Should Women Be Picking Up the Home Bills?

Bukedde TV’s Agataliiko Nfuufu once ran a story of a woman’s scuffle with some men who were organising a vigil for a dead relative at her home.

The men were intent on killing her pig to feed the mourners. The woman was against the men’s scheme because she hoped to sell the pig to raise money for her children’s school fees. The adamant men ignored the woman and started chasing the pig. The woman too gave chase and managed to save her pig.

Maria Nantume, 54, who was watching this unfold on TV, commented on the fact that a peasant woman was able to pay her children’s school fees. She wondered whether her man was contributing to the home’s finances. Who knows perhaps nothing or just a little or a lot, we may never know. What we do know is that there are men out there who have given up their providing role to the women.

Ketty Nandi, the officer in charge (OC) of the Child and Family Protection Unit at the Central police station (CPS), says such men are “so many.”

“In a single day, we may see four to six men who have financially neglected their families. The number used to be higher but other cases are now being handled by other police stations,” says Nandi.

Nandi says, in her work, the types of men who abscond from financially providing for their homes that she has encountered include polygamous men, men who have been influenced by their relatives to stop spending on their homes, men who get married to rich women and mummy’s boys who are too lazy to work.

“This week I detained a young man. You know some of these young boys are funny they are university graduates but do not fulfill their responsibilities. This boy’s wife came here crying. She was very stressed because she didn’t have any money for rent. Her mother-in-law had given her Shs 200,000 and asked her to look for the rest,” Nandi narrates.

The couple needed an extra Shs 50,000 to pay off the rent and the wife had failed to find it. What about the man? Well, the man, whose mother started up a business for him on Nkrumah road, was not too bothered about finding the money.

“When I detained him, he called his people and they brought the Shs 50,000. He’s coming back next week to bring half the school fees for their child,” Nandi says.

Why was this husband letting his wife solely pay for their shelter, food and child’s school fees? As Nandi pointed out earlier, lazy, coddled mummy’s boys-turned-husbands can so “stress women that they want to commit suicide.”

Liz Beteise (not real names) is married to a ‘mummy’s boy’ who uses his money to party instead of providing the home’s needed finances. And when she tired of paying all the bills, she sought counselling. Her husband, instead of promising to at least pick the electricity bill, told the counsellor and Beteise that some people were born to work and provide. In his opinion, others were born to be provided for, even when their female providers were feeling too strained to do so.

Sarah Ndikuwa, the OC of the Child and Family Protection Unit at Katwe police station, makes these additions to the list of men that financially neglect their families: the poor, drunkards and men who just like to party. She says they receive three to four complaints on neglect every day. And when it is school fees time, complaints hit the ceiling.

“If you had come during school fees time, you would have seen such long queues here!” Ndikuwa says.

What men say:

What reasons do such men give for their actions?

Gerald Kato, who has friends who fall in this category, says because these men’s wives work, their husbands feel the women should fend for their homes.

“They reason that as long as their children are in school, the woman can do the rest,” Kato says.

The men pay the school fees, but is that enough? The cost of ordinary home needs, which include rent (in some cases), water and electricity bills, clothes, house staff’s salaries and food, usually surpass what is spent on school fees.

“Most of these boys have more than one wife,” says Kato, explaining why some of his friends do the least they can for their families. He adds: “They leave their wives to suffer while they take care of other wives [or girlfriends].”

Some men, however, have noble reasons for failing in their providing role. One man says he uses his money to set up income-generating projects for his family, say poultry farming, and leaves his wife to take care of their home’s needs. Leo Lukenge, an accountant, says women complain too much when they contribute to a home’s finances.

“If she pays an electricity bill once, she will complain very loudly and tell her friends how she always takes care of the home,” says Lukenge.

In his opinion, women exaggerate the financial role they play in a home. But Kato does not understand such sentiments. He believes women should not be picking any bills in the home in the first place.

“I learnt from my dad. He used to do all our home’s shopping, be it for groceries from the market or for clothes. I do the same at my home. I go to the market and buy our week’s groceries,” says 31-year-old Kato, who has been married for seven years.

Effect on marriage:

Dr Sheila Ndyanabangi, a counsellor, says a man who does not take care of his home’s finances loses his authority in the home.

“Some get an inferiority complex and in order to assert themselves, they resort to domestic violence. A man will want to show the woman that much as he does not have financial power, he has physical power.”

Conflicts, Ndyanabangi says, are also likely to escalate in a home where a woman is both the breadwinner and home caretaker. Imagine this situation that Nandi describes:

“Without having provided any money for the home, the man will ask for tea, lunch and then some money for lira lira [local brew].”

A woman who is too busy chasing after money and also playing her home caretaker role would be too stressed and may pick a fight. Some women have also cheated on their partners because they needed money for the home that their man could not provide. This is as true for housewives as it is for working mothers.

Actor Aisha Kyomuhangi once marvelled at men who enjoy the meat their wives serve them without questioning who bought it. They don’t even care to wonder whether it wasn’t another man who had bought it. She made these comments on a recent NTV show.

Way forward:

Because the “issue of finances is a common problem in marriage these days, sometimes resulting in marriage break-ups,” Ndyanabangi calls on women to embrace taking care of their homes financially, especially where their husbands are out of income (jobs) and where they earn more.

“I am not saying men should sit at home, fold their arms and wait to be looked after. A woman is a helpmate and she should be looked at as such. However, where her husband has lost his job or where she is earning more than him, she should look at her money as a resource for the home. Whoever has resources should use these for the home,” Ndyanabangi says.

Source : The Observer

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