As A Stay-At-Home Mom, Do I Have A Say In Our Finances?

A house made of money
Family, Self

A stay-at-home mom lets go of the idea that she needs to have an income to be happy and fulfilled.

Last week, my husband, Matt, and I sat down with three builders to put some numbers to our home building project. "What do you think?" he asked later that night as we sifted through the paperwork.

"It's a lot of money," I said, surprised to discover I had cold feet. Ever since we got married, I've left our finances up to him.

It's not that we follow traditional roles, but for a long time after I quit my job, I felt our money was actually his money. After all, he earned it. And therefore I felt guilty spending it.

As a self-proclaimed feminist, I had been surprised at how hobbled I was by my love for our firstborn. I, who'd argued for years how important it was that women remain in the workforce after giving birth, couldn't imagine being anywhere but home. I'd always prided myself on being independent and self-sufficient, secure on my own two feet. Now, without a paycheck, I felt lost and unsure of my worth. What A Year In Marriage Taught Us About Love

Pre-kids, I'd written a book. Walking into a Barnes and Noble and seeing my books on the shelf was assurance that a creative, income-earning part of me still existed somewhere. Only, one by one, they vanished. Whenever I took our toddlers there to play with the store's Thomas the Train set, I counted how many copies remained. Five left. Three left. One left. And then, one day, there was none. Would they re-order? Or was that it?

"Do you have 52 Fights in stock?" I asked a clerk, and suddenly panicked that she'd ask for ID, discover I was the author and laugh in my face. Granted, it was more likely she'd ask me to remove my unruly toddler (he seized and chucked train cars whenever they fell off the track), but I was certain my desperation showed. My book couldn't disappear. I had begun to identify myself as others had, "This is my friend, Jennifer. She's an author…" It gave me the thrill of working without having to work. If my book went out of print, who was I? I pushed our baby's stroller back and forth while I waited for her answer. She glanced at her computer screen. "Hmm, it seems to be out of stock." The sand in my hourglass had run out.

I couldn't complain, though. Life was good. While Matt worked, I took our boys to story time at our neighborhood bookstore. And my freedom made his lack of it less stressful for him. But part of me was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was acutely aware that his salary could go away at any time, that our lifestyle, mine in particular, hinged on his employment. But I believed in my own resilience—I could always return to work, if need be.

Over time, I became less interested in what I was worth, less interested in definition and recognition, and more invested in our children's lives. I was there to teach and to guide, to connect. I started to think of myself as the architect for our family. I'd help each child build a solid foundation to prepare for life ahead. And through their eyes, I discovered life isn't about what you earn, but the passion you apply to what you do, the purpose you find in it, whether it's chasing butterflies or practicing law. We come alive when we use the gifts God gave us, and many of those we discover through play. 

Of course, you need money to sustain your lifestyle, to protect it.

Now that I've been out of the workforce for close to ten years, I'm no longer confident the market believes in my resilience as I do. So, I want to protect the money that Matt and I have saved together. Because while money can't buy you happiness, it can provide comfort and security as we age.

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For us, building this house isn't a stretch but a risk, especially now that the gap between existing home prices and new homes is widening. We could play it safe and wait a few years before building, or plow ahead, hoping the market will recover. Which would you do?