wives & money

by gurumommy on March 29, 2011

in from the desk of

Over the past couple years I have sadly sat by as many friends have divorced, inevitably money becomes a big issue.  I found this article Lisa Belkin wrote recently in her Motherlode blog for the NY Times very revealing, she writes that:

Eilene Zimmerman was a financial expert — except when it came to her own finances.  A business journalist (you can read her regularly in the New York Times Sunday Business section), it took her 2009 divorce to get her to take responsibility for her money. As she reveals in a Salon essay, that should give all women pause: “until very recently. I had never seen a 401K statement, never made a mortgage payment, never bought or sold a car or stock in a company and didn’t know anything about mutual funds. I left all that to my husband.”

Ms. Zimmerman writes candidly about how money structured the balance of power in her marriage. Her husband gave her a lump sum at the start of each year (“We were both too politically savvy to call it an allowance,” she writes) with which to pay for everything from groceries to swimming lessons to birthday parties. It was not that she didn’t earn an income, but rather that her earnings were one tenth of her attorney husband’s. And, as a result, she writes, she was:

a financial footnote, and what I lost as a result of that was leverage in my marriage and the confidence to ask for the things I needed — like sleep or time alone or the freedom to travel for my work. I bought into the belief system — one that pervades society and I believe held sway with my ex-husband — that the only jobs with value are the ones with a paycheck. No matter how much we’re told there’s nothing more important than raising children, in real life — or at least in my life — whoever made the most money was allowed to nap when he got home from work. The other person cleaned up after dinner.

There are personal and societal consequences to this division of labor, and she explores them in depth (you can find the entire article here.) There are also opportunities for women who recognize themselves in this pattern, and actively set out to change it.


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