Rent-a-Grandma believes that carefully screened women age 50 and over will provide better care than other domestic caretakers because of their life experience.
“Women in their 50s don’t text or tweet while they’re watching your kids,” founder and CEO Todd Bliss told the Christian Science Monitor. “There’s no replacement for experience.”
But is there a replacement for a grandma?
In UC-Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s 2005 paper “‘Rent a Mom’ and Other Services: Markets, Meanings and Emotions,” Hochschild argues that services like Rent-a-Grandma are an inadequate replacement for a real grandma. After interviewing U.S. working parents who hired service providers and the nannies themselves, she found that outsourcing child-care brings “a market-laundered version of hominess” into the home. Hochschild writes:
“‘Rent A Mom’ helps clients plan their weekly menu and clean their bedroom bureau drawers. The linguine planned, the bras and underpants discarded, these are personal items. But the procedures by which they are planned or discarded are applied in a standardized way to all clients.”
Hochschild also points out that the “Grandma” or “Mom” is as temporary or permanent as the money is, which may not be great for the kids.
But Rent-a-Grandma, which operates under the tagline, “Always Trust Your Grandma,” seems to be making a real effort for hominess, market-laundered or not. Its site pictures smiling children with “grandmas,” lists grandma’s folk remedies for ailments like a sore throat, and even tweets cute sayings from grandma:
Grandma says: Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.