When our first daughter was seven months old, I went back to work full time. It was hideous; we were all exhausted. Our baby did not seem to enjoy nursery, didn’t eat or sleep well there, and seemed subdued when we picked her up at the end of the day. Although my job paid reasonably well, the reality of how little I was actually bringing home each month once £1100+ had been deducted for nursery fees was a bitter pill to swallow. I lasted three months before drastically reducing my hours.
In the year following the arrival or our second daughter, we spent a lot of time talking about whether or not we would both continue working, or if one of us would become a stay at home mum. And if so, who would be staying at home? Eventually, it made sense that I would be at home with the girls (doing a small amount of freelance work in the evenings), and my wife would continue working full time. So far, it has worked well and life feels reasonably well balanced.
However, one of the things I have found most difficult to accept is that I am no longer contributing as much financially to our family. I do not have a payslip at the end of the month, yet I am the one spending the money. I do the food shop, make sure the girls have clothes and shoes that fit, buy birthday presents for family and friends, and pay for activities and days out during the working week. I do not go clothes (or luxuries) shopping for myself very often, but when I do, I feel a bit uneasy at spending money that I have not actually earned myself. Do I really need a new top? Can I justify going for dinner with friends using the money my wife has earned? If I buy myself a treat, I no longer have the satisfaction of knowing that I earned it by working hard in a job or saving up. Whilst walking down our local high street recently, my wife suggested we all go out for tea, and I found myself thinking that only she could make the decision, as it’s not for me to decide how she spends her earnings.
Of course, these thoughts are irrational and my wife is very clear that her earnings are not hers, but for us as a family. It is difficult to adjust to this new life of not earning a significant amount, and not providing much financial support anymore. We talk openly with each other, and I know that my wife is grateful that I stay at home as she never has to worry about missing work if one of the children is ill, doesn’t need to do any nursery runs, and knows that I will have provided the girls with a happy and stimulating day. Not to mention that the laundry, cleaning, and other essentials are usually done by the time she gets home. I can tailor each individual day to the girls’ needs, whether they’re full of energy or under the weather. I am able to prepare proper meals for us all, and getting food on the table doesn’t feel stressful (getting the kids to eat it is another matter). We now have weekends that we can devote to family fun, rather than being filled with chores.
Although deep down I know that what I do at home is equally as important as what my wife does at work, it is difficult not to have the financial reward that I used to. Despite all of this, I am so grateful that we are in a position where one of us can be at home to see the girls grow up, and I know it is worth feeling a bit financially inadequate. Hopefully with time I will come to accept that my new role comes with different rewards, and my worries about the missing payslip will begin to fade.
Hannah is a freelance writer living in Bristol with her wife and two daughters aged three and one. When she’s not obsessing about getting the laundry done, she can be found eating potatoes. You can find her on Twitter, read her blog and follow her on Facebook