Why Ivanka Trump is a lovely example of a working mother.

Ivanka Trump has a new book out and I’m never going to read it, because in the news articles and her own little social media bits about it, I learned all I need to know:

  • She has two nannies for three kids.
  • She was happy to not only admit it, but even acknowledged their work by name.

This has gotten her excoriated by the press of course, but the thing is, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo built a multimillion dollar nursery in her office and was feted by that same press.   This is utterly unattainable for the average American mother, who is increasingly professional-class and in the top 10-20% of household incomes nationally.  Ivanka’s nanny setup, however, is attainable for two professional class mothers splitting the cost for 2-4 children, and possibly as many as 4-6 combined.

I think that is worth noticing and paying attention to.  Simply admitting that three closely spaced children just might take a lot of help from other women to manage reasonably is absolutely huge.  Thanks for brightening a housewife’s day, Ivanka!

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The Poison Red Pill, Misreading Proverbs 31 and promoting isolation as virtue.

To begin this series, I’ll start with discussing a post by someone blogging as “Girl with a Dragonfly Tattoo”.  It’s part of some interminable series on Proverbs 31, the love of Christian women everywhere.  I love the Proverbs 31 wife too, she’s a comfort and joy to read about along with all the other idealized portraits in the Bible.  It’s nice to see an ideal written up.  But it’s an ideal.  She’s not a real human woman like Miriam or Leah or even mother of God Mary.

Anyway, the basic overview is typical for Red Pill Women.  You’re supposed to get up super early, that part about servants is meaningless.  There’s of course no *real* obstacles to early rising, you just have to want to be holy enough!  She even references her mother as an early riser, because five year old children are great recordkeepers.

But more to my core points, she references *rich people who use stimulants and have paid staff* as her model for what housewives nursing and getting pregnant frequently should do to be more productive.  This is pretty typical of Red Pill Women.  They do the same thing the men they identify with do of hyperfocusing on a narrow group of privileged people as if they are the norm.  Only here SAHMs are supposed to behave like male executives on amphetamines who have wives, nannies and secretaries and personal assistants.  But the SAHM is NOT supposed to have those things, oh no!

Because a maid is “unimaginable luxury”.  Yes, in this TLDR; post about the Proverbs 31 wife, the OP conveniently declares the servant verses to be metaphorical, but the rising early verses to be worth charts and figures and paragraphs of hectoring.  But fifty bucks every other week so you can stay on top of the household cleaning more easily and have a little free time to try that getting up early?  UNIMAGINABLE LUXURY.  And clearly a teenage homeschooled girl coming over every other morning so you can be a little more rested on known busy days, well, that isn’t even in her blog post.  Even though teenaged nursemaids are a thing, historically.

Red Pill Women don’t appear to be aware there are any other women in the Bible except this one imaginary one and then they ignore the fact that she is a wealthy man’s wife and almost certainly the daughter of a wealthy man as well with her own dowered property/jewels/livestock.  The point of this fictional wife was to emphasize the rarity, the uncommonness.  Such a woman is supposed to be rarer than rubies, a beautiful ideal.  She isn’t supposed to have all her qualities peeled away and converted into exciting new ways to overwork married mothers of young children and deny them the historical levels of other-women support they used to have in the patriarchal days of yore.

I even agree with “Girl With A Dragonfly Tattoo” about the importance of sleep.  But you know what?  The average SAHM simply isn’t given the resources to get a full night’s sleep and “go to bed earlier” doesn’t work if you’re combining it with “do whatever your husband wants”.  A lot of men want to stay up late to relax.  You can read old books and see that this is just part of the beautiful sex differences men and women have.  Women used to be allowed to go on to bed on their own so that they could get some extra sleep.

But the Red Pill says that this would not be submissive, respectful, etc.  Essentially all the “tips” she suggests on how to get more sleep assume some or all of a husband who wants to go to bed early every night, kids who sleep well whether nursed or formula fed, kids widely spaced (4+ years apart), fewer than three kids, no special needs kids, a husband who doesn’t want to use electronics or television after hours, and the ability to have private areas to focus on self-care such as the basics of the female toilet and hygiene.  I can keep going, but my point is that under the current anti-social setup most housewives have, her tips and tricks *WILL NOT WORK* for months to years on end.  One bad sleeper can trigger responses in the female body that include phantom screaming or lowered ability to sleep deeply.

So she wants SAHMs to be as productive as executives functioning on very little sleep, but without their resources.  And yet if a woman does prioritize getting that sleep, she’s still somehow a badwife, since she chooses for her example of getting more sleep a woman who didn’t get up early to serve her husband and slept in instead.  Broad social norms are antimatter for Red Pill Women.  But they are the only way women can be protected enough to do their work and serve and love their husbands and families in a consistent way.

Money does matter

I don’t think poor people shouldn’t have kids, but I talk about a high household income earned mostly by Dad because money does matter in a world where people are always running away from their duties and obligations to people outside their immediate nuclear family.  Obviously yes, even in America you can totally raise six kids to adulthood on 20 thousand bucks a year.  But the big conservative lie around this is that it’s a middle class upbringing.

Further, refusal to accept that individualistic, disconnected society really does have high financial costs attached keeps a lot of families dancing without a net over a ravine.

Take the often promoted “telecommute in the boonies!” plan.  Well, where’s the internet to do that?  In most of rural America outside of city limits, high-speed, telecommuting-friendly internet is several hundred dollars a month, not fifty.  In practice, people “telecommuting” this way are either defining “suburb with large backyards” as “rural” or they are commuting the old fashioned way.

And if you live rurally, it is easier to let the kids scamper around while mom stays home with no other adults nearby doing stuff around the house.  But eventually the kids need to go places, and now mom is on the commute-train too.  Even the very rural homeschool types can’t actually sit at home all day every day and never leave until the youngest of nine is 18.

Having no money, and no ability to earn a large income leave the entire household vulnerable all the time.  Dad’s car breaks.  It’s a fix requiring shop access (car lift).  Those kinds of homes exist in rural areas, but they’re not the cheap ones you could afford because “how dare you suggest we not have mom stay home when dad’s earning capacity maxes out at 40k a year!”  A lot of people get forced into really tough positions a lot faster.  It can get really ugly really unexpectedly.

Like romanticizing herb lore because you can’t afford doctor visits for chronic ailments.  Or buying the kids off with cheap filling food because you aren’t really rural, but exurban and there’s nowhere safe for them to play (busy streets, no way to walk to the nearest open play area, and you’re a one-car household).

Money would matter less if everyone was aggressive about using the interwebs to maintain clannish-style community ties to keep people matched up if they were far-flung.  Or if living twenty to a 2000 square foot house was normal mode in America right now.

From both the comments and Shirley Jackson, homes used to be built with very small sleeping areas and larger shared spaces.  Shirley Jackson’s family moved into a home not much bigger than the 2500 square feet places of now, but it was split into four completely separate apartments, with very tiny sleeping areas, almost no built-in closet space and bigger social and cooking areas.  But large homes aren’t built or even modified this way anymore.

Money also wouldn’t matter if people accepted that leaving everything in the hands of one woman on the baby having and raising front will lead to fewer children if she’s really struggling and even if she personally isn’t because it always has and it’s even more the case with reliable contraception and sterilization and delaying marriage for those who take the other two options off the table.

This one’s pretty open for discussion.

Why Melania Trump would make an amazing New American First Lady

She not only admitted to having household help as a SAHM, but she was completely matter of fact about it, as if it was just obvious she’d need support to run her household.  This is not at all American, but it could be if she were First Lady and women could have the model of a housewife who was unashamed of having domestic help and considered it part of her essential toolkit in managing the household.

Contrast her openness about household help with Michelle Obama, who has called herself “Mom in Chief” in her new role as SAHM, but utterly downplayed moving her mother into the White House to provide childcare gratis (so, for the last eight years).  One can find this information in the Wikipedia article on Mrs. Obama, but from the horse’s lips, not so much.  No, from the horse’s lips there is dissembling about having one of Obama’s female relatives provide live in help when the two Obama children were infant and toddler aged.   That female relation was the “babysitter we lost”  Michelle Obama has alluded to in the past. They lost her due to her wanting to receive, well, money for babysitting.  Michelle Obama is very clear on that point at least, that they didn’t want to pay for childcare while both of them worked.  All of this is much more sadly and typically American, downplaying free help from relatives, not wanting to pay normal wages for “watching babies”, and  simultaneously flapping hands in the air about “the high cost of childcare for hard working women”.

Modelling matters, and I know what kind of SAHM model I’d prefer to see normalized.  I’d love to witness the seeds of a new American ideal of housewife, one who really is a domestic administrator whose role warrants both status and the right to delegate tasks to support people (which would mean working for such housewives would be seen as legitimate work).  That would be lovely and we could have that in Melania Trump as First Lady.  A housewife can dream.

Some historical downsides of having household help, American edition

  1. Infectious-licious!

    Unvetted servants carrying infectious diseases.  The above is the most famous example, but there are plenty of other examples to draw upon.  Because a reference wasn’t necessary to secure a position due to the chronic labor shortages of a growing, wealthy society with free right of travel for all whites (and many blacks), a lot of servants would turn up to work in a household and get everyone sick.  Usually it wasn’t lethal (even Typhoid Mary had fewer than 10% of her 50+ victims die, the rest recovered), but it still was a very real risk and concern.  Anonymity was an early feature of American society, even when housewives still needed domestic help, and this was one of the nasty little side effects of that

  2. Harder to present the image of a classless society.  Being the land of opportunity, America has always struggled with the fact that some people are going to be servants or employees to others for their working lives.  Instead of considering this a reason to keep working conditions for domestic servants decent, it was considered a reason to just not have servants.  Or lie about them.  A notable example can be found during the Eisenhower presidency of the 1950s.  His then Vice-President Richard Nixon’s wife spent years pretending she did not have a live-in maid (Swedish), a yard man (ethnic background unknown), and loads and loads of babysitters to watch the two children they had, even to the extent of demanding the help never be photographed or spoken to by reporters doing “A Day in the Life of the Veep’s Wife” fluff pieces.  Something to keep in mind when hearing about how housewives don’t need domestic help because appliances.  As early as the 1950s, American women had many of what we currently consider modern appliances except for the glorious microwave and front-loading washing machine.  But they also had maids and childcare help (which was exempted from wage laws, of course).  Well-off Americans have claimed for a long time that they just magically do it all themselves, especially but not strictly conservatives.
  3. They just wanted a ten hour workday.

    Violent responses to poor working conditions.  The above is a picture of the Papin sisters, who were French and killed their mistress and her adult daughter after years of 14 hour days.  While not American, working conditions for American domestics were frequently not better.  This is occluded somewhat by racial stuff, but Northern white women were quite as happy to leave a white female servant bleeding from a slap or the strop as Southern white women were with black female slaves.  This is, of course, memoryholed like whoa in American discourse on domestic help.  Domestic service is not necessarily lowly, and given decent working conditions, many women are quite all right with serving others even if the pay is not the toppiest of top-end.  American women ran from service because the conditions and pay were both pretty crummy (the Woman Homesteader of Wyoming I wrote a bit about a white back was willing to trade the conditions of working as a laundress in an urban area for the backbreaking work of homesteading in Wyoming.)  They didn’t run because they disliked serving others necessarily.  Some did, but others would have been happy to keep doing that as a job if they were treated like humans by their employers.  Things these days are not going in that direction, with the rise of “servant apps” where you just-in-time schedule your domestic help (“assistants”).  Meanwhile, the paternalism that drives our own hiring is sneered at for not being all-encompassing enough.  Vacation days, feh!  You don’t pay health insurance!  Health insurance?  Pah, you don’t put in a 401k!  Middle-class American women used to be able to afford domestic help not just because the wages were exempted, but also because it wasn’t considered a job, it was considered a relationship with pay at its best (and worst, of course).  Nobody wants to have human relationships anymore or accept the consequences of paternalism at its best (being responsible personally for those you employ) and in America part of that is being able to just up and move away from paternalism at its worst (Papin sisters, worst of chattel slavery).