Pre-60s housewives were generally NOT expected to cough up fresh bread daily, or gourmet meals three times a day. They were also not expected to keep a very large home spotless whilst mincing about in heels and pearls. The community standards for what a housewife was supposed to do were actually pretty minimal and attainable for even relatively brokedown women.
A simple (truly simple) dish of meat/eggs/fish, a starch and one or two spices was considered completely decent and good enough. Needless to say, this is no longer true, particularly among conservative SAHMs, who tend to be most driven towards expectation inflation in the matters of domesticity for various reasons I’ve either already covered or will the next time I read through old posts to note allusions I haven’t written up yet.
One of the reasons Mormons are still functionally conservative in many respects is that they remember that you can’t keep up appearances if the appearances are very complex and detailed. People sometimes make cracks about how Mom wouldn’t let them mess up the ‘parlor for company’, but this dramatically slashed the ongoing cleaning burden and made for an attainable cross-class and cross-income and cross-racial set of housewiving standards that average to slightly dim women could manage with a little elbow grease.
Conservatives, if they want normal life restored, have to remember that broad-based community standards must consider all God’s children and be minimal without being token. It can be a fine line to navigate, but we have so much tradition from so many of the cultures that infuse American identity to draw upon in shaping those simple, reachable goals.
But it can be hard when Walter Mitty syndrome is rampant.
It’s the electricity. Without artificial light in the form of streetlights, electric night lights, and the glow from various appliances and gadgets, even frequent wakers among babies would sleep longer.
Thus, the conflicting advice on how to get an infant to “sleep better” only serves to divide and instill needless guilt about not having a “good sleeper” when the problem is something much bigger and not easily erased with better planning. One of the reasons co-sleeping is more effective at extending infant sleep anecdotally is because master bedrooms tend to be the darkest room in the house at night. A lot of infants are put in cribs with glowing monitors and/or night lights, which is mostly not the case when the baby is in a cosleeper or bedsharing.
The recent trend of fretting about nighttime computer use and “blue light” from laptops and smartphones and tablets affecting adult sleep is the tip of a huge iceberg of modernity.
Our foremothers got more sleep at night even with frequent-waking infants because even a pretty frequent waker just seems to drop some wakeups in (relatively) natural night darkness. And it is really hard to get rid of all the sources of light. We live in a part of the country where people are wired for generators because of the rural setting and it’s still lit up to a high degree at night, even homes nowhere near the street lights. And it is quite shocking to realize how much stuff glows at night in the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom, etc.
I’ve seen wakings go from every 90 minutes to every three hours just by putting the infant in approximately natural darkness. However, it is very difficult to maintain in any kind of standard American household setting, even among homeschooling conservatives who don’t have televisions (but definitely have some iDevices lurking).
Now there’s a practical project I’d love to see some technically adept conservatives tackle– housing design so that natural darkness can be preserved during nighttime. There are a number of possible strategies, and imagine being able to live in such a home, or have your own home modified to have both modern electric lighting and the ability to get a mostly natural level of darkness at night even in the city. The health benefits to mothers alone would probably increase the old TFR by a couple tenths of a point. Fertility can sometimes be delayed partly because of the sleep deprivation that has become the unfortunate norm for modern SAHMs.