Why I’m raising my kids lower-class.

I know that raising your children to be relatively independent at young ages is associated in American society with the parents being unable to do any adulting whatsoever, but it’s important to T.W.O. and I that the kids be adaptable.  It’s more important than the constant humiliation and embarrassment over the fact that our kids do a lot for themselves and are expected to handle a large amount of household maintenance.

And it is difficult, because the brunt of “bad parent” falls entirely and solely on me as a rotten mother and on our mixed marriage (what, you thought Lion’s Den liberal white women were ok with it? LOL!) as a sign that black women basically can’t do middle-class parenting.

The fact is, teaching your kids to cook without doing it via an instagrammable class you spend $100+/kid on is considered low status and a sign you must be a drunk/druggie or “unstable” poor or an unstable poor drunk/druggie.  Expecting them to do household chores without paying them is also considered a similar sign of not-so-secret dysfunction.  After all, how can a kid do housework and ace all the schoolroom checkboxes if they have to pick up a broom now and again?  Just ignore the elephant in the room that in many other high-scoring countries, kids doing chores is part of the school attendance deal.

I don’t know, I’ll ask my kids after they skip another couple of grades.  Of course, grade skipping is also de trop and Doing Smart Wrong as well, unless it’s going straight from K to college.

My kids can do yardwork safely with edged tools, hand wash dishes, load a dishwasher correctly, load and run a front load or top loading washing machine correctly, including handling borax, and my oldest can do basic clothing repairs by hand or using a sewing machine.  Given a small spatula for the very youngest, all my children can cook on a stove top, griddle and can handle campfire cooking.  They can sweep, vacuum, and use kitchen cleaning products safely and correctly.

They can forage effectively and safely with a guidebook.  They know what barks and berries are edible without one.  But since we didn’t pay through the nose to have them taught these things, we’re trash as parents for not letting them have their own tablets and smartphones.  No, I have no kids aged 10 or older.  Yes, you’re viewed as a suspicious or bad parent for not giving younger children private electronics like tablets and smartphones.  Ironically, a lot of the judgment comes out of not being like actual lower-class parents who ask for and get these things out of the well-funded (but never “fully funded”) school districts in the area.

The giant caveat to all this is that Montessori parents aren’t remotely like this despite general very liberal tendencies and are pretty chill overall.  But there’s no way we can do K-12 Montessori and meet our kids where they are educationally.  It’s a great pedagogy for elementary level work, but it wasn’t designed for beyond that and I think it’s suboptimal that an entire secondary-school Montessori model has arisen in many locales.  But it was helpful in teaching our kids how to learn and they’ve shown a lot of adaptability to other learning paths.

Ultimately, my husband and I are not special, privileged people who can afford to use the public schools plain-vanilla and trust the system.  We’ve never been able to plug-and-play with private school either.  Our kids don’t do well following the normal parenting approaches where we live.  And we could have a seven figure household income and we’d still be considered lower-class for the way we’re raising them because when it’s all about “only people credentialled in this thing, even if this thing is making fishsticks, can teach it and the only valid way to learn this thing is from them and never anyone else or via self-teaching”, well, obviously we’re no good, bad, deplorable parents for not doing that.

Our household will never be middle class.  Our household will never be upper middle class.  I don’t know how I will explain our permanently low socioeconomic status to our kids when the time comes, and perhaps it never will.  Sometimes you don’t have to say anything for kids to figure out the social dynamics as teenagers.  And hopefully they are secure enough in having adaptability and competence that they don’t even care.

Tubal Ligation is cheaper than babysitters and is the American way.

Apparently it was much more common during the post-WWI (yes, first one) era than I thought, being established as a mainstream medical procedure during the Depression about a dozen years later.  Estimates are not ideal to come by and I hope to update with a chart sometime next year, but easily 1/4 and up to 1/3 of native-born white women engaged in sterilization during the “good old days where mom had 9 kids and LOVED IT”.

There was also a very high rate of condom use, including among regular Mass-attending Catholics.  There doesn’t appear to have been much overlap, so there was a very high rate of using the most reliable contraception among all but the poorest white groups.  Black women also had a fairly high rate of sterilization, but it was much less likely to be done with their explicit permission and there was younger age of first pregnancy and extremely low condom use leaving them in a situation of much higher net fertility expression.

For effectively an entire century, American women have all too frequently preferred or been subjected to technical barriers to more children rather than having lots of other women around while they had many or some system of enforcing male continence to reduce family size.  However, up until the Baby Boomer women were adults, there were still quite a lot of other women and girls around due to generational and social lag, so American women frequently had relatively smaller families than their ancestresses of the 19th and 18th centuries but a lot of informal woman-to-woman support for those smaller families until approximately the birth of Generation X in the mid-60s.  So in a way, the very women who are now absent for so many American Gen X and Millennial aged mothers had their lower-family-size cake and got to eat it too.

Importing Hispanic and Asian women in (and increasingly African ones too), who prefer lots of other women around, sometimes even paid, doesn’t appear to have altered a lot of white and black historical-American women’s beliefs that solo mom care is highest and best and that daycare or someone not-grandma (and frequently even grandma) is “letting other people raise your child”.

Thing is, even in DIY frontier culture, sometimes not-mom helped out and the fallout of emphasizing solo, mother-only childcare has been leaving millions of American mothers with center-based daycare as the only alternative instead of flexible and resilient childcare approaches and options that might provide greater antifragility in the midst of global pandemics.

 

A sample of how liberal mothers create leisure for themselves.

http://blogs.harvard.edu/philg/2018/01/29/foreigners-can-rescue-us-from-our-undiplomatic-president

This is not really a post about Trump, but about liberal mothers who hire au pairs.  Au pairs are a type of live-in childcare that costs about 20-30k a year and is considered a cultural exchange program.  In that post, a bunch of liberal mothers reveal they put a lot of energy into being shocked that outside the USA, approval of LBGT is rather lower than they expect of non-Americans (mostly young white European women).  Anyway the takeaway is that while conservative mothers at similar income levels have a long list of reasons why they can’t have any childcare, liberal mothers create the leisure and free time to sit around waiting for the very small number of au pairs who approve of LBGT*.

*The post excerpts a bunch of discussions on a web board and reveals that there are au pairs who are themselves LBG.

 

Quick notes on the value of a village and the value of a housewife.

The value of the village, of real community support where you can easily have someone come over is 100k per year.

The articles from years and years back about how a housewife’s labor is worth 250k a year missed the real implication, which is that the *husband* would need to make that much to cover all the value-adds this platonic-ideal housewife was providing.    But then, that is dangerously close to the actual situation with SAHMing in many married households.

Related to something else, instead of the poor choices of long commutes or telecommutopia or “no really if we keep spending billions on light rail everyone will take it to their green jobs”, we could have satellite offices for many desk-type jobs and make the 400k vice presidents actually earn that money making the rounds weekly or monthly to touch base.  It “splits the difference” with commuting by slashing it in many industries but also keeps local money more local because a lot of the “oh they’ll just buy everything with amazon” is from being exhausted from hours of driving. Cut that by 75% and you can have real stores and get better quality even without major price increase, since there’s been a race to the bottom with shipping costs and delivery of consumer goods.

Ultimately tens of millions of people are being shoved around by the whims of a few hundred thousand, and that is changeable.  Extremely so.

 

“A deer won’t fix it”: A few words against struggle love and romanticizing low income life.

Ripped from someone’s childhood:

It was getting towards the end of class time in Algebra I and Susanna, who’d read Little House on the Prairie to pieces, was talking to another student about how much she loved country music and how cool it was to hunt for your food even if you were poor and such.

The teacher, unusually for the free time at the end of class, cut in.  “You haven’t been poor, it’s not ‘cool’.”

“But couldn’t pa just, like, hunt deer for you all?”

“You have no idea what it’s like to really be poor. A deer won’t fix it!” The teacher didn’t have to go on.  Susanna never mentioned country music or deer hunting ever again.

The teacher was a wise woman.  A deer won’t fix the leaky roof, or serve as a winter coat.  A deer won’t fix the blisters when your shoes are worn bare and there aren’t going to be any more because your older brother ran away and you almost feel bad that your first thought was hoping he’d left his Sunday pair behind, because they weren’t too worn and only a little big on you.  A deer won’t fix it.

In one of those interesting confluences that transcends race, both the wider black community and the wider right-wing community have a tendency to romanticize poverty and “struggle love”.  That the kids coming out of many of those unions aren’t so enamored about the idea of being married and incredibly poor is waved away as them being too spoiled, somehow.

The discussion here is a good example of right-wing folks romanticizing the struggle and presenting extended periods of poverty as unalloyed good.

They were discussing, dismissively (but somewhat justifiably), this person’s wicker basket of issues around “emotional labor” that strictly speaking she doesn’t have to do and mostly isn’t labor.

Yet the problem with the emotional labor complainer lady isn’t gender, or even money.  A lot of the time, the obstacles to normal life aren’t financial, but from the vantage of those with no financial resources anyway, it can seem like “proof” that money doesn’t fix anything, so why worry about whether you have any?

A deer won’t fix the toothache.  Or the gap between your kid’s college scholarship and your empty pockets.

Poverty isn’t inherently unworthy, but there’s a difference between preparing a child for the possibility and spinning up a tale that it always works out and will in fact basically be “broke-college-student” level temporary.   It’s an ideal of struggle-life where you’re not actually lacking the roof, or the full belly, or the warm coat, or the well-fitting decent shoes.  You just have low income but all basic needs completely met.  This is pretty bitter aloes for anyone who jumps into low-income marriage on purpose without any prep and finds out it’s not very romantic or easy and that married poverty without a strong local community or regionally suitable skills to “make do” can be devastating and corrode a marriage bond to a brittle snapping point.

A deer won’t fix it.  Only frankness and realistic discussion about the tools needed to “survive and thrive” as a low income household with children could.   Not romanticism and rosy glosses on what some couple did decades or generations ago.  That leads to people seeing marriages blow up over the poverty or how bad it is for the family and mistakenly thinking that the solution is more dakka money.  But we could all make less money as married households if the sheer value of close relationships and getting along with other people were taken seriously society-wide.