By Madeeha Ishtiaque
21, Nov 2012
That is the question of the day. The condition would have been simpler if we were talking about roommates here; however, here are life-partners involved bound with pre-conceived socio-cultural gender norm that begin to operate as soon as you tie the knot. And so even though we have landed from stone age to ‘the’ 21st century where ‘change’ is the key word and all values and morals are supposed to take an upside down shift, something just never change. It’s a man’s job to earn and a wife’s responsibility to rear children. Where feminist’s campaign vehemently for equality of women’s right, why not endorse equality in sharing the bills? All we can say is, no matter what, women will be women and men will be you know. However, with the financial crunch of today, it seems only unfair placing all the burden of the household on the man, especially when the wife making her money too.
Let’s look at different situations and the problems and the possible solutions to these.
Situation# 1: The husband earns double the wife. He takes up rent, grocery, utility bills and tuition fees of kids and leave other expenses; including travel, entertainment, clothes and accessories on wife.
Pros: It appears to be an acceptable situation where husband, the traditional breadwinner, is doing his job quite well.
Cons: However, wife with her meagre salary is spending almost all of what she earns. She may feel resented that perhaps her husband doesn’t take her out for shopping or pays for the restaurant meals. And she may also feel compelled to work to earn her family small happiness and luxuries.
Situation#2: The wife earns double the husband. And so, pays for the rent, grocery, utility and tuition fees of kids, while husband takes care of the other expenses.
Pros: Women has a sense of achievement of being the major contributor in the family expenditure, which perhaps gives her opinions more weightage when it’s time for decision-making.
Cons: This may lead to a lot of resentment in the woman who has to do it all. This could become a primary reason of marital rife amongst partners. For woman may be cranky due to the financial load and would want to exercise her dominion over husband whose male-ego would be severely hurt.
Situation#3: The husband and wife earn an equal sum and contribute equally to the household’s expenditure. They also neatly share household responsibilities among themselves.ren and look after the household. With our one foot in 20th and the other in 21st century, how do we reach a compromise?
Pros: This is an ideal situation and a true example of a perfect partnership, which rarely exists. Anyways, it allows both life-partners a breathing space where none has to carry the major burden of the household yet both have a sense of contribution without anyone having to feel resented in case they are over-doing.
Cons: A woman feels obliged to share the burden. She is an equal earning member to the household which means if she wishes to quit because of childbearing and household issues, she can’t.
Before we pick up our favourite husband-wife sharing model, we need to take a peek into the ingrained ideology of men and women today.
Women: Irrespective of which century they come from and how career oriented they are, they like work for themselves or perhaps their immediate family. This comes from the feeling that they have received a lot from their household and share a bonding hard to have with someone they have just started off. Also, when motherhood knocks their doorsteps, they increasingly wish to spend time with their baby and become resistant of anything that takes them away from it. And whether or not we accept it, the fact remains is, there are physical and physiological weaknesses they have to deal with on a daily basis, whereas men rarely experience any such encumbrance. Not only that, after a whole day’s job, she’s still expected to cook and if not that, at least arrange dinner on the table, cleanup and make sure the setup around the house is working smooth, while their husbands would just lie back and watch Tv or sleep. Other than this, they have to counsel husbands and kids, maintain relationships and also look good to keep those eyes from going astray. Hence their income is harder earned than their spouses.
But at the end of the day, they are the same 18th century women who expect their husbands to take care of them, financially and socially and this is why they so naively wish to jump for marriage. And so, if they are expected of by their husband to contribute a fixed share of money or take on the lead roles, leads to breaking of ideals, then hearts and perhaps relationship too.
Men: The forever breadwinner, always welded as one, is psychologically made to accept his role right from his childhood. He, unlike, women doesn’t have to struggle with this idea and so is less resistance to it. Moreover, the ego, some of which he naturally has and the rest inculcated into him by the society already makes him want to be the one doing the main hunting job.
Economic state of today: Today’s shooting inflation and stagnant incomes have made the idea of one earning member feeding many mouths, seem like an illusion. If your primary source of income is the service you offer to your employer, hardly enables you to make the ends meet.
My opinion: Where I won’t express my opinions strongly, I’d make it a point to say where it’s primarily a man’s job to earn, and if wife contributes to make life easier for her family, it’s no harm. However, it should be purely left on the wife, whatever amount she wishes to pitch in each month, without any psychological or physical pressure and without making it an obligation for her. Husbands should realize they can’t chuck up money for superfluous stuff or giving it to others just because there’s a wife out there who’ll make up for the money they’re investing elsewhere. Realizing her support as a sweet favor from her, one that shouldn’t be relied on, and one that shouldn’t be unnecessarily availed especially when it’s a joint household setup (where she’ll end up doing the grocery of 4 other people).
She should have the satisfaction that her money is hers alone and that somebody is not eyeing it all the time. Also, both of them should realize that showing nice gestures or gifting each other little things to make life easier makes a huge difference. Hence, it also tells that they are no partners in an official partnership; they are friends, companions and lovers who are doing it all to stay together forever.