‘Til Death, or Income, Do Us Part
I hope everyone is well, and started the week on a good footing. And I hope all our married, engaged-to-be-married, cohabitating, thinking-about-cohabitating, sick-of-cohabitating, etc…, are also doing well, what with all the pressures of coupledom, from dishes in the sink to laundry everywhere, to…finances and income! Yes, one of the most dreaded and, interestingly enough, not-so-much talked about topics around coupledom in general, is well, money, and more specifically, income…Especially more so when one half of the couple earns more than the other, and when that other half happens to sport 7-inch stilettos and the latest shade of Maybelline lipgloss, you know that shade of berry pink that ‘s really in this spring…But I’m digressing…
As reported by Forbes Woman, and according to the Pew Research Project, “the share of wives whose income topped their husbands’ rose from 4 percent in 1970 to 22 percent in 2007″. In other simpler words, women tend to earn more than their male counterparts these days. And when this unequal distribution happens within the same household, differences of feelings and opinions are bound to happen, and happen a lot…Growing up in Senegal, West Africa, it was evident in such a traditional society where men are always supposed to be the breadwinners that, in order for a woman to be successful in her career and her marriage, she would have to make some concessions, some serious concessions; one of those being accepting to subscribe to the breadwinner complex, that idea that as a woman, a wife and a partner, you cannot possibly rise above your male counterpart, especially not his income. I’ve actually had a few dear friends of mine, who admitted to downplaying their education in order to even pretend to find a husband. I can still hear the words of a very dear, and very smart and successful friend of mine, as she was returning home to Dakar for a vacation: ” If anyone asks me, I did secretarial studies, otherwise, I might as well forget about finding a husband.” Especially in a society that is predominantly Muslim, where men are allowed up to four wives, and where the choice and availability of women does not lend itself to much tolerance and acceptance towards those of us who do not fit the mold…Years later, as I moved and started living in North America, I could not help but smile at the realization that even if men are not allowed to have four wives on this side of the blogosphere, the breadwinner complex still exists here, and pretty much everywhere where a man and a woman are called to share a household and this odd, sought-after, divisive thing called….Money!
So is it really about money after all? Is it really ’til income, not even death, do us part? How do we reconcile traditional visions of what marriage and coupledom are supposed to be, with today’s realities? Because the reality is, more and more women, from all communities and walks of life, are pursuing higher education, starting businesses and venturing into territories that our mothers and grandmothers would have never thought of…And this is only our generation, imagine what our daughters can and will do…So will all these opportunities looming ahead, and the very possibility that women will probably continue to out-earn men, not because it is necessary or recommended, but because this is simply the world we live in, reduce the already low number of marriages or increase the already sky-rocketing rate of divorces? Or should we just go back to subscribing to the dreaded breadwinner complex, and downplay our talents, gifts and opportunities, so as to fulfill our traditional roles? Should we apologize for our incomes and high-profile careers? Or should we dust our shoulders off, raise our heads and be proud of how far we’ve come, at the risk of bruising egos and destroying families?
It is a tough, a very tough question. Yes, the world has changed, but we know deep inside that certain mentalities, including ours, have not necessarily followed suit…And we know that despite all our dreams and ambition, we also cherish more than anything the peace in our homes, the laughter in our children’s voices, and the sweet smell of the love in our families…So we may have to accept that, as we tread along ahead, we may have to also tread with care, empathy and consideration for others, that we may have to make choices that may not be wildly popular or acceptable, or follow the lead of our hearts even when our careers are striving…Most importantly, we may have to assess and re-assess our priorities constantly, because the world is changing and so are we, but one thing remains constant, in all this fulx and influx of Possibility, we still have to find and nurture our own brand of imperfect paradise…
‘Til Death, or Income, Do you part?