Follow-up Thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot about the discussion that took place on my last post. As is usually the case, you all have me considering possibilities I haven’t contemplated before. You all are such a valuable resource. Thank you for your understanding, support and advice. 

I haven’t responded to comments on that post because I feel they warrant one big response post, but I haven’t had a lot of time to write it yet. I hope to put that post up early next week. 

In the meantime I will say that my husband and I have tentative plans to discuss our expectations for how evenings will look moving forward. In the past evenings were my domain because my husband had our daughter in the mornings. This never really felt like a fair division of parental responsibilities to me, but it worked well enough for us. Now that I am home in the mornings I think we need to make sure our evening expectations reflect that. We’re supposed to talk about that tonight. 

We also spoke briefly about our overall financial situation and decided to gather data for the next three months before reconvening to see if it’s financially feasible for us to continue living in this house and making this much money. I have said that I suspect the answer is “no,” and that we’ll have to have some hard conversations about what our next steps will look like if we decide we aren’t making enough to save and still live comfortably. I’m hoping that the seed will germinate over the next months, and my husband will be more open to a meaningful, productive talk about this stuff when the time comes.

I will say though, the idea of suggesting my husband leave his job to make more money is like a dead weight in my stomach. My husband really likes his job, he is doing something that is important to him and making pretty decent money doing it. It’s unfortunate for him that the city he calls home (where he was born and raised) has always been expensive and is especially insane right now because of a tech boom. It’s not his fault it costs so much to live here.

I have been disillusioned with my own job for so long, the idea of asking my husband to leave his to make more money depresses me. I know how hard it is to find a job that feels meaningful and you enjoy doing. I want that so much for myself, the idea that I might have it and have to leave it to support my family saddens me deeply. Perhaps it is I who should be thinking about getting another job. I don’t know what I could do that would make more than I currently bring in, especially with how long I’ve been teaching, but I’m going to start looking into it. 

It sucks because my husband is an attorney, but he’d be miserable working for a large firm. So the one with the easy access to a high paying job already has a job he loves and the one who doesn’t love her job, doesn’t have access to a higher paying position. There are no easy answers here. 

And no, we can’t live somewhere more affordable and let my husband keep his job. The entire Bay Area is crazy expensive and my husband works for the city, so he can’t do his job somewhere else. 

So that is where I am right now. I’ve read some posts lately about professional achievement that leave me feeling pretty low about my own lack thereof. It makes this whole internal conversation about my husband and money and where we live a hard one to have with myself. It sucks to think the one of us who is happy might have to sacrifice that for the family. And yet, I am sacrificing in many ways now. I hope we can figure something out that works for both of us.

19 Comments

  1. This is not the answer you want to hear but leaving a job you love for more money probably won’t lead to happiness. It’s fixing one problem by creating a new problem. If your husband loves his job and has a good work situation going on, it may be better to focus effort somewhere else — additional freelance work on his end, a new job on your end, tutoring work on your end, etc.

    It sucks — we live in an expensive area, too. We could have a lot more if we chose to live elsewhere. But we made the decision to live here with less because it’s close to family and it’s an area we like. So I get it, especially since I know moving isn’t really a solution — if you look at a map of expensive areas to live, we’d need to drive more than an hour and a half to get out of our zone (http://www.businessinsider.com/regional-price-parities-2015-7). That commute would make us miserable. You would likely need to do the same.

    I don’t know — I think some of the information on savings and retirement is outdated by today’s living standards and wages. When I read those financial advice books, I don’t see how their suggestions are applicable based on how much we earn, where we live, and what we need in the here and now (vs. the future).

  2. I am hesitant to write this because I’m not one to proselytize but I think it can be useful to have just one more idea on the table. It is possible to live in this area with less money and, in our case, it is a choice that works well. We both have jobs that we enjoy and work much less than our peers and that is worth the world to us. The four of us live comfortably (to US!) on roughly your salary. The problem with writing this, I know, is that things that don’t feel like sacrifices to us would surely be a struggle for others. And beyond that, there are still things that I would change (DH commutes to Civic Center in your fair city on a daily basis).

    The first step is to really focus in on your priorities and it sounds like you may also need to search for compromise with your husband whose priorities perhaps don’t align perfectly with yours. From my perspective, I can’t help but wonder if you could rent out your home and downsize to an acceptable amount that would take some stress off but not leave you otherwise miserable.

    1. I very much agree about it being possible to live on less. When I get frustrated with not having spending money, I remind myself that the choices I’ve made have led to that situation, and I really wouldn’t want to have made different choices. You husband has a job he likes, you live in a city you both like, you own a home… all these are good things. Having more money is not necessarily going to make your life better, especially if you lose one or more of the things you currently have as a result.

  3. I think you guys are headed on the right path by talking about the whole situation. Remember, as one often does, don’t loose your cool. I know My Hubs just closes down when I do. It’s more about frustration than anger. I don’t know.

    I do have to ask, is your profession creating the disillusion or your place of work? Do you like being a teacher? Could you move to another school? Is it possible? Let’s not forget about your happiness. We all know The Hubs likes his job (sorry to be curt) but it’s important for you to find some sort of balance in your work and your life.

    And I hear you about living no where near your work. My daily commute, with traffic, is an hour. After leaving work at 5pm…picking up kids, driving home, I’m lucky to get home by 630 and dinner on the table at 7pm….all the while wearing my work clothes. I hate it…but I make it work b/c I know moving is not the answer (I actually like where I live) – I just need to fix it (like new job) and I assume it’s the same for you.

    Best of Luck!

  4. I would think that making more money via freelance work, consulting, moving to an administrative position makes more sense than asking your husband leave a job he loves and is good at.

    I, too, live in a high cost of living area. Our main sacrifice is that we rent. We rent to be close enough to my parents, who help greatly with childcare. We rent to be closer to my job. Our rent doubled but a shorter commute has made me happier, more energetic, and healthier. We are frugal and struggle with different choices but I imagine that cutting back in some areas won’t be as big a sacrifice as you might think. Best of luck.

  5. I agree that leaving his job isn’t the only way to make a positive change. You have to talk about this somewhat objectively by laying out the problems, which to me are two-fold: 1) not enough money to pay down debt and save 2) you are overstretched and can’t go on this way. and then work together to brainstorm possible fixes. and then slowly talk through which fixes seem most reasonable, in line with your values/priorities, more likely to lead to happiness for all 4 of you (not just him, not just kids, YOU TOO)

  6. Look at your mortgage payment versus what it would cost to rent within commuting distance of your jobs. I think you probably are currently paying less for the house than rent would run especially with increased commute costs. Also, your mortgage, if fixed, will not change over the years and rents ALWAYS increase. I am not sure leaving your house and keeping your jobs makes sense.
    Moving to a less expensive area might work if you both got jobs in new area. Maybe closer to ‘your’ family for a change. OR just N. CA like Redding or Chico but the weather is very different there and there are other tradeoffs you would face that might be hard on your marriage. I have heard Twin Cities MN is a good place to be IF you BOTH really fully agree on leaving SF … but I think your husband is in love with not only you and the children but SF as well and such a move is really hard and needs to be fully completely deeply embraced by both adults in relationship or it won’t work and if you leave SF it has to be with complete understanding that neither of you will EVER be able to return for other than visits.
    Working for the city is also fairly secure employment, private companies are way way more risky and subject to job loss especially as one moves into/towards your late 40s and 50s/60s. Unless one can garner/gather enough assets to cover you for 10 years (or 15 while also working at a lower pay rate) that is a real consideration. It can be possible for some to do but sometimes it does work out. Additionally retirement income could be hugely impacted in negative ways. How transferable would your husband’s skill set be to another city? Politics plays into this answer, so it is not an automatic thing.
    No easy answers. Sorry. Data collection for 3 months makes really good sense!
    Maybe things will look easier for you if you get truly healthy over the next two weeks. Fingers crossed.

  7. I had a huge, long post typed out with all sorts of advice, but I erased it thinking that you probably don’t want any more advice. So I’ll just address this comment of yours, “he’d be miserable working for a large firm.” You are miserable with the way things are now. YOU. It is not fair that you shoulder most of the misery in your shared life and him very little. You deserve to have more satisfaction even if it is at the expense of some of his. Does that mean he must take a new job? No, but likely any major change you make that increases your own happiness will lessen his, because he has it so easy right now.

  8. If your husband worked for a large firm, it will likely not be good for your marriage. He will be misrable and so will you. He will not be able to help out and your plans will constantly be cancelled. It will enable you to hire a nanny to help out, but that’s about it. My husband’s work stress is a huge problem for our family. We live under the constant threat of him having to drop everything and work. It sucks.

    My point was more that you paint a picture of your husband as having a lot of bright line requirements that, taken together, don’t seem to be working for you: living in SF; not enforcing the diet; job that doesn’t pay too well; involvement in nonprofit; not participating in bedtime, etc. I’m glad you are talking about it. I’m sure there are ways you can make this work better for you both.

  9. Agree that a large firm would be a disaster. As for your job, it seems like you don’t like it. That alone is reason to look into a new job.

    I agree with Annie about your husband’s requirements. It just seems like you take his preferences as mandatory and non-negotiable, and yours as flexible and insignificant. Why is that? Maybe because it’s less work for you to accommodate him than twisting his arm to change? Maybe because you are afraid for your marriage? It seems like he just gets to want what he wants and you (and the kids) make the sacrifices necessary to achieve it. But he needs to be a grown-up and realize that his preference of living in SF or working a particular job or whatever is going to necessitate some hard choices from him, not just from you.

    The way you talk about your husband’s preferences kind of reminds me of your budget epiphany a few months ago. Just like for each item you wanted to buy, you had certain reasons that were true and valid, yet the total added up to more than you could afford. For each thing he wants, you have reasons– good reasons– why he should be accommodated. The job, he likes it and it’s worthwhile. The activity, you agreed he could do. SF, he likes, and family. Those are all great reasons when taken individually. But together, the full list of his preferences is just more than the family can handle. You’re going into the equivalent of credit card debt with your personal well-being and your own career, trying to contort enough accommodate him. But it can’t go on forever. Just like you had to adjust your thinking about spending, both of you have to adjust your thinking about his schedule.

  10. Is he required to live in SF? If not, while the rest of the Bay Area is expensive, once you leave out Marin county, east alameda county, Santa Clara, it’s nowhere near as expensive as SF. Who wouldn’t want to live in SF? But for most people it’s not even a consideration. I went to law school in SF and it never crossed my mind to live there because it was out of our price range. He could probably easily BART to work.

    I too live in an expensive area where I grew up. And we have a fairly small house vs a bigger one for less money 20-30 min away. But the area I’m in is not as expensive as SF. (Neighboring areas 10-15 min away are.)

    Being a local govt attorney, the pay is pretty good once you ascend the ranks, vs. small firm or solo or nonprofit work. Not nearly as well paying as a Biglaw job, but also not the same hours. Happy medium for us but we don’t live in SF.

  11. An important note is that they have already bought this place, so what they are paying in mortgage is a lot less than what going rents are right now. They have also decided they’re not willing to charge market for rent. So unless they sell and make a good return on the proceeds, it is unlikely they will save money by moving within the Bay Area. Also they are limited in what they can raise rent for on current tenants and cannot kick a current tenant out easily. And if the current tenant has a contract, that may not be able to sell until the lease is up.

    1. In California you can sell your house even if there’s a tenant (new owner takes over lease). But that might reduce the pool of interested buyers.

  12. Being currently in a large firm looking to take a huge pay cut to be happier, I’m not sure I could recommend that he get a new job. And of course going back to something like that would make his hours worse, which wouldn’t help. Tough decisions all around. Here to listen any time.

  13. Know a lawyer your husband’s age who works for private company. Makes more money, I expect, yes, BUT: works while on vacation and weekends and had to work late on Christmas Eve, client wanted him to work on Christmas Day, starts his day at 6am when client is on East Coast and continues oil 8 or 9 pm because other entities are West Coast and make decisions at 5:30pm needing product in a.m. Job that pays more might make day to day with children even worse because a nanny is NOT a parent or spouse.

  14. You’ve had lots of advice, and I don’t really have anything new to add. I’ve been in a job I hated, and when I began in a new job, my husband commented, “at last, after a year, I have my wife back.” What I wish for you is that you could find a job that fulfilled you too. (I know – easier said than done.) Better you’re both happy rather than both miserable.

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