Household Help

May 5, 2006

Some random thoughts on household help…

Reading Gloria’s post How Much Are You Worth? reminded me of this little excerpt from the Economist article on Womenomics:

Besides formal employment, women have always worked in the home, looking after children, cleaning or cooking, but because this is unpaid, it is not counted in the official statistics. To some extent, the increase in female paid employment has meant fewer hours of unpaid housework…

Paid nannies and cleaners employed by working women now also do some work that used to belong in the non-market economy.

In other words, as working women have outsourced childcare and housework, nannies and housecleaners are bringing those jobs out of the unpaid and therefore undervalued shadows. Those responsibilities now have a very real dollar value, and can add it up.

My second random thought on household help came via the Berkeley Parents’ Network. The poster was discussing the guilt felt by SAHMs who employ household help, particularly those who practice “attachment parenting,” which is all the rage around these parts. As usual, I deleted the actual post from my mailbox, so I’ll have to paraphrase:

Mothers are more than willing to adopt practices from primitive cultures like wearing your baby strapped to your body in a sling all day, but they balk when it comes to other traditions of such cultures, such as the common practice of mothers usually having a young girl from the village helping her with childcare, cooking, and cleaning.

I think that the practice of a mother doing it all with nobody’s help is a pretty recent phenomenon.