If Earning Money Would Bring Her Self-Respect, Then Why Wasn’t She Doing It?

As the door slammed shut, Arti slumped on the floor. Feeling defeated, she wept bitterly. Moksh’s voice echoed in her ears.

“Buying a flat now is out of the question! How can you even think of it? Who will pay the down payment and EMI? It’s not like you’re working and contributing anything!”

4 years ago when Pakhi was born, they unanimously decided that Arti would be a stay at home mom. His parents lived with them and were happy to help, but it wasn’t a good idea to depend on them to care for such a young child. Arti was keen to care for her child and readily agreed to quit her well-paying job.

When Pakhi was a year old, Arti started art & craft classes at home. She also went back to oil painting and making decorative items for friends and family. She sold some but most often, she would give them away.

She loved the feeling of getting her old life back. Even while in college, she sold her paintings and craft items to earn pocket money. She felt like she was going back in time. Life was good.

About a year back, Moksh’s company went through a major reshuffle. They offered to retain him in a different role. He wasn’t happy but with no option in sight, he accepted. Simultaneously, he began job hunting. That’s when he spoke to her daily about going back to work. Pakhi had started pre-school, was becoming independent and between his parents and Arti, was well looked after.

But every time this conversation came up, Arti would feel cornered and they would argue. She wasn’t ready and felt that she would find something suitable when Pakhi began secondary school.

Moksh was the sole breadwinner and although Arti had investments, most of her savings had almost depleted. Apart from monthly expenses, Moksh paid her extra for her personal expenses. She managed everything within that including buying stuff for her painting and art classes. While working, money didn’t really matter to her. She earned well and spent without a thought. Money was a means to an end only. Now when she was nowhere close to earning like before, the value and importance of money became pronounced.

She became prudent about spending – she budgeted her monthly expenses, stopped spending money on herself (unless absolutely necessary), began exercising at home instead of gymming etc.

She understood that Moksh needed reassurance that if anything untoward happened then she would be there to support the family. Sometimes she sorely regretted quitting her job after childbirth! Yet, she kept resisting and began to hustle like crazy, doing odd jobs that paid her meagerly but made her feel good about herself. She paid for some expenses but it wasn’t enough and she continued to dip into her savings. She would think of breaking her investments but feared that Moksh would find out and it would make matters worse.

She was torn between doing the right thing and doing what was right for her.

Every time they fought, Arti would decide to give up painting, the side hustles and find a job. Job satisfaction or career growth wasn’t the objective. She just needed a regular income. Yet, immediately after, the work she did from home would feel more appealing and empowering.

She felt guilty about understanding Moksh’s position but not doing anything about it!

A nearby apartment was up for sale. She wanted to tell Moksh because they were looking to invest. This morning when she did, he was livid. For the umpteenth time when he ridiculed her for not thinking about their wellbeing and making an effort to find a job, she was heartbroken. Her confidence took a beating and she felt gripped with self-doubt. Being dependent felt humiliating. She realized that earning money wasn’t only about money. It earned you respect and self-worth. But if she felt so strongly about it, then why wasn’t she taking up a regular job? Why was she unwilling to share his financial burden?

Then the penny dropped. In the past, professionally she had faced two huge losses. One time, she was doing extremely well and was being promoted. It meant a great deal to her yet her happiness was short lived because simultaneously, Moksh was offered an overseas posting. She quit and moved with him. Another time, after she’d rebuilt her reputation and credibility, Moksh changed his job and had to relocate. Again, she quit. Both times, his jobs were financially more beneficial than hers were.

Now when she felt alive doing something she loved, she was again being asked to quit. Standing at the crossroad having to choose between her happiness and the family’s happiness, she stubbornly refused to give it all up.

Was she punishing him?

(If Earning Money Would Bring Her Self-Respect, Then Why Wasn’t She Doing It? was first published on Women’s Web on March 7, 2018 / Images source: pixabay)

Why are we afraid of risking our hearts?

In an episode of the serial Castle, a friend of the main protagonist NYPD Detective Beckett, tells her, “it’s clear you and Castle have something real and you’re fighting it. But trust me putting the job ahead of your heart is a mistake. Risking our hearts is why we’re alive. The last thing you want is to look back on your life and wonder if only...”

As evident, most often one of the toughest choices that couples have to make is between a lucrative career opportunity and their life partner. An easy solution is to say, ‘you can’t have it all!’ But the want to have them both, most often leads to much anxiety.

Does it help to break down each opportunity in terms of – loss and gain, or what works and what doesn’t or what’s feasible and what isn’t – to make a choice? Or does that option sound too practical and harsh? Furthermore, perhaps it’s easier to leave out the pressure of having to make the ‘right choice.’ In life, there are no right or wrong choices – you simply make a decision based on your current reality and your interpretation of what your future would be like.

What factors determine our outlook towards our careers? Career opportunities are not always about money (although that does play an important role). Most often, it’s about the opportunity, role, our skillsets and the doors it opens up for us in the future (read scaling up). It’s about our contribution towards making something happen. And it’s about how it makes us feel within – worthy, important, respected, useful, indispensable and proud.

It’s also a question of identity – how people view us and how we view ourselves. Our standing in society, the intangible value to our family, the power to make decisions that can have far reaching impact both within the family and at work. People begin to look up to us for our expertise and value our judgement and views.

With every little success and subsequent self-motivation, our attitude towards work and ourselves change. At this juncture, listening to our hearts for the sake of love and affection seems futile. It takes a certain amount of persistence to make us even consider thinking about a future that is inclusive of our partner.

The deep-seated fear that creates the maximum anxiety is that suddenly we feel we are bound to lose much more than we would stand to gain if we chose our love life instead. Is it only a fear of the unknown? A life wherein we have to invest so much of ourselves without the certainty that it will work? It makes us question how well we know our partner? What if they change or more importantly expect us to change to suit their requirements? Will I lose my freedom to live my life my way? How much would I have to compromise? How difficult would it be to deal with the loss of a bigger role (or promotion) and thereby financial stability? Is it worth the risk of giving up all that we’ve worked so hard for? Will being with the life partner provide us the same sense of fulfilment?

If both partners are well-established professionally and financially then ideally each believe that their job is more important. Neither feel ready to take a step back. Sometimes just the need to first and foremost achieve the basics like owning a house, buying a car, traveling, saving money feel important enough to put the love life on hold. Sometimes it’s also about certain family commitments (caring for older parents, educating or perhaps marrying younger siblings) that strongly influence this decision.

When a career opportunity includes relocation, it raises even more stressful questions. What are the partner’s expectations? Does it align with our own expectations from them? Will they readily relocate? Will they be okay to leave the known and agree to start afresh in a new place (and jobless if they’re unable to relocate within their company)? Would they feel abandoned and insecure? Or would they feel like the relationship isn’t a priority and thus they are being relegated to second place?

Navigating through this stressful situation some feel that they’re not willing to choose any one, since their love life is as important as their careers. They’re able to find ways to meet half-way and make an effort to seek happiness using any means possible. Today technology is a useful tool to help couples stay together and create a stronger bond. Such an initiative calls for maturity, positive outlook and a strong belief in the relationship. There are many couples today who are in a stable relationship but for various reasons don’t live together. Living apart together (or LAT) describes such couples who remain committed to each other, share an emotional connection and a sexual relationship but at the same time have created a space of their own.

If you’re unable to remove the doubts and believe in your partner then this definitely isn’t a workable solution. Forcing your partner to leave their careers or make adjustments leave them feeling dissatisfied, angry and frustrated. It can also make them feel devalued and worthless. In turn the relationship becomes unstable and bitter. Thus, the attempt should always be to be open about expressing and fulfilling one’s aspirations, being supportive and a willingness to continuously work at the relationship.

Losing your home twice over!

A random conversation after lunch one afternoon amidst three daughters-in-law (DIL) revealed a startling truth. The youngest amongst the three stated, “mera ghar kahan hain?” (read where is my home?) She continued, “my parents tell me that my husband’s house is my home now while in different ways I’m made to feel like an outsider in that house. So, I really don’t have a home to call my own!”

There was much sadness in her voice. For a moment, there was silence as each one of them felt the same way.

Second DIL added, “I’ve been brought up in a home where girls are revered. We were loved, taken care of, educated and allowed to take up any job or travel on work. Our every whim and fancy was taken care of. That same house (in a way) wrote us off after marriage saying that the property will always have to stay within the family and so would only belong to the son. Even after marriage we would be taken care of, if needed but we would have no say in the family property.”

So, the third DIL, wondered aloud, ‘then what is home? What does it mean to us, as women? We all have daughters, what should we teach them?’

Home is defined as the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. But home is so much more than just a place to live in! It’s where you run to in your hour of need, fear, anxiety. It provides you solace and peace of mind. It protects you from the harshness of the world, allows you to be yourself, takes care of you. It also provides a sense of belongingness and identity.

The second DIL continued, ‘after a really long day at work, I returned home to take care of my cranky 2-year-old daughter. I was very tired and happened to leave my clothes in my mother-in-law’s (MIL) room and forgot to remove them. Instead of simply telling me to do so, she took a picture and forwarded it to her son on Whatsapp and said, “look at what I have to deal with. I have to take care of her clothes also. Does she think that it’s my responsibility to do her work?” One fleeting moment of tiredness led to an evening of unrest at home.’

The third DIL concurred, ‘I have to constantly remind my MIL (in different ways), that this isn’t only your son’s house, it’s mine too! Along with your son, I pay an equal amount of the EMI!’

There is a deeper power play that happens within a home. It’s about control, asserting one’s existence while negating the other’s. It’s also a way to keep women from becoming too comfortable. Being a guest in your own house ensures you’re always living in uncertainty.

One may opt to live separately after marriage instead of moving in with in-laws, but the fact remains that it’s not recognized as your own house. Most often when in-laws come travelling they tend to instil a semblance of their own value system and rules into your home as if they have the right of way and believe that their son wants the same. It’s not mandatory of course, to ask for permission.

It’s generally accepted that the MIL behaves the same way she was treated when she was a young bride. But isn’t this explanation too simple?

When bringing up daughters’ parents tend to do everything in their power to give them a happy childhood within a loving home. They empower them to create their haven there and yet these same parents when marrying off their daughter, retract from that logic saying your husband’s home is your home now! How does that help? And the icing on the cake is that they feel that their daughters are “lucky” to have a place of her own (read husband’s house). Really?!

Yes, there are men who strongly believe that their wives have equal right to their homes too. They’re life partners and as such building a life time of togetherness does call for sharing everything equally. But there are also men who listen and understand a wife’s lament, agree to her sentiments yet simultaneously listen to every word their mother’s say. Is it only because they don’t want to get caught up in the crossfire and don’t want to be seen taking sides? Isn’t that explanation equally simple too?

So, what’s the solution? Should girls be encouraged to become established in their careers, become financially independent, buy their own place (no matter how big or small, how far or near) with their own money before they marry? They might put it up on rent or sell or keep it locked up. But at least they’ll have a place to call their own.

Or should girls be taught to ask for their rights as they deem fit – either at their parental home or in-laws. Women are taught to be strong and independent, then why take away their basic right to a home?



Money in marriage!

Some time ago I read an interesting article that stated “as the US economy improved the divorce rates worsened!”

I’m sure if one were to do a similar analysis in India, the trend would be the same. We might still falter in terms of acceptance from society at large for being divorced but the trend would nonetheless come as no surprise.

What did it really mean?

I would think that it meant that most people look at their own happiness and satisfaction when it comes to divorcing their partner – even if the relationship has gone on for years. To an extent I am generalizing but it is true that when one is financially strong and independent, that is when thoughts of divorce are mostly entertained. If your basic survival depended on the earning member of the family then even though some might refer to it as the Stockholm syndrome, one does tend to find reasons to justify staying on.

It isn’t easy to live on your own – apart from society and sometimes losing friends and family for taking such a step, it is difficult to be responsible for every little thing in everyday life. Sometimes it helps to pass on the responsibility to someone else. But as the current situation and environment is no longer conducive to such expectations, more and more women are moving towards being financially independent.

Psychotherapist and author of How to be a couple and still be free, Tina B Tessina says, ‘financial independence is important in a marriage because it can also mean ‘independence of thought”. Its value is equivalent to a sense of self.

Why do most people believe that money and relationships can never get along? It’s perhaps because money is measurable, i.e., the give and take is quantifiable. Therefore how much the relationship will be impacted by money is dependent on the couples’ spending and saving habits, their experiences with money while growing up, their communication about the same and how they personally view and value ‘money’ and what it stands for to them as individuals.

In addition to this children and expenses related to them, financially dependent parents or siblings, property and inheritance, hobbies which by themselves are expensive to maintain (like diving, photography etc.), filing taxes – can all add pressure on one’s financial commitments.

Some time ago the joke doing the round about a wife’s view on money was, ‘darling what is yours is mine and what is mine is mine!’ This notion will not find too many takers today – unless of course, only said in jest! More and more women marry late today or get into live in relationships by which time they have their own place, have planned their financial responsibilities and earn well enough to want to continue exercising the option to make independent decisions about key things in their lives. As for the men, they too more often now see their role as the sole bread-winner changing – their wives/girlfriends are not only equal partners but in some cases earn more than them.

Some exercise the option to split their bills equally or in some form of equitable manner. This allows them the flexibility to use the remaining money on themselves or however they deem fit. The advantage is that it starts off as being reasonable but can lead to resentment over individual purchases or expenses. Also it tends to limit the couple’s spending power.

Some agree on which partner will pay for the bigger expenses (like purchase of property or white good) while who pays for the regular expenses (like rent, or monthly grocery etc.). Some might agree to maintain separate accounts yet open a joint account in which they input a certain amount every month which only goes towards living expenses while some might simply have a joint account for every kind of expense since they are now married and should share their lives together. To each his own!

Whatever the relationship or agreement – money is a key essential element that has the potential to lead to arguments and breakups. How one deals with money matters is solely dependent on each couple as there is “no right or wrong way” of doing it!

Being a Christian and marrying a Hindu, we had a Christian wedding followed by a Hindu wedding along with the legal registration thrown in between! We spent a lot of our own money before the wedding – money that were spent not only on purchases meant for the ceremonies and celebrations but was a way to share expenses with our parents and also have a say in the wedding arrangements. This meant that we were in debt when we married and it took us over a year to become debt free! In other words we both walked into the marriage carrying a substantial financial baggage!

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to money, its best to clear debt at one go and as soon as possible even if it means that I’m living hand to mouth for the rest of the month. My husband on the other hand believes that one must always have loose cash handy for emergencies (he never allows his bank balance to reduce beyond his own set limit) and debt should be cleared in a systematic manner without hampering that. Although we individually cleared our debts, his cleared faster as he was methodical while I struggled.

I don’t enjoy shopping and do so only using a list or I buy what I want when I need it or feel like buying. Also I only like to entertain close friends and family and don’t like to eat out too often. My husband, on the other hand, enjoys the experience of visiting different shops, evaluating the offer (either offline or online), taking his time to decide and then goes ahead and buys exactly what he wants. He mostly shops during sales and therefore always lands up getting a bargain. He loves company and likes to meet up with colleagues, acquaintances and friends for a coffee or drink. He also likes to eat out and enjoys exploring new cuisines or restaurants.

It’s evident that our perspectives on relaxing and spending money are different thereby indicating that we have different “money personalities.” Sometimes we’ve been able to sort out our differences, sometimes we’ve argued bitterly while in recent times (especially since I took a sabbatical from work with the birth of our child) we discuss to get each other’s views and then mutually agree to spend or save according to what works for him within the present situation as currently he is the sole earning member and we have a child to support.

Money matters are a constant in a relationship and therefore should ideally be dealt with as a couple! It’s important to share the work of budgeting, paying bills and handling finances. Otherwise, the person who handles everything could become resentful while the one, who doesn’t could be left without knowledge of the family’s finances especially in the case of illness, separation or death.

Most couples will agree that the crucial agenda with regards to money is not so much who is earning it (and how much) but who keeps control and takes the decision about spending it. That’s where money as power tends to raise its ugly head and if not addressed as a couple with sincerity and sensitivity, it will most definitely lead to trouble in paradise.