Real Talk for SAHMs: SAHMs chatting online is (technically) traditional

Sometimes male people harangue housewives on the internet about being on the internet instead of scrubbing floors with a toothbrush, but in ye olde days, the housewives could just yap at each other while doing the various household chores.  For the women who weren’t servant-class in societies fancy enough to have servant classes, letter writing was a huge part of the day, complete with multiple deliveries of said letters each day.  Not all chit chat is gossip.  Women are garrulous and verbal by nature, they like to discuss.  Society has changed so that it’s much more difficult to stay home and chat with other women, but technology allows for a partial simulation of the traditional behavior.  The real thing is better, but women who can’t get to the real thing anytime soon shouldn’t be picked on for seeking out some semblance of normal female interaction as they go through their housewiving day.

 

Practical Definitions: Sustainable Natalism

Natalism in the common parlance usually refers to government policies designed to make people want to have children.  Practically speaking, that puts the cart before the horse.  I favor natalism that starts with social norms and then is reflected in government policies.

Sustainable natalism is arranging society so that children are acceptable parts of the public sphere at all child ages.  It’s making sure women aren’t broken and worn down by the stresses and strains of bearing and caring for little ones so that they have energy to pop out more than a couple and raise them to adulthood afterwards.  It’s also about granting higher social status to married mothers and fathers, so that marriage is once again considered the correct place to bear and raise children in.

Sustainable natalism is people setting things up so that women feel that they can handle 3-6 kids, so that men can marry before age 30 because they have a good shot of being able to support three or four kids and a wife, and helping parents by being the real village, full of loving friendships and support.  It’s discouraging atomic living and moving every couple of years for a job, it’s encouraging social norms that have extended family nearby.  It’s remembering the value of cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles.  It’s restoring healthy relations between single childless adults and children.  It’s creating a social milieu that leads to grandkids and great-grandkids as a norm.

Tax credits are neat and stuff, but they won’t do the job.  Society has to be oriented strongly towards children as a good in themselves, living the idea that they are a blessing, because modernity shows us that once any ethnicity or culture gets rich and bloated with cheap consumption, they get very uninterested in having children.  Children are hard, even easy ones are hard.  Without lots and lots of explicit support and status accorded to motherhood and fatherhood, people simply don’t bother.

 

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.

Why a confinement model of pregnancy is pro-woman

It is kinder and less stressful in contrast to the American mule thing.  Under a confinement model, pregnant women aren’t forced into the standard of trying to match the ones who can do All The Things in every trimester and who don’t appear to even know what morning sickness is.  Instead, every pregnant woman is given the benefit of the doubt and not burdened with additional expectations that she appear in public or do a lot of physical labor.

Other people in the community come to the pregnant woman.  The pastor or priest comes to visit, she isn’t expected to waddle into church with a passel of younguns behind her.  Other women visit and the expectations for the state of the house are very different, because the time to grow the baby is considered important all by itself.

There has been a lot of historical variation in the confinement model, and it mostly involved waiting until a baby bump was likely for what should be obvious reasons.  But there is a tenderness to it and a preservation of women’s space and a women’s sphere that is sorely missing from modern American norms regarding pregnancy.

A broad standard that builds rest and healing into the natural course of pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period seems pretty pro-woman to me.

250k isn’t enough, or why not even other right wing women want my SAHM lifestyle.

This is a breakdown of exactly how expensive it is to live substituting money for the network of support common to healthy patriarchal societies.  In this example, I show where 250k in gross household income per year would go in attempting to provide enough support with cash instead of neighbors and relatives to get a SAHM with several children through the under-5 years with closely spaced pregnancies and breastfeeding.

25k– tithe

35k– modest PITI (Principal, Interest, property Taxes, homeowner’s Insurance) of 1.5-2x income after 20% down, not before

50k– household services (sitter or nanny, weekend/backup sitter, house cleaning 2-4x per month)

15k– food (local, often organic, directly purchased from farmers wherever possible, fair trade and single-source where not local).

50k– federal income and social insurance taxes (approximate, tax treatment varies wildly from state to state)

10k– gas, commute and auto maintenance expenses (not including car insurance)

5k– car insurance, life insurance, disability insurance

15k– reserve or expenses for home maintenance and improvements

10k– utilities (internet/cell, electric, water, sewer or septic maintenance, garbage, any other common utilities)

15k– HSA/health insurance/health care (annualized estimate)

20k– savings/float/reserve against unexpected/anything I missed

This totals to exactly 250k per year, and there things I missed.  And even with this much money substituting for human relationships and assistance, women at this level of household income who SAHM still face plenty of sleep deprivation and exhaustion and none of these expenses make up for the lack of other women and their children in groups to hang out with while going through household routines.

This is my life*, and nobody wants it.  And nobody wants to admit it takes this kind of money to even come close to setting up a private household with a SAHM in something resembling a traditional way.  Despite the full time help wrangling my very active children and the friendly couple that clean weekly, I’m still exhausted and have trouble gaining/maintaining weight when I need it for pregnancies and breastfeeding.  And I always feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of household work to do that isn’t the canonical cooking and cleaning and childcare because I don’t do a lot of that day to day and *there’s still a lot of other housework to do*.

But I am not envied by other SAHMs because they think any childcare that isn’t mom 24/7/365 is “leaving your children to be raised by wolves, er, I mean other women”.  And having a house cleaner deep clean is just showing how I fail housewiving 4eva by not being organized enough to clean perfectly around squalling toddlers flinging rice in every direction because mommy’s ignoring them (sorry, lovingly caring for them in a way utterly superior in all possible ways to any relative or paid provider’s child minding) to scour the sink just right.

I am not envied by working mothers because holding any wage job outside the home (no matter how low-paying) and putting the kids into daycare at 6 weeks old (or more commonly, paying some SAHM whose household income is closer to 25k/yr 20-40 bucks a day under the table for childcare) means they are financial contributors to their household and I am not, so I am to be pitied and despised for being such a drain on my husband with my very existence.

And that’s the right-wing, conservative Christian side of the aisle.

*The exact household income and expense list in this example isn’t our literal personal one as our household is more agrarian in orientation, but there are some broad similarities.

The Latina high school dropout and Asian immigrant SAHM revolution

So there was a Pew report a while back about the changing demographics of the American SAHM, emphasizing that they were disproportionately “less educated”, “young”, “lower income” and “less white”.  But of course digging into the report’s data reveals that they are also disproportionately “Latina or Asian” and “first generation immigrants”.

It is quite common for liberal women who work outside the home to sneer at SAHMs as uneducated axlotl tanks via news pulpits or just internet comment threads and of course in person, to a SAHM’s face.  They have been able to get away with this because people believed that this was just about being mean to conservative Christian white women who are of course fair game in our sad disordered society.  The reality that the demographic shift in SAHMs is ethnic and cultural is ostentatiously ignored when it comes to pushing that “lol dumb sheltered SAHMs” narrative.  Even when the ethnic changes must be acknowledged, as in the Pew report’s data, the headlines don’t emphasize that “poor and not-white” does not in fact mean “black and female”.  They just sort of let that be assumed even when it doesn’t add up, relying on the head explosion to make people skimming revert to their comforting stereotype that SAHMs are all stupid unschooled right wing white women.

This isn’t included in the Pew data, but it is worth noting as well that these Asian and Latina SAHMs are more likely to live traditionally in the form of households where gramma and auntie live in their own quarters but pop out to assist with the cooking, cleaning and childcare.  This means that these households can manage at a lower income on the books and have a more functional quality of life despite the appearance of “poverty level earnings”.  It also is misleading, as a larger but more efficient household can have a very decent living standard on poverty-level wages, as the thresholds for 5, 6, 7, 9 people are pretty high.

When gramma really will just cook all day while auntie takes the kids to the playground and mamma scrubs the bathrooms, you suddenly don’t need nearly as much money or consumption to maintain a decent living standard for the household.  Lastly, Asian (Including South) and Latin children (with indigenous ancestry) are more docile and less physically mobile as infants and toddlers compared to black and white children.  This is well documented by scientific observation across multiple decades. Thus, the changing demographic shifts also reflect women who have children more compatible with modern SAHM multitasking expectations than white or black mothers.  So it’s a very different experience and one that makes women from these ethnic and cultural backgrounds amenable to staying at home, particularly when their children are young.  Those ethnic differences in how little ones behave are, uh, also not mentioned when discussing SAHM realities and demographics.

What living near each other could look like

I sometimes read a little group blog called The Orthosphere.  It’s run by a bunch of conservative men who seem really sincere about promoting traditionalism.  The problem is that they profoundly misunderestimate what kind of polemic would serve to promote traditionalism as an abstraction.  A recent post there is a case in point, but what this post is about is not the abstract, overlong attempt at conversion rhetoric, but a comment following the post about living more normally/traditionally.

http://orthosphere.org/2014/04/21/you-need-to-be-a-traditionalist-conservative/#comment-43968

Here’s the relevant half of the comment:

“…living correctly is not currently allowed. It’s politically incorrect. But individuals can score small victories in their everyday lives. They can refuse to agree with what they know is wrong. They can act rightly in their own lives or, when forced by overwhelming power to act wrongly, they can do so minimally, under protest. Perhaps we should open a new thread where people are invited to share the ways they resist the current order, act rightly, and maintain their sanity. We must not lose heart because our ideals have been declared thoughtcrime. Current conditions will not last.”

This assertion is correct in that living correctly in a piecemeal, cafeteria fashion is policed and getting increasingly difficult to do if one is conservative.  But this commenter misses the observed reality that doing so in a complete fashion, with a real parallel system is still on the table.  That is the gist of my post here.

Serious conservatives could be buying properties like this with a few other families and setting up a practical agrarian/distributist lifestyle and even potential spouses for their children and a real possibility of grandchildren and future inheritance.  That property has multiple single family homes and enough acreage for each family to “own” one of several crops (livestock is a potential crop, not just plants) and use that specialization opportunity to maximize returns.  Also, with several families living near each other but having their own homes, household tasks could be split up and rotated in traditional agrarian fashion so that nobody was overwhelmed.

Since the property is located in the super-boonies, living near several like-minded families would make the stresses of driving 2-4 hours to the “big cities” to sell the farm products a great deal more tolerable.  And the small core of families could still build relationships and friendships with the locals, but wouldn’t be demoralized if those social ties never formed to a deep extent (which is sometimes the way of things in isolated rural areas).  Living far away from one’s biological relatives would have a lot of the sting taken out, as the redundancy of multiple families means it would be possible to maintain regular visits and contact without the problems that come from leaving crops to do family visiting.  And financially, the property doesn’t require each individual family to have a huge income to pay their portion of a mortgage or massive savings to buy outright.

This is one path to “having all things in common” without ignoring the importance of access to private property and individual opportunities to build wealth and inheritance long-term.  I would also note that there are dozens if not hundreds of these sorts of properties for sale right this very minute, all over the United States.  The work would be hard and challenging, and certainly people have to save up something first, but this is on the table as an option instead of laments about being priced out of the suburbs, where one would have to struggle in a very different and more risky way with a piecemeal approach to living normally.

One doesn’t have to go full Amish, but one does have to set up a lifestyle that lays groundwork for restoration of healthy social structures and institutions by starting with a small group of like minds and branching out from there.  The barnacle approach of continuing to cling to the pieces of liberalism that appeal to you while rejecting the pieces that don’t is not going to continue to be a path for conservatives going forward.  Just as the True Way of faith in Christ is narrow, so too is the list of viable options for preserving normal life for future generations.

Them’s the breaks.  Industrialization and modernity mean we just can’t rely on the old dividends of traditional living.  They’re spent up and we have to just grit the old teeth and give up some precious temporal things now or see our children lose them all.