The OECD Better Life Index for the Netherlands shows very high levels of life satisfaction in childhood (over 93% of 11-15 year-old children), far above average life satisfaction in childhood in the world.
During today’s pursuit of happiness, however – especially the happiness of the children – many women accept becoming financially dependent on their husbands after becoming a mother (in the Netherlands, this is 48% of women) and do not even consider it important to be able to support themselves and their children.
Not seldom because there is enough money and the parties ‘agree’ that the woman will take care of the children and the man will earn the (family) income. Often also in expat marriages.
As, however, one out of three marriages breaks down and other relationships run an even higher risk of ending sooner or later, being financially dependent during marriage is a ticking alimony problem, especially for the stay-at-home-mom (SAHM).
A Hard Nut to Crack
Many Dutch women seem to suffer from a form of ‘unrealistic optimism’; a well-known state of mind in psychology, in which people think disaster will only happen to others. In my divorce practice, however, the alimony issue for the woman very often proves a hard nut to crack. The same applies to their financial dependency.
Studies show that the financial effects of divorce differ for men and women, in the sense that men are, in general, financially better off than women after the divorce.
At least in the Netherlands, ten years ago, according to official numbers, women lost more than 20% of their purchasing power after divorce, while the men gained (at least some) purchasing power. Nowadays, after the economic crisis, also men lose purchasing power after divorce, yet the negative financial effect of divorce for women is still much greater. In Belgium, the situation appears to be more or less the same. In Sweden, where women are much more financially independent, the financial effects of divorce are less dramatic.
Bore-Out in Marriages
Far fewer studies, to my knowledge, focus on the health risk of stay-at-home-moms, in terms of the risk of ‘bore-out’ and its effects on relationships – and the subsequent financial consequences of a break-up.
In my opinion more awareness of this could be helpful.
Bore-Out in Employment Situations
There appears to be more and more attention for ‘bore-out’ at work. Only recently, a French manager at Interparfum made it to the front pages, after he sued his employer, demanding compensation of € 360,000 for the ‘bore-out’ he suffered after having been stripped of all his responsibilities – as a consequence of which he started to suffer from depression. An absence of challenges, incentives and diversification resulted in a living hell and a destruction of his mind – at least in his perception – to the degree even that he felt ashamed of receiving a salary for doing almost nothing. Whether or not the judges will consider his claim to be justified, the fact remains that, according to Swiss research, 15% of employees appear to be suffering from symptoms of bore-out.
Although the symptoms often seem similar, bore-out, however, is not listed (yet) as a clinical disease by the WHO, while burn-out is. Employers can be, and have already been, successfully sued for prolonged overload (burn-out), but now this French case might be precedential for bore-out cases.
Bore-Out and SAHM
Though bore-out is apparently a new phenomenon on the labor market, it is surprising that it has not been linked earlier, or more, to full-time motherhood. What happened to the French manager at Interparfum, could also happen to a stay-at-home-mom, who has many repetitive tasks, almost no intellectual adult conversation and receives little appreciation.
SAHMs are known to suffer sometimes from the symptoms of bore-out – such as apathy, sleeplessness, frustration and… low self-esteem, as a consequence of a lack of challenges and of reward. This is even more so, if these mothers had interesting jobs before becoming SAHMs, and were used to receiving appreciation from their colleagues, as well as being rewarded for their efforts – which is the case for many expat mothers. As, however, there is initially plenty for the SAHMs to do, bore-out might remain under the surface longer – something like a slow assassin, that not seldom puts a strain on the marriage or relationship.
This is, of course, not a plea for getting all mothers back onto the labor market full-time, but rather a plea for awareness. In my practice as a family lawyer and mediator, I see a lot of wasted talent, and a lot of accompanying frustration and regrets.
Especially as a job not only means (a lowered) financial dependency on the husband, but also because – more importantly – the pursuit of happiness might require making a few changes here and there.