Rise of the Women Breadwinners

Gone are the days of the woman having dinner on the table, the evening drink ready for their man, the house cleaned and children raised in the home.

Women are becoming equal breadwinners with their male counterparts. The figures show that close to 40% of women are the breadwinners in supporting the family.

To think, women were only 7 percent of primary breadwinners in 1970!

Excerpt from Heather Boushey’s article called, The New Breadwinners:

Clearly, the days of Ozzie and Harriet are long gone. Within married-couple families, the typical working wife now brings home 42.2 percent of her family’s earnings.14 And women increasingly are the primary breadwinners. In 2008, nearly 4 in 10 mothers (39.3 percent) were the primary breadwinner in their family—either because they were a single, working parent or because they earned as much as or more than their spouse. An additional quarter (24.0 percent) of mothers are co-breadwinners—that is, a working wife bringing home at least 25 percent of her family’s total earnings (see Figure 2 and Table 1). 15


Gender Roles

But one thing hasn’t moved forward as quickly, the traditional gender roles. Household chores and childrearing activities still primarily are held with the woman. The balance of labor just isn’t divided equally, and a woman comes home from a long day of work and still has to do the chores. In fact, about 2/3rds of the household work remains with the woman in the role.

Do you think there can be a happy medium to be met with one’s partner in taking on some of the household responsibilities?

I see three options:

Communicate with your partner. Ask for help in taking on the household work. Could your partner help you cook some of the meals, take on some of the laundry, drive the kids to sport practice or vacuum? My husband comes home before me to start dinner. During the weekends we alternate who does the laundry. At times, he even helps me to make the kid’s lunches.

Outsource household work. You did read this guest post by Erica Douglass on Outsourcing, right? I am seriously considering hiring someone to deep clean the house twice a month just so I have time to spend with my family. Maybe even hire someone to make my children’s school lunches for me (don’t like to give them money for school lunches – bleck!). Hire a tutor to help the kids with their school work. Pay for services that will allow me to focus on the more time with individual family members and/or free up a bit of personal time.

Become a Stay-at-home parent. My husband and I once calculated the money saved if one of us stayed home. You reduce the childcare costs ($400 month), commuting charges, auto maintenance fees, etc… It is rather tempting to say, “I QUIT”, to my boss. But what is holding one of us to continue working, the two-income household still brings in more money to pay down our debts. Once our debt ratio is far down, we are going to revisit this last option for one of us to stay home. But one needs to consider if you can handle placing the financial responsibility to your partner.

My question to you: How would you resolve the stress issue? Are you a woman living as the breadwinner? Or a man supporting his breadwinner wife? What works for your family? What doesn’t work?

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28 thoughts on “Rise of the Women Breadwinners

  1. Forest

    My partner and I don’t have children but from a gender roles stand point we don’t have a man / women split…. I really like this dynamic as I hate sticking to male stereotypes just as much!

    As for the stats , that’s great news in my books… We shouldn’t be seeking equality we should be seeking indifference. It should have no bearing on what position you hold in a house or how much you earn based off of gender…. Sadly I bet women still have to work longer hours to earn as much as their husbands.


  2. Jason @ MyMoneyMinute

    My wife scoreboards me in the income department. But honestly, we look at it as “ours” rather than mine/yours. The duties at home really come down to time. She works hard for her money, so I better treat her right ;o) I work on a project basis, so sometimes I’m working tons of hours too, and other times I’m limited to a 40hr work week, and even times of unemployment between projects. It’s those times where I try and pick up the slack by making dinner, picking up the place, and handling the bills. Whatever I can do to take the stress off the moneymaker, right? LoL. Truthfully, I’m her biggest fan and want to do whatever I can to make life easier on her.

    We don’t have kids yet, so God knows how that will be worked out. I’m sure I’ll do more than my share of tasks, but some things require a mother’s nurture or biological parts that I can’t take care of. Guess we’ll figure it out as we go!

    1. money funk

      And I agree about the “ours” outlook. And that is great to hear you both partake on the household duties. I am fortunate to have my husband help me out, too (and that he can cook :)).

      But, I think that being a parent adds an extra element. I tend to feel stressed as a mother because of two factors: 1)Sick days and doctor’s appointments are left to me, 2)I don’t spend enough time with my children.

      And it’s hard to transition some of those roles in #1 to my husband because as a woman & mother, I am a nuturer. If a child is sick we nuture our kids. And if the sick child is left at home with dad they are screaming sick. LOL. j/k. but it is different. Plus mom’s have all those doctor records, etc… So, I think it might be hard to move those roles. Yet wonder if it could be done.

      Thank you for your insightful thoughts. And it is nice to hear the mutual respect for eachother’s work responsibilities.

      1. Jason @ MyMoneyMinute

        Very true, I think it’s hard to remove/change the mother/father roles, and even if I could, I’m not sure the ‘nurturer’ role should change. What should change when applicable is how one spouse helps another.

        It’s tough being a woman these days ;o)

  3. Adrienne

    I think I am lucky in my situation. My partner and I share quite equally on household expenses and we actually also share equally on household chores. I do most of the cooking (because I want to) and he does most of the laundry and dishes. It has worked out so far.

    1. money funk

      My husband and I have the same structure. I admit it is nice to share the responsibility. So then, I guess my issue lays in the child rearing duties. Will just keep working at finding a happy medium. 😉

  4. Financial Samurai

    I will be so pumped if my wife became the breadwinner, and I could stay at home, blog and play tennis all day!

    Just be prepared to pay a ton more taxes than you should!

    1. money funk

      LOL. Now, does that mean you would be cooking and cleaning in between all that happy, happy, joy, joy??? Your tone sounds like you didn’t factor it in. 😉

      We found out in the last two years that making more money equals more taxes. LOL. So this year I am all about minimizing that factor.

  5. Jamel Rose

    No matter how comfortable a stay-at-home dad is in his shoes, sometimes there is no breaking free of traditional gender roles that have been reinforced forever. Arguably the toughest one for SAHDs to deal with is the wife as the breadwinner.

    1. money funk

      Hi Jamel, Thank you for stopping by! And I think you’re right. My husband has found moments of difficulty with the wife having the breadwinner status, but for the most part he is very supportive (as long as I don’t gloat in my status).

      Now that he is ready to retire soon (yes, there is a big age difference between us), he is all for being house husband and embarking on his passions. Maybe that part will play into making option 3 work for us.

  6. Ted

    Right now, I am the breadwinner and my wife is home with the kids (although I work out of the house so… I am also home). She is in the first year of starting a photography business that I would love to be her full time job! I think it would be quite practical, when our kiddos are in school, for her to rock as the breadwinner and for me to do some speaking, consulting, writing, etc part time and help her with the biz part time. I would love it! Right now, I have a great job in the family biz as a sales rep with a great income potential, so I am off to work while she has the kids.

    We have talked about getting someone to watch the kids one or two days a week so she can put some more time into the biz and keep her head on straight too. She also does more of the traditional housekeeping roles, but I need to step it up in that department! I do some, but not a lot 🙁

    Great post! I would love to be a part timer and a stay at home dad. (once the kids are in school- lets just say I get overwhelmed with a few days in a row alone with the kids- i dont know how my wifey does it!)

  7. LeanLifeCoach

    Would someone please get my wife on this bandwagon?

    She has done a terrific job raising the kids and backing me up but it sure would be nice to turbo charge our financial plan!

    1. money funk

      LOL. I do agree it can have its pros in role reversal, but sometimes I would really like to switch back. At least for about 6 months. Maybe the ‘timeout’ opportunity would allow me to come up with a better lifestyle. (I put it in quotes because there is still a lot of work involved in staying home, but the role reversal would put your life into a different mode…kind of shake things up).

  8. RainyDaySaver

    I’m quite lucky that my husband doesn’t have any issues with me being the breadwinner — some men don’t take too kindly to the idea, even in this day and age. The tradeoff is that my husband takes on some of the household chores and makes dinner when he can. It’s nice to come home to a meal, let me tell you!

    1. money funk

      Oh yes, I know the coming home to dinner. It is nice! It’s nice even when he just starts the meal so I can come home to make the salad or set the table. But lately he has been working OT, so I am kind of taking it all on. 🙁 But the OT is all for the good! 🙂

  9. Craig

    I’m a stay at home dad going on about six months. My wife is now the breadwinner. Even before we switched we shared our money and expenses and worked to help each other in the house. We both still have full-time jobs though, raising three kids is a lot of work and on top of that I’m back in school. We communicate and work with each other to keep everything moving in the house.

    You mention reducing childcare costs by $400/month. Wow, I wish it were so inexpensive for us! It would easily cost us between 1-2K/month.

    1. money funk

      I think communication is key! That sounds like you have a great relationship with your wife/family.

      Luckily, I my daughter is the only one with the before and after childcare expense. And in a couple of years, that will be gone too. I have paid my dues. 🙂

      Best of luck to you in school.

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  12. Little House

    I missed this post, that goodness for Link Love from Ultimate Money Blog. I totally agree. Remember that late 70’s early 80’s commercial for perfume…”I can bring home the bacon…fry it up in a pan…” that commercial redefined the roles for women. Basically turning us into super woman! Women are now more likely to be equals with their spouses financially, yet still are under the assumption of “housewife and mother.” I like your solutions, especially the outsourcing the housework part. Maybe some day….

    1. money funk

      Nice comment. 🙂

      And I know a lot of us enjoy the rights and responsibilities women have obtained, but you’re right the “housewife and mother” does stay with us. And because of our nurturing instincts I don’t think it will change much. So, if outsourcing is the solutio and, than so be it! 😉 I just want somebody to help clean the bathrooms and dust the baseboards. Then maybe the personal chef during the week…. okay, maybe I am asking for too much. LOL

  13. Evolution Of Wealth

    Women’s roles are definitely changing. I’m with financial samurai. I would love to have a wife that’s a breadwinner. Since I run my own business it would make things more relaxing and enjoyable. Either way I would still work because I love what I do.

    1. money funk

      I agree, the role reversal would be nice. At least for some time. 😉

      And now, I am looking into running my own business. Very excited about it. Just hope I can formulate it into a solid business plan. Which I think I can. I think what I am happy about it… it’s realistic with a viable time plan to execute it (usually my super hyped attitude makes business plans bigger than they really are). I hope to blog about this new journey. 😉

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  16. Sugar Momma

    I am the bread winner in my home while my husband stays home with the kids. I do work from home and sometimes find myself very fustrated that I am working so hard as he does what ever he wants, where ever he wants (distracting me while I work). While I am the only one working, it always seems that everything falls in my lap. I do love him however I am envious and intrigued by Male co-workers that work so hardly to provide for thier wives. I want someone that not only provides along with me but also thinking about the future or if something happens to him. His response is…. you will save on utilities if something happens to me. Am I crazy for accepting this or should I just realize that it does cost less for him to stay home than it would for daycare?

  17. bob

    There is much evidence that suggests women are becoming breadwinners because their husbands were laid-off, or because they had a pay-cut. It doesn’t suggest whether or not these women were outearning their husbands in their wedding day.

    Most women who outearn their husbands were not doing so on the day of their wedding. It is generally after they are married that they go back to school on their husbands dime, and eventually surpass his income.

    The paragraph about gender roles claiming that men don’t do enough around the home is baseless. I know many married men who are the breadwinners, and they complain about their wives not doing enough around the home, too. For all we know, this study could be because women expect too much. Also, men who are the breadwinners might be less likely to voice their complaints to their wives. So you can see that variables may easily tear apart this “study”.

    I’m all for women being the breadwinner. However, until they are marrying down as often as men do, I will mostly credit their financial success to their husbands who gave them the means to do so.

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