When a couple sits down to talk about money and one of them ends up in tears you know it’s not been a good conversation. This is what happened to us this evening.
Don’t get me wrong – The Man didn’t bombast me or make me feel small and it’s not like we’re about-to-get-thrown-on-the-streets poor. No. The tears came because I’d seen an advert for a Saturday job and we were weighing up whether it would be worth me taking it on as well as being a self-employed stay at home parent. I’m not sure what it would pay, but we calculated at about £10 a hour.
We did the sums and it would end up with us being about £3,800 a year better off financially, but would that financial gain be worth the (massive) additional strain it would put us both under by me working that day? We were just beginning to think yes, it was, when The Man announced that he earned about that doing half the number of hours in his evening tuition sessions.
Yes. In addition to being a kind, handsome, loving and truly wonderful human being, my husband is a smarty pants who can tutor students in maths and physics up to undergraduate level. As you can imagine, this skill is very much in demand and, as well as tutoring four students a week after work, he has an actual waiting list of people just dying for his services.
Instead of me working all Saturday, he could just do Saturday morning sessions and earn the same amount. Now that may not entirely be due to my status as stay-at-home parent. It’s also due to the fact that I have a Bachelor’s degree in an arts subject and, thanks to a long run of ill-health followed by motherhood, not a shining work history either. In some ways that’s almost worse, though, because it can feel like I have no real choice and, although The Man and I made the decision for me to be a stay at home parent together, there wasn’t really any other option.
We love each other dearly and I know he respects me and the work I do with our children, in my PR business and here on this blog, but none of them earn much money – if any – and, in the eyes of society, that makes me utterly worthless. Because the only value placed on a human being and the work they do is the financial gain that work brings. Not happiness. Not a new generation of happy, well-educated, engaged, mentally healthy (hopefully) humans. Not the support I offer to my husband so that he can do his job and a second job.
And don’t get me started on the fact that I can’t share my tax-free allowance with him.
I love my husband, trust him, know he respects me, and yet there’s always a little bit of me that feels…less because he earns all the money and I just don’t. Women may have the theoretical freedom to work these days, but at what real cost? I would just be working for the sake of working, because there’d be no real financial gain to our family and the stress would increase tenfold. No built in chief-cook-and-bottle-washer with built in childcare any more, we’d have to pay for the childcare and try to fit the rest around our jobs. It’s just not worth it, but it doesn’t matter how much my practical brain tells me all this. I still feel like I am worth less. And that’s what made me cry.