Dani Klein Modisett: If, in 1929, Virginia Woolf insisted that every woman needs a room of her own, then I would like to assert that, in 2010, a bank account of one's own also goes a long way toward peace of mind in a mother's life. (Or even a mattress in the room that you can stuff ....)
I had my own checking and savings accounts for the first seven years my husband and I were together. Then, two years ago, 40,000 accounts in the UCLA database were hacked into -- two of which were mine, which were on record there for the direct deposit of my teaching checks. I was advised to close the accounts immediately. Never one to overreact, I took this as a sign from God that it was time for me to step up and really be married, in the "my money is your money" California-law sense of it. So I never re-established these accounts. My husband and I have had a blissful financial union and have enjoyed untold abundance ever since.
Unless, that is, you count my simmering resentment at having to track exactly what I spend on everything now (like a normal American), my inability to secretly buy ... well, anything, and my dreams that I am being choked to death nightly by dollar bills, my hands tied behind my back with moist dishrags.
A little backstory: I was raised with the expression, "You can never be too rich or too thin." Don't do this to your kids! This is a recipe for a grownup with an eating disorder and money terror. This adage, along with a host of other wealth preoccupations handed down to me, secured a lifelong fear of money -- having it, not having it, never feeling there is enough of it, blah blah, therapy session, blah.
Almost every time I buy anything -- from a pound of Peet's coffee to a lipstick that isn't made by Maybelline -- a Greek chorus bellows in my head: "Do you really need that? Why are you buying that? Who are you to buy a ______?" And since I now have small children to care for (and consequently less income), this private chorus has even more vim and vigor. When I had my own account, my purchases were private; this inner insanity felt less exposed --because it was. There were never any discussions about these purchases, because they were essentially my little secret.
In the interests of sharing a life with someone, however, the merging of bank accounts is probably a good thing. I'm sure there's a marriage counselor or two who could use financial disclosure between couples as a barometer of their intimacy (and they'd charge you $200 an hour for this insight!). They might be right. But lately I've been wondering how much personal growth a person really needs. Maybe a little mystery is also good for a marriage. After all, does your spouse need to know how much you spend on a bikini wax? Wouldn't he rather just marvel at your smooth inner thighs? Clearly, I'm no fount of wisdom in this area, but I'm going to go with "yes."