Are women happier in traditional marriages where men earn & they stay at home & look after the man & kids? Are they more comfortable with the hallowed group of men that earns for them, the bread winners of the world? I know I never would be.
If the woman is not contributing to the family income, just dipping into it, there is a guilt that follows. She feels she is not bringing any money into the house, while he is “taking on the world” day in & day out; so he deserves to be treated like a king. No wonder then that she goes out of her way to serve her husband. From bringing his shoes & socks to him in the morning when he goes to work, to waiting on him while he eats, to bringing the towel once he bathes, to numerous other things all housewives do to delight their husbands, kyunki woh kamathe hai, ghar chalathe hai house & so is the lord of the house, yajamanru.
There are men who grudge their wives spending, especially in homes where they earn less. Once I saw a man in a store very excitedly shopping for shoes for his son & himself. His wife hung behind him, lamely. She kept looking very longingly at one of the sandals. She didn’t openly ask for them because it’d be like asking for the moon. He didn’t buy anything for her. He gave her a look that said it all, “For sitting at home why do you need sandals?”
This happened in 2002 in a small store in Koramangala 1st block where I lived at the time. It’s a one-off case I know, but I haven’t been able to erase it from my memory even after all these years. I keep thinking, there must be many more women who go through such experiences every day. I’ve come to realize that the only guilt free spending is with my own money.
There have been times when I wasn’t carrying cash on me. I’d suddenly sight a guy with his pull-cart & would want to buy a flower pot & turn around to Sathya & say, “U got change?” And he would be like, “Some other time ya, why now?” He has a way of making me feel all my expenses on books, plants, pillow cases, doormats, plastic items from roadside vendors & other knick-knacks are petty. (Aside: Booze & cigarettes are NEVER a waste of money!!). And I’ve a way of taking that very seriously. I’d feel so dependent on him at that moment that I’d want to kick myself for not carrying my purse everywhere. It sucks. So now I always stash away small change because I don’t want to hear a No again.
I find it hard to ask others to pay up after me. Even with my parents, I dreaded asking. With a spouse thoh it’s impossible. I can’t go, “Give me Rs 1000 I want to buy a dress”. I haven’t ever asked him money or told him to buy anything for me. If I like something & if I can afford it at the time, I go right ahead & buy it. If I don’t have the money, I wait, I save & then I go & buy that very same thing. The feeling that comes from purchasing something you wanted & for which you waited & saved is incredible. I freely & happily buy for him, though.
I earn, I spend. I like that. It has let me do the stuff I want to, without unwarranted interference. I value that very much. And I gladly put in the hard work needed to ensure the status quo remains. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not an ego thing. It’s just the way I am wired. After all, it’s not about the money per se. A woman adding to the family income & thereof, to the process of wealth creation, improves the dynamic of the marriage. She can be more assertive. And this is exactly what most men don’t want.