Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples: What the Opt-out Phenomenon Can Teach Us about Work and Family

By Karine Moe; Dianna Shandy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
Negotiating without a Paycheck

The Golden Rule:
He who owns the gold,
makes the rules
.
OLD ADAGE

Money is power. And when women give up their paychecks, the power balance in their relationships necessarily changes. This chapter explores how women navigate the potential and real changes in their power relationships with their spouses after leaving the workforce. Recognizing that a new at-home status can affect many different relationships, this chapter also analyzes how women renegotiate their relationships with their children, their siblings, their parents, and even their community.

Bargaining power is anything that allows a person to have influence over a decision. In the context of a marriage, we think of bargaining power as being a measure of the influence over household decisions that one spouse has relative to the other. Some people are uneasy with using the term with respect to married couples, thinking that bargaining belongs in labor disputes, not in marriages. Conjuring up images of winners and losers, this view of bargaining does not fit well with the notion that married couples love each other and share common interests. We don’t like to think of ourselves as trying to get a bigger share, and thus leaving our partner with less. Yet bargaining does not have to be a zero-sum game in which one person’s loss equals the other’s gain. Bargaining may in fact lead to an outcome where both partners benefit.1

Couples bargain over decisions all the time, and that’s because

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