Wife bonuses: real or a clever publicity hoax?

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Wife bonuses? Really?

That was my thought after reading Wednesday Martin’s brilliant New York Times plug, Poor Little Rich Women, for her forthcoming book, Primates of Park Avenue.

And then there were the wife bonuses.

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…

I initially read the piece with the clinical interest of someone who also has a forthcoming book and will be publicizing it in the months ahead. My first thought was that Martin had stumbled upon and skillfully exploited publicity gold; could there be anything more fraught then the idea of paying sophisticated, highly educated, wealthy stay at home mothers a wife bonus for services rendered? Sure enough, today’s papers and blogs are filled with commentary on wife bonuses, and, therefore, even more publicity for Martin and her book.

There’s just one problem. I can’t find any evidence that Martin’s claim is real.

I happen to be a member of the demographic that Martin is describing, women with advanced degrees who stay home while their husbands are remunerated at high powered jobs. Admittedly I’ve never lived on Park Avenue, nor do I hobnob with the ultra-rich, but I’m acquainted with bankers and fund managers and I’ve never heard of a wife bonus or anything that could be construed as a wife bonus.

Apparently no one else has ever heard of wife bonuses, either. I can’t find any reference to them on the internet prior to 48 hours ago. According to Danielle Pacquette of The Washington Post Wonk Blog notes that there is no credible research or data that supports the existence of wife bonuses:

The wealthiest couples often foster staggeringly unequal partnerships, said Jacqueline Newman, managing partner at Berkman, Bottger, Newman & Rodd…

The “Wall Street wives,” as Newman calls them, have prenuptial agreements that ensure, say, generous bank accounts funded for living expenses. But they’ve never mentioned a wife bonus, or any contractual reward for the domestic achievements Martin describes.

“The clients I have would be thoroughly offended by that phrase,” Newman said. “They pour so much work into raising their families. They’re in charge of managing the household, all the players involved. Often their husbands travel and don’t want them to work.”

And:

Raoul Lionel Felder, a divorce attorney who has practiced in New York for 50 years … has never encountered a legal version of the wife bonus — and, he said,”Upper East Side women are a specialty.”

Moreover, this is not the first difficult to prove publicity bombshell that Martin has dropped while promoting her book. Back in August 2013, Martin claimed that the wealthy families that she was studying hired disabled people as tour guides to help them cut the famously long lines at Disney World.

insider knowledge that very few have and share carefully,” said social anthropologist Dr. Wednesday Martin, who caught wind of the underground network while doing research for her upcoming book “Primates of Park Avenue.”

“Who wants a speed pass when you can use your black-market handicapped guide to circumvent the lines all together?” she said.

“So when you’re doing it, you’re affirming that you are one of the privileged insiders who has and shares this information.”

Other news outlets found ads on Craigslist for disabled people offering to accompany families to help them cut the lines, but most were freelancers charging far less than the $1000/day claimed by Martin. Moreover, answering ads on Craiglist hardly marks anyone as an insider, let alone a privileged insider as Martin described.

How curious that Martin has claimed to discover not one, but two separate publicity bombshells that aren’t confirmed by other evidence.

I’m a cynical person. I can believe just about anything, including the existence of wife bonuses IF someone presents real evidence, not what they supposedly observed among anonymous friends. Without actual evidence, and no one seems to have any, my cynicism leads me to suspect that Martin may made it up to sell books.

The discussion we should be having is not about wife bonuses among the wealthy, since they don’t exist, but about real and pressing inequities in relationships of everyone else. The real problem is that women who work don’t get paid the same as men who work, not that extraordinarily wealthy women who don’t work might (or might not) get a bonus for staying home.

Extraordinarily wealthy women who stay home are not “poor little rich women,” no matter how many books Martin might sell by pretending they are.

  • fiftyfifty1

    You called it. Her book is getting ripped apart for a number of inaccuracies and falsified anecdotes.

  • A

    Great, another person spreading (or starting, if she did make it up) rumours. Just what we needed.

  • staceyjw

    ALL women should be compensated for the work they do inside the home, and for their kids. Right now its considered worthless financially, even though its crucial to, well, all of society. I think this is a great idea, but ought to be for all, not just the wealthiest. Women that do household management and childcare are left totally vulnerable and that is not right. Men are successful- who owns 99% of everything?- because there is half of the population doing work that benefits them- for FREE.

    Besides, it’s misogynist to only value what was traditionally only mens work. And yes, if more men stayed home and were househusbands/SAHDs, I think that work would become more highly valued, because MEN are more valued.

  • Courtney84

    I had a neighbor who relocated to the Midwest from California after her husband moved banks from one that had been absorbed by the bank my husband happens to work for. He had a long commute, long hours, and ocassional travel. They tried the wife going back to work the year their youngest entered K and it just didn’t work out for their kids schedules, preferences for home cooked family meals, etc. She did get an annual lump sum at the time her husband received his annual bonus that was for “major household projects” – like painting, redoing growing kids rooms, etc. She could use it throughout the year as she wanted to take on major projects that were expensive. Not for clothes or anything, and she never indicated to me that the amount for her to spend on the house was in anyway tied to how well the kids were performing on the baseball team or if they’d won the spelling bee.

    • LovleAnjel

      When hubby or I get a bonus, some goes into savings, and some goes to the partner to do something fun for themselves with. Is that really unusual?

  • sdsures

    Darn, I could have been rich!

  • Surely an attorney in the area would know if this real (if it is a part of pre-nuptuals like the claim says).

  • Dr Kitty

    I can understand the concept of someone who gets an annual bonus giving their spouse some or all of it to supplement the household budget, especially around the holiday season.

    I can also see it as a way of potentially reducing assets for tax purposes by signing over some of an annual bonus to a spouse.

    I just don’t think that it regularly happens the way that it was reported.

    My husband and I have separate bank accounts and savings accounts and a joint account. We each put an agreed set amount, plus whatever extra we feel like or can afford, into the joint account- out of which household bills and expenses and things like family holidays are paid for.

    Our own accounts are for personal expenses (e.g. my professional fees, our mobile phone bills, our Netflix, Apple and Amazon subscriptions, our personal taxes).

    It makes our lives quite simple.
    If I want to buy something for me and I have the money in MY account- I buy it. If the money isn’t in MY account I can either ask my husband if I can take money from the joint account, or wait until I have enough saved in my account. No quibbling over every new bra and haircut. DH works to the same rules.

    If we want to buy something for the family we’ll discuss it and decide whether we spend the money in the joint account, put in extra from our personal accounts and if so how much.

    It works for us.

    • Gatita

      I feel so old fashioned because we have joint accounts for everything. We maintained separate accounts for a while but our money just naturally migrated to the joint accounts. It just works better that way for us. We talk over any big purchases but we have pretty much the same values about money so it’s easy for us.

      • Dr Kitty

        It works best for us because I am self employed and my husband is employed. Keeping our income/ outgoings/taxes/ professional expenses separate makes less work for tax returns, but both of us would consider all the money “ours”.

        With online banking it isn’t as if we don’t have access to all the accounts, it is just whose name is on it.

        I really don’t think there is one “correct” model, although my father is a financial advisor and strongly encouraged both of us to maintain at least one account that we would have sole control over. Not just in case of acrimonious divorce, but also fraud, theft, asset seizure, bankruptcy etc.

      • KarenJJ

        Same. I get regular bonuses and my husband doesn’t (although he’s had a few really good ones in the past). I don’t give him a ‘husband’ bonus we just talk about the big things we want and decide if they’re a priority. We’re pretty similar when it comes to money so it’s not really a problem for us. I never really thought of the bonuses as “my money” but just more to go into the family pot..

    • Monkey Professor for a Head

      We’ve been working with the same system, and it’s worked very well for us. However we will be switching things up as I won’t be earning for a while (baby coming at some point in the next month). Instead my husbands salary will be going into our joint account, and depending on how we’re doing financially we’ll figure out an equal amount that goes from our joint account to our personal accounts each month. Whilst we consider any money we have to be very much ours jointly, it’s important to me that we have some money that we can spend ourselves without feeling we need to consult the other person. And whilst I trust my husband 100%, it makes me more secure to know I have money in my name just in case.

  • just me

    I think all SAHMs should endeavor to live in a community property state.

  • demodocus

    I would be so insulted. You’ve been a good little wifey, here’s a present. Good thing this is probably more full of manure than Mom’s freshly fertilized garden.

    • Are you insulted when your paycheck comes for being a good worker? I don’t understand why domestic work isn’t considered work, its essential for society to function.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Your husband is not your boss. Your implication of such is, i think, a good example of why it is insulting.

        • Alcharisi

          I assume that part of what Safer Midwifery Utah is getting at is that domestic work IS work for the common good, and as such, its recognition and remuneration ought not be privatized. (In other words, part of the problem is that suggesting remuneration for domestic work automatically triggers the assumption that the husband is the one overseeing it.)

          • YES. I wish the state paid women for domestic work but since that mechanism doesn’t exist most of the time I would welcome husbands signing contracts to pay their wives for their labor.

          • Alcharisi

            Honestly, the more I think about these matters, the more convinced I become that some sort of universal basic income is the way to go.

          • KarenJJ

            I wonder about that too… But then I wonder if human nature works that way?

        • Economically he absolutely is if you are a stay at home parent. You are in as precarious a situation as a worker is in a corporation.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Economically he absolutely is if you are a stay at home parent.

            Personally, I like to think of my wife as my PARTNER, not subordinate, economically or otherwise.

            We don’t share money and I don’t give her gifts because she is a “good worker” but because we are a partnership.

            The suggestion that I, as a husband, would be a “boss” of my wife is absolutely insulting.

          • I’ve liked and respected you for quite a while. Wonder why… Your wife is fortunate, IMHO.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Gosh, I’ve always thought he was a total dork.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Yep. That’s how DH (who works out of the house) and I (a SAHM) see each other. He handles earning the money; I manage the house, do most of the kid-raising, and so on. We review the budget together, get the bills paid, and have the same amount of spending money. (Spending money=money we don’t have to account to the other and can spend on whatever we want.)

          • Poogles

            “I like to think of my wife as my PARTNER, not subordinate, economically or otherwise.”

            Thank you! I can’t imagine having a relationship where my significant other and I don’t view each other as partners on equal terms.

          • momofone

            My husband and I are partners, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I earn the money that supports us, but he’s a SAHD and handles the major house stuff (maintenance, repairs, etc.), while we share housework and kidwork. I handle bill-paying and financial planning, though we discuss it. We have a joint checking account that he uses, and I use a separate checking account. We share a savings account. Never have I seen him as my employee or as subservient in any way; each of us contributes irreplaceably to our family and its functioning. It works well for us.

          • ersmom

            Been married 16+ years. He supported me through med school. He was a SAHD during my residency. I supported him through his Ph.D. Now we both work (although I do part-time..but as a physician, I bring in 85% of our income). At all times, just 1 checking and savings account. We, like you and your wife, are partners.

            Plus he’d die crying at the idea of trying to be my boss.

          • SF Mom & Psychololgist

            In many ways, I see your point, SMU. I have many women in sickeningly vulnerable situations, financially and socially, after the collapse of the marriage. So, in the worst-case scenarios, I think your analogy holds up. The party with all the capital (the husband or the boss)can discard the more vulnerable party (wife or worker) without consequence and walk away, still holding all the goodies. However, most marriages aren’t “worst case” – and some are really wonderful creations. This analogy feels very “off” in those situations because it ignores “healthy relationship” as a valuable asset, which healthy spouses recognize to be the case. Most companies value assets (property, revenue, product, IP, etc.) more than anything else but do not recognize healthy relationships as assets. This is true for a certain breed of shitty spouses (and their divorce lawyers) but obviously not everyone.

      • demodocus

        The way I see it, doing chores and trying to live within your budget is no more and no less than every other adult on the planet is supposed to do. As Bofa says, my husband is not my boss, and in my experience, teachers do not get bonuses.

  • Bugsy

    I generally agree with the premise of this post, but wanted to add something…that the expected gender roles the husband and wife bring into the relationship very much could affect inequities. Whether someone is wealthy or poor, the perceived notion that the wife’s role is in the home and/or less significant than the husband’s could very much play into the “poor little rich woman” mentality.

    I’m thinking a bit about stereotypically gendered families such as the Duggars, but also my own personal experience. I attended one of the Ivies undergrad, and at the end of my senior year, briefly dated a guy whose family…well, let’s just say that the rare-book library at the school was named after his family. My family was solidly middle class by comparison. Within a few weeks of dating, he started making comments devaluing me, suggesting that he was saving me and also stating that, when we got married, I wouldn’t have to work. As someone who had worked my ass off for four years so that I could make something of myself in college, all I could picture was a bleak future of being trophy wife to a guy who kept me at his beck and call while my own interests/hobbies/desires were completely ignored. I had no doubt he was the type who would give a “wife bonus” for obedience.

    When I split things off with him, he informed me that he had a whole little black book of girls who would have loved the opportunity to date him. Hopefully he took advantage of it to ease his sorrows.

    The irony of it? Fast forward 13 years. I am a stay-at-home mom…but by my own choice. The idea of a wife bonus is so completely contrary to my relationship with my husband, and yet I have no doubt that had I stayed in that end-of-college relationship, I would have been subject to a relationship that was much less equitable and supportive.

    • Gatita

      Yech. I also dated a few men whose families had money and it wasn’t pleasant. Not in the way you’re describing but some other crazy stuff involving private detectives. Someone offered to set me up on a date with a famous person and I declined because I didn’t want to deal with relationship power dynamics that were so out of wack.

      • Bugsy

        Wow…private detectives? That’s impressive. Just glad to not have gotten into anything long-term with someone like that.

        • Gatita

          It wasn’t the guy doing it, it was his family. Yeah, it sucked.

          • Bugsy

            Wow. Just wow.

      • {shudder}
        You were wise to decline.

  • 2boyz

    I grew up on the Upper East Side and part of this culture. Certain things are accurate, such as the sex segregation when it comes to certain (but not all) social activities. The Nanny Diaries, if you’ve ever read that, is a fairly accurate picture of how I and many of my peers grew up. A lot of what you hear about the private school craziness is true, and has gotten even crazier since my own private school days. I’m an “insider” (at least from the perspective of a child) and have NEVER heard of such a thing. My mom and all her friends think this is hysterical, none of them have heard of it. There are indeed all sorts of weird and quirky things written into prenups, but not this.
    In general, keep in mind that these ladies are NOT SAHMs in the way most people think. It’s more like Downton Abbey, where they’re not working and also not doing anything domestic because there’s staff to do that. I did spend good quality time with my parents, and certainly felt loved and all, but they never had to do any of the less pleasant tasks like clean me or my messes, or dress me, or feed me when I was too young to do it myself (by 5 or 6, I did join them at the dinner table, and that was always nice). My mom can barely boil water. Whenever we were entertaining, she coordinated various staff who pulled off her vision for the event. She was not cooking, nor cleaning up afterwards. I actually learned to cook from our private chef when, at age nine, I became interested in cooking as a hobby. If not for that, I never would have learned, and I’d be in trouble now that I’m married and living a typical middle (ok, upper-middle) class existence. I never learned how to do housework (never occurred to me to take that up as a hobby 😉 ) and to this day, I rely on paid cleaning help. It is a completely culture and hard to understand if you haven’t been a part of it. But yeah, I call BS on the wife bonus thing.

    • Bugsy

      Great post. I read the Nanny Diaries and nannied for quite a few families on the UES & UWS. It’s definitely a completely different world from the middle-class suburban lifestyle that was my experience…

    • Gatita

      That’s fascinating. Can I ask how your family reacted to you becoming UMC? I’ve only ever been on the periphery of that world because of where I went to school and worked and a couple of men I dated. But I think wealthy families tend to not be very thrilled when members date “down” or outside of the charmed circle.

      • 2boyz

        There were some other changes that were a little more earth-shattering for them, such as my decision to become Orthodox (was raised culturally Jewish but not religious). I just live by completely different values than how I was raised. They’ve mostly come to terms with it. I’m happy and successful on the metrics that matter to me. They see I’m not living in a shack nor am I barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. I send my kids to private school- though granted, parochial school is a different kind of private than what I grew up with. It’s not like I took a major step “down”. Having a nice house in a nice neighborhood minus Park Avenue and private jets is still pretty darn sheltered and privileged. It’s kind of cute when my parents appear so completely out of touch from even that. But they’re proud of me and the life I’ve made, they like my husband, they adore our kids (and yes, they have accounts set up for them). So yeah, some people talk about what a tragedy it is that I’m some religious fundie who took a step down in standard of living, but my parents have learned to ignore it, and it really hasn’t impacted them socially other than the whispers. And everybody in that world has some sort of “scandal” that gets whispered about, my lifestyle choices are boring in comparison 🙂

        • Gatita

          That’s excellent! Your parents sound like cool people.

        • Good parents. Raised a good daughter. May it continue.

  • Who?

    I met a woman, maybe 15 years ago, who was expecting her fifth child. After all the happy chat, “big family”, I said. She replied she really didn’t want the fifth, but her husband had agreed to buy her a new top-of-the-line Mercedes when the baby was born and replace it every two years until the kid left school. Mad really, she couldn’t fit all the kids in the car (that’s me editorialising btw).

    Never met her again-it was a lunch thing we were both at- and I sometimes wonder how they got on in the gfc-the european cars dried up at that time, especially the big ones. I didn’t think to ask what would happen to the baby/child/teen if the car wasn’t forthcoming at any point. Re-insertion?

    People are, to quote my daughter, the worst.

  • Ennis Demeter

    The bonuses sounded fake to me too, but that wasn’t caught my attention in the article. What did was the idea of a world where the men wield SO MUCH power and make SO MUCH money. This isn’t husband is a partner in a law firm money, this is tens of millions of dollars a year or more money. A lot more, sometimes. In that world, everything is sex segregated. How does that affect those men? To be so powerful and to have every woman in your life be subordinate?

    • KarenJJ

      I sometimes wonder if one of the problems in Australia is that so many of the politicians and business leaders have been to private sex-segregated schools. It’s not that they might be outwardly sexist and racist, but culturally they are so ingrained to just spend so much time and only have connections with one “type” of person. Do they have friends that are aboriginal that bring their kids over for a play? Do they have a female friend they might meet for a coffee and a chat just for fun? Do they have an old housemate that isn’t one of the “WASM” that they keep in touch with? Did they learn to cook dhal from a flat mate and introduce them to weetbix and vegemite? One of my very good friends lives in a very “privately schooled” area and says how she is often ignored and feels like the “quiet Chinese girl” trope. I wonder how limited their worldview really is.

  • SuperGDZ

    When I still practised law I encountered a fairly significant number of couples who had made provision in a prenup for a payment (either lump sum or paid as an annuity, depending on the financial situation) from husband to wife for each child born of the marriage. The thinking was more along the lines that it was assumed that the wife would leave the workplace, permanently or for a few years, and would receive compensation for lost earnings. It’s not as cold as it sounds – under our law a wife’s entitlements in terms of a prenup can’t be touched in the case of the husband’s bankruptcy, for example, so particularly where the husband has his own business or is reliant on commission/bonus income, it makes sense where he is the sole income earner to make financial arrangements to secure the wife and children.

    • SuperGDZ

      It is also possible that a “wife bonus” might be a scheme dreamed up as an elaborate tax fiddle – such schemes do pop up from time to time and become popular in some quarters before they are either found to be ineffective or the loophole is shut down.

  • I, too, am part of that demographic (well, I work part time, but that’s to keep me from going crazy). We’re expats and the other trailing spouses (mostly wives, but a few husbands), are also largely in that demographic. If anyone talks about a bonus, it’s that the spouse gets a bonus once a year, so of course, if you want to make a big purchase, it’s then.

    The trailing spouses here are almost all highly educated and many of us held high-level corporate positions before quitting to follow a spouse overseas.

    I think she either pulled it out of thin air, or met one person who did this and wrote an article about it. However, even if it is true, who cares? We run our marriage the way we want to. They can run their marriages the way they want to. These wives aren’t oppressed in any way, shape, or form.

  • Ellen Mary

    Boom! Great post.

    My most pressing concern regarding inequality is that I have *more than one* friend staying in a relationship where she gets hit. 🙁 And these are strong, educated, fantastic women in their 30s. You would never guess . . .

  • MLE

    So, at extreme risk of humble bragging, I get a bonus and my husband does not. And sometimes we discuss what we’re going to do with the windfall since we don’t count on it happening. And if there’s something he wants to do just for himself, then I agree to it. Could that possibly enter into the equation anywhere…

    • I think it does and people are running with it as one of those silly things that the wealthy do.

  • KeeperOfTheBooks

    The mind boggles. It really does.
    The closest thing I’ve seen to that is that DH and I have an agreement. I’m a SAHM, and by far the handier of the two of us. However, my free time is very limited as it is. If I decide to fix something that needs fixing, and do so for much, much cheaper than hiring someone to do it, then I get to spend part of the difference on myself, no questions asked. Most recently, the plumber wanted $350 to replace various bits and pieces in the toilet tank. I got the parts for $20 and fixed it in an hour. I got a very nice stack of cash out of our home repair budget to spend on whatever I wanted. Totally worth it. 😀
    (Of course, we both have spending money we don’t have to account to the other–though we both have access to all accounts–but the rule is that if someone saves the budget money in an area, that person gets to keep part of the difference for having done so.)

    • Mishimoo

      I love that rule!! Going to discuss it with my husband because, like you, I’m the renovator/fixer and that is a brilliant idea. Thanks!

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        It’s worked really well for us; I hope it works for you all, too. 🙂

        • Mishimoo

          “It’s a brilliant idea, but I really can’t afford you. You’ve saved us thousands over the years!”

          Oh well, it was worth a try 😉
          (At least I know he appreciates my work, and shows it with the best tokens of affection: books and bookcases.)

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Bwhahahaha! DH’s standard birthday/Christmas/anniversary gift to me is a bookcase. 😀 I heartily approve.

    • Cobalt

      That’s part of my reasons for breastfeeding and using cotton diapers. We save $40 a week, and that money is mine. Some budget cycles it has to go for regular expenses, but if we’re in the black it keeps me in coffee and and pedicures.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Breastfeeding didn’t work for me, but I do the same thing with cloth diapers! I don’t really mind laundry as a chore because I can fold diapers while catching up on a show, and doing so saves money every week–money that, once the diapers were paid for, I can spend as I want.
        We briefly had DH do the lawnwork and therefore get to spend the money we’d have spent on the lawn guy, but he later decided that he’d rather pay someone to do it (it is Texas, and summers here are freaking HORRIBLE)–and that was perfectly fine either way.

    • Wren

      A similar rule keeps me cooking. We have a fixed amount for food each month, but if I save from that, which generally means no pizza delivery or fast food, I get to choose where to reallocate it in the budget. The kids probably get the most benefit, but it does let me do things like put them into a couple days of football camp over a school holiday week, which gets me free time.

    • just me

      Eh it still bothers me that in 2015 you are referring to money as “yours” that you only get if you budget well. Seems so 1950s. Why does your husband have any more say than you? Ugh, maybe you’re not in a community property state.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Well, money’s a limited resource for us. After bills, utilities, groceries, gas and the sundry other items in our budget, we each have about the same amount of “free” spending money per month. If there’s something in the house that needs fixing, it comes out of the House Maintenance area of the budget. In that situation, I could spend $350 on a plumber, and DH wouldn’t bat an eye. I could also do the work myself, and keep most of the difference to spend as I please. (If we save money in an area, we try to put part of it into savings.) In short, he doesn’t have more say than me. The toilet needed to be fixed, and either we could pay a plumber or I could do it for less and have more spending money because I freed up money from that area of the budget.
        For that matter, if DH wanted to fix the toilet and spend an extra $200 on a golf club or something that month, I wouldn’t have an issue because he’d have saved that money by not hiring a plumber. Of course, that would predicate the insane situation that he’d want to spend time fixing something–that’s just not his field of expertise or interest–but I digress. 😉
        For that matter, like a poster below, I do something similar with cloth diapers. DH doesn’t care how the baby is diapered. However, if I’m willing to do the work involved with cloth diapers, once they’ve paid for themselves, I get the money we’d otherwise spend on disposables to spend as I want.
        However, if either of us spent a couple of hundred extra bucks on something without discussing it with the other person first and without freeing the money up for it in a financially responsible way from another budget area, then yes, that would be an issue we’d have to talk about later. Like I said, money’s a finite resource around here, and it has to come from somewhere.
        ETA: re money being “mine”: I used that in the sense of I can do with it whatever I want, rather than to imply that our bank accounts or credit cards somehow aren’t mine. I use the same terminology for “DH’s money”–it’s all both of ours, but that amount per month is “his” in that he can spend it as he wants, just like mine is for me.

        • just me

          I get it–finite supply. I just bristle at the notion of women needing permission from their husbands.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Maybe I’m not communicating well here. It’s not a question of “permission.” We both know we only have X amount of money to spend per month, so if we want to spend X+Y amount the money has to come from somewhere–whether saved partly from the previous month, or by finding a way to tweak the budget enough that there’s suddenly more money in it. DH wouldn’t need my “permission” to get a new golf club, but he would need to figure out a responsible way to afford it that month if he wanted to buy it then rather than save and wait a month or two. Likewise, I don’t need his permission to buy yet more collectable books, but if I want to spend more than X (X=my monthly “fun” money) amount on them, I need to save for next month or find another way to add more money to my budget.
            If I had to mother-may-I every time I wanted to buy a lipstick or something, I’d be pretty angry, and with good reason. I don’t, though. We came up with a budget together, and we stick to it together, and we each have some money to do as we please with.

  • Are you nuts

    Thanks for the reality check. This reeked of BS to me too. There are many professions (most Wall Street jobs, law firm partners) where one receives the vast majority of annual comp in one lump sum, either as a bonus or partnership distribution. It makes perfect sense that buying the table at the gala will have to wait until bonus time. Or even the trip to Saks. Are there a few a-holes who give their wives the equivalent of a performance review and commensurate bonus? Probably. But I’m not believing that wife bonuses are “a thing” as they say.

  • LibrarianSarah

    When I first read the article I tried to imagine what would happen if my dad proposed giving mom a “wife bonus.” I am pretty sure that it would result in mom hanging him by his ankles out of our high rise apartment building and shaking him really hard. I guess it is good she stuck with getting the old fashion work bonus instead.

    • Well, that’s one way to get change out of a man. Watch out for pedestrians below. Anything heavier than a nickel could hurt.

  • Maybe it’s the migraine, but when I saw “wife bonuses”, I thought that one got an extra wife for using the right club card at the store.

    Good. She can get started on the laundry. Chris is getting me an ice pack.

  • spellcheck

    In the paragraph beginning “I happen…”, “renumerated” should be remunerated.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Thanks!

  • fiftyfifty1

    “The “Wall Street wives,” as Newman calls them, have prenuptial agreements that ensure, say, generous bank accounts funded for living expenses.”

    Well, even that is surprising to me. I had known that movie stars and crown princes and oil barons made prenups. But I didn’t realize plain old Wall Street level rich people did it. And I thought prenups only kicked in if there were a divorce, not for everyday expenses.

    • attitude devant

      Anyone entering a second marriage, or entering marriage with ANY assets that should be protected (e.g., you inherited money when your first husband died leaving you to raise the children you had together) in the event of divorce or civil judgement, or you’re marrying at 50 and have accumulated 30 years worth of 401Ks). It’s really quite sensible.

      • fiftyfifty1

        For second marriages or large inheritances, planning for the case of a possible divorce, yes that sounds sensible, and I’ve heard of that. But a prenup that says “you will put x amount of money in a bank account that I can use for living expenses while we are still married”….that sounds weird and dysfunctional right off the bat.

        • attitude devant

          That sounds like a marriage that maybe shouldn’t happen, in fact.

        • RMY

          If a man marries a woman and expects her to not work outside of the house, that sort of arrangement is in her best interests by guarantying her the ability to be able to afford a certain lifestyle for herself.

        • Elizabeth A

          If you’re marrying someone who is much wealthier than you and he prefers not to share bank accounts, insisting that a bank account in your name be regularly funded makes sense.

          There are ways that can be either functional or dysfunctional. H and I have had separate bank accounts forever, and while it’s mostly worked out okay, when it’s not okay, it’s extremely bad.

        • SporkParade

          I agree it’s fishy. Prenups aren’t supposed to deal in day-to-day life, if only because those details change all the time. If you don’t trust someone to support you while you are married, you shouldn’t get married. And if they end up withholding funds, you should divorce them. And if the prenup was drawn up correctly, then you will still be owed alimony and a fair share of the assets earned after the marriage took place. And if the prenup wasn’t drawn up correctly, the judge in the divorce case can rule that you weren’t properly represented and nullify the whole thing.

      • demodocus

        I’d have to share what I spent my inheritance on anyway. His name is Kerry, he’s 1, and Mom would have approved

      • Sarah

        In Australia a de facto spouse who lives with you for two years can make a claim for your house if you break up! That’s why I’ve been looking into prenups prior to my boyfriend moving in. I don’t believe he would ever do that but people grow apart and things happen. The only issue is the last lawyer I spoke to said a prenup would cost 5-10k!

        • Who?

          And likely not be worth the paper it’s written on, and certainly nothing like that much. He would need to get his own independent advice before signing it, too, to give you any kind of protection-was an estimate for that, which would have to be done by an unrelated firm-included in the quote?

    • RMY

      My ex wasn’t that level rich (his father was a lawyer and his dad did well, his mom was from old money, but he said it was dwindling, it wasn’t wall street rich, much less royalty, at all though) and I was told if I married into the family there would be a prenup. I didn’t get to that stage (I decided I’d rather live out of the closet), but yeah, that’s a thing.

      • Kelly

        My friend had to sign a prenup because her husband was to get a huge inheritance. Basically, if they did not sign one, he would not get it. It was only for that. Both were uncomfortable with it but they did it because it would benefit both.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I’m guessing the terms of the pre-nup were specified in the will?

          • Kelly

            Yes. Basically, if they divorce, she does not get any of the inheritance.

    • Amy

      I don’t know if any of my friends read this blog, but this one might out me because it was so outlandish I couldn’t believe it myself when I heard the words.

      About two weeks after my first was born, I was home when two of my oldest and dearest friends visited. I was producing copious amounts of milk and had dropped a LOT of weight very quickly, most likely related to the milk production. One of my friends, upon seeing me, said nothing about the baby– no congratulations, no she’s so cute– but instead complimented me on my quick weight loss, remarking how glad she was that I wasn’t one of “those women who let themselves go” after having a baby. Keep in mind, this was at most THREE WEEKS after I’d given birth.

      At the time, she was engaged. She fits the Dr. Amy demographic herself– advanced degree, but (now) married to a high earner whose income allows her to stay home. And she mentioned that she and her then-fiance had discussed keeping one’s weight down as a condition to be put into a prenup.

      Needless to say, my other friend and I spent most of the rest of the visit exchanging horrified looks.

      • Oh, dear.

      • Frequent Guest

        I’m an attorney and have heard the weight thing as a requirement in a prenup. True story. And, ugh.

  • MC

    Thanks for this. I agree it smells extremely fishy. After the UVA hoax, one has to be skeptical of these kinds of stories that too closely fit the ideological beliefs of the author.

    • RMY

      I was so pissed about the UVA article. There were other women briefly mentioned who had stories that sounded much, much more typical of an average campus rape. But no, the author had to anchor the whole damn article about one incredible claim that she didn’t even bother to check the basic facts of (was there a party that day at that frat? for example).

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        And as a result, a) a lot of peoples’ lives got ruined (so help me, I hope they sue that rag to the point that it never recovers), and b) rape victims are even less likely to be believed, especially on that campus. Disgusting.

    • This smells so bad that it makes lutefisk smell heavenly.

  • Trixie

    I’ve never heard of anything like this.
    I suspect that to the extent this happens in some marriages, it’s more like, when the husband hits his year-end bonus, a certain amount is allocated to discretionary spending for each spouse, and the remainder to the household.

  • I’ve never heard of it referred to as such, but I have heard of straight up “bonuses”. It was always jokingly, in a cynical kind of way, and used interchangeably with anniversary gifts, push presents, whatever.

    • RMY

      Are push presents even really a thing?

      • Somewhereinthemiddle

        I don’t consider it a “push present” but my husband has gotten some kind of gift for me during every pregnancy. For my first it was a king sized mattress for my enormous pregnant body, I don’t remember what it was for my second, and for my third it was a set of shelves. Don’t know if that qualifies but my spouse likes to do something special. More commonly, I’ve heard of other people getting jewelry though.

        • You know jewelry companies must have marketed that as heavily as they could.

          • I’m a journalist, and I’m always getting e-mails from PR reps about whatever their clients are trying to make a “thing.” I agree that this smells like a very savvy PR firm representing a jewelry company–maybe one that sells birthstone items?

            Rumors of celebrity push presents probably got this one into popular circulation.

      • Mishimoo

        They’re becoming a thing, I think. I know I didn’t receive anything more than the usual new baby gifts with my older two. When it came time for the third, my inlaws gave me a perfume giftset and specifically said that it was a push present. I think it may be due to my husband’s cousins all having kids and setting the standard.

      • Susan

        I have definitely seen them happen right after delivery. Though not that common.

      • Are you nuts

        I now realize my push present was a medium pizza. Which I would have chosen over diamonds and pearls in that moment!

        • demodocus

          Well, come to think of it, I did get a sandwich and a *long* desired 20 oz cup of non-decaf tea!

        • Gatita

          Sushi for me!

      • Yep. Because entitlement.

        They’re usually cars.

        • momofone

          Where I live, they’re usually jewelry, rings in particular.

      • An Actual Attorney

        When Actual Kid was born, my mother “helped” him get jewelry with his birth stone for both me and my wife. But he wasn’t pushed, so I guess that might not count.

        • NoLongerCrunching

          It’s not too late to push him. Especially into his room, to clean it 🙂

          • An Actual Attorney

            If I could get him to do that well, I would absolutely deserve a present.

      • Cobalt

        The woman leading the maternity tour at the hospital told all the touring couples about it, complete with gift suggestions. Between that, the mandatory rooming in, and the intense focus on L&D experience at the expense of postpartum care, I switched hospitals.

        • momofone

          I live in a place where they are big. I always want to say “but I thought the baby was the present!”

          • NoLongerCrunching

            I agree completely. Yuck. Save the jewelry for our anniversary, I don’t want anything detracting from the miracle of a new baby.

        • Amy M

          My husband gave me some beautiful earrings when we found out I was pregnant (after struggling with infertility.) But that was months before the pushing.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I never figured out what the ‘push” was in the push present. It’s for pushing during delivery? Then what about c-sections?

          • NoLongerCrunching

            I hate the idea of push presents. Our baby was my present for going through childbirth, the best present in the world. I love jewelry as much as the next person, but it seems like a cheap, tawdry idea when put next to a beautiful perfect new baby.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I guess I just don’t like the implication of a gift given to the mother for “giving” you a baby.

            I’m sure those who support the activity will try to explain that that isn’t really what it means, but it sure looks like it to me.

          • theNormalDistribution

            Huh. I can not get on board with that sentiment at all. Your husband didn’t have to go through childbirth to get his best present in the world. The baby is not your consolation prize for enduring childbirth. That’s just something that you did for the sake of both you and your husband, so you could have the baby you (both, I hope) wanted. What’s wrong with recognizing that with a gift?

          • NoLongerCrunching

            I don’t know how to explain it, it just rubs me the wrong way. i just feel like it takes the focus off the baby and puts it on a thing.

          • Kelly

            I think that if it is the guy’s idea and it is spontaneous, it is a completely different thing. It it the idea that a guy has to spend all this money on his wife and that she is expecting it. All my push present money is going to paying off the delivery of the child. Children are not cheap to begin with.

          • Monkey Professor for a Head

            Exactly! If my husband decides to spontaneously give me a gift after I get this kid out, then I will see that as a sweet gesture and be very touched. If he gets me one because he thinks he has to, then the gesture is no longer as sweet. If I have an expectation of a gift, especially if I demand one, then the meaning behind the gift has been tainted.

            I guess to me, a gift is less about the actual object being given and more about the sentiment behind giving it.

        • Dr Kitty

          Ok, my husband bought me a pair of small diamond stud earrings in a full bevel yellow gold setting that match my engagement ring when my daughter was born.

          I wear my engagement ring and wedding ring on my left hand, and a ring my parents bought me for my 21st birthday on my right hand.

          So my jewellery represented being a daughter, wife and mother.

          Then I lost one of the earrings last year and was really upset.

          My husband had the remaining earring reset as a diamond pendant, and he and my daughter gave me the necklace and a new set of earrings on my birthday to celebrate my new job.

          So now I have rings for wife and daughter, earrings for Dr and a necklace for motherhood which I wear every single day. My jewellery represents who I am and was given to me by the people I love.

          Yes it is jewellery, yes it was a push present- but I love it for the symbolism more than anything, and no, it isn’t big and flashy and expensive.

          DH may or may not get me something for baby #2, but if he does get me jewellery I know it’ll be something I love and treasure wearing because of what it means, not because of the statement it makes.

          I’m not a tattoo person, my jewellery carries out the same functions and is worn for the same reasons that most people have tattoos.

          In short- I got a push present, which I love and which means a lot, but it was more about commemorating a special life event than about a “reward” of some kind.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            Exactly. I mean, demanding a new car or some crazy expensive piece of jewelry feels a little weird to me but a gift that fits within our budget and is given with good intentions is wonderful. We are not big gift givers to one another, and we rarely give one another gifts for birthdays, Mothers/ Fathers day, Christmas, etc. I absolutely *refuse* to feel guilty, shamed, or otherwise weird about accepting a gift associated with having a baby. Nope, not gonna accept that and not gonna apologize for it either. Anyone who looks down upon the idea or wants to talk shit can bite my ass, thank you very much.

      • Elaine

        I bet they are in some demographics. I don’t think most people I know do them.

        I don’t put much stock in a lot of the things we are “supposed” to do, but when I was pregnant with my first, I did tell my husband that I was doing a lot of hard work for our family and I would like something nice for me, so he set aside some $ and we ended up agreeing on a new set of knitting needles, which I still use regularly.

        I also never got the idea of a wedding present to your spouse, until we actually got married, and then I wished I’d been able to give him a memento of it. But we were super broke then so oh well.

      • demodocus

        He does not refer to them that way, but Dad did give Mom a heart shaped pendant and a locket when my sister and I were born.

        eta: my husband did not. I did ask for, and got, a pin with the boy’s birthstone for my first mother’s day present. He got a bear with K’s name stitched on it for father’s day.

  • Deborah

    You can also cut the lines at Disneyland/world by hiring a personal guide. Not sure what the official term is, but it’s a real thing. You don’t need to hire a disabled person, there’s a sanctioned way to do it.

    • Wanna take the fast lane to rage? I knew people who took their dogs into Disney and put orange vests bought off the internet on them. Fake card and everything.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Wanna take the fast lane to rage? Go to Disney under any circumstance.

        • My parents won free tickets to Disney when I was a kid but we didn’t go because of my mother’s balloon phobia.

    • Are you nuts

      Yes it’s like $300 an hour which is expensive for us regular folk, but quite affordable for the subjects of her article. I’ve heard they not only get you to the front of the line, but scoot you around the park through back entrances and shortcuts, and can secure hard to get reservations which I would think is well worth it, even if you had no ethical qualms about hiring a disabled person.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Yes it’s like $300 an hour which is expensive for us regular folk, but quite affordable for the subjects of her article.

        But jeez, you go to Disney, you drop a bundle anyway. By the time you are $8K into it, the marginal difference isn’t as extreme as it would appear. I suspect that is a lot of the thinking.

        Going to Disney
        Rule 1: It’s going to cost you a lot of money
        Rule 2: you can spend more and enhance your experience

        Now, we went with two pretty young guys who didn’t care in the least, because they didn’t really know what they were missing. Fast passes worked fine for us and everyone was happy.

      • demodocus

        I had no ethical qualms when traveling with my sister and then-boyfriend to the Empire State Building, and we got to the head of all the lines ’cause he’s blind. We didn’t ask for it, they just did it. Which is silly, imo. He was a student athlete (swimming) and we were asthmatic klutzes.