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7 Ways a Middle Class Mom Would Spend Her 'Wife Bonus'

You've heard of a "wife bonus," right? If you haven't, don't worry, it's a relatively new term to most of us. Wednesday Martin's new book, "Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir," has made the wife bonus the hot new phrase of the year (remember when the hot new phrase was "push present?") and has generated a lot of online chatter.

The wife bonus is a percentage of a husband's annual bonus that he gives to his wife in recognition for her work in managing the household, staying home to take care of the children and supporting him in his career. The wife uses her bonus to buy whatever her little heart desires, which according to Martin's book seems to involve things like shoes and purses—really expensive shoes and purses, of course, with tags that say Gucci, Prada, Chanel and Birkin.

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What I know about Birkin bags was gleaned from watching "Sex and the City," but I understand a Birkin can range from $10k to $100k. That's a lot of cash for a bag to carry around fruit snacks, sunscreen, a handful of Hot Wheels cars and a spare pair of 3T underwear. So when we're talking about wife bonuses, we're talking about the ultra-rich who live on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, not the woman next door who drives a Jeep and shops at Target. Oh wait, that's me. My husband and I share joint bank accounts, so if I want something and we can afford it, I just go buy the damn thing. But I did consider what a wife bonus would look like in my house, should my husband present me with a portion of his (non-existent) annual bonus from the Navy. Here's how I'd spend it:

1. I'd hire a cleaning service

Forget the shoes, forget the purse, what I want is more time. I'd hire someone else to clean my house while I sit on the deck sipping a glass of lemonade and reading a book. Doesn't that sound like a worthy purchase for a wife bonus? Then again, I'm guessing Upper East Side wives already have a cleaning service. And a chef. And a nanny. And probably someone who comes in once a month just to clean out the refrigerator and throw away whatever is in that container way in the back. You know, the one that seems to be breathing on its own.

I understand the need to feel valued in a partnership, as marriage should be, but you can't put a price tag on your contribution. Or you shouldn't.

2. I'd buy more books

After filling my bookshelves for years with books that I never got around to reading, I've been buying fewer books lately. I miss it. I miss the feel of a stack of books in my arms as I peruse the shelves looking for new finds. If my husband handed over a fat check (does the husband bow? Present it on a silver tray? I'm curious), I'd hit the bookstore and I wouldn't buy a single book that has a superhero or TV character on the cover. And I wouldn't feel guilty letting those books sit on a shelf collecting dust.

3. I'd buy a new laptop

Not because I really need a new one, but because I'd like one of those lightweight models. I carry enough weight around on my own, thanks very much.

4. I'd buy a new messenger bag

Nothing fancy or expensive, just something to store my new waif-like laptop. Maybe in a pretty lime green for summer to match my Old Navy flip-flops.

5. I'd buy a few more pairs of Old Navy flip-flops

I'd probably wait until they go on sale two for $5 and buy a pair in every color.

6. I'd buy a bunch of miniature goats

I don't know why, I just want them. They'd look cute hanging out in my backyard while I'm reading a book and drinking lemonade.

7. I'd buy a dozen hair clips

I can never seem to find one when I need it, and it gets hot sitting out on my deck in the summer.

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That's about it, and yes, contemplating how I'd spend a wife bonus is just as silly as the concept itself. I understand the need to feel valued in a partnership, as marriage should be, but you can't put a price tag on your contribution. Or you shouldn't. When you start putting a dollar figure on your "worth" as a wife, you devalue all those things that can't be bought. If the marriage is a true partnership, then all of the assets should be shared. There is no need for the husband to present a portion of his annual bonus to his wife as some sort of reward for being an equal member in the partnership. Half of it is already hers.

Then again, I don't live on Park Avenue. Maybe if I owned a Birkin bag and shopped at Prada, I'd feel differently, huh?

Image via Twenty20/cav137

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