T.W.O. voiced this thought aloud a few days ago when we were going over how long it would take us to be unpacked. His guess is late summer, mine is late spring. I am always optimistic in such matters.
I laughed because it’s pretty funny. Anyway I gave him the other half of my chicken salad and he was happy, although it sent him on a quest to learn all there is to learn about the caper.
We eat steak (frequently but not always on a bed of vegetables) a lot because it’s nearly impossible to mess up when you’re exhausted and the kids will sometimes eat a little of it. But if they won’t it’s easy to give them eggs with their vegetables and let them eat bread for their starch.
His break was temporary, it’s going to be sirloin tonight. Which is, technically, not steak every day this week.
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.
And of that number, 2/3 are in households earning 100k/yr or more. Those numbers have been pretty stable over the last decade.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2016 Annual Social and Economic Supplement
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.
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.
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.