The traditional role of the husband as the Man of the house and breadwinner of the family is under insidious attack from a surfeit of forces in the country. In this piece, DAVID ADUGE-ANI, Abuja reports on the growing phenomenon of stay-at-home husbands in the country
Jake (some names have been changed) lives in Kado village, Abuja. He is a full-time stay-at-home husband. This means Jake virtually does all the family chores, including washing dishes, mopping the floors, bathing the children, cooking, fetching water for the family and even running errands for his wife.
Jake does all of these because he is unemployed. Although he holds a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Marketing, Jake has been unemployed for five years. In fact, he married his wife five years ago as an unemployed man. According to him, his wife, a businesswoman, footed the wedding bills.
Jake and his wife have three children, whose school fees and upkeep are paid by the wife. She also pays the house rent for their two-bedroom apartment.
Mr. Obot lives with his civil servant wife and daughter in Masaka, Nasarawa state. Every working day, Mrs. Obot rises early to prepare for office and is often out of the house by 6.00am to catch a staff bus to Abuja where she works in a government establishment. It is the lot of Mr. Obot to prepare their four-year-old daughterfor her nursery school, including making a lunch pack for her.
After dropping his daughter off at school, Obot comes home to tidy the family home, do the shopping and generally make himself useful to the household. At closing time, Obot must go back to his daughter’s school and bring her back to the house. He must also prepare the family flat dinner so that when his wife comes back from work, she would have something to eat.
With occasional changes, this has been Mr. Obot’s daily routine in the last three years since he lost his construction job.
For her part, Mrs. Obot is the breadwinner of the family. Her monthly pay goes into paying the rent, utility bills and the general upkeep of the family, including paying her daughter’s school fees.
Jake and Mr. Obot exemplify the growing phenomenon of stay-at-home husbands in the country. According to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND investigation, there is an upsurge of homes such as those of Jake and Obot where women of the house are the breadwinners of the family while their husbands stay at home to take the roles traditionally performed by their wives.
An Unintended Spinoff of Modern Lifestyle
Experts in family and social studies listed economic factors, success of the feminist movement or gender equality campaign and poor attitude to work or outright laziness among some men as some of the factors responsible for the growing number of stay-at-home husbands in the country and beyond.
According to Deputy Head of Department at the Department of Sociology, University of Abuja, Dr. Margaret Bahal, “Society is changing and the family structure and roles of the individuals in it is also bound to be affected. Today, more and more women are out there doing a lot of things that were traditionally seen as the forte of men
Bahal continued: “The capitalist system that we are operating in Nigeria at present, which does not take the welfare of people into consideration, unlike the British and the American systems where many families rely on welfare, is partly responsibility for the increasing number of house husband phenomenon in the society.
“In Nigeria, one or both spouses just have to go out there to work or the family will starve. In most cases, the income made by the husband is not enough to keep the family going and so the woman also has to go out and work. A loss of job by either side usually translates to a bad patch for the family.”
She added “Women are increasingly taking up the role of breadwinners in the family for a number of reasons, mainly economic. It is no gainsaying to assert that many women in the country today are successful in their chosen careers, which translates to higher income than those of some men. In such a situation and under the current harsh economic climate, such women are bound to contribute more to the wellbeing of their families.
“We also find that there many successful middle or high level career women in the country and elsewhere who are single. Such successful women are not immune to filial and societal pressure to get married. These unmarried women in the society who are comfortable in their homes and who can afford to keep a man if he comes along often do so. In some of such marriages, the man can become a stay-at-home husband and the wife, the family breadwinner.”
Also, Mr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based clinical psychologist, noted that some socio-economic factors led to the increasing phenomenon of women becoming breadwinners in the homes.
His words: “The economic power of many family heads has plummeted in recent times. As a husband and family head, if you don’t have the economic powers, then your presence does not matters much.
“Also, there is an increase in the number of career women in the society, due increase in their levels of education. Many women in that category who are caught up by age become desperate in their need for a husband, and so they end up picking anybody in the desperation to be Mrs. Someone. With the high number of young and unemployed men around, it is inevitable that some of the women would marry men who can’t even fend for themselves, not to talk of a family. These then become stay-at-home husbands.”
A Charged Family Life
Consciously or unconsciously, Jake’s wife is in charge of his home. As he goes about his household chores, she often sits by and watches. Occasionally, she calls out to him to hurry up on a particular task in order to do another. Tongues are wagging in the neighbourhood over this obvious role reversal.
Jake is not enjoying it either. “I there is nothing I can do about it for now. I’m not a lazy man and I’m still searching for a job to enable me contribute towards my family’s sustenance. It is difficult for a man to be a real man in a family where the woman provides everything,” he told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND.
Obot seems to have also accepted his situation with equanimity: “Since my wife goes out to work every day, it is my responsibility to do the household duties to assist her. She provides the money for the sustenance of the home, so I must as well help in my own way in keeping the family going,” he said.
Are Things Falling Apart Then?
Experts opinions differ on the implication of raising children in homes where the husband stays at home to do the house chores while his wife works to take care of the family.
“It is situational,” says Dr. Suleiman Mohammed, associate professor and head, department of sociology, University of Abuja.
“Ordinarily, marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, and the assumption is that the man provides for the sustenance of the family. However, I don’t see it as an issue if a woman takes those responsibilities because it is first and foremost a mutual concept, so they agree between themselves.
“Even in conventional marriages there are some unintended implications. For instance if you have a couple that is quarrelsome, this can rub off on their children. If the stay-at-home husband accepts the relationship and they live in peace, the children will grow up in a peaceful atmosphere and turn out well. But if on the other hand after contracting the relationship they keep quarrelling from the time to time, of course, it will affect the socialisation and training of the children.”
Dr Mohammed maintained that “if there are women who took such responsibilities, it is first of all based on mutual concept. We must also realise that society is dynamic. Even the whole concept of marriage is changing. We know the development concerning the gay marriages and all that.”
Dr Bahal stated: “If you, as a man, agrees to live under a woman, you should be ready to live under any circumstances, because certainly a woman will not feel comfortable feeding you, clothing you and then you lording it over her. It is not done. So if you as a man agree to stay under a woman, you should agree to receive whatever she is giving you. You receive her money; you receive her cloths, then you should be prepared for her heading the family, because certainly you cannot have two heads of the family. And, the one that brings in the money is the head of the family.”
However, Dr. Bahal added: “If the husband and the wife understand themselves and there is no conflict in the house, I think they should be able to put to bring up their children the way they want. But where there is conflict, it is going to split the family because some of the children will be sympathetic to their father, while others will go with the mother. The major implication is that you might have a major division in the family, which can lead to children being maladjusted well into adulthood.”
Dr Bahal urged couples living under this situation to show “understanding especially where the situation is caused by retirement of the father or loss of job and so on. However, if the woman has been the sole provider, it is high time the man wake up and do something. Some men are just lazy and don’t want to work. The man in this situation should really buckle up and work hard to fend for his wife and family, rather leaving the woman to do everything.”
Mefor said: “There is a saying that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. A woman cannot be paying virtually all the bills at home and still not have a say there.
“Bringing up children in the shadows of a cowering stay-at-home husband can affect discipline in children because there is manifest absence of authority figure in the home. Children brought up in such a home might be vulnerable to all sorts of indiscipline in the society, because they are coming from a home that is not properly structured.”
Mr Mefor warned that “every young man must be very careful in walking into such marriages because there is no short-cut to enduring progress
“Such marriages are usually built on falsehood because the woman has not found love in the man but she only wanted to marry at all cost. After the wedding, more pressure is put on the man to sustain the family and since the man is not prepared for family responsibilities, there are bound to be problems.”