Growing up I could never figure out if my Sicilian grandmother was wealthy, poor, or somewhere in between.
For example, she was close with another family of Italian descent that owned a corner store across the street from where my grandmother lived.
She would go in and socialize what seemed like hours to a five year old, then bought a week’s worth of food.
I always had to sit and wait quietly when Nonni and the store owners, Grace and Alice talked.
A few promised candies was enough to keep me quiet and hold me off until we left.
Whenever we left, my grandmother never paid.
She would tell them to put it on her tab. Her friend came out with a piece of paper and wrote down how much my grandmother owed. Upon leaving, I asked Nonni if she was wealthy. She said, “Why do you think that?” “Nonni, wealthy people have tabs”, I replied.
I think hearing the phrase “put it on my tab” on shows from the 1980’s about wealthy families like Benson and Different Strokes made me think Grandma was holding out on me when it came to her financials. She would often snap at me a little when I asked such question. She was very private in general but I quickly learned that talking about how much money someone was a no-no.
She never told me. I do think she had a lot of money for someone in her situation. No matter what her financial status was, I thought she had some kind of clout.
It didn’t matter that she was born before women had the right to vote (1911). It didn’t matter that she never learned to drive a car. It also didn’t matter that she never owned a credit card. Who needed a piece of plastic when you had Nonni, the schmoozer, putting food on her tab? Nonni wore the financial pants in her family.
She lived through Depression Era, raised three children, and became the breadwinner when my grandfather took ill. I never realized the unique challenges breadwinning women faced until I read the book, When She Makes More by Farnoosh Torabi. It kind of explains why Nonni was very jaded at times. I thought her crankiness was just part of getting old but I realize today she was a misunderstood breadwinner of her day.
First. . .
I share three tips Nonni could have used to be a little less cranky and then I share my mini-review of the book.
1. Let your money buy happiness whenever possible.
In the book When She Makes More, Torabi explains that women should learn to hire help if necessary. Lack of time made it difficult for my grandmother to do chores and handle regular responsibilities. At times I would see her washing her clothes with an old washboard in the sink. I asked her why she didn’t use the washer and dryer two flights down. She said she liked doing it like this. That was code for your my grandchild and I’m either not admitting that traveling up and down the stairs was too hard or no one was offering to help her.
According to tips from the book, she could have hired a teenager or even a family member to help. Nonni had a lot of pride and didn’t want to admit she couldn’t do something. I think she also didn’t want to run the risk of someone saying no. One of the neighbors would have gladly helped for a few dollars. The elimination of stress would have been priceless.
2. Make it all work but don’t burnout.
I used to laugh if my mom complain to Nonni about something minor my step dad did. I don’t even know why my mom would attempt to tell her anything. Nonni had zero sympathy. Before my mom even finished her sentence, my grandmother would cut her off and say, “If he doesn’t beat you or cheat on you, I don’t want to hear about it. I had to take care of three kids and a sick husband.” I used to laugh.
The burnout of my grandmother’s marital situation carried over even after my grandfather passed away. At the time, my grandmother being the traditional woman that she was tried to manage her burden as best she could alone. This I believe is what made her resentful and angry. Modern psychology could have helped her greatly had she believed in it at the time.
The book suggests to get one hour of me time every day. Once a week isn’t enough. Enjoy whatever relaxation looks like to you. The book advises to go for a brisk walk, have a glass of wine, call a friend, etc. Getting enough rest is also key to your health and well being. If a power nap is in order, tale one.
3. Don’t struggle alone.
For the most part, she was easy to please and fun to be around. She was just happy if one of her grandchildren sat around and watched marathon game shows with her all day. Nonni never really complained. She didn’t believe in it. But you can tell that she had some pent up resentment that came out every now and again if she sensed that someone in the family was being spoiled or thought there life was hard. Nonni was a one upper when it came to having the hardest life.
Now that I’m older and have my own family, I see how hard it must have been for my grandmother. The book suggests, that you should tap into the wide community of working women when you feel like your losing your grip on the home front. I know that may not have been acceptable for her time period. Whether she would have talked about her difficulties or not, it’s still a good idea to connect with like-minded individuals so you don’t feel so alone.
Torabi’s book reveals the eye-opening statistics that breadwinning women face when they enter marriage. Unfortunately, when the women makes more in the relationship, saying I do runs the risk of higher divorce rates and infidelity for the marriage. She explains the psychological underpinnings behind this, the potential pitfalls, and provides 10 essential guidelines to navigate the tough terrain and offers hope to those in this situation. This beautifully written, well-researched book helps women to rewrite their own fairytales and level the financial playing field with a new set of rules. She provides a detailed road map for how to do so.
I highly recommend this book for anyone in a committed relationship. With the economic times being what they are, one never knows what their career status will be one year to the next. Even if you’re not in this situation at the start of your relationship, you never know what could happens down the line. When you think of all the things you take into account when you’re considering a long term commitment, this is an essential component to that conversation.
To get your hands on a copy of this book, I’m shamelessly giving you my affiliate link, check out When She Makes More here.