The other day on Facebook I noticed an article from NPR’s “Dear Sugar Radio” about a woman who didn’t want to be the breadwinner in her marriage anymore. From the title alone, my first thought was “UGH!”.
I wrote about some of the annoying media around stay at home dads and breadwinning women back in a prior article about double standards and stay at home dads, which has some great links to other annoying articles around the web. I’ve noticed that the media loves to write about how much women don’t want to be the higher earner in their relationship. They also like to write about how hard it is to be a stay at home dad, and how challenging men find it.
To The Media
I’d like to say “Knock it Off.”
Now, I understand that women who are happy being breadwinners don’t write into NPR asking for help. But the main reason the media writes these kinds of articles is that these situations sell/get clicks/get ad revenue. As long as the media, writers, and interviewees continue to tell the same old story about why women don’t want to be breadwinners and why men don’t want to stay at home, nothing will change. Society will continue to see these situations as “odd” or “bad” and certainly “not normal”. Women will continue to be unhappy because they feel they have to make a choice between a successful career and children. And women who become breadwinners will feel isolated and ostracized from society, because all the articles, TV shows, and other media they see keep telling them how they should be feeling.
Frankly, the media is way too obsessed with women and their financial situation in their relationships. Often when reading about successful executive women, there will be much attention paid to their husband. What does he do? What does he think about having a successful wife? If he’s not as successful – why not? Is he a gold-digger? If he is as successful, then how do they manage their home life?
NO ONE IS WRITING THESE KINDS OF THINGS ABOUT MEN.
Articles about executive men rarely mention the spouse or family. When they do, the stay at home wife is considered the backbone of the household. The one who keeps things running smoothly so the man can focus on the demands of work. Instead of focusing on the family, the articles put focus where it should be – on the work. They write about what they’re trying to accomplish through their position, their company, their leadership philosophy. Not what he wears or who takes care of the kids.
Even a simple Google Image search will show you the differences in how working women and working men are portrayed in the media. When I was writing my article on “Finding Purpose in Your Work”, I went looking for an image of a working woman (because I’m not bringing in a selfie stick to work to get a picture of myself). And what do I see in the top results?
I then did the same search but changed “women” to “men”.
I’d like to challenge the media to do better. To try to find women – who may not even be executives! – who are the breadwinners and like it. Women who have turned around the expectations of the media and society, to instead do what works best for them and their families. To write articles about successful women without talking about their clothes, their families, and their spouses.
To The Writer
In this particular article, when you dig into what the writer is really asking, you can see that she’s conflicted between what she wants to believe and what she actually believes. In one paragraph she specifically says “I am a huge believer in women in the workplace and always will be. If they become the breadwinners in marriage, more power to them.”. Then in the next paragraph, she says “I hate that I want a more traditional lifestyle with a husband who can provide for me.”
So essentially, she wants to believe that women can happily be breadwinners in their relationships, but she doesn’t actually believe it herself. She’s focusing on her unhappiness in the situation to the point where she’s obsessed with not wanting to do this one second longer. She feels that she would never have wanted to support her husband while he worked hard to follow his dreams.
So then lets be honest – you can’t “live what you believe”, because you don’t actually believe it. You really believe that to be happy you need to be taken care of, that your husband needs to be the higher earner, that he needs to have money and power for you to be attracted to him. You really need to examine closely why you feel that way even though you want to feel a different way.
Depending on someone else for your happiness is a recipe for disaster and dissatisfaction with your life. Even if you divorce your husband, you may not find that “dream man” who will care for you. Or maybe you’ll find him, but he’ll become disabled or pass away. Or perhaps he’ll leave you for someone else. The only person we can depend on is ourselves. As long as you look outward for happiness and satisfaction in your life, you will never find it. You need to look deeper, to figure out how you can make yourself happy, how you can create the life you want to lead, and how you can get there.
One of her reasons is that she feels that she can’t be a breadwinner and a mom. Well, writer to Dear Sugar radio, I’d like to tell you that you can do it. I’m a bread-winning mother of three boys (13, 9, and 1 1/2). My husband is a stay at home dad. I commute 45 minutes each way to work, work full time, occasionally travel, and go to my kids events in the evenings. We set it up so when kids are sick, have half days, or need to go to activities it’s my husband that takes care of all that. Maybe you mean that your image of being a mom and what a mom does doesn’t match your situation.
Here’s a picture of my family in Lego form – note the working mom, stay at home dad, and the three boys. This was a birthday gift from my family, and I keep it on my desk at work.
If your current job doesn’t support your goals, focus on that. Do you need a different job, in a different kind of workplace? Do you need to cut back on lifestyle expenses so you can have a less-demanding job? Look deeply at your life and what you really need to change to bring yourself happiness and peace.
To You-The Reader
Lets be honest-to have a successful career and a robust family life, often one spouse has to step back and pick flexibility over climbing the ladder or more money (not always, but often). In the past, it was always the woman who stepped back, meaning that the lifestyle of the family was totally dependent on the man. Nowadays, we are fortunate to have a real choice. You can choose what works best for your family and your situation. If it makes sense for the woman to step back-she can. But if it makes more sense for the man to stay at home or get a less demanding job – he can. Or if both spouses want or need to work – they can.
This isn’t a decision we make one time and then can never change. Women can step back for a while, then the man can, then they can both work, then they can both take part time jobs. Women being the breadwinner in a relationship needs to be seen as a normal choice they can make, if it works best for their families.
We should support families in whichever situation they’ve decided works best for them and their families.
So to you, the reader, I’d like to say if you’re a breadwinning woman-whether you have a partner, are single, married, kids or not-be proud. And if you’re a man who knows successful women, help speak out against stereotypes. Only together can we make a real change and let people choose what works best for them.