A Lawyer On Maternity Leave On 150k

Laveta Brigham

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking a cross-section of women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and we’re tracking every last penny. This week: “I’m a lawyer currently on maternity leave with […]

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking a cross-section of women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and we’re tracking every last penny.

This week: “I’m a lawyer currently on maternity leave with my first baby (Z). She is 7 months old and is (objectively speaking) adorable. I was really looking forward to my maternity leave and then…corona. Being a new mum can be isolating enough but add a global pandemic and it really does push you to your limit!”

Industry: Law
Age: 30
Location: London
Salary: £150,000
Paycheque amount: £7,232
Number of housemates: Four: Z, my partner (K) and his dad and stepmum. We’ve been living with K’s parents for two years so that we could save to buy somewhere to live and we’re looking at flats now BUT THE MARKET HAS GONE CRAZY (well, even more crazy than before, it’s always been a bit mental in London) so we’re a bit in limbo at the moment, waiting for things to calm down. I’m really grateful to K’s parents for letting us stay with them but it has been pretty intense and I’m looking forward to having my own space again.

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: None, and I’m super grateful for this.
Loan payments: I paid my student loan off a few years ago and felt really proud once I had. I was one of the lucky ones who paid circa £3k a year for tuition fees and feel really sad for those who came after me and had to pay £9k a year.
Utilities: K and I contribute £500 a month to cover our share of bills (council tax, electricity, water, internet). I pay £400 and K pays £100 as I earn significantly more than him.
Transportation: Pretty minimal as since corona, Z and I tend to walk a lot and only use public transport occasionally.
Phone bill: £10 but I was paying £53 up until recently.
Savings? £23,000 in a cash ISA and £6,500 in a stocks and shares ISA (this is what I invested but the value has actually plummeted since then – again, thank you corona). I know this might not sound a lot given my salary and expenses but I helped my mother to buy a house, which really dented my savings.
Other: Amazon Prime £79.99 a year, Netflix £11.99 a month, Save The Children £100 a month.

Day One

2am: Z is up as she’s teething. The poor baby. She just wants to be held so I rock her gently until she falls asleep and then put her back into her crib. Success!

2.30am: Well apparently not. She’s up again. And this time it takes about an hour to settle her to sleep.

3am: Watch an episode from RHOBH series one on mute with subtitles. No one really lives like this, right? This is just for the cameras?   

5am: Up again. Having a baby is no joke thing.

5.15am: I try to go to the toilet as I really need a wee but Z is not having it and screams every time I try to leave her for a second. I find myself on the toilet, in the dark, holding a baby. Bleak. 

10am: We are up and ready to go and meet some mum friends in the park. I did think of cancelling because of, erm, exhaustion. But my opportunities to see other people are so limited that I make sure I see friends whenever I can.

10.30am: We’re on the bus heading towards Victoria Park. £1.50

10.35am: We needed to get the bus going in the opposite direction. Oh no. £1.50

12pm: Feeling happy and content after a good chinwag. Corona has made me really focus on what makes me happy and what is good for my mental health. I’d never had the time to think about it before. I just ‘did’. I head to Sainsbury’s and pick up a pain au chocolat, a pint of milk and some grapes. The total comes to £3 but is £0.50 with my Nectar points. Score!

12.30pm: We arrive home and I eat aforementioned pain au chocolat with a cup of English breakfast. I get a call from one of my oldest friends who is having a really hard time at the moment. It’s work and it’s her boyfriend and it’s everything. I try not to proffer advice but just try and listen. It makes me sad that she is sad so I Amazon Prime her over a candle. £11.99

7pm: Spend the rest of the day watching Netflix, cooing over Z and getting an early night to try and make up for the previous night’s sleeplessness. Fingers crossed!

Total: £15.49

Day Two

9.15am: Sleep was…okay! Head out early (for us) with Z for a power jog (I’m not sure how exactly this is different from a normal jog but everything sounds better if you prefix it with ‘power’). Stop at M&S Food and pick up grapes, pistachio cookies and a few other bits and pieces. £17.80

11.30am: Grab a small latte from Costa. £2.32. I don’t even like coffee that much, I just like sitting in coffee shops. Is that weird? Feed and change Z before we go home.

11.50am: K calls and asks whether I want to go for dinner this evening. This makes me really happy. Although K is working from home, he’s SO BUSY that I feel like we barely see him. Walk home with a zing in my step.

12.30pm: Arrive home and make a cheese and ham toastie. K’s parents are about so offer to make them one too. They coo over Z while I do so and as crazy as it sounds, it’s nice to have a break from her, even if it’s just to make two extra toasties.

7.30pm: Me, K and Z arrive at French bistro and almost immediately gain the ire of the manager. We booked for two and he’s annoyed that there’s three of us. I try and explain that Z won’t be eating but he’s not having any of it. I’ve never had this issue but note to self: clarify when booking in future! Dinner: £83.50, I pay.

9pm: Home and to bed!

Total: £103.62

Day Three

9.05am: It’s raining today so we’re having a ‘home day’. I watch Us on iPlayer while Z does tummy time (where she literally lies on her tummy, it’s a thing). I drop my phone on Z while watching iPlayer, this is not the first time I have done this. Bad mum.

11.35am: Delivery man rings with a parcel for me. I literally cannot remember what I ordered. I am slightly disappointed when I realise it’s just a new tan Fitbit band. I’ll often order stuff online in a zeal, convinced I need it, but by the time it comes I’m a bit meh about it. Also not great with returning stuff. Not an ideal combination!  

1pm: I make a chicken and avocado salad for lunch for K and me. K’s parents are milling around while we have lunch. They’re semi-retired. I’m so, so grateful for being able to live with them but it’s really difficult not having privacy and never feeling totally relaxed at ‘home’, especially during these uncertain times with maternity leave on top, even when doing something as simple as having lunch.

4pm: Starving so head downstairs in search of a snack, decide on three digestive biccies washed down with a green tea. K’s dad and I have a chat about the housing market and how he bought his first house on a modest income. We both agree that the London housing market beggars belief and that at some point there will be a ‘correction’. I’m not sure I really do believe this but it makes me feel better to think this is going to be the case. 

8pm: After putting Z to bed, I log on to FutureLearn to do this week’s work for a course that I’m doing on the link between nutrition and mental health. It’s nice to feel that I’m using my brain in some capacity. FutureLearn is a great free resource, I’d recommend it.

Total: £0

Day Four

11am: FEEL AWFUL TODAY. Really tired and shivery. Is it the dreaded corona? Nah, I think it’s more likely just a cold. How do people look after children while ill themselves? I will never understand. I want to be babied.

12pm: Cannot sleep so find myself on the Rightmove app, looking at stuff that I can’t afford. A classic.

12.20pm: Book a viewing for a place that I can’t afford. This one is a really bad idea as it says “offers in excess of…”. Up until recently I didn’t think OIEO actually meant anything but having been outbid on several properties which went for over the asking price, I now know it is. 

3pm: K and K’s dad take Z at various intervals, which gives me a chance to rest. Grateful to be living with family at moments like this.

8pm: The Heinz mushroom soup that K made for me earlier is not doing it for me. I need food. Greasy, carb-loaded food. I order a double cheeseburger, steak chips for me and a cheese and tomato pizza for K on Uber Eats. £20.43 and a £3 tip for the driver.

Total: £23.43

Day Five

11am: Listening to a masterclass on the Calm app while I get ready to go out. My subscription was free with my Amex card. Like a lot of people I’ve been feeling more anxious than usual recently and I really prefer to listen to this versus any news-type show. I feel like I don’t listen/read a lot of news anymore, particularly in relation to corona, as it just makes me feel very anxious.  

1.15pm: Meeting my sister for lunch at this Thai place which has extended the Eat Out scheme into September. I order a green curry (I know, I know, but sometimes you want what you know) which is watery and not very creamy at all. Disappointing. £10.60 with 50% off and £2 tip. 

3.30pm: We head over to a nearby café for a hot chocolate (wild times I know) and a millionaire’s shortbread. I pay for both. £13.50 

6.15pm: K makes pesto pasta for dinner. Yum. K fills me in on his day and I notice how much happier he is since WFH. I know everyone keeps saying there will be a cultural revolution with home working but I’m sceptical if it will apply to the legal industry. I hope it does as at the moment, the thought of leaving Z and returning to the office full-time is a daunting one. I’d like to WFH for a couple of days so that I can drop her off and pick her up from nursery on time and not have to worry about what my colleagues think of me leaving at 6pm. Having seen other mothers go through it, I think it’s really hard to return to the workplace after maternity leave, and having no flexibility or having flexibility and that being seen as a sign of a lack of commitment does not make it easier. 

11pm: Worry that Z is not being stimulated enough so panic-buy light-up bath toys, a few ‘touch and feel’ books and this weird pink VTech elephant thing which is meant to be good for teaching the alphabet and numbers. £109.70 Amazon Prime.

Total: £135.80

Day Six

11.40am: Z and I head to meet an ex-colleague for a coffee. It’s so nice to speak to someone who is not a mum. We have a really good gossip and Z looks suitably intrigued too, burbling at all the right moments. £2.15 for a small cappuccino.

1.30pm: Head to Zara to pick up some knitwear as it is so cold and I seem to wear the same two tops on rotation. I pick up a pretty pink jumper and a striped sailor polo neck. £69.99

2.15pm: Head to McDonald’s to try their triple cheeseburger. Do not judge me. £1.59

4pm: We head home and it occurs to me that for Z it will be totally normal that people wear face masks all the time. For her, it’ll be no different to people wearing hats or glasses. Weird! I remember going to China for the first time and being struck by how many people wore masks and buying some for the novelty factor. Ha. Different world. 

7pm: K and I have a simple noodle dish for dinner which he cooks and then head to watch TV in bed. We watch this thing on ITV called Honour about a young girl who is killed by her family for trying to live her life on her own terms. It’s so sad. Resolve not to watch anything which isn’t light or uplifting as I just cannot deal with anything else which is heavy right now. Not even a TV programme. 

Total: £73.73

Day Seven

9am: K is on annual leave today so he takes Z for the morning, result. Plan on sleeping.

9.30am: Cannot sleep so do some online ‘browsing’ and spend £34 on a Charlotte Tilbury foundation.

11am: On the Rightmove app again. I think house-hunting gives me anxiety as everything is in such flux at the moment. Is it a good time to buy? What if I or K lose our jobs? What if we buy at the top of the market? What if we don’t buy and prices rise further? Honestly, this is all so stressful that I head to Instagram so that I can mindlessly look at pictures of Beyoncé. 

4pm: We head out for a quick walk but it’s bloody freezing. Try and brave it but are back home within 40 minutes. 

9pm: Z, K and I spend a lovely rest of the day pottering around, watching rubbish on TV and snuggling in bed. Priceless.

Total: £34

The Breakdown

Food & Drink: £157.39
Entertainment: £0
Clothes & Beauty: £103.99
Travel: £3
Other: £121.69

Total: £386.07


“I think this is a fairly expensive week for me – there seem to be a lot of miscellaneous expenses! I’m going to try and rein things in a little bit as I’m definitely spending more than I thought.”

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