Ask Grainne | When You Marry for Better, for Worse, and Don’t do a Joint Bank Account

Need parenting advice that doesn’t read like you joined a new age cult? Ask Grainne for the unvarnished truth about modern Irish parenting.

Dear Grainne,

When you marry for better, for worse, and don’t do a joint bank account

‘Marry in haste, repent at your leisure’. I got engaged and married within a year, and this is a love story. We are happy. After two years I got pregnant and we now have a baby.

Having this bundle of joy has meant me doing maternity leave. Then taking time off work to stay at home with our little one (just till he is old enough for creche). Himself, on the other hand, has been devoted full time to his career. Because I’m the one at home, I’m being pushed to take over and manage more and more of the household finances and planning (because I seemingly have time on my hands). But we never opened a joint account, so when I pay for anything it is coming straight from my own account (you can see where this is going can’t you). 

Grainne it turns out my adorable husband seems to think ‘what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is my own’.  Getting him to transfer over any cash to me is becoming a struggle and he still expects me to pay 50% of everything even though I took time off work for our child and am not earning. 

He knows I have savings and thinks I should tap into these. What he doesn’t know is that this is money my late mother gave me as ‘running away money’ when I married. Funds my ma made me promise never to use but always to have ‘just in case’.  But we did marry for better or worse, and I’d like the tension this is causing to end. 

So should I be using my savings for our household until I get back to work, or should I be demanding my husband set up a joint account and that we start depositing his salary into it each month?  How do other families manage this?

Yours stressed out new mum

Dear stressed out mum.

It is a long time since I heard the term “running away money” but, like most women from my generation, it was said more than once to me.

Running away money is important, and TBH I’d be loading up that account if I were you!

Yes, you should have a joint account with a fixed amount coming in. I don’t really understand why he would know what savings you have, yet you have no idea of what his income is, or where it is going. Did you discuss the affordability of you taking time out? Did you discuss the cost of childcare v staying at home with your little one?

The easiest way I can put this is – would you do it to him if roles were reversed? If the answer is ‘no’, then you need to tell him straight. The tension is his doing. You say you are supporting him in devoting all his time to his career, does this mean he is not devoting any time to you, or your child? Why does he expect you to cover all expenses out of your reduced income? Why does he expect you to parent alone?

There are two reasons I can think of for his behaviour. 1 – I have a sneaking suspicion that you are not getting the whole truth from your husband. You do not say what he does, but I would suggest he is not making any money at it. Why else would you shirk your spousal and parental responsibilities? Reason 2 is far less palatable – he is a self-cantered asshole who lacks the basic understanding of what it takes to rear a child and he is gaslighting you.

Stop using your running away money, it was given to you under contract, legal or not, as finance to give you time and space if it was required. Not so you could prop up your husband’s lifestyle.

Historically women in Ireland have been kept poor, with the marriage bar and subsequently when children’s allowance was brought in in 1944, Lemass went against the vote in the Dail and insisted it was paid to “the head of the household”. So even the pittance that did come in towards care of children had to be asked for. This is a form of coercive control, state sectioned for years, the change in circumstance of women is threatening to some men. They wish to continue to control the finances and keep women poor and dependant.

Marrying for better or worse does not mean he gets the better and you get the worse!

In short, find out what income is coming in jointly (including you maternity benefit if any) Find out what savings are there. Figure out what your joint expenses are. Then figure out exactly where the gap is. Would he be better staying at home full time while you concentrate on your career? His current earning power is based on your effort and energy in keeping the family show on the road. It is not ‘his’ earnings, it is family income, just as it would be if roles were reversed. 

This is my last question of the season as frankly I need a fucking holiday after listening to all the parenting problems. We have covered an extensive amount of topics but I’ll give you a quick recap of some of the best advice I have to keep you sane till September.

1 –  You can’t have it all, family life is about compromise and wine.

2 – You are bigger than your kids, shut the fucking door!

3 – You can call excess fat whatever you like.

4 – Dick is a hero. Your sperm donor is self-centred lazy prick don’t blame Dick!

5 – Don’t be a SAD dad! Grow a pair of tits and woman up!

6 – If your mother in law wants to mind your kid – let her you fool!

7 – Sorry Dad, memories are all you have left.

Oh I’m tired now – here is the link for all Ask Grainne so far

Look them up. Till September…keep your problems to yourself!!!

About Grainne: Proudly known as a bitch by her nearest and dearest. Surprisingly still married to the father of her three, only slightly dysfunctional children. Has opinions about everything.

*Disclaimer Grainne is not qualified in any way to answer your problems. She doesn’t do feedback but if you want you can leave a comment below or email her at [email protected] We can almost certainly guarantee you she will NOT get back to you, but, one of her cousins who helps her might. Alternatively, you can stalk them directly on Twitter: @Triona_Campbell or @KearneyRoisin or both.