Friday, September 26, 2003

Nannyhood and Apple Pie

In this month's Atlantic, Sandra Loh reviews Arlie Hochschild's new book,
Commercialization of Intimate Life

Hochschild argues that nannies are doing a better job raising the kids than American women. Women are too busy to properly watch their kids and have delegated this work to others.

I am not sure if nannies are doing such a great job. I watch the nannies in the playground ignore the kids, flip through magazines, and chat. Anyhow, I'm not going to go off on nannies today. They have a thankless, low paid job. I can't imagine raising someone else's kids.

There is some interesting stuff in the review. I thought I would share some quotes:

Hochschild refers to feminism here as she did in The Second Shift as a worthy but "stalled" gender revolution. Women did skip-step off to work, but no one moved home to take their places. Men kept working the same long (if not longer) hours, while adding 20 percent of the housework to their loads, and although their fathers had done no housework whatsoever, these modern men drew resentment because their contribution wasn't 50 percent. Hard-driving wives trying to make partner at their firms felt it was unfair that they should do more housework than their hard-driving husbands. "Instead of humanizing men," Hochschild concludes, "we are capitalizing women."

Especially in their more recent incarnation, the commercial substitutes for family activities often turn out to be better than the real thing. Just as the French bakery often makes better bread than mother ever did, and the cleaning service cleans the house more thoroughly, so therapists may recognize feelings more accurately, and childcare workers prove more even-tempered than parents. In a sense, capitalism isn't competing with itself, one company against another, but with the family, and particularly with the role of wife and mother.

A nursery-school director quoted by Hochschild remarks,
"This may be odd to say, but the teacher's aides we hire from Mexico and Guatemala know how to love a child better than the middle-class white parents. They are more relaxed, patient, and joyful. They enjoy the kids more. These professional parents are pressured for time and anxious to develop their kids' talents. I tell the parents that they can really learn how to love from the Latinas and the Filipinas."

To read more about nannies in New York and sad little kids, read
The Nanny Diaries: A Novel

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