The story of the transformation of the”housewife” into the “stay at home mother” providing “mother-care, not DAYCARE” in American society in the wake of the Pill and Roe v. Wade is an interesting one and there’s not much information on the internet about it because the idea that there was a transition (and that this transition destroyed a substantial amount of soft power among married women) is not compatible with either right wing or left wing narratives about the topic.
We didn’t really have the term before motherhood could be conceivably viewed as entirely intentional/optional, even within marriage. And nobody seems to ask why it bloomed so suddenly and took over, when by its nature it explicitly separates motherhood from marriage, while housewife emphasizes, well, property benefits of marriage for women foremost. Homemaker, it’s worth noting, has begun to turn up as a transition away from stay at home mother, but it lacks that wilful connecting of property with marriage and in fact shifts the domestic world to something a woman must make/build, rather than something she is inherently part of and maintaining/managing.
Since this is just thinky thoughts, I will close with the little data point that over half of American SAHMs use center-based daycare for children aged 0-4 and that we hit that point about 10 years ago and this is in every region of the country, not concentrated in one place, it’s about half everywhere. Employed or not, it’s 80% for BA or higher-possessing mothers.
That is my current name for where we moved to. It doesn’t look much like the former wedding venue, but it does have neo-medieval touches and flourishes we’d like to intensify.
Not actually our Castle Ladyhawke.
I hope it comes out as we’d like, but it’s a multi-year, multi-stage undertaking and we’re at stage “Hey, let’s blog-name the place Castle Ladyhawke because the movie’s aesthetic is one we’d like to put into our remodeling and additions!”
It could be more or less formalized, but training young women in the domestic, homemaking arts and giving them practical experience in childcare would be amazingly useful.
There are a number of avenues by which this could conceivably be enabled, not least as part of a general program of supporting women in their women’s work.
A model to start with would taking the system of the current international au pair program, and figuring out how to adapt it to the needs of young women who’d like to be keepers of hearth and home for their families and future husbands and families who could use the help of energetic girls in their late teens and early 20s.
We have a woman here whose life is so easy and uncomplicated, but yet whose faith is so brittle that *loading a dishwasher* is untenable without a saint’s image to pray to. O-kay!
The evil here is that a woman in the life religious is not the same as a mother of young, closely spaced children. Such a mother ostentatiously and vaingloriously holding herself out as equivalent to a cloistered nun (who, incidentally had a pretty interesting and short life, but one that didn’t feature much in the way of dishwashing or linen folding) is morally and spiritually dangerous. In the life religious, the twenty or thirty tasks that make up a baseline of homemaking are split among many women rather than just one. And this is partly so that the beauty of the small things in domestic upkeep for a group can be understood and comprehended more completely.
Birthing human small things with souls and hearts and chasing them around and then feeling aggrieved about loading a dishwasher is not a sign of spiritual discontent. It’s simple and normal and human. But as usual, the bar is set at “housewives, if you’re not performing at the level of VIRGIN SAINTS YOU NEED TO STEP IT UP LIKE MEEEEEEEEE”.
This is far more of a problem than the Lori Alexanders of the world.
To be quite brief, I got to the Superwife section early in the book (less than 20% in) and I was done. I couldn’t keep going much further. The book is written in mostly teenage boy first person, which I had read from other non-spoiler reviews was a bit rough going in the early chapters, but that was not my real obstacle. It was the teenage boy recalling his mother, who was Donna Reed (without the housekeepers of course) melded with mannish interests like woodcarving hot rods. And also melded with the rude homeschool parent caricature growling at school officials coming over politely and reasonably.
It was too fantastical for me, and the book is a fantasy novel.
This meme has apparently been making the rounds of conservative mom town.
Which is great news, because it means people are beginning to Notice things. (h/t to Steve Sailer for that usage.)
But someone who has a relative living in, helping out domestically disagreed with the meme and further tossed out the usual cant about dishwashers and such in the comments to the disagreement-post.
The response is, in fact, hypocritical. It’s not unusual among a lot of (often but not only male) conservatives when it comes to these matters of what women need to have a properly ordered domestic space. They have some kind of support (NOT limited to the children), typically from relatives, but sometimes from non-relatives, often unpaid, and they just conveniently don’t connect their wives’ or their own (if a woman) relatively better ability to manage with their access to real support while berating other people for their “snark” at starting to think about the obvious implications of demanding Proverbs 31 performance out of a woman without giving her a fraction of the resources such a woman had.
She did have domestic help, and if you have it too (especially if you have it in the form of love from relatives), owning up to how that helps your own household be more functional and provide for the children in said household is a sight more Biblically loving and encouraging than ignoring or downplaying your own riches while telling others they should just imagineer that the dishwasher is their BFF and woman up more.
This is not quite what I was thinking about regarding husbands and communities in a different discussion, but it’s in the wheelhouse.
“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.
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.