I answered the home phone and was asked if the caller could speak to the main breadwinner. I expressed some irritation and declined the conversation. Partly I wasn’t entirely sure who was and I certainly wasn’t content to hand over to my husband, if I worked it out to be him and I was not deemed worthy of a conversation. In fact, my husband wouldn’t have had a clue who earned more and has an aversion to dealing with money at all. In fact, I think it was just the caller’s sneaky way of getting past women to speak to the ‘man of the house’. Hopefully it backfired with everyone they addressed like that. A recent study focussing on ‘Main breadwinners’, commissioned for a ‘ground breaking investing service for real people’ pointed out that just one in five of these is a woman. Why is this important? The other four are hardly sitting back filing their nails. In fact, in many households it takes two working to ensure not just bread but some butter and jam on the table too. The use of this term harps back to days of old, well not that old, because working class women always worked. It only goes back till the 1950s when the men came back from the war, women relinquished their jobs and the sign of affluence was being a kept woman with a houseful of labour saving gadgets. So, on the one hand, let’s ditch this outmoded concept, stop putting the pressure on men to be sole provider and ignoring women’s enormous economic contributions and accept the fact that for most families it now takes two incomes to achieve the life style they desire. The real questions are about how careers can be satisfying, fairly recompensed and also combine with parents raising their children in the best way they can. This report also claims that having a woman as main breadwinner is a problem and that ‘male pride prevails’ – i.e. that 14% of men claim this disparity causes friction. Now I’m not a statistician, but I would have thought the 86% who don’t report a problem would be the ones prevailing? The report also states that 10% of women who earn more than their partners feel unsettled as they know it makes their partner feel uncomfortable. While a testament to women’s empathy, again, 90% seem to be coping just fine. Is it just me, or do you detect a bias to make everything to do with women problematic? The facts are that more women take time out or give up work altogether to raise their children, even when earning more than their partners. As a result they probably ensure that their earning capacity never totally recovers to its previous level when they are back at work. The Daily Mail, on reporting this survey says, ‘Author on the family, Patricia Morgan said: ‘Women are prepared to give up high earnings because they want to bring up their own children rather than dump them on someone else.’ How pejorative! I don’t know one single working woman who has ever ‘dumped’ her children. Much thought and concern has gone into giving them the best, caring experience they can afford, while their parents hold down their jobs. So, in this century, can we begin to accept:
- that women have jobs now. . .
- as they outperform boys at school and University , the chances might be that where fair pay occurs, they might earn more than their male partners.
- it takes two people to create a baby, yet we always hold women to ransom for childcare arrangements
- that many couples actually talk about these things and work out how they want to handle their arrangements and so it is none of our business
- the press has a bias, unconscious or otherwise, and delights in pitting women against each other – i.e. a woman’s place is always in the wrong!
Let’s help people get over outmoded beliefs and think about how a modern successful world needs to look.