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Primary income earners?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

Just wondering how many other mamas out there are the primary breadwinner in their family (whether the other partner SAH's or earns less money, etc).


I make more money than DH, and likely will for all our careers, and I have mixed feelings about it and would like to hear from others.


For one, I'm proud of the hard work I've done to put me at this earning potential, I feel secure knowing that I can support DD on my own if needed (god forbid it won't ever be needed!), and I like being able to contribute to the family in a diversity of ways. I also like that hopefully when she's older and can understand, I'll be a good role model for DD.


On the other hand, I feel a little as if it gives me less flexibility in terms of hours of work, some career options, and FT vs PT because of giving up the pay. I also feel pressured (totally by myself) to bring in this level of income that I'm at and that stresses me because I would really love a significant job change in the next year or two, which might mean less pay (might mean the same or more). I would also LOVE to work PT but can't justify the pay drop. I sometimes wonder if I made less money than DH if it would be easier to do switch to PT until DD starts school.  I find it challenging to balance my own job satisfaction needs with my role as the primary income earner.


Anyone else in this situation? How do you/have you resolved any mixed feelings you might have?

post #2 of 25

DH's income is erratic since he's self-employed.  Some years he's made less, other years more.  I get all the health insurance through my job, so I really can't quit.  I know how you feel about the pressure to keep working.  I'm hoping to inquire about part-time, but that will depend more on my boss.   I would also like to change jobs at some point.

post #3 of 25

I have a masters and make more than DH who's self employed and working toward his MBA. I feel the same. I have to work full time in order to keep the benefits. My salary bought our house and pays for just about everything. If I were to stay home and he were to work outside the home, I think we'd have to wait a few years before he made what I make now. I have been in my current position for five years.


We are lucky though, that he is home with DD and we do not need to pay child care. I just wish I could take some time off too. I'm due with another in February and would love to stay home for a few months but I know we can't afford it.

post #4 of 25

hola.gif  us!  dh owned his own business when we met, and then when we had dd, we decided that he should sell it and stay home to care for her and our farm.  it's worked out pretty well in some ways, though.  the only resentment i have is over house cleaning and we're trying to work out a compromise with that. 

i'd love to sah.  the reason we really have to do it this was is because i have massive student loans.  however, the payment isn't too high, but if i keep working for 10 years, it will all get forgiven, and we should have our mortgage paid off by then too, so we're going to reevaluate the situation at that point in time, and i could go pt and he find something pt, too. 

post #5 of 25

Us too. I work full time and dh works part time. But I'm ok with it, as I got to stay home until dd turned one year old, and now it's dh's turn to have time with dd (he works evenings, after I get home from work).


But our situation will likely change, dh is looking for a better payed job, and my mom will take over babysitting dd.

post #6 of 25

I make more than twice DP, it's been like this for more than half our marriage.  The only time he's made more is when he's had a 55+ hour (and for several months a 70 hour) work week.  I finally sat him down and said, get off the rat wheel, this is how much we need you to make, plus health insurance.  And now he's home an hour before I am and happy with his job, frankly that is what matters to me..  His check pays for a new car, our health insurance and extras.  It's all good. 


I never wanted to be SAH, so that really isn't an issue and since DP is very domestic, we don't have chore issues unless one of us is feeling particularly lazy.  ROTFLMAO.gif


We've looked at it all long term.  If something happened to DP, I could handle the bills without his income.  If something happened to me, DP would have to depend on outside help to survive.  He's been giving some thought to go back to school after I do.  I am all for it, even if it's just an associated in accounting to go with his years of experience.  

post #7 of 25

Here too.  However, it hasn't always been like this and won't always be.  Dh has always made more than me until he started back to school full time and started working part time.  His job doesn't pay much at all and right while he's interning, he can only work weekends.  But there's only a year of school left and he'll be back working full time and bringing in as much, if not more, than I am.


The only problem with it is I do feel a huge amount of pressure since I have to have this job.  Dh's required to have medical insurance so I can't change jobs until he's done with school.  And it is a huge responsibility to know that you alone (or mostly you) are responsible for provding for your family.  I think just the idea that I can't change jobs is stressful, to me.  Not that I really want to right now.

post #8 of 25

I do. My degree is much more marketable than DH's, so when the choice came for us to pay for childcare or have someone stay home with DS, the choice was easy. DH hated his job, I liked mine, and I made more. Now, DH is a SAHD trying to figure out "what's next" for him


I only wish we had more (or any) friends or coworkers as an example to look to to see what Mom working/Dad at home looks like! We're making it work, but support would be nice.

post #9 of 25

I make much more then DH but DH has much better health benefits then me.  I went to part time after dd was born as I was just really unhappy working full time.  I have thought about going back to full time now that DD is 2 but now we are expecting twins so I think part time will be a better fit for us for a while.  If DH did quit his job to be with the kids I'd have to go back full time just to get benefits.  Financially that would make the most sense but I know I'd be unhappy in that situation and probably get resentful.

post #10 of 25

I'm about to be in this situation. DH teaches at a community college and I will be licensed as a pharmacist within a couple of months and already have a position lined up (currently on baby leave and studying for the board exam). Originally our plan was for me to be the breadwinner and him to work part-time and care for the kid(s). But last year he made the jump from adjunct instructor to full-time appointment with benefits and doesn't want to give that up. My salary if I worked full-time would be close to three times his. Financially it would make more sense for him to quit/work part time if one of us were to do so, and we aren't really crazy about the idea of day care, but then also he loves his job. Our current plan is to juggle our schedules so one of us is always home, and I probably won't work 40 hours/week, but I will still make significantly more than he does. We'll work it out, but I have to admit that it bugs me that he doesn't get paid enough to support a frugal family of three in an area that is not that high COL. (I mean, what does that say about the value of his job as perceived by society?) If he made a little bit more I would at least have the option of quitting my job if I hated it and taking a bit of time to find another one, and it makes me insecure to think that even if I hate my job I'd be stuck with it. It's not even that I want to SAH, because I don't, but it would be kind of nice to have the option if I did decide I wanted it for a period of time, kwim? I know, though, a lot of people don't have the option to quit either temporarily or permanently, so I am trying not to whine too much about it. :) I am trying to focus on the options for the future that my high salary will open up for us, rather than stressing about "what if I hate my job?" and hopefully the job will work out well for me. maybe I'll start a "just in case I need to quit" fund.

post #11 of 25

I make about 2x what DHs does, but it's a situation I'm comfortable with. I married him because he said he'd be happy to be a househusband and I knew I wanted to work. In the end it hasn't worked out for him to be a househusband, but I still get to work. We both work about 40 hours a week and no more, so I think that is great. I carry health insurance for the whole family right now because it's cheapest, but DH had his own for a long time. If I were to quit or become laid off or go part-time, he could carry the insurance for us all. For us, I know if I really, really, really wanted to, we could make it on just DH's income or just my income. Plenty of people do. We would just live very differently than we do now. If one of us lost our jobs, I have an idea of the immediate changes we would make. I really value having my "own" money and contributing so substantially to our collective pot. I feel like it gives me a LOT of options, rather than fewer.


Can I ask why you feel constrained by making  more money than you would be making less? Realistically, this does give you more options, rather than less, doesn't it? If you really want to work part-time, what can you do to make that happen? What are your health care options? What are DH's long-term plans? How much do you really need? What can you save now while you're working full-time? Mortgage situation? It just seems to me that you should have more options because you make more money, and not less. Would a change in your perspective help?


post #12 of 25

I don't feel constrained by making a good income so much as I feel constrained by the fact that my husband doesn't make very much and yet is going to continue to work full-time. We would have to significantly scale back our already modest standard of living to make it on just his income, and that makes me feel like I HAVE to work even if I end up hating my job and wishing I could stay home with my baby, whereas if the tables were turned he would not have to work if he didn't like his job and I were working. And if I lost my job, he couldn't support both of us for more than a short time. We have never subsisted on just his income; I worked a little part-time while I was in school and had some loan money. Working part-time is probably an option I am going to take, though, and if possible we're going to shuffle around our schedules to barely need childcare. That makes me feel, frankly, a lot better! My strategy right now is to keep my eyes on the prize--figure out what our long-term goals are and how we can work towards them as quickly as possible, and eventually I would like to find a job I really love, which might not be this job. Maybe once I get done having babies.


Basically, I'm just whining. Realistically I am loads better off than I could be. *sheepish*


I know you were responding to the OP, EllienC. Don't know if this reasoning is helpful for her.

Edited by erigeron - 7/19/11 at 4:33pm
post #13 of 25

I completely understand the OP, but I am not the primary income earner.  DH makes about $10,000 more then me and there will probably be a bigger gap in the coming years.  I completely feel that if I wanted to stay home or work part time that I could.  There is no pressure on me to bring in money.  I work because it helps financially and I like it, not because I feel I have to.

post #14 of 25
Originally Posted by erigeron View Post

I don't feel constrained by making a good income so much as I feel constrained by the fact that my husband doesn't make very much and yet is going to continue to work full-time....


I know you were responding to the OP, EllienC. Don't know if this reasoning is helpful for her.

 Good point. Thanks for your post.

post #15 of 25
Thread Starter 

OP here. Thanks for all your replies. I like knowing I'm not the only one!


I guess, if I think deeply about it, part of the pressure I feel to keep working full-time is not necessarily related to being the primary income earner but because our joint financial goals for the medium-term kind of depend on a certain level of income at this point. Plus, we are TTC#2 and I need to be working full-time if I want the year mat leave with the full top-up pay, which I do. And not liking my job right now doesn't help. And yeah, like the PP said, knowing that we couldn't survive for long on just DH's income, if I became unable to work, does feel a bit constraining.


I'm kind of an impatient person, so even if we could work out a plan for me to work part-time in a number of years, I would still feel a bit frustrated that it couldn't happen now!

post #16 of 25

MamaColleen I hear what you're saying!


Before being pregnant DH and I earned about the same amount.  Once we had our baby we decided that the most important thing was for our son to have his mama around as much as possible.  So...that meant I'd have to work PT and make less money.  That means we can't afford a house, but we're ok w/ that.  Our primary goals are the family's health and our son's education, and w/ me working PT for a number of years our combined salary can help us achieve those goals.  I recently got a raise so it's strange knowing that

if I WERE working FT I'd be making more than DH, and we could afford a mortgage, more vacations, etc.  So it's tempting to work FT!! I'm a planner, too, so it's hard for me to just focus on the present, but I have to be believe we'll be financially ok in the future too, even if I decided to switch jobs and earn less (which I often think of).


Btw, I *have* to work PT in order to keep us afloat, too.  It's nice to feel accomplished in my job, but taking care of our son is a hard job yet so rewarding too!


If you can swing PT at a job that you liked, and it made financial sense, sounds like that might be ideal for you!

It doesn't hurt to ask your current employer.  I flat out told my boss when the baby came I wanted to work part-time and he is completely understanding (he has three kids of his own

and his wife is a SAHM).  I'm fortunate in that he values my work and is willing to accommodate me.

If you have savings maybe not working for a few months while you find a better job might be a possibility.  It's risky but could make you happier in the long run.

post #17 of 25

I'm the primary income earner in my household and have been for the past 3.5 years.  DH is a SAHD and is finishing his master's degree.  Once he's finished, his salary will eventually be double mine (yippee!) but for the forseeable future, I am the only source of income.


We've been quite lucky in that I have created a successful career as a contractor/consultant, so I have a very flexible schedule.  I don't feel like I've missed anything and lately I've been making more than our combined salary before DS came along.  It took a long time to carve out this niche for myself, and I like it.  In fact, we're going to TTC a second baby in December (or adopt- we're still on the fence) and I'll probably keep my current contracts.  DH will return to work eventually, but for now we're not too worried about the details.

post #18 of 25

Well, now we all know why men used to come home and drink after a long day at work.  It's stressful.   Though I'm glad we're in our position.  I know if I was the one staying home I'd be the one spending the money.  He literally spends nothing except for the new Madden game... every year... wow 60 bucks a year big spender.  I on the other hand need to hide my wallet.  


He does bring in some money with his disability and if covers more than half the mortgage.  He's a terrible house keeper though... TERRIBLE!  I don't fight with him about it because I've learned to let go.  I don't weigh my life by who does what and who does more.  It's not worth it.  I know that if I specifically ask for something to be accomplished it will be.  Could I survive without him... I hope not.  I like him to much.   Can he be a lazy turd... no more than me.  And I realize both of us need to outline our expectations again every once in awhile. 

post #19 of 25

I have been the primary breadwinner for as long as I've been with dh.  It will likely always be this way.  There are times when I wish our roles were reversed, but for the most part I'm happy this way.  I like to work and my personality is ambitious.  I feel very fortunate that I've found a job with a good career path, excellent benefits and salary and I enjoy the work and my co-workers.  I'm sure if that weren't the case it would be a lot harder.  We're also lucky because my dh is very good with the kids; I'm happy that they have this time with him (he's been either sah or working an opposite schedule from me their whole life).  I think it is harder on my dh that he is not the Provider than it is on anyone else.  He does get depressed about that from time to time.

post #20 of 25

I make slightly more than DH but I get benefits and the summers off so it works in our favour right now.  He's finishing up a post doc and hoping that will lead to a decent wage increase.  I always wanted to be a SAHM but now that I'm 7 months in there is no way I can do this full-time so I'm heading back to work in January full-time.  Hopefully once he gets a better job I can just work part-time and we can share chidcare since his field is usually pretty flexible with hours.

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