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.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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!