I read this article in the New York Times, and couldn’t really stop thinking about it, so of course that means I need to blog about it.
In case you don’t want to read the entire article (although I think you should, because it’s pretty interesting), the writer of the article says that she lives on the Upper East Side in New York City and she says that she was shocked to find out that some of the stay-at-home moms there receive a ‘wife bonus’ (of sorts) from their husbands. Evidently this bonus is based on how much the husband earned during the year and also how well the wife ‘performed’ during the year. This writer/anthropologist goes on to discuss how the wives/mothers in this scenario are culturally disempowered and dependent.
Being a stay at home mom myself (for now, at least), makes me defensive about the importance I have in the world and even in my family. Although I do not earn an income right now doesn’t mean I’m powerless in my marriage. I do not get an allowance and I do not get a bonus from my husband. Instead, I have access to joint bank accounts and make financial decisions together with Tim. Neither of us has financial power over the other person and I don’t think I’m less important because I don’t receive a consistent paycheck. My work (in the home) is valuable, too.
I don’t understand how anyone thrives in a marriage in which the power isn’t equal in every aspect, including financially. And if the power is equal in marriage, how would it not be in society as a whole? If we support one another to excel in the areas of life we’re responsible for, everything can work efficiently and effectively. Of course, I know this is a ‘perfect’ scenario and life is far from perfect, but I don’t think that necessarily means we need to give up on the ideal.
As his wife, I plan on supporting Tim as much as I can in life – including in his career. Right now, me staying at home is the best solution for our family. If Tim wants me to go back to work and it proves to be what is best for my family, I’m willing to do that, too. I am fully confident that Tim also intends to support me however he can.
Although the author of the article may think otherwise, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I give away my skills (that I paid a university a lot of money to teach me) or that I sometimes prefer to socialize with wives and mothers away from our husbands. I realize that I’m dependent on my husband financially, but he is dependent on me as his wife and the mother of his child. We are both irreplaceable in our respective roles.
Or actually, maybe some of these things do disempower me and I just don’t care as much as I should. There are better things in life than being powerful, right? We are all uniquely made by God with different gifts and I am happy to use mine to the best of my ability, even if it does not necessarily make me the most ‘powerful’ member of society.
I absolutely believe in equality, make no mistake about it. I believe in equality in marriage and in the workplace and in society as a whole. I believe we should do as much as we can to empower each other to be the best in our positions, no matter what those may be.
So no, I do not receive a ‘wife bonus’. I would never have married a man who thought it was appropriate to withhold money from me, making a ‘bonus’ an option, and I hope to raise Clara to not accept that sort of marriage inequality, either. But I won’t look down on her if she decides to stay at home, as I know that stay at home moms are important and powerful forces who shape minds and families and who also support men to be the best that they can be. I hope and pray that she picks a husband who, like her dad, cherishes his wife to be the best in everything that she does, too.
Have you read the article? What are your thoughts on it?