This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 14, 13, 10, 7, and 3.

We spent our first 7 years of marriage just floating around having fun.  Well, it really wasn’t fun, because being poor is never fun.  Once you start to make money, it seems you look back at the time of being poor and think “Those were good times”.  I wish I didn’t distort my memories like that.

You cannot make money and be happy all the time.
Some time around year seven Andy managed to float into a job he semi liked, but it made money.  This is when I discovered that being able to buy silly things, like socks, really changed my life philosophy.  It use to be “Do what makes you happy.”  Then it changed to, “Make money and try to be happy.”

To work fewer hours, you have to pay a price.
Four years ago we had the misfortune of moving to a new city due to a relocating job, and, four months later the job laid Andy off.

We decided he would look for a job that would pay huge amounts of money so we could pay off debts and be financially free in 10 years.  What we found is the more you make (salary or hourly) the more hours you work.  We found a job, and created a plan.  Andy worked 100 hours a week for 2 years.  My philosophy changed again, “Making money is ok, but being a single mom sucks.”

Understanding yourself trumps money. 
At this point, I was homeschooling and I felt lucky to be home, even if I was a single mom. I felt guilty that Andy was so unhappy, so now what I wanted from life was for Andy to like his job, make lots of money so I can keep up with TV families, and work a 4 day work week so I could stop being a single mom.  Over the two years Andy discovered he did love his job.  I wish I had understood his personality, ESFP, before now.  Andy excels in a changing, people pleasing, challenging job.  This knowledge could of saved us the wandering, poor first 7 years of our lives.  Sigh.

The 4-day work week demands a high offering.
There are a handful of guys who made it 30 years in this line of work.  They work a 4 days, and spend weekends at their lake cabins.  Awesome!  Andy and I spent the 3rd year fighting about his hours and how he should be working a 4 days a week!  Look at these other guys!  They are doing it!  He cut his hours back to 70 a week.  I still complained.

The other day, we were at one of the houses of a 4-day-work-week guy. I smugly asked him when Andy could start working 4 days a week like he does.

His reply was, “Oh, probably some where around year 10!”

What!?

Then he asked me if I knew what time he gets up.  He said he leaves the house at 4 am and comes home at 7pm all 4 days.  That’s when I realized the 4-day work week is all a sham.  You can’t work four days a week with less hours and more pay.

Oh sure, some people say you can, but how many hours did they put into their work before cutting back?  How cheaply did they live to off set the pay in the future?  Unfortunately, we all have to work hard to get some where. There are no short cuts, unless you are born to someone wealthy.

Now my philosophy is, “Be happy your husband can make money and wants to come home.”

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36 replies
  1. Cáit
    Cáit says:

    I think the opposite often, that being poor is fun before you get stuck in all the traps of serious adulthood. Perma-students always look like they’re having fun to me. But they practice contraception and shack up. I always wondered what it would be like to combine their lifestyle with kids.
    Am I the only one who wondered…so what *is* his income? (-:

  2. Ron
    Ron says:

    Interesting post. But it sounds like there are boundary issues going on in this relationship. It is not her decision how much He makes or how much He works. They would both probably be happier if she left it up to him but communicated what she would like. You can’t control other people. You can communicate what you would like but then it is up to the other person What to do with that information. Sounds like she was trying to lead his career for him but didn’t actually have all the information to even be giving him guidance, much less trying to make decisions. To people in the career world, it comes as no great revelation that you have to pay your died for many years before you can cut back your hours and make a lot of money. Practice gratitude for when he is home and for the money he brings home.

  3. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    Awesome post! I loves these funny reads by Sarah, she has not done one in that style in a while. I was grinning the whole read, and laughed out loud at the last line.

    My own relationship with money has been a bit of a spiritual journey. Lately I have been focusing on giving it away, wherever I think it could do some good, (giving money away, a good bit of the time, is not good and doesn’t help the receiver). Learning when giving money is a good idea, has been a source of joy for me.

  4. Jeff P.
    Jeff P. says:

    Killing yourself for work is a choice, and it is not required to bank a ton of cash. I crossed the $100k line eight years ago, and I rarely work much over 40 hours. If you believe the myth that more time is the only way, then that’s manifest destiny if I’ve ever seen it.

    • Cáit
      Cáit says:

      This seems kind of self congratulatory. Really “South Park Republican”. You likely have valuable skills and experience.

      • Amy Kovach
        Amy Kovach says:

        I’m with Jeff. And it’s not self congratulatory at all.
        Her post made me shake my head all throughout, for a number of reasons. If it was humor, I guess I missed it.

        • Cáit
          Cáit says:

          I didn’t think he post was humour and I’m not the biggest Sarah fan but I don’t like the “work smarter” so you can 100k suggestion. Not everyone has such valuable skills. I’m not saying this applies to the commenter at all, but many right wingers think “oh who cares about living wage issues because if those people were smart they would do what I have done.” I guess I’m thinking sort of big picture here about very low income workers. Just because some people excel in our economy doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to make it livable for everyone, which I know is not wth at Sarah’s sort of middle class column was about.

          • Jeff P.
            Jeff P. says:

            I’m not trying to make some political statement. Where do you get that? The only statement that I’m making is that it seems impossible for some Type-A people to accept that more hours isn’t better, more successful, more money or more productive. It’s just more hours. My European friends seem to universally feel that this is a strange American phenomenon, and they don’t get it. Maybe I’m just better at saying “no” to people. I don’t think I have any secret sauce or that I’m particularly valuable or interesting.

  5. MS
    MS says:

    > “being a single mom sucks.”

    Having a husband who works 100 hours a week so you can stay home doesn’t make you a “single mom,” princess.

    They’re the ones going to work to pay the bills, THEN coming home to take care of the kids and do all the housework, alone.

    And they are playing the world’s tiniest violin for your inability to have a high-earning, semi-retired husband who pays all the family’s expenses, helps you around the house, and then whisks you off for three-day weekends at a “lake cabin.”

    • Cáit
      Cáit says:

      Wow, is that really her lifestyle? Haha ha.
      Sarah is my least favorite contributer, but this is one of her better columns. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but I’ve noticed something in her writing style that’s hard for me articulate succinctly. Most guest contributors here tend to, probably unconsciously, imitate Penelope’s voice and style. That’s natural and part of how empathetic people adapt to communicate. But it doesn’t work well on Sarah.
      The style here is logical conclusions from unconventional premises unapologetically offered. But Sarah sometimes lacks the logic part in her writing and it’s just BOLD FACED COMMANDS from a seemingly unhinged person.
      I think this piece is stronger as the logic flows better, better from
      a low standard, agree or disagree. But Sarah is at her best when she is just sharing her stories and opening herself up.

    • The Study of Humans
      The Study of Humans says:

      To the widowed Mom, the single Mom with a living ex taking the kids every other weekend, and paying child support, may be an enviable lifestyle.

      My husband is at sea, and completely unreachable, 6 months of the year. I don’t consider myself a single mom, and I don’t tell single moms complaining about how hard their life is to suck it up buttercup, because pain is relative.

      There is no cap on how much compassion we have to offer. So why not offer it freely?

      Sue

  6. Jeannie Cook
    Jeannie Cook says:

    Penelope, I have had to start reading your education blogs because the career blogs are becoming sparse. I take offense at this author using the term “single mom” so loosely. If she were a single mom, chances are pretty good she would be working and would have no time or energy or money to home school her children. I was a single mom most of my children’s lives and being married to an income provider would have been heaven on earth.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh no! I tell myself this is a phase — that I will write more on the career blog soon. Any day. Maybe today! That said, I like that you came here as well. Thank you. I like knowing there are people like me who are interested in both.

      Penelope

  7. jessica
    jessica says:

    The comments on here are pretty harsh, but I do think the narrative is ‘you live, you learn.’ I can see how raising a large (7 member) family alone at the beginning of a spouses’ career curve would make someone feel like a single mom. There just isn’t enough time for so many people and such demanding environments without some form of help (babysitters, nannies, school, husband around). The home responsibility would be very, very high. Which leads me to ask if the money is a lot, where is the help that mitigates a single-parenting-like life?

    • Sarah faulkner
      Sarah faulkner says:

      the first two years we were building the business and brought in 30k a year. The average cost of living for a family of 4 is 80k a year in this area. We have reached a place where I can hire help, after 5 years.

  8. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    Holy cow Sarah, I kinda can’t believe where these comments are coming from. eeek.

    You are my favorite guest contributor here, and I also really like your pictures, but those are sadly no longer deemed blog-worthy. You are a totally relatable person as far as I am concerned. Everyone has time/money issues at some point in their lives.

  9. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    Having been raised by a single mom, this author calling herself a single mom is really upsetting. My mom worked 70+ hours a week, but during really weird times so that she could be home with us when we got off the bus and could eat dinner with us. She was working more than full time and still managed to be there a lot, and this is with 4 kids on a medium sized farm. If you don’t have to work because your husband works, YOU’RE NOT A SINGLE MOM. Don’t pretend like you are to make yourself feel like you’re justified in being upset with your husband’s work hours.

    • M
      M says:

      Yup. Married women think it’s cute to call themselves a “Boo Hoo SINGLE MOM” while their husband is out working his ass off to support them and their kids.

      Gets old.

      • The Study of Humans
        The Study of Humans says:

        I can’t believe how many comments there are of this nature.

        Single moms can’t call dibs on pain. I promise you there is someone around the corner with a bigger pain than the pain of a single mom. A mom with a husband who beats her and the kids. The one with no ex to take the kids one day a week and every other weekend or pay child support. Because he’s dead ,or on deployment for God knows how long, or in a coma.

        Life is hard for everyone at some point in time. Better to offer compassion without making it about ourselves.

        • M
          M says:

          No one is trying to “call dibs on pain.” But if you go around calling yourself a “double amputee” because your feet really, really hurt, actual double amputees are going to call your bullshit.

          In contrast, if you say “my feet really, really hurt, and it’s hard,” most people will feel compassion for you. They won’t “make it about them” because you’re not pretending to be them in an oblivious cloud of self-pity.

          And one more thing about her “single mom” schtick, which I’m sure her husband has been hearing for years: If I were him, I’d feel insulted. He should go around calling himself “single and childless” — because, hey, he’s at work all the time while she’s home slaving away! — and see how she likes it.

          • M
            M says:

            Sorry for the double post, everyone.

            I am getting more rant-y as the morning progresses and will now step away from the keyboard .

            Signed,
            A former real-ass Single Mom

          • The Study of Humans
            The Study of Humans says:

            The difference is there is a clear definition of “double amputee”. Not so for “single mom” (to the best of my knowledge).

            What is the true definition of a single mom? Are you a single mom if your ex provides child support, or takes the kids every other weekend? Or does your husband have to be dead, with no life insurance, to qualify for the title? Am I a single mom because my husband is at sea, and unreachable half the year, or maybe he has to be deployed for a year or more to qualify? What if they’re in the witness protection program and sneak a call in once a year :)?

            I do understand how your perspective. I feel myself cringe at times when a friend complains about how hard it is when her husband is away on business for a week, while I’m on month 3 of being apart. But I move past the feeling because pain is relative.

          • Penelope Trunk
            Penelope Trunk says:

            So interesting about there not being a definition. True, I think. I remember when Michelle Obama said she feels like a single mother raising her kids in the White House. And I think most married women, at times, feel like they are a single parent. (Whereas I do not think married men feel this.)

            Penelope

          • Bostonian
            Bostonian says:

            PT, I sometimes feel as if I were a single father, when my wife is away on extended business travel. It’s just me and the kids for a week or two. Even when she’s in town, sometimes she is out of the house before the kids wake up and home again after they go to sleep all week long. My little girl suffers when she doesn’t see her mommy for a while.

            But I also know I’m not a single father, because if I really were a single father I’d probably be at work all day missing my kids, and worrying about the possibility of sick days, teacher visits, staff development days, sick nannies, and all the logistical hell that comes with being a sole provider as well as a sole caregiver, instead of having the pleasure of spending the whole day with them while somebody else fills up the coffers.

            My mother raised us by herself, while supporting us all and pursuing a career that lead us out of poverty, and I’ll be damned if I know how she did it. All I can figure is that she’s both stronger and smarter than I am. Claiming I’m a single parent because I’m alone with my kids sometimes would be like claiming I’m a veteran just because I’ve been shot at – stolen valor.

        • Julia
          Julia says:

          Ugh. Look, “single” “mom” is a female parent who is not married. That is a basic definition and a particular experience that is not shared by married moms, period. I agree that everyone has their own pain and suffering and it’s relative, but that doesn’t mean people are wrong when they point out that being married to a working partner is not comparable to being a “single” “mom”. If you’re all about being compassionate, why not listen to what these people are trying to say rather than just telling them they’re wrong over and over again?

          • Julia
            Julia says:

            That was for Study of Humans. It gets really hard to tell what’s a response to what when reading on a phone.

          • The Study of humans
            The Study of humans says:

            It would be nice if it were black and white as you suggest. The definition of a single mom is almost as complex as the definition of a SAHM, which Penelope has written about in the past (I think).

  10. Sarah faulkner
    Sarah faulkner says:

    the first two years we were building the business and brought in 30k a year. The average cost of living for a family of 4 is 80k a year in this area. We have reached a place where I can hire help, after 5 years.

  11. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    This post should have been on the career blog.

    It touches on, not only our relationship with money and how our identity is entwined with that, but also how the number of hours we work can become part of our identity. Indeed there can be a link between hours and money, and it may start out like that, but over the years it turns into the definition of the person.

    And a lake house, a weekend getaway that requires maintenance and stocking of supplies. I would bet that getting there requires some kind of very expensive big truck that gets terrible gas mileage. Probably you need to either drive all night Friday or get up at 4am Saturday to ‘beat the traffic’ too. All things that do not sound all that fun really, but for a person who ‘puts in the hours’ at work, creating a weekend pursuit that is almost like work too, you can kind of keep pedalling at the same speed all the time, further creating the identity of constant productivity.

  12. MC
    MC says:

    It might be helpful for this blogger to read some Eckhart Tolle. No matter what our life situation, truly living in the moment can make even the hardest situations bearable- and even enjoyable.
    Some commenters might enjoy reading his books on ego. Really eye-opening thoughts.

  13. Teryn
    Teryn says:

    My first thought was there has to be a more efficient way to do his job so he can be home more. But I have seen almost universally that business owners work much longer hours than people who work for someone, definitely in the first few years but it can last forever if their identity is in the success of their business. Sometimes that pays off financially but always at a huge cost relationally. I was recently getting a pedicure and struck a conversation with an 80 year old business man next to me. He was getting calls throughout and talking about shares, trips to Ca. and permits of some kind. I was totally listening like a creeper because I find people fascinating. He told me he tried retiring and couldn’t last a year before starting a new company of which they are now the most successful company in the country in their field. He was an easy person to like but I found myself thinking about how he can’t even get a pedicure without his phone ringing off the hook. Some people thrive being busy and working. Its what they are passionate about and they will always work long hours because it fills them up. Also, Im at the beach this week by myself with 4 kids, one in a wheelchair and a dog with stomach issues. I don’t feel like a single mom though because Im at the beach and I’ve never been able to be sad or lonely here. Its all about perspective! :)

  14. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    I think this is beautiful but I feel as though the flip side is the constant under-valuing of what is traditionally women’s work. Does the lower wage earner contribute in other way? Do they have dinner ready when you get home? Do they clean, do laundry care for children, parents or other relatives? I don’t think it matters which partner is doing this work (hopefully it is both), but it does matter that we talk about these things as having as much implicit value as a career and income.

  15. Jhon
    Jhon says:

    the first two years we were building the business and brought in 30k a year. The average cost of living for a family of 4 is 80k a year in this area. We have reached a place where I can hire help, after 5 years.

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