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.


Dana said...

If you can hire someone to teach your kid to ride a bike, something I would count as one of the great joys of parenthood, surely you would have to be able to hire someone to wipe their nose and remove their nits.

Blueberry said...

Oh Judy, this is so interesting. I was aware of "lice hysteria" when I read or listened to people talk of their experiences when they first discovered lice on their children, but I couldn't relate to it. I recall my aunt telling this long story of how she discovered lice on her daughter and how she reacted along with all the things she had to do to rid her home of the pests. I was just a kid at the time, but I remembered it. I always felt bad for those dealing this lice, but I didn't have experience with it to really understand what it was all about.

The discovery of lice last Friday night made for a nightmare of a weekend for us. I was so exhausted and panicking with four of us sick with strep throat at the same time. In a way, I felt defeated, but I couldn't hide in a cave and wish it away, we had to face it head on.

I was wishing I had some sort of help, a grandma, a mother, a sister, who could come over and help me identify what a louse, nymph, and nit looked like. I remember searching through hair thinking "It's probably there, I just don't see it". In a way, it felt like searching for a ghost.

That would have been a good time to have had my new glasses with the stronger prescription so I could actually SEE the little buggers, but no, the lab gave me the wrong script (something I put up with for two weeks and several headaches later).

I called my sister to tell her what was going on and she immediately felt sympathy for me. I joked about her driving all the way here to help me and when she said "No way", I said "But I'll pay you!". LOL

You see, my sister dealt with the nightmare of lice two years ago, so she knows all too well what is involved. She had called me daily to give me a report of what she had done to rid her home and daughter of lice. I remember thinking to myself "I'm glad it's not me".

My husband and I found one adult louse, five nymphs, and over a hundred nits. I hope we caught it before it got really bad. Thanks to the help of the internet, I was able to look up information on lice with good pictures for identification. If I didn't have the internet as a tool, I may have declared all flakes of dandruff as eggs in my fit of hysteria.

Things are calmer now. We did it all ourselves, and even though my house is still a mess I am confident that we are on the road to recovery.

The thought of hiring an outside business to help never even crossed my mind. Like I said, I was wishing for family help, but I knew I was on my own. We kept our wits about us, even chuckling as all six of us sat around with mayo on our heads for four hours. We decided to treat everybody, just in case, and we talked about how we'll always remember the night of the mayo treatment. (I don't think I'll be eating mayo anytime soon) Not only that, but my oldest daughter saw a little nymph crawling around in my son's hair and now has experience just in case she has to deal with it with her own children some day.

Oh the joys of parenting! I thought he was scratching so much because he had an allergic reaction to changing shampoos. Do they hand out a "Delousing" badge for something like this?

Dy said...

"an escalation of expectations of what it takes to be perfect parents,"

Funny, they don't need me to be perfect. They just need me to be there.

*shrug* I don't get it, either.

Renae said...

I agree with you that this sends the wrong message to the child. Parents will pay for convenience, but you can't buy love at a corner store. Come to think of it, love isn't very convenient either.

Abby Irwin said...

I understand your point of view to some extent. The question that remains is when is enough enough? For the parents that have been desperately trying to rid their children from head lice for months or even years. When is it time to abandon hope and hire help? Not just for simple convenience, but for sanity purposes. After all isn't it the child who suffers the most? They are the ones loosing sleep due to restless nights spent itching. They are the ones who have to live with the negative stigma associated with having head lice when neighbors or schoolmates won't play or aren't allowed to play with them. As the Manager of the TN facility for the only non profit head lice treatment organization in the U.S., Lice Solutions Resource Network, Inc helps hundreds of frantic moms desperate for a handle on their life again. I have personally received calls from moms on the verge of meltdown. They have tried endlessly to get the lice to go away with no avail. At the end of their visit with us the children are happy and the parent feels like they have made the right decision. It is not always a convenience issue. All to often the parents are in the chair right next to the child(ren). Who is supposed to rid the parent of the infestation when a resistant strain of head lice proves all over the counter and home remedy's ineffective? It is imposable to see if there are nits in the back of your own head. Take into consideration the story of a 12 year old girl who's head was matted, hard as a brick, and full of head lice. The mother had abandoned the family leaving Dad with three teenage girls and clueless. This child could not even wear a pull over shirt because of the extent of how matted her hair was. It was like wearing a helmet full of bugs constantly. Dad called Lice Solutions. Due to Lice Solutions being a non profit the child qualified for free services. It took 3 technicians at once, 3 days, 11 1/2 hours in all to get everything out of the child's hair. Before she came to us no one thought she could be helped. The school Nurse told her to shave her head and wear a wig till the hair grew back. The child went ballistic!! Needless to say, her self esteem was shattered and she didn't like herself when she walked in our doors. When she left she was jumping and hugging the staff that had helped her. We received an update from her older sister over 2 years later. She let us now that the the child never caught head lice again, that she takes meticulous care of her hair, and she went on to not only excel not only academically but socially as well. Did that Dad make the wrong decision? Do you think the outcome would have been any better if the Dad had tried to treat her at home? Please take all aspects into consideration before you pass judgment on the parents that do seek help. Most parents have to be burned so to speak before they can fully appreciate the kind of help treatment facilities offer. for more info about Lice Solutions visit

Judy Aron said...

Dear Abby,

Extreme cases are something else I'll admit - but you know what ... so many things that parents do are now being outsourced that kids really are being neglected in a different sort of way. That is what i was trying to convey. Sorry if you took it as some sort of attack on what you do.

Personally if that kid with the brick of lice in her hair were mine I would have shaved her head and helped her to deal with it. But that's just me.

Good luck with your business though.. clearly there is a niche to fill and capitalism works.

Dy said...

Is this a capitalistic endeavor, or is it gov't funded? The website does not say, other than to state the company's 501(c)3 status. If the proceeds are not from gov't grants, then I'm all for it.

I would have shaved the child's head, as well. While my heart goes out to that child, there's little empathy in my mind for a father who is willing to let it get to that point in the first place before handling the situation.

There will always be an extreme case to highlight or justify some behavior or *gasp* legislation. That doesn't make it a good idea, nor does it make it applicable to the general public.

Abby Irwin said...

We are not government funded. We are able to keep our doors open through small grants, kind donations and the clients we have who can pay for our services. We are here to help. Our goal as a non profit is to keep kids in school through the safe and effective removal of head lice.In order to impact the cycle help must be made available to everyone regardless of socio-economic status. If your child can afford a treatment, and my child can afford a treatment, but the child that sits between our children can't, then our children aren't safe anyway. This often includes the time spent by parents out of work spending money they just can't spare on products. It is for those parents that we exist. I understand this blog was not intended to attack what I do but I wanted you to see that there is an organization that is not out for the money. Thanks for taking the time to look at the website and make an informed decision (whatever that may be:))

Crimson Wife said...

I consider myself to be a pretty involved mom- I homeschool, cook almost all our meals from scratch, clean my own house, and so on. However, if any of my children were to come down with head lice, absolutely I would hire the professional nitpickers to de-louse them. I just don't see how outsourcing this one particular task automatically makes somebody a bad mom. I've certainly done my fair share of "dirty work" as a mom- changing diapers, cleaning up vomit, etc. Why do I need to spend hours nitpicking just to prove that I care about my kids?

Judy Aron said...

Crimson Wife - Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Saying you were a bad mom because you outsourced nitpicking was not the point of this post or of the article. And you aren't a bad mom, nor do you have to prove anything to anyone.

The point was that parents are outsourcing typical undesirable jobs that parents have typically done in order to "spend more quality time with their kids" (or some other similar trite phrase), or perhaps suggesting that those "dirty" parenting jobs were somehow not worthy of their time. Some of these parents are not just outsourcing one undesirable job of delousing .. but mundane things like packing a lunch. For goodness sakes we know that there are parents who outsource a good part of their parenting day to other people too (some of them don't even work).

It's a choice of course, and obviously there is a market for outsourcing parental duties.. I just raised the question of what message might that send to you kids when their care is being outsourced like that. Maybe people don't think of it at all. Maybe it teaches kids that they are also above doing jobs that mom and dad won't or can't do.

I suppose I was raised under the notion that I shouldn't expect my kids to do something for their own kids that I myself wouldn't do for them (my own kids). We do model behaviors for our kids. But that's just me and I admit my views are not shared by everyone.

As they say "chacon a son gout".
(To each his own)