Working Mom: Becoming the Primary Breadwinner
According to the New York Times article written in 2013 four out of ten American households with children under 18 now include a mother who is either the sole or primary earner for her family, according to Pew Research Center analysis of Census and polling data. Most of my close girlfriends make more or have gradually earned more than their significant others. As my husband Brandon, shared his perspective in his post on Tuesday (please check it out here) of being a work at home dad/full time pastor, that a special needs child requires a entree of patience with a side of compassion.
Having a stay at home dad as the primary caregiver is still very foreign in today’s society and places stigmas on the men in those roles. We have been conditioned from our parents and grandparents in the 1940/50s era where most moms stayed at home while dads were the primary breadwinners. Now it’s common to find both women and men working to combine incomes for household expenses. I try my best to not use the term stay at home dad because of the stigma of being Mr. Mom. I always say Brandon is a work at home dad. He does work and he does bring in income. Brandon just doesn’t have a traditional 9-5 job as he had in the past to help bring in some additional income besides pastoring. His primary focus is taking care of Maxwell and our amazing church family at Ebenezer AME Church Capeville, VA.
When we were recently faced with the recommendation from doctors of a trach or tracheostomy for Max for his severe tracheomalacia, which would require full time home care and a full time nurse (more details on Max’s care in another post), we made the decision for Brandon to pastor full time. Brandon has many purpose driven dreams and aspirations that God has placed on his heart, and I’m excited to see them manifest as he grows as a husband, dad, pastor, brother, uncle, friend, and community leader.
As for me, this mindset change has been most challenging because I experience mommy guilt every day. From missing doctor’s appointments, hospital stays, to not seeing him eat food, take a bottle/sippy cup, or even simply just putting him down to sleep, I wish I could just be present in each moment, but the reality is I can’t. I work shift work with no days off in between even working some weekends. I have been to maybe 3 of the 40-50 doctors appointments for Max since moving back to VA. One recent appointment I was able to attend the nurses and doctors automatically came to me with answers because of course I’m his mom. But the reality is I don’t know all the answers, I haven’t been at every doctors visit and I don’t know the outcome of this test and why we are at another specialist. I had to defer to Brandon and he answered up with no problems. I’m blessed and grateful for a husband, who is getting out of his comfort zone, to provide Maxwell with the best care along with loads of help from my parents, god parents, and sister. Being back in VA was the best decision we made for Max, although I terribly miss Charlotte and my old job and co-workers.
I’ve learned how to combat the mommy guilt by taking my 2-3hr daily commute to invest in myself by listening to audio books, re-watching Periscopes, and listening to podcasts. I was listening to Myleik’s, CEO of Curlbox, podcast interview with Farnoosh Torabi where she discussed her recent book “When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women”. I was curious so I downloaded it from audible and listened to it within a few days on my commute. All in all it was a easy read with great examples including her personal experience with her husband and their finances and how they plan for the future. Below are 4 rules that I loved from her book.
- Find your favorite position: Stay on top of the finances while allowing your partner to lead. In this chapter she discusses and breaks down the finances. She asks what will happen if you as the primary earner become disabled? Do we have disability insurance? Do we have a 529 plan for our children/future children? Have we taken out additional life insurance policies? Do we have a living will and trust? She breaks it down to even how accounts are set up and how much each person contributes to 401K and retirement plans. Brandon has always been in charge of our finances and has taken on more of a leadership role in allocating weekly spending, savings, and paying off our hospital bills and other debt. I like it because if I did it I would spend, spend, spend, and he holds me accountable.
- Don’t Settle for Mr. Mom: The math may conclude its best for him to quit his job to become the primary caregiver, but there’s far more to consider. I remember a time earlier in the year when a family member called Brandon “Mr. Mom” for being the primary caregiver for Max when he couldn’t attend daycare because of his g-tube. He was not a happy camper and snapped back. There is so much more to consider and letting go of the notion of coming home to a clean home, hot cooked meal, and washed, folded, and put away laundry isn’t always realistic. Which is why I love rule #3.
- Don’t Make His Life Too Easy: How Outsourcing and paying for help can backfire. In this chapter she discusses outsourcing someone to do laundry, deep clean house, and even delivering meals weekly to alleviate the domestic duties of your significant other. This would provide give you peace of mind and allow you and your family to have that time daily instead of worrying about those basic domestic duties. I really love this idea, but if you don’t have the budget to spend on these necessities then it tends to fall solely back on the woman to do which can be stressful. Contritely, outsourcing could backfire because some signficant others can and will get lazy and not even attempt to do basic domestic duties and it can cause unwarranted conflict in relationships.
- Remember to Breath. Women should pass on their resolve and integrity to the next generation of girls who dream of both the corner office and Mr. Right. Your relationship is worth it, your children are worth it, and you are worth it. I believe this is all true and she references Sheryl Sandburg of the book Lean In Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, we can have it all we just have to remember to breath and lean into our destiny but always remembering to give back to those coming behind us.
Being a working mom isn’t anything new for me (got a year in the game) its just peace of mind knowing Max is in the best care with dad to continue to be Super, Mighty, and Blessed!
Keep the Faith!