THERE is a great temptation to prefix the word "scientific" to the heading of this chapter. On all sides is heard the phrase, "scientific management." The newspaper and the magazine, the platform speaker and the economist, all use it with equal glibness. The manager in his office, the foreman with his gang, and the director at his meeting are all cudgeling their brains or working out calculations so that the returns from the human labor they control will be as profitable as possible in terms of dollars and cents. It is true that the household is lagging in making application of this form of efficiency. The reason is not often formulated, although it is doubtless unconsciously felt. The fact is that the household is not a form of organization whose purpose is pecuniary profit. It must surely be run on a basis which means that the expenditures shall not exceed the income and the amount of money invested shall not be greater than the value of the goods bought. But the returns from scientific household management must also be in terms of comfort, satisfaction, enjoyment, growth, education, and individual and group efficiency. These are reasons which give ample scope for processes that are not purely mechanical, but demand judgment, discretion, forethought, and, in fact, rather rare ability in the administration of the household, especially of one with several children and a limited income.
The "scientific management" of the household in the full sense presupposes a competent manager, one who knows all the resources at her command and who has a clear conception of the returns she wishes to secure. It is frequently thought that she must be able to perform all the processes which she directs, but this demand is often unnecessary, provided she knows the general principles involved and can estimate with a fair degree of accuracy the cost in money and the outlay in time and strength, and can suggest more expeditious or less costly methods. It is no longer necessary for a housewife to be able to cure a ham or to make yeast. Year by year, industries are passing out of her domain. Even a knowledge of the technique of bread-making is no longer an essential part of the housekeeper's equipment. But, if she has bread made at home, she still needs to know, if she does not do the work herself, what equipment and what time are needed to produce a satisfactory result with the skilled labor she employs. If she has not the skilled labor within her home, she will find that the economical and satisfactory method will be to buy bread from an outside factory, where skilled labor is employed under hygienic and fair conditions and clean, wholesome materials are used.
The present-day housekeeper, especially in urban communities or under the stimulus of the "Home" magazine, is under constant temptation to elaborate and multiply the number of household processes and to slip gradually into a standard of what is usually called "living," but is often quite the reverse, which makes of the daytime hours a series of confused puzzles as to how to fit in all the things which must be done and of the night-time hours a period of racked nerves and wearied flesh. The process is often quite insidious. More frequent change of table linen, dishes of olives or bonbons, finger bowls, the entire substitution of service by the maid for the family "helping" at the table, more ceremony in waiting on the door bell - one after another come the changes of style, often without increase of income or of service, prompted by the desire to make a "good appearance," regardless of those principles of comfort and honesty which should be fundamental. Here comes an opportunity for really scientific management. The question as to what is essential for the welfare of the household must be frankly put and intelligently answered. Ignoring the question or timidly yielding to the pressure of fashion or social competition will never give the feeling of freedom or the conviction of sincerity which are the basis of true home life and of domestic happiness.
"Scientific management" in the shop means the introduction and skilled use of the best mechanical appliances for doing the work and measures for keeping them in a state of perfect repair. Here the present-day housekeeper has much to learn, for, as a rule, she is woefully unscientific. The problem is not solved by buying every mechanical device which a honey-tongued agent extols. The housekeeper must determine whether the paring machine will be a real economy in the hands of her unskilled maid, who is already efficient with a paring knife. And if the paring knife is to be the tool used, it must always be good of its kind and in repair. No manager of a shop would ever expect a satisfactory or remunerative output if his work-people were allowed to work with tools of such poor quality as are found in many kitchens. All that is said on this point applies with still greater force to the worker. The employer, of course, must determine the degree of skill which she will seek for in her employee. Her duty, then, is to maintain conditions of life and work, such as hours of labor, a due amount of personal freedom and recreation, sleeping accommodations, intelligent direction, and routine of work, which will result in her securing the maximum of efficiency from the work-woman.
Forethought is a quality which has even more play in scientific household management than in business, and yet, in these modern days, its value is practically ignored. This is due, in part, to the ease with which, by means of the telephone and the delivery wagon, the ready-to-eat and the ready-to-wear article may be brought to hand and the threatened catastrophe be an agony of but a few hours or even minutes. Another reason lies in frequent lack of familiarity on the part of the housekeeper with the processes of her household, the materials necessary for meeting its needs, and, last but not least, the efficiency of her domestic helper. Forethought is not synonymous with worry, nagging, or slavery. It consists in an intelligent provision for future but certain needs before they actually arise, and such order and system as will lead to genuine comfort. The so-called "emergencies," which seem to make up a large part of the activities of some households, are for the most part needless, It would, in fact, be difficult to name more than a very few emergencies which could not-be avoided by a small use of sound sense.