When to be hands-on and when to be hands-off?
As I was walking through our neighborhood, something fascinating caught my eye. I stopped and felt like for a moment I had traveled ahead in time. A Roomba for the lawn? An automated lawn mower that was as big as a good-sized pillow was swiftly and silently cutting the grass. Growing up I used to spend 2-3 hours every Sunday mowing acres of lawns, so mowing is something that naturally sparks my attention.
I had never seen this before, this was the Roomba taken to a new level. I have still been grasping the idea that some people don’t vacuum anymore. They simply set down an automatic vacuum, the Roomba, and let it do its thing while they continue with their other daily activities. I kept walking and two houses down I notice someone manually pushing their lawn mower to cut their grass, and across the street someone was outside washing their car by hand. I smiled, and was glad that some people are still choosing to be hands-on even when there is a technology out there that can do it for you.
I kept walking and thought back to when I was serving with Peace Corps in Guatemala, and how it felt like I had gone back in time. I was living in Guatemala when the iPhones and iPads had come out, and I felt like I missed a big evolutionary step in my homeland at the time, and after the two years abroad, I remember feeling like I had taken a huge leap into the future when I had come back to the States again.
However, being in rural guatemala I had the privilege to witness a culture where nearly everything was hands-on. Hand weaving textiles, making fresh tortillas by hand, and hand washing all the clothes and linens were daily tasks. I call this a privilege because I most likely would have never experienced a nearly “technology - free” life if I hadn't lived and integrated in a village for two years.
I remember I grew very fond of laundry day. Yes, it took nearly a whole day to wash all the clothes, sheets, and towels by hand. I was surrounded by women and children walking down daily to the rivers to wash the dishes and laundry, and realized they had no other option. A washing machine was only a dream for the village locals, and now I realize that it, too, is a privilege to have the option for a machine. However, I admit that I felt more connected to my clothes while I was washing them by hand as I was noticing where they were getting worn down or where the stitching was falling apart. Thoughts of gratitude would emerge for how they kept me warm during the cold days and nights in rainy season, and how they would protect my skin from beating sun in the non-rainy season. Since it took several hours to wash everything and be hands-on with my laundry, it allowed me to have that intentional time and space to feel connected to something so basic that otherwise I would just have tossed into a machine and continued with my day as usual.
Being a mom to a 4-month-old, especially one who spits up often and needs many diaper changes, there’s twice or three times more laundry I need to do and I am grateful to have access to a washing machine and a dryer, especially for all the burp cloths, reusable diapers, blankets, and towels. However, I do still hang dry all the clothes and enjoy that process of hanging them up, folding them, and putting them away in their designated place. I think I will forever cherish and enjoy being hands-on with laundry whenever I can.
Having a baby has been the most hands-on experience I’ve ever had, especially while being in this current era of technology. To my knowledge, there is no baby machine that can change a diaper, dress and undress, bathe, nurse, and burp. Honestly, I hope there never is something created to care for a little one. This hands-on experience is special and only lasts for so long, and I feel connected to my baby girl as I am present and needed for every diaper, bath, and nursing session. Cuddling is the cherry on top, and I can’t imagine paying a machine to do this for me.
At first I began to judge the owners of the lawn Roomba, but then I started thinking and realized now in this era it all comes down to choice. We have the option on how we want to spend our money, time and energy, and if we’d rather something else cut the grass so we can be hands-on elsewhere, like holding a baby or creating art, then maybe that lawn Roomba is a better allocation of time and energy for that person.
Before technology, there were no options and it was all manual labor. Now that we have options for where we want to be hands-on and mow our own lawns, vacuum our own carpets, and wash our own cars, it all comes down to deciding on what and where it is most important and meaningful to spend time being hands-on and where we can be hands-off and delegate it to an ever-evolving technology to do it for us.