Danny’s now gone to two different Catholic schools here in Mazatlán, and they both have required parents to attend meetings or retreats in order for the kids to get a better grade in religion class. I have trouble with that, but that’s not what this post is about. I do see that it motivates parents to attend and to learn.
I am a Christian and I love this time of Lent. This year I’m doing some social justice meditations along with Bible reading.
But, tonight as I was heading to school to the first of THREE required Lenten meetings, I was not in the best frame of mind. I also have a horrible cold, and am at the point where a tissue needs to constantly be in my hand, and a lozenge in my throat, so I felt very sorry for my neighbors sitting near me.
Anyway, tonight ended up being really interesting. I am so glad I went. There were four married couples on stage, all different ages, from married 8 years with young children to married 36 years with grandkids. The theme of the evening was “weathering economic crisis in your marriage.” The couples each took turns answering a series of three questions on the topic.
Each of the four women said that, when they married, they expected to not have to work. And the husbands all said they expected to be the family provider. All four of them then went on to describe that times have changed from our parents’ days, and nowadays both spouses need to work to maintain a family; it’s the reality and most everyone has to learn to adapt. The couples all told poignant stories about the emotions they went through, and the blame or judgment they heaped on each other, as they worked through to the reality that they would both need to work.
The answers to the first question were pretty astounding to me. I have a couple of girlfriends here who work, and both of them keep their money separate from their husband’s money. The idea seems to be that the man’s duty is to provide for the family, and any money the women makes is her to use as she pleases: things for herself, special items for the kids, etc. But, I’d always figured my friends were exceptions to the rule. Greg and I have always pooled our money, and I figured most Mexicans must, too.
All four of the couples who spoke this evening, however, shared that same perspective as my local girlfriends: that the wife’s income should be for “extras” and the man’s income for the basics. The men want to be the breadwinners; the women want to be provided for. This shocked me. Though I know it’s true in a lot of places, to experience it so blatantly and close to home, when it’s so completely different than the assumptions I grew up with, was interesting for me.
Then, three out of the four couples proceeded to explain that this solution of keeping incomes separate was not a sustainable or constructive one, that pooling the two incomes was better. The fourth couple had actually pooled their money for a while, and then decided to go in the reverse direction, to the “Dad pays for the necessities and I pay for the extras” route, so that the wife could still feel that her husband was “taking care of” them, and so that Daddy could feel he was doing the bread (or tortilla) winning.
The other questions involved how the couples had weathered unemployment, and whether they had ever lived beyond their means and how they’d gotten “out from under” if they had.
The beautiful thing, for me, was that these couples all spoke from the heart. They shared the anger and doubt they’d gone through, they shared that they’d made poor decisions, they put themselves in a vulnerable position in front of hundreds of other parents, many of whom they know. It was so powerful, and so moving.
Just a little reflection and personal anecdote on a Tuesday night.