The stress of the female breadwinner

Family Law|August 21st 2015

For many years, financially providing for a family was solely the man’s responsibility. Then progress happened. Women fought for their right to enter the workplace and be treated as economic equals throughout the 20th Century. Now, the number of women who are regarded as their family’s ‘breadwinner’ is higher than ever. I would call that a win.

However, breadwinner status comes with drawbacks. All that responsibility can be tough on anyone, male or female. I was reminded of this when I came across a recent study from the United States. Researchers sought to examine how women handle the wage earner role.

More than 1,000 working women were surveyed by financial network the Family Wealth Advisors Council. Study co-author Heather Ettinger said that being the breadwinner was “a role of stress, stress, stress” for women as they often have to care for children, grandchildren and parents in addition to their job.

The study also found that many women were typically taking on between 75 and 90 per cent of all of the family’s financial planning.

Around 40 per cent of respondents claimed to feel pressure from family or friends to downplay the fact that they were the main earner in the household. Additionally, 28 per cent said that their own parents disapproved of their wage earner status.

This is all understandable and easy to sympathise with, but then we come to divorce. Despite a 2014 claiming that families with a female breadwinner are less likely to experience divorce, it does still happen. Women with high paying jobs can develop a level of contempt for their non-working partner and soon the relationship is coming apart at the seams.

Talking to Reuters, Ms Ettinger said that a lot of women “end up much worse financially than they were” and “end up having to pay alimony and child support” in the event their marriage breaking down.

My question would be: what did they expect? I am constantly surprised by the reaction of some women whose partners have high demands in their divorce. Why would they not?

Nobody would be surprised if a stay-at-home wife demanded half of her wealthy husband’s estate, so why should that be different when the shoe is on the other foot? Despite what some may say, the law does not automatically favour women and nor should it.

As a working woman, I can completely understand the stress that comes with such a role but when it comes to family law, financial need trumps gender.

Author: Stowe Family Law

Comments(3)

  1. annoymous says:

    Women will never likely pay alimony or child support due to the fact that they will always get custody of the children

    Ive yet in my life, come face to face with a “house husband”, or a man working part time while is wife is working full time

  2. Luke says:

    ==============================================
    “Nobody would be surprised if a stay-at-home wife demanded half of her wealthy husband’s estate, so why should that be different when the shoe is on the other foot? Despite what some may say, the law does not automatically favour women and nor should it.”
    ==============================================
    .
    Yeah… no 🙂 I don’t think so.
    The number of men getting alimony from their ex-wives in the USA is about 3% – I think it’s pretty similar in the UK. If that figure ever got anywhere near 50% the law would be radically changed – the only reason it is currently acceptable is that it is overwhelmingly men who pay.

  3. Nordic says:

    The notion that most families comprise a “breadwinner” and a “home-maker” is outdated nonsense. In the Nordics, female participation in the work force is above 80%, and even here it is above 60%. Hence, most families comprise two working parents (who share both income-making and home-making).
    .
    Yet the HMRC child benefit system requires that only one parent can be designated the Parent with Care (PWC) and this designation feeds straight into the CMS/CSA child payments systems. While couples live together (married or cohabitant), child benefit are by default paid to the mother who therefore is the PWC. Hence, at divorce the mother is the PWC with the maintenance claim and the father the NRP with the payment obligation. This is the gender-based starting point in each and every divorce in this country.
    .
    Post divorce, it is upon the father to apply for child benefits, if actual arrangements do not conform to the breadwinner/home-maker roles. However, the system really struggles with the notion that dad’s can be primary cares, in particular if there is any element of shared care (i.e mum neither dead, nor a junkie). In my experience, the burden of proof is entirely on the father and it can take ridiculous work and effort to get the HMRC and CMS to accept obvious glaring facts. The current system is anything but gender neutral.

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