New Study Says More Women Are Becoming Breadwinners: Are Marriages Suffering?
Times they are a-changin’. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that 40% of women in America are the breadwinners for their families. And while this inspires all sorts of ‘You go girl!’ hoops and hollers, it also raises the question of how to handle the inevitable tension that arises when powers shift in a marriage and so-called “normal” gender roles are flipped on their head.
Susan Gregory Thomas of the The Wall Street Journal found herself one of these 40%, working and earning more than her husband, whose career was yet another casualty of the Great Recession. In her experience with her own domestic situation and those of families she spoke to, Thomas says that while many men seem to be just fine with their wives earning more than they do, those same men would ideally like to be making enough to take care of their families. When that doesn’t happen, they often feel angry and ashamed while their spouses feel even more stressed.
"I don't think so much about gender roles, but I do feel angry and helpless because I can't financially support the family unit," Greg McFadden, an actor and stay-at-home dad, told the WSJ. “I’m sick of reading these articles and daddy blogs, about how ‘empowered’ men are to be caretakers. Ask them how they feel about not earning a paycheck.” Several factors such as income level and family size have an effect on the emotional repercussions. A survey conducted by DailyWorth.com, a women's financial site, found that in families with children, 36% felt a negative impact on their relationship, compared to 22% of those sans kids. Tensions also deflate slightly if men make enough to support their family should mom lose her job.
And for some Mr. Moms, a little gratitude goes a long way. McFadden later told the WSJ that he and his wife Shannon have learned to appreciate each other’s roles and recognize their partners’ needs. “When you reach philosophical agreement, it does help melt away resentment… we’re not really there yet. It’s a work in progress,” said McFadden.
It’s definitely not a black and white issue. We want to know what you think: If you earn more than your spouse, has it had a detrimental effect on your marriage? Or is it empowering for you to embrace new roles? Tell us what you think in the comments below.