Born to be a Breadwinner?
In today's NY Times M.P. Dunleavey worries about being the sole earner in her household.
So when my husband asked me the other day, “Did your concept of ‘equality’ ever include supporting the family?” I had to admit that my answer was no.
She admits to being afraid that she'll be the primary wage-earner forever, occasionally wishing that her husband earned a good living, and "chest-tightening" pressure when it comes to bills and life insurance. Certainly that last one is understandable - having primary responsibility for supporting a family is a high-pressure role, regardless of gender. But I wonder how many women out there would agree with Ms. Dunleavey that their concept of equality hadn't included supporting a family. Maybe it's a generational thing? It is entirely possible that I'm just a freak, but I have always planned on being the primary (if not sole) breadwinner in my potential future family. I do one day hope to grow up, get married, and have kids. And I hope he has a flexible enough job, or no job, to be the primary stay-at-home parent. I know those particular details may be a pipe dream, but my grown-up fantasies have always included me paying the bills. In fact, back when I was dating Dan, and thought he was The One, my future fantasy of the two of us was me working at some government or consulting gig and him drawing comic books and designing video games, mostly from home. Then again, part of what ended up not working about us was his insecurity about our respective 'status.' Even if he could believe that I was happy, and I could believe that he was happy, friends and strangers alike seemed unable to suspend their disbelief, or to keep their mouths shut (more than one person said, to my face, that I could 'do better.' What's that even mean??). So perhaps being personally prepared to be the breadwinner, or not, as the case may be, isn't enough. Perhaps one needs some extra innoculation against the inevitable societal pressure to fulfill one or the other role.
Here's a hypothesis, with absolutely no data to back it up. I wonder if this will turn out to be a generational thing. I wonder if since more of us are waiting longer to get married, and are spending more of our early adult years living alone or with non-intimate roommates, if that will better prepare us for more flexible roles in a marriage? Yes, of course, being responsible for a family is different from taking care of yourself (AWB always said she cooked way better for PC and I than she ever did for just herself) but it seems if you've spent a decade or more taking care of your own bills and insurance and running your own personal one-man/woman household, then perhaps it doesn't seem so far-fetched for either gender to slide into more rationally distributed lists of responsibilties within the familial household? Isn't some sociologist somewhere working on this?