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.




Cool Dutch Housewife’s Blog

Maybe she’s not Dutch, but I’m just going off the language used for “Leave comments” and “Tuesday, September 15” and such.  In any case, her blog is really pretty neat and has all kinds of fascinating viewpoints.  It leaves me very optimistic to know that things aren’t quite so mad as they are for (particularly Christian and conservative) homemakers in America.

A good intro to some of her commentary on homemaking and general housewiving:

Her other tags are also worth checking out.  She covers some of the same topics regarding housewives that I do, but in a less…emotionally driven fashion.  Probably because her cultural milieu is quite different than how it is in America for the majority of housewives.

Anyway she is well worth reading because it is different outside America, very different and having more ordered perspectives on the whole topic of housewiving is always good.  I don’t remember how I found her blog, but it’s on the old blogroll now.

Having 10 or more kids is fertility depressing, not enhancing.

What a lot of conservative men have massive cluelessness about is how having babies impacts women and can actually inhibit fertility multigenerationally.  Ok, so you wanna outbreed those dastardly liberals.  The way to do that is not by having wives produce a dozen kids.  They aren’t really cheaper by the dozen.

Once you’re in double digits for sure and generally speaking at some point after about 6-7 kids, a large family inhibits fertility.  With that many kids, there’s free riding (“Oh, some of my numerous siblings will provide grandkids, no worry, no hurry”), and there’s childcare burnout because as the Duggars usefully show, there’s no way Mom can be pregnant near-constantly and also take care of all the kids.  It generally falls to older female siblings once they are aged 9-10 or so, who unsurprisingly tend to be disinclined to rush into motherhood, or even pursue it at all.

There’s also the two or three family problem, where because of the inevitable wide gaps that open up between the oldest and the youngest, you just might get the household segmenting itself into little sub-units where some of the siblings take on mother/father roles because they are 15 years older than the littlest kids.  That also inhibits fertility, by simulating the parent/child relationship in what is not necessarily a healthy way and which delays family formation.

The takeaway is that you can look with your eyes at the generational spread with such families.  Parents have 12 kids, who typically have 15-30 grandkids between them, a huge drop in fertility.  And since those grandkids grew up in families much much smaller than what their parents had, that inhibits their own baby-having even though they know they have a zillion aunts and uncles.  At the low end of that range, several of the 12 didn’t even reproduce, further dinging the overall robustness of the family tree.

That’s how it tends to play out in reality-land, as opposed to daydreamland when conservative men propose that the solution to have normal life return is just for conservative families to pop em out like pez.

If one is really set on robust reproduction, the approach that gets you multiple generations of 3+ kids per mother is to arrange your society so that people expect to see 4-6 kids as a “typical family”.  Some families will be smaller and a few will be much larger, but that range of kids is manageable. If the couple wants to “get it out of the way” and have them closely spaced, that’s an option.  If they want to follow a more natural spacing and rest up between each kid, that’s an option.  It’s not so many kids that daughters grow up seeing a constantly tired, constantly pregnant woman who keeps giving them more and more work to do.  It’s not so many kids that sons are really worried about how on earth they could possibly support so many babies.

But it’s not so few kids that people stop getting used to seeing children in the public sphere.  It’s not so few kids that helicopter parenting is high-status, nor so many kids that nobody expects much in the way of fathering or mothering to happen.

And in practice the result is that parents have 4-5 kids who have 4-5 kids, who…have 4-5 kids.  The occasional kid doesn’t reproduce for whatever reasons, but overall 3 or 4 of every five do, and typically by having about as many as their parents did.  This is much more robust and builds a strong community of kinship and openness to children as part of normal life in general.  The divides between parents and non-parents don’t have the same kind of space to open up and make it difficult to keep kids in the public sphere.

Yes, this is a Mormon approach, and where they’ve bought fully into the birth control mentality, it’s stopped working. But it’s also the approach for a lot of societies, including a fair amount of America during the early and middle 20th century when America was more regional.

Caveat: this post assumes that when (male) people promote having quite a bit more than two kids that they are sincerely clueless about how exhausting the raising and bearing of kids is and that they would welcome a society where motherhood was taken seriously and supported as a vocation and real lifework.  It is not a post that assumes these people actually want the way worse than purdah system their blithe advocacy ends up producing in practice.  It assumes good intentions, which may well be overly generous on my part, but there you are.

ETA, 8/20/14: Nick B Steves is baffled that I don’t agree with the neoreactionary consensus and irritated that I don’t argue like a man.

Real Talk for SAHMs: SAHMs who aren’t morning people aren’t lazy, chronotypes are real

The tyranny of the morning people has got to end.  Traditionally, mostly servants got up early.  Now it’s high status UMC types and their aspirational fans (i.e. most of the rest of American society).

SAHMs frequently act like just getting up earlier is the solution to any difficulties with prayer time, exercising, or arranging the day.  It is a recurrent theme.  I think the earliest I’ve seen or been told offline is to get up at 3am, though 4-6am is the typical range, usually 4-5am.  Which is feasible for a morning person, even through lots of kid wakeups.  Not so much for people with a different chronotype who don’t physically get tired before 10pm.

Wiki says that morning types don’t necessarily predominate, but in American culture they have taken the moral superiority reins and galloped right off with them.  There has been and continues to be a general tenor in American culture that early rising is morally better.  Someone could probably write a monograph connecting it up to the inherent consumption mentality that has ever dominated American society even before the Industrial Revolution.  They could also throw in some anti-Scandinavian polemic.  Thorstein Veblen is the spiritual grampa of overwork as a form of consumption behavior instead of bling.  He wasn’t the only one (there were some Scandinavian ladies behind it too), but his name is probably the most recognizable.  Overwork as consumption good is part of the tyranny of the morning people.

Repeatedly, morning people tend to act like it’s either getting up at 5am or sleeping until noon, and that obviously nobody should pick the latter choice.  The idea that chronotypes occur along a continuum and that even late-night types might well be able to “do mornings”, just at 9am instead of 6am, is utterly alien and threatening to a surprising number of morning people.  They place a stupendous amount of personal value on being up really really early and if other people are up later in the day and still have clean houses and functional kids and regular prayer lives, then maybe being up at 4am isn’t the one true path to holiness and merit.  It’s especially bad in the SAHM world, because the domestic sphere is so totally unvalued that it sometimes just might take a 14 hour day to actually get anything done effectively since the support is mostly in name only.

But chronotypes are real.  And valuing the domestic sphere for its own sake rather than declaring women who aren’t morning people lazy/selfish/spoiled/ungrateful would allow more private households to be functional no matter what time of day the lady of the house arose.  The Proverbs 31 wife is an ideal, not a literal woman.  Also, a lot of cultures have midday nap traditions for a reason, even if they are agrarian and the master and mistress have to pop up at 4am.


Why a confinement model of pregnancy is pro-woman

It is kinder and less stressful in contrast to the American mule thing.  Under a confinement model, pregnant women aren’t forced into the standard of trying to match the ones who can do All The Things in every trimester and who don’t appear to even know what morning sickness is.  Instead, every pregnant woman is given the benefit of the doubt and not burdened with additional expectations that she appear in public or do a lot of physical labor.

Other people in the community come to the pregnant woman.  The pastor or priest comes to visit, she isn’t expected to waddle into church with a passel of younguns behind her.  Other women visit and the expectations for the state of the house are very different, because the time to grow the baby is considered important all by itself.

There has been a lot of historical variation in the confinement model, and it mostly involved waiting until a baby bump was likely for what should be obvious reasons.  But there is a tenderness to it and a preservation of women’s space and a women’s sphere that is sorely missing from modern American norms regarding pregnancy.

A broad standard that builds rest and healing into the natural course of pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period seems pretty pro-woman to me.

The Latina high school dropout and Asian immigrant SAHM revolution

So there was a Pew report a while back about the changing demographics of the American SAHM, emphasizing that they were disproportionately “less educated”, “young”, “lower income” and “less white”.  But of course digging into the report’s data reveals that they are also disproportionately “Latina or Asian” and “first generation immigrants”.

It is quite common for liberal women who work outside the home to sneer at SAHMs as uneducated axlotl tanks via news pulpits or just internet comment threads and of course in person, to a SAHM’s face.  They have been able to get away with this because people believed that this was just about being mean to conservative Christian white women who are of course fair game in our sad disordered society.  The reality that the demographic shift in SAHMs is ethnic and cultural is ostentatiously ignored when it comes to pushing that “lol dumb sheltered SAHMs” narrative.  Even when the ethnic changes must be acknowledged, as in the Pew report’s data, the headlines don’t emphasize that “poor and not-white” does not in fact mean “black and female”.  They just sort of let that be assumed even when it doesn’t add up, relying on the head explosion to make people skimming revert to their comforting stereotype that SAHMs are all stupid unschooled right wing white women.

This isn’t included in the Pew data, but it is worth noting as well that these Asian and Latina SAHMs are more likely to live traditionally in the form of households where gramma and auntie live in their own quarters but pop out to assist with the cooking, cleaning and childcare.  This means that these households can manage at a lower income on the books and have a more functional quality of life despite the appearance of “poverty level earnings”.  It also is misleading, as a larger but more efficient household can have a very decent living standard on poverty-level wages, as the thresholds for 5, 6, 7, 9 people are pretty high.

When gramma really will just cook all day while auntie takes the kids to the playground and mamma scrubs the bathrooms, you suddenly don’t need nearly as much money or consumption to maintain a decent living standard for the household.  Lastly, Asian (Including South) and Latin children (with indigenous ancestry) are more docile and less physically mobile as infants and toddlers compared to black and white children.  This is well documented by scientific observation across multiple decades. Thus, the changing demographic shifts also reflect women who have children more compatible with modern SAHM multitasking expectations than white or black mothers.  So it’s a very different experience and one that makes women from these ethnic and cultural backgrounds amenable to staying at home, particularly when their children are young.  Those ethnic differences in how little ones behave are, uh, also not mentioned when discussing SAHM realities and demographics.