How to bring back the economic component of the women’s sphere?

To a large extent, the retreat of women from their own discrete sphere is driven by the stripping of its economic components due to various technological factors.  The question for conservatives is how to seriously and meaningfully deal with this aspect of the traditional women’s sphere instead of declaring that it either doesn’t matter or is a solved problem since an individual woman can “work from home” for her family’s financial benefit in limited, specific, idiosyncratic instances.

It’s a tough nut to crack, not least because certain economic things women did that were compatible with the domestic sphere as they lost their traditional trades were themselves only viable options due to mass media that evolved from technological advances.  I’m speaking of the numerous housewives and stay-at-home daughters who wrote to support or supplement their families’ incomes, of course.  But the markets they sold into would not have existed without the very technological forces that led us to the atomized, isolated housewives of the latter 20th and now 21st century.  And it’s so hard to communicate the loss, and the sheer amount of income they were responsible for.

Anyway this is an open sticky post for suggestions and discussion.  Will probably update occasionally with relevant links or posts as I run into them.

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Market salary for a housekeeper/cook/nanny is 35-50k/yr

This is just for the people who claim that a grown woman who really was raised with full domestic skills in those things, including household inventory management and orderly cleaning routines and a decent time spent in child caring has zero money-making skills and is completely doomed if her husband dies or leaves.  It’s not the stupid and unhelpful 200k/year of occasional news articles, but it’s the general range of what women get who do this for pay.  Being a housewife is economically fragile these days, but if you were brought up to do it, you probably can perform at a professional level if you have to make money.  And if you have credentials like a basic B.A., you can certainly command more.

Sharing the services of such women or hiring one outright is how quite a few homeschooling Christian SAHMs in my neck of the woods with no relatives nearby homeschool and keep the house from melting into a puddle of soda, pretzels and Cheeto dust.

Dear Conservatives, setting things up so all housewives are drudges is anti-natalist and untraditional

Bullying women into staying home obviously doesn’t work, and yet it appears to make up the whole of the conservative argument for women staying home.  This is one of the core problems with American conservative Christian culture.  It leads to conservative Christian SAHMs putting kids into preschool as soon as the children age into it for breaks because “well, it’s not daycare now, it’s school!” It also leads to those women having fewer and fewer children.  Three is the new five and two is the new three.

Take cooking, as one example. Making stock takes time.  Sure, you don’t have to stand right over the pot, but you have to be in the general vicinity of the kitchen for 3-5 hours for relatively modest amounts of stock.  Now, this is the sort of homemade staple that we SAHMs are supposed to just have handy at all times, but it takes time to make it, and it takes even more time to make huge batches that you then freeze.  That’s a day or two or three you aren’t doing much else.  And I’ve already covered laundry.

As for childcare, we can’t all have lump babies that stay put wherever you plop them and we can’t all have children who hear an instruction to play quietly when they are older and do so for hours on end (this is actually fairly rare).  And the current status quo of spinning the childcare out to public school or preschool is not tenable, because it limits fertility and the false idol of homeschool robs a lot of communities of the stability they desperately need to have a functional school system.

There is no argument against homeschooling on a family level. Parents have the right and duty to educate our children as we see fit, and a state that interferes with this is acting unjustly. On a larger level, however, homeschooling as a movement is extremely uncharitable and antisocial. Not everyone can homeschool. As a society, we need schools and other collective institutions to spread the burden of childcare and primary education and to properly civilize and educate young people. But if you saddle enough individual families with the total burden of the care and education of their own children, you ensure that those families will have no surplus to support any such institutions. And this is in fact exactly what has happened. Everyone blames this on the homeschooling families themselves, because when you’re talking about homeschooling families you’re really talking about homeschooling mothers and no one ever passes up an opportunity to blame mom for everything, but individual families are just doing our best in impossible situations. But people who can’t homeschool are left entirely at the mercy of the world all the homeschooling families have retreated from. There’s no civil society to join run by homeschooling mothers because we’re all too tired. Homeschooling mothers generally don’t even help each other out.

http://www.isegoria.net/2015/04/making-time-for-kids/#comments  This longitudinal study suggests that being there when the kids are little is worth a lot less if the SAHM isn’t relatively rested most of the time.  And there is an argument here (though not one I would advocate or consider pro-woman) for working while they are little and then, when they need the intensive parenting in teenagerhood, being available then as a SAHM.

This is why it’s insane to set things up so all women are drudges, it’s not Christian or functionally patriarchal. A lot of personality disordered people are able to hide out in “traditional womanhood” because there is an irreducible amount of domestic work and right now, that burden is going to fall on women. People can fantasize about it being different but right now, that’s how it is. Moreover, very few people can make more money than their labor is worth at home and very few couples can split the work effectively, for exactly the same reasons jobsharing doesn’t work, which is that you need a manager.

Much of femininity and marriage is socially constructed but you can socially construct it well or you can socially construct it stupidly and marriage and patriarchy are BETTER so who cares if they’re natural plus, Christian patriarchy is the only society that supports female liberation so stop sawing the branch you’re sitting on.

Lastly, women used to produce concrete results in their domestic work.  The industrial age was a rapid process of removing those concrete accomplishments from the domestic sphere and replacing them with vague repetitive tasks like driving the kids to activities (which goes all the way back in America to the 1920s!) and endless cleaning up kid messes and of course our dear friend laundry.  Those things are not terrible or wrong for mothers to do, but the conservative approach to the whole thing is to lie to women that they never had any other aspects to their domestic work and that they should delight in the abstract repetitive slog with no clear results at the end of each day.  Women then run to “crafts” in a flight to concrete accomplishment, and then are mocked for the crafts not being sufficiently useful or practical.  It’s a vicious trap.

Anyway this is all just random notes accumulated over time so if it doesn’t read like an essay, well, it’s not. I don’t know how to help women get the concrete aspects back for domestic labor when it’s simply not essential to survival anymore.  Our household lives a pretty agrarian lifestyle and we wouldn’t starve if we had a plague followed by a drought.  It would just be expensive to buy store food again.  And that’s pretty much the core of the problem.  The concrete accomplishments of my agrarian living help alleviate the stresses of the worst of modern housewiving, but “be agrarian LARPers” is not a general solution to a general problem.

Why grocery delivery is natalist

Conservatives into affordable family formation should support things like grocery delivery because given that America is so car-centric, SAHM isolation and car seat laws make it much more prohibitive to have more than 2 kids otherwise.  Grocery delivery is still a staple in parts of the country that are not quite as anti-natal as is the norm in American society and media.  And needless to say, women who are doing the SAHM thing find it to be easier and for pockets of fellow SAHMs to organically develop when the necessaries of life can be delivered.  In olden days of yore, the idea of leaving the house frequently to buy food with a pack of little kids in tow would have been seen as completely bonkers.  An older child might be sent out, but even in the postwar era and through the 1960s and 1970s, the idea of taking all the kids to the grocery store regularly was not a normalized expectation.  Also, it used to be a job for promising young men with their whole lives ahead of them and could be again.

Interestingly, delivery is on the rise, as shown by monoliths like Wal-Mart taking it up.  Regardless of the reasons why, conservatives should support it and encourage delivery of other necessities of life.  Making it easier to manage a household makes it easier to have additional children.

5 reasons why it’s good (and traditional) for SAHMs to pay for housecleaning.

  1. Establishes a consistent and reliable baseline that suits your household.
  2. Helps train you, the SAHM, in the classic art of delegation. Delegating frees a SAHM up to do more complex organizational tasks and decorating to make the house more of a home.  Modelling specialization is healthy and a sign of civilization.
  3. Makes it easier to teach the children basics of housecleaning because you aren’t worn out from constant maintenance/fire-putting-out cleaning.  SAHMs who try to do it all have a much harder time raising children who have any experience with household chores.  The kids just get used to watching Mamma drudge through everything.
  4. Provides employment and builds community relations by keeping money in the community and by not being as strict an employer/employee setup, but something more casual and with the opportunity to build acquaintance and properly ordered mingling of social classes.
  5. Shows the children there are many ways to make a living that are respectable and decent paying and strikes a tiny but noticeable blow at the modern cult of the makework desk job as only “real” job.

Labor shifting, not Labor saving, laundry edition

It is generally considered acceptable by conservatives and liberals alike to declare that SAHMs have it easy thanks to washing machines and tumble dryers compared to the grand old days of yore when they did “real work”.  This involves ignoring the explosion in ready to wear clothing that permits even lower-income households to own hundreds of pieces of clothing.  It also involves ignoring the reality that the older methods of laundering clothes were not always backbreakingly hard.  And lastly, it involves ignoring the fact that even for women in the lower tiers of the middle class, laundering their own clothing was often optional because of washerwomen who specialized in doing laundry for many families.

A side-pressing washing machine is more primitive technology than a top loading washing machine, but the former is easier on back and arms, given similar amounts of clothing washed.  Hand wringers could be more physical labor, but again, fewer clothes were owned in the first place, so there wasn’t as much total work involved on a family-level basis.

Having a washing machine perform the labor of agitating the dirt off the clothes (this is the part that cleans clothes, more so than the soap, although soap sure helps out) does save labor, but there isn’t a labor savings when you have to take heavy wet clothes out and transfer them to the dryer vs. hanging them up on a line.  In fact, the modern norm for SAHMs of washing, drying and folding multiple loads of laundry daily is not labor saving at all, no matter what people persist in claiming.  It is astonishing that it’s presented as a leisure activity and sign of how little SAHMs have to do all day compared to “the olden days”.

The feminist criticism that “mission creep” erases any potentially saved labor for housewives from a given technological advancement has some truth to it, as one can observe that creep with core household tasks like laundry.  The same conservatives who want all the women to come home pretty much never promote specialization in domestic tasks that again, even lower-income housewives used to take for granted.  And it’s a wealth problem.  Everyone has these machines that are supposedly so advanced and “labor saving”, so the idea can’t even form in the mind as an option.  People instead obsess about getting cheap machines rather than finding someone to do their laundry for them.  And there are always cheap machines around, so nobody can consider specializing as a source of income.

Part of the secret history of the domestic sphere is that “labor saving” devices are positioned as granting leisure to housewives, but do not, or do not save labor for very long.  It is perhaps the case that for a 1950s housewife a top loading washing machine saved some labor, as she didn’t have the full cheap clothing revolution that the 1970s housewife benefitted from.  But that didn’t last even a full generation before the metrics of acceptability changed, resulting in shifting rather than saving labor.

This isn’t to say that the modern SAHM has exactly the same level of physical labor on her hands as her domestic ancestresses.  It is to say that the idea that she has basically no labor is false.  Despite all the wealth and technological advancement, she still faces a great deal of physical labor to be considered an adequate or suitable SAHM.

If your wife can’t stay home without generating income, she needs real work, not a blog or pyramid scheme

The title says it all.  Blame pregnancy brain for this placeholder of a post.  I shall return this one day when I’m a little less gum-brained, but I wanted to post a little at least about what I mean in the title.

To be blunt, if your wife has to make money while she’s at home or else you all have big financial problems and she can’t get a job outside the home for whatever reasons, then she needs to do something real for money.

Too many housewives who have to be economically viable beyond canning and couponing get caught up in the pursuit of professionalism in their work-at-home endeavors.  So they turn to monetized blogs and pyramid schemes because you “join networks” and “build inventory” and sometimes get to wear a business suit or go to a conference.  Such things are just traps, sucking money out of families that really need every dollar and further devaluing the actual work at home they could be doing for money.

Seamstress, egg lady, taking in other children, cooking for working parents, taking in hand washing: these are just a few of the real, normal, historical things housewives have done for money that can still be done even in isolated exurbs.  Mostly they don’t have corrosive and ongoing costs that are difficult to break out of and they scale up or down to individual families and the strengths of individual women.

There are other options beyond these, but the common theme is slightly more than what is done for one’s family, just enough excess to sell for a moderate profit.  Maybe not a “real job” where you sit at a desk and have meetings about synergy all day, but real work that is useful to one’s local community and one’s real bottom line.