Breadwinning Begins Before the Wedding

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At the center of traditionalism is the nuclear family. I have yet to meet a traditionalist who doesn’t desire to have a family centered on the timeless values of husband and wife with children. The husband/father shoulders breadwinning, and the wife/mother stays home with the children. My own family is structured this way, and I have previously written about whether a working father and stay-at-home mother is the ideal for everyone.

Ideal as this goal is, sadly, it is easier said than done. In my extended social circles, as well as my religious community, there is a common struggle for couples pursuing a traditional marriage and family. Simply put, it is this: Young men are failing to prepare for the financial responsibility of sole breadwinning. We could go back and forth all day about why, where, and who is to blame for this failure, but in the end, the result remains. Many wonderful young men enter marriage admirably dreaming of protecting and providing, but they have no foundation to turn this dream into reality.

Young Christian men face a nosediving economy, religious discrimination, and job outsourcing. Educational debt is sky-high, and colleges don’t always provide students with solid job and finance counseling. It’s a tough world out there—all the more reason to get successful breadwinning set up while family-minded men are still single. Often, for young families, it’s very difficult for one or both parents to make a big career shift, go back to school, or start a job from scratch. Rent, housing, medical bills, and the costs of having and raising children pile up over time.

There is little wiggle room left for exploring career changes or further education, and a breadwinner can feel stuck in a job he hates. Or the family dream is flipped on its head—couples I personally know end up in situations where the wife/mother is the breadwinner simply because she has the qualifications for a financially supportive job. Often, a bit of prep work before the wedding can prevent the traditional dream from falling apart.

So, what’s a young man in no-man’s-land supposed to do?

The answer is deceptively simple: get a fallback qualification.

See, there isn’t a need to find a forever, perfect career before getting married. (If you already have one of those, congratulations!) Nor is there a need to be stuck forever in a job you hate. What young men really need is backup plan, something on which they can rely to provide for themselves and their family in times of need. A breadwinner can use his fallback option as a starting point for a career or as a placeholder job to fund the pursuit of something else. It can provide a second job, side hustle, or extra income during a family financial difficulty. It can offer an immediate option in the event of a job loss, or other crisis. Truly, this is a genius way to approach becoming a breadwinner!

Essentially, the idea of a fallback qualification narrows down the huge variety of options and asks one simple question: “What will you do if x, y, or z doesn’t work out?”

For instance, when my husband graduated from high school, he didn’t know what he wanted to do. So he earned an associate’s degree in dental technology and planned to work in that field to fund the rest of his higher education and job exploration. My brother earned an athletic training degree prior to entering physical therapy school, just in case he didn’t get accepted into the doctoral program. A friend of mine became an accountant and a realtor before starting to build his freelance writing portfolio. In some of these cases, the young men knew what their dream job was and were smart about using steppingstones to get there. In others, they planned to have a money-earning job while they researched fields to find a better long-term option. See what I mean by “genius”?

One of the easiest ways any young man can explore a fallback job is to consider trade school. For instance, at a technical college not far from where I live, over 30 associate’s degrees, certificates, and qualifications are offered, including but not limited to:

  • Accounting
  • Business administration
  • Nursing (2 year LPN or 3 year RN)
  • Criminal justice
  • Computer aided drafting, design, and engineering technology
  • Construction technology
  • Electrical engineering
  • Welding technology
  • Biomedical equipment technology
  • Cyber and information technology
  • Software development
  • Automotive technology
  • Truck driving

All of these options and more can be obtained within two years or less, are far less costly than a university degree, and can often be completed entirely online. And most importantly, many of these options are valuable in the workforce today, meaning they pay a livable salary if a young man is looking to be a breadwinner.

Of course, while trade school and associates’ degrees can be a good choice, other options are available. Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training, or one might consider portfolio work.

The best time to prepare a fallback qualification is when a young man is still single. Simply put, it’s very convenient to have the spadework done before you get married and have children! However, late is better than never. Men who are dating or even engaged could benefit greatly from pursuing a usable fallback qualification. Your future family will thank you for it.

Finally, a note to young women who want to be mothers and homemakers: We would be wise to get our own fallback qualifications. We can’t predict what life will throw at us, and a good husband is not immune to illness, job loss, or disability. Let’s love our future families before we even have them, and prepare to provide if necessary. For example, I have my college degree in special education, as well as a side gig in freelance and novel writing. If I ever need to take the reins as breadwinner for a short time for my family, I am prepared for it!

As I’ve seen firsthand, the dream family life is possible—it just requires a little foresight.

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