College has replaced the parish

This is more of a note than a fully hashed out idea, but I think there is something to the fact that the “tribe” of college-educated adults and especially college-educated parents is where what remains of functional parenting culture lies in America among American-born Americans.  It’s the college-educated who hook each other up with nanny shares, allowing them genuinely flexible childcare that pays a good wage to the nanny while none of them ever pay more than center-based daycare costs per family.  It’s the college educated who can still find college-educated young women willing to barter and be live-in childcare for a gap year or two.  Who make social events mixed-age, and welcoming to children and their parents.  There is a loyalty and support base there that even crosses political boundaries.  But of course, both parents have to be college-educated.

Thus, when the political rubber hits the road, conservatives are more loyal to their real tribe of college-educated types than their supposed tribe of conservatives, Christians or conservative Christians.  I’ve seen way too many non-Christian college educateds serve as enforcers of progressive stuff by assuring college educated Christians that so long as they agree with some progressive thing (obviously being frothy about how evil Trump is would be a recent example) they’re “sane, sensible Christians” and thus acceptably human and allowed to retain access to a fairly vast social network.

And why shouldn’t they scrabble for the attentions of fellow college-goers?  Completing a BA/BSc or more has a shared vocabulary and world of experiences that crosses the same kinds of political and ethnic lines that church or parish (sometimes) used to.  Being cut off from a complete culture with its own traditions and lore, and of course, support in real terms like showing up to watch your kids with ten minutes’ notice, it’s easy to see why Christians end up choosing to go along with tons of progressive cant to maintain those bonds and access to those resources.

 

 

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A homeschooler’s history of homeschooling

http://a2zhomeschooling.com/main_articles/history_homeschooling/history_of_homeschooling/

This extremely popular homeschooling resource clearinghouse is run by a twice-married, very smart and career-oriented work-at-home mother who had two children about 15 years apart (one from each marriage, she is still in her second marriage) and homeschooled the second one starting when he was about 9 or 10.   That was around the time she figured out how to work from home in a very specialized way that allowed her a lot of free time and flexibility in home educating her son.

I put all that intro out there because most of the homeschool resources people still use now in 2015 come from these older people (mostly women) who were very diverse in their backgrounds and generally very brainy and immensely intellectually talented types who wanted to have kids anyway.

That page contains a very interesting piece of homeschooling history, the recollections and documentation of the conservative Christian homeschooling wing of homeschooling by Cheryl Seelhoff, whose divorce and adultery caused some major rifts within that community (which as you’ll learn from the history was really many little sub-communities who were openly inspired by the Amish and Mennonites and who often wouldn’t even let remarried people into their homeschool circles or home church circles, much less a woman who was at-fault in the classic sense for her divorce).  She herself is an interesting figure in homeschool history, as someone who provided a lot of resources and support even after she received ostracism from so many other homeschool big names.

The direct links to Seelhoff’s history are below, they are pdf scans, but quite readable and high quality.

http://a2zhomeschooling.com/documents/hsh1.pdf

http://a2zhomeschooling.com/documents/hsh2.pdf

http://a2zhomeschooling.com/documents/hsh3b.pdf

http://a2zhomeschooling.com/documents/hsh4.pdf

http://a2zhomeschooling.com/documents/hsh5.pdf

http://a2zhomeschooling.com/documents/hsh6.pdf

 

There are several very interesting books about the history and evolution of homeschooling, links to which can be found at the site of this homeschool researcher who wrote one of the most comprehensive ones.  Yep, there’s academic research on homeschoolers, quite a lot of it, some of it pretty high quality.

Anyway Seelhoff’s  history basically shows that the Superwife thing has been going on for a really long time among conservatives, as the mothers were expected to bake, can, garden, make their own clothes and those of their daughters (for modesty), homeschool, and be constantly pregnant or hoping to be while dad earned an income, but usually not a high one.  The major differences between these 1980s and 1990s homespun jumper folks and modern conservative Christian homeschoolers doing that is that the 1980s and 1990s folks mostly did bother to live near enough to each other to provide direct encouragement and support via numerous home churches.  And in what might unkindly be thought of as a kind of pyramidism, and more kindly as a conscious networking before internet, they often had “home businesses” selling each other “home-centered living” and “home schooling” lifestyle magazines, newsletters and curriculum, along with various Christian literature about how Biblical various practices were or weren’t.

Everything old is, as ever, new again.

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.

What living near each other could look like

I sometimes read a little group blog called The Orthosphere.  It’s run by a bunch of conservative men who seem really sincere about promoting traditionalism.  The problem is that they profoundly misunderestimate what kind of polemic would serve to promote traditionalism as an abstraction.  A recent post there is a case in point, but what this post is about is not the abstract, overlong attempt at conversion rhetoric, but a comment following the post about living more normally/traditionally.

http://orthosphere.org/2014/04/21/you-need-to-be-a-traditionalist-conservative/#comment-43968

Here’s the relevant half of the comment:

“…living correctly is not currently allowed. It’s politically incorrect. But individuals can score small victories in their everyday lives. They can refuse to agree with what they know is wrong. They can act rightly in their own lives or, when forced by overwhelming power to act wrongly, they can do so minimally, under protest. Perhaps we should open a new thread where people are invited to share the ways they resist the current order, act rightly, and maintain their sanity. We must not lose heart because our ideals have been declared thoughtcrime. Current conditions will not last.”

This assertion is correct in that living correctly in a piecemeal, cafeteria fashion is policed and getting increasingly difficult to do if one is conservative.  But this commenter misses the observed reality that doing so in a complete fashion, with a real parallel system is still on the table.  That is the gist of my post here.

Serious conservatives could be buying properties like this with a few other families and setting up a practical agrarian/distributist lifestyle and even potential spouses for their children and a real possibility of grandchildren and future inheritance.  That property has multiple single family homes and enough acreage for each family to “own” one of several crops (livestock is a potential crop, not just plants) and use that specialization opportunity to maximize returns.  Also, with several families living near each other but having their own homes, household tasks could be split up and rotated in traditional agrarian fashion so that nobody was overwhelmed.

Since the property is located in the super-boonies, living near several like-minded families would make the stresses of driving 2-4 hours to the “big cities” to sell the farm products a great deal more tolerable.  And the small core of families could still build relationships and friendships with the locals, but wouldn’t be demoralized if those social ties never formed to a deep extent (which is sometimes the way of things in isolated rural areas).  Living far away from one’s biological relatives would have a lot of the sting taken out, as the redundancy of multiple families means it would be possible to maintain regular visits and contact without the problems that come from leaving crops to do family visiting.  And financially, the property doesn’t require each individual family to have a huge income to pay their portion of a mortgage or massive savings to buy outright.

This is one path to “having all things in common” without ignoring the importance of access to private property and individual opportunities to build wealth and inheritance long-term.  I would also note that there are dozens if not hundreds of these sorts of properties for sale right this very minute, all over the United States.  The work would be hard and challenging, and certainly people have to save up something first, but this is on the table as an option instead of laments about being priced out of the suburbs, where one would have to struggle in a very different and more risky way with a piecemeal approach to living normally.

One doesn’t have to go full Amish, but one does have to set up a lifestyle that lays groundwork for restoration of healthy social structures and institutions by starting with a small group of like minds and branching out from there.  The barnacle approach of continuing to cling to the pieces of liberalism that appeal to you while rejecting the pieces that don’t is not going to continue to be a path for conservatives going forward.  Just as the True Way of faith in Christ is narrow, so too is the list of viable options for preserving normal life for future generations.

Them’s the breaks.  Industrialization and modernity mean we just can’t rely on the old dividends of traditional living.  They’re spent up and we have to just grit the old teeth and give up some precious temporal things now or see our children lose them all.

Double Consciousness for SAHMs

Double consciousness, it’s not just a black thing!  It is a classic housewife problem, coming from servant classes but marrying well enough to afford servants yourself and not knowing what to do with them.  Chalk it up to another way to feel bad and a failure as a woman.

I think it doesn’t get enough real discussion among conservatives, because they are very wedded to the classless America myth.  But one of the conflicts with the idea of a “traditional America” is that America was peopled by folks who rejected proper authority and their proper place in existing hierarchies.  It was peopled by servant classes and third sons of gentry, people who would have been very low on their relative totem poles in the home countries.  Combined with the low population density and the love of technology, there’s always been a big conflict in “traditional America” over whether to have servants at all.  This was an added layer to slavery debates, incidentally.

Among the white ethnic groups who came over with strong traditions of sharing the labor out instead of having servants, Americans forgot or ignored that those ethnic groups relied on massive shaming and social pressure to spread the work around.

And so by the time we get to the modern era, the white-ethnic traditions that provided voluntary, unpaid support for housewives are nearly extinct and other forms of support are unavailable due to a mix of factors, including tolerance of disordered and sociopathic personalities in housewife-heavy subcultures.

This is incidentally why so many white American people are quick to claim they and their ancestors didn’t own slaves or benefit from slavery.  It’s a way to forget that lots and lots and lots of white people really really really wanted to have the wealth and subject labor that slaves represented.  There wouldn’t have been an entire industry peopled by those servantless whites around kidnapping free black people and claiming they were slaves with “missing papers” if slave labor was such a horrible financial drain to have and keep going *for the people who had slaves*. Having serfs is particularly nice if you don’t have to worry about your children dropping that far down the ladder because the serfs are an entirely different race.

Likewise, a small but influential number of women dismiss the idea of servants or household help as important, needful or useful because they are disordered and the wacky individualist strain in American culture provides cover for their madness, at the expense of having to deal with the fact that you just might not be “middle class” in origins or background and narrowly missed being the maid or nanny or housekeeper yourself.  It also is why there is such a belief, most particularly among conservatives, that the private household administered by a housewife is utterly essential but that household help is utterly improper as a social expectation for housewives.  Without that deranged, Randian individualism, conservatives could not gaslight women into believing that they must carry the full burden of maintaining a household with nothing more than a prayer book, a vacuum cleaner and a dishwasher.

There’s also the dismissal of the idea that life in domestic service could be a career with advancement and wealth-building opportunities.  This was even the case to a surprising extent (as in, it happened at all) in American chattel slavery.  If simply being a servant is the worst possible thing that could happen to someone, then having servants cannot be a moral or worthwhile thing.  This is an ongoing theme in American culture, that class and status conflict playing out decade after decade. But yeah.  Black Americans aren’t the only ones who’ve had to struggle with double consciousness as an artifact of their place in society.