Another Way to Look at the Wife Bonus

Some of you may have heard of the term “wife bonus” floating around in the media.  Basically, the premise is that, in the upper class, the wife gets a percentage of her husband’s bonus based upon her performance during the year.  I first heard of the wife bonus from an article by Wednesday Martin titled, Poor Little Rich Woman, in the New York Times.

Ms. Martin lived in the Upper East Side of New York City for six years and donned her Margaret Mead hat.  She described a world where women are afforded every creature comfort provided by the men in their lives, but the extras are contingent upon whether the children get into the proper schools or whether she handles the household budget well.  Sex segregation is well entrenched in their social circles, and the balance of power clearly lies with the men.  Meanwhile, the women have to make do with the superficial fripperies, their social lives, and working on getting higher approval ratings.

I better get home!  I have my Kegel classes at 1:00!  Photo by Mike Baird.
I better get home! I have my Kegel classes at 1:00!    Photo by Mike Baird.

Since I don’t move in those circles, I don’t live such luxurious lifestyle.  But the Boffin does get a bonus every year.  Being middle class homeowners, we do boring things with our extra money.  This year, it went to replacing all of our windows because we were tired of having ice form on the inside.  Although, it did make the holidays more festive.

How the Upper East Siders are using their bonuses is off-putting on so many levels.  I don’t need to list the reasons.  There are tons of articles about that.  However, providing a bonus for a stay-at-home parent does not have to be a mark of oppression.  Let’s set up the scenario.

In the household where one parent stays at home, they come to an agreement for when bonus time comes around. The stay-at-home parent gets a mutually agreed upon percentage of the bonus as fun money.  This is just a reallocation of household funds that goes on in any other partnership. Many people are reluctant to spend money on themselves when there are other household expenses that are pressing.  I know I am one of those people, and I have full access to the accounts, and a husband who positively encourages me to go out and buy things for myself.

Think of this is a way for the breadwinner to say, “I value what you do.  I want you to treat yourself nicely.  You are worthy of the good things in life.”

Looking at it like that, it sounds like something normal in the household budget, doesn’t it?

No performance metrics.  No conditions.  No deals.  No expectations.  Just love and respect.

Unless the roof needs to be replaced.

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