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.

Hypocrisy does make women’s work harder

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.

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.

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.

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!

Debunking Lily Batchelder and her fake news analysis of Trump’s tax plan.

There’s a fake “analysis” by an Obama shill named Lily Batchelder going around that Trump’s tax plan and child care deductions will raise taxes for middle class people, including single mothers. But the analysis is based on two massive lies:

  1. That no working parents use child care in the United States.  
  2. That the cost of child care is cheaper than all the reports from Washington Post, Vox, many others and again, GOVERNMENT DATA.  

This is complete nonsense, based upon data from a variety of government sources, collected at http://www.childstats.gov.  At worst, 1 in 30 parents are bringing a child or children to work with them.  The rest have their children in a variety of child care arrangements, usually relatives or center-based care, but with a substantial share using nannies, babysitters and the like.  97% of working parents use child care in the United States.

As far as the second lie goes, Batchelder grudgingly estimates child care costs at a much lower number than government and other sources do, as shown below.

So either child care is super cheap and the Washington Post, Vox and other fake news media were lying when they said it was so expensive, and crippling family budgets, or Trump’s plan is totally awesome and Batchelder and the fake news media don’t want to admit it, since the plan allows to you deduct the average cost for your state *per child up to 4 kids* and the national averages for child care from ages 0-13 (where a child ages out of being deductible) are clearly far more than the $6000 and $8000 numbers for child care cost Batchelder tosses around in her fake report about Trump’s tax plan and child care deductions.

She claims all her assumptions are “reasonable” or “conservative”, but since they are based on massive lies, this is prima facie yet another complete lie.  Her assumptions are neither reasonable, rational or conservative.  The statement that the deduction is for a specific number of children suggests that it is a deduction per child, with the average cost of care calculated for each single child and added up for the first four children in a household.  There’s also the FACT that Trump’s plan mentions that the $500 top-ups for EITC-eligible parents are per child, so the deductions appear across the board to be per child up to four children.

Let’s view Batchelder’s examples through a more fact-based, real-world lens, with deductions per child, and assuming that nearly all households use child care or have a relative providing care at home as a grandparent or SAHP.

Her two big examples are a single parent making $75,000 per year with two school-aged children who has no child care costs and a married couple with two children making $50,000 per year with $8000 in childcare costs.  Some key points about those fake examples:

  • Batchelder’s single parent makes TRIPLE THE MEDIAN INCOME of single parents in most states, including most high-income states.  So this is a very fake example of a single parent.
  • At triple the median income of a real single parent household, Batchelder’s single parent “reasonably” can be assumed to live somewhere with high earning potential like New York.  (Hey, that 75k is almost exactly triple the median income of single parents in New York!  Wow!)
  • The cost of school-age before/aftercare (AKA “child care for school-age children”) in New York is about $8000 per year, per child.  Not total, which is what Batchelder uses to shoehorn Trump’s plan into a Narrative of “higher taxes for hard working single mommas”.  But a single parent making that kind of money is “reasonably” and “conservatively” likely to be paying a lot more than $8000 per year in child care costs.
  • Meanwhile, Batchelder’s married couple makes far less than the median income of married couples in most states and is EITC eligible (barely).  Funny how that works. Further, even her torturing of math for muh Narrative still doesn’t hide that this near-poor married couple owes nothing EITHER WAY.  Her only rebuttal is that the new tax refund this family gets isn’t big enough, not that they pay more tax!
  • But at $50,000 per year for two married parents (her example does not state if both or just one is working), they are “reasonably” likely to be using grandma for child care or Mom is staying home.  In which case Batchelder’s torturing of the data is in vain, because this household can deduct whatever the average cost is in their state times two.  Since she doesn’t specify those kids are school-aged, that household can deduct the much higher typical cost for two children of preschool or infant age, which ranges from $14,000 annually in the South to $22,000 in the Northeast and $18,000 in the Midwest and West.
  • “Conservatively” and “reasonably” assuming the married couple lives in the Midwest and Mom stays home with the two kids under 5, Batchelder’s $8000 estimate is simply too low, nowhere near the cap allowed.

Trump’s tax plan changes the above-the-line deductions to a flat number of $15,000 for singles and $30,000 for marrieds filing jointly and eliminates both personal exemptions head of household as a tax status, along with condensing tax brackets down to three.  This is the source of a lot of whining around the internets about losing the Head of Household tax status.  But given the high cost of child care, the above-the-line deduction is more than adequate to replace it.

For the $75,000 parent, this changes their pre-child care taxable income from $53, 550 to $60,000.  But that parent can deduct up to $16,000 above the line rather than $8000, so they end up with $44,000 left over, and under the new brackets, they obviously pay less than under current law.  Definite savings.  Instead of the lie that the $75,000 single parent would pay $1640 more in taxes, they would actually pay $4125 instead of the current $5685, a savings of over $1500. Under Trump’s new tax plan, even a high-income single parent making $75,000 per year with two school-aged children can see a tax savings of 30%.

Meanwhile, that $50,000 earning married household whose details are much more blurry would see a much larger refund than they already are eligible for, since they could claim up to $18,000 above the line after their $30,000 deduction and $2,000 in child credits and EITC credit.  So we would be paying married people to have slightly more children at the margins, since having a third child would still benefit this household by adding another $9000 of deduction, which we can’t make assumptions about, because at just two children, they have $0 in taxable income after child credit, standard deduction and imputed child care deduction for the SAHM.

In short, Trump’s tax plan is sketched out and low on nitpicky details.  But a reasonable, realistic set of assumptions shows that it’s a very generous plan with a very pro-natalist, pro-family, pro-woman setup.