Disclaimer: This post is written from my very privileged, Western perspective and I understand it is not indicative of all women’s feelings, and especially those in other countries.
At the early age of seven, I vividly remember playing at school and being panicked by the thought that when I grew up, I had to get married, have a house and have kids. Although we live in a new generation, at that age, I had still internalized many of those gender norms. I remember thinking, do I really have to do that?!
As I grew older, I realized I didn’t have to do any of that. To this day, I don’t really aspire to any of those things; I don’t want to get married, have kids or buy a house. While I may not be the norm, I feel incredibly grateful that women have so many choices. Although women still make less than men (typically), we now have more opportunities. We are no longer relegated to a prescribed life that we may not want.
We have choices.
Along with all these choices, we are now seeing a shift in gender roles and a relatively new phenomenon: the female breadwinner.
Women are making money, and in some instances making significantly more than their male partners. Some women are holding down the financial fort on their own.
My mom has been the sole income earner and breadwinner for the past 15 years. As I mentioned earlier, I am dating a musician, and because of the feast or famine nature of his work, I am the breadwinner in my relationship . I make more money and I provide health insurance for us (we can both be on it without being married!).
I have a partner that is not threatened by my successes, and is proud of me. He knows that this is a partnership and making money is one aspect of how we navigate life together. However, this dynamic can lead to a number of typical gender role reversals. For example, I work more hours at my job and with side hustling, so for us it makes sense for him to do the majority of the housework and cooking.
I don’t have a get-out-of-cleaning-your-shit card, and I do my fair share of cooking and cleaning, but from a time/money perspective it makes sense. When I know he is working late, I try to have some food ready for him when he gets home. It’s about working together with our resources, time and money, and making it work in the most effective way for both of us.
Our situation works well for us, but I also know that the situation can be stressful and uncomfortable for some. Money equals power; some men may not be comfortable making less money than their female partner. Some women may be uncomfortable or resent taking on the brunt of financial responsibility. I think navigating how a couple shares money, and housework can be delicate.
Last week, I spoke to a friend of mine who is going through a divorce. He was married to a woman who made double his income and in his words he “had it made”. He didn’t have to worry about money, and she let him do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Then he told me something very revealing. He said, “After a while, I felt like she didn’t need me. She didn’t need me financially, and I had all the freedom and independence to do as I please. I didn’t feel needed, so the relationship changed.”
While this is one specific story and isn’t necessarily telling of all relationships with a female breadwinner at the helm, I think it is interesting to think of how the shift in dynamic could be shifting our relationships and emotions. Are men feeling like they are no longer needed? Do women have to feel bad for making more money? Where is the balance?
I think it all comes down to communication and values. I don’t agree with my parents’ situation, but it works for them. I have a situation that works for me. No two couples are exactly the same, which is why it’s so important to communicate the needs of both parties in a clear manner. Instead of thinking that one person has more, and one has less, it’s about sharing resources to make sure your life is working for you and moving forward the way you want. You are working together.
Are you a female breadwinner? Has it affected your relationship? If so, how?
P.S. Love you Mom! So proud of you.