After a spate of breakups, I don’t believe there are any couples left in my regular IRL circle with a clear female breadwinner. Just me. It’s a lonely place to be.
One couple previously had a disparity, but have now equalled out, or close to it. Unsurprisingly, they are both happy about this, as it takes the financial pressure off her when it comes to having a family (particularly, god forbid, if pregnancy turned out to be difficult healthwise) which is now officially in the works! They’re working toward him getting a well-paying job so she can stay home with kids like she hopes to.
Every other couple has fallen apart – and money has been a factor for at least some, and possibly all of them. It’s such a common thread, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. There were elements of them supporting, enabling and being taken advantage of by their partners. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh; let’s say in every case, the dudes failed to step up and pull their own weight.
There’s also one woman I am acquainted with, who I thought might be a bit of a role model in that regard. There’s a loose parallel in our career paths and we both make more than our partner, but she’s about a decade older with kids. Yay, right? Unfortunately that illusion has been gradually shattered for me, as it’s becoming clearer that he doesn’t seem to contribute his fair share in any aspect of the relationship. And thus, theirs is not one I aspire to emulate.
But even if you have an awesome partner in every way, who pulls their weight overall, but just HAPPENS to earn a lot less….
Any kind of imbalance or inequality in a relationship can be tough to navigate. When it comes to money, it’s just easier if you’re roughly equal earners.
There are the values you think you have, and then the actual feelings you have.
If I’m being honest with myself, I’d love a partner who earned as much or more than me. It’s not the outearning in itself that’s the problem; it’s the flow-on effects.
Where it really becomes an issue is when kids come into the picture.
I don’t need to be looked after – but it’d be nice to have the option, you know?
There are moments where it just feels like a rough deal all round. Not only do I have to make the bacon but bake the bun too? (Worst mixed metaphor ever. Sorry!)
But then again, we couldn’t have predicted this; 7 years ago I thought I’d be a journalist forever and he’d work up to being a qualified tradie who’d earn the bulk of our income. How things change! And who knows what else might happen in the next couple of years?
For now though, I think about the practicalities of eventually starting a family and am discouraged.
The ideal would be if we both individually earned an income that would support a family, but that is not the case. The loss of my income while on parental leave reduces our income by … well, a hell of a lot more than half. And our household income is not particularly high to begin with.
“Doesn’t that worry you?” my best friend asked me recently over lunch as we talked numbers.
Hell yes, it does.
Financially speaking, here’s what me being the breadwinner means if we want to start a family:
1) I won’t be able to take a full year off (which is the norm here). Which isn’t too terrible; six months seems like a reasonable chunk to me and that would be manageable if we start planning ahead ASAP, though it’ll definitely be a stretch. I’m fairly certain I’ll be well and ready to get back to interacting with adults and doing what I’m best at by then!
2) I won’t be able to quit my job and stay home if I change my mind. As above, I suspect I’d be itching to get back to work … but what if I’m not? I just don’t know, is all. It’s pretty unlikely though, so I’m just going to entirely ignore this possibility.
Plus, I can’t help but worry about the off chance that something throws a spanner in the works healthwise.
Everything might work out if everything goes to plan. But what if I have health issues in pregnancy, like some of my current and former colleagues? What if I need to give up work earlier than planned or return later than planned?
Between biology, the work world, parental leave law (less than minimum wage for approx 4 months here), a society centuries in the making … no wonder it’s so hard to break the mould of men working and women staying home. (Not all of us aspire to entrepreneurship, remember.) It’s just not set up for it.
There’s the long game to consider as well, which didn’t even occur to me until a friend pointed this out to me: Add in the fact that often 1) women earn less than men do in the same job 2) have to spend more on certain things by way of being female 3) live longer and thus need more saved for retirement. Ouch.
I don’t mean this to come off in a whiny, woe-is-me way. I feel like a bad feminist just for writing this all out (hence the title); I feel like I should be loudly and proudly proclaiming that I can and will do it all! Especially when I’ve been slammed on Facebook in the past for even daring to suggest otherwise, when I shared a link to a post that talked about how unrealistic it is to expect to have it all.
We’ll muddle through, I’m sure. One way or another – we’ve got time to figure it out. I’ve been running some numbers here and there. But this is one financial area where I want to leave as little to chance as possible.