Mums deserve more than pocket money

My husband and I were barely out of our teens when we walked into the bank to open a joint account. And close our personal ones.

We weren't married, we didn't even live together. I was 20 and my friends were horrified. It wasn't so much the opening of the joint account they took exception to, but the closing of our personal ones, so that all money was shared. 

We are the daughters of the first generation of women who earned their own money their whole lives. We were born and raised to be independent women, with our own careers and our own money.

I get that. And that works really well while both partners are earning money, but what happens when you have children? In Australia, most women stay home longer than their paid maternity leave lasts while their husbands continue to work.

But when men are the only ones in paid employment, what happens to the money?

For my husband and I, the answer is easy. Everything continues as it always has: it is our money and we both have equal rights and responsibilities over it. But this is not the answer for many other couples.

A friend of mine, Janine*, earns good money, is ambitious, and a feminist. When she had her daughter she was entitled to the government paid parental leave, but when that dried up she was staring down the barrel of 8 months of earning nothing while performing the daily grind of child-rearing.

Janine and her husband do not share money. They have a joint account for bills and household expenses, but they have never shared disposable income. To prepare for having a baby, Janine saved money so she would be able to afford to go out for coffee once her daughter was born.

I don't mean Janine and her husband saved up. I mean Janine saved up her money, while her husband carried on as normal.

It seems Janine's lack of equal access to family funds is quite normal.

Kelly, a stay-at-home mother of two had to miss a friend's birthday dinner at a restaurant and bar in the city because she couldn't afford to go. Nothing unusual there; a lot of family budgets are very tight.

But Kelly's husband went. He could afford it. Because Kelly and her husband have an agreement where he transfers her an amount of money every month. Yep. Like an allowance.

This is not independence. It's certainly not a partnership. The lack of access to funds may even tip into economic abuse.

It's not as if these women aren't working. They're working their guts out. Never mind keeping the kids fed, clothed, bathed, rested, and teaching them to be decent human beings, have you ever tried getting dried Weet-Bix off the floor?!

Without his wife to stay home and look after the children, a husband would be forking out thousands of dollars a week in childcare costs. And probably hiring a cleaner and cook too. These women may think they are independent, but in fact they are being taken advantage of and undervalued by the very person who should value them the most.

I don't ask my husband for permission or funds to get a cup of coffee or a new shirt just because he's the one in paid employment while I look after our son at home. And he wouldn't dream of arguing that I haven't "earned" the money so I'm not entitled to it.

We believe that each of us contributes equally to the family and is of equal value to the partnership, and so we are equally entitled to any money brought in. 

*Names have been changed

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