kim147 I understood what you meant by the thread title. It is a very interesting area, especially considering some of the other factors people have mentioned alongside salary such as hours, flexibility, being near the children etc.
As someone said upthread, this problem comes about when the lower earner (usually the woman) sacrifices their career for the family. Why are women usually the lower earners in the first place? Do women tend to marry people with a higher earning power, or could it be that women tend to be the younger partner in a relationship and therefore less established in their career compared to their partner?
Such a terrible shame that work in education isn't valued properly.
The 'lower earner' in a relationship may not be less successful or less established in their career - they may just be in a different field.
I work in a job that 'makes a difference', I do it because I love it and I'm very good at it. I have won awards and am well known in my field. I am very successful. I earn about 2/3 of what my DH earns in a corporate/professional industry where he's done reasonably well and gained promotion to director level but is not outstanding (his job doesn't really allow for outstanding individuals).
I know that in our case DH was exposed to old-fashioned ideas from his estranged father about what makes a "man's-job" and what "success" looks like at an early age and chose his degree to lead to his current profession which he tolerates. He is motivated by his salary because the job itself is a bit of a grind. I was encouraged to follow my interests and dreams, I don't mind earning a bit less (still a reasonable salary) because I love the process and outcomes of what I do.
I suspect we are not alone in that our division of motivation between money vs. job/life satisfaction is along gendered lines... and I see TAs as being on the job/life satisfaction of the fence. Maybe there are lots of men who would love to be on our side of the fence but they don't feel they can be as it's 'not manly'.. so they're as trapped as the women who want to be the main breadwinners are.