Thursday, February 19, 2004


Sam basically tells me to stop equivocating and just say it. Hiring nannies is exploitation. In fact, all work is exploitative. And he points out "the absurdity of working harder to have someone take care of your kids more so that you can work harder, ad infinitum, is obvious for all to see".

I think Flanagan would respond by saying that some exploitation is better than others. She wants to work, because writing at the computer is a lot less dirty than changing the diaper genie. I don't think it is a matter of money for Flanagan. She is working because she has a glamorous, prestigious job as a writer in NYC. And staying at home with kids is boring, mindless work with little respect. (I did wish she had spent some time talking about the good things about being with kids. Kids do have their perks, as you know.)

For those of lesser means and with less glamorous jobs, yeah, it is absurd to make money just to hand it over to the babysitter/nanny. That's why I took myself out of the game for a time. Actually, if I worked full time, I would pay more in childcare than I would take in. But many still make those equal exchanges, because some exploitation is valued more in our society than others.

Sam comes right back with:

I suspect Marx would say, yes, there are winners under capitalism (these days perhaps not just "owners of the means of production"), and they may well find a certain fulfillment in "cool" exploitation. But they should not try to put a happy face on what is becoming an increasingly brutal, globalized market in cheap female nanny labor, which is essential to their comfort. Their coolness requires a swarm of low-wage women, in numbers large enough to keep labor costs down. The talk about unionization is laughable. If nannies unionized, and their pay and benefits increased, "cool" exploitation would be beyond the means of many upper middle class families. Flanagan would be staring at the diaper genie.

And I think you are letting men off the hook too easily. I agree that men's sense of household cleanliness is not that of women (it is certainly true with my wife and me), but men, too, have to face the same choice: at what point do you limit your professional pursuits, even if they may earn you more money, in order to do what needs to be done at home, especially with kids. Many professional women have learned they cannot have it all. More men need to realize this as well.

Thanks for saying that. I've been so trained to avoid making judgments about other mothers, that I shy away from pushing my point home.

I ran into my favorite neighborhood nanny today on the way to the subway. She was pushing a stroller down the sidewalk. When I asked her about her own daughter (the same age as the baby in the stroller), her eyes lit up and she told me how her little girl was talking already and how smart she was. I bet she would rather be with her own girl who is being raised by a relative. Really sad.

I am not letting men off the hook, at least not in our house. In fact, as I'm busy on the computer, hubby's doing the dishes right now. If I got a good job, he would quit in a heart beat to be home with the kids. No problem. In our house, the kids come first.

I do think that the women's movement has given up on the men. That came out in the letters in Slate. There is some finger wagging, but no real muscle behind their words. Why? Flanagan says that nobody wants to do the "shit work". The women don't want to raise the kids, why would they expect that their husbands want to do it. Ehrenreich's solution is to have free childcare for all, not to have the husbands quit their jobs. No, no. Nobody wants that.

Yeah, more men have to realize that they can't have it all. But I don't even think that many women are willing to admit that yet.

(I hope my comments make sense. I'm way beyond tired.)

more links

Russell Arben Fox and I disagree on Barbara Ehrenreich. I found some of her statements biased against stay-at-home moms; he reads her differently.

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