Mama, we’re all guilty now.

I was asked a while ago to comment on whether changing social roles and (hopefully) greater pay equality would effect the financial relationship between men and women.


Sure it will, I said, it will make everybody feel equally guilty!


I wouldn’t want to go back to “women’s roles” and “men’s roles”, we haven’t got near real pay (or status) equality yet but it’s better than it used to be. When my parents married in the 1950’s my mother earned more, but as a married woman she was automatically no longer considered suitable as an employee.  It was seen as a man’s role to be the breadwinner and the woman’s to keep the home. Therefore, my mother had to budget the household on my father’s income and there was nothing to argue about.


That isn’t fair and it probably horrifies you as it does me, but that was the way it was and my parents could just get on with it with nobody telling them that whatever they did was wrong.  The problem is that with the gender roles far more loosely defined than they were, it is harder to work out what to do to be “fair” since there aren’t rules that everybody has to follow. 


It isn’t just about who earns more and are the pay scales fair, but who makes the money decisions, whose job is “less important” so they have time for taking pets to the vet or to oversee the builders, as well as who should ask for a raise and who pays whom how much for study time or for giving up work for childcare?   How do you make “fair” contributions to household expenses if one of you earns more than the other, and is there a difference if one of you spends time looking after children?  And if it makes a difference, how do you work out how much it is worth and how do you avoid the guilty feeling of “freeloading”, or “being stingy with allowances”?  And what about when one of you supports the other to do advanced qualifications so that (hopefully) your income rises in the future – how do you work out a “fair deal” for that?


So it is far more complicated.  My suggestion is that you ignore what other people do, what social convention or “modern thought” or anything else says and work out a balance that suits the two of you.  After all, it isn’t anybody else’s business.


The trouble is, whatever you work out, you’ve got the pressure that says you should have done something different – you “ought” to have a different arrangement, you “ought” to put different values on work, children, happiness etc.  It is better and more equal now, but the only true equality is that whatever you do, all of us (women and men) feels equally guilty that we should have done something else!


A book you might find interesting about this subject, is



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