The recent saga between Tiwa Savage and Tunji ‘Teeblizz’ Balogun moved me to tears, and not because I give a crap about them as a couple. I mean, I do, because I am a big fan of hers, but that is not enough to send me bawling like a baby. Why was I so affected then? Because I see my marriage in hers. I see the signs of an imminent divorce, or even worse, resentment and depression. I am a Nigerian wife and the breadwinner in my home.
Let me begin by saying, this was never in my plans. I worked my behind off as a student and as an employee so that someday, I will be an asset to my husband and be able to financially contribute to raising my kids. I did not set out to be some super breadwinner to make a point or begin a revolution. I am going to break my story down into bits so you can understand it much better.
Here are 6 things that happen when you are the one that brings home the bacon, fry it, serve it, while wearing the pants.
You feel guilty
It sounds ridiculous, right? Men are mostly the breadwinners and this comes with a feeling of pride. But when women do it (or maybe this is just my case) I feel a little guilty. I walk on eggshells around his ego. Whenever he comes home talking about how bad things are for him, I cannot share my success. I feel bad for even being glad about by success. I hold him and encourage him while I clamp down my joy. I feel guilty when I can afford things and he can’t. I feel guilty when we go on dates and I pay. I feel guilty when I have to send money to his siblings in school because he can’t and they expect him to. It really is a lot of guilt and I can see how this can ruin a marriage.
You are alone
I know absolutely no one in my situation, and no one knows about my situation. Nigeria isn’t teeming with female breadwinners. My friends are mostly being completely taken care of by their men. I know only one mother who splits with her man 50/50 and I consider her the one that is more likely to understand me. But she complains so much about her husband not being able to support them fully that I am sure her jaw will fall of her face if she hears my story. So, I am alone. I cannot talk to my parents because that would hurt my husband. I have had two kids via C-section and I paid from my pocket both times. I had to send money to his account beforehand so he can ‘be the man’ and pay the bills. Basically, it is just me and myself. I literally talk to myself about these challenges and try to convince myself we are doing the best we can.
You doubt his ambition
I have asked myself if he is simply lazy or going through a rough patch. We have been married over two years and this is seeming like an extremely long ‘rough patch.’ I have an older child who is about to begin school in September, so I know that the bills will escalate. I am now attending a baking school on nights and weekend so I can bake part time and potentially make more. Meanwhile, he is in Real Estate and he only gets money when he gets clients. He often leaves home at 12 noon. I have asked him that since he has so much time, couldn’t he do something on the side? He says he is doing what he studied in school and he does not know of any other way to bring in money. I know if I push it, he will either flip or sulk, so we leave it. I often wonder if he is simply unambitious or if I am asking for too much.
You cannot have a fight
So, the husband has this habit of coming home very late at nights, (past midnight most nights) and I am not a big fan. I worry about him and I try to get him to cut back. He promised to, but he did not stop. One day, we got into a fight over it because he came in at 1:00am and I could not reach him for hours because his phone was off. During the argument, he yelled that I am trying to control him because I paid the bills. Now, what do you think is the best response to that? I simply kept quiet and went to bed. My point is, fighting is hard with someone who thinks he is being taken advantage of. So there are a LOT of things I let slide, to keep the peace. Now, can you see how this can be damaging?
You are waiting for an explosion
Teebillz called Tiwa’s mother a witch holding him down. This resonates with me for some reason. Between when my husband and I met till now, I have been promoted three times and had my salary go up four times. He has been in basically the same place, or even worse. I just got a loan to start a side business and I am so terrified that if that becomes extremely successful, he will explode. Heck, this is Nigeria, he can say he met me and I took his star, or is it shine? Just picture being in a partnership where you are too scared to be successful. He had once blown up because I bought our son a bicycle without consulting him. He says I show off what I have to make him feel bad and guilt him. I was stumped. Now I am stuck being in one place because I fear that moving forward will completely ruin us.
You have no idea what your responsibilities are
Before I had enough and had to hire help, I did it all. I worked 8 to 5, I cooked, cleaned, woke up with the baby a dozen times at night even though I had to be up by 5am. I even did all this while 9 months pregnant. I sometimes ask for help, but I try not to ask too much, because, ego. The society expect things from me and my family has a whole different set of expectations. Sometimes, to get through the day, I imagine I am a single mother. This way, I feel empowered, not exhausted. What are my options, ask him to cook? Clean? Go out and make money? Imagine the complications.
You do not know when to be grateful
One morning, few months ago, the baby started crying at 1 am. I was about to get up and he told me not to worry. He got up and got her back to sleep. He did it just the once and never did it again. I did mumble a ‘thank you’ and went back to bed that morning but evidently he expected more. A week after that, we were having a discussion (or was it an argument?) where he mentioned the fact that I was never grateful for what he does for me. I asked for an example and he talked about waking up with the baby that morning. I said I appreciated it and he said that it was not enough. He claimed I acted like it was no big deal. Honestly, I do think he was right. I did not consider it a big deal. I felt it was the least he could do. But when he did not do it again, I did not bring it up. He has probably done a couple other things I do not notice because a part of me felt he should be doing more. This might be all me, but it is very clear how bad a person will feel if he is not appreciated.
Do not get me wrong, I love my husband, but it is very clear that the deck is stacked against the Nigerian woman who wants to do it all. I constantly pray for things to get better for him, not because we get more money, but things NEED to be better for our marriage to survive. We literally need him to achieve some level of success, or our marriage will die, due to all the resentment, insecurity, anger and pain.
If any of you women out there are doing this and rocking it, I pay a very huge respect. If you are considering this, make sure you are absolutely ready. For a Nigerian woman to be the breadwinner, she needs some form of superhuman strength and patience.
Image via Wall Street Journal