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This past year I made more money than my husband. Significantly more. While this is the second year I’ve outearned him, this was the first time the difference was substantial — about 25% more. And while I know it doesn’t really matter who earns more (our finances are completely shared and all income belongs to both of us equally, as do our debts), this fact makes me pretty damn proud.
I run my own business from home, while my husband has a well-respected government job, so most people assume that he’s the primary breadwinner. When our mortgage broker heard I was a writer and my husband was a cop, all income questions were immediately directed to him. "She's the earner," my husband was quick to point out, with pride.
And when I go over my income with my husband at the end of each month, he usually jokes: "If you keep doing that, I'm retiring." Of course, that's not totally realistic, since his job provides great benefits and lots of stability, even if mine provides cash flow that gives us more flexibility. But he is happy that my income takes some financial burden off him. And I’ve realized some other benefits to my income, as well.
Peace of Mind
Finances are a team effort in our household, but it's also reassuring to know that if my husband's income were ever to disappear, our family would be just fine. And although we're happily married, in the unlikely event that we ever wanted to separate, there would be no financial pressure for me to stay in the relationship. Just knowing that gives me a level of independence and freedom that generations of women before me haven't had.
Power to Ask for More
As a work-from-home parent and the primary child-care provider for our family, I carry much more than 50% of the unpaid work that must be done to keep our family functioning. Although I make more money, my husband works more hours in a high-stress and dangerous job (while I write this article from a rocking chair). Because of this, I’m mindful of making his life easier when he’s home, even if that means taking extra onto my plate. Still, I’ve noticed that I am most comfortable asking for more contributions from my partner when my earnings are high, although I understand that I’d be entitled to voice my expectations even if I were bringing in no income.
An Example for My Daughters
I’m certainly not alone in out-earning my male partner. In 2015, 29% of women made more than their husbands in marriages where both partners worked. But many women are still hesitant to talk about their incomes or discuss finances openly, which contributes to them earning less and is part of the reason why our society still defaults to the assumption that men are the primary earners.
When my husband and I got married, I assumed my work would be secondary to my husband’s as I took time off to have babies and raise young kids. It’s what I wanted, but also what society had conditioned me to expect.
Instead, I’ve built a successful business and found a career that fulfills me and serves our family in a climate that tells me it’s impossible for women to have it all. And as I raise two daughters in a world where women are increasingly claiming the space they deserve, starting a conversation about earning power — and taking pride in mine — is one little way I can challenge assumptions about what it means to be a working mom and wife.