April 2, 2012

Downton America

The other day, I got on Netflix to finally see what all the hullaballoo about this Downton Abbey was about.

Source: tv.com via Christina on Pinterest


Netflix only has Season 1 on streaming, so that’s all I’ve seen. To watch Season 2, you have to purchase the episodes from Amazon or iTunes. And I wasn’t so sucked in I want to pay extra money for it (above and beyond cable and Netflix) so I’ll wait. So I haven’t seen Season 2. And, I really don’t want to make anyone mad here, but I wasn’t engrossed. I mean, I love period pieces, but it wasn’t Jane Austen. I’ll still watch Season 2 when it becomes available. But I’m not tearing my hair out wondering whether or not Mary and What’s-his-name will ever get together.

But, while watching Downton, I got to thinking (shocker). When unemployment went into the double-digits in 2009 (for the first time in my lifetime, btw), I remember there was a lot of discussion about how a contributing factor to that was the lack of temporary low-wage jobs today. I mean, yes, you can still work at McDonald’s or Walmart, but even there, employers now have to provide certain levels of benefits, making it more expensive to employ people. More expensive employees = fewer employees. This is why Walmart doesn’t have baggers, why you have to pump your own gas, find your own seat at a movie theater and so on. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it just is what it is.

Anyway, somewhere the discussion was, since we’ve now got 1 in 5 1-in-10ish (oops, not a math person) people unemployed (more than that, actually, that’s just the number of unemployed people actively seeking employment), if it meant giving someone a temporary income to tide them over or even to start a new career, would you consider hiring full-time live-in staff, like on Downton? A cook, housekeeper, butler, chauffer - any or all of the above.

I mean, assuming that you could afford salary, taxes, unemployment, health care and all the other benefits that would likely be legally required for domestic employees.

Actually, you know what would be great? If they would pass some kind of tax credit or financial compensation for people who hired someone who has been unemployed for X amount of weeks or longer as domestic service. That might work.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The point is, if it gave someone who didn’t have it an honest job and a living wage, and you could afford it, would you be willing to hire someone as a domestic employee?

The whole time I was watching Downton, I kept thinking about that. I mean, I enjoy cooking, but I hate doing dishes. Dusting is a never-ending job in the desert. And oh my goodness, it would be nice to have someone else do the sweeping now that we’re entering the shedding season with a Husky.

On the other hand, how weird would it be for me to be sitting here blogging while someone – someone maybe who lost their job, their home and their family when the housing bubble burst and is trying to get a leg-up to start a new life – is putting away the dishes from last night’s dinner, sweeping the back porch, dusting the baseboards and doing my laundry (that’s really weird to think about!) I don’t like those chores, but I’d sure feel awkward lounging around, or even working, while someone else did them.

Anyway, I go back and forth. The American capitalist and humanitarian in me can see how creating that kind of job again on a massive scale could help a lot of people in this economy. But the American egalitarian in me finds it very foreign.

What do you think? If you could afford it, would you hire someone to do domestic service? For which jobs?


  1. If I could afford it, I would definitely pay for someone to come in once a week to do some "deep" cleaning, like the bathrooms and really scrubbing down the kitchen. I don't think I'd want full-time help because I'd feel weird sitting on the couch while someone (who isn't my husband, lol) cleans my daily messes.

  2. I haven't seen (or heard of, for that matter) the Downton Abbey series, but I have a feeling my train of thought would have wandered that way too. . .I've actually given that a lot of thought. I think that hiring domestic help would solve a lot of problems and boost the economy a bit. When I was working, we had a "nanny" of sorts to take care of the boys during the day. She came to the house and looked after them, bringing along her young toddler as well. While she was here, she would vaccuum, clean the bathrooms, put up the dishes, do some laundry, dust, just anything that she saw that needed to be done. We would pay her over and above the normal daycare costs to do these things to help us out on a weekly basis. It totally worked out for our family. NOW, with that said, I'm not sure that I would feel as comfortable with someone cleaning and doing all those things while I blogged and took a nap, etc and was home during the day. But I wish that I was comfortable with that. And that we still had the money to invest in that because there are certain things I ABHOR doing around the house and I think that hiring another SAHM to come in and take care of them for me and earn some money to help take care of her family would totally benefit all involved. Actually, if anyone wants to come deep clean my bathrooms and mow my yard once a week, I'll give you a little cash "under the table"! ;)

  3. I think I'd have a cook. I enjoy cooking, but it gets in the way sometimes!

    I loved Downton Abbey - but I got my degree in history and anything historical like this just gets me all excited. You can actually watch Season 2 on the PBS website! I'm trying to get it started soon, but baby stuff gets in the way.

  4. Not a single doubt in my mind that I would. I would love a housekeeper to keep up on the basic cleaning around the house, and to help with cooking - neither of which I like or am good at.

    There are two factors that would deter me: 1) Al would never pay someone to do something we can do, and 2) I love organizing and planning (so I think that might conflict with her duties.)

    Maybe a chef/dishwasher and bathroom-cleaner/masseuse would be good enough for me!

  5. I liked Downton Abbey, because it was something new, and also a period piece. Though, I was more interested in the staff's lives than the Crawley's.

    Honestly, I'd have someone do laundry, clean bathrooms and stuff I do once a blue moon, like clean cabinet doors and baseboards.

  6. I would love to have someone come in every few weeks and deep clean my house. If only I could afford it! I know lots of people right now who would love to have small jobs like that, just to help bring in some additional income during tough times.

    I have a friend that lives in Hong Kong and it is almost a given that should have a "helper" who comes every day to cook, clean, care for the kids, etc. A lot of times they are live in help. She said she resisted getting someone for her family until she realized how much those jobs helped the local people. I'm sure it would take some getting used to, but I think I would enjoy the extra help!

  7. If I could afford it, I would want someone to clean like once a week. However, I think I would have a hard time watching the person clean. I might want to help instead of sitting on my couch. It would be quite difficult.

  8. I enjoyed what I have seen of Downton Abbey...I liked that they used the sinking of the Titanic in the first episode as a frame of reference to the time period.

    It's interesting to read this after I just posted my comment on Facebook about finding a maid and treating her well! Haha! I would love to have someone come in once a week, and have honestly thought about working it into our budget. I'm not a complete neat-freak, but a messy house does tend to stress me out. I feel like if I stressed less over the cleanliness of my house, I would be able to spend more quality time with my son. And I HATE when my husband comes home to a messy house; I feel guilty and inadequate as a SAHM (but that's a whole blog post in itself :/ ).

    If I hired someone, I would definitely have a scheduled time for them to come, and I would be out of the house. I think that would be more comfortable for both!

    However, Mel, I LOVE your idea about a masseuse instead of a maid! Maybe that would energize and motivate me to do more cleaning...or maybe it would relax me enough to just not care! :}


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