Outsourced Parenting: Local families turn to hired services for family tasks


DUBLIN, Ohio -- A new trend has more moms and dads paying for tasks that most parents would traditionally do themselves.

"Parents today can't get it all done. They hire me and other service providers like me to get it done. Bringing the kids to the doctor, doing laundry, to meal prepping, to doing the basic grocery shopping and making the beds in the morning - I get paid to help keep the household running," said Juggle Service Provider Hannah Ritter.

She began working in homes around central Ohio several years ago and said she has seen the popularity grow.

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Tasks like potty training, transporting children to practices and sleep training are being hired out. Juggle App co-founder Amber Nolan said the proof is in the numbers. Juggle requests have grown more than 70% in overall jobs since last summer and a lot of that reason is attributed to the additional tasks, she said.

Working Dublin mom Beth Wanless said she relies on outsourced parenting hacks like Instacart grocery delivery, DoorDash food delivery and most recently a person she's hired to get her children ready in the morning so she can focus on getting herself dressed and out the door on time.

"I'm a better person for myself and my kids when I work full time, but I need help to get everything done at home," said Wanless.

Several central Ohio businesses offer regular family laundry services, with pricing ranging from about $15 per hour to $1.50 per pound. Ritter said her regular charge for preparing weeknight family dinners begins at $12 per hour.

Some critics ask where the line stands between hiring and handling tasks traditionally done by parents.

University of Virginia sociology professor Allison Pugh has said the issue comes down to time and people wanting to maintain some standards of parenting, what they think is adequate care and at the same time, not able to do it themselves and farm it out. She pointed to the long hours most people spend on their jobs and the large-scale entry of women in the workforce, as well as the demise of folk wisdom, such as tips from one's own parents or grandparents, as some of the key factors fueling this monetization of parental responsibilities.

Ohio State professor of psychology Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan said there are several points to be considered with the movement:

  • Parents with the means to do so have long been outsourcing domestic tasks and parenting. If this practice is now filtering down to the "middle class" it is probably both a reflection of (and stands to further increase) growing inequality between those families who have a lot of economic and social resources and those who do not.
  • We know that household labor and parenting are still quite gendered, with women doing more than men. For women who are able to do so, outsourcing some of this work may bring relief from feeling overburdened. Two caveats, however: (1) this domestic and parenting work is by-in-large outsourced to other women with fewer resources. So, this outsourcing does not reduce gender inequalities in domestic labor overall. (2) if women still have to plan, organize, schedule, etc. these domestic workers, then that's just exchanging one kind of labor for a different kind of labor (cognitive labor).
  • It's not bad for children to develop relationships with other adults who teach them different skills. In fact, this already happens for a lot of children in child care settings. As long as parents and children have plenty of quality time together to establish strong relationships, I don't see a concern. On the other hand, though, sometimes teaching children things like folding laundry, cooking, or doing dishes can be great opportunities to build and sustain those relationships and to show how all members contribute to the family/making the household run. These may also be skills that we want children to have, and if they are completely outsourced, children may not learn how to do essential tasks.

"I think there's no wrong way to go, no right way to go. I think whatever works for you and your family is the right thing," said Wanless. "For me it is not possible to do everything and be everywhere. We're always looking for somebody to lighten the load whether its helping us clean or prepare the meals or I would love for someone to come in and do laundry for us because it feels like a never-ending battle."