The Difficulties of Being a Female Breadwinner

This article was originally posted on MouthyMoney.co.uk on 9th August. It is reposted (with some slight expansion) with the permission of the website.

My partner and I are both creative types – I love writing and he is an artist – but we can’t both do what we love professionally. At the moment, it’s just not possible. It’s a bit risky for us both to aim to be self-employed, working in industries that are notoriously difficult to maintain a steady career.

We’re both in our 30s, and have a house with a mortgage so it would be irresponsible for us both to pursue our dream jobs and risk making no money. Unless, you know, my writing suddenly gets discovered or he invents the next Angry Birds!

“It’s difficult being a female breadwinner – people ask patronisingly about when he’ll get a ‘proper job’.”

So we made a decision – I work an office job and he stays home and tries to get a job at a games company. At least I assume that’s what he’s doing. Whatever he’s doing, at the moment it’s on the ‘trying’ side of the fence, rather than the ‘getting’ side.

In 2016, it’s still very difficult being a female breadwinner. People ask patronisingly about when he’ll ‘get a proper job’. People are concerned about what I’ll do if I need to go on maternity leave, and the money from work runs out.Will I need to go back to work after six months? Will he be a house husband? Does he tidy up or cook while I’m out? I can’t help but think that, if my partner worked in an office and I stayed at home, people would assume I would do these things.

As it is, he’s not great at tidying up, but there is always a mean cup of tea waiting for me when I get home. I can’t be a stay at home blogger, but at least I’m never dehydrated!

“A customer reminded me that it’s fine for women to stay at home and tend the house. For WOMEN to do that.”

When I was a uni student I worked in a pub that showed a football show on a Saturday. On one episode was a girl being interviewed about her career aspirations. Her answer was (imagine saying this in a bubble-gum sweet voice while twirling a pigtail) ‘I’m going to marry a footballer so I won’t have to work!’

The similarly aged feminist behind the bar (i.e. me!) was outraged. A customer reminded me that it’s fine for women to stay at home and tend the house. For WOMEN to do that.

‘That’s what some women want.’ Yes, it is. And, to be clear, if my partner becomes a dot com millionaire, I won’t be rocking up at my office for the good of my health. I’ll be at home, on my fancy new computer, blogging about how dreadful it is to be filthy rich!

“A woman wanting that life is acceptable; a man wanting that life is a joke.”

But the issue was not that ‘people’ don’t want to work, it’s that ‘women’ shouldn’t have to work.If a guy said his dream was to marry a rich woman so he didn’t have to work, people would act like he was some sort of wuss. Less of a man because he was planning to rely on a woman for livelihood. A woman wanting that life is acceptable; a man wanting that life is a joke.

Now, for me, my partner working to try and get a job in a difficult industry, and a girl deliberately not looking for a job but looking for a rich husband, are two different things but often other people view them as the same.They see him as leeching off my (very limited) resources. They see us as quite a poor couple, who should really be high earners. What they don’t see is a woman making a sacrifice to make her partner happy, in a situation that may be perfectly acceptable if our gender roles were reversed.

 

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