The Wage Gap at Home
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
When my husband was in college, he wore a button that said "This is what a feminist looks like". He cooks, cleans, changes diapers and he moved for my residency. He is a total mensch.
He also makes four times as much money as I do. His career is both more lucrative and more prestigious than mine (not surprising, since our society usually equates the two). In fact, as a woman, a pediatrician and a part-timer, I check every box for low status. My career is exactly as I wish it to be (most days), but we have the makings of a power differential in our marriage. Here is how we avoid bringing this aspect of our work home:
1. We measure our contribution to the household in time, not money. We both spend roughly the same amount of time each week keeping the ship afloat. An hour spent at work has the same weight as an hour spent grocery shopping, schlepping the kids to hockey or doing any other unpaid but needed task.
2. We both value what I do. Society may not value women's work (according to Margaret Mead) and medical culture may not value primary care (according to just about every measure: salary, residency applications, internet forums which I should know better than to read) but he and I know that being a primary care physician is intellectually demanding and important.
3. We both value what he earns. One big focus of our financial planning is saving enough that he can go part-time and then retire sooner than later. I would rather live on less and have him around more.
4. We treat money, and financial decisions, as ours. He is not more entitled to make decisions because he earned more of the money, and I am not more entitled to make decisions because I have more time to think about them. And most definitely not because I am a doctor's wife.
Because we don't let the wage gap turn into a power differential at home, we can work as a team. A team in which one of us is much, much better at Scrabble.