Emotions, a Mortgage, and a New Baby: What Would You Do?

Money isn’t everything, no question about it.  Sure, it’s definitely important. Very important. However, there are times when emotions come into play and take over decision making.

A recent example of this is a story that was related to me by one of my friends, who in turn was talking about some people he knows (who I met only once, briefly). Anyway, this friend who told the story is the same guy from Squirreling Gone Wild #19, who encountered a waiter who flattered female customers in order to secure a higher percentage tip. As you might recall, my friend basically pointed out to his wife that the only reason a waiter asked her for her ID when she ordered a drink was simply to make her happy and get money out of her later when the bill came.  Comments ranged from a female reader saying “If your friend was my husband, I would totally smack him”, to a male reader saying “We all know women want to look younger and why shouldn’t we flatter them a bit if it makes life easier. Everybody is happy, it’s a win win situation”

Good times, indeed :)

Anyway, back to the new story. In this situation, he relayed the story about a couple that he and his wife were friends with. This couple had a baby last year, and were first time parents.  My friend’s wife knew the female in the couple for many years, which is how the two couples got to know each other in first place.

The issue at hand is that the woman who just became a mom quit her job, and now the couple has been having financial problems. I mean, problems to the point of not being able to pay their mortgage. Yep, that bad. It’s gotten to the point where they’re facing foreclosure, according to my friend.

So, how did this happen? Well, first of all, both husband and wife were making very good salaries, each over $100,000 per year. The wife made a bit more than her husband, and had gone quite far in her career up until her late 30’s. Sounds promising, right? Well, they had previously bought a very nice home that was based on both people working. Since she stopped working, they were running a deficit.

Then, the guy had to take a pay cut at work. Other expenses mounted, they didn’t make any changes (like selling nicer cars and replacing with cheaper ones) in assets, but they did cut back some expenses. Regardless, these otherwise smart and successful people quickly found themselves in a financial quagmire. What really hurt was that their house plummeted in value even further.

My question was clear: If they had bought the house based on 2 incomes, why in the world would she quit her job knowing this?

My friend agreed and had the same thought, but said that the woman had apparently just ‘found her purpose’ when becoming a new mom, and just simply lost her desire to work at all. I can understand how this might happen with some people.  Now, as I mentioned previously, she made over $100,000 annually. Apparently she was a real go-getter and fast riser at her workplace.

Then, I thought about it, and came up with an alternative: Why not sell the house and downsize, cut expenses, and work together to live a more simple, frugal life? After all, the pursuit of money isn’t everything! This way, she can be happy as a stay at home mom and abandon her career entirely as she wants to do, and they can then live within their means and live on less.

Apparently, she didn’t want to leave their home that they brought the baby home to, and desperately wanted to try to maintain the same life. Her idea was that her husband would work harder at his career and focus on being the main breadwinner, while she could take care of things at home. Sounds very traditional. However, I didn’t see how they could keep the same house and lifestyle while losing a little more than half their income.

Remember, they bought the house with a loan based on 2 incomes. If they had some foresight and thought about this ahead of time, this would have never been a problem. They could have potentially done it successfully, going from a 2-income household to a 1-income household. Some people can do it, right? But again, they didn’t plan ahead with a more modest purchase but rather, had already taken on debt based on both people working.

My friend said that the husband in that relationship capitulated to what his wife wanted, to make her happy for the reason that she just had a baby. Clearly, that didn’t turn out so well.

We talked about how on earth this could happen to otherwise bright people. We both thought that there is no way we would ever handle a situation like that.  Since the house was purchased based on 2 incomes, we both agreed that we’d absolutely either:

  1. Insist that the wife works after maternity leave is over for the short-term at least, while trying to find a job that’s part-time – in order to create a win-win where she spends more time at home yet the household finances don’t get destroyed; or,
  2. Immediately put the house up for sale and move into a much less expensive place, while cutting expenses and living a more modest lifestyle. Pronto. This way, she can be happy by not working anymore, and they can at least stay afloat financially.

The other guy clearly didn’t do that, and now their whole family is suffering. He’s apparently frustrated, and so is she.

My Questions for You:

What do you think about this couple’s decision-making? Do you think the guy did the right thing by letting his wife do exactly what made her happy, even though they bought the house based on 2 incomes originally?

Do you think that the 2 suggestions that my friend and I had are appropriate, or are they insensitive? Consider all factors – financial and emotional. Please feel free to be direct and take a strong stand if you wish!

 

Comments

  1. says

    It sounds like these two individuals are fairly immature and selfish. They made an incredibly stupid decision and are now paying the price. You reap what you sow. The only right solutions are the ones you mentioned. Either continue working or adjust your lifestyle. It is unlikely that the husband could double his income overnight so something has to give. Sounds like the decision to get out of that house is now being made for them.

    • Squirrelers says

      Cashflowmantra – hmmm…interesting take. Personally, I think the wife was more selfish than the husband in this case. I think he was either very conflict-avoidant, or truly wanted to do anything to make his wife happy. So, perhaps he was a bit immature, and she was a little of both – kind of immature and kind of selfish. Either way, doubling his income wasn’t going to happen. Now, I don’t know that it was a matter of doubling it though. They might have bought requiring 2 incomes, but that doesn’t mean they spent all their income previously. They might have been able to save a decent amount on 2 incomes, but then when dropping one income were operating in a deficit. Either way, it would require a signficant increase in his income and probably a tough time saving anything.

    • Squirrelers says

      MoneyCone – yep, I agree. Short-sighted. They could have foreseen this, right? Well, assuming that they didn’t and she didn’t know how she’d actually feel after being a Mom, I can understand how sometimes people have a change of feelings. We’re all human, right? She’s just a new Mom who wants to focus on her baby. However, expecting to put inordinate pressure on her husband is just not being fair in my view. Something has to give, emotion can influence what we do but not control it!

  2. says

    That’s terrible planning through and through. My wife and I bought our house before we were married, and even though she was working, we knew that eventually she would quit her job once we had kids, and we planned our house purchase and budget accordingly. That worked out great. When you get a 30-year mortgage, you might not be able to plan out what’s going to happen for all thirty years, but you should look for at least the first few years. If having kids was any possibility, they were completely remiss in taking on that responsibility.

    • Squirrelers says

      Money Beagle – yeah, they should have given more serious thought to how they would feel about family structure when they bought the house, I agree. However, sometimes people’s feelings change, and in this case the new Mom just emotionally wanted to focus on staying home with her new child. Probably wanted to do it not only for herself, but she might have newfound feelings that this was the right thing to do for the baby, to have it’s own mother at home taking care of it. I can get how those feelings could come about. However, since they didn’t plan for it to begin with, I think that her new dream needs to either be put on hold, or other major sacrifices need to be made. What’s crazy is that she is apparently a very sharp person, according to my friend. I guess these emotions were overpowering, even to the point of dominating her husband.

  3. says

    I’d live smaller – it’s hard emotionally for sure, but if she wants to be a SAHM some sacrifices have to be made. We’re recent parents too and we know it’s a big adjustment.

    I don’t think it’s fair for her to want to spend more time with her child AND expect her husband to spend less time to support their lifestyle.

    They may have good intentions for their kid, but this money issue can hurt their baby more if it causes division and resentment in their marriage.

    I wish them the best.

    • Squirrelers says

      Elle – I think living in smaller/less expensive quarters is the way to go here too. Or having her work part-time. Either way, I think we’re on the same page that some sacrifices need to be made. The bigger red flag to me is that their family dynamic is based on her happiness coming first, where he’s stuck working much harder in order for her to live the life she wants. What about him? Why should he have to hustle and sweat to earn an even higher salary, in order to maintain that lifestyle AND her desire not to work? It seems one-sided to me, where she expects him to make her happy at any cost. The more I think about this, after everyone’s comments, I’m getting less understanding of their decisions. They needed to think of each other’s happiness and do what’s best for the whole family, and that includes thinking about existing mortgage responsibilities too.

  4. says

    I cant believe this. Sometimes you just want to ask people how they thought this would turn out – i’m sure they would have given you some sort of pie-in-the-sky scenario like the husband getting a promotion and a huge raise, and all would be good even though there was a 50%+ loss in income.
    I dont think this guy made the right choice – though at this point I cant even say that I’d be sure he knew what the end game here was. If he knew and didnt say anything, then yes, he made the wrong choice. Though he could have not known this would have happened at all.
    I think both of your suggestions are spot on – sure it may not be what they *want* to do, but you cant always get what you want, and they didnt plan for this want. It seems in this case, keeping the house is a “need” and staying at home with the child has become a “want”

    • Squirrelers says

      Jeff – good point on wants and needs, and how they apply here. We all need to think about this in our expenses, right?

  5. Squirrelers says

    Molly – she really found what made her happy and just wanted to be a mom, that’s it. She thought that once she became a mom, her husband should be ok with being a sole provider. It seems like he might have been ok with making her happiness a priority, but the problem is that she wanted to do that AND live in the same expensive house. It’s just not realistic, nor is it fair to the husband in my opinion!

    • Squirrelers says

      Molly – I suspect that she had very strong emotions about becoming a mom, and her view of career, money, etc just changed a lot when the child was born. I think that can be understandable, and I know some moms just have really, really difficult time working after a baby is born. That being said, I totally agree with you about feeling for husband in this case. I wouldn’t have handled the way he did, but it’s easy for me to say that I suppose. You’re right – we don’t know his full story here and what conversations he might have actually had.

  6. says

    I can’t help but shake my head at this woman. Personally I would sell the house immediately and buy something that costs less, even rent for a little bit if need be, if that’s what needs to be done to continue being a SAHM. That’s due partly to the fact that I had a SAHM growing up, and I do see some value in it. That being said, this woman needs to give her head a shake. Expecting to be able to maintain the same lifestyle with a child on less than 50% of what they were bringing in without a child is nothing short of stupidity.

    • Squirrelers says

      Cassie – I tend to agree that there’s value to SAHMs. That said, this particular lady’s expectations, considering the pre-existing debt, shows self-centeredness and a lack of caring for her husband’s needs as well. So yes, there’s some stupidity there!

  7. says

    All decisions have consequences and you must think about the consequences BEFORE you make decisions. We are in a similar boat where I make about 1/2. With every major decision, the last being whether or not to buy a house, we did the math BEFORE we made the decision.

    I mean this lady had 40 weeks of pregnancy and a 12 week maternity leave to mull it over. It’s not like she didn’t have any time to think about it.

    • Squirrelers says

      First Gen – oh, I agree. They should have thought about this before. I suppose that her feelings were just so strong, emotions overpowering, and she just never knew that she’d totally want to give up her high-paying career to become a full-time stay at home mom. That’s the way it was portrayed to me, anyway. So I guess that people’s perspectives do change over time. Of course, shouldn’t their expectations on lifestyle change too? Like downsizing and living more frugally to accomodate this change in philosophy in their household? Or, maybe they suppress the emotion and do what’s financially logical?

  8. says

    It’s possible that she is still experiencing hormonal changes that make her more emotional about it all. The husband should talk with her about getting a part-time job. Possibly after she works part-time for a while she will see that they need to sell the house and downsize or she might decide to return to her high-paying job. Emotions run high during those first few months after birth. If at all possible they should postpone a big decision until after she’s been working part-time for a while. By then they’ll see if it can work out or not.

    Many people get a house based on 2 incomes. With today’s shaky economy that is not so smart. Why not get a house based on one income & then if both continue to work put one of the incomes into savings? I know a young couple who has done that & I think it was wise.

    • Squirrelers says

      Maggie – While I don’t personally know the couple (only met once) my friend who told me the whole story and also knows them much better has indicated that the woman was like this for a year. So actually, this feeling of hers stayed with her. Apparently she really wanted to ditch that prospering career w/6 figure salary and be a SAHM. Seems consistent, beyond the inital months of post-partum type issues.

      Anyway, I agree on the 1 income aspect of buying a house. It’s just safer to do it that way. People that think it through in that regard are on the ball.

  9. says

    I think the wife is inconsiderate and put her family at risk by abruptly quitting her job. If they could not down size their life to accommodate her quitting she should work until they can safely afford their life. The husband should grow a pair and tell her to get back to work.

    • Squirrelers says

      YFS – HA! Well, I can’t disagree that it would be great for the husband to have a spine and tell the wife that she needs to work, considering their joint financial responsibility to the big mortgage based on both of them working. Of course, easier said than done when dealing with his wife who just had a baby and is highly emotional. As men, we’re often conditioned to do what it takes to make our wife happy – especially around the time of a baby being born. This guy might have been thinking he was a gentleman or something, but their setup with him as the lone worker led them to a financial fiasco!

  10. says

    Sounds like they want to have their cake and eat it too.

    My wife quit when we had our first kid. Similarly,we had a big house. I didn’t struggle to pay the mortgage because my pay was very good,but we downsized anyways. My wife was unsure about the downsize, but she did it anyways. Just last weekend,after 4 months in our new house, she was talking about how much better our new simple life is, and how much better our small house is compared to the McMansion.

    • Squirrelers says

      Brave New Life – simple is good, and safety/peace of mind with less liability and expense is great. Glad it worked out for you.

  11. says

    While I understand how she could really want to be a SAHM once she had the baby, let’s not forget that this is a LUXURY. In a family where both parents are making only $25,000, she wouldn’t even have this option. With her husband’s income at or around $100,000, sure, he earns enough that they COULD have this luxury, but instead they’ve put themselves in a situation the couple making 25k each might face if one quit work.

    Plenty of people support families on much less, so they certainly make enough to allow her this luxury, but they needed to cut down on their expenses FIRST, and it sounds like they didn’t even cut down on their expenses AFTER the decision.

    It’s not fair to make one spouse be the bad guy – they both should have seen this coming, but one of them needs to sit the other one down and figure out how to change their lifestyle to match their new income.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kellen – I totally agree that this is a luxury rather than a need, especially these days. It might have been perceived otherwise in days gone buy, but our society, opportunities for everyone, and economic realities are different these days. People need to plan accordingly. In this case, given that they didn’t plan, they should work together to come up with joint goals that are good for the marriage and for their own happiness as well. Along the way, they should be realistic, and realize that you can’t get something for nothing. In this case, it seems like the wife was thinking emotionally and a bit selfishly, while the husband seemed to be conflict-avoidant to the point of hurting his family’s future. Admittedly, I don’t know them personally, but that’s what I take from the situation.

  12. says

    Sounds like a case of fantasy vs reality. It’s clear the wife has a vision of being a stay at home mom that also includes the perks of a two income household. It’s a good thing it didn’t include a nanny. I doubt she’ll be convinced to take on a job, so a downgrade is a must.

    • Squirrelers says

      Novel Investor – Yeah, it seems like emotion ruled in this situation and logic went out the window. Now, I get the idea that there are some emotional things that people need some understanding on, and one of them is a new mom who suddenly discovers that she wants to focus on being a mom, despite any other prior goals/interests she might have had in the past. I think the husband here tried to make her happy, which is quite honorable really. He’s willing to take on the burden of earning money so she can have no pressure to earn and just enjoy being a mom (which is different work too, of course). Problem is, since they didn’t plan for it, they should have phased into this arrangement by having her look for a part-time job or they totally downsize their expenses (including the home). Unfortunately, there was just too much emotion, too little logic, and the husband didn’t balance the need to please his wife with the concurrent need of being a voice of reason and preventing disaster.

  13. says

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to become a stay at home Mom (and I have heard several new moms who realize it is what they truly want to do but did not know beforehand)…but reality is reality. They are stuck at the moment, and so I think she should at least bring in part-time income for the short term until they can get out of the house (just like you two suggested). I am sure it is incredibly hard to go back to work for any new Mommy, though I have no experience with it. But it seems like it would be easier to do with an end goal in sight. Like, if she knew that she only had to work fora year and then could be a stay at home Mom.

    If you read most of the stay at home mom blogs on the internet, these women worked for years to be able to do so and keep their families in a sound financial situation. This woman seems not willing to put in the time, energy, and effort to ensure a sound fianncial future for her family–which includes her baby.

  14. says

    I agree with you completely. They need to sell the house and get something they can financially manage. They should have thought about the financial implications before she quit her job. It was irresponsible of both of them. Now they are bringing their child into an unstable environment. They should have planned better.

    • Squirrelers says

      Jon – people do need to plan for such decisions. Since they didn’t, sacrifices need to be made. Her emotions have dominated her actions, and dominated her husband too. He’s responsible as well, for not making good decisions himself. Even if all is well meaning by the wife and husband, it still doesn’t make it responsible.

  15. says

    It’s too bad she didn’t ‘find her purpose’ before the baby – they’d have half the house and none of the problems.

    I wonder how much more she made than him before the baby – enough to recommend a Mr. Mom type situation where she goes back to work?

  16. says

    I think they obviously needed to take a closer look at their finances together, as a team, before the wife decided to go nutball and expect the same lifestyle on half the money with no preparation…

    After the fact, they should have downsized everything since they now need to look at living on $90,000 a year instead of $200,000 a year…

  17. says

    I’m guessing she was a lawyer. It seems like all the SAHM in that situation (big money, not planning to quit, enjoyed maternity leave so much they had to quit, said they found their calling etc.) that I know were lawyers. I think being a high-powered lawyer must suck, but they didn’t realize quite how much until they had a few months off from it. At this point it may be difficult for her to go back to a corporate lawyering job (or whatever high-powered job she had). High-powered law-firms don’t take kindly to absences from women– they’re no longer career-tracked. Additionally they may not be able to sell because their house is underwater.

    Too bad they’re not good with money– they’d have more savings and they’d know how to cut back. Maybe after foreclosure or bankruptcy they’ll figure something out. Possibly not.

    She may be able to get something part-time in a consulting gig that pays some amount over the cost of a mother’s helper or part-time nanny, but probably nowhere near 100K/year.

    These days I’m feeling the pinch because we haven’t been living on one salary what with increased fixed expenses and several years of no raises, even though nobody in our family has lost a job yet (that’ll be a year or two down the line…)!

    • Squirrelers says

      Nicole –

      Brilliant! From what I understand, she actually is a lawyer. Impressive guess.

      As for their situation, I think that many men are just trained from childhood to:
      A) View themselves as inadequate if they can’t financially provide for a family by themselves; and
      B) Think of the ‘happy wife = happy life’ concept, where they need to structure family/home life to meet their wife’s wishes.

      Some of this is not totally congruent with life in 2011 and true partnership. But, I can see how these dynamics can occur. Too bad though, as the inability to discern wants and needs added to the mix to make this a disaster.

  18. says

    I’d do both if I were in that situation but when I was married and we did buy a house we bought based on one wage. ANYTHING can happen, not just having a baby such as illness, job loss (which we experienced) etc. Why buy a house without taking your future into consideration. They knew they wanted a baby, and I get her feelings changed afterwards but why have one if you are not financially prepared.

    He needs to take a harder line and they need to be honest and realistic.

    I don’t think your suggestions were insensitive. I think they are right!

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