The economic effect of this on the family is bad, since the income is lessened without due return, but there is a moral effect too. Where is the cooperation in this cooperative group? Father and Mother do it all, but even there only too often the cooperation is imperfect. Father is busy all day working hard to earn money to pay the family bills. When he comes home at night he is tired, and he does not want to bother even to put up a shelf. He works hard enough to pay a carpenter to do that. But far more than this, he does not want to bother with the problems Mother has to face in spending the income or in the education and training of the children. That is all her job: why can't she let him alone, when he is slaving as hard as he knows how to get that weekly pay envelope or that monthly check, or that quarterly share of profits? So Father is aggrieved because he is giving so much and is asked to give more, Mother is aggrieved because the whole responsibility is put upon her and yet she is criticized sometimes for the way she exercises it. And in such a family the children are pretty sure to be aggrieved because they cannot have all they want, and to be peevish if they are asked to help in the household tasks.
The whole situation is wrong. Every member of the family should have its share in the household tasks as soon as it is old enough to help clear or set the table or to empty the wastebasket. Soon the child can help with the dishwashing, make its own bed, help with the cleaning. Later cooking becomes a possibility. In the country life where so much of the work was out of doors and in winter in severe cold, and the boys by their form of clothing could work more easily and yet be duly protected, the general division of outdoor work to the boys and indoor work to the girls was a natural one. But when the conditions of living sweep away the outdoor tasks, the boys should not be deprived of their privilege in sharing the family work. Bedmaking and dishwashing are not for any fundamental reason "girls' work;" where many are gathered under one roof, as in hotel or institution, that work is quite as frequently done by men as by women.
The child's strength and ability must be taken into consideration, but in the household what he or she likes or wants to do should not rule the division of labor. Every child should want to do his share. It is indeed a desire that shows early in most children. Sometimes it is discouraged by the busy mother who cannot be bothered by such untrained assistants and does not re-member that by making matters a little easier for herself now she is not only making them harder in the future, when the trained child would be a real help, but is depriving the child of a very important part of its education.
Only too many times where a paid household employee is employed to do the "housework" the family consider it beneath their dignity to do anything that falls in her province. Why answer the door when the bell rings? Mary is there to do that. To be sure, it may interrupt Mary at a time when the interruption means a loss to the family - a loss of time, of material or of temper and so of peace in the household atmosphere. And the child who is idling or playing would lose little by running to the door and would gain something in social or business experience. Why help clear the table? That is Mary's job. It would shorten her hours of labor, to be sure - and if the modern industrial basis is adopted, it could free some of her time for more skilled work. But the child would be doing servant's work, which is unthinkable. Why have each child make his or her own bed and care for the bedroom? But to go on is needless. There are thousands of families where the cooperation is effective under any circumstances, because the principle of right family living is established in the minds of the heads of the family. But there are tens of thousands where thoughtlessly the principles are disregarded, and it is these families that are failing to get their due measure of contentment from life.
It is not easy for any one to accept deliberately a decrease in money income. But if Father has to work so hard that he looks on his home only as a place where doing nothing will help him recover from exhaustion, is it not the part of wisdom as well as of affection to consider whether he could find some less exhausting task, where his being able to share the family life would more than compensate for the simpler living made necessary ?
Social ambition is probably Mother's chief temptation to over-spending of her non-money assets, as well as to over-spending in dollars and cents. In former days many a woman wore herself out keeping up a reputation as a "good housekeeper." She scrubbed and washed and sewed and crocheted and embroidered and cooked and polished until her tired nerves made her irritable and utterly unable to deal judiciously with the problems of discipline and education that were of fundamental importance to her children. Nowadays the stress has changed a little. Less time to scrubbing and polishing, more to the making of clothing that looks like that of a Fifth Avenue shop - or as near it as one can get - the elaborate decoration of the house, the complications of fancy cookery for the entertainment of one's social group. But the result is the same. When Mother has not time to hear all about Janet's quarrel with Edith; or Tommy's fight over the marbles when Jack and Ted tried to cheat him, or to listen to David's tearful and confused tale of how the teacher didn't understand about his 'rithmetic - if she has not time to listen and to reason patiently, to explain and to bring out the ethics of these situations, then the family life is badly planned.
Money buys a good deal, and we all need it much and want it more. But money cannot buy the spiritual or the mental - the things most worth while in life. We all know it, we all repeat it glibly, but we are all at times led to forget it in our practice. The principle of the budget - the plan, the facing definitely at a given time what one can do and what one wants to do - is as valuable regarding the income that cannot be expressed in dollars and cents as it is in that income recorded on the Budget card.