Soon after my blog post I’ve chosen to decide, I came across a New York Times article by Wednesday Martin entitled Poor Little Rich Women. It referred to a concept where ‘glamorous SAHMs received wife bonuses!’
Well good for them, I thought. It was well deserved and money (in whichever form) is the highest form of recognition. I won’t go into the content or furore the article raised but I was reminded of a conversation with my close friend, years ago.
Much before I became a mother, I sat one evening chatting with her over drinks. We were discussing why it might be a good idea for her to quit her job as her daughter needed her attention. She had asked her husband to pay her INR 30,000 per month (her current salary) to be a stay at home mom. She felt that it would help her take care of the child, manage the home and simultaneously keep her financially independent. She felt that it was a perfect solution.
I truly didn’t understand then what she was saying, so I laughed and her husband of course, refused. He too had laughed it off saying mothers didn’t need to be paid for being mothers. Motherhood was a responsibility. Nurturing a child was a natural outcome and couldn’t be equated to a job.
Today, after being a SAHM myself, I understand the motivation behind wanting to be paid for such a responsibility. As working professionals cum mothers, we give 100% to our jobs and simultaneously perform equally well at home. That is double the work. Even when we quit our jobs and take care of the family and children, our work load doesn’t reduce substantially. Being a wife and mother is a 24×7 job! It is very hard work.
Then why do we shy away from talking about payment? Why do we make it a moral issue? Why do we couch it within responsibilities, duties, expectations?
I’m sure some people reading this, will think that I’m denigrating the issue or being flippant. I assure you, I’m not. It is a necessity.
For personal expenses I use my own money but if I’ve made purchases for the house, my husband readily pays for them when asked. He doesn’t question. As my friend had done years ago, I too had asked him for a monthly salary. And he too had refused. Another girlfriend uses the add-on card her husband’s given her. She uses it for all purchases – personal and household. Her husband too thought she was joking when she mentioned being paid for the work she was doing at home.
In fact, even the suggestion that we would use this ‘salary’ to pay for all our personal and household expenses and thereby wouldn’t ask for their reimbursement was also sneered upon. We were told if all your expenses are being paid anyway, then why ask for a salary? Where was the need for it?
I think asking for a salary is an ‘acknowledgement’ that we work as well. We don’t have to openly report to a boss but if you were to look at all the people within the family we have to please, cater to and take care of – that’s like reporting to a ‘boardroom!’
So what is the motivation or underlying reason to deny? Is it the word ‘salary?’ Is it that we’re making it sound that being a wife or mother is a job? Does this sentiment make it sound transactional and therefore devoid of emotions? Does attributing a figure to the work mean we’re quantifying it and surely, you cannot measure love?!
Or are we approaching the issue incorrectly? We’re asking for a salary, instead we should refer to it as ‘support’ (or perhaps ‘bonus’) to manage the house and kids? Will it then sound more socially acceptable?
Or will this conversation make our lives even more difficult? Say we get paid, and then we will definitely be asked to provide justifications for expenses made and substantiate those claims. If so, then asking for a hike will become even more controversial.
I’m not a feminist and this isn’t my rant. I’m simply exploring the option of simultaneously being financially dependent & independent.
(The Wife Bonus was first published in Momspresso (formerly mycity4kids) on June 29, 2015)