Men Weigh In: Do You Want to Be the Primary Financial Provider for Your Family?

June 27, 2010 at 3:20 AM 16 comments

Earlier this week I wrote a post called Do Women Still Want to Marry for Money? A lot of women weighed in on the topic and some suggested that men prefer to be the primary financial support of their families.

While it’s true that most men do make more money than their wives, I wonder how many of them really prefer it that way. For a few years just before my husband and I were married I made more than he did. It wasn’t a significant difference, but overall I brought in about 20% more per paycheck. During this time he jokingly called me his sugar-momma, but honestly I think he was proud of the fact that he married a woman who could pull her own weight. My larger paycheck never caused an issue for either of us.

When we first talked of having children, (we don’t have any yet), my husband remarked that he’d like to spend some time at home with our kids. He said it’s not fair for women to assume they should be the ones to stay at home and raise the children. He said a lot of his male friends and coworkers would accept the position if they were given the opportunity.

I’m absolutely fascinated by this topic, because as a woman in a particularly male dominated industry, (software development), I meet an awful lot of miserable husbands and fathers who would rather be anywhere than working 9-to-5 in a cubicle. When I talk to them about money they often say they wish their wives worked and made more. In fact, a lot of men I know are shocked when their children go off to school and their wives want to continue to stay at home. Some of them have said they are now living a life they didn’t bargain for.

I’d love to hear the men weigh in on this topic. Do you want to be the primary financial provider for your family or were you forced into the role? If you were forced into the role, do you think you were forced in by your society and upbringing? In other words do you think you make more money, because you were always told that men should make a lot of money and provide for their families? At the end of the day there is no right or wrong answer. But I wonder, regardless of your situation are you happy in the role that you play in it?

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anonymous  |  June 27, 2010 at 5:55 AM

    I think it's a mixed bag.

    Problems at work stop when you leave the office unless you make a choice to take them home with you.

    When you have problems at home you can't make a choice to turn them off at night when you watch TV or read a book.

    On one hand I imagine that some stay-at-home moms would gladly trade the problems they face raising the kids with the drudgery of an office-job.

    On the other hand I don't know if the stay-at-home moms understand the stress associated with being the single bread winner for the family. While the moms deal with making sure little Timmy is socially accepted the dads deal with making sure they don't get laid off. That's not a trivial task in today's economy.

    Overall I think success resides at the intersection of respect and open communication between each spouse. If both spouses respect each other and both spouses talk about their roles and contributions I think it can work.

    Where the proverbial train goes off the tracks is when one spouse takes the other's contributions for granted … especially when those contributions are not immediately apparent.

    As a general statement we should all (as couples) work towards being more open and understanding of each other's contributions to the relationship.

    Reply
  • 2. Anonymous  |  June 27, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    First off I am not a guy, and have been a SAHM for the last 4 yrs at that – so while I'm sure those facts will color my response somewhat I do want to say that when our 1st child was born 8 yrs ago my husband WANTED me to leave my job. I did not; I had worked out a lovely part time arrangement with my company. I worked in the financial field and have always taken the lead role in financial stuff w/in our family; I think while my husband did not like the idea of leaving our son w/ a childcare provider he also did not understand the role my (albeit smaller than his, esp when PT) income added to our choices.

    Anyway, the PT situation worked great for several yrs, until the company did some re-org-ing and I was given the choice of returning to FT or training my full time replacement. I was pregnant w/ #2, my husband's hours and traveling had increased, so I did not feel my working FT was an option for us at that time. (Add to these factors my husband's umm, traditional views on helping around the house….) One point of consideration that I don't think has been brought up in these discussions so far is the marginal rate of benefit on the second income when there are young kids involved – good daycare is EXPENSIVE! (Add this to increased tax rate, transportation costs on a long commute, increased dining and clothing exp's). If one is not earning a high $/hr (as I found w/ the rare and highly sought PT accounting jobs I've applied for over the past few yrs) it may not make financial sense for there to be a second income in certain seasons of life.

    However I certainly can understand Anon (above me)'s point on the stress of being the sole breadwinner in layoff prone times – while I certainly know what it is like to work a demanding job, I never did it is sole provider. I think in general people often wish for what they don't have (w/o truly understanding it) – whether that person is a working parent who might rather stay home (but doesn't necessarily understand the day to day workload and isolation, as well as the financial sacrifices involved). Again, as stated above, communication and respect can go a long way!

    Reply
  • 3. graduatedlearning  |  June 27, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    Just to start off, I'm a woman. But I figured I'd weigh in here. My boyfriend and I talk about marriage every once in a while. And sometimes he'll suggest he'll be the stay at home dad. Not sure about lots of things, but I know one thing I'd have to consider is who is making more money at the time. Right now, my boyfriend is unemployed, but prior to getting laid off, he was pulling in at least $20k/per year more than me. So at that point, it seemed as if I would be the better one to stay home, since I was making less. At the same time, I really like my current job, and am assuming I'd stick with it as long as possible. So I don't know if I'd want to leave. Still, I have a feeling that I wouldn't want to leave my child at home (with the future husband)…I'd want to be with my baby!

    Of course, if I don't ever have kids, then I'll definitely stick to working. I wouldn't want to make my husband support me, unless there was a really good reason, like going to grad school or something like that.

    Reply
  • 4. WorkingMom  |  June 27, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    Again, not a man, but I think men are still expected to be the primary, but no longer the sole, financial provider for a family. That said, I think our society sells women a bill of goods that we're supposed to want to work outside the home but also do all that our mothers and grandmothers did in the home and with the kids, and criticizes moms for putting their kids in daycare. Let's recognize the reality – we can't really have it all!

    I also agree with Anonymous #2's point about recognizing the cost of daycare in consideration of a salary. I worked FT with both the Oldest and the Middle Child because I carried all the family's benefits, while the jobs Hubby had did not offer them or did at an exhorbitant cost. Despite that, whenever there was a sick child, Hubby expected me to call in. When we had the Baby, I saw an out from working under a Bully Boss, and found a PT job. Hubby was already working second shift, so working mornings meant no daycare.

    I will say the most agita over the situation has not been the loss of income, but Hubby's impression that it's a loss of income, and his being ticked off that the family's security is now on his shoulders. The kids on the other hand are happy to have me home in the afternoons, and the loss of income is negated by the lack of daycare costs.

    Reply
  • 5. Jake  |  June 28, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    I guess I'll pipe in. I'm a man who works a job that pays twice what my wife works. The downside of the job is that I rarely get home before 8, and frequently have to work nights and weekends. One of my biggest dreams in life is to retire early and never have to be forced into the corporate ratrace again.

    When we first got married, we never discussed the issue, and I guess in my head I assumed we would do daycare since that's what I believed most women did in our area.

    When my wife became pregnant, she started really pushing to either quit her job or take a long maternity leave. After a lot of arguing between us, we agreed she would take 5 months off. Once we had our son, we started arguing again, and in a bid to try to placate her, I agreed that she should take a year off and then go back to work again. Now, she has started to argue that she should come back to work part time after the year is up.

    To be honest, it is very upsetting to me, because I'm stuck in a job I hate and never get to see my child, and I feel like she is viewing her time raising our child as far superior to my time (which I have to sacrifice to work this job) raising our child. Also it is upsetting because I feel I can never keep my wife happy: every time we agree to something she doesn't stick with the agreement.

    Just my personal experiences. I know I would be viewed with contempt by people in my father's generation, who would like nothing better than to be the breadwinner and sacrifice time spent with family to make a good living, but that's always been one thing I always didn't like about my dad. I want to be around in my child's life.

    Reply
  • 6. Sarah  |  June 28, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    Again, not a guy (looks like most of the comments here are female), but this is something DH and I discuss a lot. Right now his job is commission only, and he has brought in about $7k this year. That's actually worse than if he was just working a min-wage job. It kills him that I am the one bringing in most of the money. He has been getting really depressed about it lately, and apologizes all the time for it. IT does not matter to me at all, but its a HUGE issue for him.

    Hopefully in a couple of years, things will turn around for him. We are planning on me going part time when we have a kid, but since I carry the benefits & bring in 90% of the income, we definitely cant afford for that to happen now.

    Reply
  • 7. Anonymous  |  June 28, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    I'm a guy. Not married @ 45.

    One reason is that I do not want to get locked into a life of work as a the only (main) source of income for a wife and child(ren). I will be able to retire by 50; why would I want to give that up to support a family? Why is it expected that I should desire that?

    I enjoy my friends and dates without the stress of people being dependent on me.

    I do admit that it is possible that I would change my outlook. I could meet someone, fall deeply in love, & I do a behavioral 180 on this. I have the means to support a family; but, what is the point of making myself little more than a cash-cog for supporting other people's lifestyles?

    Partnership or more-or-less equal contributions to a marriage is fine. Me being the sole breadwinner is not something I want nor something I find attractive in another person.

    Reply
  • 8. kc  |  June 29, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    Old prejudice is still in the back of our heads… "Men should provide for their wives."

    However, irrational prejudice should not be a basis for anyones opinion.
    So my opinion is clearly no. I do not want to live a life where I am the primary financial provider in my familiy.

    I would take much more pride in having a wife that pulls her own weight.

    The mails you have gotten from women who says that men wants to be the primary financial provider are either blind for others true needs, or they are overgeneralizing or they are simply living in a bubble of wishfull thinking.

    Reply
  • 9. Anonymous  |  June 29, 2010 at 10:55 PM

    I guess I'll weigh in as well.
    These questions depend on each situation and of course they're all different. My husband and I have been together since college and we've both worked since then sometimes with me earning more and sometimes him. I was laid off at the end of last year (I knew it was coming) and my husband and I had made the decision that I would stay home and be a housewife – at least as long as it was feasible. But then I've never really liked working even when I was an 'executive' and there's tons for me to do around the house/garden/animals to occupy my time.
    That was all well and good but then we got a call in December saying that a birthmother had picked us and that we would be adopting a child in March. I've always wanted to be a stay at home mom and not have strangers raising my child (I was a preschool teacher many years ago and we saw those kids more than their parents did).
    I love being home with my son. I know that it puts a huge amount of pressure on my husband to provide for us and it means he may have to take a job that he's not in love with in order to keep us in formula and diapers but we're both much happier having having me at home raising our son. It also means we don't travel like we used to, have a harder time putting away money into savings and have to live more frugally – but neither of us would change a thing.

    Reply
  • 10. One Frugal Girl  |  June 30, 2010 at 11:22 PM

    Thank you for all of the in-depth comments. I know this can be a very personal subject.

    Personally, I don't want my husband to be the sole financial provider, but I do believe he'll become the primary financial provider for our family as our lives unfold.

    I hope to have a child one day and when that day comes I would like to work fewer, more flexible hours. In my line of work, (software development), this is definitely a possibility. In fact, my hope is that my husband and I could save up a significant amount of money between now and that time so that he could also cut back on his workload.

    We wouldn't be able to do this indefinitely, but I do think we could manage it for awhile. My goal is to spare both of us from long hours at the office. I certainly don't want my husband to feel stuck in a situation like commenter 'Jake' and many other men I work with do.

    The worst thing is feeling like you're spouse doesn't understand or sympathize with your point of view. The men I talk with, (who sound a lot like 'Jake'), often say they just don't think their wives realize how much of their life is sacrificed for their family. They feel like the decision not to work isn't an option for them and given that fact some of them don't understand why it should be an option for their spouses.

    I think the best thing any couple can do is talk about these issues before they get married and definitely before they have a child together.

    Things may change along the way, but keeping open lines of communication will certainly allow both parties, (the husband and wife), to feel they have more say in these types of decisions.

    I don't know what our future will actually bring, but I definitely hope we continue to think about one another as we make financial and job related decisions.

    Reply
  • 11. Belmont Thornton  |  July 3, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    Well, I feel men enjoy the attention they get for being the sole earner in the family. Many men enjoy the feeling that they are the primary financial support to their family and, the importance they get. In case a man earns less than his spouse and it does not hurt his ego, then it is okay!

    Reply
  • 12. Donna Freedman  |  July 3, 2010 at 8:51 PM

    One commenter said he feels that his wife views "her time raising our child as far superior to my time (which I have to sacrifice to work this job) raising our child."
    Your wife is sacrificing, too. When she wants to get back into the workplace she may face an uphill battle due to the time she spent out of it. (This, in turn, will affect her retirement.)
    Raising children is an important job, but many days it is a thankless one as well. You wrote that you get home as late as 8 p.m. Her workday is never really over: If Junior hits another growth spurt and starts waking up for a bottle (or the breast) at 3 a.m. again after sleeping through the night for a while, she's back on the clock. Ditto the high fever at midnight (it always seems to happen late) or, later, the "I forgot — I'm supposed to bring cupcakes tomorrow" at 9 p.m.
    Yes, dads sometimes take care of such things. (Except maybe the breastfeeding.) But moms still tend to absorb more of these things, especially SAHMs — in part because their partners have "worked all day" and need a break.
    The corporate world is tough. I'm not discounting that at all. But if you're home with a small child your day begins whenever s/he wakes up and ends when you crash for the night. In between the hands-on dealings with the child you're expected to do the housework, shopping, the scheduling and keeping of appointments (doctor, dentist, play date), and any other errands such as getting the oil changed or picking up hubby's dry cleaning — because, after all, what else do you have to do?
    (I expect a whole lot of SAHMs and SAHDs are mighty sick of the phrase, "You're home all day anyway.")
    If you want some down time you might be able to get it during naptime or while the child is engrossed in play that doesn't involve you — but these breaks are liable to be interrupted at any moment, and we're talking blocks of time ranging from 20 minutes to maybe two hours, tops (and fewer of the latter as the kids get older and don't nap as long).
    Oh, and don't forget the extra attention that your spouse wants when he gets home, tired from a long day. S/he wants Junior "scrubbed and tubbed, and adequately fed" (as the song goes) so s/he can have quality time before the child goes to sleep. Oh, and something to eat, too, please. Meanwhile, you've been on call for 12 to 15 hours nonstop and would love a little quality time, too — time for yourself. But you're not going to get it because this is your only chance to be with your spouse. So while s/he is "unwinding," you're either getting some dinner ready or mentally figuring out the rest of your day: "It's 8 p.m. and Junior goes to bed at 9. So if we eat and put the dishes in the dishwasher we'll have two or three hours together and I *might* be able to get seven hours of sleep if we're in bed by midnight."
    I have one myself (now grown). But people who think that at-home parents aren't sacrificing both in the short and long terms are fooling themselves.
    And to that anonymous commenter: Is there a chance that the two of you could talk this over in a non-accusatory way? Maybe talk about the value of having someone there for your son but also discussing the fact that providing for the child also means being financially prepared and you're concerned that one salary isn't enough. Incidentally, I agree with this viewpoint: In these nervous financial times, it's not smart to put all your eggs in one basket. Getting your wife back to work part-time would be some insurance against that, as long as her salary amounted to more than the child care expenses.

    Reply
  • 13. Donna Freedman  |  July 3, 2010 at 8:53 PM

    One commenter said he feels that his wife views "her time raising our child as far superior to my time (which I have to sacrifice to work this job) raising our child."
    Your wife is sacrificing, too. When she wants to get back into the workplace she may face an uphill battle due to the time she spent out of it. (This, in turn, will affect her retirement.)
    Raising children is an important job, but many days it is a thankless one as well. You wrote that you get home as late as 8 p.m. Her workday is never really over: If Junior hits another growth spurt and starts waking up for a bottle (or the breast) at 3 a.m. again after sleeping through the night for a while, she's back on the clock. Ditto the high fever at midnight (it always seems to happen late) or, later, the "I forgot — I'm supposed to bring cupcakes tomorrow" at 9 p.m.
    Yes, dads sometimes take care of such things. (Except maybe the breastfeeding.) But moms still tend to absorb more of these things, especially SAHMs — in part because their partners have "worked all day" and need a break.
    The corporate world is tough. I'm not discounting that at all. But if you're home with a small child your day begins whenever s/he wakes up and ends when you crash for the night. In between the hands-on dealings with the child you're expected to do the housework, shopping, the scheduling and keeping of appointments (doctor, dentist, play date), and any other errands such as getting the oil changed or picking up hubby's dry cleaning — because, after all, what else do you have to do?
    (I expect a whole lot of SAHMs and SAHDs are mighty sick of the phrase, "You're home all day anyway.")
    If you want some down time you might be able to get it during naptime or while the child is engrossed in play that doesn't involve you — but these breaks are liable to be interrupted at any moment, and we're talking blocks of time ranging from 20 minutes to maybe two hours, tops (and fewer of the latter as the kids get older and don't nap as long).
    Oh, and don't forget the extra attention that your spouse wants when he gets home, tired from a long day. S/he wants Junior "scrubbed and tubbed, and adequately fed" (as the song goes) so s/he can have quality time before the child goes to sleep. Meanwhile, you've been on call for 12 to 15 hours nonstop and would love a little quality time, too — time for yourself. But this is your only chance to have time with your spouse. So you're getting some dinner ready and thinking, "It's 8 p.m. and Junior goes to bed at 9. So if we eat and put the dishes in the dishwasher we'll have two or three hours together and I *might* be able to get seven hours of sleep if we're in bed by midnight."
    People who think that at-home parents aren't sacrificing both in the short and long terms are fooling themselves.

    Reply
  • 14. Benjamin Bankruptcy  |  July 6, 2010 at 12:36 AM

    I'm a guy recently settled down. I'd love to be a stay at home Dad. Frankly I'm not sure why I would want to have a child I never saw? I don't want a day care centre to raise my kids. Personally I'd rather be at home with my child than living in cubical world. I earn more money but my partner LOVES her job I'm just doing it for the dollars. For me it makes more sense for her to work and me to stay at home and do some consultancy work.

    The only issue is I can't breast feed :(

    I would say though that there is a lot of pressure on men to provide and earn more than their partner. Even in todays world.

    At the moment there's a lot of discussion on this point in Australia because we just got our first Female Prime Minister (our "president" for USA readers) she's unmarried, has no kids and her partner is a male hairdresser. Talk about burning gender sterotypes:)

    Reply
  • 15. Esther  |  October 7, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    The comment “a wife that pulls her own weight makes me feel very bad. I have worked before I was married. Another female by the way. And odd jobs since the children were born but I don’t know the pressures of being the sole provider. I grew up with traditional gender roles and have been quite resentful that I wasn’t allowed to work actually. Recently I understand that I have the freedom to do what I choose being an adult. It makes me sad to feel my years of staying home has somehow been a waste and that I am a burden on my husband. It is very humbling to have to depend on him and not get the respect that working moms get. However I will start by giving myself some respect! I am a domestic worker and get paid to take care of my disabled child. My husband has said that he will take over her care when he retires. This is hard for me but perhaps it is my chance to work. I feel like I am not being a good mom if I leave my daughter. Mommy guilt / caregiver guilt! But I see my husband has resented being our sole provider which is sad we didn’t discuss this honestly before!

    Reply
    • 16. One Frugal Girl  |  October 10, 2014 at 3:18 PM

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your honesty. I think open communication is the key to a marriage and to decisions like this one. My husband and I routinely revisit our household roles and our decision to stay home with my son. I think it is important to discuss resentment and/or any other ill feelings as much as possible along the way. I think the hard part comes when so many years have passed without talking about it with one another. By talking about it you also open up the possibilities for change. After all, a decision I make now may not be the one that makes sense five years from now and along the way I may have as much of a change of heart as my husband.

      Reply

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