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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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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?