Stop tolerating the false frugality cults

Many conservatives buy into what are essentially frugality cults, websites where people get approval and sometimes cash money by preaching a false gospel that spending pennies per day to feed growing children low-protein, low-fat diets is Godly stewardship of financial resources.  Even though a suspiciously large number of such websites are talking about lowering food costs to pay off mysterious and conveniently unexplained credit card debt.

This website is a prime example.  The woman gardens in a desert, and not the water-conserving kinds of plants one might grow in a desert.

Her menus are suboptimal for growing children, heavy on the bread and light on the delicious meatums.  And she is just one example of many.  Something I have noticed on these sorts of sites is an obsession with salvation by food control, as if spending no money on food will compensate for out of control spending everywhere else in the budget.

Nobody in America really spends that much on food, it’s cheap here, even high-quality super-local foodie-food is relatively cheap compared to what other Westerners have to fork over.  We all, regardless of income level spend maybe 20% max, and 10% is much more common.  That’s not going to solve your budget woes when you’ve got two car notes and five student loans and a plasma screen in every room and you take a vacation twice a year…on 45k.  Yep, that’s based on actual Christians!  That such a Christian family might ‘only’ spend 100 dollars a month on ‘once a month’ freezer meals for a family of six is simply not enough savings to cover all those credit card vacations and consumer goods you bought on those really cool sales.

There is a palpable desperateness to the words of so many food frugality preachers, something sad and improperly ordered in their advocacy of unhealthy behaviors and attitudes towards food and financial stewardship and, most importantly, Our Lord.

God doesn’t want us to deprive our children and ourselves of a basic need out of a loathing at our crazy spending in other parts of our lives.

And frugality cultism further makes people think their reasonable, modest food budgets are ridiculous extravagances (like the secular myth that a woman staying home is an evil luxury) when they are reasonable, healthy and of good quality.

Another day I’ll discuss the obsession with ‘diverse diet’ and ‘fruits and vegetables’ brought to us from those heretical Seventh Day Adventists and further promoted by, well, mentally ill vegans (the deficiencies veganism makes likely correlate heavily with mental health problems).

Today is not that day, though!

Admit that high spirits and energy are blessings, not defaults

This is related to the Supermom thing.  There are some women out there with a rare combination of circumstances that allows them to do most of the SuperSAHM items that weight most greatly on the current generation of weary SAHMs.  They can manage three or four kids on their own, clean the house in between the naps and everyone sits still or plays quietly as needed for cooking and school and administrative tasks, etc.  And all the kids sleep 14-16 hours a day until age 7.

But circumstances change and the pressure to perform leads such women to think their blessings of high energy and children with personalities that mesh with their home life setup are just ‘how it is’, something to take for granted and not something that might have to be stewarded.  How could such a woman who ‘doesn’t understand why anyone would want help, you just xyz’ get help if her latest pregnancy, or latest infant is now difficult?

Also, such women’s blessings are squandered all too often in makework projects instead of real Titus 2 support precisely because of the idea that it’s normal to have that much energy and organizational skill.

It’s a blessing, a wonderful opportunity and gift, but it’s not the default setting.

I will definitely circle back to this one, it’s on the old mind quite a bit.

How homeschooling could be more effective and practical in application

Co-ops could be structured more effectively.

Paid staff are important.

Merry bands of roving tutors!

Specialization!  This is why you need merry bands of roving tutors. And also household services for homeschooling SAHMs.  Business opportunity!  Way to employ single mothers and older women!

Basically, stop expecting women to do five jobs poorly and then boast about how this will be a way to retake society.  Not gonna happen.  Early homeschool successes and stories were the result of massive selection bias and in a number of instances outright lying.  Many of the people promoting homeschooling via their popular monetized blogs have household help and private tutors for some subjects.  But Americans are obsessed with a Walter Mitty worldview where it really is possible in a single 24 hour day to homeschool effectively, clean a 2000 square foot house, cook three full gourmet meals and pay all the bills and do four loads of laundry a day.

So there’s the biggest way homeschooling could be more effective and practical– stop freaking buying into the SuperMom Myth.  You can’t do it all and it is ridiculous to even contemplate.  Do one thing well and truly.  Outsource the rest within your local community.

Notice that practicing Christians are doing linchpin work all around you

Christians are disproportionately farmers and food producers, particularly of the sustainable/local type food.  They also are disproportionately in support aspects of food production.  There are a lot of people out there who love Our Lord who are working in food policy and production and they are mostly not deracinated liberal Christians, but practicing Christians, albeit more low-key than one might be used to with practicing Christians in non-linchpin work.

It’s interesting, it’s heartening, and it’s a good thing.  Practicing Christians are also doing linchpin work in other areas of life beyond food production and regulation.  It is funny what can be found if one is seeking to find it.


Light Manufacturing of Baby and Children’s Products

Conservatives could be producing pre-2012 BOB-quality strollers.  BOB is a high-quality brand of stroller that used to be metal framed, but is now plastic (but the price didn’t drop!)  I am pretty sure the CPSIA issues could be handled a number of ways, but the main thing is to actually be doing.  This could also be a way to incorporate the more functional aspects of the maker movement.  3D printing is useful for baby stuff like snot suckers and sippy straws that don’t fall apart from being made of cheap brittle plastic.

A quick note about the CPSIA.  This was a horrible set of regulations passed several years ago that has driven a lot of high-quality makers of children’s products out of business and wrecked the quality of many others.  This has been a heavy burden because a great deal of destructive testing is required and most of the useful exceptions are for the Chinese-produced goods that led to the legislation in the first place.  Many conservatives blogged about the issue and were able to lightly dent the problematic nature of the regulations in small, but non-trivial ways.

Anyway, despite the CPSIA, the opportunities are still there, just require some thoughtful planning and wargaming.

Homeschool curriculum ideas

Just a few quick ideas.

  1. Accurate black history and accomplishments (yes, black people have Done Stuff, there is a world of notable achievements that may not be spaceships in Egypt but is also not all made up feelgood myths.)
  2. Accurate history in general.  True neutrality for basic histories of America (since I’m American).
  3. Accurate women’s history (cf. my post about the domestic sphere).  I’m not linking back to my post about continuity preservation in the domestic sphere because I don’t want to get further in the weeds of using one version of an idea to stand in for further refinements.  And there will be further refinements about why accurate women’s history is crucial to restoring normal life.  It’s more than just the domestic sphere, it’s providing children with an understanding of the tradeoffs that come when women have more or less hard power in a society.  And the tradeoffs that come from the various ways women wield their soft power.
  4. Honesty about how a lot of ‘traditional nationalism’ is warmed-over pap from the 19th century and no earlier.
  5. Making a curriculum out of the extensive home economics and household efficiency literature that is easily available and totally ignored, but adapted to modern living.  No, appliances aren’t your handmaidens.  But there are body and health-saving ways to do a lot of basic tasks.
  6. Real mechanical/technical information.  How to use an ax, for example.  That information is incredibly useful, but extremely difficult to find online, yet would easily lend itself to a well ordered curriculum.
  7. Proper science.  This lady is a great start (and covers more than just science!), but it’s not like there could be too many quality science homeschool curriculums.  Caveat for us Protestants– she is quite devoted to her Catholicism and her curriculums obviously reflect this.  Still, there is plenty of wheat available without getting into a doctrinal fistfight.

Bring back actual domestic engineering

Instead of having it be a sad joke to make SAHMs feel better about how low they are in status in modern society, conservatives could just pull all the old references about domestic efficiency and optimization and update them for life with dishwashers and iPads.  The lady-wife behind “Cheaper by the Dozen” was a groundbreaking engineer of the domestic, her entire life story is quite fascinating and an example of the memoryholing of women’s lives before Second Wave feminism.

There was much information that is not lost, but not accessed much about how to not overwork oneself or one’s household in performing domestic tasks, including after the industrial revolution’s labor-shifting devices were introduced.  There is already some “how to manage with dishwashers” domestic information out there.  The work of developing a corpus of the domestic is a wonderful use of the time of older conservative women, instead of silliness like starting the very wrongest kind of Tea Party.