Half of Working Moms Are Breadwinners but Is That a Good Thing?

working mom

Moms already wear plenty of hats: caregiver, nurse, chef, expert storyteller, seamstress, toy car mechanic, and dozens more. And when you're a working mom, you can also add "juggler" to the list.

Now a new study titled "The Breadwinner PheMOMenon" reveals that nearly half of working moms have yet another moniker: breadwinner. Researchers found that 49 percent of moms in the US are either the primary breadwinner or "on par financially with their significant other." 

This figure represents a pretty big jump over last year, when only 40 percent of working moms brought home a major part of the bacon, according to the Pew Research Center.

But is this good news? 

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While it's great to think that a woman's earnings could be equal to those of her male counterparts, that's not what this study is suggesting.

In fact, during 2013, female full-time workers earned only 78 cents for every dollar made by men, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Now, I'm no statistician, but that tells me that these moms are actually working 22 percent longer to make the same pay as their partners. That's nothing to celebrate. 

Being a working mom can already be mentally and physically exhausting. Throw in the added pressure of being the breadwinner of the family, and that's a lot resting on one woman's shoulders. 

And while it would also be nice to think that these moms who are working so hard are finding satisfaction and fulfillment in their careers, the study found that 44 percent of these breadwinners say that they are more stressed today than they were five years ago. How could they not be? 

Some people tend to think that once children are older and a bit more self-sufficient, things become easier for working moms, but that's not always the case. And let's face it: No matter how old your children get, motherhood doesn't have an expiration date

I have a friend who worked like a dog to become a partner at an accounting firm. After flying all over the world and missing some of her children's milestone moments, she was promoted and officially became her family's breadwinner.

But guess what? As she climbed the career ladder, the pressure increased, and while her children are in school full-time now and she thought things would be easier, she's stuck explaining why she's not able to attend their Halloween parades and dance recitals. 

"It's actually much harder now," says Terri L. of New Jersey, "because they realize that I'm not there and they're upset, which in turn upsets me. It's awful to walk into a client meeting or board a plane knowing you just left two heartbroken kids behind." 

Even though many jobs now offer telecommuting options, that doesn't necessarily mean moms are resting comfortably on couches with laptops and coffee in hand. 

"When I do get to work from home, I feel compelled to do four loads of laundry in between conference calls and fix a nice dinner to compensate for the nights I'm working late," Terri says. "There's no such thing as downtime anymore." 

Are you the breadwinner in your household? If not, would you want to be? 


Image © Bill Holden/cultura/Corbis

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