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When I quit my full-time accounting job on May 1, 2013, it was never my intention to become the breadwinner in the family. But after a year of being self-employed, that reality is setting in more than ever.
My husband is a personal chef, so even in a good month he doesn’t make nearly what I bring in. Being in the food industry means long hours and hard work for not very much pay.
Alongside that, his mom was undergoing chemo (and a stem cell transplant) for 8 months last year, and he was the main caregiver. He cooked her meals, drove her to appointments and helped her with all her rehab and recovery. This makes him a fabulous son (and excellent caretaker), but the full load of providing for us fell onto my shoulders.
The added pressure from this, along with the fact that my fledgling business was brand new, created the perfect storm for me being massively stressed out. Even now, I’ve been struggling to cope with this for many months, with no real hope in sight.
So when I found out about When She Makes More from Farnoosh, I knew I HAD to read it.
When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women
As much as we don’t want to admit that men and women are treated differently when it comes to making a living, the fact remains — society (and our even own minds) judge us according to our sex. Thankfully, this book is the guide you and I both need to overcome this antiquated way of thinking.
Sometimes circumstances work out that the woman has to provide for the family, or it’s a choice that’s made so the man can be the full-time parent. Whatever the reason, there has to be a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s roles.
Along with going against the grain, while you work out the best 50/50 split for your partnership. Which may look more like 70/30 for your family.
Once I got a few pages into this book, I felt like it was written directly to me. Men and fathers view life differently than women and mothers, but that doesn’t make either side wrong. When She Makes More will help you create the perfect game plan for your family unit, and ensure you won’t get burned out in the process.
If there’s one book you read this year, make it this one!
Q&A interview with Farnoosh Torabi
1. What prompted you to write this book?
We know by now that women are increasingly becoming the chief breadwinners in their families. There have been studies, books and discussions all about this in recent years. But what we are not talking about, more importantly, is how to make these family dynamics work.
The fact of the matter is, when she makes more her relationship faces challenges — emotional and financial — that are very unique and potentially damaging.
I’ve been helping people with their finances for over 10 years and this was the first time where I saw a financial complexity really shaking things up in relationships to the point where there was no established guide or recipe on how to make your partnership succeed. And as someone who is in this demographic, making more than her husband, getting to the bottom of all of this was a real personal need, as well.
I feel tremendously lucky in that my husband is very supportive. He has always been supportive of my drive and of the fact that I happen to make more than him. And he’s also very honest with me, confessing that YES sometimes he feels some unease with our financial reality, as do I, and that he would like to earn more than me one day — even if it’s just for a little while. And I completely encourage that.
And we’ve definitely had our fair share of concern expressed from family members — mainly on my side. My mom, for example, was initially concerned the relationship wouldn’t work because of the financial imbalance and that weighed heavily on my psyche. And now as we’re about to have our first child, I worry about taking on TOO much with work and family and how that will only add to my existing stresses regarding income and our finances.
While it’s a blessing to be able to make money doing what I love, being the main breadwinner as a wife and soon parent, it feels wonderful to be able to provide that… but it’s also a lot of pressure. There’s no denying that.
2. If a woman is struggling with being the breadwinner, what can she do to get past this roadblock?
First, realize that she is not alone and this becoming more and more commonplace. Take pride in it and focus on the bright side. Being the female breadwinner has lots of advantages that we seem to forget or fail to acknowledge. For example, you can count on more fathering, which researchers find is imperative to a happy marriage.
A study by Brigham Young University and Utah State found that the greater the relationship between dad and child, the happier the family. And bringing home the bacon won’t go under-appreciated.
In her book The Unfinished Revolution, author Kathleen Gerson writes that,
Despite the popular fear that employed mothers deprive their children of essential maternal attention, no [adult] cited a mother’s job as a cause of neglect. To the contrary they were more likely to see working as an indication of a mother’s love.
3. How many bank accounts should a couple have when she makes more?
Every relationship, but especially those in which she makes more, should aim for managing three main buckets: Yours, Mine, and Ours. How that breaks down and what that ultimately looks and feels like will be different for each couple.
Most importantly you want to create a system where each person maintains some degree of financial autonomy while there is also some degree of joint accountability. I can tell you from my own relationship and from other married couples, this system allows for better communication, more transparency, and feeling that you’re not just roommates with benefits.
4. What do you suggest a man and woman do if they aren’t respecting each other’s roles?
If you’re not happy with the design of your relationship then you have two choices: break up or consciously re-design it. Hopefully more couples will opt for the latter.
If you’re feeling resentful or if your partner is feeling frustrated with your current roles, you have to be willing to communicate that and be clear to each other about what you really, truly need in order to be happy.
You have to discuss what your individual purpose is in the marriage — which may be different than what the purpose was 5 years or even 6 months ago — and rebuild your life around that. I discuss ways in the book that couples, who do find themselves at a crossroads or utter frustration, can redefine their “purpose” in their marriage so they can once again feel fulfilled.
5. Do you think being a female breadwinner is a pro or con in a relationship? Why?
The statistics make it seem pretty grim, but there are so many positives, as well! Beyond the pluses mentioned earlier such as more fathering and thankful kids, breadwinning wives can invest in their husband’s earnings potential which in turn provides for more security for the entire family.
With her financial help he could pursue a graduate degree, change careers, or start a business in pursuit of more income. It’s the kind of investment that can pay off for everyone in the family, especially if kids are in the picture down the road. Should she want to off-ramp momentarily and be a stay-at-home mom, he can better provide for the family’s needs in the interim.
Also, some women admit to me that, while they would readily die for their children, they are way happier in a work meeting than at a Tumblin’ Tots session. And they don’t feel guilty about it. They’re proud of the fact that their salary, benefits, and annual bonuses help to keep the lights on and then some at home.
They also know that their happiness at work translates into a happy life for everyone. So, if the boss opens the door for a promotion that may mean missing a few family dinners every month, breadwinning wives shouldn’t feel conflicted.
It’s important for breadwinning wives — and their partners — to level the financial playing field to address some of the financial inadequacy he may be experiencing as a man who really wants to provide for his family in a significant way.
One way to do this is to have his smaller income support key, long-terms savings such as your next family vacation or the kids’ college funds. This arrangement — which I go into more detail in the book – gives his income a real sense of purpose.
7. What’s your best tip for compartmentalizing our lives and creating a successful (and more equal) partnership?
The advice in the book related to compartmentalizing has more to do with securing your career and paycheck as a woman who may be earning less than her male colleagues…and who likely has myriad responsibilities on the home front.
Men are masters at creating a divide between work and home life. For breadwinning women this is an important tip as well, especially considering she’s probably making LESS than the man with the same title in her office. She needs to protect her income and job security in spite of some gender biases at work that may pressure her to go above and beyond the call of duty just to stay in the game. Staying focused intently on work, while at work is essential.
You don’t want to get unfairly labeled as “distracted” or “stretched too thin” and miss out on a promotion, as a result. To that end, draw stricter lines between work and home. This will require having some contingencies in place so that you can tackle last-minute work needs without disrupting your home life — and vice versa.
And don’t let personal matters from home intrude on your work in terms of mental space. And stay mum about certain circumstances that pop up like needing to leave work early to pick a sick child from school or ditching a morning meeting to address a family crisis. You don’t have to tell everyone at work what you’re up to — so long as your work gets done!
Connect with the author and buy the book
Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert, speaker and TV personality. Her work and advice has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Time and Money magazines.
Her television credits include The Today Show, ABC, CNN, Live! With Kelly and Michael, Dr .Oz and The View. She hosted the Webby-nominated show Financially Fit on Yahoo!, the #1 personal finance series on the web. She and her husband live in Brooklyn.