NYTimes: When She Earns More

As I write this post, my wife is at work, on a Saturday, as I corral our three kids at home. Truthfully, we have an active day — kids went to sports practice this morning, put the little one down for a nap, gave my middle child a haircut, and just finished cooking and serving lunch.

By many standards, we have a reverse lifestyle of the traditional family: the Wife does the childrearing while the Husband goes to work to bring home the bacon. However, ours is not a complete flip, since I am not a stay-at-home-dad, instead I work a full-time job. Despite working full time, I would say that my wife’s work is prioritized, because (1) she earns substantially more and (2) her working is necessary for us to satisfy our student loan debt. As such, her job has the weight that a single-income household might have.

With this in mind, you can imagine how I was interested to read the recent NYTimes article entitled: “When She Earns More: As Roles Shift, Old Ideas on Who Pays the Bills Persist

The article gives some statistics on the likelihood of divorce of woman-breadwinner couples (more likely to divorce is husband does not work, but no higher if husband also works full-time). And then moves into giving some advice on how to ensure a successful relationship.

Here are some of their main relationship points:

  • Set, and adjust, expectations – Since she’s the breadwinner, expect the husband to handle some more of the household duties. Also, make sure to especially discuss heavily what happens if she wants to delegate the breadwinner role to the husband at a later point (say, post-childbirth?)
  • Divide and Conquer – Share household duties
  • Share goals, with some independence – Conflict can arise when one (say, the breadwinner) makes finance decisions without the other being kept in the loop. They also recommend a joint savings and checking for combined efforts, and then having an individual account for personal spending.

And here’s my take:

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash
This…is not how you do the laundry.
  • Set,  and adjust, expectations – This point is totally spot on. Communication is key. Furthermore, at our house, whoever is home is usually expected to do something around the house. We each pitch in to do the laundry and whichever of us is working less in the evening will usually jump in to do the dishes. Additionally, with our larger crew, we have also started to put demands on the kids to help around the house as well. Teaching our oldest to start the laundry has been a huge benefit! Even just today, she’s taken it upon herself to clean the toilets. Dear lord, I hope this never ends!
  • Divide and Conquer – Not sure why they made this a separate point in their article, but see above.
  • Share goals, with some independence – I think it’s totally essential that a couple, regardless of what the income ratio is between them, shares goals and shares finances. Obviously there has to be some wiggle room in the finances to allow for personal spending (for us, it’s mostly the occasional buying lunch during working hours if we ran out of time to pack a lunch). However, we, as a matter of principal, only have shared accounts.

I think that the article has this perception that the husband must always feel inferior when the wife makes more money. While they do mention that some men feel proud of their wife, the article spends time ensuring that the husband “feels independent.”

This isn’t prison, folks. It’s just life.

For my wife and I, I am exceptionally proud of her accomplishments. For the record, our income ratio is around 1.8:1. Ultimately, there are days that I get frustrated when my job is under-prioritized, but those days are usually pretty rare.

A good example is that when a kid gets sick, I usually take the first sick day and then my wife takes the second. This is primarily because rescheduling a day’s worth of patients (20+) is way more work than me rescheduling the one or two conference calls I had planned.

This usually isn’t a big deal, but we have three kids. And when it’s cold season, that’s three times as many kids bringing in germs to our house and, ultimately, it’s a good dose of sick days.

But as I stated, we communicate and talk, and figure out if we need to rebalance things.

How about you?

What is the income balance in your relationship? How has this affected your relationship? Let us know in the comments!