Is it Ever a Good Idea for the Wife to be the Major Breadwinner or Sole Breadwinner?

Posted on October 29, 2012 by


My husband and I debated that question early in our marriage, way before we had children.  It seems to make plenty of sense on paper, right?  If the wife has a greater earning potential, then why not let her work full time and have the husband stay home and take care of the children and the housework

In our culture – we are taught that men and women are “equal” and that their roles in marriage are reversible and interchangeable.  We are taught to divide everything 50/50 and that we each give the same things and need the same things and we should share the work load half and half and that it doesn’t matter who stays home or who works.  We are taught that men and women are basically the same and have the same emotional and spiritual needs.

I am personally aware of multiple couples who have had the wife work and the husband stay home and I have not seen good results with this scenario at all

MEN AND WOMEN ARE NOT THE SAME EMOTIONALLY OR SPIRITUALLY

God made women physically, emotionally and spiritually to be more oriented towards home, husband and children.  He made men to be more oriented towards career.  When men stay home, they don’t tend to do much cleaning, cooking, housework, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.  That stuff if often not very central on their radar.  Men are made to be great fathers – but they are not good mothers.  Women are made to be great mothers, but they are not good fathers.

Women can generally handle being in financial “debt” to their husband.  But men often cannot handle being financially indebted to their wife.  Bob Grant says that men are at their best when they are giving, and women are at their best when they are receiving.  Women will tend to RESENT when they have to give a lot more than their husband does.  And men tend to feel EMASCULATED when they are dependent on their wife.  There are situations with lost jobs or medical issues where it may be unavoidable for the husband to be home and the wife to be the sole or primary source of income.  But it is not a good goal to shoot for, in my view.

In fact, it can be a strain on the relationship emotionally and spiritually just to have the wife be the major breadwinner – even if the husband is still working.  It was for us.  This is happening more and more as women move into professional careers and become lawyers, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, doctors, scientists, professors, engineers, etc.

I was the major bread winner in our marriage for the first 15.5 years.  Even when I started working 20 hours per week after our children were born, pharmacists salaries had jumped so much because there was a shortage in retail pharmacy that I was still making significantly more than my husband.  There may be couples who can handle this situation.  And if the Spirit of God is involved, I do think it is possible.

But there are major temptations for the WIFE if she is the main bread winner and it is MUCH WORSE if she is the only bread winner:

  • she will be tempted to become PRIDEFUL about her earning power and contribution financially
  • she will be tempted to RESENT her husband because in 80% of cases, the wife STILL does almost all of the housework even if she and her husband are both working full time AND the wife is also the primary care giver for the children usually every moment when she is home.  She will feel like she is contributing VASTLY more time, effort and resources to the family than her husband.  Resentment kills relationships.  A woman cannot resent her husband AND respect him.  It is impossible.  When a husband is the primary or sole bread winner – that adds some automatic respect for him in her mind.
  • she may begin to doubt that her man loves her for who she is and may feel that he is only there for the money.  She begins to feel insecure in her husband’s love.
  • she loses respect because she believes she is more competent than he is – potentially.  That is not a good recipe for marriage.  The husband MUST have respect and cooperation with his leadership, the wife MUST have love and selfless leadership.
  • she will feel that she has more right to control the finances and maybe also other areas of the marriage  since she is earning the majority of the income.  She will have the tendency to look at it as “her” money more than “their” money and to feel that she deserves to decide how it is spent.  It may be more difficult for a wife to submit biblically to her husband’s leadership when she is providing the income.

There are also major temptations for the HUSBAND if he stays home and his wife earns the paycheck, or if she is the main bread winner.  But the temptations and pitfalls are MUCH, MUCH worse when the husband doesn’t work at all and completely depends on his wife for income:

  • men who stay home as stay-at-home dads are MUCH more likely to have heart attacks and to suffer from major depression.  God wired men to be career oriented, to have an identity based on work.  A man who doesn’t have a career or job can often sink into a very deep depression and have a lot of mental stress from feeling useless that can be very adverse to his health.
  • men who stay home or earn significantly less money than their wives tend to feel emasculated to some degree and may lose confidence in their leadership.  They may not feel as worthy of respect because they aren’t paying the bills.
  • men tend to show love by providing financially – a man who is not contributing “his share” in his mind may feel like a failure as a husband and as a man.

WHAT IS A GIRL TO DO?

I am not saying you shouldn’t go into certain careers.  But I do want you to talk with women who have chosen the path you are considering and see what reality is for them!  Look to see where the path you want to take actually leads.  Our culture is very deceiving and will sell us so many lies about how marriage “should” work and what will work.  Only God’s Word is dependable and strong enough to be a reliable foundation for building a marriage and family that will last!

Please be aware of the pitfalls.  And maybe be willing to use your income as savings until you have children.   Be sure your man is ok with the idea of you staying home once you have children if you want to do that.  Please don’t get yourself trapped into a high mortgage and car payments and student loans and then find that you really want to be home with your children and you can’t do it.

Some men resent their wives if their wives have lucrative careers and then want to quit when they look into their baby’s eyes.  It’s easy to get used to a huge, luxury house, fancy electronics, nice cars, expensive vacations and eating out at nice restaurants a few times per week.  Many new moms are willing to give up all of those luxuries to be home with their babies, but not all husbands are so willing to part with that high standard of living.

I would advise you to work through these issues with a godly marriage counselor or mentoring couple before you get married.  Discover God’s plan and design for marriage.  His way is the way that brings the most joy and peace.  The world’s way brings hatred, unforgiveness, resentment, anger, bitterness, pride and divorce.  Choose carefully, prayerfully and wisely!

Lord,

Please give each young woman wisdom to choose her career path according to Your best for her.  Help her to see with Your eyes to the consequences of each decision.  Help her to be able to have the choice later if she wants to be home that she could be.  Help her not be trapped into working full time and not be free to be home if she feels You are calling her to be home.  Give the future husbands of these women wisdom to seek Your face and to honor You in their decisions and build relationships and marriage only on Your design and Word by Your power!

Amen!

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