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NOT JUST ANYBODY

A 54-point job ad for a household manager is a case study in invisible labor

Lila MacLellan
By Lila MacLellan

Quartz at Work reporter

“Looking for a long-term (at least five years) member of the household to act with leadership, strategy, attention to detail, high energy, and kindness. Live-in or out. Car provided.”

So begins a now-viral job ad that originally appeared on Glassdoor two days ago, courtesy of a Westport, CT-based household staffing agency. It’s seeking a “household manager/cook/nanny” on behalf of a “single mom  entrepreneur CEO” in Menlo Park, California, with 10-year-old twins.

Though it starts off sounding sane enough, the typo-riddled posting rolls out to 1,061 words and rivals a governmental request for proposals in its specificity. For example, it states that interested applicants should be able to:

  • Assist 10-year old’s (sic) with light homework in long division, subtraction, and writing. Play math games with them such as “how much fish should we buy today for five of us?” and “How long will it take us to drive to the snow if it’s 150 miles and we go 50 miles an hour?”

And:

  • Strategically think through vacation options based on the developmental levels of the kids and the need for the mom to relax. Conduct research into domestic and global vacation options based on criteria, populate information into a simple Excel spreadsheet, recommend and book vacations, track vacation expenses in Excel including track vacation home deposits getting returned.

The same person is expected to keep track of the family’s multiple allergies (“cow and goat dairy, chicken eggs, green beans and watermelon. Can eat duck eggs”), do more basic math with seafood (“Correctly quantify how much fish to purchase for five people, for example, or how much chicken for 15 people), and incorporate dietary health news into meal plans (“Can read articles about eating beef and increases in breast cancer and can understand this information at a summary level, i.e., beef is bad, fish and vegetables are good”).

Sections about the future nanny’s duties as a supervisor of other household staff, sporty playmate for the client’s kids, excellent driver, and general person of “high emotional intelligence” are equally rich with curious asks.  The ideal candidate can “influence the children positively in many areas including self-soothing, self-discipline, organization, conflict resolution, perseverance” and
“build alliances with other kids’ parents and nannies and arrange play dates (sic) and joint travel with other families.”

Reactions to the ad on social media have been divided—and telling.

Because it doesn’t seem likely that one person could conceivably be everything that the CEO is asking for, some see in the posting a portrait of wealth and privilege, and specifically the type that makes American coastal elites appear oblivious to their own self-absorption. For others, it’s a sad statement about the outsourcing of familiar duties, particularly a mother’s role. A few limit their criticisms to this one demanding potential boss.

And yet, to others who have come across the ad in their timelines, it doesn’t look particularly ridiculous. In this camp, there are those who argue that the exactitude on display is perhaps comic or unrealistic, but ultimately pragmatic. “If you have a big household with multiple kids and a staff, then isn’t being the household manager basically like running a little company?” Quartz’s managing editor Kira Bindrim wrote in a group chat about the ad. “Isn’t this CEO just giving an extremely accurate portrait of that reality, in such a way that is kind of obnoxious but also tells you a great deal about this family and its values? (They do outdoor things! Kids shouldn’t be left alone to do their homework solo! Healthy eating is important! vacations should be planned to make everyone happy!) and isn’t that info quite helpful in deciding whether this is the kind of Household Inc. you’d want to run?”

The same opinion was represented online by someone who says they work as a nanny:

 

Perhaps the most adamant defenses of the ad have come from working parents, especially mothers, who apparently appreciate the ad for spelling out and enumerated and time-consuming, unpaid work that women do.

Even if the notice turns out to be satirical fiction, it nonetheless has arguably plugged into the same quiet fury that powered the explosive popularity of a Harper’s Bazaar essay (“Women aren’t nags—We’re just fed up”) on the topic of household labor three years ago, and countless other essays since. Same sentiment, new form.

Just to prove a point about how far we’ve come, several people have even unironically commented that this CEO is looking for a wife.

Perhaps this job post should be circulating with Quartz’s custom calculator of the unpaid work women do. Or, it could be paired with a copy of the most recent Global Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum, released last month. The job description yields plentiful examples of what the WEF describes as “the disproportionate burden of household and care responsibilities that women continue to carry compared to men almost everywhere.”

“In no country in the world is the amount of time spent by men on unpaid work (mainly domestic and volunteer work) equal to that of women; and in many countries, women still spend multiple-folds as much time than men on these activities,” the report found. “Even in countries where this ratio is lowest (i.e. Norway or the United States) women spend almost twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work.”

At least the Menlo Park super nanny has the potential to earn about $105,027 per year.

Read the full ad here.

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