Husband and wife: Who pays what?
You earn and so does your husband, but do you share financial responsibilities?
Your husband earns and so do you, but do you share financial responsibility?
In Pakistan, I have seen women proactively arguing for gender equality. We have heard countless rants about how they are entitled to have careers just like their spouses. So, does this also mean that when a woman is given the liberty to work, she must contribute financially along side her husband?
Is it to be understood between both partners that an equal share is to be injected towards the family's expenditure? After all, isn't 'equality' what women all around the world have been fighting for?
When a husband and wife both take on the role of breadwinners in a family, the question of how much each should contribute financially lingers. I have come across a variety of financial sharing models in families. Each one of them have their pros and cons and, perhaps, there is no correct answer.
Here I am sharing a few stories that I have heard from couples in which only one spouse earns money, to situations where responsibilities are shared.
Please read on to see the various financial models in Pakistan.
Model 1: The sour sacrifice
Rehana* pays for entire household expenses because her husband believes that she earns a lot more than him. Thus, she is obligated to spend all of her earnings on household expenditures. She's quite frustrated, and wants her husband to take some responsibility, but she is putting up with the set up because she wants her marriage to work.
Model 2: Wife's salary, wife's business
Salma* is married in a rich family and is not expected to chip in any cash for daily expenditures. Interestingly, when her husband lost his job, Salma did not realise the change in their circumstances and continued to believe that her salary was her pocket money. Her husband did not ask her for financial support either - perhaps to protect his pride - and so they had to move in with her in-laws till her husband found a new job.
Model 3: The working 'housewife'
Ayesha* believes it is her moral duty to take care of her two children. To compensate for her absence, she pays her maid to take care of her children while she is away at work. However, Ayesha considers the household expenses, like rent and fees, to be her husband’s responsibility. In spite of working full time, she takes care of all the house work and makes sure that there isn't a spot on her 'ideal housewife' reputation. According to her, this method justifies her decision of keeping her money in the bank rather than contributing towards household expenditures.
Model 4: Her recreation money
Urooj* has a very low income as compared to her husband’s. She spends all her money on herself because she thinks her husband doesn't need as much pampering as she does. She likes to spend on makeup, facials and spa treatments. Her hubby's salary, in her opinion, is more suited for the expenditures of the house and its maintenance.
Model 5: Assigning liabilities
Sonia* and her husband like to share responsibilities. Her husband pays the rent and utility bills while Sonia pays for groceries and fees for the children's school. On occasions when the family dines out, they take turns in paying the bill. Sonia, however, sometimes finds herself a little confused whether she is paying too much or too little.
Model 5: Strictly business
Ammara* and her husband keep account of everything. She collects all the bills and notes down who paid what. At the end of the month she splits the bills, and whoever has paid less than the other will immediately compensate them. Ammara is happy with the idea of keeping account. She says it gives her a sense of accomplishment as an equal breadwinner.
The questions that arise after looking at all these models are:
Do husbands get a clean chit for not financially supporting their wives even if their wives are employed?
Do wives get to disconnect themselves from rent and utility bills and declare their salaries to be personal just because they are wives?
If wives keep their salary to themselves, then is it so unfair for a husband to expect them to take care of the house chores?
Is it fair for a wife to expect the husband to share household responsibilities if she does not share financial responsibilities?
I want to hear your ideas and thoughts about this dilemma; tell me about your household financial model and what your ideal expectations are from your spouse. I shared these stories because I am a strong advocate of females joining the work force, but I am always intrigued by the ambiguity surrounding financial responsibilities.
*Names have been changed to protect identities