I never set out to be the breadwinner in my home. And yet, for six years running, I’ve been bringing home the bacon. With all the publicity around the new book The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family, I’ve discovered that–although I sometimes feel like the only breadwinner-ette on the block, I’m apparently part of a rising trend. So I thought I’d share my side of the story.
I work for a non-profit organization. My husband (as he will gladly tell you) has gobs of earning potential, and pulled down six figures for a while in the early aughts. But for the better part of the last decade he’s been pursuing a PhD in astrophysics, earning a Graduate Research Assistant “salary” while I make more than double that in non-profit work. With his more flexible schedule he also does more than his share of the childcare, errands and housework.
Pressed to reveal his deepest darkest inadequacies, my husband insists that he is completely and totally fine with this. He theorizes that this is because he was raised in the ultra-feminist ’70s, with the belief that women are completely equal to men. But I secretly think it’s because he harbors the belief that, were he to go back to his old line of work (which he abandoned a decade ago to follow his dream), he’d easily double my salary.
A child of the ’80s, I always knew I’d have a career, and spent my childhood trying different ones on for size. But a different, parallel set of fantasies involved a gallant man who would sweep me off my feet and make my life easy-breezy and luxurious. I know that this is a fiction that only existed for a flash in the 1950’s (if at all). But somewhere, deep in my soul (and possibly reinforced by every movie…ever) there was an expectation.
As a grown woman, though, I ran from my Prince Charming every step of the way. Men who cared about business? Materialistic hucksters. Men who’ve shackled their souls to a giant corporate law firm? Sell-outs. And God forbid I’d date an investment banker.
So I got what I wished for…a poor, blazingly smart academic who is every bit the amazing husband, father, and partner in life that I knew he would be. Most days I wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, I love my job, adore my husband, and my kids are thriving. What’s to complain? But sometimes, just sometimes, I dream of my income being the “extra” bit that allows us to go to Israel twice a year, make the down payment on a house, or replace the car that just broke down for the fourth time in two years.
So, honey…finished your PhD just yet?