Tag Archives: Paycheck

The Most Important Job

I still haven’t figured out how to answer the question.

When we meet someone for the first time, one of the initial questions of the getting-to-know-you phase is this: What do you do?

By that, we’re asking what the other person does for a living. What is their job? Strangely, we, as a society, tend to define people by what they do, rather than what they enjoy, or who they are. While I’m sure there’s another whole post in this somewhere, I’m more focused this time around on what the answer to that question really is when it’s directed at me or people like me.

See, as might have been obvious sometime in the last six years, I’m a stay-at-home dad. For the past 14 years, I stayed home being the principal caregiver to our three boys while my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Bringing Home The Bacon Etc., worked outside the house.

For us, it wasn’t even a question what would be happening when we had kids. We both believed that kids would benefit from having a parent at home. She’s a doctor, which meant her first paycheck as the lowliest of doctors (an intern) was far more than what I was making at the top of my pay grade as an information specialist for the state of Florida. Yeah, no question I was staying home.

Now, I’m pretty cool with the idea of a woman making more money than I do. Just like it doesn’t matter that she beats me at H.O.R.S.E. every time we play. (Of course, in a real one-on-one game, I thrash her without hesitation.) She’s just a better set shooter than I am. I’ve been beaten by girls in races and never worried but for one thing: A person was faster than me. The gender of the victor didn’t matter. Same thing here.

But, apparently, it does matter to some people.

When I’m meeting people for the first time and I tell them that I’m a stay-at-home dad, I get responses that vary in the specifics, but all contain the same condescension.

“Oh, that’s so wonderful.”

“You’re so lucky to stay at home.”

“That’s such a hard job and so important.”

“I don’t know how you do it.”

And, worst of all, “Good for you. You should be proud of that.”

It’s a good thing none of these people are playing poker for a living, or are actors, because, dudes, they just can’t pull it off. In their eyes, in the tone of their voice, in the way they subtly lean back away from me as if they’re afraid stay-at-home-itis is catching. . .

In their eyes, there’s something deeply wrong with what I’ve done for the past 14 years. In their eyes, it’s easy to read what they’re thinking: “Thank God it’s not me.”

I realize that moms in my position also are getting something similar from other women. Staying at home, either for a man or a woman, can be a controversial choice to some people.

Men, I think, might get it a bit worse. Because we’re supposed to be the breadwinners, the ones who work outside the house. I’ve even been asked, “Doesn’t it bother you being the woman?” and “Does she let you wear shoes and leave the kitchen?”

Okay, yes, those were extreme examples and they might have said they were kidding, but there is that old saying about there being more truth in jest.

Over the years, just to avoid arguments in a pleasant setting, I’ve begun telling people I work from home instead of stay home. And, yes, that won’t be a problem much longer as I’m moving back into the outside work force as Hyper Lad grows older.

But, still, shouldn’t staying at home — whether because of a money issue or that you’re just more at ease taking care of kids — be a valid choice for any person, male or female?

There were a (very) few times in the beginning when I felt resentful that I wasn’t working every day at a newspaper, which had been my dream. But then I would look on my napping sons, or hear them laugh, and realize it’s possible to have more than one dream, to find and follow a new dream.

A man or woman choosing to stay at home to rear a child is a valid choice, dudes and dudettes. Respect that.

Share on Facebook

Daddy, Are We Properly Leveraged In Our 457(k) Fund?

What should you tell your little dudes and dudettes about how much money you make?

It’s a question some people don’t have to worry about. After all, if you’re living hand to mouth, from paycheck to paycheck, then the question of finances and affordability is something that will be discussed at length and among most of the family.

However, if you are lucky enough to be able to make a good living, are in a situation in which you can afford to purchase most if not all of the items your child wants or needs, then you’ve certainly got a couple of decisions to make as your child grows older and a bit more inquisitive.

Money talks. It also shouts and screams and, on occasions, yodels.

Still, no matter how much noise money makes, we like to keep how much we have a bit of a secret. For that reason, a lot of parents will withhold their annual salary or their total net worth from the young dudes in the house. After all, you wouldn’t want the little dudette to go around bragging to all her friends that you make a ton of money, especially if their parents don’t make that much, so they would feel bad. Or the reverse.

If you’re the type to hold back how much money you have from your young dude for whatever reason, then you’ll need to consider a few things when the inevitable question comes up.

Firstly, you need to determine just how ready the little dudette is to hear the answer.

It’s probably pointless to give a straight answer on income to a child who hasn’t gotten beyond three figures in math class. The same thing is true with a 10- or 12-year-old math whiz if you haven’t yet explained to them all of the costs involved in your daily life. Context matters, a lot.

If your little darlings learn you make $32,000 a year, they’re liable to think they’re rich and begin upping their Christmas expectations accordingly. Mostly because they haven’t factored in the appallingly high cost of, for instance, raising several little yard apes.

Speaking of context, when the question does come up, you might want to steer the conversation back around to trying to find out why your little dude wants to know about money. Are they worried about being kicked out of their house because they overheard an argument about money? Are the trying to figure out how much they’ll have to make when they get a job so they can still live like they’re used to doing with you? Are they in an appendage-measuring contest with the kid down the street and trying to see who’s richer?

Reasons, like context, matter. Frivolous reasons merit frivolous answers that will, while not actually proffer a lie, then fluff the little dudette off with no actual numbers, but a vague sense of the correct answer.

Other curious children may be trying to figure out what they would need to earn to have a life as an adult like the one they have as a teenager. In that case, you could talk about salaries for jobs like the ones they’re interested in, deflecting the conversation away from the jobs you have.

Or, if you have a child on your hands who is truly ready, you could just answer the question without a lot of heavy breathing.

My wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Bringing Home The Bacon Right And Not Letting Me Forget I’m A Man, and I decided that we would go the comparison route. We didn’t name actual numbers, but we did say we’re well off. That is, we’re not rich, but we make enough money combined that the kids don’t need to worry about money for reasonable expenses.

We’re not going to be going out and buying a top-of-the-line sports car for each little dude as they reach 16, but they won’t be walking everywhere either.

How you do it is up to you. However, like most things in parenting, preparation makes it much easier.

Share on Facebook

Money-Grubbing Moochers

Money.

Money. Money. Money. Money. Money. Money.

There. I said it. Money. Like sex, money is something parents need to keep talking about with their little dudes and dudettes.

For something so many dudes and dudettes stress out about so much, money is an interestingly semi-taboo subject. Does anyone feel comfortable discussing how much you paid for a high-ticket item with, for instance, your neighbor? Like telling her how much you spent on that landscaping?

Do you want to try and justify the sparkling upgrades you paid for on your new phone with your dad?

Heck, many companies will do just about anything to prevent employees from knowing how much the other people with whom they work are actually making every other week. Although, I’m sure that’s less out of the taboo nature of money and more because the company doesn’t want someone to compare paychecks and realize they’re being appallingly shortchanged by working for the company.

Still, despite the uncomfortable nature of discussions of wealth or the lack thereof, it’s something we as parents need to talk to our young dudes and little dudettes about early and often.

When they little dudes are babies (and shouldn’t you be out purchasing another copy of A Dude’s Guide to Babies right about now ?It’s the perfect Christmas present for the new dad or dad-to-be. Go buy it. Now.*) there’s not much call for them to understand about money.

However, as they start growing older and understanding that there are different ways with which they can interact with the world, knowing what money is, where it comes from and how it works becomes more and more important.

When the little dudettes are toddlers, they think they know all about how the world works. Ask mom or dad for that thing you want and, in the fullness of time, it shall be given to you. From this perspective, Mom and Dad pretty much own everything in the world and it’s only a matter of asking for them to give it to the little dude at the right time.

Which can be, frankly, a pretty dangerous perspective to have.

And that makes the fact that they pretty much keep thinking this sort of thing straight through to their middle teens a horrifying proposition. Of course, they can be trained to forget this mistaken impression, but it’s going to be tough and it mostly involves a lot of tears and runny noses. Sometimes the little dude will tear up a bit as well.

Seriously, one of the best ways to teach your young dudette the power of money is to say — early, often and loud — no to requests for, well, just about anything. Don’t make the mistake I might have done and say to the kid, “I’ll give you this, but, in return, you need to do that.”

Go with that sort of logic and you’ll soon have a child with an armful of this, but be waiting forever for that to get done. Young dudes need to start working just like the world does (or should). That is, if they want something, they have to pay for it (be it through actual money or through sweat equity) before they can get it.

Whether or not the child gets an allowance is something parents need to work out for themselves. Included in the discussion is whether the young dude gets an allowance no matter what, or if money is earned from chores done, or if there is a baseline allowance and they can earn extra bucks with more chores. That sort of thing.

If the young dudes don’t feel the occasional pinch of poverty, they’re going to grow up with some severely whacked ideas about how money works. And, considering how easily almost anyone can get a credit card these days, that can be a very dangerous thing, indeed.

Money talk: important.

We’ll talk more tomorrow on a specific aspect of that discussion, namely what to say when your kid asks you how much money you have.

 

*Please!?


Share on Facebook