Wednesday Martin in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times gave the world a peak into the lives of stay-at-home moms of wealthy families in New York’s Upper East Side. It’s as extravagant and glamorous as one would expect. Only, it’s also a bit off-putting.
First, let’s define these stay-at-home moms. “They were mostly 30-somethings with advanced degrees from prestigious universities and business schools,” wrote Martin. They wore expensive outfits to school drop-off. They worked out like it was their job. And of course, “They were married to rich powerful men.”
These women, or “Glam SAHMs” (glamorous stay-at-home-moms) as Martin called them, ran their households with the efficiency and meticulousness of a CEO. It was what sociologist Sharon Hays called “intensive mothering.” It’s mothers “exhaustively enriching their children’s lives by virtually every measure, then advocating for them anxiously and sometimes ruthlessly in the linked high-stakes games of social jockeying and school admissions.”
And why shouldn’t she, when her “wife bonus” depended on it?
A wife bonus is payment a husband gives his wife for doing her “mothering” duties. These payments were used for 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.”
And, some of these wife bonuses are binding agreements as well, as they were included in the couple’s pre-nup or post-nup – sounding more and more like a business arrangement.
And it doesn’t stop there. Wife bonuses are performance based. For example, if the couple’s child was doing poorly at school this semester, the husband could adjust the wife bonus as he pleases.
Toward the end of the piece, Martin gives a reassurance that some of these rich powerful men do, in fact, still “act like true partners.” Still, somehow we can’t stop thinking about the men who don’t, and forego their fatherly duties since they’ve already paid the wife to take care of it.
Read Martin's full article here, where she expounds on the underlying disempowerment and gender inequality of the wife bonus.
Sources: May 16, 2015. "Poor Little Rich Women". nytimes.com May 21, 2015. "Apparently 'Wife Bonuses' Are a Thing Now". babble.com
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