The Male Breadwinner Model

July 17, 2013

The Second Shift, at its heart, revolves around the male breadwinner model. Despite the fact that women now make up a significant percentage of the workforce, the idea of separate spheres still prevails. Men work outside the home to provide for their family, women work inside the home to  care for their family. Women’s work outside the home, therefore, is “extra income”, a secondary career that comes after her job as homemaker. Like with advertising, it creates a vicious cycle.

Because women still earn less than men, they feel they have to “make up” their earnings by doing more housework, and because they take on more household and childcare responsibilities, they are not taken as seriously in their job.

Recognizing women’s contributions outside the home is a start to recognizing, and relieving, her contributions within the home. However, the male breadwinner model is so ingrained in our society that it can be hard for many people to admit that women doing most of the household labor is unfair. Jane Hood has this to say, “Some [husbands] adopt the position that no matter how much money their wives make, the money is not really necessary and the wife must, therefore, continue to accept the responsibility of housework and child care” (114). Women’s money is “fun money”, if she does not like having a double day, well, she can just quit.

Except many women cannot just quit, many families depend on that extra income to survive. Even in two income families where they could survive on one income, that extra money provides for a higher quality of life for the whole family, and a safety net to fall back on if necessary. It is unfair to ask women to choose between paid work and family, or to suffer the consequences of the second shift if she does not.

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