You never see it coming; well at least those were the sentiments from Rael Ndinda who was speaking to Afromum.com about being the sole provider in the home. They had it all well-planned with her husband Allan who was a banker with one of the largest banks in the country. Rael is a businesswoman who goes for different kind of merchandise from neighboring Uganda and brings them home to retail at what she insists are affordable prices.
Everything was going according to script and they had big plans for their family. The plans included taking their children to private schools, and saving up to build their own house within five years, a step that would see them kiss their landlord goodbye. However, things fell apart when her husband suddenly lost his job after some money went missing at work.
He is still under investigation but nothing much seems to be happening, meaning he is still in limbo. This also means that Rael had to take up the role of provision in the home.
According to her testimony, their situation hit her like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, money was the only thing preoccupying her mind as she needed to make ends meet at all costs. Well, she had to take care of food, clothing, shelter, costs of treating various ailments by family members and so on. She candidly explained that a house with two incomes is certainly better than one.
With dwindling fortunes, it meant that she had to go for a haircut because maintaining her hair was becoming too expensive and she certainly needed the money. She tried to tell her husband that they needed to transfer their children to cheaper schools and move to a cheaper house but he would hear none of it, insisting that his situation was temporary and he would soon go back to his position at work or find something better.
Until then, they just had to maintain their lifestyle which was proving to be too difficult for this wife.
When talking to a former colleague about this topic she told me that her marriage ended after she had to take up the role of provider in their home. No, it did not have anything to do with finances but the sudden change of attitude from her husband of seven years. According to the mother of two, her husband felt emasculated at every turn and this did not sit well with his wife who was putting in more hours for an extra coin.
The husband would also fuss over every issue and would incessantly nag her over the pettiest of issues. Suddenly her home felt like a prison with no hope of an escape. The two decided to part ways and they are yet to get back together.
According to family psychologists, as the wives grow more confident with their earning abilities, their husbands often seem to diminish in terms of self-worth and in being the man of the house. There is little evidence to show that as women acquire earning power, relations between men and women have evolved successfully. In most cases, both the man and the woman are not comfortable with this role reversal.
Many women in Kenya and around the world are finding themselves being the sole providers of their homes. Traditionally and in religious circles, the role of provision belongs to the man of the family. However, life has a way of throwing surprises at us and we just have to accept and move with the currents.
Apart from the challenges we have seen in the above situations, there is also the fact that the woman will have to work to bring home the bacon and cook it as well. They sometimes have to take care of their husbands and children which is unfair because the husband should chip in to complement the efforts of his wife.
Being the sole provider can have a negative health implication on a woman as well.This is usually caused by long or extended working hours in an effort to get more money for the family. The psychological health of the woman will also suffer because they are always fearful as they have expectations from both the nuclear and extended families. They could also be anxious about their company shutting down, getting laid off or something happening to them.
When a woman is the sole provider in the family she might find herself engaging in self –limiting behavior. She has to sacrifice so many things she would have loved to do for herself because there are just too many responsibilities. In such instances, she may have to put off desires to travel, spoil herself, go for another degree, and so on.
Women who are the sole breadwinners avoid taking credit for any of their achievements in the home as well. This is because traditional values still dictate that male partners are the ones responsible for a family’s financial welfare and in some instances they take all the credit.
How to tackle the challenges
When faced with such challenges, the couple should sit down and agree that marriage is not a competition. They should have unity of purpose and each should ensure that they are lifting their own weight. They can talk of complimenting each other and when the wife takes care of the finances in the home the husband can take care of the other duties at home.
According to Robinah Ziwa who is also a counselor, there should not be any judgment between the two parties. Instead of the woman lording it over the man because she brings home the money, they should both focus on the most important aspects of family life.