Moral Money: our reader wants to know if she should cover the cost of a trip to America
Dear Moral Money,
Having secured my dream job, I now earn more than my partner. I have already taken on a greater share of the household bills, paying double what he does.
This was agreed when we upgraded to a bigger house last year, and it felt equitable as my husband pointed out that we could only consider getting the bigger place because of my career progression.
My husband has a different view about his work. To him, work is a means to an end. He gets his fulfilment from his social life, which is dominated by his position as a significant player in an amateur county league cricket team.
During the season he frequently travels around at weekends to compete. Sometimes the kids and I go and watch, and we are really proud to see him and the team go from strength to strength.
However, the kids and I fancy a trip to America this year, but my husband feels we can’t afford it or fit it in with other commitments. Apparently, after paying for his cricket for the year, he cannot afford to contribute. So, if we want him to come I have to cover his cost, and pay for both children as well.
My husband prioritises his hobby over his career. He accepts that his inflexibility around his league fixtures and lack of discretionary input at work because of his practice schedule has cost him promotions.
It’s true that if we were both careerists it would make childcare harder, because I travel with work while he is always local.
Nevertheless, his low earnings and an expensive hobby – both in monetary terms and time commitment – is causing a strain. I want to be supportive, but I do also think dragging the kids to cricket every weekend is making them resentful, and we have a right to some of what we fancy.
He has agreed to come with us to Disney if I pay and we book it out of competition season. I have wondered whether we should just go by ourselves, but when I think of a family holiday without him it feels wrong somehow.
I love hearing how successfully you and your husband have balanced career, lifestyle and parenting, and it really isn’t unusual for some friction to creep in when there are competing demands on time and money budgets.
I feel sure as you have come this far you can navigate this one, too – but let’s see if I can add some perspective to help.
It seems you have adopted a method of covering expenses proportionally, in line with earnings, and the holiday budget is being treated in the same way.
I have met some families who treat the family holiday as a family expense, but the only time one person pays for all trips is when there is only one earner in the family. Where a couple both earn there is usually some compromise and negotiation about how extravagant the budget can be, and who is going to contribute what.
But there is also the negotiation around who enjoys what. I remember wanting to take my boys skiing, and all they wanted to do was revisit Butlins – from a budgetary point of view it was no problem, but I found it hard to get excited about another week of Redcoats and funfair rides.
To this point, you and the kids seem more excited by Disney than your husband. I wonder if it is really about the cost, or whether there is an alternative family holiday that he would be more excited by? It feels like he would go out of obligation if you made him, but would rather do something else. Maybe something else need not be cricket as long as it is more enticing than Disney?
It sounds as though your husband gets very little time away from the kids. You dutifully accompany him on cricket weekends and he has them while you travel for work. Maybe a bit of time designed around what you want out of a holiday and some space for dad offers an opportunity for all.
The next holiday could be the full family one, and you could put your heads together and choose something that everyone looks forward to. That way, Disney doesn’t feature it as the family holiday (with dad missing), but as the trip for the Disney fans.
Hobbies that dominate the family calendar, restrict earnings and eat budget can often be a bone of contention for couples. I have met football, karate, salsa, fencing and amdram widows and widowers over the years, but having an interest outside of family and work can also be a really healthy outlet.
When it comes to the finances around funding hobbies I think frank and fair discussion is the only way to stop it from becoming a resentment. Agree boundaries and budget, and revisit the agreement occasionally to be sure it remains relevant, as “creep” is a common factor in any discretionary spending.
I think it’s fantastic that you seem to respect each other’s strengths and contributions to your family dynamic, and with a bit of give and take you can work this one just as you have the rest of the tough compromises that come with cohabiting, coparenting and co-existing.