Yet another modern parenting dilemma has reared its irritated head in the NYT's "Motherlode" column: Mooching childcare from friends. In the 1970s, dropping off your kids at your friend's house so you could attend a key party was de rigueur. But today, it's considered bad form. Yes, even the key party.
Using your friends for free child care in a pinch -- or on a regular basis -- has gone out of style for three reasons. 1) It's rare to find another mother that's not just as busy as you are; 2) The rise of the professional babysitter for all classes -- not just the wealthy; and 3) Hyper-aware parenting, and a clashing of philosophies.
I never thought I'd feel longing for the roles of women in the 1970s, but suddenly I do.
Next Sunday I'm going to be mooching child care all day long from two sets of friends. Mostly because paying $18 an hour for twelve hours of care is cost prohibitive, but additionally because hanging out with a babysitter versus friends for twelve hours would be a big grind on my kid. I'm not sure how I go about paying that major favor back in the era of reciprocal play dates. I also can't imagine these families sitting around calculating how they're going to get repaid by my family.
I don't keep score about who had a play date last, and for what duration. But that might make me the moocher. Because judging by comments, you can't expect any any help with your kids when you need it. Otherwise, you're "entitled." Rather than just in need of a favor.
Of course there's a difference between the occasional pick up from school and the constant assumption that you're free and can take care of another person's child on regular basis. But when we go from describing these arrangements as mooching child care, rather than, so-and-so is coming over after school -- something has shifted. The village has been destroyed and we're all on our own and expected to pull our own weight lest we be classified as "moochers."
It's kind of sad. Not as sad as being saddled with extra children when you really just want to hang out online reading blogs, but sad nonetheless.
Do you "mooch" child care?
Image via Alejendro Hernandez/Flickr