Deciding to get married for the second time was an easy decision for me.
I had met David, the man of my dreams, and he was everything I wanted — similar values, beliefs, and upbringing. In terms of our careers, though, I was on a rising ladder in the cutthroat corporate world. Him? He was happy working in a job that simply brought home a steady paycheck each month.
That was soon to change. Not long into the marriage, he learned he was being laid off. I think I started panicking more than him. Dealing with a layoff was a new experience for me and something I personally considered a crushing blow. For him, however, it just another slight road bump to be taken in his happy-go-lucky stride.
I don’t know whether it was me simply pushing the idea to him or using my invaluable coaching and influencing skills gained throughout my career in trying to get him to think differently about what he wanted to get out his working life. But it worked.
It was then that I had a lightbulb moment: This would be a great opportunity for him to not just drop back into a mundane role, but to take this as an opportunity to do something different. To be honest, I don’t know whether it was me simply pushing the idea to him or using my invaluable coaching and influencing skills gained throughout my career in trying to get him to think differently about what he wanted to get out his working life. But it worked.
I knew that we could still be financially secure based on my salary, and in fact, I’m not sure why we hadn’t thought of this before. Although, on second thought, maybe I do know why — I’d already been the main breadwinner before, in my previous marriage, and it had had negative effects. My ex-husband had a view (along with his family) that I should be lessening the corporate climb and the international business travel to stay at home more and be the dutiful wife — hence, why the marriage didn’t last!
Finding a Solution
Our marriage was still a partnership, plain and simple.
After much discussion, we worked out that David could re-train to work in an area he had always been interested in — working with children with special needs. We set about understanding how that would impact us. It meant that some of the “material” treats we often gave each other would now be reduced, but the return effect was seeing my husband start to light up from within as he embarked on a new career that, to this day, I believe he was born to do.
Still, I knew that deep down, as much as he wanted to pursue this career change, he was worried how this new pressure on me as the main wage earner would affect us. We hadn’t been married for long — what would it do to our relationship? And — more importantly to him, I suspect — what would others think about him being supported by me? We knew that our families and friends (i.e. those who really mattered to us) wouldn’t even think of it as an issue. And our marriage was still a partnership, plain and simple.
The Transition Phase
“I do the job I do so that David can do the job he is meant to do.”
The transition still came with its challenges. Working in education is such a rewarding career, but sadly still one of the lowest paid — I frequently say to my colleagues, “I do the job I do so that David can do the job he is meant to do.”
When I have bad days to deal with, it often revolves around an unhappy customer, budgets not aligning, or technology not doing what it is meant to. For him, a bad day is being punched, kicked or bitten by an emotionally charged child — all of which happened to him very early on in his career.
Rules for the Breadwinner Relationship
First—What Is a Breadwinner?
A breadwinner is the member of the family who financially supports and sustains the rest of the family.
Now, 11 years have passed. Throughout that time, he has continued to support me and my career, being the ever-patient husband when my job has taken me overseas for weeks on end, as well as the numerous house moves we have had to deal with during that time. In the same way, I never begrudge him financially, he doesn’t begrudge me in regards to the hours or locations I work.
We make this work for us by having a few simple rules:
• It’s OUR money
Not predominantly mine and a fraction being his. The disparity in earnings ratios makes no difference to us. In fact, he often says, “You earn more so you can go and spend more if you want.”
As if a woman ever needs an excuse!
• We share everything.
Those domestic tasks fall upon us both, he would argue he is better at loading the dishwasher than me, but I know that he still cannot iron his shirts without as many wrinkles as when he started.
• Money can’t buy life experiences.
As my career has taken me around the globe, we use every move as an opportunity to immerse ourselves in new cultures and living as locally as we can. We shy away from an “expat” lifestyle and enjoy each day on the adventure we are both sharing together.
Lis Brown is a People Leader with more than twenty five years experience in the Management Consulting and Technology Industries. She has spent most of her career working around the globe and has truly embraced operating across different cultures and working styles, often being the only woman leader in the room. Lis is a passionate supporter of all aspects of Diversity and more importantly in ensuring inclusive and supportive environments for all. She is known for her strong moral compass and has no fear in speaking out and doing the right thing.