With our move to Florida coming sooner than we had expected, it has left us for several months without an income. Thankfully, Chris starts work next week, but for the past three months we have been floating. And it has been terrifying. We have gone through all our savings and if Chris didn’t start working this month, we would be in some serious trouble next month.
In our family, I do the banking and the bill paying. Of course, I give Chris the run down each week or two on our finances – what I’ve paid, what we owe, how much is in checking, how much is in savings, how much I put away for Bean. And if we have decisions to make such as where to pull money from or where to put a particularly unexpected income, we talk those over together. But the general day-t0-day practice of actually logging expenses into our register and then paying the actual bills falls with me.
The thing about me, though, is that when things get tough, I tend to hide my head in the sand. Be it with money, relationships, parenting, whatever. I would much rather just pretend nothing is wrong. I’m mature like that.
So, this month when money has been particularly tight as we get closer to Chris starting work, I made a cardinal mistake.
I asked Chris to step in and do the finances this month.
I thought it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Just logging some stuff into our money program and writing a few checks really. No biggie.
But what I didn’t think about, like an idiot, was that Chris and I have specific roles in our marriage because those are the roles we handle the best. For example, Chris cleans the kitchen because I hate getting dirty, so when I clean the kitchen its more just like I push everything into the sink and throw a dish towel over it. Because I’m mature, remember?
And disrupting that delicate household balance of responsibilities doesn’t do anyone any good.
The thing about Chris is that he is actually better with numbers than I am, so you would think that would make him better suited to do our banking. But the fact is that Chris doesn’t do well with worst-case scenarios. He takes the worst thing that could possibly happen and then he imagines ten times that and by the time he’s done looking at our finances, he has his little head spinning so much that he’s envisioning us going into a homeless shelter in two weeks.
So, like a sweet, good husband, he did just what I asked him to do and he did our banking this month. And for the next two weeks, he was afraid to leave our house. Seriously. It was like he was afraid if we walked outside, what little money we had left would be sucked out of our pockets and into the atmosphere.
And those times we had to venture out (God forbid) for things like groceries, he drove me insane. Since neither of us are working right now, we usually run our errands together so we would be in the grocery store walking through the aisles and everything I picked up he would comment on.
“Do you REALLY need face wash?” he would ask.
“Yes, Chris,” I said. “I really need to wash my face.”
“Does Bean REALLY need pajamas?”
“Yes, Chris,” I said. “He’s still wearing his 6 month pajamas and he’s about to turn ONE YEAR OLD.”
“Do we really need sandwich bags? Lima beans? Applesauce? Chicken? Bananas?…”
I mean, he’s freaking out. And the part that makes me the craziest is that he keeps talking to me like I just don’t understand what’s going on. Like if I am not panicking, then I, clearly, don’t have a clue. And that’s when I have to kick him in the pants (which doesn’t cost any money at all, coincidentally) and tell him that A) I am not stupid B) I know what’s going on with our money since I do the banking EVERY MONTH and C) if he keeps freaking out and making things seem worse than they really are, I am going to lock him in the attic until he starts getting a paycheck.
I mean, I’m all about talking about money. I think its a healthy conversation to have and that both partners should be involved in the discussion. But I think that talking about it every time we do ANYTHING does nothing but make him freak out more and me get pissed off more and before we know it, every decision we are making become arguments about money.
So, there are several lessons I have learned this month.
1. We have assigned roles in our marriage because those are where our strengths are. And it is selfish of me to say that I just don’t want to deal with my responsibilities that month and to put them off on Chris.
2. No matter how much Chris and I might agree on the way we spend and save our money, we deal with the emotional and stressful side of finances very differently. As much as he drives me crazy with his end-of-the-world freaking out, that’s just the way he rolls. And I really should give him the chance to get those fears and anxieties off his chest. To a certain extent…
3. Even the most mundane decisions that I make in my marriage – paying the bills every month, for example – will need to be reevaluated over time and that will mean going through some growing pains as we work to find a new balance with our changing situation. And Chris needs to understand and appreciate the things that I bring to the table in those decisions, just like I need to be open-minded about what he is bringing to the table.
4. Unemployment sucks.