Spending other people’s money

Can you spare a dime?

On a rare occasion when both of my kids were home at the same time, we recently discussed Father’s Day gifts. What The Mister might like, what would be something he’s use and enjoy, rather than knick-knacks that would just take up shelf space and gather dust.

Deciding on a couple of items, when I let my daughter know that I’d made the online orders, she laughed. I understand her amusement, but it was another reminder that I’m broke. The idea of me buying my husband, their dad, gifts with his own money* is almost surreal, and definitely depressing.

I’m in that undocumented segment of the population who are no longer included in the 8.1% national unemployment statistic. Out of work for almost three years, I have exhausted my limited job prospects and exhausted my financial benefits. I no longer count.

It’s not that there are no jobs available to me, but when looking for work, I have to weigh my potential salary against the added costs of working away from home – transportation, child care, clothing, etc… It’s not that I feel that I’m above working at Wal-mart or Micky D’s, but household expenses necessary for me to work at those sort of jobs would be more than any salary I’d earn. It’s a fatal Catch-22.

Which brings me back to making purchases for things outside normal monthly expenditures. Groceries, gas, utilities, credit cards, those sorts of things, while cringe worthy (all those damn zeros!), they are expenses that benefit our whole family. I feel tremendous guilt if I buy anything for myself, whether it’s clothing, lunch out, or even a hair cut.

To actually have no money of my own to buy gifts for my husband, it’s not only guilt inducing, it’s embarrassing.

Even though I do contribute to the running of our home, I still feel like I am less than essential. I try to keep our house in a modicum of order. Everyone has clean underwear (mostly) and matching socks (usually). I cook, clean, pay bills, tend our pets, but it’s little comfort when I know that even a little more income would be helpful.

It’s painful and demoralizing, and doesn’t look like my situation will change anytime soon.

*My husband has never done or said anything to make me feel guilty about not working outside the home. He has always been supportive of me staying home, and constantly tells me it’s not His money but Ours. It is my insecurity alone.

10 thoughts on “Spending other people’s money

  1. I’m always slightly jealous that you’re not tied to a desk job. I guess I hadn’t thought about what it feels like not to have an income, to have to rely on someone else. But it’s the way it used to be and it used to be so accepted. I look around my house most days, at the disarray and clutter, and I wish we could go back to those simpler times.


    1. I think if I had always been a stay-at-home mom, I wouldn’t feel the same way. I worked prior to having kids, and after they were both teens, so I have been able to contribute to our family income in the past. I would welcome simpler times too.


  2. I know this has bothered you for awhile but I don’t think you really know ALL that you contribute to your house by just being there & the things that you do for your hubby & son. Try to see the silver lining in that!


  3. Ugh. I understand all those feelings all too well. After being out of work (sort of by choice) for three years, I just started working again. Finding something that fit my household/mom needs was tough, but it finally happened and I know the right thing will find you too.

    In the meantime, your husband’s income is your household income. That makes it your income as well. You are a partnership and I am sure he knows he couldn’t get along without you! Don’t feel guilty, buy him a nice gift with the money that belongs to both of you. You earned it, even if it didn’t come with tax withholding. 😉


  4. I think any woman who has stayed home to raise children or whatever at some time feels that guilt and insecurity. Society almost demands that she does. Adding to the family bank account is a mighty societal dictum, especially now, and it’s difficult to think in terms of how much cost is involved to hire someone to do what a stay-at-home woman does in the course of her day. When someone does pose it, people smirk. The reality is it costs money to work, especially for those with children.

    What an insightful, meaty post. I am in awe of your mind and your work, both writing and photography. Your husband sounds like a gem, too. Thanks for sharing.


  5. Man, I understand just how you’re feeling. Right now I’m not working and I feel alternately jealous of the things other people do that I can’t and ashamed if I have to ask for help. I’m glad you have your kids to make you smile, though! They’re pretty sweet!


  6. I used to feel exactly the same way some years ago. I quit my high-flying career to get married at 33 – and had a baby soon after. My Mom lived with us. My husband’s salary was barely enough to handle our household expenses and Mom’s medical expenses were taken care of from our savings. I’ve never felt worse in my life than during that time, when I felt useless – because I had to be at home to look after my baby and Mom, when I was capable of earning four times my husband’s salary. We moved cities and moved homes.

    And then, when my son started playschool, I got part time work that paid peanuts. Still, it got me out of the house and paid for Mom’s prescription medicines. I consoled myself thinking, I was available nearby, didn’t have a commute…all that. I used to feel quite miserable, feel wasted at that job. One day I could take it no more and I quit.

    Someone invited me to be co-editor for a business magazine and I thought, hey, a new opening. I explored, persisted, and even though the business mag’s investor decided to wrap it up, I got an opening with an agency that outsourced freelance writing jobs. Well, after that things looked up, even though my time-management was shot to hell. At least I was earning more, steadily. Mom’s health got worse, the expenses also shot up. Then one day, my husband told me what your husband told you. He told me that managing the house, cooking cleaning, being there….were all priceless. And that I was precious. It took me some convincing.

    You, Tara, are gifted. You are doing much more than most women ever dream of doing. Looking after a family and home (and your writing, photography) – is a full-time job. Paid with love. So don’t you dare feel insecure about not making enough monetary contribution. 🙂 Am I making sense? Yes.

    Love, Vidya


  7. I know exactly what you mean. My husband and I have traded this pair of shoes a couple of times over the course of our relationship. It’s a hard choice to make between the illusion of income and the reality that you’d actually LOSE money by working for so little money. Right now, we’re both gainfully employed and HIS job, at least, is stable. Mine is stable. I’m not.


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