Lydia feels unnecessary as a wife and mother because the automated house does everything she used to do.
This is the story of an automated house, the newest luxury of the super-rich. One of the features of the automated house is an automated nursery, where the children can create their own entertainment by making their nursery into a lifelike reenactment of an African veldt, complete with wildlife. It makes their mother uneasy.
The wife and mother, Lydia explains how she begins to feel as if she does not belong, now that the house is doing all of the things that she used to do.
"… The house is wife and mother now, and nursemaid. Can I compete with an African veldt? Can I give a bath and scrub the children as efficiently or quickly as the automatic scrub bath can? …”
Lydia asks their father to tell them to stop reading about Africa so that they can control the veldt and stop the nursery from becoming so frighteningly real. Lydia becomes more and more depressed, and begins to smoke and drink. She asks her husband if the lions can get out. Her children are detached.
When the parents try to get the nursery to turn into something other than Africa, it doesn’t respond. Their children return from a “plastic” carnival, and the parents ask them to remove Africa. The children act puzzled.
"There's no Africa in the nursery," said Peter simply.
The psychologist tells the parents that their children are spoiled, and they should be “stepped on occasionally.” If you indulge your children and never tell them no, they will turn on you. The parents are worried though, and finally decide to kill the house. After all, it has turned their children against them.
They lure their parents into the nursery, where they are never seen again. It turns out the parents aren’t needed after all. The house really can do everything for the children. It can feed them, take care of them, entertain them, and kill their parents for them.
This story demonstrates, in typical Bradbury fashion, several of the dangers of technology when we try to use it to make our lives easier. We try to use it to replace the things that we have to do, but we find, as Lydia did, that we are sometimes defined by the things we have to do. Lydia was defined by her role as a wife and mother. When the automated house took over her role, she felt worthless and became depressed. Also, the house was heartless. It did her job physically, but not emotionally. Her children became violent and heartless.