A few notes from The Third Child (from Phase 2 of the Princeton Longitudinal Fertility Study)

The Third Child is the second stage and second book of the study I mentioned here,and it reveals some interesting things about the parents of the Boomers.

The biggest is the strong pressure to pop out 2-4 children by age 30. This was a recurring theme, that women should complete their families (yep, including the Catholics) by age 30 and not have more kids after that. What’s interesting about this is that what we have now is the opposite, women are under strong pressure to pop out 2-4 kids *after* age 30. The difference, aside from the obvious, was that the Boomer’s moms could rely on a lot more other women around and were younger when their kids were teenagers.

The other interesting thing is the insane sex selection mania. Part of the baby boom was driven by wanting children of both sexes, and popping em out like pez until you got your boy or girl. One might note that Boomers were the first generation to have access to ultrasound that was useful for sex identification during their prime childbearing years.

Boomers were responding to a lot of less than perfect behavior from their parents and grandparents, which doesn’t make them saints, but it gives some perspective on where some of their self-centered tendencies might have come from other than a vacuum.

The Little House on the Prairie and its autonomous mamas.

This is kind of an overview of the Little House On the Prairie books, hereafter LHOTP, as is common when discussing them online.  I recently read the original eight book series and it was truly astonishing how much autonomy and independence Laura’s mother and Almanzo’s mother had.

There is a fascinating phenomenon in which this cultural bedrock of Americana is being transmitted solely through (mostly Frontier-American) women and Frontier-American men are basically ignorant of a major piece of where their women’s beliefs about home and family are coming from.

So Ma and Mother are these women who have a huge span of responsibility and authority, along with far above average native talent and skills in the homemaking arts of their eras, but this has not become codified as any sort of serious norm for housewives/SAHMs.  Caroline Ingalls was a truly astonishing cook, with a high level of natural understanding of chemistry and plants to be able to cook on an unreliable stove with inconsistent heat and a nearly random selection of ingredients sprung on her at any point in time.  She was also a truly above average hand sewer.  Mrs. Wilder was a weaver and a food processor extraordinaire, whose skill with cloth and butter making accounted for much of that family’s cash income and nearly all their clothing and linens.

And Mrs. Wilder’s workspace is arranged and designed to suit her, so she can be the most highly productive she can be for her family.  Almanzo’s child’s eyes view of her weaving room is very insightful, you see a little boy who expects a grown woman to have her own separate space that Father doesn’t have any input into, beyond making it to her specifications.  You see a little of this in how Almanzo sets up the house for Laura when they marry.  He assumes it’s important for her to have things set up so she can be as effective/efficient as possible.

This was actually an interesting subtheme in a lot of early 20th century writing, because men were still building a lot of the houses directly and the whole notion that you needed to make the wife-offices, so to speak, tailored to your own wife’s skills was one that crops up in a lot of the women’s writing of those early decades.  Like, you were supposed to get a spec list out of her and then make it happen.

It’s interesting that the Frontier-American subcultures who are most into LHOTP as a world and worldview tend to not allow the wives and daughters and sisters the sort of free hand that was clearly not at all outside the norms of the era (late 19th century).  There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is the desire to believe there is no skill in domestic arts precisely because of the increasing arrival of mechanization and automation.

A lot of other things about LHOTP struck me as I was reading, but this one, that the two main mamas were badasterisk but also very lightly headed by (some) modern standards despite not at all being psychically of one accord with their husband’s desires and wishes was one of the bigger ones.

 

Why widows came to be treated poorly, or, single mommas have always been around.

The modern hyperfocus by some Christian-identifying conservatives on how *widows* should be treated better because they’re not at all like those wicked, awful, hypergamous single mommas is basically the result of broken tradition-passing and a complete inability to understand that the “grass widow” has been with humanity for a very long time.  Women sometimes claimed to be widows when they were not but as the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus shows, there were plenty who didn’t even use that fig leaf.  The text does not definitively indicate she was widowed five times.

The Bible repeatedly refers to the fatherless, and also widows, but it would not have had the precision understanding it has when it’s used to justify giving nothing but rude words and a closed church door to single mothers and divorced mothers.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims are specifically told not to sexually regulate and speculate on just how the “widow” came to have “fatherless” children.

The fruits of patriarchal regulation are specifically commanded to be shared with the naughty.

I think the strain of disgust and revulsion these types have for single mothers and divorced mothers having any kind of support for their children comes from the individualism that conservatives are so prone to. Since they don’t understand or want to be part of real patriarchal social structures, they can only think about support in the narrow, literal terms of marrying such a woman or paying child support to her.  There is so much more than that in caring for others in your neighborhood and church though, and none of it involves “man up and marry those scandalous dames” at all, not even a lil’ bit.

It’s worth noting none of these guys are beating the bushes to go provide support to those saintly, superior literal widows and orphans, of which there are still plenty around and about.  No, it’s all talk and justification for not doing anything for women you can’t have sex with or don’t want to have sex with.  And as for the women lining up to concur that only the right kind of individual woman is entitled to help with her children, that was a driver of fun stuff like socialism, other women not wanting to deal with the wrong kind of woman.

Single motherhood does have a sort of status in wider society in that single (and to a lesser extent divorced) mothers are more willing to bully or beg people (nearly always other women, which makes the panic over some stray man having to do anything for them even more sadly funny) into helping them with child care so they can work.  And people will give them verbal encouragement.  This is real, I won’t downplay its existence.

But it’s hardly some carefree, easy path.  And contrary to popular belief, a lot of explicit law and social norms work to sharply limit the number of children such women do have.

And related to this, raising children has historically not been so totally expected to be the work of individual parents to individual children at all.  It was much more collective.  Jane Austen’s mother bore seven children, and every last one of them was shipped off to be raised by *gasp* another man and his wife! when they were infants and then brought back to their parents when they were around toddling age.  That particular kind of foster care is but one of the many traditions among Western societies in which raising other people’s children was just part of the social fabric.  Apprenticeships for both boys and girls at ages seven or eight were also one such tradition.  And many of those kids, particularly the boys were quite utterly raised by a man who wasn’t their dad.

Weirdly, all this is mysteriously ignored by people who freak out about a child having strongly masculine, healthy and Godly men in their lives if mom was improvident about how the kid got into the world.  Christ’s love isn’t zero-sum.  You can love the grass widow and the not-grass widow and their children.  This very issue is, incidentally why we have so many of those awful government programs and nonprofits for supporting single mothers’ children.  It was the increasing unwillingness to share with the naughty and take on the burdens.  Some frontier woman turning up at her city sister’s doorstep with five kids might well be a widow, but it was just as likely she “married the wrong man” (as Betty MacDonald put it in a sequel to The Egg and I) and just left and wanted to come home to family.  And fewer and fewer families wanted to deal.

Never-married motherhood is terrible for kids, and the harshness of taking away the children of those women to be raised in other families was an attempt to compensate for that.

Traditional Motherhood is collectivist

Another thread from twitter, this time about a viral meme:

Even in small scale, you can see it’s about how ye olde mothers had more kids and while I think the bottom is cut off, as it passes through time and lower fertility, it ends with a woman who is “mom” to a cat (the stereotypical modern careerist catlady).

Anyway, this was my response thread. It mentions the Hajnal line, which is a very modern way to talk about Anglo, Saxon and Scandinavian historical family formation norms.

“This image is loved among a certain kind of usually male person on the right, but it’s immensely silly. The top woman had 2-4 other women helping her out, the second woman had 1-2, and the third about 50% of the time has 1 woman helping. Also they all akshuly had more kids.”

“Traditional motherhood is collectivist. Among Hajnal-line women, it’s usually more informal, intensely conformist and paid support is downplayed/minimized (going back centuries). Among women outside that line, it varies by era, but mothers are expected to have at least one other woman helping, whether it’s a relative or a paid woman.”

“It does take a village, and the difference when people in your town/neighborhood/city really will keep track of your kids and look after them while you walk downtown to pick up a package vs. mom and dad doing it all is one part of the birth rate decline. Too many people on the right make a false idol out of frontier motherhood, except even those women sometimes had other people watching their kids. And they didn’t homeschool.”

One last quick note about this meme: it’s infected with its own modernity, as I noted in passing in my tweet thread. A lot of “trad twitter” and the dissident right in general believes that 3-4 kids is equally as large a family as 6-7 as 9-10, and they craft their memes accordingly. Most of their memes about a proper traditional wife DIYing her childrearing have her with as few as 2 children, but rarely more than 4. At least it reflects how rare normally-large families have gotten, albeit unwittingly.

The differences between lefty and righty SAHMs.

Few of the former, but more of them in liberal zip codes among married parents.  More of the latter, but more likely to be mixed in heavily with double-income households.

There’s very few married parents at all in liberal/Democrat-heavy zip codes with high incomes, but the married mothers tend to be SAHMs to men making north of 150k/yr.  So liberal women who stay home with their kids have a tribe and a sense of place because in a major metro there may only be 5 or 10k of them, but they all literally are in the same neighborhoods and constantly could hang out together.

They also don’t shy away from things like hiring au pairs and babysitters while staying home.  Liberal married mothers are substantially more likely to be relaxed about individually choosing to get themselves the things they need as SAHMs, including paid childcare help and being sure to be married to a high-earning provider so they experience zero financial pressure to earn money.  There are lower-income SAHMs who skew liberal, but they tend to not live in the high-income urban zip codes and there’s even fewer of them.

Righty SAHMs, on the other hand, are far more common among married parents as a whole nationwide, but they tend to be scattered within a much bigger and income-diverse group of married parents in the areas they live in.  And they themselves are more likely to be income-diverse, though there’s still very few under 50k/yr.

Thus righty SAHMs are not wrong to feel isolated and odd duck-like.  In a major exurb commuting distance from a Big City, they may well be among 100k other married parents and even 30k or so of SAHMs (i.e., roughly the national-level split between double-income and SAHM households), but they probably only live near a few other SAHMs and they don’t have the homogeneous aspects the lefty SAHMs have.

What’s interesting is that I looked into the matter strictly to see if there was a pattern at all.  It’s one thing to say SAHMs are getting to be a higher and higher income proposition, it’s another to determine if there are political variations.  I didn’t expect to find what I found looking at major metros like Chicago, DC, Seattle or LA, among others.  I looked at Big Cities and outlying exurbs and suburbs in red and purple and blue states alike, and the basic “very few lefty-likely SAHMs, but mostly clustered together plus have top-quarter family incomes for their area” and “many more righty-likely SAHMs, but spanning the top 3 quartiles for their area and not concentrated in the highest one, not much clustering at all” holds up across a wide range of voting patterns.

The lady who lunches is fairly likely a Democrat these days, as is the SAHM with a nanny and two kids in tow.  Or the yoga mom who’s kept her figure after four kids.

But there’s very few of her.  Not many liberal women seem ready or willing to make those arrangements to have families.  And it is interesting to me that while liberal-leaning women want to have kids/form families at much lower rates than right-leaning women, they SAHM at really high rates.

 

The military tail wagging the American conservative family formation dog.

Another intersection of many things discussed here, but military families are more likely to have more kids (about 1 full child more than other married families) and thus more likely to have YUUUUUGGGGGEEEE families as well, because of clustering effects.  Turns out a map of fourth births or higher has a bunch of the births happening near clusters of military presence even when there is no major metro nearby.  They don’t have all the fourth, fifth and tenth babies, but they have a huge chunk of them compared to the general population.

This also explains the relentless homeschool promotion since in that circumstance it often does make sense.

It explains the small biz/entrepreneurial mindset because you have this pool of people with PRIVATE INCOME AT AGE 40 giving advice about being “your own boss” to civilians.

Since the massive base closures of the 1990s, military bases are far more isolated from town than they used to be.  So there’s a closed loop effect.

Also, on base housing, you can have kids run around a heck of a lot more and of course walk to the commissary, which, you know, sells most of what you need to live.  So there’s a very distorted idea of what letting the kids run around really means, and that this kind of housing is not an option off-base.

And then there’s the fact that all this played out in the 1970s on, because the volunteer army started then, so there’s heavy selection bias.

While the military as a whole is slightly less religious than the general population, that’s driven by the high single-guy numbers.

And the military provides a lot of benefits that aren’t cash in hand (but sometimes are totally cash in hand, like hazard pay and bonuses) but which make living on the not-great pay a lot easier than the equivalent money in civilian world.  It also makes a lot of advice given by people who spent most of their child-having years in that environment of limited utility if they don’t actually say “but you’d need like twice the pay to do the same as a civilian of course”.

So you have a population that is a very tiny, very self-selecting slice of America punching way above their demographic weight in baby-having, which means there’s a disproportionate share of children of theirs running around and how those kids are reared exercises a disproportionate impact on the rest of the population, especially the conservative Christian one because their moms are very isolated except for internet and religious activities.

 

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.

 

Mama Magic, oatmeal edition

One of the kids thought it would be a great idea to dump oats into the sugar jar since I said they could have a little sugar with their oatmeal.  Then there were tears since it came up mostly sugar.

I thought I would have to toss it all, but then I remembered something I used to see my own sainted mother do when baking, which was use a sifter.  I didn’t have to use a sifter, I just shook the sugar-oats out with a regular strainer into a mixing bowl.  The oats were greatly reduced in sugar content and had maybe 1tsp a serving, while the sugar just had some oat powder left behind.  Breakfast was salvaged for another few days (my children eat like the war horses at the local stable) and now I have a new kitchen task to train them on.

But the sugar jar is no longer in kid-reach.

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.

 

Real Talk for SAHMs: Solutions for Sleep Deprivation like Solid Core Doors and White Noise Generators

Title says it all, but what does the title mean?

It means major factors in sleep deprivation for mothers, particularly SAHMs are not infants and toddlers screaming for milk or comfort frequently through the night, but rather the stray babbling and what I like to call Rebel Yells (one cry lasting one or two seconds).  As well as random noises in the night from other members of the household getting up occasionally.

So the solution is devices that filter out the minor non-emergency sounds of nighttime while allowing the real cries lasting more than a moment to penetrate.  And that is where solid core doors and white noise generators come in.

What are the benefits of a solid core door?

  • Reduces sound entering the room by ~50%.  Rebel yells sound like babble and babble is muted below a level that would wake a lightly sleeping mother.
  • Due to sound reduction, once you fall asleep, it’s harder for micro-waking to be triggered, so you get more quality sleep as well.  Micro-waking happens to a lot of people who believe that “just tune it out and roll over” doesn’t come with sleep cycle interruption.
  • Helps during the daytime when all the kids are up and about and you need a block of focused time.  If the kids are happy and just rambunctious, the solid core mutes that enough that you can concentrate easily.  It’s like a hum or a mild rumble compared to the hollow core doors that are standard.
  • Cheap for the effectiveness.  Most models are only $100-200 per door, and even with installation costs of $50-100 will last even longer than the hollow cores that are standard.
  • Not sleep related, directly, but heavy and thus more child-proof.  An angry two year old with a hammer isn’t going to get very far.  Also harder for kids to take off the hinges.

So what about that white noise generator?

Well, that’s the second piece of the puzzle.  White noise generators are often used on the baby/toddler in hopes of keeping them from waking.  But sometimes the more effective approach is to give one each to the nursery room or mom’s room.

This tends to be more helpful once you’re actually asleep, with the white noise reducing the tendency to micro-wake.  Depending on the type of white noise generator, it can also help you get to sleep and relax you.  There’s mechanical ones, usually not very loud, and digital ones, sometimes very loud.  I’d get the digital one, since it’s easier to play a range of sounds.  Either mechanical or digital runs $25 to $100, so they’re also cheap.

Combined with a solid core door, nearly all the intermittent and random noise is muted enough to tune out, but any emergency yelling will still come through.

Why yes, I do know what wedding gifts I’m giving my daughters, in law and natural!