

I am a lover of information. A little bit too much information. During my pregnancy, I turned to many books, along with anecdotal stories from people I knew. Both gave me a good grasp on what to really expect when expecting – and that means the good, the false, and the ugly too. I didn’t shy away from any of it, even when others apologized for their candor. The brutal truth did me good and helped me to have a less painful experience. I had the privilege of being mentally prepared and that’s a BIG DEAL for any mother. Although I didn’t agree with 100% of the opinions, and found some ‘facts’ to be baseless, I collected a number of thoughts that allowed me to reach my own conclusions. So here I will pass on the books I read during this time. I’m not saying these are the best by far and there are so many more on the list that I will be sure to add. Take what you will.

Books I Read on Pregnancy and Parenting

  • Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting by Emily Oster. I found this book so much better than her other one (Expecting Better) which I also read. The latter is all about pregnancy but the former is what happens after. As a first-time father and facts-lover, Mike also enjoyed reading Cribsheet. I told him to skip Expecting Better because I was unimpressed and it really only relates to the mom.
  • Not Buying It: Stop OverSpending and Start Raising Happier, Healthier, More Successful Kids by Brett Graff. A great reminder of the true cost of raising kids. It gave me peace of mind, especially after all this talk about the average costs of raising a child. I got around to publishing a list of baby stuff we never bought, to give frugal parents in this space ideas on how to provide for a child without spending more money. I highly recommend this to parents who want to shy away from consumerism.
  • No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. I really liked the actionable tips in this book. I know sleep solutions are different for each child and we have yet to try this book’s recommendations but a lot of it overlaps with Cara’s Sleep Training course which is very popular these days. I think the more information you have under your belt, the more prepared you are. Whether it works or not is a totally different story and honestly, irrelevant. You do your best in parenting, and that’s about all there is to it.
  • Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month: 6th Ed. Literally a textbook. For the medical student in me, this was by far the most useful and my favorite resource.
  • Mama You Got This by Emma Bunton. Just a short, quick, easy read that was fun and light-hearted. I mean, it’s Baby Spice!
  • After Birth by Elisa Albert. A terribly dark book that is so raw and honest. I couldn’t help but whole-heartedly agree and at the same time, whole-heartedly shy away from some of these truths. Caution: Read when you’re in the right headspace. At the same time, perhaps you’ll find comfort in its honesty.

As always, feel free to share the books that you’ve enjoyed or found useful.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.