While talking dreams with my husband the other day, I told him that I would have no qualms should he ever decide to have a complete and radical career change.
“I would have no fear,” I told him. “I know I could support our family if need be.”
And I meant that. Although my husband and I are on equal financial footing right now, my work as a freelancer doesn’t exactly offer long-term stability or the very important benefit of health insurance for our family. But with a bachelor’s in nursing and over six years of experience working as a hospital nurse behind me, I know that should push come to shove, I could go back.
My degree and job experience, frankly, gives me a lot of peace most days.
I can go to bed knowing that if tragedy should hit, if my husband would decide to strike out on Ashley Madison (a site, thankfully, which he keeps referring to as “Ashley Ferguson,” which hopefully means I’m pretty safe), or if we would decide to take a change-of-career leap of faith, at the very least, I could feed my kids. It sounds like a small thing, but we have four young kids and I’m technically a stay-at-home mom, which could put me in a position like Anna Duggar – with no education, no career prospects, and four kids to care for. Finances suddenly become a very real deciding factor in marriage.
Which brings us to the question: Is it ever acceptable for a woman (or a man, because not all stay-at-home parents are women) to be completely financially dependent on their spouse?
I have such mixed feelings about this because at its core, marriage is about a partnership, about building a life together, not against or apart from one another. At its best, marriage is about supporting each other totally and completely and when you throw a stay-at-home parent and young kids into the mix, that support is more than likely going to include some degree of financial support as well. Shouldn’t “for better or for worse” also include the finances?
I know wives who have made the choice to eschew their educations or working while they raise little ones and rely on their husbands to support their families and why wouldn’t they? If they are lucky enough to have a husband who can do that, isn’t that a gift? Isn’t their choice just as valid as wives who need to work or decide not to stay home?
“Since when is being a wife and mother not enough?” one woman commented on my Facebook page when I shared my thoughts on Anna Duggar’s dilemma. “Women perpetuate the lie that caring for our families isn’t enough. It is enough for me and if my husband left me I could manage, I would manage, even without a college degree.”
It really doesn’t make much sense to me to live your life for the “what ifs” or the “just in cases” and it really doesn’t make much sense to me to go into a marriage prepared for your spouse to leave you. Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?
When I asked my ever-wise husband about his opinion, he pointed out that just because one spouse might be financially dependent on the other at one time in a marriage doesn’t mean that he or she will always be financially dependent on the other -- which is a very good point considering that we have both taken turns carrying our family financially at different points in our marriage, like when I graduated college first and he was the primary caregiver for our daughter while I started my first job as a nurse.
We often place so much value (no pun intended) on what we are worth financially, but often the most valuable work in the world has no financial reward. I don’t get a paycheck from reading my kids a story, taking a walk as the sun sets on a beautiful summer night, or soothing a feverish baby. And I think it’s an incredibly limiting view, especially in marriage, to break down our roles and worth in terms of dollars and cents, because life is about so much more than that.
But then again, maybe I can only say that because I know I have a back-up plan. Because I’m not an idiot — money does matter and at the end of the day, it’s a huge relief to have some degree of financial peace off my own shoulders. There’s a lot to this question, especially considering how long women have been reduced in the public sector from the plenitude of non-paying roles they have had in the private sector. All jobs are not viewed equally, you know what I’m saying?
I do think it’s important for the finances to be a consideration and for both spouses, at the very least, to be involved in making decisions and all that good stuff. But at the end of the day, I’m going to go ahead and say that if you’re confident enough in your partner to marry him or her and choose to be out of the financial game to care for kids or whatever you want to do that works for both of you, then more (unpaid) power to you.
Bottom line, you get married to build a life together and there’s nothing wrong with deciding what that means to your family, no matter whose name is on the paycheck.
What do you think? Do I have it totally wrong? Is it a bad idea for any spouse to be financially dependent on the other?