To Hire or Not to Hire

Someone sent me a link to an interesting blog called The Practical Conservative: Civic-Minded Natalism.* The blog is designed to push back on any number of conservative conventional wisdom talking points. For example, she argues that families with young children should be hiring people to help out, that it actually does take a village for a mom to handle the stresses of childrearing.

She discusses this in her most recent post, saying:

Fundamentally righties are against spending money at all, ever, even on a minor, incidental, occasional basis for small tasks to help structure and smooth their lives out. They are all unwittingly echoing the evil and broke Lady Susan from the Whit Stillman take on Jane Austen, Love and Friendship: “As there is an element of friendship involved, the paying of wages would be offensive to us both.”

So the left slices, dices and turns into an antisocial, corporatized transaction every kind of task like that and the result is bad working conditions and pay for the people involved performing the services and tasks, further social atomization and isolation and just that little bit more difficulty in building and maintaining that kind of community glue. Because that sort of incidental labor used to be very common in American society. It was looser, more casual and certainly more occasional in scope, but Americans did used to pay people to do various tasks, at even lower-middle class and poverty-class income ranges. The complicated favor trading systems still present in some poverty-heavy communities are remnants of this broader pattern.

A couple years ago I paid an art student to draw and paint with my kids for about three hours five or six times so I could clean out the garage. Righties tend to be of the view that my husband should have watched the kids, or I should have done the clean out at some mysterious time where the kids weren’t around (but also homeschool because public school is too secular and icky) or that I should have a similarly mysterious large pool of people who will just show up and help out for any amount of time for free with zero notice.

One of the developments that I’ve noticed and highlighted that is a big change since my childhood is how parents essentially outsource a good chunk of their kids’ upbringing. In NYC, for example, there are classes for kids under the age of one. People hire professionals for almost everything kid related.

Then there’s the trend of upper middle class people hiring servants of various sorts to do lots of things for them. They outsource child care, cleaning their home, often laundry, cooking, transportation (uber), grocery shopping, etc.

I think it’s right and good to push back against this. It bloats the amount of income we need to sustain our lifestyle. The people doing most of these tasks are also typically an exploited labor class.

There’s good reason to want to wean ourselves from outsourcing everything. We don’t have a cleaning service for our home. I do the yard work. And so on.

Yet I do think there’s something to the critique that conservatives idealize some kind of homesteader-like autarky.

It is extremely stressful and challenging to have young children. We only have one and he’s a handful - more than a full time job. Families shouldn’t feel guilty about hiring help to make this more bearable.

As with my previous post on snowplow parenting, there’s a certain amount of wisdom involved. I don’t think we want to over-outsource our lives. But we shouldn’t impose difficult and stressful burdens on our families (mothers of young children in this case) that could be relieved by some judicious use of hire help.

One of the big themes of the Practical Conservative’s blog is her point that if we want people to have more kids, then we need to make having kids easier. That extends to a host of practical ways like normalizing the idea of hiring help.

* The blog is written by an anonymous writer who says she is a stay at home mother. I don’t know who she is, but some of this material seems to be recycled from previous sites. Her content implies she has some neoreactionary leanings.

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