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Female Breadwinners, Be Free!

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I am the Female Breadwinner in my marriage. There…I said it. It has taken me over 10 years of marriage to admit to this fact. The scarlet letter that was stamped on my forehead the day I began out-earning my husband has finally started to fade. I’m not even sure who is to blame for the feelings of shame that I carried with me for so long. Do I blame so many American institutions that practiced sex-discrimination to keep women, especially wives, in their place? Do I blame my husband for at times using verbal or psychological warfare to create a sense of guilt in me for outpacing his education and income? Or do I blame myself for silently putting forth a persona to the world that I was the financially dependent one between us?

As young girls, we were taught that “happily ever after” meant finding a man to love, protect, and provide for us for the rest of our days. So now that I have become the higher earner in my marriage as a result of academic excellence and career advancement, does that mean that my “happy” is somehow tainted? Political, economical, and social practices throughout our nation’s history have had the very deliberate goal of making women feel less competent as a gender, and in need of the protection of a man. Prior to 19th century, women were forbade from earning their own wages and prevented from owning property. The ideal wife of those days had an infantile dependence on her husband, lacking the knowledge of driving a car, balancing a checkbook, or settling up monthly debts. There was a widespread belief that the female gender would remain more subservient if forced to depend upon their husbands to survive. We were like appendages to their existence.

Luckily, over time, we have evolved. Pivotal events in American history like World War II, the Great Depression, and law modifications from the Civil Rights Movement have provided extraordinary inertia to the female gender. With women currently outpacing men in higher education and comprising 50% of the American payroll, marriages containing a Female Breadwinner are likely to rise exponentially over the next several decades. Despite the great gains made in dissolving gender barriers in the workplace and education, it is the psychological shackles that can be the hardest to break. I am a testament to that. I have come to the realization that my breadwinner status should be worn as a badge of honor- not a source of shame. My reality is not wrong, it’s unique (for the time being). And not only am I happy, but I am free.

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