I have been thinking all day long about what I was taught growing up, and about the values, I was raised with as it regards to money and marriage.
Papa and Mama never made it obvious which of them paid which bill and we also never asked. Although we understood that they always joined resources and paid for everything, yet, for school fees, we turn to Papa, and for food and clothes, we turn to Mama. Somehow, it seemed we believed that Papa had to pay the bigger fee.
So, when the issue of money became a subject matter in our staff room, I listened more than I spoke.
It was Mr. Akóredé that asked the question that started the discussion.
“Should women also contribute money to the upkeep of the house? Or is this responsibility only for the men?”
He looked at everyone as if daring one of us to answer, fully knowing how important the issue he raised was.
Mrs. Àdìgún was the first to speak.
“A husband who cannot solely take care of the financial needs of his family is not fit to be called a husband.”
“My husband knows o. Whenever he collects salary, he takes a small part for himself and gives the rest to me to divide it as I please. He doesn’t ask for money from me, I doubt he even knows how much I earn. He is the head of the house, so he should take care of us, that’s his job”
“So, what do you do with your own money,” Mr. Akóredé asked.
“I spend it on whatever I like and I save some too. It’s my money, not his” She responded.
Her response was not anything I’ve never heard before, yet it bothers me on levels I do not even understand. Still, I kept quiet.
Mr. Ọlálérè spoke next.
“Women are so quick to push money matters to us men. I pay for everything in my house and I’m happy to do it. But, I will be glad if my wife helps out more. You know she also inflates prices of foodstuff and even offers to borrow me money to pay for them when I don’t have. And she never lets me forgets to pay back”
His words reminded me of Mama Ṣọlá, our neighbour from my childhood compound back in the village.
I attended the same primary school as her young son Ṣọlá. I was in Primary 4 when he was in Primary 1, so I took him to school and back everyday. She would pay his school fees early enough and emphasise that Baba Ṣọlá must not find out that she has paid. She always pressured him to find the money and also made me remind her husband every day and collect Ṣọlá’s school fees from him.
Mr. Akóredé looked towards me, perhaps my unusual silence drew his attention.
“Don’t you have anything to say?” He asked.
Sighing loudly, I said “I don’t have much to say. I chose to listen more today, not for lack of opinion but just to hear and perhaps understand the rationale behind the opinion that differs from mine”
“So what is your opinion?” He prodded
“You see, I grew up in a well-balanced home. That and watching the families that were different from mine helped shaped the way I think of this.
I think marriage is a partnership. I also think marriage is not for selfish people. If a man and a woman both live in a house, it only makes sense that they both take responsibility for that house. If both the man and the woman understand this and have the best interest of their family unit in mind, perhaps, it won’t matter who pays for what. Why can’t whoever earns more take care of more?.”
I looked around the room and continued
“Maybe I have an unpopular opinion. But I’ve never understood why we fight for equal rights for women and men and still tries to avoid financial responsibilities.
Really, what does it matter who pays the children school fees? Is it that much of a sacrifice for a woman to take a part of her own money to pay for what needs to be paid for in her own home?”
“I think we need to evolve and stop hiding behind the age-long idea of gender roles,” I concluded to a room full of now silent colleagues.
“You truly didn’t have much to say” Mr. Akóredé said chuckling