Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Wife Quits Me


By Richard E. Noble

This is a very, very sad story, I must admit. Yes it is very sad - sad but true.
My wife and I had been married for quit some time before we decided to go into our own business together. Opening a business was a life long dream for each of us. But as you will find out, owning one’s own business means different things to different people.
The first few years were a struggle - just as we had expected. Well, to be honest they were even worse than we had expected - but we made it. The next few years were still a struggle and after that the struggle continued.
We had been in business nearly ten years when my wife had finally had enough. Strangely she had had enough just when I was thinking that things were improving. It was frustrating to learn how two people could look at the same situation, the same facts, and come to completely opposite conclusions.
My wife had come to the conclusion that our business adventure was a total failure. I felt that not only had we reached a point of reasonable success but we were on the brink of an even better future.
My wife was of the opinion that since we could not afford to buy or do any of the things that we had never been able to do before we embarked on our business venture; this meant that our business was a failure and we should close the doors and go find a real job. “People who own their own business should be better off than people who just “work” for someone else,” she explained to me.
I thought that was a very good theory. I felt that she could possibly run for political office and make that a part of her platform - along with no more wars, free education, and the eradication of poverty throughout the world. But honestly, I felt that as long as we were living as good as we had ever lived and we were our own bosses that this was being a success. We had no more money, but we had no less. We still couldn’t buy the things that we couldn’t buy before we went into business, but what the heck?
She said that we should close down and I said over my dead body. She then turned in her notice. She would be quitting me and she would go and find another job - a job that paid her “real” money and was not a matter of rationalization and the power of positive thinking.
I told her that would be fine and I would hire someone else when we opened again for the season.
She immediately began studying the want ads. She was absolutely right; there were a lot of good jobs in the newspaper. The only thing wrong with those “good jobs” was that she was not qualified. She was not an environmental engineer; she was not skilled in Library Science; she did not have a teaching certificate; she couldn’t type 400 words a minute; she wasn’t ambitious and self-starting. Truthfully, she wanted an easier job than the one she was leaving, with more pay, fewer hours and no responsibilities.
I didn’t say a word as she read the want ads in front of me at breakfast each morning. She would often leave the newspaper open to the want ad page and have a number of possibilities circled.
In the mean time I had been thinking of how I was going to replace my wife down at the shop. It was obvious to me that no new employee was going to cover all that my wife had been doing. I would have to hire two new people and pick up the rest myself. This would make things more difficult for me but once my wife had her new job and was paying her fair share of the household expenses, my overhead would be lowered and we would once again be on an even keel. We would have no more than we ever had but maybe she would be happy.
Finally my wife informed me that she would possibly be starting her new job soon. It wasn’t a great job and it might only be part-time at first but it would be a start. I asked her what her starting pay would be. She said that she would be starting at minimum wage. I told her that if she would come back to working for me I would pay her two dollars above the minimum wage and that I could guarantee her forty hours or more for the entire season.
Her eyes lit up. She looked at me curiously. “You would be willing to pay me two dollars above the minimum wage and I would only have to work forty hours?” I figured that if my wife came back I would only have to hire one part-time employee and pick up a little slack myself and I would be as good as ever. Actually, I would be saving money.
She said that she would come back and work for me so long as I treated her at least as well as I treated the other hired people; she didn’t want to be called on her days off and she wanted to get a check every week - just like everybody else.
I agreed but with the condition that she acted like an employee and not an owner-partner and that she did what I told her to do and when I told her to do it. I didn’t want to hear any griping. She agreed.
This was the only time in our marriage that I was ever the real boss - and it only cost me two dollars above the minimum wage. That was one of my better management decisions.