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I don’t want to be the sole breadwinner

slate_breadwinner01_postI’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately about how female breadwinners are becoming increasingly common and how this is changing both the corporate landscape (more women at the top) and the traditional family landscape (more stay-at-home dads). The benefits are well-documented: more female breadwinners mean more women at the top of organizations, and more diversity leads to increased creativity, and ultimately, more profits.

This is great for companies, but apparently not great for marriages. I’ve read a ton of negative press about how women breadwinners are ruinous for marriages. There is actually a website called Don’t Marry Career Women that lists nine reasons why men should not marry career women. The statistically-supported reasons range from higher divorce rates, increased likelihood of cheating, decreased likelihood of ever having kids, and your house being dirtier.

But the most interesting thing of all? That women don’t actually like being breadwinners.

I find this interesting because I consider myself a career woman, and I am the breadwinner. I have never thought about whether or not I like being the breadwinner, so I would say it is a non-issue. But I wondered why so many women didn’t like it. After all, aren’t we all supposed to be empowered and leaning in and breaking the glass ceiling?

Resentment. According to surveys of unhappy women breadwinners, these women resent their husbands for a variety of reasons: they are lazy, not as ambitious as they are, still don’t do the housework, their kids like him better, etc. Women are more likely to be bitter about missing out on family time, and men are more likely to be bitter about sacrificing their careers – and more likely to resent their wives for making more money than they do. Clearly, none of these things are good for marriage.

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I thought about how none of these things apply to Sven and me. I don’t make more money because he’s lazy, and I’m not more ambitious. Sven is equally as successful and ambitious as I am, but I chose a more lucrative industry. He likes his job, and I like mine. So, as of right now, we don’t have any marital problems based on the fact that I am the breadwinner.

But we also don’t have kids.

When I look at the reasons that female breadwinners’ marriages don’t work out, the vast majority have to do with kids. (Darn the little buggers.)

  • I come home from work and still have to cook dinner and the house is always a mess.
  • My husband feels judged by the other housewives at our kids’ school
  • Our families give him a hard time for not being the primary provider – it’s a constant negative stigma that bothers them and not us, but it causes tension
  • I actually want to stay home with the kids, but I feel the pressure to earn, and sometimes I feel resentment that my husband gets to spend more time with them while I’m working to provide

Sven once joked that when we have kids, he would happily be a stay-at-home dad. My initial reaction was, “No! I won’t let you!”

I’m so not the type of wife that “lets” or “doesn’t let” her husband do things, but I did actually tell Sven I would not let him be a stay-at-home dad. He asked me why, and my answer was simple: I don’t want to end up like my mother. 

I was actually raised by a stay-at-home dad from the age of 7, and my mother worked every day until the year she turned 65. My dad did the cooking, cleaning, and driving me to and from school/dance lessons/sleepovers. My upbringing was definitely unusual for a child of the 80’s, but I don’t remember ever feeling ashamed by it. I do remember my dad seeming bored often, usually with a beer in his hand and a cigarette in the other…

I never sensed that my mother bore the burden of being the breadwinner because she seemed to enjoy going to work every day, and my dad was lucky enough to retire at the age of 50, with a good pension, so he could take care of me. So, I don’t know exactly why I feel so strongly that I don’t want to end up like my mother. Maybe it’s subliminal. Maybe I just like the idea of living my life differently than my parents did. Maybe I prefer a household with a less stark division of labor.

I also think that when you make a certain amount of money for a long time, you get used to the standard of living that comes with it. I love the life that Sven and I have on our dual incomes, and if I became the sole breadwinner, I would have to support this lifestyle financially on my own, and that’s a lot of pressure on top of the pressure of having a high-stress finance job, on top of the pressure of being a good parent. Just the thought of that makes me go crazy! So, I’ll admit it it.

I don’t ever want to be the sole breadwinner. (Though, studies would tell me that this puts my odds of a successful marriage against my favor: households with housewives are happiest, while homes with two equal breadwinners/caretakers are the least successful.) To be honest, I don’t think Sven actually would ever really want to be a stay-at-home dad, so I’ll take those odds, and I think Sven and I will be just fine. 🙂

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