Does it Matter Who is the Primary Breadwinner?

by | Sep 17, 2021 | Marriage | 33 comments

Does it matter if the wife is the primary breadwinner?

We’re used to thinking of the man as being the primary breadwinner in the family. But does it matter if it’s the woman?

Increasingly among millennials the wife earns more than the husband. And the number of stay-at-home dads is increasing as well.

My husband is a pediatrician, and in our town all of the other pediatricians are women. In many cases, their husbands stay home with the kids because she’s making a lot more money and it just makes sense.

I also have several friends who are nurses and make a good salary where they are the ones who work and the dad stays at home.

Should this matter?

I don’t think so. I think each family should do what they want to do–and that’s what over 60% of you said in our survey of 20,000 women too!

At the same time, I think you should endeavour to make things work as a family the way you want them to work.

If she’s making more money because he’s pursuing his dream of music or of writing a novel or he can’t get motivated to look for a decent paying job, and so she has to work when she desperately wants to be home with the children–that’s an entirely different situation. Who stays home with the kids should be decided based on what makes the most sense not based on necessity because one person is lazy or unmotivated. 

I have also known women who work full-time but have the kids in daycare because he doesn’t care for them well if they’re at home.

Basically, my philosophy is that both people should work hard to help the family in the best way they can in a situation that they both decide works best. So whoever is home with the kids (if someone is) will likely do the bulk of the housework and grocery shopping and errands and planning, but both of you should still talk through emotional labor and mental load and ensure everyone does daily grind tasks and everyone has time off.

And check out our emotional labor and mental load series for more!

If you don’t want to do marriage on hard mode–then stop thinking “roles” and start thinking “team”

One of our findings from our survey of 20,000 women for The Great Sex Rescue was that ACTING OUT traditional gender roles wasn’t a problem–but BELIEVING YOU SHOULD was. If you believe that a husband should be the primary breadwinner and the wife should stay at home, then your marital satisfaction goes down. When we make decisions based on stereotypes rather than based on ourselves as individuals, things go haywire, as we explained:

Great Sex Rescue

From The Great Sex Rescue

Here’s an interesting finding from our survey: Women who do not believe traditional gender roles are moral imperatives feel more heard and seen in their marriages. In fact, women who act out the typical breadwinner-homemaker dynamic also feel more seen if they see it as a choice and not a God-given role.

Does this mean it’s wrong to have a breadwinner and a stay-at- home spouse? Nope. All three of us writing this book specifically chose careers that would allow us to be home with our kids. But when we unquestioningly buy into gender roles, we create a strange dynamic in marriage in which we view each other as categories rather than as people. We are all made with unique strengths, giftings, and callings, and these do not always fit with traditional gender roles. When a couple makes decisions based on who God created them to be versus who gender roles say they should be, it allows them to live in God’s plan for their lives while feeling known and valued. Trying to live up to gender roles can mean that we’re not fully ourselves; we’re wearing a mask, and sometimes that mask doesn’t fit.

Intimate sex requires that you feel as if your spouse values you not just for what you can give them but for who you are. Sex can’t be about saying, “I want you,” if who you are is being covered up by an expectation of who you should be. In our focus groups, women consistently reported that granting themselves and their husbands permission to live outside of traditional gender roles revitalized their marriages—and their sex lives.

Think of yourself as a team that needs to provide for the family in all ways–financially, emotionally, with caretaking–and then allocate the tasks as makes best sense for you as a couple.

That’s doing marriage on easy mode.

This month, we’re talking about how couples often do marriage on hard mode–they make marriage harder than it needs to be. And this is one way that we do this: by expecting that we’re somehow doing marriage and family “wrong” if we don’t live up to traditional gender roles.

So many of our Christian resources tell women that men have a deep emotional need to provide–adding additional burdens to women who are the primary breadwinner.

Love & Respect and For Women Only, for instance, both talk about the deep emotional need that men feel to be the providers, and neither helps women deal with the very common situation where a man is lazy and refuses to work.

Here’s how Emerson Eggerichs describes men’s emotional need to work and provide:

How deeply men value their inborn desire to work and achieve is graphically illustrated in two friends of mine who faced the threat of cancer. Both men calmly faced death and accepted what they thought would be their end. Through all the chemotherapy and accompanying problems, their optimism and faith remained strong. In the end, both men survived, but both still suffered terribly from a common foe. One of the men chose to sell his company to allow himself to serve God with whatever time he had left. However, for a period of time after the sale, he found he did not know who he was without his work. He told me, “I was never depressed when dealing with cancer and possibly dying, but when I left my work, which was my identity, I went into a depression that was like nothing I had ever experienced before.”

The other man suffered horribly and was at death’s door, but somehow he, too, recovered. He returned to work, and life was wonderful, but then he lost his job. He came to see me, depressed and defeated. He told me that being out of work was harder than dying. Ironically, both of these men were more deeply affected by losing their careers than they were with facing death due to cancer.

Emerson Eggerichs

Love & Respect

What if we’re actually perpetuating emotionally unhealthy approaches to life?

It is important to want to work. Everyone should want to contribute to the family. Everyone should want to be useful. God, after all, has plans for things for us to do and accomplish that he foreordained even before the creation of the world (Ephesians 2:10). We all have a purpose.

But ultimately that purpose is about our calling in Christ. Our ultimate identity is in Christ.

Eggerichs is using this illustration to show how deeply men feel the need to provide–but this is not an example of an emotionally healthy attitude towards the deep blessing of life and calling that Christ has given us.

I’m not saying that retirement or losing one’s job is easy, but we should always see it in relation to God’s ultimate calling on our life to make a difference for Him in whatever situation He places us. By saying that losing your job is worse than death, Eggerichs is showing that he doesn’t understand what it means to live a life with Jesus as the centre.

Yes, we all need to work (women too!). We all need to make sure the family is cared for. Yes, in most families, that will involve the husband working more than the wife or earning more, because she is the one bearing the children and nursing, and often she wants to be home with the children.

But ultimately the reason we work is so that we can fulfill God’s purposes for us on earth, not so that work will fill an empty hole in our identity.

By telling women that men have an emotional need to provide, then women who are primary breadwinners bear two extra burdens

She’s already working hard, but now she learns she must do it in a way that does not make him feel emasculated, since her earning more is impinging on his emotional need. She must go out of her way to let him feel that he is still the main one leading the family (something that male breadwinners do not have to do). She must take on typical feminine roles at home (including doing the housework) so that he doesn’t feel emasculated. Men who work full-time do not feel as if they have to take on extra burdens at home, but most women do.

This leaves women exhausted, as The Atlantic described it:

Breadwinning wives also don’t get parity in how household chores are divvied up. As wives’ economic dependence on their husbands increases, women tend to take on more housework. But the more economically dependent men are on their wives, the less housework they do. Even women with unemployed husbands spend considerably more time on household chores than their spouses. In other words, women’s success in the workplace is penalized at home.

Aliya Hamid Rao

Even Breadwinning Wives Don’t Get Equality at Home, The Atlantic

By telling men that their primary role is to earn money, then when they don’t earn as much, they can feel lost at sea

If a guy feels like he’s less of a man if his wife makes most of the money, that isn’t going to help the family.

Maybe instead of teaching men and women how to make a man feel manly even if he’s not earning all the money, we should teach something emotionally healthy instead:

Let’s all be responsible for the family. Let’s all use our unique giftings, talents, skills and desires to provide for our family in the way that works best for us as a family. Let’s work as a team. Let’s remember that our ultimate identity is in Christ, not in what we do. Let’s not feel guilty for not fitting a mold. 

That’s one way to stop doing marriage on hard mode.

Why it shouldn't matter if the wife is the primary breadwinner!

Who is the primary breadwinner in your home? Do you think it matters? What’s the best way to navigate this? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Jo R

    After completely dismissing out of hand a wife’s emotional needs—NEEDS, Emerson, not just desires like you called them in your asinine subtitle—he then turns around and complains about wives needing to treat their husbands’ emotional needs with kid gloves, with complete and total understanding and—in Keith’s word in the podcast the other week—DEFERENCE???

    Who does this guy think he is????

    (Sorry, couldn’t even finish reading the blog post before I had to post this!)

    • Anon

      I’m really hoping these guys were single. Because if not, they’re basically telling their wives ‘I’d far rather you were widowed and my kids were growing up without a father than that I have the inconvenience and annoyance of job hunting.’ Selfish or what?!!!

      • Lisa M

        Yes! Eggerichs cannot seem to tell the difference between cultural norms and how God wants us to live. Cultural norms do tend to tell men, especially in previous generations, that their worth was entirely based on their income, career, and attractiveness of their wife. But we are not too succumb to these worldly standards! SMH.

  2. Jane Eyre

    I do not have many bad things to say about American capitalism, but have this criticism: our system makes being unemployed one of the worst things that can happen to you. Culturally, employers do NOT want to hire the unemployed; they want to hire people who have a job and who have consistently had jobs. I have been asked to explain resume gaps from ten years – ten years! – ago. The men EE interviews know this. They likely have rejected qualified candidates who were unemployed at the time or had been unemployed.

    In that world, the sole breadwinner model can be enormously stressful for both parties. If he loses his job and she’s been at home for ten years, both may be unable to find work. People who are less stressed are those married to someone whose profession allows them to segue back into the workforce or who keep one foot in the door (contract work, part time work, starting their at home, not MLM, business.)

    • Elissa

      This may be the case for men, but might actually not be such a big deal for women (at least perhaps amid the current labor shortage), since our society currently prioritizes hiring women in the name of gender equality. For example, my mother-in-law is just entering the workforce after spending the last 35 years at home raising and homeschooling 14 children. She has pretty much no professional experience or resume that an employer would value, yet once she started looking for work she very quickly found a job that paid more than her husband’s. In fact, her (more qualified) husband, who has struggled with unemployment, applied for the same job not long before and didn’t even get an interview.

      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        The “mommy track” has actually been quite well documented for years–it does seem on average to be more difficult for women to find good jobs, especially if they took any time off to be with kids. Of course there may be differences in individual workplaces, like perhaps what your in-laws experienced, which I’m also sure is not a unique story. However I am really interested to see how the last two years changes the trends we’ve seen for decades, if they change at all.

      • Jo R

        I read a story years, no, DECADES, ago about a woman who’d been a SAHM for twenty years or more, then wanted to get a job after the last child was old enough.

        At the interview, for whatever position at whatever company in whatever field (sorry, just don’t remember those details), the man interviewing her asked her what skills she had that would help his company. After a moment of thought, she answered, “I got the meat and the vegetables on the table at the same time.”

        She got the job.

  3. S

    I love all of this and I will add… in my own experience, when you’re brought up believing that it is biblically wrong for women to work outside the home, and all we should do is raise kids, cook, and clean, then all motivation to get a career and to find yourself as a person gets thrown out of the window. That’s been very depressing and dehumanizing in my case. It later disables women from leaving abusive situations, even when they want to leave, they financially can’t and have zero experience in this area. It will also set them back if something were to happen to their husbands.

    On another note, when women don’t help carry any financial burden, then it all gets placed on the man. This can cause so much unnecessary stress for him. When it is a trapped situation, not by choice, if he doesn’t work the family will starve. That’s a lot to completely throw on his shoulders. It’s unfair when we expect men to take full responsibility to provide and just as much unfair to expect women to erase themselves as a person.

    I have much regret in my life. Much of it came from the unrealistic expectations on life I had in my upbringing. My parents wouldn’t have minded me going to college and getting a career, but when everything else told me that marriage for me was about being a stay at home wife, then what’s even the point to try to be anything else? My mom would literally criticize and gossip about other women in the church who HAD to work. She was SO set on traditional marriage. It gave her blind spots. But funny enough, it got so bad with them that she also is forced to work now. We were poor, lazy and negative as well, which also contributed to my lack of education and ambition. Then I got married young and had kids right away. I take responsibility for my own actions. I’m not sharing these things as excuses, but they did contribute in building my overall character, or lack of.

    Slowly, over the course of my life, thankfully I’ve been realizing that gender roles are not a black and white situation. One section of scripture that helped me was of the virtuous woman. She literally did everything in providing, and where were her kids during her time of buying and selling? By guess is being watched by others so she could be a breadwinner. How is this overlooked in the church? Probably because they like to cherry pick verses to say what they want them to say. I was in a bible study group, who just happened to be all ladies. They took the wives submit verse to say “let your husband make the final decision”, but we can give him our suggestions. (I was already over this train of thought since day one of my marriage. I have been the common sense and moral compass in my marriage, because of his lack of morals and lack of relationship with God), so I just asked them “what if he is unsaved” their answer “God can still work through him” so I asked “what if he asks you to do something against God, shouldn’t God be the one we ultimately follow?” They agreed, but were still set on mens leadership, no matter what, as long as it isn’t against Gods law. It astounds me. If God is our ultimate authority, then giving men this leadership role is just fake, for his ego. What else could it be there for? It doesn’t hurt anyone for both to follow God together, hand in hand, but I’ve seen how this “men in charge” mindset can hurt women and marriages.

    • Jo R

      I’m guessing Sapphira would not agree with the whole “follow your husband no matter what” teaching. Why isn’t that verse hammered on men the way other verses are used to pound women?

      Or the story of Abigail, whom Sheila brings up regularly?

      Of course, any lesson to the men based on those women would only be about what happens if you aren’t obedient to God, not that the wife might just possibly be as smart as the husband and as capable of contributing to the household decision-making. 🙄🙄🙄🙄

      • S

        I’m so glad that I found Sheila. Her posts have helped me evaluate and process things in my life. She is right about a lot. But back in the day I would have called her a feminist and a man hater. Haha. But now I see what she is saying and understand the hate others have against her. I’ve been there, and I thought the anger I had towards these things was righteous for God, but it’s most definitely not of His Spirit. I see empathy in Sheila. She noticed a need and is filling it. She is doing good by being a voice for hurting woman. This is her current calling and she is doing a wonderful job at it. She speaks with such grace and love. Reading from her has been so refreshing for someone who came from the background of “repent, you dirty, rotten sinner”. Which yes, if you are a dirty, rotten sinner, then you should repent. Of course. But being brought up that way, being told that your heart is wicked and untrustworthy as a child and your entire upbringing. No wonder I didn’t have the confidence to make anything of myself. Just saying. But to be fair on here, my parents were loving and caring. They also encouraged me. I heard both good and bad messages growing up. I think in some way the bad ones are the ones that will stick with you and beat you up inside.

      • S

        Yes, Jo R. And Deborah led an army and told men what to do! When I first heard of her in the church setting, it was said that God did that to shame the men involved. So, it was still seen as a bad thing! I haven’t read it for myself, so I don’t know the details, but either way, God did deliberately set a women in charge of men, so we know that’s not against His will, or else He wouldn’t have done it. Then there are the women prophets too, who told men what Gods will was for them. This has been sooo overlooked a brushed off. I think some people subconsciously choose to turn a blind eye. They might say the same about us though, to be fair. But one must look at the whole book of Gods word and not just bits and pieces to fit ones own mind that’s already set. Considering God has chosen at times to put women in charge of men tells me that there must be more to those submit verses than what meets the eye. One thing I have noticed is that it doesn’t say “wives, submit yourself to your husbands”, it actually reads “wives, submit yourself to your OWN husbands”. This has me asking this question… what were those wives doing for him to say that in the first place? Were they submitting themselves to OTHER husbands than their own??? These are only my thoughts, I have no clue. But there might have been good reason for him to say “own”. I know that Sheila has mentioned that in the Greek it actually reads as husbands and wives submit to each other, basically, but in English they cut it down to wife only.

        This here tickles me…

        He also told women not to speak in the church, yet permitted women prophets to speak in the church, so he isn’t actually against women speaking in the church, so there must have been some other reason behind his first command lol. Confusing, but we can’t just take the first part and call it a day, there must be more to it.

  4. Emmy

    Some years ago I stopped thinking about how my job and my career made my husband feel. I don’t even ask. I concentrate on how it makes me feel and how it helps me to be a blessing, also for him.

    I’m not sure whom of us makes more today and maybe better not ask, but the one who is most often short of money is him, and I have no problem with helping him out.

    But honestly, if that would make him feel bad, I’d consider it totally his problem.

  5. Anon

    The thing I find so funny is how so many ‘Christian’ family/parenting books talk about men who stay at home being ‘beta’ males and men who are breadwinners being ‘alpha’. One of my cousins has swapped roles with his wife at least twice already based on whose job was earning the most and/or who wanted to take a career break to study for further qualifications. So on the basis of these books, he’s been alpha-beta-alpha-beta-alpha!!!!

  6. M B

    I’m sure some men could be equally good homemakers and child-rearers as some women; but the AVERAGE man is much less gifted and motivated in these areas than the AVERAGE woman. The dads I know would serve more junk food to his kids than his wife would. The dads I know would let the kids go longer between baths. The dads I know shut their kids emotions down faster and just don’t have patience to explore all the emotions and spend a bunch of time empathizing. This is good and healthy when there’s plenty of Mom in there too. Dad develops toughness in the kids, Mom helps them get in touch with their emotions and not be shunned by society for being stinky.

    In our family Hubby works the most and is primary breadwinner. Mom works part time. These days it’s very unusual to be able to make ends meet with only one income. Also as someone else mentioned, Hubby feels less stress if there’s another income to fall back on if he were to lose his job. (Small though that income may be.)

    There are good and bad to doing things our way. Mom’s work sometimes gets undervalued. Nobody gets as much of Mom’s time as they want. It’s a little sad that it’s not possible to make it on one income these days. But as someone else posted, Mom is more free to be herself because she knows she is not entirely financially dependent on Hubby. And Mom has a life outside of Motherhood. I would definitely tell my daughter as she grows up: she needs to have a career before she gets married. But she also needs to be willing to put it on hold for kids if/ when they come along. And she needs to marry someone who also has a career and has proved himself to be a diligent, responsible person .

    • Anon

      I’m interested by your comment that the average man is less gifted as a child carer or homemaker – do you think that is down to natural ability or due to societal expectations? I know many men who are excellent at child care, cooking & running a home – and many women who aren’t! I wonder if, as a church culture, we were more accepting of this, whether more couples would feel comfortable with admitting they preferred the roles that don’t traditionally belong to their gender.

      I am very practical – any IT or DIY jobs around the house get done by me because my husband wouldn’t know where to start. And he is very good at the caring, conversational stuff – fortunately, neither of us feel obliged to fit into the boxes that other people say we should live in. But in my single days, I’d regularly keep quiet about my interests or abilities, because I got so fed up with being told I was ‘masculine’, ‘unspiritual’, ‘worldly’ or ‘rebellious’ for preferring DIY and gardening to sewing and cooking! I bet there are many men out there who also secretly prefer cooking & cleaning and taking their kids to the park to more stereotypical male roles, but who don’t want to admit to it for fear of being branded ‘effeminate’!

      • R

        Anon, I agree. M B may know mostly emotionally immature men who have been socialized to be less caring or less mature. The emotionally mature men AND women I know are good caretakers of their children and home. Likewise, the emotionally immature men AND women I know are not good caretakers of children and home.

    • Jenna

      My experience has been that churches attract people who naturally fit into traditional gender roles. The churches I have been to seem to value stay at home women and men who are their definition of strong leaders. It’s just been recently that I have realized that is a reason that we have never felt at home at a church.
      My husband is much more nurturing towards the kids than I am and I have always been more career driven. I thought we were abnormal or wrong but I think I have been just hanging out with the wrong crowd. I mean, if I was a stay at home mom I would absolutely gravitate towards church – the rest of the world may imply that you should have a career but church is a safe place where stay at home moms is not only acceptable, but superior. Just stating my experience of course; I hope it is different at other churches.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I think this is the way many churches are set up for sure. It can be very hard for people who don’t fit the mold.

      • Laura

        As a long-time single, childless woman at 45, I sure do not fit in at church. Most of the people my age are married with families or divorced but still have children. Thankfully, no one treats me any differently, but I’m deconstructing from organized religion and no longer sure how I feel about being part of a church family.

        I feel that the church has a long way to go in their treatment of single people (mainly over 40).

    • Maria Bernadette

      “The dads I know shut their kids emotions down faster and just don’t have patience to explore all the emotions and spend a bunch of time empathizing. This is good and healthy when there’s plenty of Mom in there too. Dad develops toughness in the kids, Mom helps them get in touch with their emotions”

      The dad described here is emotionally neglectful at best (excuse me, at least bad) and abusive at worse.

      Some kids might respond to emotional neglect or abuse by hardening their hearts. Which can be mistaken for toughness.

      How about emotional resiliency, instead?

  7. Wild Honey

    Dale Recinella, former lawyer who served as volunteer chaplain for Florida’s death row, wrote about how he struggled with the transition of his wife working full-time and him becoming a stay-at-home-dad so he could go into full-time unpaid ministry. From his memoir, “Now I Walk on Death Row:”

    “[Formerly,] In the sincerity begotten of total denial, I would lovingly assure her [his wife] of my belief that what she was doing that week was much more important than anything I was doing. Now, through my new stay-at-home experiences, God is confronting me with the fact that, even though it was true, when I said it, I did not really believe it.

    “Without realizing, I had become totally invested in the dollar as the currency of self-worth… God is not allowing me to continue that facade on His clock. My wings are clipped. I am grounded. I must transport kids, keep house and make dinner… So where is the meaning in this service at home? Who am I now without the fans?

    “Jesus must know that I am useless to Him for uncompensated ministry work so long as I need money and applause to know that my work is worthwhile…

    “I begin to understand that there are two ways to live. I have spent my adult years so far in the other way. This is the new way. This new way is to live in union with the life cycles and processes that supply and provide the basic things that are essential for my family and me. The life that walks in the essentials of day-to-day needs inside my home is adorned with service…

    “Who am I now without the applause? Who am I now without the closing dinners [celebrating the closing of a big legal case]? Who am I now without the W-2?”

    Having gone myself from a full-time job and career I loved to becoming a full-time caregiver and stay-at-home-mom, it was definitely an eye-opening and humbling experience. One that it seems Emmerson could use a little of, himself.

  8. Carrie

    When I was around 16 years old I saw some neighbors driving down the road. The wife was driving and the husband was in the passenger seat. I had never seen that before! When my parents were both in the car, my dad drove (except on long trips). Everyone else I knew had the husband drive.
    Seeing the neighbors, especially because they were highly respected, breaking this cultural norm was eye opening for me. I realized that some things aren’t required to be a certain way.
    When my hubby and I were engaged we discussed driving and discovered that I enjoyed it and he didn’t. So I drive the majority of the time.
    Quite often we will discuss something and decide how we should do it. My hubby is the main breadwinner now, but for years I was and he took care of our baby and home, and he did a great job! Now I work part-time to help lighten the load, and we share many responsibilities differently than the typical couple. It works well for us.

  9. Jennifer

    I am the primary breadwinner in our home, and my husband does the larger portion of childcare and all kitchen duties. I have always had the better job/higher income since before we were married and before my husband lost his job almost three years ago. (He’s now gone back to school to switch career fields.) My hubby is better at getting healthy meals together for our daughter than I am. But, while he gives our preschooler lots of attention and physical activity, he’s not motivated to plan learning or craft type activities for our child. I don’t think most men are as good at that, but it very well could be societal conditioning.

  10. Bec

    My doctor with two of my pregnancies is a mother of 5. Her husband has been a mostly stay-at-home dad and also helps to manage the practise.

    She is a wonderful doctor and obstetrician, one of only 2 obstetricians in our town. So she has probably been involved in close to half of the pregnancies and births in our town over the time she has been in practise here. She is also a Christian. I for one am so grateful to have given birth to my babies under her care, and so are many other families. What a legacy to have!

  11. B

    I’m the husband of a wonderful woman, who for most of our marriage, has been a stay at home wife and mother. Early in our marriage, she made more than me but we also put our daughter in day care. It wasn’t sustainable, so we set forth on a path that would allow her to be at home with our kids. Along the way, she found time to also bring in money by cleaning houses, making beautiful custom draperies and other means. She’s extremely resourceful, and recently started her own flower shop.

    I make a nice income that gives us a comfortable lifestyle but I also recognize the desire she has to have something of her own. When you’re focused on raising your kids, once they’re all grown up, you start to wonder what your identity is. I think either parent who stays at home with kids would struggle with identity once the kids leave.

    While we’ve chosen a particular path, I have no doubt that my wife, given the right opportunity, could have been the primary breadwinner and I could have stayed home with kids. I like to think I would have been okay with that, but I don’t really know.

  12. Darren Bartles

    Sheila, would you care to comment about the phrase in Titus 2:5 about being “busy at home” (NIV) or “working at home” (ESV) or “workers at home” (CSB)?

    Unless I missed it, your article doesn’t address it.


    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This was written to Roman times. Women then had slaves who would do the housework, and they would gossip and spend time with other women frivolously. Paul was telling women to actually do something good.

      It was to a specific time. It wasn’t about “women, stay busy at home instead of working outside the home.” Working outside the home wasn’t even an option! It was a “stay busy and do good don’t waste your life.”

      We need to remember that this was written a very different time. It wasn’t telling women not to work outside the home. Besides, who was the very first convert in Europe? Lydia–a woman who worked outside the home and had a thriving business, and Paul became her close friend!

  13. Maria Bernadette

    Potentially, they could both work part time and both take care of the kids part time. It depends on the economic opportunities, though.

    If you could negotiate for flexibility on, say, Monday-Wednesday in case you need to leave work and take care of the kids.

    But are able to tell your boss that you can reliably be there on Thursday and Friday, because your spouse has flexibility on those days. Knowing they can count on you on those days is valuable to them, so you get paid more.

    Instead of one spouse having a job with lots and lots of flexibility and very little pay and the other having a job with high pay and no flexibility…

    If couples could choose. Wife as primary-breadwinner and husband as primary caregiver? No problem. Husband as primary bread winner and wife as primary care giver? Sure thing. Care-giving and breadwinning more or less equally divided? Absolutely. Whichever option the couple thinks is best.

    At least, it would be nice if our economy had room for that!

  14. Lam Lam

    My issue with so many Christian resources is that they just parrot faulty cultural ideals without challenging them and calling men and women to more, to a better way in Christ.

    So capitalism has told men they’re worthless if they’re not earning an income, and Eggerichs is promoting this?

    The secret to many moms being good at child care is practice – Men who care for their kids on a daily basis will become VERY GOOD at it. I watched a documentary on Netflix & the research found the same bonding hormones that gets secreted in a woman who cares for a baby gets secreted in a man if he devotes himself.

    I really resent the idea that a man can be very competent at work but he’s allowed to check out at home. I’m glad the conversation on these issues is changing.

    The idea that women are just better than men at childcare is a cultural one that you don’t have to live by.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely! I watch my son-in-law with my grandson and he is an amazing father. I wouldn’t say that Rebecca is better at parenting than he is. They’re different–but they’re both totally invested.

  15. Lindsey

    When I went to a church camp at 12 we had a Christian living class with my dorm and another girls dorm. The minister told us “If a woman is earning more than her husband, she should work less hours or take a pay cut so that he is the main breadwinner.” I told my husband about it years later and he thought it was outrageous – what kind of egomaniac wants their family to be worse off to protect their self-image?!

    I wanted to point out, though, that those men Emerson referenced didn’t lose their jobs as we see it, they lost their identity. This is always incredibly painful.

    My identity was tied up in my religion, deconstruction left me totally adrift.

    SAHMs whose identities are tied up in their children suffer major depression when the nest becomes empty.

    Men (and women) who’s identity is entirely caught up in their careers also feel this way when they no longer have those careers.

    This is the danger of spending so much of your time and energy on one thing, it begins to feel like who you are – not what you do. Perhaps the reason why switching roles revitalizes marriages is less about the new role being the best fit for your personality, and more about reminding you that you’re more than your role.

    Just a thought.


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