Thursday, March 04, 2004

Privacy and Stay at Home Moms

Tim Burke has a nice post today on the battle of the moms, nannies, exploitaton, domestic workers, and feminism. There's a lot there, and I won't be able to comment on it all. The limits of this blogging medium.

Tim explains that he was very reluctant to hire a housecleaner. "I was intensely uncomfortable about having strangers inside my domestic space... I didn’t want any people seeing my dirty clothes, my books, my things, my way of life, if they weren’t very close friends or family." (Side note. I think that this attitude is more common among men than women. My husband feels more strongly about maintaining privacy than I do.)

Tim's concluding point is that perhaps some women stay home with the kids into order to protect the family's privacy. "I wonder a little if the stay-at-home moms argument doesn’t come from some of the same attempts to assert privacy, to cocoon some of our lives away from the world, to close the circle of family and shield ourselves from the world."

I think that a side benefit of staying at home is maintaining this privacy. But most SAHM moms have other reasons for opting out of the workplace.

My friend, Margie, just called. She's a SAHM with a PhD. I asked her why she didn't pursue a career after her daughter was born. She said that she thought it was just crazy to work a million hours to get tenure, not make much money after childcare, and never see her kids. She thought her kids would benefit by her being at home. I asked about Tim's privacy theory, and she thought that having that cocoon was nice, but not her main reason for being at home.

Still, I really like Tim's discussion about privacy. I've talked about it before with my husband, the historian, because so many of our friends have housecleaners and such. We don't, but our super does tromp through our livingroom with some regularity to fix our disgusting bathroom, and the guys at the garage shuffle our car around.

Are we losing the ability to take care of ourselves? Are we losing some of the rugged individualism and self-sufficiency that de Tocqueville observed in our country 200 years ago? Should we be concerned?

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