Cashing in on the spouse

Just think: If you can get her to earn a bigger salary, you're home free

February 02, 2003|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Sun Staff

To: My wife's boss

From: Her loyal husband

Re: Salary and benefits

Dear Sir:

Isn't it time you gave my wife a big raise?

I mention this because it's my belief that if my wife earned more money -- not some token bonus, mind you, but substantially more salary -- I wouldn't have to work anymore.

Are you following me so far?

It's not like the woman is wholly undeserving or anything. I'm sure she's terrific at her job (she certainly expresses strong feelings about it on a regular basis). But I just feel like she's not doing enough to toot her own horn and maximize her earnings potential.

To be frank, I got the idea to write you from this new paperback, How to Help Your Husband Make More Money So You Can be a Stay-at-Home Mom by Joanne Watson (Warner Books, 2003). In it, she explains how she pushed her own husband into tech work "and tripled his earnings."

Now, when I first read that title, I kind of chuckled. It sounded sort of, well, manipulative, if you know what I mean.

Not only was the husband expected to be the provider, but the title implied that the wife's job was to lead him around -- whether he wanted that or not, and ultimately obtain the benefit.

Kind of like Lucy telling Desi how she'd like to "help" him out when her real agenda was to sing in his nightclub.

(You'll notice the title doesn't include the words, How to Compromise, or How the In-Laws Could Give Us a Loan, or anything like that.)

Anyway, I would have chucked the 158-page thing, but then I started reading and, you know, that darn book had some clever ideas.

Allow me to share some chapter sub-headings:

* Help him to be confident.

* How to help him negotiate a raise.

* How to present your husband so employers just have to have him.

Manipulative, yes, but I'm inclined to believe it could work. The right woman, ruthlessly single-minded, calculating, and willing to transcend the normal social boundaries (like writing a spouse-to-employer letter, for instance) could get away with this.

So why not a man? I mean, isn't that where the 21st century should take us? Why can't I be the one to maximize my wife's paycheck so I can quit my job?

In a truly egalitarian society, men shouldn't have to apologize for wanting to stay home, for daring to see a life outside the office, for dreaming the impossible dream.

Admittedly, becoming a stay-at-home dad is not really my goal here. I'd much rather be a stay-at-home goof-off or layabout or radio talk show caller, but that's getting way ahead of things.

My point here is that I want my wife to accentuate the positive. I want her to make the most of what she has. To be all that she can be.

In short, I want her to grow, particularly in the compensation area. That's where you come in.

Sure, I could network. I could type resumes and cover letters and send them around. I could do a lot of the things Ms. Watson recommends -- like arranging for my wife to work a lot of overtime (page 118) or meeting the spouse of a corporate executive at my daughter's Gymboree class (page 45).

But that sounds like a lot of effort, frankly, and, if I wanted to spend a lot of my time working, I wouldn't be writing you now.

So, in summary, please hand over the cash. My wife deserves it and all that blah-de-blah-de-blah.

In return, I will send you a copy of this sharp-looking paperback, and -- this is the really neat part -- you can start finding ways to boost your own spouse's pay, and jump on this gravy train, too.

Or, as Ms. Watson writes in Chapter 1, there are good jobs out there in any economy, the trick is always to get your spouse plugged into one. "Decide that it is easy," she writes, "follow the steps, and it soon will be."

Amen, sister.

Yours truly,

Peter Jensen

Sun Staff

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