As difficult economic times continue to challenge Michigan families, many moms are suddenly finding themselves as the sole wage earner for their family. The experience can be shocking enough just trying to make the budget balance and figuring out how to prioritize spending. But if you add to the mix the overwhelming stress on your marriage, you may find yourself challenged with more than paying the bills.
In one East Lansing office, at least 13% of the women working there are facing this increasingly common circumstance. Used to two-person incomes, these families have undergone changes to adjust to the new economy – an economy that has left their spouses looking for work. Four of these professional women – Lisa, Tracy, Tamasha and Melissa shared some first-hand insights into this dynamic.
Overcoming the frustration
It can be frustrating and scary to be the sole income in a household that usually relies on two sources. This can add to the stress of a marriage if open communication is not at the forefront. The extra stress can take its toll. Tracy worries that the extra stress will cause her health condition to worsen. “This has crossed my mind more than once,” she said, “I worry I won’t be able to work.”
“What has been most difficult for me has been not being able to “fix it,” said Tamasha. “He wants and loves to work. I have total faith in God that he will go back to work and this time is what we needed to get to our next level in every aspect of our lives. It is especially true for the spiritual side of our lives, because our faith has increased and so has our closeness as a couple.”
Arguments about spending, feelings of resentment and anxiety about the future can fester if left unexposed. “I was most frustrated because I couldn’t understand his stress. I kept thinking, ‘he gets to stay home all day, play with the kids after school, catch up things that I had been wanting to get to for months, what does he have to be stressed about?’ After some time, though, I realized it was about the bigger picture and he wanted desperately to be working again.”
Making the most of it
The experience does not have to be detrimental to your relationship – coming together for a common goal, bonding during difficult times and focusing on each other can be a result as well.
“It has been nice having the house clean, laundry done and dinner on the table,” explained Lisa, whose husband had more time to spend at home and with the couple’s two young children. “They loved it,” Lisa said. “He could hang out with our youngest all day and then go pick up our older son from school.” Tracy agreed, “I have appreciated him at home since it took some of the pressures off me with household duties, getting the kids from day care and going to appointments.”
Protecting the kids
All four women have worked to ensure that the change in routines has not negatively impacted their children. “We try really hard to keep grown up problems as grown up problems,” explained Lisa. “We don’t want this to affect them.” Tracy and her husband worked to keep their children’s life as normal as possible and Tamasha concurs “They are unaware of the difference.”
This could be because children often have different priorities than we do. They value quality time with their parents, safety, warmth and caring, loving environments. As long as these fundamentals are ever-present, they are pretty happy. “My children are just as happy to go on a hike, fly a kite, eat lunch on the lawn or look for worms,” said Melissa. “They don’t associate cost with quality. They would rather have mac-n-cheese for dinner and our undivided attention.”
Tips for success
There are some tips the women suggest to manage the times. Please “comment” below to add tips of your own!
- Budget – know what you have available and don’t overspend
- Keep an eye out for sales ads and coupons
- Visit re-sale shops, Salvation Army, etc. for clothing deals
- Eat out less
- Find odd jobs you can do for others to supplement income
- Lean on each other more to pull your family through
- Buy in bulk when it is cost effective to do so
- Hold a garage sale (or shop at them if you need something!)
- Ebay unwanted/needed items of value
- Take advantage of low/no-cost outings with your children.
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