Another hidden cost of modern parenting–the Mom Commute

Before I had kids, I used to look around at the fatigued SAHMs and working mothers around me and I thought (if I thought about it at all) that a lot of the things they did were optional and not really necessary to the kid-raising life.

Well, I was wrong.

The Mom commute has a long history in American society, but it wasn’t as broadly required in the first half of the 20th century. And there were still ways to avoid the worst of it in the second half via carpooling and roping in still-available neighbors, relatives and friends. And also, for a short window of time, nannies. During peak working mother, around the late 1980s and early 1990s, the first wave of amnestied Hispanic women made a labor pool for domestic work that included doing a lot of the driving. And contrary to the story about them, during that window of time, the wages they were paid were decent and many received real benefits as well. Minimum wage was very low and so (for that brief window of time), paying twice minimum wage was hard, but not completely brutalizing the old finances and the freshly amnestied immigrants were happy to get comparatively generous wages for the work. Things changed with the dotcom era, of course, but a roughly ten year window of being able to pay generously for childcare and still have a lot of money left over distorted perspective later.

Anyway, while a bit of a digression, the point is that now in the 21st century, all the social bonds and stuff have corroded and the mom commute is pretty much a requirement for all moms, even pretty rural ones. It’s not even about the dreaded activities, it’s that getting your kids around other kids and getting them the educational resources they’re supposed to have, even if they’re public schooled involves a lot of commuting (even if you can pop them on the bus in theory).

This is a pretty major fertility shredder and it’s also a reason a lot of married households want two very comfortable cars. They also need them because the Mom Commute tends to not be in the same directions as the Work Commute. The schools and kid stuff are in one part of the city/metro area/county, but the jobs (including mom’s if she works outside the home too) tend to be somewhere else. That includes teachers, who used to be able to easily work in the district their kids were in and now rarely can.

Giving up the Mom Commute really does mean for most married mothers agreeing to a truly astonishing level of isolation and dependence on mass media and social media for themselves and their children and hard limits on physical activity as well. But you never really hear about it, even though that much driving is health-damaging and poorly compatible with keeping the old figure in tiptop shape.


Lunks and their bright wives: conservative marriage through the years

A great deal of weirdness in conservative life can be explained by the theory that smarter women were more likely to end up out in the West/frontier and also be able to offset the consequences of marrying a relatively lunkish guy because their domestic labors were monetized.  They also could afford to take the chance of marrying a lunk because he didn’t need to be all that clever to make it in the West.

Over time as the domestic sphere lost its financially remunerative aspects, the general pattern was established, but that just left such women scrambling to compensate in other ways, leaving them prey to scams and schemes because they had income pressure but no easy way to integrate it into their increasingly narrow domestic sphere.

This was, I think, since it’s been sitting in draft so long, a prelude of sorts to my Grand Unified Theory of Spectrum Formation, in which the nuclear family in America converges towards fulfilling an Asperger or autism-spectrum norm because those are a bigger and bigger chunk of the married people still able to afford having kids.  And this is especially obvious with conservatives, who appear to be continuing to have children for reasons not related to religiosity at all and this explains some of those reasons.

Ace of Spades misses the unseen use of social media to be social offline.

Ace of Spades, a fairly major conservative blogger, writes here that conservatives need to abandon Facebook.

What he misses though, probably because they’re all literally closed, secret and otherwise kept from public view, is that Facebook is where mothers, particularly the SAHMs conservatives make lots of noise about supporting, are arranging their playdates and finding childcare and cleaning help or doing swaps or looking for extra work doing those things, where they are buying and selling stuff, and all the other things that used to be on mailing lists but are increasingly on Facebook.

Small businesses have also stopped using their own webpages in many instances in favor of Facebook.

Women, especially mothers, are using Facebook to arrange IRL stuff, that’s why they can’t quit it. Find a way to make all these things as one-stop shop as Facebook is and craigslist used to be for selling and buying, and then people will exit en masse. Right now I see lots of people leaving, but not the ones who need Facebook for these arrangements. Just single people, and some older folks.

We now need social media to form social bonds locally because of breeding for antisocial and autistic tendencies.  Plus, women are social creatures and that means they want socialness offline too.  I’ve tried to join mommy-only startups, and photo-posting sites, and so on and so forth.  But the critical mass never gets there, and it’s because these SAHMs can’t quickly set something up on their phones with ten different websites.  But Facebook is integrated into every smartphone, so you can easily arrange everything from it.

Conservatives are really unwilling to confront the woman problem, which is not that women need to lead their political movements or even participate in them, but that they need to actually have a real space with status and support for women and they just plain won’t do it and then whine about the consequences of women taking on liberal alternatives that supply what they sorely need.

Draft, so very very open for discussion and disassembly.

Conservatives act like 1970s black Americans about male provision

Let me count the ways…

  1. Emphasis on self-employment because the (liberal) Man is prejudiced against their kind, without providing any meaningful reserve or protection against the volatility of this choice.
  2. De-emphasis correspondingly on male provision as an important part of being a husband, including discouraging men who want to do that as cavemen or delusional.
  3. Both overt and covert encouragement of women to produce the primary income in a marriage, either by openly promoting an egalitarian view that women can and do earn as much as men as sole or primary providers, or by defining the SAHM life as incomplete or lazy/leisured if there’s no income-generating going on.
  4. Related, but its own thing, pushing a “working homemaker” ideal where even if you do work full time or close to it, you are still expected to home-make at effectively a full time level too.
  5. Defending the extremely rare stay at home father as a paragon of manliness and as perfectly common and therefore something women should be expected to take seriously as a possible path in their marriages.
  6. Declaring any woman who talks about the importance of financial provision within marriage by the husband as a gold digger or money obsessed or not bringing a supportive and Godly spirit to marriage, etc.
  7. Raising daughters and loving sons.  This means encouraging girls to pursue practical options with education and prepare to earn a living while telling young men to follow their bliss and/or pursue self-employment and encourage this by not expecting them to work.

With immediately post-Civil Rights Act black Americans, some of this was not surprising and they did still have to face actual race prejudice making male employment riskier and more fragile even within marriage.  They also were looking at affirmative action preferences quickly shifting towards favoring black women over black men due to killing two birds with one stone (another reason straight quotas would have been less poisonous).

Conservatives, though, are doing a lot of this for ideological and unstated class reasons.  Many and probably most conservatives are not middle class but rely on declaring themselves such as a major part of their subculture’s cohesiveness.  But these are not middle class behaviors.

World War T and the backlash against breastfeeding, two sides of one misogynist coin

There is a backlash against breastfeeding in which women constantly argue they need their drugs more than they need to breastfeed and it parallels the WWT (World War Transgender, courtesy of one Steve Sailer) demands for drugs to maintain a supposedly inborn gender.  Yep, I totally went there!  But in the case of women, as opposed to the men and teenage boys encouraged to take dangerous drugs with horrible side effects, most of the (usually) psychiatric medications they want to take are compatible with breastfeeding.

Another part of the breastfeeding backlash is defining bizarre edge cases where breastfeeding would not be feasible as normal and typical, like this cancer mom

Also, in a country where formula feeding is the social and medical norm, screaming about boob nazis (women defending the right of women to behave in biologically normal ways that were historically part of the public sphere) disturbingly parallels the vicious and astonishing misogyny leveled towards radical feminists, who represent another minority group of women desperately trying to defend the biological reality of femalehood and female existence from the relentless onslaught of surgically unaltered men proclaiming themselves more womanly than any woman born.

If woman is just a feeling a man has sometimes, what rights (even to existence) do real women have?

“Women don’t really exist, they’re just a feeling a man sometimes has”– GallusMag at GenderTrender, a radical feminist clearinghouse on WWT and one of the few sources of real journalism on that topic.

The breastfeeding backlash is pretty virulent and often part of nominally conservative circles that identify as more “moderate” and libertarian.  I was inspired to start this post-topic by the weird fact that I’ve seen soooooooooooooooooooooooo many conservative men bring up OUT OF NOWHERE the “boob nazi” narrative regarding why their wives put some or all the babies on formula.  One notable example was reading a dissident right blog mostly about statistical analysis of various stuff and out of nowhere comes the boob nazi thing at the end of a post.  Another interesting example was an open thread discussion on a center-right/libertarian blog that wasn’t about birth or breastfeeding or pregnancy in any way.  But then a dude just busts out with it.

Liberal dudes tend to be super pushy about “posting for their pregnant wife/girlfriend”, which is controlling and weird too, but conservative guys tend to be anti-breastfeeding as a norm.  To brag about how their wife used it as a weight-loss tool, sure, but never as something normal and part of how women birth and nourish infants.  They are also this way about homebirth and midwifery.  Only if they assisted do they support it or speak of it favorably.  One example is the place I purchased some homebirthing supplies from, which was a guy who assisted with his wife’s homebirths enough times that they decided to start a business selling the supplies online.

Breastfeeding for more than a year is especially reviled, which is bitterly funny given the supposed support for SAHMing.

Breastfeeding isn’t always easy and it carries a lot of health issues (like being exhausted from the biological process of milk-making, among other things), but it’s biologically normal, it’s part of the great work that is our womanly form.  We weren’t designed to merely have a baby and then, well, whatever foodwise.  We were designed to breastfeed for many months of an infant’s life, with again a natural decrease in production as the infant matures and can eat more and more solid foods into toddlerhood, where the weaning process is supposed to happen.  These are ideals, and the fallenness of this world makes them not always possible for every woman.  But normalizing *anything but breastfeeding* is definitely anti-woman.  And that happens over and over again among conservatives.  It’s so common to denigrate solely feminine spheres in this way, by only speaking of them when they have some utility as a tool to serve a man’s desires.  It’s not just a thing that gets your body slimmer for funtimes postpartum.  It’s not costless compared to formula, it simply comes with different accounting.  It’s a fearfully and wonderfully made system of infant feeding built right in to start working even before you give birth.  Formula is very clever, but breastmilk production and nursing is so remarkable I do encourage women to try it and support them in doing so in the ways that I can (food, employment for nursing mothers, connecting them with other experienced nursing mothers, etc.)

My position is the same online as it is when I’m helping out women offline to breastfeed at all or for a few months longer than they otherwise would.  Formula is a great invention, but it’s not magical and requires a lot of resources to be a reliable feeding method for infants.  Babies that sleep badly will do so regardless of the food they eat.  And if they sleep pretty good, then they’ll do so with breastmilk as readily as formula.  And making milk is work too, just like growing a baby, so dig in.  But the main way to get more women breastfeeding is to actively support and approve of women staying home all day.  Pumping rooms at a job aren’t going to do it and create many other problems, like pressure on women to run to work ten minutes after delivery.  Anyway this is a hobbyhorse so I’ll hop off and leave additional discussion to the floor.

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.  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.

An Unprincipled Exception of wifely submission

Many conservatives talk a good game about submission, authority and hierarchy, but they don’t want to deal with having to live it.  Thus “submitting” solely to your husband is enough and suddenly you have no bothersome obligations, responsibilities or duties to anyone else, including your own children.  This extremely common position on wifely submission is frankly little better than the modern feminist position that any submission (except to employers of course) is oppressive and not to be borne by women.  It’s just a peculiar inversion of the Austerian unprincipled exception.  There is a clinging to individualism and patriocentricity that is quite telling.  The response to the idea that both husband and wife have obligations to submit to others under real patriarchy is generally to declare that this is a secret plot to have the wife determine who those authorities are by simply noting they exist.

This is essentially American, the usual individualism problem and inability of individuals to either be in or see themselves as part of an organic whole that is the village, so to speak.  I find all the talk in many Christian organs about submission to be a little weird, because it’s always so separated from the totality of life.  It’s just some husband-wife deal, which is just one little piece of the big Christian puzzle for a married Christian couple.  I mean sure, I submit to my husband as the head of our household, but it’s not something that I have to think about consciously, because it is natural and normal to submit to proper authorities, of which my husband is one of several that I have in my life.  And my husband doesn’t have dude-angst over submission to the authorities he is under in his life (mostly but not entirely the same ones that I have, for obvious reasons).  We don’t live in a perfect Biblical village with Divine Hierarchy perfectly applied, but we reflexively respond to what is there in the normal, historically typical ways.