The Rise Of The "Sugar Mamma"

Sug·ar Mam·ma -noun
A woman who is in the financial driver’s seat of her life.

 

Watching the season finale of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire last night, I was struck afresh by how far we women have come. This show depicts life in Atlantic City during the Prohibition Era. There is one scene in particular that I can’t get out of my head. It’s when the lovely young widow, Mrs. Margaret Schroeder, finds a mini “tattered rag” in her piece of holiday cake while her friend receives the toy “wedding ring.” The tattered rag was a superstitious symbol that she would end up old and poor. Not long after Mrs. Schroeder chose to place herself in the arms of the corrupt, but rich and powerful, crime boss Nucky Thompson – the very man who had her husband killed to begin with (TV, sigh, it’s complicated). What jumped out at me was the emotional pain with which this smart, ambitious mother of two concluded that in an era of limited work opportunities for women, the only way to keep her family afloat was to take up with a “Sugar Daddy.”

By contrast, in modern America there have been a number of news stories of late highlighting the rise of the female breadwinner. It started with The Shriver Report pointing out that even though women still earn $0.77 on the dollar (big grumble), nearly 4 out of 10 working mothers are the primary breadwinners in their households. When you add in working mothers who are co-breadwinners the number tops 6 out of 10.  A New York Magazine article entitled Alpha Women, Beta Men colorfully describes some of the havoc wrought by this trend while a recent Reuters piece on The Female-Breadwinner Model focuses on how to make the most of it.

As more and more women find themselves by choice or life circumstances as the primary or co-breadwinner in their households, I’ve noticed a new trend. I’m calling it “The Rise Of The Sugar Mamma.” I define the modern “Sugar Mamma” as a woman who wants to be in the financial driver’s seat of her life. She views money as a tool that gives her a voice and increases her life choices. She likes earning an income because it gives her control and the freedom to create the life that makes her heart sing.  She may be single, married, a mother, or childless but the common denominator is a desire to learn how to live her life from a position of financial strength.

Now, if this sounds like I’m stuck in the 1960s, spend a few moments reading a few of the 122 Amazon reviews of one of my all time favorite books, Leslie Bennett’s The Feminine Mistake. The hardcover version came out in March 2007… before all economic heck broke lose. Women either adored – or hated – the book’s premise, that by ignoring the economic consequences of lifestyle choices, we women are putting ourselves in long-term financial danger. I can’t help but wonder what the naysayers would say today in the face of all the painful upheaval brought about by the economic downturn.

In response to the increase in women who are primary or co-breadwinners, I am renaming my blog “The Sugar Mamma Chronicles,” and will focus on providing personal finance information (and inspiration!) to working women who want to put themselves in the financial drivers seat of their lives.  My first tip for aspiring Sugar Mammas… read Leslie’s wonderful book!

38 Replies to “The Rise Of The "Sugar Mamma"”

  1. Go Mamma! I’ve been preaching this for years and am glad to be in your good company. Found you via Alexi Neely.

    1. Marie-Jeanne, Welcome & thank you so much for your kind note. Thrilled this post resonated with you (not everyone was so happy about my desire to reclaim the phrase “Sugar Mamma” in the affirmative for us women!). And speaking of great women – isn’t Alexis Martin Neely just the best? She’s helped me enormously in clarifying the focus of my work.

    2. Marie-Jeanne, Thank you so much for your note. Am thrilled the piece resonated with you.nnInterestingly, some women found my desire to use such an eye-popping phrase as quite offensive. My intent was two-fold. First to use a phrase like “Pregnant Man” that stops you in your tracks and makes you rethink your reference point. Second, figured this new breed of woman should reclaim a term (“Sugar Daddy”) that has brought pain to so many women in the past and redefine it in positive way that benefits women AND men going forward. Goodness knows in these tough economic times we all need to work together, not against each other!nnLastly – isn’t @AlexisNeely just the best? She has helped me tremendously in finding my voice and clarifying how I can be of use to working women. She is a gifted business strategist.

  2. I am recently divorced and did’nt realize how strong I was until I was pushed against the wall so to speak.I even had a perfect stranger tell me way before the divorce that I didn’t realize how strong I really was and to have confidence in me.After just about 30 years into a failing marriage that I desparately wanted to be normal,I finally drew the line in the sand.I was worth more than what I was getting in this relationship.This person I was married to cheated on me from the beginning,mentally abused me and then I was essentially the breadwinner in my home.I paid everything from the house payment to the utilities from the very beginning (30 years worth). I was the “Sugar Mamma” and I didn’t even realize my role in this marriage. Now,I realize that this “Sugar Mamma” role has made me a stronger woman in that I truly can stand on my own two feet financially. It was kind of scary at first when he was not physically around.As everything still went on as usual,bills being paid on time,things around the house got done,without him being present,I actually realized that I had actually been on my own all these years!!!! What a sense of accomplishment and liberation!!! Ladies out there take a stance,draw a line in the sand and just know that you are actually stronger than you think!!!!

  3. I think the ‘rise of the sugar mama’ is great. I enjoy being the bread winner and making a name for myself. But even married with a supporting husband… us sugar mama mamas still need to learn to balance the work life while raising a family.

    1. YES!!! As someone who struggles mightily with work/family life balance… I’m so with you. One great resource on this topic is Cali Yost, author of “Work + Life + Fit.” Here’s a link to her website: http://www.worklifefit.com/ – Cali is a wealth of information (pun intended 🙂 on this subject & I highly recommend reading her blog. Thanks for writing it – always great to hear from Sugar Mammas!!

    1. I hear you LOUD & CLEAR. There seems to be some quiet but seismic shift going on in society. I’m meeting women of all ages, geographies, socio-economic, educational, religious, etc. background… all saying the same thing.
      And more often than not there are some seriously painful emotions around the situation – ranging from anger to shame. My hope is that the more both genders talk about the changes going on with regards to who is bring home the bacon… the better off we’ll all be.
      So thank you for sharing your experiences – little by little we’ll pull this issue out from under the table!

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