In an interview of wealthy Norwegian business elites, mothers talked freely about their everyday lives - and why being wealthy enough to not have to work is important to many of them. 

Among the 13 families chronicled  by sociologist Helene Aarseth from the University of Oslo in Tidsskrift for kjønnsforskning (Journal of Gender Research), nine of the women were full-time mothers or had a small part-time job which did not interfere with their ability to be home with the children when they returned from school. Prior to leaving the workplace, almost all the wealthy mothers had a prestigious education within law or economics.

They're richer than you and they care more about their kids, because they hire a maid and two nannies. Image:

“This gave me an insight into how these people view their own world. I am not interested in disclosing distorted perceptions of reality or in judging other people morally. What I am looking at is the emotional background for why they have chosen to drop their career in order to concentrate on their children,” says Aarseth. 

From jurist to yoga teacher

Like some men in mid-life, these wealthy new mothers had an existential crisis. "Suddenly, when I had children, something awoke inside me, and I started thinking: 'what is most important in life?' It was certainly not whether these ship-owners made money or not. I simply thought: “I couldn’t care less!”

That's the psychology of the rich. America has had 3 million more children go into poverty in the last few years while wealthy elites have wives that can stay home also, so clearly 'what is most important to me?' is not an option for everyone.

What few elites have part-time jobs are things like teaching a yoga class or being a 'life coach' so the money is not an issue that way it would be in working families. Economic security means they can be proud of being stay-at-home mothers, and they emphasize that they are much happier after they dropped out of their career.

Unsurprisingly, few of the women think about divorce

Very few of the women mentioned the risk of divorce. Money can't buy happiness but having basic needs met at least makes most people content.

Aarseth believes that Norwegian equality lessens the chance of divorce for rich elites - in Norway, women are not to get alimony, they need their own income.  A few had their own inheritances but otherwise they would have to fend for themselves, and that means a lot less complaining.

Anti tiger mom: Bubble wrap them now and they will succeed later

Wealthy mothers emphasized that they want their children to be well prepared for the global competition they will be facing as grown-ups. According to these women, their children need security and protection in the childhood in order to handle the pressure as adults.

That means choosing the right neighborhood, though many of the parents feel it is important that the children don’t know how rich they are.

“They are signalling an emphasis on healthy and complete people of equal value. This is reflected in the neighborhood, which is characterized by an exceptionally high standard of living which appears normal,” says Aarseth.

Producing winners by not being in school sports

The children do not participate in school-based extra-curricular facilities, they do homework.  They say they clearly aim at producing the winners of tomorrow.

“The mother’s demands of her children are not necessarily extremely high, but if a child shows certain talents there are no reasons why it shouldn’t aspire to achieve top grades. The parents take it for granted that their children will be studying abroad and have an international career.”

Dad not included

The women are so dedicated to their children they hire a cleaner and perhaps one or two au pairs to look after the home.

“Dinner is ready when the children come home from school, in time to reach training and matches. The dads have to look after themselves – perhaps they are granted a cold hot-dog by the kitchen counter,” says Aarseth.

They never know when he arrives back from work, say the women. 

Aarseth  did not ask if these women realize that kids leave home after 18 years while hopefully husbands will not.

Norwegian dads seem to be okay with separate lives, working long hours but Aarseth says it is not the work pressure within the financial elite but rather the emotional pressure that affects their choices when they become parents

No time for sick children

One of the couples in Aarseth’s study recently had a daughter with a serious heart condition. She needed potentially life threatening surgery when she was only two days old but dad was out of the country. Fortunately, both their daughter and the contract came through.

“Although he wanted to be present at the hospital he felt that he had no choice. He had to put his emotions aside and concentrate on work. This is of course an extreme situation, but those who work in the financial services industry are facing similar situations all the time. This is why these couples find it necessary for the woman to stay at home in order to create a warm, cosy atmosphere for the husband to come home to, where he can be a complete human being,” recites the researcher.

But a lot of women want to stay at home when they have children, don’t they? 

“That may be the case, and the presentation of a ruthless working reality also applies to Kari Stefansen’s research on working class families. They often want to wait longer than the middle class before they place their children in kindergarten. According to my studies, parents who work in academia are less concerned that their children won’t be able to cope with the world outside.

“I think, however, that this is because they don’t experience the same ruthless reality outside the family as the elite couple in the present study. Perhaps this is why the Norwegian equality project particularly appeals to middle class academics,” says Aarseth. “But it may also indicate a connection between the equality project and working life: Perhaps the hard competition and the lack of human relations in working life increase the longing for a sheltered oasis at home?”

Elites dream of a different life

For weekends, the goal is for the father to leave work at 2 PM on Friday and come home to a packed car. The family then spends the weekends at their cabin in the mountains during the winter and by the sea during summer. The dads are constantly online, but they say that they quickly get all inquiries from work out of the way. 

“The dads take on their traditional role as Sunday dads. They dedicate their time to play with the children and emphasize the freedom from responsibilities and concerns in the weekends.”

Many of Aarseth’s male interviewees dreamed about leaving work altogether as soon as their financial situation was secured - but that involves something different than for people in general.

“They were very concerned about their economy. For instance, they might say that they needed to work extra for a period in order to afford to take the family on holidays to New York. This seems a bit strange when the family owns a number of properties,” says Aarseth.

The men belonging to the Norwegian financial elite have similar dreams as their wives. They would also like to study History of Arts, to train childrens’ sports teams, write a book, or work with people.

They just have to make enough money first.