What the hell is a wife bonus? (And how do I get one?)

Thought push presents were bad? Now there is a ridiculous new trend…

Mothers can be their own harshest critics.

But if silently tracking your own motherly success based on the number of unprocessed food items that passed through your toddler’s lips today, or the number of readers completed throughout the school term, was not punishment enough, now husbands can turn these into measurable metrics to judge your worth.

In a disturbing revelation, some women are earning an annual “wife bonus” from their husbands depending on how well they have performed their spousal duties – if such a thing can be measured.

In a fascinating New York Times article, social researcher Wednesday Martin gave us a sneak peek into the lives of the Glam SAHMs (glamorous stay-at-home mums) of Manhattan’s hoity-toity Upper East Side.

According to Martin, these wives of rich businessmen shelved their expensive Ivy League educations and careers in favour of devoting themselves entirely to “intensive mothering” (which she defines as “exhaustively enriching their children’s lives by virtually every measure”), punishing self-care routines and running their many homes like CEOs.

“They exercised themselves to a razor’s edge, wore expensive and exquisite outfits to school drop-off and looked a decade younger than they were,” Martin says.

Author Wednesday Martin discovered Upper East Side women were being paid wife bonuses. Image via Facebook.

The author of forthcoming memoir Primates of Park Avenue described a segregated world where husbands and wives dined, socialised and holidayed separately.

A world with wife bonuses.

“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.

Women who didn’t get them joked about possible sexual performance metrics. Women who received them usually retreated, demurring when pressed to discuss it further, proof to an anthropologist that a topic is taboo, culturally loaded and dense with meaning.”

Martin, who lived in this world for six years, said she was “thunderstruck” when she heard women discussing their “bonus”.


One woman promised she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set.

Another was waiting for her “year-end” to go shopping for clothes.

The article unsurprisingly sparked strong reactions from all camps and led sceptics to question whether the wife bonus actually exists, or whether it is just an “in joke” between the Glam SAHMs.

But even real Upper East Side mums became engrossed with the topic, discussing the bonuses on a private Facebook group, which was seen by the The Business Insider.

The lives of wealthy Upper East Siders was portrayed on hit TV show Gossip Girl.

One woman said she knows wives who receive bonuses, but those bonuses are not based on their performance. “Their husbands make x amount of income, of which they’re budgeted a portion, and then x amount of bonus, of which they’re budgeted a portion… I’ve never heard of it relating to ‘performance’, the difference seems to be whether each partner has a yearly or monthly budget that’s spelled out or not,” the Glam SAHM stated.

I’m all for household budgets, but the lack of economic equality in a marriage where a wife is being ‘paid’ by her husband is extremely concerning.

Some have asked: If being a stay-at-home mum is a full-time job, why shouldn’t wives get bonuses?

The answer is because a husband is an equal, not an employer.

Watch: Should women get a wife bonus?

For more articles on the trials and tribulations of motherhood, try these:

Leigh Sales: “Juggling work and motherhood is exhausting.”

As your kids grow, motherhood is a continual process of letting go.

I struggle with motherhood every single day.

“Don’t judge me for being a stay at home mum”.

Would you be happy with a wife bonus?