Increase in Breadwinner Moms: Is this Good or Bad?

by TTMK on June 3, 2013 · 15 comments

The role of breadwinner in the household has historically been occupied by the male.  In the past, it really wasn’t even  much of a question of who made more money in the household.  It was the man, and that was the beginning and end of the debate.  The only question might have been whether or not the woman even worked outside the house at all.

Well, times have changed.  A recent analysis reported by the Pew Research Center shares some findings that reveal that the number of women that are now breadwinners is no longer insignificant.  According to the findings, 40% of households with kids (under 18) have a breadwinner mom.

What thoughts come to mind when you read this? Is it surprise? Does this give you positive vibes, or negative ones?

I think this is the type of thing that most everyone has an opinion on, whether or not they want to admit it or even realize it.  Sure, one way to look at it is to say “so what?” Certainly a valid response, but I think underlying a “who cares” opinion is a real view on this with either a positive edge or a negative one.  Some people will be slightly brightened by this and see it as a good thing, and others will see this as a not so good thing for society.

Digging deeper into what was reported, these moms can be segmented into 2 groups: single mothers (63% of the total), and married mothers (37% of the total).  Additionally, in terms of the latter group – married mothers – many more of them are working these days than in the past.  Specifically, 65% in 2011 versus 37% in 1968.  That’s quite an increase, no question about it.

This has been reported across the web, and I’ve taken a quick look at a few write-ups to get a sense of the sentiment of commenters.  Interestingly, I noticed a high level of negative comments toward this.  Sure, there were some people making what appeared to be “shock value” type comments, but these findings didn’t exactly seem to have been met with applause.

What do I think about this?

Well, I think this is very positive.  I’ve expressed this before, when I’ve said that “stereotypes suck” as  we talked about working mothers and double standards.   As if there was something inherently selfish about a mother that works full-time, which I disagree with.  Also, the idea that there is something wrong with non-breadwinner father or stay-at-home dad is short-sighted in my view.

What I like is that there is opportunity for people to do what they want to do.  Growing up, my mother worked. Not when I was very young though – she stayed home until I was a bit older, then transitioned to full-time work.  This is probably why I don’t see why gender roles should preclude either person from working full-time or even taking on breadwinner duties.  Whatever works for each household should be fine, right?

As a protective parent of a school-age daughter, I especially like to see equal opportunities available for females.  Not sure if it took being a Dad to fully come to this point of view (I’d like to think not), but here I am.  I’d like to see her be able to do whatever she wants to when she grows up.

So, the general sentiment that there is something wrong with a picture of women taking on financial responsibility is one that I shy away from.

It’s a hot-button topic for many, but I’m curious of what others think of this.

My Questions for You

What is your opinion on this?

If you had to choose one way to characterize this – positive or negative – which would it be.  Again if we can go beyond “doesn’t matter” or “who cares”, we can dig deeper to at least share our sentiment either way.

Do you feel that this represents progress in our society, or a breakdown of accepted norms?

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jules@Faithful With a Few June 3, 2013 at 7:17 am

I think it is a positive thing. Family life today is different and there are so many factors that play into it. I think it is important for every family to make the best of their situation and find what works for them.

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TTMK June 3, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Jules – I too think it’s a good thing, and the idea that everyone can do what’s best for them is one I support.

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DJ - MoneyforCollegePro June 3, 2013 at 11:39 am

It’s interesting. My wife works, and we both provide support for our household. However, when I think about my daughter (who is only 10 months old) I dream about her marrying someone someday who will support her fully so she can choose to work or not, depending on what is best for her and her family. I suppose it all comes down to what is best for you and your family, and making sure that you talk through these things prior to getting married.

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TTMK June 3, 2013 at 8:54 pm

DJ – it’s always interesting how becoming a parent causes us to think about things differently!

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Matt Becker June 3, 2013 at 2:53 pm

My wife and I have the old-fashioned where I work and she stays home. But she also has a part-time practice that she runs, so she does have some professional life. Personally, I think it’s awesome that it’s becoming more accepted for women to work. I just think it gives the family more options. It might be that the woman really loves her job and/or makes more money, and so it just makes sense for her to be the breadwinner. If that’s not practice simply because of societal norms, we’re really limiting the potential of our society. I hope that more families begin to make choices based on what’s best for them, not what’s “normal”.

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TTMK June 3, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Matt – agreed, people making choices on what’s best for them is what it’s all about!

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Edward Antrobus June 4, 2013 at 7:01 am

We don’t have kids but my wife is the primary breadwinner of us. After my wife and her brother had moved out of their parent’s house, my father-in-law “retired” and my mother-in-law now provides 90% of their household income.

Granted, I’m not a parent, but I can’t imagine wanting a daughter to grow up to be dependent on a man for basic needs for survival.

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TTMK June 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Another example of how we all have to do what works best for us. Thanks for sharing.

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Andrew June 4, 2013 at 9:26 am

My wife is due in a little over a month and the plan is for her to stay home for about a year. We haven’t really worked it out. She is a preschool teacher and the pay is hourly and not that high so financially it made sense for her to stay home. I think its great that there is an increase in breadwinner moms because it means that women are being paid more or getting higher paying jobs that they deserve. With kids in the picture, I think families need to make the decision that is best for them like you said above.

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TTMK June 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Andrew – very cool that you guys are expecting, congrats!

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Grayson @ Debt RoundUp June 4, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I think this is a great thing. I don’t see why people see this as a negative. With women being more breadwinners, then it requires the man to step up in the household. I don’t see any problems with either scenario. I hope that number increases.

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TTMK June 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I agree, balance and equal opportunity all around is good!

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funancials June 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm

My wife’s income is greater than mine (currently) and I love it. I think it adds another level of sexy.

I’m aggressively trying to increase my income so that I can fully replace hers (whenever we decide to make babies).

Sorry for the sexual comment. You must have pressed my hot-button.

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TTMK June 5, 2013 at 9:15 pm

lol

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eemusings June 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

Hmm, I don’t really have any strong feelings, I think whatever works best for the individual household is awesome, either way.

I am the breadwinner in our household, which I’m fine with, though it would probably be easier vice versa since HE tends to be the spender…

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