Guest Post: If Female Breadwinners Wore Mood Rings…

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dawn DeLavallade, M.D., author of She Makes More, a book about female breadwinners. I asked Dawn to contribute a post about her experiences as a breadwinner. What do you think? What resonates for you?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rubygirlcreations/7658966344/

Have you ever tried on a mood ring….those cute and quirky little gift shop trinkets made of liquid crystal? The theory behind this popular 1970’s novelty is that the ring changes color according to the emotional state of the wearer. If the ring turns from a neutral color to blue once you slip it on your finger, that means that your mood is sad. Or if it turns green that means you are calm, or if it turns black that means you are frightened. In a 1976 Peanuts comic strip, Peppermint Patty gets so angry at Charlie Brown that her mood ring explodes. If a female breadwinner tried on a mood ring, would it explode?

‘Female breadwinner’ describes the newest category of American wife. But despite her increasing presence in today’s society, she remains largely misunderstood by her mate and by society as a whole. The latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau describe that 40 percent of working women are the primary breadwinners in the household. Having several years’ experience as the primary breadwinner in my own marriage, I recognize that marriages containing a female breadwinner have unique challenges and obstacles that couples having a more traditional arrangement simply don’t encounter. So how does this new breed of wife feel about her seemingly uncustomary circumstance?

First of all, I am not sure than any gift shop mood ring has the capability to depict the complexity of emotions experienced by women who are the primary breadwinners in their marriages. The circumstance of having to carry the load of domestic duties, child-care responsibilities, AND the financial burdens of the household can feel overwhelming to most women, myself included. So much of our experience is contingent upon our perception of how well we live up to age-old traditions of wifehood and motherhood. But at the same time, we must artfully balance a new sense of female empowerment that is becoming more commonplace in American society with each passing day. Some of us can feel as if we are wearing more hats than Queen Elizabeth II!

So what is the collective mood of female breadwinners today? Proud? That we have secured the top tier of the income hierarchy in our marriages. Resentful? That we can’t be ‘stay-at-home ‘moms or enjoy the good life of being a ‘kept woman’. Confused? Because we act competently as leaders in our careers all day but must assume a position of subservience to our husbands at home. Angry? That we are at times treated like pack mules- getting one responsibility after the next dumped on us with little or no reciprocity.

I think the female breadwinner of the millennium can feel any combination of these moods at any time in her marriage. I am not implying that lighter moods like pink for love, or yellow for happy, are not a reality for us as well. But I think as a society, we should begin to come to grips with the fact that the female breadwinner is here to stay.  And my guess is that by the close of this decade, she won’t even be an anomaly. We must begin to investigate how this new breed of woman thinks and feels, and what she needs from her mate to survive.  Men must learn how to best support this unique category of wife to help prevent her and her ring from exploding.  Because as the old saying goes, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”….

Dawn DeLavallade, M.D. is a practicing physician, wife, mother, and writer based in Orlando, Florida. Having experience as the female breadwinner in her own marriage, Dr. DeLavallade recognizes that this uncustomary circumstance can be a struggle for some couples. After conducting numerous interviews with female breadwinners, she has been inspired to write She Makes More-Inside the Minds of Female Breadwinners. Dr. DeLavallade’s passion is to help marriages containing a female breadwinner to survive and thrive!

 

 

 

 

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9 comments for “Guest Post: If Female Breadwinners Wore Mood Rings…

  1. November 29, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Well, I’m the female breadwinner in my house and I cannot begin to see myself in this article.

    “So what is the collective mood of female breadwinners today? Proud? That we have secured the top tier of the income hierarchy in our marriages. Resentful? That we can’t be ‘stay-at-home ‘moms or enjoy the good life of being a ‘kept woman’. Confused? Because we act competently as leaders in our careers all day but must assume a position of subservience to our husbands at home. Angry? That we are at times treated like pack mules- getting one responsibility after the next dumped on us with little or no reciprocity.”

    Ok. I guess I’m proud of my career, but not because I was in a race to beat my husband in the income hierarchy game. What weird a competition to even have. He’s glad I make more money, because that means a better lifestyle for the whole family. My pride is because of THAT, not because I could “beat” him. Jeez. And that second part – I don’t assume a position of subservience at home – where did that idea even come from? I don’t feel like I shoulder the work AND the house with no reciprocity – we’re a team, and he does more at home because I do more at work.

    I don’t doubt there are marriages out there that would prompt the moods you described above, but I honestly can’t imagine what it would feel like to actually BE in one of them (and I can’t imagine I’d stay very long if that was the case.) I agree female breadwinners are here to stay, and I’d urge those women to pick their husbands better than the above test case.

    • November 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Liz,

      Statistics show that women do approx.60 percent more housework and childcare than men, regardless of their working status. So marriages that are off balance aren’t that out of the norm. Lots of things factor in: traditional ideas, different standards, etc. The 1.5 career equation helps. http://innerteub.com/2012/11/26/the-1-5-career-marriage/

  2. November 29, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Why does the author’s bio describe this as an “uncustomary circumstance” when the whole point of her book is to showcase that it’s not uncustomary? 72% of women work. And only 4% of households fit the June Cleaver mold: male breadwinner, stay-at-home mom w/kids under 18 at home. There is an undercurrent of tradition thinking in this post. I don’t know that any woman I know thinks that being a “kept” woman is the good life. Just my two cents.

    • November 29, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      There is an undercurrent of traditional thinking. I think that undercurrent is more prevalent than many of us realize. I think from the author’s POV, yes there are many breadwinners, but in her circles, it wasn’t discussed. So it felt uncustomary – but it’s not.

  3. November 29, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    It’s funny that you equate all of this with a mood ring, because one of the biggest issues in discussions between my husband and me is that I want a new ring. It was supposed to be a 10th anniversary gift, but that date has now come and gone. Part of it is that I can’t decide exactly what I want (maybe because I can’t spare more than a few minutes at a time to think about it), but it’s mostly that there’s always something else to spend money on. And more often than not, that money’s not being spent on me. Somehow, I can’t get over myself and allow that purchase to be made. I’m not sure how to change it either. Maybe if I did have my mood ring explode, I’d finally find a way to get it done. :)

    • November 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Cheryl:

      Metaphors, metaphors. You deserve the ring!

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