Yesha Callahan

Florida Evans Syndrome

This past weekend I happened to catch an episode of “Good Times”. In this episode James Evans found some money, returned it to the grocery store, and the only reward he received for his good deed was a $50 gift certificate for groceries. I don’t recall how much money was returned, but he actually kept about $2k of it for himself. James argued with Florida about why he felt he should keep it, but of course Florida wanted to do the right thing and return it. Even their ‘good’ reverend thought James should keep the money as well, just as long as he donated some of it to the church (of course). James tried to convince Florida that they deserved to keep because of all the hard work HE does and the OCCASIONAL work Florida does & barely making ends meet.Ever since I can remember, I always took issue with Florida Evans. Although I understood James as being the patriarchal bread-winner of the family. Why did Florida only keep an ‘occasional’ job? Why wasn’t she forced to pull her own weight as well? Considering that their children were teenagers and able to take care of themselves, if I was James Evans, I would have had Florida out there working just as hard as the next person.
In today’s economic times, can the average middle class, let alone, lower class family, survive on only one person bringing in a paycheck? Growing up, I saw the struggle my parents had, and even more struggle on my mother’s part after they divorced, so I could never imagine living with the “Florida Evans Syndrome”. I feel it’s just as important for the wife or female member of the household to provide for the family financially as well. Yes, there are certain instances, such as a birth of a new child, where a woman may not be able to get out and bring in extra income, but a child isn’t going to be an infant forever. I’m not sure, how I would ever be able to deal with the financial pressures of being the sole breadwinner if I was a man, knowing that the wife/girlfriend/etc. was sitting at home not contributing.
Currently, I know a couple that’s going through a situation similar to James & Florida Evans. The husband is the sole income that the household has. Now, although, he’s making a pretty good salary, every month they still struggle. On top of their mortgage, car notes, household bills, student loans, they can’t seem to make his salary stretch. But, you’d think the wife would find a job, right? As much as he’s asked her to look, she’s insists on staying home and caring for their 5 year old, who attends school half-a-day. Even when I’ve asked her, why not find something to do part-time, she just shrugs her shoulders. Last night I think it finally hit home with her, when I compared her to Florida Evans, and that eventually James was killed and left Florida to fend for herself and her family. Was my comparison a little harsh? Maybe, but hopefully my friend realizes that she also needs to be a contributor to her marriage and not just a benefactor.
What’s ironic about this scene is that they were celebrating their move from the projects, b/c James started a new job, only for Florida to receive a telegram informing her of his death (fast foward to the 8:50 mark)

At the 6:50 mark, it finally hits home to Florida that James is gone.

Question: Do you feel that it’s a woman’s role nowadays to be a major financial contributor to the household? Do you feel James’ attitude was chauvinistic in regards to allowing Florida to stay at home and only work occasionally?

  1. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    Why people would have their pride dictate their brokeness is beyond me…my homegirl is married to a man that has not worked in 7 years-they just lost their home and when they were going through the foreclosure, he would not even find a part-time job. His excuse? I’m depressed. For 7 years?! I get angry with her since she’s allowed this to happen for nearly a decade, but an able bodied man who is not physically disabled has a responsibility to take care of his family.
    Role reversal? Don’t know but this is so not cool.

    • December 8, 2008 - Reply

      @Shannon

      WOW! 7 yrs and a home foreclosed on? I’m sorry, but I don’t think would have been in that situation for that long. There are treatments for depression, but now, they’re without a home? That’s enough to make someone even more depressed.

  2. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    I definitely believe nowadays a woman should be a major financial contributor to the household. It’s simple economics, the average middle class family definitely needs two incomes in order to function and survive. I think it’s downright wrong to watch a man be a sole bread winner if your family struggles financially month to month. Financial dificulties is one of the major reasons for the high rate of divorce in this country. Like you wrote, why be soley a benefactor and not a contributor to the family’s income.
    As far as James Evans being chuvinistic allowing Florida to stay home, I think it completely made no sense considering they lived in the projects, clearly needed money, and being a part of the workforce was always a black woman’s reality before any “women’s movement.” I found it quite strange that Florida Evans was a stay at home mom to grown kids. I guess it was some contrived Hollywood storyline.
    My own grandmother who was a military wife from the time she was 18 was a stay at home mom. She’s now 84, and says she regrets not working and contributing to the family financially, because she and my grandfather would have been better off in their twilight years. That’s really saying something considering my grandmother was raising kids in the fifities and my grandfather was off fighting wars.

    • December 8, 2008 - Reply

      @mzroz

      “A black woman’s reality before any woman’s movement…”! You hit the nail on the head with that statement. There’s nothing that says that a woman can’t take on a traditional matriarchal and also contribute financially to the household. Most people think that infidelity is the main contributor to divorce, but it’s financial. Being that your grandmother is 84, I’m sure she would now advise any woman to get out there and work, while they can. Not only to be a contributor to the household but in regards to the fact that one day, they may have to be a sole provider themselves, and self-sufficient.

  3. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    I am in my mid thirties, and was fortunate enough to view how my grand parents worked out this situation. My grandfather worked and took care of the bills, and the house, and my grandmother didn’t work, but she took care of everything and everybody else. Meaning my grandfather didn’t cook, clean, or anything to do with either or those things. Money was much tighter then but they made a way for 8 children. But these days some people want the best of both worlds they want the benefits of what their historical gender role but they don’t feel the need to take on the responsibility. In today’s world two or more people living on one persons income is just not smart. Anything can happen, if the bread winner dies, their family has to find a way without them, but what happens if the bread winner is disabled now the burdern is that much heavier. Bottom line two incomes is always better then one, any man or women who is married and not working to support their family is actively hurting their family.

    • December 8, 2008 - Reply

      @Beentheredonethat

      I agree with you 100%. My grandmother/father were the same way. My grandmother took care of the house/kids/etc..etc..and my grandfather worked. But then that all came to an end and my grandmother had to find a way not only to support herself, but her children as well. Like you said, two incomes is always better than one, and just isn’t feasible in these days and times!

  4. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    I think the time of this show was different. People were still trying to hold onto the stay-at-home mom thing. Being a black family, occasional work was probably just a necessary evil for those tight moments. For some people in THIS day and time, in THIS present economy, I have heard a LOT of my married/coupled friends with children say that its almost easier to stay home and take care of your kids, than to go and pay for daycares, babysitters and after school programs to keep your kids occupied while you’re working. I’m not saying all of those in that situation are doing for the same reasons…I’m just saying people’s individual logic as to why its necessary varies.
    I also believe that if people stopped living beyond their means, things would be easier. Why 2 cars? If the working parent gets a train/bus pass (a lot of jobs are providing them or giving significant discounts) and they can commute, while the one busing kids to and fro can have the car. Spend more nights home than out. Cook in instead of ordering in or getting fast food. Shop wiser. A lot of people’s troubles comes from needing to be fly. Learn to be decent with a flair, shit. LOL I’m just saying that there are solutions to money struggles for couples opting for the woman to stay home. Or maybe I’m just wearing my rose-colored glasses today.

    • December 8, 2008 - Reply

      @Kiwi

      Yes, a lot of married & coupled people choose to opt for staying at home, rather than spend the money on daycare, but it’s a give & take. When you’re struggling and the other person is physically able to work, there are sacrifices you have to make. And paying for day care is definitely an expense, but with two incomes, it isn’t impossible. Even after adding a 2nd income to a household, and still paying for day care, you’re still able to bring in at least some extra money. People living beyond their means is definitely a huge issue! The options you listed would cut down on expenses drastically. I know I’ve fallen prey to take out dinners, expensive cars & clothes and shopping for things I didn’t need as well.

  5. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    I understand your point but the post neglects the need to have a parent at home. This is to make sure that BET don’t raise your kids. This is to make sure the Marlo Stansfield’s of the world don’t raise your kids. Two incomes may now be needed but to have a someone to nurture,guide and beat that azz if neccessary that’s not exhausted from their work day. Plus Mama worked. They used to cook! They used to clean and sew! These skills are still neccessary but sadly neither men or women know how to do them. Florida and James are from a different generation, plus they were uneducated. Remember he worked as a dishwasher and a car wash man. He had a 6 grade ed and she had an 11th grade. They were in Cabrini Green.
    It is a matter of perspective.
    Love you and your blog!
    Jaycee

    • December 8, 2008 - Reply

      @Jaycee

      BET won’t raise a kid, unless a parent either working or staying at home allows it. I know plenty of people who stay at home with their children, and the tv is still raising their child. When my mother had to go out and worked, we had ground rules we had to follow when she wasn’t in the house..and watching certain programs on tv was definitely one of them. With my own son, I’m lenient when it comes to what he watches on television, but I also know when to draw the line and when to stop and explain to him right from wrong in regards to what he’s viewed.
      Jaycee, I think it’s also still possible to have two working adults in the home and raise children, cook dinner, sew, etc..etc…I’m a single parent and I do all of these things (well no sewing) and more. ‘m fortunate enough to be able to beat my son home from school, sit down and do homework with him & make sure dinner is cooked. I don’t see much changing in that, if & whenever, I become ‘coupled’. Yes, they’re from a different generation, but there are still people out there living that way, and they have gone beyond high school and college educations.

  6. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I just can’t see why someone who isn’t caring for a newborn and is capable of working feels no need to contribute to the household. I came from a two income household all my life … even when we didn’t “need” it … but it made life so much easier for me and my brother.
    These stay at home “housewives” are on that BS … if you got kids that require a lot of effort … thats another story … but in FLorida’s case I’ll just blame the times. Its not like now after Women’s lib came through.

    • December 8, 2008 - Reply

      @Single Black Male

      See you came from a working household, and you turned out fine…
      well…I take that back…you’re ok..lol
      It’s just your taste in music that I question nowadays…lol

      • December 8, 2008 - Reply

        @[fung'ke] [blak] [chik]

        I have superb taste in music … you my friend are just a hater.

        • December 8, 2008 - Reply

          @Single Black Male

          Chop & screwed is called music abuse…not music!

  7. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    IMO, it’s up to the couple to decide what is best for them. But in my view and to offer a rebuttal to most of the comments here, I can definitely see an upside to a traditional marriage…BEING THAT IT IS WHAT BOTH SIDES TRULY WANT!
    Having close married friends and relatives, the problem many black married women have is that she has 2 full-time jobs where the husband has one full-time job (disclaimer: every black married woman does not experience the same thing). The burden of worrying about finances and MOST if not ALL the activities involving the kids on a DAILY basis and being responsible for the house, i.e. being a great house keeper and cook and trying to be beautiful and in shape and being a sex goddess can get to be overwhelming for some. What does hubby have to do? Go to work and “help out” with the kids whenever he can a.k.a. “babysit” his own kids.
    Unfortunately, a couple of my friends have had to deal with medical issues because of their many commitments. Do you remember the uproar a few years ago about the report that while married white men, white women, black men are healthier than their single counterparts, black married women were less healthy than single black women.
    I don’t have kids myself, but having spent time taking care of kids in my family, it takes alot of work and (as mentioned by another poster) I believe that it is very important for a kid to have a full time parent at home if possible. Also, in my last LTR, we both worked full time, not to mention I was in school, but I was still playing “housewife” (he was at my place all the damn time although he had his own place) and it was a real job “taking care” of him…then I would get resentful about how I found myself with the “two jobs”.
    As far as finances, whether you are single, married with one person working, or married with both persons working, it depends on budget and lifestyle. I’ve seen those groups manage money well and those groups not manage money well, it depends.
    Anyway, my answer is getting too long and I had planned on doing a post about this anyway…now would be a good time as any.

  8. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    Being so wordy, I forgot to mention that a “modern” marriage is the right choice for some couples. Some marriages do have a true 50% – 50% split, where there is a REAL equal shared responsibility of the kids, household, and finances. If the husband can get kids up in each morning and take them to school and day care while the wife picks them up from school each day and get them settled….and while the wife cleans each day and hubby can cook every day…if two people can make it work more power to them!
    Although, I mentioned being resentful in my last LTR, because I had the “two jobs”, I actually enjoy taking care of man (and kids if that happens), its just that throwing myself 100% into a job and other commitments AND throwing myself 100% into taking care of my man is a bit much. As a single woman, I am more a 50 – 50 relationship woman, if I were married I would be in a “traditional” relationship.

  9. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    damn damn damn lol

    • December 8, 2008 - Reply

      @rawdawgbuffalo

      you’s a fool!

  10. December 8, 2008 - Reply

    I love your site.
    And to leave a short comment I think that its up to the couple to decide what’s best for them. Many of these comments are on a middle class mentality level…I’m not trying to diss or dismiss but there are women who don’t even work and don’t have children…they’re philanthropist’s or fundraisers…
    Some men like being breadwinners and some women like being at home. If the man doesn’t have a problem with it then why should we…I think the most important thing is that the woman and man are educated…that way they’ll be able to fend for themselves if they happen to find themselves on their own.
    http://www.gettogethablog.com

  11. December 9, 2008 - Reply

    I would love to meet an equal in the breadwinning aspect of life
    I dont follow those “traditional values”
    People should be independent…and compliment each other.
    Love your blog, I wanna be where you are
    e.

  12. December 9, 2008 - Reply

    I just liked when she’d say JAAAAAAAMES…..the only way Florida knew how.

  13. December 9, 2008 - Reply

    Hmmm. My mom did not work until she wanted to (when I was in high school) My folks are both retired and living comfortably and STILL her money is her money, my dad takes care of the home. I grew up with the traditional so to me it is not that appalling for women not to work. If the couple has that agreement, and they can comfortably do so with no financial difficulty, then good for them.
    I would like to work when I get married, it would be great to do so on a part time basis if we have kids and IF we could afford it. If not, I will do what I do now -report to work and make it happen.

  14. December 10, 2008 - Reply

    I feel like you don’t have to be a major contributor if that’s the role you and yours have carved out, but you should know how and be able to take care of yourself.

  15. December 11, 2008 - Reply

    I think it depends on the situation and should be worked out well in advance of getting married. I don’t James was being chauvinistic, back in the day this was called being a ‘provider’. Men (some) actually recognized the important role of the housewife as a job in itself. Whether that title was one of respect depends on who you ask. Roles have definitely been merged over the years, but I remember a time when it wasn’t the norm for moms to work outside the home….ok, I’m not that old but you know what I mean :-).

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