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Black Women as ‘Breadwinner Moms’

Black Women as ‘Breadwinner Moms’
MBL Editors

Black “Breadwinner Moms”

According to the Grio

As 40 percent of women now out-earn spouses, black women cope well in new age of ‘breadwinner moms’

Brateman also saw great resilience among African-American husbands, especially those with blue collar jobs.

“African-American men in blue collar jobs also seemed very adaptable and began contributing more in terms of household labor,” she continued. “They did not seem to experience the same hit to their self-esteem as their African-American and non-African-American white collar counterparts.  They were very often eternally grateful to have wives who were still working and in some cases, they saw their job loss as an opportunity to explore new and more enjoyable careers.”

Genola and Robert Johnson: A living example

Many of Brateman’s observations ring true in the case of Genola and Robert Johnson, an African-Americans married couple of eighteen years that resides in Atlanta. The Johnsons experienced an economic role reversal when, not long after the wife in the couple received her PhD and became a more highly-paid school administrator, Mr. Johnson lost his job as a school principal and experienced a drop in salary.  “Our family income suddenly went down by more than $30,000 and I just immediately went into survival mode. I called our creditors to negotiate more manageable terms. I just got to work,” Mrs. Johnson said.

When asked how their marital relationship changed as a result of the shift, Mrs. Johnson responded: “Even if the shift bothered my husband, he did not show it.  His behavior towards me and our two girls remained the same.  Before his drop in income we had made all financial decisions together, and when I made more money, we continued to make decisions together.  And I certainly did not think any less of him.  I just felt that we were in this together.  I love him as a person and not a paycheck.”

Mr. Johnson echoed his wife’s team spirit stating, “Marriage is a team effort which requires each spouse’s 100 percent effort. If each spouse tries to give 50 percent, you will get a half result.  I’m trying to do my best for the marriage in any way that I can, and that includes supporting the family financially and emotionally, as well as doing household chores.”

A man speaks on his changing role

When asked how he felt about his wife earning more, Mr. Johnson said, “It was not a big concern because it is all household income.  I took it as a blessing that we had money.”

While both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson lament the African-American education gender gap and hope that African-American boys and men will step-up with respect to education and earnings, they do not believe that a man having a higher education or higher salary than his female partner is a prerequisite for a happy relationship.  Together, their devotion despite recent obstacles has debunked the notion that a man’s sense of manhood is inextricably linked to his job title and pay check, an assumption that precipitates the idea that a once a woman makes more than a man, the couple is doomed.

Where does Mr. Johnson get his masculine sense of self-worth? “I derive it from my walk with my Savior,” he told theGrio. “In that walk, I’m trying to be a better and more loving husband, father and human being.”

A marriage that became more equitable, enjoyable

The financial support that Mr. Johnson had through his wife allowed him to eventually fulfill his dream of entrepreneurship. Now he has his own lawn care services company.  The couple also started Georgia Education Learning Consultants Inc. together. Plus, Ms. Johnson started an educational blog called Instrucology.

African-American couples like Mr. and Mrs. Johnson may teach fellow African-Americans and all Americans certain invaluable lessons in the wake of the mancession and the proliferation of breadwinner moms.

First, they teach us that women are wise to “lean in” to educations and careers because a male partner’s income is not necessarily a woman’s birthright, nor a consistent source of security. Secondly, they show us that a man’s value can’t be reduced to his job title or paycheck. When couples realize that men can support their families in a myriad of ways, including through emotional companionship and household labor, they are better off. Lastly, the Johnsons demonstrate that when marriage is viewed as a team effort, it’s easier for both spouses to realize their dreams.

With these lessons, the era of breadwinner moms might not portend the end of marriage. By adopting more flexible gender roles, couples may be able to create more fulfilling, equal and prosperous marital relationships.

Ama Yawson is a co-founder of Loveessence.com, a dating site for black women and men of all races. Ms. Yawson has earned a BA from Harvard University, an MBA from the Wharton School and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons.