2.29.2012

Parental Outsourcing

Econ power couple Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers were profiled in the New York Times last month.  I like both of their writings so I read the article with great interest.  I noticed in particular their choice to outsource many of life's mundane to-do's so they can maximize time for making money and enjoying leisure, which is surely a logical response to their scarcity of time and their earning power.

As parents, Amy and I do our fair share of outsourcing, most notably having our kids in school from 8 to 6 since they were each about 1 year old.  That's a lot of hiring out someone else to care for, nurture, and educate our children!  But it comes not only from freeing up our time to have careers, but also from conserving our energy for the few hours we do get to spend with our kids, as well as from giving them access to professionals who are better than us at care and nurture and education.

Notably, though, there are a number of other things that we don't outsource, and it's not just because we make far less than Drs. Stevenson and Wolfers.  We do all our own chores because it helps us feel like masters of our own home, and because we want our kids to learn the value of doing chores too.  (Somewhat sheepishly, I add here that Amy and I actually enjoy some of these chores, too.)  And we do all of our shuttling of kids from home to school and from activity to activity, because we find these mini-trips to make for meaningful and intimate moments with them.  (See my post here on that subject.)

I want to stress that we are no different than Stevenson and Wolfers in valuing our time and responding to its scarcity.  It's just that we value different things differently.  For us, chores and shuttling are actually valuable activities, which are part of our valuing our kids, whereas they are not valuable activities for Stevenson and Wolfers and so are outsourced so they can conserve themselves for different activities that are a part of valuing their kids.  In this case, no one's values are superior to the other's; their differences reflect the fact that different people value different things. (Some may disagree here, say, uplifting stay-at-home moms over working moms, or vice versa; but as for me, I see both as equally valuable, and dependent on individuals' preferences.) 

Parents out there: what do you outsource, and why?  Do you think some parental duties are inherently less noble to outsource?  I'd like to know.

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