Hello, do you know what I'm supposed to be doing?
Updated: Jul 10, 2021
Welcome to my first blog post....
I’ll be truthful and say that I’m a little bit nervous about how this is going to “go down” – and in fact, I was a little bit apprehensive about even agreeing to write a regular blog post for my wife’s website – it is, after all, her business!
When she told me of her plan - to have me write "the other side" of the thoughts and feelings about being a parent, about talking about the decisions that we take for our family, and about what it means to have to navigate those conversations whilst still remaining united as a couple I was uncertain. Edgy. Slightly nervous. Okay, probably a little bit scared actually.
Why? Well for starters, you see, I’m not a financial coach – at all. In fact I’m not really financial. I work in professional tax services as my “day job”, but I largely leave the running of the household finances to my wife. I largely leave the running of THE HOUSEHOLD to my wife in truth.
But I fundamentally agree with the principle behind getting me to write a blog – she is right that conversations about simply being parents is a two-person thing. You can’t have a “conversation” with only one of you talking can you?
I guess part of the problem about having a child, about becoming an "official family" if you see what I mean, is that it's really easy for only one of you to "end up" doing the talking - not necessarily in a literal sense, but in a metaphorical one.
Because most men return to work after just two weeks paternity leave, we can "leave" the familial space for several hours a day - and not have to think about what's going on behind the door we close behind us.
That's true even in the present pandemic - Covid has not brought me "closer" to the household burden taken on by my wife (it probably won't have brought you closer to the burdens taken on by your wives and partners, either). I still have an office at home, be it in the spare bedroom, the dining room or in one of those popular "garden offices" - I can still exclude myself from the household and concentrate on my "day-job".
I do feel guilty about that – about the burden that I feel I put on her shoulders. Not intentionally, of course. I don’t wake up in the morning and decide “today everything will be Charlotte’s job” – I doubt many husbands and fathers do think like that. It’s a much more “passive” process – one where I don’t actively think about what I’m doing or not doing until she brings it to my attention.
Now my wife, probably much like many wives and partners that will either read this or get told about it by their husbands and partners; very rarely “tells” me that I haven’t done what was expected or helped out in the way that she would have wanted me to.
Instead she will sigh loudly at the fact that I have left me coffee mug on the other side of the kitchen to the sink (I only leave it there as it’s the nearest counter to the door on my way out to the bathroom), or instead of asking me to do a particular job she will tell me the list of all the things she has done and all the things she has still to do – before pointing out that she’s tired and carrying on anyway.
I don’t want her to feel the burden of doing everything – I just need to be told exactly what she needs me to do. When I say this to her she says “that is THE problem” – I think that means that it’s still a “job” to her to tell me what to do – so I’m “creating” work, rather than “reducing” her load.
I do understand this, but I also feel a little bit at a loss. I don’t know how to be more involved, more proactive, more useful; without initially being guided – and this is true of the finances. I do want to play a 50% role in the financial decision-making, but in order to feel comfortable doing that I feel that I am initially a burden.
I have tried to understand our financial circumstances, to remember the amounts and the dates of our direct debits, to know when the credit card bill needs paying (the card is in my name, after all) – but it just doesn’t “stick” in my head. I do appreciate that my inability to remember the fundamental “facts and figures” of our family life is, in itself, a luxury. I don’t “HAVE” to remember those details, to know the sort code and account number of the current account or where the emergency fund is held – because my wife does.
But just because she DOES, doesn’t mean that she SHOULD. I know that my luxury of not having to think about our financial plans on top of having to work is a luxury that my wife cannot AFFORD.
I appreciate that this is wrong – inequitable. Yet I don’t know how to solve it. Every time I ask “what can I do for you” – she says “it’s quicker if I do it myself” or gets upset that I am implying every task is “hers” until she “delegates” it to me. I am, I suppose, the employee in my own house – but one whose performance might warrant a sacking, were I not also on the mortgage.
I didn’t really have an aim for this first post - which I guess is just as well, because I think it’s mainly been my ramblings! But I think the essence of what I will try to do with this blog – with this small corner of my wife’s world – is to try and demonstrate awareness – and to encourage it in others.
I know it doesn’t feel like it, quite possibly it doesn’t even read like it – but trust me, husbands, partners and fathers do see, do acknowledge, and do appreciate, the fulsome burdens that their partners carry on a daily basis – not just in terms of managing the money, but in managing the mental load of mothering, “wife-ing” and simply “being”.
I will use this space to talk about how I see things as a Dad and as a husband - and to muse on what I should be doing differently, what I do that works (if there is anything), and the realisations that I have about our lives as a couple and as a family.
But for now – thanks for reading this, I wish you well, and I will see you in a fortnight.