Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Outsourcing Family Life

Note: Yesterday I posted similar version of the following at THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS.

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According to this November 25, 2007 article in the Washington Post, some families are becoming too busy to take care of all sorts of tasks which make a family a cohesive unit:
Initially, the busy McLean couple hired Ezra Glass for a few mundane chores, like waiting for the cable guy. But over time, they began giving him more intimate tasks -- planning their last-minute vacations and picking up their kids from time to time.

Now Glass takes their cars to be serviced, is a house- and dogsitter and advises them on their home audio-visual system. He planned the funeral reception for a relative, taking the death certificate and the suit for burial to the funeral home.

"We've come to rely on him more and more," said Ken Nunnenkamp, 46, a lawyer. "He'll essentially do anything we can't get around to. . . . You definitely get spoiled by it."

Forget the dog walker and errand runner. Today, some busy two-career families are turning over virtually every aspect of their existence to lifestyle managers. These hired hands, who charge a monthly membership fee or up to $100 an hour, become like an extra member of the family.
Lifestyle managers have searched for a reliable used car for a client's 16-year-old or taken over their scrapbooking project. One wrote an online dating profile for a client. Others have negotiated overseas adoptions or bailed their clients out of jail. Another was handed a brown paper bag full of insurance documents from a client's recent surgery with the command to sort it out.

"People are ceding more and more of their lives to others," said Glass, a Potomac native. "It's going to be a huge trend around here. Our clients are mostly suburban families because they have a whole range of problems to deal with -- kids, carpools, dogs, houses."


Such personal helpers are often hired by mothers who want to appear as if they're doing it all and don't want their neighbors -- or husbands -- to know otherwise....
What is happening to the family unit? Are parents becoming too busy with their careers and social climbing? I noted in the article the following:
[One mother] has held onto certain rituals with her children, such as driving them to school -- even if she's on her way to catch the New York shuttle -- or packing their favorite lunch of Mediterranean rice and yogurt.
Since when is rearing children a ritual?

My mother, who married my father relatively late in life at the age of thirty-four, worked outside the home until a heart attack at the age of forty-four forced her to retire on permanent disability. But never did I feel that Mom was so overwhelmed by family life that she handed over her parental and familial responsibilites to someone else. Sure, I had babysitters, and we had live-in help; however, once my mother came home from work, she resumed her duties, including having long talks with me, fixing dinner, supervising my homework and piano practice, and, when I was very young, giving me my nightly bath and reading bedtime stories to me. Furthermore, Mom obviously took joy in doing all the mundane tasks. Never did I get the impression that she was being pushed too far; to the contrary, she later spoke of how she had wished that she could have spent more time with me. Her family was the center of Mom's life, and everything else took a back seat. The same applied to my father. In other words, both of my parents considered family life as their most important responsibility and not something to hand over to someone else because they were "too pressured" or "too busy."

In my view, something very detrimental is happening to family units wherein parents are too busy to make a house a home. These parents are kidding themselves if they believe that they are doing their children a favor by outsourcing family life.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/27/2007 07:32:00 AM