I dislike being a housewife: My struggle with being financially dependent on my spouse

Guest post by Rosi Posi
Yeah… doing this does not make me THAT happy. (By: EthanCC BY 2.0)

Many women dislike the word “housewife” because of implications of feminism and the stigma of gendered domestic roles. I dislike the word “housewife” because I am one. Well, I don’t dislike the word itself but the actual role. I dislike being a housewife!

I’m also not a housewife and “stay-at-home mom”; not because I dislike that word either, but because I am not a mother nor am I expecting. My only children are a nine-year-old dog who thinks she’s the queen of the world and a rescued cat with the personality of Garfield. I am, however, a wife to a very loving husband who drives me insane and woos me simultaneously. My love for my husband, my animals, and my beat-up home do not change the fact that I really dislike being a housewife.

Like any other housewife (or househusband), I get shit done! However, I still find myself attempting justification of my housewife role to others. More importantly, the biggest challenge I’ve faced is justifying that role to myself. Why I dislike being a housewife and why I’ve struggled to justify this role to myself is complex but at the core is a very simple explanation: I can’t handle being financially dependent on my husband.

Financial dependency has always been an emotional struggle for me. I have a hard time even taking money from my parents, which typically comes in the form of payment of a student loan or treating at a restaurant (both of which I greatly appreciate). With my husband, I struggle even more because this dependency typically involves receiving cash directly.

My husband knows that I struggle with this. He attempts to make me comfortable with the situation by reminding me that I contribute greatly to him and our household, that I brought a fair amount of savings (from pre-law school employment) and financial savvy to our marriage, and that my lack of income is only temporary. These well-intentioned attempts rarely ease my discomfort.

I remind myself that I help in ways that make his life more comfortable and convenient, I maintain my legal skills through my freelance job, and I volunteer contributing to the greater good. Sometimes that makes me feel better. But most days my contributions make me feel like my husband is paying me to be his maid/chef/dog walker.

I understand and even encourage one to provide for his or her spouse, family, or household in non-monetary ways. However, I am not offsetting many expenses but rather am an expense. I do not feel like a provider. I feel like the line item on my husband’s budget so that he can provide to himself, our animals, and our home in order to relax and not have to do it himself. I am “earning my keep” and that makes me feel like a financial burden. Because of this feeling, I have yet to ask my husband for money when I need it; I just wait for him to offer and begrudgingly accept it.

My husband is not to blame for this; he even tries to mitigate the situation. It’s all in my head. But I can’t be the only who feels like this. Whether you prefer the term “housewife/husband,” “homemaker,” or another term entirely, how do you deal with the discomfort of financial dependency on a spouse?

Comments on I dislike being a housewife: My struggle with being financially dependent on my spouse

  1. I get this.

    In the first year of our marriage I was the provider, mainly because my husband was finishing his degree. He didn’t really like that but I won’t speak for him. This year it’s switched a little, although I have a part-time job, and I was lecturing two classes and trying to work on my art all at the same time, I often felt that I was dependent. What was worse is that at times I was made to feel as if I should take more of the household duties because I was home more often. This wouldn’t have been a problem if it was just my part-time job and home filling my life, but actually I was home working on multiple issues.

    It sounds like you’re trying to fill your time to prove that you’re worth being “an expense”, but that’s not helping you because it’s not a personal aim, it’s you acting as if you are making it up to your husband.

    If these things were simply out of love for him and yourself that would be fine and great. But it doesn’t sound like your husband needs you to prove your worth and would himself feel better if you weren’t feeling so rubbish. Try and look at your personal aims so instead of being a housewife, you are simply a girl on a mission who has housework and a dog like everyone else. I think your husband would rather pick up a few chores than have you feeling this bad.

    Right now, I am about to become the “expense”, however it’s in order to pursue something I really feel strongly about. We’ve talked over the boundaries of house and office, and we both know that my working hours are the same as his no matter the monetary difference. If I get a load of laundry on at the same time as designing a project then I’m superwife.

    Figure out what you want to do with your time. Until then I find chocolate works – there has to be some benefits about being so close to the kitchen!

    • Elle, you are so right! My husband doesn’t want me feeling like this. You also hit the nail on the head with the following paragraph:

      It sounds like you’re trying to fill your time to prove that you’re worth being “an expense”, but that’s not helping you because it’s not a personal aim, it’s you acting as if you are making it up to your husband.

      I am one of the people who feels indebted to anyone who helps me out in any way. Thus, I always feel the need to return the favor by going above and beyond. I do feel like I have to make it up to my husband. This is due in part to my own mental struggle that often makes me feel like I’m “not good enough” in any circumstance. That is a separate issue that I’ve addressed and deal with accordingly.

      I have a hard time asking my husband to pick up the slack because 1) his job and commute keep him from the house 12+ hours a day during the week and 16+ a weekend 1-2 times a month; and 2) I am a Cuban girl from a sometimes traditional Latin/Catholic family which distorts my need to be a subservient wife. Although I am considered by my family to be the rebel/black sheep/bitch who does not succumb to tradition/stereotype, I still have the subservient Latin housewife (and let your husband relax) mentality that I cannot entirely erase.

      This is not an excuse…its just an extra component that makes the situation difficult. However, what I probably need most (other than chocolate which I LOVE) is time, the time to actually sit down with my husband to actually discuss my priorities and how he can support me (other than financially) in those priorities AND the time to accept that I am not superwife, nor should I attempt to be.

      • This so hard!! I’m a Puerto Rican from a traditional Latino/Catholic family and go through the same struggle. I KNOW that I don’t have to follow tradition. I’m marrying a man who doesn’t expect me to be that kind of wife. Still, every time I doubt my role in our household I still hear family members telling me I need to cook more, keep our house cleaner, listen to my man more, be less sarcastic, and for the love of all things holy, dress like a lady and watch my weight so he doesn’t leave!

        I’ve been having problems with my job, and my fiance keeps telling me to quit after the wedding when I can be on his health insurance. It’s so hard to explain that I’m not keeping my job for insurance purposes, I’m keeping it for self-identity purposes. I hate being dependent, it scares the crap out of me. It also makes me feel like I’m becoming the woman I’ve always been told I have to be. That woman is a woman who is a shadow of her husband. She should only get pleasure from the happiness of her family. She needs to have lots of babies. That’s just not me. I’m not saying that’s what being a housewife means, I don’t think it does at all. It’s just in my insecurity, that’s where all my panic attacks start to set in.

        • I laughed when I read your post, not because it was funny (obviously its serious) but because you sound exactly like me. When it comes to family members giving me a hard time, it is almost always the old ladies (abuelita, the tia abuelas). I don’t know if the same applies for you; I find it silly that the very women who were oppressed or restricted by my culture are the ones imposing the oppression and restriction upon the younger generation. What’s sad is that I got lucky when I got married at the lovely age of 24. My cousin who is older than me and still unmarried gets asked all of the time, “When are you going to find a husband?” She has lost a lot of weight so now I’m the heavier one and the unlucky recipient of the “weight loss” comments. I feel your pain!

          I’ve always been very honest with my husband about that aspect of my identity. Of course, he makes jokes about the Latino sexism (he doesn’t take anything seriously except really bad stuff). My husband is not Latino but he says (jokingly) now that we’re married he’s full-on Latino and can be machismo. That’s when I cut him a dirty look and threaten (jokingly) to throw some cookware at him. We share a “Three Stooges” humor in our relationship, BTW.

          This struggle wasn’t prominent for me while in law school because I was so busy studying that my husband worked full-time, did most of the cooking, and took care of most of the cleaning. He is 12 years older than me so he lived as a bachelor, and thus had to cook and clean on his own, for a long time. He’s also a better cook then me. Now that his position changed, he’s gone more hours a day (a lovely commute) and has built-in overtime which means every few weekends he’s working 12+ hour shifts (plus that awesome commute). Our circumstance have drastically changed which has caused a major shift in our household roles. It has been a major adjustment on both of our parts. As much as I dislike being financially dependent and struggling with my self-identity, I would rather deal with that than be in a miserable job.

          Although I do not want to be the kind of person who puts her husband’s happiness before her own, I would not put a job (read: individual job different from profession/career goals) before my marriage which is why I turned down a job offer that I was concerned would make me unhappy and thus, might be detrimental to the health of my marriage (as well as my own sanity). However, if I found a job that made me happy (which is what I’m currently holding out for), then I would be a happier person when it came to that part of my identity. That happiness could then transfer to other parts of my identity, one of them being my marriage. I feel as though a job that makes me miserable would have the same domino effect and thus, I might have an unhappy job AND an unhappy marriage.

          What helps to remember is that your self-identity and independence are not solely created by financial freedom (i.e. a job/income) but by being productive with the values you hold important to your identity. An example I can give you about myself is that I support public interest (as in that’s the kind of lawyer I want to be) and community service (not just physical volunteer work but contributing to society mentally). I am currently volunteering on an organization’s language access task force. In my volunteer work, I’ve been able to sit in on and be intelligently vocal at important meetings with government agencies.

          I guess the point I’m trying to make to you (if you even want to hear it) is that quitting your job and working at home (temporarily or on a long-term basis) does not mean you have to be submissive. Sometimes, an individual has more power when they are free from the constraints of being a “worker bee.”

          • I know exactly what you mean about the abuelitas. I always found it silly as well. Sometimes I see my cousins start to push the same ideals on their daughters and it is so surprising to me. I guess the cycle is a lot harder to break than people understand.
            I also love the humor you and your husband share. My guy and I have very similar conversations. He is also not Latino and jokes that he would be happy to be the one pregnant and barefoot if it means I won’t go all Latin and throw the cookware at him.
            I really appreciate the advice, and I do take it to heart. I hate to make it sound like the only reason I go to work each day is for the paycheck. My job has been increasingly demanding lately which has made me come off as very bitter. We also recently found out they might be closing down my department right before the wedding which is what started the stay at home option conversations. However, I actually do find a lot of value in my work. I teach kids who dropped out of high school at a program for foster youth. The kids make me crazy, and there are a lot of days they push my buttons and I just want to give up. I also work really long hours most days, so I’m out of the house between 10 and 12 hours a day which is taxing. Still, every time I think I’ve hit my limit, they pull me back in. I can’t count how many times I’ve said I was just going to walk away to find myself muttering, “well after this one last kid gets his GED.” However, the long hours and high stress I come home with also set off my internal Spanish church bell alarm. It leaves me feeling guilty for being away from home so much, and giving so much of myself to people who aren’t in my household. That leads to an internal debate on how my family doesn’t define me, and caring is not a finite resource. It goes around and around. It’s all in my head, but it makes it harder to think about giving it all up.

        • i think allot of people on here are confusing self identity with rolls.

          YOU are not your job or roll. your true identity is who you are if you are a lawyer, a mother, lost at sea, mopping floors, wearing a clown costume, locked in jail, doctor, wife, daughter … if you cease to hold your identity when your roll changes, this is not your identity.
          & another thing, this is the exact opposite of independence. if your job has the power to keep your identity, that is dependence … plain & simple. all you’re changing is the roll, not the reliance.

        • Natasha, I understand where you’re coming from in regards to your job. I see now that you enjoy the substance of your work but certain matters, especially the structure of your work environment are not ideal.
          I’ve worked for several non-profits including one where I was often an advocate for children with mental illnesses. Although I do not condone stigma of mental illness or the treatment (pharmaceutical, alternative, etc.), I know it is not always easy to deal with kids, clients, or people in general who have “issues” of some sort.
          As you weigh the decisions to stay or leave your current job, know that you can still do work of value. Remember especially that with such stress in non-profit jobs (overworked, underpaid, underresourced) comes burn-out. I’ve had jobs where I feel the burn-out coming. Sometimes leaving temporarily allows you to recuperate (from burn-out or coming awfully close) so that in the grand scheme, you can become useful to a cause again. If someone is burnt out from a job, he/she is probably not as useful and thus not able to fulfill the needs of a cause.
          Caring is not a finite resource but our body’s ability to handle stress can be finite, at least without the opportunities to rest and recharge. Remember that if you decide to leave your job.

          • I don’t comment very often most of the time just read the articles( another black sheep of the family Latina here) , but I was blown away by how much I could relate. I am also married to a very understanding English man who keeps telling me he loves me just the way I am.
            I teach history at continuation high school during the day and adult basic skills at night, I love what I do despite the high stress levels. But I also feel super guilty that I don’t have time to be some awesome homemaker that has been ingrained in me all my life that I am supposed to be. I would love to be both,but holy crap I’m tired when I get home at 9:30 pm. I’m struggling to find a good balance.
            Not to mention the whole weight thing, at first the women in my family were all happy because they assumed I was pregnant, now I just get a lot of advice about juice machines, zumba, and how to keep a better household before my husband drops me for a slimmer model.

  2. I’m actually dealing with a lot of the same emotions.

    I graduated from college, became a Navy wife, and moved across the country where I lived alone with my husband. No field experience and one vehicle (and… being a military spouse no one wants to hire lest I get sent somewhere else) led to me becoming a housewife for the last two years. And, I’ve pretty much hated it. I’ve struggled with feeling like a freeloader and I’ve also struggled with the, “Oh, what do you do for a living?” question from new acquaintances and strangers.

    It’s hard when we live in a society where money-making and job status are engrained into our brains as a basis for self-esteem. I do not pretend to know enough to give you advice but here’s what I do: I blog, I stay somewhat busy, I do fun home projects, and I plan for the future. What helps is to also remember that being married or in a committed relationship is being a team, you’re facing the world together and there is no your money versus his money. It’s just [our] money. I struggled a lot with this so I know exactly how you feel.

    • Hi Ashley,

      Thank you for your comment. We are also a one-vehicle family. Our car is actually a stick shift which I’ve only learned to drive in the last 6 months. Now that I know how to drive it and my husband takes the train/bike to work, the one car, which is typically seen as limiting, has become a source of freedom and confidence-building (its an art to learn how to drive stick, lol).

      I agree with you that society’s expectations of a job status are in part causing me this turmoil. Even when I was in college and dependent on my parents, I had a part-time job and worked ridiculous hours (the weekend night shift) just to make the most money I could from a student job. At the hear of this for me is the anxiety about not having a job.

    • Thanks for sharing—my boyfriend is planning to join the military to practice medicine, & I’m very leery of becoming a military wife. I’m currently a teacher, but I get the sense that there’s a stigma of being a military spouse in terms of people (a) not wanting to hire you and (b) still expecting you to be productive. How supportive is the community in which you live? I’m wondering if you encounter this attitude from people you interact with on-base, or in the same situation, for example, or if it’s more of an external thing.

      • I live in a military town, Army specifically. I don’t find there to be any stigma that I can see attached to being a military spouse. When I was an employer, I never hesitated to hire a military spouse for a job…yes, she might end up leaving town, but so might any other employee for any other reason. Certain jobs, like on post, even have precedence for spouses because they understand that spouses are sort of stuck here and need to work just as much as anyone else. There are resources to help you with employment and with learning to adapt to military life, as well. Not saying it’s easy, but it’s not something that you have to do completely alone and blind either. Good luck.

  3. I am struggling with this issue also. I quit my job working in as a commercial glass artist for someone else to work in my studio at home. I didn’t make a lot of money at my old job but it certainly added to the bank account every month. My husband makes a lot more money than I do but I came up with the down payment on our house. So I remind myself that I have already paid years worth of mortgage payments etc when I used my inheritance as the down payment.
    I never wanted to be supported by a husband or significant other because I don’t like giving up that kind of control or feeling that someone else has more control than I do. My husband does not have any control issues over money, he is very easy going, these are my issues about it. I really struggle if I have to ask him to pay a bill or add extra money to an account that I normally would have taken care of myself.
    I definitely feel like I should take on more of the house hold chores because I am at home. At the same time I am trying to develop my own art, find new locations for my work, book art/craft shows etc all the things that go along with working for myself.
    I don’t know if I will ever get over my money issues but I haven’t been working for myself for very long so fingers crossed I will build my income back up to where it used to be and beyond, then I will be able to relax about working from home/ being a housewife.

  4. Might there be a way to make accepting money from him easier? Instead of him pulling out his wallet and handing over cash–which would totally remind me of asking my dad for money when I was a kid–would a joint checking account be an option? That way, he could quietly put money in once a week (or whenever) and you’d have it right there on your debit card without needing to ask or waiting for him to offer.

    • I was going to ask something like this, too. Why don’t you have access to any money without going through him? My husband stays at home, but our situation is kind of different as we have a child. He has never asked me for money. In fact he pays all the bills, and takes care of our budget.

    • We actually already have joint checking/savings accounts. The reason I typically take cash from him is because we prefer to pay for things like groceries and gas in cash and not on a debit card. Even if I go to the ATM to get cash, I still have to tell him about it because he is the one who pays the bills and balances the budget. But you, and several of the other commentators are onto something which is basically a review of our financial system which hasn’t changed since I graduated law school and is due for some updates.

      • Even if he’s doing the actual paperwork, it’s important for both of you to know where the money goes. (In our household I am the one who balances the budget, but I insist on keeping my wife up-to-date; we recently switched to shared budgeting software so she can access it whenever she needs or wants to.)

        So say you have $XX a week or month for groceries, and you want to pay cash. At some point one of you will withdraw the cash, and then it is for both of you to spend on groceries. When it’s gone, it’s gone (or you work together to adjust the budget). That task may fall to you more often, but it’s money that is needed to run your household no matter who is doing the grocery shopping. No need to put your hand out like Jane Jetson.

      • May I recommend Mint.com? Saved my marriage. If you’re doing things mostly in cash it will be more cumbersome because you will have to add in transactions manually, but if you keep it up to date you will both know everything that is going on with your money at all times. My husband pays most of the bills, but I do most of the budgeting (since I’m the one doing the grocery shopping, car maintenance, kid shopping, doctors visits, etc). This works because we both have full access to all of our financial information. He puts in the monthly bills and I build the budget out of what’s left over.

      • As a housewife I totally agree that the one *not* making the money should be the one managing it. It completely solidifies the “OUR money” vs. “HIS money” mentality. It allows the non-earner to feel a part of the finances and relieves some stress the earner may feel about making enough.

    • My husband has a transfer from his checking to mine every payday. I asked that he do this so I have funds for myself that don’t have to be discussed or budgeted. It makes a world of difference for me even though it’s $20 a week. It adds up on weeks I don’t need it.

    • My husband campaigned very hard for combining our finances into a joint account because he really disliked having money transactions between the two of us and the power dynamic that suggested. I dragged my feet about it because not being able to keep the money I earned separate from the money he earned felt like a loss of independence and of the accountability to not spend more than I, personally was earning, but in the end, I gave in because it was important to him, and it has worked out well for us.

      At the moment, he earns most of the money, but I do most of the grocery shopping and handling of things like car maintenance and house repairs, so having a joint account saves the trouble of having to transfer money around for those things. Also, pooling our funds means that we don’t have to worry nearly as much about whether the bank account we are drawing on has enough money in it to cover a large expense, like car repairs. It also makes budgeting easier because all the money is going through a single checking account.

      And, it turns out that I am much happier not having to either ask hims for money to help cover large, joint expenses or hope he volunteers it. The money is all just there, to be spend on whatever we, as a partnership, need to use it for, regardless of who is writing the checks.

      • My husband and I joined our accounts a couple of months before we got married. We both work full time, but he chose to have his paychecks go into my account, which I made a joint account. He doesn’t trust himself with money, so he asks me for money when he needs it. Sometimes I feel like he feels bad about asking for it. I’ve offered to get him his own card, but he refused. Recently, he had the card and I was carrying cash, but he went a little crazy buying things, nothing big, just eating out more often instead of packing a lunch, and other small things, but it adds up.

        We were having a small amount go to his personal account, while the bulk went to my account, so that I could pay the bills, pay for groceries, gas, etc., and he could have enough for gas and incidentals, but he ended up spending it all on food and snacks.

        We’ve only been married for a month, so we’re still trying to figure it out. I like us having a joint account, and he likes me handling our finances, but we’re still trying to work out a good way for him to have access to the money, without him having access to all the money. Again, this was his idea, he told me again just yesterday that he doesn’t trust himself to not overspend. Some of his buddies at work teased him when he mentioned it, but he’s happy with the arrangement.

    • We still know when our husbands make the money and we spend it. In your mind and heart, you know. You know what you are – you are a homemaker and your husband pays the bills. There is nothing especially wrong with this because you contribute in work at home and work is work, but our society sees it as demeaning and that is the rub. When people ask me what I do I say I don’t have a job, and then I tell them what my husband does because part of what they are asking is how much money does your family make, what kind of people are you, which box can I put you in. I might go on to add what I do as a hobby or interest since people also ask this as just a conversation prompt. I make a point not to ask people this horrible question. Some people are chronically unemployed, disabled, or desperately searching for work, and they don’t like to answer this question either.

  5. I spent a couple months unemployed with my then-boyfriend-now-husband supporting me. It was also the first time we lived together, so up until that point we had completely separate finances. He agreed to pay all the common expenses (rent, food, etc.) until I had income again, and then we would reorganize our financial system.

    It’s a difficult time because you have so much time but so much uncertainty (like how long this period in your lives will last). Like you, I HATED being financially dependent and would try to do housework/cook/clip coupons to “make up” for the lack of income. BUT…that equation doesn’t work. You can’t make housework “equal” income. It’s comparing apples and oranges, and I think trying to make that comparison in the first place leads to unhappiness.

    In retrospect (which is always a self-indulgent luxury in cases like this!), I think that I was happiest when I had the mindset that TIME was a valuable resource. I did “house-wifey” things like making homemade stromboli and other food from scratch because I COULD and I had TIME. Since getting a job, I haven’t done those things again, even though I like to! Like you mentioned, volunteering was another great way for me to get out of the house and gain some real world experience. This could lead to a job in the future or be in a completely different direction. If you have the budget for it, I would consider a hobby of some sort (gardening, painting?). Keeping yourself engaged with your interests is the best way not to feel like “just a housewife” or like you said a “line item.” And treasure all the extra time you have now!

    After getting married, my husband and I combined our incomes. It helps that they are almost equal, even if they are small. I know that this doesn’t work for everyone, but he wanted to try it even though I was a little hesitant. The benefits for us were great- I feel like more of a team. We’re working towards the same financial goals and have similar credit backgrounds, so that helps too. We can just buy groceries or go out to dinner without having to think about who paid for what last time or if it was equal. It doesn’t matter if one of us spends more money than the other overall because we’re a “team” and it’s things we need for” the team”. But in about 5-7 years I know that he will out-earn me by at least double, due to our different career paths. I’m anticipating some of these feelings coming up again when our incomes differ by a lot.

    So the overall point that I’m trying to make is this: you and your husband are two members of a team. It’s not just your income that is communal, but your lifestyle, happiness, etc. He didn’t just marry you as someone to contribute to his bottom line! Right now one of you has income, but that could change (or not!) in the future. If you are worried about being equal or contributing, I think that you are asking the wrong questions.

    • In the time it took me to compose this comment, I am glad multiple other people shared a lot of the same ideas and thoughts. 🙂 Thank you for posting this thread!

  6. I am in the same boat! One of the things that helps is that I set up a separate checking account from my husbands, and he automatically transfers me money every two weeks when he gets paid. It is understood that this is MY money and I can use it on whatever I want, no questions asked. It is also understood that once I have spent it, there is no more for 2 weeks, just like it would be if I had a job.

    Oh, and I just tell people I am living the dream when they ask what I do. 😀

  7. I don’t have an answer, but I can say I know this feeling. This was my exact situation for a year. I knew I was doing things to make my (our? his?) life easier by keeping house, running errands, freelancing, and volunteering. But I still felt like a paid housekeeper. A maid. Needless to say, this feeling of “working” for one’s spouse does very very little for one’s sex drive. Make out with the boss? How demeaning.
    Do whatever it takes to rid yourself of that mindset. Freelance more, refuse to do the dishes for an entire day, splurge on something you’ve wanted that you know you would buy for yourself if only you had a day job.
    Perhaps not terribly helpful, but damn, I KNOW this feeling.

    • See, I have almost the opposite feeling. I think part of the problem is the idea that being a housewife isn’t a real job. But the truth is, there are plenty of people for whom cleaning houses, walking dogs, and running errands is their job. Whether they are housekeepers, personal assistants, or nannies, these are real jobs that real people get paid really money for. Being a housewife may not come with an hourly wage, but it does (effectively) have a salary.

      Now if you get turned off by the idea of thinking of your spouse as your employer then this mindset won’t work. However, if your problem is thinking of yourself as a freeloader, you’re not. You have a job.

  8. We have a child and I still feel like this and hate the feeling of financial dependency. We do have money deposited into my checking account from his paycheck once a month, and I pay most of the bills and everything so that does help. But I really dislike the feeling of inequality it brings me personally and in our relationship. I think part of that is that I lived independently and supported myself for several years (not a long time, but through and for a few years after college) and I really don’t like being someone else’s dependent. I don’t dislike the actual work part of being a stay at home parent/ “housewife” but I have how it is just taken for granted and not valued as actual work of great value to society. Not only is it completely necessary to society to raise well-cares for and socialized children, it is at least compensated work when it is done by other people (maids, nannies, event planners, cooks, teachers) though caring labor of all kinds is usually s low-paying, and almost alays done by women. Also I hate the patterns it creates, where I become so used to doing chores that my husband really starts slacking and really doesn’t seem to realize or care how much work really goes into it. Like our household somehow magically runs itself.
    I really like this: The Politics of Housework http://uic.edu/orgs/cwluherstory/CWLUArchive/polhousework.html

    • I agree. This whole situation stinks but much of it is our own fault. Some of it is just the way we were socialized. In this world, girls and women are not valued as much as boys and men. This is universal. Girl babies are often aborted just because they are girls. But…we choose our careers and we choose to downsize them or give them up. Granted, we have very good reasons – husband, kids, house, time, sanity, health. But men do not have this luxury. Men usually choose careers like computer programming, engineering, law etc. not because they like them but because that is where the better money is. Men know they will be expected to support a family while women suspect their income will be supplementary. Truthfully, I suspect that as long as women marry men, this problem will exist. Societies have been conditioning us into our gender roles for a very long time, and let’s face it, we are attracted to men who can provide and protect or have the potential to do so. Work is energy applied to something to affect a change. A dirty floor needs to be clean. Work must be done to get it clean. A bridge must be designed. Work makes it happen. We need clean floors and bridges. Where do you want to work – in your own home making it better or in some high-rise office pouring over plans? I choose to use my energy in my home for myself and my family. No, my name will not be on a plaque and I will grit my teeth whenever I must answer, “What do you do?” But I have clean floors, chicken in the oven and the cat doesn’t have fleas. And my at home work isn’t taxed (yet). Sometimes the way it is just hurts; stuff sometimes hurts.

  9. Totally sympathise with you, although I am not in the same situation. I recommend this link: http://down—to—earth.blogspot.nl/2011/10/homemaking-power-career.html and the follow-up article, ‘home making the power career part 2’.

    It tells about a different perspective to home making. I realize that you might not agree with the article and/or feel that this is the kind of life that you want to have, but I think that it might be an enlightening different perspective to the matter. For me, it was definetly food for thought.

  10. It took me quite a while to get used to the idea that I really did contribute something to the household. If it weren’t for me, kids wouldn’t make it to the doctors or dentist, food wouldn’t be cooked, bills wouldn’t get paid….just a long list of things that I realized I do contribute to the household. I may not bring in any money in the form of a job/paid income, but I do contribute quite a lot otherwise.

    My soon-to-be husband used to remind me that we are a team. It’s not “his/my” money but “our” money. I may need reminding of that when I hit those moments of feeling less-than, but he’s right. If it were his money and not ours, I doubt he’d trust me to have access to emails, bank accounts, bills…all that jazz.

    The tl;dr version: I totally get what you’re saying and I know how you feel. It sucks being in that moment. I hope you find that moment where you realize you are more than just a housewife but a pretty badass contributor to your household. 🙂

  11. I remember feeling this way during my maternity leave. Even though I was busy taking care of an infant and even though I supported my husband for three years prior when he went back to school for a second degree and even though it was a very temporary three months, I still felt like I should be contributing monetarily to the household. I remember apologizing to him if he came home and the dishes weren’t done because he had to work all day and I sat on the couch all day even though I had a good reason since I was breastfeeding every hour. I don’t even particularly like working (my job is nice, but I’m just kind of lazy), but I do like contributing and I just didn’t like feeling like I wasn’t doing my part. For me, it was absolutely a mental thing that my family or society or maybe just myself have put on me to think that household chores and child care aren’t worth as much the money earned at a real job. Of course, considering that I would gladly pay for a house cleaner and a personal chef (and I do pay for child care…a lot), I should know that those things are valuable and important.

  12. I know where you’re coming from. I am about to graduate with my Master’s and enter the job market, whereas my husband is well established within his field and earns a good salary. I really worry about not being able to find a job. I would be miserable staying at home all day. My husband always says that I don’t need to take a job just for the sake of having one, that we can live comfortably on his salary alone until I find something I’m really excited about, but I know that my self-worth would take a dive and I would just feel useless if I were unemployed for a long time.

  13. “But most days my contributions make me feel like my husband is paying me to be his maid/chef/dog walker.”

    I felt like that so many times before our economic roles changed here. You know what the difference is? If I was my husband’s maid, he would complain that I didn’t fold his shirts right and could fire me. Since I was his [house]wife, he could complain and I could tell him to do it his #$%^ing self, then 😉

  14. I can empathize with you.
    When I first emigrated from the UK to the USA I wasn’t allowed to work (or even drive) until we were married and had my immigration paperwork sorted and green card in hand.
    This was a very long eight months for me!

    My husband was super supportive and we have a joint bank account but because I wasn’t putting anything into it I still felt like I should ask when I took something out of it!
    I kept myself busy with craft projects (bought with birthday gift cards) and learnt how to coupon so I felt like I was contributing financially in some way.
    I walked to the shops to give me something to do a couple of days a week.

  15. I totally struggle with spending “our” money on anything specifically for me. It feels like I’m stealing from my husband when I go buy a new pair of jeans because the only 2 pairs I have are falling apart from overuse. I’m the full-time-Mommy so I contribute plenty but I still worry that I have to justify spending money that I didn’t ‘earn’ and that he’ll resent me for it (even though he’s never once given any indication that he feels that way). I’m not his employee and I’m damn sure not his property… but the guilt makes me feel like such a burden!

    • I’m a stay-at-home mama too. One of the ways we deal with the clothes issue in our family is every month we talk about what we all need. Daughter needs rain boots, Hubby need socks, I need jeans (I also only had two falling apart pairs for the longest time!) and then we look at the budget and try to make it all fit. It’s much more calculated, and there’s never any crazy shopping sprees, but we’re poor, so that could never happen anyway. But what I like about doing it this way, is that it recognizes that everyone in our little family needs things. The same goes with allergy medicine for the hubby and tampons for me, it all just goes into the budget. I think it’s good to calculate and discuss what you need to buy as a family while looking at the budget, it makes being financial stable much easier. Also, when it comes to the really fun but unnecessary things, like yarn or tools. We talk about that too. We talk about what we just want for fun, and we try to put money aside for that, and because we always feel guilty, we try to figure out what fun stuff our toddler might want too. So we can all get little gifts. The only problem is if one of us is being deceitful, for instance, if I try to say I don’t need jeans (because I hate shopping) my husband gets all manly and demands that I buy the things that I need. I’m the same way with him, and after a few years we realized that if we don’t listen to each other, then we end up buying the things for each other and we are both so picky about our clothes that things always end up getting returned! haha!

      • “My husband gets all manly.” That is what they do – men are programmed to provide. When money is short they will forgo their own needs in order that their wives and families have their needs met. It is because they are this way that we are the way we are. If I may – think about the sex act in basic terms; the male gives and the female receives. Then she gives back in terms of a baby and there is life. Jack and Jill (man and woman) went up a hill (life) to fetch a pail of water (work). Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after (men and women are interdependent; they always have been and always will be).

  16. I’m in almost exactly the same position right now, and dealing with the same problem. I don’t have any good answers, except that it helps me to have something creative to be working on in my own time to give me a sense of purpose.

  17. I’m facing this when my fiance and I marry and we start making our family. We’re negotiating exactly what roles we’ll have when the kid comes along – he’s preferring me to be a stay-at-home mom like his mother, and I know I will be driven crazy if all I basically did was keep house with a kid underfoot. (Just like Ariel wrote on OBF, motherhood is not going to be my most interesting feature.)

    I guess it isn’t the financial issue that bothers me, but the fact that I want to keep my skills up to date for the job market so my transition back into it when the kid is older won’t be so difficult. At least the compromise of me doing part-time is an option we can both accept.

    Be kind to yourself. Everything is done in love, that’s what really counts.

    • A simple yet beautiful statement:
      “Be kind to yourself. Everything is done in love, that’s what really counts.”
      Thank you for that!

      Also not that you’re soliciting advice, but I would definitely recommend keeping your skills set honed. Although my freelance work as a law clerk/attorney is sporadic, it helps keep my legal brain sharp. I also volunteer with Legal Aid on one of their taskforces so I do some policy/research/consulting work that keeps my resume growing and my name out there for when I can enter the work force full time (its actually helping me right now as I have a second-round interview tomorrow). Also I volunteer with a non-profit that assists senior citizens (but thats more physical than mental which is also nice). These things keep me from losing my mind and sometimes provide me the opportunity to get the hell out of my house for something other than a “household” errand. Also I take advantage of free trainings (CLE’s or Pro Bono Programs typically) so that I can keep up my skills as well….plus I love learning!

  18. Oh man. All I can say is: You are not an expense. You’re his wife. Would he be a line-item to you if he were the one staying home? Or would the work he did at home make your life easier and more comfortable?

    We greatly undervalue the work of the home in this country.

    Obviously, if you want to work, or you need the additional income, than you should work toward that goal. But don’t do it just because you feel like a burden. Getting a job might alleviate your feelings but it won’t address the deeper issue.

    I wrote a blog post for A Practical Wedding on this topic a while back:


  19. One of the scariest things jumping the pond with my boyfriend was putting myself in a situation where I wasn’t making enough to ‘make rent’; going from a full time salaried job to being a full time student and taking an unexpected five months before finding even a small part time job. Gifts from my parents were always with strings, and the money ‘sunk’ into raising me was used to control me; I’d found financial independence to be a way to be my own person, and giving that up felt insane.

    My boyfriend has been amazing in proving himself to not be like my parents, and making ‘us’ feel like a team. I think his repeated expressions of ‘I’d rather have you here than not’ helps a ton whenever I feel bad about not having a full time job and feeling like a massive money sink. I try to remember that in the future I’ll be able to pull my weight a lot better than I have in the past by having a good degree in hand, and the very biggest thing I try to keep in mind is this: I’d do the same for him, and I wouldn’t even bat an eye. It’s the hardest, but most helpful thing I try to remember. I wouldn’t think anything about helping him out and making my paycheck work for the two of us if needed; I should give him the credit that he might feel the same way about me.

    • This is what men do. They want sex partners, cooks, housekeepers and mothers at home with their children (they may not admit this or even know it themselves). At home work is very worthwhile, but he will ultimately be the head of the household which is what he wants. Your children, should you have them, will see him as the leader. He will knowingly or unknowingly squelch any dream you have that threatens to take you away from the family. This is one of the reasons for the high divorce rate. Women typically marry up so we bring this on ourselves. I guess it’s nature’s way.

  20. Ohhhh I am hardcore struggling with this right now. In the next few months I am moving back in with my partner, who has kindly offered to pay rent and food while I am in grad school. I do plan on working part time, but I have no idea how long finding a job will take.

    It’s taken (taking) a long time for me to be ok with being financially dependent on someone. There were freakouts. There still are freakouts. I have a big “I feel like a burden” complex due to some health issues, and adding the financial aspect was just horrible, horrible icing.

    BUT. One day I thought “If the roles here were reversed, if I was making enough money to pay our living expenses while Viking was in school, would I? Would that be ok?” And the answer was “Well, duh.”

    So if it’s ok by me that I support him, why can’t he support me? Every reason I came up with was not actually a very good one, and I’ve felt a lot better since that realization. I mean, it’s still a frightening prospect, but I’m more ok with it.

  21. I have been feeling much the same way, now that I’ve transitioned from single globe-trotting financially independent anthropologist to a stay-at-home wife and soon-to-be mother. The shift has been really hard on me, intellectually, because like a lot of women, I’ve been socialized to devalue domestic unpaid labor. The stigma that women only stay home these days when they’re not capable of doing anything else is so ingrained in mainstream American culture that, even though I know it’s absolute bullshit, I can’t shake it.

    I’m a military wife, and I’ve recently been going back to school to get a radiology technician’s degree, so I can work wherever we end up stationed, but since I didn’t get accepted into my program last year and had to wait a year to reapply, by which time we’d be moving anyway, we decided to try for a baby. Financially, it’s better for us if I stay home with the baby for a while, since childcare is so expensive. I wouldn’t be making enough in whatever short-term retail-type job I could get right now to cover childcare any have enough left over to justify not having that time with the kiddo.

    Even though I know I’m doing what’s best for the household right now, I can’t get over the feeling of shame I have when I’m referred to as a “housewife”, because it smacks of a woman with no options and no agency. Calamity Jane has an awesome blog on being a “radical housewife” and her article “Reclaiming Housewifery” has been helpful to me in reshaping my preconceptions of what it means to stay at home and take charge of the domestic sphere.

    It helps that my husband eschews traditional gender rolls and is very active in the housework as well, and would like to be a stay-at-home dad when he retires from the military. We have a financial set-up like those that have been mentioned above; after the bills are paid and groceries bought, all left-over money gets split into thirds. One-third in his account, one-third in my account, and one-third into an account for household things. That way we can both buy whatever we want with our accounts and it doesn’t affect the household budget. If I want something expensive, I save up for it. If I need a new bra, I go buy it. It goes a long way toward making me feel less like a kid getting an allowance.

  22. I’m suffering from a number of medical maladies that are in turn temporary and chronic. Right now, and for the past 2 years, I haven’t worked (worse yet is that I was the major breadwinner in our house for the year before that, and have been financially independent for my adult life). For one of those years, my mister was making enough money for us to get by, and even enough to get ahead on our debt if we decided to forgo any personal spending money. For the second of these years, we have been taking care of his elderly parents (for various understandings of “we”). I can manage a few minutes of productivity here and there, but nothing in the realm of the multiple hours or level of critical thinking required by a job, and certainly not anything resembling “my share” of the chores even if they were just 1/4 of them since there are four people in the house. I can’t even keep up with my medical appointments and disability claim.

    It makes me feel rotten some days, when piled on top of the emotional and physical pain of my situation. I feel helpless, and a burden, I’m an expense, and a drain on more than just finances. I keep telling myself I’m doing everything I can, this is temporary, and muddling through, although in my case I also spend quite a bit of time wondering if this is in fact temporary. I have to assume that even if my medical condition gets no better, our living situation will be forced to get better in time. And if that’s the only hope that gets me through the day, then it is hope I will gladly take.

  23. I recently became a house wife by intentional plan, and yeah, it’s been weird. It’s an ongoing balancing act that we’re slowly getting better at but are far from performance ready. I get what we call my discretionary funds (after I vetoed allowance, stipend, and slush fund) as well as money to cover groceries and the few bills that are stubbornly in my name auto-transferred to my bank account at the beginning of each month. I don’t have to ask for money and he doesn’t have to remember to give it to me, if I have some large expense we would talk about it anyway even if I was contributing financially. Our finances are 100% transparent to both of us at all times, and though I hardly ever look it is ultimately quite satisfying and soothing to have the option.

    I do the house work, though I did 75% of it when I was working , the rest was done by a house cleaner. He doesn’t clean, he doesn’t see dirt. I’ve accepted it. He still pays for a house cleaner twice a year for spring and fall deep cleaning. I do all the cooking, he’s NOT a cook. If I’m sick or something he makes me canned soup and I love and appreciate it. The laundry is my constant source of failure. I don’t wash it in a timely manner, I rarely fold/hang it, I don’t have any clue how to get stains out properly, I forget it’s in the wash and it mildews, I’m bad at laundry. We’ve talked about it. He isn’t good at laundry either but perhaps he’ll take on the folding job, or else we’ll make sure to have a large closet when we move and just hang it all, we both hate that slightly less.

    And yes, I often feel like I’m paid to be his maid, cat sitter, and personal chef, and I hate feeling that way. But the truth is I like not working. I really do. I like not having a boss, having my own schedule – I do operate a very small etsy store rather half-assedly – being free to visit a friend for a week after the birth of her child, watch my grandmother for a week while my mom takes some time away. I love being home with my work-from-home fiance (yeah, we aren’t even married yet, which makes it all feel even weirder sometimes) all day, making us lunch and sitting on our patio. I love having this time to adjust to this before we get around to reproducing. There is a plan, a 5 year plan, and this is just one part of it. It’s hard to remember the big picture, and it hurts when friends give that ‘suuuureee… you’ll go back to work eventually, after the kids… uh huh…’ look, like they don’t believe it’s possible.

    The loss of financial independence has been a very slow, but very steady road for us. He’s always made a significant amount more than me, he has a 6 digit income and was the unexpectedly rich boyfriend I had in college. The one who could take me to dinner and pay for cabs and all that wonderful luxury that was so very far out of my waitress and pell grant funded budget. He revealed it slowly, I didn’t really know how much he made til we’d been together for over a year, and it caused some ripples. It was weird enough the first time I ordered something I couldn’t cover myself at a restaurant. Compared to now, when his money is the only money covering me anywhere for anything, it’s still a visceral memory, those early pangs of dependance. When we moved into an apartment together and I only paid a quarter of the rent, it was something we discussed over and over and over, always me finding some way to justify what was obviously, for us at that time, the way things should be. He made more, I made less, we didn’t want to live in a bad neighborhood anymore, I could never afford half the rent anywhere ‘nice’, etc etc. It was closer to my work, I spent less on subway cards, I had time to pack my lunch, I was saving us all this money! See how ok it is that I don’t pay my share!

    But it still feels wrong sometimes. Mostly I just ignore it. I love our life the way it is, I really do. We’ll be buying a home in the next few months and then we’ll be semi-homesteading, with me doing the majority of the farming side of things. I’ll be busy, I’ll be done with our wedding, I’ll be married and it’ll be just a tiny bit less weird, I hope. There is no perfect here, there is only working perfect. I’ll never be perfectly ok with this, but it’s good enough for me to mostly enjoy it most of the time. When our perfectly timed babies happen and the youngest toddles off to school, I’ll open that fucking restaurant or BnB. And I’ll run the hell out of our homestead. And I’ll be fulfilled, my hair will be amazing, I’ll have the perfect life/work balance, and rainbows will shoot out of my every orifice.

    • My husband and I have been talking about what we want our lives to be like. We would both like to homestead, and I would love to take on that responsibility.

      Right now, we both work full-time, and I make more than he does. Since I’m older, and already finished my schooling, I have the greater potential for earning. At first, he thought he would like to be the stay-at-home dad when we have kids and I was happy with that, but now we’re realizing that I might have the better skill set for homemaking. He said he thinks that he might not actually like staying at home and that it would drive him crazy. Neither of us is good about cleaning, but we’ve realized that I’m marginally better about it.

      Also, he’s recently become really concerned that I don’t feel fulfilled by my job, and that I’m too tired after work to pursue any of my creative interests. He keeps talking about how he’d really like for me to be able to stay home, take care of the house, and try to start selling my handiwork on Etsy. If we’re able to pursue homesteading, I would also be able to sell our farm produce. That’s definitely a life I would feel fulfilled in, but I don’t see it happening for a long time.

      Without my income, we couldn’t pay our bills. He wants to start a family, and I do too (but not for maybe 5 years or so). Meanwhile, he’s not happy at his job either, so I don’t know what we can do about it right now. We’re newly married, so we’re still trying to figure it out.

    • I know what you mean about the loss of independent finances. I also started dating my husband in college and didn’t realize how much his family made until well into our relationship. (No loans, and no financial aid for a school that cost $64,000 a year?!) Eventually we moved in together and I picked the apartment, monitored our finances etc. When the bills came I told him his share and he either used his own cash or got his parents to cover it without blinking an eye (I graduated first so he was still in school for some of it.)

      At some point he was offered his dream job across the country and he told me he wanted me to come with him. At that point I had decided that I wanted to go back to school and going out of state was really not in my budget. The job payed well, though, and he told me he would cover all of my living expenses, and pay the difference for out of state tuition. He said he’d rather have me there with him than a few thousand extra a year.

      I decided to go with him and it was WEIRD for me for a good while. I hadn’t asked my parents for a cent since undergrad and had a really hard time spending what I saw as “his” money. I think he saw it as “our” money from the beginning though. I never had to ask for cash. From the beginning we had a joint account that I had full access to. I maintained my own credit cards and bank accounts so if we budgeted we had X dollars in “spending money” I could just take half and spend it however. He never asked about what I did with it. Never frowned upon me treating myself or buying things he would never in a million years spend his own money on. If either of us wanted to buy something big we talked about it. But I still felt like I needed to contribute fanatically somehow.

      I took a job that I hated just to make myself feel better about contributing something. He told me it wasn’t necessary and I should just focus on doing well in school. He was right, but I needed to do it for my psychological wellbeing. Eventually though, I felt like my grades were starting so suffer, so I quit. I was “home” more so tried to do more of the housework at least. But being “home” wasn’t the same as not being busy and I started to feel a little resentful that I worked hard all day and did all the cooking and cleaning just because I happened to be “home”. When I’d tell my husband this (we’d been married about a year and a half after moving together) he would pick up some slack for a while, but we’d always revert to me being the student/housekeeper/cook. Eventually we hired a housekeeper and got our laundry sent out to a service so neither of us would have to worry about it, and with just the cooking to share, its been a lot more equal. My husband’s efforts made me feel special and loved, but I also kind of felt like a spoiled brat. I know I’m working hard for my degree, but some part of me still feels like a slacker for letting him do all of the earning and paying for housework when women everywhere manage to do both and take care of kids, etc.

      While I’ve spent a lot of time feeling guilty for all of this, I’ve also made a lot of progress towards cutting myself some slack. I think I’ve finally come to deal with it a little better over time because 1) time makes a lot of things less weird 2) my husband always backed up his word that the money is “ours” and not “his” with actions 3) sounds lame but being married helped me feel a little more entitled to joint finances (though I don’t practice myself I was brought up in a conservative Baptist household) and 4) I have come to the realization that the best thing I can do for both of us is do well in school since my earning potential is equal to or greater than his once I’m all done. He can maybe retire younger and be a house husband while I bring in income later. Sharing our finances is part of us being a team and life partners and its taken me a while to realize that. And hey, we have it good, and when you got it good, you might as well shut up and enjoy it, right?

  24. I used to have the exact same problem, but in the past couple of years we seem to have ironed out the kinks in the situation so I feel like I have a bit more financial independence, even if I am not working outside the home. We have a joint account which my husband’s paycheck is deposited into, but I also have my own checking account. After he gets his paycheck, I transfer my “paycheck” (a set amount we’ve decided on to be my own personal monthly budget) into my own account. We budget out the amount we need for bills and such, as well as the money my husband uses each month, and that stays in the joint account. I am the one who is responsible for groceries, household expenses, etc so that amount goes into my account, as well as extra that is for my own personal use. So basically, its like I am getting a paycheck. It has been a much better situation for me because I don’t feel like I have to ask or even tell my husband how much I spent, so it keeps me from feeling like a teenager asking for allowance. Also, even though I am not technically employed, at least by some people’s definitions of employment, I still have things like an RRSP as well as established credit in my name, not shared with my husband. My husband was really adamant that I have my own credit and saving, etc. so that if anything were to ever happen to him I wouldn’t be totally financially screwed.

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