Why you should think twice before embracing black tax as a woman

Why you should think twice before embracing black tax as a woman. Photo | Photosearch

What you need to know:

While the idea of supporting your relatives financially, has always been there, in the recent past it’s been flaunted as trendy by women

In March this year, my friend was well on her way to the National Assembly. At least she thought she was because that is what her ‘team’ on the ground told her. Come the primaries in April and she quickly learnt that when you are the one holding the pulse strings people will tell you anything. She came a distant third in the party elections. She had messed up big time.

You see, before people came whispering in her ear to try politics, calling her mhesh and promising her their vote, my friend had a thriving career. She had also set aside a tidy sum of money, amounting to millions, in savings. Before she quit her job to try her hand at politics, she was the one holding her whole family up financially, from paying for school fees for her siblings’ children and handling emergencies from uncles and aunties to footing all of their parents’ bills and then some.

She was in a panic when she lost thinking that things were going to fall apart but what shocked her, was that everyone seemed to magically be able to take care of themselves. Months later, all bills and school fees have been paid on time. Without her. In fact, she is the only one still struggling to get back on her feet. She was very surprised not too long ago when she reached out with an emergency to a sibling whose children she was paying for school fees just last year and the sibling wondered aloud why my friend didn’t invest her money when she had lots of it.

“I swear that will never be me again,” she now says.

While black tax, the idea of your relatives becoming your financial business, has always been there, in the recent past it’s been flaunted as trendy. Kenyan women especially, in their attempt to prove to the world that what a man can do, a woman can do better, are carrying their extended families on their shoulders. And they do this with pride too. Just scroll through any social media and you will see a woman flaunting a car, a house or an expensive trip she just got for her folks. As a good daughter should, right?

Well, not quite. While it gives an impressive image and can even be fulfilling at first, the idea of making your family dependent on you is just not sustainable. Not unless you want to get depleted either financially or emotionally while enabling parasitic behaviour. When you volunteer to carry all the financial burden of your family, others who are able to chip in take a step back and sit on their hands and wait for you to do your thing. When you are the one handling the bills, your loved ones will also tend to lean on you emotionally. You can’t keep up.  No one can.

Truth be told, no matter how much money you have in your bank account, you can’t be able to show up for other people all of the time. So quit when you are ahead. Instead of digging deeper into your pocket every time someone calls, set up some boundaries on things you can and can’t cater for and learn to say no without feeling guilty about it when you are not able to help. Know your limits and stick to them. Money isn’t always an easy topic, especially with relatives but when your mental and emotional well-being is at risk, have those difficult conversations. Even better, instead of dishing out Mpesa, allocate money to opportunities for development for those depending on you.

And don’t beat yourself up about saying no. You may be the one that made money first in your family but you are not the only one that can create wealth or that can support the family. You just need to put your purse back in your bag and give the others the chance to also show up.