I saw this article in the New York Times today and it resonated. This paragraph in particular really struck me as relevant to what I’m doing:
“WE’VE put a self-perpetuating cycle in motion. The more anxious, isolated and time-deprived we are, the more likely we are to turn to paid personal services. To finance these extra services, we work longer hours. This leaves less time to spend with family, friends and neighbors; we become less likely to call on them for help, and they on us. And, the more we rely on the market, the more hooked we become on its promises: Do you need a tidier closet? A nicer family picture album? Elderly parents who are truly well cared for? Children who have an edge in school, on tests, in college and beyond? If we can afford the services involved, many if not most of us are prone to say, sure, why not?”
I love me some New York Times, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Gray Lady is missing the freaking point. We live in a society of more. We want to have more, to do more, to know more, to be more. Women are raised hearing some BS about “having it all” and we spend a whole lotta time and effort getting it all and then maintaining it all so we can continue to have it all because evidently we’re supposed to do it all as well.
Man, I’m tired. I can’t maintain this mythical “all”. I can do “some” very well. I’m also very good at handling “none”, truth be told. But I can only half-ass “all” until I’m blue in the face, and then I need help. And what Mr/Ms (hard to say, really) Arlie Russell Hochschild doesn’t seem to realize as s/he writes this think piece is that right now when so many of us have obligations and expectations placed upon us by powers beyond our control, we still need to hold it together well enough to get through to the weekend where we can crack open a beer and collapse in front of whatever remains on the Netflix suggestions that hasn’t been usurped by a pre-schooler’s endless tolerance for Kipper and Phineas & Ferb. And we want to collapse in a fairly clean house.
I have a lady who comes in twice a month to clean the house (I’m suddenly working about a job and a half, and dammit I still need to have a clean house). This “outsourcing” is a splurge for us, because it’s not like we have money shooting out of our asses growing on our trees. And we pick up after ourselves and wipe off the counters and clean the toilets even though we have this help happening. Having a cleaning lady (ohhhh so posh we are) is a choice we made because that is the sort of help we need right now.
So this Mr/Ms Arlie Russell Hochschild to blast some judgement about people who realize that they are unable to do it all but still would like to have all of it done just grinds my gears. How dare s/he! I can’t even comprehend how s/he thought it would be appropriate to put “caring for elderly parents” with having a tidy closet. Really? So his/her (good lord how annoying is this androgynous name…) aging mother (or father, because who can tell?) (yes I’m getting huffy about this person) didn’t or won’t get the best care s/he’s able to provide, just out of some principle of “why pay for what you can do for yourself”?
Oh, OK. It must be nice (HI I’M PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE NOW) to not need to ask for or pay for help. Ever. At all. Rock on, Jeanne d’Arc, with your martyred self. The rest of us out in the real world have learned that it’s OK to seek assistance when it’s just too much to deal with. Even if that means we have to cut back somewhere to make the help accessible. It’s worth it.