I really enjoyed this piece in the NY Times this weekend: The Accidental Breadwinner, by Karen Karbo.
I DIDN’T set out to be the breadwinner. I assumed that one day a guy would come along and I would marry him and, well, he’d take care of it. This is one of the fundamental ways in which men differ from women. Growing up, boys assume they’re going to make the money, or at least half the money. Rare is the boy who imagines that marriage will spell a free economic ride and so nurtures his incredible hotness to that end.But it doesn't quite go that way. She marries a man she calls the Cuddle Bum:
The Cuddle Bum hated his job — and who could blame him? He wanted to get into another field, perhaps one that required his going back to school.
In the meantime, we decided that the Cuddle Bum would be the househusband. My role as breadwinner was thus made official. The Cuddle Bum’s idea of his role involved pouring a bowl of cereal for each child before school, playing videogames for 10 hours, and then grudgingly making dinner at 6. For almost a year, I told him that wasn’t working for me, that if he wasn’t going to care for the entire household the way a wife would (vacuum on Mondays, dust on Tuesdays ...) then he needed to go back to work. Much of the time, I expressed this wish to the back of his head as he tried to slay two-headed ogres on the TV.When we divorced, he wanted alimony, child support and the house — the house that was purchased with my money, in my name. During one of our last conversations, I wept with incomprehension. He wanted my house? Whatever happened to the way people divorce in the movies, where the husband packs a bag and moves into a sad hotel, leaving his wife (whom he supported) in the house?
She works it all out in the end with a different man:
The day Jim and I moved in together, I gave him a formal accounting of how much our monthly nut would be; he would pay for himself, and I would pay for my daughter and me. Since then, he has written me a check for his portion on the 15th of every month. Sometimes he buys the groceries, and sometimes I do. But he always pays for both of us when we go to the movies, and spends lavishly on buttered popcorn and Milk Duds. I am always touched by this.
The essay is adapted from a piece included in a forthcoming book called The Secret Currency of Love: The Unabashed Truth About Women, Money, and Relationships, which will definitely be on my reading list! Here's the description:
Money. It affects us all, so why is it so difficult to discuss? Even as daily headlines broadcast ever more alarming news about the fate of the American economy, few people are willing to acknowledge the enormous impact that personal finance has on their private affairs. Until now.
In this compelling anthology of original essays, some of the country's most respected women writers reveal their deepest feelings about money and how it affects their most intimate relationships—with parents, children, spouses, siblings, and ultimately with themselves. They examine the childhood experiences that set up lifelong, and sometimes self-destructive, financial habits. And they divulge how all the intangibles—romance, status, power, security—become tangled up in their financial lives.
The essays in these pages are written from many different perspectives: a single woman trying to reconcile feminism with a secret desire to be supported by a man; a wife with radically different spending habits from her husband's; a divorcée who has become the family's chief breadwinner; a single mother struggling to make ends meet. They also explore complicated social issues. Sheri Holman (The Dress Lodger) reveals how she fell in love with a homeless drug addict. Leslie Bennetts (The Feminine Mistake) weighs the social and emotional costs of giving her children a private-school education among the super-rich. Bliss Broyard (One Drop) ruminates on the intricacies of maintaining friendships with wealthier friends. And Amy Cohen (The Late Bloomer's Revolution) considers the price—financial and otherwise—of having a child on her own.
Witty, nuanced, and startlingly intimate, The Secret Currency of Love offers a transformative look at the delicate nature of love and money. This riveting collection will spark debate by inspiring readers to reexamine their own emotional connection to their finances. As Americans struggle to make rational choices in a frightening economy, these brave, revealing essays by some of today's most esteemed writers provide insight into how a modern generation of women is defining itself in the new social economy.