- I decided to become a stay-at-home mom after my first child was born.
- I’d never not earned an income, though, and I suddenly saw money as “my husband’s.”
- When we bought life insurance, I saw clearly my financial value — and embraced “our” money.
- Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.
Coming into our seventh year of marriage, my husband Ian and I are a well-oiled machine; we’re on the same page about money matters most of the time. But this was not always the case. The first year or two of marriage was an adjustment, not only in learning to compromise and set our priorities as a family, but also for me to give up some of my independence when I decided to be a stay-at-home mom.
We married when I was only 24, but I had been out of my parents’ home and supporting myself since I was 18. I preferred living alone, without roommates, and even when stretched very thin financially, I made it work on my own. But after marrying Ian, combining our finances was a surprisingly welcome change. While we were both working, I felt so much safer and more secure knowing I wasn’t doing it all on my own.
As my husband and I planned our future, we both agreed that when we had children, one of us would stay home with them. It didn’t matter much to us who it was, we left it open to practical considerations like who made more and who was most attached to their job. But when our first daughter was born, I realized it didn’t matter — I wanted to be home with her.
Not only did I want to be home with my new baby, it made no sense to keep my low-wage job only for all the money I made there to go to daycare. Since then, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. When I’ve contributed financially to our family, it’s been by doing jobs I can do from home, such as nannying or freelance writing. But Ian has always earned considerably more by having a regular 40-hour-per-week job outside the home.
I had a hard time adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom
Torn between my desire to be with my new baby all the time and my insecurity about being financially dependent on my husband, I was uncomfortable spending money on things I wanted, or even needed. Unaccustomed to not working outside the home, I realized that I almost felt like I was living off Ian’s good will. I’ll admit that I could be defensive and would even pick fights about money simply because I felt a loss of control and identity by not having a paycheck of my own.
Simply put: It felt like the money my husband made at his job was his money and that I lived in a home because of his money and if I needed new clothes it would be spent with his money. I felt this way not because of anything he said or did, but only because I had baggage surrounding money and financial independence. Even as the mother of his children and the woman he loved, a voice in my head told me he was doing me a favor.
There is much to be argued in favor of women retaining financial independence from their husbands, and for continuing to pursue their careers rather than fall out of the workforce entirely. But speaking strictly of my contribution to our family as a stay-at-home mom, I needed an attitude adjustment.
Life insurance finally changed my view
Nothing achieved this adjustment quite like getting life insurance for ourselves. It may be morbid, but it made me imagine the financial position of both my husband and me without the other. If I lost him, it seemed obvious why I would need money from life insurance: I don’t have a job and would have no way of supporting us. I could imagine our family drowning in bills while I tried to find work.
But then I thought of the financial impact if my family lost me: My husband would not have to worry about finding a job in the event of my death, no. But where would our children be while he was at work? In daycare, which costs money. My share of the household work and 24/7 childcare would fall to him on top of his own share. Unless, of course, he hired help — a housekeeper, a cook, a nanny. It would be an untenable situation, even leaving aside the grief he would experience.
Someday, our situation may change. I will earn my undergraduate degree next year and that may signal my and my husband’s time to switch, with him at home and me working.
But either way, our family is a cooperative, neither one of us more necessary than the other, none of our assets more his than mine. The proof of his contribution may currently be his name written at the top of a paycheck, but my financial contribution is no less real. Together, we support our family and each other.