'This Should be My Responsibility': Gender, Guilt, Privilege and Paid Domestic Work

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Although women's presence in the labor force has shown a marked increase, much of the existing research on housework suggests that for heterosexual families men's and women's housework contributions remain unequal. Scholars of domestic labor suggest that this influx of privileged women into the labor force, coupled with growing income inequality has caused an increase in the demand for paid domestic labor. This re-delegation of domestic labor may in some ways represent a threat to privileged women's self image as caring for family has been inextricably part of the ideological construction of what constitutes a good wife and mother. Research demonstrates that even as families hire someone for domestic/cleaning labor women feel 'obligated' to retain control of its' supervision. This is not necessarily challenging the existing gendered division of labor but rather displacing housework along raced and classed lines. Utilizing data from 30 qualitative interviews with white class privileged women who hire domestic workers; this paper explores the motivations for hiring domestic workers, the ways in which participants conceptualized this labor as gendered, and finally how they navigated the guilt that often times accompanied hiring domestic workers.