#22 Off to spend a penny

Financial independence is key to reaching gender equality & safety for women & girls. All the initiatives to end gender based violence & abuse, in the world, won’t enable women to escape abusive relationships if they don’t have equity in financial opportunities.

Globally, women have been giving their labour for free for centuries, I’m doing it now writing this.

Let’s take a look at Sandra & Paul, both about to retire. Paul will retire with a full state pension & generous occupational pension, which includes a lump sum. Sandra will be entitled to a basic state pension. She will rely on Paul’s income, as she has for most of their married life.

Both educated to degree level, both went into the teaching profession. They met at work in the 1980’s, early in their career.

After 3 years they had a child & Sandra took maternity leave. With no free childcare, returning to working full time was expensive, so Sandra negotiated returning 2 days a week, on a job share basis. Soon after, Paul was promoted to head of year & this was reflected in his salary.

They wanted more children & so with the increased income, they decided to try for another baby. Years of fertility problems & private tests,  took a toll on their finances, income & their mental wellbeing.

Paul emersed himself into work & struggled to talk about how he felt. He confided in a female colleague & they became ‘close’. Sandra was different, she spoke to friends & experienced waves of strong emotions. She needed lots of time off work & found her job unrewarding.

Years later, now in their late 30’s, Sandra gave birth to twins. It was hard work as 1 of the children had complex health problems, but they were delighted.

A family unit at last, all they had dreamed of.

Paul now a headteacher encouraged Sandra to give up work. Mostly, Paul was loving & charming, apart from an incident where he had too much to drink & grabbed Sandra by the neck & whispered “leave me & I will destroy you”,.

Sandra knew he had a controlling streak, but after that night she knew how to keep him happy & avoid confrontation. Keeping everything at home ticking along, not disturbing his routines or his work commitments.

Over the years Sandra spent much of her time in children’s hospitals, and focussed her attention on raising their 3 lively children.  She suspected Paul’s numerous affairs, but she felt lucky to be with him, so she buried those fears.

Afterall they had a comfortable lifestyle, lovely holidays & she didn’t have to work. That would be a lot to give up.

As the children aged, Sandra returned to working part time in a school but due to a long gap in work experience & struggling with confidence, she struggled to get a teaching position, so instead works as a school administrator.

Paul discouraged her from paying into the occupational pension, he would support them both.

  • Consider the imbalance of power in this relationship?
  • Explore the unpaid labour Sandra has provided & how this is normalised in our society. 
  • What options did Sandra have during their marriage & now they are due to retire? 




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