Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Role Reversals – A ‘Wife-ish’ Husband and ‘Husband-ish’ Wife Tale

In modern day India, it is common for both the husband as well as wife to be working. The high cost of living, the standard of lifestyles in cities, the cost of educating the kids, the cost of bringing kids into the world in the first place et al has made dual income in a family a necessity.

The age old custom of arranged marriages in India used to be: Well educated, well settled, high salary boy weds fair, slim, homely girl from a respectable family. Times change, however, and the norm now a days is for grooms to look for brides who are not only equally educated but also almost as well salaried as them. It is the latest ‘success formula’.

It often happens though, that the husband faces a downturn career or a wife experiences exceptional spurt in their careers. Or, as in the many cases post the recent economic recession, a husband finds himself out of work and the wife assumes the position of the bread winner of the family. This is when things get a little tricky.

Under normal circumstances, both husband and wife share the household tasks in addition to sharing the responsibility of keeping the financial wheel turning. So long as the husband is earning more than his wife, she is, however, expected to place greater importance to the running of the house. In fact, this is supposed to be her ‘natural place’. It is the ‘A woman’s place is in the kitchen mentality’ which somehow doesn’t change much no matter how well educated and morally advanced the couple is. Even in the scenario where the husband is out of work, the wife is STILL held fully responsible for running the household, even if the husband DOES take up a lot of chores.

Now, before you start calling me a paranoid feminist, I would like to add that the same kind of thinking applies to a husband. There are several men who, when in the state of unemployment, take complete responsibility of the household as a kind of recompense for the lack of financial contribution. This may seem and in fact IS something to be appreciated, not all men like being seeing in the role of a home maker. If, however, this goes on for a prolonged period, let us say over a year, the wife WILL start blaming her husband for ignoring his primary responsibility – of being the main bread winner.

This is not an India specific mentality, it is also prevalent in foreign countries (financial inequality is one of the main reasons for divorces in the US). I suppose it is part of our grain, no matter how loud we trumpet the rise of the woman or the sensitivity of man. At the end of the day, each has certain instinctual expectations of the other. So, to sum it all up, if a relationship is to be happy (at least in financial terms), we need to stick to our natural order. Women, though they may earn, should be accountable for the running of the household, and the man, though he may help out with chores, should be primarily responsible to bring the cash in. Keep this line of demarcation clear, for storms arise when it gets fuzzy!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not married and so, I don't know if it’s completely true but 'reverse' financial inequality does seem to destroy a number of happy-go-lucky relationships.

    It is, however, not a golden rule because many couples are so dedicated towards each other that financial inequalities, social norms, centuries old beliefs etc. fail to tear apart their relationships. They're just INTO each other.

    I just hope I'll live such a relationship myself as well! And it doesn't imply I don't want to be the breadwinner and protector and caretaker and ocean-of-love for my yet-to-appear-from-heavens wife :O

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