WHEN the wife becomes the breadwinner, has the husband lost his role in the family? In some homes, the centre no longer holds. Traditionally, a wife is a homemaker, so domesticated in some climes that she is more heard than seen. From religious angle, which still stands as the basis to measure any marriage standard, the wife has the design to complement her husband. Some have twisted the same platform to make women anonymous- neither heard nor seen in the public. But time has changed and will continue to manifest that.
Global significant change in women’s role in the society began by the turn of 20th century. Conflict than peace ushered in their empowerment starting with World War I, which opened up opportunities for women in Western world to engage in various occupations. As men departed for war, women were called up, in their hundreds of thousands, to fill up the men’s place in the workplaces. Some even worked in military and munitions factories. Increasingly aided by education, women’s role has gained quantum leap in the society, some earning more than men do.
Where some women receive accolades for value added careers and for advancing their enterprises and enhancing their financial status, giving them more economic power than their spouses do, it has caused friction in many homes.
Ebuka and Angela cut the picture of adorable young couple with a child between them. They are career oriented and have been married for six years. Ebuka works with an insurance company, while Angela has her services for a consulting firm, where a chance encounter with a client’s sister opened a business opportunity. Over the next two years, her interior decoration business fetched what will take Ebuka six years to earn. The couple now quarrels over the slightest issue. Ebuka felt his wife was trying to play his role in the family, while Angela thought Ebuka was threatened by her new economic status.
Not long ago, a middle-aged man prayed a magistrate court to dissolve their 11-year old union, citing unruliness and insubordination since his wife’s financial status doubled his income. He told the court that his wife was no longer the woman he used to know; that they now sleep in different beds, even when the status quo of the family’s upkeep has not changed. The custody of the children he prayed the court can go to his wife but he wants the court to dissolve their marriage.
A business executive, Mr. Nnamdi Okafor, urged men to understand the economic dynamics they found themselves. Women, he argued, will continue to accelerate the ladder of economic empowerment and such will make some to earn more than their spouses will do. He calls for understanding between them. “Some men don’t live in the reality of the time. They are decades behind in their thinking. Any elevation of status for your spouse should be a credit to you. The man is still the head of the home irrespective of the wife’s attainment or status.
“The man shouldn’t see his wife as threat but encourage her to attain higher heights. I know that some women who command financial influence than their husbands became the opposite of what they used to be. It boils down to a couple who loves and understands each other.”
Should a woman not advance her career or vocation not to upturn the table? A public servant, Mrs. Nnoye Ozoemena, disagrees. She acknowledges the traditional role every husband plays in every home but kicks against men still wearing the lens of servitude. Their perception has not changed even where the man is out of work and the woman becomes the breadwinner.
“Ego on the part of the man is the culprit. Where the woman shoulders the family responsibility, you don’t expect her to come back from work and attend to all the chores. A husband with an understanding heart should help where the kids are too young to carry out certain domestic chores. That doesn’t make the man subservient to the wife; it rather draws deep love from a true wife.”
As economic demography becomes gender friendly, Is the woman to be blamed for earning more than her husband does? Jane, an accountant is married to Steven, an architect and they are happily married. She said, “When we married, he was a striving draftsman. He furthered his education and became an architect. I earned six times what he earned and even sponsored our wedding.
“The fear of who shoulders the family responsibility gripped me initially. Not for once did I disrespect him; neither did my attitude suggest I was the one carrying the family financially. He treated me the way every husband should attend to his wife. Today, he makes more money than me and still treats me like a queen.”