Why Ivanka Trump is a lovely example of a working mother.

Ivanka Trump has a new book out and I’m never going to read it, because in the news articles and her own little social media bits about it, I learned all I need to know:

  • She has two nannies for three kids.
  • She was happy to not only admit it, but even acknowledged their work by name.

This has gotten her excoriated by the press of course, but the thing is, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo built a multimillion dollar nursery in her office and was feted by that same press.   This is utterly unattainable for the average American mother, who is increasingly professional-class and in the top 10-20% of household incomes nationally.  Ivanka’s nanny setup, however, is attainable for two professional class mothers splitting the cost for 2-4 children, and possibly as many as 4-6 combined.

I think that is worth noticing and paying attention to.  Simply admitting that three closely spaced children just might take a lot of help from other women to manage reasonably is absolutely huge.  Thanks for brightening a housewife’s day, Ivanka!

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.

Rousseau vs. the Puritans

My beautiful children are making a lot of noise, so this will have to be blunt and unlinked.

American motherhood has been defined since the dawn of America as a nation by what we would now call a PUA (pick-up artist).  That’s right, if you’re an American woman promoting mother-only care as historical, the most natural and the best possible care for children, you’re promoting the views of a man who abandoned his own illegitimate children to be reared in orphanages without the least thought.

Rousseau’s view on motherhood was that women needed to be constrained in the domestic sphere by sole (not primary, but SOLO) care of their children so that they wouldn’t go out into the marketplace and rule over men.  Yes, that was what the man feared.  He claimed women were sooooo powerful that if they weren’t trapped at home constantly pregnant raising kids by themselves (only to be handed off to men at apprentice-age of 12-13 if boys and married off at 15-16 if girls) that they would TAKE OVER THE WORLD.  And yes, he comes close in his writings about motherhood to using phrases like trapped or constrained.

The entire point of Rousseau-style motherhood is to limit female power and influence and constrain women’s roles, even in the domestic sphere.  One must remember that in the 18th century, household production by wives and mothers was still economically important and a Rousseau-style program of childrearing would make it much harder to maintain that economic role.  This was intentional.

Rousseau’s framework of solitary childrearing by mothers has, astonishingly, continued down nearly unaltered in 200+ years in American society.  American society really is just that weird and started out with wacky theories about mothering propagated by a man who didn’t do any proper family formation of his own.

In contrast, the colonial Puritans had a view of motherhood as a primary role for women and marriage as the highest state for men and women (presaging the Mormons, who replicated some aspects of their views on family and community), but they didn’t believe women were supposed to rear children alone.  Women were expected to be part of a large, bustling household composed of husband, wife, servants and relatives, with the husband sometimes gone for months earning the giant wheelbarrows full of money needed to keep what was essentially the original home-based business going.  So Puritan women were expected to stand in their husband’s stead and have authority in both the home and the marketplace.  In this respect they diverged wildly from Rousseau while still holding to the idea that women were best suited to marriage and motherhood.

And while there were many young-married Puritans, there were plenty of older-married ones who started families later in life when they could get the cash together to set up the proper household structure.  So all the current fretting about people delaying marriage “too long” is just a lot of Rousseau-inflected hokum.

Rousseau is the source of the obsessive pressure for teen marriage no matter what in various eras in America, especially of barely-pubescent girls.  Rousseau is the real source of what many think is just from attachment parenting, the idea that mom is the only possible proper caregiver for children (and yeah, it’s always plural).  Because of Rousseau’s influence, women braved the frontier life and tried to rear children that way and enough continued encouraging it that, well, here we are today.

So if you are a mother struggling with small children in isolation, and you see people saying that this is what women really want and really feel fulfilled by, they are telling you a PUA fish story.

I remain a neo-Puritan on this subject and ever will.

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.

 

The American woman has always been and will always be a contradiction

When I first started blogging here, I had a misinformed idea that there was a lot more pro-mother tendency in American women before roughly the 1960s.  But that isn’t the case.  What is the case is that from the pre-America colonial days up until now in the Age of Devices,  American women have always been the definition of Hegelian contradiction, pulling in opposite directions.

Unusually even among European cultures, American women have always had a contingent that privileged the mother-child dyad so extremely that nobody else was supposed to provide care or upbringing of the child(ren).  This remains shocking to me and something I’m still trying to accept.  But even when women mostly had to have other women around, American women have had a subset that was very loud and pushy about how they could or ought to go it alone and rear their children without any other humans involved, even dad.

The conservative flavor has brought us the sorts of people who believe mother-only childcare and child rearing is universal, historical and natural on the conservative or right-wing side.  A different flavor, call it liberal though it crosses many political lines, has brought us the ultimately damaging attachment parenting model.  A lot of the mommy wars are American women singing their usual Hegelian song.

The Puritan factory model of child rearing, in which many people got a crack at rearing the child and the mother-child dyad was not privileged as such is the other side of this coin.  There’s also always been a contingent of American women who believed children to be fungible, and thus it was merely a matter of applying the right systems to a child by any adult who’d mastered those systems.

There were a lot of women, often mothers, behind the drives for daycare, systematized mass education and other attempts to genericize child care and child rearing.

I don’t have the energy to make a separate post, but the Little Golden Books were a combination child psychology experiment and mass kid-marketing experiment done by a working mother who believed more “authentic” children’s tales would be useful in improving the educational level of young urban children.  She herself was a major promoter in the early 20th century of the right of women to combine having a family and having a productive, fulfilling career.

Meanwhile, one of my favorite American writers, Gene Stratton-Porter, was a massive promoter of mother-care as the only real care in her fiction and some of her non-fiction writing.  She combined this, in that contradictory way of American women, with explicit commentary about how it was acceptable to have relatives, governesses or tutors though.

So the American project, distaff side, has always been contradictory and oxymoronic.  The American woman is a social creature, but yet anti-social.  Maternal, sometimes cloyingly so, yet dismissive of maternal love.

I’ve been looking into women’s history around the world and American women are Just Different compared to other women when it comes to all these things.  They have always had massive personal freedom, even many enslaved women during those eras.  But they’ve also had a sometimes bizarre interpretation of the life domestic compared to historical norms, even ones concurrent to their own for a given point in American history.

The American woman is, was and will be fried ice and its promoter as long as there is an America.

 

Self-publishing SAHMs are pretty practical and sensible.

I have been stumbling across a lot of SAHMs who have seized upon self-publishing as a way to make money while having the flexibility to be at home with their children for homeschooling, special needs or infant/toddlerness.  One of the astonishing things about them is how they blow a lot of work-at-home mothers out of the water on the support network front.

Self-publishing SAHMs have childcare so they can write.  Either they pay for it, get a relative to watch the kids a few times a week or they talk to their husbands about taking the kids so they can write 2 or 3 hours a night.  This is a baffling thing full-time work-at-home people rarely do.  They seem to think if you’re at home working the kid(s) will just realize this and let you work, even if they’re infants or toddlers.

This means they reliably write 10-20 hours per week, a true part-time job that can be integrated into their general household management and not cause friction.  And they also pace themselves, they never plan more work than they can reasonably produce on a set, consistent, frequent schedule.  They just work to market whatever length of writing that schedule produces.  And it works.  Because this self-selecting, wonderfully sensible pool of women does not bite off more than they can chew, they sell thousands of copies a month of short stories, novellas and novels apiece and make anywhere from a couple thousand dollars a month for their time to ten thousand or more per month.

At first I thought it was just one or two women, but as I’ve looked at the people who admit to self-publishing and discuss their background, I’ve found it’s a common theme with the SAHMs who are making a go of it.

What a wonderful discovery.

American childbearing goes Scandinavian

The latest birth and fertility data are showing what I feared, the only age groups showing an increase in births were the 30-44 age groups.  All groups under age 30 have been showing consistent and steady declines of late, with the 25-29 group finally succumbing after occasional blips upwards half a decade ago.

Lower under-18 births is ok, and that continues (and no it is not via more abortions, but less sex).  But the shift towards having kids in your 30s as the norm continues apace.  This is the modern Scandinavian model.

The plus side is that there’s more married childbearing in all racial groups.  The unwed motherhood trend is going ever so slowly backwards, consistently.  Black births to unwed mothers dropped while the total number of births increased, lowering their percentage of unwed births.

There’s a shift in the last decade where unwed mothers are finally seeing percentage and absolute decreases in their births, but married mothers are having more children.

Fewer women are having children, but the ones who get married first are having more third and up children than they used to five years ago.  This is tricky though, because with women having all their kids in their 30s and 40s more, we can’t be sure we haven’t moved into a different fertility pattern of relative robustness for the women who can navigate waiting that long to marry and pop out 3 or more kids.  It could be the latest dead cat bounce before we get yet another step down in higher order births.