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Women Breadwinners: A Holy Calling?

Women Breadwinners: A Holy Calling?

Perspectives from couples who reflect a growing trend
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Alison Strobel Morrow works three jobs. She's a full-time middle school language arts teacher, she writes women's fiction, and she runs a home-based health and wellness product business.

Her husband is a part-time church newsletter editor and primary caregiver for their two children, ages 4 and 7, whom he home-schools. He handles most of the housework, although Alison pitches in occasionally.

Alison is just one of many women who are the primary breadwinners for their families. Each family has a unique story, yet is part of a larger trend: a steadily growing number of women who out-earn their husbands.

"For the most part, I'm okay with my role," she says. While her close friends understand, she admits, "I get a lot of weird looks from people when I first explain our situation, but I'm over caring whether or not people approve. I'm immensely relieved to have a job and insurance at all."

40 Percent and Growing

Some 40 percent of wives now earn more than their husbands, a trend which challenges the traditions of American society and has stirred debate and commentary about its sociological implications (with publication of books such as Hanna Rosin's The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, and Liza Mundy's The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family). Because of the growing number of women earning advanced degrees and ascending the corporate ladder, that percentage is growing.

A small (but growing) fraction of those wives are solo breadwinners while their husbands stay home with the children. Many more are part of couples in which both spouses work—but she earns more. Some observers predict what Mundy calls "the big flip"—the coming day where the majority of women will earn more than men.

For Christian families in this situation (and there are many), the changes can be unsettling—especially if they are a part of a conservative faith tradition that taught them it is "biblical" for a man to go out to work and a woman to stay home.

Some Christian husbands who want (or need) their wives to contribute to the household income by working may feel conflicted when their wives advance in their careers. Others are quite content to earn less, especially if this allows them to be closer to their children because they've become the primary caregivers and household managers. Their supporting roles often help their wives thrive in their careers.

Changing Roles

When Cathy and Dave Breslow had their kids 18 and 16 years ago, they were "adamant" that one parent would be home with them. Cathy had assumed it would be her, but her job as a software engineer for Safeway Foods had benefits, a retirement package, and a good salary. Dave's work as an insurance salesman had no benefits and paid straight commission.

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Displaying 1–3 of 8 comments

Adam Bradshaw

May 21, 2013  6:08pm

Economic crisis has taken its toll on many men's jobs in industries like finance, manufacturing and construction. Most women are glad to carry the partner or the family through, financilly speaking. The problem starts when women-as-breadwinner situations are approached with no accompanying reciprocal duty shift - the wife works full time but is still expected to take charge of domestic affairs. Other complicated men issues then arise, and if the couple is not careful enough to see the signs, there goes another broken relationship. Great post by the way. I've come across some insights on this issue in this article.

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April 22, 2013  11:08am

From the man's side: I make $100k a year. We have 4 kids, from elementary to college. My wife does not work outside of the house, save a few babysitting jobs, and I'd say the housework is about 65% her, 35% me (I clean the bathrooms,kitchen,dishes,laundry, all outdoor work,and maintance). If she could get a job for what I make , I would quit my job in a second, and do all the housework, too - no problem. In fact, if she could make just $50k, I'd STILL be all for it (We'd have to move to a cheaper place, but I'd still do it in a heartbeat) After 20+ years in the industry I'm in, I am sick and tired of the rat race, and since I don't mind cleaning, and I'd love to be the one at home. Absolutely no problem whatsoever with the wife being #1 breadwinner, or the only breadwinner. More power to her, I say.

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April 22, 2013  3:07am

Thank you for the insighful Article and the testimonies. How should a woman handle a role of being a bread winner when the husband is not willing to take up the role of the home keepr and the care giver to the children? In our African context, men expect a woman to assist in footing the bills but a man helping in household chores is frowned upon. It becomes difficult for the woman to balance between a demanding career and household chores and in most cases, resentment and contempt towards the husband develops. How would you advise women to handle such circumstances in a bibilical way? Thank you.

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