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How can moms deal with being the family's top earner?


Changing economic realities have led to more families with Mom as the top earner. Maybe Dad has chosen to be the stay-at-home parent. Perhaps increasingly limited employment opportunities have made Mom the prize breadwinner. Regardless of whether the situation is deliberate or one of necessity, having Mom as the family's top earner can present challenges.

First, don't feel guilty about earning money or spending time away from your family. You're supporting your family with your work. Having said that, don't start feeling guilty about being away from work to spend time with your family. Do compartmentalize. When you're at work -- focus on work; when you're with your family -- focus on family. And don't be afraid to say "no" in either setting if that's what makes sense.

Make sure your husband has the support he needs, whether it's in his role as a stay-at-home dad or a man looking for the right job. There are Web sites and support groups that can help men in their role as a stay-at-home dad. If Dad is working out of the home, then perhaps additional childcare resources are needed, such as daycare or having a grandparent help out with the kids. Also, everyone can re-assess his or her expectations of the traditional gender roles to reduce tension or frustration in the relationship and the home. Indeed, a 2008 "Elle" magazine survey found that a third of all women breadwinners resented paying for shared expenses. The same survey also found that if the man earned $50,000 less than the woman, their sex life and general relationship turned sour. So if you do earn more money than your man, a lot of the work maintaining gender identity in the face of changing roles, may fall on you.