The Pressure of Being the Breadwinner

Many studies have found that gendered role expectations in women have a disadvantage, but the same can be harmful to men too.

In a society where gender roles are still being challenged, most men still see themselves to be the breadwinners. Even as children, men are encouraged to be “strong and not cry”. Showing emotions, and seeking support or help in males are all seen as a sign of weakness. The image that men are taught to portray is that of a strong, silent, and dependable kind who is always in control and ready to be the savior. However, not every man lives up to these heightened and exaggerated concepts of masculinity. Some concepts are so ingrained in males that they may linger, even unconsciously.

Men are expected to be breadwinners and make a greater contribution financially toward the family than women in a traditional role. If for whatever reason men are not able to do that, it has a great impact on their mental health.

Men who make a lot more money than their partners may approach breadwinning with a sense of obligation and worry about maintaining the breadwinner status. Women, on the other hand, may approach breadwinning as an opportunity of choice. Women may feel a sense of pride, without worrying about what others will say if they can’t or don’t maintain it. Study shows that men with negative psychological well-being are those who made significantly more than their partners.

Ass to this fact is that men are expected by society to not ask for help or to always be in control and the consequences can be dire. While serious mental illnesses may be more common in women than in men, men are much more likely to commit suicide. Men are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, something often intimately interlinked with mental well-being. Men are much more likely to suffer in silence and not seek help.

With more families having both partners working and contributing toward the financial burden, the social image is changing for the better. Men do not need to feel the sole burden of being the breadwinner or constantly worrying about losing their job and livelihood. It becomes more complex when the woman starts earning more than her partner and ego clashes start happening if not handled sensitively. Signs to look out for in your male partner that the pay cut/ laying off/ or wife being promoted is not having a positive effect on him, maybe irritability, anger outbursts, lack of motivation, sleep or appetite disturbances, and social isolation to name a few.

As society changes, so do the gender role definition. More males opt for paternity breaks and sharing of the financial burden is not such a rarity but more of a norm. When women go on maternity breaks, men tend to be more stressed as the role change of becoming a father along with the pressure of being the sole earner in the family with added expenses of having a baby all play a part.

As we bring up a new generation, allow the boys to cry and say it is okay to have emotions and show them too. As they grow up watch their parents share not only financial burdens but also the responsibilities at home. Here is hoping that breadwinners and homemakers are no longer associated with one gender.