Who’s bringing home your bacon? Dual-income families forces us to redefine the way we describe income earners


“I can bring home the bacon, Fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man…’cause I’m a woman.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=jA4DR4vEgrs

Do you remember this 1980 Enjoli jingle that advertised a 24-hour woman’s fragrance? Has this become the new normal, wives becoming the family breadwinner?

It is certainly sparking continuous discussions. Over the past two weeks or so, local radio station KMOJ-FM discussed this very topic on one of the evening drive-time shows. The outcome proved to be loaded with unfair judgments and very strong opinions between the sexes, as well as couples that are embracing this shift and making it work.

This is an uneasy discussion for most, as our society is steeped in earning-power anticipation and specific household role traditions. This inevitable shift in earning potential leads to the “new age” question of who should make more money in the household, women or men.

This will undoubtedly continue to be up for debate as long as the economic conditions are forcing families into dual-income households just to make ends meet and unemployment percentages are above the average. The upward trend in earning power between the sexes can also be attributed to more women enrolling and earning college degrees, an increase of women executives and an increase in entrepreneurship. Even though the 2003 Census Bureau states that women make only 77.5 cents for every dollar men make, women make up approximately 46 percent of the total U.S. labor force.

Women will always have to contend with personal decisions around child rearing, the need for flexible scheduling and personal fulfillment, which may prolong the income disparities. But measuring the entire family/household contributions by the amount one deposits into the joint bank account is totally unreasonable and does not address the whole story.

The message Western society has instilled: Money is power, status, and control. The new message should communicate that self-worth and contribution can never equal salary. In my world, I certainly can recall the cliché, “It costs to be the boss,” a frequent quote of my aunt (rest in peace) each time she had to write the check, and she was responsible for writing many checks over the years. As a current solo provider and independent parent, this is not a discussion in my household.

Nevertheless, when I was married, the amount of money brought into the household and by whom was not the source of our money problems; it was more about how the money (or lack thereof) was spent, invested and saved and who decided this. This obviously led to priority discrepancies and common-goal distortions.

Change is never easy, and growing pains are expected. Moreover, changes and adjustment around money and male/female expectations are that much harder to swallow.

After listening to and reading both points of view, the households dealing with this phenomenon seem to be lacking basic human respect; but the many households that are embracing this trend are continuing to propel their families forward by any means necessary.

One major opportunity we all have is to alter the language we chose. You know, the choice words and phrases like breadwinner, out earner, sole provider, Mr. Mom, etc? Each of these terms suggests that someone must be inferior.

In order to confidently accept any financial and role shifts, keep your financial goals in the forefront, constantly communicate them, and let go of other’s (neighbors, parents, friends, societal) pre-determined male/female ideals. Life is not one size fits all, and neither are households.


Freelance writer, financial consultant, entrepreneur and mom, Tamela Saulsberry brings a combined 16 years of experience in business, finance, sales and coaching. She is delighted to receive your questions and feedback. She can be contacted at tamela@liveshero.com or 612-269-2341.