As women earn more, a shift is coming in what it means to provide, and in gender roles. But the change is not without its challenges. Farnoosh Torabi tackles them in When She Makes More.
A couple of years ago, Farnoosh Torabi sent me a few questions about my role as the primary breadwinner in my family. She wanted to know how my husband and I handled our finances, as well as how we dealt with some of social stigmas that come with gender role reversal while living in a very traditional community.
Farnoosh gathered information from about 1,000 female breadwinners to get a sense of how heterosexual women and their partners deal with money and relationships when she makes more than he does. Farnoosh also took the time to interview psychologists and sociologists and other academics, and combed through numerous research studies to pinpoint some of the underlying challenges that beset breadwinning females and their partners. She also takes a good look at how to overcome those challenges.
As the primary breadwinner for my family, I can relate to this book. I saw myself literally (although my name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent, you can find my little bit if you know me) and figuratively in When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women, and I think that any woman who earns more than her husband can benefit from reading this book to gain an understanding of the underlying issues, and to learn how to move forward in a way that benefits both partners and any children that they have.
The Challenges of Being a Breadwinning Woman
Farnoosh pulls no punches; she lays out the situation as the research presents itself. Marriages and other partnerships that feature a woman who earns more money than a man are more likely to come to an end than those in which the woman earns less.
Not only that, but Farnoosh also cites studies and surveys from academic institutions and the Pew Center that indicate even when women “bring home the bacon,” they are also expected to “fry it up.” In fact, the research indicates that breadwinning women are likely to do more of the household chores the more money they make, since they are likely to find themselves in a vicious cycle of trying to prove that they can do and have it all, still doing “women's work” even while they make most of the money. (I found it interesting that surveys found that, even when the woman earns more, she still does the laundry. I laughed that laundry was specifically called out, since my husband has been doing the laundry since we married more than 12 years ago.)
From stress on the relationship because of the emasculation some feel because the “provider” role is supposed to be carried out by men to budding resentment because of your success, to the financial power struggles that can come as women make more money, to the fact that everyone around you might give you trouble for abandoning traditional gender roles, it can be difficult to find a balance that works in your life.
The good news is that Farnoosh doesn't keep you down in the dumps about the situation. When She Earns More provides you with insight and tools that you can use to improve your situation, get along better with your life partner, and create a lifestyle that works for both of you. Once you face the reality of your situation, it's time to get to work and figure out how to navigate these largely uncharted waters.
Practical Tips for When She Makes More
In each chapter, Farnoosh makes it a point to lay out the challenge, and then provide pointers that can help guide you to find a solution. One of the things I've always liked about Farnoosh is that she advocates finding what works for you in your individual circumstance. I also like that she refers to your finances and situation as “moving targets” that sometimes change. You have to be flexible, and realize that different solutions might be appropriate at different times.
Farnoosh offers practical, actionable steps that you can take to figure out how to organize your finances. She looks at examples of different arrangements, from separate finances to completely joint finances and everything in between to provide real-world examples of how you can set up shop.
She also points out some of the pitfalls that can come as women start earning more, warning against the idea that making the money somehow puts you “in charge” of the decisions or gives you more “veto power.” Farnoosh has tips that can help you maintain balance, encourage your partner to be active in your financial decision-making, and that can help you deal with some of the realities of financial disparity between partners.
Another thing I like about When She Makes More is that Farnoosh encourages readers to imagine the whole picture. It's not just about money and relationships. It's about building a life together, and being equal partners. She also provides tips on how to talk to your partner about what you need, especially around the house. You need to have open communication about what you both want, and work toward shared goals, whether your partner works as well (in a lower paying job), or acts as a “house husband.”
Finally, Farnoosh tackles the difficult subject of what others think. This can be a toughy, especially if you are a breadwinning woman and your partner is a stay at home dad. My husband and I don't hide the fact that I am the primary breadwinner, but we don't go out of our way to announce it, either. Many people are surprised to find that I make most of the money, since I do it from home, and, from the outside, it looks like we just might have a traditional setup — even though it's clear we don't once you get to know us. (One thing that the book didn't really address was the challenges faced by WAHMs who outearn their partners, a group that is rising in number, I think.)
I found it interesting that, for some couples, it's important to appear “normal” by having him pull out the debit or credit card to pay in public, and the woman in the relationship will say little about her own work accomplishments and talk about her partner's work in social settings. I guess I understand this, since my family took some time to warm up to the idea that, while my husband does interesting and meaningful work, he won't ever make as much as I do and fill the role of “provider.” But they weren't ever openly hostile about it.
Farnoosh Torabi's new book, When She Earns More, is a great read. It's full of research and helpful, actionable advice. It's something most breadwinning women can relate to, and it provides a solid basis for finding a “Mr. Right” who is truly willing to go on this journey with you, as well as encouragement that you can make this work — especially as more successful couples with breadwinning women narrow the gender pay gap and help shift the basis of what it means to be happy as couple.
[easyazon_block add_to_cart=”default” align=”center” asin=”1594632162″ cloaking=”default” layout=”top” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”moneyseed-20″]When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women[/easyazon_block]