Earlier this year I shared a post on my Facebook page about my wife thanking me for buying our house. In it, I told her that WE were buying the house, and then reminded her of how I’d never have finished college or got a decent job without her contributions.
My goal was to put light on marriage and partnership, and that just because one parent might not be the primary breadwinner, their contributions are equally as important.
While the post hit home with a lot of readers, I was surprised to see so many comments addressing one line from Mel, “Your name is on the title.”
People wanted to know why Mel’s name wasn’t on the title of our home. I was flooded with stories in the comments section and in private messages from stay at home parents (women mostly) whose name was not on the title of their home when they got divorced, and suddenly their spouse (mostly men) used the fact that their name was the only one on the house as a way to downplay their stay at home spouses contributions, and keep them from getting money out of the house after the divorce.
I’ll be honest. This gave me pause.
We bought our first house back in 2015. Mel was a student and a stay at home mom back then. It took us over a year to get approved for a loan.
I remember meeting with the mortgage broker, who explained that since I had the most income and credit, the only way to get the loan was for me to be the only purchaser.
At the time, we just nodded. About a year later we added her name to the title, which I must say, wasn’t all that hard for us. It was more or less, just filling out a couple forms.
With our second house none of this came up (I assume because Mel was working full time by then), so she was on the title from the start.
But the more I think back on that moment with our mortgage broker, the more I realize that this was just one of the many reasons stay at home parents feel like their contributions aren’t of value.
I consider myself a champion of partnership and equality in marriage, but when our mortgage broker mentioned that I’d be the only one on the paperwork, I didn’t pause for one moment and think about Mel’s contributions.
I didn’t put up my hand and discuss how, when I started college, I didn’t yet know how to type. I’d hand write my papers and then sit next to Mel and read each sentence aloud as she typed. That was just the beginning.
She worked full-time at a hardware store while I worked part-time waiting tables and going to college. It was everything WE could do to make ends meet so I could finish school. Then she moved away from her family — from Utah to Minnesota — so I could attend graduate school.
She supported me every inch of the way to get us to the point that we could actually buy a home.
But honestly, if I had brought all that up with the mortgage broker, it wouldn’t have mattered, because there was nowhere on the loan application to bring up that sort of thing. This right here is one of the many reasons so many partners often feel secondary to the one who brings in the most income.
But what often isn’t discussed is how they might have supported their spouse through college, or in a job change by moving away from family and friends, or helped with interview prep, or helping to manage the family budget, or is the full time caregiver so the other parent has enough flexibility to hold down a career.
None of this comes up when making a major purchase, and according to the online messages I received, it doesn’t come up in divorce proceedings either.
In fact, I had one guy actually comment on my post informing me that I shouldn’t have posted about my wife’s contributions to buying a home because a lawyer could use it against me in a future divorce.
I wish this were an exaggeration, but it’s not.
That’s how well it’s built into the system. It’s a sad reality, and I don’t see it changing.
But you know what, this is yet another reason it’s important for us as partners to realize that regardless of who the primary earner is, that this is a partnership.
All contributions are equally significant, regardless of credit score or income, and to make sure that both partners are given credit where credit is due for their hard work, even if the system shows us something different.
And for the sake of taking care of your own interests, if you are the stay at home parent, make sure that your name is on the house if it isn’t.
Fight for that right.
And if you are the primary breadwinner, do the right thing and take the time to put your spouse on the title. They deserve it.