Not quite back to normal. Becoming the main earner.

Well, I’m finally back to blogging after the holidays, but hardly back to normal. Which is because I’m going from post holiday cleanup and crazy earning to becoming the breadwinner. Yes, I’m still me. No, I haven’t gone crazy. Yes, I want to still work towards housekeeping and children. And no, I’m not doing this because I desperately wanted to prove a point of some sort.

The fact of the matter is, Jon didn’t particularly like his previous job and I didn’t particularly like seeing what it did to him. He’s retrained, but there will be an earning gap between leaving the bad job and building the good one. We have enough money to live off for several months without earning a penny, but I hate spending savings and we were thinking of using some of that to afford me a maternity leave of sorts after I’ve had the first baby.

So, instead, I will be bringing the money home to support us and not touch our savings at all.

As someone who is self-employed as a tutor, I am going to set about this a little differently to most people. I can’t just take a paycheck for granted. I have in-person tutoring work which will still take up some of my time, but as it doesn’t pay as well I will be reorganizing my students to the mornings. Instead, I will prioritize online tutoring of American, Japanese and Chinese students, which pays better, but involves afternoon and evening work. I will also, in my spare time, continue writing essays, novels, children’s books and the likes, as well as translating for several companies on my books. I will try my hardest to not turn down any work at all.

Jon has offered to help with some of the more menial housework, like washing up, laundry and the likes. However as the end goal is to get him back to where he was, and not to make me the main earner full time, his work takes priority. If we miss out on an afternoon’s earnings because the cooking and hoovering needed doing and he was at a shift, then the fact he’s getting back into work matters more than thirty or fifty pounds.

And we know this is going to be tough. Even in relationships where the woman wants to earn and the man wants to keep house, relationship breakdown can happen after they switch roles. It’s a change of dynamic that just doesn’t feel right to many people.

We do, however, have some fundamental advantages over people who start this expecting to lie back and enjoy the benefits. For example, we both know what we want and what each other wants.

I don’t want to be the main earner. I want to be in charge of things I’m more comfortable doing, bring home the fun money with little obligation besides my minimal £50/week, settle into saving his earnings and having babies and animals.

He doesn’t want to be my dependent. He wants to be in charge of thing’s he’s more comfortable doing, bring home the bread and know where everything is coming from, come home to an orderly house, a good meal and a loving family.

And knowing this helps. Knowing that we both desire to return to the old way ASAP makes it easier. There are no fears that I will decide I want to work and not have children, or that he will decide I earn enough and become a house-husband. Because our desires are out in the open. We like what we’ve done until now and we can’t wait until we get back to it.

On the other hand, not worrying about each other has also made us aware of our and each other’s vulnerabilities. Which isn’t actually a bad thing.

I have never 100% supported myself. I probably could, but I never wanted, had or managed to. From parents, to benefits, to student loans, to Jon, I have always had something I can rely on, a background income that supports me and that I can fall back on if I mess up. Not so here. I must reliably bring in £900/month at least to support us. Which isn’t so awful, but is very scary as a first-time situation, especially as I am going from being supported to doing the supporting.

Jon hasn’t been unemployed since he was 14. He always had the opportunity to choose parental care, benefits and loans over his own blood, sweat and tears, but he never wanted it. He did his very best to rely on as few people as possible. And for the first time in a decade and a half, he is having to rely on someone for financial support. He has to trust me to bring money home without a guaranteed paycheck, to cover our basics and hand him the money he needs without causing a fuss.

We are both going from the known into the unknown, and however much anyone else has worked or not worked, no matter how much our situation is anyone else’s everyday, we are making ourselves vulnerable by walking into an unfamiliar situation.

And all of this makes trust absolutely implicit. You can’t do this without trust. And not the “Sups told me online that trust is vital to financial wellbeing, so you have to just trust me” kind. I mean the actual, observable kind. Think back to when you did that “trust fall” game in school, scouts or even at work. If someone dropped you, caught you and dropped you or refused to let you catch them, people became distant towards them. In principle, it was more of an empathy test than a teamwork test, but the results hold true for anyone. If you fell and someone didn’t catch you, why are you going to throw yourself down when they’re the only one who can break your fall?

We had an incident that briefly scared Jon. I am paranoid about money. Won’t spend a penny if no money’s going in, work on budgeting to save fractions of costs, will deprive myself of things I want if it involves using a card or breaking a large note, won’t trust myself with credit or loans. Paranoid. I’m a person who saves two grand a year on welfare and one grand over Christmas. Which is why I’m writing a money-saving book. But also why I hesitated when it was my turn to get £70 out of the bank to replenish the at-home cash funds. Just for a moment. Just because I hadn’t worked much over the holidays and was wondering how the account was holding up, whether all the students had paid, etc. And he was scared. Because, no matter how normal it is for me to hesitate at the idea of breaking into my account, he was already in a state of concern and he can’t read my mind to divine what the hesitation was. At that moment I, as the soon-to-be-primary-earner was refusing him, in a position of vulnerability, the resources he needed. And that worried him. He was falling and didn’t see how I could catch him. After talking it through, we went to check my account to make sure the money was still doing fine and to get out the notes we needed. Once I had seen the amount, told him how much it had gone up by thanks to December payments and given him the notes, it was on the mend. He had fallen and I had caught him. But that is the sort of trust this requires. Not just promises or hugs: hard, physical evidence of trust in each other.

With all that in mind, am I worried? Absolutely, even if a lot less than when we first discussed this. I’d be crazy if I wasn’t. I feel like when I first moved house. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to mess this up. I need an adult!” But it’ll work out. And at least we know what the hurdles will be when we come to them.

In order to make sure we do well, my goals are:

-make £900/month minimum

-keep the house in order when Jon’s busy

-keep patient with Jon, even if both of us are feeling insecure and neither of us can offer the other proper support at times

-remind myself this is temporary and keep focused on when we’ll be back to normal and able to relax again

Anyway, due to all this the blogging may be hit and miss, but I’ll try my hardest to keep it, like the housework and general socializing, at least at a normal level.

Here’s to a busy New Year and semi-frequent updates on how I do as the main earner!

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8 thoughts on “Not quite back to normal. Becoming the main earner.

  1. Sounds like you are both aware and communicating, that is very good! I iwsh you guys all the best as you ride this little patch of rapids. Focus on the end goal, remind yourselves often if need be, and all will be fine. I am with you, I think for a woman to be the primary breadwinner feels “unnatural.” Good that you guys are talking about those feelings. Hugs! It will be fine.

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    • Aw, thanks! *hugs back* It’s still scary, even (especially?) being aware of the conflicts that often arise in such relationship situations. Sure, we may not WANT our dynamics, sex lives or overall happiness to be affected, but just because you know that less sleep = feeling tired doesn’t mean you won’t feel tired on an hour’s sleep, if you pardon the metaphor. Scary. 😦

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      • I get it, and you are wise to see that. Have the two of you discussed what you will do if this starts to happen? Maybe agree to turn to savings if so? (Even though I understand your not wanting to do that if it can be avoided.)

        When I have been in the primary breadwinner role (this was for two years and with young kids and a partner who was wholly unwilling and unable to communicate about it, so *very* different conditions) I found the stress of bearing all the financial load flipped on some amazon warrior mode in me that made it difficult for me to be that and feminine. It was not good. So beware of that and if it occurs don’t ignore it. But it sounds like you already get that. I am wishing you both the best and that it doesn’t come up. (Hugs again!)

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      • We’ve got plans in place, but most of then involve soldiering through, as it’s best for us in the long term to have stable money until he’s back in work. Long-term perspective would make me feel guilty about not working! Though I’m pretty sure that if my physical or mental health were too affected, he’d demand that I have a rest.

        And Amazon-mode (brilliant name for it, btw!) seems to be rooted in something biological. I recall that stressed businesswomen can lose their sex drive, have it go crazy and even start showing male fat distributions and hair growth. So maybe our bodies turn to the pseudo-masculine when they think we’re in danger? Just a guess. Hoping it doesn’t come up either. Most of those developments happen a few years in, so several months might be fine. Maybe I’m getting too worried!

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  2. This is good. Very good.

    Hey, you’re in this marriage thing for the long-haul. At some point, it is probable that both of you will go through times when you can’t “pull your weight” – in earnings, in physical labor, in whatever. Just truth of a lifetime. This season is going to equip you with lots and lots of practical wisdom to store for later.

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