Anastasia Petrova, her daughter Apollo and husband Steve Scarborough at home in Farnborough

The proportion of women who carry the main financial ­responsibility for their family has increased by about 50% since 1996, according to the IPPR thinktank. Now, a third of Britain’s working mothers are the main breadwinners in their ­family, and most of this 2 million-strong group are low earners. But why are more mothers ­becoming the main earners today? How do these working women differ from their male equivalents – and how do lower-earning dads feel about their roles in the home?

Furthermore, who does the majority of the cleaning and the cooking in such households, and who pays for dinner on a night out? We interviewed five couples where the mother is the main earner to find out.


‘I feel lucky that I don’t need to worry about money’

Steven Scarbrough, 49, lives in Farnborough, Hampshire, with his wife Anastasia Petrova, 38, and 15-year-old step-daughter Apollo. Anastasia earns £90,000 as a telecoms director. Steven earns £22,000 as a sensors assembly specialist.

“It took me a long time to meet such a wonderful woman – I wasn’t worried she earned more,” Steven says. “I know I contribute in other ways at home. For example, when we first met five years ago Anastasia did a lot of the cooking and the housework – but she works longer hours than me and commutes for two hours, so she’s tired when she gets home. Now I do all the cooking during the week and we share the housework.

“We have separate accounts. I’ll pay for the running of the car, phones and food; Anastasia pays the council tax and our joint mortgage, although I contributed to the original deposit. If we go out for a takeaway around here I’ll pay, but if we go to London for a posh meal she’ll pay. It certainly doesn’t embarrass me if she pays. I’m very proud of her. I think it’s a win-win situation – I can understand how some men might not like it, but I’m more open-minded. I feel lucky I don’t need to worry about money. It doesn’t really matter to me who pays for what. We’re a family.

“One of the main benefits of ­Anastasia earning more is she can afford to give Apollo a private ­education. There’s no way I could have afforded that. And the fact Anastasia earns more than me, and always will because I didn’t get much of an education, is spurring Apollo on at school. I see that as a massive positive.”

‘I hid photos of my kids from my boss’

Jo Mainwaring, 58, and her husband Richard, 62, live in the Cotswolds near Cirencester. They have two children: Ellie, 23, and Sam, 21. Jo earns a six-figure salary as a sales director and has been the main breadwinner for 26 years, bringing in up to 70% of the couple’s household income.

“My husband never felt guilty about working while the children were growing up – but I did,” says Jo. “I went back to work less than four months after giving birth and absolutely hated being apart from the children. I had to go back to pay the bills. My husband ran his own water-skiing business, and due to its seasonality his earnings were irregular. But he loved his job and I wanted him to be happy. I also felt I’d brought the children into the world and they were my responsibility. I wanted to provide for them myself.

“I remember in those days men in my office would be congratulated for becoming a dad. Women would not be. A woman’s children were viewed as an inconvenience to the business. I used to hide my photos of Ellie and Sam from my boss. We had a nanny who cost more than our mortgage – I would travel a lot and work 60 hours a week, although a fair bit of that was from home. Richard worked 40 hours a week and ­sometimes I envied the time he got to spend with the children, although he was an old-school father. He’s only changed two nappies in his life. I did all the cooking and we had a cleaner to do the housework.

“We have completely separate accounts and split the cost of our joint bills equally, transferring money across as necessary. If we go out for lunch, generally I’ll pay. But if it’s a dinner or we’re in company we revert back to stereotypes and Richard normally pays.

“I handle the discretionary spending on the children. We used to argue about it. Richard would say: ‘They don’t need that! It would be better if you paid more off the mortgage instead.’ But he’s given up. It’s a guilt thing when you’re a working mum: you spend more money on your children. I remember realising at a shop in Düsseldorf airport that there wasn’t a single toy I hadn’t already bought them.”

‘I never buy anything without consulting him’

Naomi and Ricky Willis:

Naomi Willis, 31, and her husband Ricky, 37, live in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, with their two children: Chloe, three, and Daniella, 11. Naomi earns £28,000 a year as an HR manager, while Ricky, author of the award-winning blog, earns up to £15,000 as a part-time freelance writer.

“In 2013 we realised that after paying our £1,200 monthly childcare bill and commuting costs we were in the red at the end of each month. So Ricky gave up his full-time job and I became the main breadwinner,” says Naomi. “Although I wasn’t earning much more than Ricky it made more sense financially for him to stop working, because his commute into London was very expensive. But I would like to have been the one to stay at home. I went back to work full-time less than nine months after each of my daughters were born, and I would’ve liked more time with them. I know children are hard work, but I also think it would be a more relaxed life.

“My salary goes into my personal account. I pay all the joint bills and transfer money to Ricky as and when he needs it. When we have a night out I’ll withdraw cash and give it to him. That way, he’s in control of what we spend during the evening and can go and get the drinks. It also makes him look like he’s got his own money – because the money I earn belongs to both of us. We manage it together. I never buy anything without consulting him, even though he sometimes wishes I would. Even if I’ve got to buy a new pair of shoes I’ll ask him if he minds.

“I worried that I would feel resentful about Ricky not working – like I was missing out. But I’m happy. When we both worked full-time I used to do most of the cooking; now Ricky does about 90% of it, and dinner’s normally ready when I arrive home. We shared the housework 50/50 before; now he does most of it. That means I get to spend more time with Chloe and Daniella when I get in. But he’s the favourite. They are ­definitely daddy’s girls.”

‘Am I there for the children enough?’

Zoe Davies, 41, lives in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, with her husband Andrew Handley, 51, and their two children – Megan, 15, and Sam, 13. Zoe earns £37,000 through her Avon business, while Andrew earns £9,000 as a car valet.

“I became the main breadwinner four years ago,” Zoe says. “Andy had a valeting business that was nearly closed down overnight by a bad debt owed to him by another company. I threw myself into my Avon business, which I’d started doing part-time while our children were young. Previously, I’d worked 30-hour weeks earning £18,000 so I could be there for the kids when they were young. I also did the majority of the cleaning and all the cooking. Now I head up a team of 500 people and work 50-hour weeks.

“Andy does most of the cooking and a lot of the housework. It’s not an easy transition for any man, but he’s happy and ­everything’s tidy when I get home. It happened gradually. We didn’t specify what each of us should be doing, but we could both see where the money was coming from.

“Our wages are paid into our own personal accounts, and then we each transfer some money into an account that pays the bills. We pay in amounts in proportion to the income we earn. I’d always wanted to run my own business, but I really had no choice when Andy’s valeting business closed due to the debts we incurred. It had to work – I had a mortgage, two children and five dogs to support.

“Now I know I can give my children everything they want. I have gained so much confidence in myself. I still ask myself: ‘Am I there for the children enough?’ But an Avon business is designed to be very flexible around family life. I feel a lot happier and more financially secure than I used to.”

‘Looking after the kids can be very rewarding’

Chris Pearson, 35, and his wife Kaira, 33, live near Oswestry, Shropshire, with their two children – Gabriel, four, and Micah, seven months. Kaira, an orthopaedic surgeon, is the sole breadwinner and earns £60,000 a year. Chris, a Cambridge-educated forensic scientist, became a stay-at-home dad two years ago.

“My job was in London and Kaira got a job in Macclesfield,” Chris says. “We tried to make it work but I was earning less than my job was costing us in childcare, commuting and rent, and we’d decided early on in our relationship to always put Kaira’s career first. It made perfect logical sense to me because her earnings potential is much higher than mine and can give us, as a family unit, a better lifestyle.

“Kaira’s salary goes into the joint account and that money is our money. I try to contribute financially by being efficient: I have a household budget that I stick to, and will save money by cooking everything, including all Micah’s baby food, from scratch, and growing our own produce.

“Kaira organises paying the bills while I run the household. The cooking and cleaning are my responsibility. I try to give Kaira – who has an 80-minute commute and spends one night a week away on call – as little housework to do as possible. I feel it’s good for our sons to see their dad doing domestics tasks and their mother going out to work. I’m proud of that, although intellectually it can feel like I’m stagnating.

“Looking after the kids can be very rewarding, but it can also be very, very hard and a bit lonely. It’s odd to do this role after employment. There’s so little external validation. It helps that Kaira is very supportive. She makes me feel valued.”

[Source:- The Gurdian]

By Adam