Discomfort undermines frugality
Ookaay . . . I was away from the internet more than usual this weekend (due to my wife’s absence) and I came back to a raging controversy.
Raging might not be quite the right word, but I think that my hastily typed essay from last Friday may have been misunderstood – quite possibly due to my poor use of English. Last Thursday night, as Mrs. Stew was making plans to leave town for four days, I wrote about how the prospect of being a single caregiver to three children for four days had the effect of undermining my usual bent toward frugality. A commenter or two took me to task – you can read all about it here and I might have deserved it. Please allow me to explain myself a little more completely.
Issue #1: Mrs. Stew and numbers
Mrs. Stew is a relationship-oriented person, I tend to be more comfortable with concrete dollars and cents. When we were first married, she took care of our bank accounts. . . for about six months before we realized that was a mistake. She will be the first to tell you that numbers are not her thing. A comment by me to that effect was not meant as an insult, it was merely a statement of fact. There many areas where Mrs. Stew is a far better person than I. Just so you all know, she was not offended by my comment, but she is appreciative of the support!
Issue #2: Mrs. Stew and spending
Some were concerned that I am on my wife’s case about spending too much money or not giving her a little spending money now and then. While it is true that I monitor all of the spending that takes place in our household, I do not give her the third degree or really even question her spending all that much. In fact, I think she could spend a little more on herself, but as I pointed out, she is more frugal than I in several areas . . .
Issue #3: the double-standard
Well, the whole post was about my recognition of the double-standard. The part that I should have emphasized more in the article was my desire to limit my spending while operating as a single parent – as Mrs. Stew does so well. The idea for the post came to mind as I started to map out what we would do in the four days that I was to operate as Mr. Mom. The first few ideas that came to mind were things that cost a little money and I realized that when in the same situation, my lovely wife would probably not plan to spend as much money.
The bottom line
Caring for our three children for four days by myself is a situation in which I am not as comfortable as Mrs. Stew. When facing that discomfort, my natural instinct was to spend more money in order to ease that discomfort. Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids, I love spending time with them, I love being with my family. However, my job calls on me to leave town without my family on a regular basis. It is rare for Mrs. Stew to be out of town while I stay home. When faced with that prospect, I immediately thought of all of the fun stuff that we could do while mom was gone – movies, restaurants, amusement parks, malls and more. But then I realized that if my wife were to plan that kind of agenda every weekend that I am away, we would be in the poor house pretty quickly.
I think discomfort often causes a lot of us to spend money quickly or without thought. A person who wants to live a frugal life must sometimes put up with a little discomfort or delayed gratification. Think about it – ever gone through a grocery store while hungry? What about that caffeine deficit in the afternoon? If you have a toothache, you might be willing to pay anything to get the pain to stop. Maybe some of you run the air conditioner more than you should because of discomfort . . .
As it is, we have had a good weekend without mom. We spent some time at the library, hung out with some friends, went to the grocery store, I cooked a little (now my kids are uncomfortable) and I do not think that my spending was all that much out of line with what Mrs. Stew might have spent. Not that she would have minded all that much . . . I mean, she did have four days without little ones . . . I am uncomfortable doing the job that she does most often and I think she might be a little uncomfortable doing my job for three of for days, for that matter.
Everyone is more than ready for her to come home.
Article by Stew
Photo by kimberlykv