We’ve still got quite a ways to go, but females are certainly more empowered now than they have been for centuries. These days, it isn’t unusual for a woman to receive a college education, pursue her own career in just about any industry, and have her own credit card (something she couldn’t do without a father or a husband’s permission only forty years ago).
In the Philippines, more and more women have become gainfully employed, with nearly half of all wage and salary workers comprised of them as of 2013. It’s the same story among migrant workers as well: many wives and mothers have now gone abroad and taken on the role as their families’ providers.
This, of course, has considerably altered the traditional family set-up. In cases where only one parent has been deemed fit to work abroad and it isn’t the father, a reversal of roles occurs. And things can quickly go south for both parties if matters aren’t handled properly and promptly (i.e., before the wife leaves for her new job abroad).
Fortunately, there are some things you can both do to make this work:
1. Treat each other as equal partners.
Respect has to go both ways. Each partner has to see the other as making an equally serious contribution to the family, whether it’s in the form of a job or in taking care of the family and home.
Refrain from belittling the other person (“You’re JUST taking care of the kids,” “What do you know? You’re NEVER here.”), and continue to make joint decisions as spouses and parents. For instance, if you feel that it would be better for your child to attend a different school, discuss it with your wife first rather than forging ahead without her knowledge.
Conversely, wives should continue to discuss what to do with their earnings with their husbands even if they are the ones making the money in the family. (“Should we invest our extra money in stocks or should we continue to save up more for a small business? What do you think?”)
Even if the specifics may have changed, don’t forget that you two are still a team.
2. Lower your pride and your expectations of each other.
It might still be unusual for men to be seen doing the housework or taking care of the kids while their wives are working abroad, but don’t let your pride get in the way of doing a good job regardless. Read up on how to manage household budgets, how to cook, and how to better take care of your children.
Don’t think any less of yourself for it because those are critical tasks in any home and both your children and spouse are counting on you. A real man rises to the occasion, regardless of whether it’s providing for the family or making sure the family and the home stay clean and healthy.
Working wives, on the other hand, should never use their position as the family breadwinner to throw their weight around. When correcting your husband, do so in private and be as gentle about it as possible.
If he’s used to being the family breadwinner, give him time to adjust to his new role and support him fully: orient him on how to contact your kids’ doctors, how to do grocery-shopping on a budget (e.g., when to choose a generic brand over a specific one, sticking to a list and saying “no” to crying children who insist on buying unnecessary things, etc.), and how to do basic household chores.
3. Never let other people disrespect your spouse, including your parents.
Non-traditional families always make people uncomfortable and given how relatives and friends can sometimes be too outspoken, you can bet that people will talk. There will be those who will question your husband’s masculinity because of his new role and there will always be that tactless relative (often a mother-in-law) who will insist that a good wife and mother never leaves her husband or children’s side.
These incidents will be irritating at the very least, and it’s important for spouses to defend their partners when they are present and absent whenever anyone makes an insensitive remark about them.
And yes, that includes standing up to your own parents if they disrespect your spouse. The endless snide comments will be so much easier to bear if your partner knows that they have your 100% support, after all.
4. Save up towards a financially-independent future.
No man likes being too dependent on his wife (and vice versa) and two-income families are more stable anyway, so you should both come up with ways for your husband to also contribute to the family coffers.
This could be in the form of a small business such as a cell phone reloading station or even a part-time gig as a real estate or insurance agent. Not only will this make your financial goals for the family easier to hit, but it will also make your husband feel very much like an empowered partner.
5. Stay faithful to each other.
Loneliness is a constant struggle for married couples who live far apart, but neither partner should turn to infidelity as a temporary remedy for this (or worse, blame the other party for “not being there” before embarking on endless affairs).
The temptation to do this is often at its most intense when you two have had a major argument and a willing third party shows up to make you “feel better” about things. If and when that happens, try to remember that your feelings of anger and frustration are temporary, but anything you do without thinking could have serious and irreversible consequences for the family.
Even when a married couple is living together, marriage is no picnic. Having an ocean between you two can make things more complicated, but hey, you made a vow to love and honor each other for life, so go out there and prove that you are as good as your word.