When I first imagined that label being applied to our family, it looked much different. I imagined myself as a happy little housewife to a hard-working husband and school-aged children. A woman who left the workforce to bake cupcakes for the class party and be the field trip chaperone. A woman who would run errands during the day, possibly with a third baby in tow. A woman who would have a hot meal on the table every evening when her husband got home from work, and get up in time to make pancakes and bacon for the family before everyone left for school and work. A woman who would have a spotless house because what do you know, she actually had time to clean it!
And yet here I find myself the sole earner in our single income household. My husband left the corporate world for a job at a local nonprofit. A nonprofit that accepts no federal or state funding, and relies solely on pledges and donations. And earlier this summer, they lost the funding for his position. I know I should have prepared myself more for the possibility that something like that could happen, but I honestly just didn’t see it coming. He took a huge income hit to take that job, but we were making it, and dare I say thriving. But for him to go from six figures, a company car and gas card, and expense account to nothing in the span of two years? That was hard.
This is our fifth month on just my salary and it is still is hard. I make good money but I still find myself transferring money out of savings little by little. We’ve had a lot of unexpected travel expenses, a medical bill pop up here and there, household repairs to make. Plus with my husband being at home with the boys every day, they go on little outings and excursions that result in a few dollars here and there that really add up when you’re living on one income.
I feel bad for
nagging gently reminding him that we need to be extra conscious of what we spend because I know he’s just trying to make every day fun for the boys and keep himself sane, but our savings will only last for so long if we have to continually pull from it. I am finding ways to make a little extra money and my husband has been interviewing with several different companies over the past five months. So far they have not let to a job offer, but we are still hopeful that something will come along for him before we get into the holiday season. God love him, he has been running every lead to ground and reaching out to every contact he has. It’s just a really tough job market right now.
We are fortunate, in a way, that we weren’t in a position of “oh my gosh must get a job any job or face certain financial ruin!” I have been able to sustain our family while he searches for a position that (1) he will enjoy, and (2) will pay enough to cover daycare and give us a little money to put into savings and college funds. We’ve been down the road of him working himself nearly to death (literally) for that hefty paycheck and company car, and believe me when I say it’s not worth it. At the nonprofit he had high job satisfaction and fulfillment in a low stress environment, but for a lot less money. I’m hoping whatever he ends up doing will be a good balance of the two extremes. But I am glad that I have been able to give him the time to search for the right position and have kept our household running fairly well. I wasn’t expecting to feel so empowered by this experience.
Another thing I didn’t expect from being the sole breadwinner of our household was the pressure I feel. I have always felt very secure in my job, but when it became our only source of income I instantly felt an almost crippling pressure to perform. Suddenly I felt like everything was very fragile. If my husband could lose his job so easily, what was to prevent me from losing mine for one reason or another? You just never know what can happen when it comes to these things. There have been times I have been near my breaking point. Fortunately my employers know our situation and have actually been instrumental in connecting my husband with the right people and getting his foot in the door for several interviews. But I like to think I have handled myself fairly well given the circumstances. I wonder if men who are the sole earners experience this kind of pressure. Maybe it’s just me.
I am glad that our children are young enough to not really remember this stressful time in our lives, but at the same time I am a little sad that they won’t have fond memories of their time at home with their daddy. He will remember this time that he got to spend with them, though, and I am glad for that. Of course, I will also remember that he was able to be at home with our babies for several months and it makes me sad that it was him and not me. But that’s another subject for another time.
I can only hope that my days as the sole earner are numbered and that one of these leads will turn into employment for my husband, for my sake as well as his. He has done very well as a stay-at-home dad, but I know he is slowly going crazy and is anxious to get back to work. Perhaps the next time we are labeled a single-income household, should that ever happen, it will look a bit different.
Rachel and her family live in Lawrenceville, Georgia. When she’s not dealing with her insane commute to her job in Atlanta, Rachel enjoys spending time with her husband, playing tennis, attempting to crochet, and wrangling her 3-year old and 1-year old sons. Rachel blogs about parenting, being a boy mom, and her attempts at craftiness at The House of Burks and overshares on Twitter at @HouseOfBurks.