Female Breadwinners: Putting Our Husbands Through School
In the cookie-cutter world of 1950s America, the wife stayed home all day cooking, cleaning, and wrangling a large brood of children. The notion of “female breadwinners” was oxymoronic. No longer.
These days, it’s not uncommon for the wife to be the main breadwinner, either temporarily or permanently. Additionally, more and more people are returning to school for higher education, so there are also more wives nowadays who are working hard to support their husbands through school.
I am one of those female breadwinners, supporting my husband financially as he returns to school for his bachelor’s degree. Are there many of us around? Apparently, yes. I found out that two my own fellow bloggers – Cat Alford and Hannah Rounds – are more or less in the same position as I am.
Though we traveled down different roads, we find ourselves at the same place — wives putting their husbands through school.
I met my husband in Alaska. I was in school, and he was in the Army. After he left the Army, he went into construction while I finished up grad school. He wanted to move into a management position, so we moved to Colorado so that he could study construction management.
Meanwhile, Cat was in graduate school when her husband decided to go to medical school in the Caribbean. She stayed back a year to work full-time and save money before moving to the Caribbean. She soon started her freelance writing career there – as well as teaching English to local kids – while her husband was at medical school. Cat tells me that he recently chose a residency program.
Hannah and her husband met at an Ultimate Frisbee game and started dating less than a year later. Relatively free of student debt, it was later that Hannah took on the extra responsibility of covering for her husband’s education.
Though we had moved to Colorado, I couldn’t find a job that would pay all the bills. I had to get creative, and I’m now working at night and on weekends as a freelance writer while keeping a full-time job.
By reducing and keeping track of our expenses and increasing my income, we’re making it work.
Cat has a similar strategy but says that budgeting is her big focus. What began as a side hustle, writing personal finance blogs, is now a full-time career. “We budget, watch our spending, and have monthly meetings to discuss our finances,” she says.
Hannah, who says that she is “technically working one and a half jobs,” is also big on budgeting. “I honestly wish we would have started budgeting when we were first married,” she says. “Not because I regret not saving more money but because being on the same page financially is so important.”
Hannah is in a relatively comfortable place, as her husband’s schooling is largely covered by scholarships and a small salary as a research assistant. (Those looking for financial aid may want to take advantage of resources like ScholarshipOwl to make the process easier.)
Come March and baby Number Two, however, Hannah is switching to part-time freelance career. “We’re in a position to do this, thanks to some great real estate investments,” she says.
I can’t say the same about me. My husband’s tuition is covered partially through scholarships, tuition waivers, and student loans. He receives some money through the GI Bill, and he also works two part-time jobs to help pay for some of our living expenses.
Cat’s husband is also funding his medical schooling through student loans because it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. And he wasn’t bringing home any money while in school. (This will change somewhat when he starts his residency.) So right now, their monthly expenses come entirely from her business income.
Yes, we are supporting our husbands in school, but none of us expect big payoffs later. No, there will be no lazy days under the sun for us.
I’m going to continue to look for a job within my career field either as a full-time wildlife biologist and part-time freelance writer, or else as a full-time freelance writer.
Cat tells me that her situation is changing soon now that her husband is about to start his residency, which means four more years of paid training. Meanwhile, she will work harder to increase her income. “I will likely still be the breadwinner for four-plus more years,” she adds with a smile.
Though Hannah today jokes with Rob about him becoming her sugar daddy, she says that, “Realistically I think that I will continue to work at least on a part-time basis.”
Is this reversal of traditional roles hard on our husbands? If my husband could be a stay-at-home-husband, he would. He has no problem with me making more money than him right now. By that same token, though, my income isn’t very big right now, and so that’s why he’s going to school in the first place – so he can make more money!
Indeed – more than minding the income differences in our relationships, our husbands appreciate that we’re helping them pursue their goals.
Cat’s husband refers to her as his sugar momma! He openly admits that his medical school years would be much harder without her constant support. And he shows his great appreciation by helping her in every way he can.
Hannah says that her husband is absolutely grateful for the way she has supported him through school. “It bothers him, though, that he isn’t currently in a position to be the primary earner in our family. But I don’t want him distracted – our goal now is for him to finish school.”
And what do we expect in return from our husbands? Nothing but good grades, of course!