Written by Tabby Biddle
What would it be like if you made more money than your husband or your boyfriend or your father? For some of you, you are already in this position. For others, what once seemed like a faraway possibility, is now closer in view.
According to a recent article in Time, 75% of the job losses during this recession have gone to men. In order to pay the bills and support the family, women are stepping in to work longer hours and, those who took time off from their career to raise children, are re-entering the workforce – many of them as business owners.
Before the recession, Sarah Janosek, a 47-year old hospice nurse and mother of three daughters in Austin, TX, brought in roughly one-third of her family’s income. Once her husband lost his job as a software engineer, she became the principal breadwinner.
So what happens if the balance of earning power is tipped toward the woman? How will this change the relationship of the couple?
For those of us who grew up in a generation or a household where it was expected that Dad was the one responsible for bringing home the money to support the family, and Mom was the one responsible for cleaning the house and raising the kids — the idea of the woman now being the main breadwinner can be daunting and frankly, disorienting.
One friend, who is close to earning a lot more money than she has been, revealed to me that she keeps tripping herself up because she doesn’t like the idea of making more money than her husband. When I asked her why, she told me that she didn’t want to lose respect for him.
I asked another friend her opinion on the subject, and she told me that she was afraid that her husband wouldn’t feel like “a man” if he earned less than she. “So what would this mean to you if he felt like this?” I asked. “I’m afraid I might lose him,” she replied — sounding surprised to hear herself say this.
Could it be that some women are afraid of their own achievements because there is an old tape playing that says, “My marriage will dissolve if I make too much money.”
We often hear about Hollywood couples breaking if off not too long after the woman gains more spotlight and cash flow than the man. Hilary and Chad. Reese and Ryan. Halle and Eric… to name a few. Whether there is any connection between the bigger earnings and the breakups is hard to prove, but word around town is that it was a factor.
I have a friend who is the CEO of her own company and is re-entering the dating scene. One day at a women’s gathering, she asked our opinion about whether she should avoid talking about her work as she goes out on dates. “Why would you do that?” I asked. She replied: “Because I don’t want him to feel intimidated.”
With this remark, it started to dawn on me that as modern and as ambitious as many of us women are, there is a lot of old belief system knocking around and perhaps knocking us back.
While many of us ache to earn more, charge higher fees, and bring in more money for our time spent on work, can we get comfortable with a role reversal? Are we willing to let go of old belief systems and truly respect a man who makes less than we do?
And finally… can we as women own our own earning power?
Tabby Biddle is a writer and editor specializing in helping women entrepreneurs and emerging authors get their message out. Additionally she is the founder of Lotus Blossom Style, a yoga lifestyle company created to support women in their personal transformation. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.