Did you catch the latest FIRE podcast episode with Mrs. Adventure Rich, Ep. 33 – The Unequaled Power of Flexibility for Your Family and FI? In the episode, we chat about how modern couples handle work, finances, and family on the path to FI. The episode received such positive feedback that I asked Mrs. Adventure Rich to come on Millennial Boss today and shed more light on the subject. (Plus, I always enjoy a good female breadwinner story since I am one! I had Liz at Chief Mom Officer guest post recently about Managing Resentment and Stress as the Female Breadwinner and loved her advice). Thanks to both of these inspiring women for giving us the ‘behind the scenes’ on life as a female breadwinner pursuing FIRE.
Mrs. Adventure Rich on pursuing FIRE as the Family Breadwinner
From the day I met my husband, I have been the higher earner in our relationship. Hired by a Fortune 50 company during my senior year of college, I began working part-time as I finished classes prior to graduation.
Six years later, I have created a career out of this first job, working at the same company and in the same department, though a few steps up from where I started position-wise.
My husband, on the other hand, graduated from college with a good, solid job as a Maintenance Manager. He managed a team of part-time workers at a non-profit for 10 years before taking a job across the country as a Facilities Manager at a local business in northern Michigan (where we currently reside).
Due to our career paths and despite being a bit younger than my husband, I have always made the lion’s share of our family income. This is our “normal” but I realize this is certainly not the norm in many relationships. I often field questions about how we manage our time, our work and family duties, and our money in light of our disparate incomes.
A Little Background
My husband and I met shortly after I graduated from college. He was 6 years into his career and I was a mere 6 months into mine. We have been married for just over 4 years now and have an energetic 2 year old son. We lived in California for the first few years of our relationship and marriage. Last year, my husband received a job offer in Michigan so we made a cross-country move after I negotiated a work-remote arrangement with my employer.
How We Manage with Me as the Female Breadwinner
I have learned a lot through our relationship and marriage as the primary breadwinner for our family. My husband and I are in a constant state of tweaking how we communicate, how we manage various areas of life, and how we balance or juggle the various responsibilities we each have.
Today, I would like to share my perspective on how I approach these topics from the
standpoint of a female breadwinner.
How We Handle Opposite Work Schedules
My husband and I both work hard at our jobs. And just because my job may pay 2.5x his salary, this stat does not mean that I have free license to say that my job is more important or my schedule takes precedence. Instead, we work to coordinate schedules as best we can in advance. If he knows that he will be working extra hours during the holidays (often the case) and will need to leave the house at 6am everyday for 2 weeks, I block my work calendar and plan to be “on point” for getting our son ready for daycare and dropping him off. At other times, I have early meetings or work travel and need my husband to take over the household and parent duties.
I view both of our jobs as equally important to our family and treat our schedules accordingly.
How We Split Child Duties
I am incredibly fortunate to be married to a man who sees parenthood as a partnership. Sure, there are certain things only I can provide as a mother (breastfeeding when our son was young comes to mind!), but in other areas, we tackle parenting duties as a team. We both need to wake up for work in the morning, we both have household duties, we both have “extracurriculars” or things we like to pursue on the side (exercise, social life, etc.) and we are both parents to our beautiful boy.
As a result, there is no “your department” or “my department”.
We both change diapers, make lunches, do laundry, teach our son to ride a balance bike, kick a soccer ball, sing silly kid songs with him and wake up in the middle of the night (though, if I’m honest, I usually sleep through our son’s nighttime cries… so my husband is usually the first to respond here!) .
Parenthood has been one of the most intense challenges I have faced and I cannot imagine facing it without a hand-in- hand approach with my husband. We certainly have our ups and downs, but our approach seems to be working for us so far!
How we Handle Money
Here is a big one. Money. I make more… a lot more. But I do not (and cannot for the health of our marriage!) lord this over my husband or use this fact as a pawn.
I view our money and salaries in the following way. Yes, I make more. But I only make more and am able to maintain my career progression and salary level as one half of a partnership with my husband.
He is my partner-in- crime, my other half, my strength and backbone at times.
Likewise, I am there for him to lean on and find strength in as his partner.
I owe a lot of my career success to having a partner who supports and encourages me, who picks up extra household or parenting duties when I am on big projects, and who sacrifices for my success. So when we sit down to update our net worth or pay our bills, I do not and cannot say “I deserve more spending money” or “I deserve more credit for our progress” because that is not the whole story.
We both work hard, we both bring in money, we both manage our household, and we both parent our son. For us, the money that results from our hard work is both of ours.
How We Handle Financial Decisions
When it comes to making financial decisions, we typically defer to the “expert”. My husband and I each have different interests and passions. I happen to love learning about personal finance and different financial vehicles. So when it comes to managing our money, I will do the research, present my findings and perspectives to my husband, and we will discuss the options and make a decision together.
In a similar manner, if we need a household appliance, lawn equipment, or other mechanical item, my husband is the “expert”. I would be bored out of my mind researching the specs of these items, but he loves it! He does his research, combs Craigslist and secondhand markets for good deals, and presents his findings to me for joint-decision making.
This method allows my husband and I to research the areas of life we enjoy, prepare our suggested approach, then present our ideas and proposed path so that we can make an informed decision together.
How We Ensure We Get Enough Free Time/ “Me Time”
With our busy lives, my husband and I both need quality “me time”. It is great to spend an evening together or a Sunday afternoon as a family, but we also need solid time either alone or pursuing our own interests. To that end, we try to periodically give each other “nights off” or “project time”.
As I am writing this article, I am taking advantage of my own “project time”. I am sitting at a coffee shop in town on a foggy Sunday morning, writing and working on the blog. I arrived here at 7am and I will leave at about 9:45am to meet my husband and son at church by 10am. My husband is getting our son up, fed and ready for church while I am enjoying my alone time.
Later this week, I plan to give my husband a “night off”. I will pick our son up from daycare and spend the evening with him, allowing my husband to do whatever he would like with his evening. He can choose to grab a drink with a friend, go to a coffee shop and read a book, go for a walk, work on projects in the yard/garage/house, or whatever else he chooses.
Balancing work, family time, parenting duties and alone time is incredibly important for our mental health and relationship. We both need times to just be us… to think, to pursue a hobby or to meet up with friends without the constant “where is my child/what is he destroying now?” thought or concern with whether an evening event will be “kid-friendly”. So we work to consistently give each other alone time or time off!
One Caveat – I don’t Represent All Female Breadwinners
I want to take a moment to recognize one important point. The perspectives written above are just that… perspectives. They are my personal perspectives as a female breadwinner.
They are not meant to be “The Way” or a “How To” for women who make more than their partner. Instead, I only intend to share how my husband and I personally manage and view various areas of our lives.
I would love to hear about other perspectives and paths (comment below!).
The Bottom Line: We are Partners in Crime
When my husband and I agreed to get married, we agreed to become one unit. To that end, we see our income, household duties, parenting duties and financial decisions each as joint tasks we need to tackle together.
We both benefit from and sacrifice for our relationship. We rely on each other, we support and encourage each other.
And above all, we love each other.
We strive to maintain a healthy balance, but we often find ourselves out of whack and in need of re- balancing or re-assessing our time and roles.
It is a constant journey in communication and relationship building.
But hey, that’s what we signed up for and that is why our motto remains “Always an Adventure”!