From time to time an honest friend will admit that she and her husband sleep in separate beds, which always strikes me as a little sad. But I’ve yet to come across another married couple who have separate bank accounts, as we do.
My husband and I have been married for more than 10 years, yet we have always had separate accounts. At first, it was probably driven by me wanting to retain some independence and the fact that there really didn’t seem to be much need to have a joint account. We have quite a traditional arrangement where he covers the mortgage and bills and I cover most of the day-to-day things.
It sounds sensible, doesn’t it? But it sometimes makes me feel miserable and embarrassed – and even insecure.
I was always advised by my late mother to have my own “running away fund” for emergencies. I like the fact I don’t have to answer to anyone or explain why I spent over £150 in Boots.
Yet as I am self-employed and have a few friends with large disposable incomes that I try to keep up with, I often myself living in my overdraft and worrying about money.
I am not especially extravagant, but a few dinners out each month and perhaps a new dress or pair of shoes, plus the ever increasing cost of living – petrol, food, drinks at the pub – have made quite a dent. A considerable amount of my earnings also go on our three young children, who are endlessly expensive: riding lessons, piano, new shoes for their ever-growing feet, theatre tickets, birthday presents for their friends and so on.
My husband, on the other hand, is much more careful with money – and earns much more than I ever will. I know he will cover the bills, especially during this difficult time, and I am grateful for that. But I also can’t help but feel resentful at times and as though it’s going against my feminist principles when I have to ask for hand-outs or top-ups.
I get an “allowance” of sorts but, despite asking numerous times, we don’t have a direct debit set up, so I have to remind him each month. It’s not as though he is tight or stingy – he’s happy to oblige, unless we’ve had a particularly expensive month – but I have told him I find it quite degrading having to ask.
I have suggested that we could have a separate account for our family outgoings and I have also shown him how much of my (quite frankly, measly) income goes on the children, but nothing gets done about it.
It is frustrating and, at times, infuriating. I would have liked to be in a position where I earned more by now and had some sort of buffer or form of independent income. But as I am the primary caregiver for our three children and the one who usually does the school runs, the football matches, the school plays and so on, I need the flexibility to be able to work around them. I suppose it is the motherhood penalty.
I hope to take a permanent job when the children are older and have a regular, steady income, but we are, realistically, eight to 10 years away from that – by which time I will be in my mid-50s!
I know we are hugely fortunate compared with a great many people. I just wish I had a bit more financial security and wasn’t still living in my overdraft each month. I don’t know what the answer is, but perhaps I need to be a little more assertive.
Read last week's column: When my best friend goes to yoga, she lets me have sex with her husband