18/5/2010

Liberal guilt gone a bit too far?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:38 am

(this is something I was thinking about before I left Oz and didn’t get time to write, so has nothing to do with being away at the moment – will write something about Penang, the conference or whatever later)

A friend in Brasil tweeted something like “I have to do the housework. I hate it, but I’m not going to leave it to some underpaid woman”. I’ve had that reaction from a few people over the years: probably because I advocate paying a housecleaner as a way of bypassing all those issues around the wife’s and husband’s share of the housework (and because we both hate it).

It just seems like odd logic: I won’t get some underpaid woman to do the cleaning, I’ll grit my teeth and do it myself. Well, first, she doesn’t have to be underpaid: you can pay a fair or even a quite generous rate1 (see below) and second, better perhaps to be paid something than nothing? If someone wants to take on some cleaning to make ends meet – it’s basically safe, not ridiculously strenuous work that is often paid in cash – I’m not really doing her any favours by depriving her of that work in order to assuage my own conscience.

So, we tend to have a cleaner, and to pay her above the odds, and to appreciate her and treat her as a friend. We can pay rates that are better than other cleaners get, and that are better than the cleaners would get working in retail or whatever (or cleaning commercial properties). And it still costs us less per hour than we earn per hour (and I don’t feel guilty about that, having worked very hard and gone without for a lot of years to get the qualifications and experience to earn what I do now).

And I’d rather pay the money, and have the weekends to spend with the family, rather than have both Sue and I work very hard all week then clean house and mow lawns all weekend. The family time is more important.

Others’ views may vary, and by all means post comments if you have a different perspective, but thinking it through seems to me to suggest that it’s better to leave the housework to a decently-paid woman than to do it (and hate it) ourselves.

  1. Have to admit, there can be pressure not to do so: when we were in PNG one of our neighbours said something like “don’t pay your cleaner too much because they all talk and you’ll raise the price for everyone”. Good old ‘let’s us privileged people stick together and collude on price (illegal when companies do it) to keep those less privileged within their small expectations;. Needless to say, we kinda broke that cabal…

One response to “Liberal guilt gone a bit too far?”

  1. Mark says:

    I entirely agree with you, Dave. I didn’t break the cabal, to my shame, and when I met my PAC cleaning lady years later at a camp meeting, I had a twinge of guilt. So, good on you.

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