I’m going to say it: I’ve struggled being the sole-breadwinner for my family.
This struggle can sometimes make me feel dissatisfied and critical of how my husband (who is a stay-at-home Dad) does things. But here’s what I think is actually behind it all:
It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with the way my husband does things (even if I would do them differently), it’s that on some level, I would love to be doing what he is doing now.
Even though I love what I do for a living. The drive to work is countered by the pull to be with my kids, best summarized by Anne-Marie Slaughter in her 2012 piece for The Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.
“The proposition that women can have high-powered careers as long as their husbands or partners are willing to share the parenting load equally (or disproportionately) assumes that most women will feel as comfortable as men do about being away from their children, as long as their partner is home with them. In my experience, that is simply not the case.”
Also, check out Rebecca Hughes Parker’s piece on “The Unsteady rise of the Power Mom and the Diapering Dad.”
I was the sole-breadwinner before my kids were born, too. My husband was a “house husband” and took care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying the bills—essentially managing our household. I was completely happy with this setup. Now, he does all the things he did before, plus takes care of our kids, and I feel that I’m less satisfied with the arrangement than I was before we had kids. I’m sure this has a lot more to do with the pull I have to be with my family and less about actual dissatisfaction with my husband or my work.
This is such a complex topic and we can get into all the things around gender roles and how our culture and society make it so difficult for women in the workforce. But I’m going to leave you with one bit of advice for those trying to reconcile their calling of providing for their family doing what you love and being the involved and present parent they want to be:
Figure out what it could look like to be both.
I’ve been working towards long-term goals around my vision for our lives for awhile now. I did creative coaching with Kathleen back in 2013 about a year after Ellis was born. One of the things she had me do was the Ideal Day exercise. In my Ideal Day, I still worked as the primary breadwinner, but I was able to be with my kids every day.
Figure out what your ideal circumstances would be and figure out the steps to get there.
Does it mean cutting down on hours?
Does it mean making less money?
Does it mean hiring help?
Three years ago, my dream involved supporting my family and working from home full-time. Today, that’s exactly what I do. We’ve still got a way to go, but the clearer I can make that vision, the closer we are to getting there.