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When did we agree you’d be the breadwinner?


I don’t remember there being a conversation where we discussed who would be the supported worker, the one that didn’t have to make the majority of compromises and worry about whether there was childcare in place.

In fact, thinking about it it appears there never was a conversation and Mr Muddling seems to have just assumed that because I’ve had a couple of bouts of maternity leave I must be the supporter and he the supported, that I do the night wakings and he sleep through them, that I keep the home fires burning and he brings home the bacon.

Which is all very well whilst I’m at home full time but when I’m working doesn’t really seem fair.

Especially given I earn more than he does, I’m moving into a more secure job, I have great career prospects compared to his rather shaky job expectations.

So why have I got stuck with the worries about childcare?

Why am I the one who has to sprint out of the office of an evening?

Why am I the one who has to co-ordinate to make sure there is cover when I have late meetings / work functions?

Why can’t I just sit back and assume that someone else (Mr Muddling perhaps?) will sort it out?

Why is it despite my feminist leanings I find myself occupying an almost 1950’s housewife role within what should be an equal partnership?

Where on earth did I go wrong and how can I fix this?

Alternatively, does anyone know where I can find a wife?

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26 comments to When did we agree you’d be the breadwinner?

  • Musings of a Mother

    >I have just written a post on this very topic – I haven't put it on the blog yet because it's too bloody depressing but maybe next week I'll subject you all to it.
    I don't know how it happens either – it is automatically my responsibility to ensure everything runs smooth in our life. It's not that he doesn't help me; he more than happy to IF I ASK but I'm tired of being the one with eyes open all the time and always thinking for everyone else.
    If you find somewhere that sells wives let me know x

  • spudballoo

    >Well, I suppose the answer is that he does that (ie let's you assume the primary caregiver role) because you let him. Now would be a good time for a frank discussion about your roles, and agreeing a new 'framework' if you like once you're back at work.

    I am the primary caregiver here. But I do work too, but my work has to play second fiddle to my husband's. Pro rata, I actually earn more but that's irrelevant. It's his company that provides the bulk of our income and it's him that goes to work 5 days a week. So I have to bend my working issues (like fixing meetings on days when he can work at home) around his schedule. It's hard, but I've had to accept that.

    But I make him get up in the night. Always. I have done 2 pregnancies in quick succession. I breastfed through my second pregnancy. Neither child slept through until they were a year. I've done my years of broken sleep. so from when I stopped breast feeding I have never got up in the night. I think that's fair.

    And he cooks every night because I hate it. And I do everything else…all our finances, holidays, shopping, birthdays, parties, our social life, filing etc etc. So, he goes to work 5 days a week, does the night/early mornings and cooks dinner. And does the bulk of the childcare at the weekend. And I do everything else.

    I think that's a reasonable sharing of roles? xx

  • Noble Savage

    >Oh, I feel ya. I think everyone needs a wife.

    One thing we can do is stop calling our partner's contributions 'helping'. That indicates that it's our (i.e. the women's) responsibility and anything he does is just a bonus or a nice favour. This article says it much better than I could

  • Baby Calendar

    >Totally agree with spudballoo – now is the time to have that talk.

    After my partners maternity leave she went back to work – and I made the choice to be the main caregiver – left my job and later started a business (inspired by my son!) from home, but when we are both home, be it day or night or any given situation we always share the responsibility because we had that talk whilst she was pregnant.

    My opinion as a dad is this….whilst one parent is out of the home working – they are "working"

    the parent at home looking after the baby is also "working"

    the fact that one is paid and one is not is irrelevant as both are doing a "job".

    Also – apart from the odd exception (armed forces etc) I would say that the caregiver / stay at home parent actually has the harder role, whilst the parent who goes out to work gets the benefit of the social interaction with others, a bit of "me time" – space to think and basically have a bit of a break from the family environment – the stay at home parent doesn't get any of that – at least not as often and so over time could lead to seeing the whole family thing as a job in itself rather than something to cherish – don't let that happen – have the talk!


  • Noble Savage

    >Danny, I wish more men had your attitude and perspective. Brilliant stuff. That's as it should be.

  • Anonymous

    >WEES. Talk to Mr Muddling. You're only in this position because you've chosen to be – either wittingly or unwittingly.

  • cartside

    >I think we all make assumptions and then often end up in a situation that wasn't quite what our assumption was.
    It's a very common scenario, and a talk is the best start, but often even a chat doesn't change things – maybe for a week, but roles are ingrained and people slip back. We live in a society that absolutely expects mothers to be the main care givers, in so many ways (how come single mums are expected to actively look for work when their youngest starts school, but not the dad? Even if estranged, does he not have the same financial responsibility? Especially if he doesn't have to do the caregiving stuff?)

    I also do most of the housework, though we are pretty equal on the caregiving part of family life. However, I won't do stuff if I'm too stressed and let the house look awful. And I will get a cleaner if I can't manage regularly and see that as my right, because I'm not superwoman (stupidwoman more like), working, bearing and raising kids, cooking and cleaning. I'd rather be a 1950s woman – at least my mum (who was a SAHM and never worked) only had one role to fulfil, I don't see why I have to do it all with the same perfection. And I don't see how I can anyway.

  • Expat mum

    >CHrist I jumped when I read your opening line. I have actually said (usually to myself) "I don't remember sitting down and agreeing that I would give up my job, despite 7 years of higher education and a very decent wage.."" etc. etc.
    I urge you to sit down and divide the domestic reponsibilities otherwise you'll be seeting for years. It's just not fair.

  • Hot Cross Mum

    >Oh it's so true. We're all in need of a good wife! I sigh as I, again, clear away last night's dinner things the following morning – the dinner that I shopped for, cooked and plonked on the table. Really, would it be too much to ask that he put the remnants in the dishwasher? Grrrr.

  • London City Mum

    >I thought we'd agreed to get married – or was it just the wig and the PL jacket doing the talking?

    Anyway, I was waiting for you at Gretna Green but you never showed up.


    LCM x

  • Working Mum

    >I read about this earlier this year. The research showed that it starts during maternity leave when the mum takes on the traditional role whilst at home and then gets stuck with it after returning to work. Very difficult to change.

    I managed to get husband to do some of the housework when I went back to work, but worrying about the childcare he does not!

    My byline is "the truth about having it all" and I think the truth is we don't have it all, we just do it all!

  • mummyfiles

    >This is true in our household too. Fair enough, I don't work full time, but when i do work, if the boy is ill and has to be collected early, it's assumed I must leave work and not hubby. I do all the early mornings, make sure he has clean clothes, organise childcare if hubby and I go out.
    However, much as it pains me, I have allowed this to happen, but I feel it's too late to change it all now. Grrrr

  • TheMadHouse

    >Life is about being a partnership and I had the talk very early on and even though I am a SAHM MadDad does more than his fair share. I get lie ins, he looks after the boys if I am ill and also helps around the house.

    I do not know how it would work if I was at work, I guess we would sort something out, but you do need to come to a compromise that everyone is happy with, as things like this fester and grow and become life changing

  • jenmum

    >I'm on maternity leave at the moment but I'm pretty worried about this myself when I go back to work after a year. My partner is self employed and earns little compared to me so we've agreed I'll be main breadwinner and he'll stay home with Bub. However, however, however… I'm concerned about whether we will truely swap roles or if I'll still end up with the 'responsibility', ie being the one to always remember and arrange stuff and be the default go to person. In part this is bacause I know I'm dreadful at delegating and also cos I know a part of me will be jealous of his stay at home role and will seek to keep my hand in. But I'm worried I'll end up trying to do both roles still and end up burnt out. I'd love to keep BF after I go back to work but also think this will keep the lines blurred too much and won't let me step back or him step in. It's been a real surprise to me how unequal the division so far has been (we're both currently at home, it's only BF in theory that he can't do.) This post and comments has been really helpful and I guess talk, talk, talk is the best way to tackle it and something I need to make sure we do. Thanks!

  • drop4three

    >The hardest line to break down is the 'working in the office' as opposed to 'working in the home'. Both parties are equally gainfully employed, and both need the recognition. Here, we share the duties of the house (I always cook, vacume, and am up with the kids every morning, and mrs d4t manages the washing, the busy daily arrangements and puts up with me) and it is right we share – until recently we both worked full-time.

    I totally agree with Danny – a discussion needs to take place. It's strange but if there was an area of a relationshop that gave cause for concern then a 'chat' would occur – it seems this is still a taboo area, when it really should not be. After all, it took two to bring these little people in to the world and household, why should only one person manage them?

  • PantsWithNames

    >I don't know, but if you find a place where you can find a wife, then let me know. I need one too!

  • PantsWithNames

    >Actually I'm being mean to Dave. I am very lucky – he does all the cooking for us (I do it for the boys), his fair share of night getting up and a lot of childcare during the weekend. He also works from home, which means he KNOWS how long a day can seem and how hard the role of primary care-giver can be. I don't know what I'd do without him.

    He doesn't however use the male head to think about things in advance, like buying birthday presents etc… so that remains my domain, despite my best efforts.

  • Mwa

    >Renegotiation? Doesn't seem all that fair just now.

  • platespinner

    >Oh, we've struggled with this one in our household too. We're in a fairly unusual and privileged position of both working a four day week (although my husband does work some Saturdays too). We have a reasonable division of labour in terms of housework, but partly because I am emlpoyed and he is self-emlpoyed (therefore no sick pay) and I work next door to our daughter's nursery, I do most of the staying off/coming home from work when she is ill. Again, I do all the drop offs and pick ups. I earn far more than H does, and have a much higher standard of education and career prospects.

    I find people tend to assume the woman in the relationship will be the 'thinker' in terms of organising childcare, doctors, social life, birthday cards and presents etc. I have now made it clear to my husband's family that it is his responsibility to remember their birthdays, mother's day etc, not mine. I do that for my family and our mutual friends. This has resulted in birthdays being forgotten more often than not, which pains me, but I am trying to stand firm on this one.

    I agree with posters above that the unequalness tends to start whilst the woman is on maternity leave. Our relationship was stretched to breaking point in the months after I returned to work and it took a lot of frank discussions just to get where we are.

  • marketingtomilk

    >Oh MAM this is exactly the reason why i am terrified of the thought of going back to work. I used to do everything, AND work. Now that i am at least geographically and logistically in an easier place to do everything, my life is a little more straightforward.
    What a resonant post.


  • JulieB

    >Ditto. This is also a great bug-bear of mine.

    Partly this is down to the fact that Mr SardineTin works an hour away, and is therefore out of the house earlier than I am, and back later, whereas I work 60% of my time at home (through choice – to make childcare easier. HA!), and the rest of the time in an office 15 mins away.

    I do think part of the problem is there is still a stigma attached to men working part-time or flexibly to help with childcare. I get the impression it is almost easier in some respects for a man to give up work completely rather than having to justify shorter hours!
    (A neighbour of ours in a similar situation) was refused part-time work, and it was only the fact that his wife is a solicitor who pointed out that women had taken the same right, and threatened to sue the company, that made them relent.)

    There's still a long way to go for both sides despite all the progress we've made…

  • Ladybird World Mother

    >Aha… I know this one!! And I think we do it because we just think we should… although there IS no rhyme nor reason why we do.
    Oh, and when you find that wife can we do the multi wife thingy?? I so need one too.x

  • Knackered Mother

    >Erm, anyone got Danny's number? I'm sending him off to the pub with Bearded Husband for a talk.

  • vegemitevix

    >I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I've found (to my chagrin) that not only did I get to make all the sacrifices whilst trying to raise kids and a company but when it came time for the divorce I got to pay for the childcare so I could go out and provide for my children, without his support. No thought for remunerating me for the years I 'took out' whilst raising the kids. I don't know what the answer is, but if you find a wife can I co-own her? Just keep your hands off LCM – I saw her first!! x

  • Rachael

    >I think you need to have a serious talk. Like everyone else has said, these things have a habit of festering hideously until they explode with horrible results.

    I chose to stay at home with the children, and we share the work when we're both around, but I suspect that my husband does more than his fair share, given that he has an extremely high-pressure job with very long hours.

  • Mum In Awe

    >I so agree with you! My hubby stayed at home, didn't do the child care, and enjoyed lovely home and holidays care of me. That's why he's the ex now, but it was agreed before we got married that he'd do the 'general family management', and I'd do the income generation. Unfortunately all the talks in the world don't make it happen in reality. Never mind, I'm a happy single Mum, now in a great relationship, so it all works out in the end.

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