Many years ago, as editor of Femina, I assigned a story that would track an evolving trend.
With more and more women coming into the workplace, and with the fact that many of them were quite well educated and qualified professionally, some of them were in positions that earned them better salaries than their husbands.
The cover story I assigned was a multi city survey of such women, and how their success in the workplace affected family politics.
The reports, when they came in, were surprising in some ways and predictable in some others.
The surprise was in the fact that the correspondents in all the assigned cities had no trouble finding such women. They were women who were mainly professionals, or government servants, and thanks to merit, or their hard work, or in some cases due to the way the system worked, had reached a position that ensured the money they took home was more than what their spouses earned.
The reaction to this fact was the predictable element. They ranged from such women doing one of the following things: Hiding their income from their husbands, and not letting on that they earned more; ensuring that the husband’s ego was not hurt by extolling the virtues of his job and position as being much more significant and demanding than their own; or as in quite a few cases, playing an exaggerated, subservient role in the home so the husband felt he was indeed his wife’s lord and master.
In one case, a professional who was in the same organisation as her husband who held a lower post and consequently earned less, told us that when they reached home, she would not just make the tea and serve the biscuits, but also fetch her husband his slippers… It was her
token way of bringing in a balance to their relationship.
Of course there were a few husbands who felt proud of their wives’ success, and realised that the money she added to the kitty would only enhance their financial status and lifestyle. But these were in a decided minority.
Today, however, one could dare say that matters have changed. The balance has tilted, become more even. At least in more homes than when the story was written.
There could be many reasons for this:
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