The struggle to balance my need for financial self-sustenance, fulfilling my calling, and being grounded outside of material things has been real.

My husband makes money. It’s accessible to me. I’m not earning significantly at the moment. That gets to me. It’s been about 4 months since I last earned any income from my company in Kenya, that’s shut down now. In fact, we’ve just finished paying back outstanding debt, like lawyer fees for the work permit I renewed at the beginning of last year, which is no longer useful.

As a Nigerian woman, people tell me to be comfortable with my husband’s money. My husband doesn’t deny me anything I want. I also don’t want much, but if I decide to want a lot, I know I can get it. That’s comforting. It gives me access to sound tongue-in-cheek about not wanting material things or not being materialistic. Because I do have material things.

But it’s not just “sweeting” me. I can’t enjoy it as much as I should. I will always subconsciously deny myself, lower my standards, and shrink my needs, as long as I personally cannot afford it, or did not financially contribute to affording it. Because having lots of money was never my goal. I have ambitions, but they are not driven by my bank balance or social status. When I was single, as long as my brain has clocked that we have enough to cover rent, feeding and transport, I was happy. I do not let myself go near my brokenness bandwidth because I get money anxious. I hardly go near that bandwidth because I always cut my cloth according to my coat. And when I was running a business while single, it wasn’t to make more money but to follow a passion. I ended up making a lot of money.

Because if it was just money I’ll be fine sitting back and enjoying someone else’s. Because his money is our money, I know that now. I know what I have given, given up, and contributed, to our status as a team. His money is our money. But his achievements is not our achievement. It’s his personal and career achievement.

His life is his. My report card can’t be a subset of his life achievements when we stand before God. The name he’s making for himself is his. His career path is his. Nobody at his workplace says “Mr and Mrs Ola” achieved and surpassed the monthly KPI. When he receives his salary for a month at work my name is not beside his own on the bank statement. For a man who loves you, you will feature somewhere in his work stories. People will know you exist, they might even know your name. But when he’s going for company team bonding, I’m not in that team. I’m in a sub-team. It doesn’t matter if I provide sumptuous meals that give him the vitality to meet those targets. That I rub his back on tired days. That I listen to him talk about work for hours and smile and nod because it feels good to be listened to. That I place his needs before my own so he can bring home more money. It doesn’t matter my womanly contributions to those goals. They’re his goals. And I cannot be satisfied with that life. Many are, and I admire that sense of contentment to be within gender norms. I also find it interesting when I hear women I know all too well, claim that’s the life they want… As if they could be satisfied with living within gender norms. Because there is a tax you pay for not being a financial contributor. But women are not allowed to talk about that tax openly.

I have tried not to be one of those partners that hold their partner down because they don’t have the same goals. I’ll take whatever chance that’ll improve his quality of life because it does improve mine too. It eventually opens me up to new levels of need I may or may not be into, it’s an experience I’m willing to try. It may fit me or not but I won’t, not taste it because I’m afraid it won’t fit me. I’ll be where I’m needed. While also giving myself time and space to catch my breath. While also not losing sight of my personal level of ambition. Because my glass ceiling is my glass ceiling. No matter how high I’m able to go on someone else’s pedestal.

I do not mind being all of this for someone. But it can only be a part of my existence. I know for certain having children will not change this for me. Children are a segment of my existence. I’m not one of the women whose lives never had meaning, till a child came along. I have meaning now, and till when the child becomes a college graduate. A man manages to provide, take his wife on dates and be a good husband, and there are many who do the trio of being good dads too. They’re present for their children. They make it work. My father had many shortcomings because of patriarchy, but he never made us feel like there were gender roles. So I want to have the contentment that many men get to enjoy when they examine their lives as a whole.

What am I to someone else other than my husband and children? To, say, a corporation? It’s unfortunate that we measure value in a capitalist society by how much we earn. Money is the exchange and evidence of personal value. I think that is why women will always be secondary citizens…because we don’t earn as much as men. But how am I meeting someone else’s KPI who sees me as worthy to pay me for a job well done? How are the goods I’m selling on Etsy performing? What are those stats saying? No one counts numbers for how many grains of rice you washed when you cooked dinner. There’s no excel sheet for you to stare at as you find fulfilment with the cubes of carrots you chopped to make that delicious fried rice. That is how many women get the short end of the stick, spending so many hours on the exact jobs labelled menial labour.

I have tried several times to see if I can follow the path society lays for women, for wives who choose to stay at home. The path of least resistance. The path that is well trodden. There is no novelty there. You can throw a pin in a room full of housewives, and anywhere the pin lands, ask her for tips on how to be a good and happy housewife, she will tell you the same thing as everyone else in the room. There’s a template. Nowadays certain women try to shame stay-at-home wives and moms but we know they get shut down quickly. Everyone says, to let people choose what they want. So many women choose to stay at home. Single women actually dream of a world where they get married and shirk all their responsibilities to a man who will work his bones off and fend for them. And for that, they dedicate their destinies to other people’s glorification.

A woman as a homemaker is a familiar path. Yet it is hard to be out here working though!! It is hard making money. I was the sole breadwinner for some 5 minutes and I abhorred it!! It is the ghetto.

Being a woman is not a trait you’re born with. It’s the direct and indirect conditioning and expectations you’re given. I hear it. And I have been conditioned a lot by it. Nobody is arguing with me right now, but I can hear the many voices of “society” trying to shape me, even now. Because what is it about being a man that I cannot have, or be? Why is there a pattern of behaviour that I should not thread? I don’t want to be disqualified from a set of conditioning because I don’t have a penis. I want to choose. They say the grass is greener on the other side. So rather than pine, I’ll go to the other side, then see my side from there, and then choose which side I want to pitch my tent, and then make improvements to my satisfaction. But I won’t be confined to one side because I’ve been told that’s where women sit. I don’t like the concept of sides. I won’t be in the kitchen while important financial discussions that will affect my life, are being made. I will care about money enough to use it to buy me a seat at the table. Whichever table I choose to seat.

So women choosing an unfamiliar field? It’s hard. You can throw a pin in a room full of career women, and anywhere the pin lands, ask her for tips on how to be a good and happy career woman, and she will either be single, struggling with balancing family and work, saddled with an unsupportive partner, divorced, or indeed doing well. But there is no consensus of experience. Its novelty. Each woman is just trying to figure it out. Choosing the harder path is insanity. But every day I look forward to that insanity still. I crave the madness, the uncertainty and the ghetto of it all. And I’ve been applying for jobs, not because I’m broke, but because I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I will pay the housewife tax.

There is no easy path. There’s simply the one you choose and stick with and be grateful for because you chose it with full control. I haven’t chosen yet. I’m 29, and figuring out adulthood, but as a woman too.

I’m choosing to be a breadwinner because any adult that contributes financially to the home is a breadwinner. It doesn’t matter what percentage of the bread is. Now if you’re also carrying the home front alone while bringing home bread, while the other breadwinner just makes bread, I don’t know why you’re in that situation.. sort it with your God and your partner. It’s undoable trying to be both.

Maybe I’m from Mars, not Venus. I know my femininity has always been questioned. My first-ever relationship? People told me to calm down because I was emasculating my man. They talked about him secretly and asked who wore the pants in our relationship. I didn’t think about it then, but I did start learning to reduce myself. I was told to dress feminine, to try on some make-up, so that other men would stop belittling him. My tomboy days died, to protect someone’s manhood. And up till now people still share those types of sentiments with me. I have stopped reducing myself though.

Don’t forget you’re entitled to your lifestyle, choices and worldview, and healthy sharing of world views is always welcome in this space. No belittling.


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