Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bread-Winning Mum

I'm back from Virginia, where I had a marvelous time. Thanks to all for the sweet comments while I was gone. I easily had as much fun as Adrian indicated he had in a comment to my last post :-). I'm still trying to get things back in order after my return, but I wanted to share this article that really interested me. It was one of those articles that I kept recalling to mind and mulling over in my brain, long after I read it. Here are a few excerpts:

So what, I hear you say. In this enlightened age, why should we care who earns the most - who actually funds the children's piano lessons or who pays for new tyres on the car? Well, my husband cares. And if I'm honest about it, so do I.

. . .

But it left us staring at one very pertinent fact - we would be relying solely on my income. So far, so right on.

I was smashing the glass ceiling, Craig was breaking the mould. We (nervously) patted ourselves on the back. After all, we said, it doesn't matter who brings home the bacon. It'll get eaten just the same.

That was the theory. What we didn't bank on, as we sat in the French sunshine doing our sums, were the tensions and surprising pressures that would come with our new roles.

Make sure to read the whole article here. I'm interested in my readers' thoughts :-). You can easily guess mine. *grins*

HT: *scratches head trying to remember* I think Zan sent the link to Crystal or Mrs. B?


Laura said...

I feel so sorry for that man! I think it is great that he likes being with his kids, but I can't imagine the humiliation of knowing that the woman is supporting him and the whole family!

ashley said...

I actually didn't care for that article much, though I do generally support fathers being the breadwinners. My biggest reason is because I think a lot of the problems the author spoke of in the article are due to her attitude. I don't know why her husband should have to go to her for cash - why don't they have a joint bank account with two debit cards? Why don't they have a "pot" where he can get it without him having to put himself in submission to her to get "her" money? Why does she view it as her money? If the tables were turned then it wouldn't be "his" money. I think her main problem is her demeaning attitude towards her husband.

When Paul was "between jobs", we had a joint bank account. Everywhere we went together, I always had him pay. It still seemed like he was taking care of me, even though it was my paycheck. We didn't think about whose money it was, because it was "ours". In the same way, when I quit work, I'm not going to view the money as "his" because it's not - it's ours. I think that's important in a marriage not to see incoming money as "mine" or "his".

I do think there are some times when it works out better for the wife to be the breadwinner. Think of all the women who are helping their husbands through grad school! For one friend of mine, her husband's career choice has a very low starting salary. So she has taken a good job so he can do what he wants without having to watch the income nervously. Career-wise, this is better for him because soon he'll be able to get a higher-paying job doing what he loves, and they will no longer be dependent on her paycheck.

Now this being said, I do think in general men are wired to be the "supporters" of the family. It seems that the wife-bringing-home-the-paycheck situation works out best when it's temporary. I don't think it is shameful or humiliating for a man to be reliant on his wife's income, if they have prayed about it and approached the decision logically and selflessly. If that's where God wants him, then both the husband and wife should be able to have peace with it. I don't believe that God has a blanket rule that every single husband needs to have a higher salary than his wife.

Of course, this is all coming from my point of view that it's okay for women to work outside the home. :-) And I do know that children will change the situation, although I can't personally comment on that.

zan said...

Ashley, My mom had to support my dad when he was laid off for 6 mos after 9/11. I have no problem with that. I will say that it was the most depressing time for my dad.

I am OK with women without children working outside the home as long as it doesn't interfere with healthy family life. The writer of that article definatley doesn't seem to have a healthy look on her marriage and things seem shaky.


"I" am the one who sent that article to Crystal. *breathes on nails and rubs nails on shoulder* ;-)

ashley said...

Zan: I do think there is a difference from a family having to rely on the wife because of a layoff, and a family choosing to rely on the wife. I'm sure anyone who was initially expected to bring home a paycheck but is now without a job would feel discouraged and depressed.

I also agree on family being the #1 priority. And as I said - my problem with the article was her attitude toward her husband more than anything else. I think I also disagreed with the idea that a man should be "humiliated" because his wife is supporting him.

Susan said...

I agree with you, Ashley, that there is a major problem that the husband has to come crawling for money! I thought that would be an immediate improvement to the situation. Shouldn't married couples have a joint bank account that either person can withdraw money from??? It just seemed like she was aggravating the situation.

Now, I still think the article made some good points about a man's ego and his innate need to provide, but I'm very with you that she wasn't making the best out of the situation! And I'm with you that necessity v. choice is quite different in this situation. I think the article is definitely an interesting look from a "liberated" woman's view, of just the kind of toll this sort of situation can bring to a family.

Lydia H. said...

"As I write these words, Craig comes into my office with a list of grocery shopping for our dinner party tonight. I ask him with a smile: 'What's the best thing about me being the breadwinner right now?' He tucks the £80 I've just handed him into his work shirt and says a single word: 'Nothing.'

He's grumpy about the dreaded pink wallet being opened again so he can dip in his calloused palm."

This woman obviously has some major ego issues. She seems to treat him as more of a servant and views herself as the "benevolent" master who gives her lowly slave his due earnings for doing measly work like taking care of children and such. *blech*

No wonder the guy feels so under-appreciated and disrespected! Okay I sorta' have to agree with Ashley to an extent that the real issue here is a lack of respect and appreciation for what her husband does. At the same time, it is very important to most men to feel that they are the provider and protector of the family. That has nothing to do with societal norms but everything to do with God-given traits and abilities. Some women need to seriously study into this. Haven't they read books like, "For Women Only"?

I, for one, can say that the idea of me being the primary bread-winner and my *hypothetical* husband as the SAHD does not appeal to me in the least. If a man I was in a courtship with gave any inkling of him wanting to stay home with the kids and me go out and work everyday to "bring home the bacon" I would turn him down cold on the spot.

I cannot stand the thought. *shudder* It is one thing to help your husband and bring in some income to offset some expenses or build up the savings but it is quite another to be totally dependent on the wife's income alone for even basic sustenance.

The Scripture passage comes to mind, "If a man will not provide for his household than he is worse than an infidel."

One of the nursing coordinators where I work has a set-up like that in her marriage and I honestly don't know how they survive. She talks like he doesn't mind and she likes what she is doing but it has to take a toll somewhere. She must work like 60-70 hours a week *seriously* plus they just adopted a newborn two months ago and they have two other children. To her credit she is a Type A, workaholic type of woman. I have never met another woman like her. She has at least three other jobs in addition to her full-time job at the hospital and she talks like she is still responsible for the clean-up around her home on top of all that. Yikes!

I think there can be a time when a wife may need to earn some income to provide for the family either temporarily or maybe from home for a longer stent. I don't see anything wrong with that. If a woman does not "bring in the income" she should be seeking to contribute positively to the family in some way whether it be keeping the house, or training the children or looking for wise ways to save or invest money. She is not a "free-loader" in any sense.

I am definitely all for the joint-bank account and the attitude that the money is not "his" or "hers" but rather "ours." This is as it should be in an "equally valued although different roles" type of Christian marriage.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts. I think I have rambled on enough. :)

Good topic for discussion. :)

Laura said...

^I like that; my aunt had to work after their first child, but she got out as quickly as possible. She is now a stay at home mom!

zan said...

My husband and I don't have a joint account. He opened another account for me and puts money in there for my spending. It is easier to balance the checkbook for him. :-)We do call the money "ours" not jsut his, but I don't spend a dime without consulting him because I still feel like the money is his. I think it is because I used to make money of my own. It has been hard to snap out of that phase of my life. I am not a big spender and find any purchase I make hard to justify. I also have another bank account with money in it from my single days. I haven't touched that money in awhile, but I am excessivley frugal. I like to see money sitting in an account building interest. I am a little Scrooge-like in that respect.

Susan said...

I *loved* your thoughts, Lydia. Very good, and Biblically balanced. Clearly there are some issues all around with this story. I've heard that "For Women Only" is really good. Would you recommend it?

Zan, I think you and I have similar spending habits. I'm really frugal too. I really, really wanted the Edwardian apron pattern from S&S, but since it was $15 (well worth it, I might add), I mulled over the option for 2 years before buying it. Hehe. I'm usuallly not that cautious, but I like to think before plunking good money down for something! And I try to think of the money I have now as savings for my future husband. There is of course a balance between Scrooge and shopping-mall-girl. Hehe.

Samara said...

Wow, what an ugly situation. There are a couple of big time misconceptions that this woman is making and I think that it primarily has to do with the equation of "capital income" with "provision for the family". Secondly, she is working "in the world" rather than "in support of her family".
A Christian man working to support his family is doing so not out of the direct desire to "maximize income"; he is doing so in order to provide for his current or future family. Even if he is not the one bringing in the larger dollar amount of capital, he is responsible for providing for said family. For example, if my husband is a farmer/hunter and toils all day in the fields and wilderness to bring home food for my family (but no money), and I make $100/week selling homemade soaps or something that we use to pay off our farm, he's still the provider- while I might be helping him, I'm not the one who's responsible for "prviding for the family"; he is still our leader. This is an attitude that the article's writer would probably not understand- her husband is really providing all kinds of non-monetary income that may even dwarf her own contributions were it translated into cash value (hundreds of thousands of pounds saved by his work on their barn, childcare expenses saved etc)- and it really shouldn't matter even if the money value is less than what she is bringing in if she approaches their marriage in a Biblical sense.
This attitude, I believe, i very firmly related to the fact that she does hot have a home- or family centered attitude towards her own work. Being gone on overseas trips, living a glamorous professional life and doling out an allowance to her husband all seem to be coming from this attitude of the "real life" being hers, and her demeaning the role of the family-centered person in the marriage. This to me indicates a typically modern attitude of disrespect for those who inhabit the traditionally female roles of childcare and home keeping, which is practically synonymous with disrespect for traditional womanhood altogether.

Lydia H. said...

Actually, Susan, I would recommend it, with one caution. I wouldn't get into the physically related aspect of male/female relationships that the book speaks of until one is either married or well-established in a relationship headed toward that direction.

I have read several Christian adult type books for women in regards to relationships but I am cautious to skip over most the content dealing with the physical relationship. I don't really need to know about that now and I think sometimes it can create more problems than it is worth. I certainly have a pretty good understanding of things in this regard since I went to nursing school and sat through lectures/discussions on reproductive anatomy, etc. 'Nuff said.

Otherwise, I would definitely recommend the book. I have learned quite a few things from reading it. Some that were rather surprising or maybe just things that I didn't realize were such a big deal to men.

*whispering* I'd really like to read the counterpart, "For Men Only" too.
Just haven't gotten my hands on it yet. ;)

Glad you *loved* my thoughts. :) I think I was a tad bit too strong on the part about if a man implied wanting me to be the primary bread winner. I am not that bold in real life as to "turn him down cold on the spot." Dads are great for this sort of thing. ;)

Hope to hear more of your own thoughts soon in relation to the article or whatever!

zan said...

Some of those "how to be a good wife books" can be way TMI for unmarried people. I will say that being a nurse didn't prepare me at all for the physical side of marriage.


TWO YEARS!? That's funny. I have been looking at this denim skirt in the Victoria Secret catelogue (I get one in the mail about 11 times a month)for 4 yrs. It's still in there, but I haven't bought it yet. At least it is still in style. lol. Now I think it might not be a good look on me because I am heavier after having two kids. Back when I started liking it I should've gotten it. I can't believe how hard it is for me to justify paying for a skirt!

John Dekker said...

I've only just looked at the article, but I notice there still haven't been any men commenting.

Laura: I can't imagine the humiliation of knowing that the woman is supporting him and the whole family

No, Laura. It's only humiliating if you're obsessive about money.

And this is closely related to the important fact that the Bible never says the husband should be the head of the wife - no, the biblical principle is that the husband is the head of the wife. If a man is trying to assert his headship, it would be quite natural for him to feel emasculated by not being the breadwinner. But we must not buy into society's views of what is important.

Lydia: If a man I was in a courtship with gave any inkling of him wanting to stay home with the kids and me go out and work everyday to "bring home the bacon" I would turn him down cold on the spot...

And that would be your right. But what if he wanted you to work so that he could, say, study full time? Or write a book?

Lydia H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Samara, I really liked your point about the author missing the true value of income, and seeing provision as equal to capital income. Her same arguments could be used to consider a stay-at-home wife as a dead weight as well!

Laura said...

Thank you for your clarification, Mr. Dekker. I really didn't word that as well as I should have. Saying that from the woman's side, I have a pretty good feeling as to how I would behave toward the man in that kind of a situation. I think I would tend to hold it over him, and I know I would have a much more difficult time submitting as I should to him. So, I meant something more like how backward it might seem to the man for the woman to be not just the "bread-winner", but the family head too.

I hope that sort of clears up my original comment; I'm not that good at figuring out how to write something well without a good bit of time and plenty of deliberation.

John Dekker said...

Thanks for such a gracious response, Laura.

One of the important things to realise in this situation is that headship is not about who is in control, it's about who is responsible.

zan said...


Would it be responsible for a man to stop working in order to study full time and/or write a book and want his wife to work so he could fulfill this?

John Dekker said...

To explain my last comment, I meant responsible as in "answering to God" not responsible as in "mature".

Anyway, t's not necessarily irresponsible. In Genesis 2 we see that the man is oriented to his work in God's world, and the woman is oriented to the man, to help him in that. But a man's work may not be paid employment - it could be that the best way a wife can support her husband is by engaging in paid employment.

Similarly, a husband is responsible to God that his household is provided for, but if his wife is willing to work to earn money, then that can free him up to do more important work.

There's the rub, of course - he would need to be convinced that the work he is doing is inherently worthwhile. And while study is always a means to an end, scholarship is not.

So he could, say, write a history of the Baptist churches in Bulgaria. I can't imagine that would earn much money, but it may be inherently worthwhile.

Susan said...

John, I think headship is somewhat about who is in control, simply because ultimately someone must make the final decisions, but I think you're very right when you stress the responsibility aspect. A husband and wife should work as a team to decide something, but if they still cannot come to an agreement then someone (the husband) must make the final decision, and he is the one who will take the responsibility.

Lydia H. said...

I liked your question, Zan. A great way to think about it.

Who is to say that working for money is less important or valuable than writing a book or some other pursuit? Especially if it is the man's God-given responsibility to provide materially for his family. Perhaps a man's wife could help to lessen the burden elsewhere in the home and family to help him in accomplishing a goal but I do not see how taking up the responsibility of providing for the family's needs meets the biblical pattern set forth. She should be a help meet but not a usurper of his role.

And yes, a man need not work to earn an income per se, but he should be seeking to provide for his family's needs. By this I mean that he could be farming or raising cattle or some other line of work that would provide for his family's basic needs (food and raiment) while perhaps not earning a monetary income.

The key is to look at the situation from a biblical perspective. This was something I failed to do initially in my first response. :)

More to come with more detailed thoughts soon, hopefully.

Susan said...

Wow, I've really enjoyed the good-natured debating on this thread :-). I'm afraid I haven't contributed much myself, but I'm enjoying listening :-). So, do we get to look forward to a post on this topic, Lydia, if I interpret your comment correctly?

John Dekker said...

Who is to say that working for money is less important or valuable than writing a book or some other pursuit?

Not me! But who's to say it's more important? Not me, either.

We can really only apply this sort of thing you ourselves, not to other people. When we do see a wife being a wage-earner, we have no idea how that decision was made. Her reasons may well be thoroughly biblical.

Lydia H. said...

Well, I wasn't planning to write a blog post, as such (I don't like getting into stuff like this on my blog) but maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea.

I have been doing some reading and thinking from the Scriptures and actually stayed up late last night writing up a sketchy outline of my thoughts (I had trouble falling asleep for some reason, probably the two-hour nap I took in the late afternoon). :)

You raise some good points, John. We really can't judge a woman at first glance who is in a situation to be the primary bread-winner. Is her husband disabled? Has he been put out of commission to work for some reason?

After reading linked article, though, I can attest that in my mind according to Biblical principles, the woman's motive for working outside the home and earning the income was for selfish, worldly motives. It seemed they would gain a greater income from her working vs.her husband and they would save on child care expenses while being able to live a lavish lifestyle. I am sorry, but to me having weekly dinner parties and being able to go to the aquarium and out to a favorite restaurant with the girls does not sound like they were lacking for money to provide basic necessities. It seems they wanted to "have it all" while sacrificing in some other more important areas.

I hope this does not create a sour tone. I am enjoying the conversation and learning to more clearly articulate my own thoughts about marital roles. Perhaps I will be able to comment more tomorrow. I have to get to my BSF meeting tonight.

Thanks for the enlightening discussion. :)

zan said...

I believe that my husband's job with computers is just as valuable as the monk who spends his day in prayer or the student who studies, just a side note. Without men like him we wouldn't have these computers to blog on. :-D

Anyway, I talked about this with my husband the other night. He thinks if the woman is required to earn money for the man so he can fulfill his dreams than it had better be a good reason. My FIL studied full time to become a pastor when he was married. By the time he had graduated he had 5 children. He never expected his wife to earn money and he earned money on the side in his spare time. My FIL has, also, written a couple books, but he didn't write them until his 10 children were older. At 82 yrs old, all of his children are moved out and he spends most of his free time writing books. He has always wanted to write, but he had a responsiblity to his family first, His dreams came second.

I have seen some young men who are married ask their wives to support them so they can pursue their dreams of college or whatever. I have a little problem with this because it makes their job as a homemaker so much more difficult. It usually requires them to use some form of BC, to prevent children. A couple of my friends who married men like this fell into a deep depression. It sounded good when they got married, but as the years passed and their husbands denied them children (which, I think, is just as bad as a woman denying her husband s*x)they had changed their minds.

I think men who expect their wives to financially support them so they can finish college or study really need to be sure that that is what their wife wants and that that is what is best for the family. Some girls will just say "yes" in order to please, but regret it later on. Girls going into marriage need to be VERY clear to their finaces about what they expect from their husbands in marriage. I was. I think some girls in their desperation to get married will say anything to please the guy and since men cannot read the human mind (especially women's)they enter into marriage thinking everything is just dandy when it isn't.

I was very clear with my husband when we were dating and engaged: he works and I stay home and have babies.

Those are all the thoughts I have time to write down right now.

I do agree with John that we should not be as quick to judge a wife working and husband staying home until we understand the reasons why.

Lydia H. said...

Good thoughts, Zan. I was wondering if you were still around. :) I had checked your LJ a couple of times and didn't notice any new posts so I hoped you were doing okay.

I think what you said about being clear before marriage what the woman expects and what she sees as her role is very important.

Just a couple days ago my mother had expressed how important this was in a marriage relationship. We have a young couple in our church that was recently engaged and the young lady's mother told my mom that she (the daughter) tells her fiance what she likes for him to do for her and with her. At first I thought, "Isn't that kinda' self-serving and demanding?" But on the other hand, it is true that no one can read your mind and you don't have anything to whine about when something doesn't turn out right but you never let anyone know to begin with (well, you don't have anything to whine about anyway). :) At the same time, I see it as vitally important to surrender our expectations to the Lord. Most of the anger and bitterness we experience comes from unfulfilled expectations in life. If we have made a conscious effort to surrender our expectations to the Lord than we don't have a reason to be angry or bitter when something doesn't turn out as we hoped. We can still have hopes and dreams as long as we are trusting the Lord to fulfill them in his time and according to his purposes for us. This is something I am still in a process of learning. :)

So in summary: clear, loving communication is a must for any relationship including expressing what it is that we desire and hope to have. While at the same time we look to God to meet our needs and not depend on another human to do it for us.

I have been reading a tremendous book recently by Randy Alcorn called, "The Treasure Principle." It has challenged me and blessed me so much in how I view my money and possessions in light of eternity and according to God's perspective. I hope to share some excerpts and thoughts from the book. I admit that some of my thoughts surrounding who earns the income in a family and for what purposes has come about from reading this book. Maybe it would be a blessing to some of you if you get the chance to read it. It sure has changed my perspective significantly.

zan said...


I loved your 4th paragraph! Just so you know, even though I am usually very effective in communication with my husband, this does not mean I get my way all the time. He says "no" alot. I do think that something as important as roles in marriage and what is expected of each other is very important BEFORE marriage. Nothing is guaranteed in this world, so if life doesn't turn out your way even though you prepared, the Christian should be able to bend to accomodate the new direction.

John Dekker said...

Zan has a blog? Am I allowed to know what it is???

zan said...


I have a Live Journal. My writings are not as profound as Susan's or Lydia's. I mainly talk about my family or whatever is annoying me at the moment. The pictures that I post are only for friends so you would have to get an account to view them. My husband isn't up on me posting pictures of my kids to the world because my kids ARE the cutest and we wouldn't want them to be stolen or anything. ;-)I guess I could leave you (and anybody else) the link if you are interested, but you would probably nod off after reading a few posts. I'm not that deep.


I haven't posted in awhile because my husband had a three day weekend and I only go online when he's at work. He's too cute to ignore for the computer. ;-)Anyway, I tried to post the picture of my Valentine present but LJ is acting really weird, lately. Thanks for your e-mail. I will try to respond when I can think better. I've been really distracted lately. Is it too late to do that recipe chain thing?? Talking about recipes, I have no clue what to make for dinner. :-(

Lydia H. said...

Hey Zan! Glad to know you are doing well. And I guess I can excuse you for not posting since your husband had a three day weekend. ;) J/K. No excuse needed, of course.

If you still want to send the recipes that would be great. I think they should go to my friend Jenny because she is the person that sent it to me. I am sure she would like pretty much whatever you send. Maybe don't send the Chicken Marsala recipe. She's not a "Presby," if you get my meaning. ;)

No rush on the e-mail correspondence. Your family should take precedence over anything else. :)

Susan, are we taking this discussion too far? I don't want to be stepping on toes by using your blog as a personal message board. Just let me know if it is a problem.

I guess your blog could be described as a great "hang-out" for all the Reformed Folk (and others). :) Hehe!

Susan said...

Absolutely "no" to your question, Lydia. I really and truly *love* to hear the banter and the tangents :-). I've not had time to comment much on my own blog, so I love reading other's comments, even if off-topic :-). Please continue at your leisure ;-).