Money....the topic that rules the world. Pieces of paper that can mean eating or holding a roof over your head.....paper that can bring fun and happiness. The lack of it bringing stress,worries and unhappiness. It can cause friction between married couples and sometimes break apart relationships. If you stop to think about it, a single dollar can rule the world or break it apart. Have you ever just looked at money and think about how much power a dollar bill holds? Perhaps I have too much time on my hands........
Money has been an issue with my husband and I since he has been home from war. Not sure if this is something that other spouses face daily with their PTSD Vets but it sure can be a great divider between us here. Now I know that everyone argues over money at least a few times in a marriage...In today's economy things just keep going up and up! Looking back over the past ten years (pre-deployment days) my husband was always very conscientious of our money and our bills. He always had a method and a set way of paying bills, keeping the checkbook and putting a little aside in the savings account for emergencies. We are not poor nor do we lack anything, but we live very modestly just like most people. When our children were born, there were extra mouths to feed, diapers and formula, and my health requiring monthly medications using up extra money for date nights and vacations. He guarded our earnings with an iron fist and at times I used to think he was pretty anal about those "methods".
Once he left for Iraq, I took over the bills and fumbled my way through his quirky way of balancing a checkbook....I even managed to save a nice lump sum every month to slip into savings. I can honestly say that his deployment pay was really a lot less than what he earned here at home, even at a SGT's pay. However, with just me and the kids we didn't have to have a whole lot and there wasn't gas to get to work, or lunches for my husband to take. We managed and had some plans with the savings once he got back home. Now I am aware that my husband came home with issues, but who would have thought that PTSD would damage his spending habits and money managing?
He came home and immediately started spending. My little nest egg I was so proud of quickly disappeared and not much to show for it. I was angry and perhaps a little hurt, but then I realized I was being slightly selfish. For 15 months my husband served with camels and sand, and getting what he absolutely had to have from care packages. Sweat, blood and tears were represented in each dollar he earned over there and the "hazard pay" didn't come without a heavy price. What right did I have to tell him no? Ramadi at that time didn't have a PX except a small lean to tent that provided maybe some razors and soaps but nothing more. I thought to myself, let him spend it if that makes him happy. For the first few months he was back, it was spend, spend and spend. Was I too soft on him for allowing him to go through savings? Was it similar to that of pacifying a child with a piece of candy or cookie? Maybe.
In the past three years, I have juggled, struggled and pinched a penny until it literally bled. I am now in charge of the household and finances, armed with my checkbook and ruling with my pen. I am a stay at home mom with two little ones under the age of 5 due to the cost of daycare, and most days I feel horribly guilty because I feel I don't contribute financially. However, the cost of daycare for two little ones is out the roof and simply cheaper for me to be here. My husband has access to our joint checking account and daily uses his Visa check card. Now I am not fussing about drinks, the occasional sweet tea from McDonald's, or his Skoal as he likes to chew tobacco. It's the addition of credit cards he has added to our monthly budgets ranging from Home Depot, Lowe's, a local Farming company, a Shell gas card, and now just this week, a Wal-mart card.
We make our payments, I pay them off.....he spends more. It's a vicious cycle with never ending payments. Sometimes I would like to reach over and shove each credit card down his throat and yell "What is wrong with you!" For seven years, the man would never ever look at a credit card and didn't want one maintaining that it would get us in trouble like everyone else. If we didn't have it, we couldn't spend it. I think what also gets me is the secrecy of it. He spends, he doesn't even tell me he has one...and then suddenly a statement shows up in the mail asking me to pay. I ask about it and he gets angry and defensive. The man who has always been responsible, suddenly has taken over an alter ego of a shopaholic.
He can literally have a one hundred dollar bill in his pocket and it be gone as fast as it was put in his wallet. He has no memory of having it to begin with, no recollection of what he spent it on, and no apparent remorse for anything he did purchase. Meanwhile, I am baking rather than buying store bought cookies....cutting our grocery bill anyway I can and doing without items for myself. As a parent, you are often cutting back on things for yourself anyway as that is a normal sacrifice for your children..but must I really be forced to cut back on things for all of us including my children because their dad just spends without thinking?
I am now forced to hide money and remind him that we only have so much to get through the two weeks till payday although most times I fib just a little so I can save a few dollars....it has helped, but not completely stopped. He doesn't know how much he earns, or how much is in our account....nor does he remember when payments or bills are due. I feel like I must give him a few white lies just to maintain our household and that's what saddens me the most as I have never lied to my husband.
That power wielding dollar bill has become a center focal point in our marriage...one that I must ration money out to him as a child earning an allowance, and figure out our bills on a daily basis making sure that everything is paid on time and worrying about every little dime spent. These are the days when I miss my husband the most because I don't have him to worry along with me. I feel alone and the stress of not having him to talk to about it weighs me down more and more. I wish I could contribute more as in going back into the work place, but then I must worry about daycare for two, a pre-teen to leave home alone, and a husband who really does not need to be by himself for too long. Perhaps one day, life will return all the good deeds I do and preferably......in the form of a winning ticket with many many zeroes.
Broke and Busted,
Uncle Sam's Mistress