Up until April of this year, I had been at the same job for almost three years. In the world of chronic illness (especially in my case, this is a huge accomplishment. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I had enough that if I wanted to go out and buy a new lipstick, or take myself to dinner, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. Yes, I am also on a provincially funded program for people with severe handicaps (AISH), so that provided me with supplemental income and health coverage, But having that job added an extra level of financial security that was extremely reassuring.
When my husband and I started living together on an official level, as opposed to spending three alternating days at the abode of the other, things got a little more complicated. His income started counting towards the total household income, and the amount of money I was getting from the AISH program decreased significantly. On average, I was getting about $800 less per month than I had been, and that makes a huge difference when you don’t get a consistent income from your actual job. When I was having a good month, things were find, but when I was going through a “bad patch”, things started looking grim.
My then-fiance had no problem helping me cover my bills or giving me spending money if I needed it. I’m the one who had the problem with it. I have a real problem accepting financial help from anyone, even if I am married to the person. I’m coming up on 30, and the idea that I can’t take care of myself is not something I like to think about on a regular basis.
It hasn’t gotten better, either. I’m not working at all, now, and while that was something we decided was for the best together, I still have huge amounts of guilt about it. Shawn has a good job. He makes enough to take care of both of us an our impending baby with little trouble. Does that make me feel any better? Absolutely not. Does the fact that he’s more than willing to support me make me feel better? No.
I suppose I always thought I would eventually find myself in a place where I would be able to live on my own, be debt free and not have to worry about anything. What I didn’t count on at that point was the fact that my illness would get to the point where it had the potential to make me house bound for days at a time. At its worst, I couldn’t shower, leave the house, drive or go upstairs in my home without supervision. A lot changes when your life takes a turn like that, and finances are one of them.
My mum and my husband keep reminding me that my unemployment wasn’t only my choice. It was something that Shawn and I discussed at length before making anything final. I had the support of my boss and my doctors. So why do I keep feeling like it was the wrong choice?
Every time the first of the month rolls around (and it happens more than I’d like), I find myself furiously making calculations to see if I’m going to be able to afford my bills on my own. I always need to pay the credit card, the cell phone, the car payment and the car insurance. I’m still trying to squirrel money away for retirement, too. Most of the time, I come up short, and I find myself needing money from my husband.
Why the guilt? Our relationship is such that we help each other out in any way that the other needs. We’re equal in everything. Maybe that’s the problem. Being unable to afford certain things makes me feel like I’m not holding up my end of the deal. How can I support him if I’m not making enough money to support myself? I guess it almost seems like I’m using marriage as a cop-out.
A lot of other people, I know, think that I should be working. They simply don’t understand that there are times when going to work on a regular basis is not physically possible for me. Going back to work at this point wouldn’t make much sense, anyway. With a baby on the way, and a rather rotten pregnancy to boot, going back to my former job, or trying to find a new one, wouldn’t be fair to whatever employer ended up with me. I remember getting really upset when my father in law would ask, not how work was going, but how much I had worked. It always felt like an accusation. It’s not that I didn’t like talking about my job. I love talking about work. There were some really interesting aspects to what I did. But talking about how much I was working? There was never going to be a right answer for that, and there had already been a point where he thought I was a bit of a gold digger. Knowing I was only working one shift a week wasn’t, in my mind, going to help that perception.
I’m well aware that his intention with that question was probably just to start a conversation about work, but the wording was all wrong. I actually had a melt down one evening when he asked Shawn “the question.” I got so upset, Shawn actually had a talk with his parents about it, which didn’t make me feel any better. The last thing I wanted to be was the difficult daughter in law who was sucking money out of their son.
All of that brings me to another point: while I have perfectly sound reasons for not working and not making my own money, the fact that I don[‘t do either of those things is still embarrassing. When anyone new asks what I do, I find myself wondering if I should lie, talk about my former job, or just hedge around the question. First impressions, after all, are important, and telling someone you just met that you’re basically an unemployed bum is not the way to go.
I also think that I wouldn’t feel so impotent in the financial department if I was more capable of taking care of the house on a regular basis. Can I cook, clean and do laundry? Absolutely. I’m quite good at it, and can be quite efficient if I put my mind to it. The thing is, if I happen to be going through a migraine cycle, or a particularly long period with no quality sleep, or even if my pregnancy woes are being awful, things do not get done. I will do the dishes. I will do enough laundry so my husband has clean clothes for work and so neither of us runs out of underwear. Past that, I’m lucky to make the bed in the morning.
I am 100% hopeful that the situation will, eventually, change. Alas, right now I’m stuck with things the way they are. All I can do is be grateful for the help I’m given, happy that we have a nice home, food on the table and clothes on our backs. We don’t want for anything. We have a great relationship and a great marriage. Our cats aren’t as psychotic as they could be (most of the time). I have a lot to be thankful for, but getting rid of the guilt of my financial impotency is going to take some work.