I found myself yelling at my husband the other day over an $8 purchase of clothing from the Salvation Army. I know what you’re thinking, crazy, right? You’re right it was a bit crazy, till I realized what was really going on with me. I was suffering from a brutal case of Single Income Syndrome (SIS). This is the part of being a SAHM that still gets to me after three years. This is the thing I struggle with daily.
Symptoms include feelings of guilt about spending money on oneself, overzealous budgeting, worrying about money more than once a day, irritability with your partner’s spending habits, and stress about paying bills. Three years ago, I would have said kudos to my husband for shopping at the Salvation Army instead of the mall. I have taught him many of my frugal ways and I’m grateful for that, but his impulse purchases keep slowly tapping our resources. I realized we have a problem with our “deserve” spending. He feels he deserves clothes or pricey lunches just because he’s earned it. I, on the other hand, never really feel like I deserve to spend money on myself because I haven’t earned it.
From Joint To Full Custody
We started with the “his, mine, and ours” system where we each paid certain bills and split others. When I started staying home, I lost my income and gained full custody of the bills. It forced an intimacy between me and our finances I hadn’t had before and my husband handed over his share of the responsibility and never looked back. I had to stop my Single Income Syndrome (SIS) from causing a major rift in my marriage. So here are some of the things I need to recognize in order to combat my SIS and I hope they help others as well.
1. There Is Only “Our” Paychecks Now – While I still struggle with the fact that I don’t bring in equal share of our income, I need to remind myself that his paycheck is in fact OUR paycheck. While I’m not punching a time clock and my name isn’t on his pay stub, all my work at home allows him to do his job to the best of his ability. Case in point, he just recently got a promotion. Would he still have gotten it if I was working? Maybe, but the fact that he had me covering the childcare so he could spend extra hours preparing for his trainings, volunteering on work committees or taking out of town business trips certainly didn’t hurt.
2. There Is Only “Our Debt” As Well – Living separate financial lives until I became a SAHM let us acquire separate debt as well. Becoming a single income family meant that we changed the way we viewed our individual debt as well. It was an eye opening experience. We have been diligently working on it and have paid of $15,000 in debt in the three years we’ve been living off of one income. It is my hope that by next year we will be debt free except for our house. I know some people would be concerned about sharing responsibility for your partner’s debt, but in all the years we were going it alone we have NEVER made anywhere near the progress we’ve made tackling it together. I figured we had two choices – get mad and throw our hands up or say “alright, let’s get busy fixing it” and that’s just what we did. It takes a lot of trust to do this.
3. Get On The Same Page – My husband’s “I don’t want to know” approach to our bills simply isn’t working anymore. I asked for his help. I need him to know where our money is going without me having to tell him. It’s my hope that if he sees it with his own eyes, I won’t feel ALL the pressure of making sure our bills are paid and we have enough money between paychecks.
4. No Room For Guilt – I have to stop feeling guilty every time I need to buy something for myself. Guilt is keeping me from being truly happy about staying at home; a choice I have been very happy with otherwise.
So I’m throwing guilt overboard, handing my husband a paddle, and we’re going to start rowing this family’s finances together. There are no lesser roles.The 20 something feminist in me will just have to shut up. She didn’t know anything about raising a family. I’m no less of a woman, mother or wife for not bringing in a paycheck. We all make our own choices and I choose this life every single day.
Have you ever suffered from Single Income Syndrome? How do you cope?