I once heard Gary Thomas of Sacred Marriage talk about what women look for in a man. He said that when women first get married, the main characteristic they want in a husband is someone who listens to them and understands them. Seven years later that all changes. By that time they have young kids, and the main characteristic they want is someone who is a good provider.
Most women, in other words, want to be able to stay home without worrying about money.
That certainly was the case with my family. I had a great education, but as soon as held my daughter in my arms I didn’t want to leave her with anybody. I wanted to raise her. So the fact that my husband is able to provide so well really matters to me.
But what do you do when you disagree with your husband about this? These disagreements, I believe, come in two forms, though I think the solution is the same for both: one, the husband thinks that the wife should work because they need the money; and two, the wife’s view of what is necessary for comfortable family life far exceeds their income.
Let’s deal with the first first. I have many friends who want to stay at home but their husbands don’t want them to. And in fact, this is the cultural norm. Another friend and her husband are very committed to her staying home with their five children. But they are deeply in debt and he doesn’t make much income. When they went to a Christian credit counsellor, the counsellor told them she had to work. No ifs, ands or buts. That wasn’t an option to them, so they walked out. They’re just trying to be frugal.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that many men want their wives to bring in at least a little bit of income. And I see women struggling to find part-time jobs that work with their schedules. One of the most popular and linked to posts I’ve ever written on this blog was about Mary Kay type businesses. Women want a solution to their money problems.
Last week, though, we went out to dinner with two family members, and one made a comment: he said that nobody in our family had gotten really rich. We were all comfortable, but we weren’t rich. “What’s your definition of rich?”, asked my husband. “To be able to go into a store and buy whatever you want without thinking about it,” he replied. “Well,” said my husband, “as long as you only want what’s in the dollar store, then you’re rich!”
And I think Keith’s right.
How much money we have, and how much money we need, is entirely dependent on how much we want and how much we spend. They aren’t separate from one another. And if you live within your means, you’ll be fine.
Think about a family fifty years ago. They likely lived in a house that was less than 1,200 square feet. They only had one car. Each person would have had one Sunday outfit, maybe two. They had one television if they were lucky. They rarely ate steak. They had no air conditioning. And that was normal!
Today, we expect that as soon as we marry we will have great furniture, a large screen plasma HD TV, and all the bells and whistles. There’s none of this living within one’s means that was so common back before VISA cards. But if they could live like that and be perfectly happy, why can’t we?
If your husband is pressuring you to work, see if you can figure out how to create an income simply by saving. By buying well, reducing what you actually need, and being frugal. If you’re unsure where to start, search for frugal mom blogs on the internet. Tons and tons are out there, and they’re all helpful!
But the bigger issue is a spiritual one. Many wives put their husbands in impossible situations because they spend too much. One of my friends recently had her husband cut up her credit card and put her on an allowance. It sounds mean and patriarchal, but she admits she needed it. She was addicted to shopping, and she was endangering their family’s security. She needed to be stopped.
Do you need to be stopped? Christmas is just around the corner, so the financial crunch for families is about to happen. Why not take time right now, before you start that big shopping, and figure out how to save money this year. Knit some scarves for gifts. Make some bath salts or bath oils. Bake cookies. And reconsider what you buy for the kids (I’ll post more on that in the days to come!). But don’t spend a ton. And then here’s the kicker: try not to feel bitter about it.
For those of us whose husbands work, let’s support them in that. They support us; let’s be sure to thank them. And honour them by treating their hard-earned money well. If your husband isn’t a great saver, you can save money by taking some that you would have spent on Christmas gifts or groceries and putting that aside. You start being good with money, and you’ll bless your household.
Money trouble is one of the biggest causes of marital stress and breakdown. And things just aren’t that important. They really aren’t. Does it profit your children to have the best clothes and iPods and Xboxes but to lose their parent’s marriage over it? Keep your family out of debt, as much as it depends on you. Be frugal with your money. Be responsible. And your marriage will go better, your heart will be in a better place, and your children will be blessed for it.