woman on her laptop with a coffee, working from home


I Joined The Workforce During COVID And Now I Out-Earn My Husband

Mar 1, 2022

“I’m getting a bonus this week.”

I was excited to share this news with my husband Daniel while we snuggled in bed.

He joked, “I’m proud of you, you worked hard for this — can you buy me a new guitar pedal with the money?”

No, there wouldn't be a new guitar pedal. We'd be using the money to book a vacation at a cottage near Georgian Bay.

You see, a few years ago we wouldn’t have dreamed of having enough extra cash to book a cottage vacation over the summer. Instead, we would spend a week in Muskoka at a Christian camp, where my husband worked all week teaching at the youth program. It was a nice break, but it was more of a work trip than an actual trip.

But in the last year our family’s finances have shifted significantly.

At 31, after being married for a decade and the mom of three kids, I got a corporate job. I walked into my new job — well, logged into my new job, thanks to the pandemic — feeling both like a total rookie and far too old to be so new.

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The time before full-time

Many Canadians spend their 20s travelling, furthering their education or exploring job opportunities. I spent mine changing diapers and rubbing lotion on my ever-expanding stretch marks. I found out I was pregnant at 21 and spent my 20s pregnant thrice.

In the gaps of my day I wrote for local, national and international publications. My husband, a pastor, was the main source of our income — this fact prevented us from buying a home, and made for many nights spent tracking our expenses and looking for ways to tighten our budget.

"I found out I was pregnant at 21 and spent my 20s pregnant thrice."

Despite our tight finances, I had never dreamed of having a full-time job. I loved being home with my three daughters and being my own boss as a freelance writer. As my kids grew I spent more time writing, and hoped to earn a decent income working for large print and digital publications.

Instead, COVID-19 hit. It became harder to manage our finances on my husband’s clergy salary — and I became tempted by the idea of the ever-expanding remote work opportunities. With Canada’s inflation rate hitting 5.1 per cent this year, there’s no way we would have survived 2021 without my financial contributions.

Embracing the workplace

What I didn’t expect was that one year after entering the workplace I’d already be out-earning my husband by 25 per cent. It's been 14 months since starting my first role, and I’ve received multiple pay increases and quickly climbed the corporate ladder. While my initial role was an entry-level position, I’ve thrown myself into my work and proven myself as a capable employee that brings many different skills to the table. Most of these skills I learned as a freelancer, but some I also learned as a mother — like negotiation, leading others with empathy and multitasking.

Throughout the last year our lives have changed significantly thanks to the introduction of another stable income. We were able to purchase a second car, buy a bigger home and have some wiggle room in our budget for things like high-quality winter clothes.

While our girls have had to adjust to having two working parents, we’re also very lucky — my husband’s job is flexible and I work remotely. Having this current setup makes it that much easier to take turns supporting each other during sick days and day-time appointments. It’s become a delicate dance, but something we are motivated to continue.

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Teaching our girls choice

Daniel and I both talk openly about our finances and what we earn. While we’re a little more cagey with our children, they do know that I’ve become financially successful quite quickly. We all know that earning more than my husband doesn’t mean much beyond giving us more security, however it has given me a boost of self confidence and helps me feel like I’m an equal contributor to our finances.

We also acknowledge the fact that Daniel chose an admirable route, working at a church and chaplaincy for an inner-city community centre. He’s always known he will never make a lot of money, but money can’t buy the kind of joy that giving your life to community service brings.

"We all know that earning more than my husband doesn’t mean much beyond giving us more security, however it has given me a boost of self confidence and helps me feel like I’m an equal contributor to our finances."

Likewise, I want our daughters to know that women (and especially mothers) can have lofty career goals. Just like it’s not a bad thing to dedicate yourself to the nonprofit sector, it’s also not bad to climb the corporate ladder. Corporate women in the media have sometimes been portrayed as the villain, women who want too much and refuse to settle for less, or have their priorities out of whack.

I want my daughters to see that you can be committed to your work and still love your family.

I feel like I’m just getting started, and I am excited to continue to chase my dreams and have my family watch and cheer me on from the sidelines. I want my girls to know that they have options — even if that's finding yourself in the corporate world a decade after becoming a mother.

Whatever they choose, I just hope they know how many opportunities they have — and that there’s no shame in making more than your spouse.

Article Author Brianna Bell
Brianna Bell

Read more from Brianna here.

Brianna Bell is a writer and journalist based in Guelph, Ontario. She has written for many online and print publications, including The Globe & Mail, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

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