Everything is the job
This year I've been together with my wife for eight great years. And while it's been reasonably smooth sailing, the subject that created the most waves for us is probably a usual suspect for most: finances. This was especially so after we had our first child and my wife stopped working.
To navigate the waves, we took a step back and changed our perspective.
Do you have a partner? Who doesn't have a job? And do you have kids?
Or are you a stay at home parent? Who doesn't have a job?
If you believe either of these two lines can be answered with yes, you're wrong.
You see, staying at home is a full-time job. Why? Let's look at a few comparable metrics:
- Working hours: Nine to five? More like seven a.m. to nine p.m. (with insane overtime if the kids are sick)
- Stress: Environments where it's impossible to follow a plan due to constant changes is horrible, but this is the norm with kids.
- Free time: You mean weekends? No. Holidays? Nope. Is there any free time, ever?
Have you ever tried to work at home and watch the kids at the same time? Does that work? No. Because you're doing two jobs at once. Think about it.
So, now that we've established that there's two jobs, there must be two rewards, right?
At "work": you get cash.
At home: No cash, but clean, happy, well-adjusted children living in a healthy environment. Possibly with additional happy animals.
So who benefits from what job?
The "working" partner receives a paycheck. The bills get paid. Maybe a holiday or two.. allowances, education for the brats, gasoline money, breakfast cereal, stamps. Savings perhaps. And maybe, if there's anything left, some spending on a hobby (like that full size Boeing cockpit in the garage used for hours of flight simulatoring... or a massive collection of shoes).
The working partner makes the money, so in a traditional mindset that's "their money".
At home: Well.. "home" is where all that money gets spent, right? The rewards, the potential of your children from being properly brought up, are hardly divisible. The benefits automatically fall on both parents.
The stays at home parent has no way of getting money except through the working partner. And even then there might be a feeling of receiving a handout, not being equals.
This is not fair. Not even close. So how do you solve that? Here's our solution:
- Draw an icon that represents "work"
- Draw an icon that represents "home"
- Draw a large circle around both icons.
That's it. Everything is the job.
Dividing the work between us.
When we get up, it's a two-person job until I leave for "work". But we're both still working. When I come home, I don't get to put my feet up. Because it's a two-person job until the kids are in bed. Now the workday is done. Usually. Unless there's some housework that didn't get done because of unforeseen projectile vomiting...
It so happens, in our household, I possess certain skills that allow me to find a job that pays more money. This is the current situation, but there is no guarantee that it will remain so forever. My parents where forced to swap places due to a medical condition, and they did so without missing a beat (admittedly, there was a period of really lousy food while my dad learned to cook).
Keep in mind that I'm only referring to "more money" here. This says nothing about the difficulty of the job; it's just very hard to find someone who will pay for your household to run properly.
Dividing the benefits between us.
We take any and all income we receive, and put it all on a big pile. This includes bonuses, gasoline compensation, tax refunds... everything.
If everything is the job, any income is reward for the job.
Then we take out all mutual expenses. This includes mortgage, groceries, car payments & gasoline, healthcare, holidays, savings... everything.
If everything is the job, any expenses needed to keep things going are expenses for the job.
At this point, whatever is left, is still a reward for the job that we both did. We divide the amount by two. This, at long last, is our (individual) money. We spend it any way we like, without ever having to think about if we agree with the spending of the other. We both have exactly the same amount. We did equal parts of the job.
Because everything is the job.
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