Last week I linked to Rebecca Woolf's post Help Is Not A Four Letter Word. It was interesting to see how many people responded to and shared her post. It seems that "having help" is still a topic up for discussion. I don't often write response posts, as the internet can easily beat a subject to death, then keep on beating. But this one felt particularly personal to me.
My mom was a career woman, and I grew up with a beloved nanny. Having help with your children is not something I find controversial, but what has surprised me is how quiet women are about it. I shout it from the roof tops.
It’s not about being superwoman. It’s about money. People don’t want to admit that they spend money on childcare when they may or may not be bringing in money of their own. Writers (and bloggers, and work-from-home moms who aren’t necessarily salaried) can be very private about what kind of money they’re making, and I think people are uncomfortable admitting that they’re spending most (or all or more) of that money on help.
But hiding help is a little bit like denying botox. You look great, but we both know it's not from vitamin water. You sure look like superwoman, but I suspect you've got some help in there somewhere.
So let’s start at the beginning of why this line of thought becomes itchy. If you’re someone who judges working women who have help with their kids, then you’re done here. I will not entertain that point of view.
When people start to bite their lips is when a mom is at home and has help. Why is she doing that? Because she’s lazy? Because she’s too posh to wipe her kids snot? Or because she’s working? Why would we expect someone who is working in her home office to have less help than someone typing in a cubicle? Because we just do. Because maybe we’re skeptical that they’re actually “working.” Even as our culture progresses, I am baffled at the mystery surrounding and attitudes aimed at the work-at-home mom.
I don’t think anyone would fault Rebecca Woolf, a clearly successful and working writer, for needing specific chunks of time for writing and tending to the business around writing. I do think people might look at women without such a tangible income and wonder how they can justify having another person look after their children while they stare at a computer screen or photograph their latest craft. But I have friends who are writers or in direct sales, or who volunteer all over town, or who just need a few hours to manage the machine of their lives, and these women need help and have it. I know women who have significantly less obligations, and they also have help.
We spend more on our nanny than I take in as a writer. Quite a bit more. My wonderful nanny is not quite full time. She is at our house between 25 - 30 hours a week. I use most of the time that she’s here to be productive. I write, I build a platform with which to write more, I manage our hectic household and schedule. But I also try to have lunch with a friend once a week, or get my nails done, or otherwise blow off a couple of hours by myself. I have never felt guilty about having help, but I have felt guilty about using the time selfishly. It passes.
When having help isn’t a necessity, it’s a luxury. In this economy, and yes, in the age of the superwoman, a nanny isn’t a luxury that people like to talk about. For most people I know - including myself - having a nanny is both a necessity and a luxury. It would be physically impossible for me to do everything I do if I didn’t have a helping hand. It allows me a freedom to do more, and my husband and I have decided it’s worth it.
I don’t find this to be a controversial topic. Who in their right mind faults someone who works, whether at home or in the office? Who in their right mind wouldn’t have some help if they could, working or not? What makes this topic interesting is the silence surrounding it. Not talking about it brings shame to the people who are drowning by trying to create Pinterest lives all on their own. So it’s nice to acknowledge the facts. Not in a mommy mosh pit way, but just in an honest one.