Back To Career News

All Stay-at-Home Parents Should Get a ‘Wife Bonus’


Someday, Dorothy will pull back the curtain on the internet and we’ll discover not a man pulling levers, but the greatest communication tool of the 21st century, entirely powered by human outrage. Look no further than the recent flap over social researcher Wednesday Martin’s forthcoming book Primates of Park Avenue, which examines the phenomenon of the “glam SAHM” – real Real Housewives who probably don’t change a lot of diapers, but spend their time managing the careers of the future one percent. The inspiration for the furor? Like their financier husbands, these ladies apparently get a cash bonus for their efforts.

1950s family 

(Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr)

“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,” writes Martin. “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.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Fortunately for Martin’s book sales, the internet exploded with opinion. Wife bonuses are retrograde, sexist relics that make a woman into her husband’s employee. Wife bonuses are well-deserved, because they reflect the hard work that goes into “intensive mothering” on the level required of the subculture of the super-rich. Wife bonuses are a big, fat lie, created to boost Martin’s Amazon sales rank.

My take? While I couldn’t care less how the wealthy distribute their personal funds, I’d like to see some of that wife bonus action head toward my friends, male and female – but let’s be real, mostly female – who deprioritize their own careers and financial stability to work inside the home taking care of their children.

pull quote

(Photo Credit: Donnie Ray Jones/Flickr)

Who should pay this bonus? Not the working spouse, that’s for sure. If your partner isn’t a banker or a Vanderbilt, odds are slim he or she has the cash. No, what I’m suggesting is that the government cough up a stipend, the same way Sweden does (SEK 1,050 per month, per child, or about $125, as of 2014), as well as providing long overdue support like paid parental leave – for both mothers and fathers.

Before you scoff and accuse me of building castles in the air, consider this: the idea of the government helping out working families with cold, hard cash isn’t new. The International Wages for Housework Campaign proposed compensating homemakers for the labor in 1972, and as I mentioned, other countries already provide small stipends to families, to help them bridge the gap.

And, while a housewife wage obviously never made it into law, the idea behind it is still worth discussing. If raising children is the most important thing a person can do – and ask any politician on either side of the aisle, and they’ll tell you it is – then why is it the country’s very last financial priority?

Realistically, of course, I don’t expect the government to start issuing checks to stay-at-home parents. But a little federally mandated paid leave, for both men and women, would be a start. It wouldn’t buy much Prada, but it might narrow the gender wage gap by making it easier for mothers to hold onto their careers, which is good for families and good for the economy.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think about the wife bonus? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
Read more from Jen

Leave a Reply

5 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
3 Comment authors
Joyce WhiteheadTurqueyaLauren Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I am a severely under-employed 56 year-old single (separated) parent with a 15-year hole in my employment history because my then-husband and I decided I would stay home and raise our children and keep the home. I would have loved any compensation as I am very worried about my retirement.


Oh my god. Nobody CHOOSES to become ill and need time off. Nobody CHOOSES to get made redundant. There is a minority of people on benefits who create their own one-size-fits-all stereotype which is simply not representative of the amount of people that may be signing on every week, desperately looking for work because they WANT to earn their own living; they WANT to be debt free and be happier in life. Adding kids to the mix is something else.… Read more »


You people are insane and obviously spend no time taking care of a home. It is real work and is certainly not sitting around all day. I would gladly give a portion of my wages to someone willing to take care of their children and keep their home. I think this is a great idea. Furthermore, the very suggestion that every welfare recipient is sitting at home because they refuse to work is ridiculous. There isn’t enough money in it… Read more »


I’m not a liberal or a conservative; I’m practical. As a “Practical”, I wonder what the return on the taxpayers investment would be for what you propose. To calculate the ROI, I need answers to the following questions: Do stay at home parents have better parenting outcomes? How large would the subsidy have to be to encourage parents to leave the paid workforce to be stay at home parents? Would a subsidy make existing stay at home parents, better parents?… Read more »


This is a really poor article Jen, I read your stuff all the time, and I agree with the vast majority of points you try to make. But not this one. This idea comes from the liberal-left philosophy and really means, people who have jobs and make money need to, once again, pay for those who choose to sit at home and not work (in the traditional sense of the word). Is raising jobs important? You bet it is. I… Read more »

What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.