Does salary level determine the worthiness of a job or a person?
I think most of us would say “NO WAY!” including myself yet actions and behaviour speak louder than words.
When I was earning a decent salary (actually some would have probably considered it indecent), for my age people treated me differently. They seemed to automatically respect me and I never felt like I had to justify what I was doing. I was making a lot of money, therefore what I was doing was worthy.
Then I became a stay-at-home mom and we all know how much we stay-at-home parents get paid and that amount is zip, zero, nada.
When I first decided to become a stay-at-home parent my decision wasn’t questioned. I had some savings from work and I was expecting my second child. I had worked enough during the year to guarantee that I would be getting parental leave benefits when my second child was born.
Now that I think about it, it was fascinating how many people had an opinion on my new status.
Most people (and I honestly thank them for the support) told me I was making a good decision. They said things like “your children are only young once, you’re lucky you get to spend time with them when they are young.”
And I agree. I am very fortunate that I got to spend time with my kids when they were young.
But the other message I internalized from this comment was that I wasn’t really working, or working at a job that benefited anyone other than me.
As time went by and my kids got older (four years old and two years old), my justification for staying at home became more and more a topic of conversation and I got more and more defensive. I started keeping a mental list of how I was contributing to our overall household, which I started to obsess over on an almost daily basis. The first question out of my spouse’s mouth when he got home from work was “what did you do today?” and although he may not have been looking for proof that I had worked, I had my list at the ready to prove I had not been surfing the web all day. My husband didn’t have to justify his actions because he brought home a paycheque every two weeks that confirmed he was working and contributing.
To make myself feel more justified in what I was doing, I decided I could live with less “fun” funds than my husband. I cut my leisure spending to one third of my husband’s.
It is funny what my pay cut did to our family dynamic. I didn’t need that extra money. I was happy and still grateful for what I had but at that point I had to justify what I was doing even more.
Clearly, I did not see myself as worthy as my husband because I was willing to get paid less and at that point both myself and my husband had monetary proof that my job wasn’t as worthy as his.
This concept carried over into our divorce process. There was limited discussion about how I had contributed to the household. It was glossed over and the main discussion revolved around when I was going to start “work.”
What was not discussed was the fact that I had effectively lost my job because being a stay-at-home parent is not recognized as a job. I had essentially been on a lark and now I had to get down to business and find something worthy.
What was the difference between my job and my (now) ex’s? His was paid, mine was not.
So if you are considering becoming the stay-at-home parent. I strongly encourage you to set up your finances as follows:
Take your spouse’s salary, divide it by two and automatically transfer your half into your own bank account every pay period. You and your spouse each pay half of the joint family expenses and you pay for your own personal stuff from your remaining funds.
If you are about to embark on becoming a stay-at-home parent, I encourage you to do this. For one, you will see the look on your spouse’s face when you suggest this. That will tell you all you need to know about what your spouse deems to be the worthiness of your stay-at-home proposal.
If your spouse does not support this proposal, then you have some talking to do with each other. Better to find this out before you give up your career to focus on a dead-end job.
If your spouse supports this financial treatment, you will know that your spouse considers it a worthy endeavor. This worthiness will be supported by the fact that you earn actual money to do the job. Despite the saying that money does not define the worthiness of jobs or people, actions and behaviour speaks louder than words.