Some of you may be asking: “What exactly is a wife bonus?” Well, supposedly, among a certain set of very wealthy couples, husbands who receive a generous annual work bonus will occasionally bestow a portion of that bonus upon their little ladies. You know, to incentivize them to do well in their marital duties.
So where a bonus-worthy banker might generate a gajillion dollars for his employer, a bonus-worthy wife might get the kids into the number one preschool. Or she might impress her husband’s most important clients by throwing dinner parties with ten-fork place settings. Or she might steal the city’s best nanny from the Joneses. Whatever her key contributions, a bonus-worthy wife might receive five figures to spend however she wishes—say, on a pair of shoes by a designer whose name you’re afraid you’ll mispronounce because you’ve never actually heard it spoken. You’ve only ever read about it in Vanity Fair at the dermatologist’s office, the one time you had that weird mole.
You might think it’s the ostensibly sexist division of labor that bothers me about the wife bonus, but honestly it’s not. Whatever deal you strike with your partner is entirely up to you. It doesn’t offend me a bacon bit if your husband brings home the you-know-what and you fry it up in a pan, as long as that’s what you’ve both decided to do. I could not care less if you’ve never killed a spider and he’s never cleaned a toilet, if that’s how you want to handle things. I heartily applaud your decision to carry on like cave people if you want. Mazel tov, Flintstones.
It’s not the throwing-around of big bucks that bothers me either. I personally would love to be handed a pile of money to waste, with no strings attached. I think I would ask for it in small bills just to smell it. I might even do as the bonus-worthy wives do, and hit the designer boutiques. I need quite a bit of clothing for my wardrobe to even qualify as a “capsule wardrobe,” so I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy a Pretty Woman dressing room montage more than the average wife on a bonus-spending shopping spree. A handbag as expensive as a mortgage? Yes, please, and matching shoes—but not too matchy. That would just be embarrassing.
But here’s the thing. The word “bonus” means you’re being given something extra at the boss’s discretion. NOPE AND NOPE.
First of nope, I will never truly get a wife bonus because every single dime of my husband’s money is already mine, from the very instant it hits our joint bank account. If he is lucky enough to receive an annual work bonus—correction, if we are—he doesn’t get to decide what to do with it, or what portion to share with me, because it’s not his. It’s ours. Community property, if you want to get legal about it. We decide together how to spend it and if we can’t agree, we don’t spend it. Sadly, this mutual veto system means my handbag selection is not that impressive. (But don’t cry for me, Argentina. It is puh-lenty nicer than his shoe collection.)
Second of nope, I might work for our family because that’s what we decided, but I don’t work for my husband. He is not my boss (and whenever there is any confusion about this, I clear it right up by stomping, putting my hands on my hips, and shouting, “You are not the boss of me!”). He doesn’t get to review my performance, or establish incentives to get me to do things he deems important. If that were the case, we’d probably be eating a lot more Chicken Cordon Bleu and a lot less Chick-fil-A. Instead, we decide together, on a (sometimes yelly and door-slammy) day-to-day basis, what exactly constitutes success in our household and how we are going to get there.
And by “there” I mean designer handbags.