Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bread Winners Not Bread Makers:
Women Who Earn More Then Their Husbands

Statement of the issue
We decided to interview women who earn more money than their husbands for a variety of reasons. We believed that, even now, it is still considered somewhat unusual for a woman to be the primary financial supporter of the family. We were interested to see the role a woman played as financial supporter in the home, and whether or not this affected the domestic workload between partners. We were intrigued to discover if a woman who works more would also do more of the work at home. Typically women in the family are associated with the domestic sides of the home. This stereotype of women began after the industrial revolution. People began to leave their homes in order to perform tasks for their own livelihood. Previously, men and women had worked  in an egalitarian relationship in order to survive, sharing the necessary tasks equally, with the woman’s work focused on the home. A woman’s work was valued, however with the shift in society and the increase in capitalism, her work became devalued. Since there was no monetary value placed on it like that of a man’s wages, the importance of her work was not considered. Although both partners accomplished the work necessary for the survival of the family, the man’s was placed above the woman’s as it allowed for the purchase of goods and commodities. It became the societal standard for woman to care for the well-being of all those in the family, and to “provide a comfortable, pious, loving home not only for the children but also for their husbands.” (Freedman 128) However, as time passed and the Women’s Movement commenced in the 1960’s, more and more women began to work. Although women worked, they
were expected to be mainly responsible for the well-being of their families. The work load that women normally perform continues to be unequal to the amount that men perform, especially the domestic work. For example in a 1995 study “women contributed over thirty hours of housework per week, men only ten to fifteen hours.”(Freedman 131) Typically in society today, men are the main breadwinners while women both work outside and inside their homes. These unbalanced relationships devalue the work that women do, and place the main domestic burden upon women. As such, we were interested to see if such was the case with our interviewees or if, perhaps, advances in society concerning the traditional state of marriage had changed. We wanted to not only see if women were working more outside of the home, but if their husbands were working more inside the home.   

Purpose of the Research

Through our research and interviews, we wanted to establish the present state of equality in marriage. Our research informed us of the domestic and also the financial burden sometimes placed on women, with women contributing more work in the home than their partners.
We wanted to know if this was also true of the women that we were interviewing. We wanted to know if they not only had to work outside of the home, but also had to do a great deal of duties including cooking and cleaning among other tasks. We interviewed a friend, Morgan Cates, the wife of a group member, Rachael Hanson, and the mother of a group member, Kim O’Leary. We
interviewed these women because, for various reasons (layoffs, school, and situation), each earns more than their husbands. We also hoped to capture some insight into each woman’s background and characteristics, and the impact that was created because of their experiences.

The Interviews

Morgan & David
       Morgan Cates was born in Gainesville GA. She met her husband at church
in Athens while still in school, and married David Cates in 2006 . Her mother is a dialysis nurse, and although her father has a degree in teaching, he worked for many years as a car salesman. Because car salesmen receive no medical benefits, Morgan’s mother has always worked full time in order to provide for her family. As such, Morgan’s mother took charge of the home life, mainly disciplining and taking control of the family. Thus Morgan grew up with a strong
matriarchal influence, and when her husband lost his job in the fall of 2008 because of the current economic situation, Morgan had no qualms working full time in order to support their family. Morgan works at the University of Georgia as an administrative assistant. While she works, David has taken over the more domestic issues of their household. Morgan said in the interview, “ Now that I’m working full time, he does the cooking cleaning, cat needs, grocery shopping. He runs errands for me. It’s been really helpful since I’m working full time to come home and have everything taken care of.” David plans to go back to school this summer at Georgia Tech, getting his masters degree in architecture. Morgan is going to try and get an internship at a magazine in the summer which will hopefully lead to a job, but if not, she is contemplating going back to school herself. She thinks that the household work will be taken over by her during the week as the architecture program at Georgia Tech is so rigorous, but then on the weekends she and David will work together on household chores such as the laundry, and that David will most likely cook when he can as he enjoys doing it.

Rachael & Luke

Rachael Hanson was born and raised in semi-rural, southwestern Pennsylvania. Her family consisted of two working parents and an older brother. The year she was born, her father was laid off from the local steel mill and consequently found various jobs to support the family while 
her mother workedon a business degree at a nearby university.  Shortly after her sixth birthday,
Rachael’s parents sold their home and began a carpentry business that they continue to operate today.  Her father has maintained full-time employment as a carpenter doing mostly small jobs but also larger projects such as home renovations.  Her mother worked mostly part-time, either alongside her father or completing her own painting or wallpapering jobs.  This schedule offered her the flexibility to stay at home a few days each week to complete domestic chores, which were largely done by her. Rachael met her husband, Luke, while serving with the Americorps National Civilian Community Corps in Sacramento, CA.  They will be celebrating their 2nd anniversary this June.  Currently, Rachael is a special education teacher at Oconee County High School in Watkinsville, GA and her husband is a student at the University of Georgia, pursuing a Bachelors
degree of Social Work while working part-time at Starbucks.  Rachael is the primary financial provider for the family.  In turn, Luke does most of the domestic duties such as cooking, laundry, and caring for their cat Loca throughout the week.  However, during the weekends Luke is usually working and Rachael spends a few hours on Saturdays cleaning their apartment. Rachael views the workload between the two of them as relatively equal, saying, “My work is 8 (am)-4(pm) and his is 2 hours in the morning, 2 hours in the afternoon and 5 hours in the evening.  It may seem like I ‘do’ more because I make more money but its spread out pretty evenly.” When asked about the future (when Luke finishes school and when they have kids) Rachael said that their domestic roles will probably stay the same “He enjoys cooking and I like to clean. When we have kids, I still want to work full time…he would more likely be
the stay at home dad.  It just works for us.” 

Kim & Brian

 Kim O’Leary was born in El Paso, Texas and grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. She moved out of her home in 1979, when she attended college at the University of South Carolina. Her family was fairly traditional, however, her mom worked as a reservationist for eastern airlines and her dad was a supervisor for Rexam PLC. Kim’s father provided for them financially, and Kim cleaned while her mom cooked. Kim and her husband, Brian, met while they were both working for AT&T. They have been married for 23 years. When they worked at AT&T, Brian was an accountant and Kim traveled a lot, so Brian did all the domestic duties and took care of the children. They moved to New Orleans in 1995, so that Brian could quit his job at AT&T and pursue a doctorate. This move made Kim the primary financial provider, since Brian forfeited his income to go back to school. When Kim was laid off in 2003, she started looking for jobs with high incomes so that she could support her family. After multiple positions that did not work out she finally found Prudential Realty Center where she now works. Brian completed his doctorate and is a full time professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. When Kim and Brian are home, Kim cooks and does all the shopping and Brian does the yard work, cleans some,
and takes care of the animals. They have a house cleaner who comes every other week. When asked how she thought others perceived their relationship, Kim said that she did not know. She went on to talk about how she personally viewed the traditional roles of women saying that “We are all individuals who all have strengths and capabilities in different areas. The best thing to do is for every one to get out there and participate in what they can, as best they can. I like cooking so that’s why I do that. Brian likes to work in the yard, so that’s why he does that. You do your best every day; it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. You’re just a contributing part of the family.”
            All three of the women that we interviewed have been able to establish egalitarian relationships with their husbands. Each partner does what is necessary to contribute fairly to the family, never forcing one spouse to take on more responsibility than the other. For example, when David was laid off, Morgan assumed the responsibility of going to work and David had no problem with taking over the domestic duties, Brian took care of the children
while Kim traveled for work, and Luke cooks and makes breakfast for Rachael in the morning before she goes to work. Each woman that we talked to was able to establish a relationship with her partner that did not place an unfair workload on her. Even though society might think that domestic duties consist solely in a woman’s sphere, it is undoubtedly mistaken. These couples were able to redefine the traditional idea of marriage, as well as work collectively to solve the
issues at hand. Through their hard work they equally share in the stresses and responsibilities, and succeed as a family.

Group Reflection
This project brought to our attention the fact that egalitarian marriages are more than possible. They are more numerous than we had previously thought. This project proved that the state of marriage is constantly changing. Women are no longer limited to the domestic sphere, and
husbands are no longer limited to the idea that cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children is not masculine or appropriate for them to do. Partners are learning to work together, and not allow gender roles to define how they interact in their relationships. By working together, they have ensured the success of their family. These interviews taught us the ease of change, and hope
that the trend continues to grow.

No comments: