By Neha Bagaria
Growing up, my mom always had one personal ambition that she wanted to fulfill vicariously through me. That I be financially independent. She always pushed me and drove me to achieve my full potential and never let me think for a moment that I could settle for less just because I was born a girl. She didn’t care if I didn’t cook well or make beautiful flower arrangements like her; she cared if I was working towards a stable and successful long-term career.
I never realized the power of financial independence until the day I stopped working and stopped earning. Suddenly, from being a profit-centre, I became a cost-centre. Suddenly, I was dependent on my husband to put food on our table, while I helped in preparing it and feeding it to our children. Suddenly, I didn’t feel comfortable writing checks without asking for permission. The balance in our relationship tilted. Suddenly, he was the primary breadwinner and I was the primary caregiver.
As long as my husband could support my and my family’s needs, was it still important that I contribute to our monthly income too? Was it not contribution enough that I was fending for our family and taking care of all their non-financial needs? For lots of reasons, I started realizing that the answer to that question, for me, was no. For someone who was thrilled to receive her first check at the end of her summer internship at CSFB, the answer to that question was no. For someone who had never spent a single day post-graduation not working before she became a mother, the answer to that question was no. For someone who understood the value of money and the satisfaction, prestige, and respect that comes from it, the answer to that question was no.
Regaining financial independence was something that I needed to do for myself. To feel that no matter what, I would always be able to stand on my own feet. That in no way was I completely dependent on any other individual.
After all, it is financial independence that finally places choice in a woman’s hands. The choice of who she will marry, when she will marry, what she will do after she gets married; what she wants to spend on, how much she wants to spend; which school her children will go to, what kind of healthcare she wants for her parents.
The choice of writing her own checks without asking for permission.