On a sunny weekend morning, as the whole day stretched out in front of us like a long embrace, CB turned to me and asked, “would you be poor with me?”
If I was feeling romantic and dreamy, I might’ve answered, “yes, because I love you,” and then added a caveat about “but you won’t be poor.” But all this personal finance must’ve seeped into my subconcious, or maybe half-asleep I am more honest and less tactful than I might’ve been awake, because I managed to look straight into his beautiful big eyes and said, “I don’t want to be poor with anyone.”
Reading this article made me realize that I don’t want to be an “accidental” breadwinner in my relationship, just as I don’t want to become an “accidental” stay-at-home wife or mom. “Accidental” implies a lack of choice, a lack of introspection, a lack of conscious decision. “Accidental” spells “resentment down the road” to me.
In marriage vows people promise to stay together “for better or worse, for richer or poorer.” I believe in those vows very strongly, but I also don’t subscribe to the theory that “all you need is love.” I’ve seen the tension that bad finances bring to even the strongest of marriages. I’ve seen it with my parents. I’ve seen it with several of my mom’s friends. And what I saw scared me.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always envisioned that both my future husband and I will work, even after we have kids (one, maybe two). One of us may take a part-time schedule for a year while the kids are young, but I don’t see either of us taking a longer hiatus from our careers. A satisfying career is important to me, and I’d imagine, to my future husband as well. Maintaining financial autonomy is important to me. Being able to care for my family if anyone should happen to my spouse is important to me.
The topic of whether to have a stay-at-home parent is a sensitive one – I don’t think there’s one solution for all families. It’s a personal decision. My thoughts to this subject is influenced by my mother, who has always worked. In fact, she left me in the care of grandparents for FOUR years when I was young to work overseas. I did not see her (or my dad) from the age of 5 to 9. And I turned out okay. Given my experience, I think I can probably manage any guilt I will have as a working mother.
So, no, I don’t want to be poor. Not by myself and not with anyone else. No one knows what tomorrow brings, but I hope that by making smart financial decisions and by marrying a partner who shares my priorities (and whom I love and respect, of course – divorce is a huge money drain!), I will improve the odds of having a “richer” life instead of a poorer one.