A generation or two ago, a woman going cap in hand to her husband for ‘housekeeping’ money or ‘a little something to keep me pretty’, without earning a penny herself, was pretty much the norm. Nowadays, most wives would baulk at the idea of being in the pay of her other half.
Yet, in some marriages, the ‘mummy salary’ is alive and well — especially since the pandemic struck, with mothers 23 per cent more likely than fathers to lose their job.
HELEN CARROLL speaks to five women who are happy to be on their husband’s payroll . . .
FRIENDS THINK IT’S NICE THAT I GET ‘LUXURY MONEY’
Sarah Williams, 37, is expecting her third child and lives in East London with husband Michael, 33, a train driver. Sarah is a business development manager but receives £450 a month from Michael during her maternity leave. She says:
My parents run a business together, but my mum doesn’t have a bank account and has always had to ask Dad for money if she wants to buy something or have her hair done.
It works for them, but I always vowed I would never have to ask my husband for handouts. It was Michael’s suggestion that he pay me a ‘mummy salary’ when I was on maternity leave with our two children, and I will receive it again after the third is born in April.
Sarah Williams, 37, and her husband Michael, 33, a train driver, at their home in East London
It’s my so-called luxuries money, to spend as I see fit. The household spending all comes out of his account.
We have a school mums’ night out once a month, at a local family-run restaurant, and I’d hate to have to check with Michael whether there was enough in the joint account for me to be able to afford the £40 or £50 I usually spend on food and drinks.
Likewise, we’ll sometimes go for coffee or breakfast after dropping our children off at school, and I can buy myself a pastry without feeling guilty.
I will have two babies under two when my next one is born, so I’ll be taking my full maternity leave entitlement and will, therefore, once again be reliant on my ‘mummy salary’ — while saving us a fortune in childcare costs.
Some of my friends who don’t work have to ask their husbands for money before a night out, though one of them has a similar arrangement to ours.
They all think it’s nice that Michael gives me ‘luxury money’, with no questions asked.
I can be a bit frivolous at times, buying make-up, perfume and dresses I don’t really need. But at least I never have to worry about these purchases showing up on our joint bank statement.
ADAM ADVANCES HIS CAREER WHILE I LOOK AFTER THE CHILDREN
Gemma Knell, 34, lives in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, with husband Adam, 35, a marketing director, and their three children, aged two, five and eight. She says:
When Adam called me with news of his recent promotion, which came with a significant pay rise, it was proof that I’m worth every penny of my ‘mummy salary’.
Paying me £300 a month for the past two years has let him focus entirely on his career, without worrying about school drop-offs, pick-ups or poorly children.
Gemma Knell, 34, lives in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, with husband Adam, 35, a marketing director
When we found out I was expecting our third child, we both knew it would cost too much in childcare to be worth my while returning to my job in the offices of an airline company.
Having always earned my own money until that point, the last thing I wanted was to have to go to Adam if I needed, or wanted, something new. So, Adam pays the mortgage, utilities and grocery bills, then sets aside an extra £300 a month as a thank you for the work I put in at home looking after our three children.
It’s up to me what it goes on, and mostly I use it to buy clothes, or a trip to the hairdresser or beautician, and every nine months or so I have my eyebrows micro-bladed, at a cost of £150.
Usually I’d meet friends and my sisters for lunch, or girlfriends for dinner, at a restaurant. I would feel uncomfortable adding those costs, which feel like indulgences, to the household budget, so, psychologically, it helps me enormously knowing they come out of my ‘allowance’. And I budget, just like everyone else. If I want something expensive, I save.
Before Christmas and the children’s birthdays, Adam transfers an extra couple of hundred pounds so I can buy presents.
I look forward to earning my own money again one day, but earning my keep concentrating on mummy duties is definitely right for us for now.
BEING A MUM’S THE TOUGHEST JOB… I’M WORTH EVERY PENNY
Tally Swidzinska, 37, lives in Kenley, Surrey, with husband Dylan, 38, a chartered accountant, and has a four-year-old son and two-year-old identical twin girls. She says:
being a mother is the hardest job in the world, so why shouldn’t we receive a salary?
We’ve never had a joint bank account — we both like our independence, so every month Dylan transfers £650 from his account to mine.
Tally Swidzinska, 37, lives in Kenley, Surrey, with husband Dylan, 38, a chartered accountant
From this I buy most of the groceries, clothes for the children and petrol for my car.
Whatever is left, around £100 most months, I spend on whatever I want — clothes, a haircut, a meal with friends and the odd post-school run coffee. I have never asked Dylan for this — it just appears in my account like clockwork in the middle of every month.
As well as allowing me some financial independence, it also means Dylan doesn’t have to worry about mundane things, such as buying the children clothes and food shopping.
Contrary to what others may assume, I consider myself a feminist and to anyone who objects to the term ‘mummy salary’, I would say: ‘Oh, calm down’.
My husband is not actually hiring my services as a mum — he’s allowing me to carry on living the life I had before children, without the embarrassment of having to ask for money.
If he didn’t, I’d feel more like a kept woman, with little choice but to ask my husband every time I wanted to make a purchase.
I’ve heard other husbands moan about how much their wives spend from their joint account, and I take solace in the knowledge that, as I never spend more than my ‘salary’, Dylan could never complain about me.
Who wants to have to justify spending £2.50 on a coffee with friends? So, far from feeling degraded, I find it liberating.
And I’m not frivolous with money — I had a good wage, as an executive assistant to an MD, for a long time. I would love to be able to work, but I don’t have that luxury — with three children under the age of four, the childcare costs would be crippling.
That said, I feel I more than earn what I am paid and I am worth every penny.
WE HAVE A BUDGET MEETING OVER A GLASS OF WINE
Natalia Alexandrou, 37, lives in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, with husband Kristian, 42, an architect, and their three children, aged eight, three and one. Natalia works one day a week as a digital marketing consultant and receives £400 a month from Kristian. She says:
The last thing I want is to feel like a kept woman, so receiving a monthly ‘income’ for all I do with our children is the perfect solution.
When I had a full-time job, I would contribute to the mortgage and bills. I’m not able to do so now, though my contribution to family life is no less valuable.
Natalia Alexandrou, 37, lives in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, with husband Kristian, 42, an architect
I also have my own small income from my part-time job, and the child benefit money of £195 each month.
Kristian covers all the bills and when I was made redundant while pregnant with my third child, he set up a standing order to pay £400 a month into my bank account. I do most of the grocery shopping out of that and, in the run-up to Christmas and birthdays, he transfers an extra few hundred pounds — I work out what it will all cost and then let him know.
One evening towards the end of every month we’ll sit down with a glass of wine to have a budget meeting.
If I’m running short, after buying extra for a birthday or school stuff, he will transfer more money.
He never takes the view that I’ve had my money and once it’s gone it’s gone, because he knows I’m not frivolous. We’ve never had a row about money.
As an effectively single-income family, with three young kids, money is tight. If I want to go out with friends but have run out of money for that month, I tell them I can’t make any plans until the following month.
They know this is how Kristian and I arrange our finances and none of them has ever said they find it odd. It certainly works for us. Other than the mortgage, we have no debt.
I’M AN ITEM ON OUR FAMILY SPREADSHEET
Laura Parnham, 26, has a daughter aged three and lives in Cambridgeshire, with partner James, 27, a stock controller. She was a multilingual customer services adviser for an international online company before becoming a full-time mum. She says:
Anything to do with money, including budgeting, really stresses me out so James and I have an arrangement whereby he pays me an allowance, which enables me to be a full-time mummy and have cash for a few luxuries, without having to worry about it running out.
At first, when I told friends about our arrangement, they were a bit critical of James — they thought it sounded like he was being controlling.
Laura Parnham, 26, has a daughter aged three and lives in Cambridgeshire, with partner James, 27, a stock controller
But I explained it was a joint decision to do things this way because of my stress and anxiety around money, even though it’s usually the parent who stays at home who deals with that sort of stuff. After all the bills, including a credit card repayment, have been covered, James transfers £150 a month to my account and keeps the same amount for himself, to spend on whatever we fancy.
James likes to keep track of the finances and make sure we don’t get into debt so he’s equally happy doing things this way. Out of my ‘mummy salary’ I buy make-up, as well as craft materials and artists’ paint, as I’m quite creative. Every three months I pay £35 to have both mine and my daughter’s hair cut.
James keeps track of all our outgoings and standing orders on a spreadsheet.
If there’s more than £150 each left over monthly, he will transfer extra cash and I’ll buy things for the flat.
We’re planning another baby — and a wedding — and I’m also building up a business, selling pet paintings and ornaments I craft from wood.
But for now I’m happy to be another item on the spreadsheet.