White people aren’t having a lot of kids these days. If you’ve had a kid, maybe you know why.
I can see why rich English people hand their children over to nannies and ship them off to boarding school as soon as possible. Kids are cute and fun, but they’re also frequently a giant pain in the ass. I spend a lot of time on the road, and I can lay on the bed in the hotel, and it’s so, so quiet. The kid isn’t screaming, or crawling as fast as he can towards the most dangerous object in the room. My wife can bug me about stuff, but only on WhatsApp and Skype, which provides me with a filter.
OK, I realize part of the problem is I’m a pussy. Nick B. Steves has eight kids and a lot more time on his hands than I do. I’m guessing his wife knows not to bug him when he’s saving the world by blogging. But since the average white guy is a lot closer to me than him, my experience is probably more reflective.
I wrote before about our experience with progressive baby care. The current way of caring for children is extremely time-consuming. My wife does not have a job and yet has her hands completely full with one baby. People in the old days had a lot more kids, without as much trouble it seems. What is the difference?
I think kids just didn’t get as much care. They didn’t get as much attention, or as much sympathy. Kids had to survive partly on their own. Pre antibiotics, a lot didn’t. Bruce Charlton writes often on the “mouse utopia” experiment, and compares modern society to the mouse utopia. Sometimes I would wonder about my son’s will to live. Getting him to eat was a great struggle. Acid reflux medication helped a great deal, but that’s a very recent innovation. Some days he will eat solid foods, some days he refuses. I don’t think cave parents spent an hour coaxing the cave baby to eat, while he screamed and threw most of it on the floor. Until recently, I think, the kid ate, or didn’t, mom was busy with other stuff, not to mention dad.
At least we have a kid. A lot of my wife’s friends have fertility problems. Our child is healthy and normal, but we hear a lot more about autism and other developmental problems these days.
That comes largely from trying to have kids when you’re older, I guess. Having fewer children at an older age reflected resources available to the couple, from the historical record in England, according to Greg Cochran. Having just fewer children, for whom you can then each give a bigger share of your resources is a reproductive strategy originating in France in the late 18th century, according to Sarah Perry, which then spread to England.
You could have three sons, one who gets the farm, one who apprentices to a blacksmith, and one who joins the army. Or you could have one son, who you could send to school and who then be a clerk. If you were a little better positioned you might send him to public school where he would be sodomized by an older boy. If the older boy later gets him a 1000 pound a year position with the civil service, you have hit the jackpot, his sore bunghole notwithstanding.
The sore bunghole may be metaphorical rather than actual, but it is real in any case. People wanting security as functionaries of the elite must submit to their value system. The child will be stripped of his identity, but he and his descendants will live higher up the food chain, and there will be fewer of them but they will have a better chance of survival over generations, at least you hope.
If you have more children, they will have to compete harder- against each other for family resources, and then having less family resources, harder against others in their age cohort for community resources.
This has always been the case for the upper classes, who have mostly always used a small family strategy. Not having access to elite resources in any case, most lower classes have gone with the large family strategy. Those close to but not in the upper classes had a choice, and as a global economy and government and corporate bureaucracies emerged, moved to the small family strategy.
Another option was available to the middle classes for a short period of time in a limited geographical area, large family and large community resources allowing for both a large family and upward mobility. This was the golden age of the US middle class, generously estimated from 1950 to 1985. Houses in white neighborhoods were cheap, K-12 education was good and free, and state university was good and cheap. People assumed this was normal and thought it would last forever, and only now, a generation later, it is dawning on people that it was a short-lived anomaly.
But I’m getting off my point. Declining living standards are an old story. And poor, stupid people often have a lot of kids, so it can’t be that hard.
I think having kids has to be a value, and being committed to it people invent a way to make it work. Somebody heard me complaining about my kid’s sleeping habits and strongly recommended something called “Baby Wise” which seems to be you put the kid on a schedule and stick with it. I looked into it, mainly out of curiosity and it’s described as borderline abusive by some. But this must have been how people did it in the old days.
My wife likes books by an English nurse named Tracy Hogg. It’s attachment parenting but with tricks that make it more workable. Still, you’re on your own. The boy refused to eat in the high chair, and we were going crazy. The other day I’m putting him in and he starts to yell as I put on the straps. So I leave them off. My wife is putting the bib on, and he starts to yell, so I tell her leave that off. And he’s happy as a clam and eats like a horse. But I figured it out only by accident.
I don’t think that having and raising kids is something that middle-class white people have a good grip on. People would have more kids if there was a better system, but one isn’t readily available.