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.

 

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The problem with an overscaled, anti-natalist society, Oklahoma infant death edition

The title is gruesome because the situation is gruesome.  But it is also an example of how gigantic and numerous the obstacles are to a society where it’s less terrible to try to have children.

Recently in Oklahoma, a young couple where both parents worked full time had an 11 week old infant in full-time daycare.  In this daycare the infant was swaddled and put to sleep in a different infant’s unused carseat.  The little child’s head tipped against its chest and the poor child suffocated.  The daycare employee was away from the infant for two hours before coming back to check, finding out something terrible had happened and calling 911.

The story is sad, and most of the news about it weirdly focuses on “unsafeness of car seats”.  But let’s list the many problems leading to the collateral damage of one little infant’s life.

  • Mom has to return to work while less than three months postpartum
  • But she lacks the class status or income to pay for a one-on-one caregiver or split the costs with other families to have a one-on-two or three infants caregiver (nanny or nanny share)
  • And she also lacks the close-knit neighborhood or extended family that would provide free childcare so she could work
  • So she uses a daycare that is very cheap
  • And because it’s so cheap, the daycare has a financial incentive to NOT follow the rules about staff to infant ratios, despite being licensed and “legit”
  • Which leads to a caregiver who walks away from a child with newborn sleep patterns for far longer than is appropriate at that infant age.
  • Then there’s the state of Oklahoma, which has a “bad daycare employee blacklist”, but the list is worse than useless, since if they can’t find the daycare employee, the person disappears from the list.  This is the kind of weird bureaucratic goof that happens when more and more regulations to deal with the original regulations are larded on top of each other
  • And of course the daycare employee couldn’t be found after the infant’s death because it’s easy to hide when you aren’t “over the table” in your pay, which is very common even in “licensed” daycares.

I see a lot of talk in the right wing, from the mainstream part to the dissident weird part, that assumes there is no real obstacle to getting (white) women to have more kids, it’s just their silly refusal to marry a (white) man and start having kids.  Well, this woman did just marry a man and start a family, but the job her husband has doesn’t pay enough for her to work part time or stay home full time and the breakdown of community meant that she was stuck with a sorry list of options when she had to go back to work almost immediately after having her baby.  And the lack of relationships means not just relying on regulations, but not being able to enforce violations of those regulations.  Rule of law is only as strong as the people willing to uphold it.  And in an environment where nearly every American child is a chosen birth, natalism means doing extra for women to increase their desire to have additional children, start relatively young and minimize outside the home work so they can have the close-knit neighborhood relationships that allow for free ranging children of all ages.

And that extra doesn’t consist of tax credits or restoring father custody as a default.  It doesn’t in fact consist of much policy or political prescription to begin with (those things would follow).  It consists of giving women social status for being married mothers and then helping them directly to prove they have the status.  That’s something one could formalize eventually in social policy, but what is pretty easy is to start doing it now.  And who knows, maybe a few infants could be spared the tragedy this one suffered.

Dear Vox Day, we’re already Mothering Up, but society is not Communitying Up

Vox Day offers some suggestions for normalcy here. However, I have to do a bit of critique, as he preferred that not clutter up the actual comment thread attached.

The thing left unsaid in that post is that the right wing ruthlessly exploits unpaid labor already.  It’s what remains of functional church and community social stuff.    The right wing’s individualism obscures the fact that there is already a cohort of overworked female labor falling apart trying to do basic stuff like make sure people have dinner regularly and get homeschooled in a co-op class.  It’s private households with conservative Christian SAHMs. Meanwhile the right sends all its childless women who have leisure time out to work, to make money.  So Vox is correct about the right wing obsession with money, he just extrapolates from there that it’s always the issue.

The left doesn’t require its leisured folks to earn money.  In the example Vox links to in his post, a young, childless woman is willing to live a pathetic hand-to-mouth existence to provide activist labor.  On the right such a woman would be pressured into working for pay rather than being encouraged to help out within her local community.

Part of it is that the left and Vox are on to something.  You have a certain amount of labor that needs to be “free” from people who are leisured through the money-getting of others in order to have really awesome stuff in your society.  I.e., you want the leisured people to be natively talented disproportionately.  The left thinks it doesn’t matter about the talent and the right thinks there is no point in doing stuff for free unless you’re a housewife and then you have to do ALL THE THINGS ALL THE TIME FOR FREE.

This has been sitting around awhile, so I decided to just add that while this was sitting in draft, Vox Day hectored women to “Mother up“, as in come home and care for children (for free) as housewives while he and his family live in a country where household help is both cheap, widespread and culturally acceptable.  But as I noted at the start of this post, mothering up in American society is unrewarded, exhausting and painful.  There’s no status, no approval, no support in doing all the things, some of them conflicting with each other, expected of a modern housewife.  Those silly little office jobs may be silly, but they come with a paycheck and some actual status in society among other women.  Other women don’t grant a lick of status to women who mother up.  They just point and laugh when they aren’t actively trying to force us into the workforce anyway so they can have even more status.  And men are blitheringly oblivious to what their wives have to go through, living in a sort of tradbro delusional state.

Women need more than the three C’s (cooking, cleaning and childcare) if you want them to return in critical-mass numbers to housewifery.  They need quality household services, they need for children to be acceptable in the public sphere (as in you can let your kids run around the store, safe in the knowledge the clerks will keep an eye out if the kids get too hectic), they need an understanding and appreciation that they’re not just drudges, but ladies of their houses.  They need social opportunities that do not involve driving around for hours a day and they need intellectual challenge for the clever ones.  None of this is happening among conservatives, for all functional intents and purposes.  They just tell women they should do the three C’s because really, what else are even highly intelligent women good for?  That is the implication of Mr. Day’s most recent sally on the topic of SAHMness.

But this is old familiar ground I’ve trod.

In the real world, mothering up means television or screens for 4-10 hours per day when daddy isn’t home to help out as a kind of sisterwife because his job doesn’t pay enough to afford any help and neither adult lives near close relations.

In the real world, mothering up means contracepting so that you can grow a helper or two since it’s the only way you’re going to get one.  This means conservatives aren’t necessarily outbreeding teh librulz.  Own goal for the win!

In the real world mothering up means that other adults never view you as grown-up, just as a large version of the infants and toddlers you’re lugging around.  And when they get older, you’re still seen at the level of the children, until they’re teens and then suddenly you don’t exist at all even as a toddler-brained drudge in the background.

In the real world mothering up means he dumps you when you’re fat and forty and your body is broken from all the closely spaced pregnancies and you’re worn out from living in survival mode for years on end.  The kids can’t wait to be old enough to get away and neither can he.  But hey, you married young without ever working outside the home and immediately started having babies every year on his tiny salary.  You mothered up, where’s your medal?

Oh, right.

All the individual efforts in the world come to nothing if society doesn’t take them seriously.  Conservative society, even of the Vox Day kind, is always talking about how women need to go be housewives, but it never seems to have time, money or energy to make it possible for most women to actually do that.  Funny how that works.

Exploring the implications of the Baby Scoop Era

Yes, your parents were lying to you about everything, your life was a big fake production, and this happened with the extensive support of dozens of people you knew in your local town.  The conspiracy was real and focused entirely on keeping you from knowing who you really were.

It is very popular these days to pick on Boomers and younger Silents as the vanguard of all that is wrong in America today, but the Baby Scoop Era not only happened, it formed a substantial subtext in the lives of many Boomers and their parents.  It’s not even possible to know how exactly many babies were scooped precisely, because destroying or falsifying birth records was part of the process.

And their parents were the Greatest Generation mostly.  “Great” white mothers having babies or conceiving out of wedlock at rates that supposedly didn’t exist before The Great Society, at rates that supposedly were only ever the bane of the black community.  Due to the length of time, some of the oldest Boomers were themselves relinquishing mothers on top of things, so there are layers upon layers here.

This is just a little piece of the context for “the Narrative” and the idea that lying is fine if it’s for a bigger social justice good.  This was not driven exclusively nor primarily by leftists, even if there is a heavy technocratic element involved in much of the Baby Scoop reasoning pushing mothers to relinquish infants.

There really are historical periods, some extremely recent and within living memory, where socially conservative people played fast and loose with the truth, abused and coerced people and were not very honorable people.  And the results weren’t so great either.  This is also part of the subtext behind wanting women to have more economic power and be able to be “strong independent single mothers”.  That didn’t come out of nowhere.

This has interesting implications as well for those who skew heavily towards nature over nurture.

 

Real Talk for SAHMs, Honest DITL edition

A Day in the Life, or DITL, is a cutesy internet phenomenon where people post the events of their day in timestamped fashion, often illustrated with pictures.  It is very common in the parts of the internets where “mommies” blog.

This has been sitting in the hopper for about a year because I keep trying to do one and fail, as I’m still so sleep deprived I can’t keep track of my day well enough to list it out with timestamps.

I spent most of this year pregnant, and the rest breastfeeding a mighty warrior.  And that also wears me out.  Breastfeeding can really yank the old calories out of a mother, and I haven’t got them to spare these days.

Today is a good day, I am not going back to bed for a good hour after being up all night with a, well, mighty warrior.  Usually I am back to bed by now and make up for some of the sleep I don’t get at night by doing so during the day.

That’s my life when I’m less than six months postpartum–up every hour or two at night and sleeping a large fraction of the day.  If I have the strength and energy, I get a little cooking or housework done before the sitter leaves, or maybe something more complicated like bills/budget/admin.  Once the sitter goes home, a good evening is either me or T.W.O. cooking while the other wrangles the littles, or taking the whole brood out on the town by getting some groceries.  Yes, our wild nights on the town are buying milk and carrots at 7pm.

This isn’t a very good DITL, sorry.  But I don’t do much postpartum until at least six months after the birth.  When I only had one infant, I just lived like an infant, eating and sleeping mostly the same times the baby did.  T.W.O. and sous vide did all the food prep so I didn’t starve that first six months.  And with that infant it was closer to nine because I seem to grow them mighty and warrorish when I’m not also growing them in pairs.

I am going to do some agrarian lifestyle stuff, and/or get Christmas presents out, and then sleep until 4pm, when it gets dark.  And then the cooking/wrangling combo until bedtime for the oldest kids, and then my day in the life ends with me staying up with the newest addition to our family, as I can’t sleep when the waking is more frequent than every two hours, which is the current deal.

So there’s my day in the life right now.  I’ll try this again in a few months.