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The new breadwinners 

Women are doing it for themselves ... and their husbands

When Johnny met Krista, he was a scruffy hipster working the door at a Gainesville, Fla., nightclub. She was studying at the nearby University of Florida on the way to earning a degree in interior design with a minor in architecture.

After graduating, Krista moved to Portland, Ore., then Atlanta, pulling espresso shots at Starbucks until she networked her way into a job at a small design company. From there, she hopped to one of the city's largest architecture firms, where she is involved in designing the interiors of convention centers, shopping malls, luxury hotels and the occasional big-city aquarium. It's a solid, white-collar job with plenty of opportunity for advancement.

As Krista was making her career climb, Johnny played bass in various indie-rock bands. He worked construction jobs, did plumbing and, for a while, was employed as a sous chef in New York. He spent two years as a runway model, shuttling between London, Paris and Milan. Finally, he moved to Atlanta to join an up-and-coming band called the Hiss just before a blast of fame sent the group on tour with the likes of Oasis and the White Stripes across the United States and Europe. It was a wild ride that petered out after a couple of years or so.

By then, Krista and Johnny, who'd become reacquainted in Atlanta, were dating seriously. When they got married last year, Johnny Kral, now 27, was confronted with the real-life decision that every musician dreads. Putting his rock-star dreams aside to pursue a more practical livelihood, Kral left the band and took a full-time job as an auto mechanic. "I knew we'd be buying a house and having kids and that the band wouldn't provide enough for us financially," he explains.

Now, nearly three months after their first anniversary, the Krals admit money has been tight. It's largely Krista's salary that keeps the couple afloat financially.

But the fact that she earns significantly more than her husband has never been a source of conflict between them, says Krista, 29. It's not as if she expected – or even hoped – he would support her. "I'd be a complete jerk if I resented him," she says. "The only complaint I have with what he makes is that he should get paid more for as hard as he works."

The Krals' situation represents a drastic shift from the '50s and '60s, a time when – if TV shows can be seen as reflecting family norms – husbands like Ralph Kramden frequently bellowed, "No wife of mine is gonna work!" and housewives like Laura Petrie always had Rob's slippers ready and dinner on the table when he got home from a grueling day of writing gags.

It's not just the black-and-white video that makes these shows seem ancient to us now. It was only a few years later that housebound Laura Petrie grew up to become spunky career gal Mary Richards, who, by dint of her own talent and abilities, was destined to "make it after all."

In the three decades since, we've evolved to the "Sex in the City" romance between high-salaried lawyer Miranda and bartender Steve. They broke up at one point when Steve felt inadequate after Miranda tried to buy him an expensive suit, but they eventually married. And while Carrie Bradshaw may be the cultural icon, it is Miranda's and Steve's contentment that reflects a growing trend in marriage where the woman doesn't cook the bacon – she's the one who brings it home.

This past fall, a New York Times article cited a study indicating that, for the first time ever, twentysomething women in the country's largest cities are earning more than their male peers. I know this because my wife read it to me over breakfast with a discernable gleam in her eye.

Though we're removed from our 20s, many of the emerging differences between the sexes mentioned in the article had a familiar ring, such as the increasing number of women today with advanced degrees. My wife has a master's, and as a senior manager with Turner Broadcasting, she's serious about positioning herself to advance up the corporate ladder. I, on the other hand, write for an alt-weekly newspaper.

When we met, my wife was a grad student with a bundle of student loans. After school, she started out slowly, with internships, low-rung jobs and a long, slave-wage stint at a nonprofit arts group. Now, however, she earns what I'll gently describe as, well, vastly more than I do. And if we remain in our respective fields, I expect she always will.

I'm cool with that. I know she's cool with that. With each promotion she earns, I'll joke, "You mean you didn't get the corner office? Dammit, woman!" But the subject got me wondering: If this is a growing trend among our youngers, is anyone – besides Ralph Kramden – not cool with it?

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