the housecleaners came today, thank Jesus. since last November, they’ve been coming every four or five weeks, two women my own age, and scrubbing the floors and the bathroom and the windows, leaving our tidy but grubby little house grime-free for twelve whole minutes and bringing me great joy and a profound sense of freedom. the one hour they spend here every month releases me from a drudgery i particularly hate, and more important, from the fear that my child will die from eating off my floors. the $30 i spend in that one hour is my ticket out from under the burden of housewifely neglect and all the stereotypes of my sex role. both women tease me that if i don’t get a job soon i’ll have to come work for them. and if some month, freelancing fails to net me the $30 luxury of freedom from my own perfectionism, i’ll happily pick up a pail in someone else’s house rather than lose them cleaning my own. $30 is nothing, for what i get out of it.

i got a pedicure last week. it has been almost ten years since i first discovered the Nirvana that is the pedicure, and though i’ve only had perhaps twenty-five of them in the ensuing decade, i can tell you about each one, like rhyming off lovers in a rolling list of memories. the soak. the scrape. the tidy clipping, the smoothing and filing into pretty moons. the massage. the painting and polishing…my one nod to overt societal beauty conventions…me who never wears makeup feels naked without toe polish, usually matte red-brown, sometimes French, usually chipped and months old because i wait so long between visits to the aesthetician. but i go. last week, after months and months of scratchy, neglected feet scraping small holes in my socks, i went, hoping to usher in some sandal weather. the woman i go to talks too much, shares too much, but she has steady hands and i pretend to sleep and sometimes really do slip out of myself, into that suspended space where all i have to do is lie still and get my toes prettied. she is the cheapest in town…$30 for forty-five minutes of relaxation, turning my hooves into proverbial silk purses. and again, $30 is nothing, for what i get out of it.

Oscar goes back to his sitter’s house tomorrow, for the day, so i can get caught up on my freelance editing and my job searching and the housework that the cleaners don’t do and the errands i want to do, and all your blogs. :) he has been there three days so far…Tuesdays and Thursdays these past two weeks. he seems happy enough with the arrangement, squeaking with pleasure when we arrive, hugging the dog, greeting the little girls of the house like a mini-Elvis come to swagger for their pleasure. his sitter is kind, and engaging, and if she has the tv on too much for my liking she’s still using his cloth diapers without complaint and feeding him nutritious-ish lunches and setting limits gently but firmly so far as i can see, and it seems like a good home, a caring enough place. for eight hours a day, she is good to my child. my child. my beloved, my baby. for eight hours a day, for watching and wiping and feeding and laughing with him, teaching him, being there for him, she charges $30 total.

and $30 is nothing, for what i/he/freaking society as a whole gets out it…when you consider how many little children are in some form of childcare, how many of ‘tomorrow’s leaders’ are being shaped by someone who gets paid eight times less than the woman who does my feet, and still significantly less than the people cleaning my house. because that’s the market rate, because that’s apparently how we value that work. and i took all the feminist courses years ago, and i knew all this in theory, but still, when it works out this coldly, this cleanly, i’m stunned.

now, O’s sitter can make more. she can take in more babies, more children. right now, she only has her own daughters and himself in her care. but starting in June, there will be two more one-year-olds there, on a full-time basis. and she’s willing to take O full-time. and she mentioned another child who might be coming part-time, too. and i think “my stars, five babies, how will my preshus ever get the attention he deserves?’

but $30 is nothing, friends. and Dave & i can find different options, sure…hire someone we pay reasonably to Nanny for him at our place, instead…though i think he’s really ready for the interaction with other kids, ready to be out of the bubble of this house a few days a week…or i could pay the sitter more! except then i think i’d look like some weird white-liberal-guilt twit who doesn’t have a job but has to feel magnanimous so she won’t have to deal with her class issues. maybe it would offend the sitter’s dignity. maybe she’d be thrilled. maybe both. i dunno. chances are i won’t do it.

and even if i did, it wouldn’t be $30 an hour. i know that childcare is day-in, day-out – hence the reason i’m paying someone to do some of it – and i know that i only get, on average, four pedicures a year, if that. but still. but still. isn’t it weird? my pretty feet and my child being kept safe by someone else…both luxuries i choose to pay for right now, but i pay eight times as much for the former because that’s what my society deems a fair wage. because that’s the going rate.

tell me, friends, what the fuck is right about that? ’cause i cannot figure it out.