Menu Join now Search

She Was the Sole Breadwinner

After Don's business went under, Brenda was the primary caregiver and breadwinner. Stressed, she lashed out at Don about his business failures and he retreated into himself. Can this marriage be saved?


Bringing Home the Bacon

Brenda and Don Bozarth were married for seven years and living in Fairfield, Iowa, when we ran their story in February, 1991. Soft-spoken and easygoing, Don owned a sporting-goods store, and Brenda ran the pharmacy department at a local hospital. But as the economy nose-dived, so did Don's business — and in short order, their marriage.

Stressed to the max, Brenda resented being the sole breadwinner and caretaker of their son, Dylan, 5. "I never have a minute to myself," she complained. "I rush home from work, pick up Dylan at the babysitter's, and make dinner. I'm so frazzled that I wind up yelling at Dylan for every little thing." She blamed Don for failing at his business and causing her anxiety and worry. Don told us, "I know she's thinking, Why me, God? Why did I have to marry this loser? Maybe I am a loser. I can't make my business work; I can't make my marriage work." But most upsetting to Don was that he and his wife were no longer close. "Brenda is always working, always nagging and criticizing." On the verge of divorce, they sought the help of Patricia Kelley, PhD, a clinical social worker in Iowa City. When we caught up with Brenda, now 47, and Don, 50, we discovered much has changed.

Did They Succeed?

Brenda: It's hard to remember the way we were. Now we have two terrific boys; Dylan is 17 and Jared is 11. Eight years ago, we moved to Chipley, Florida, where Don's parents live. We'd been there on vacation, and on a fluke, I heard about a job at a hospital pharmacy that paid much more money than I'd been earning. I got the position that day. It was tough for me to leave my family in Iowa since we were all very close, and other than my in-laws, we didn't have a network of friends in Florida to call upon for things. But it forced Don and me to depend on each other again.

Don: ...And we needed to get away from those fierce Iowa winters!

Brenda: I don't resent being the breadwinner anymore. Counseling helped me realize that one reason I felt I couldn't count on Don was because I never gave him the opportunity to show me how much he could help out. I was so super controlling that I always insisted we do things my way. Once I stepped back, I saw how the boys thrived under their father's care — and how special it was for them to have him around.

Don: But I needed to regain my confidence. So I went back to college part time, and took care of the boys after class. But we soon realized that my being a stay-at-home dad was working so well that I should stay home full time.

Brenda: He has also become the kids' soccer coach and scout leader. We're having fun again as a family.

Don: And financially, we're doing just fine. Still, it's hard to shake the feeling that I should be doing more to provide for my family. Even though there are a lot more stay-at-home dads these days, down here I'm the only guy on the field trips. But between Brenda and me, it's no longer an issue.

Brenda: Raising children is such an important job, and now Don excels at it. I thank God for that every day.

Ladies Home Journal

More You'll Love