“I’m the breadwinner.” she said to me over dinner the other night. It’s come up before. She says it. Another woman I know tells me that she is. I’m not really sure why it’s important that she shares this information and how or why it even comes up in conversation. It shouldn’t. Yet, when it does, I’m clueless at the reaction I should have. It’s the whole winner part of the word that trips me up. You didn’t win at anything. You went to work, performed a task, and received a predetermined amount of money in exchange for it. Done.
It’s these women who make the mommy-wars so fired with fuel. The latter woman, who makes sure I know that breadwinner is indeed the money-maker, coupled her revelation with a statement: You guys made a decision to have the lifestyle you have with you being a stay-at-home- mom and that’s great! (True.) But they are doing what’s best for them because they have goals they are trying to attain. (Whaaa?!)
I sat there with my mouth agape at the sentence. Did’ja catch it? Goals? Attain? I could only infer from this statement that because I choose to be at home, we don’t have goals? Financial or otherwise? Who says stuff like this?! And why is it being said?!
It’s stuff like this (sharing about income or talking about being a breadwinner) that makes motherhood/ parenthood/ life so divisive. Why is this a discussion? Why does it really matter?
When it comes to personal finance, it is easy to define yourself by the income you earn instead of the job you do. This is a very backwards way of thinking and it doesn’t steer anyone in the right direction and likely doesn’t create much happiness. Your definition should be supported by the job you do– your experience and contribution– not on the income that you earn. The word breadwinner speaks nothing to the experience that you are having in the position you are in.
You’ve heard the phrase that goes “Once a cheater, always a cheater”, right? Well, if we are speaking in absolutes (which is absolutely a stupid thing to do) then Once a breadwinner, always a breadwinner, would hold true, yes? And Once a stay-at-home-mom always a stay-at-home-mom would certainly make sense. Of course not. Life changes, circumstances change, you change….kids grow-up, you loose a job, etc. Any situation can change for any number of reasons.
I don’t want my children to be taught to place value on themselves in relationship to the money they do or do not earn. Similar to defining themselves by income, children learn to place things that are more expensive in higher importance to things that are less expensive if their parents also do this. If they feel they aren’t earning enough it can effect the amount of happiness they feel in other areas of their life. Conversely, if they feel that they are fulfilled with their experience and are being given money in exchange for that experience, they can be very happy, if managed well.
As a currently self-appointed CEO of our domain, I have never felt that Michael is the breadwinner. He goes to work. Performs tasks. Receives a predetermined amount of money (with health benefits and time off!) in exchange for it. My job is to go to work. Perform tasks. Receive an undetermined amount of kisses, temper tantrums, dirty diapers, attitude, and hugs (and have no time off!) in exchange for it. Sure, we get paid differently, but we still do our jobs each day and at the end of the day there is plenty of dough.