Women’s roles as the primary breadwinners in many households has created a whole new list of myths that is damaging to women’s equality and to families. It’s time to set the record straight.
According to a May 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, “a record 40 percent of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.” As usual, the media, politicians and individuals took and ran with these stats, leading to a whole slew of simply nonfactual ideas about what that means for women, families and men. It’s time to bust those myths.
1. Women are richer than men
Women are not richer than men. In what can only be described as a cheap ploy to sell magazines, Time published a magazine on March 26, 2012, stating on the cover that women were the richer sex.
First, 40 percent isn’t even half of the workforce. But more insidiously, such comments belie the reality that women still make only 70 percent of what their male counterparts do. Being the only parent in the house or making more than your husband who has a different job isn’t the same thing as equal pay for equal work. This dangerous and inaccurate assumption about the stats endangers women’s work equality.
2. Women who work are harming their children
Study after study has been done that proves children aren’t being harmed by having mothers who don’t stay home. There are far too many to cite here, so head over to ThinkProgress for all the data. But basically, studies not only find there are no significant differences in school performance, psychosomatic symptoms, closeness to their mothers, intelligence, language, social skills or attachment between children with mothers who work and those who don’t. In fact, a 2010 review of 50 years of research on the subject showed that toddlers with working moms grew up having fewer issues with depression or anxiety.
3. Men who aren’t the primary breadwinners are useless
When women suddenly become the primary breadwinners, there’s a tendency uncovered by Dr. Rebecca Meisenbach’s research for these women to think of their husbands’ domestic contributions negatively. Says Meisenbach, “By highlighting stories of how men have to be told or asked to do specific chores in the home, these female breadwinners are making sure they still fit gender boundaries of a wife as someone who manages the home and children.” Many of the women used phrases akin to “you know how men are” to explain the disconnect.
The problem with this is that you’re forcibly and unfairly gendering men out of the role of caregiver, conversely maintaining the genderist notion that men can and should be “in charge” of the finances. None of this is based in any factually inherent skill set between genders — in essence, you’re perpetuating the myth of inequality in both camps.
4. Women wish they didn’t have to work
Women get just as much enjoyment out of their accomplishments as men do. For some women, this may be related to family, but some of us also want to be successful in our careers. In the Orange Line Career’s study of college-educated women, it found that 75 percent liked and wanted to work. Only three people (less than 1 percent) said they specifically did not.
Women’s ambitions are just as high as men’s. The question is whether that ambition lies in employment, hobbies or being a stay-at-home mom.
5. Women who make more than men will end up lonely
Many single women who make a lot of money do feel pressure and sometimes suffer dating consequences when it comes to paycheck inequity. But the comments in an article on the subject, many of them from men, are too important not to share. The reality is, it seems that some men do find it intimidating, others just don’t care or would only worry about the lifestyle incompatibility, and still others have found themselves finding women who are financially independent more attractive.
To say that “no men will date or marry women who out-earn them” is in itself gender bias and really doesn’t give much credit to the intelligence of our male counterparts. A lot of men are much more forward-thinking (and less “macho”) than we’re giving them credit for.
What does this trend really mean?
There’s no real way to know. It could mean that opinions among both genders about women being the providers are changing. It may have to do with the number of single mothers out there (who are automatically the breadwinners), or it could have to do with the recent recession changing the game in many households. And much as it did in WWII, once women broke the barrier, everyone realized it wasn’t that big a deal. It will be years before we can really analyze it.
But the fact remains that women earning not just more than their husbands but as much as the men who do the same job benefits U.S. families. It ensures there’s another source of much-needed income for everyone.
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