What do you think of when you hear the word breadwinner? Just taking a guess, I bet you immediately assigned the role to a man, right? Well in the modern age, these lines are getting more and more blurred as women’s, and men’s roles in the household are evolving. Even though this statement is true, there are still plenty of individuals holding onto those old ideas, including women breadwinners themselves. Money is power, so of course, women having more of it changes the entire dynamic of what many people believe to be the “correct” order of the world. Our feelings, as a society, are deeply rooted in male patriarchy, so these sentiments aren’t surprising but need to be addressed.
Unfortunately, anything that deviates from the norm is ridiculed to the point where it is hard for growth and prosperity. The woman breadwinner has been talked about for many years and as of 2018, “49 percent of employed women in the United States…say they work primarily because they are their family’s main breadwinner. That’s up from 37 percent in 2000” (CNBC). So clearly, there is growth in the number of breadwinners that are women, but the feelings behind it seem to have stayed the same. Many people believe that a part of being the head of the household is making the most money, or as the popular phrase says, “wearing the pants.” When the woman in the relationship makes more money, this often leads to the man feeling emasculated, making way for resentment and problems in the relationship. With the number of women breadwinners on the rise, this means that women are becoming forces in the work world as well. This sudden change in power translates to the relationship, which is why according to the New York Times, “millennial men ages 18 to 25 were more likely than the generation before them to want their wives to be housewives” (Refinery 29). Societal expectations at a young age among men versus women have exacerbated why women feel so guilty when earning more than men. So much of what women do is sadly attached to the satisfaction of men and making sure their ego stays unharmed. Some women often don’t want to take this on because of the pressures involved, dealing with their personal feelings about being a breadwinner while also having a successful work and home life. Making sure this trend continues to grow, there has to be some reflection on what tools women breadwinners need.
Women often feel like they have to apologize for being successful or making choices that will propel their self-interest. Placed into the nurturer category, they are taught at a young age to make sure everyone else is taken care of before themselves, i.e., your children, husband, family. So naturally, getting over the resentment will involve dealing with societal norms that have been taught to women since they were little girls. As a contributing writer to Millennial Boss and breadwinner, Liz made a few suggestions for tackling your feelings head-on: “to overcome resentment, I make sure to first keep in mind all the things that this arrangement gives my family and me.” Focus on why you are working and how it will fulfill certain goals. Another important step is communication within your relationship, as Liz explains, “communication is key, so don’t let resentment fester. Talk about what’s bothering you instead.” Having pay disparities, especially with the woman making more, might lead to unnecessary conflict so “both have to agree and be fully aligned with what you’re striving towards together.” In the cases that this dynamic does work, it involves two very secure individuals who are willing to communicate and be open to what works best for their relationship.
It will take some time to get to a point where women and men feel positively about women breadwinners. It involves unlearning many things and having space for the topic to warrant a purposeful and educated conversation. The more this subject is talked about, slowly strips away its taboo nature. Women breadwinners should be celebrated and not condemned for choosing for themselves and their families.