The author of this piece has asked to remain anonymous.
Women are catching up in the workplace — fast. Time Magazine recently proclaimed that within 25 years most American families will be financially supported by women instead of men.
I am part of that shift. When my husband and I began dating out of college our earnings were about equal. Within 5 years my earnings had tripled while his grew by just a few percentage points. By our seventh year together it was clear that I would be the primary breadwinner for the foreseeable future. But that position didn’t come with the appreciation, praise and support I thought it would. A lot of times it absolutely sucks, and here’s why.
1. I work hard outside and inside my home.
Never mind that I work long hours to provide for my husband and two children. As soon as work is done I’m often expected to clock into my second job at home cooking, cleaning and doing childcare. These responsibilities are still seen as ‘women’s work’.
2. America doesn’t know what it looks like for a husband to support a breadwinner wife.
A large part of the reason that domestic work is seen as women’s work is we don’t have any cultural scripts to the contrary. How many families are designed to support a wife who puts the food on the table? A husband who does this is still seen as emasculated.
3. Mommy guilt times a million.
Have you tried completing a work project while your kids begged you to read to them and play with them? It will make you feel like an absolute monster.
4. Guilt about limiting your partner’s earning potential.
In addition to the mommy guilt, I sometimes feel guilty about the fact that, because my career is taking priority, my husband’s career has taken a back seat and his earning potential is reduced. When I feel this way I must remind myself that my career path is objectively more lucrative, and my husband and I have both discussed and agreed that supporting me on this path makes most financial sense.
5. The judgmental family members.
Once my mother-in-law caught wind of my breadwinner status she tore into me, accusing me of emasculating her son and not spending enough time with my kids. Shaming and mommy guilt wrapped up into one.
So why do I do it?
Because I cannot stifle my abilities to fit into a problematic society. I have to accept who I am and be the change I want to see. Women are not the weaker sex. We are fiercely intelligent, responsive and resourceful, and it shows in our job performance and increasingly in our compensation. When I feel guilty or ashamed about my giftedness, I remind myself that I am not the problem, the culture around me is.
My husband has come a long way since our early dating days. He is slowly beginning to understand that his masculinity is not defined by how much he earns and this helps tremendously. I let him know that outside of providing money there are many many ways he can provide for us and protect us. I also take heart knowing that, throughout history, societies that value and elevate women’s contributions have existed and thrived.
But as I continue to work on my own home and marriage to be a space where I can give without feeling drained, I’m waiting patiently for the outside world to catch up. Because it’s hard out here for a breadwinner wife and mother.