Save. Spend. Splurge.

Women breadwinners: Have you ever been in this position?

Say what you want, the expectations today (slowly changing of course), is that the man is usually the breadwinner.

When the woman earns more, this is not a bad thing by any means, but it starts to bring up a lot of very confusing points that were never issues before such as the man feeling emasculated for not being the primary, traditional top earner, and as a result, the woman does MORE household work in an attempt to prove that she is still the woman of the house even if she earns more.

All very confusing, f*cked up gender roles, dictated to us from young, that we are still trying to parse through.

Is the guy staying at home a bad thing? Do we then turn into the very same men who are disparaged for saying: Well I work all damn day and when I come home the house is dirty, what did she do all day!? ….but this time, saying this about the guys who are at home?

It builds resentment on both sides – the one at home, is trying to look for a job, already feels (probably) bad/stressed about it, and the one at work, is trying to pretend like it doesn’t bother them to be the only one bringing in the dough (all that PRESSURE), and yet trying to not get frustrated with what they think should get done if someone is at home all day (especially with no kids in the picture).

I can see both sides because I have played both sides. More the female breadwinner side than the other, to be honest with you.

I have had lazy AF boyfriends stay at home, doing jack squat, playing f*cking video games all day while I went to work and came home tired.

Sure, he cooked, and did household stuff but listen …. that was not worth it to me versus the pressure and stress of being the only one supporting two healthy adults.

I felt resentful. I really really felt resentful. WTF was he doing all day? Not even looking for a job, not even trying to go back to school to pay for this license he wanted to study and obtain to get a career in?

Shouldn’t the other one be working and contributing too? I felt like he was a dead end loser at the end of the relationship. Going nowhere.

Then, I met my partner right after who was the complete opposite.

Now, recently retired he is staying at home, doing MORE than he did before, because he wants to and has the time for it. He is baking more bread, taking on more of the Little Bun Care role, and doing more household laundry because I am busy. I am still on calls, I am still not around, getting our own household stuff done, and he picks up the slack.

He also doesn’t enjoy being idle, and doesn’t watch sports (except the World Cup), nor does he enjoy video games, so I think I may have lucked out on all counts there.

He still brings his half, and that is what is most important to me.

I half joke to him that if he runs out of money during his retirement, I won’t be paying for him.

(Of course, if he had a health issue or whatever, OF COURSE I WOULD PAY. You know what I mean.)

I am talking more along the lines of deciding he doesn’t want to work, being lazy, knowing he can pick up a contract and pull in a 5-figure salary in a month … these are all things I am not going to let slide just because he feels sick and tired of working for clients.

Bring your half, I told him, and we won’t have a problem. Also, I won’t live on beans and rice to meet this new lifestyle of yours.

Having been on both sides of being the breadwinner and not, I am not interested in excuses any more particularly in this case where we BOTH can make really good incomes, work for ourselves when we want, and CHOOSE to make money or not.

I mean, it is unbelievable what we can do, with our careers, and a dream for so many, so why would I cut him any slack just because of his feelings about working?

I have the same expectations for myself. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone for their money.

I don’t want to be held to their money, and to have that held over my head all the time that he makes all the money and I “just stay at home” or “bring less to the household”.

At the end of the day, say what you will, you are the only one who will take care of yourself.

People fall out of love and divorce, or unfortunate circumstances happen.

Personally, I derive great pleasure and satisfaction from being able to bring in my half, and on top of that, make bank doing so. I am able to easily pick up 6-figure salary jobs if I wanted, and choose not to, so I can be semi-retired and just work when I want and when I have to.

There is nothing better than that for me (and I daresay for most people), and it is a great source of pride to be able to say so and do so. It is a personal achievement and a career success for me.

But as a result, I have the same expectations for my partner — to work. Not to stay at home when he is able to work and bring in money.

I can support in the interim but I refuse to carry the slack forever. In certain circumstances – yes I will carry the slack forever if I have to, but not when there is no reason to and they are just being LAZY.

Maybe that’s the difference between men and women.

Men seem to be okay with carrying the financial slack if Sugar Daddy culture and basically most partnerships I come across are any indication. Actually, they even seem to take great pride in being the breadwinner and the sole provider. Makes a lot of the guys feel very needed and masculine, from what I gather.

What do you think about it all? As a man or woman – what are your thoughts on being the breadwinner?

If you’re interested in reading about more experiences, Refinery29 had a nice article from different perspectives on being a breadwinner.


  • Clara

    Oof. I have been on both sides as well!

    First time: I got the full-time job, set up rental contract & utilities in my name, and my then-boyfriend, who ended up being unable to find a job for the whole time we were together, moved in with me shortly afterwards. I didn’t mind, because he worked his a$$ off applying for everything he could find, and did all the washing/cleaning/home management. I’ve never needed to prove myself as The Woman of The Home, so no problem there. (We did most of the cooking and grocery shopping together, because (a) hey, it’s a way to spend time together and (b) we were both foodies!) He didn’t pay for shared costs, only his own personal ‘fun’ expenses, and kept savings of his own from scholarships, etc.

    …Unfortunately, he also had a “what’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is my own” attitude to the resources available to us, including my academic contacts. He once BARGED IN to the office of my old boss, who also just happened to be the university’s Dean of Science, WITHOUT bothering to make an appointment or consult me first…because, well, Dr Clara was his girlfriend so obviously he was also entitled to her boss’s time. Discussions of us one day buying property in his home state always ended with “that will be in MY name only”, with no reasons volunteered.

    Reader, I dumped him. Sadly, I have seen this pattern a few times with men in relationships with successful women – the men often try to take over the ladies’ achievements, without realising that it’s only reflected glory.

    Second time: Current partner is a lawyer. I…am an academic. His salary is triple mine, and OH BOY is this uncomfortable. He appears to be a genuinely caring chap and keeps reassuring me that he doesn’t mind helping…but this is often easy for the person with all the buying power to say. It also makes me feel inadequate because I’m not contributing. The argument that, “oh, you can contribute in other ways, running a household is important too” doesn’t really apply because I know how much of a trap it can be – that dynamic led to my mother being financially abused by my father for her entire married life. (She’s now happily divorced, financially secure, and doing her owh thing like a boss, don’t worry.)

    I’m working on a solution, which is to move to a sector with secure, well-defined career progression! TL/DR maybe I’m just a bloke when it comes to finances?! LOL

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I think you did such a good thing by not being with the first one. Who says that each time? “It will be in my name only!”..

      For the second one, I hope you are still with him, but maybe talk to him — about how you feel uncomfortable that he earns so much, and maybe we could scale back our expectations. It is a real trap, I agree. I would never, ever want to be financially beholden to anyone. I just would not feel in control and I would feel like I’d have to ask permission.

  • LiNDA

    Hi Sherry!

    Before getting married, we once discussed that he’ll pay the big bills (mortgage) and I’ll pay the little bills (everything else I.e utilities, cable etc). However, when we got married, we automatically split everything. No need to discuss, that’s just what it is.
    I’m OK with that.

    Over the course of 2yrs, the man wanted to follow his passion etc. went back to school etc, while working full time. Again OK with that.
    I switched jobs and my money leveled up! Happy abt that. Recently we’ve been talking and he sort of wants to be a freelance in a sense and asked how would I feel abt covering everything for a year.
    I was slightly annoyed at that and said why, you’re fully healthy and capable and from your gigs, you are getting $$$. So continue to pay your half and and you can do whatever your heart desires.
    A bit interesting that b/c I’m finally making a little more, he thought that would be cool especially again since he’s bringing in money from side hustle.
    Had to give him the side eye lol.
    Like boy bye!!!! I had to remind him that we don’t normally subscribe to gender roles 100%, however the man should still be the provider and protector. So not because I can provide mean that I should or will esp when he’s healthy!

    Men I tell you LOL AND there are no kids!!! He supports his mother with a big bill, but again, that’s his personal bill not OURS.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      So if he asked you to cover for the year, but he is paying his mother lots of money, it means you are paying for her too then …. and him essentially.

      I have plenty of friends in this situation, where their husbands give everything to their parents, and then have nothing to cover for shared household bills because they have no savings.

      No. WAY.

  • SP

    While my husband was in grad school, I made significantly more money. But he had enough to support himself too, a small stipend that was enough to live on if he had to. We combined money when we married – he was still in grad school at the time. Not lazy, just taking a different path!

    But, I do think it is a fine choice for one partner to stay home, and focus on children and home. Both people have to be sincerely on board with that plan, but it works out well for many families. Divorce and unfortunate circumstances are risks for both parties to consider and mitigate against. I wouldn’t have been willing to put myself at that risk and stay home early in my career, but with the amount we have saved and where I am in my career, those are risks I’d feel comfortable taking. With the amount I earn, there is a big opportunity cost to not working, so I’m not ready for that, but I can see how some people make this choice. It would be excellent if we had more time to devote to LIFE, despite the fact that I enjoy my work.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I think that is what I struggled with as well — the opportunity cost of not working and taking no breaks while on contract. I think I may have settled into a groove though – half work, half chill, even if it means chunks of my life are 100% work or 100% chill with no balance yet.

      I wish I had a part time option but I don’t.

  • Sense

    Honestly, I wouldn’t be happy with either situation, being the sole breadwinner, or being fully dependent on someone else for $$.

    Something between a 40-60 or 60-40 split would be perfect for me (of course it is different if one of us were in school or sick). The 40-60 takes into account how women make less money, and my also career, which is my reason for living, but is very low paying. I consequently have a low-cost lifestyle, and wouldn’t be able to keep up with someone that wants to eat out every night or travel first class–so he would have to pay for things that are ‘extra’ like that if he wanted to do them with me.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I can see that — would you find yourself upgrading to this fancier life once you got used to it?

      • Sense

        I’m very happy with my lifestyle so the extras would be just that. I have almost everything I could need or want, given enough time/patience to save up for things. Pretty proud of how much I get to do and how satisfied I am on such a low budget. If someone upgraded my lifestyle for me, I’d hope/think that I’d always feel incredibly spoiled but not ever expect the extras.

        I guess it is similar to my friends situation–my friends all make a lot more money than me but want to go out more than I would choose to if I were basing it on my budget. They know I can’t afford it but they really want to hang out with me, so they buy me a lot of meals/drinks. I’m always very grateful and don’t ever expect them to do that. I’d be just as happy hanging out not buying anything or nursing one drink all night, but they insist. I make sure they know I’d be happy without their generosity and make sure they really want to do that for me, genuinely, and aren’t bothered. I still feel a little bit guilty, but I let them know how grateful I am. Not sure if a partner doing that (but on a grander scale) would be a different situation?

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *