The mythical Poppins-Bond unicorn this woman seeks must be able to — among many other things — cook organic meals avoiding dairy and using duck eggs (not chicken eggs), play math games, body surf in the ocean, swim in caves and rivers, ski at an intermediate level, drive in foreign countries (and in the snow), bike in the city, do calisthenics (and play at least four sports with the kids), and know exactly how much fish to buy for a family of five (using hand sanitizer, please).
Supernanny also has to “Strategically think through vacation options based on the developmental levels of the kids and the need for the mom to relax” and “Compare and make recommendations regarding using credit card points to booking vacations versus paying cash” (and provide all the options in an Excel spreadsheet, stat).
People lost their minds over this.
“This person sounds like a lunatic. Not surprising she’s a single mom,” one of the Reddit bros snarked.
Or there was the tweet from someone who saw this as an “insight into what Silicon Valley CEOs demand of their nannies.”
Or the woman who tweeted that this was “gross, classist, and also racist. Good luck finding a good nanny with that horror of a job ad.”
Of course, there’s the expected: “Frankly, why bother having children if you’re going to outsource their upbringing to other people . . . ?” from Richard Holloway, whose Twitter bio says he’s a conservative Brit and father who works. Funny that, he has kids and he works.
Come on, this wasn’t a job ad.
This was mom’s to-do list. Certainly not the list of a working-class mom, but it taps into the trap modern motherhood has become.
Okay, maybe the meals aren’t organic and dairy-free and the vacations are a day trip to Kings Dominion or a weekend camping at a KOA — if there are any vacations at all. And perhaps there aren’t many of us driving in the European snow, but have you ever seen a mom trying to beat the day-care clock in rush hour rain? NASCAR, look out. The endless, hidden things that go with running a household and usually fall to mom are blind to race, ethnicity, class or socio-economic status.
It’s a real thing, called emotional labor, that sociologists have been talking about for a few decades.
“It is the unpaid, invisible work we do to keep those around us comfortable and happy,” Gemma Hartley wrote in her book “Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward.”
“Women are, in many unpaid ways, expected to keep those around us comfortable at all costs — including the cost of self,” Hartley wrote. “We create an altruistic persona, allowing ourselves to be subsumed by the needs of others. We become the listening ear, the sage advice giver, the trip planner, the schedule manager, the housecleaner, the reminder, the invisible cushion that everyone can comfortably land on — with little regard for how it depletes us.”
A recent United Nations report found that inequity tracks globally.
“Despite their increasing presence in public life, women continue to do 2.6 times the unpaid care and domestic work that men do,” the report said.
It’s about more than mundane housework that a cleaning service — if you can afford one — can dispatch.
It’s about the dates and addresses, events, appointments and planning. It’s being the CEO of a household, a job that is exhausting and largely unnoticed by those around us.
My husband is a great guy who is down with the cause, but society and the system he was raised in says I’m the one who knows to buy milk, the addresses and puck-drop times of three different hockey games and five practices this week, the registration dates for the kids’ summer programs (they’re now in January), when the high schooler’s schedule changes, everyone’s doctor and dentist appointments, the electrician’s number, what to buy for a birthday party this weekend, which kids want to spend the night on Friday, when his aunt’s play runs and where his keys are.
And we do it every day, unpaid.
That’s why it’s so funny for any woman who works outside the home and runs a household to, at 3 a.m., read this Silicon Valley ad.
I see you, sister! I’m right there with you. Would do it if I could afford it.
But let’s be clear. Even if we’re not talking about the CEO set, we are talking about women who have the privilege of a few extra dollars to spend on giving their kids everything. Silicon mom is just an extreme version of a lot of women.
Ruth Graham at Slate magazine said she tracked down the CEO and did an interview with her under the condition that she remain anonymous.
“What I realize now is that, like a lot of working executives and working moms, I’m spending a significant amount of my time doing research and organizing,” she told Graham. “If you just think about all the time it takes to book summer camps and spring camp and after-school activities and it’s time to sign up for flag football and it’s time to sign up for volleyball, there’s a lot of executive functioning program management that you can outsource.
“The reason why I want to outsource it is because for me,” she added, “all I really want to do is run my business well and be the best mom ever.”
It didn’t help much in the court of public opinion. She still got hell.
Because when a man looks for this kind of help, he gets “The Sound of Music.”
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