As women become the financial breadwinner in ever-increasing percentages, one thing is clear: women’s success equals family success. But why is it that many female breadwinners feel like they have to hide their success, pretend that their spouses are still the “provider” and essentially play small while covering up their accomplishments? Even in 2013, there’s a social stigma to being the woman wearing the pants in the family.
As a woman breadwinner, it’s important to own your power as you strengthen your family. And, yes, you can have BOTH. The key to balancing financial power with family partnership comes in feeling comfortable enough in the relationship to be who you really are. That means that each partner should feel free to discuss the accomplishments of the day, the stressors of the week, the concerns, the wins, the worries, and the dreams. Each partner must feel that home is a safe haven where real feelings can be shared without fear of judgment, blame, or guilt.
But, in women breadwinner homes, that doesn’t always happen. Countless women point out the fact that they have to “make” their husbands feel like real men. Many women shy away from talking about their professional accolades in public, choosing instead to downplay their achievements in deference to their husbands. They go to parties and make their husbands sound like financial kings and their own work seem like a hobby. That’s not the way to grow a relationship. That’s a strategy that builds resentment.
If you’re ready to stop apologizing for your success, there are five things you need to do:
1) Have a heart-to-heart talk with your spouse about the fact that you feel you have to downplay your professional achievements and ask for more support and encouragement in feeling free to speak your truth.
2) Openly discuss and share your accomplishments. In other words, own your strengths. If someone gives you a compliment, accept it. If someone is impressed by your achievements, bask in it. If someone asks you how you do this or that, tell them. Do it in a way that speaks the truth of your worth and allow your partner to support you in that. Whether it’s silent support (i.e. don’t say anything negative or make a comment or try to interject his/her own accolades) or overt support (verbally appreciating in public), part of being your spouse comes in being your cheerleader, your family team’s co-captain. If your partner is unable to do that because of insecurity, a different conversation must be had.
3) Give your all to all you do for YOU. In other words, don’t sabotage your success by giving 70% to an endeavor or by short-changing your work ethic so your partner can see that you’re not perfect. Give your all because that’s how you work… period.
4) Accept compliments without giving a compliment in return. This is the first step in learning how to receive. Can you take a compliment from someone without rejecting it or bouncing back a compliment because you feel you “owe” the other person? Can you do that? If abundance is what you seek, it begins by learning how to accept the abundance of small things. Especially for women breadwinners, learning how to accept when someone says, “Wow, you are amazing!” is critical to continued success. What we reject, we detach from. If you want continued success, embrace all signs that you have it. Compliments are a part of that.
5) Refuse to play small. Insecure people will ask you to play small. They’ll do it subtly, subconsciously, or out loud. They will do it by asking you not to speak at certain times or not to do certain things or not to tell people other things. Whenever you get asked (directly or indirectly) to play small, give one simple answer, “No” and keep being you. Remember: we teach people how to treat us. Every action you take (or don’t take) teaches people what you will and will not accept from them.
At the end of the day, no amount of playing small on your part will ever make someone else feel big who doesn’t. Do not play small. Play big. Your gifts will make room for you but only if you allow them to be what they are in the open.