By Constance van Niekerk in SA
The reality of some marriages in Africa is too glaring to ignore. This has nothing to do with tribe, race or nationality. It is sad but true that everything has changed; from the weather to children’s behaviour and even that of spouses too!
Some married women are no more than just single women in their communities, that is, they are, in effect, ‘married-single women’. They pay their children’s school fees, buy the furniture, cook, clean the house, pay the bills and attend to everyone’s upkeep, including the husband’s. And they do this from the resources of their hard labour! Some can take the picture literally, but it really depicts the general state of many marriages in Africa. It is quite sad that in this era of children’s rights, gender equality, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and economic freedom so many unspeakable injustices are being perpetrated on women! Men who go AWOL on their responsibilities to the family are, in fact, practising a not-so-very-subtle kind of slavery centuries after its abolition.
Two weeks ago while trying to correct a mischievous young boy of 9, I decided to give his father as an example of someone he could emulate. I asked him where his father worked and his reply was quite unsettling, “My daddy doesn’t go to work. Only my mother goes to work. All my daddy does, is go to the gym everyday and watch TV all day.” What could I possibly say after that? Once again life had shown how all the carefully-laid plans of mice and men dissipate! I told the boy to stop being naughty and left it at that.
The incident with the little boy set me wondering about other home situations I was aware of. My neighbour is going through a divorce. She recently found out that her soon to be ex-husband had lied about his work contract expiring at the beginning of the year. He, in fact, had simply resigned and resolved to spend time chatting with some unemployed young men at the shops nearby. Now, she has to pay maintenance for a good for nothing and lazy ex–husband because he is still unemployed, although by design. She must look after their children and also clothe and feed them single–handedly. She needs to pay the bills and the mortgage, and also take care of the school fees and transport fees for herself and the children. To add salt to injury she also has to pay maintenance for him. As they say, the law can be an ass!
My neighbour is not the only woman who has been deceived by a lazy husband. My hairdresser’s husband did exactly the same. He was a driver who one day just parked the company car and headed for home. He told his wife that he had been fired. She was puzzled about why his boss had fired him so unexpectedly and sent him with no severance money. Many months later and quite by accident and sheer luck, she discovered to her surprise that he hadn’t been fired at all and had simply absconded.
Strange how men seem to have lost the desire to provide for their families! They don’t seem to care anymore about being the breadwinner of the home, preferring instead to be ‘kept men’.
Some men just sit on the couch watching TV the whole day, waiting for the wife to come back from work. As soon as she parks her car in the garage, hubby gets up, grabs the car keys and speeds off to heaven-knows-where. The wife arrives to a dirty kitchen and is left to bear the financial burden and do the household chores as well while the lord and master behaves like a baron.
Another friend of mine is a principal of a high school. Her husband one day just resigned from one of the top corporate companies in the city. He now just sits at home. He didn’t even bother to pay off the house with his package or even just tell his wife that he had stopped paying the mortgage months ago. His family could have been homeless now if it weren’t for my friend who a few days before the eviction date managed to pay off the required amount. Nobody knows what the man did with his package. Meanwhile he continues to loiter around the house when he is not driving around in one of his wife’s cars.
It is strange how some men are neither embarrassed nor ashamed when women take on their roles as breadwinners. They seem to have lost their sense of balance and appear to have no qualms whatsoever, about being looked after by a woman. Some ‘kept men’ even demand for new clothes, fancy mobile phones and even a car! And these same men abuse the women who are looking after them. There is evidence that even those men still gainfully employed are becoming increasingly more parasitic, expecting to be spoilt by their wives.
My mother was a full time house wife all her life, but nobody would have known as she went shopping every month end, dressed quite fashionably. She was always well– groomed. My father never complained about ‘his’ money. Every pay day he would give my mother his pay slip. She already kept his bank card. Yet some women today haven’t the slightest idea how much their husbands earn. When the man gets his pay he spends it as he pleases. In other homesteads the opposite is true. The woman is the one that brings her entire month’s salary to the husband. If she wants to buy anything at all, no matter how small or cheap, she has to ask for money from the husband. When it’s time for her monthly cycle, she has to ask for money for pads from her husband! Sometimes he buys the sanitary ware himself! What happened to the holy of holies? If she wants to have her hair done, he buys the necessary materials. Is this what marriage is about? Another factor that has changed in these ever– changing times is the fact that married women are now the ones admiring single women where the opposite was true just a decade ago.
Is it something in the air or are we the lost generation?