What happens if women become the breadwinner of the family?

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For decades-long, men were usually the breadwinner and were expected to provide for their wife and children. Throughout the years, most women began to go to college and have a career. As a consequence, female breadwinners are becoming more and more of a reality. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are the sole or main breadwinners in almost a third of U.S. households. This number is predicted to even increase since unemployment has hit male-dominated fields the hardest. And yet it is often still a taboo. Suryani got into this matter and also conducted a survey to see how they think about this.

Prejudices and misconceptions

While it is very much culturally acceptable that the man has the bigger income, this can’t be said when it’s the opposite way around. People tend to have all kinds of prejudices. Especially when they find out that the woman in the relationship is actually the breadwinner. This shows that traditional gender roles are sometimes very ingrained into our society. But also that they change much slower than people live their lives.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, founder of the blog ‘Making Sense of Cents’ is the breadwinner in her relationship. In her blog she gives tips about making and saving money. Even a little bit to the extreme maybe since she roughly makes $1.000.000 with her business. She says that people pass negative judgments on her and her partner on a regular base. They assume that she must be super bossy. Or that her husband doesn’t do anything or has no contribution to their relationship.

Behind every successful woman is herself

She tells about this time when someone emailed her to say that she was spelling her name incorrectly. That person thought that only a man could have built the business that she built. He did apologize afterwards though. Also, when an article about her appeared in Forbes, people thought that the story was about a man. She got a lot of negative reactions because people thought that she was a golddigger. Even though she mentioned her name several times. She says: “I understand that a female business owner and a breadwinner can be something new to some people but it shouldn’t be viewed in a negative way.”

Tradition is hard to break with

Couples where the woman earns more can find this very challenging. Not only to the outside world but also within their relationship. According to a recent American survey that followed 6.000 heterosexual couples for the last 15 years, men are experiencing stress. And also feel uncomfortable as soon as women bring in more than 40% of the total income. If they are entirely economically dependent on her then their stress levels are at its most. It could even go this far that men who are in a relationship with a female breadwinner, could experience psychological problems because of this situation. When the woman already earned more before they started a relationship, this problem doesn’t occur. 

This clearly indicates that the traditional way of thinking is still very much present in our modern society. Even more so if you know that, when the female is the breadwinner of the family, she still does most of the housework. So even when they are the financial ‘head of the family’, they still take this extra job upon them. Whereas this has never been the case with men. Stay-at-home dads or even men who work parttime to take care of the household and the children are still the exceptions. Let alone did anyone in the early days expect that the male breadwinner would do the majority of the housework? Or even contribute at all.

The results of the survey

As many as 60,7% of the respondents, all within the age range of 20 to 60, indicate that both incomes are equivalent. In the relationships where this is not the case, still 22,7% of the men are the breadwinner as to 16,6% of the women.

Out of all the men, a whopping 81,2% say that they wouldn’ t mind if their partner would become the one who brings in the most money. To the majority of them, having a comfortable financial situation takes precedence. So it doesn’t matter who brings in the most since, in a relationship, you work together. As long as you decide together who will do which work, like salaried employment or not e.g. stay-at-home dad. And you re-evaluate this on a regular base, it shouldn’t have to be a problem. Some said that their partner has a higher degree so it’s no more than normal that she has a higher income. 

This other 8,9% would find it uncomfortable if their wife or girlfriend would have the highest income. The prevalent thought was that they had to take care of their family. This shows they still attach much importance to their traditional role. 

Amongst the women who are the breadwinner, 81,8% stated that their partner has no problem with them earning the most. Just like the male respondents, the men that do have a problem with this feel like they need to be the primary earner in order to provide for their partner and/or children. As a consequence thereof their pride and ego are hurt. So again, we can see that tradition is hard to break with, especially when it’s been like that for ages.

Where both incomes are equivalent, 66,7 % of the women believe that their partner would have no problem with them earning whereas the other 33,3 % thinks that this would be an issue, again, for the same reasons as mentioned above.

The conclusion

So what can we conclude? In recent years, there has clearly been a turnaround as well as in  the number of female breadwinners. And as well as in the way society, especially men, feel about this. Women have been oppressed for too many years and they deserve equal pay, equal chances and equal respect.

However, we can’t ignore the results of the panel study due to its elaborateness. And so even though, in reality, the gender roles are changing and evolving at a fairly quick pace. Tradition still plays a major role and men, subconsciously or not, are not yet totally ready for a society run by women.


So what do you think about these shifting role patterns and female breadwinners? Let us know!

This article has been written by @SURYANI SIX

Sources: www.makingsenseofcents.com and Panel study of income dynamics

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