On Being the Breadwinner

November 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Recently Prudential released a survey showing the growing trend that women play as major breadwinners and in some cases, sole breadwinners, for families. When there is a single breadwinner what’s that mean to the family?

It is obviously not a new occurrence to have a single family breadwinner. For years, men frequently were in the workplace while women stayed home and ran households, managed kids and the family schedules. What’s happening now is a growing trend for women to be sole breadwinners. Latest figures show that in 1967 11+% of women were sole breadwinners by 2010 the number of women working as the family breadwinner was up to over 41%. Couples who manage this single breadwinner lifestyle well are those who communicate with each other and don’t become annoyed envying the other’s role. Live in the present and accept how circumstances are in the now.

This ties into the biggest hurdle facing couples where there is one breadwinner, resentment. Resentment occurs when feelings of inadequacy, envy, and self-esteem grow. Sometimes these feelings occur when the breadwinner feels alone and believes that the stay-at-home partner is not fulfilling the agreed-upon role. The problems can also come if one partner feels that the contributions of the non-breadwinner are inconsequential. When resentment festers without discussion and good solutions relationships come apart. I know of couples who haven’t talked for months, even years, about small irritations and perceived injustices who now live very separate lives. If these real problems and differences aren’t properly addressed and corrected, the relationship is in serious jeopardy.

So what can you do? Each spouse needs to value the work done by the other, communicate about worries or fears and find ways to appreciate the other. I have a friend who has come up with a creative way to have each person share in the household duties – the jobs that neither partner wants to do. They decided on a treat that each of them enjoys and agreed to give equal time working around the house that is spent in doing the enjoyed pastime. For every 5 minutes of TV time or computer time, they each give 5 minutes to the despised-chore. So, you watch a half-hour show, and then you clean the bathroom for half an hour. Or, whatever is the on the ‘we hate these jobs’ list. This creative solution has worked like magic in their household. It doesn’t matter what the other person does. If I have fun, I also do some work.

Whatever approach you can think of to feel better about each person’s value and work, implement the support systems to make it automatic. Communicate kindly when disagreeing and always remember, you love each other. (CR8600)

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