“Easier and Cheaper to Outsource”

Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor said:

” In my parents’ generation there was a lot of work that went on at the home. They had to preserve food for the winter; they needed to put coal in the furnace; they even sewed our clothes. Our gardens had far more vegetables than flowers. As a result, in any given home, work was happening all around. Children were immersed in day-to-day projects alongside their parents. This meant that by the time they reached adulthood, children were armed with real skills, and through real immersion, they had learned how to address difficult problems.’ 

“With my generation of parents and since, however, it’s become easier and cheaper to outsource work. We buy our food and clothing at the store. Those who can afford it hire others to care for our homes and gardens. We got dishwashers instead of children to wash dishes. Instead, parents became drivers to soccer practice and ballet lessons.’ 

Clayton Christensen continues to say in a New Yorker article that the only thing required of children is to clean their rooms and they don’t do that very well. He said there became a shift—after hundreds of years where the children work for the parents–the parents are working for the children.

The parents are working for the children.

I told my husband, Craig about the article. We sagely nodded our heads and tsk, tsked, and went on with our day. The next morning, both he and I had early commitments, and it had snowed. If you don’t know because you live in a warm clime, you never drive over new snow in the driveway. If you don’t shovel off the snow before you drive over it, then it packs down and freezes, making deep frozen ridges that turn your smooth driveway into a bumpy, slippery deathtrap.

Craig wanted to wake our last three children home to help shovel the driveway. I demurred, saying, “You know teenagers never get enough sleep!” Craig and I were out shoveling furiously and Craig suddenly said, “We are doing what the article says. We are working for our children.” He was right. 

But why is this such a big deal? Why not just pay for a snow removal company so we can all sleep in? Clayton Christensen finishes by saying:

“On the one hand, outsourcing work can feel liberating. Maybe it even means, as the data suggests, that many parents are spending more time with their children than the previous generation. But my research in the world of business suggests that outsourcing can cost you in the long run. When companies just outsource more and more and more of the work that they have to do, ultimately they have no ability to do anything.”

“They have no ability to do anything”.

That is why we work with our children when our culture at large, is giving them a pass. 

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