The topic of who’s the breadwinner in the house, husband or wife, is one that can be a non-issue for some couples, or one that’s set by pre-defined expectations. Even more, it can be a controversial topic which elicits strong emotional opinions. A recent conversation on this subject got me thinking about about a situation that a friend of mine had previously shared with me.
For starters, you should know that both my friend and his wife are working professionals in their 30’s. They have a young child, but both husband and wife work full time. The kid is cared for by a nanny.
In their careers, both husband and wife have achieved some success, and are both at equivalent levels with their respective employers. They both make comparable salaries to one another; he hasn’t given me specifics (not my business), but that much I know in general. One additional thing about them: they are prodigious savers that have done well for themselves through hard work and a disciplined approach to plowing away money into long-term savings.
Anyway, he had an opportunity to take a job overseas, which he said would have given him a 50% increase in compensation, considering salary and a housing stipend. He didn’t get into details, but did indicate that it would be a good career move. Additionally, it would be an opportunity for them to do something pretty cool, and expose their child to another culture. It was intriguing to both of them.
The big issue, however, was that moving for his job meant that there would be no job for her. For him, that was a problem.
The scenarios, from a financial perspective, were this:
- They stay in their current roles, and keep 100% of their current level of income; or
- They move abroad, and keep 75% of their current level of income
As I mentioned, this was an issue to him. Even with his wife not working and saving on daycare expenses, they would still make less money. Thus, less savings. The goal of financial freedom would get harder and take more time. He wanted to go with option #1.
I asked him what his wife thought. She was game for option #2, where he worked and she didn’t. To her, the opportunity to have less money, but have a chance to stay at home with the child and enjoy a new adventure, was more appealing.
I then asked him how she would feel if he stayed home with the child, and she took an international opportunity. In other words, if the roles were reversed, what would she think?
He instantly said that she would obviously see that differently.
He elaborated by saying that even though the concept is the same, it’s just different when it’s the woman being the provider vs. the man being the provider. In other words, his wife would be OK with them having less money if he worked and she stayed home, but not if she worked while he stayed home. He thinks that she would respect him less.
Again, he personally would rather have her work full-time to bring in more money to the household, versus staying home and cutting their savings. He feels that he’s not being selfish that way, as they are both equally responsible for taking care of each other, and it’s a joint decision on who – husband or wife – stays home. That is, if one of them even does. To that point, he wouldn’t want to stay home even if given the opportunity.
Ultimately, he didn’t take the job.
Having shared this, I ask you the following questions:
- Do you think he was being a selfish husband, not being happy about taking on the role as sole breadwinner while being totally fine with his wife staying at home?
- Do you think his wife was being selfish by having a double standard about it being OK for her to stay home, but not for him if she had a similar opportunity?
- Or, do they each have valid points?
This article was selected as an Editor’s Pick in the Carnival of Money Stories at Live Real, Now