Back in the early years of this blog, when we were living on a shoe-string budget as we recovered from the economic devastation that was grad school, I did a lot of soul searching about paying for staff that would free up time to work full time.
I did have some childcare, though never full time, and I had a bi-monthly housecleaner for a few years. I always felt a lot of guilt for paying someone to do work that I thought that I should be able to do myself. I ended up working a lot of very low wage jobs over the years that gave me the flexibility to do it all.
Of course, I wasn’t really doing it all. Those low wages jobs – freelance writing and adjunct/temporary professor jobs – aren’t exactly the fast track to proper careers and healthy paychecks.
But just in the past few months, we’ve outsourced a great deal of our household and kiddo chores. I just wrote a fat check to Ed the Landscaper to clean up our weed-covered yard, so Steve doesn’t have to arrange his entire weekend around dealing with our corner lot. I hired a housecleaner who came last week to de-gross our showers. (Oh, the humiliation.) I hired a math tutor for Ian whose math is too tough for us, so he can go beyond the classwork in school. I hired a reading tutor, because his special ed English class is seriously flawed, and I’m too burned out to be patient with his reading disability. With a small subsidy from the state, I’m hiring respite care for Ian on Saturday nights.
I’m writing checks left and right. And it’s all new. And it stresses me out, because even as we’re beyond the grad school years, we’ve never stopped thinking like grad students. Also, Steve and I grew up in families without helpers. My dad in his early 80s still mows his own lawn and shovels the snow from the driveway.
Ideally, I would like to simplify our lives, so we don’t need so much help, but we’re not there yet. In fact, things seem to get busier and messier. Our standards for tidiness have increased. I’m not going to stop feeling guilty about all this help. I’ve traded the green mold in the shower for a thin layer of self-hatred.