Thursday, August 16, 2007

Outsourcing Parenting - Hire Someone To Delouse Your Child

Honestly - this article, Parent Contractors in Time Magazine, just prompted an "eye roll" from me.

I recognize that these "parenting contractor" businesses spring up because there may be a need for them, and entrepreneurs will use that to their advantage - but it seems to me a sad commentary that that there is a need for these businesses at all.

I guess I am not the type that would even consider subcontracting out "the more unpleasant jobs of parenthood" all in the name of being able to just spend quality time with the kiddos instead of accepting the whole package. Personally, I had kids so that I could raise them and care for them, and that includes the less desirable tasks.

For people who would hire others to take care of certain, perhaps unappealing, parental duties in the name of "convenience" I ask:

So what message does this send the child - don't come to me with your problems?
Does it also say to the child - get other people to do the unpleasant tasks in life?
Doesn't it also let the child know that you won't do mundane things for them like - (gasp) packing a lunch for them?

Ok - so now you can have someone pack them lunch, chauffeur them around, babysit them before and after school, and as a parent you get to maybe take them to a movie or go buy them something at the mall.
What the heck kind of relationship does that create?
A superficial one.. that's what kind.
One based on money and what you can buy for them.
Has parenting come down to just living under the same roof and providing services?

Kids have enough friends.. they need parents. Someone who will stick with them through thick and thin and show the child that they are worth sacrificing for - even if that means combing lice out of their hair themselves and packing a lunch for them.
Lots of times that means stuff like being home when they come home from school and perhaps discussing the things that happened that day, or at least just being there and not saying anything. I realize the days of Ozzie and Harriet are long gone.. but still it seems that parents are disappearing physically and spiritually from their kids' lives more and more.

Parenting isn't all about just taking your kids to the park and having good times.

The notion of parents needing to "attain a balance between work and life" is amazing too. Parents have become slaves to their jobs to make more money so they can spend it on a lot of dumb stuff. Work more hours so you can afford $55 an hour, or up to $1000, for someone else to comb the lice out of your kids hair? or to pay someone to prepare your kids' lunch? I suppose I just don't get it, and somehow I am glad of that.

Below is the article:
Parenting Subcontractors - By Jeninne Lee-St. John

Catherine Castrence is not a morning person. So between getting her daughters dressed and fed breakfast, letting the dog out and giving an insulin shot to the family's diabetic cat, the Reston, Va., working mother of two barely had time to pack her kids' lunches before getting them to day camp by 8:00. But this summer she and her husband are outsourcing that particular ritual. Health e-Lunch Kids charges them $4.99 apiece for the homemade, nutritious meals it delivers each day to the local YMCA where Maddy, 9, and Elena, 6, are spending eight weeks. "I'm the kind of person who pays a little bit extra for the convenience," says Castrence.

Many parents today do the same. Health e-Lunch Kids, based in Falls Church, Va., is one of a growing number of niche companies swooping in to take care of the mundane tasks of parenting, all in the name of helping moms and dads attain a better work-life balance. Other lunchmakers include Brown Bag Naturals in Los Angeles and Kid Chow in San Francisco. Shuttle services like Mother Hen's Helpers in suburban New York and Kids in Motion in Pennsylvania will ferry your child to soccer practice or a doctor's appointment. And there are companies that will even come to your house and comb the lice out of your children's hair.

Farming out such child-rearing responsibilities may make traditionalists uncomfortable, with critics equating it to "paying people to do these tasks instead of doing them out of love," says Lara Descartes, a family-studies professor at the University of Connecticut. But rather than being a sign of laziness, this trend signals "an escalation of expectations of what it takes to be perfect parents," says John P. Robinson, a co-author of Changing Rhythms of American Family Life. Married mothers, for example, spend an average of 18 more hours a week at work than they did in 1965, mostly at the expense of the 12 fewer hours they spend on unpaid household chores. But Robinson points out that these women, like parents in general, actually spend more time being with their kids than parents did four decades ago. It's just that their priorities have evolved. "Parents see it as more of their role to take their children to the park and contribute to their development," says Descartes. "Lice picking just doesn't cut it."

Steven and Sarah Deutser of Houston know the value of extra help. They spent several months washing their kids' hair with Nix and olive oil and even hired an exterminator in a futile effort to rid their home of lice. Finally Steven mentioned what he considered an embarrassing problem to his sister, who assured him, "Everyone gets lice," and told him to call Penny Warner, owner of the Texas Lice Squad. For two days and about $1,000, Warner (who has a minivan-based operation in their hometown and charges $55 an hour) manually combed the nits out of the hair of both Deutser children and did the same for their housekeeper and her daughter. "We were so blown away with the experience and the emotional drain the lice had put on us," Steven says, "that I was amazed there weren't more Pennys out there." She does have a smattering of competitors in other states, but Houston will soon be getting more Pennys: the Deutsers are investing in the first Texas Lice Squad storefront, to open this fall.

This post is dedicated to Blueberry - a truly wonderful mom from what I can see, who has recently had to deal with the scourge of head lice.