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.

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I am Shirley Jackson and Shirley Jackson is me

As T.W.O. would put it, that’s overegging the pudding a tadge.  I’ll never publish the most notorious and universal short story in American history.  More intimately, my husband is not a Kavorka Man.

But she and I both are housewives with strong intellectual drives living in whitopias where household help is only for weird inferior women who can’t manage entirely on their own or micromanage the bleep out of that poor cousin they did have come by a few days a week.  She couldn’t get nice college girls because mother’s helping was beneath them in 1950 and non-college girls were from families that hadn’t moved in 50-100 years and so they didn’t have anyone “strange” come help.  People tend to think college towns are all the same, but they operate along a continuum.  And Jackson was not in a college town where the degree was a MRS.

She also put her kids in preschool, which was called “community nursery school” and which 10-20% of women used back then.  Exact data is had to come by because of terminology and lack of collecting data issues.  And even back then it was the middle and up stay at home mothers who used it part-time and the smaller pool of working mothers using it full time.

I have her sense of anxiety and frustration, but not her pretty solid domestic skills. Our children find us odd but loving.  There is a sort of weirdly beautiful e-drama online somewhere where one of Stanley Jackson’s coed affairs is bragging about it on salon or something similar and Shirley’s kids post comments defending their mother and whaling on the smarmy coed selling the only interesting thing about herself. I was touched by the love her kids (one of which I think was a grandparent by now) had for her and their respect for her hard work keeping their home so it could be an entertainment vehicle for dad.

Stanley Jackson was a literary critic and professor who tomcatted around and expected his wife to produce both domestically and intellectually, but was jealous of her ability to get thousands of dollars for a handful of stories about women and children and often the domestic sphere.

I 100% do not think I can compete with the mad literary skills of Mrs. Jackson, but it’s reassuring in a strange way to know that this literary ninja had some of the same struggles I, a much more ordinary housewife, have sixty or so years later.

It also brings me back to wanting to smash conservatives in the face for chronically declaring that there was no widespread frustration among average women in the 1950s and during the WWII era and that anyone talking about it was just a loser who was unhaaaaappppy or a communist.  Shirley Jackson wrote for Good Housekeeping, for pity’s sake.  She was not writing some edgy scandal stuff like Peyton Place.  And yet there remain in both sets of writing much the same sort of struggles of women trying to adapt to the rapid shifts in technology, social roles and relationships with men.

One of the anecdotes in her domestic memoirs is about a pregnant woman she meets at the hospital when she has her third baby who is running late on delivering and is relieved and happy to be free of household tasks for what in the anecdote is about two weeks and heading into a third.  General audiences of women wouldn’t have wanted to read about stuff like that if it didn’t seem real.  They were very quick to write letters where they believed something to be unrealistic in its slicing of life.

Anyway I’ve only just begun reading her domestic memoirs and that sensation of being drawn close in time to a writer across so many seismic changes in daily life is dizzying.

Saying farewell to full time childcare while being a SAHM

T.W.O. is always saying I should be more open and raw on muh blawg, so here goes.

The combination of number of kids, the ages they are, their physical and mental vigor and quirks, and the fact that I do stay home with them have all led to our household reaching a point where the effort involved finding the type of full time nanny/babysitter that is ok with it all is more stressful and disruptive than simply giving up things like cooking in favor of going with part-timers, private school and deli food.  We had a good run, had some very kind and caring people over the years, but we’ve reached the limit of how useful it can be to us in a part of the country where being a housewife isn’t really viewed as having its own purpose.

I come from the South, and there being a housewife comes with expectations that make it reasonable to do something like have full time childcare if that’s what it takes to meet the expectations.  Many do not, but people don’t really freak out if you do because it’s assumed you must have that lady there to help you meet the expectations of hospitality and visiting and decoration that come with housewiving there, especially at the higher household income brackets.  Where we are now, the expectation is that the housewife is solely full time childcare.  This is the reason for the 20 dollar a day SAHMs around here.  They literally don’t know what else to do but watch kids, so they just keep chugging and the money is pretty much a token sum charged because people would be weirded out by them pleading to watch kids for free (although sometimes they offer, and now I understand why).

We basically didn’t have to confront this issue until recently because the people we got stayed for decent lengths of time.  But recently we had to put feelers out and the hassle was just so epic compared to previous hiring go-rounds that we’re done this time around.  Granted I will still have part-timers, but part-timers don’t sweat me being home precisely because they are part-time.  It could be a lot worse, we’re not making the change because of inability to pay, and I still have part-time childcare from nice teenagers readily available.  I just had hopes of  starting “pure” homeschooling soon, but that’s just not possible.  There is no homeschool community here, the private school options we’re going with are closer to the “one room school” model that we think is best for our children, and me providing more complex instruction down the road is always an option as the kids age.

We’ve all been pretty sick the last couple weeks, so I have more anxiety about the whole thing than is really warranted.  The kids are very capable at very young ages and we can do this without everything falling apart.  At least, that’s the hope.

 

 

Women CANNOT mother alone

There, I said it.  Women simply can’t do it.  Either the village is coming along for the ride of raising your kid(s) by coercion or they’re coming along willingly, but it’s still going to happen.  There are news articles from time to time about women that expect kids’ toy or clothing shops in a mall to watch their children for several hours while they go buy their own stuff.  These women are single mothers and they sure aren’t dithering about how terrible it is to have a strange person keep an eye on your kid for a couple of hours.  This is the brutality of making motherhood so hard that only women who really really really want children or are really really feckless will do it.  The women who become single mothers are the ones who will just create situations where other people have to help out.  The women who marry first are more likely to wilt alone until they crack under the strain.

In a bizarre confluence of toxicity, the worst sorts of “traditional” or “conservative” narratives on mothering as something a woman does alone intersect with attachment parenting, which also presents mothering as something a woman does alone (sometimes not even bathing or meeting other private needs without the child physically on her body).  In both cases, women are told “it’s going to destroy your children to have anyone else feed, hug, kiss or show affection and other care needs to them, even (in the most extreme forms of this narrative) your own husband”.

Forcing women to take the burden of caring for their own children as if it’s normal to care solely and with complete emotional absorption for your own specific children is another one of the reasons women have fewer children than they used to.

Single mothers forcing the issue in the opposite direction, demanding lots of concessions and tolerance doesn’t always work out for them, but it reveals that when facing having to mother alone literally, women are very quick to try their darndest to avoid that.

 

250k isn’t enough, or why not even other right wing women want my SAHM lifestyle.

This is a breakdown of exactly how expensive it is to live substituting money for the network of support common to healthy patriarchal societies.  In this example, I show where 250k in gross household income per year would go in attempting to provide enough support with cash instead of neighbors and relatives to get a SAHM with several children through the under-5 years with closely spaced pregnancies and breastfeeding.

25k– tithe

35k– modest PITI (Principal, Interest, property Taxes, homeowner’s Insurance) of 1.5-2x income after 20% down, not before

50k– household services (sitter or nanny, weekend/backup sitter, house cleaning 2-4x per month)

15k– food (local, often organic, directly purchased from farmers wherever possible, fair trade and single-source where not local).

50k– federal income and social insurance taxes (approximate, tax treatment varies wildly from state to state)

10k– gas, commute and auto maintenance expenses (not including car insurance)

5k– car insurance, life insurance, disability insurance

15k– reserve or expenses for home maintenance and improvements

10k– utilities (internet/cell, electric, water, sewer or septic maintenance, garbage, any other common utilities)

15k– HSA/health insurance/health care (annualized estimate)

20k– savings/float/reserve against unexpected/anything I missed

This totals to exactly 250k per year, and there things I missed.  And even with this much money substituting for human relationships and assistance, women at this level of household income who SAHM still face plenty of sleep deprivation and exhaustion and none of these expenses make up for the lack of other women and their children in groups to hang out with while going through household routines.

This is my life*, and nobody wants it.  And nobody wants to admit it takes this kind of money to even come close to setting up a private household with a SAHM in something resembling a traditional way.  Despite the full time help wrangling my very active children and the friendly couple that clean weekly, I’m still exhausted and have trouble gaining/maintaining weight when I need it for pregnancies and breastfeeding.  And I always feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of household work to do that isn’t the canonical cooking and cleaning and childcare because I don’t do a lot of that day to day and *there’s still a lot of other housework to do*.

But I am not envied by other SAHMs because they think any childcare that isn’t mom 24/7/365 is “leaving your children to be raised by wolves, er, I mean other women”.  And having a house cleaner deep clean is just showing how I fail housewiving 4eva by not being organized enough to clean perfectly around squalling toddlers flinging rice in every direction because mommy’s ignoring them (sorry, lovingly caring for them in a way utterly superior in all possible ways to any relative or paid provider’s child minding) to scour the sink just right.

I am not envied by working mothers because holding any wage job outside the home (no matter how low-paying) and putting the kids into daycare at 6 weeks old (or more commonly, paying some SAHM whose household income is closer to 25k/yr 20-40 bucks a day under the table for childcare) means they are financial contributors to their household and I am not, so I am to be pitied and despised for being such a drain on my husband with my very existence.

And that’s the right-wing, conservative Christian side of the aisle.

*The exact household income and expense list in this example isn’t our literal personal one as our household is more agrarian in orientation, but there are some broad similarities.

Childcare is both a skill and a talent

It is clear that a lot of conservatives (though it’s a particularly American malady overall) these days think that childcare is something only a mother can do for her own children and that any other kind of childcare is both morally and psychologically inferior.  Needless to say, this flies against all kinds of traditional views on childcare.

We’ve had a lot of teenaged girls babysit our children for anywhere from a few hours to full-time, probably a dozen in the last two years.  It was really obvious that some girls had that special talent of being able to handle the needs of six or seven children at one time, even if they didn’t themselves come from a large family.  It was also really obvious that other girls could barely manage the needs of one child and were at meltdown mode with just a second one added in.

This happens with mothers too.  Most of the time mothers have mother-love for their children, but that’s not the same as having a talent for managing children.  In normal societies, there are so many other women around that a mother who has trouble with increasing numbers of children can easily delegate, while women who can seamlessly handle six or eight or ten smoothly can pick up that extra slack for other mothers.

But childcare isn’t something that is bred-in to all women in equal ability if they just try real hard.  Some women have a flair for it even if they never have any children of their own, while other women can bear a dozen and never quite get the hang of things.

This is one of the reasons I advocate domestic skills internships for young conservative women interested in marrying young and administering the home as housewives.  It’s a good way for women to find out which aspects of domestic living are potential weak spots and make plans to adjust their expectations and goals while they are young and still have a lot of energy to do so.

A mother doesn’t love her child the less because she doesn’t change every single diaper. Specialization is a key part of civilization.