05/09/2014 06:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

In Praise of Breadwinning Moms on Mother's Day

Chris Routly

My wife gets up very early, every day of the week.

By the time the boys and I are up, she is almost always already out the door and on her way to the small medical device company where she works as a biomedical engineer. She leaves so early because it means she can be done with work, and home again, later in the afternoon. This gives her time with the family before, during and after dinner, and through bedtime. It also means most often going to bed herself very shortly after the boys are asleep, but it's a sacrifice she makes every day for us. On the weekends she might get an extra hour of sleep, but she still gets up earlier than I do, so she can go for a run or make breakfast for, and spend time with, the boys she misses all week.

While I care for our sons throughout the week as the full-time stay-at-home parent, she is hard at work, footing most of the bill for the things we do.

Certainly she enjoys her job, and the interaction with adults, and the chance to make use of her education and abilities...

... but she doesn't do it because she loves going to work, she does it because she loves us.

According to a study by CareerBuilder released this past year, she's not alone. The survey revealed that 34 percent of working moms reported they are the "sole financial provider" for their households, while the number of working dads who serve as sole breadwinner is 39 percent.

That's only a 5 percent difference between the percentage of families with breadwinning moms and breadwinning dads.

Even beyond women who are the sole breadwinners for their family, statistics show that around 70 percent of mothers with kids 17 and under are in the workforce. While certainly many moms go to work each day because they are committed to their career or vocation, or simply thrive more in an adult working environment better than at home taking care of their kids full-time, research shows that a majority do it mainly because their family needs the income to make ends meet. For the same reason, a large percentage of stay-at-home moms do some sort of work on the side -- be it photography, selling crafts on Etsy, Avon, or any other part-time or freelance work. They are doing what they need to do to serve their family too, in contributing toward the family's financial needs.

So why, as another Mother's Day rolls around, do we see so many lovely messages of thanks to moms for hugs when we're sad, kissing of boo-boos and a willingness to endure the excruciating process of giving us life -- all amazing, wonderful, much-appreciated things! -- but seem to ignore the difficult, long hours many moms spend working to pay for the food on the table? Why do we still treat it like it's "Caregiver Day" or "Homemaker Day"?

Trust me, next month when Father's Day hits, there will be no lack of heartfelt thanks to dads for going to work each day to support their family financially. "Thank you dad, for working so hard for us, now here's a tie so you have proper attire to go back to work tomorrow. Happy Breadwinner Day!"

I think it's appropriate this Mother's Day to give a special thanks for the hard work that working mothers do every day, both outside of the home and for their families, too.

So, thank you, moms, for being such good providers in addition to everything else you do.

Thank you for the blood, sweat and tears that we never see.

Thank you for pushing through whatever sense of guilt may be put on you by yourself or others, and instead choosing to do what's best for your family.

Thank you for seeing parenting as an equal partnership.

And thank you, honey, for giving a dad like me the opportunity to focus my day on caring for our children. They are going to grow up seeing their mom as the archetype for what a woman can be: anything she wants.

Today I honor my wife, and other moms like her.


An earlier version of this post originally appeared at You can find Chris Routly on Facebook and Twitter.

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