The Great Household Help Debate

Last week my friend blogger Blessing over at WorkingMomJournal, made an impassioned pitch for why she thought working mothers needed to embrace nannies, housekeepers and other household help. She referenced a blog posting by Meagan Francis of the Happiest Mom. In the post Meagan sought to clarify why she employed household help on occasion and start a frank dialogue among her readers about why having domestic help was so stigamatized. Apparently, she had been chastised by her readers for not coming clean about hiring help. A reader even judged her authenticity as a homemaker.


I've written in the past about my need to outsource as a working mom and was curious about other bloggers' take on the issue. I have to say I was surprised at the vehemence of the comments on her blog - more than 200+ weighing in on the topic. Some mothers commented on how they felt guilty about wanting to hire help to either allow them more time for themselves or simply get control of busy households. Other mothers firmly stated that hiring help was nothing short of laziness and a shirking of one's motherly duties - not to mention a waste of money. The column was even picked up by the New York Times spurring more vigorous debate.


Most of my friends in my circle (stay at home and working moms and those without kids who are just busy professionals) have some kind of help and frankly it never occurred to me that this would be such a hot topic. So what is going on? It got me thinking about what the meta-message to all this debate might be. It's understandable (especially in this economy) that not everyone can afford to hire household help but why is this such a contentious issue? Why do women who say they want help feel guilty about asking for it?  Is it the anti-elitism/anti-bourgeois sentiment that seems to dominate our popular culture these days that makes people uncomfortable with hired help? Is it self-indulgent and pretentious as some comments implied? Or is it that as women we still wrestle with our roles as independent beings with hopes, dreams and aspirations apart from our children and husbands that  runs in conflict with our role as chief nurturers, care givers and keeper of all things domestic? Do we secretly feel guilty that needing help is somehow an admission that we are really not cut out to be good mothers and wives after all?


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