Ann Bauer recently published an article on Salon with the title, ““Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from“.
I don’t know you Ann Bauer, but I love you for writing for this.
In the article, she essentially speaks of two realities that she’s both observed and lived, and the impact of those realities on one’s ability to do life as a writer. For her, those realities took the form of life with a not-so-great husband versus life with what sounds like a yummy gem of a man, the latter being a great husband that contributes to her life in many ways, including financially. And let me tell ya – the impact of those realities on what one can feasibly accomplish can be different as night and day.
What It Looks Like
I hear and see it all the time – a woman who accomplishes much for herself and her family, others hold her up as a celebrated example of #goals as she schools others on what she’s doing to create a wonderful life for herself, her husband and her children. She posts her latest inspirational adage, telling followers (via her voice or actions) that allll she needed to do was set a new “goal” or “mindset” and with the same effort, “you can do it, too!” Often embedded within her clarion call of feminine perfection is the cheeky message of, “And if you’re struggling way more than me to do what I do, if you’re not doing nearly as well as I am in x pursuit, you just need God to inspire you more as you push a little harder! #lifegoals #fiercemom #CuteWorkoutClothes #ImProof“…And the moms single and married pump their fist like the dude in The Breakfast Club, and go “YEAH!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knockin’ her hustle, her push or her #Goals. She has every right to share. In fact, her conscious intent is often to receive encouragement and accountability for her own journey. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s just one little something that’s not so healthy for the folks lookin’ on -> They don’t know.
Whatchu Talkin ‘Bout, Willis?
In all her testimonies and social media documentation of how she does what she does, in all her inspirational quotes and progress selfies, in all her moments of triumph and achievement shared with all, when she offers words of gratitude to the cheers of the people that fill her comment section seats with praise and words of admiration, she never fully acknowledges or makes it known that she couldn’t really do what she does the way she does it if it weren’t for the fact that she has a husband that significantly financially provides for her family. Or a husband that takes care of her in numerous other ways. A husband that contributes to the day to day functioning of the home. A husband that allows her the space and time to do the things she wants to do, do things for herself. A husband that adds to a mentally and emotionally healthy home environment (rather than stands in opposition to it), a man that has health insurance for goodness’ sake, a stable job…on top of the small commune of best friends and/or family that are usually present in her life that help alleviate stressors, that watch the kids if only in emergencies, prays her through, comforts, encourages, etc….
Yeah, Sister Wonderful has more than just a little help. And for some this may be a shocker, so brace yourself: Not everyone has all of these supports. A lot of women don’t have any of these supports.
When you don’t have these structures and scaffoldings – that type of husband with that type of coin, friends or family – your day to day, what you do with your time, and what you are able to muster the psychological, emotional and physical strength to do is going to be veeerrrrry different. At least for most of us mere mortals.
And that’s okay.
The problem is that women who don’t have those things are rarely told that a big reason Sister Wonderful is doing so wonderful is because Sister has a good portion of wonderful financial support from her wonderful husband – something other women may not have. Plus family and friends to lend a practical hand in your daily life? I call it “people capital”. These things can make the difference between A) having no time to yourself because you can’t afford a sitter while praying desperately for the strength to work a double shift after your community college class so you’ll be able to keep the lights on this month and B) days filled with new workout clothes, hot yoga, fresh-faced selfies and expensive #selfcare while pursuing your usual schedule of doing what makes you feel good even though it doesn’t pay
anything much. BIG difference, eh?
Teamwork makes the dream work. And more often than not, coin does, too! Though the Wonderfuls may let us know that they have a good husband, they never spell it out, reveal it or draw that cause and effect association between their daily feats and that good man that’s fully (or largely) funding their lifestyle.
You may be thinking, “What business is that of ours?!? She doesn’t need to say that!” And generally speaking, you’re absolutely right. I agree with you; it’s not something that needs to be said. But when you’re regularly accepting the Oscar for Best Lived Life, and it’s clear that other women are looking to you as inspiration, encouragement, and as a kind of “How to” (and that’s the really important part, the fact that she’s giving advice and offering herself as an example of how it can be done) – when you’ve got all of that goin’ on, you miiiiight wanna mention it. At least a little bit.
Instead, so often the communication I see/hear between Sister Wonderful and her audience/FB friends reminds me of how my daughter used to respond to compliments at church when she was 4: “Oh Catherine! You look so pretty today!” To which Catherine would reply, “I know!”
Responding to congratulatory words and confessions of longing with nothing more than a continual flow of “Thank you!” and maybe a charming “lol” with a laughing cry face emoji begins to appear as expressions of gratitude that are little more than my daughter’s reply – just a confirming agreement, a “Yep! I did this this way, and that’s allll it took! There’s no reason why you can’t do it, too! ‘Tis my story and I’m sticking to it!”
The Consequence? (Or shall I say, The Casualties?)
Young women, mothers, wives who aspire to live that kind of life, strive and struggle to obtain whatever good, reasonable, wholesome #goals similar to those of Sister Wonderful that they aspire to, armed with an arsenal of inspirational quotes, determination and positive thinking, iPhone cocked and ready to shoot those progress selfies to document her (fill in blank) journey just like Sister Wonderful. The problem enters when their efforts become like trying to bake a cake without three of the key ingredients. They’re left frustrated and discouraged (and maybe even a little disgusted and disappointed in themselves), because no matter how hard they try with the ingredients Sister Wonderful recommends, the cake never looks even remotely like Sister Wonderful’s. In fact, it’s beginning to look like the cake can’t be made at all. And they can’t figure out why.
Or just as bad? Those adoring women watching the Sister Wonderful show? They begin to value less the thoughts, the experiences, the perspectives of those women whose lives just don’t look, well, uh – wonderful enough. (Does your life look like Sister Wonderful’s? No? Oh, then you couldn’t possibly have anything in your life or mind that I could learn from or aspire to acquire.)
Help A Sister Out, Sister Wonderful
So how ’bout we just tell ’em the whole truth, Sister Wonderful? At least throw it in there every once in a while. The truth that yeah, the struggle is real for us all. And yeah, you’re overcoming your own insecurities and challenges on your journey toward fitness or that new gig you snagged volunteering while pulling off that new cut and color after a great morning of meal planning and an afternoon manicure (#selfcare #blessed #hotyoga), followed by a family homework session and game night.
How ’bout this – how ’bout when that woman comments, “Girrrl, you are amazing! I don’t know how you have the time to ___ ,” or when you testify or post that progress selfie, how ’bout mentioning, “Man! You know, really, the reason I can do all of this this way is not just because God blessed my heart and mind, isn’t solely because of my determined effort, but it’s also because I don’t have to carry the full burden or responsibility of providing for my family/myself. Having that blessing makes all the difference in the world.”
Maybe your truth is that you don’t have to work outside of your home for 8, 10, 12 hour days/6 days a week to financially provide for your family like so many women do. Maybe you could just share, “My husband takes care of me and our children in other ways, so there’s something leftover within my spirit and body to spend on taking care of me and achieving these things. That’s my secret ingredient: a good husband, the financial provision of the man I’m married to, and friends/family that contribute so much to my life from breaks from the kids to the strength that comes from having people in my life to support me through my day to day ups and downs. This is why I can do xyz, and it pays off like abc for me. I can do so much for me (while doing for my family), because I’m blessed with a financier and people who also do for me. They make my life possible. The contributions of my partner(s) make these efforts of mine profitable.”
I don’t know. But say something like that.
And perhaps post a prayer for those who aspire to your same #goals, but will have a much harder time than you getting there.
I’m not hatin’ on you having an aspirational life. Do it! Inspire us all! Just give ’em the full recipe that worked for you. Tell them so that at least if they’re not able to do what you’re doing the way you’re doing it (in spite of all of their determined effort), at least they may have a better clue as to why.
Real Transparency. Complete Honesty. Compassion…Just a suggestion.
*Gif SOURCE: Giphy.com