IT was a perfect marriage for Lovence Mukabalisa. She had a good paying job while her husband was a high flying senior civil servant. Everything was going as expected in her matrimonial home until events took an unexpected turn. Her husband lost his job and months down the road he became a house-husband and the roles reversed as Mukabalisa had become the sole family breadwinner.
However, this came with challenges in the home. The once compassionate and understanding husband turned into a fussy companion who nagged her over the pettiest of matters. He also accused his wife of emasculating him since Mukabalisa was now the sole breadwinner in the home. She had to leave home early and sometimes return late due to the demands of the job.
But this didn’t go well with the husband, as resentment piled with each day that went by. It wasn’t long before the couple decided to go their separate ways over irreconcilable differences.
The traditional outlook of families where husbands are the sole breadwinners and women caretakers is still a thorn in the gender equality drive.
But should it matter who becomes the breadwinner in a home?
Jessica Kayitesi, a counsellor says many times, women who are the breadwinners in a home avoid taking credit for their achievements because traditional values still dictate that male partners are the ones responsible for a family’s financial welfare.
She notes that this sort of culture comes with a number of challenges for a woman in the position of being the breadwinner in a home.
Some men tend to carry resentment for their working wives with self-pity of thinking they are incompetent, which poses a huge burden for the woman, she says.
“The woman is bound to face the strain of being the sole provider and at the same time, endure emotional drain from a spouse who is always frustrated and carries resentment towards them,” Kayitesi says.
The counsellor, however, is of the view that being able to provide for the family should be something both parties should be proud of.
“Marriage is not a competition, if anything; it should be a ground for two companions to understand, complement and help each other out. The wife can take care of the finances while the husband tends to other family businesses, it is all for the family,” Kayitesi says.
For Robinah Ziwa, also a counsellor, there has to be critical value of your significant other in situations where it’s the woman who brings home the bacon.
“There shouldn’t be judgement based on who brings in the money or who makes more money. The energy should instead be directed to other aspects that are important to the family,” she says.
Ziwa believes that keeping communication open as a couple is also very important.
“In case one crosses the line, the other one should be able to express their concerns. We are not perfect and at times we may fail to realise that we have wronged one another but with clear communication, such misunderstandings can be avoided,” she says.
In her article, Relationships Get Complicated When Women are the Breadwinners, Julia Baird notes that female breadwinners love making the money, but many admit that their relationships took a hit; some women admit feeling uncomfortable themselves.
She started thinking about the whole dynamic of women out-earning guys while writing a biography of Queen Victoria.
“I was stunned to discover that even as Queen, she was anxious about emasculating her husband, Prince Albert. She cringed when he was derided as a pauper, lobbied to procure him the title of King or Prince Consort, and eventually called him “Master” in private,” Baird writes.
The writer quotes Harvard research where author and sociology professor Alexandra Killewald, Ph.D., analysed data on more than 6,300 American couples and found that whether the wife is working or not, if the husband is not, or has only a part-time job, the marriage is more likely to end in divorce.
Is it a factor of emasculation?
Fred Ntambara, a father of two, points out that patriarchy still dictates dynamics in a home. With the patriarchal system, the man is the one who marries the woman; and is the one to provide for the family.
“Not being able to do so indicates a weaker notation on our side as men. We have been raised in families where the man is the head and he is expected to fulfil responsibilities of being the protector and provider of the family,” Ntambara says.
For Dennis Ayebare, a woman being the breadwinner in a home shouldn’t be a cause for alarm, only that some women push it and make their partners feel emasculated.
“At times when it’s the woman making the money, she tends to become commanding and loses respect for her spouse, this is when all hell breaks loose,” he points out.
However, Ange Murungi, a working mother, says that issues of gender prospects run so deep that even couples that understand gender equality sometimes battle with the facts of the situation.
She says that in most cases when a woman is the breadwinner, men tend to find it hard to cope with it because they feel like they have lost their authority as men in the household.
“But this is not true, in marriage it doesn’t matter which roles we take, what matters is that we have each other’s backs just as companions should,” she says.
Benin Umurerwa, an accountant, says that a woman being the financial caretaker of a home should not in any way be a matter of concern.
She says that by the time they got married, she and the husband were both employed, however, issues came up at work and the man went out of business, now she is the one taking care of the family.
Umurerwa reveals that so far, this hasn’t affected their relationship as husband and wife.
“I must say things are not tough like in some cases, my husband understands that helping him financially is not a way of depriving him of his masculinity,” she says.
Umurerwa advises couples to always be open with each other by honestly communicating with one another. Once poor communication sets it, it strains the relationship.
How can society overcome gender stereotyping?
I personally believe that looking at people through stereotype lenses is not right because people are not necessarily defined by their gender but mainly their ability to effectively execute tasks, for example, in a professional environment. In all ways I believe that the best thing to do is to always look at people as wonderfully and fearfully made. That way, we will respect them for who they are and the issue of stereotypes will die a natural death.
Joshua Tahinduka, Project development officer
People should be aware of subtle stereotypes, these are the most dangerous because it’s hard to notice them and they are the ones that automatically influence people’s thinking. Dealing with these will most certainly overcome gender stereotypes.
Olivia Karungi, Businesswoman
There have been many misconceptions over the years that have cemented gender stereotypes in people’s mind-sets. Getting rid of them cannot be done overnight but continuous sensitisation will ensure positive results.
Laban Bizimungu, Cashier
Society should first of all understand the repercussions of such. First and foremost, stereotypes bring about indifferences, not to mention inequalities. By realising this, society will be at the forefront in fighting this reprehensible act.
Maureen Sanyu, Office administrator