Mrs. TurboTax

An anonymous happy woman doing taxes. Sorry, I don't do photos of myself 7 months preg.

One of my very favorite two-day segments of each year is right now, in mid-February, when all our W-2 and 1099 forms are in. For two nights, I get to put the kids to bed, spread our documents across the living room, fire up TurboTax and do our taxes. Yes, part of the appeal is that, as a graduate student family with three children, we pay little tax up front but still manage to qualify for a refund that’s about equivalent to our annual tithe. AND it always somehow coincides with an expense or donation we have undertaken in faith with the hope that the coffers will be refilled. Uncle Sam always does replenish us in February.

But I also love numbers, and finances, and budgeting, and pricing, and the whole money management side of managing a household.

Especially in larger Christian families, I observe a good pattern of the husband and wife, over time, situating into traditional gender roles, largely out of practicality and necessity. The dual-income-n0-kids married couple relies on the husband to cook dinner and clean house while the wife works late. The mom with two kids, both in school, can find the time to research, select and purchase a new refrigerator or to communicate with the hired handyman.  But when mom is home all day anyway with lots of kids, it just makes sense for her to prep and cook dinner and for him to decide on a good fridge and talk to the repair guy. I think it’s a really charming fact of large family life that we doer-moms, out of necessity, have to relinquish control and depend on our husbands for many household tasks.  I’m so glad that our circumstances often render me the damsel in distress so that my husband can save the day. I have learned that my husband is much better at following instructions, at figuring out how to fix things, he is more careful and less hasty, he has an excellent spatial sense which is crucial when we’re living in small quarters, he is patient when I lose my cool with household issues, and he is the master of pest control (maybe sometime I’ll post about his 4am public execution of our very last mouse). The list goes on.

But I don’t know if I ever want to relinquish the books. While my husband could handle the financial management perfectly, and we always discuss financial matters, I love taking the helm. But I also think that most wives by now have turned the taxes and banking over to their husbands, who can work on family investments from the quiet of an office, who can seek tax advice from professional colleagues, who can call the bank without 10 decibels of household background noise.

Are there any other fellow Mrs. Money-Managers who are frolicking in piles of tax documents this mid-February? Or maybe, since our baby #4 will be born soon, my hands are about to be so full that this is my last year with my old friend TurboTax.

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  • B-mama

    Oh JM, you know I have my hands ALL OVER the financial books. I love it too! Turbotax is my favorite February friend for the same reasons you mention, especially that tidy return I see in the upper right hand corner as I enter numbers. It is really gratifying and I so enjoy it! Your Fed. Tax course in law school surely comes in handy–occasionally I will have to ask Mr. B-mama for some tax guidance based on his studies. Thankfully, though, he lets me take the reigns because I really have fun with it!

  • JMB

    We have an accountant who does our taxes (my husband has a sub chap S corp) but I handle all the household finances. I love it. I took over the budget responsibilities when my youngest started first grade. We rarely argue about finances anymore, since I know exactly what’s in the bank. In the past, I realize now, that it was my ignorance that caused a lot of stress in our marriage.

  • Brynne

    I love doing our taxes. I think I’d cry if my husband ever wanted to take over that job. Thankfully he’s happy to let me do it.

  • Frolicking, no. Handling it, yes.

  • AWOL Mommy

    I want 2 things: Pregnant photo and 4am rat story. Postpone the taxes, these topics merit a weekend post.nnI do the taxes as well, but what I love more is the follow-up — dispersing our refund into some mutual funds designated as Roth IRAs. I could spend hours on the Vanguard and T. Rowe Price pages, so I consciously make myself decide on our year’s investment plan before our electronic refund returns. Helpful for a procrastinator. nnNot helpful for a procrastinator is that military families stationed abroad are automatically granted a 60-day extension. JUNE! I am going to try not to take advantage of that this year.

  • Anonymous

    I do our taxes as well. I do most of the house stuff, including managing repair guys, calling the repair guys, and communicating with the repair guys about any problems. My husband works and I take care of the house. Now if there is a hands-on fix-it-yourself project in the house, Mr. Red tackles that. But I think the division of labor in our case is very practical, and not necessarily as gender based as your home. I don’t enjoy dealing with the plumber, or dealing with the plumber who didn’t do his job, but that’s part of my job, and my husband has to do plenty of things at work he doesn’t like. If he was home more or worked less, we might divide things differently.

  • I do it all myself out of necessity but it’s actually something I enjoy…well, maybe the word “enjoy” is too strong… i’m a natural organizer so to me the financials are just one more category of life I get to organize. As a single mom though I do worry about how, if I marry someday, I will be able to go about reliquishing some of that control or sharing it with my future husband. I tend to be attracted to men w/finance backgrounds or who are into the stock market as a hobby, but the idea of not having total control over my very own accounts…yikes. I can’t help but envision some bad Lifetime movie where the distressed widow is faced with debt and says something like ” gosh golly…I don’t know anything about that sort of thing…John/Bob/Fred always used to handle the money….” LOL nn On the other hand I’m glad to have the Catholic faith as a guide b/c I know that even though it might be hard for me to relinquish that control someday, at least my faith provides me with a blueprint of how to move forward. For anyone who’s interested, the budgeting site just did a recent article on the handling and separation of finances for married couples (best types of accounts, etc), and I was both shocked and saddened to read the comments from various couples, obviously secular, most not even married. Not to bash on such couples it’s just that it was one more opportunity for me to think man, so glad i’m Catholic! nnPS- that photo and caption is hysterical, I was totally cracking up.

  • PPS- I don’t mean to be a comment hog but thought everyone would find this funny… the worst “tax time” story I have is before I became a mom, back when I was a nanny. I worked for a couple who ran a small business and the mom did a lot of work out of her home. Well…one fine afternoon the three year old who had some “behavioral problems” ate–yes, ate–all of the W-2’s. He left coupons, trash, etc. but zeroed in on those darn W-2′ s and just devoured them. Lesson here? Toddlers and taxes do not mix.

  • Juris Mater

    Kyra, you’re kidding, that is HILARIOUS. Didn’t that poor mom know that taxes are meant to be enjoyed alone, in the evening, with a glass of wine or a beer in hand?

  • Juris Mater

    Red, funny… I usually deal with the repair people who didn’t do their job well, the Verizon representative, the landlord who shrugs his shoulders at 15 mice pooping in my baby’s room, the other “problem cases”. Sometimes, it’s time to call in the choleric mother hen : )

  • Texas Mommy

    JM, there is nothing more satisfying than getting back money that was already yours to begin with! I think you can count your refund as money that you have earned for the fam! Maybe you should spring for a nice bottle of wine instead of the two-buck-chuck as you e-file!