If Female Breadwinners Wore Mood Rings…

BY: - 18 Dec '12 | Marriage

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by Dr. Dawn DeLavallade

Have you ever tried on a mood ring, those cute and quirky little gift shop trinkets made of liquid crystal? The theory behind this popular 1970’s novelty is that the ring changes color according to the emotional state of the wearer. If the ring turns from a neutral color to blue, once you slip it on your finger, that means that your mood is sad. Or, if it turns green that means you are calm.  Or, if it turns black that means you are frightened. In a 1976 Peanuts comic strip, Peppermint Patty gets so angry at Charlie Brown that her mood ring explodes.

If a female breadwinner tried on a mood ring, would it explode?

‘Female breadwinner’ describes the newest category of American wife. But despite her increasing presence in today’s society, she remains largely misunderstood by her mate and by society as a whole. The latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau describe that 40% of working women are the primary breadwinners in the household. Having several years of experience as the primary breadwinner in my own marriage, I recognize that marriages containing a female breadwinner have unique challenges and obstacles that couples having a more traditional arrangement simply don’t encounter.

So, how does this new breed of wife feel about her seemingly uncustomary circumstance?

First of all, I am not sure than any gift shop mood ring has the capability to depict the complexity of emotions experienced by women who are the primary breadwinners in their marriages. The circumstance of having to carry the load of domestic duties, child-care responsibilities, AND the financial burdens of the household can feel overwhelming to most women, myself included. So much of our experience is contingent upon our perception of how well we live up to age-old traditions of wifehood and motherhood. But at the same time, we must artfully balance a new sense of female empowerment that is becoming more commonplace in American society with each passing day. Some of us can feel as if we are wearing more hats than Queen Elizabeth II!

So what is the collective mood of female breadwinners today? Proud? That we have secured the top tier of the income hierarchy in our marriages. Resentful? That we can’t be ‘stay-at-home ‘moms or enjoy the good life of being a ‘kept woman’. Confused? Because we act competently as leaders in our careers all day but must assume a position of subservience to our husbands at home. Angry? That we are at times treated like pack mules- getting one responsibility after the next dumped on us with little or no reciprocity.

I think the female breadwinner of the millennium can feel any combination of these moods at any time in her marriage. I am not implying that lighter moods like pink for love, or yellow for happy, are not a reality for us as well. But I think as a society, we should begin to come to grips with the fact that the female breadwinner is here to stay. And my guess is that by the close of this decade, she won’t even be an anomaly. We must begin to investigate how this new breed of woman thinks and feels, and what she needs from her mate to survive. Men must learn how to best support this unique category of wife to help prevent her and her ring from exploding. Because as the old saying goes, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”….

Purchase Dr. DeLavallade’s book She Makes More-Inside the Minds of Female Breadwinners here…

Dawn DeLavallade, M.D. is a practicing physician, wife, mother, and writer based in Orlando, Florida. Having 10 years’ experience as the female breadwinner in her own marriage, Dr. DeLavallade recognizes that this uncustomary circumstance can be a struggle for some couples. She has been inspired to write She Makes More-Inside the Minds of Female Breadwinners. Dr. DeLavallade’s passion is to help marriages containing a female breadwinner to survive and thrive! Contact Dr. DeLavallade via email,  dawn@shemakesmore.com,  Facebook, and twitter.


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  • Kierah

    Unlike when a man is the breadwinner, women are often the CEO, COO, CFO, and housekeeper at home as well. Trying to keep all those balls in the air is no easy task, especially when I know I can not slack at work either. If I lose my job, our lifestyle would change drastically. I’m on the clock for 16 hours a day.
    My husband works hard too. His salary just isn’t the same as mine. However, he’ll think nothing about hanging with a friend after work or picking up some extra toothpaste when it’s on sale.

    • Dawn DeLavallade

      Yes, Kierah! I am sure other breadwinners reading my article can relate to how overwhelming it can feel at times. But there is safety in numbers. The more we share and support one another, the better off we will be! That is my crusade. Join the She Makes More community at http://www.shemakesmore.com, on facebook.com/shemakesmore, and twitter @drshemakesmore…

  • Jas

    But what about the males (long term partners, husbands) that are still wrapping their head around the female breadwinner role? If they are raised to be the breadwinner and provider (my West African LT partner), and their employment situation doesn’t allow that to happen they are required to make a difficult change in mindset. This topic has multiple layers depending on the family or partnership dynamics and situation. Not all situations are both adults in the household working and the female has the higher salary. There are households where the male is long term unemployed and there are issues around that as well. Or the male has returned to school and/or is a stay at home dad. I don’t want to rant about my own personal situation, but as the facebook status states “it’s complicated”.

    • Dawn DeLavallade

      Jas, it can be a difficult road to travel for some men to travel BUT the more we as a society open up about this topic the easier this circumstance will become. With every conversation (like this one..), we are moving one another toward a place of acceptance. Eventually, our men will feel less stigmatized as they recognize a new reality which has absolutely nothing to do with him or his ability to provide.

  • Blue Dove

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! So happy to see that I am not alone. Having so much responsibility can be overwhelming, and at times I feel resentful. Also, we have to be REALLY careful not to treat our husbands like one of the children. Science shows that women’s brains are better at multi-tasking, whereas they are better at being singly focused. We have to allow the space for whatever it is that they ARE bringing to the table to be valued, acknowledged, and appreciated.

    • Dawn DeLavallade

      Blue Dove, that’s a good point regarding the potential for a slow decline in how partners relate to one another. Female breadwinners can unfortunately slip into a “mother” role if they feel like the husband is not maintaining head of household status through his actions. My book She Makes More begins to spell out what we need to see in our men as leaders in the marriage.

  • Rose

    OMG, I just finished reading your article and almost fell out my seat at work. I want to THANK YOU writing exactly how I have been feeling for soooo long. I have truly been suffering in silence. I will be joining your Facebook page and buying your book. God Bless you! =)

    • Dawn DeLavallade

      Rose, I am glad you enjoyed the article (don’t fall out of your seat..)! I empathize with your feelings of alienation…I have been there! But as couples containing a female breadwinner gain the courage to come out of the shadows, society will be forced to follow suit. It’s a new day!

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