More than half of today’s college enrollees are women, making it likely that the number of working women will continue to dramatically rise in the coming years. Despite these facts, social roles often remain rooted in the past. This can create challenges in your personal relationships, especially as you accumulate independent wealth and become more engaged in financial decision-making for yourself and loved ones.
Whether you’re a working woman yourself, a supportive relative, or a friend of a professional woman, here are some tips on how to achieve relationship, family, and financial harmony in today’s new reality.
Script Your Own Happily-Ever-After
As an independent woman, it’s time to re-frame and re-write your own happiness. The best place to begin is by considering your values and what matters most to you in a relationship. For example, if family is a priority for you, then the best decisions will be those that support your family nucleus or extended family. What’s fundamentally important to you will translate into who you pick as a partner, whose career takes priority if you’re half of a couple, household responsibilities if you share a home, parenting roles for those with children, and much more.
Be Honest – With Yourself And Others
Today, more working women are living the single life. Perhaps you prefer your freedom and independence, you may have experienced a divorce, or maybe you earn sufficient income to make relationships seem too bothersome to pursue. Especially for female breadwinners, relationships can be challenging.
However, if your ideal lifestyle includes a partner and you’re still dating, it’s important to be upfront about who you are and what’s important to you in a relationship. Don’t hide your success. A life partner needs to be able to accept you as a career professional and be comfortable with your potential role as family breadwinner (if that’s who you are – or are likely to become). Conversely, you also need to accept your partner’s earning capacity in terms of your relationship and more.
Make Everyone’s Money Matter
Regardless of who makes more, it’s important to value each other’s contributions to the relationship. This includes agreeing on how bills will be shared, how saving responsibilities will be allocated, and so on. In instances where there’s a significant difference in earnings between your income and that of your partner, it’s essential to ensure that they identify a purpose to their support e.g., he or she might accept responsibility for funding college savings, or family vacations.
Collaborate On Finances
Today, more women are making the household financial decisions, and if you’re the primary breadwinner, you’re twice as likely to be the family’s financial decision-maker. While a division of financial duties might seem smart from a time standpoint, relationships typically work best when you’re both involved, regardless of earning levels. Financial collaboration achieves various objectives:
- It prevents you from feeling resentment if you feel you’re shouldering too much responsibility and stress.
- It encourages financial self-esteem and participation for both partners.
- It creates an excellent role model for your children.
- Focusing on both individual and shared financial goals helps both partners to achieve defined wealth objectives.
Needless to say, the same applies to many other aspects of your relationship too: Collaboration and equality help to create and maintain peace and harmony in your home.
Delicately Manage Uncomfortable Financial Requests
Just about every relationship encounters the moment when you’re asked to participate financially in something that makes you pause to question e.g., you might be asked to help repay your spouse’s prior debts, support a family member, or help with a large purchase. When this happens, take a moment to ask yourself:
• What would your partner do if financial roles were reversed?
• Is this request substantial enough to impact our long-term financial security?
• How does this relate to our agreed-upon financial goals, both individual and shared, and how does it reflect our family values?
As a working woman, you have a right to determine how your earnings are expended. If you feel that your family finances can’t support your spouse’s objective, or you’re still not comfortable allocating your own resources, consider adjusting family expenses so that your spouse’s income can wholly fund the obligation.
Respect The Male Brain
The more your household relies upon your earnings, the more stress you unconsciously absorb. This is because women tend to be planners who think ahead and worry about ‘what-if’ scenarios. For example, you may find yourself thinking through potential situations like the consequences of losing your job, or what happens if your child gets sick.
The male brain, too, needs understanding. Men typically associate the role of provider with a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. If you’re a female family breadwinner in a traditional relationship, this aspect can prove challenging. It’s important to support the male ego and recognize your partner’s contributions and efforts financially, as well as through direct and social appreciation. Involve your male partner in financial decisions to build self esteem and encourageequal decision-making, and get to know what makes your partner tick so that you can be responsive to his unique personality needs. Finally, recognize him as a partner in your success, regardless of income, as you both work together to support common goals and objectives.
Re-Evaluate Your Female Role
Trying to fulfill every traditional female role in this new society can be demanding and stressful. Somewhat ironically, breadwinning women are far more inclined to continue managing both household and childcare responsibilities in addition to their careers, in an effort to meet traditional female expectations.
You might need to re-evaluate your female role, focusing on the most comfortable and important aspects for you, your relationship, and your family. This might entail a range of decisions and actions, from hiring someone to help around the home, to a complete reversal of traditional roles with your partner.
Outsourcing can offer a host of benefits e.g., it might improve your relationship with your partner, provide more time with your kids, and most importantly, reduce your stress. If you don’t have the financial resources available, try open communication to come up with a plan of action that acknowledges and accommodates each other’s viewpoints, strengths, and active schedules.
Make Wise Parenting Decisions
If you’re juggling being a mom, partner and a professional, first recognize that the struggle is real! This can help you feel more positive and competent about your day-to-day challenges. As a working mother, you need to make the most of your mom-time with your kids:
- Be Present When You’re Present: Dedicate time to your children, making them your top priority and focal point during at least one segment of the day.
- Consider Tradeoffs: Find ways to reduce pressures upon time and money by hiring a nanny versus daycare, or by foregoing expenses such as travel to save money for other daily conveniences.
- Plan and Prepare Ahead: Have back-up plans so that you’re prepared for emergencies that may sap time, emotional, and/or financial resources.
- Agree on Parenting Styles: Make sure that you and your partner agree on both your parenting responsibilities and your parenting styles. Otherwise, your kids will notice the differences and will be sure to take advantage of them!
- Don’t Buy Your Kids’ Love: You might be inclined to spoil your kids when you do have the time, but despite what they might say, your children are far more interested in your time, love, support, and attention than toys or presents.
Protect Your Livelihood
The barriers facing women in the workforce continue to diminish, yet there are still double standards in many work settings. If you’re both a working professional and a mother, fulfilling your parenting duties and expectations can be a difficult balancing act to achieve. Ideally, the glass ceiling will fully shatter in our near future; but, until then, you need to protect yourself, your family, and your livelihood. This includes limiting how much your personal or family life intrudes upon your work (e.g., the amount of time you take off, or your communications with co-workers), and taking care of yourself to avoid burnout.
Politely Stand Your Ground
While most people these days accept women’s contributions to the workplace environment and will support your career advancement, there may still be life moments that suggest the opposite e.g., an argument with your partner, a heated discussion with family, lunch with girlfriends, discussions with a co-worker, or a PTA meeting with stay-at-home moms. Just be yourself and reject negativity, politely standing your ground when necessary. Every person, every relationship, and every family is different and if it works for you and your loved ones, that is the only thing that matters.
As a working woman, it’s essential to look beyond the traditional gendered stereotypes of relationship dynamics to find happiness with your partner and your family, and serenity for yourself and those you care about.
SageVest Wealth Management works with a number of professional women, advising on a comprehensive range of wealth topics, including rewarding approaches to finance in both your personal and professional relationships. Please contact us to discuss these and other financial considerations with you and your loved ones.