• Deborah

What's Wrong with Outsourcing a Little "Wife Duty?"


For the month of July, I hired a “wife.” And I love her.

No, not in that way.

For an hourly rate, “my wife” deals with the termite-invested sideboard, negotiates with the internet-provider company for a new router, picks up the prescriptions at the drugstore, swings by Whole Foods for the 1% milk, verifies the warranty (and arranges the return) on a busted Bose speaker, shops for a beautifully-themed birthday gift for my niece, measures (and compares prices) for new patio furniture covers and picks up the kids from camp. And that was just yesterday.

I love my wife like my husband loved me when I wasn’t working on my start-up company:

She frees up my time so I can focus on my work.

She empties my personal inbox & deals with all those post-it notes on the refrigerator.

She keeps the house running in tip-top shape.

She reminds me to take the kids to their dental check-up at 4 pm.

She brings me a cafe latte in the afternoon because she “knows how much I need it.”

But my husband tells me I have to stop calling her “my wife.” He says it’s derogatory to women.

I was raised by a 1950s-fashioned mother but I quickly picked the other side in the feminist revolution. I wanted to make my own money. I wanted my own apartment. I wanted to wear men’s jeans. I got married and left my career when we started a family but not because it was what my mother did. I became a stay-at-home mother because child development experts told me, in their books, that it was the best way to kick-start a child’s life. For eight years, I did the 1950s thing — total division of labor between home and office. My husband went to the office and I stayed at the home. I did all those “wifey” things because that was how we kept the whole thing afloat. Shit had to get done and someone had to do it. My husband ran his company – and I ran the house.

But I’m now trying to run my own company. So who’s running the house?

My “wife” is! And I don’t mean ANY disrespect by the term. Or do I? I am so confused. What do I call her?!

I guess I could use the term “Assistant” but in my experience, an Assistant works out of an office and is “in training” for a bigger job. And while a “Personal Assistant” does work out of someone’s personal home (or at least, their shiny SUV), I imagine their tasks are more “personalized” (“make my appointment with Fabio at 10!”) and their task-masters usually have some dramatic flare (tiaras and yachts do come to mind).

I could call “my wife” a “Secretary” but yes, much like the maligned “Stewardess”, that word is laden with cultural references that include knee-length skirts, Girl Fridays, and martinis at lunch.

So how about “Home Manager”? When I mentioned to a close girlfriend that I was thinking about hiring a “manager to run the house,” she quickly replied, “Oh, you need a wife.”

Household Engineer?

Life Details Administrator?

Uber-Me?

I’m paying a generous hourly rate and I am in constant appreciation (and awe) that these tasks (which for the last four months have been neglected and/or forgotten) are now completed on-time, with efficiency and grace. As a woman, I don’t find it embarrassing that a “wife” has traditionally done these tasks. I did them myself. And I used to do them well.

Until I can come up with another term, I’ll have to refer to my new woman as the “Industrious, Smart, Professional Woman Dealing With All the Loose-Ends of our Family Household” although you and I both know… it’s no different than calling her my wife.