A Day in the Life of an Upper East Side Housewife

In "Primates of Park Avenue," Wednesday Martin shares the luxurious lives of some Manhattan stay-at-home moms.
5:57 | 06/02/15

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Transcript for A Day in the Life of an Upper East Side Housewife
It was a concept that set the internet on fire. Show-called wife bonus. Apparently so some weem women here in New York City get an annual bonus from their wealthy husbands. This was one of many provocative findings in a new book from a social researcher who joined and studied a tribe she refers to as the primates of park avenue. Here's ABC's Mara schiavocampo. Little fine lines in here. We will do botox when you are ready. Reporter: A trip to the dermatologist is not for the thin skinned. I think we can give you little brow lift. Reporter: For Wednesday martin it is an important detail in a maintenance rej nen an upper crust New York City mother with a lot of extra a cash to burn. We're planning, okay. Planning a future. That's what Manhattan moms do. Reporter: Martin knows a lot about a particular subset of Manhattan mothers. What's the glam S.A.M. Stay-at-home mom. What I noticed is how glamorous they were. Reporter: She moved to the upper east side over a decade ago. Home to the wealthiest zip codes in the country. An enclave for an elite species of people. So martin took to studying their ways and is now spilling what she calls their secrets in her forthcoming memoir, primates of mark avenue. An early observation, a closed off group of cliquey women who refuse to say so much as good morning or set up play dates with her son. Just like grown up "Mean girls." Can't sit with us. In Reading it felt like a high school you were describing. Is that how it felt. There were times I felt really bad. I wrote a chapter called play date pariah that women may relate to. They exist between the women of the sandbox as well. Reporter: Showing up to preschool dropoff in chauffeured SUVs with full hair and makeup takes work. On the upper east side of Manhattan you see these women looking incredible and beautiful first thing in the morning. It's not an easy job, but somebody has to do it. Reporter: Staying picture perfect in the clique is pressure that doesn't come cheap. It costs about $85,000 a year just to be beautiful enough to play ball in the world that I lived in and clothing is a big part of that. Reporter: Special perks of marriage can help. Martin calls it the wife bonus. This is one of the things that they describe ed to me. Just one with of many of the things that I found really strange. Reporter: The so-called wife bonus has sparked a flurry of conversation over the last couple of weeks, headlines like makes my skin crawl and fuels sexism. It started a conversation. Reporter: Martin says in many instances these women are powerless in their marriages. These women are dependent on the men in their life for everything they have. How shocking is it to people to consider that a woman married to a rich, powerful man who doesn't work might be disempowered not just relative to him. She might be disempowered relative to a middle-class woman who works full time because that woman has autonomy. She has her own bank account, her own home. With all of the freedoms that come with that. I give uptown a new attitude. Reporter: If you think you know what the Uber rich look like thanks to shows like real housewives of New York City, guess again. Martin says many of the wealthiest women are far from the partying housewives on bravo. The real housewives are pretty exhibitionistic. They are outthere airing their problems. The women I spent time with live in what I call and anthropologist call an honor shame culture. You do not want to lose face. You do not want people to see the cracks in the facade. Oh, look at that. Reporter: She didn't want anyone to see any cracks in her own facade, so she said she went with it. Even shelling out thousands for the ultimate status symbol. A designer birken bag, priced 10 to $150,000 dollars. There's a wait list, a legend, a magic too it and I got very caught up and I wanted one. I felt like it would somehow help me in the competitive high!$!!!world I had entered. Social gatherings are important. Our conversation turns to one of the darker sides of this tribe. Stories of boozy play dates and drug-fuelled partying that can go overboard. We are all being good. We are drinking water. But that's not always the case. There's a lot of day drinking. Is that part of the relieving the stress and anxiety that goes wi that perfection. I have seen self medicate for anxiety and stress and there's more of it in the tribe of women that I spent time with than there might be on average. A lot of our viewers think there are two things that cause stress for me, my job and money. Let's be clear. We're not talking about the stresses of not being able to feed your child or not being able to take your child to a pediatrician. Those are terrible stressors and I'm not comparing them but once you control poverty, money doesn't make people happier. Reporter: A sobering reminder that while money can buy glamour it doesn't always bring happiness, no matter what tribe you are in. For "Nightline." I'm Mara schiavocampo in new York. Our thanks to Mara for that report. What do you think of the idea of a wife bonus? Head to our "Nightline" Facebook page and sound off.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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