Most of us will probably have trouble relating to this story and by most of us, I mean all but maybe 1%. In news that made me cock my head to one side and utter an audible “what the F”, it turns out that a very wealthy subset of Upper East Side stay-at-home moms work all year at mom-ing successfully in order to receive a hefty year-end bonus. Much in the way their husbands would get a bonus for a hedge fund doing well, these women can rake it in if they meet certain standards as a mom. Has your jaw dropped open yet? Keep reading.
Via Popsugar, we hear of these moms from researcher and social anthropologist Wednesday Martin. She is writing a book about the kind of mom that receives these bonuses and spent time with a group of them to learn more. She describes the women as engaging in a form of “intense mothering” where getting your kids into the right schools or participating in certain cultural experiences is what gets you paid in the end. It sounds a little insane to me, but I am admittedly far removed from this kind of lifestyle and don’t really understand how it works:
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.
First of all, I am a bit astounded that these women need some kind of bonus to buy anything. They are the wives of men who bring home millions of dollars a year and if they’re staying at home to raise the kids and run the household, they should be entitled to whatever they need. On our FAR smaller scale, when I stayed at home with our kids and my husband worked, I didn’t feel like his money was something I had to earn. We were married — it was OUR money, even if I wasn’t the one going into an office every day. It’s very odd to me that these moms have to “perform” to a certain standard to get in on the action. Martin goes on:
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.
I suppose if this is something agreed upon in advance, before their children are even born, then no one should judge. This is a contract between consenting adults and if this is what a wife signs up for, who am I to question it? I just can’t imagine feeling like I had to earn what should be shared income between a married couple. These women should have financial independence regardless of their performance as a parent.
Another issue is the fact that it sounds like the husband decides whether the wife has “earned” this bonus depending on what she’s accomplished with the kids that year. That leaves an awful taste in my mouth. But again, if this is what the couple agrees on previously, I suppose it’s fair? It’s tough to imagine, plebe that I am, a deal of that scale. I can’t fathom what life is like for people with that much money so I guess I’m not in a position to judge. If these women are happy with their arrangement, so be it. I just have trouble wrapping my head around it.