Author Topic: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?  (Read 13758 times)

lifejoy

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"Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« on: September 21, 2014, 12:12:23 AM »
I've been following my DH in his medical career. It has resulted in fewer, less lucrative employment opportunities for myself. He's fine with that.

How do I shake the guilt?

I want to be an equal financial partner. I have trouble spending money on things that could improve my happiness (like a gym membership, or whatever) because I'm not bringing in as much money. I make 25-50% of what he does.

Is anyone else in the same boat?

cheapdad

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2014, 12:26:45 AM »
My wife has always made less than me.  Now she is a stay at home mom and makes almost no money.  The money has nothing to do with how smart or capable she is.  She is smarter than me in so many ways.  She went to college and I didn't. It all came down to me getting blessed with a good job that I didn't deserve that pays me more than I should make.  We have always been very open about our money to each other.  We talk about our budgets all the time.  We always talk about purchases before we make them.  I value her for what she contributes to our relationship and family and that has nothing to do with money.  My suggestion would be to open up to your husband about how you are feeling. See if he feels similar or if he feels more like me and my wife. 

Another thing we did was have me cover all of our bills and her pay just went to savings or fun.  It made her income more of a perk than a contribution to bills and stuff. 

1967mama

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2014, 12:45:29 AM »
...and from the other side of the fence, I have been a SAHM for 22 years now. I do a lot of the shopping (groceries, clothing for kids, etc) and all of the cooking (from scratch) so feel that I contribute A LOT to our family budget by what I DON'T spend as well as being a good steward of the money my husband brings home.

Its something that did take some getting used to, once I left the work force and had zero income after maternity leave benefits ran out and I didn't return to work.


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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2014, 02:15:51 AM »
Yeah, he should be fine with that. He should be very grateful for that. You have made the sacrifice here, to follow him with his job. If he doesn't feel guilty about that, then you certainly shouldn't feel guilty for the effect it has had on your career.

If this was a friend of yours what would you say to her? Would you think she should feel guilty? Relationships can't and shouldn't be reduced to a monetary equation.

I would hope your husband feels lucky to have you and appreciates the sacrifices that you have made.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2014, 02:17:51 AM by Frugalperson »

kaetana

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2014, 02:34:10 AM »
Do you and your husband have joint finances? If so, then you should stop thinking about "yours" and "his". It all belongs to you both. I do think that both parties should contribute equally to the household, but that doesn't mean financially. I would regard your willingness to put your husband's career before your own as a major contribution, and you should feel pretty good about that and share in his success.

I have been in the same boat. My husband, when he works, makes more than twice what I earn, sometimes more. However, the shoe has also been on the other foot-- there have been lots of times when he was unemployed and I was still earning. We don't make each other feel bad about not contributing financially, but there is an unspoken agreement that the one who isn't working stays at home and takes the lion's share of household chores. We don't tally things, though. We know there are ups and downs, and rely on each other when we have to.

Gray Matter

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2014, 05:59:16 AM »
If you want to talk guilt, your husband could feel guilty because his career choices have meant an interrupted career for you and have limited your earning potential.  There are all kinds of things to feel guilty about, but at the end of the day, there's not much point to it.  You make your contribution to the partnership in other important ways, like being willing to relocate and start over for your spouse's career.

Mrs. Frugalwoods

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2014, 06:04:46 AM »
Similar to what kaetana said, my husband and I have joint finances and we don't make any delineation between "his" money or "my" money, it's all 'our" money. He makes considerably more money than I do, but it's never been a point of contention. We see ourselves as equal partners in all aspects of our marriage and we each contribute to the household. He cooks, I clean, he does a lot of home repairs, I do the laundry, etc. We are all about specializing and each bringing our unique talents to the household.

Our goals, and our view of our finances, are mutual and shared. If he wants to treat himself, he asks me how I feel about the expenditure and I do the exact same. For us, it all boils down to trust, respect, honesty, and love. I know that everyone's situation is different, but I hope you can shake the guilty feeling--it's all about the partnership and what you two can achieve together (just my two cents :) ).

Exflyboy

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2014, 07:00:42 AM »
AS others have said, its not about the money..

You are (and should feel like) an equal partner. You are making joint decisions about what is best to do for your combined future financial wellbeing.

One of you earns more than the other.. the other has provided an environment where it has allowed him to persue lucrative opportunities and/or study.

My Wife did the same for me when I had to study for my professional engineering exams.. we were both working, but she did all the cleaning, cooking, gardening while I hit focused on the books.. Its the same deal. After that I got a position doing truly world class hot shot engineering work making more than 4 times what she did. Its the same thing, I simply could not have done it without her support..:)

You are a beautiful, caring young lady who has skills and abilities that he can only dream of. He admires and is thankful that your in his life every day.. If he isn't get rid of him..:) and never feel your contribution is less than his.. Your a team!

Sit back relax, chat it over with him.. I'm sure he will smile and love you even more..

Frank
« Last Edit: September 21, 2014, 07:09:44 AM by Exflyboy »

chasesfish

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2014, 07:02:12 AM »
Someone has to make more money...that's something that comes with marriage.

I don't know if I have any specific suggestions, we also have this situation in our household.  I think the higher earning spouse needs to reinforce the joint and mutual household idea.  My wife's support in moving to a new area and taking some of the household responsibilities away from me helps with my earning capacity.

goodlife

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2014, 07:13:56 AM »
My husband makes maybe 20% of what I make and it has been decided early on that my career will take priority until we are FI. So he has moved across the globe with me twice so far. He doesn't see it as an issue and neither do I. It makes financial sense. However, we do sit down and discuss from time to time if we are both happy with what we are doing. I am the one who makes a lot more and therefore it is often me who makes certain decisions...which sometimes makes me worry whether he is truly happy with all this or just silently going along. Hence I do make sure to bring up this topic from time to time. If you feel like you are missing out on opportunities, you should bring it up for sure. I have always said to my husband that if we ever move somewhere where he really hates it, he needs to tell me and no matter the money, we will make a change. Our marriage is more important than $$$. We are very equal partners in everything, but naturally there is a division of labor...I work long hours, hence I rarely (=never) cook dinner or do laundry during the week (I do cook on weekends though). However, being married, we see everything as our...not has "his" and "mine". Hence we make joint decisions and also make joint decisions about how we spend our money, no matter that I earn most of it, that is really irrelevant.

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2014, 07:34:20 AM »
Our first year of marriage, my wife made almost as much as I did. She had a relatively well-paid teaching job and I was underemployed at the time. When I got a job making twice as much 3 states away, she gladly followed and we decided it would be best for her to stay home to take care of our daughter, who was on the way. We always did joint finances, and of course the first year it was easy to see everything as "ours", since our pay was roughly equal. But I'll admit that it was tough adjusting to being the sole breadwinner. Mostly because it meant I ended up paying off her student loans, which were about 6 times what mine were. Once I got over that nonsense, it's never been an issue.

mm1970

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2014, 09:14:00 AM »
You have joint finances correct?

It's hard to get over it, really.

I used to make as much as my husband.

Over the last few years, he's gotten raises and promotions and I haven't (for many reasons, #1 being I work for a failing startup that has had 2 layoffs and terrible business practices).

So - he did make 50% more than me, now it's 60%.

The fact of the matter is, I could make more somewhere else but we'd NEVER move for my job because he makes so much more.  YOUR being flexible allows HIM to thrive and move up.  If anything, HE should feel guilty that his career is interfering with yours.

lifejoy

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2014, 09:23:46 AM »
This has been very helpful. We got married last month (but I moved with/for him 2 years ago) and we've had joint finances for such a short time that I'm still getting used to thinking of it truly as "our" money. My husband is wonderful and is sees it as our money, and views me as a valuable part of the team.

The thoughts expressed here by more seasoned spouses have lifted a weight off my shoulders! Thank you :)

mm1970

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2014, 09:54:38 AM »
This has been very helpful. We got married last month (but I moved with/for him 2 years ago) and we've had joint finances for such a short time that I'm still getting used to thinking of it truly as "our" money. My husband is wonderful and is sees it as our money, and views me as a valuable part of the team.

The thoughts expressed here by more seasoned spouses have lifted a weight off my shoulders! Thank you :)
And if you plan to have children, it will probably get even "worse" (more unequal).  That has also been a huge adjustment for me (and I've been married 18 years!)

I mentioned the stress of doing all the cooking, and my office mate (33 and engaged, and male), said "hey, that's sexist, I do AT LEAST half the cooking, maybe even more!"

I said "that's great!  Come talk to me when you've got a couple of kids, and see if that's the same."  Because, generally speaking, one parent has the lower-paying job, or the one with more flexible hours, etc.  The parent who is at home or picks up the kids after school (me) is the one who cooks dinner.

Calvawt

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2014, 10:03:24 AM »
It can go both ways, too.  I make six figures and when my wife as working, she made about one third as much.  Now that she stays home with our 2 year old and 9 month old, I feel like I miss out on all of the activities they get to do while I work 9-10 hours a day.  I try to do my chores, but I know her workload is non-stop with two little boys causing trouble all the time.

We talk a lot about money now and use Mint as the intermediary to see each other's spending.  Initially, I made the budget, but have tried to adjust it so that she feels comfortable.  I think we still spend way too much on groceries and items for the house, she probably feels the same about my home repair/maintenance purchases (like all the LED light bulbs I just bought). 

Either way we have joint goals for vacations and early retirement now, so it doesn't matter who makes the money.  If she decides to go back to work, we will just get there faster!

lifejoy

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2014, 10:07:10 AM »

This has been very helpful. We got married last month (but I moved with/for him 2 years ago) and we've had joint finances for such a short time that I'm still getting used to thinking of it truly as "our" money. My husband is wonderful and is sees it as our money, and views me as a valuable part of the team.

The thoughts expressed here by more seasoned spouses have lifted a weight off my shoulders! Thank you :)
And if you plan to have children, it will probably get even "worse" (more unequal).  That has also been a huge adjustment for me (and I've been married 18 years!)

I mentioned the stress of doing all the cooking, and my office mate (33 and engaged, and male), said "hey, that's sexist, I do AT LEAST half the cooking, maybe even more!"

I said "that's great!  Come talk to me when you've got a couple of kids, and see if that's the same."  Because, generally speaking, one parent has the lower-paying job, or the one with more flexible hours, etc.  The parent who is at home or picks up the kids after school (me) is the one who cooks dinner.

Yes, we plan on having children and you're right - it will become "more unequal". But now that I'm thinking about what I'm making possible for my spouse (loving and supportive environment, primary caregiver of our future children, etc) instead of what I'm not bringing to the table (all the monie$) I feel much better. I now see that I am making a big sacrifice career-wise, so how could he fault me for my salary? (He doesn't.)

Yesterday I felt like I couldn't breathe, I was so anxious about this! I'm feeling much better now :)

scottydog

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #16 on: September 21, 2014, 10:08:40 AM »
In my experience, this gets much easier with time.  My wife and I have oscillated a few times as to who earns more.  Each time she earned substantially more than me, I initially felt uncomfortable but found that I soon got over the feeling; we would discuss it a few times, and then after a few weeks the topic left our minds.

For the past 8 months, I've been a work at home dad and my primary work, aside from wrangling our kiddos and managing the house, is home improvement on our own place so I don't have any direct income.  For me, this was the biggest adjustment, but I can see that we're still living well within our means and I've gradually stopped feeling uncomfortable.

I also had trouble spending anything to improve my own happiness (for me it's a $30/month aikido membership).  It really helped to talk with some friends who have gone through similar experiences, and actually it was their advice that helped me justify the cost of aikido.  The payoff is that it helps improve family life as a whole.

Rural

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #17 on: September 21, 2014, 11:00:44 AM »
When I saw the thread title, I assumed this was a post from someone who'd landed the dream/lucrative job and was feeling guilty because the spouse had sacrificed to go and live near that job.


You're enabling him because that works out best for you as a couple, but if anyone should feel guilty, it's him. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he does on some level.

pachnik

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #18 on: September 21, 2014, 11:39:19 AM »
It is just a different division of labour really.  I think if one spouse has a job that makes lots more money it just makes sense for the other one to do the work on the home front - especially if there are kid(s).  It is a partnership, a team.  Unfortunately in our society, work done 'for free' in the home isn't valued very highly.  But here in the MMM world, this work is valued - you are cooking from scratch, shopping around for needed items, looking to optimize expenses, maybe taking care of the money too.  All very valuable things.

Full disclosure:  I never had any kids so I was always out in the work force.  I've also never had to move for a spouse's career.   But I also have a very average wage.

iris lily

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2014, 11:45:27 AM »
I've been following my DH in his medical career. It has resulted in fewer, less lucrative employment opportunities for myself. He's fine with that.

How do I shake the guilt?

I want to be an equal financial partner. I have trouble spending money on things that could improve my happiness (like a gym membership, or whatever) because I'm not bringing in as much money. I make 25-50% of what he does.

Is anyone else in the same boat?

If there is one spouse who takes on the job of household finances, and does it thoroughly and well, that spouse IS making a strong financial contribution to your team. Let that spouse be you.

I was just talking to my friend last night about his mom, a pretty-much SAHM for most of her life. She was the financial guru. Her husband earned the money and handed his paycheck over to her weekly. She made investments, saw that bills were paid, kept a close eye on expenses and kept household frills down. She had a good financial head on her shoulders and instilled this in all 3 of her children. They are all good with money and 2 of the 3 could FIRE at age 55 or even earlier if they choose.

So OP, you can make a significant contribution by being the partner who hangs onto the money. It's not how much you make, it's how much you keep that counts.

« Last Edit: September 21, 2014, 11:49:20 AM by iris lily »

pachnik

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #20 on: September 21, 2014, 11:49:59 AM »
If there is one spouse who takes on the job of household finances, and does it thoroughly and well, you ARE making a strong financial contribution to your team.

I was just talking to my friend last night about his mom, a pretty-much SAHM for most of her life. She was the financial guru. Her husband earned the money and handed his paycheck over to her weekly. She made investments, saw that bills were paid, kept a close eye on expenses and kept household frills down. She had a good financial head on her shoulders and instilled this in all 3 of her children. They are all good with money and 2 or the 3 are millionaires, but are still working. They wouldn't have to and they know how to live simply for FIRE.

So OP, you can make a significant contribution by being the partner who hangs onto the money. It's not how much you make, it's how much you hang onto that counts.

+1 to this.  This is how my parents did it.  My mom worked part-time for an accountant for I think 15 years but she handled the $.  Dad earned it and she worked on the home front.  They both go to their financial planner together always.   

iris lily

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #21 on: September 21, 2014, 12:00:05 PM »
OP, is your DH a physician? If so, please be sure to read The Millionaire Next Door. It gives some pretty surprising information about physicians and their relatively low net worth. There are reasons for that, I suppose, but you won't want to fall into that trap.

Daleth

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #22 on: September 21, 2014, 12:03:31 PM »
I've been following my DH in his medical career. It has resulted in fewer, less lucrative employment opportunities for myself. He's fine with that.

How do I shake the guilt?

I want to be an equal financial partner. I have trouble spending money on things that could improve my happiness (like a gym membership, or whatever) because I'm not bringing in as much money. I make 25-50% of what he does.

Is anyone else in the same boat?

I make more than twice what my husband does. It's impossible for spouses to be "equal financial partners" in the sense of contributing 50-50 to the household bank accounts unless they work in very similar professions and, assuming they have kids, share childcare equally.

Let me repeat that: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. It's a pipe dream unless you're in the same or similarly lucrative professions, in which case it's a mere possibility but still not necessarily easy or feasible in your particular case even if you DON'T have kids. Two lawyers can do it, as long as they're both the same kind of lawyer (a big-firm lawyer and a prosecutor, however, can't). Two doctors can do it as long as they're similarly specialized--say, an oncologist and a cardiologist--but not an oncologist and a family physician. Two public schoolteachers can do it, but a public schoolteacher and a private school teacher may not be able to.

I could go on and on. All I'm trying to do is help you liberate yourself from the belief that somehow, despite being in a different profession and having made sacrifices in your own career in order to promote hubby's career, you still "should" somehow magically manage to contribute equal amounts of money to the household kitty.

Step back. It's not all about money. You have contributed and will contribute by following DH in his medical career, letting him take opportunities he wanted to take but couldn't have taken if you had been as dedicated to your career as he is to his. You can straight-up quantify how much money you contributed by comparing all his new salaries (after the moves you enable him to make) to his prior salaries. But you don't even need to quantify it because there's also the intangible but profound satisfaction that he presumably will have from being able to have the career he wanted, thanks to your support.

Back to my situation. As I said, I make more than double what my very solvent spouse does, because I have a high-paying law career. And so here's how we divvy up the bills: we contribute equal TIME, not equal money. Because time is the only real thing, right? I mean, the reason most of us here are so interested in money/financial freedom is because when you're set financially, you can spend your all too limited time on earth doing things you're really interested in, things you really find meaningful and/or fun and/or fulfilling.

So concretely what that means is that if it takes me 4 days' work to pay my portion of the mortgage, it should take him 4 days' work to pay his portion of the mortgage. To make the math easy let's pretend I earn exactly double what he does. Say $100k to his $50k, for $150k/year. And let's say our mortgage, taxes and insurance are $1500/mo. Of that $1500, I pay $1000 and he pays $500... and that way we are contributing exactly equal amounts of TIME, because the time it takes me to earn $1000 is the same as the time it takes him to earn $500.

So basically what we did is add up all our monthly bills, have me contribute 2/3 of that amount to a joint account, have him contribute 1/3, and pay all our bills from there. Whatever's left is ours to do with as we please, although we tend to use a lot of what's left on joint projects and to count more things as joint expenses than some people would (we factor in our student loans, our vacation costs, our cell phone bills, yada yada, and split them all 2/3-1/3, because all these things are things that are useful or pleasurable to us as a couple... some people might just count their actual joint bills). But the point is, he could join a gym with zero guilt if he wanted to, because he is putting just as much TIME into the household kitty as I am. We are both equal contributors... of time.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2014, 12:06:52 PM by Daleth »

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #23 on: September 21, 2014, 12:05:39 PM »
My wife is not a trailing spouse but is in a very low paying (but rewarding and enjoyable) career while my career is relatively high paying...she makes about a quarter of what I do.  We decided early on that my salary was enough to support our lifestyle and savings goals so she would be free to do a job she enjoys with a schedule that is conducive to motherhood, without the pressure of worrying about how much she makes.  Her salary is essentially extra savings money for us.

I have found the best way to handle it is what others have mentioned. Everything we pull in is 'our' money, there is no different treatment because one of us make substantially more, and I handle most of our finances because it's a strong suit of mine.  She gets just as much spending/fun money as I do, etc.

She more than pulls her weight in many areas of our household that aren't purely financial and aren't 'paid', but are very important.   I think the key is to look at your marriage as a true partnership where there are many areas of contribution that are important.  Both people don't have to be contributing equally in every aspect of your life, as long as both people are contributing  to be the most successful together that you possibly can. 

myrax

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #24 on: September 21, 2014, 01:04:47 PM »
I am also becoming a trailing spouse with a twist- I am staying in a city where I have almost no chance of furthering my career path, because my husband earns more and has very good job opportunities here. I felt guilty and very lost when I first realized that I was becoming a trailing spouse (or a stuck spouse in this case).

One way I coped with the guilt was by taking on the bulk of the household chores and financial tasks. I tried to focus on insourcing in areas with high return, like studying finance instead of hiring a financial advisor, and learning to make dishes better than our favorite restaurants can. I had already made us switch to biking and walking most places, and selected our apartment based on low rent and ability to walk/bike most places. While my husband was never upset our earning differential (he knew I was in a lower paying field when we met), he is pretty thrilled that we are on the path to early retirement, and living very well while doing so.

Finally, the sense of guilt faded with time- after a few months, I just started accepting it.

BlueMR2

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #25 on: September 21, 2014, 01:12:18 PM »
When we got married, my wife supplied about 25% of our household income.  She was then off for a year and a half unable to get any kind of job.  She did finally find a job, but it's half the hours she was doing before and the pay rate is only half as much as well, so she only makes 25% what she used to.  I *do* find it kind of annoying at times since it will require me to work longer to make up the difference.  However, she really enjoys the job, so I'm happy for her in that regard.  Her stress level is WAY down, but unfortunately it has driven my stress level up quite a bit since I don't like sliding backwards and combined we make now make less than I made by myself back in 2005/2006...

She does have some incentive to find more work if she wants to spend more though.  We keep our money separate (although, I pay for nearly all shared items and even some stuff that's hers such as computers and car insurance, and she buys the groceries).  However, all her "fun" money she has to come up with on her own...  Want to buy more toys, better find a way to pay for it yourself.  :-)

**edit**

We split household chores roughly 50/50 currently.  We both feel like we're doing 90% of the work, and I hear that's what 50/50 feels like in a marriage.  :-)

Exhale

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #26 on: September 21, 2014, 01:36:44 PM »
When I was struggling with this my partner and I tallied up how much my unpaid work would cost if it was hired out. (I had been laid off and was suddenly a SAH(step)M.) My work included: childcare, cooking, housecleaning, laundry, errands, basic car cleaning/repair, taxes, coordinating three moves, school/teacher contacts, doctor's visits, etc. Wow - it was a high amount! That exercise was psychologically important for me - to see my "worth" to the family in dollars and cents.

A wise friend of mine who makes much more than her husband once said her basic living expenses would be similar with or without him in her life and that her life so very much better with him that it's worth every cent.

Finally, remember that our society tends to pay some professions more highly than other (arguably more valuable - teachers, nurses) professions. Often pay has nothing to do with the value of what it is we do.

Good luck!

Shykiwi

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #27 on: September 21, 2014, 02:47:28 PM »
I'm in a very similar position.  I find the demands of being a wife don't leave any energy for paid work, not that I
was ever going to be a high-flyer because I have an invisible disability.

I'm not sure how many readers are over 50 but things change when you reach this age, and I notice that no-one has commented
on something you do start to think about later - what happens if the breadwinner gets sick or dies?  The lesser-earning
spouse doesn't need to feel guilt in my opinion but there is a concern about how they are going to care for themselves
if left alone by death or divorce.  It's really quite a sacrifice on their part, from that point of view.

arebelspy

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #28 on: September 21, 2014, 07:09:18 PM »
You are a team.  Both of you are on the same team.

The team wins, and loses, together.

Contribute what you can, and if each person commits 100% to the team, that's all you can do.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #29 on: September 21, 2014, 08:27:55 PM »
I'd never heard the term "trailing spouse" before, but I knew straight away it was describing my position. I moved across the planet to be with my future husband, and I haven't been able to get a "real" job in the year I've been here. I share your guilt, Libraryjoy. :/

I struggle because I really, really want a decent job (preferably in my field), and while I do feel good about doing the work that keeps our costs low, some days staying at home alone drives me crazy. Also, DH has said he'd really love to be the househusband in our future, especially after we have kids, so I feel like I need to get on track for a career that would support us.

Does anyone have experience where the income-earner and the stay-at-home want to switch places?

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #30 on: September 21, 2014, 09:54:19 PM »

OP, is your DH a physician? If so, please be sure to read The Millionaire Next Door. It gives some pretty surprising information about physicians and their relatively low net worth. There are reasons for that, I suppose, but you won't want to fall into that trap.

I love that book! Great suggestion, though. If you liked that one, check out the Overspent American or The Overworked American :)

I wear my "millionaire" watch proudly. (It's from Walmart. Woot!)

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #31 on: September 21, 2014, 09:59:45 PM »



A wise friend of mine who makes much more than her husband once said her basic living expenses would be similar with or without him in her life and that her life so very much better with him that it's worth every cent.


My DH has mentioned this, but I forgot! Thanks for the comforting reminder :)

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #32 on: September 21, 2014, 10:02:02 PM »

I'd never heard the term "trailing spouse" before, but I knew straight away it was describing my position. I moved across the planet to be with my future husband, and I haven't been able to get a "real" job in the year I've been here. I share your guilt, Libraryjoy. :/

I struggle because I really, really want a decent job (preferably in my field), and while I do feel good about doing the work that keeps our costs low, some days staying at home alone drives me crazy. Also, DH has said he'd really love to be the househusband in our future, especially after we have kids, so I feel like I need to get on track for a career that would support us.

Does anyone have experience where the income-earner and the stay-at-home want to switch places?

Online courses are helping me feel less... Stuck. Coursera.org is one good option. Take a look :)

I feel for ya. It's hard to put your career to the side. I'm using this opportunity to try new careers and new hobbies, and to plan/establish habits for my FIRE lifestyle. It's teaching me that life is not all about work! Good luck :)

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #33 on: September 23, 2014, 06:30:36 AM »
I don't think "equal contribution" necessarily has to mean "split 50/50". I've always been a proponent of the "proportional share" method of dividing up expenses, whereby each partner contributes to joint/shared expenses proportionally to their income. So if partner A earns half as much as partner B, then partner A pays half as much towards expenses as partner B. I feel like scaling contributions to proportional share of income keeps cost-sharing fair without putting undue pressure/burden on the lower-earning partner.

Plus, this is sort of how taxation works, and if it's good enough for the government, then it's good enough for me. :)

Of course, this arrangement is only necessary if the lower-earning partner feels obligated to contribute "a fair share". For many couples, they don't really care about mathematically dividing up all the household expenses. I happen to fall into this camp, especially now that both me and the SO can easily cover all of the household costs by ourselves. But as the higher-earning partner, I have always been more than happy to cover more than half of household costs, especially if sacrifices were made to accommodate my career.

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #34 on: September 23, 2014, 06:33:15 AM »

It's teaching me that life is not all about work! Good luck :)
[/quote]

Ohmygosh, I needed to hear that Libraryjoy, thanks! Now I just need to convince my mother...

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #35 on: September 23, 2014, 08:49:28 AM »
DH stays at home with kids and I work.  I make 3-4 times what he did when he was working.  But we really don't keep score, I'm happy and proud that we will be able to FIRE on my salary alone.  I think he sometimes feels guilty that he doesn't bring home much, but I feel that we have a fine partnership most of the time.  He does a lot at home.  We are both equally frugal, and that helps.  We try not to keep score, and we support one another's endeavors.

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #36 on: September 23, 2014, 10:20:23 AM »
I trailed my spouse all over the dang place! Five moves in seventeen years. We went from being pretty much even in terms of income when we got married to me making about 10% of what he made, then down to zipola when our daughter came along.

But I never thought of myself in those terms. WE moved. WE packed up all our shit, sold houses, bought houses, made friends, chose schools. It's a partnership. There's no way to make it Even Steven. Not everything is tangible. Could my husband have planned and executed all those moves on his own? I suppose. But they went a LOT smoother with me in the proverbial driver's seat.

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #37 on: September 23, 2014, 11:41:53 AM »
This seems to be a rather common dynamic it seems....

For me as the military spouse, I become the trailing spouse not by choice, but because the Army doesn't give a rat's butt what happens to me in all these moves.  The last move has left me unemployed for the last 3 months as I apply for work in my field. 

However, while I am home (earning less) I am baking, dialing in our budget, investing, more investment cooking, etc.  He may bring in the $, but I know how to make the dough ;-)

Thankfully, my DH is grateful to me for the sacrifices I have made for our family, as I am grateful to him for working so hard and having to deploy away from us.  That attitude of being grateful for the value that the other brings keeps us very tight.  When he retires from the Army, WE will have earned that pension.

To LibraryJoy, by keeping DH's home life lovely, you contribute immensely to your family dynamic, perhaps even more so than the income from his fancy-pants career.  Its easy to say "don't feel guilty" but perhaps you should focus on everything you bring to your household that he can't.  How would his life be impacted if you weren't available to be there to support him? 

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #38 on: September 23, 2014, 12:05:52 PM »
I make good money, but little owl makes a fair bit more than me.  I'm fine with that.  Women have strived for equal employment rights as men - I say more power to them!  Let them go out and be the bread winners...I'll sit at home, look good and tend to the garden and make sure the pool is clean.  It's time for women to be in charge of Corporate America. 

sleepyguy

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #39 on: September 23, 2014, 12:12:41 PM »
It's opposite for us.  She makes roughly 2x what I do... I think I've only ever out earned her one yr in our 13ys together... and that was me going a bit crazy with side hustles.

If the situations were reversed with us we would be fine as well.  We see it as a team effort.  One thing we've ALWAYS done is budget so that we could always live fine off just my income (lowest).

If she REALLY hated her job, I would 100% tell her to quit (she's done it 2x already with no job lined up) even though she has a high income.  People underestimate mental health effects due to terrible jobs.

eudaimonia

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #40 on: September 23, 2014, 12:31:26 PM »
I think one important point to consider is whether you are actually feeling guilty about not having an equal paying career or whether you feel that you are missing out on having a better paying career.

Seņora Savings

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #41 on: September 23, 2014, 02:19:43 PM »
I hear many people saying that it's okay to have a lower paying career because you can contribute more in terms of doing dishes etc.  That rubs me the wrong way.  If you're both putting in X hours a week at work, you should both put in Y hours of work at home.  I think the people saying that assumed the high earning spouse worked twice as much and earned twice as much, in which case it's fair.

I liked what arebelspy said:

You are a team.  Both of you are on the same team.

The team wins, and loses, together.

Contribute what you can, and if each person commits 100% to the team, that's all you can do.

I think it's also important that your partner values your work as much as you do(sounds like he does).

BooksAreNerdy

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #42 on: September 23, 2014, 02:43:13 PM »
My wife has always made less than me.  Now she is a stay at home mom and makes almost no money.  The money has nothing to do with how smart or capable she is.  She is smarter than me in so many ways.  She went to college and I didn't. It all came down to me getting blessed with a good job that I didn't deserve that pays me more than I should make.  We have always been very open about our money to each other.  We talk about our budgets all the time.  We always talk about purchases before we make them.  I value her for what she contributes to our relationship and family and that has nothing to do with money.  My suggestion would be to open up to your husband about how you are feeling. See if he feels similar or if he feels more like me and my wife. 

Another thing we did was have me cover all of our bills and her pay just went to savings or fun.  It made her income more of a perk than a contribution to bills and stuff.

Kudos to you, sir!

I'm a SAHM and have zero guilt for not having an income. I am raising our two children in the way we feel is best for our family. I provide a lot to our household. I also take care of a lot of bigger things like paying taxes, investing, filing for insurance, paying bills, etc. I spend time researching these things and occasionally spend a bit of time on the phone negotiating lower rates. These are things my husband does not have time to do.
 When we first moved in together, DH had a good engineering job and i was working part time at a library for little more than minimum wage.  it did take me a little time to not feel guilty about spending from our joint acct. That guilt went away with time and reassurance fro my husband that he loved providing for us as a family.

Talk to your husband and try to understand where the guilt comes from. Is it coming from him? Is it coming from some self imposed idea that women should be equal earners?

bdoubleu

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #43 on: September 24, 2014, 08:32:55 AM »
I've been following my DH in his medical career. It has resulted in fewer, less lucrative employment opportunities for myself. He's fine with that.

How do I shake the guilt?

You can help shake the guilt by talking about it with him.  Ask him if he feels guilty (you might be surprised!).

I am by far the higher earner of the two of us, and we agreed that DH would quit his job and stay at home (no kids, but an adorable pup!).  When he quit two years ago (when he was 26, I was 25! - his mom was [is still?] livid!!), he made about 1/4 the amount I did.  I now make the equivalent of what we used to make combined, which continues to be significantly more than our expenses.  I attribute this increase in my income-earning potential to him staying home and wrangling all the "housekeeping" (literally and figuratively). 

We were miserable with both of us working (he worked days, I worked evenings).  Never saw each other, both felt like we were doing all of the household tasks, exhaustion, lots of fights (very strange, with us both being very calm, rational beings - the frequency of our fights actually snowballed into me saying, "Why don't you just not work!" *angrily*, followed by him, "Really?" "Yes."  "Umm, okay.").

The funny thing is, even after lots of discussion (and two years into it!), both of us have still have occasional pangs of guilt.  We agreed that he would do essentially all "regular" chores (cooking/laundry/cleaning/lawncare/etc.), which he was pretty much doing anyway while he was working, and I would make the money.  It takes a significant stress off of me to not have to do those things on top of working (I have even stranger hours now, which is part of why I make more than I did two years ago).  So he feels guilty not bringing in an income and that family/friends think he just lays around the house all day, and I feel guilty about not contributing to chores (I really really don't do much of any of them, like, at all).   If these guilty feelings emerge, we basically just reassure the other that all is good.

DH has greatly disliked most jobs he has had, and I absolutely love mine (my FI plans are to cut back to part-time or more flexible shifts in a few years).  So we both sometimes feel like we are "getting away with murder," because we each have our ideal arrangement. Now we're both incredibly happy and live very low-stress lives, we feel due to the changes we've made in regards to our outlook on what each of us contributes to the household (financially or otherwise).

My income alone is enough that him quitting his job did not push FI too far off, and it's actually been a great test for me, as I am the hard-wired MMM fanatic.  To "postpone" FI by "letting" him quit, I've realized that it's not always about getting to FI as fast as possible, it really is about enjoying the ride.  And as long as you agree with each other on how that ride will go, nothing else really matters.

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #44 on: September 24, 2014, 09:41:04 AM »
I've been following my DH in his medical career. It has resulted in fewer, less lucrative employment opportunities for myself. He's fine with that.

How do I shake the guilt?

I want to be an equal financial partner. I have trouble spending money on things that could improve my happiness (like a gym membership, or whatever) because I'm not bringing in as much money. I make 25-50% of what he does.

Is anyone else in the same boat?
When I was dating I made myself a rule, only date people with jobs. I didn't care if it was minimum wage or a million a year. The point was to find someone with my values, for me it was a simple compatibility test that had nothing to do with money. Our values are aligned, that's very important in a relationship.  You already have that, no need to keep splitting hairs.

If you really feel guilty then do something nice like go for a picnic once a month. My wife's caring attention is awesome, when she does something extra I feel great. Luckily it also makes her feel great, everyone wins.

arebelspy

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #45 on: September 24, 2014, 11:31:31 AM »
I've been following my DH in his medical career. It has resulted in fewer, less lucrative employment opportunities for myself. He's fine with that.

How do I shake the guilt?

I want to be an equal financial partner. I have trouble spending money on things that could improve my happiness (like a gym membership, or whatever) because I'm not bringing in as much money. I make 25-50% of what he does.

Is anyone else in the same boat?
When I was dating I made myself a rule, only date people with jobs. I didn't care if it was minimum wage or a million a year. The point was to find someone with my values, for me it was a simple compatibility test that had nothing to do with money. Our values are aligned, that's very important in a relationship.  You already have that, no need to keep splitting hairs.

If you really feel guilty then do something nice like go for a picnic once a month. My wife's caring attention is awesome, when she does something extra I feel great. Luckily it also makes her feel great, everyone wins.

Yeah, those people who are FI really are't worth dating.  ;)
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #46 on: September 24, 2014, 08:35:57 PM »
I've been following my DH in his medical career. It has resulted in fewer, less lucrative employment opportunities for myself. He's fine with that.

How do I shake the guilt?

I want to be an equal financial partner. I have trouble spending money on things that could improve my happiness (like a gym membership, or whatever) because I'm not bringing in as much money. I make 25-50% of what he does.

Is anyone else in the same boat?
When I was dating I made myself a rule, only date people with jobs. I didn't care if it was minimum wage or a million a year. The point was to find someone with my values, for me it was a simple compatibility test that had nothing to do with money. Our values are aligned, that's very important in a relationship.  You already have that, no need to keep splitting hairs.

If you really feel guilty then do something nice like go for a picnic once a month. My wife's caring attention is awesome, when she does something extra I feel great. Luckily it also makes her feel great, everyone wins.

Yeah, those people who are FI really are't worth dating.  ;)
The only people I knew who were FI were 40 years older, I wondered if I would get survivor benefits? Quickest route to FI!

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #47 on: September 24, 2014, 08:57:54 PM »
Even when my husband was fully employed, I've always made at least double what he made and therefore we decided pretty early that my career would take priority. As a result, he's followed me around the country and around the world when I moved for work. He's been unemployed and underemployed for a lot of our time together.

As others have mentioned, I've found that having DH at home looking after the household is a huge weight off my shoulders and I can just focus on earning the money and managing the finances so we can FIRE.

But, he has suffered from a lot of guilt of not earning money, so I can understand how you feel OP. One thing that helped him was to work out what he was 'saving' us by being at home, looking after our son, cooking, cleaning etc etc. When you account for tax and work out what you'd need to earn to cover those savings, you can find that's it's quite considerable. And there is no price you can put on the peace of mind and lack of stress that comes from someone keeping on top of the household.

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #48 on: September 25, 2014, 01:45:17 AM »
This is something that I 've been worrying about, as I will be dragging my partner off to another state this year. What has made us both feel better is spending lots of time discussing the practical aspects - how we will start sharing joint money, and what we will do if down the track it all goes badly?

 My partner has been married before, and he spent 5 years paying off debt in crappy jobs as a result. So we have an agreement that he is entitled to a set monetary figure (beyond half the assets) if we separate. I very much doubt that will happen, but it makes me feel less guilty for taking away a substantial amount of his earning power, and he feels more comfortable with our moving adventure!



DH has greatly disliked most jobs he has had, and I absolutely love mine (my FI plans are to cut back to part-time or more flexible shifts in a few years).  So we both sometimes feel like we are "getting away with murder," because we each have our ideal arrangement. Now we're both incredibly happy and live very low-stress lives, we feel due to the changes we've made in regards to our outlook on what each of us contributes to the household (financially or otherwise).


Thanks for the contribution, certainly something for me to consider in my situation... Interesting possibilities!

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Re: "Trailing spouses": how to not feel guilty about underemployment?
« Reply #49 on: September 28, 2014, 12:43:44 PM »
This seems to be a rather common dynamic it seems....

For me as the military spouse, I become the trailing spouse not by choice, but because the Army doesn't give a rat's butt what happens to me in all these moves.  The last move has left me unemployed for the last 3 months as I apply for work in my field. 

However, while I am home (earning less) I am baking, dialing in our budget, investing, more investment cooking, etc.  He may bring in the $, but I know how to make the dough ;-)
Kate Horrell (a long-time military spouse) also posted about the "stuck" feeling:
http://paycheck-chronicles.military.com/2014/09/05/five-ways-use-stuck-situation/

I read & hear the same frustration on a male military spouse Facebook group, so it applies to both genders...