Tea-parties & art classes – REALLY?

A few days ago someone said something that really got to me. In fact, its been chewing me up quite badly.

She commented that her husband  must now work and save extremely hard (he is in his 60s) because of all the years he “had the kids and no support”. What she meant by this is that this man’s first wife was unable to work as the result of severe, untreatable illness, so his was the only income in his household.

This was not the first time she has made such comments. She has often spoken about how “unfair” it is that some husbands are solitary earners in their households, and speaks of their wives as “lazy” and “useless” and “enjoying tea parties and art classes all day”.

And yes, she speaks of these things, in a tone of utter disdain, to me, a wife whose husband is our household’s solitary earner. Does she do it because she knows I’m different? No. She does it because really values her own opinion and she wants everyone to know very clearly what her opinion is and to make anyone who doesn’t fit her mold of ‘acceptable’ feel very small.

So I wanted to correct her. To tell her that quite contrary to being lazy, I actually work very hard. That Andrew and I are a team – he works hard to earn the money, I work hard to stretch it really far. I wanted to tell her about our savings accounts and investment plans, that, ahem, (and you can ask Andrew – he’ll be the first to agree), I am to thank for. He is the big spender here, I am the saver. Those savings have been carefully carved out of a modest budget and purposefully set aside through some very careful planning and spending on my part.

I wanted to sit her down with a calculator and show her how much it would cost to send our children to school (no such thing as free education in South Africa), how much the uniforms and fuel for the car and classroom supplies and field trips would all add to that. And then compare that figure to what I would earn if I went out to work instead of homeschooling them. I have no higher education. My earning capability is basic, at best. I’m not proud of that, but I’m not ashamed of it either. It just is what it is. The truth is, with four children, I would need to earn the same as Andrew to afford to send our children to school.

Tea parties and art classes are nowhere to be found in my schedule. Nope. My schedule is full of things like piano, violin and flute lessons, swimming classes, horse riding lessons, youth clubs, getting our eldest daughter to her babysitting jobs. When it came to fitting child-related activities into her schedule, they would have taken the form of  “mid-term break: collect X from boarding school”.

What is more, my schedule frequently involves running errands for Andrew and doing other things that help and serve him. Quite the opposite to abusing my man by making him work so hard and using all that free time all for myself, I actually do things for him.

But truthfully, I would be wasting my time and efforts if I engaged her on this subject. Her mind is made up.

So why did it bother me so much?

I don’t know. It could be because I know there is nothing wrong with how we have set up our lives. It could be the frank and open insult. It could be that this all seems very rich coming from a woman who has such strong opinions on right and wrong in marriage but her own ended very sadly in bitter divorce after her husband had an affair.

Probably the closest reason I can get to is that no one has any right to tell anyone else how to live their lives. We can have ideas and opinions, but they are our own and we have no place forcing them onto anybody else. Andrew and I love the way we have set up our lives. It works very well for us. He doesn’t feel unsupported or that it is unfair that he brings in our income alone. In fact, there are times when I have considered picking up part-time work and actually, he really prefers me to be fully available and focussed on our home and family.

So now I just need to take a deep breath and, in my thoughts at least, tell this person to take a hike. We’re happy. We’re different. But we’re happy. Our life works for us. So deal with it.

* It is also worth mentioning that the man who, in her opinion, needs to work and save harder is actually extremely wealthy and without debt and has, by his own admission, plump retirement accounts. He harbours no hard feelings against his first wife (who died many years ago) because she couldn’t work.

Good post at MoneySavingMom

I check in at MoneySavingMom every day. Crystal offers daily advice and wisdom to those seeking to live simpler, intentional lives on a budget.

Her post today is another gem.


In point 3 she says The easiest way to dig out of this hole you find yourself in is to give yourself a bigger income to help shovel yourself out more quickly. This will benefit you not only in the short-term, but also in the long-term as it may allow you to completely change your financial situation within the next five years.”

This reminded me of something David Bach said in his book Start Late Finish Rich (concerning long term and retirement savings strategies):

“Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year or two but underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.”

This really caught our attention and prompted us to start saving even when we thought we had nothing to save. We started with a few hundred rands each month (perhaps the equivalent of $20-$50) but it grew from there and we have saved more in the past 3 years than we really ever thought we could.

Are you one of the many who thinks you have nothing to save? I challenge you to think differently! Even if you start with R100 ($10) in a savings (interest earning) account, start somewhere!

There are many ways to find a bit extra to save. I’ll share them sometime. For now, look around MoneySavingMom‘s site and google for more sites on frugal living. But start today. It is not only important; it’s empowering!

Check out these links too:

MoneySavingMom: Is it possible to save money when we’re barely keeping our head above water?

MoneySavingMom: Less is More: Lessons from our little basement apartment

MoneySavingMom: Is it possible to live on $460 a week?  (The comments section has loads of suggestions for living on a strict budget. Some are only really applicable in the USA but many are universal.

The Prudent Homemaker (Brandy does a weekly blog post entitled “This Weeks Frugal Accomplishments”. Always inspiring and good food for thought can be found in the comments section too. Her site is an ongoing lesson in ‘making do’ with what one has while cultivating contentment. Her Facebook page is worth “liking”.)