Friday, January 25, 2008


"Outsourcing involves the transfer of the management and/or day-to-day execution of an entire business function to an external service provider."

I picked up a local parenting magazine last week, enticed by the announcement on the cover that "It's Easy Being Green." The article on going green was useful and nice to see in a mainstream magazine. On it's last stop before the recycle bin, I flipped through the magazine and came across a snippet about how to have your babysitter teach your children to bake cookies because you are too busy.

Really? Are we, as a generation of parents, too busy to set aside a half an hour every few weeks to bake cookies or pancakes or something simple with our children. As a whole, we already outsource most domestic duties. Gardeners care for our yards and housecleaners for our homes. We trade in cooking for take out or pre-packaged meals. Many children spend more time at day care than home and a fair share are cared for by sitters when they get home from day care.

Isn't baking with our children the last true bastion of parenthood? Some of my fondest memories as a little girl are baking with my mom - rolling out cookie dough on the antique Hoosier or nibbling hot granola out of the oven or licking the beaters after we whipped up buttercream frosting. Shouldn't teaching our children to pour in the flour or stir in the chocolate chips be sacred?

If not, it may be time to re-think our lives. What is it that is keeping us this busy?

A friend opines that when people say they "are too busy", what they are busy doing is watching TV. She has a point. The television and it's cousins, the computer, Blackberry, and iPod, take much of our attention off of living, in general, and our children, in particular. Might we, as a generation, turn off Grey's Anatomy and spend that hour including our children as we cook dinner or bake cupcakes for their school party?

Electronics, alone, though are not responsible for our current predicament. Even if we all gave up our cell phones and laptops, we would still be too busy - and it wouldn't be because we were gardening or cooking dinner. No. I believe shopping is to blame for our inability to teach our children to bake a basic batch of cookies. We are too busy buying, but, even more, we are too busy working so we can buy. And if we're not working or buying, we're thinking about buying. We're watching, reading or listening to commericals to feed the urge to buy. We're surfing the Internet, trying to figure out what to buy, where to buy and when to buy. We live to buy.

If we stopped spending, made do and only purchased what we needed - really really needed - how different would our lives be? How much less hectic? We might be able to work less or stop working entirely. We might be able to start mowing our own lawns again and planting our own gardens. We might find the time to visit the library, to repair the broken blender, to take the worn out shoes to the cobbler, to mend the ripped pants. We might shop at the farmer's markets rather than Whole Foods. We might even start cooking again and, then, we just might find the time to teach our children to cook.

If we stopped spending, we could stop outsourcing and then, what would our lives and, more importantly, our children's lives be like?


Anonymous said...

Wholeheartedly agree with this. People always ask me how I find the time to bake bread. I think it's because I don't shop. I keep yeast and flour in stock and make bread instead of run out to buy it. I love your blog and really appreciate the quality and quanity of your posts.

arduous said...

Well, I certainly agree with you that we're too consumerist of a society but I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one.

It's hard being a woman because you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. But for many women, working isn't about buying stuff. It's about paying rent, putting food on the table, having healthcare, being able to afford to send the children to college, being able to retire. And then there are women who work because they enjoy their work, who are good at their work, who find their work fulfilling.

I know a lot of working mothers. And I know of not one of them, not one, who wouldn't love to bake cookies with their child. But I know many of them who would, with their heart breaking into a million pieces inside, ask the babysitter if she wouldn't mind baking cookies with little Suzie today because Suzie really wants to bake cookies and Mom has to go to a meeting.

I know there exist moms who would rather shop than spend time with their kids (though they seem to exist more in the pages of NY Times than in real life.) But I think the vast majority of the women I know WANT to be there for their kids. But they also want and/or need to work.

So, yes, I completely agree that we need to be less consumeristic as a society. We DO need to slow down more. But the truth is that in this country it's often impossible to get decent health care without a job. In this country, the costs of college and housing are astronomical. So for many people, slowing down is simply not a possibility.

Shannon Hodgins said...

Um, I'm not comparing myself to other women because we are all different, with different stories and lives.

Ultimately we are on the same team. I think there are those that "would" but just "don't" because of varying reasons. I don't agree with the "outsourcing" of the process as the engagement with the child is tremendous. But maybe that Mama kicks my ass in another area!

I hear from other women that see all the pictures of me cooking, kids cooking, etc. and it usually isn't about having enough's about the mess and patience. Most say, damn.....I'd go nuts with my kids making a mess like that. When I cook with my guys I have to learn to chill, and realize that it all swoops easily away.

They ask to cook frequently now and have their own aprons. And yes, I know I'm grooming future great husbands and lovers!

perilousknits said...

While I have fond childhood memories of one or two specific television moments (like the time Vanessa Huxtable got drunk -- so funny!), my fondest memories are of time spent one-on-one with a parent or grandparent. I know people have to work, sometimes long hours, but there ought to be a few minutes in each day when you and your child can be together.

Arduous, I remember that during my own childhood I was awake for at least fourteen hours of each day . . . so unless the mothers are at work for the whole fourteen hours, then there should be some time when they can help their kids to remove some frozen cookie dough from the freezer, slice it up, and pop it in the oven.

My grandmother used to make pies for dessert, and if I was visiting her she always rolled out extra dough and let me make a small pie in a tart pan. What a great memory for me, and it jump-started my interest in cooking. I might never be able to fend for my self nutritionally if my grandmother hadn't taken ten minutes out of her supper-time routine to let me play.

One of my best childhood memories is of a sleep-over when I was twelve years old. My best friend S and I made cookies in the kitchen while Mom listened to Phantom of the Opera in the livingroom. When the cookies were done, S and I sat on the sofa to eat and became totally engrossed in the story and music (S had never heard anything like it). We ate cookies, and cried, and ate more cookies, and sobbed for the poor Phantom . . . and that is still one of the best memories I have of my childhood. S told me after graduation, that it was a favorite memory of hers, too, and that she credited my mother, and that night, with awakening her love of music. None of that could have happened if Mom had been too busy to simply be in the house while I had a friend over.

My mother had a full time job, plus she directed the church choir and gave piano lessons weekday evenings, and on weekends she commuted two hours to earn her masters degree . . . so I know what a busy mother looks like. But she took the time to be at home that evening when S and I baked cookies, and it make a mark on the rest of our lives.

P.S. I support the hiring of Gardeners, because I am a Gardener. But I make my clients get out there and get dirty! I don't work for the people who want pristine lawns they can gaze upon from their plus home offices. No, I work for the prize-winning iris grower who, at the age of 68, can't crawl around the garden like she used to. I work for the busy mother-of-three who loves to garden but can't always see a project to completion. And the lady who loves to grow vegetables, but just moved here from a radically different climate and needs a little local guidance. And the old man who just wants someone to hold the trees steady while he fills in the soil around their roots, in his backyard orchard. There are no consumerist Jonses on my client list!

arduous said...

In order to qualify for benefits at most companies, you have to work 40 hours a week or an eight hour day. Add to that the hour lunch break and a half an hour commute both ways and you have a mom out of the house for 10 hours a day. And that's assuming she's not forced to work any overtime.

So that leaves her with four hours a day when the kids are awake. The hour in the morning we can forget about. Everyone's too busy getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc. That leaves the three hours after work at which time Mom probably also has to make dinner, give the kids baths, check on homework, etc etc.

So I can see in a situation like that, a mom feeling like she had to delegate cookie baking to the time when the kid is with the baby sitter, because Mom wants to oversee kid's homework herself and three hours in the evening isn't enough for dinner, homework, bath, AND making cookies.

I think the system is broken. I think Americans need much more life-work balance. I think health care, housing, and college shouldn't be as expensive as it is. But I think the individual mother is helpless to all of this.

So I guess what I'm saying is we need a better system so all mommies (and daddies!) are able to spend more quality time with their kids.

Burbanmom said...

My mom had to work outside the home when I was young, so that we could afford our home and food and clothes and all that good stuff. While I do not have memories of her sitting on the floor and playing 40 straight rounds of CandyLand with me, I do remember her including us girls in the daily activities of making meals, setting the table and whatever other chores she was doing.

I'm sure our "helping" probably slowed her down a bit. But I guess she decided that spending time with us or teaching us some basic life skills was more important than adhering to a 6:00 dinner time.

We're all given a very finite amount of time here and while it's easy to get bogged down in the daily grind of work, laundry, cooking, cleaning.... sometimes you just gotta let it go for a day, a weekend, or a week and appreciate the only true thing that matters -- family and friends.

I like this post because it serves as a reminder to us all that it's important to take a moment, even if it's just a tiny fraction of your time, every now and again. And instead of frittering that time away on tv, shopping or emailing - spend it doing something that really, REALLY matters. And do it with someone you love.

perilousknits said...

Arduous said, "So I guess what I'm saying is we need a better system so all mommies (and daddies!) are able to spend more quality time with their kids."

Amen to that.

I do have to say that one of the things that helped my mother to have "free time" with me is that we lived in a very small town with no traffic, so her commute to and from work was ten minutes.

She used to let me grate cheese, tear lettuce for salads, and do all sorts of minor little chores while she cooked -- that was our quality time.

I agree with burbanmom that parents should get kids involved with household chores. If our lives are too busy to set time aside for "quality time" then we will have to find a way to involve our children in our "regular time." I used to hold the flashlight for my Dad while he worked on the car, or repaired the plumbing under the sink, and these times (not over a family dinner or during "quality time" at Disneyland, but over a car's engine) were when we had all of our meaningful talks about life.

So it can be done, if you think outside of the usual commercially sold box of quality time.

And kudos to all struggling parents!

Green Bean said...

Thank you to everyone for their comments.

We are all so "busy" today that we often don't find time for our kids. I guess that was the crux of my post. What is it that we are so busy doing? What can be so important that we don't have tmie for our kids? That is where the system or our way of thinking is broken.

Regardless of what is broken and why, though Perilious Knits and Burbanmom offered some powerful insight. If we, as parents, are too busy to set aside "quality time", we include our kids in the time we do have with them. Having children help out with your chores does so much: builds their self confidence, teaches them a skill, shares your philosophy (do you compost and why? do you repair something instead of buying something new?), and creates a bond between child and parent.

No matter how busy we are, we need to remember to slow down at least long enough to bring our kids along for the ride. Now I'm going to turn the computer off and enjoy a couple of hours with my boys. Happy Saturday. :)

Jennifer said...

How much time do I waste everyday... humm.... it might be interesting to keep a detailed diary for a week or so and see where it's all going!

I know for me, a lot oftime gets wasted on the computer. I tend to "decompress" by reading essays like this, by catching up with friends via email, etc. BUT... aren't there things that would relax me MORE.. and actually be productive?

I don't know... it might be a fun project.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...