Practical Natalism: A conservative approach to fertility

Every few months there is a fertility discussion somewhere on the internet.  It is generally either “lalalala women can pop out babies on demand after age 35/40/45 and anyone who says otherwise is sexist!” (liberal flavor)  or “lalala women’s ovaries dry up instantly at 30, better marry at sexy 17 to be on the safe side girls!” (conservative flavor).  Once in awhile a vague gesture is made in the direction of male fertility having a time limit, but the main show is the endless binary battle between the delusions of liberals and conservatives regarding female fertility.

The truth is that both the liberals and the conservatives are a little bit right about the nuances of female fertility, and a whole lot wrong about what normal female fertility looks like.

It is certainly the case that we women cannot expect to conceive in our 60s or later barring explicitly Divine intervention.  But at the same time, women are not all granted the same level of fertility.  Some have a more robust baseline than others.  There are women who can start at 35 and have one each year until 45, while others can struggle to have three or four starting at age 21.  Obviously we shouldn’t give advice to young women based on the first case, because it has such a high margin of error if a young woman is not so blessed in the fertility department.  But neither does it really do much good to expect all women to start at 20 in a world that mostly doesn’t support young marriage.

We should instead be honest with women about the number of children it is reasonable to hope for at different age ranges assuming decent health. Start at 25, having 5 in 15 years is not unlikely.  Start around 30, having 5 in 10 years is much less likely.  Better to expect 3.  Not all women want more than a couple, but my experiences with women who sincerely seem to think it’s reasonable to start at 35-38 and still end up with 4-6 kids by 45 suggest that they are clearly not getting the best information on what’s reasonable at that age if that’s the family size they hope to have.

And honesty about how much more physically demanding kids can be after 35 would also go a long way towards honest fertility information.  Natalism, properly understood, is about more than just having babies.  It’s about having energy and time and a loving community to raise them so that at the margins, women do have that extra child or two.  So what if it’s possible to conceive and birth healthy, term babies after 40 for the first time? You may not live to see that kid or kids have their own children, and that’s profoundly self-centered.  You may not even live to see that kid reach adulthood.  The very act of conceiving for the first time at such ages comes with its own problems, since women are designed to be optimally fertile from 18-35, as far as the balance between growing babies and being able to wrangle them too.

And fertility should be whole-body, not just about getting pregnant over and over again.  Breastfeeding the kids for at least the first year of their lives, and ideally for some portion of their second and third years provides time for mother to recover physically and adjust to the demands of each new infant more smoothly than trying to get pregnant within seconds of the previous delivery.  This can produce breastfeeding-related temporary infertility, but simple consideration by husbands to not try for more in rapid succession is also part of whole-body fertility.  I know that for many women, there is pressure to closely space due to marrying in the late 20s or early 30s and wanting more than two kids, or a fear that if you aren’t constantly pregnant, he won’t let you have more than one or two.  Or pressure from the guy to build up the family as quickly as possible.  Some men count coup in how fast they can get their women to conceive again after each delivery.  This is a terrible thing, but it’s usually related to men not having proper outlets for healthier masculine expression.  But whatever the reason, it breaks the female body down faster and leaves her less to give to the raising and tending of the home and family in the medium and long term.  A lot of those historically fecund multi-great grammas keeled over promptly after finishing up with number 12 or 14 in their early 40s.

ETA, 5/2015: This guy writes a long book review concerning a book about the birth control debate among Protestants from 1870 to 1970.  The book review is not why I linked though, I linked for note at the end of the article, where he describes his fellow professors at a private Christian college as being fecund and gives the total number of children for 13 of them, totaling 63 children.  He boasts that the average is 4.84, but misses that the mode (most common number) is 3.  This isn’t the best post to tack this onto, but it is about natalism.  Part of practical natalism is understanding statistical reality as it reveals patterns of human behavior.  His colleagues are having one extra kid much more often than they are having 11 (one family).  Six of the thirteen professors have but three kids apiece.  This is more than the usual two, but it also means the average of about 5 is a bit misleading.  Also, related, the private Christian college in question has had a number of appalling scandals attach to it, ostentatiously left out by this smuggerson mcsmuggypants.  That link doesn’t cover the Ayn Rand acolytes peopling the college, but I can’t find that reference right now so I’ll just end here.


Labor itself should not be a positional good

Pointless labor as a status symbol is fatal to the healthy functioning of a society.  An obsessive fixation with efficiency and automation robs people of the dignity of work.  No, this doesn’t mean we all need to bust sod to be fully human, but we do need to labor and have that labor be connected to our necessaries of life.  Instead, what we have is elites on both the right and the left using labor itself as a positional good, a status symbol to lord over the poor, chronically unemployed and mostly not-white masses.

It’s a ridiculous setup.  It’s derived from the egalitarian Scandinavians, who use pointless labor to obscure wealth gaps.  Don’t look at my mansion, I wash my own car while being a top anesthesiologist!

But their egalitarianism derives from their warband history.  America wasn’t founded by warbands who need a rough sort of egalitarianism to not turn on each other.  And a focus on pointless work that can be dropped at any time just reveals a deep selfishness and fleeing from the responsibilities that used to come with wealth, status and privilege in favor of a false idol of meritocracy where someone “earns” their cushy indoor job publishing policy documents that never get downloaded or read.

It would be better for society if the middle and upper classes went back to hiring a cook  instead of cooking badly as a “locavore foodie”, poorly arranging and preparing one’s expensive, locally sourced organic ingredients and posting the crummily photographed results to the internet afterwards.  But instead we have those same terrible cooks trying to fight for make-work jobs “teaching” poor people to follow their terrible cooking advice and awful recipes.  I use cooking as an example a lot because it’s very time consuming to do correctly for any kind of normal-sized family.  And it’s work one can excel at without “testing well”.  There is a lot of work like that, but it’s being subsumed into “lifestyle” LARPing by the kinds of people who “test well” and have jobs trying to keep women like me from staying home and telling everyone else what to do without the least bit of empirical experience or evidence.

It’s not dignified for people to be denied real work because they aren’t glib SWPLs.  And the glib SWPLs are not dignified when they reduce craft to a caricature of practice and effort while lording their leisure time over the rest of us as “hard work”.




The manosphere wants to live the thug life.

Even among supposedly Christian men, there seems to be a great desire to live like the ghettoest of ghetto black men.  They seem to think ghetto black men in America have the sweetest deal and that their lives would be perfect if they could only live the thug life without the violent death risk. I’ve finally figured it out with the manosphere and to a lesser extent the rest of the dissident right.  They obsess over black people in the ghetto and their problems because they really do want that life.  They seem to think ghetto life consists of people showering money on you like a rap video, women being simultaneously beautiful, employed but also Super Housewives, and of a life where all the men have “rights” and “benefits” and the women do…everything.  Earn all the money, do all the housework, offer unlimited sex on demand, raise all the children and never ever mess up the men’s sweet ride by asking anything for themselves, even marriage.
No other explanation has sufficiently explanatory power than this astonishingly obvious one.

Why the SJW pushback is happening in gaming and SFF

It’s happening there because those are realms where conservative male fans are willing to do unpaid scutwork for ideological reasons, since conservative women are no longer allowed the leisure to conduct the culture wars.

Unpaid scutwork for ideology is not exclusively female, but women do tend towards a genuine preference for licking envelopes and composing form letter templates as compared to men.  I am not at all the first to point out the female preference for dull desk work, but it’s interesting when men do decide to provide a bunch of unpaid labor for a movement.

This is one of many reasons why I get all strident and repetitive about the cult of drudgery for housewives.  It’s not bad, guys, if there’s a class of women with leisure and free time, who are supported by their husbands.  Most of those women were not feminists or proto-feminists, contrary to the bizarre conservative narrative that “overly leisured housewives” are the source of all modern woe.  Leisured housewives are the women who provided the unpaid labor that supported so much that conservatives claim to adore, like functional public schools, social institutions, community events, parishes and other church infrastructure.

And it is very telling that you can only get leisured men to provide unpaid labor when it’s weird nerd hobbies.




3 historical reasons American Motherhood is so dysfunctional

  1. Ambivalent servants!

    Ambivalence about domestic help.  It is worth noting that where this ambivalence was overcome enough to have mother’s helpers, maids, cooks and the like, the birth rate generally was quite a bit higher than where women expected to go it alone, though not as high as where relatives helping mom out was common (and yes, where relatives helping was common was sometimes also where it was ok to have a maid, though only sometimes.)  When women are expected to go it alone, 1-2 children is far more typical than in the current conservative Christian culture where women have been manipulated into believing that it’s normal to go it alone with 3-7 children, particularly 3-5.  It’s not and we conservative SAHMs have been horribly lied to.  Yes, non-conservatives reading, conservative Americans really think it’s no big deal for a woman to get pregnant, nurse and also perform the three C’s (cooking, cleaning, childcare) for up to SEVEN children with zero friends, relatives or paid help before “completing their family”.  A lot of the ambivalence is due to America having waves of white immigrants who would have been servants in the old country.  A lot of conservatives like to talk about how America was populated by middle class types, but that’s historically delusional.  It was populated by broke people who wanted to be rich lords and ladies and settled for what we now call middle class because in America you could do a passable imitation  of gentry pretension with your teeny weeny farm (big yard and home well apart/distant from other folks).  People could have the land as wealth, but coming from servant/peasant backgrounds, they didn’t want the obligations of a lord to vassals or serfs, and America was rich enough that they didn’t have to and could still mostly get along.  The women just didn’t have many children, though, as few as they could get away with.

  2. This is just our starter home, we’ll move to something bigger in a couple years.

    Frequent moves. Chasing temporary financial gain is an American staple.  Americans have historically been of the hustler mode when it came to wealth rather than the slow and steady myth conservatives like to tell themselves.  This is why conservative Christian culture is riddled with MLM and generally scammy business practices.  Because Americans are money grubbing, they were always happy to relocate for a few extra bucks rather than stay put and build lasting generational wealth.  It was all about getting ahead in the moment and remains that way to this day.  This is hilariously thought of by many conservatives as an attitude of black people alone, which just goes to show that it’s not just SJWs (radical leftists) who engage in projection.  This frequent moving due to short-term money grubbing meant that women were under pressure to cut corners and economize raising families on very little actual money and without any hope of building informal non-monetary support networks.  So again, they tailored their family sizes accordingly.

  3. Individualism is bipartisan!

    Wild eyed individualism (spawned both libertarianism and cults that didn’t happen in the rest of the post-industrial West). Women in America have always been big on freedom and equality and gaining more hard power because they had nothing else due to the wild eyed individualism.  Some of them ended up leading cults of the self (Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneida), and a few founded libertarianism (Rose Wilder, Gene Stratton Porter), but conservatives keep pretending that Americans were interested in quality of life rather than quantity of STUFF, and that’s just not the reality.  Individualism leads to consumerism, even in the absence of modern mass culture and that’s exactly what happened with American women and motherhood.  It has gone through many iterations of consumerism, but it never settles on functional, healthy communitarianism intentionally.  Where it happens is despite the wild eyed individualism, not because of it.  The individualism looks more functional than it ultimately is because until pretty recently it was backstopped by the remnants of strong collective institutions.

Mormon men are not patriocentric

This is one of the reasons Mormon culture retains many aspects of normal life.  Being a father is high-status in Mormon culture, but father-rule in an individual family is not.  This is a crucial difference between Mormon elevation of fatherhood and the acceptable fringe fundamentalist and conservative Christian elevation of fatherhood as godhood.

It’s not that the father isn’t the head of the household, he very much is, but he isn’t supposed to run unchecked in the broader community.  He’s supposed to demonstrate his paternal quality by contributing as a peer in the community.  The Mormons have a very practical view of servant leadership, let’s just say.

This isn’t entirely Mormon, it’s kind of Nordic, a sort of egalitarian gloss on Christian patriarchy, fellowship of equals and all that.  Some of the specifics of how it plays out among Mormons are related to their religion, but the broad practical fact that men aren’t individual lords of the manor running unchecked is not specifically Mormon at all.

A quick example: It’s currently a mark of lower status *from other men* to have 10+ kids.  Mormons converged on 3-6 kids as the normal family size range over time, even though they started with the idea that it was fine for the women to pop them out as fast as possible.  But this was not producing “productive” wives and children, so they scaled back what was an acceptable number of kids for a guy to expect from his wife.  It also means women aren’t under pressure to prove their “openness to life” by having babies near-constantly (a real issue in both Catholic and Protestant superfecundity subcultures, of which Quiverfull is merely the most well-known, but not the only one).

So Mormon women like the housewife life quite a bit more than a lot of other conservative women because they aren’t as likely to be under hyperfertility pressures that hit in a lot of conservative Christian and Christian-like groups.

Basically, since Mormons are expected to have the leisure and energy to provide free community services to each other, they converged on a standard of household formation that is traditional-enough, that can leave married households with that time available even during some of the time the children are little.  Mormon men also take provision very very seriously and just aggressively try to earn good wages early on, and they prove it’s still quite doable if you really want to do it.  This pursuit of what is now “early maturity” in the wider culture means Mormon men are much more open to hierarchy and authority being implemented in mostly traditional fashions and don’t tend to be full of “I’m too holy for discipline/attending church/participating in my local community” like the worst of the patriocentric conservative Christians.