3 Moms Reveal What It's Really Like to Be the Family Breadwinner

Updated 04/25/18

When it comes to modern parenting, there are no rules, roles, or pants (metaphorically speaking) to fit into. According to a recent study, moms make up 40% of the primary providers in households with children. That's a major jump since the year 1960 when just 11% of households were led by moms who were breadwinners. These numbers include both married mothers who have a higher income than their spouses as well as a large percentage of single moms who provide for their children on their own.

Gone are the days when a nuclear family was composed of a husband, wife, and two smiling children, as are the traditional roles that came along with them. So what does it actually mean to be a female breadwinner? Ahead, three couples open up about their modern relationships—how they approach parenting, stray from traditional gender norms, their family dynamics, and why it works for them.

Drea and Alex

Drea and Alex
Couresty of Andrea Duclos

Lifestyle and wellness blogger Drea and chef Alex have been married for the last five years, but they've spent nearly a decade in each other's lives. Since having a daughter seven years ago, Drea's business has grown so much so that she has taken on the role of the family breadwinner while Alex is spending time away from work so the family can travel together. Here's how they navigate their converging gender and parenting roles.

On Dividing Parenting Tasks

Drea: Everything is pretty equal around here. We both make it a point to not only parent her but also educate and nurture her. We both cook for her, though Alex does more of the cooking now that he's not working—he is a chef, after all, so it only makes sense. We take turns getting her ready for bed and doing all the small daily things that need to be done. We both homeschool her, but he's stepped up to do it more in this time too. It's been nice to worry less about it.

On Straying From Traditional Gender Norms

Drea: I'm still a mom through and through. I get to wake up to my kid's sweet voice every morning and kiss her goodnight every night. I'm really lucky. I wash her hair, cut her toenails, floss her, and do all the needed stuff to make sure she's thriving in our world. I get to do this and work right at home, with her—and my husband—there.

Alex: I guess my role is totally different than the traditional. I cook, I clean, I do the laundry (and fold it!), and I think I actually do a damn good job at it. The truth is I do a lot of this stuff even when I'm working full time. It's all about supporting the team. If both partners are supporting the team in some way, it's all good. It really bothers me to see partners so locked in traditional roles in these times, especially because most partners are both working. Why should it still be up to only one person to cook for the other, for example?

I feel like partners have so much more potential than societal roles allow them. Break the mold, man. 

Family
Hannah Mayo Photography

On Relationship Dynamics

Drea: Neither of us have never been huge spenders or shoppers. So whether he has a paycheck coming in or not, we both always come to each other about a purchase we might make, even if it's something simple like a T-shirt. We aim to be more and more minimalistic every day, so whether one or both of us have a paycheck coming in, we look to each other to spend less and save and adventure more.

Alex: There can be a different vibe sometimes. For instance, when one partner is super busy with work, the other really has to support and let his/her partner do what they need to do. Sometimes it can be nice to take the backseat. Taking this time off has really taught me to appreciate that.

On Being the Breadwinner

Drea: Honestly, it's both cool and extremely nerve-wracking. While I know I've saved up enough to give us a pretty good security net, I still always have the slight underlying anxiety that I somehow won't be able to provide… I remind myself to breathe in and out and know that everything will be okay. But all in all, it's pretty empowering and cool. I remember when I first became a single mom and first made my blog, I was always so tight on money, saving every penny, hardly ever splurging on anything, but now not only do I have enough to pay my daily expenses, but I can always provide for my whole family with my job.

It feels good.

Sarah and Kelly

Max Wanger

She's a private chef and the founder of her own startup, Lady & Larder, a handcrafted cheese and cured meat board delivery and catering company. He's the community manager of a luxury residential building in Santa Monica, California. Sarah and Kelly have been married for five years and welcomed a baby boy named Maverick into their lives a little over one year ago. Since having Maverick, Sarah has gone back to work both at her blossoming company and as a private chef, allowing her to continue her role as the family breadwinner.

Here's how their growing family makes it work.

On Diving Parenting Tasks

Sarah: It's pretty evenly divided; however, we don't map it out that way—we just jump in and support where and when it's needed—parenting is 100% a team sport in our household. Kelly works a pretty standard Monday-through-Friday job, and I'm all over the board, usually working six to seven days a week. Kelly is much better at handling middle-of-the-night diaper changes, and he also wakes up with Maverick and makes breakfast, and then I take over when he goes to work, and we have playtime and morning nap before our nanny arrives late morning.

I work from my home office until the afternoon, and then I depart for my evening chef job. Kelly comes home in the evening and handles bath, dinner, pre-bed tasks with the nanny, and I'm usually racing home to steal kisses and read stories before bedtime.

On Straying From Traditional Gender Norms

Sarah: I grew up with a stay-at-home mother who was the very best mother to us, and we were so lucky to have her at home caring for us while my dad worked crazy-long hours supporting our family. When I first had Maverick, I was overcome with guilt when I thought about going back to work and hiring a nanny to help care for him during the day. It took me a few months to realize that it's all relative. Whatever life and home atmosphere we create for Maverick will be "normal" to him. Once I moved past those initial feelings, we created our own normal, and we couldn't be happier with that decision.

Kelly: I genuinely enjoy playing an active role in Maverick's daily life—from diaper changing to feeding to bath time. I want to be as involved as possible.

Nicki Sebastian

On Relationship Dynamics

Sarah: I feel like the luckiest wife on the planet. Kelly has always supported me and my career 110% from day one. When I wanted to go back to school to get a second degree, he took over as the breadwinner and supported us. When I landed my dream private chef job, he let me take over as the breadwinner. When I took a maternity leave, he became the breadwinner again. As of recently, the roles have changed back once again. We view each other's successes as our own successes, and we continue to write our own rules, which has only made our relationship stronger.

Kelly: In the past 10 years, we've taken turns being the breadwinner, and we support each other in reaching those goals and accomplishments wholeheartedly. This mutual support for each other has continued to strengthen our relationship over the years. We push each other to be better both professionally and personally in our family life. I couldn't be prouder of Sarah. 

On Being the Breadwinner

Sarah: I still pinch myself daily that I get to wake up and do what I love. It fills me with so much joy to know that Maverick will grow up witnessing this firsthand and know that he, too, can dream big and shoot for the moon.

Natalie and Itamar

Beckley

Based in Dallas, Texas, Natalie and Ita have been married for six years and support their 6-month-old daughter, Mila Shai, together. Natalie is a sales executive and the face behind the lifestyle blog The Fashion Hour, and Ita is a soccer agent who started his own business, Total Football Soccer Agency. While Ita grows his business, Natalie has taken on the role of the family breadwinner. Here's a look at their modern family.

On Dividing Parenting Tasks

NatalieAt this point in Mila's life, we're both doing everything. We both change diapers and both spend quality time playing with her; we love giving her baths. I've been exclusively breastfeeding though, so I'm the one feeding her 95% of the time—Ita will give her a bottle when I'm at work, but I always come home at lunchtime to feed her. We decided on day two of becoming parents that it was best for me to get up with her every night and Ita to sleep. After all, there wasn't much Ita could do in the night, and I'd rather have him fully rested to help the next day.

On Straying From Traditional Gender Roles

Natalie: In today's society, it's becoming more and more common for mothers to have careers. At this point in time, my husband and I are doing everything ourselves—no daycare, no babysitter—so I feel that we both share those parenting responsibilities. I'm working two full-time jobs—three if you count being a mom!—so there are days where I'm in the office for several hours, out running meetings, or glued to my laptop trying to meet deadlines. This is where I feel so lucky to have a partner who's such a hands-on dad and is always willing to take care of Mila whenever I might have something come up.

I do the same for him as much as I can. 

Itamar: Yes, I do take care of the baby, feed her, change diapers, and spend a lot of quality time with her. I also do dishes, laundry, and other things around the house, but I feel fortunate that we're both pursuing careers we love and enjoy, and still have the time and ability to do all that.

Beckley

On Relationship Dynamics

Natalie: We view our relationship as true equals. Have there been moments where I didn't want to have that responsibility and wanted to quit my sales job to pursue my own business? Yes, but the great thing about our relationship is my husband has always been supportive of that decision should I ever make it. At the end of the day, we're both each other's biggest cheerleaders and do everything we can to support each other in achieving our goals. Breadwinner or not, our main focus is raising our daughter in a happy home while pursuing careers we're proud of.

Itamar: I'm a bit more of the risk taker between us, and from day one, I went after a career that was an unknown. She gave me the freedom and push to go do what I love most, my passion, which is being in the business of soccer, and I'm thankful for that. We push each other, we set goals together, and that's great. More than anything, now as new parents, we truly enjoy spending quality time with Mila!

On Being the Breadwinner

Natalie: My husband and I have approached life together as true equals from the beginning. For me, it was a no-brainer, and I 100% supported his decision to pursue this dream because I knew how much it meant to him, and I knew he'd do the same for me. While at times I do feel the pressure of being the breadwinner, I think it weighs more heavily on my husband than it does on me. He has achieved so much since starting his soccer agency, and it continues to grow and open new opportunities. We're both working extremely hard at both of our careers, and we love what we do.

I know if I wanted to quit my sales job and pursue blogging full-time, he would support me in a heartbeat. This is just the stage we're at right now, and who knows where we may be in five years?

The consensus is clear—no matter who earns the money, modern relationships are all about equality and true partnership. When you have someone who supports your ambitions and passions, all the rest seems to fall into place.

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