Monday, March 08, 2004


A corner of the Blogosphere has been getting itself all worked up about the evils of hiring other people to do your household's domestic work (house cleaners, nannies, etc.) Some of them are shouting out "exploitation." I want to shout out "thank you!" to everyone, paid and unpaid, who has helped and helps my household with its domestic work.

I don't get why the domestic sphere is so different than any other. If you're in the position of being an employer, you should treat your employees decently. Pay them decently, allow them some autonomy, treat them with respect. If you do, where's the exploitation?

Refusing to employ somone to assuage one's own guilt about being a lousy housekeeper (admit it! I do) seems to me like a different form of exploitation. Some years ago my family rented a house in Mexico for a week's vacation. The house had a caretaker cottage on the premises. We were told that the caretakers were available to cook our evening meal for us if we paid them for the materials and their time. We did this once--the meal was excellent--and then my sister and cousins decided that this arrangement was exploitative and refused to do it again. We ended up going out to restaurants for the rest of the trip. I thought this was ridiculous and said so, but was overruled. To this day I'm convinced the caretakers thought this cheap bunch of Americans had gypped them out of an expected bonus source of cash.

As to the concerns about the loss of self-sufficiency that hiring nannies entails: whatever happened to "It Takes a Village"?


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