Motherhood, Outsourcing, and the Damaging Notion of “Togetherness”
I recently read an article on one of the many mom-related Instagram accounts I follow where the author — a working mother of two, married to a working father — conducted an “experiment” to see if she could, in fact, appear like she is a mom who “has it all together.” To do this, she outsourced her “parenting duties” for a week, which included laundry, cooking, and carpooling. While the article had some salient points — namely the value and necessity of asking for help and the advantage of having a “village” for such help — I found my working-mother-of-two blood boiling at the end of this, as her recount of her outsourcing only perpetuates several notions that I have found damaging to myself as a mother, and damaging to mothers in general. One, there is the notion that parenting duties include domestic duties (i.e. laundry), and that those duties fall on the mother. Two, there is the notion of “the appearance of togetherness,” which is achieved through a clean home, home-cooked meals, efficiently scheduled kids, and freshly laundered clothes…and moreover, the audience of other moms who can observe this togetherness.
Problem number one: it is clear that all of the “parenting duties” to be outsourced are done so by her and her alone. Sure, while the thesis of the article is about how getting someone else to DO these domestic chores is helpful, Mom is clearly still managing and coordinating all of this work. There is one mention of her husband in the article, but she is clearly the planner and executor of this outsourcing, thus implying that she is the one who takes upon all of these duties under normal circumstances. And yes, when it comes to heterosexual partnerships, women have historically taken over the majority of the domestic duties. But don’t articles like this just reinforce that it is our job as mothers to be saddled with this work, regardless of of whether or not mom works outside of the home? While she states at the end of her article that her family budget does not allow her to outsource these duties on a regular basis, can any of her “outsourcing” be put upon her husband? Or better yet, can her husband be involved in the planning of this whole outsourcing experiment, thus not needing to be yet another think that Mom has to manage?
Problem number two: she equates things like having a clean home and clean clothes as “having it all together,” an idea I find damaging to both womanhood and parenthood. Yes, I love having a clean house, and I love…