The “tithes” are turning — and it’s been a long time coming
I feel kind of sad writing this story. The gender pay gap has been a reality played out in my household for years. But now that it is shifting, it makes me long for the type of fiscal union that my husband and I should have had all along.
David has always made more money than me. We are a walking experiment in how men and women with the same qualifications, in the same industry, are paid differently.
We are the same race.
We both have bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration — nothing higher.
We both worked in the financial services industry, often for the same companies.
We graduated from college within one year from each other.
We are close in age.
My husband was always paid more for similar jobs
Years ago, when we first entered corporate America, David probably started with an annual salary of around $30,000 while mine was in the $20Ks. My three internships with Fortune 500 companies during college equaled the year’s worth of experience he gained on the job ahead of me. Our GPAs rivaled one another.
Simply put, David was valued more — literally — as a man.
And that’s not to disparage men. Recently I saw a study that determined men are often better negotiators when it comes to understanding and asking for how much they should be paid. I’m a living witness that when David and I began interviewing for new jobs as a “package deal,” he was the better negotiator. Firms that didn’t want to pay high enough annual salaries or moving expenses were dismissed out of hand.
“We’ll find something better” was his philosophy.
David was right. Instead of accepting low-ball offers as my knee-jerk reaction kicked, we waited. Our new company didn’t flinch upon offering me $48,000 — and giving David about $7,000 more than that annually.
Ultimately, as we climbed the corporate ladder, our salaries did as well. By the time I left the working world to work inside our home as a full-time mom, I was earning $70,000 per year — but David had lept to $85,000. After all, conventional wisdom sees men as the breadwinners and providers, the ones who must kill-to-eat and bring buffalo meat home to the cave. Men need more money for their wives and kids, goes the unspoken theory.
My salary went to $0.00 — David’s eventually soared to $133,000
When a professional woman decides to turn into June Cleaver, it can be a shock to her system. And her social security statements. It’s funny how mine dropped off from heights of $70,000 to $0.00 for several years before I figured out how to make money writing and via YouTube video-creation whilst raising kids.
In an ideal world, both the husband and wife recognize the unpaid financial benefits of having a stay-at-home mom:
- The $700 per week payments to KinderCare go to nil
- $50 weed-pulling and dog-poop-picking-up sessions are “free”
- Merry Maids’ $100-hourly cleaning fee is nixed
You get the picture. Although a woman I used to work with asked me how I liked “being off” (as if child-rearing is a Tahiti vacation) and plenty of other insinuations about stay-at-home moms flew around me over the years, David and I realized it was the best decision for our family.
And as generous as David is with paying bills, giving me an “allowance” here and there, along with buying me beautiful gifts — the unspoken power play that comes into effect when one person brings home the bulk of the monies was still in effect.
Our last big argument was about money…
…as it often is with many couples. It was the same old argument about me wanting us to work as a team and for him to stop acting as though he’s more important and his choices matter more because he’s the one who earns the most.
David gets the say-so on our family vacations. When I recently wanted us to take a long road trip to see my sister, he claimed we couldn’t afford it. When I wanted us to take a short beach vacation, he made excuses because that location on the Eastern Seaboard wasn’t his preference. However, when it came time for his annual golf trip with the guys and a possible visit to see his family — money was no longer an issue.
I told him that I didn’t like him using money to try and control or manipulate me. I told him that there are plenty of benefits that I bring to the table as his wife and the mother of his kids, even if I haven’t yet brought as much money to the table.
Most of all, I went Old Testament prophet on him by saying he shouldn’t act like a great salary was his birthright and weapon to wield, but instead, thank heaven for six figures by acting right.
“It’s God who blessed you with that job,” I warned.
“You’d better recognize that or — heaven forbid — He could take it away.”
I didn’t know how prophetic my words would become.
Yet our disagreement was a common one. Financial concerns probably top sexual problems in a lot of marriages.
My first hint at money drama came nearly 20 years ago when I began to stay home. One afternoon, David admonished me for visiting Steak ‘n Shake. My goal was to get a breath of fresh winter air, avoid cabin fever, and take a drive a few minutes away with our baby boy.
I probably spent about $7 tops in the drive-thru. But David saw it as a habit I needed to break.
“You can’t buy Steak ‘n Shake every day,” his voice traveled through my quaint flip phone from his corporate office. He probably saw himself as a smart money manager trying to manage his wife’s frivolous spending.
I acquiesced quickly to avoid an argument — but I didn’t think to ask him what he was having for lunch that day or how much it cost. It was a subtle shift in our financial dynamics that stuck with me.
At least David’s not as bad as a guy he knows who buys himself steaks while his poor wife counts coins at her desk to scrape up enough money for a meal. Or as financially abusive as my friend’s now ex-husband, who canceled the credit card she used for a hotel room when visiting her sick sibling out of town. She feared that she would have to sleep in her car.
Husbands and Wives Who Abuse With Money
Financial and economic abuse doesn’t leave bruises — but it’s subtle and common
Differing beliefs about money = Separate bank accounts
My fantasy upon becoming a stay-at-home mom was that David and I would share the same bank account, adhere to a singular and sensible budget, and treat all household income as plunder to be used by all members of the house. Like a winning team.
However, a man who spends nearly 35 years with his own bank account doesn’t necessarily want a shared account with his stay-at-home wife. David’s answer was to set up a checking account for me under his account, where he could see my activity — but I couldn’t see his.
That is until he recently gave me his login information once more. Only in case of emergencies, I reasoned.
Since we don’t have one household checking account where we can see everyone’s activity and all use the money therein based on an agreed-upon budget, David began to transfer money to me periodically — usually $100 — when he saw my account balance getting low.
I asked him to transfer a set amount of money each week or every two weeks so that I’d know how to plan purchases accordingly. He refused.
“I won’t know how much I’ll need for other bills each month,” he said.
In the end, David admitted that control and trust are two of his major issues. He was afraid that I’d spend too much money and he didn’t want to work with an open budget as a team.
He wanted control.
He feels like he doesn’t want to have to be the fall-back person to depend on. I don’t want him to be.
He is generous, but deep down, it’s still “his” money. I probably don’t need to remind him that a court of law wouldn’t see it that way.
It makes me sad that he thinks that way. After I’ve stuck by David in sickness and in health, he knows I’m no gold digger.
“Wouldn’t you rather have the $500,000?” he recently joked, thinking about his life insurance policy.
“I’d rather have you,” I answered honestly.
When the $250,000 tables spin: “Thank God, I’m a tither!”
Like the plot of a good love story, I saw this twist coming. David was laid off about 48 hours ago. The job he worshipped and the paycheck he trusted have gone poof, but thankfully the firm provided a great severance package.
Either way, it has encouraged me to put in even more time writing and kicking up my three streams of income flowing towards me until I make my $250,000 yearly income mark. Why not? I want to make sure we’re good as a family and all our needs are met. David can chillax if he wants.
I admit that David losing his job was almost a secret fantasy I held years ago when the kids were small and I was at home taking care of their pajama-bottomed butts with a husband off on a business trip — and visiting a strip club in New Orleans in his free time.
I envisioned myself getting a fabulous job making beaucoup bucks while David would be forced to stay home for a few years, wiping butts and noses. But in the end, God showed me that I didn’t want that. I thrived at home as a mom, enjoying the peace and quiet during school hours necessary for my writing. David thrived within the structure of his 8-to-5 workdays.
I used to hear the haughtiness in his voice when he told people where he worked — an easily recognizable company. Sometimes I felt jealous of all the fun work events and colleague camaraderie he enjoyed that I missed.
I also railed at God — because David seemed to get the financial corporate windfall, while I enjoyed hit-or-miss years with my entrepreneurial content creations.
“David doesn’t even believe in tithing like I do!”
But the Lord let me know that He was blessing me through David. My husband had a great stint with that famous company for more than 20 years. I may have been the one giving 10% out of my lesser earnings — a notion that my husband once criticized — but I was also reaping the benefits of a stable household income.
Now that the stability has shifted, I feel like it’s finally time for that gender gap to not only close but flip on its side. I’m pressing forward to earn more than I’ve ever earned in life. Not that I want to lord it over David or make him feel inadequate like he’s made me feel at select points over the years. I desire to help my family pay off debt and college tuition balances.
“I can tell when you’re running low on money,” David used to tell me when he noticed my countenance falling or my less-than-peppy mood.
Even now it’s frustrating when I put hours and hours into projects and don’t feel like I’ve earned enough monetary remuneration. David probably viewed tossing me some bucks when I was down as a sweet way to rescue the little wife out of a financial hole again — and believe me, I’m grateful for all the money he gives me — but I view it more as a household system that has needed realignment for a long time coming.
I hate asking David for money — but happy for everything my loved ones provide.
Blessedly, I feel the kind of atmospheric shift akin to the wealth of the wicked being laid up for the righteous. (I’m not calling David wicked.) Better yet, after casting my bread upon the waters — I’m glad to see it return after many days, manifold.
Greater things are coming. Do you not perceive it? Perhaps David will finally want a shared checking account that we can all access equally.