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.

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3 thoughts on “3 historical reasons American Motherhood is so dysfunctional

  1. “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”. ”

    So much packed in there. I still get PTSD-like symptoms when I read things like this. Being a women who went at it alone (with 5), though I am exiting the baby/toddler phase, these have been the most difficult years of my life. I feel like I am just now starting to see the Light again.

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  2. solid post!

    @rebekah Yeah, I’m just exiting that stage myself. “Starting to see the Light” is right on, lol To me, a certain amount of misery is ok, even satisfying, if there’s a purpose to it. Weirdly, one of the things that held me together when I had four kids under five and my husband was gone 70 hours a week and my nearest relative was three hours away and the budget was so tight was the Judith-Rich-Harris/Bryan-Caplanesque idea that basically the way kids turn out is less a function of the details of their parents’ raising and more a function of their genes and peer environment.

    So if I could just tough out the isolation and exhaustion for a few more years, it would be ok, and I have to say I think that’s worked out pretty well.

    On the other hand, if it doesn’t matter that much exactly how kids are raised, as long as they’re reasonably decently cared for, then it’s fine to send them to a babysitter for 50+ hours a week, too.

    and yes, American culture is all about the hustle and the $$$-at-all-costs. Lotta white conservative guys seem to recognize that it’s destabilizing and uncouth… when other people do it, which of course is nothing but self-serving garbage on their part. They’re the first ones to tell you money is dignity, money is respect, money is security: you don’t deserve anything if you haven’t got that money. It’s just that they’re the only ones who are legitimately at that table.

    But whatcha gonna do: you can’t tell those guys anything. lalalalalaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

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