DEAR ANDY: My husband and our finances need me to work. I’ve been home with my 2 year old and love it. How do I motivate myself to want a job I don’t want? BUMMED MUM
DEAR BUMMED: This is a tough one momma. I feel for you. In your short query there are two ideas that I thought I’d share with Tissue Issuers: 1. The concept of contributing vs providing in a couple and family context, and, 2. Some questions to help you get motivated to go back to work. Let’s start with “contributing”.
Over the years that I have been a practicing therapist and also in my own experience as a spouse, I have come to understand that the more accurate currency in a household is the currency of contributing. Whereas the notion of providing or making money assumes a monetary transfer into the household, contributing is all the informal and formal assistance, emotional and practical, provided by family members for the proper functioning of the family and household.
When spouses are employed, they are paid and money comes into the household. This is extremely important. Money is necessary in life. However, if we only consider who brings in how much money, this is inaccurate. Relationship problems can emerge based on faulty beliefs of who “makes” more.
The broader concept of contributing considers what activities family members (yes, that means kiddos too!) engage in that help maintain the household and move it along in important ways, whether this is earning money, registering children for school, getting rid of lice, fixing the car, writing Christmas cards, cleaning the toilet, wiping tears, raking the leaves, feeding the dog, dropping off the rent cheque, dealing with solicitors at the door, schlepping to the food bank when times are tough, or wiping off the car for the spouse with the 5am commute. All these tasks, whether there is money associated with them or not, are contributions.
Here is an example: A partner looking after a child at home contributes by raising a child and doing a million domestic chores. Going to the laundrymat, mopping up messes, arbitrating playground turf wars, mailing late VISA payments, sorting the recycling, filling the car with gas, taking the kids to the park are all contributions. If we are unable to do these things, they don’t get done and we risk being the next star of “Hoarders”. When we pay for someone to do these tasks for us, it means we value these tasks.
How is this relevant to your situation? It may or may not be Bummed Mum. You say your husband needs you to work, why? If you are contributing, what’s the big deal? If you are eating bon bons and being lazy, I can see why your husband would need you to work. I don’t actually think this is the case because you comment that you “love” being with your son. What a wonderful contribution! Parenting can be such a thankless task!
Look. I’m not saying you are right and your husband is wrong. If for instance you begged for a certain house and car beyond your means and your husband gave in to your demands, you’d be hard pressed to decide to change your tune and not expect some serious push back from him. Yeah, he may have not wanted to take on debt but if he colluded with you to live beyond your means, you two need to talk about this. Now that the reality of raising child has emerged, it has changed everything. Take heed newlyweds!
You must to be honest with yourself and not defensive and if you can 100% say you do your utmost to contribute to the whole functioning of the family, then your husband may be off base. Regardless, your current lifestyle needs more money coming into the household so I think you are going to have to suck it up and go back to work honey. Unless a more modest house comes on the market, you get rid of a car, and quit smoking and this budget cutting reality-check makes Gail Vaz- Oxlade sense, then you are stuck and must go back to work.
Which brings me to the second and last point for today’s column, which is about motivation. Motivation builds by actions we take. For you to go back to work, sit down and mull over the following points and questions over the next weeks and months:
- Desire: What are the benefits of going back to work for you? What are some of the good or nice things about going back to work? What excites you, even the slightest, about the notion? It could be the relationships with co-workers or the prospect of wearing fancy clothes. It could be reclaiming your identity as a worker. It could be continuing to gain on the investment you made in yourself when you decided to undertake special training that lead to your career in the first place. Desire is self-perpetuating. What are the benefits of going back to work for you? Where is your mojo and how can you make that feeling grow?
- Ability: What would you need to put in place to make going back to work doable? Do you want a ride from your spouse? Do you need to get a job closer to home? Can you change your hours? Do you need to change careers? What will childcare look like? Can you work from home?
- Reason: What internal need do you have to work? This is about your own psychological makeup. For example, is it important to show your son or daughter that women have important roles inside AND outside the house? Have you considered that if you don’t work outside the house that you may be putting yourself in a vulnerable position if your relationship breaks down or your partner dies? Unfortunately, if you don’t have skills outside the home, this may come to bite you in the ass later.
- Need: This is about externals that require you to work, e.g. the bills. You have said there is a need for you to work in your first sentence: The implication here is that in order for you to live the lifestyle you have created for yourself, someone will have to bring more money into the household. What external needs drive you going back to work?
- Take Steps: What little things can you do to start transitioning back to work? Do you need to make some phone calls to co-workers to see what’s new at work? Can you go back to work in a graduated fashion? If you want to reduce your budget in order to stay with your son full time, can you show your husband you are serious by quitting smoking? By running a business from home?
- Commitment: If you can’t reduce your costs, you will have to radically accept that you are again a working girl. Since there is no other option, there is no point in wishing it were otherwise. This takes mental toughness and there is no shame in that. Best of luck Bummed Mum. You can do it!Tissues Issues is an advice column only and not meant to replace hard soul searching that many problems require. The opinions expressed are those of the author.When you read this column, please keep in mind that people and their problems are always more layered than what can be captured in an advice column. If you have a question for Andy’s column, please forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org with TISSUE ISSUES in the Subject line.