Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Questions About Staying at Home

The more Chris and I talk about me staying at home, the more questions I come up with. My main concern (and this is probably going to sound stupid) is that I'm worried that the balance that I have worked so hard to create will be gone. Right now, since we both are contributing financially, I feel like I have more freedom to go out, to insist that Chris do things with Will, etc.. I am afraid that I'm giving up this power since he'll be the breadwinner. Does anyone have any thoughts/suggestions on this? Am I just being silly? I know that staying at home is a job in itself, but has anyone had issues with this?

Also, how do you work out the financial aspect of staying at home? Does husband give you a certain allowance/budget for your own personal use, or do you just spend as you see fit and hope that it all balances out in the end? Chris' Dad gives his stepmom an allowance per month since he didn't want her to work, and she uses it for a cleaning lady. That always made me laugh! Of course, she doesn't have just any cleaning lady, no no no. She has a "domestic" who basically deep cleans the house with a toothbrush and a razor blade. She's like the MacGyver of cleaning ladies... insane.

We're thinking about selling my car (I know, we JUST got it in September) and buying a small car for Chris to take to work, and I'd drive his monster SUV. Not my ideal situation, but it would help with expenses a little. Getting rid of my $500/month car payment in lieu of something much smaller seems ideal, but I really really love my car! It's the perfect size and everything! Keeping mine and selling his is also an option, but we use his for traveling since it's so much bigger. I don't know that I'd want to make the 8 hour car drives to PTown or NOLA in my Highlander... Grrr... Although, if he gets this big promotion, then it might not even be a discussion that we'd really have to have....

Also, when it comes to cleaning, etc, do you have a schedule? Like, laundry/dusting on Mon, Wed, Fri and vaccuming/bathrooms on Tues/Thurs kind of thing?

Any info that anyone can give me would be GREATLY appreciated. Also, I'm really looking forward to exercising during the day. I totally need a jogging stroller, and I need to find a way to convince Femme to come to the park with us. It really is fun! Really! Will doesn't have any friends there yet, but he loves the slides and loves to hang out in the soccer field and stalk dogs. He likes to run up to them, yell "WOOF WOOF! DOG! WOOF WOOF!" and try to pet them and love on them. He's really used to Jenny. His new favorite thing is to lay his blankie on top of her and then lay down on her to cuddle. She tolerates it, she's a good dog. It sort of makes up for all of the toys and pacifiers that she's eaten. And the snacks that she's taken from him. What can I say, she's a lab. It's what they do. She's usually really good about not taking his snacks, she just stalks him until he drops them. (Which he always does) But sometimes she just can't take it anymore. He really does taunt her. He pretends to break off a tiny piece and offer it to her, then he runs away. So what is her solution? Knock the kid down and steal his snack. Bitch.

Anyway, any suggestions and advice would be fantastic! Maybe I'll start a ticker to countdown until the end of June...


Melek said...

well, i dont have much to contribute since i've never been a stay at home mom, but the thought of someone having to give you an allowance just bc you're not technically brining in a paycheck sounds just awful and somewhat degrading to me. i think setting a budget on what each of you can spend, or what should be spent on house stuff, will stuff, entertainment etc, is a better way to go. that way, you dont feel like 'well, i can't get a coke today bc i've used all of my allowance.' i think at this stage in your relationship, he knows you're not just gonna laze around and mooch off of him (i mean, you're not, right? :)). and the money he earns is technically BOTH of yours. at least, that's how i see it. you're saving a ton on day care, you'll have a happier family, he'll have a piping hot dinner and martini waiting on him when he walks in the door. you'll be in a dress with freshly coiffed hair, of course. i mean, yeah, technically, he's the bread winner, but it's a partnership. and i think when one partner controls the finances of the other, it can only cause hurt feelings and issues down the road.

as for selling the car, getting rid of a $500 payment would be great. just be sure you dont get screwed on the taxes/title you paid for it, and then doing that on the new car.

as for cleaning...i dont know. maybe a chores list with specific things to clean would be best to make things seem more routine. but i suspect that it might be easier just to do it as needed. i mean, what if it's gorgeous out one day so you go to the park instead of cleaning the bathrooms? then you're behind and feel like you didnt complete your daily tasks. maybe instead you make a weekly plan (or an every 3 days plan) of what to clean. then you can do them within that time frame with a little more flexibility.

like i said, i'm definitely no expert as i dont have exerience in most of what you're asking, but i like to put in my .02¢ anyway :)

Femme au Foyer said...

This sounds like a job for FEMME AU FOYER!!!! I will collect my thoughts and post a comment later on tonight!

Femme au Foyer said...

Okay, so the way Husband and I do it, I get to spend "X" amount of dollars every month. Call it the budget for my personal expenses, if you will. I really like this scenario because it allows me to spend money without having to run it by him first, and I can save up for personal things that may exceed my budgeted amount. Surprisingly, this does not feel degrading and I appreciate the autonomy. The important thing is to agree on what constitutes a 'personal expense'. By our definition, a cup of coffee does not constitute a personal expense. A pedicure does. Lunch with the girls? NOT a personal expense. A new Coach purse? Personal. Long ago I more than made Husband aware of how expensive 'upkeep' can be for a woman and so we agreed that all the things I do to look good and pamper myself come out of that budget. We have a separate budget for groceries, one for entertainment and one for gifts (Husband thought that gifts should come out of my personal budget but I talked him out of that one).

What's interesting is the change in my spending habits. When I had a job and had twice the budget for personal expenses (which I exceeded all the time), I spent money very frivolously. Now that my budget is so much less, I search for ways to save money and have yet to actually spend it all.

The next part, the balance of power, is tricky. This requires lots of open communication on both your parts. The main concern, usually, if for the breadwinner to become resentful because you're at home all day "having fun" and he's slaving away at work.

Dinner's ready so I'll have to continue this later.

Melek said...

ok, after reading Femme's post and seeing the way they do it, and that they call it a 'personal expenses budget' i feel better about that setup. i guess 'allowance' seemed way too 'mom vs child' to me.

can't wait to hear the rest of your thoughts Femme!

Katie said...

Hmmm... yeah, "allowance" was definitely the wrong word. I'm excited to hear the rest of Femme's comments about how they do it! We're still very undecided about the car situation, we're both leaning towards keeping it and seeing how we do.. whew!

Femme au Foyer said...

I'm back! Here I am!

Anyway, I was talking about the balance of power and saying that your husband must be completely on board with you staying at home for this to not be an issue. If, in his perception, your *job* is to stay home and care for the family, he will be less likely to become resentful and refuse to help you with such basics as helping to care for *his* child. I often ask husband for feedback just to make sure he's okay with me staying home. So far the feedback has been that he loves it since all he's responsible for is earning the paycheck and paying the bills. Still, it should always be a partnership. If I am tired or sick, Husband feeds the dogs and makes breakfast. I don't think he'd do that if he resented our setup. Chris gets weekends off and nights off and so should you. In other words, try to come to some sort of agreement that during the day you both work your respective jobs and at night and weekends you share in caring for your home and your son. Why should *you* have to work 24/7?

That long-winded response was to say that as long as you can get Chris to understand that you too are pulling your weight, the balance of power should be even.

I am a hypocrite, by the way. I was planning to quit my job by the end of last year but couldn't go through with it for all the same reasons you listed here. Being forced to lose my job was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I am tremendously happy, relaxed, and I talk to and see my friends and family more than ever. Not having a ton of money doesn't seem to matter anymore. Perhaps I'm no longer using it to fill a void...

I think you should keep your car. For now. Unless it's hurting you financially. Get over these other hurdles first. Selling a car that you love might throw some resentment into the mix. You don't need that right now.

I will totally come to the park with you and Will!!! I love that little boy and I love the park!

Cleaning? Puh-leese! I'm with Melek--just do it as it needs to be done. I can't adhere to schedules. Some days all I do is clean, others I just want to be outside exercising. You're a free spirit so something tells me that you would have a tough time with a schedule. Like Melek said, it's just one more thing to stress you out. This is supposed to be a stress free time!!!

One last piece of advice: I've worked with so many men and have heard so many complaints about wives who stay at home. These guys need to feel appreciated. Big time. It sucks having to get up for work every day and report to a boss and run in the rat race and deal with stressful coworkers/clients. You have the benefit of experiencing this first hand, so you know what Chris is going through. Let Chris know, routinely and effusively, that you appreciate the fact that he works so hard and that his success allows you to stay home. This does not equate to you losing power; it's just simple respect and appreciation for the privilege of staying home and raising your son.

For all I know, you probably already do this. If not, my guess is that Chris would love to hear it from time-to-time.

Melek said...

femme, you could take on a 2nd job of being advice giver extraordinaire! what great advice and thoughts on everything. i'll keep this post bookmarked for when i decide to quit my job and stay at home....

...wait. oh yeah. :)

Femme au Foyer said...

I'm going to get M2K2 to weigh in on this. She's more in Katie's shoes than I am, come to think of it.

M2K2 said...

First.. you're not silly at all to wonder these things. You're very wise!!

For me, it was tough to lose my independence. I was worried about all of the things you are worried about. I hated the thought of depending on someone else and I loathed the idea of asking permission to spend money. The best advice I can give you is to talk with your husband about what he *really* thinks about your role as a stay at home mom.

Make sure you're comfortable with whatever his answers are. If you're not, train him to think differently!!

To answer your questions about our specific situation...

I deal with all of our finances. Though I have no idea why that is, it has worked out really well. It's nice to see what's happening with the money. If something ever happened to my husband, I wouldn't have to scramble to figure out what's going on.

We don't currently have a budget, but we are working on starting one. We haven't talked about setting budgets for each of us, just general ones. After reading the other comments, I think it might not be a bad idea divvy it up a bit. For example, we each get x amount to spend each month. I'm not really insistent on being treated as an equal, but my husband is. If I was to have an allowance, he would have to have one too. His philosphies have really helped me a lot which is why I suggest talking to your husband.

This is much more true now that we have 2 kids, but the unspoken rule is that since I have the kids during the day, my husband takes them at night, particularly if I need the break. If I've had a good day, then we share what needs to be done. I deal with any middle-of-the-night issues during the week. He does it on the weekends. I never have to nag my husband which I am soo grateful for. I don't know why, but he gets that it's really nice to be home with the kids.. and though I wouldn't trade it for anything, I'm still making a lot of sacrifices to do it.

See, I truly hate to cook and clean. I would be miserable if I held myself to high standards regarding either of those. When I was put on bed rest with my last pregnancy we hired a cleaning service.. nearly a year later, they're still here! I also might cook dinner 2, maybe 3 times a week. Otherwise my husband cooks. I do work for our business though. I think that helps keep me sane and it offsets the pressures of being the only one to cook and clean. I'm also taking online classes (a full time load) in order to understand what I'm doing with the business.

So, what I'm trying to say is that I'm a weak housewife, but I think I'm a really good mom. What makes that all possible is that Mark and I are on the same page. When I need it, he's there, when he needs it, I'm there.

Katie said...

Wow, thank you M2K2! That really helps a lot, especially seeing how you two work this out with the kids... sounds like Chris and I have a lot to work out before this happens. I guess that it's a good thing that I have to work for another 3 months!

M2K2 said...

Best wishes to you. It really is a big change and you might find that you miss some of the simple things you took for granted when you were working.. lunches, coffee breaks, dressing nicely, etc. But, it's so sweet to be able to witness the little things that anyone else would find insignificant. Like, trying to find anuber moon when you're out for a drive.

Femme au Foyer said...

Well said, M2K2.

I rather relish dressing like a schlepp everyday. It's *so nice* to dress comfortably all day and not to have to worry about my work clothes situation when I go to bed at night.