Repost: Domestic au pair and homemaking program

It could be more or less formalized, but training young women in the domestic, homemaking arts and giving them practical experience in childcare would be amazingly useful.

There are a number of avenues by which this could conceivably be enabled, not least as part of a general program of supporting women in their women’s work.

A model to start with would taking the system of the current international au pair program, and figuring out how to adapt it to the needs of young women who’d like to be keepers of hearth and home for their families and future husbands and families who could use the help of energetic girls in their late teens and early 20s.



Self-publishing SAHMs are pretty practical and sensible.

I have been stumbling across a lot of SAHMs who have seized upon self-publishing as a way to make money while having the flexibility to be at home with their children for homeschooling, special needs or infant/toddlerness.  One of the astonishing things about them is how they blow a lot of work-at-home mothers out of the water on the support network front.

Self-publishing SAHMs have childcare so they can write.  Either they pay for it, get a relative to watch the kids a few times a week or they talk to their husbands about taking the kids so they can write 2 or 3 hours a night.  This is a baffling thing full-time work-at-home people rarely do.  They seem to think if you’re at home working the kid(s) will just realize this and let you work, even if they’re infants or toddlers.

This means they reliably write 10-20 hours per week, a true part-time job that can be integrated into their general household management and not cause friction.  And they also pace themselves, they never plan more work than they can reasonably produce on a set, consistent, frequent schedule.  They just work to market whatever length of writing that schedule produces.  And it works.  Because this self-selecting, wonderfully sensible pool of women does not bite off more than they can chew, they sell thousands of copies a month of short stories, novellas and novels apiece and make anywhere from a couple thousand dollars a month for their time to ten thousand or more per month.

At first I thought it was just one or two women, but as I’ve looked at the people who admit to self-publishing and discuss their background, I’ve found it’s a common theme with the SAHMs who are making a go of it.

What a wonderful discovery.

How to bring back the economic component of the women’s sphere?

To a large extent, the retreat of women from their own discrete sphere is driven by the stripping of its economic components due to various technological factors.  The question for conservatives is how to seriously and meaningfully deal with this aspect of the traditional women’s sphere instead of declaring that it either doesn’t matter or is a solved problem since an individual woman can “work from home” for her family’s financial benefit in limited, specific, idiosyncratic instances.

It’s a tough nut to crack, not least because certain economic things women did that were compatible with the domestic sphere as they lost their traditional trades were themselves only viable options due to mass media that evolved from technological advances.  I’m speaking of the numerous housewives and stay-at-home daughters who wrote to support or supplement their families’ incomes, of course.  But the markets they sold into would not have existed without the very technological forces that led us to the atomized, isolated housewives of the latter 20th and now 21st century.  And it’s so hard to communicate the loss, and the sheer amount of income they were responsible for.

Anyway this is an open sticky post for suggestions and discussion.  Will probably update occasionally with relevant links or posts as I run into them.

Some historical downsides of having household help, American edition

  1. 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

  2. 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.
  3. 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 lowly, 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 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).


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.