Women Breadwinners

FRESNO, Calif.

Madera Ranchos Mom Lisa Alvey is getting some rare playtime with her family ... with a game of baseball. On most mornings instead of rushing after loose balls ... she's rushing out the door to get to her job at Fresno Pacific University in Fresno. Leaving her husband Kevin to care for the kids.

For Lisa -- sometimes the guilt is overwhelming. "I miss my kids, I work a lot. I am blessed to have a really good job, which is fantastic. I love the job, I love where I'm working but it's hard, it's really hard without a doubt."

Lisa is among the growing ranks of women who've become the primary breadwinners of the home.

The most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed in 2007 over 33 percent of wives earned more than their husbands.

The Alveys chose the change, so Kevin could go back to school, but it's a role reversal they didn't take lightly.

Lisa said, "I couldn't sleep, it was very difficult thinking, this is really hard, knowing that I am the one providing food for my family, I am the one making sure they have a roof over their head."

"I, for months, wandered around thinking I was supposed to be at work. What am I doing? How come I'm not on sort of agenda," said Kevin.

Now this full-time student working on his masters ... is also mastering time management.

Kevin said, "If I'm home and I have a few minutes and the kids are napping, I got a book open I'm studying trying to get something done, then I look up at the clock and it's time to make dinner, or take them to soccer."

Ellen Truschel is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She's seeing even more couples facing this new reality due to the recession. Men make up 75-percent of the 7 million people who have lost their jobs in this recession.

"There's grief going along with that, feelings of not feeling good enough, why did I lose my job? Feelings of failure or inadequacy," said Truschel.

Those feelings are often magnified by a social stigma the men say they feel because they aren't working. In fact, of the five other couples we asked to sit down for an interview on this topic ... they all declined ... saying the husbands were uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Truschel says if couples need it ... they should be proactive in seeking help ... before jumping into their new roles. Next they need to come up with a strategy, including laying out expectations and negotiating responsibilities.

Truschel said, "The one that's at home needs to feel like they can clock in and clock out. So the husband can take on things at home, more of a management style, how do I manage the home now so that way it's a better balance for the wife and takes some of the load off her."

And finally, throughout the process, couples need to maintain constant communication, about what's working and what's not.

Kevin said, "I think without discussing those things, or allowing assumptions to settle in, yeah, you can have real big problems. I think it takes constant adjustment."

Lisa and Kevin agree communication is key ... but there are still those rough days.

"Sometimes I come home and the kids are running through the house, it's chaos, and Kevin's trying to make dinner and I come home and I'm like, oh my gosh," said Lisa.

But even on those long days they spend apart ... they remind themselves ... they're in this together.

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