Money! That's What I Want

Whoo, starting off with two heavy hitters! I was hoping for a softball today. The writing prompt for Radvent Day 2 is Self-worth.

Meg talks about beauty and self-image in her post today. I certainly am not immune to the pitfalls of self-consciousness about my appearance, but an issue that has dogged me more significantly, particularly since I got married, has been a tendency to tie my self-worth to money.

I am the daughter of a painting contractor and a stay-at-home mom (my mom has held other jobs, but for most of my childhood that was her occupation). I think my parents did a good job of shielding us from the ordinary financial concerns of the adult world, but I must have picked up somehow on some of those dynamics. Because as an adult I found myself living the feast-or-famine lifestyle of the construction contractor, and holding onto a confused concept of what being a “SAHM” meant.

One of the many reasons it was good for me to get out of faux finishing was that the instability of my income was making me positively nutso. For a time, Mike and I were a true two-income household as we depended on both of our jobs to meet our expenses. Though we managed our money reasonably well and seemed to skate by on lucky break after lucky break, the inevitable dry periods of my contracting career hard to weather mentally. I agonized over every week that passed without another job lined up, certain that what was lurking around the corner was not just financial ruin, but personal ruin. I feared that Mike would hate me, and I beat myself up for not finding work.

Meanwhile, when things were flush I was super controlling over our money, scared that it would run out. I’ve heard it said that people who are perfectionists and too controlling in their relationships are all basically afraid of the same thing: not being good enough. This was certainly true of me. My thought process was stark: if I don’t make enough money, it means I am not good enough as a person. I knew this, but couldn’t escape it.

Two things were the key to untying this knot: quitting contracting, and handing over the money reins to Mike. The irony of this was not lost on me, because for years I had given the side-eye to stay at home moms who let their husbands control the finances. How could they possibly be equal partners in such an unequal arrangement? Obviously this said more about me and my psychology than it did about those other couples. To me, self-worth was always entangled with money. I had to separate the two.

I can say without reservation that making those changes were the two best things I have done for my marriage and my own anxiety levels. I am not out of the loop on our finances, but I’ve taken a step back from the day-to-day money management. I don’t do the routine bill paying and checking account monitoring. I don’t (try not to) nitpick little purchases that Mike makes anymore. I run my purchases by him, not because he needs to approve them, but because he alleviates my worry about spending (sure, go ahead! – or, next week would be better). Trusting him to run the books has not been as hard as I thought it would be.

Though I still have an unstable source of income with E Custom Cards, because it has other intrinsic value for me (it’s fun, and it makes people happy) and also because it’s not financially critical income, I don’t experience that same weight of viewing my worth according to how much I am selling. I’m free to see my self-worth as something that simply is, because I’m human.


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