When you are the primary breadwinner

When you are the primary breadwinner

 when you are the primary breadwinner When you earn more than your partner, the best way to make it work is to face the facts together, share everyday childcare and home responsibilities equally, and stay connected.

When a woman makes more money than her partner, the income imbalance can affect the relationship. Questions regarding budget management, childcare, and household responsibilities can be grounds for much bitterness, and a major source of stress.

Total overload

Research indicates that when roles are reversed in a society where women were previously expected to take care of
the family and raise children, and men were expected to be the breadwinners and put work obligations first, women
experience significantly higher rates of role overload, or feel that they’re unable to finish their workload in the allocated time. This puts them at a higher risk for burnout, depression, and even infidelity and divorce. And, if a man’s not secure in himself and his supporting role, he might feel like less of a man for it.

High expectations

The gender disparity of more men than women higher up the corporate ladder can be traced to high expectations that
companies place on their employees. In terms of society’s evolution, humans are in uncharted waters in our high-powered, global, permanently connected businesses. It takes amazing discipline not to check your email first thing in the morning or late at night, when it has simply become part of office culture, especially when you might think you’re easily replaceable if you miss a single trick. Creating boundaries for downtime is hard enough without having to support a partner and family. Women experience much more conflict between their roles, which can make them unsure of what they’re striving for, and makes it difficult to progress upwards.


Is society expecting less of men – and women?

The emphasis on the ‘code of manhood’ fluctuates according to the abundance of resources in a given society, says
Artofmanliness.com. ‘The scarcer the resources, the more the ode of manhood is emphasised – the more men need to be good at being men.’ When resources are sufficient, due to a man’s wife, it’s bound to affect his psyche.

With the counterculture movement in recent history, ‘not only has the code of manhood loosened, it’s also devalued the goal of growing up altogether – for both sexes! We “Moderns” deny death and seek eternal youth. We flee responsibility. We laugh at the idea of delayed gratification – we want what we want, and we want it now. We watch instead of do, consume instead of create. Adulthood is for suckers. We are eternal children… ever shouting, “I’m not listening! You’re not the boss of me!”’

Families where the mom earns more need to figure out a way for the dad to feel he’s contributing meaningfully, while
women need to have the confidence to command a place in business that supports having the space, time and energy needed to maintain a happy home.

Adopt the motto of ‘Making it work for the good of everyone’. Ideas of ‘having/doing it all’ will
work against you, even with the best intentions.

8 tips to make it work

Resolve to succeed as a family with these shifts in mindset…

  1. Write your own script. In order to be happy in the modern world, and to have a healthy and effective partnership, take a pragmatic approach and let go of traditional ideals by writing your own ‘fairy tale’.
  2. The princess makes more – accept it. To cushion the psychological impact, identify the trade-offs you each need to make to maintain your situation. Whether it’s you missing school concerts or him feeling he lacks a certain autonomy he might have once had, this is your combined reality.
  3. Managing the budget. Money management is more emotional than logical, and therefore a topic we often avoid. But it’s essential to figure out a financial structure that works for your specific demands – one that’s fair to both partners. It needs to be functional and might mean joint or separate finances. Draw up your expenses and divide them according to your interests and strengths. It’s important to plan for unexpected eventualities, invest for your kids’ higher education and your own retirement too.
  4. Keep the prince’s feelings in mind. As well as balancing the financial side of your relationship, you need to address the emotional one too. To keep from feeling resentful you need to be open, honest and receptive about each other’s feelings. This includes acknowledging the psychological impact when a man isn’t able to act as provider, and it shouldn’t be ignored.
  5. The castle. Like it or not, your partner will never be as concerned with the state of your home as you are. Adapt by establishing defined roles and, if you have domestic help, include her and/or him in discussions surrounding tasks so that everyone’s on the same page. It might be difficult but you may need to alter (ie lower!) your expectations, and even turn a blind eye sometimes, to maintain a happier outlook!
  6. Glass slippers and glass ceilings. As you’re earning most of the income you can’t afford your skills to become outdated or not to progress at work. To a degree, compartmentalising parts of your life will help manage feelings of double standards in times of stress, and reduce chances of a breakdown.
  7. Talented duo. Flexibility and compromise are key to assuming parenting roles that draw on both of your
    strengths and skills.
  8. It’s your kingdom. Friends and family might criticise you for what they regard as ‘alternative’ choices. What works for you isn’t their concern and needs no explanation. Back each other during times of hardship – you’re on the same team.


Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Your Family’s Digital editor. Avid retweeter. When I’m not scrolling Instagram you’ll find me in my garden. Keen on DIY and I don’t believe there’s anything that can’t be fixed with some chalk paint.


Send this to a friend