Another hidden cost of modern parenting–the Mom Commute

Before I had kids, I used to look around at the fatigued SAHMs and working mothers around me and I thought (if I thought about it at all) that a lot of the things they did were optional and not really necessary to the kid-raising life.

Well, I was wrong.

The Mom commute has a long history in American society, but it wasn’t as broadly required in the first half of the 20th century. And there were still ways to avoid the worst of it in the second half via carpooling and roping in still-available neighbors, relatives and friends. And also, for a short window of time, nannies. During peak working mother, around the late 1980s and early 1990s, the first wave of amnestied Hispanic women made a labor pool for domestic work that included doing a lot of the driving. And contrary to the story about them, during that window of time, the wages they were paid were decent and many received real benefits as well. Minimum wage was very low and so (for that brief window of time), paying twice minimum wage was hard, but not completely brutalizing the old finances and the freshly amnestied immigrants were happy to get comparatively generous wages for the work. Things changed with the dotcom era, of course, but a roughly ten year window of being able to pay generously for childcare and still have a lot of money left over distorted perspective later.

Anyway, while a bit of a digression, the point is that now in the 21st century, all the social bonds and stuff have corroded and the mom commute is pretty much a requirement for all moms, even pretty rural ones. It’s not even about the dreaded activities, it’s that getting your kids around other kids and getting them the educational resources they’re supposed to have, even if they’re public schooled involves a lot of commuting (even if you can pop them on the bus in theory).

This is a pretty major fertility shredder and it’s also a reason a lot of married households want two very comfortable cars. They also need them because the Mom Commute tends to not be in the same directions as the Work Commute. The schools and kid stuff are in one part of the city/metro area/county, but the jobs (including mom’s if she works outside the home too) tend to be somewhere else. That includes teachers, who used to be able to easily work in the district their kids were in and now rarely can.

Giving up the Mom Commute really does mean for most married mothers agreeing to a truly astonishing level of isolation and dependence on mass media and social media for themselves and their children and hard limits on physical activity as well. But you never really hear about it, even though that much driving is health-damaging and poorly compatible with keeping the old figure in tiptop shape.

Hedonic substitution and the myth of poor conservatives being middle class

Hedonic substitution in economics is buying ground beef instead of steak, or the Pinto instead of the Lambourghini.  People also engage in hedonic substitution.  It’s a hallmark of the conservative worldview.

Living in low quality housing, with one car in a car-centric society, eating a meatless or low protein diet, and yet all the while asserting that you’re middle class.  Homeschooling is often another hedonic substitution.  One hour once a week “co-op” is suddenly equivalent to 15k/kid/year private classical school and will definitely give you the same results.

It’s about telling people who have to substitute cheaper versions that they aren’t substituting at all but instead getting something for nothing because they’re just so smart and middle class.  And also not distinguishing between the people who can choose something else and thus aren’t operating on such tight margins.  The oft-cited (and mostly historical rather than current) statistics of children homeschooled by mere high school graduate mothers leave out how many of their fathers were engineers and STEM types.

While the median household income for married couples with under-18 kids is about six figures and has been even adjusted for inflation for decades, it’s still a median and a bunch of married folks with kids will end up on the low half of that median.  And instead of them being respectably poor or working class, they’re instead endlessly encouraged to engage in elaborate substitutes that cannot give the same result or benefit, but which would be superior if they weren’t being used as substitutes for something more expensive in time and/or money.

This approach also lets the higher-earning households avoid awkward social obligations and relationship building that used to be present even in individualist America out of a combination of ingrained habit and necessity.

Repost: 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”.




Introducing civic natalism

“The early 20th century was the summit of civilization and human accomplishment.”

I think there is a good argument to be made for that statement. However, that is not quite what this post is about.

It’s about the worldview I’ve adopted as I’ve come to appreciate and learn more about that era of human history, a mere century or so ago. I discussed the idea that this blog was a way to work out an alternative to Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, and now I think I’ve got a grasp on what that alternative is.

Civic natalism.

This post is just an introduction to the phrase as concept.  Civic natalism was what a surprising number of Americans had a century ago, but it was an effect.  We can look at what they had access to that we don’t have now and the goal is to find out how we can have those things in a modern society.  Theirs was atomized and global, too, they were the vanguard of globalism.  Natalism also is about more than just maxing your pregnancy numbers, it’s about making it possible for motherhood to be something fully human, so women don’t want to reject the natural outcome of marital intimacy.

They had the following:

  • Large casual labor pool, particularly of women.  This means that there were maids and nannies and cooks, but it means so much more than that.  It means that you could pay people to do a lot of normal things and lend occasional assistance.
  • No commuting. The commuting was, mostly, the long-distance travel type, which human societies have developed a lot of tools to deal with.  It typically wasn’t the hurry up and wait tension that daily commuting tends to put onto people.  It is very possible to reduce commuting, but a deeper analysis of commuting patterns with an eye towards family improvement and cohesion is needed.
  • Rational autonomy for children. This means society is structured so that children take as much responsibility for themselves as possible, appropriate to their age.
  • Advocacy for feminine leisure.  

Starts are always rocky, so I’ll just conclude with this.  I’ve finally secured enough readable copies of Gene Stratton-Porter’s non-fiction nature books and essays that I will resume a publishing order review of her work in the coming weeks. She was a fascinating example of civic natalism, even though she herself had only one child.  Her entire career as a housewife who wrote bestsellers and spent hours in nature studies that are a direct line to the Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan strain of environmentalism and farming is an Ur-example of what civic natalism can provide when “just” a side effect of wider social norms.  She was also an influential advocate for other women to have better homemaking conditions and society-wide support.

And yes, there will be some commentary about the politics of civic natalism.  They intersect with how the right wing in America used to have a pretty good deal for bright women to be housewives and how they threw it away.  But those same politics also intersect with radical feminist policy ideas about how to support motherhood.  To summarize those future posts, let’s just say Phyllis Schlafly was a radical feminist when it came to motherhood.

Blew my mind, too.

Book review of a pretty practically conservative guide, SJWs Always Lie, by Vox Day

Vox Day hits a strong triple with this short book describing the “Social Justice Warrior” type of extreme liberal and how to identify and combat them in life and work.

I haven’t done a real book review in a long time, and I’d like to start with this fascinating little book by Vox Day, SJWs Always Lie.  As I note above, this book is a strong triple, just short of a home run in quickly and simply explaining what SJWs are, how they operate and how to deal with an attack from them and keep them out of one’s organizations and institutions.

Mr. Day begins simply, saying that SJWs are “unpaid amateur propagandists” who believe in Narrative above anything else.  This keeps the reader focused when he moves on to examples of their behavior.

In what is the weakest part of the book in Chapters 2 and 4, Mr. Day uses overly complex examples taken from nerd spheres and gets a little too into the weeds with them (like in his discussion of Gamergate in Chapter 4, where video gamers protested gaming journalists being literally in bed with game developers and other ethical/conflict of interest breaches), but soon enough his video game background kicks in and the reader still gets a coherent walkthrough of how SJWs operated in those nerd spheres.

In Chapter 3, Mr. Day provides a breakdown of the eight-step process of SJW attacks (available as a free pdf download, also serves as a great sample of the book) and also of the way SJWs use Codes of Conduct, volunteerism and qualifications over skills to take over organizations. As a housewife, this called to mind a non-nerd example that happened to La Leche League, a grassroots breastfeeding organization started by upper-middle class housewives in the 1970s and which has at the statewide level imploded due to SJW entryism of the very kind described in this little book.

With ten chapters, the book has a lot of good bits once he moves into the realm of corporate and civic life.  The discussion of SJW proofing one’s organization in Chapter 10 is incredibly valuable and worth the very reasonable price by itself.

Along the way to that last chapter, Mr. Day brings up some common roadblocks that conservatives are all too familiar with.  The “moderate” who would rather lose the institution the right way (pun intended) instead of kick SJWs out.  The incredibly fragile reliance on megacorporations and the Establishment (media and academic “experts” with no practical knowledge) as a bottleneck and how taking the risk to be free (or freer) of those entities can preserve a more normal organization or community.


I’ve been letting the perfect be the enemy of the “just get it online”, so here this review is, very belatedly.  As we see in America a surge of right-wing populism and possible election of a right-wing populist and as we see the basic idea of an SJW slowly start being defined as “problematic” even among progressives and liberals, I think this little book is an interesting and useful bit of practical description and advice.  A strong triple, due to being a little too inside-baseball and understandably not delving into where the really impossible SJW infestations are: female-specific institutions and organizations.  Perhaps it will be for another to solve the riddle of how us ladies can SJW-proof our spaces and get them back to useful and discrete from male ones.

Heidi and its messages of God’s love

The original (1881) book of Heidi by Johanna Spyri is fascinating and charming and did not leave my eyes dry reading it.  It was written during a time when there was great concern about children leaving the healthy country air for the dankness and blandness of the cities.

Much like Pollyanna, it contains the peculiar frankness of tone that older children’s literature had.  If you’ve read the original Grimm’s Tales in their 1880s form, the language is very similar.

But what I didn’t know from watching random pieces of the several film versions through the years was that it provided the young reader with two different messages of God’s love regarding physical health.  Heidi loves people very much and wants to help them.  The book provides two instances of her being able to help people with love (and good food).  They are messages of God’s love because Heidi is taught why in one case that though she has done good and the person’s life is better and their joy in Christ is the greater the physical healing she hopes for will not happen in this world.  In the other case the physical healing happens, but it is not due to the love and good food, but rather to an opening of the person’s heart more fully to God and the manifestation was physical healing.

The first person was open to God already and was the means by which Heidi could learn more about God.  It was the other way around in the second case.

I can’t wait until my girls are old enough to read it for themselves.

A homeschooler’s history of homeschooling

This extremely popular homeschooling resource clearinghouse is run by a twice-married, very smart and career-oriented work-at-home mother who had two children about 15 years apart (one from each marriage, she is still in her second marriage) and homeschooled the second one starting when he was about 9 or 10.   That was around the time she figured out how to work from home in a very specialized way that allowed her a lot of free time and flexibility in home educating her son.

I put all that intro out there because most of the homeschool resources people still use now in 2015 come from these older people (mostly women) who were very diverse in their backgrounds and generally very brainy and immensely intellectually talented types who wanted to have kids anyway.

That page contains a very interesting piece of homeschooling history, the recollections and documentation of the conservative Christian homeschooling wing of homeschooling by Cheryl Seelhoff, whose divorce and adultery caused some major rifts within that community (which as you’ll learn from the history was really many little sub-communities who were openly inspired by the Amish and Mennonites and who often wouldn’t even let remarried people into their homeschool circles or home church circles, much less a woman who was at-fault in the classic sense for her divorce).  She herself is an interesting figure in homeschool history, as someone who provided a lot of resources and support even after she received ostracism from so many other homeschool big names.

The direct links to Seelhoff’s history are below, they are pdf scans, but quite readable and high quality.


There are several very interesting books about the history and evolution of homeschooling, links to which can be found at the site of this homeschool researcher who wrote one of the most comprehensive ones.  Yep, there’s academic research on homeschoolers, quite a lot of it, some of it pretty high quality.

Anyway Seelhoff’s  history basically shows that the Superwife thing has been going on for a really long time among conservatives, as the mothers were expected to bake, can, garden, make their own clothes and those of their daughters (for modesty), homeschool, and be constantly pregnant or hoping to be while dad earned an income, but usually not a high one.  The major differences between these 1980s and 1990s homespun jumper folks and modern conservative Christian homeschoolers doing that is that the 1980s and 1990s folks mostly did bother to live near enough to each other to provide direct encouragement and support via numerous home churches.  And in what might unkindly be thought of as a kind of pyramidism, and more kindly as a conscious networking before internet, they often had “home businesses” selling each other “home-centered living” and “home schooling” lifestyle magazines, newsletters and curriculum, along with various Christian literature about how Biblical various practices were or weren’t.

Everything old is, as ever, new again.