I have been witnessing something in my practice that I feel represents a bigger trend that is happening in the culture. It started off gradually over the years, but presently, the majority of the straight women in my practice are the main breadwinners of their family. According to recent statistics 50% of women in the U.S. are the primary breadwinners. That is up from 37% in 2000, and despite gender discrimination, this statistic continues to increase each year. Clearly this is a huge game-changer for women; economically, socially, relationally and politically.

There’s a reason for this.

Because my personal financial journey has run parallel to the changes that have occurred in the culture, let me share with you some of my story to put it all in context. 

I was raised in an era where my father actually forbade my mother to work! He considered it an insult to his manhood for her to have a job. My mother working would be  an indicator to everyone in his circle of family and friends that he must be falling down on the job of being a good provider for his family.

I was eleven years old when JFK was killed. Our Principal made an announcement and summarily dismissed the whole school for the day. Every child was sent home. It was just a given that there would be a mother at home to greet us and help process this tragedy that was overwhelming for this 6th Grader.  

If you got sick during the school day you were sent home. It was rare for any of my friends or classmates mother’s to work. If a child had to be sent home in the middle of the day, and your mom worked, you can be sure that she had an arrangement with a neighbor woman so that her child had a place to go while mom was at work. This was the woman’s role – definitely not the man’s.

Meanwhile, there was the dilemma I was thrown into when at the age of eleven I was awarded a six figure payoff by the Superior Court of NYC for losing my leg in a car accident. This was a ton of money at the time and suddenly I was the wealthiest member of my family.

It also left me traumatized and overwhelmed which created a distorted relationship with money which took me years to heal. 

The truth is, my father could not support the family like I could now. Although the money was put in a trust fund not to be touched until I was 21, in my naïveté I said to my mother, “This accident happened to us all, so if there’s a way to access that money now, by all means let’s do it.” My lawyer was called the next day. 

I subsidized my father’s income until I was 21. My money paid the rent after we moved to a nicer neighborhood in the Bronx, it paid my High School and College tuition and their Friday Nights out at expensive restaurants. 

When I started dating, my mother warned me, “You need to be careful. Men are only going to want you for your money.”  Her veiled concerns hid her fear, that if I married, there would be less for them and more for him.

I had an older cousin who, every time I saw him he would say, “ I better be nice to you. You’re gonna be rich one day.” He proceeded to buy me a Christmas present, ironically a bride doll, the first Christmas after I won the law suit, something he had never done before. If I could be teased by a family member then I better keep money a secret. It was a source of shame. It made me even more different, a rich kid, a wealthy person in sea of “just getting by-ers.” 

When I turned 21 I sat and wrote checks to every member of my family as they waited with their hand out. I purchased my parents a home making them homeowners for the first time in their 30 years together, and paid off my sister’s credit card debt.

The biggest expense with my Trust Fund was a brand new Karmann Ghia convertible. My friends were wowed. I lied to my college friends and told them it was a birthday present from my parents. I was too ashamed to admit I purchased it for myself. I was too ashamed to admit I was wealthier then my father. I was too ashamed to admit I didn’t have parents who could buy their kid a car like my other friends.

It looked to me like me having money sure made the people around me crazy, while no one saw how it was tormenting me.

In time I could look back on that younger self with compassion. I have deep compassion and understanding for women I meet who feel the sadness and loneliness that money causes them in their lives.

My mother’s warning remained with me and I would be suspicious of men, even the ones who seemed to love me just for who I was. It confused me so. The App of mistrust had been well installed. And since it was important to be loved for who I was at the time, the best strategy my Adaptive Child came up with was to spend it, getting rid of it as fast as I could. It took seven years, but I freed myself, eliminating what had been a predator in my life – MONEY.

How I was able to survive on so little in the ensuing years, amazes me to this day. Gratefully, that survival strategy, as most strategies do, expired and a new phase of inquiry began.

I must have read every money book under the sun. I took every manifesting class that was offered and went through years of therapy until I turned that strategy around. I unpacked the trauma that kept me in an endless cycle of under-earning. I healed.

There is a phrase often used when people are considering being a teacher or coach, “Teach what you need to learn,” a worthy way to step into teaching. But I realized I learned best from teachers who embodied what they taught. I vowed to be that kind of teacher. It was then that Hugh and I created the Money is Just the Metaphor Workshop. We taught that together for many years and the first time I made six figures from doing what I loved, rather than losing a body part, was mind blowing!

I am now grateful to be married to a man who is not threatened by my success and even brags to others, “My wife makes more money than me!”

It wasn’t always that way. For many years he made more than me. My Adaptive Child needed that to feel safe. But as I have said previously, my marriage has been a Master Class in opening my heart and healing my trauma. My money trauma was part of it. His extraordinary patience and belief in me while I grew up financially was epic for me. To make the money that I do, while knowing I am deeply loved, is a blessing.

So it makes my heart sing to not only bear witness, but be a participant in the profound shift that is happening. We are in one of the biggest evolutionary moments happening on the planet. We have a ways to go, but as more women become the primary Breadwinners in their families, is a step further in dismantling the patriarchy, which to a great degree is fueled by money. The imbalance of the patriarchy has a harmful effect on BOTH sexes. Teacher and author Warren Farrell describes this so eloquently in his workshops about the Disposable Male and in his several books such as The Myth of Male Power. 

The pendulum has to swing for a while in one direction before finding its center of true equality, but for right now it is swinging in the direction of women’s rights and the normalizing of her being the family earner. The upside of this is with women out working and earning, the stay-at-home fathers are showing up as nurturing, responsible dads. They are putting an end to the absentee father syndrome that my generation was raised by, where men were the shadowy, barely known member of the family, doing some mysterious job that takes most of his time. The old school father got a Hall Pass for most family activities –  except for punitive actions as in, “Wait till your father gets home.” This role as the punisher would further separate him from his heart.

In a marriage, the financial component has always been a challenge, and this is the case now more than ever. So much in the past was just taken for granted. No man has ever been asked, “ How does your wife handle you making more money than you?” Yet women often ask me in my practice, “How do I navigate making more money than my husband?” There needs to be a whole new family discussion to sort out these evolving roles that are being born. 

I often have to remind women that they signed up for this a long time ago, reminding them of what Clarissa Pinkola Estes told us several years ago in her book, Women Who Dance with the Wolves: “You were made for these times.” This is what we agreed to give birth to at this time in history. I am grateful for all I have healed in myself and to have witnessed and been a part of a journey where my mother was not allowed to work, my father dying prematurely of a heart attack, to me being afraid of having money, to making more money than my husband, while enjoying a loving partnership. 

It is an honor for me to help women and men in navigating their own evolutionary journey into balance and equality, while being lovingly supportive of each other’s dreams.

Some Releasing Statements for you. Take a moment, get quiet, breathe and connect to each statement.

For Women:

I release the confusion I hold around being the breadwinner for my family

I release the inherited programming from my DNA that insist, men are the breadwinners and women are the recipients of their great win

I release the multigenerational feelings and beliefs that it is un-feminine to make more money then men

I release my fear I won’t be loved if I make more money than a man

I release the amnesia that makes me forget that on a Soul level I signed up for a bigger global transformation as well as a personal transformation

I release the multigenerational confusion from the female linage of my family that makes me feel and believe I am suppose to earn less than a man.

That ends today!

For Men:

I release the confusion I hold around being the breadwinner for my family

I release my confusion, worry and anxiety that it’s all up to me

I release the effects of how that confusion, worry and anxiety interferes with a more enlightened partnership with my partner.

I release my feelings of being less of a man if I make less than my partner.

And So It Is!

Please feel free to add your own Releasing Statements. 

How do you handle being a Breadwinner? If it is too personal to post here, email me. I would love to hear how you are navigating this evolutionary moment.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Angela Willson
    Reply

    While I never earned more than my ex husband our issue (in my opinion) had a great deal to do with competition. He and I were both insecure in many ways, although he was educated and extremely seated in his profession. I was a HS graduate when we married. I was a stay at home mum and wife for years and sadly that profession never gets the respect it should. His job took him away for at least half the year so I was the primary everything except “bread winner” during his absence

    Once the children were in school I decided to get a degree and skill. At that points things went bad. I got confidence, learned I wasn’t as stupid as I’d been told. And I don’t think he was at all thrilled at my confidence.

    The marriage ended because we were no longer a team that respected each other. Specifically each other’s role in the family. The respect should be not who has the most of whatever but rather the respect of valuing the strengths and accomplishments of each and the helping each other where there is weakness and fear.

    Thank you Voge for another incredible insight.

  • Voge Smith
    Reply

    Thanks so much for your comment Angela and sharing your journey to your authentic self. I applaud your courage to risk going back to school in spite of the other consequences. Sounds like you learned how to make bread too!

  • Lynne Shore
    Reply

    Voge, this blog affected me in profound ways. I am so moved by your bravery and honesty in the sharing of your personal story. It was a brilliant teaching for me. As I felt compassion for your experience, I was able to go to deeper levels of understanding and compassion for my husband and for myself and our journey with money. I had to start from scratch when my husband passed away and I am just beginning to feel the possibilities of creating my own abundance for the things that I find important for my well being. Your support, guidance and creative approach to my issues in our private sessions have been instrumental in my journey to becoming a Functional Adult in all areas of my life.
    With endless gratitude,
    Lynne Shore

  • Voge Smith
    Reply

    Your words are golden for me. Whenever I write from such a raw place, my intention is for my words to land in my readers in such a way that it provides an understanding for their own journey. Thank you for letting me know how this resonated for you.

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