Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The plight of women who don't get paid for their work


Last weekend James and I were discussing the light fixture in our dining room and how we need to switch it from the cheap one we bought just for short term to the one we had stored in Nanaimo that was recently brought over in the move.  I said how even though I don’t mind him actually DOING the switching of the fixtures, I’d like to watch and learn how it’s done in case there is ever a time where I need to do it.  I am more of the handy person in our relationship – James is great at doing stuff when I can get him to actually do stuff, but he doesn’t tend to think about it or feel inclined to take these things upon himself without a little nudge.  I have a full toolbox of stuff I’ve collected from my dad over the years and I’ve always enjoyed being able to do handy stuff where I can.

Anyway, James made it clear that changing light fixtures is something he wants to keep as part of ‘his domain’ of things to do.  He doesn’t mind showing me how to do it, but ultimately he wants to be the one to do it.  I think in some ways he thinks men traditionally do those sorts of things so he wants to keep with that tradition.  But also he said that while of course cutting the power means there’s little to no risk of electrocution, he feels there IS somewhat of a risk when performing such tasks.  The way he put it is that if one of us was to get electrocuted, he would want it to be him and not me.  While obviously I wouldn’t want either one of us to get electrocuted, I thought it was nice of him to think of me there!  But then he said something that was quite contrary to what he’d just said.  He basically said that he wouldn’t want anything to happen to me, but that ultimately – and I’m not kidding here, this is what he said – ‘If one of us was to die, it would be better for Andrew if it was you and not me.’

Whhaaaaaaat???!!!!

He tried to counter it immediately by saying something along the lines of how he knows that Andrew would want me above anyone else at this stage of life if he could only choose one person.  But just the way he said what he did, I knew EXACTLY what he was getting at when he said it.  He wasn’t thinking about what he was saying, he just let it slip out of his mouth.  I did manage to get him to fess up to what exactly he meant by that statement, that Andrew would be better off with his dad than his mom if it came down to it.  But in all honestly, I knew what he meant before he was forced to tell me.

Basically what he was getting at was that if he died, I’d be screwed financially and that would be bad news for me and Andrew.  We really wouldn’t have anywhere to go so we’d end up on welfare till I could find a job, and even then it would be such a struggle, I’d probably just flounder for quite some time.  And it’s true – that’s exactly what would happen if James died at this point in our lives.

But it really got to me that he’d said that, because even though obviously it’s extremely important to have income to survive and meet basic needs, the way I see it, my boy needs his mom!  I couldn’t imagine him not having me.  I said to James that first of all, if I died, I’d like to think he wouldn’t be able to go in to work the next day because, you know, he might be a little distraught for a while over the death of his wife.  And then it would depend on how long he’d been at whatever company as to how much time he’d be allotted.  But then who would be looking after Andrew?  It would have to be a family member because he wouldn’t really be able to afford to pay someone to do it.  Neither one of us wants to imagine who would be his primary caregiver, although I do have a document written up on my computer in case something was to happen to me, mostly detailing who is NOT ALLOWED to be his primary caregiver!  I imagine my regular readers will be able to pinpoint who that might be.  =P

Anyway…I just felt really affected by that thought he had, not that it’s something he’s thought about a lot or meant to mean in a really bad way.  We talked about it for a while after.  But of course it stuck with me.  Of course I wish I was financially stable all on my own so that if something were to change in our life plans, I wouldn’t flounder and would be able to at the very least provide the most basic necessities for my remaining family.  But that’s where it gets really tough.  James DOES make enough money that, while supplementary income would be awesome to have, I don’t have to work outside the home.  Why WOULD I go and get a job that would likely just barely pay for Andrew’s daycare if I have the option of being able to stay home with him?  If it was something I had to do because we had no other choice, of course I would do it, because there wouldn’t be another option!  But the idea of going to work and missing out on so much that Andrew does when I could very well be enjoying all of those things just doesn’t make sense to me.  And James feels the same way – obviously money is awesome, but the time I get to spend with Andrew, raising him and teaching him and being so close to him, well that’s priceless!

So it’s tough to hear something like that, because yes, it might be the truth that financially it would be difficult for me to get on my feet if James wasn’t here anymore.  I am fully capable of working, and I have a university degree.  It’s not that I don’t think I could get a job.  BUT, realistically, who would want to hire someone who just lost their husband and has a family to support?!  They’d know I’d probably not be available all the time, not to mention I’d be so full of grief that it’s pretty safe to say I’d never be their star employee.

On the other hand, I know the love and care and all the other stuff that I can provide for Andrew that, while obviously James does love and care for him, and if it DID come down to it and I wasn’t here I do know James would do the best he could for him ALWAYS, but I am adamant that the boy needs his Mama!  There is no question that what I provide for him can’t just be handed a dollar figure amount like a salary.

I’m not saying it’s not difficult to be a man.  I prefer my life of being able to ‘choose’ to be home with my child and not be so focused on being the bread-winner, as James said men traditionally WANT to be the bread-winner.  He feels good about supporting his family financially.  And obviously, I feel good about him doing that too!!  I tell Andrew that we’re lucky that Daddy goes to work every day and makes money so that we can spend our time together.  I try to teach him about why Daddy goes to work for all those hours and what that time and money provides us with.  I am very grateful to be in such a privileged place, being able to be a stay-at-home mom at this point in time. 

But it’s also very difficult because I feel a lot of pressure, even though ultimately James doesn’t pressure me per se.  Maybe it’s just society, the expectations we all have, the wants and desires we have for things that cost money, which you only have so much of if you’re living on one income and have a family to support.  I sometimes think, gee, I should be trying to make money, some how.  I wish I was really crafty at something, I would maybe start an Etsy shop or at the very least do something to sell whatever it is I was making.  But I don’t know what that ‘it’ would be and so I don’t do that.  I know a lot of moms work part time, and perhaps I could pawn Andrew off on grandparents for some days of the week – I mean, I got this ‘day to myself’ today, right?  Maybe I should have spent it working?!  (Although, honestly, part of me feels like I did with what I did around the house!!)  I don’t know…the other difficulty is that I’m hoping to have another baby next year, so obviously going back to work isn’t going to be an option. 

James and I really are on the same page about me being able to stay home and raise our children until it makes sense for me to go back to work.  And I do want to go back to work once it makes sense, but right now it doesn’t.  I just don’t want to feel like my worth to my kids is somehow lesser because of the way we’ve set up our roles.  Does that make sense?!  And I know James really didn’t mean for me to take it that way, but on the other hand, how else could I take it?!

We’ve started talking about getting life insurance, because that would at least help us out with this issue, would it not?  I don’t know enough about it, but it’s time I did some research.  Especially once kids are thrown into the mix, it’s so important to be as prepared as possible for anything that might happen.  And that conversation with James really sparked something in me – I want to feel as secure as I can with the choices we’ve made.

1 comment:

Lojo said...

It's hard to base the importance of one parent, over the other, strictly based on bread winning potential. I understand what James meant, but at the same time, money only goes so far. My father was a higher bread winner than my mom, and had many potentially money earning skills. But experiencing childhood without my mom? I don't know. I think money only goes so far in the heart of a child. A divorced gf of mine left her kids in the custody of her ex due to his earning potential, but it really hasn't turned out well for the kids. I recently told her that if I had a "rich husband", I would take her kids, but alas, I don't. It's undeniable that our society continues to be designed for a two parent household, as you pointed out. And due to finances, there is a 50\50 chance I will never have kids. It's a frustrating system, and I wish it weren't. Especially for all the single parents out there, and of course, their kids.



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