Monday, 9 July 2007

A Dollar (or two) of One's Own

Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own' actually says that 'a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction' (chapter 1). Most of the discussion I have read around that focuses on the personal freedom needed to create art. The phrase 'a room of one's own' has become a touchstone for that freedom. It's a pity that the quote often leaves out the 'must have money' because I think the money piece is more important. Especially for a woman with a husband or partner.

In the 1960's, when I was first married, my otherwise conventional father gave me far from conventional advice. He believed and preached that a married woman should have her own money -- her own bank account and her own credit rating. As a lawyer he had seen too many messy divorces, he said, and this was the wisdom he had carried away from that experience.

From what I have experienced and what I have read, I draw the conclusion that managing money is one of the more contentious issues inside many marriages and partnerships. If both partners are earning, the issues would include who pays for what, what amount should be put aside and how 'discretionary' income should be spent. If one partner (usually the woman) is not earning (staying home to raise the kids), the earning partner's ideas of where the money should go will often dominate. And the SAHM may find herself without much financial power. This was very often the case in my generation, but I don't think things have changed radically. As late as last week I read an article about the financial management of divorce that stated that a woman in a 'traditional' marriage might not have a credit rating of her own.

I'm not into the 'stay home' versus 'working mommy' debate here. I'm on a different topic. Both paths have merit. I've done both. But when I was a SAHM, I usually did some kind of work out of the home, just so that I could have a bit of discretionary income, some money of my own, if only to buy my bread earning husband a birthday gift or pay for some activity for the daughters that he did not think was important. And I always had a bank account; when credit cards came on the scene, I had one in my own name. And when I went to work full time, we had household money, his money and her money. This arrangement did not prevent all conflicts over spending, but it did make them less than deadly.

Lately I have watched the traditional marriage of a good friend crash and burn on the stony flatlands of financial incompatibility. Money is power, and the power struggle here was based on entitlement. I'm reading a book about the British aristocracy in which the point is made that a misplaced sense of entitlement has been the bane of more than one landed family. I've been watching a power struggle in my own family around the issue of a child's access to the household funds. I recall telling my daughters, when they were in their teens, that the ability to earn money enough to make them independent was of paramount importance. That without that power they would be handicapped all their lives.

If you have the money of your own, you can go out and rent the room. No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, no sugar daddy, no real way out of the trap of being paid for, rather than being paid. For some of us, I think, a paycheque is a validation. A recognition of identity and worth. For many of us, of course, it is a sheer necessity, putting food in little mouths and shoes on little feet, paying for a roof over the cradle. Money is power. Without it, a woman can become a kind of perpetual child, unable to set her own priorities or enforce her wishes. If there's no 'mad money', you can't leave the party and take a taxi home. It's no wonder that some of the Islamic cultures don't want women in the working world.

Why am I going on about this? Well, because of the possibility of earning money through blogging, whether this involves putting advertisements on your blog page, writing on set themes for payment or getting franchised. I'm all for it. It's validation in the one case and freedom in the other. No one kvetches about the fact that Dickens wrote his novels in installments for payment or that Rockwell did magazine illustrations. 'Commercial art' is art!

From the haven of a pensioned retirement, I can afford to do this for pleasure and, besides, I'm html challenged. You won't see ads on my site. But I'm happy to read them. Or reviews of products. Or contest entries. I'll go and vote if you need a vote. Payment power. It's real.

7 comments:

  1. I'd put tons of ads on my page if it would pay me more than a few cents. As it is, I'm reasonably happy to loaf - but having said that, my husband is very contientious about making certain that I DO have a credit history (all our RESPs, for instance, are in my name). I'd be too lazy to do that on my own.
    Yes, money IS power. Different couples I've known have handled the built-in power inbalance of having only the husband work in different ways - having the wife pay all the bills, for instance. But for me, it was always about the need to provide my children with the best childhood I possibly could - and I believe that's the goal of most mothers, regardless of how they go about it.
    "Make Way for Duckings"! One of our very favorites!

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  2. I think you're right. There's also the 'I can do it all' bit. I'm bouncing this post off the BlogRhet discussion about authenticity, where blogging for filthy lucre was questioned. I gather that the ads are not money makers. But that might change.

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  3. Thank you for saying this. I am trying to make money by writing/blogging. I am that traditional SAHM at the moment, and while my husband is benevolent, he has still been forced into the role of dictator ;). He earns every bit of our money right now.

    I'd like to bring in a little money, too. So far it's not working, in that the ads are not bringing in enough to buy even a daily cup of coffee.

    But I'm still hoping.

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  4. Clearly, I'm in a different situation. I'm actually in the greater position of power in our marriage, monetarily speaking. I wonder sometimes if that plays a part in why our marriage is so egalitarian. I wonder if it would be different if I stayed home.

    But I agree with you that I don't begrudge any woman who puts up ads to pay for her own cup of coffee. If even just thinking about blogging and money gives someone an idea for a paying writing endeavour or some other way to make money, I'm all for it.

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  5. I agree that women should feel entitled to make money blogging. My complaint is that the system as it is currenlty set up is stacked against a woman having any kind of just financial reward through blogging. Right now the system is more akin to piece labour--that kind of system is designed to keep the worker down.

    I'm also in total agreement with you regarding financial independence.

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  6. Love this - and glad to have found it (via blogrhet). The room of one's own analogy is spot on, in my opinion. And I love people with the same opinion as me. Funny how that works.

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  7. I also like the woolf analogy, and I am pretty much with everyone all the way on this. but...

    I *do* think that having ads affects how readers perceive and interact with a blog (not all ads, but some). I am wrestling with how to approach this issue, which is such a fascinating one.

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