Now We Have to Deal with Breadwinner Guilt?

You’re a successful working mom with happy, healthy kids, a solid relationship with your partner, and a booming career. Do you feel guilty if you happen to have a fatter paycheck than your hubby?

According to Dr. Gail Saltz on Wednesday’s Today Show, “For some couples, having the woman make more money than the man creates an insurmountable problem.” Great–one more thing working moms can feel guilty about. Don’t be too successful, or it could hurt your man’s pride.

Saltz also discussed how some women actually resent being the breadwinner (whaaa?), because they “hold on to the fantasy that having a man support them makes them more feminine.” I say, what’s more feminine than being at the top of your professional game, not to mention supporting the fam? That’s hot!

I do like “Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line,” though:

The key, as always, is communication. Be up front, discuss budding resentments early before they fester and grow. Divide responsibilities so that no one is unfairly burdened. Don’t take on everything yourself and be a martyr, blaming him for everything that may go wrong. The goal is to stop being “me” and “he” and be a “we.”

What do you think about breadwinner guilt? Is there room for shame, blame, or an array of sadness in regards to mom bringing home more bacon?

13 thoughts on “Now We Have to Deal with Breadwinner Guilt?

  1. eh. i made more money than my husband for most of my career, until i jumped the corporate ship and went back into writing (see today’s post in response to your great discussion about “does it get easier?”. it didn’t bother me a bit – i was quite proud of it!! and he didn’t seem to care. but now that we’ve flipped roles, so to speak, it sometimes bugs me that i make less than him. but then again, i get to stay home with my boys more often.

  2. Hey, man. Bacon is bacon. It tastes good no matter who brings it home or who fries it up in the pan.

  3. Selfmademom says:

    What about when it’s the other way around? When you make way less than your husband, but your job is just as demanding at times with travel and client calls at off hours of the day? How guilty do I feel when I have to go away and my husband works late and my nanny puts my son to bed, and I’m not bringing home an equal share of the pork? Well, I can justify it by the happiness I feel at a personal level. Sometimes it’s just not all about money… Funny thing is, my hubby said that if I could be the breadwinner, he’d be a SAHD! Maybe one day…

  4. My husband doesn’t bring home *any* bacon. He’s okay with it. I’m okay with it. We are happy that one of us gets to stay home with the kids. I think the problem lie with others. My mom thinks it is horrible that he’s staying home. My friends think I work too much and that he is a slacker! That is soooo not true. We are happy the way it is!

  5. At the beginning of my career (practicing law) and the beginning of my husband’s (banking), I easily made four times his salary. I think the first paycheck I brought home made him a bit uncomfortable because of the disparity, but then he got to benefit from it and that was the end of the discomfort. It was never an issue for me. That income gap over a long period of time began to get smaller. I recently quit my job, giving up the larger of the two salaries, to stay home with our kids. It’s been an adjustment. He is now feeling the pressures that go along with being the primary breadwinner. I have to admit, I don’t miss carrying that on my shoulders. At the end of the day, it’s the family’s income regardless of source. Why feel guilty about being successful? It shouldn’t be an issue and wasn’t for us, but I don’t think all families or all men feel that way, unfortunately.

  6. Guilt? Nope. But sometimes I look in the mirror and say, “You better not screw up today… this is on you.” Same feeling any main breadwinner must feel, male or female. The tense moments when my husband wasn’t sure the new job was right for him (and my immediate mind calculations of what we could cut out of our budget in case he needed to quit). So guilt, no. But a feeling if being the one responsible for the food on the table, yes. My husband has never cared… it’s given him time to work out which direction he wants to go in his industry. Now that he’s on a path, five years down the road, my salary will be half his, but I still don’t think it will matter, although it might give us some choices like PT work for me… not sure I’ll take that one, but who knows. Like sara said–bacon is bacon.

  7. Finally I find some women like me! Here’s my story – I am 33, with a 17 mo old daughter. Got married 2 years ago to a guy 10 years my senior. He has a job, but does not contribute to the family finances. He thinks his vacation property is more important. So I not only work full time, but pay all the bills, mortgage and day care. I do make 3 times as much as him and can do it on my own, but I don’t feel that he is adding anything at all. It is a lot of stress and responsibility. On top of everything, we don’t talk about anything, I am no longer in love with him and want to file for divorce. The thing is that he has no idea that he is doing anything wrong. No matter how much I try to tell him I need help. I am at my wits end. Any advice is appreciated.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I’m with Sara, money is money. You do what you gotta do to make ends meet.

    If a husband makes less than his wife and has a problem with it, then it’s something he needs to work on.

    Same thing for a wife, if she feels guilty because she makes more than her husband, then she needs to deal with it because it is wasting a lot of time.

  9. Thanks to all for the interesting input on this topic.

    A note to Kim: It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot of tough issues! I’m sorry to hear about your stressful situation. Have you considered talking with a counselor about these things? It could help you sort out your feelings and plan your next move. I hope things work out OK for you.

  10. I find that other family members have a harder time dealing with it than we do. My husband loves it, and is better equipped to be the majority at home parent. He works part time because I don’t make “that” much, but otherwise, we don’t have any issues.

    I just wish other people could see we LIKE the arrangement, and he isn’t just lazy. I love bringing home the bacon myself.

  11. Shelley Lieber says:

    At least age has nothing to with it. My husband, age 61, said “Please, make more money than me.” My daughter, 23, recently broke up with a man, 28, who once said to her, “You can never make more than me.”

  12. Shelley, good thing your daughter broke up with that guy. He obviously had some serious insecurities.

  13. As long as we don’t change industries I will always make more money than my husband and he’s glad that I happen to work in an industry that pays well! He’s very good at what he does in an industry that doesn’t pay well and is happy that we don’t have the pressure of trying to support a family on his earnings. It comes down to the “we” factor and the fact that it is “our money” not seen as mine or his.

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