Adam Tait was a young assistant manager of a local bar earning £18,000 a year when his future wife, Carla, strode into his life.
Quickly noticing his professional potential was being stifled by reticence and a distinct lack of ambition, she decided to take the reins. Within two months, Carla had told Adam they were buying a place together. On the day they moved in, she announced they were going to get married. After coaxing him through these major milestones, Carla set her sights firmly on his career — or rather, lack of one.
‘Adam wasn’t in a great job because he didn’t have it in him to go out and better himself,’ says Carla, 30, who lives with Adam, 29, and their two children, Harley, six, and Layla, two, in Swindon, Wiltshire. ‘He was shy and lacked confidence. After our son was born, I took it upon myself to scour job adverts and helped him write applications.’ Soon Adam had secured a new position in the car manufacturing industry, bringing in more than twice his former salary.
To ensure Adam continues on an upward trajectory, Carla micro-manages his daily life, from setting his alarm clock to making him a healthy packed lunch and limiting his television viewing. How does Carla have the time to devote to furthering Adam’s prospects? After having their children, she gave up her own promising career in the Government Research Council to improve her husband’s earnings.
Mother-of-two Carla, 30, revealed how micro-manging her husband Adam Tait’s (pictured together) career increased his earnings and enabled her to stay at home with their children. She describes her actions which have included helping him find a new job after they met as being practical
‘Far from seeing it as demeaning,’ she says, ‘I view is as being very practical. I don’t want anyone else raising our children, so I recognised Adam had to increase his earnings quickly to enable me to stay at home.’
Now, thanks to Carla’s hard work and dedication, they find themselves in this fortunate position.
‘People might say I sound pushy and, yes, I would say I wear the trousers, no question,’ says Carla. ‘But I’ve transformed my husband’s world, and he’ll be the first to admit that his life is better now.’
Carla is one of a growing number of ‘Tiger Wives’. Like the notorious Tiger Mum — who focuses her laser-like ambition on her children, ensuring they attain A* in every possible subject — the Tiger Wife pours her energies into maximising her husband’s potential.
Whether it’s a promotion, getting a new haircut or seeking out new friends, the Tiger Wife wants only the best for her other half.
The notion of a pushy wife — think Lady Macbeth (albeit with less bloodthirsty goals) — is as old as the hills. But whereas in the past, women had no choice but to satisfy their own professional ambition vicariously, through their husbands, this new breed of Tiger Wives is willingly forsaking their own attainments to concentrate on bettering their husband’s CV — to the bewilderment of many who view it as a regressive decision.
There are several notable examples of 21st-century go-getting women who appear to be the ‘power behind the throne’. Former U.S. President Barack Obama has always credited his wife, Michelle, for much of his success.
Robin Li, the CEO of Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, only decided to become an internet entrepreneur because his wife, Melissa, urged him to do so, having watched a documentary about the founder of Yahoo. He is now worth around $13 billion (£9 billion).
Super-investor and self-made billionaire Warren Buffet admitted that his wife, Susan, who died in 2004, was crucial to his success. ‘What happened with me would not have happened without her,’ he said.
Jean Howell, 50, devotes her time to motivating her husband Bill, 54, (pictured together). She sends him encouraging messages, makes sure he’s eating healthy and takes care of the house to free up time for him to focus on his new business
What’s more, research backs this up. According to one U.S. study, people with supportive spouses are ‘more likely to give themselves the chance to succeed’. Another study shows that having a supportive, encouraging spouse can boost your salary by more than £3,000 per year and increase your chances of getting promoted.
As a psychotherapist, I’ve seen some wives adopt this approach. Whether it’s because they’re fed up of juggling being the breadwinner while caring for elderly relatives or they don’t want to miss out on their children’s early years, they believe their husband’s waning ambitions need a boost from them.
Carla makes no bones about the fact that Adam cannot rest on his laurels. She wants him to work towards his next promotion.
‘My main focus is now on our future forever home,’ she says. ‘I want the three-bedroom house with a private driveway in a good area of Swindon. I am making sure that we are working towards that with saving and Adam getting his next promotion.
People might say I sound pushy and yes, I do wear the trousers – Carla
‘I ensure he looks the part: I set his alarm and ensure his work clothes are ready. I give him the right food to start his day. He takes a packed lunch and has a healthy balanced supper when he arrives home.
‘I’m also careful when getting up in the night with our daughter that I don’t disturb him.
‘I do allow him some chill out time watching Game Of Thrones. I don’t understand why he likes it — but I leave him to it, for a limited amount of time — obviously.
‘I make sure we have a positive, people-like-us network of friends around us who share our ambition and drive. No one is in competition. We simply want to better ourselves.’
Mother-of-two Sarah Simms, 40, from Lewisham revealed she is set on her husband James (pictured together) becoming a teacher and goes as far as to apply for jobs on his behalf
While some men might feel distinctly ‘under the thumb’ with such an arrangement, Adam says he needs a wife like Carla.
‘If she wasn’t in my life, I would still be the same assistant manager in the bar where she met me,’ he says.
‘She does everything for our family, and when I receive my salary each month, I pay it into our joint account and leave everything to her.
‘Carla has pushed me, and while I do have a short fuse, she knows how to win me round. She is very patient with me and good at getting my initial “No” to become a “Yes”. Having a wife like Carla is the secret to having a happy life — she is a good mum and a fantastic wife.’
Sarah Simms is another self-confessed Tiger Wife.
I send Bill motivational messages every morning to spur him on – Jean
The 40-year-old secondary school teacher lives with her husband James, 47, and their sons, Joseph, three, and six-year-old Reuben in Lewisham, South-East London.
‘It is natural for women to be the Tiger in their family, and I’m the same with our sons as I am with James,’ says Sarah.
‘Women are so much better at multi-tasking, and while I’m hard-working, organised and focused, James is calm, patient but needs to be motivated.’
The couple met in 2004 after James had returned from travelling. Sarah continued with her job as a teacher, while James renovated a house they bought and then became a stay-at-home dad to their two sons.
Sarah single-handedly made this decision because she was earning more than James at the time and had more drive out of the two of them. On one salary, however, Sarah admits the couple have had to forego foreign holidays and other luxuries.
Sarah (pictured) regulates her husband’s television watching to ensure that he studies. James describes her as the driving force in their marriage
James is now working as a youth worker, but his wife is determined that he reignite his career — and is intent on ‘tigering’ him all the way. Now that the boys are at school, Sarah is set on her husband becoming a teacher. She goes so far as to apply for jobs on his behalf without even telling him.
‘I’ve always pushed him to try new things, and when he was doing up our property, I was already pushing him to enrol on plumbing and plastering courses — which could, at times create some tension’ she says.
‘But now I think he would be a great teacher as he’s so good with children, and it would be convenient if we could both work around our sons’ schooling.
‘I’m pushing for him to do a teacher-training course, but he’s not sure. He’d rather start as a teaching assistant and work up.
I applied for a new job for him and even monitor how much TV he watches – Sarah
‘In the meantime, I’m applying for jobs on his behalf anyway. It doesn’t always go to plan, though. I recently applied for a position for him and got his email address wrong, and the first he heard about the fact he had an interview was when he got a call asking why he hadn’t shown up.
‘Now that he’s got a lot of studying, I regulate his television watching. It works well, though. Even for our sons — I’ll do the admin for any parties they go to, but James will take them. He thanks me for it!’ For his part, James says he likes the fact that Sarah motivates him. ‘I recognise that I am someone who needs a push,’ he says. ‘But it can annoy me if I am not in the mood for it.
‘Sarah does all the boring stuff, such as emailing and contacting people, and I reap the benefits. She is definitely the driving force in our marriage.’
Jean Howell, 50, is another wife who says she’s more than happy to devote her time to motivating husband Bill, 54, to make a success of his new crafting business
Bill (pictured right with his wife Jean) claims he and Jean are a goals-orientated couple down to Jean who pushes him out of his comfort zone
‘Every morning, I bring him a cup of tea in bed to spur him on for the day,’ she says. ‘I do extra washing up so he can devote himself to the new business.
‘I also send him one of many motivational messages I keep in a notebook. This morning’s one was: “Fill your head with only good things!” I’m getting Bill into meditation, too. He needs it!’
Jean, who met Bill through a dating website in 1997 and married him in 2012, admits she was the brains behind his new venture. But she now sees her job as encouraging him to make a success of it.
‘Although Bill is ambitious, there have been times when he has wanted to give up, but I encourage him to keep going. I also make sure we socialise with friends who are also running their own businesses. Bill knows to go to them for advice — luckily the businesses aren’t in competition with one another.
‘Bill doesn’t have time to relax. Eventually he would like a log cabin shed at the bottom of the garden for the business, but that won’t happen yet.
‘Bill loves me being his cheerleader, and I also make sure he eats healthily.’
Meanwhile Bill says Jean’s secret is to motivate him via gentle persuasion, rather than bullying.
Carla (pictured) says she has transformed her husband’s world and that he’ll be the first to admit that she has improved his life
‘Jean helps to push me out of my comfort zone,’ he says. ‘Every night I come through the front door and the first thing we do is sit on the sofa and have a catch up. She always wants to know what I am doing and what I want to achieve next. We are a goals-orientated couple and that is down to Jean.’
It is, of course, laudable to support your spouse to attain goals but when this spills over into controlling behaviour, alarm bells should ring.
If Tiger Wife suddenly becomes more like Tiger Mum — dictating rather than discussing — it may well impact other aspects of their life. I often come across powerful men whose wives have chivvied them up the career ladder. It’s not unusual to find that he has gone on to have an affair. If the grip of the Tiger Wife is too tight, a man can feel the need to flee. If he comes across someone spontaneous and fun, temptation can prove irresistible.
After all, intimacy is the first to suffer when a wife’s healthy encouragement turns into berating and cajoling. If the husband doesn’t get the promotion they both worked so hard for, that can chip away at the wife’s respect for her husband. This can lead to the man feeling a failure.
In such cases, I often suggest a wife goes into her husband’s workplace and watches him in action. Seeing him leading a team can be incredibly attractive. Power is incredibly alluring.
The secret, of course, is balance. And thankfully for men like Adam, James and Bill, it seems their wives are nudging them in the direction they would like to take.
‘I don’t think I would be motivated to do this without Jean,’ says Bill. ‘She’s very loyal and I couldn’t juggle a full-time job and new business without her.
‘She has a steely, quiet persistence to push me forward, and I can lose patience with her. But we always make up quickly. I need her behind me all the way.’
Jennie Miller is a psychotherapist and co-author of Boundaries: How to Draw The Line In Your Head, Heart And Home (HQ, £9.48).
Do you have a Tiger Husband pushing you on to greater things? Let us know at: email@example.com