A Thought Experiment - Changing Roles

2418695_3600b4cab5It is said that half of all divorce in this country is due to money. Of the remaining marriages, there are often at least some underlying tensions due to income inequality, financial management or control issues.

Which side are you on? It is rare that both spouses make the same money. You may be the stay at home mom that sees it as the husband’s role to make the money and your job to save the money. You struggle to make every dollar go farther. Every purchase decision is carefully considered.

Spend some time in an upscale restaurant near a mall and you will get a glimpse of the other wives, the ones that say “what is yours is mine, and my job is to spend it.” They cruise through their errands in their new Beemers and Benz’. Shopping bags are piled in the back as they continue their mission to consume.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as late as 2006, 26% of men were not the breadwinners in their homes. Personally this sounds like a dream come true, but the research shared by CNNMoney.com says that men in this position are often unhappy. Oddly, even when the women become the breadwinners, we men are not picking up our fair share of the housework. (You are making us look bad guys!)

Of course we also have the most common situation, where the husband is primary or sole income earner.

How do you feel about the differences in income between your and your other half? Are your financial management skills equal or is one of you carrying the full burden?

Guilt weighs on some spouses for not contributing “their fair share.” Others are riding the coattails of their spouses success for all the fun and glory they can!

What would it be like to change shoes with our significant other? What would you do anything differently in their shoes?

I can imagine. My wife had a strong work history before staying home. She has also been active in the community and PTA organizing events, managing people and thinking on her feet. I could see her back in the professional world. (hint, hint dear 😉 )

What would it be like to see my wife get up early everyday to leave for the office? OK, so this is a little selfish, but at first, I would love it! After over a decade of leaving the house when everyone else is still in bed, it would be a pleasure. At first.

Over time however I don’t believe the domestic life is for me. The kids are getting older and are developing lives of their own. While avoiding commutes and business travel would be a welcome change, vacuuming would get old real fast. No more meetings would be fabulous, but the routine tasks and roles of a home maker would leave me unfulfilled. I know I need more challenge and more variety.

While I could imagine my wife working, I cannot imagine myself doing as good a job at home as she does. In fact, I would be proud if I could do half the job. The only thing I would do differently is blog and/or start a small at-home business.

What would it be like to go from home maker to breadwinner? While an honor, the responsibility for supporting a family can be a huge emotional drain. The knowledge that the quality and future of your families health, nutrition and education lies solely on your shoulders can induce significant stress. If you are not currently the breadwinner in your home, what would you do differently if you were in our shoes?

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photo by emdot

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10 comments to A Thought Experiment – Changing Roles

  • I would love to be the home maker, clean the house, cook meals, and then make a living online.

    The whole mommy or daddy blogging concept is real and is a no brainer!
    .-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..The Emergency Fund Fallacy =-.

  • I think it takes both a skill of negotiation, an awareness of complementary skill sets, and a knowledge of one’s own strengths and weaknesses.

    We are both workers, but that could be a tough proposition when it comes to having kids down the road. She is much better at the housework than I am, though I am fine with washing dishes and things like that. Conversely, I look more into where to invest the money and things like that, and I would probably be happier in the office versus being a homemaker while with her it is vice versa.

    Of course… I could be wrong 😛

    I think the idea is that you need some complementary strengths; kind of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. One needs to fill in the voids of the other…

    P.S. Thanks for the linkback!
    .-= Kevin@InvestItWisely´s last blog ..What to do… what to do… when Mr. Market is grouchy? =-.

  • kt

    i am not married and stories like this make me want to dodge the proverbial bullet and decide to stay unmarried. It does not help that i have seen more than my fair share of marriages break because on money differences and infidelity. But personally if i was to get married, i would like to make more money that the wife- it would massage my ego
    .-= kt´s last blog ..is a university education really that important?? =-.

  • While I think everyone should at some point TRY role reversal (just to help better understand each other), I think I’m with you on this one.

    I have this compelling passion to create some legacy – stretching myself intellectually and producing work of value.

    Of course, by default you create a legacy through your children.
    .-= FinEngr´s last blog ..Don’t Buy Your Next Car Before Checking Out These Sites =-.

  • The LeanLifeCoach

    To All – What, no one can point out a painful spelling error? Here goes another thought “experiement.” What if your dinner partner had a bugger hanging from their nose?

    @Samurai – It is real and everyone is capable, but not everyone can or will… or should for that matter.

    @Kevin – Thanks for the personal perspective. I love the jigsaw analogy. Welcome to the Yakezie!

    @kt – I understand your concerns, it is not for everyone. However, when you find the right person, someone that can be your best friend and all the other stuff it really is much better than being single… just my perspective.

    @FinEngr – Create your own legacy and teach your kids to do the same and you will achieve more exponentially.

  • Changing roles does seem to be a worthwhile exercise. The perspective and appreciation it would give you for the other person would be invaluable.

    Here’s an interesting statistic. 95% of millionaires are married, and 70% have spouses that are more frugal than the highest income earner of that household (typically male).

    The rub is there is something about this statistic that screams to me that at least some spouses get it. Some stay at home spouses embrace their role of home economist with gusto. Even those who just make less appear to help manage the household wealth without that entitlement princess attitude. This makes me wonder about your breakdown of money problems, income inequality, and money control issues. If both spouses have an appreciation for the other’s role and share similar money handling philosophies, then what is the likelihood of martial success?
    .-= Roshawn @ Watson Inc´s last blog ..7 Reasons for (and Against) Tracking Net Worth =-.

  • The LeanLifeCoach

    @Roshawn – In our case it is two spouses that are both “getting it” at the same time. We are both progressing at different rates but we are both moving in the same direction. All other things being guaranteed, I would rate the chance of success at virtually 100%.

  • 100% is awesome; it so great to be on the same page even if you’re progressing at different rates. The velocity is hardly as critical as the common goal. I just included this post in my weekly round up.
    .-= Roshawn @ Watson Inc´s last blog ..7 Reasons for (and Against) Tracking Net Worth =-.

  • @Roshawn – Thanks for the round-up! – Couldn’t agree more, plus it just feels good to be on the same page. It is so much better than the alternative.
    .-= LeanLifeCoach´s last blog ..5S In Action – Organize and Simplify =-.

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