The story of the transformation of the”housewife” into the “stay at home mother” providing “mother-care, not DAYCARE” in American society in the wake of the Pill and Roe v. Wade is an interesting one and there’s not much information on the internet about it because the idea that there was a transition (and that this transition destroyed a substantial amount of soft power among married women) is not compatible with either right wing or left wing narratives about the topic.
We didn’t really have the term before motherhood could be conceivably viewed as entirely intentional/optional, even within marriage. And nobody seems to ask why it bloomed so suddenly and took over, when by its nature it explicitly separates motherhood from marriage, while housewife emphasizes, well, property benefits of marriage for women foremost. Homemaker, it’s worth noting, has begun to turn up as a transition away from stay at home mother, but it lacks that wilful connecting of property with marriage and in fact shifts the domestic world to something a woman must make/build, rather than something she is inherently part of and maintaining/managing.
Since this is just thinky thoughts, I will close with the little data point that over half of American SAHMs use center-based daycare for children aged 0-4 and that we hit that point about 10 years ago and this is in every region of the country, not concentrated in one place, it’s about half everywhere. Employed or not, it’s 80% for BA or higher-possessing mothers.
This meme has apparently been making the rounds of conservative mom town.
Which is great news, because it means people are beginning to Notice things. (h/t to Steve Sailer for that usage.)
But someone who has a relative living in, helping out domestically disagreed with the meme and further tossed out the usual cant about dishwashers and such in the comments to the disagreement-post.
The response is, in fact, hypocritical. It’s not unusual among a lot of (often but not only male) conservatives when it comes to these matters of what women need to have a properly ordered domestic space. They have some kind of support (NOT limited to the children), typically from relatives, but sometimes from non-relatives, often unpaid, and they just conveniently don’t connect their wives’ or their own (if a woman) relatively better ability to manage with their access to real support while berating other people for their “snark” at starting to think about the obvious implications of demanding Proverbs 31 performance out of a woman without giving her a fraction of the resources such a woman had.
She did have domestic help, and if you have it too (especially if you have it in the form of love from relatives), owning up to how that helps your own household be more functional and provide for the children in said household is a sight more Biblically loving and encouraging than ignoring or downplaying your own riches while telling others they should just imagineer that the dishwasher is their BFF and woman up more.
This is not quite what I was thinking about regarding husbands and communities in a different discussion, but it’s in the wheelhouse.
Some small data points for the day, courtesy of the most updated data on the matter from the US Census.
- 38% of households with a stay at home parent have household income of 75k/yr or higher.
- 96% of stay at home parents are mothers, only 4% are fathers.
- Households with a stay at home parent represent 25% of married-couple households.
- Less than 5% of households with a stay at home parent have three or more children under 6 in the home.
- 41% of households with a stay at home parent have five or more members in the household, compared with 29% of households with both parents working at least part-time during the year.
- 18% of households with a stay at home parent have exactly three children under 15 in the home.
- 9% of households with a stay at home parent have four or more children under 15 in the home.
This is for all married-couple households with their own children under 15 in the home.
After more seriously perusing the data, families and especially the kind that are conservative-tending (more than two kids, SAHM, Christian) really are up against it food wise and food isn’t quite as cheap in America as it sometimes seems. When you have three or five or seven kids slamming into puberty within a year or two of each other, you can suddenly be looking at hundreds a month even if you do skip the meat and try to live on ramen alone. My mistake was forgetting how little the vast majority of this country earns and I apologize for being so callous. Twenty percent of 40k/yr is nearly 700/month out of gross income. That is a huge amount to spend when gas costs can be 50/week or more.
So there’s a context for the obsession with cost-reduction in the old food budget and it’s that because I’m surrounded by people with 2-5 kids who make above median income as their norm, I tend to forget in my day to day that this is not the norm for so many others.
Also, low protein diets (which is what much of the frugal/cheap stuff you see online comes out to) make people lethargic and listless, even if there is enough protein to avoid the very bad nutritional deficiency ailment kwashiorkior. Another unstated assumption in the expectation that a SAHM can wrangle the kids while cooking and cleaning and homeschooling (heh!) all day. I guess so, if they’re only getting the minimum to avoid the very worst of nutrient deficiencies. Although how they’d learn all that well is another question entirely and one that is as ever ignored because it wouldn’t fit the narrative that all homeschooled children are above average.
Due to the hourglassing of male income, the type of guy who can earn enough to support a SAHM is something of an outlier. Likewise, the kind of woman who is ok with staying home in the first place is no longer conventional in personality because SAHM as a choice is so denigrated and constrained. Based on American society, it means selecting for more risk-taking men and more antisocial women (or at least women who are more likely to prefer the chronic isolation and find satisfaction in the general encouragement to overwork).
This is just a theory, but it has a fair amount of explanatory value among the conservative Christian pool of households with a SAHM.
The 200k earning woman who turns SAHM is doing so not purely as a form of consumption, but as a socially productive act that props up the kind of privately administered institutions conservatives tend to fondly recall from their own salad days. Even the 20k earning woman who quits to stay home can be one of these socially productive anchors in the community with her volunteer labor and administrative efforts. In fact, such SAHMs are essential to having anything resembling a halcyon traditional-topia social order.
This is a separate function from basic care of the home and children, and yet it’s very much as important, but goes unremarked upon by conservatives. It is a gaping hole in their arguments about why women should be SAHMs. So much of children’s athletic and enrichment activities, and co-ops, and PTA, and etc. rely on SAHMs even as the middle class SAHM becomes an increasingly rare specimen in American society.
Despite the hedging for the people who really believe men will someday soon stay home in large numbers, this short article says as much too.
The social productivity of housewives is quite as important as their abilities to economize or generate income of various amounts and levels. It’s something that also has to be considered when raising daughters to be comfortable with staying home and homemaking in general.
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.