[In Pictures: 10 Smart Ways to Improve Your Budget.]
I recently spoke with Pope, mom of two in addition to maternity concierge and reality television star, for an upcoming story on the growth in the baby planning industry. She shared some of her tips about how to get ready for baby—even if you’re not as wealthy as most of her clients. Excerpts:
What exactly is a ‘maternity concierge,’ and who needs one?
It’s a weird, New York-centric thing. Women started coming in [to Pope’s maternity shop] and saying, ‘I don’t want to take CPR classes with everyone else. Can you do this for me one-on-one?’ They started making crazy requests. Bravo picked 16 of the crazier women [to feature on the show].
But concierge services are a small portion of our whole business. I have a maternity line of everything from T-shirts through dresses for weddings, and we have a studio that offers prenatal and post-partum education classes on everything you can imagine—Lamaze, breastfeeding, interior design, baby CPR. They range from $15 to $50. Our reputation is that we’re insane, but every day is not insane.
Why has the whole concept of baby planning and maternity services exploded recently?
My theory is that it’s the grandma generation. My mom was a working mom, but my nana was a nurse who raised seven children. She had a lot of experience and came and looked after me. So when I had my first baby, I expected my mom to come from England and know what she was doing. But she had no idea, because she was doing business. We’re missing that “old nana” generation. We need to pay for those services because we don’t have grandmothers who can help. They’re “glamour nanas” today—beautiful 60-year-old women. They look amazing, but we’ve lost our motherly instinct.
Do you think people go overboard preparing for babies today?
Yes. If you go into any of these big baby stores, they give you a list [of items to buy]. But when your baby comes out, they can’t do anything. They can’t run around or use an Exersaucer. Once you’ve had one child, you know: Babies have personalities of their own. Some kids hate rocking and hate jungle gyms. You need to know your baby’s personality first. You need a safe place for the baby to sleep, but otherwise can just wait. I’d suggest getting to know your baby before spending on gadgets.
What were your own favorite baby purchases?
On a practical level, those sterilization steam microwave bags. You’re sterilizing things all the time. I have no idea how my grandma boiled all those bottles. With the bags, it’s two minutes and bam [you’re done]. I also like bassinets with wheels so you can wheel it into the kitchen or living room.
Your clients are wealthy, but do they still have money stresses when it comes to bringing home a baby?
Yes, a lot struggle with when to go back to work or not. They’re on Wall Street or lawyers, and it’s a really difficult decision, especially with child care. It’s very expensive and can equal what they earn. The decision becomes, do they want to become a stay-at-home mom? That means getting out of the workforce, and it will be very difficult if they want to go back. Or you can keep working on Wall Street and never see your child.
[See Can I Afford a Baby?]
Do you see people put off having babies because they’re worried about the expense?
People say all their reasons for not being ready, but if you keep bringing them up, you’ll never be ready. It’s unrealistic to have all the money you need saved.
Do you have any financial tips for new parents?
If you’re not going to stay home, child care will be the biggest expense, so think about what works for you. People often leave that until the last minute, but most good daycares have waiting lists and you need to get on them.
You’re a busy working mom. How do you stay sane?
I’ve given up on the idea that I’m going to sleep. And for me, it’s all about the schedule. I run my own business, so I make sure to have certain parts of the day where there is nothing scheduled so I can be with the kids. I work until 1 a.m., but make sure to have 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. free.
Do you do anything for yourself?
No. Maybe in 2015 I will take a vacation.
Kimberly Palmer (@alphaconsumer) is the author of the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.