Tuesday 13 February 2007

Money and stupidity.

As Jackie points out, Lauren Booth is a bloody idiot:

Of course, I'm hopeful [my Valentine's Day gift will] be thoughtful and expensive enough to take my breath away.

Yet, as I gaze in silence at the antique book, bracelet or ring, I won't be feeling as grateful as perhaps I might.

A voice in my head will be repeating a mantra that I must try extremely hard not to say out loud. 'Gosh I wonder how much all of this cost . . . me.'

Lauren doesn't seem to understand the whole what's-mine-is-yours part of a marriage.

You see, I am a Breadwinner Mum, the sole earner in a household of four. So when my beloved hubby spends weeks picking out the perfect gift, regardless of the exorbitant cost, it is - perversely - me who picks up the bill anyway. Does it rankle? Sadly for us, it does.

And she seems to have no idea what the point of buying someone a present is. If the point were the cost, we wouldn't buy presents; we'd just give each other money. The point is the choice of gift. I wonder if she gets similarly riled when her daughters buy her presents? I got a Christmas Card from my neice last year. She's four. I strongly suspect that she didn't earn the money she spent on the card, yet I find myself strangely unbothered.

As Jackie points out:

Stop saying that your husband is not contributing financially. He contributes financially by looking after your children (who, from the sound of it, absolutely love having him around - which I suspect is what really bothers you). He is also, as you point out, adding value to your real estate by converting your barn into a five bedroom house all by himself.

She's right, of course. Housewives contribute to marriages financially. Therefore, so do househusbands.

Yet there's something deeper here. So many couples get far too concerned with whose money is whose. Ms Booth and her husband have a joint bank account. Is the point of that not that the money is pooled? Yet she feels resentful and embarassed about handing him some cash when he needs it. Weird.

Vic & I, on the other hand, have never taken out a joint bank account; we still have separate accounts. And it never even occurs to us to think of the money as "mine" rather than "ours". We move money back and forth between the accounts depending on who needs what at the time. There are times when I have more and times when Vic has more; there have been times when I've earnt more and times when Vic has earnt more. And we both know that whichever of us has less can rely on the other for help. Why would anyone want to screw up their relationship obsessing about status? Honestly, some people.

And then there's this:

The most frustrating element in my experience is that the maternal breadwinner still ends up doing the lion's share of the work around the home. Not to mention the paperwork, the PE kit, the jabs, organising playdates, and on and on.

Indeed, one of the most intriguing emotional battles in a relationship like mine is over the housework and other domestic chores.

As many feminists and people with common sense have pointed out, this is a real problem. A lot of men feel that, even if the woman's the earner, housework is still women's work. Those men are stupid lazy misogynist bastards. But, while that may be true in the general case, I'm not so convinced that it applies to Ms Booth's life.

The truth is that when you are a woman and you have been away doing something exciting and fulfilling, you simply don't have the heart, when you return, to nag a man for failing to empty the dishwasher.

Perhaps a working woman carries an innate guilt that her bloke is at home clearing out the bin while she has left her children with him to go out and enjoy a stimulating career.

I know I overcompensate when I get back from a business trip. I return to a house that is hardly what you might call spotless, and, tired or not, I just roll up my sleeves and get cleaning, doing the homework and so on.

Reading that, you get the impression that Ms Booth goes out and slogs her arse off at work while her husband has an easy life of sitting around and not pulling his weight. Except, as she has already pointed out, he spends his days single-handedly building a five-bedroom house. Not only will that house, when it's finished, earn them a ton of money, but it is also bloody hard, back-breaking, exhausting work building it. Unlike, say, journalism.

To recap. Lauren Booth spends her days doing a job that involves sitting down and reading and typing. Her husband spends his days doing a job that involves moving tons of stone and brick and timber around; he also looks after their two children, often for days at a time. Because he does not always do the dusting or empty the dishwasher, Ms Booth is resentful that she does all the hard work.

She may like to tell herself that the reason for the tensions in their marriage is their income disparity, but I suspect her total lack of respect for her husband might not be helping matters.

No comments: