Childlessness. Joblessness. Those are two demons every wife should dread. They are two evils the good Lord should not allow to plague our marriages, our children’s marriages. I will not bring to your memory the pains and sorrows that are daily part of the life of a woman in the waiting room. I do not wish to rehash the stories of how she is bullied, scorned, derided, blamed for every conceivable, and even inconceivable reasons why her womb cannot bring forth children. Let us not start the year with the pain of a dehumanized woman. Let us only pray that God moves her from the waiting room to the delivery room this year.
The jobless wife, the wife without an income is the one I’d rather focus on. You think joblessness is a lesser evil of the two? Ah, that would be because you have never considered the spiral effect of being without an income even in a loving marriage. For teenagers and young adults wearing rose-tinted glasses, once a man loves you, everything will be fine. For those who have been married for any length of time and those who are determined to stay married, we all know that love is not enough. But let’s not digress too much.
Let me share the story of two wives, one is with an income, the other a full-time housewife where her husband is her only source of income.
Bella married quite late by her mother’s standards. She finally walked down the aisle at 34. But she was already successful in other areas. She had money. She knew God and was level-headed. Her husband was 36. Then the babies refused to come. She prayed. She ran all the tests her doctor ordered. She prayed some more. Then cried. She woke up one morning and it was her 37th birthday. Her biological clock was in permanent alarm mode. She and her husband had been counseled on the IVF alternative but their pastor had counter-counseled that it was those who lacked faith who try to help God. Her husband also felt the in-vitro thing was too expensive considering that it could even fail. But on her 37th birthday, Bella decided that if she could afford to buy a business class ticket to London just for a holiday, it was absolutely stupid to think IVF was too expensive. She romanced her husband in every way with everything she has until he budged. It was her money but she knew she needed her husband’s blessing. And blessed they were 10 months later with a set of triplets.
Do you still think a woman without an income can swing an IVF? Even if it is to do ‘esusu’ for two years, only a working woman can save, right?
Hold that thought. Check this other scenario out.
Let’s compare how in-laws treat the rich wife and the money-less wife. Whether it is her money or her husband’s money, you must agree that a wife who can dip her hand in her purse and take care of expenses, small or big, is treated with respect. Take the case of my friend, Tundun. You can call her a trophy wife if you don’t know that she is a successful event planner with cool cash of her own. While the younger and poor wives of her husband’s brothers are kneeling down all over the place and trying to impress mama, the matriarch of the family, Tundun is smoothing things with cash and gifts.
‘The old woman expects his daughters-in-law to arrive one week or three days before any family event, including Easter and Christmas. Who has time for any of that? I got a business to run. What I do is call mama and sweet talk her endlessly until she’s purring like a satisfied cat. This last Christmas, I got a caterer to cook three meals every day for five days that the clan was in the village. It cost me only 20k. I had a cake delivered for Christmas day for just 7k. Everybody had fun without having to stress about cooking for 15 people three times a day and when we were leaving, I gave mama 50k from my pocket apart from what my husband gave her.’
Unless for other reasons, what average mother-in-law will beef a daughter-in-law like Tundun for arriving late for a family event? Juxtapose Tundun with a full-time house-wife who arrives late for the same event by public transport. Her two children stressed from the long road trip are crying, hungry and sweaty. She’s tired too and then mama hisses and eyes her from head to toe.
‘Is this the time your mates arrive for a wedding. Just drop your bag and join those who are cooking. They just brought the cow and two cartons of fish.’
Bisi, my friend of two decades has tasted both sides of the divide. She was once jobless and dependent on whatever her husband dropped on the dining table on his way to work. Today she is a successful businesswoman shuttling between Italy, China and Nigeria. I remember vividly how she almost always ended in hospital after every family event in Abeokuta, Ogun state. She would help with the shopping (and I mean buying baskets of pepper, tomatoes, ponmo etc), cooking, washing everything from plates to dusty floors. On top of all that, she would not be able to buy the aso ebi. So, she’ll end up wearing something different. She was a poster girl of the poor relative for years. Her husband did not help matters either. He was not doing so well and needed protection himself, from his ever overbearing mother. Being money-less without a husband who can defend and protect you is like being stricken by a virulent disease. You just have to wait out the fever and pain. Men who can’t and don’t protect their wives will grace this space soon. They are a special breed.
Back to Bisi. For years, her life was a thriving misery. Until she crossed from poor wife street to rich wife boulevard. Ah, the difference is clear. She is now called Mummy China and no family event is fixed without her input.
They ask if she will be in the country. She is asked if the colour code is okay with her. In return for the honour of being Numero Uno daughter-in-law, she dresses her mother-in-law to the nines and that includes make up and gele for the 79-year-old woman. She buys aso ebi in bulk for her sisters-in-law, showers them with gifts. So even if she arrives on the morning of the event, everybody is just happy she made it.
The poor wife spends sweat and effort. The rich wife spends money and goodwill.
What about how husbands treat poor wives? Not nice at all. Fortunately not all men are mean to their money-less or jobless wives. Indeed some men love their women poor.
It gives them some kind of power to play god which they relish. But let us restrict this to the matter at hand. Most men do not like to slave all day, all month, all year just to hand it all over to a woman whose main job is to watch Telemundo and provide boring sex. When they find themselves stuck with one, they simply make her life miserable. The man feels like he’s been used, so he lashes out at every chance. He makes her beg for everything. He makes her feel small.
Do you know what it’s like out there? You have no idea how tough it is to MAKE MONEY in today’s Nigeria.
Why do you need to go to the salon on Sunday, after all you don’t do anything during the week?
Why is your mum calling me, didn’t I just pay your brother’s school fees?
I don’t think you will go to your aunt’s burial party because I have no money for aso ebi. Why is there always a party in your family?
How else do you make a woman feel small in her own home?
But a rich wife? Her man knows she is not a little woman, and when she is a well-behaved rich wife to boot, her husband wears her like a Patek Phillipe Grandmaster Chime.