Housework is a third and part-time job.

Let’s take a second to analyze the division of labor within a family unit.

There are three main jobs when it comes to running house and home with kids.

  1. Sales: Full-time work that pays the bills and brings in income for necessities, including food, healthcare and shelter. Basically, this is like the “sales” function as it is the outward facing function that brings in the revenue.
  2. Operations: Full time child care includes watching and caring for the children, managing their education and their welfare. This is the primary caregiver function, a combination of human resources and operations.
  3. Back office: Home maintenance, bill paying, grocery shopping, and house keeping. This includes janitorial work, some operations-type activities, and back office administration.

I’ve always been a working mom, since my newborn was five days old. And in doing so, I’ve analyzed the family unit and this is my conclusion:

The stay-at-home parents of young children do not have time to clean the house properly. They’re too busy taking care of the kids.

I know this because I have always outsourced week day child care to au pairs. It’s my job to manage the child care and decide what to outsource. Here is what I have outsourced to au pairs during my work hours:

  1. administering to the child’s every need
  2. dressing the child, doing her hair
  3. entertaining the child
  4. preventing the child from destroying our house
  5. making sure the child does not kill or gravely injure herself
  6. washing the child’s laundry
  7. neatening up the child’s room
  8. preparing two healthy meals per day for the child and cleaning up after those meals
  9. taking the child to the park, playground, zoo, aquarium, public library, and museums
  10. (censored: bathroom related)
  11. reading to the child
  12. The au pair also helps keeps the kitchen neat, as we all do, and must find time in that 9-hour workday to feed herself.

Nowhere in that full-time work schedule is there time to vacuum underneath the sofa, mop the floors, toothbrush the grout, or scrub the toilets. And yet, I have stay-at-home-mom friends who do all that plus all the cleaning. 

Somewhere along the line, child care and housework became synonymous and inseparable. They are not.

If you’re a family with children, presumably part of your raison d’être is the successful raising of children. So if you’re the working parent expecting the stay at home parent to do all of the cleaning, consider this: Just as Google doesn’t task its engineers with janitorial duties, the stay at home parent’s primary task is not cleaning. Similarly, with factory work, the workers who operate the machines or make the widgets are not the same as the ones who clean.

In sum, housework is a third task and it is separate from child care.

You either have to outsource this third and part-time task — I highly recommend giving up something else in some other area of life to do this — or come up with a separate plan for how both parents* will split that duty.

The house work plan — insourced or outsourced — is separate from the child care plan.

Your thoughts?

More topics like this:
Outsourcing versus insourcing your own life
How a year on Wall Street changed his view
Sleep deprivation is literally torture

(*This analogy is a two-parent family unit analogy, with apologies to the single parents out there slaying it every day and handling the sales, operations and human resources functions all on their own. Hats off to you.)