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In Defense of the Menlo Park Mom

Last week a job posting for a household manager/cook/nanny went viral.  The poster is a single mom of twin boys and CEO of a San Francisco-area company.  You can see the post for yourself here.  The job description was incredibly detailed.  The right applicant should be able to, among other things, do the following:

  • Plan vacations based on interests and ages of the family, including recommending appropriate vacation destinations, booking vacations (while understanding how to use credit card points vs. cash), and tracking expenses;
  • Track purchases, administer allowance, and make returns on time;
  • Manage the Google calendar;
  • Meal plan for the family, taking into account various dietary restrictions;
  • Cook meals for the family according to certain criteria/said dietary restrictions;
  • Physically active and able to play with the two boys (10);
  • Arrange play dates and manage social calendar for boys;
  • Travel with the family.

The backlash was swift.  My mom’s groups blew up on Facebook and Reddit, and a common refrain was that we women already do this work and we aren’t paid for it!

But isn’t that the point?

Slate found the mom, who agreed to an anonymous interview. You should read it. In it, she says, facetiously, that she’s looking for a wife. But that’s not totally right. She’s looking for another her. The tasks she outlined? I can do those. I currently do those. And no, I’m not paid for it. And yes, the job description is incredibly detailed because this is an attempt at outlining all the parameters this woman can think of to replicate the things she’s already doing.

I don’t blame her! I too would pay good money to no longer have to meal plan, prep, and grocery shop. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to be able to focus on my work all day and come home and have dinner already on the table, with the next day’s snacks and meals already planned. (Side note: is this how husbands have it because if so I will scream. No, right??)

Anyway, I applaud the effort in trying to craft a list of tasks that could show, rather than tell, what it is this woman wants. She wants someone to care about her kids as much as she does, to proactively look for ways to make their lives better, just as she does. She wants someone willing to spend the mental energy to meal prep, set up play dates, find the “right” flag football team, and manage the damn Google calendar.

She wants another her. The problem is, it’s impossible to replicate yourself. The things parents do for their families, the mental load of running a household while staying present when you’re with your kid(s), while crushing it at work? What we do is unique. And it will be hard to find a person who fits this criteria and is willing to work for the amount this woman is willing to pay, which is $35-40 an hour.

There was a time in my life when I would have accepted a job like this, with all the benefits, and saved for college or law school. In fact, that time in my life came to pass when I was 18 and nannied for a summer, complete with a vehicle I could use all day long. The problem is, my 18-year old self would have been total shit at this job. The amount of emotional intelligence she’s looking for is almost certainly reserved for those of us who have been through it before and understand the importance of caring about these things and getting it right.

Now, as a lawyer who is also a mom, I’m perfectly qualified for the position, but would never take it. If anything, this posting attempts to quantify the unpaid labor that moms do every single day for years on end. And what I’ve learned is that while you may be able to pay to outsource some things, the value moms add is priceless (or, at the very least, worth more than $35-40 an hour).

Apologies for any typos. I wrote this on my commute home, as I had to leave early from work to prepare our family dinner of organic salmon and root vegetables before my toddler gets hangry at 5:45.

By leahkcasto

Full time lawyer, part time blogger.

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