For the first time in my marriage, I am not bringing in any income (save a small scholarship). My husband and I had so far taken turns being the primary breadwinner, but now, I am officially an economic "dependent."
Of course, we all probably know women (and men) for whom this has been a challenging state of life. I know my mom and my aunt, both of whom took years off of working to stay home with children, often had feelings of guilt when "spending their husband's money." Given that my dad and his identical twin brother inherited the frugal gene from their parents, they both probably contributed to their wives' feelings of not wanting to spend money (or at least fears of spending money, or fears of their husband's reactions to spending money). Ironically, neither household really ever suffered from economic insecurity or fears thereof (unlike my current household!).
When my sister and her husband were visiting, they mentioned that there's a new move for husbands to pay their wives for taking care of the kids. They calculate the hours, calculate how much they would pay for day care, and then give their wives monetary compensation for the time they spend with the kids. This way the women get to be stay-at-home-moms, but they also have their "own" money that they have "earned." And presumably these women can feel free to spend their "own" money however they want.
My husband said that was the most ridiculous thing he ever heard. He emphasized that he doesn't see his income as HIS income but as OUR income, and he trusts me to spend the money wisely. And I am happy for his reassurances.
And yet I'm not reassured.
This is not from any fault of my husband, but more from my own decision to devote my time and attention to my three children: Maia, Eva, and my dissertation (the youngest, which has been conceived but not yet born). Such a decision was also a decision to live upon one professor's salary in an expensive part of the country. Everything here seems to cost so much money! I think that Maia's pre-school is worth the money. But what about dance lessons or swim lessons? I know she would enjoy it, and she's been asking to do gymnastics again. But can we afford it? What about a YMCA membership? Whenever I mention something like this, the husband groans and says, we don't have the money! We did buy a zoo membership - $70 for the year. Today at the park I was talking to a mom about what she does with her kids in the winter when it's hard to go outside, and she told me about an indoor kids' play area that has nine rooms with different set-ups and sells 3 month winter memberships for $100. I don't think that's too much, but the idea was met with another husband groan.
I understand his concern, and, after more consideration, I think we probably need to get our budget up and running and maybe we'll find out we can afford these things after all. But at the initial groan, I told him, fine, I'll pay for it with my pin money. "Pin money" is a term I encountered in Jane Austen novels, and it refers to the money that the women got from their husbands (or fathers) to spend on their own needs (like clothes). Should MY pin money go to something for the girls?
Oh, wait. I don't have any pin money. My husband is not paying me to be a stay-at-home mom. We have no separate accounts. We have only OUR money.
I think, as I was saying earlier, that this is a common conundrum of the stay-at-home-mom. She ends up making sacrifices for her husband and children: clothes shopping cheaply so her husband can wear sport coats and ties; cooking dinner after an exhausting day to save the $30 that would otherwise be spent eating dinner out; waiting for a gift card before making a purchase she's been thinking about for weeks. Maybe it helps on the path to holiness (and this would explain why there are so many more women in heaven than men, ahem, ahem). Or maybe this will lead to a serious back problem, in the case of my not having purchased a desk chair for myself (this folding chair is really starting to hurt me!).
Sometimes it helps to have a mom to step in, as my mom did when she told me she'd pay for contact lenses for me. She just can't bear the thought of my only wearing glasses because I don't think we can afford to spend money on contacts now.
I think Mom remembers what it was like to be the economic "dependent."