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When I was a kid, I remember my mom doing all sorts of things for our family. She would cook our meals, clean the house, wash and iron our clothes, take care of our pets and do whatever else was needed to make our lives run smoothly.

My dad would paint the house, wash the cars, mow the lawn, repair whatever needed fixing and just take care of business. Although men and women today seem better equipped and willing to cross over and handle most chores, whether they be traditionally labeled "women's work" or "men's work," it seems neither is willing to do it all. In fact, people are more comfortable hiring others in order to gain some free time for themselves.

I have a friend who is a brilliant engineer but who calls in a professional if a wall needs painting. He claims he isn't handy, but even my teens have painted their bedrooms to keep up with each passing fad.

It seems we are now a society of specialists. We pay people to clean our houses, we drop our clothes off at the dry cleaners and we rely on restaurants and take-out to provide our family dinners. Our lawns are mowed once a week by a local landscaping business, our cars are zipped through car washes and we even pay people to walk our dogs. It seems that we hire other people to do whatever jobs we can afford to have done for us.

How did our parents accomplish so much without constantly dialing up specialists? I remember my dad renting a big carpet cleaning machine from the hardware store every year or so and cursing and struggling until our carpets were once again bright and stain-free (although very wet). Pride alone would have prevented him from calling in a company to do that work for him.

Nor would my mom ever consider calling in a house cleaner. Even though she would stay up until the wee hours of the morning dusting and polishing, my mother would rather die than allow anyone -- even a cleaning lady -- to see her house dirty.

Maybe my parents didn't have as much time for their own interests as we do today, but they were happy and fulfilled people. Come to think of it, I can't remember mom running out the door to work out at the gym or dad Web surfing at the computer for hours each evening. They worked very hard but seemed content. Why do we now turn to specialists to do anything outside of our normal scope of chores? When our garage needed a new roof, dad would call in the uncles, cousins and friends, and all would lend a helping hand. They may have had to spend the entire weekend spreading tar and nailing shingles, but the job got done and the beer party that ensued definitely made it all worth the effort.

Now if you tell someone you need a new roof, they are apt to whip open their address book or business card case and refer you to a professional.

Maybe we are too tired from fulfilling the duties of our own "specialty job" or aren't willing to forfeit our playtime to tackle all the additional things that need to be done. I have no clue, but I can't afford to call in a psychiatrist to help me figure it all out.

LOUISE ZIARNOWSKI, a leasing representative, is the mother of four daughters.