By Becky Barrow, Business Correspondent
Last updated at 12:03 AM on 23rd January 2012
Bread-winning wives who earn more than their stay-at-home husbands are crippled by guilt about ‘abandoning’ their children, research reveals today.
About 1.4million families in Britain rely on a high-earning woman whose husband or boyfriend is raising their children full-time, or works part-time.
In this dramatic reversal of the traditional family set-up, four in ten mothers said they are ‘racked with guilt’ about leaving their children while they go out to work.
The study of 1,200 mothers also reveals resentment among many bread-winning wives who feel they are ‘struggling to juggle it all’. One in five said they feel as if they have two full-time jobs because they also have to do the bulk of household chores when they get home.
One mother told the researchers: ‘I sometimes feel taken for granted. He puts his feet up the minute I get home and expects me to take over.’ Another said: ‘He says he does the housework but it is often half a job. I’m still expected to cook the meals and wash up.’
And a third mother said: ‘The children are much closer to my husband than me. I shouldn’t resent it but I can’t help it. It makes me so upset.’
According to the latest Office for National Statistics figures, record numbers of mothers are working full-time despite having a child as young as six months old. There are 2.25million women, whose youngest or only child is under the age of four, who have a full-time job. There were 1.9million in 2003.
The issue is being exacerbated by the fact the average working woman in her 20s earns more than a man the same age. It means her salary is higher than her husband’s at the age when many women have their first child, typically 29.
The crippling cost of childcare as well as super-size mortgages means many couples have no choice but to stick with the higher earner’s salary when deciding who should stay at home.
Jill Kirby, author of The Price of Parenthood, said: ‘Women are increasingly changing their traditional roles, perhaps because their husband has lost his job or because she earns more than him. But they are not finding it easy.’
ONS figures show that, in 1997, men earned 5.9 per cent more than women in their 20s. In 2005, women earned more for the first time. By 2010, they earned 2.1 per cent more, rising to 3.6 per cent today.
It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the number of mothers working full-time has risen at the same time. In 1997, there were 4.5million such mothers with children under the age of 19, rising to 5.02million this year.
Yet despite the feelings of guilt, just 5 per cent of bread-winning wives want to change places with their partner, the survey by insurers Aviva found.
Spokesman Louise Colley said: ‘It’s possible that some women are making their lives harder than necessary by trying to do everything