Reading reactions to the recent Pew Research Center study on women as primary breadwinner made me feel like I had been time-warped back to the 1950s.
Or maybe the 1850s.
“The public is still divided about whether it is a good thing for mothers to work,” noted a New York Times article. “About half of Americans say that children are better off if their mother is at home and doesn’t have a job.”
I say: Horse pucky.
Most fascinating about the Pew study is this seeming contradiction: People say they believe women’s increasing role in the workforce is beneficial overall while also believing it is having a negative effect on children and marriage.
Americans have to stop thinking this way about being the family breadwinner. We have to see families as a unit, a living entity. Income is simply a facet of the whole; which parent brings it in is irrelevant.
I work in the arts, specifically a field where I’m either surviving on odd jobs or able to buy multiple homes in Beverly Hills. My wife works in higher education. As her profession is far more stable, having me take on the role of at-home caregiver was a no-brainer. It made fiscal sense.
I have been home with our son, Turtle, three years and soon he will begin school. When that happens, I will re-enter the workforce. I don’t need to have a job with pay that supersedes my wife’s income but if it that happens, well, bully for us. I’ll pay her back for the opportunities she’s afforded me to raise our child.
Otherwise, our income is just a part of the complex matrix that is our family. Gender plays no role in parenting competency.
Far most important issues concerning income and gender should be grabbing the attention of the American public and media (especially you, Pew-study-shows-“something going terribly wrong in American society” Fox News):
- Why aren’t women paid equitably for doing the same jobs as men? (And yes, women want to be paid the same as men.)
- Why do single mothers comprise the fastest growing segment of women in the workforce? Why are single mothers also more likely to be minorities and less likely to have a college degree?
- Why are most families required to have two incomes to survive in this country? Shouldn’t we have a social construct that helps working families deal with the untenable costs of childcare?
- Why is there such an entrenched system of income inequality and class division in this country?
- When will we stop seeking work/life balance and start encouraging a life/work balance?
These discussions about our role – society’s role – in creating policies that provide better lives for our citizens and more opportunities for children are needed now rather than this dwelling on whether a woman being a primary breadwinner emasculates men.
In my experience, it doesn’t unless you let it. And if you let it, there are other issues you might want to address.