I was speaking with a friend the other day and we got talking about how the family structure has changed and the fact that things are not as they were when we were growing up.
We talked about the traditional roles we grew up with and wondered at how some of these roles have been reversed. We looked at our mothers’ lives and how they treated and were treated by their men; our fathers. We considered our generation and the way we relate with our men, we marveled at the way our younger sisters and daughters conduct themselves in their relationships.
The life of the modern woman has changed drastically from what our mothers lives looked like and the main reason is education.
There was a time not too far away when it was believed that the man was superior to the woman. When women were deemed to be a class higher than animals without the mental abilities of a man. It was a time when the man’s word was Law when women had no right over themselves or anything but those days are far gone and it all started with the education of the girl child.
I remember my mother saying that her mother and many mothers in that generation who were largely illiterate, insisted many times on footing the bills, from their meager resources, for their girl child to go to school, especially when they saw the power wielded by and the respect given to the few women of their generation (e.g Funmilayo Ransome Kuti) who was educated and later became the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car.
The education of the girl child has brought changes in her relationships and the effect has been far reaching than was ever thought possible. With education, the woman’s status has changed. She has stepped up from being a class higher than an animal to man’s equal and at times even his superior. She has taken up jobs that were previously the main preserve of men and has done well in them, so her abilities are no longer in doubt and she has become increasingly independent of man financially, mentally, politically and socially.
However, the changes in her status have brought about problems mainly on the home front. The woman has become aware of the powers that are hers and is not willing to be caged anymore, whilst the Man is still in a state of delusion refusing to acknowledge that his powers in the relationship have dwindled from the God- like authority he used to exercise.
It’s an irony of life that the man expects his woman who is as educated as he is to still think, and behave like his mother who was not exposed in like manner.
It is foolhardy that the man expects his woman( who contributes to the finances of the household) to turn a blind eye to his philandering ways because after all, his mother knew ‘her husband was cheating on her or even brought home a second, third or fourth wife and the heavens did not fall.’
He conveniently forgets that his mother was totally dependent on her husband and could not afford to complain. It is incomprehensible when he wonders why his woman is not glad he is “respecting” her by not cheating to her face when she believes she owns a majority stake in the relationship. It is pathetic that he is shocked when his wife doesn’t go on her knees to beg him to eat her food when they quarrel because his mother was devastated when her husband/ his father refused her food. It is perplexing when he is amazed at how his plans or ideas are challenged by his wife especially since he is the head of the house. It is amazing when he is taken aback when he tells her to leave his house and she retorts without fear that they both own it and she isn’t going anywhere.
Women have changed but so have men. Our men are not cast in the mould of their fathers who took pride in the fact that they were men and took care of their families. Today’s man wants his wife to respect him but does little to earn that respect. There is a frightening new trend in town and it is that a lot of women are carrying the financial burdens of the home and their Men who are in no way incapacitated mostly see no wrong in it after all “he who owns the land owns all that is on it”.
Women are paying school fees, house rent, electricity bills and Dstv subscriptions , buying food and even putting pocket money in their husbands outstretched hands and the amazing thing is that the men seem to expect these contributions and even cause a ruckus if it is not forthcoming!
I am not in any way saying women should not help out in the home, women have been helping out even when they had nothing and no reasonable woman will heap all the responsibilities of the home on her man. The realities of today’s world is such that both parties must contribute to the home if not in kind then in cash. The problem arises when the man expects the woman to take up more of the roles that were traditionally his and refuses to take up more of the roles that are traditionally hers or if he does so behaves as if he is doing her a favor.
It is only reasonable that if the woman bears more financial responsibilities than before, the man should be willing to take up more of the woman’s traditional roles of caring for the children, cooking, etc. than before.
However, today’s man wants to live in the glory of yesterday and lord it over his wife like his father did even though he doesn’t walk in his father’s shoes. There is also the flip side to this argument because there are men who argue that because they fulfill all their responsibilities as a man and father, their wives should count themselves lucky and not complain about their affairs, lifestyle and behavior and these men wonder why their women do not accept or condone their behavior like their mothers did after all they have done better than their fathers in every way possible.
The truth is that we, our mother and our daughters belong to different generations and we can never act or reason in the same way. Times have changed and it’s in the best interest of both genders to accept the fact and adapt to their new realities. It’s akin to trying to bring up children with the methods we were brought up with. If we realize that times have changed when we consider how we relate to our children and vice versa, we will see the wisdom in not fighting against the changes in our roles and we will teach our children especially our sons not to expect that their women would relate to them the way their mothers did to their father’s, for surely today’s young lady will tell her man to his face “Dear Boo I am not my mother nor your mother!”