Women CANNOT mother alone

There, I said it.  Women simply can’t do it.  Either the village is coming along for the ride of raising your kid(s) by coercion or they’re coming along willingly, but it’s still going to happen.  There are news articles from time to time about women that expect kids’ toy or clothing shops in a mall to watch their children for several hours while they go buy their own stuff.  These women are single mothers and they sure aren’t dithering about how terrible it is to have a strange person keep an eye on your kid for a couple of hours.  This is the brutality of making motherhood so hard that only women who really really really want children or are really really feckless will do it.  The women who become single mothers are the ones who will just create situations where other people have to help out.  The women who marry first are more likely to wilt alone until they crack under the strain.

In a bizarre confluence of toxicity, the worst sorts of “traditional” or “conservative” narratives on mothering as something a woman does alone intersect with attachment parenting, which also presents mothering as something a woman does alone (sometimes not even bathing or meeting other private needs without the child physically on her body).  In both cases, women are told “it’s going to destroy your children to have anyone else feed, hug, kiss or show affection and other care needs to them, even (in the most extreme forms of this narrative) your own husband”.

Forcing women to take the burden of caring for their own children as if it’s normal to care solely and with complete emotional absorption for your own specific children is another one of the reasons women have fewer children than they used to.

Single mothers forcing the issue in the opposite direction, demanding lots of concessions and tolerance doesn’t always work out for them, but it reveals that when facing having to mother alone literally, women are very quick to try their darndest to avoid that.

 

Advertisements

Stay at home parents by the numbers

Some small data points for the day, courtesy of the most updated data on the matter from the US Census.

  • 38% of households with a stay at home parent have household income of 75k/yr or higher.
  • 96% of stay at home parents are mothers, only 4% are fathers.
  • Households with a stay at home parent represent 25% of married-couple households.
  • Less than 5% of households with a stay at home parent have three or more children under 6 in the home.
  • 41% of households with a stay at home parent have five or more members in the household, compared with 29% of households with both parents working at least part-time during the year.
  • 18% of households with a stay at home parent have exactly three children under 15 in the home.
  • 9% of households with a stay at home parent have four or more children under 15 in the home.

This is for all married-couple households with their own children under 15 in the home.

Highly intelligent women have never been very fecund

Men like to suggest that highly intelligent women routinely were very fertile and that they have a low fertility rate these days because of FEMINISM.

But this is not an easy question to answer.  Women who are very intelligent are even less common than highly intelligent men and it is pretty clear from the historical record that those guys were never all that fertile.  But when it comes to the ladies, there’s this idea that smart women routinely had ten kids and still would but for FEMINISM.  It is possible they had more children on average than they do now, but it would be hard to prove the difference was massive if so, at least in America, which has a history going back to colonial times of suppressed fertility for all white women, smarty-smarts not excluded.  When you are talking about one or two women per hundred, at maximum, that they had an extra .4 kid in the past is meaningful, but hardly a sign of eugenic breeding QUASHED BY FEMINISM.

As part of the data I’m scrounging up, this is partly relevant.  I might end up putting together some historical trend lines, but then again, we are talking about very very very few women (130 IQ or higher), so it seems a bit of a rouged herring.

Modestly above average in smarts women were clearly more fecund on average, but the 1/1000 types and even most of the 1/100 types, it just doesn’t match up with what little information we have about that kind of woman’s life in the past that such women were much more fertile than they are now.

ETA: The guy who wrote the original post and makes the argument I’m talking about all over the comments is a Boomer man in academia who had five kids.  That is, he and his wife had children in the last dregs of “the village” helping with the kids and also pre-internet and he smugly (as Boomers do) acts like there’s no real obstacles to having more children.  Nevermind that even when he was having five, Boomer women were very much not making that choice anymore.  As I noted in a different post, ” In 1970, about one woman (all races) in five had five or more kids.  By 1985 it was less than one woman in ten, and by 1990 it was around one woman in twenty.”  Cochran was born in 1953.  So during the time he and his wife had kids, women of all brainy-levels went from 20% having five kids to under 10% doing so.  This is a massive cultural shift and the guy lalaing that people (smart women) are just silly to not have five, after all they are “more affordable than ever before!” is the precise sort of clever silliness his post refers to.

Market salary for a housekeeper/cook/nanny is 35-50k/yr

This is just for the people who claim that a grown woman who really was raised with full domestic skills in those things, including household inventory management and orderly cleaning routines and a decent time spent in child caring has zero money-making skills and is completely doomed if her husband dies or leaves.  It’s not the stupid and unhelpful 200k/year of occasional news articles, but it’s the general range of what women get who do this for pay.  Being a housewife is economically fragile these days, but if you were brought up to do it, you probably can perform at a professional level if you have to make money.  And if you have credentials like a basic B.A., you can certainly command more.

Sharing the services of such women or hiring one outright is how quite a few homeschooling Christian SAHMs in my neck of the woods with no relatives nearby homeschool and keep the house from melting into a puddle of soda, pretzels and Cheeto dust.

Real Talk for SAHMs: Are conservative SAHMs trapped in a sick system?

From an interesting (but childless) permanent student who goes by Issendai here.  Let’s count the ways.

The Rules of a Sick System

Rule 1: Keep them too busy to think. 

We know all about Superwife syndrome and the endless performance pressure on conservative SAHMs to be busybusybusy.  Leisure time is not even in the vocabulary.

Rule 2: Keep them tired. Exhaustion is the perfect defense against any good thinking that might slip through. 

This is a huge one.  I got 10 hours of sleep…in the last four days.  This isn’t even unusual for conservative SAHMs, even for ones with kids who are primary school-aged or older (mine are not)!  All Rule 2 takes is for the other adults to do nothing.  And they don’t. There’s no systemic efforts, women are entirely reliant on hoping their own individual husband and individual church and individual extended family will do something.  And sometimes they do, but it’s reduced to “just luck” or “a different lifestyle choice”.

Rule 3: Keep them emotionally involved. 

This one sounds like it shouldn’t be on the list (after all, why wouldn’t you love your husband and your children and “be emotionally involved” with them?).  But what is being gotten at here is the illusion of status being used to maintain the emotional attachment.  There’s also, for conservative SAHMs, the extreme loyalty in the form of (weirdly cribbed from attachment parenting) being
“indispensable”.   Even postpartum after a fistula following delivery.  Even with pneumonia.  Even with the chronic fatigue and lowered performance and general taking the exhaustion out on the children.  The conservative SAHM is routinely told that she doesn’t need any other women around.  It helps if she’s the one telling it to herself over and over again, that a sitter to watch the kids once or twice a week so she could have some quiet uninterrupted time would be “letting another woman rear her children, that wouldn’t be Godly”, that her husband wanting to play video games until 1am and insisting she join in “is just part of being a good submissive wife, if I say no (and maybe get more than four hours’ sleep a day), I’m being DISLOYAL.”  And this works because conservative SAHMs believe they receive real, significant social status for being wives and mothers who stay home within the conservative world, even though this is not really the case in practice.

Rule 4: Reward intermittently. Intermittent gratification is the most addictive kind there is. 

Printables.  Pinterest.  Happy talk about how you’re making memories, not just messes.  There’s dozens of little thoughtstoppers and rituals that conservative SAHMs go through that provide a little burst of accomplishment-feeling.  There’s also the way in which the happy talk serves to make you feel grateful for five minutes alone, ever.  Intermittent rewards work a treat because the bar is so, so low for what is rewarding due to the overall poor conditions conservative SAHMs live under.

How Sick Systems Enforce The Four Rules

Now, Issendai describes how these rules are enforced in a sick system.  I edited out the work-related examples, because we’re talking about SAHMs and whether the system they are in is a sick one.

Keep the crises rolling. Regular crises perform two functions: They keep people too busy to think, and they provide intermittent reinforcement. After all, sometimes you win—and when you’ve mostly lost, a taste of success is addictive. 

This one right here is why I advocate so much for housewives having household help.  Otherwise it is very easy to slip into a permanent crisis mode.  It’s not that household help is magical, it’s that it’s another layer of potential protection, accountability for husband and wife, whether it’s relatives/neighbors/friends and/or paid.

Things will be better when... Intermittent reinforcement + hope = “Someday it will always be like this.” Perpetual crises mean the person is too tired to notice that it has never been like this for long.

“When we have another baby.” “When we stop having children.” “When I get that promotion, maybe you can have someone come once a month to help with the cleaning.”  “When the kids are older and can help out.” “When we find another church/parish.”

Keep real rewards distant. The rewards in “Things will be better when…” are usually nonrewards—things will go back to being what they should be when the magical thing happens. Real rewards are far in the distance. They look like they’re on the schedule, but there’s nothing in the To Do column. For example, everything will be better when we move to our own house in the country… but there’s nothing in savings for the house, no plan to save, no house picked out, not even a region of the country settled upon.

Since we’re talking about a disordered nuclear family for the most part, this is less true for conservative SAHMs than, say, a feminist nonprofit employee dating a punk musician.  Kids do grow up, after all.  But in practice there was never time to show them how to help, so it’s just easier to keep on doing as much alone as you can.  In practice he says he agrees with church teaching and you can get the old tubes untied and have a couple more kids, but there’s never any money for it and there’s always “serving him” that comes first, before teaching the one or two kids you do have anything that might ease your burden.  And you can’t enforce bedtimes, Daddy says he should have time with *his* kids when he can, even if it means loud action movies with your 10 and 12 yo sons until 1am and not-much homeschooling (and crisis! because they are cranky and struggle to get their lessons right.)  And the original example of the house in the country is absolutely spot-on, especially when you consider the conservative love of “homesteading” and “prepping”.

Establish one small semi-occasional success. This should be a daily task with a stake attached and a variable chance of success. For example, you need to take your meds at just the right time. Too early and you’re logy the next morning and late to work, too late and you’re insomniac and keep your partner up until you go to sleep, too anything and you develop nausea that interrupts your meal schedule and sets your precariously balanced blood sugar to swinging, sparking tantrums and weeping fits. It’s your partner’s job to get you to take your meds at just the right time. Each time she finds an ideal time, it becomes a point of contention—you’re always busy at that time, or you’re not at home, or you eat too early or too late so the ideal time shifts or vanishes entirely. But every so often you take your meds at just the right time and everything works perfectly, and then your partner gets a jolt of success and the hope that you’ve reached a turning point.

This one for conservative SAHMs is often family dinner or having something ready for Husband when he gets home from work rather than medication.  Homeschooling is also used this way.  Also religious practice, sadly.  “We could get to church/Mass more often if you’d just….”  “We could have family prayer every night/morning if you just….”

Chop up their time. Or if you’re partners, be glued to them at the hip, demand their attention at short intervals throughout the day (and make it clear that they aren’t allowed to do the same with you), establish certain essential tasks that you won’t do and then demand that they do them for you, establish certain essential tasks that they aren’t allowed to do for themselves and demand that they rely on you to do it for them (and then do it slowly or badly or on your own schedule). Make sure they have barely enough time to manage both the crisis of the moment and the task of the moment; and if you can’t tire them out physically, drain them emotionally.

I kept in the partner example here because this is in fact what happens to all too many conservative SAHMs.  It’s not just the children at young ages interrupting (and if you are pregnant every year or two, this doesn’t end for a decade or even two), it’s the husband pulling these very stunts when he doesn’t have the excuse of being 18 months old.  Conservative men will sometimes step this up in response to the kids getting older.  They’ll demand more and more time spent on their “needs”.

Enmesh your success with theirs.  The classic maneuver is to blame all your bad moods on your partner: If they weren’t so _______ or if they did ______ right, you wouldn’t be so stressed/angry/foul-tempered.

“If you were more submissive/skinny/kinky/organized/cooked better/dressed nicer, etc. I could get a better job/get more hours at work/pay the bills on time/help with the kids…”

Keep everything on the edge. Make sure there’s never quite enough money, or time, or goods, or status, or anything else people might want. Insufficiency makes sick systems self-perpetuating, because if there’s never enough ______ to fix the system, and never enough time to think of a better solution, everyone has to work on all six cylinders just to keep the system from collapsing.

Yep.  And there’s always, for a conservative SAHM, a fallback that their family is special and unique and there’s nobody out there quite as Godly or Catholic or Orthodox or pick your Christianish adjective. It’s just their individual family being “countercultural against the secular folks”.  Which means any failing in the wife is purely her own fault and something she has to work on.  There’s never any system-wide problem or structural issues with the subculture she’s in.  Why, didn’t she just say her family was countercultural?  What subculture?  What community of affinity?

It doesn’t have to be like this.  There is no reason infants and toddlers, even closely spaced, need to be a source of domestic chaos, sleep deprivation and poor health.  Unless the system of bearing and raising children is so broken that millions of women have to run around alone and tired, and amnesiac about the trauma when they come up for air once the kids are school aged.  Unless the system is, in fact, sick.

The problem with an overscaled, anti-natalist society, Oklahoma infant death edition

The title is gruesome because the situation is gruesome.  But it is also an example of how gigantic and numerous the obstacles are to a society where it’s less terrible to try to have children.

Recently in Oklahoma, a young couple where both parents worked full time had an 11 week old infant in full-time daycare.  In this daycare the infant was swaddled and put to sleep in a different infant’s unused carseat.  The little child’s head tipped against its chest and the poor child suffocated.  The daycare employee was away from the infant for two hours before coming back to check, finding out something terrible had happened and calling 911.

The story is sad, and most of the news about it weirdly focuses on “unsafeness of car seats”.  But let’s list the many problems leading to the collateral damage of one little infant’s life.

  • Mom has to return to work while less than three months postpartum
  • But she lacks the class status or income to pay for a one-on-one caregiver or split the costs with other families to have a one-on-two or three infants caregiver (nanny or nanny share)
  • And she also lacks the close-knit neighborhood or extended family that would provide free childcare so she could work
  • So she uses a daycare that is very cheap
  • And because it’s so cheap, the daycare has a financial incentive to NOT follow the rules about staff to infant ratios, despite being licensed and “legit”
  • Which leads to a caregiver who walks away from a child with newborn sleep patterns for far longer than is appropriate at that infant age.
  • Then there’s the state of Oklahoma, which has a “bad daycare employee blacklist”, but the list is worse than useless, since if they can’t find the daycare employee, the person disappears from the list.  This is the kind of weird bureaucratic goof that happens when more and more regulations to deal with the original regulations are larded on top of each other
  • And of course the daycare employee couldn’t be found after the infant’s death because it’s easy to hide when you aren’t “over the table” in your pay, which is very common even in “licensed” daycares.

I see a lot of talk in the right wing, from the mainstream part to the dissident weird part, that assumes there is no real obstacle to getting (white) women to have more kids, it’s just their silly refusal to marry a (white) man and start having kids.  Well, this woman did just marry a man and start a family, but the job her husband has doesn’t pay enough for her to work part time or stay home full time and the breakdown of community meant that she was stuck with a sorry list of options when she had to go back to work almost immediately after having her baby.  And the lack of relationships means not just relying on regulations, but not being able to enforce violations of those regulations.  Rule of law is only as strong as the people willing to uphold it.  And in an environment where nearly every American child is a chosen birth, natalism means doing extra for women to increase their desire to have additional children, start relatively young and minimize outside the home work so they can have the close-knit neighborhood relationships that allow for free ranging children of all ages.

And that extra doesn’t consist of tax credits or restoring father custody as a default.  It doesn’t in fact consist of much policy or political prescription to begin with (those things would follow).  It consists of giving women social status for being married mothers and then helping them directly to prove they have the status.  That’s something one could formalize eventually in social policy, but what is pretty easy is to start doing it now.  And who knows, maybe a few infants could be spared the tragedy this one suffered.

TFR, or Total fertility rate is not the last word on fertility

Even though it’s a statistic you can find in many spots on the internet, like the CIA factbook and Wikipedia, TFR or Total fertility rate (the total children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime, across an entire nation, ethnic group, or religious group, etc.) is a misleading portrait of the drop in childbearing over the decades.

Take two countries with a TFR of 1.5, which is very low, below the “replacement rate” of 2.1.  This would be 15 children expected per 10 women in their lifetimes.

Country A gets to a TFR of 1.5 this way with ten women: 5, 5, 3, 1, 1, 0,0,0,0,0.

Country B gets to a TFR of 1.5 this way: 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 0, 0.

One country has a robustly fertile subculture leading to 20% of the women bearing 67% of the children and half of the women remaining childless for life.  The other country has most women having kids, but nobody has a large family.

When everyone has one or two kids, this is child-friendly in a very limited sense of the term.  Everything is set up around the expectation that women will be mothers, but not too much and not for too long.  It is a Nordic model and in fact they do look more like country B.

When a few people have most of the kids, things are more complicated and uncertain as to future fertility trends.  Because the choice to mother in country A is so much more stark and binary, there’s less child-friendliness in terms of maternity leave or whatever, but the women who will have kids will “harden” and just have them anyway…up to a point.

While living in a world with easy birth control is very new in human history, purposely limiting the number of children for any number of reasons is not.  By the way, America looks more like Country A.

Low TFR is a data point, but how groups get there is also relevant to understanding what a robust natalism would look like.