Is Sole Breadwinner the Best Type of Marriage?

Is it a sin for a Catholic mom to work?

This article, by Matt Fradd, discusses whether or not Catholic mothers should work outside the home. This is a hot topic in today’s Catholic circles, especially among generations who struggle to live on one income, want to have children, but also might be reluctant to leave careers behind. What are couples to do?

Fradd has this to say: “If it were wrong for mothers to work outside the home, we would expect the Church to tell us it’s wrong…The Catechism says nothing about mothers committing a sin by working outside the home. It instead speaks of ‘parents’ (rather than ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’) having equal responsibilities…But at the end of the day…if your family is suffering, they have to come first.”

The 2004 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith adds: “Women who freely desire will be able to devote the totality of their time to the work of the household without being stigmatized…while those who wish also to engage in other work may be able to do so with an appropriate work-schedule, and not have to choose between relinquishing their family life or enduring continual stress, with negative consequences for one’s own equilibrium and the harmony of the family.” 

Personally, I love this idea.

My husband and I strongly believe children are best served with a stay-at-home mother and families should not be penalized for choosing this. However, we also love how this congregation (led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself) recognized it’s not always possible, or even desirable, for a mom to be entirely a homemaker. The important thing is that parents consider the needs of the family as their first priority.

Breadwinning in families is not a black and white issue, and many factors other than moral might influence a couple’s decision about working and homemaking. Every married couple knows the struggle and the weight these decisions have on the well-being of a family. But there’s another element here.

Have daters recognized the implications this stuff has not just in marriage, but also in dating? 

Let’s apply this philosophy about breadwinning to dating itself. Here are four basic practicalities you can use in your romantic search for a spouse:

1. Who you date matters.

You shouldn’t try to change your date’s family plans to match your own. If there’s a big mismatch in these goals, you are probably better off dating someone who has similar expectations. For example, if you’re looking to be a stay-at-home-mom, maybe don’t get serious with someone who wants his future wife to work full-time while childbearing. If you want to keep up work after kids, look for someone who would be supportive and flexible about child rearing and work schedules.

The same goes for men—if your date wants to continue working after she has a family, it’s not your job to convince her otherwise just because you want a homemaking wife. Or the other way around.

Finally, don’t believe it’s just women who expect to stay home. My friend’s ex-boyfriend expected her to be the full-time breadwinner, while he played the role of the homemaker. This can go both ways!

2. Deal-breakers versus compromise.

Another thing worth reviewing is the type of work you both have in mind. Often, there’s middle ground in many situations. If she wants to keep working after marriage and children, and her job is an online gig, maybe don’t drop her like a hot potato. If he wants his wife to stay home with the children, but she would rather work part-time at the kids’ daycare, maybe there’s a compromise to be found.

Take a look at me—my husband wants me to stay home with our baby once it’s born, and I would love to do that and also keep up my part-time work. Since this work is online with a flexible schedule, it doesn’t interfere with our goal of having one parent home with our baby.

3. Planning your own career.

Your family expectations will remain only far-off dreams until you take steps to make them a reality. If you want to be the sole breadwinner, do your research and choose a career that will provide for the family you want.

If you want to be a part-time working mom, pick jobs with flexible schedules so you can work around the needs of your family. Check out this article for a whole discussion about your career and your dating life.

4. When to talk finances and family plans.

Obviously, this is not supposed to be something you decide on the first date. Nobody likes a date to become a job application—you two are getting to know each other. Later down the line, things might come up about which you disagree. That’s normal!

Remember, the person in front of you is to be treated as a person. You don’t have to discern whether you should marry them after the first coffee date. Take things at a natural pace, and when you feel interested in getting serious with someone, you know it’s time to bring this subject up.

One last thing to know: your future family plans might change over time. Necessity, location, and priorities might shift through the years, especially as you marry and raise children. That’s okay. Families have different needs at different times.

So yes, it is important to have a plan for work and family balance while you’re still dating, but remember, those plans might not always be reality. God will guide you, as long as you invite Him in to your romantic journey and family life. Remember, pray about it, be reasonable, and be open to where He might take you.

-Cadence McManimon

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