Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Finances and Stay-at-Home Motherhood: Measuring Value by a Nonexistent Paycheck

When I got pregnant in January of last year, I had just left a job with a stable paycheck and started this website as my full-time gig. There were several reasons I ventured out on my own, but top of the list was my desire to be a stay-at-home mom AND have an outlet that at least kept a big toe in the work force while maybe, hopefully, bringing in some money that would allow me to financially contribute to my family. Drew and I discussed this and were on the same page. We hoped we wouldn’t have trouble conceiving a baby naturally and that by the time I gave birth, this site would be running smoothly and I could enjoy being home with our baby.

And fortunately, that’s exactly how things have played out, though we haven’t been without challenges along the way. For one thing, I got pregnant right away — the first month we tried — which I am, of course, very grateful for, but it also meant that I didn’t have as much time as I was anticipating to get this new “job” off to a good start before having my hands full with a newborn. Add in some complications during pregnancy and PPD-like symptoms from my thyroid disease after giving birth and it’s safe to say that I was pretty distracted and as a result, I wasn’t able to give this site — my source of what I hoped would be a little income of my own — as much attention as I would have liked.

Fast forward almost two years since I launched DearWendy.com, and my son, Jackson, is 13 months old and I now earn enough from the site to employ a part-time babysitter about 10 hours a week. This gives me a little time to work, which is important for my self-esteem and intellectual well-being, and it gives me a break from what is often the tedious and demanding work of stay-at-home motherhood. What my job doesn’t give me is a sense that I am financially contributing to my household (because I’m not) and that is something that I grapple with constantly.

I know that for a lot of stay-at-home parents, this isn’t an issue. They are contributing to their family in an enormous way already — they’re raising their kids. It’s a huge job. But it’s a job that is literally priceless — that has zero monetary value — and that isn’t an easy thing for someone like me to digest.

When I started this site, I had a healthy savings of my own that I used as “spending money.” Drew paid all our bills and I used my savings to buy groceries, household supplies, gifts, and things for myself. But in the last few months, my personal savings has run out and I am in a new position of having to ask Drew for my spending money. This feels so … demoralizing, frankly.

Drew has tried as best he can to assure me he values the role I play in our family, and I believe he does. But when so much of the work I do — the grocery shopping, the laundry, the cooking, the hours at the playground and changing diapers and managing tantrums and organizing play dates — is truly invisible and unpaid, I wonder if it really is all that valued. And if Drew has assured me that he values the work I do and I believe he does, maybe I’m the one who doesn’t place enough value on it.

But when you live in a society where the value of something is almost always calculated monetarily, it can make it difficult to calculate the value of work that has no price tag. It can be difficult to feel like the work you do is important when there’s no payment for it (and a lot of times, no personal fulfillment). And that’s where my feelings of demoralization come from when I have to ask for money. I want to feel like the way I spend my day — the work I do — is important, but when I have an empty bank account and have to ask my husband for money so I can get my hair cut or buy a new pair of boots for the winter, that isn’t always easy.

Obviously, things need to change in our situation. This isn’t healthy for me and it isn’t healthy for our marriage. One option is that I stop being a stay-at-home mom and find work that has monetary value, but that would mean leaving Jackson in the care of someone else many more hours than I do now and neither Drew nor I are comfortable with that (and we are very lucky to be in a position to have that choice!). It would also mean making a big cut in the time I invest in this site, which is something else I don’t want to do. A better solution would be finding a more practical way of sharing funds so that I’m not put in a position where I feel like I’m asking for money that isn’t mine.

Another solution — and one I am very actively working on — is to simply earn more money doing what I’m already doing. This isn’t an option many stay-at-home moms have, but I do. I have a small business that makes money while I stay home full-time. Part of the fun of that is setting financial goals and working hard to meet them. But when I don’t, I need to also work hard at not letting that define me. I need to work on valuing the rewards I get elsewhere.

And I’m fortunate that I get rewarded all the time. I’m rewarded probably more than the average person, to be honest. I get to put my kid down for his afternoon nap every day and hear his laughing fits and watch him engage in friendships I’ve helped foster. I get wonderful messages every single day from readers who tell me I’ve made a difference in their lives with something I wrote or creating a space where they’ve connected with people who have given them support or entertainment or companionship. Jackson gives me a round of applause after every meal. Drew compliments my cooking and my writing and all the little things I do around the home. My sister tells me all the time how much she appreciates me. My parents even tell me pretty frequently how proud they are of me. And I have wonderful friends who are liberal with their love and support.

I get lots of rewards and kudos — more than most people, I think. And yet, because I don’t get a paycheck, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy. That’s my cross. That’s the issue I am working on. It’s ridiculous and unwarranted and if it were someone else with the same issue asking me for advice, I’d be like, “Get over it! You’ve got a great life and you’re lucky to do what you love doing and spend so much time with your kid and create a comfortable home for your family. You’ve got so much and you’re whining because you don’t get a check with your name on it? Your life is your reward. Enjoy it. You may not always be so lucky.”

Maybe it’s time I start taking my own advice.

126 comments… add one
  • demoiselle November 8, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Although I do not have a baby or child, I feel similar at this time. Because of a toxic environment, I had to take personal leave from my Ph.D. program, losing my stipend and our family health insurance. Now, I am working as a non-union extra for TV shows shooting in NYC. I’m lucky because I’ve been getting work 2 or 3 days per week–once, I got four days. However, it pays just a bit above minimum wage, and if I work every possible day, I still can bring in 2/3 of what I did before . Going on COBRA means an extra $600 per month going out.

    What makes me feel guiltier is that I *like* what I am doing. I work 23-26 hours per week rather than 70+. But it cannot become a career. The days are long. The work is unpredictable. And in 18 months, we’ll run out of insurance. The field I am next-best suited for is almost as hard as academia to get into.

    I’m just about to have to ask for “pocket money” for my expenses, too, because all my income is going to save up for an emergency bathroom gut renovation (at this rate, it’ll take 20 months). The idea is acutely uncomfortable. Though my husband says the financial hit is worth it because I’m happier, I feel bad for not contributing more.

    Is this something that is programed into women? I don’t know. All I know is that I can work non-stop (see Ph.D.) or every day I have available (extra for TV), and it never feels like “enough.”

    I imagine many of us are in the same boat.

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    • Visharoo November 8, 2012, 1:50 pm

      Is this something that is programed into women? I don’t know. All I know is that I can work non-stop (see Ph.D.) or every day I have available (extra for TV), and it never feels like “enough.”

      I can really relate to this line. I am pregnant with our first child and I work full time as a middle school English teacher. I feel guilty when I have to slow down and take a few hours for myself to get the rest I need for my growing baby. Last weekend was the first weekend where I didn’t spend 5 hours each day lesson planning and I felt guilty. When I turn to look at my baby planning I feel guilty that I haven’t had time to do more or that what I have done isn’t enough. Is this something programmed in women? I wish there were a clear cut answer!!!

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      • lets_be_honest November 8, 2012, 1:55 pm

        There’s a term “mommy guilt” that I’ve always thought I had, but reading your comment made me feel like maybe’s its “woman guilt.” Nothing ever feels like its enough. I fear that the easier my life gets, the guilt will just multiply.

      • BriarRose November 8, 2012, 2:00 pm

        Maybe it is….I feel like watching a movie in the theater is a waste of my time, because I can’t be doing something else (balancing my checkbook, answering emails, filling out birthday cards) at the same time. Any relaxation can become a source of stress because the whole time I’m thinking about what I’m NOT getting done.

      • Wendy November 8, 2012, 2:04 pm

        It’s funny — I read this and I want to say, “It’s ok! Just relax! You need to relax!” And yet, I’m the same way. I’ve seen one movie in the last 15 months…

      • Addie Pray November 8, 2012, 2:46 pm

        Unacceptable, Wendy! Go see Argo – it is an awesome thriller and based on a true story – the best kind of thriller!

      • LK7889 November 8, 2012, 2:12 pm

        Me too. My SO is always telling me to calm down and relax. But as soon as I do, I start thinking about everything that I “should” be doing and just get freaked out. Ughh.

      • KKZ November 8, 2012, 3:07 pm

        A friend of mine suggests replacing the word “should” with “could.” It can totally change your perspective on a situation like the above. It becomes about owning your choices and not feeling like a perpetual victim of your responsibilities.

        I could be doing the dishes, but I’m going to watch this movie instead. (This is the decision I’m making. I own it and chose it willingly, and thus will not feel guilty about it.)

        I could order this salad, but I’m feeling like pizza right now. (This is the decision I’m making. I own it and chose it willingly, and thus will not feel guilty about it.)

      • Desiree November 8, 2012, 4:30 pm

        I totally need to share this with my fiance. He is very much a “should” person, while I’m all about the “could.”

      • Matcha November 8, 2012, 4:51 pm

        I wished that worked for me. Instead I just think, “I’m owning my bad decisions.”

      • Lilybell November 8, 2012, 2:58 pm

        Ha, these comments make me feel like such a slug. I am way too good at relaxing.

      • bethany November 12, 2012, 11:04 am

        Me too. I could relax for a month straight. Even longer, if my cat would be there to lay around with me!

      • KKZ November 8, 2012, 3:03 pm

        Well, another thing that’s programmed into women is the drive to be Perfect. Perfect Mom, perfect Wife, perfect Working Woman, etc. And I’m not even talking so much about living up to a specific example, a Stepford Wife or something, but just that attitude that anything less than perfect is unacceptable.

        So when we take on lots of roles, like Mom and Wife and Worker Bee, we sort of expect ourselves to not just pull it off, but pull it off perfectly. Anything less is failure.

        This hit me hard earlier this month. I’m a wife, a dog mom, a full-time employee, a writer, a dancer, and a writing workshop teacher and freelance editor. I was feeling really stressed going into November because I just had so much on my plate, to the point where I just really did not know where I was going to find the time to do everything I wanted to get to. Then I wrote to myself, “I don’t have to do it all perfectly, I just have to do it.”

        And it was like WOW! Where did that come from? And why has no one ever said it to me before?

      • LM November 8, 2012, 7:29 pm

        KKZ- I feel you. I am wife, mommy, work full time, manage a house, party planner, gourmet chef (I kid), etc. My husband and I got into it not too long ago because we’ve been trying to get our house ready for a birthday party for my almost one year old son. He claimed that I was lazy because he caught me, God forbid, taking a nap on a weekend. I told him – what he fails to realize is this: I do ALL of the grocery shopping and I cook at least 5 nights out of the week, if not the entire week. I work all day and I am gone from 645 in the morning to 615 at night. Not only do I get myself ready, I get the kids ready and I make at least 2 lunches, if not 3, for those that can eat it. I told him that I need help. He does, to some extent, but what gets me is when he calls ME lazy. He also forgets, that I do 4 peoples laundry. I never get any gratitude and he actually gets angry at me when he has no clean socks.

        I think that the role of wife and mom really goes unacknowledged. Being a wife and mom means giving up your time to take care of your family. I don’t understand why husbands make wives feel guilty about wanting something of their own. I think that what a lot of women forget is that, even though they might not contribute as much financially to the household, there is still so much that is contributed to the home. Without wife and mom, there wouldn’t be a home. I think society really has it backwards sometimes.

      • kiki November 8, 2012, 3:41 pm

        Looong time lurker here, kind of weird to finally come out of the woodwork 🙂

        I’m not married and don’t have children, but I recently saw a woman entrepreneur speak, and one of her tips was for women to be aware that we feel guilty about EVERYTHING!
        I’m not sure if it’s entirely relevant to this topic, but she suggested the book “The Three Marriages” by David Whyte. I haven’t read it yet, but Amazon says it’s about balancing your relationships with your SO, work, & your sense of self, because they’re all important.

        Anyway, apparently we just feel guilty about everything!

    • Riefer November 8, 2012, 3:52 pm

      I went on leave too because of burnout, and I felt the exact same way. I was so tired the first 4 months that I could barely get up and do anything. And so I felt bad, like I wasn’t contributing, like I was useless. Even though I had actually been contributing more than half to the family expenses before the leave, and was still paying all the bills with the money I had saved up.

      I don’t think it’s just women. Men get all messed up when they’re unemployed too. The part that really hits women though is that they’re the ones who usually have to pick up the majority of the unpaid work. So even though they may be contributing more actual time than their partner, they’re bringing in less money. And it does make you feel like a housewife in the 50s, asking your husband for your allowance so you can go buy a new dress.

      Some practical advice is to sit down with your partner, work out a budget (realistic and detailed, include haircuts, replacing old clothes, and “mad money”), and then route the money from each paycheque to the right person. That way it’s not so much an allowance, it’s the agreed-upon budget. You both looked at the income you have, and the needs you have, and allocated the funds accordingly. Then you’ll have the money you need in your hands already, you won’t have to ask for it. And if you include a bit of mad money you won’t have to feel bad about going out for a coffee or dinner with friends or whatever, because you’ll just use the funds that you already marked for that. It’s not “extra”.

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    • crazyayeaye November 8, 2012, 11:24 pm

      Hey Demoiselle,

      I actually left a doctorate program about 6 months ago to pursue acting which put a big strain on me financially, so I’ve been working a lot of different jobs to try to make ends meet. One of the things I’ve gotten into is being a Standardized Patient, it’s essentially playing the role of a patient to help train medical students in diagnosing and bedside manner. If you enjoy extra work you may like Standardized Patient work as well. It’s good pay, usually a decent amount of work, a lot of fun, and they are always looking for people in the film industry!

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      • demoiselle November 9, 2012, 12:20 am

        Thank you for the suggestion! I’ll look into it. In theatre, I’ve always been a strictly background/backstage person, but perhaps the standardized patient thing would work out for me too. Good luck!

  • JK November 8, 2012, 1:34 pm

    I guess my situation is a little unusual in that Arturo and I pretty much since we started living together have pooled our money completely, so when I became a SAHM things just continued as they were (even before I was making way too little money for the amount I worked). So I´ve never been in the position of asking him for money.

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    • Lindsay November 8, 2012, 4:32 pm

      I feel like the whole act of asking for money could play a large part in guilt. At least, I’d feel much more uncomfortable doing that than just spending money that was already in place for me to use.

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      • JK November 8, 2012, 4:41 pm

        Yeah, definitely. Arturo gets money deposited into my acct, and we have some cash on hand, so I just use whatever I need. I guess the fact that I dont go crazy spending helps hahahah

      • Lindsay November 8, 2012, 7:33 pm

        Haha, yeah, shopaholic tendencies would not work with that strategy AT ALL…

  • theattack November 8, 2012, 1:40 pm

    I wonder if things would be different if you and Drew pooled your money together. Asking for money seems like an unnecessary step that just makes you feel bad. Why not eliminate it altogether since you’re working toward the same goal together? There’s no reason for you to be punished for being the one that stays home. If you two had decided on having Drew stay at home, how would you be handling it?

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    • theattack November 8, 2012, 1:44 pm

      I’m not judging you for what you’re doing. I’ve just recently seen one of my best friends go through the same thing but without a baby. His job requires her support every day, so she doesn’t have time for her own job. Yet he keeps all of his money and she keeps the $20 she had before they got married. It doesn’t make any sense to me that it’s separate when she’s helping him so much, and she has to ask him for gas money to run their household errands or for $5 to meet me at McDonalds for lunch. She’s really unhappy with it, and at least in their case, it seems counterproductive to the goals of their marriage and household together.

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      • kerrycontrary November 8, 2012, 1:52 pm

        My one friend’s mother had to ask for money all the time. If the kids wanted to go shopping and she had already spent her allowance for that week, they had to ask their father. It blew my mind since my parents have always shared everything, but different strokes for different folks.

      • lets_be_honest November 8, 2012, 1:59 pm

        I think a lot of couples keep their money separate to maintain some sort of independence or safety net. Sorta like a prenup in some ways. I think in some ways its wise, but when I hear points like yours (same goal), I tend to agree. If you’re married, I assume you plan on being together forever and when I marry I hope to feel like a team and why wouldn’t a team pool their money. Annoying that there are serious pros and cons with this topic.

      • theattack November 8, 2012, 4:41 pm

        Yeah, I completely agree. First, I understand the feeling of wanting to maintain some independence and feeling bad about taking money out of the family pot. But I think combining funds comes down to trusting the person you’re married to to be reasonable with money. My fiance and I have discussed whether to go all in together or do the 3 accounts approach, and he insists that the 3 account approach is unnecessary for us and that we should be 100% working together as a team. But a 100% teamwork approach requires that you agree on what’s important and what contributes to your goals together. If he starts making me feel bad about getting my hair done at a salon instead of Supercuts then that approach won’t work. We’ll see.

      • lets_be_honest November 8, 2012, 5:08 pm

        Ha, I just got my hair cut for the first time in two years today…at Supercuts.

      • theattack November 8, 2012, 5:11 pm

        Haha! Wow, your hair must have been LONG! How much did you get taken off? Nothing wrong with Supercuts if you’re cool with it. I’m just terribly picky about my bangs. The rest of the hair I’m not worried about though.

      • lets_be_honest November 8, 2012, 5:15 pm

        My hair is so plain that its really a waste for me to go to a real salon. I wish I could say I’m just very frugal, but its not because of that. My hair is straight, no bangs or anything, and even with today’s trim, its halfway down my back. You really can’t beat $15 for a haircut though! That’s like a third of what I pay for a manicure. Crazy.

      • theattack November 8, 2012, 5:19 pm

        My god, you pay $45 for a manicure?!?! I’ve only ever gotten a manicure once, and it was $12. It wasn’t great though, so maybe that’s why. $45 seems really expensive to me. I pay about $40 for a pretty nice haircut at a salon, which I’m happy with since I only get a haircut about once every four months and cheap or free bang-trims in between.

      • lets_be_honest November 8, 2012, 5:22 pm

        Its one of those gel manicures that lasts (for me at least) 3 weeks. So I look at it as $15 a week which is how long a regular one will last, if that. I should’ve mentioned that I guess! Plus that includes the tip. For a haircut at a good salon by me, you’ll pay upwards of $100 for the whole wash, blow out, etc. I have girlfriends that spend $200-300 each time they get their hair cut and colored. So glad I don’t have to do that.

      • theattack November 8, 2012, 5:26 pm

        Wow. Maybe the cost of living is just dramatically different where I live. I don’t get any color or anything besides a basic wash and very simple cut. Do you like those gel manicures? I’ve heard very mixed reviews.

      • lets_be_honest November 8, 2012, 5:29 pm

        I love them. I used to do my own nails, and got pretty good at it, but you have to redo them every few days if chipping bothers you. I’ve been getting the gel one for almost a year now and I think they’re worth the money, that is, if you are getting a manicure anyway. They last 3 weeks for me, but salons say it only lasts 2 weeks. If you have the gel removed properly, your nails are still in perfect shape. If you try to chip it off yourself, your nails will be ruined. Made that mistake once. If you end up doing it, I suggest OPI instead of the other brand. More colors, lasts longer.

      • lemongrass November 8, 2012, 7:21 pm

        We have an all in one setup and it works really well for us. We agreed that anything less that $100 we wouldn’t have to discuss first but if one of us wanted something that cost more than $100 we would have to jointly agree if our budget would allow for it. Obviously the amount can change based on what a couples abilities are, but it works great. I don’t have to feel guilty for spending $60 on a knife block and if he wants to get $80 in hobby supplies it’s no big deal. We are both pretty responsible with our money though so this wouldn’t work too well if one person is a saver and one is a spender.

      • mandalee November 8, 2012, 2:01 pm

        You brought up a great point, theattack! When my husband and I were dating but living together, I made much less money than him and had periods of unemployment It was demoralizing to ask him for money to help pay more towards the house bills that were “mine” that I couldn’t afford that month. I really started to resent him and felt like I was a kid asking her dad for money, even though I knew it wasn’t like that, that’s how it felt.

        Once we got married and combined all our money, it made things a lot easier on me. We sat down each month and made a household budget, so while he still makes much, much more than I do, we really don’t consider it his money or my money, it’s our money.

      • GatorGirl November 8, 2012, 2:47 pm

        Goodness I would not be okay in that situation!

        Right now we have a joint account and each have our own personal accounts too. We put a set amount in the joint account each month to cover rent, utilities, groceries etc. What ever we have left is ours to do what ever with. If one of us is ever staying home full time (either him or I) we’ll have to adjust. I imagine neither of us will truely be a stay at home parent though, I currently work from home and he is in acedemia so he is home a lot too.

      • Firegirl32 November 8, 2012, 3:10 pm

        This is exactlly what we do as well – 3 accounts – his, mine and ours. I think it’s a perfect solution, for us.

      • KKZ November 8, 2012, 3:13 pm

        I think one joint account and two personals is the best route, personally. We have the same setup and have had that setup ever since we started living together. We’ve sort of reversed it from yours, though, in that all of our money initially gets dumped into the joint checking account, and we take out a set amount for ourselves, leave at least enough for bills (usually with a little cushioning), and if there’s a surplus of some kind, my husband moves it over to our joint savings account. For the most part the joint-account money is supposed to be for bills, groceries, car payments – administrative stuff – and our personal accounts are our “fun money.” Sometimes one of us will want to dip into the joint account for a little extra something, but we try to always discuss this with each other first.

      • camorzilla November 8, 2012, 3:52 pm

        That’s what my husband and I do too. It works pretty well. He makes more money than me so we each put a percentage in the joint account instead of a set dollar amount and that works well (right now anyway).

    • Regina Chapman November 8, 2012, 1:45 pm

      Good question!

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    • BriarRose November 8, 2012, 1:54 pm

      I definitely agree with this. My husband and I had a joint checking account and all the bills were paid out of that account. I actually handled the money since I had more “free time” (haha) and we had jointly decided what our savings goals/debt pay off/etc would be. If something needed to be bought, I bought it, and that was that. It did go a long ways towards making me feel like we were equal partners financially.

      Along those lines though, that meant that any money I earned (I did work part time for a while) also went into the joint account. I knew several SAHM parents who had joint accounts but the one who worked part time kept that money for themselves, rather than contributing to the joint account, which caused friction.

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  • Regina Chapman November 8, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Oh god, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate your candor. I know it’s made a difference in my day numerous times to come here and read engaging, inspiring content like this.

    I do wish you would make more money off this website. Not because I believe that is the only way *for you* to feel ‘valued’, but simply because, from a professional point of view (I’m a copy writer) I see a value of content here that would merit it.

    And I agree that, whether or not you succeed in making the site more profitable, it’s good to focus on different ways to feel valued than monetary ones:). Good luck either way, and what you do IS very much appreciated (by me, but I know by everyone on here)!

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    • Wendy November 8, 2012, 2:09 pm

      Thank you, I appreciate that.

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  • BriarRose November 8, 2012, 1:46 pm

    I find myself very envious of the non-monetary rewards you get for your work and home life! My daughter is only 8 and obviously it doesn’t really occur to her–nor should it–to reward me the way a grown up would (although she did cheer “YAY!” when I realized I forgot to make a vegetable with dinner last night). My friends and family are busy with their own lives and so most of my reward comes in the form of pep talks from the pretty lady in the mirror. Sometimes I think my dog might be saying thank you, but that could just be gas.

    Like JK, when I was married we had just one joint account so I also did not have to ask for money, but I imagine that can be frustrating. Still, it’s clear that Drew greatly values you and I think that’s a wonderful thing. But, when you feel something is missing from your own life, it really doesn’t matter what other people think, because it’s not their life, is it?

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    • jlyfsh November 8, 2012, 1:50 pm

      Your dog is definitely saying thank you 🙂

      And from what I’ve read from you you’re an awesome mother. Your daughter (and dog) are very lucky to have you! 🙂

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    • lets_be_honest November 8, 2012, 2:01 pm

      I adore you BriarRose. Keep pep talking the girl in the mirror!

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      • BriarRose November 8, 2012, 2:18 pm

        I’m blushing over here. Thank you both so much….you are too kind!

  • kerrycontrary November 8, 2012, 1:50 pm

    Awesome piece Wendy. In terms of practical advice, I suggest you just share one bank account. Clearly you and Drew trust each other financially, so there’s no reason not to be pulling from the same checking account. I’ve observed that women on the “allowance system” have more negative feelings about staying home than those who feel that they can freely purchase what is needed for the household. Do you and Drew keep separate savings accounts now? I’m just curious why your finances are separated and not combined.

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    • Lindsay November 8, 2012, 4:37 pm

      Yeah, and even if you don’t pool all your money together, maybe budget some additional money in a joint account that can be used for expenses outside of bills and household items, like your personal expenses. You’re both contributing to the family; it’s just that his contributions are monetary (aside from contributing as a husband and father!) and yours are in the form of caring for your child.

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  • Sue Jones November 8, 2012, 1:52 pm

    I was a SAHM for only 4 months and then went back to work part time in my own business. It was still tough because I was busy with a baby, trying to keep my business from at least going into the red but keep it going enough so that I had something to go back to more or less full time as my kid got older, and I have always made more income than my husband since I am a professional. It was HARD, and also I was attachment parenting (which incidentally I never ever thought I would do but it turns out to be the only way that worked for our son) which is SUPER labor intensive with extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc. and I didn’t think that I was doing anything exceptionally well during that time… but our son is turning out well so far (he is 9 now).

    Since I had always previously been the main breadwinner, it was REALLY HARD for me to ask my husband for money for incidentals such as haircuts, manicures, facials, clothing, (boots!) etc. But eventually, after much going around about it, we started working with a financial advisor and came up with a monthly BUDGET. How much do you need right now for haircuts, facials, new clothes for you, baby stuff, etc.? Budget some of the income into that. And if you need to make cuts, make cuts. For a while I did my skincare stuff at a beauty school and it is very inexpensive there, though a bit more bare bones in atmosphere. But living in Colorado, skin care is a MUST unless you want to look prematurely old. I did more trades. I wore my clothes out and waited longer to buy new stuff. One season my only new purchase was shoes. Good shoes will go a long way to upgrade a frumpy outfit. And my son wore mostly used clothes that friends with older kids passed down.

    What you are doing now is indespensible. Being there for your son is SO important. So is looking and feeling good yourself. Don’t feel guilty. But you and Drew need to be transparent about finances and stick within a good budget assuming that for now you need to rely on him as the provider and you as the homemaker.

    And it DOES get easier. As he gets older and goes to preschool, then kindergarten, then elementary school, assuming that he is not going to a super expensive private school or that you are going to homeschool… you will have more time and more options to either grow your business or seek employment.

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    • Wendy November 8, 2012, 2:01 pm

      Yeah, we’ve definitely cut back on lots of stuff and that helps. Drew packs a lunch every day now, I cook most of our meals at home, I don’t shop for new clothes too much (especially since I can get away with wearing the same 3-5 outfits all the damn time), and we use lots of hand-me-downs — and gifts from Grandma — for Jackson’s wardrobe. We tossed our gym memberships and now I just walk everywhere — a lot of times with jackson strapped on me for added weight — and bike a couple times a week. I found a former stylist who still cuts hair for friends and I see her now and save $30-50 since she’s cheaper and I don’t have to pay a tip. I still like to get my nails done from time to time, but it’s so cheap here in NYC ($8 for a manicure) and I do it once a month max, that it doesn’t feel frivolous. Our next thing we’re going to try is babysitting swaps with some of our neighborhood friends who have young kids. We do like to go out every other weekend, but those babysitting fees really add up.

      Anyway, I am all for stretching a dollar, re-using and recycling, and making do with what you’ve got. I’m also for spending a little money now and then if it makes you feel good. Feeling good is important.

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  • Sue Jones November 8, 2012, 1:57 pm

    I also want to add that my husband and I always have had separate accounts because I was running a business, I never wanted to be caught short if my husband made an unexpected purchase. I also was used to having my own money and I believe that women should always have their own money. But we now have a combined household account that we both contribute to monthly for monthly bills, etc. We still have separate brokerage accounts etc. now, but have Power of Attorney on each other’s stuff so we can easily move money around if we need to. But perhaps the shared household account can be where the incidentals come from for now…

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  • AKchic_ November 8, 2012, 1:58 pm

    I have had the same issue with my SO. He is the Stay-At-Home-Dad. I was unable to stay home with my 3 younger kids when they were small. I HAD to work because if I didn’t, well, we’d be homeless. I stayed home with them when we moved (briefly) to NJ when the 3rd was 2.5 yo. I realized I was miserable. When I moved back to AK, I turned my part-time online business into a full-time one, but quickly realized that it was HARD with two kids at home all the time (and with 3 at home during the summer months). Especially since they were all ADHD. And I had no help and wasn’t making enough to cover a sitter.
    My SO was trying to put himself through college when we got pregnant. It was a crappy college (the degree has gotten him no jobs, which is what I told him would happen when he said he wanted to go to that paper-mill). He was working minimum wage jobs. I was making decent money. I told him I’d rather he focus on his school work and that if he wanted, he could stay home and take care of our son. Get the bonding experience that I wasn’t able to have. He still has his doubts and second guesses himself about that decision, but overall, it’s been better for him.

    He constantly thanks me whenever he gets something (socks, a video game, take-out, a hair cut, whatever). Even if it’s his own money (he does work part time now that school is done). It drives me NUTS. We are a FAMILY so the money is OURS. Not mine, not his. Together. We’re a team. It’s a pot. If he needs something, so be it. If I need something, fine. If the kids need something, well… they always “need” something (right now, my 12 yo 7th grader “needs” a cell phone and a Facebook account).
    Parenting may be (technically) unpaid labor, but it is labor nonetheless. If you don’t do a good job, your child will be lacking in manners, social graces, and emotional capabilities. The cost of that could/would be prison (money for attorneys, bail, shame/embarassment for YOU, plus the gov’t’s costs associated with prosecution, prison, etc). I think it all evens out. It’s a pay-it-forward plan for society. You two SHARE your income. Stop worrying about that haircut. You’re doing it to look good for the family. To be HIS eye-candy. Bath stuff, massages, etc – sanity-keepers so he isn’t left with a crazy woman or worse, a single dad while you’re in the nut-farm. Justify it however you need to, but it’s still justified to SHARE your FAMILY income.

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    • Taylor November 10, 2012, 4:15 am


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  • LK7889 November 8, 2012, 1:59 pm

    Sometimes, no matter how much I know that a feeling I have is irrational, I can’t shake that bad feeling. So I can totally understand where you are coming from. We’ve all been programmed to believe that if something doesn’t have a price tag associated with it, it’s just not valuable. I think that lots of women would feel the same way in your position. I know that I would. I wish I knew the answer for the “thoughts/feelings are out of sync” problem- I’d feel better and I could help others feel better too.

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  • jlyfsh November 8, 2012, 2:07 pm

    We don’t have children but I think my husband felt this way when we first moved. He wasn’t working yet and I was the only one bringing in money. We share accounts but he would still ‘run it by me’ every time he did something. We have a general rule that we don’t spend large sums with talking to the other person, but this was little stuff. He did though when he was home cook, clean, do laundry, etc. Which I very greatly appreciated and let him know. I can imagine it being hard to lose your work self and the sense of pride of contributing financially. I’m sure in time you will find your groove and find yourself more content with what you are bringing to your household.

    I love this piece and look forward to others like it 🙂

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  • Emily @ evolvingPF November 8, 2012, 2:07 pm

    I’m surprised you two don’t have joint finances. Most people who start their marriages with separate or partial-pooling practices (which is only about 15% of couples) change to fully joint by the time they have children, let alone when one of them becomes a stay-at-home parent. Why have you decided to keep thing separate? It seems quite impractical and obviously is having a negative impact on your self-image.

    You should follow through on everything you suggested – trying to value your own contribution more, earn more money from this site, and make Drew’s income and your income “ours” instead of “yours” and “mine.” I’d say the easiest one to tackle is the last, although I’m sure the mental switch will lag behind the logistical ones of combining your income and savings.

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  • Jessibel5 November 8, 2012, 2:14 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. My husband and I have been having conversations about this a lot recently, as our goal is for me to stay home while we have young children, and we’re planning on how it could work out. I’m more pessimistic about it and am not sure we’ll be able to handle it monetarily, although he thinks we can. I grew up fairly poor, probably almost on the poverty line, so I have a different relationship with money than he does, which is what I attribute my pessimism to. Maybe, however, I’m anticipating my self-worth being affected as well. I put a lot of my self worth, too much in fact, into being able to pay my bills, save, get debt down, etc and just know that I’m going to have trouble if I had to ask him for money. I knew I wasn’t alone in that feeling, but seeing it put into words by you has lifted the weight of the anxiety about it off of me. This was really wonderful, and definitely not talked/written about enough.

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    • Jessibel5 November 8, 2012, 2:23 pm

      Also, Wendy, that picture of you two is fantastic! You both look so happy!

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      • Wendy November 8, 2012, 2:33 pm

        Thanks. That photo was taken about an hour before jackson projectile vomited all over me for the first time ever.

      • Trixy Minx November 11, 2012, 2:28 pm

        Oh man that sucks!

  • BecBoo84 November 8, 2012, 2:16 pm

    Wendy, I’m so glad you wrote this 🙂 I’d been looking forward to it since you first mentioned that you were working on it!

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  • SpaceySteph November 8, 2012, 2:27 pm

    I agree with those upthread that it might help to reframe how you think of the money, should be “our money” or “family money,” not “Drew’s Money.”
    My advice (not that I have kids… or a husband… or am a stay at home mom… but I have advice nonetheless) is to make a budget for the family and include stuff like your haircut and your manicure and his [whatever] and then all of that is already allocated and you don’t have to ask. Of course things will still come up that aren’t budgeted and then you might need to discuss them, but if you approach it as “is this the right choice for our family and our money now” rather than “please Drew can I have this thing” then it might help.

    You have inspired me to do something I never thought of before… ask my mother what she thought about her stay at home mommyhood. My dad worked full time. He is a doctor, so he really worked more than full time. He left before she got us up for school and almost never came home for dinner; he sometimes slept at the hospital if he had patients he knew he would have to deal with in the middle of the night. He made good money, and she stayed at home with the kids. It always looked like it was working, from my POV, but maybe she had the same doubts and concerns you have. See that Wendy, inspiring mothers and daughter to talk about things. That’s the difference you make in people’s lives!

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  • lemongrass November 8, 2012, 2:28 pm

    My husband and I have shared finances since before we were engaged and as I am making the transition to SAHM it hasn’t been an issue. But also we both place a high value on being a SAHM and I’m not saying that Wendy doesn’t in other people, but obviously she doesn’t in herself. I think that is what really needs to change. It does seem in this world where the first question a person asks you is “what do you do?” that SAHM’s aren’t valued as much because they don’t make any money. It’s the same as judging someone for working as a cashier or barista- It doesn’t make the person working the job less than the person judging, it is the person judging that is a lower person. I don’t know why society seems to think that the more money you make the better person you are and we should be working collectively to stop that idea.

    Wendy- you do an amazing job as a mother, we can tell by the pictures of him smiling and by the quality of your website. If your child wasn’t happy and healthy (which in my mind is a marker of a good parent) then there is no way you would be able to produce writing that is so clear and well thought out. There just wouldn’t be space in your head to come up with the words. I think I can speak for the whole community here when I say that we respect you and both of your jobs as mother and worker. I really hope you can find that respect for this aspect of yourself and know that you ARE doing enough.

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  • Wendy November 8, 2012, 2:31 pm

    I should clarify as I was too vague about the specifics: Drew and I DO have a joint account. And we each maintain individual accounts, which is important to me at least. I don’t know, I just like having my own account even if there’s nothing in it! So, we have a joint account and drew puts money from his own acct into it each month. But this is a new thing — since maybe august — and we need to sit down and discuss how much money I really need each month, etc. Also, I use a his credit card to buy household stuff, things for jackson, and very recently, stuff for myself. So, we do have joint finances, but it’s a process for me to get my head around the idea that HIS money is OUR money. I still feel … guilty? inadequate? when I use his credit card or whatever to, say, buy myself a sweater.

    This is all me. Drew has been wonderful about it. This is an issue in my head that I just have to deal with. But I have always been fiercely independent and I think of myself as a strong woman and in my head, strong women support themselves, they don’t rely on a man to support them. Again, this is just in my head. It’s not rational. I certainly don’t look down on anyone else who is more of the domestic partner in a relationship and doesn’t financially contribute to the family pot. I know first-hand how much WORK caring for a child and running a household is. No one should ever feel guilty about doing domestic/child-rearing work instead of going to work outside the home if she or he is lucky enough to have a choice.

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    • Vathena November 8, 2012, 3:15 pm

      I could have written this. My husband and I are talking kids and agree it might be a good idea if I stay home for the first year or so of said kid’s existence (husband would gladly do it, but alas his is the breadwinning salary!) I am already chafing at the thought of not having any of My Own Money, even though I know he’s fine with anything I want to spend on. We are already both pretty frugal, but I can see myself looking like Cousin Itt before I’ll spend joint account money on a haircut for myself. Not to mention how it galls the feminist in me!

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    • camorzilla November 8, 2012, 4:00 pm

      I totally understand how you feel (even though I don’t have kids and work full time). My husband and I just got married but even before that we lived together and shared finances. He makes more money than me and has less bills (no student loans) so ANY of my extra money comes from him. He sees it as “our money” but I HATE having to ask him about money stuff. We have a joint account and then we each have our own account which is nice if we want to surprise the other (hard to do with only a joint account sometimes).

      And I agree- it’s not rational and my husband is awesome about it and I’m super lucky in that regard. Maybe it’s being so dependent on someone else even though you’re still significantly contributing to the household?

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    • AKchic_ November 8, 2012, 5:15 pm

      Call it your “Sanity Tax”.

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      • Kathleen November 9, 2012, 2:05 am

        I don’t think I have ever commented but read your Wendy City, City Wendy and now Dear Wendy…

        I just felt compelled becuase this post spoke to me so much. I am 4 months pregnant and we are trying to figure out what to do. My partner just found out he is losing his job at the end of the year which nixes me staying home or going part time but a smal part of me is releived that I won’t be reliant on him for $$ even if I am also nervous about being the breadwinner. I think we were just taught that the women that went before us fought so hard for us to be independent that it’s like we aren’t grateful if we become “reliant” on a man again. Not rational but I can see how we got here. Thank you for starting this discussion.

  • Fabelle November 8, 2012, 2:35 pm

    It feels so unfair that this site isn’t giving you, like, a full income. I’m sure you know this & all, but I wanted to be another to say that you’ve created a great community that I’m sure everyone here is thankful for!

    There is definitely an unparalleled “yay, I am a productive citizen” feeling that comes with paychecks, though, I know. It sucks when the advice you’d give others & are trying to give yourself is not enough to totally kill those shitty feelings.

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  • Mel November 8, 2012, 2:37 pm

    Like many of the commentators I suggest you just pool your finances, it really is so much simpler. But, if you don’t want to pool all of your money for whatever reason you could agree to pool a certain amount or you guys could create a bank account just for you and he agrees to put so much money per week ($100?) or per month ($500?) into the account so that you always have access to the funds you need/want. That would drastically reduce the times you need to ask for money, as it will just be there waiting when you need it.

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    • Wendy November 8, 2012, 2:55 pm

      Yes, that’s what we do already. Sorry, I was unclear (see my comment above). It’s the idea that he has to put his money into an account and i don’t contribute anything that i have a hard time dealing with.

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  • llclarityll November 8, 2012, 3:07 pm

    I just had a mini-meltdown about this last night. My husband and I are planning on trying to have a baby next fall. Please do not take this the wrong way because I mean nothing snarky or mean by it, but I wish I had your problem in that I could stay home full-time. I wish I had that option. I’m fearful that with our student loan debt, that might not happen.

    I hear so many couples say “We just can’t afford for me to stay home,” when really what they’re saying is “We refuse to give up our lifestyle so that I can stay home.” Wendy I do NOT think that about you at all. I don’t think that about myself, either. My husband and I live VERY frugally in our small house. It’s the student loans that are killing.

    A good friend of mine would love to stay home at least part-time, but “cant’ afford it.” This friend and her husband also have a four-bedroom newer home and two new cars. It’s a trade-off. By the sound of it, you have made trade-offs too, but they sound so much more rewarding (i.e. “I want to do this”) and less “I have to do this.”

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    • llclarityll November 8, 2012, 3:12 pm

      I should clarify that I had the meltdown because I hate feeling like our income (or maybe our debt?) has so much control over how we live. We both so badly do not want to put our children in daycare, so finding a way to get around that, while paying down our debt and working at non-soul-sucking jobs is a lot to figure out!

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      • Wendy November 8, 2012, 3:22 pm

        I hear you. I know that it is a privilege to have this “problem” if you can even call it that. And i hear you on the crushing weight of student loan debt. I came into the marriage with a buttload of student loan debt. Before I met Drew, I had severe anxiety about it and how it would affect my future. Again, I was very lucky that Drew was in a position to pay off all my debt when we married. This also plays into some of the guilt I feel, of course — like, I hope I can prove that that was a good investment on his part. Which is stupid.

      • stickelet November 8, 2012, 4:52 pm

        I am single with no children, but I can relate to the student loan debt anxiety. I have about 45K and while I am getting my PhD, it’s in the social sciences which doesn’t exactly have tons of high paying jobs. Even with no marriage prospects in sight, it’s something I think about every time I make a purchase. I struggle with knowing that when (if) I get married, I’ll be bringing a mountain of debt to the partnership. And I also struggle with not feeling valued if I am not bringing in a decent paycheck. I loved this piece and thank you for writing it. The candor and sharing on this site is what I love the most. Thanks Wendy!

      • kerrycontrary November 8, 2012, 3:38 pm

        “I hate feeling like our income (or maybe our debt?) has so much control over how we live. “–Lady, you are not the only one. I have no advice because I’m currently living a VERY frugal and inconvenient lifestyle due to my student loan debt which was necessary to get a job in my field (which I like!). I’m there with you, and I also have major meltdowns about it sometimes.

    • temperance November 8, 2012, 3:51 pm

      I know plenty of people who have said “we can’t afford for me to stay at home” because they were being heavily criticized for wanting to work.

      I don’t see anything *wrong* with wanting a certain kind of house, or certain educational opportunities for children, for example. For me, living an extremely frugal lifestyle in a tiny house seems awful.

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      • BecBoo84 November 8, 2012, 3:56 pm

        Agreed! Maybe I misinterpreted it, but that comment just seemed to drop with judgment to me.

      • BecBoo84 November 8, 2012, 4:02 pm


      • theattack November 8, 2012, 4:44 pm

        I didn’t think it was intended as judgmental of those who want to work. I just read it as frustration that she wants to stay at home but can’t.

      • jlyfsh November 8, 2012, 4:55 pm

        yeah i didn’t either. i saw it as being frustrated with her current situation and venting.

    • lilikoi November 8, 2012, 5:12 pm

      Can someone please explain to me what’s so wrong with putting your kid in day care?

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      • Wendy November 8, 2012, 5:24 pm

        I, personally, don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with daycare at all. Plenty of my friends send their kids to daycare and those kids are great, happy well-adjusted little people. Daycare provides routine, social interaction, and educational opportunities. I have, on occasion, sent Jackson to a drop-in daycare in our neighborhood when I needed some childcare help and our babysitter wasn’t available, and he LOVED it.
        The reason why, given a choice, I prefer staying home with Jackson or hiring a part-time babysitter is because: a) I like being able to bond with him and being present for all the big and little moments in his development; b) I like knowing he is getting tons of attention; c) I like monitoring his activities, from watching TV to eating snacks; d) I like monitoring his engagement with other children. If someone is bullying him or if he’s being a little shit to someone else, I want to handle that the way I think is best; e) I like hearing his laugh all the time.

      • Wendy November 8, 2012, 5:30 pm

        Also, there are lots of germs in a daycare setting and if, by keeping Jackson out of daycare I can reduce the number of illnesses he gets each year even a little bit and save us all the trauma of that experience — and after dealing with three infant colds, I can say with confidence that it’s traumatic — then I’m happy about that too.

      • theattack November 8, 2012, 5:34 pm

        Wendy, have you found any issues with daycare philosophies? I have several friends who work at daycares, and they all report that they’re not allowed to use the word “no.” They’re only allowed to redirect children without setting rules. I don’t know much about it, but I’m very confused. Not sure if that’s some sort of state-wide standard, or if daycares make their own rules. I want my future kids to get used to hearing and respecting “no” pretty early on, so I know I could never drop them off at a place like that.

      • Wendy November 8, 2012, 5:56 pm

        No idea! Always best to research potential child care options and ask questions that represent your own philosophies and what’s important to you.

      • mandalee November 8, 2012, 6:24 pm

        Theattack, as someone who worked in day cares and preschools throughout college and is in the process of opening my own, I hate this new direction early education is going in. It’s a new movement nationwide in daycare, schools, pretty much anywhere that there is children, is fostering a “positive” approach to “guiding behaviors”. In most schools, you’re not even allowed to call it a punishment if they do something wrong, it’s a “caring guidance”. Basically, I would assume this came from the backlash of punishing kids for doing anything wrong or knowing that sometimes no is no.

        Honestly, in ages 3+ it can be effective, because they are able to understand the redirection and eventually habit kicks in. However, in my point of view, anything younger than that, it’s a complete waste of time. Children younger than 3 , have smaller vocabularies and I have never met a toddler, no matter how adorable or intelligent they are, that can follow and absorb five minutes of “behavior redirection guidance”. A simple “no” is much easier.

        Basically, the standards they set don’t say you *have* to follow the redirection approach, but they make it very difficult to do anything else because even a timeout is considered a no-no. It’s really ridiculous. I mean, I don’t kids should be punished to the extreme in school, but a simple no and a few minutes of timeout is not going to emotionally harm them.

      • theattack November 8, 2012, 10:26 pm

        I absolutely hate that. Thanks for responding. I really want my kids to hear “no.” It’s one of the most basic parts of growing into a functioning person.

      • Liquid Luck November 9, 2012, 1:45 pm

        I had a to do an observational/volunteer rotation for my college program in a center that used this approach. For some kids (usually the really shy, quiet ones), it worked really well. Like mandalee said, it was pretty ineffective for the kids in the 2 years and under class because they didn’t understand what was happening. For the ones who were old enough to know they were behaving badly and doing it anyway, it was terrible. I completely agree that some kids need to be specifically told what the boundaries are, and telling them no and doling out appropriate punishments (ie, taking away a toy if the kid isn’t playing properly) is crucial to making that stick. I agree that in the long run, this approach is not how I would want my own kids to be raised.

      • BecBoo84 November 9, 2012, 10:21 am

        Research actually shows that kids who are exposed to more germs early in life through daycare type settings actually miss fewer days of “real” school as they get older because their immune systems are better developed. A couple of studies outlining those findings are below:


      • MrsWood November 8, 2012, 9:09 pm

        I wouldn’t say there is anything wrong with daycare, but many parents would rather, given the chance, stay home and be the caregiver. I have been around children/babies my entire life, and have even worked at a daycare and I personally have said I will try my best to never put my child in daycare.

      • lilikoi November 8, 2012, 9:54 pm

        I struggle with this issue. I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but I think childcare is undervalued because you don’t have to be skilled or especially smart to do it. I don’t mean this as a knock against anyone who is a stay at home mom. But lets be real, Wendy you have skills and education that aren’t utilized as a childcare provider. I used to nanny when I was 11 and I think I did an OK job at it. However I think there is something very important about instilling values in children and I think putting a high importance on family over work is an honorable one. One that I would like to instill in my own children. My husband and I are thinking about TTC in a few months and because I like my work and I’m highly invested in my career it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around staying home. Yet people insist that I will change my mind. I think part of the reason it’s hard for me is because my mom became a SAHM and my father did not value it as a contribution at all. Maybe at first he did , but at some point he clearly saw her as inferior for not earning money. I thought this was a pretty cruel bait and switch. I don’t think I could ever be comfortable relying on a man as a provider completely for this reason, but I acknowledge that’s probably just because I witnessed what happened to my mom.

      • Wendy November 8, 2012, 10:07 pm

        First of all, most women I know who worked fulltime before having a baby were more than happy to get back to work after their maternity leave ended. OK, maybe not most, but at least half, easily. And why wouldn’t they? Work brings a lot of personal fulfillment, rewards, intellectual stimulation, etc. and to tell someone who spent how many years getting an education and building a career that as soon as she has a kid she’ll be ready to quit working is fucking ridiculous. I mean, it’s FINE if that’s what you want — better than fine. But if you want to go back to work, that’s totally great too. There’s no right or wrong.

        That said, I totally don’t consider my role to be one of “childcare provider.” I’m a parent. I know it’s semantics, but the difference is significant to me.

  • lets_be_honest November 8, 2012, 3:27 pm

    This yours, mine and ours account concept is a good one. I’m curious how you guys would handle my situation or one like mine (I had a child coming into the relationship).

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    • rangerchic November 8, 2012, 3:39 pm

      I too had a child going into my relationship with my husband though she was really young (2). After we were married he adopted her and we just combined our accounts and have had a joint account ever since. I mostly take care of all the bills and keep track of the bank account. He makes small purchases of everything he needs but we discuss bigger ones (goes both ways). Also – for some reason he asks me for cash and I always tell him to go to the bank and get some (he has an ATM/Debit card too) but he won’t do that – I’m not sure why.
      And we were both pretty young so maybe that had something to do with it being so easy to just handle it this way. We weren’t used to “doing things our own way” as much as some other couples.

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      • lets_be_honest November 8, 2012, 3:45 pm

        Thanks for answering. I was/still am (even several years into our relationship) used to doing things “my” way. I started a thread about this issue quite a while ago. It was actually related to how I can be more comfortable allowing my SO to discipline my daughter. It was just the two of us for so many years and I never imagined I would get into a relationship so I got very set in my ways. I still really struggle with it. I liked being the boss and being a single mom. Luckily, he’s very understanding about how stuck in my ways I am. Anyway, he treats her like his own very much, but I still pay all bills related to her (tuition, day care, etc.), so this topic made me start thinking about that.

  • KKZ November 8, 2012, 3:28 pm

    I was just talking to my husband yesterday about how I sometimes feel weird that, because I’m in a liberal-arts field and he’s in IT and at a higher career level than I am, I’m never going to make quite as much as he’s able to pull in. (Never is a harsh word, but…well, it would be pretty extraordinary if I did come close to his salary.)

    On the flipside of that, though, while he does get paid well, he is also a contractor and goes through periods of unemployment where I’m the one bringing in the money while he lines up his next job. He even jokingly calls me Money-Lady during these periods if I take him shopping for new work clothes or we go out for ice cream or something and I pay. (Some guys might find that emasculating, but he takes it all in stride.)

    Wendy – you’re a great mom, and on top of that, a great writer. Maybe there are some freelance opportunities out there for you that could supplement your income, without losing too too much time from generating content from DW? Just a thought. Good on you, though, for all you’re already doing! You have a whole ton of people here who genuinely admire you, not just for your awesome advice-giving skillz, but for all you are in every other area of your life that you choose to share with us. <3

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    • mf November 8, 2012, 4:25 pm

      I hear you. My husband makes twice as much as I do. In my field, there’s a chance I could make as much he does or even exponentially more, but it’ll be a long time before that happens (if it even does). We’re both 26, and my salary is pretty average for my age, but he makes a lot for someone in his mid-twenties. It’s great for us as a couple that he has a good salary, but sometimes it makes me feel like I’m not contributing or that my job is not as important 🙁

      On the bright side, I get five weeks of vacation every year, and he only gets two. So that always cheers me up.

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  • rangerchic November 8, 2012, 3:33 pm

    Great article. I have to say that when you have kids expenses change and when you kids turn into teenagers they go up yet again – and even more so. Or at least they did for us. Our oldest is 17 so we recently bought her a (14 yo) car that we had to finance because we didn’t want to be short in savings. Not to mention insurance premiums (I know if you live in NYC or other big city you may not have this problem but where I live there is no public transportation). Plus my hours at work just got cut so now I’m part time instead of full time (which I am loving so far because I can get so much more done) but that meant my husband had to start carrying our health insurance – so another increase (it was almost all paid by my company).

    I always wanted to work part time but always felt guilty about wanting to so never did (until now). I never even mentioned it to my husband because I went to school while he supported us and now have student loan payment so I always felt I should work. Which I like working but always felt I shortchanged the kids. So I feel stuck b/t a rock and a hard place. And now the kids are older (both teenagers) so they don’t need me as much 🙁

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  • Andie November 8, 2012, 3:36 pm

    Thank you for writing this article Wendy! I am a SAHM to 3 children: I have a 4 year-old (today is his birthday!!!), a 2 year-old and a 6 month old. (Yes, I have my hands full!!!) Visiting your site is one of my favorite things to do during the day. I really love to read about your experiences with motherhood. My husband has recently (finally!) become an attending physician, so we are becoming more finacially secure. I supported him throughout med school as a teacher for 6 years. We have one joint account and it doesn’t bother me too much that I don’t make a finacial contribution right now; maybe because I was the breadwinner for a while.

    I do struggle with losing my sense of self. Most of my time is spent tending to the needs of my kids, so I have a hard time carving out time to do things I love. Sometimes I’m not even sure what my passions are anymore. I try to remind myself that they won’t be little forever and I will have my time again someday. I know I will always be glad that I got to spend so much time with them when they were litttle. Sometimes it’s hard to remember when my kids are following me into the bathroom!!! 😉

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  • MissDre November 8, 2012, 3:42 pm

    This is making me so so so thankful to be Canadian (no offense intended to Americans). I never knew that Americans didn’t get the same maternity leave until I started reading Dear Wendy. Here we’re guaranteed 50% of our income for a full year after having a child, and in many cases employers top that up to 80% or even 100% if you’re lucky (depends on the employer tho). And of course, you have a job to go back to at the end of that year. Parents can also split this year if they want. Mom can take 6 months and Dad can take 6 months or however they want to break it up. I guess we’re really lucky that we can stay home with our baby for a year without wondering how the hell we’ll manage without an income.

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    • rangerchic November 8, 2012, 3:46 pm

      That’s awesome MissDre! Yes – American is behind the times. Ya know, the corporations would throw such a hissy fit if the government tried to pass such a law here. We get six weeks unpaid (I think some companies might pay this but not sure). Six weeks is not enough time!!!

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      • MissDre November 8, 2012, 4:00 pm

        OMG no 6 weeks is DEFINITELY not enough time!!!! I can’t imagine having to pass my 7 week old child off to a daycare to go back to work while I’m still recovering from birth!!

        I don’t want to get into a big healthcare debate, but I am so happy that healthcare is free (for the most part). Doctor? Hospital? Ultrasound? Blood work? Cast on your busted leg? MRI? All I have to do is show my health card and I’m good to go. And most companies offer comprehensive benefits. I get $500 a year for counseling, $500 a year for physio, $500 a year for massage therapy, plus a ton of other shit. And my prescriptions are covered 100% and dental is covered 80%.

        For reasons I don’t understand, not all Americans agree with this type of system, but I for one am incredibly thankful for it!

      • lemongrass November 8, 2012, 7:08 pm

        I feel the same way. I’ve read that it can cost anywhere between $10,000- 25,000 to have a baby in a hospital in the US. Its so hard to wrap my mind around that when the biggest expense we’ll have is the $130 upgrade to a private room, and perhaps the tim horton’s my husband will be consuming.

        We are incredibly lucky to have parental leave available to both parents. Since I’m not returning to work my husband will be taking the full 9 months off (3 months maternity is available to all pregnant women) and my husband’s employer tops the EI up to 93% of his regular wages. I’m pretty sure we’ll make more than the 7% left in gas alone. It does mean that we’ll be losing the 9 extra months of my income but since I’m not returning anyways, it seems like a good price to pay for him to be able to be home as well.

      • camorzilla November 8, 2012, 4:06 pm

        Technically as part of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) you can take up to 3 months unpaid leave (I work at a university and had to learn a bunch of HR stuff recently) and it guarantees that they will have your job or a very similar one for you when you get back.
        And it’s not enough for them to “say” they’ll hold your job if you don’t fill out the paperwork. A coworker of my husband’s went on maternity leave but didn’t file FMLA and was told they didn’t have a position for her when she was ready to come back.

      • scattol November 11, 2012, 7:14 am

        1 year is a relatively new change. It used to be 6 months. Frankly the 1 year is great because when the mother is ready to go back, the baby is far more autonomous and easier to deal with from the daycare point of view. Honestly 6 months was quite reasonable.

        Of course there is a cost to this in terms of taxes. Seeing that lower taxes is the order of business I seriously doubt that USA mat leave will get extended anytime soon.

        6 weeks is just far too short, at least from the standpoint of the baby being ready to be away from his mother. It’s a wonder americans reproduce at all!

  • QaraKoz November 8, 2012, 3:46 pm

    I agree that we live in a society where the value of something is usually calculated monetarily but perhaps it would help to remember the old adage “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
    Imagine all of the money you would be paying if you were working full-time but Jackson was at a daycare all day. I know some parents that barely break even at the end of the month cost-wise and they don’t get to see their kids grow up. Instead of earning a monetary amount to pay a daycare you’re just cutting out the middle-person and the work you do is still incredibly valuable (even at moments when it’s not personally fulfilling).
    Thanks for sharing.

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  • rickipedia November 8, 2012, 4:01 pm

    Wendy, I don’t have kids, and I don’t have a spouse, or any of that, but there is one thing that I *DO* have that is awesome– when I was growing up, my mom was a stay at home mom, and I have all the amazing, fun, and trivial memories of getting to hang out with her– having breakfast picnics, folding laundry in the afternoon while watching her soaps, learning how to cook spaghetti, picking me up from school when I was sick and putting me in bed, taking me to the park to play, I mean, it’s endless. So while you’re pressuring yourself to contribute more to your household, maybe try looking at it from a different angle– Jackson is totally going to have all these awesome memories of doing cool, fun, and even mundane things with his mother, who loved him enough to sacrifice to just *BE* with him. And seriously, that’s just about the greatest feeling a kid can have, isn’t it? And you’re giving him that, and it’s f-ing PRICELESS, in the BEST way possible!

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    • KP November 8, 2012, 6:35 pm

      Love this! I had the same experience growing up, and it’s the main reason I want to be a SAHM to my kids too.

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  • painted_lady November 8, 2012, 4:49 pm

    I hate that you feel so inadequate! I don’t know if you’ve thought of it this way, but I had to do this once for a sociology class: you know how much you pay Jackson’s babysitter each week – how much more would it cost to pay her full-time? How about the number of days a month Drew has had to work longer hours than he planned? What does the babysitter make in overtime? What about someone to come in and do the housework and grocery shopping? Double the money you’re spending on restaurants and takeout, too, while you’re at it. If you don’t know those answers, look it up. You *can* put a monetary value on it! If you were working outside the house, you would have to pay for at least some of that. So maybe if you think about it in terms of money you’re saving by not paying someone to do those things, it will make you feel better about not having a biweekly paycheck. And maybe that can be a starting point for how you figure out the split of both of your money.

    And the thing is, what we as women do to ourselves just isn’t fair. If you were working, you’d feel guilty that Jackson spends more time awake with a babysitter than with you. You’d be saying, “Isn’t being there for my son much more important than anything you can earn in a paycheck?” Not to minimize what you feel at all, just that so many women have cornered themselves into ensuring that nothing will ever be enough. I teach 55+ hours a week, run 3 miles or skate two hours five days a week, hit up as many games, concerts, and recitals as I can for all my kids, and still, I wonder if I could be doing more. Intellectually, I know that’s stupid – I do enough! – but I still manage to guilt myself into feeling like I could be doing more.

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  • tbrucemom November 8, 2012, 6:31 pm

    I’m not sure I understand the part about asking Drew for spending money. Do you literally ask for money and he puts it in your hand? I’m thinking you’d have a joint account where you could pull money from when you needed it. Of course you’d have to tell him so he could account for it. I stayed home for 5 years to take care of my daughter and that’s what my husband and I did. Maybe you could swap babysitting services with someone so you don’t have to pay a babysitter. I know it’s probably not a huge amount if it’s only for 10 hours, but it might make you feel like you had your “own” money. I’ve been where you are and I know how you feel, but you are doing such a wonderful thing for your son. One day he’ll be old enough to go to school and you can go back to work, but the time you have with him now is irreplacable.

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    • Wendy November 8, 2012, 7:17 pm

      Yes, see my comment upthread. I was unclear, but we do have a joint account (in addition to our own personal accounts). I’m referring to asking him to “replenish” our joint account with funds from his personal account.

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  • Heather Oviatt November 8, 2012, 6:50 pm

    My husband and I have both been though this – not with children, but with being out of work. I think maybe the problem is that you both are treating Drew’s income as though it is his money. Even though he is the one who brings in the income, the money, and the access to it, should be both of yours. When my husband was unemployed, I told him that I’d give him whatever money he needed but I wasn’t aware until I was unemployed how diminished I felt by having to ask. In retrospect, I wish we would have opened a joint account in both instances, which would have spared both of us a lot of hurt feelings.
    You guys could open an account and Drew could put in a pre-determined amount every month (perhaps what you’d otherwise be spending on childcare) and then you’d be able to spend that money how you please. However you both decide to deal with this, you should know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to to have unencumbered access to money. Your feelings are natural and normal.

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  • EttaKit November 8, 2012, 7:07 pm

    This is probably weird, but you’ve made a huge impact on my life. Even though I’ve never written to you, so many of the letters you answer have resonated with me. I wish there was a way to monetarily tell you these things, but I’m also in the position where I am not financially independent anymore. (Yay, unemployment…)
    Here’s the weird thing: I read your columns from yesterday right before bed, and right after watching the Walking Dead. I dreamed that you and I were killing zombies in the old schoolhouse down the road from me. You’re a pretty awesome zombie killer.
    To sum it up, thanks for your advice and for keeping me safe from zombies.

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    • Wendy November 8, 2012, 7:16 pm

      That’s awesome.

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  • Moneypenny November 8, 2012, 8:12 pm

    I really appreciate your honest perspective as a stay-at-home mom, Wendy!!
    My mom is a SAHM. (Although that my sister and I are both adults and out of the house at this point.) She has not worked outside the home since 1977, when my sister was born. As my sister is a new first time mom, we all were talking about this not long ago. My father worked abroad for months at a time (as a merchant mariner), and they decided early on that as long as they could afford it, she would stay home with the kids. It wasn’t an easy choice for her, and there were sacrifices of course, but it worked out. With my dad gone (3 months gone, 3 months home usually), she was also essentially a single mom for half of the year.
    She has told me many times that she definitely has felt that there is a stigma attached to being a SAHM, that you don’t really “work” at a job, that you’re out of touch with the working world, that she must not really be contributing to much if she’s not bringing home a paycheck, and it makes her feel kind of defensive about it. Also, I have heard that your kids won’t be as socialized as they would be from being in daycare (I hear this from my coworkers with kids.) Frankly, I think the rewards of staying home to raise your kids is *huge*, and as a person who has benefited from a mom who was around 24/7, I admire her decision. Mom took care of us kids, took care of all of the household expenses, and did all the usual housekeeping stuff. Anyways, I know staying home isn’t for everyone, but if it works for you at this stage in life, why not? Wendy’ you are totally NOT inadequate! Just think of all of the awesome memories Jackson is going to have when he gets older of his super-awesome mom whom he got to hang out with all the time!!!

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  • emiree November 8, 2012, 10:54 pm

    Wendy, I have to say that I just love your site because I have been reading since day one and during that time I was unemployed and it was always something I looked forward to each day while job searching.

    I understand completely where you are coming from regarding having to ask for money when you aren’t used to having to do it. It messes with your head. I have a husband, like Drew, who never made me feel bad about it and has always been incredibly supportive. In the future I know I will be able to contribute more financially, but for now it is what it is and we are working every month to getting debt paid off and saving more.

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  • othy November 9, 2012, 11:53 am

    My husband has been thinking about quitting his soul-draining job and being a stay-at-home husband for a while. My worry about this is that he will feel useless, like he’s not even earning his keep. Even though he will do all the chores/cooking/laundry/etc so we can spend more time together, I do worry about him feeling worthless when it comes to finances.

    I do currently make about twice what he does, and he already feels a bit bad about having a ‘sugar momma’. I’ve been encouraging him to go back to school, but who knows what he’ll choose to do.

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  • scattol November 11, 2012, 7:41 am

    Women’s lib insisted that a women should work and be independent. That’s great and in a world where divorce is the outcome for 1/2 of marriages a financial independence is a wise move.

    But we seem to forget the benefits of the previous model with the SAHM. A family is a lot of work and it needs to be done. Working moms pretty much have to subcontract this out at extra costs. Daycare is the main one. After school daycares were non existent when I grew up, now they are an essential part of the school. 2 working parents these days makes this necessary. The SAHM fills this need well with possibly the most qualified person you could find. One of the head of the household with full decision power and vested interest in the best possible outcome.

    SAHM certainly contribute financially in terms of the costs they save and much is needed to be earned. Do the exercise. A family budget with 2 working parents with daycare, 2nd car etc vs. the family budget with 1 working parent with expenses to match. You will be shocked to see how your standard of living is not impacted as much as you think with the lost of the 2nd salary thanks all the money saved and don’t forget the impact of income tax, your expenses are on net income whereas the 2nd job brings in at best a gross salary. That gap is what a SAHM is worth and when I did the exercise it was somewhere near the median income. Not a small number.

    The big drawback of the SAHM is returning to the workplace. There, there is no real fix for the hit that the SAHM career takes. There Wendy still working part time on DW is probably going to be an asset. How much is hard to say but it certainly beats not having it.

    The dream of the writer is to write this one book that will make them rich and famous. And that’s something that SAHM can certainly work on and is probably Wendy’s ticket out of this conundrum. I say “Alphabet: a History” the book is your ticket to NYT best seller’s list and the way out of SAHM blues.

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    • Wendy November 11, 2012, 1:59 pm

      I like that idea.

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      • Trixy Minx November 11, 2012, 2:22 pm

        I love the idea of an alphabet book!

  • scattol November 11, 2012, 8:25 am

    Well time to click on some more google ads. It takes a few at $0.25 each to amount to real money

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  • Emily November 11, 2012, 11:31 pm

    Research and calculate how much money your being a stay-at-home mother is actually saving your family including taxes that would be paid on your earnings, daycare, clothing, transportation, and cleaning services. You could create a fake check made out to you and/or your family so then you get the visual of the pay check for your work as a SAHM.

    You are really good at what you do. You have numerous readers you touch through your website. How many people get to touch the lives of others with their work? If you were working a more “stable” job you might not have that outreach. A paycheck would be nice but there are certain opportunity costs you might be forgetting. If you can learn to be content now, it will pay dividends for the rest of your life. You always choose your focus. I don’t think that I could be a stay at home mother but I greatly admire those who can work that “job.”

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  • Elizabeth November 15, 2012, 12:25 pm

    A wise “joke” I saw posted on Facebook:

    “A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.The door of his wife’s car was open, as was the front door to the house and there was no sign of the dog.
    Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.

    He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened. He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap and more toys strewn over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls.

    As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, ‘What happened here today?’ She again smiled and answered, ‘You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?’ ‘Yes,’ was his incredulous reply. She answered, ‘Well, today I didn’t do it.’ “

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