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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 02/20/2012

When outsourcing childcare isn’t the right choice

Last week, I wrote abut two economists who have found that outsourcing chores and child care is the most economical decision for them and has led to a harmonious family dynamic.

Their life, to me, sounded like a sort of fantasy. They don’t have to cook or clean, they get to play with their daughter and avoid marital spats and they get to sleep on clean sheets. Imagine.

I thought the post might get some push back because these parents’ decisions are seemingly out of financial reach for many working parents. (They spend $50,000 on a more-then-full-time nanny and also pay for all sorts of other chores.)

What I did not expect was that some readers disagreed for a wholly different reason. It is inside the daily drudgery of family life, some wrote, where we sometimes find the sublime.
Outsourcing the bad can sometimes mean missing the good. (Linda Davidson - THE WASHINGTON POST)

“I have wonderful memories of doing morning chores with my mom. We would chat while making our beds and cooking breakfast. What about father-daughter time while washing and drying the dishes in the evening …?” wrote one reader.

Others, too, pointed out that changing diapers and dressing children may seem like chores, but in reality are the true definition of “quality” time.

The comments got me thinking about what I might miss if I got to live my outsourced fantasy life.

One of the first things I thought I would pay someone else to do would be to walk the girls to school.

For me, it’s always a rush to get my girls out the door. The weather can be a challenge, and it’s a time consuming task just when I could be the most professionally productive.

Thanks to readers, I reconsidered that walk.

When I thought more about it, I realized that while I dread it, the walk is usually the highlight of my day. As soon as I open the door, my girls tumble out and race each other down the block. (Watching two sets of little tights-clad legs motor ahead of me: bliss.)

Yes, if one or the other of the girls is overtired, she’ll start to whine or bicker. But it’s also true that about halfway there, without fail, the pudgy little hand of my younger daughter slips into mine. I know the days of holding hands are numbered, so even if I’m lugging snacks and homework projects, I hang on tight.

It’s also true that every day as we close in on school, we pass a set of little statues outside a neighbor’s house. We have given them names: the happy lions. The girls will brief them on the morning’s happenings.

Then there’s the little chats with other parents dropping off children each morning. They are never part of my things-to-do list — in fact they prevent me from my list — but more often than not, these little interactions give me an idea or provide information or just make me laugh.

If I paid an older student a few bucks a week to accompany the girls to school, I would, no doubt, have a more harmonious start to the day. I would also certainly get more writing done.

But, I would also lose the tangible and spontaneous connection to other parents. More, I would be outsourcing the running tights and the hand-hold. And, I’d never get to report all the benefits of my economically logical decision to the happy lions.

Sometimes, the decision that make perfect sense make no sense at all.

Which childcare chore do you dread and love at the same time? Which one would you never outsource?

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By  |  07:00 AM ET, 02/20/2012

Tags:  Childcare, Work-Life Balance

 
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