This week I’ve been plagued by stories about the “wife bonus”. It’s right. It’s wrong. It’s feminist. It’s setting us back a hundred years. As always happens when a hot topic emerges on social media, I ended up discussing it with a bunch of women friends within the safe confines of a Facebook group. I was surprised to discover that I had a bit of a unique viewpoint on the topic.
You see, I made my husband’s dreams possible. His ability to “have it all” is built on the back of my sacrifice. We chose to move to a place that allowed his career to blossom and mine to stagnate. We chose to have a family, a decision that ended up impeding my ability to find a job. We chose these things together but they did not come without a cost….one that was paid mostly by me.
Before anyone passes me a tissue or lights a torch in my honor, I want to point out that I am NOT a martyr. I didn’t spend those “investment” years crying in a corner or suffering in silence. I got to live abroad, which had always been a dream of my own. I took advantage of the luxury of financial stability and very affordable childcare to explore some smaller dreams – running my own business (without needing to make a profit), getting to know my children, creating this blog and writing for fun. None of these things would have been possible had I stayed on my 60 hour a week, fast-tracked career path I’d been on before we settled down.
But as much as I can play around with imaginary numbers and try and put a price tag on my experience as a sacrificing spouse, the actual losses from four years of virtually no salary cannot be overlooked. Over half a million dollars in earnings – not potential earnings but the real total of four years of paychecks at my pre-baby salary – this is the true cost to me (and to our family) for putting my husband’s career dreams at the top of our list. Four years of bonus checks I would have otherwise received and stocked away in my bank account to spend however I wanted.
When the topic of the wife bonus came up, as distasteful as the word is to many, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit of camaraderie with those women, especially the one who wrote this article. Just like me, that woman walked away from a well-paid gig when her husband got a great job offer. Now I would never call my husband my boss (not even while under anesthetic), but I would absolutely agree with her that I earned some chunk of my husband’s bonus check.
Why bonus check and not regular paycheck? In our case, the regular paycheck went into covering all of the regular things – mortgage payments, food, clothing, childcare – and a little slushfund for savings. But the bonus – the one time of year when his employer said, “Hey, thanks for going above and beyond, for giving us 110% this year and doing more than the job description required. Here’s a little extra money for you to spend as you see fit,” – I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be given equal consideration. Splitting the household chores and child-related responsibilities are all part of the day-to-day task we opt into when we get married and have kids. But big sacrifices like I made – giving up a career and a fat paycheck of my own – well those deserve a little extra recognition. Calling it a bonus and making it clear that it is mine further underscores my right to spend it as I see fit.
How much money I got in a bonus and how I spent it is nobody’s business but my own. And if you don’t think that my sacrifices earned me that money, you can STFU. I made my husband’s dreams come true and that is worth some money.