Monday, September 19, 2011

Moolah Monday - Being the Breadwinner

There's much to-do in the world about the concept of "breadwinner", especially when it comes to masculine and feminine roles in a relationship.  In most Christian traditions (though not exclusively), men are the head of the home and therefore, additionally, are the wage earners.  Certainly in the U.S. and other nations that have had gender equality movements over time the idea that men go to work and women stay home barefoot and pregnant are no longer the norm.  In fact, I'd argue that with any increase in "rights" comes an additional responsibility, whether through proactive stress & work to do the right thing or consequences for choosing not to. In the case of women, this added much more to their already full plates. This isn't meant to be a case for or against equality for women, just pointing out that "freedom isn't free" and now many women "must" work at least in part in payment for their equality.
I for one am grateful for the women before us who through suffrage earned us the right to vote and the freedom to be educated and to choose the path that we believe God has set out for us whose identity isn't soley tied up in whether or not we work, whether or not we marry, and whether or not we have children.  I no longer have to be worried that if I didn't have a husband or children that I'd be less-female, less worthy to society, and destined to be a poor "widow" begging for change.  Surely as a woman who has a career and who has "taken advantage of" the educational system, I should be grateful for these opportunities.  I vote.  I have a voice.  I'm an important member of society just for being mie.
That being said, I have to be careful as I'd caution any wife to be, that I don't harm my husband's role by over-emphasizing that I'm the breadwinner.  I do talk about it from time to time here on the blog and then at times with a handful of trusted female friends primarily as the rationale of why I don't stay-at-home or to demonstrate how our life works, but we don't talk about it a lot at home and I try to never mention it when in mixed-company, especially when my husband is around or with his friends.

I have a great husband.  He's faithful, he adores me and his kids (even the ones he didn't contribute to creating!), he loves the Lord, and he's very helpful.  I know that he feels a heavy burden to make sure that I'm taken care of and that his kids know how much they are loved.  Sure - he's not perfect, but neither am I and that's ok.  We learned that a long time ago and know where perfection comes from, not each other. \

With all that said, I want to make sure that for all he does he never feels less-than because I make more money than he does. It would be easy for me to demean him and complain a lot for working, not staying home, etc. because he doesn't make "enough". I'm sure that it would be easy for him to fall into the trap of feeling not good enough, not enough as a husband, not enough as a father, not enough as a man. I've learned enough about gender roles over the years to know how devastating that type of thing can be and how for a small population that pressure will drive some to succeed or completely fail, for most it produces an unhealthy constant struggle of feeling worth. My husband's worth shouldn't be soley based on the ratio of our earnings but from who He is in Christ - nevertheless it's an innate struggle that can take a man off-path.
As an example from our life - for years we qualified to purchase things on credit purely on my income (including all of our cars and and all 3 houses).   If you've ever been down the road of financing stuff like that, you know it can be easier to use one person's income if you can just so you have about half of the paperwork!  So, several of those things are only in my name.  There are times when I could use that in a fight - I could say mean and ugly things like "your car?  Whose name is on the title?"...or something like that.  That is clearly something I try and avoid, but I also try to avoid using that topic in jest . When we talk about that property I talk about it in both our names.  Though it's not required, we made sure that they included both our names on the title of our homes even when the mortgage is in my name.  I recently found new insurance for our rental property and though in our state as a married couple that insurance would by default be for both of us, I made sure that he was on the policy explicitly.  I know this may sound obvious to some, but it's the little things like that where companies give us the opportunity to choose (or, in some case default to me only) where we could do the easy thing and not push it or worse I could get haughty and rub it in my husband's face where we choose to walk hand-in-hand. 

A similar example - last week I had the opportunity to go get my hair done.  I called my husband and asked for permission, not so much to get it cut or colored (though I wanted his input on that too) but primarily to spend the money.  It's a small amount of money to do that, at least with our budget, and honestly if I would have gone to do it without telling him first he wouldn't have noticed in our account.  Nevertheless, in doing so I showed him that his opinion matters and that though I could take the attitude of saying "If I work I get to choose this stuff for myself", that wouldn't help our marriage out.  Afterall, I want him to talk with me about his purchases too so we can be on the same page about spending our money.

Speaking of that, I also want to make sure that I don't strip him of the role we believe he has as the one primarily responsible for providing for our family. This is a delicate balance with me earning at least 2x what he does.  It would be easy for him to say eh...I don't need to work my wife makes plenty for both of us.  It would be easy for us to continue daycare, let him stay home and work on his hobbies and play video games all the time while I'm at work; we could afford that.  But we don't do that.  Yes, we both acknowledge that it's important for us to have individual down time and do things we love, but it's not ok for either of us to sit idly doing nothing for extended periods of time.  That won't help our marriage or our family and probably isn't what we're designed to be on this Earth for.  My husband works his 40 hours.  Then, in the times he's home when the rest of the family isn't, he does other work in the house.  Sometimes its the yard work, sometimes its cleaning up the clutter, sometimes it's a special task I ask him to do because I didn't get around to it the night before.

The point is, it's important for my husband to remain to be the head of our household regardless of how much money either of us make. Tomorrow my job could be gone. So could his. I'm glad we're in a position where we both have the opportunity to work when we truly need to, that God gave us able hands, feet, and minds and has given us favor to this point with employment. We're very blessed with that. Yes, it adds different challenges than a family where the wife stays home and doesn't earn an income and, by now you all know I'd prefer that - I'm a stay-at-home momma in a working mama's body. But for now I'm asked to work and have been favored to be able to do so and that means I need to keep myself and my humility in check to know my true job in this world - and that is not necesarily rooted in my position at work or my income.

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