“We” Have a Pronoun Problem

“We need to be saving money.”

“We should eat at home instead of going out.”

“Why do we need a cleaning service?”

Heard any of these in your household lately? Of course we agree that we need to be particular with our spending, especially nowadays. But let’s dig a little deeper. Who is the “we” in your house? Is anyone other than you schlepping that cart up and down every aisle, sorting dog-eared coupons while comparing the cost per ounce and keeping said cart politely out of traffic? What about planning the meals, making sure the kids have suitable coats/swimsuits that fit, depending on the season, and ensuring the toilet paper supply is fully stocked?

As I’ve heard one mom say, “When does anyone in this house REACH and not find the next roll? Do they think it happens by magic?”

So it’s no surpirse that when the belt gets tightened, it feels tightest to us. It is we moms who are mindful every day of what it takes to feed the family, dress the kids, cover co-pays and get the dog to the vet. Maybe that explains the sensitivity to talk about cutting back, since it already feels like it’s All Our Fault that it costs money to keep up a household. Moms are caught between holding the pocketbook tightly and somehow spending all the time.  So the “we” (as in family) in these statements sounds less like a cooperative undertaking than a criticism of what “we” (as in moms) are already trying our best to accomplish.

It’s exhausting to feel pressure with every purchase, especially when you’re the agent for the entire family. A single shopping cart can hold upwards of 50 purchasing decisions made by mom, and even if she doesn’t execute the purchase, she’s brought in for consultation. This role requires her to know the size and condition of most all family possessions (Have the kids outgrown their tennis shoes? Do we have AAA batteries at home?) as well as a competitive cost for replacement (is this a good price for a vacuum?). If it’s not the husband needing a consult, it’s the kids themselves (“Your birthday is only a week away, why don’t you wait to buy that game?”).

Even the best intentions can have the effect of punishing mom. For example, dining out. It may sound prudent to forego the usual Saturday night out and eat at home, but there are consequences for mom. Practically speaking, that means another meal to plan, provision, thaw, prepare, plate, and possibly even clean up after, depending on the reliability of our helpers. No wonder it’s so easy to ”give up” eating out – who besides mom notices any difference?  After all, the rest of the family sits down to a hot meal and all they have to do in return is load their dishes in the washer. Why pay for a meal out when you can have it at home? Why, indeed?

So when the inevitable subject of cutting back or trimming somewhere comes up, don’t dread it so much as remember how you have been doing your part and are well aware of the challenge. Let the toilet paper stash be a reminder that maybe we only had to reach for the next roll, but you bought it in bulk, on sale and with a coupon.