Women breadwinners

Does the balance of power shift when the woman earns more than her husband?

Men have begun to tire of the rat race, the endless trudge up the corporate ladder, the constant threat of competition from equals; nuclear families that demand more from both partners; the effects of burning both ends of the candle on the quality of life are some factors that are spurring many in the middle levels of the corporate world to take a serious look and decide to slow down. In such cases, having a life partner who also brings in the moolah is helpful, and does indeed take the burden off a man’s shoulders.

On the other hand, the woman, tasting her first heady success in the workplace is determinedly moving up, working doubly hard to balance home and work, and sometimes trying to win the husband over to sharing some of the home burden in the process. The wise in such scenarios, learn to make the most of this, by letting the woman speed ahead while they take time off to bond with the children, sharing moments they might never have shared with their own too busy fathers, or make time for a relaxing pursuit like music, writing or golf.

Professionally too, women have as much chance in an equal opportunities work environment of speeding ahead and landing a bigger pay packet.

And surprisingly, many men are taking not unkindly to this fact. This is particularly true of those women who use their learning and skills to start an enterprise of their own.

I know cases where men in jobs they do not quite enjoy, look around, and seeing the joy with which their spouse is pursuing her new venture, decide to join in and pool skills to enhance the business.

The change helps the family in many ways, bonding them closer, and getting the children involved too as they grow older. However this scenario needs careful handling.

“Though I started my business, I had to contend with my husband often telling me I was doing things wrong,” Shikha T, a 40-something entrepreneur who started her own business revealed.

Cartoon on women breadwinners
You missed a spot!

It took a lot of diplomacy on her part to not react and to realise that some of what he said made sense and that his marketing skills combined with her manufacturing skills could grow the business faster and more efficiently. “Today, after four years, we have found our compartments and use our different skills complementarily,” she added, “and have grown enough to employ seven people.”

School and college reports show that girl students work harder and score more as a whole than boys, who are more open to the  distractions available to the young today. It is only natural, that given the opportunity, women will land the juicier jobs at placements and in competitive arenas.

Some men like it, some don’t

Jiten Bhagwat, a painter, laughs as he explains his approach to the question of women breadwinners.

“For generations, men have slogged to keep the family eating well and living well,” he says, “now when my wife wants to earn big bucks and buy things for the house and travel abroad for holidays, why should I worry? I am happy with being allowed to paint, which is my passion, and I don’t really have to worry about how well my work sells, because the money is coming in anyway. It’s good the pressure is off men, at last…” he says, “I am happy to let someone else slog to keep the home fires burning bright.”

Of course not all men have the same approach and egos still get in the way. “My husband would crib because I was bringing in six figures while he had been sidelined repeatedly for promotions. He kept trying to cut me down to size, as if I was trying to show off in some way,” Archana, a corporate executive said. “At times I feel like throwing up my job and letting him
earn for both of us,” she added, “I might have more peace of mind”.

But all told, it is a changing environment. The home front finds more women making decisions, or sharing in decision-making, and the fact that they also bring in the moolah is one reason for this sea change that has happened over the past two generations.

If women who find themselves bigger earners than their spouses do not make the same mistakes that the men of earlier generations who were sole breadwinners, did, and learn not to flaunt their financial worth, the home could become a finely balanced haven of plenty, with happiness all around.

This was first published in the March 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Sathya Saran
Sathya Saran is a renowned journalist. She is best known for her role as Editor of Femina and DNA Me. She is also an author, a columnist and an adjunct professor at NIFT, Mumbai.


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