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Rise of the Female Breadwinners: Brenner Stiles

Photo: Photo by Sarah Lyons, License: N/A

Photo by Sarah Lyons

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Has having kids altered your career path?

It definitely has. Not in a bad way, it just kind of slowed me down, but my career path has kept moving forward. I was 18 when I had my daughter. I joined the military at 20, by the time I was 19 I had my own apartment, my own car.  As soon as I graduated high school I enrolled in college. I took advantage of every opportunity that was out there. I myself was on low-income housing because when you have a kid at a very young age and you’re coming straight out of high school, there’s no way that you can afford to have a very lavish lifestyle. I went to school at St. Phillips College. …I enrolled my daughter into a daycare low-income program for mothers who wanted to go back to school. I took advantage of every opportunity that was there and then the car broke down but that didn’t stop me. I would take the bus from the North Side of town all the way to the East Side of town and that was an hour, an hour and a half, drive, and then I’d drop her off at daycare and then get on another bus to go to school. So, to me there’s no excuse. Even though you have a child at a young age, if you want to achieve something, you can do it. You just have to look for the services and pray a lot. [laughs] It got to a point where I got tired of working dead-end jobs [and] I decided to join the military. I said ‘they pay for your college and I’ll get some skills, because right now I don’t have any skills and I’ve been trying to get a good job that has good benefits and no one is willing to hire me because I just don’t have what it takes according to paper.’

What’s the most challenging aspect of raising your kids?

Time. I think if I were a stay at home mom I would be able to invest so much more time. I’d be able to be more patient. I think the high levels of stress and working kind of alters your patience, because there’s some days where you’re just tired. Sometimes, it’s sad to say, I have to fake the patience. … But if I had more time with them I think I could make better memories.

What can employers do to make being a working mom easier?

Offer afterschool daycare, or pay for afterschool daycare would be nice. Maybe give me some times where I can work from home. …If it’s just reports they need me to do, no meetings to go to, let me do those at home. In the meantime while I’m working on reports or thinking up new ideas for the company I can be cleaning up and catching up on house duties. I can take a business call while I’m washing dishes. Maybe that’s living in a fantasy world, but I’m just trying to think of how you can kill two birds with one stone but at the same time give the company what they need.

Has having a career altered your personal relationships?

I really don’t have a lot of friends because I don’t have that kind of free time in between taking care of kids, spending time with my family, spending time with my boyfriend, trying to work out, trying to have personal time. Where do you fit friends in?
My boyfriend, oh gosh, it does alter our relationship because when he wants his time, I’m tired. …. A lot of times when I was working 12, 14, 15 hours a day, he was like ‘what are you doing? Why are you still at work?’ … He didn’t understand that. Sometimes I felt that he was jealous, like when I got promotions he didn’t seem genuinely happy for me…because I was making more money than him. He would say I changed, I don’t think I changed, but I don’t know.

Why wouldn’t men be OK with female breadwinners?

It’s a macho thing. It’s a masculine thing. The man has always been the breadwinner. You might have one man who’s OK with that, but the other men in the neighborhood are working and supporting their families. So when they all get together to play cards, guess what, they’re going to get on him for that. Maybe secretly they’re jealous, but they’re going to make him feel like less of a man, because that’s just how men are. I think society isn’t exactly 100 percent ready for that.

Can guys still be masculine without being more successful than a woman?

Yes. Personally, I don’t like men who have big egos. … I like a real down-to-earth natural guy who’s laid-back but still knows how to put his foot down and make a decision. That’s probably why I’m still the breadwinner, because I focus on those kinds of men.

Rise of SA’s Female Breadwinners
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