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Frustrated Breadwinners Anonymous

(19 Posts)
Sallypuss Thu 10-Jul-08 16:28:16

Would appreciate some advice ladies as I'm steadily approaching the end of my tether.

When I met my (then) DP 8 years ago he had a good job and was financially solvent.

Since we met, my career has gone from strength to strength and in 2003 I was offered the opportunity to work abroad for my company. DP (as was, now DH)gave up his job (he was on the verge of being made redundant/sacked anyway) and came with me. So, at that point I became the main breadwinner as he was unable to get a work permit/work where we were based. At the time not that big a deal compared to the opportunity for us to live abroad and for me to advance my career.

18 months into our time overseas, DP asked if we could return back to the UK earlier than planned which I agreed to for the sake of his sanity as, despite studying, he was going stir crazy at home whilst I was out at work all day. We came back to the UK, I slotted back into my company (though in a job I hated with a 150 mile daily commute) and DP started to look for work. This search took more than 12 months (during which time I helped him with contacts, networking etc) before he landed a job which he kept for 6 months before he resigned/was sacked (I have my suspicions as to which it was though ostensibly his commute was too long hmm). We married during this time.

Since then, he has procrastinated about setting up his own business; set up his own business though not with much success; and, as we now have DC1 on the way in October, is currently procrastinating about going back to work. I have been supportive the whole time ("we'll manage" seems to be my stock phrase) though what I really have wanted to do is rant at him for being so halfbaked about everything.

I'm incredibly frustrated as, of the last 4.5 years, he has been working and contributing financially for 6 months. I earn a very good salary but am unable to save much as everything I earn goes to pay the mortgage and all the household bills and I am forever meeting his (as well as my own) credit card payments or bailing him out when he goes over his overdraft limit etc etc. Basically I pay for everything and he has come to expect that I will pay for everything.

Please don't get me wrong, money is not everything in a relationship and I do love him dearly, but my respect for him is ebbing. I am very driven and focussed and I was brought up with a very strong work ethic and nothing terrifies me more than not being able to pay my own way or being out of work. I know there are lots of couples out there where the husband pays for everything and the wife contributes in other ways and DH does contribute by doing big diy projects round the house and has dinner ready when I get home from work etc etc and there will always be a difference in earning power as I earn probably 3 times what he can earn. Even so I feel a huge burden of responsibility for the financial decisions and making ends meet, whereas he seems to not give a sh1t about the bills getting paid.

There are times when I feel more like his mother than his wife when I have to say that we can't afford something or when I've saved for a while to buy something that he's taken for granted. I'm seriously concerned that once DC arrives, I'm going to have to return to work early because DH won't have found a job and then won't be able to look for one because we won't be able to afford the childcare without him working.

I guess my questions are:

- how do I get him to focus on finding work?
- how do I get him to shoulder some of the financial responsibility for his soon to be family (as opposed to me taking it all)?
- is it wrong to feel like this and do men feel this way when they're the main breadwinner?

All advice gratefully appreciated.

sitdownpleasegeorge Thu 10-Jul-08 16:51:44

I can understand your frustration and fear you have an uphill battle on your hands due to the length of time your dh has been out of the workplace.

Perhaps you could decide how long you would like your maternity leave to be and assess what this will mean to the family finances, maybe even do a spreadsheet of projected income and expenses. Do another spreadsheet setting out the same thing for after you return to work but obviously with childcare costs factored in and the effect of you reducing to part-time if that is what you would prefer. Then talk about it and discuss whether he is going to be a stay at home daddy so that you incur no childcare costs or whether he would prefer to work.

You could also explain that as you, as a couple, need to save up to cover your maternity leave period of reduced income there will be no paying off his credit bills or paying off his overdraft from now on.

He doesn't sound like a completely irresponsible type, hopefully this will give him the incentive to get real with his intentions to work again.

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Thu 10-Jul-08 16:53:30

I bet many men feel this way, but it's more socially acceptable that women freeload than men! I think the difference is when there are kids, most women want to stay at home for their maternity leave and if they are the main breadwinner (as I am) it's a bit scary relying on the old DH (although in my case, he works, but self employed so it's hit and miss) and if your DH doesn't work it's a case of going back to work early as there is no financial sense in you both not working. Very hard for you. in response to your questions-
- sit him down and explain to him how you feel. Explain that he needs to find work, doesn't matter if it's not his ideal job (he sounds quite picky?) but he needs to be working. Support him all you can to find something, but don't let him turn his nose up at things.
- I don't know. I wouldn't be able to make DH responsible for bill paying, even if it was his money. I just need to know what's going on with the finances. He is happy to leave it to me on the other hand! So really, he doesn't know how much things cost especially like the gas and phone bill, but making him responsible to teach him would be too hard for me.
- No, because you are the mum, you have the right to stay at home with your child. If you can't both afford to stay at home, during your maternitty leave is when he should be working, even if he quits when you go back to work. Most men don't stay at home after the kids are born so (and I am a committed feminist so don't take this wrong) in the time when they need a parent at home, dad should be working if mum wants to stay at home. Of course some parents both work which is valid, as is SAHD if that's what they want, but it doesn't sound like you want that.

Nighbynight Thu 10-Jul-08 17:14:57

I was in a similar situation with my ex. We divorced. He openly took advantage of my earning power (more shamelessly than yours, by the sound of it), and ended up losing his confidence and unable to return to work after 8 years out of the job market.

I don't know what the answer is to motivate him to get back to work. You could try going part time? so that you get more time at home, his contribution would be more important, and he might get a shock.

Also maybe you would find "the surrendered wife" interesting. Its got a lot of stuff in it about how to make a man feel useful.

Nighbynight Thu 10-Jul-08 17:18:20

btw, I saw the same gradual progression from functioning individual with own car, job etc to total dependent who hadn't paid a bill or organised any paperwork for years by the end of our marriage. I didn't take over these things by force - they just landed in my lap because he didnt do them or asked me to do them for him. maybe you ought to divide responsibilities clearly and stick to them?
I would be wary of having children until you have sorted this out, tbh.

Oh and one more thing; my ex also did loads of diy stuff. Forget it. It is window-dressing that doesn't earn any money, and is NOT a substitute for a career.

SpangleMaker Thu 10-Jul-08 17:39:22

It sounds to me as if what's bothering you most is his being 'half baked' about work/career, and not behaving responsibly about money, rather than the amount of cash he is bringing home.

You say when you met him he had a good job, until he gave it up to go abroad with you? Do you think that maybe him having to give that up and effectively sit around for a few years has affected his confidence? Sometimes when people feel less confident about something they develop a bad attitude. You have gone from strength to strength with your career and he may feel something of a failure next to you.

I think you should sit down with him and discuss how your lives are going to change - practically and financially - when baby comes along and you both have parenting responsibilities to deal with. You both need to play an equal part, whether that's through financial contribution or childcare and you both need to set an example for your child. You need him to help you here - rather than you continuing to bail him out as you have been doing. You need to encourage him to move into that role and have some pride in himself again.

I don't think you are being 'unfair' 'complaining' about a situation that supposedly is many mens' lot - I think are justified to feel unhappy because you don't think your DH is fulfilling his potential or playing an equal role in your family.

SpangleMaker Thu 10-Jul-08 17:54:30

Oh sorry, I re-read your OP and saw you said he was likely to be sacked from his old career. I was wondering if giving up his job was a trigger for his bad attitude but it sounds as if he's always had a bit of a problem and the break from work maybe sent him downhill as it were?

I think you need to start practising some tough love and stop bailing him out. His behaviour needs to change and by bailing him out you are effectively encouraging him.

macdoodle Thu 10-Jul-08 19:08:16

Sorry same here a big contributing factor to our seperation I think - we are still married but seperated and he is still shirking financial responsibility despite having his own place which I STILL pay for - more mug me!!!!

prettyfly1 Thu 10-Jul-08 19:22:18

mac are you joking - i didnt know that!! why? after 8 months of being n charge financially i had had enough of it.

op - i feel for you. it must be frustrating particularly if he is an otherwise bright man with potential. The other girls may shout me down but would not bailing him out, clearing his overdraft etc help? i appreciate you are expecting and conflict is the last thing you need but i think you may be there anyway. Also how are his skills. the labour market has moved on a great deal since 8 years ago - would some kind of course to bring him back up to date re-invigorate his passion for a little independance and a career of his own?

neva Thu 10-Jul-08 21:17:01

I had similar situation with my ex. His lack of contribution was a big problem. It wouldn't have bothered him if bills weren't paid. Snap with the DIY, too; agree with Nighbynight that the occasional project isn't a subsitute for helping to shoulder the everyday task of making ends meet. (On the plus side he is cooking, which is something). I don't know what the answer is. I don't think you can change someone; the change has to come from him.

WideWebWitch Thu 10-Jul-08 21:23:37

Gosh, sympathy, this sounds hard.

My respect would have ebbed long before now, you do sound as if you've been very patient. Can I just check this, you were abroad in a job you liked and had no children and he was at home all day doing nothing and he didn't like it so you left your job, came back and got another one and he didn't? Is that right? Because if so it sounds incredibly selfish on his part.

Does he know how important his finding some work is to you?
Does he appreciate what you've done to date?
NO IT IS NOT Wrong to feel like this! It can be scary being the main earner (I am too).
What does he think will happen when you are on mat leave, financially?
What does he think will happen if you can't find a job/get made redundant?
Have you talked about money, it sounds to me as if you need a big discussion about it.

Sorry, I realise the above isn't very helpful and have only read your OP but you're so honestly not being unreasonable.

Sallypuss Fri 11-Jul-08 11:59:29

Thanks ladies for all your wise words.

sitdownpleasegeorge you are a woman after my own heart - I have spreadsheets for everything - monthly budget, maternity leave scenarios you name it. I know how much we pay each month to the penny. I share these with him put still no comprehension - I guess it's numbers on a page unless you're earning the money to pay for these things.

kat2907 - thanks for this - you've hit the nail on the head about him being picky. In his original job search in 2005/06 he was turning down opportunities because they paid £5k less than he wanted. Sheer madness and I told him so at the time. Like you, I couldn't leave the bill paying to DH because I would be petrified of bills getting 'forgotten' and bailiffs turning up at the door.

nighbynight - part-time unfortunately isn't an option in my line of work but thanks for the tip on the 'surrendered wife' will look it up on Amazon. Agree totally re the diy but this is his standard counter-argument for not doing housework!

spanglemaker - I think confidence is part of the issue. His skills are very current as he's kept them up to date. He's an IT Project Manager by trade and is qualified to the hilt but dreads interviews. Have introduced him to people who have helped coach him through the interview technique stuff but there's definitely a confidence issue. He's not really into talking about his feelings which makes these kind of conversations very tricky.

wickedwaterwitch - thanks for the empathy, breadwinning is very hard work isn't it?! You're right that I loved the role I had whilst we were abroad and no, there were no children at that point. In fairness, he found it very hard to be at home all day without the same kind of support network that the expat wives had. I did indeed finish my assignment early and we returned to the UK. Fortunately my company at the time were very understanding and I walked into another role with the same company (albeit one I hated) when I came back. He did look for work on his return but was very picky about the roles/pay etc and I think expected to pick up where he left off. At the time, we had many a conversation/argument that, had the boot been on the other foot, I would have taken the first thing that came along or temped or worked at Sainsburys to bring in an income. He couldn't/wouldn't do that.

I don't think he sees the 'burning platform' financially of me going on maternity leave/ all the cost associated with a new baby (I hate myself for resenting the fact that he hasn't bought anything for the baby yet!) and because I've always found a way to make ends meet I think he assumes that there's some secret pot of gold stashed away somewhere (there isn't and I've told him this). Does he appreciate what I've done to date? Think he sees that he has sacrificed his career for mine and that is sufficient. He thinks that if I get made redundant from my current job my notice/redundancy money would cover me until I got another job(!). Money is a regular topic in our house - my difficulty is that I end up getting upset when we discuss it and he walks away if I cry. I've been picking my moment for this latest conversation for a number of weeks now.

SpangleMaker Fri 11-Jul-08 12:35:35

Hmmm I'd worry about PM skills if he can't see his way around costs on a spreadsheet wink

I'm not an expert on the IT industry but I'd have thought it would be increasingly difficult to get back into the marketplace if he hasn't got a recent portfolio of projects behind him, even if his technical skills are up-to-date. IMO he needs to keep a hand in if you are to have any options in future.

If he doesn't understand your budgeting, could you go to him with a sort of bottom line, along the lines of 'you need to bring in £Xk per year. If you don't do this we won't have [whatever luxury is particularly important to him].'

I'm not pg yet, but I've already blush worked out financial/budgeting scenarios for ML/me going part time. Haven't had a serious chat with DH yet, but I think he knows I have worked it out and is expecting me to say 'you need to give me £Xk for my ML, and will need to pay £y into the joint account.' [He has is own business so his take-home pay varies]. I don't think he wants to go into the detail.

SpangleMaker Fri 11-Jul-08 12:38:57

his own business even blush - am not a Cockney!

Fizzylemonade Fri 11-Jul-08 17:23:01

I am a sahm but worked up until having children. Both my dh and I want me to be home but sometimes I do feel quite useless despite raising 2 children and taking care of the house.

My POV is that maybe your dh really likes the easy life of being home with no responsibility. No expectations and despite you stating that you want him to work you are enabling his behaviour. He can fill his time with a bit of DIY but the fact that he can't keep on top of housework shows that he really is living the easy life.

The fact that he turned down jobs because of insignificant reasons shows that he is not committed to getting another job. He has been fannying around for years and I don't think he will change his behaviour as you bail him out (and I don't blame you at all for this)

Would you consider him being the sahd? Would that be something he could do? Then he would be out of work for a reason.

Alfreda Fri 11-Jul-08 22:27:43

OK, here's my intuitive response to the OP. I accept that sometimes my intuitions are way off-beam and I don't know either of you from Adam but humour me.

You are a corporate person, understand office life and the career ladder, have certain insecurities related to finance and being able to cope, and are also a completer-finisher type, the kind of person who always does the washing up before going to bed, and makes the bed after getting up in the morning.

Your dh is a natural freelancer, who hates being constrained by the heirarchies of the office environment and loathes being told what to do by middle managers who are almost certainly frequently stupider than he is. However freelancing is difficult unless you have the skills of a natural business person as well, and he has tried to fit his square-peggedness into the round hole of office life badly, and tried to run his own business badly. This does not make him useless: he hasn't worked out how to use his skills to his benefit, is all.

Your lives have fitted into this OK so far: you have put up with being the breadwinner when in fact with your views on stability and security you feel strongly that that is what a supportive dh should do. You dh has put up with being lonely and bored at home so as to support you because he loves you, and because hey, there's enough money around and he hates the office environment, would not do it unless no choice etc etc.

Now you want to change this. It might be a bit of a surprise to dh, and I suspect that not only is he living with confidence at a low ebb, but also that he will resent the fact that you want him to go and do something he hates when he has supported you to the extent of moving across the world to be with you.

Could I suggest you approach this more with a, "our lives are going to change massively with baby on the way, perhaps we could discuss how we are going to work our lives with the little one to care for" rather than "alright mate, it's your turn, I want to give up work to be with My baby".

Thinking laterally, how about your business skills and his marketable skills? he can't run his own business but you could certainly run it for/with him, and you could both be at home.

coi: sole breadwinner for 10 years, married to a natural freelancer. My career isn't something that would translate into working from home with hubby but by God if it was I'd love it. I have missed watching my kids grow over the years. But unlike another poster here I never saw it as my right to be at home with my kids: more as my duty to do what I must for my family. It's not been a bad duty, or unrewarding.

Good luck.

Sallypuss Mon 14-Jul-08 09:59:32

Alfreda - your intuition is spot on. Yes, I am totally a completer-finisher and yes, DH is complete freelancer. Thanks for your suggestion about the conversation opener - I've been trying to work out how to broach the subject with DH and that sounds like a good way. As for DH going and doing something he hates - I really don't mind what he does or how he does it providing he brings some money in wink.

Please don't get me wrong about the maternity leave issue, whilst I'd love to have the stint of maternity leave I'd originally envisaged, I by no means see it as my right to have the time off work. I would go back to work 'early' if he were willing to stay home and look after DC which he may consider doing for 2 days a week, the issue is more around childcare and affordability for the other 3 days and what DH is going to do with these 3 days!

Alfreda Mon 14-Jul-08 19:03:23

Best of luck.
My freelancer found the local university careers advice people really helpful: despite having graduated from a totally different university 20 years ago they gave him a full free assessment and very useful advice which he followed and it is bearing fruit.

cory Tue 15-Jul-08 18:33:42

No chance of him being a fulltime SAHD? My db does this and it works really well.

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