Traditional Motherhood is collectivist

Another thread from twitter, this time about a viral meme:

Even in small scale, you can see it’s about how ye olde mothers had more kids and while I think the bottom is cut off, as it passes through time and lower fertility, it ends with a woman who is “mom” to a cat (the stereotypical modern careerist catlady).

Anyway, this was my response thread. It mentions the Hajnal line, which is a very modern way to talk about Anglo, Saxon and Scandinavian historical family formation norms.

“This image is loved among a certain kind of usually male person on the right, but it’s immensely silly. The top woman had 2-4 other women helping her out, the second woman had 1-2, and the third about 50% of the time has 1 woman helping. Also they all akshuly had more kids.”

“Traditional motherhood is collectivist. Among Hajnal-line women, it’s usually more informal, intensely conformist and paid support is downplayed/minimized (going back centuries). Among women outside that line, it varies by era, but mothers are expected to have at least one other woman helping, whether it’s a relative or a paid woman.”

“It does take a village, and the difference when people in your town/neighborhood/city really will keep track of your kids and look after them while you walk downtown to pick up a package vs. mom and dad doing it all is one part of the birth rate decline. Too many people on the right make a false idol out of frontier motherhood, except even those women sometimes had other people watching their kids. And they didn’t homeschool.”

One last quick note about this meme: it’s infected with its own modernity, as I noted in passing in my tweet thread. A lot of “trad twitter” and the dissident right in general believes that 3-4 kids is equally as large a family as 6-7 as 9-10, and they craft their memes accordingly. Most of their memes about a proper traditional wife DIYing her childrearing have her with as few as 2 children, but rarely more than 4. At least it reflects how rare normally-large families have gotten, albeit unwittingly.

Why very low income and very high income SAHMs often treat frugality as a very part-time job

With the very low income, they have to because there’s no room for error and low enough on the income tree, it’s a real financial loss plus massive stressor to have two workers maxing out at 43k or so.

For the very high income (in W2 income terms anyhow), it’s related.  If your husband makes 400k, you get the same benefit spending 10 hours a week or even month finding an extra 25k in the budget as you would working a 50k/yr job because you only end up with a little more and you have to work 40 hours a week to get it.  You have to crack six figures yourself before the extra money is harder to find via frugality than just working a job for it.

This isn’t to say that frugality is pointless unless you only make under 40k or over 400k, but that at the extreme ends of wage income (as reflected in both extremes having the highest rates of SAHMs), it’s mostly going to be easier to conserve cash rather than earn marginally more cash.

The math is different closer to the median married income, which is partly why the median is rising.  The reason is that people who are willing to marry when both incomes are likely to be about even set up their finances differently and as a result losing one income doesn’t create the space to segue into conserving the remaining one.

Of course, another reason the median married income is rising is that if you weren’t taught household management and homemaking skills, which is a very large number of marriageable women these days, it is terrifying to figure out how to get along on a low income and marrying a higher earning man sounds like it will be safer/easier.

Real Talk for SAHMs: Solutions for Sleep Deprivation like Solid Core Doors and White Noise Generators

Title says it all, but what does the title mean?

It means major factors in sleep deprivation for mothers, particularly SAHMs are not infants and toddlers screaming for milk or comfort frequently through the night, but rather the stray babbling and what I like to call Rebel Yells (one cry lasting one or two seconds).  As well as random noises in the night from other members of the household getting up occasionally.

So the solution is devices that filter out the minor non-emergency sounds of nighttime while allowing the real cries lasting more than a moment to penetrate.  And that is where solid core doors and white noise generators come in.

What are the benefits of a solid core door?

  • Reduces sound entering the room by ~50%.  Rebel yells sound like babble and babble is muted below a level that would wake a lightly sleeping mother.
  • Due to sound reduction, once you fall asleep, it’s harder for micro-waking to be triggered, so you get more quality sleep as well.  Micro-waking happens to a lot of people who believe that “just tune it out and roll over” doesn’t come with sleep cycle interruption.
  • Helps during the daytime when all the kids are up and about and you need a block of focused time.  If the kids are happy and just rambunctious, the solid core mutes that enough that you can concentrate easily.  It’s like a hum or a mild rumble compared to the hollow core doors that are standard.
  • Cheap for the effectiveness.  Most models are only $100-200 per door, and even with installation costs of $50-100 will last even longer than the hollow cores that are standard.
  • Not sleep related, directly, but heavy and thus more child-proof.  An angry two year old with a hammer isn’t going to get very far.  Also harder for kids to take off the hinges.

So what about that white noise generator?

Well, that’s the second piece of the puzzle.  White noise generators are often used on the baby/toddler in hopes of keeping them from waking.  But sometimes the more effective approach is to give one each to the nursery room or mom’s room.

This tends to be more helpful once you’re actually asleep, with the white noise reducing the tendency to micro-wake.  Depending on the type of white noise generator, it can also help you get to sleep and relax you.  There’s mechanical ones, usually not very loud, and digital ones, sometimes very loud.  I’d get the digital one, since it’s easier to play a range of sounds.  Either mechanical or digital runs $25 to $100, so they’re also cheap.

Combined with a solid core door, nearly all the intermittent and random noise is muted enough to tune out, but any emergency yelling will still come through.

Why yes, I do know what wedding gifts I’m giving my daughters, in law and natural!

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.

There are studies suggesting 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 (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 has lived a pretty agrarian lifestyle and we ended up back in upscale suburbia.  And that’s pretty much the core of the problem.  The concrete accomplishments of my agrarian living helped alleviate the stresses of the worst of modern housewiving, but it couldn’t actually work long-term, which is why “be agrarian LARPers” is not a general solution to a general problem.  Even if people keep proposing it as one every 15 years or so like clockwork for the last century and a half.

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 college educated working class people (i.e. most of the relatively new married class).

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.

Some historical downsides of having household help, American edition

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
  • 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.

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 servile, 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 in the early 1900s 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).

 

Real Talk for SAHMs, Infant Sleep Edition

It’s the electricity.  Without artificial light in the form of streetlights, electric night lights, and the glow from various appliances and gadgets, even frequent wakers among babies would sleep longer.

Thus, the conflicting advice on how to get an infant to “sleep better” only serves to divide and instill needless guilt about not having a “good sleeper” when the problem is something much bigger and not easily erased with better planning.  One of the reasons co-sleeping is more effective at extending infant sleep anecdotally is because master bedrooms tend to be the darkest room in the house at night.  A lot of infants are put in cribs with glowing monitors and/or night lights, which is mostly not the case when the baby is in a cosleeper or bedsharing.

The recent trend of fretting about nighttime computer use and “blue light” from laptops and smartphones and tablets affecting adult sleep is the tip of a huge iceberg of modernity.

Our foremothers got more sleep at night even with frequent-waking infants because even a pretty frequent waker just seems to drop some wakeups in (relatively) natural night darkness.  And it is really hard to get rid of all the sources of light.  We live in a part of the country where people are wired for generators because of the rural setting and it’s still lit up to a high degree at night, even homes nowhere near the street lights.  And it is quite shocking to realize how much stuff glows at night in the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom, etc.

I’ve seen wakings go from every 90 minutes to every three hours just by putting the infant in approximately natural darkness.  However, it is very difficult to maintain in any kind of standard American household setting, even among homeschooling conservatives who don’t have televisions (but definitely have some iDevices lurking).

Now there’s a practical project I’d love to see some technically adept conservatives tackle– housing design so that natural darkness can be preserved during nighttime.  There are a number of possible strategies, and imagine being able to live in such a home, or have your own home modified to have both modern electric lighting and the ability to get a mostly natural level of darkness at night even in the city.  The health benefits to mothers alone would probably increase the old TFR by a couple tenths of a point.  Fertility can sometimes be delayed partly because of the sleep deprivation that has become the unfortunate norm for modern SAHMs.

Realtalk for Righties: Homeschooling promotion vs. homeschool reality

It’s presented as easy to jump into, especially by conservative men talking out of their hats, but there are numerous obstacles and regional barriers.  A few of the more common ones are listed below.  Actually, this should be an ongoing series, with each one its own post.  A project for another time.  For now here’s the capsules.

  1. “Just go join a co-op!”  LOL.  As if they’re listed in the phone book, or posted at your local church (if you even have a local church, the commuter-Christian phenomenon is painfully familiar and common, and has been for much of American history).  The existence of contact information does not prove the co-op is open to new families.  The lack of contact information does not prove the co-op is closed to new families.  This is, needless to say, confusing as all get out, especially considering the state the average Christian SAHM is in.  Sure, I’ll take my sleep-deprived, pregnant self around to ten or twenty churches and ask about their homeschool co-ops, towing my four kids under 5 behind me.  Or I’ll compose a dozen emails because doesn’t every homeschool co-op have a well-designed website with contact information and details of how the co-op works prominently labelled?  Oh, oh, wait, wait, let me make PHONE CALLS while KIDS SCREAM IN MY EAR.
  2. “You can easily homeschool older kids with littles around!”  ROFLMSMBO (rolling on the floor laughing my shiny metal butt off).  Not really, no.  It’s hard to end up with the mix of personalities that would allow this to be possible, and what is rare and unusual at best is all too often presented as a normal, reasonable expectation in homeschooling.  But everyone lies.  It’s just not real.
  3. Not distinguishing between HomeSchool and School at Home.  The latter is just a way to bring all the ridiculous pedagogy from public school into your house for no gain and a lot of needless hassle.
  4. “It’s always superior to public school!”  LOLOLOLOL.  The homeschool vanguard, with exceptionally well-educated mothers who had access to classically trained elites (because that was their cousin or uncle) could not produce employable children.  They couldn’t even produce the army of little Lee Kwan Yews they were very convinced they would end up becoming the new elites.

Brought to you by my attempts to find other homeschoolers locally and the honest experiences of homeschoolers online and off when it’s just us ladies realtalking while the kids run around.

Real Talk for SAHMs: Are conservative SAHMs trapped in a sick system?

From an interesting (but childless) permanent student who goes by Issendai here.  Let’s count the ways.

The Rules of a Sick System

Rule 1: Keep them too busy to think. 

We know all about Superwife syndrome and the endless performance pressure on conservative SAHMs to be busybusybusy.  Leisure time is not even in the vocabulary.

Rule 2: Keep them tired. Exhaustion is the perfect defense against any good thinking that might slip through. 

This is a huge one.  I got 10 hours of sleep…in the last four days.  This isn’t even unusual for conservative SAHMs, even for ones with kids who are primary school-aged or older (mine are not)!  All Rule 2 takes is for the other adults to do nothing.  And they don’t. There’s no systemic efforts, women are entirely reliant on hoping their own individual husband and individual church and individual extended family will do something.  And sometimes they do, but it’s reduced to “just luck” or “a different lifestyle choice”.

Rule 3: Keep them emotionally involved. 

This one sounds like it shouldn’t be on the list (after all, why wouldn’t you love your husband and your children and “be emotionally involved” with them?).  But what is being gotten at here is the illusion of status being used to maintain the emotional attachment.  There’s also, for conservative SAHMs, the extreme loyalty in the form of (weirdly cribbed from attachment parenting) being
“indispensable”.   Even postpartum after a fistula following delivery.  Even with pneumonia.  Even with the chronic fatigue and lowered performance and general taking the exhaustion out on the children.  The conservative SAHM is routinely told that she doesn’t need any other women around.  It helps if she’s the one telling it to herself over and over again, that a sitter to watch the kids once or twice a week so she could have some quiet uninterrupted time would be “letting another woman rear her children, that wouldn’t be Godly”, that her husband wanting to play video games until 1am and insisting she join in “is just part of being a good submissive wife, if I say no (and maybe get more than four hours’ sleep a day), I’m being DISLOYAL.”  And this works because conservative SAHMs believe they receive real, significant social status for being wives and mothers who stay home within the conservative world, even though this is not really the case in practice.

Rule 4: Reward intermittently. Intermittent gratification is the most addictive kind there is. 

Printables.  Pinterest.  Happy talk about how you’re making memories, not just messes.  There’s dozens of little thoughtstoppers and rituals that conservative SAHMs go through that provide a little burst of accomplishment-feeling.  There’s also the way in which the happy talk serves to make you feel grateful for five minutes alone, ever.  Intermittent rewards work a treat because the bar is so, so low for what is rewarding due to the overall poor conditions conservative SAHMs live under.

How Sick Systems Enforce The Four Rules

Now, Issendai describes how these rules are enforced in a sick system.  I edited out the work-related examples, because we’re talking about SAHMs and whether the system they are in is a sick one.

Keep the crises rolling. Regular crises perform two functions: They keep people too busy to think, and they provide intermittent reinforcement. After all, sometimes you win—and when you’ve mostly lost, a taste of success is addictive. 

This one right here is why I advocate so much for housewives having household help.  Otherwise it is very easy to slip into a permanent crisis mode.  It’s not that household help is magical, it’s that it’s another layer of potential protection, accountability for husband and wife, whether it’s relatives/neighbors/friends and/or paid.

Things will be better when... Intermittent reinforcement + hope = “Someday it will always be like this.” Perpetual crises mean the person is too tired to notice that it has never been like this for long.

“When we have another baby.” “When we stop having children.” “When I get that promotion, maybe you can have someone come once a month to help with the cleaning.”  “When the kids are older and can help out.” “When we find another church/parish.”

Keep real rewards distant. The rewards in “Things will be better when…” are usually nonrewards—things will go back to being what they should be when the magical thing happens. Real rewards are far in the distance. They look like they’re on the schedule, but there’s nothing in the To Do column. For example, everything will be better when we move to our own house in the country… but there’s nothing in savings for the house, no plan to save, no house picked out, not even a region of the country settled upon.

Since we’re talking about a disordered nuclear family for the most part, this is less true for conservative SAHMs than, say, a feminist nonprofit employee dating a punk musician.  Kids do grow up, after all.  But in practice there was never time to show them how to help, so it’s just easier to keep on doing as much alone as you can.  In practice he says he agrees with church teaching and you can get the old tubes untied and have a couple more kids, but there’s never any money for it and there’s always “serving him” that comes first, before teaching the one or two kids you do have anything that might ease your burden.  And you can’t enforce bedtimes, Daddy says he should have time with *his* kids when he can, even if it means loud action movies with your 10 and 12 yo sons until 1am and not-much homeschooling (and crisis! because they are cranky and struggle to get their lessons right.)  And the original example of the house in the country is absolutely spot-on, especially when you consider the conservative love of “homesteading” and “prepping”.

Establish one small semi-occasional success. This should be a daily task with a stake attached and a variable chance of success. For example, you need to take your meds at just the right time. Too early and you’re logy the next morning and late to work, too late and you’re insomniac and keep your partner up until you go to sleep, too anything and you develop nausea that interrupts your meal schedule and sets your precariously balanced blood sugar to swinging, sparking tantrums and weeping fits. It’s your partner’s job to get you to take your meds at just the right time. Each time she finds an ideal time, it becomes a point of contention—you’re always busy at that time, or you’re not at home, or you eat too early or too late so the ideal time shifts or vanishes entirely. But every so often you take your meds at just the right time and everything works perfectly, and then your partner gets a jolt of success and the hope that you’ve reached a turning point.

This one for conservative SAHMs is often family dinner or having something ready for Husband when he gets home from work rather than medication.  Homeschooling is also used this way.  Also religious practice, sadly.  “We could get to church/Mass more often if you’d just….”  “We could have family prayer every night/morning if you just….”

Chop up their time. Or if you’re partners, be glued to them at the hip, demand their attention at short intervals throughout the day (and make it clear that they aren’t allowed to do the same with you), establish certain essential tasks that you won’t do and then demand that they do them for you, establish certain essential tasks that they aren’t allowed to do for themselves and demand that they rely on you to do it for them (and then do it slowly or badly or on your own schedule). Make sure they have barely enough time to manage both the crisis of the moment and the task of the moment; and if you can’t tire them out physically, drain them emotionally.

I kept in the partner example here because this is in fact what happens to all too many conservative SAHMs.  It’s not just the children at young ages interrupting (and if you are pregnant every year or two, this doesn’t end for a decade or even two), it’s the husband pulling these very stunts when he doesn’t have the excuse of being 18 months old.  Conservative men will sometimes step this up in response to the kids getting older.  They’ll demand more and more time spent on their “needs”.

Enmesh your success with theirs.  The classic maneuver is to blame all your bad moods on your partner: If they weren’t so _______ or if they did ______ right, you wouldn’t be so stressed/angry/foul-tempered.

“If you were more submissive/skinny/kinky/organized/cooked better/dressed nicer, etc. I could get a better job/get more hours at work/pay the bills on time/help with the kids…”

Keep everything on the edge. Make sure there’s never quite enough money, or time, or goods, or status, or anything else people might want. Insufficiency makes sick systems self-perpetuating, because if there’s never enough ______ to fix the system, and never enough time to think of a better solution, everyone has to work on all six cylinders just to keep the system from collapsing.

Yep.  And there’s always, for a conservative SAHM, a fallback that their family is special and unique and there’s nobody out there quite as Godly or Catholic or Orthodox or pick your Christianish adjective. It’s just their individual family being “countercultural against the secular folks”.  Which means any failing in the wife is purely her own fault and something she has to work on.  There’s never any system-wide problem or structural issues with the subculture she’s in.  Why, didn’t she just say her family was countercultural?  What subculture?  What community of affinity?

It doesn’t have to be like this.  There is no reason infants and toddlers, even closely spaced, need to be a source of domestic chaos, sleep deprivation and poor health.  Unless the system of bearing and raising children is so broken that millions of women have to run around alone and tired, and amnesiac about the trauma when they come up for air once the kids are school aged.  Unless the system is, in fact, sick.