Born in the early 1970’s to a 17-year-old mother in North West London. My father was not absent but didn’t live in the same house as me from when I was about 2 years old but was always available to me and visited on a regular basis. I wasn’t missing male role models; my mother has three brothers, all surrogate fathers at some point in my life. I had a grandfather who would show his love by letting me sit high on his shoulders while he walked with me to the High Street.
At the age of 8 the best brother I could have wished came a long and my step father some time before that. I lived in council accommodation, starting off in an estate with flats twenty stories or so high.
I am not sure at which point in my childhood I became aware that it was me and Mum against the world, but I think I was still in single digits. I know from that point onwards I was fiercely independent, not wanting to burden my Mum with asking for things and definitely not demanding anything that cost money because I knew it was tough for us.
From the age of 14 I worked in a sweet shop on a Sunday morning to try and buy things I wanted. I would peruse catalogues in which you could pay £2 per week for items over a number of years and this is how I purchased new mirror doored wardrobes with a gold trim, and an abstract patterned foam sofa bed for my room which I was very proud of.
I held the ethos that I would need to work very hard to get anything I wanted and even then, there might never be enough money at the end of the month to cover the bills. This was not seen by me as negative, neither did I nor have I ever felt like a victim, it was just the way it was.
I did ok in school, studied A Levels and then went on to do a series of office jobs. I landed a job in marketing and decided to study in the evening for a degree in business. My Mum had paved the way she had studied for a degree and become a teacher while bringing up my brother and me. While studying and working full time, I also held a weekend call centre job. Life was busy, I saved money and at the age of 24 bought my first flat, I was on the ladder.
Since those early days, I completed my degree part time in the evening, got married, had my daughter, and held various jobs in the field of marketing. In early 2000’s I became interested in coaching thanks to a great friend, strong, inspiring and determined woman Dr Barbara Banda. Stumbling on coaching has been a major transformation in my life. A number of transformations took place from attending coaching programmes which encouraged me to be more self-aware, in particular a programme led by Dr Simon Western who was at the time at Lancaster University and also an e book that I read on living life in Abundance by Davide DeAngelis allowed me to change my attitude and relationship to money and life.
This change created space for me to encourage my husband who had been unhappy at work to seek opportunities more aligned with his values. He did this successfully and became a college lecturer. During which time my work took off as a Leadership coach and facilitator and I took a Masters degree in Management Learning and Leadership.
This shift and change is at the heart of me as a female breadwinner and the female breadwinner experience. My husband’s new role brought in less income and he was happier, my work took off and I was bringing in more income and was also happy. So why worry?
Well certain situations made me realise that I needed to worry…
- We never, ever, ever spoke about money. My husband never asked me for any and I never brought it up, it was the elephant in the room.
- Plus, I am not proud to say that my ego got the better of me, I’d make big decisions about our home without consulting him, because it was ‘my’ money
- I’d go to a restaurant with my husband and at the end of the meal, the waiter would always give the bill to him, of course. We’d awkwardly crack a joke about it being a birthday treat and never return, or sneak the credit card under the table
I realised that couples generally don’t want to discuss anything that could lead to an argument. The sensitive topics are in-laws, household chores and money. I see some of you nodding your heads knowingly. Unfortunately, these things need to be spoken about. Writing my book Rocking Your Role, which is a guide to success for female breadwinners, gave me the opportunity to really explore what it means to be a female breadwinner not just from my perspective, but from others too.
Did you know that a third of all the mums in the UK are earning the same or more than their partner, or are single parents? That’s more than 2.2 million, the population of Paris. The number of stay-at-home dads has also increased to 229,000 – the population of Aberdeen, Scotland’s third largest city.
I have now been married for almost 19 years and been the main earner for a major proportion of that time, here are 5 of my tips to making it work for both of you.
- Check Your Ego
The combination of your role at work and being the breadwinner at home can become a heady cocktail. If you notice yourself thinking that your opinion is the only one that matters, because you’re the one holding the purse strings, it’s time to check your ego.
- Drop the Superwoman Syndrome
Take off your superwoman cape. Listen and listen carefully, it’s OK not to be able to do it all. Repeat after me, it’s OK not to be able to do it all. Get help, get your family to pull their weight or get other support.
- Talk About Money
Don’t let money be the elephant in the room, talk about money with your partner. Decide who manages money, how it’s managed and how you will make financial decisions.
- Look After Your Spiritual, Physical and Mental Well-Being
Your physical, mental and spiritual health are critical, investing in you now will avoid painful derailment of your work and family life later. Take time for you – do whatever restores balance, gives you space to breathe and let go of all the roles you play in life. A retreat is the ideal opportunity to renew and refresh and focus on your goals
- Ditch the Guilt
Torn between many roles, such as: spouse, carer, mother, home-maker, career woman, guilt will drain your energy and take away the freedom you do have to enjoy your life and time with loved ones. Guilt is a set of rules that you create, that you decide that you cannot break, it’s time to rewrite those rules.
Jenny Garrett Is an Award winning coach, speaker and trainer with over 12 years’ experience of running a Global Business. She is a freeman of the Guild of Entrepreneurs - City of London and was listed in Brummell Magazine's top 30 City Innovators 2016