Growing up, I was always taught that the man in the household was the breadwinner. His role was to make the money and make the key financial decisions. My parents would have loved nothing more for me than to get married and have a husband do those things for me.
Sounds old school now, doesn’t it? This wasn’t that long ago either. I actually had the same expectations of myself until I hit my early 20’s. But then, I entered the workforce and things changed. I found new drive and focus in myself I never knew existed. This drive pushed me to conquer my career with a competitive spirit with monetary goals in mind. I began to make money. Good money. Aside of my career aspirations, I eventually did marry, and became the breadwinner, which was counterintuitive to how I was raised. This created a different dynamic that no one could have prepared me for.
Here are the three most surprising things I’ve learned as a female breadwinner:
1. The Power Struggle
Making more money than my husband presented a power struggle that surprised me. Although I was out earning him, he wanted to make all of the financial decisions on our behalf. If we spent money on home upgrades, vacations or investments, he wanted to have control. When I spoke up about how I thought we should spend money, my voice was typically overlooked, or he found a reason that my ideas were not good ones. This made me feel unsettled and degraded, which created a rift in our relationship. Despite our modern earning situation, he wanted to keep traditional roles. The struggle was real and was a challenge to resolve. It forced us to find better ways to communicate about money and re-define ourselves.
2. The Stress
Even though I was traveling, conducting meetings, managing people and bringing in the dough, I was still expected to keep the household running. What surprised me is that this added a whole different level of stress. I didn’t see this coming. I tried to find a way to understand this stress, and was validated when I read an article published in FACT TANK (March 2015) Women continue to bear a heavier burden when it comes to balancing work and family, despite progress in recent decades to bring about gender equality in the workplace. When I read this, I realized I wasn’t alone.
3. The Beauty
I just presented some of the surprising challenges that came my way, but I do have to mention the surprise in the beauty of being the breadwinner. Self -sufficiency. Regardless of the influence of my parent’s expectations early in my life, I surprised myself by becoming financially self -sufficient. I can take care of myself, my family and save money for the future. This provides a level of freedom and confidence, and I will most certainly instill these qualities in my daughter.
Being a female breadwinner presents positives and challenges. Despite making money, the common theme here is that we are still conflicted by traditional roles. Women are advancing in their careers, and I expect this trend to continue. Now, it is all about accepting this shift and incorporating it into the family unit. We can do it, change it and teach it.
Holly Caplan is an award-winning manager and author of Surviving the Dick Clique: A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World. For more information, please visit, www.hollycaplan.com.