Ovia Hosts First Parenting Exchange Event: Work-Life Balance

We’ve partnered with one of our hometown nonprofits, Room to Grow to host our inaugural Parenting Exchange speaker series! We’re bringing key members of the Boston community together for three panel discussion events throughout the fall. We’ll be discussing everything from leadership and motherhood in the workplace to nutrition for Baby.

Our first event “Women in Leadership: How to Achieve Work-Life Balance” was held at Room to Grow’s office and donation center in Boston on Wednesday night, September 21st. Open to all Ovia mamas and mamas-to-be, we kicked the night off with some networking and yummy treats!

Our panelists included two wonderfully intelligent and ambitious women: Diane Hessan - Chairman of C Space and Entrepreneur and Danna Greenberg - Professor at Babson College and Author. Our discussion was moderated by our very own Gina Nebesar, Chief of Product and Marketing at Ovuline, mom, and star of the Ovia Pregnancy weekly videos!

Danna, Diane, and Gina at The Parenting Exchange.

Danna, Diane, and Gina at The Parenting Exchange.

Diane and Danna blew the lid off of the common concept of “work-life balance.” According to these women, there is no such thing. As Diane eloquently put, “Life is not balanced. Life is messy.” Some nights you are going to feel like a terrible mother and some days you’re going to feel like a terrible colleague. There are good days and bad days. Attempting to divide your life up into percentages is a futile effort: 50% at work and 50% at home is not going to work.

What to do instead? Diane shared an invaluable piece of advice that was shared with her many years ago: your kids deserve a happy mother. Whether that means you’re working 90 hour weeks or are at home full-time, or that means you leave dishes in the sink every morning or vacuum daily. Whatever makes you happy, do it. Your kids feed off of your energy. Take care of yourself and your kids will be all the better for it. Danna echoed this sentiment and put it beautifully: have a joyful life.

 

Nuggets of advice to take away from the panel:

  • Go for it. Whatever “it” is - do it! Be ambitious.

  • Empower your partner. Allow your partner to co-parent without criticism or hovering. You’ll reap the benefits.

  • Balance is irrelevant when it comes to work and life. Find a way to carve out a successful and satisfying life with a holistic approach unique to you.

  • Your kid(s) deserve a happy mother.

  • Have a joyful life.

Interested in attending our next Parenting Exchange event? Join us, Tuesday, October 18th at 5:30 PM for our discussion on maternity and paternity leave. This interactive discussion will explore the primary concerns of expectant and new parent employees and will offer strategies to help employees and their managers plan for a successful leave and return.

How to start saving for college

Jon Medeiros, Director of Finance at Ovia by Ovuline and blogger behind Work.Life.Finance. knows a lot about money. He's also the proud father of a baby girl, so he knows a little about stress too. Here's his advice for thinking about college savings for your little ones.

It might just be me, but I don't think saving for college gets enough attention in the personal finance world. Perhaps it’s because millennials are so hamstrung by our own college tuition that we can’t fathom putting money toward another person’s education, especially one that's so far away. One of the biggest financial topics in 2016 is student loan debt, so why don't we talk about saving for college to help ease the burden for our cute little Generation Alphas?

If you start typing “expected college” into Google, one of the top suggested results is “expected college tuition 2030.” A few years ago, a US News report estimated that when my 9-month-old is 15 and starting to think about where she wants to go to college, the total cost of a four-year degree at a public institution will be more than $205,000.

Jon and his family.

So what is a Millennial to do?

Let’s say I conservatively want to have $100k saved up for Miss MGM to go to college. If only there was a tax-advantageous vehicle where I could start investing money that can be used to pay for college. How about a “qualified tuition program,” or as it’s commonly referred to in financial circles, a 529 account? There’s a ton of information out there about these vehicles (I recommend starting with Fidelity.com), so I’m going to give you the five big things you’ll need to know if you want to send your pride and joy to an expensive liberal arts college in the Northeast.

  1. Taxes, taxes, taxes
    Contributing to a 529 plan is tax advantageous in three ways. First, you may be lucky enough to live in a state where contributions to a 529 plan are deductible on your tax return. This is a nice perk because you can owe less in taxes or get a bigger refund. Second, earnings on your investment grow tax-deferred in a 529. This means you won’t have to worry about paying taxes on your investment earnings until much later on, once you withdraw the money. The third, and perhaps best, tax benefit is that the distributions themselves are tax-free if used for qualified education expenses. So you would only be responsible for taxes on the earnings (deferred until the money is withdrawn, as noted above), not the original contributions.
  2. Gifting
    Speaking of contributions to a 529 account, have you called your brother/sister/parent/second cousin to say hello lately? Because what better way to say congratulations on having a baby than dropping some cash into that college fund? Don’t get me wrong — toys are great too, but gifts to a 529 aren’t nearly as loud or messy. There are even some favorable gift tax rules around contributions to a 529, in case Uncle Joe is also trying to trim down his tax bill.
  3. Investment
    Not only is saving for college an investment for your child’s future, it’s also literally an investment vehicle. When you make contributions to a 529 account, they are invested in a mutual fund that will ideally grow over time (something like 6-8% annual return isn’t a bad rule of thumb). These mutual funds are usually “target date” funds that start off more aggressive when your child is young and gradually re-balance to become more conservative as they approaches college age. Basically, in addition to contributing your own dollars to the 529, those dollars should grow over time.
  4. Savings hack
    The most basic way to save in a 529 is to literally transfer funds from your bank to the college savings. There is also a creative way to save beyond transferring money from your checking account. Fidelity has an excellent credit card that gets 2% cash back on all purchases, which can then be automatically deposited directly into your Fidelity 529 account. That 2% cash back can add up quickly. Speaking of adding up quickly, perhaps my most important tip is:
  5. Get started
    The power of compounding is real. Assume your future CEO is 8 years old, just about to enter third grade. In 10 short years, they will be entering college, and you realize you need to start saving. All you have to contribute is $200 a month, which you smartly invest in a 529 account that grows at about 6% annually. In 10 years, you will have a bit more than $33k saved up. Not too shabby. Now, assume you opened that account 8 years earlier, a couple months after having your child and getting a social security number. Still contributing the $200 a month, after 18 years you’d have almost $80k! What’s more, you’d have about $26k more in earnings from the investment, aside from the additional 8 years of contributing $200 per month. That, my friends, is the impact of starting early.

How to save money on back-to-school shopping

How to save money on back-to-school shopping: The one savings secret you need

For all of you second-time or third-time moms out there, this one’s for you!

Hold on to your wallets! It’s that time of year again. Welcome to the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. While moms and dads are daydreaming about the return of school (and their sanity), there’s one heavy cloud of stress hanging over those dreams. The back-to-school spending, er, shopping season has arrived.

It’s reported that the average family spent $630 on back-to-school shopping in 2015, and spending is predicted to increase in 2016. If we multiply that average over the course of kindergarten to grade 12, that’s $8,820!

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t just drain your wallet; it eats up time too. Pokemon backpacks, Frozen pencil cases — as you drive around in hot pursuit of the last remaining green binder with two pockets and three prongs in town, it can start to feel like you’re competing in a scavenger hunt.

But what if you could avoid the madness? What if there was a way to shop from home, secure items in advance, and save oodles of money? That’s where we come in. Here’s how to get serious bang for your buck:

Take stock

Before you even look at a single flyer or website, go through your drawers and cupboards to take inventory of leftover school supplies from last year. There’s no point in replenishing stuff that you already have on hand.

Know where to look (VarageSale, obvs)

With back-to-school items priced at up to 90% off the retail price, you can save as much as $567 annually when you shop on VarageSale. Nikki, a mom of four from one of our New Orleans communities, was able to do all her school shopping for only $32 total! That included every item on her kid’s supply lists and brand-new backpacks.

Stretch those back-to-school savings across your child’s school years from kindergarten to grade 12, and you can pocket an extra $7,938. Take that, retail prices!

 

Keep your eyes peeled on categories

Smart buyers know that following categories is where it’s at. When you follow a category on VarageSale, you get notified whenever a new listing goes up. By staying in the know about the latest items posted, you can be sure to move quickly on a great deal. (If you’re really keen, you could even follow the next size up in kid’s clothing.) Put categories like Kid’s Clothing and School Supplies on your must-watch list.

Buy ahead for the year now

Make your life a little easier by picking up items well in advance. This is key when it comes to big-ticket investments like a graphing calculator, sports equipment, or a warm coat for when the weather suddenly turns crisp. If you see cheap prices on everyday items like pencil crayons, glue, and notebooks, grab them as extras for your supply cupboard at home. That way, you have back-ups for anything that gets worn out, lost, or buried at the bottom of a messy locker.

Like all things parenting, back-to-school shopping is a lot of work, but being prepared will keep everyone happy. As we round the corner of summer vacation toward a new year, let us lighten that load without lightening your purse! 

Don’t forget to enter VarageSale’s contest for your chance to win 1 of two $500 prizes or a Macbook Air!

 

6 Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents

Your decision to stay home with your little one is a choice that will have a profound influence on the next phase of your life. Being a stay-at-home parent is both an honor and a challenge, and it's especially important to take care of yourself while you take it on. To help stay happy and healthy at home, consider the following tips.

  1. Know what resources are available in your area
    You might be surprised! Does your local library have a story time? Perhaps a local rec center offers children’s music lessons? Make a list of all your options. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut and to take baby to the same places again and again. Mixing it up can keep the hours between naptimes feeling fresh and exciting, though, and having a list ready means you've got options at your fingertips.
  2. Join a play group
    Play groups are relatively easy to find, whether online or just by asking around at the playground. While it is great for baby to get out of the house and meet new friends, being a part of a play group is also a wonderful way for you to engage with other parents, to ask questions, share advice, and have some much needed conversations with adults.
  3. Stick to a schedule
    Life as a stay-at-home parent has less of a formal schedule than your life may have had at any time since you started kindergarten, but that doesn't mean a free-for-all is necessarily best for you or her. It does mean that setting up a schedule is up to you, though. Structure is important both for your state of mind and because she will thrive on consistency, especially when it comes to feeding and napping schedules.
  4. Set aside time for yourself every day
    As a stay at home parent, baby's needs will probably do their best to dominate your time and attention, making it much more challenging to make time for yourself - especially if you have more than one child. Aim to set aside a small amount of time each day, ideally during her nap time. Whether it is a phone call to a friend, reading a chapter of a book, or a quick yoga session, a little time for yourself will provide some much-needed balance.
  5. Take a morning or afternoon off every week
    Taking time off as a stay at home parent is an integral part of maintaining a healthy balance at home. If you can, find a friend or family member who might be willing to babysit, and who you feel comfortable leaving her with, and try to schedule him or her to watch baby for a morning or an afternoon each week. Stay-at-home parents often find it is all too easy for them to become last-priority in their own lives. Taking your weekly time off to do something for yourself gives you the chance to remember who you are one your own, aside from baby's parent. Taking this time can help to make you a happier and better parent.
  6. Know that your best is just fine
    Learn to strive not for perfection, but for the best version of yourself. Type-A stay-at-home parents often struggle with the seemingly impossible feats of keeping the house clean, laundry done, and to-do lists short. It is important to let go, at least a little, and accept that there will be days of chaos, unusually hard days, and sick days, just like there were before you were a stay-at-home parent. However, there will also be surprisingly easy days, endless wonderful memories, and the realization that accepting yourself just as you are means seeing the beauty in the madness of parenthood.

Is Your Partner Experiencing Sympathy Pains?

 

If your partner seems grumpy and a little sick, but isn’t actually sick, they could be feeling what you’re feeling. Literally. No need to worry though; your partner isn’t actually pregnant. Sympathy pregnancy, or Couvade Syndrome, is a common condition that some partners experience during pregnancy.

Couvade Syndrome

Its symptoms include that of an actual pregnancy minus the baby. Your partner could experience their very own bout of morning sickness complete with vomiting and nausea, leg cramping, and abdominal pain, almost like having a baby inside! Cravings, mood swings, and crankiness are also common.

Since sympathy pregnancy can occur at any point, no one is quite sure what causes it. The most conclusive study suggests a correlation in the hormone levels of both you and your partner during your pregnancy, which could result in feelings of pregnancy. It’s also caused by a partner’s need to talk an active role in your pregnancy and the stress of becoming a parent soon.

Sympathy pregnancy is not at all harmful for either of you; in fact, it sheds perspective as to what you’re both feeling. The best cure? Talking it out. You both need to express what you’re feeling, pregnancy related or otherwise, and make decisions together. Your baby impacts both of your futures, and giving your partner a more active role, or the appearance of one, during pregnancy will help both of you feel a lot better. Though, you might still have the cravings.