Being a stay at home (SAH) parent is no easy feat. There’s no start and end time, no lunch break and no chance of going to the toilet without an audience. Some may argue that it’s way more challenging and exhausting than a full time job.
So getting paid for it isn’t such a crazy notion, is it?
While ‘salaries’ for SAH parents have been joked about before, it’s no laughing matter in the US, where a candid article has exposed a wealthy parenting circle where rich banker husbands hand out ‘wife bonuses’ to the mother of their children.
And these aren’t uneducated women incapable of earning their own money – the focuses on women with “advanced degrees from prestigious universities and business schools.”
The article, an excerpt from author Wednesday Martin's new book Primates Of Park Avenue, talks of a group who Martin’s labeled the ‘Glam SAHMs’ (that’s glamorous stay-at-home mums, to you and I).
She explains how she’s spent the last six years mingling with this elite group on the Upper East Side, taking in every aspect of their ‘glittering’ lives. But while lots of their endeavors may shock you, it’s the wife bonuses that shook us to our core.
Said bonuses aren’t just a generous hand out from husbands to their wives, but instead depend on how well the woman has ‘performed’ at home.
Factors including how well she’s managed the home budget and whether she’s managed to get the children into good schools are judged – quite literally like a six month appraisal in an office environment.
An excerpt from the letter:
“I was thunderstruck when I heard mention of a ‘bonus’ over coffee. Later I overheard someone who didn’t work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her “year-end” to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.
A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance — how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a ‘good’ school — the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don’t just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.
Women who didn’t get them joked about possible sexual performance metrics. Women who received them usually retreated, demurring when pressed to discuss it further, proof to an anthropologist that a topic is taboo, culturally loaded and dense with meaning.”
There’s the argument that a payment like this from a husband to his wife – or indeed a wife to a husband – is a good thing. As mentioned earlier, being a full time parent is a full time job in itself, yet there’s no financial reward for the great job you’re doing.
But the other argument is that it’s completely demeaning for one parent to pay another to stay at home – especially in such a way that the SAH parent has to ‘earn’ their bonus. It would be a whole different ball game a 'spouse payment' was offered at a company level and the working parent was offered the chance for part of their salary to go their partner.
The idea of a wife bonus isn’t confined to the Upper East Side and women aren’t ashamed to admit they get one. In fact it’s the opposite, as Martin explains in her memoir.
But it does tend to be more affluent women who get pent up with the idea of being ‘perfect wives and mothers,’ says Martin.
“Whereas middle-class mothers are more likely to be working and come from a common-sense tradition when it comes to parenting, the more educated and privileged mothers tend to work from a script called ‘intensive motherhood’,” Martin tells the Telegraph.
“While their husbands make millions, the privileged women who I met tend to give away the skills they honed in graduate school and their professions – organising galas, editing newsletters, running the library and bake sales – free of charge.
“It is also an act of extravagance, a brag: ‘I used to work. I can, but I don’t need to.”
We don't yet know if this trend of 'wife bonuses' has hit the UK but we want to find out. Do you know anyone that’s paid by their partner to be a SAH parent? Let us know in the comments below.