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Breadwinner mothers


YPestis

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This topic was seen in the news recently and I thought it deserved a thread of its own.

The WaPo has a good article about it:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/nea ... story.html

The article points out that almost 40% of households with children under 18 now have a mother as breadwinner. I was initially happy with the headline, thinking it was a sign of another glass ceiling breaking. However, the numerous articles and media reports have pointed out that the rise in breadwinner mothers is predominately due to the rise in never-married and divorced mothers. Among married women, the number of breadwinner mothers was a paltry 12%.

The WaPo notes that single mothers were poorer, earning an average of $23,000, and less likely to have a college degree. Sadly, it seems the rise in breadwinner mothers is not due to a rise in mothers in elite professions, but rather the inability or unwillingness of fathers to contribute financially to their children.

Another item that surprised me was the miniscule number of married women who earned more than their husbands. The news reports I've seen states that only 12% of married women with children under 18 made more than their husbands (vs 30% of all couples). My husband blames it on patriarchy and the "glass ceiling" and I think there may truth to that. Our work place is not set up to be family friendly. Small children require either expensive childcare or an at home parent. This usually means the mom cuts back or stays home. However, I wonder how much of this is also due to our attitude on gender roles?

The WaPo article notes that a significant number of Americans still believe the traditional model is best:

Three-fourths of those surveyed say these [working] mothers make raising children harder, and half worry that it’s bad for marriages.

About half of those surveyed felt it was better if mothers stayed home with young children. In contrast, 8 percent thought it was better if fathers did.

I guess despite the huge support for working women, many still believe we are better off with a mother at home.

Running parallel to the idea of traditional motherhood, I think many Americans still feel uncomfortable if a mother made (significantly) more than the father. I think men tend to attach status and self-esteem to their jobs and income, and are taught? trained? that it is their duty as husbands to provide for the family.

My husband, who has a slight feminist streak, has admitted he would probably feel uncomfortable if I made significantly more than him. This was surprising as he is a big supporter of working mothers and is surrounded by strong and powerful women. However, he states he would feel like he was slacking off for not making more than me, as if he failed in his duty to be the good husband. This admission was very surprising to me, as I thought we were in a post-feminist world and didn't worry about such things.

I wonder if we (subconsciously) self-select mates who are more "economically" compatible. For example, men who date women who will make the same or less than them, and women with men who make the same or more than them. I think there is some truth to that.

What do the Jingerites think on this issue? How can we solve the gender income discrepancies? Do we need to solve it? What are your experiences in regards to breadwinner mothers? Were you one? How did your husband react? How did the family react? What have your husbands and fathers said on this subject? Are they fine with the idea of a wife that makes significantly more than them? Or would they feel (secretly) ashamed? I'm curious as to what others have to say on this topic.

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I am the sole income for my family. For a lot of reasons, my husband never really got a career off the ground. He was unhappy in the low-wage jobs he had available, and wanted to go back to school and then write. Because I could afford to support both of us, and because I found that when I had someone else to take care of food and do a lot of the day-to-day chores, I could focus better on my career (just like zillions of husbands discovered in years past) we decided to have him 'come home'. He got his degree right as I was finishing my pregnancy.

When we had our child, I knew he did not really want to be a father (he was willing to do it for me, but fatherhood wasn't something he ever wanted for himself and he didn't like kids), so I was planning to put our daughter into daycare, with the understanding that he would get a job to help pay for it. However, he ended up not liking the idea of our child being 'raised by someone else' and since we live in a pricey area, even if he got a good job, it would have taken up his whole salary to pay for daycare. So he took on the stay-at-home-father role. He struggled with it a lot the first six months, enough that it was a real strain on our marriage and our individual sanity. But then things got a bit better, and a bit better, and now that our girl is almost two, and amazing, he's ended up being a really great father, much more patient and nurturing than I would have been.

I don't think we struggle because of money. But there has definitely been a struggle because of the vast differences between what men culturally are taught, encouraged to learn, told is important, versus what women are. The money is really nothing; he has some vague feelings of unease that he's not contributing financially, but parenting has been such hard work that he definitely feels like he is making a huge contribution to the household. But boy has it been hard on our marriage. He didn't know how to deal with a baby, at all. Had never been expected to change a diaper, babysit, or form an opinion on the zillions of child-rearing options and philosophies out there today. I have had to research, set the tone, and then let go as he does or doesn't implement my vision of parenthood. He has really different ideas about cleanliness, no real concept of the house reflecting on him as a person, and so a lot less shame and guilt about the house not meeting the standards that would be expected of a stay-at-home-mom (I have a lot of resentment about this). He doesn't think about or place much value on traditions, holidays, gifts, maintaining family obligations. It's not that he doesn't love his family, but he didn't get the message that making Christmas, birthdays, special occasions, etc. happen was something he needed to do, so I have to do these things or they don't happen. The same with appointments, playgroups and activities for the kid, shopping for anything beyond day-to-day grocery needs (lots of frustration on my part because everything feels like my responsibility).

These sorts of differences in expectations are far more damaging to our relationship than the fact that I make the money and he doesn't. And they are things that come up a lot when people talk about stay-at-home dads. Many of these dads don't do all the other stuff that stay-at-home moms tend to do, and so there's tension. And then he ends up feeling constantly under siege because he isn't meeting my expectations and having to deal with my anger when he sees himself as doing a great job (and he is, just, under a different standard, and I have trouble using his standard rather than the one I absorbed).

My husband is also dealing with the fact that being the primary parent is thankless drudgery where every day is very similar to the one before, and time and energy for yourself is very very limited, especially the first couple years. He loves our daughter, he does a great job with her, he feels pride in himself as a father, but that's pretty much the only part of his life that is validating right now. He doesn't have time or mental energy to write. He doesn't get out a lot. He feels trapped into a role he never meant to be in. Our daughter will start preschool two days a week soon, and I hope it will help him find time to be more than just a father. Our marriage badly needs that.

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My Mother was a SAHM. My brother erans more than my SIL but she has a the superior pension which they factor in to their future plans. My sister erans almost the same as my BIL. Again she has the superior pension. I earn significantly less than my partner but he would have absolutely no problem with me earning more which was the case 18 years ago.

Strangely on discussing this which I have with various family members the issue is never WHO earns more, rather than WHAT is earned to meet needs and lifestyle. Excepting maybe my BIL who can be a twat at times but is easily disavowed of his 'I am, man,' occasional attitude with a withering look and eyeroll.

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I think there are a few problems with the article and the study:

1) Of course single mothers will have a lower income than married mothers - there is only one income coming in. That doesn't mean the father isn't helping to raise the kids - but if he has joint custody his income won't be counted with the mother's income. Also, another problem is that single, never married mothers ( the group they were counting ) -- are often younger and will go on to be married at some point - and their income will raise based on having more time in the labor market.

2) There is a basic difficulty with emphasizing who makes more money - as often the difference in income is extremely small. Many, many, many couples make very similar wages - so the woman might be the lesser earner - but by a few hundred dollars a year ( the same with the man )

3) It makes sense just from a physical standpoint that women with children will be making slightly less when averaged in with men with children. You are including all the women who are out on maternity leave or who have taken time off to breastfeed an infant. If you excluded couples with very young children you would probably eliminate a great deal of the gap.

4) I couldn't find how they did their opinion survey -- one huge, huge problem that almost all public opinion surveys currently face is that they are still primarily based on telephone interviews to households listed landlines. -- fewer and fewer people have landlines - and the group that does tends to be older, either very low or very high income, have lived at the same address for many years, rural etc.... the views of younger, urban and moderate income people are left out.

5) There is a similar problem with using department of labor statistics ( where they got their percentages ) -- the department of labor excludes the large and growing number of people who aren't on an official payroll. Many people are self-employed - particularly people with young children, and these numbers are left off.

Personally - I have been the primary breadwinner a couple of times -- I don't think anyone was bothered by it. I would have preferred to be the stay at home parent - but it didn't work oout that way. I would prefer to live in an economy where it was possible for one parent to stay home if they wished to, without having to worry about having enough to eat. I think it generally makes sense, from a practical standpoint, for that to be the mother for a few years - since pregnancies/childbirth/breastfeeding aren't something that can be done by the father ( or a care giver ).

It's funny - in my area I think there was much, much more of an expectation that both parents work - and more of an ideal of gender equality in childrearing and employment for people who are currently aged 30 -60ish. ... People in their 20's in my area seem to be more concerned with gender roles - I know of one couple who would have done much, much better if the woman was the breadwinner and the man stayed at home - but he felt he had to provide. I didn't run across many of those guys when I was young.

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With all of the hoopla over this article I think the study is flawed and the numbers too subjective to show anything definate. As Mrs S2004 pointed out this information is based on a survey. How a question is phrased in a survey can change the answers, asking do you think a woman is better equipped to stay home with a young child might get a different answer than do you think a woman's place is in the home.

Also what is with so many calling for the downfall of civilization when woman earn the same or more than men? It's not even the majority of woman! :think: There have been plenty of times throughout history where woman have been the primary work force and wage earners and civilization is still alive and kicking.

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I guess despite the huge support for working women, many still believe we are better off with a mother at home.

I guess I don't see why this is a problem. People can believe what they want to believe. (There is a problem if women don't have the choice to work, but that's not the case.)

It's not such a terrible thing to believe, either, not like the fundie's belief in harsh corporal punishment, or their belief that gay people will burn in hell.

My own beliefs about working parents are not black and white. It depends on the mother, depends on the family, depends on the parents' desires, the kids' needs, etc. I've seen good and bad SAHMs, good and bad SAHDs, and good and bad daycare. It definitely depends.

I am a SAHM myself, but I have worked while my kids were small, and I do contribute money towards our household expenses even though I am not currently working. On top of this, because I have 2 professional degrees, I contribute in other unpaid ways, like doing the taxes for my husband's business, doing the bookkeeping for a rental property we have, etc. But I am at home every day and don't draw a paycheck, so you could certainly say I'm "not working" (and people have said so!)

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My own beliefs about working parents are not black and white. It depends on the mother, depends on the family, depends on the parents' desires, the kids' needs, etc. I've seen good and bad SAHMs, good and bad SAHDs, and good and bad daycare. It definitely depends.

This.

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This.

I second.

I make significantly more than my husband...even though he received a promotion recently that nearly doubled what he was making before (however due to being a part time employee). I was very uncomfortable with this dynamic...not because as a female I shouldn't be the breadwinner but because I did not like the disparity in equality in the financial aspect of our relationship. If it had been the other way around I would have felt uncomfortable as well.

Furthermore, as the breadwinner I sometimes feel uncomfortable because I feel more vulnerable as a female professional. Although there are laws regarding discrimination with pregnancy and child-rearing, I still feel like workers who "aren't present" are looked down upon whether or not they have a legitimate reason to be out of the office that day.

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I make more than double what my husband does, so I guess I'm in the 12%. I want to say "We are both fine with this!" but I think deep down it bothers my husband that we have such a gap.

There have been times in our marriage that we have made close to the same amount, but for the most part I have been the primary breadwinner.

I don't involve my other family (parents, siblings, etc) in my financial affairs, but I know they think it's bizarre that I work for something other than pocket money. My mom worked to keep herself busy and buy pretty dresses and neither of my sisters work. I'm the oddball because I work to pay the mortgage and make sure we have food.

ETA: This is very interesting because just yesterday I had a conversation with my mom about how frustrating it is that other people praise my sister for her parenting skills. My (fundie) sister is, quite frankly, a shitty parent. She is praised merely for the sheer volume of children she has. I "only" have two and that's just not noteworthy. My college degree is not noteworthy. My only value in life, apparently, is how many children I have. To my shitty family, anyway.

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I make more than double what my husband does, so I guess I'm in the 12%. I want to say "We are both fine with this!" but I think deep down it bothers my husband that we have such a gap.

We own a business and "make" the same - it's complicated but we basically have one income. I do have a higher professional profile in some arenas than he does and he has told me that it is a struggle for him sometimes. He gets this is his issue and that I'm doing nothing wrong and, in fact, encourages me to keep being the high profile one. But it's still somewhat difficult.

I'm pleased he told me, quite honestly. And I have struggled with staying the high profile one, as I know it's painful for him.

Oy. Relationships.

ETA: This is very interesting because just yesterday I had a conversation with my mom about how frustrating it is that other people praise my sister for her parenting skills. My (fundie) sister is, quite frankly, a shitty parent. She is praised merely for the sheer volume of children she has. I "only" have two and that's just not noteworthy. My college degree is not noteworthy. My only value in life, apparently, is how many children I have. To my shitty family, anyway.

My mom... *rolling eyes* she couldn't be bothered to tell me about my cousin receiving her Ph.D. in neurobiology. But I get calls about every woman she knows who has a child... including the same cousin.

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I don't think we struggle because of money. But there has definitely been a struggle because of the vast differences between what men culturally are taught, encouraged to learn, told is important, versus what women are. The money is really nothing; he has some vague feelings of unease that he's not contributing financially, but parenting has been such hard work that he definitely feels like he is making a huge contribution to the household. But boy has it been hard on our marriage. He didn't know how to deal with a baby, at all. Had never been expected to change a diaper, babysit, or form an opinion on the zillions of child-rearing options and philosophies out there today. I have had to research, set the tone, and then let go as he does or doesn't implement my vision of parenthood. He has really different ideas about cleanliness, no real concept of the house reflecting on him as a person, and so a lot less shame and guilt about the house not meeting the standards that would be expected of a stay-at-home-mom (I have a lot of resentment about this). He doesn't think about or place much value on traditions, holidays, gifts, maintaining family obligations. It's not that he doesn't love his family, but he didn't get the message that making Christmas, birthdays, special occasions, etc. happen was something he needed to do, so I have to do these things or they don't happen. The same with appointments, playgroups and activities for the kid, shopping for anything beyond day-to-day grocery needs (lots of frustration on my part because everything feels like my responsibility).

Fascinating perspective and one I hadn't thought about before. It makes perfect sense - most men are not raised to think about thinks such as not only remembering birthdays, but making that day a special event; or doing the same for various holidays throughout the year. I would like to have some of his attitude regarding the house-cleaning and not accepting that it is a reflection of me, as I tend to stress over that.

I am the sole breadwinner for my household, but I do get child support, which is not treated as income on my taxes. So my "income" does not include about $6,500 in child support.

I live in the Bay Area. One of our local stations is 97.3 Alice. The morning DJ's are Sarah and Vinnie, who are now both in their mid-40's. Sarah is the bread winner for her family, and her husband stays home and takes care of the two kids. Since she does the morning show, she's also home during much of the day, but it's clear that it's her husband that does a bulk of the work - such as getting the kids to school, preparing lunches, grocery shopping, helping with school projects, etc. I am always fascinated to listen in when she talks about their relationship dynamic. I believe they've been married close to 20 years, so it's working for them.

I'd like to see a day where this wasn't unusual. For me, it's all about having choices and options, and not being judged for making those choices. We still have a long way to go, but I think we're making some progress.

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There was a rerun of a Wife Swap episode recently that featured a rural family. The dad made money from participating in truck pulls, which didn't happen frequently. The mother worked two jobs, plus all the cooking and cleaning since the dad thought that was "women's work"--to the point where he was taking 7 years to finish remodeling the kitchen because he hated having to do any work in that room. In spite of this work disparity, the dad and two teenaged children were convinced that the mother was "spoiled" and "didn't appreciate what dad was doing for the family." It was like the children had been brainwashed. When the mom from the other family tried to talk to their daughter about doing something nice for their mother once in a while, the daughter started crying and said, "Everybody misunderstands my dad. He works hard. He puts a roof over our heads, and Mom should be grateful for that." Nobody pointed out the obvious idea that if the mother is the one working two jobs every day, SHE is probably the one paying for the roof over their heads. The dad's job was automatically more important.

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I am the sole income for my family. For a lot of reasons, my husband never really got a career off the ground. He was unhappy in the low-wage jobs he had available, and wanted to go back to school and then write. Because I could afford to support both of us, and because I found that when I had someone else to take care of food and do a lot of the day-to-day chores, I could focus better on my career (just like zillions of husbands discovered in years past) we decided to have him 'come home'. He got his degree right as I was finishing my pregnancy.

When we had our child, I knew he did not really want to be a father (he was willing to do it for me, but fatherhood wasn't something he ever wanted for himself and he didn't like kids), so I was planning to put our daughter into daycare, with the understanding that he would get a job to help pay for it. However, he ended up not liking the idea of our child being 'raised by someone else' and since we live in a pricey area, even if he got a good job, it would have taken up his whole salary to pay for daycare. So he took on the stay-at-home-father role. He struggled with it a lot the first six months, enough that it was a real strain on our marriage and our individual sanity. But then things got a bit better, and a bit better, and now that our girl is almost two, and amazing, he's ended up being a really great father, much more patient and nurturing than I would have been.

I don't think we struggle because of money. But there has definitely been a struggle because of the vast differences between what men culturally are taught, encouraged to learn, told is important, versus what women are. The money is really nothing; he has some vague feelings of unease that he's not contributing financially, but parenting has been such hard work that he definitely feels like he is making a huge contribution to the household. But boy has it been hard on our marriage. He didn't know how to deal with a baby, at all. Had never been expected to change a diaper, babysit, or form an opinion on the zillions of child-rearing options and philosophies out there today. I have had to research, set the tone, and then let go as he does or doesn't implement my vision of parenthood. He has really different ideas about cleanliness, no real concept of the house reflecting on him as a person, and so a lot less shame and guilt about the house not meeting the standards that would be expected of a stay-at-home-mom (I have a lot of resentment about this). He doesn't think about or place much value on traditions, holidays, gifts, maintaining family obligations. It's not that he doesn't love his family, but he didn't get the message that making Christmas, birthdays, special occasions, etc. happen was something he needed to do, so I have to do these things or they don't happen. The same with appointments, playgroups and activities for the kid, shopping for anything beyond day-to-day grocery needs (lots of frustration on my part because everything feels like my responsibility).

These sorts of differences in expectations are far more damaging to our relationship than the fact that I make the money and he doesn't. And they are things that come up a lot when people talk about stay-at-home dads. Many of these dads don't do all the other stuff that stay-at-home moms tend to do, and so there's tension. And then he ends up feeling constantly under siege because he isn't meeting my expectations and having to deal with my anger when he sees himself as doing a great job (and he is, just, under a different standard, and I have trouble using his standard rather than the one I absorbed).

My husband is also dealing with the fact that being the primary parent is thankless drudgery where every day is very similar to the one before, and time and energy for yourself is very very limited, especially the first couple years. He loves our daughter, he does a great job with her, he feels pride in himself as a father, but that's pretty much the only part of his life that is validating right now. He doesn't have time or mental energy to write. He doesn't get out a lot. He feels trapped into a role he never meant to be in. Our daughter will start preschool two days a week soon, and I hope it will help him find time to be more than just a father. Our marriage badly needs that.

I take care of both my elderly parents, and I empathize with your husband. Please give him a hug for me!!

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I forgot to add that there was one year (before kids) where I made a few thousand more than hubby.

His response? He was pleased and proud, didn't care at all, was glad to have the money. However, when he told his mom, she worried about his ego and made some remark about how it was because I was cute. I just laughed. What an idiotic remark.

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In the last year, my husband has gotten seniority/raises at a rate faster than I have...he makes more.

For the first time in our 10 years of marriage, I'm NOT the primary breadwinner.

It's...odd. For both of us. He's always been pretty OK with it, but he says he feels more 'secure' in his role, a little bit knowing that I can't single-handedly screw up our finances by doing something like walking away from my job :)

(thee's backstory that makes all of that make sense but, personality-wise, I'm the person more likely to walk away from a job, less likely to be fired. But, somehow, I've been fired from a previous job and he walked awa [more than once])

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My mother stayed at home until my sister & I were in school (later resuming her career as a paralegal) & my father, a lawyer, was the breadwinner until I was about 10. Then he became ill (eventually ending up on a disability pension, & then died when I was 17), so it reversed & my mum was the breadwinner. I've seen things from both perspectives, & if there's one lesson I've taken away from it, it's that I never want to spend a substantial amount of time out of the workforce. Not only would it leave me well behind in terms of superannuation savings, but should something happen to my partner - death, disability or divorce - I would be behind in terms of career progression too. For my sake & the sake of any kids I'd have to provide for, I need to cultivate & maintain my financial independence.

My partner currently earns a lot more than me, as he works in the mining industry. However, he doesn't plan to stay in it forever. Should the situation flip & I earn more than him, he says he wouldn't care - I believe him, too. He's never been the kind of guy who needs to prove his manhood by conforming to social expectations. We don't have kids yet but I like the idea of hiring a part-time nanny, like my parents did when mum went back to work.

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Here in the UK something like a quarter to a third of married women make more money than their husbands, so it's really normal, no-one thinks anything of it.

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