Today, I saw a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a few months. We talked about how it was for me financially since I was out of work for a while. She mentioned that she’d read my blog (which NEVER gets old to hear, by the way, thank you so much!) and found my posts about debt repayment insightful. You can read about them here. I felt tickled by her admission. I told her, “You know, I have to be good with money because I am, after all, the breadwinner.” I didn’t think much of it when I said it, but as the evening wore on, that word “breadwinner” stuck in the back of my mind.
Being a breadwinner to me, still has that traditional feel to it. When I think breadwinner, I think “man at work, bringing home a pay cheque to take care of his family”. I don’t think of myself and all the other single mothers in my life. I think breadwinner is a masculine word, like bachelor or widower. When I looked it up while I was writing this article, it is defined as “A person supporting a family with his or her earnings”. I felt, though, that while it is accurate by definition, applying the word to myself didn’t sit right with me. I don’t feel comfortable being referred to as a breadwinner, even though I am.
Now I’m all confused. Why does this bother me?
I wonder if it’s that my perception of self is screwed up and that even though I’m out here kicking butt all day taking care of my two-person family, I don’t really subscribe to the fact that I am a breadwinner?
Even typing that last part made me uncomfortable, which means I might be onto something.
The world is different. What was considered to be the traditional family is no longer traditional. In 50 years, there might be more blended families than there will be opposite gender, married people living together and raising children born naturally. Who knows what will be considered ‘traditional’ then? Maybe that while I have a non-traditional family – one parent and a child – I do still think in traditional terms. I don’t really know. Maybe I believe that some things are male and some things are female. Maybe I believe in gender-specific roles. Wait, what? Hmmm…coming to think of it, I do NOT like taking out the garbage or washing the car…maybe I do have some kind of gender confusion thing going on.
Quite possibly, even though I am a fully independent woman, raising a child, I really just want to be in a ‘traditional’ relationship. Then again, I don’t know if I want a fully traditional situation: woman stay at home with the children while the man goes out to a 9-5. Hmmmm….actually, I know I don’t want that. So what the heck DO I want?
[Okay, while I was writing this, I had to stop at this point to think to get some clarity.]
I figured it out. To admit that I was a breadwinner, just cemented the fact that I am doing double duty. Yes, Kidlet has a dad in his life and I’m not having to fill those shoes, but I certainly have to fill the shoes traditionally worn by a man. I don’t have a fall back. Our ability to have a roof over our heads depends solely on my ability to provide it for us. There is no help, no companion: it’s just me, and me being designated as the breadwinner is a testament to that. (<—my aha! moment!)
Without thinking about it, out of necessity, I have replaced a man in that sense. I have been doing the things traditionally a man would do. I already take out the garbage, I already get the oil changed for the car, I already kill spiders, I already bring the heavy stuff in from the car, I already drive myself everywhere, I already pay for my own drinks, I already buy myself fancy birthday presents. Before all of that or any of that, I was already the breadwinner from the minute I signed the rental agreement on this apartment, and I didn’t even realize it. I guess just hearing it referred to in such an ‘official’ capacity freaked me out.
What does this all mean then?
Now that I’ve written it all out on the screen, I feel a simmering sense of panic arising within me. If I’m doing all these things, if I’m the official breadwinner, if I’m taking out the garbage and killing spiders, when I do get a man in my life, how will it all work? What will be left for him to do?
Do you hear that?
That’s the sound of a can of worms being opened…..