Dear Greek Oracle,
I have been married to my Greek husband for 11 years (I am a quarter Greek myself) and we have two children aged seven and nine.
My husband works in property development and I used to work in recruitment. My first child had a lot of medical issues as a baby so I gave up work to be a full time mother while helping my husband with his property business. I keep in touch with many of my business associates and attend meetings sporadically to offer my professional advice.
Now my children are at full-time school and one of my work contacts has offered me a fairly high position in a new firm. The hours are not bad and I will still be able to fulfil my motherly duties although it will be important for my husband and I to support each other and take joint care of the children, whereas before I did all the running around.
My husband has not taken well to this idea. At first he seemed ok about me going back to work, especially as a double income would help greatly with our finances. However, since he has heard about my new position he has become quite accusatory demanding to know how the children are going to do their homework, who will cook the meals etc, and saying that the house will be a mess.
His business has taken a bit of a knock in recent months, so I can understand that he may be feeling dissatisfied professionally, but how do I make him see that me working will be good for all of us?
(*Names have been changed to protect identities)
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In traditional times, the woman’s place was in the kitchen, while the man went out to work in the fields to provide for his family. In our modern era, this view is seen as out of touch and not in sync with our policies on equal rights. However, this is not so in the Mediterranean culture, particularly the Greek culture, where archaic household rules still apply.
For a long time, your husband has been ‘the man’ of the house, providing the bulk of the finances (I assume) for the family, while you have looked after the children and kept the home. He will have felt comforted by the fact that you depended on him, and that in turn, he could rely on you to act in the stereotypical housewife way that he has been brought up to believe is the only way a woman should be.
Some Greek men can be very averse to any changes in their life, so you going back to work and not being on home-duty all the time will most definitely have thrown his cosy routine into disarray.
No doubt your new role as an independent working woman will have shocked him to the core and made him feel less of a man – of course this is absolutely pathetic, but such insecurities are deeply embedded in a traditional, stereotypical ME MAN, YOU WOMAN type of guy. It’s a pride thing, which you can blame his parents for.
Despite all this, it sounds like your husband NEEDS you to bring home some of the bacon so whatever he may say, he will know deep down that what you are doing makes perfect sense – of course, he will never be seen to agree with you – whatever will people will say?!
I suggest you go ahead and get on with your work, but try not to rub it too much in your husband’s face – eventually he will adjust and things should get easier. If he does not pull his weight and support you on the childcare front as well, you may have to get outside support. This may be difficult, but he will not be able to guilt you into giving up your work because ‘the children have no-one to cook for them’ if you can present him with an answer/solution to every possible you-working related scenario.
With the extra money perhaps you could organise a trip to see his Greek family abroad, or failing that, just send him abroad – that should keep him quiet!
May the Gods be with you.
The Greek Oracle
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