The Great American Role Reversal?

Emma & Nona(Her Great-Grandmother) in 2008

Good article about the changing roles men and women are going through–or have been going through for quite some time.

Women as breadwinners: The great American role reversal?

By Michelle Goodman


Speaking of households being turned upside down, you probably saw Sunday’s NWjobs article about men being laid off at a far more rapid rate than women. As Patrick May of the San Jose Mercury News reports, in an increasing number of households, women are being thrust into the role of main breadwinner and laid-off men are stepping into the role of househusband or stay-at-home dad.

Behold this statistic from May’s article:

“Since the recession began in December 2007, more than 80 percent of those laid off have been men, thanks to their disproportionate slice of jobs in hard-hit fields such as construction and manufacturing…”

And while it’s typical for more men to lose their jobs during a recession than women, May’s article points out that this is the highest unemployment gender gap the country has seen during the past 25 years.

Of course, a woman serving as a primary or sole breadwinner is nothing new. The Web magazine Women’s eNews recently offered this statistic: “In 2007 more than 4 million families looked to mom as the main breadwinner, double the number in 1990.”

In other words, if you have yet to meet a woman who’s the main source of revenue in her household, I’d say it’s a safe bet you don’t meet many people.

But as the San Jose Mercury News and Women’s eNews point out, for some couples, woman as breadwinner and man as domestic diva is a whole new ballgame. For a man who’s spent the past five years going to an office every day, suddenly having to juggle kids, laundry, and soccer schedules with a job hunt can be a bit of a shock to the system. Then again, having more time to spend with your school-age kids can also be a blessing in disguise.

If you and your significant other have recently swapped breadwinning/stay-at-home roles due to one of you getting laid off, how is it going and how are you coping? Is one of you adjusting to the new setup better than the other? What do your kids think? Did anyone get the short end of the stick? Or is everyone pulling their weight?

Freelance writer Michelle Goodman is the author of “My So-Called Freelance Life” and “The Anti 9-to-5 Guide.” E-mail her at

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