Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Readers Respond to Pre-Pregnancy . . .

That Pre-pregnancy Plan? Oh, Please.

I was sad to see the recent CDC recommendations regarding preconception care for all fertile women ["Forever Pregnant," May 16] and take it as further evidence of the politicization of our nation's once-vaunted professional services.

If our public health services are interested in improving pregnancy outcomes, they need to advocate three things: universal health care for all Americans, improved education about and availability of birth control, and the licensing of the morning-after pill as an over-the-counter drug, as the experts at the FDA have recommended.

Sorry, but I'm not about to recommend to all fertile women in my practice that they stop drinking alcohol -- when there is no evidence that moderate use is harmful to them -- so that they can stand ready to be impregnated at any time. It is one thing to encourage women to forgo their own desires for the needs of their babies when pregnant; it is quite another to demand that harmless activities be given up for the totality of their reproductive lives, as this report suggests, so they may be better ready to serve the fatherland as breeders.

Robert A. Schweizer, MD
Media, Pa.

I'll drink to that.

Sadly, the Doctor had no comment on Samuel L. Jackson's upcoming performance.

"The article made me feel as if I should be at my home, barefoot and in the kitchen, and doing nothing but preparing for the glorious time when I will be pregnant. . . ."

"I would modestly propose that the CDC adopt the following guidelines for all males between the ages of puberty and death. . ."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Parents singled out for program that replaces jail time with treatment and dropped charges

Criminals who don't bother with condoms rewarded with special treatment denied to others.

Ohio Governor Bob Taft announced Monday that six counties will test a program that provides treatment instead of jail time for certain drug offenders. . . who are juveniles or who have children and are earning less than twice the federal poverty level.
. . .
Incentives for the offenders could include dismissing the charges or clearing or sealing a criminal record upon successful completion of the program.
Ohio residents can write the Governor.

I'm getting the impression from those in the know that this may be a permissible form of discrimination. I'll find out from Larry Tribe come fall what the parameters of constitutionally permissible discrmination are.

As a policy matter, however, it makes little sense to me to exclude the childless, no matter what the benefit of the program for parents.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Childfree Letter on "Moms as managers" makes USA Today's Op-ed.

Moms in workplace (Scroll down for letter)
Being a single woman, childless by choice, I found USA TODAY's question "Do moms make better managers?" very interesting (Cover story, Money, May 12).

From my perspective, I always dreaded finding out that one of my female co-workers was pregnant because that meant the workload and associated stress for the rest of us would increase during her maternity leave — more work for less money, in my view. I work in sales; when I handled a co-worker's accounts during her maternity leave, I didn't get her commissions. That money went to the company, not to me.

Baby showers at work got old real quickly after the first or second time. Because I never had kids, those women never had to reciprocate in work time and shower gifts.

Sue Nichols, Nashville
Thank you Sue. Childfree folks - send in those letters! It is one of the best ways to make people realize that we're out here.

Worldwide, the result are the same - children make you unhappy

Danish collection of happiness studies confirms U.S. studies.

Sociologist Ruut Veenhoven from the Erasmus University . . . launched the "World Database of Happiness" on the Internet. The portal is an ongoing register of current research findings in the field, accessible by all and full of open secrets.
. . .
Statistics show that happiness booms right after marriage. Although that marital bliss will ebb out eventually, satisfaction levels never hit the depths that singles will see -- unless children enter the picture, that is.

Contrary to popular belief, the pitter-patter of little feet does not bring joy to our lives. Children actually make happiness statistics drop to oblivion, never to return to their previous levels again.

Veenhoven's analysis is sober: "Children have a constant negative effect on human happiness and the quality of marriage." . . . When the stress of parenting and job begins to wane, those in their 50s and 60s will start to enjoy their lives again.
Sounds familiar.

Unlike the studies showing that working mothers are healthiest and thinnest, the fact that these studies are recent make them relevant. Those were done at a time when childlessness was likely caused by infertility, causing statisticians to repeat the mantra "correlation does not imply causation." In other words, they may share a common source - health problems that cause fertility problems may also cause the other low health indicators in those studies.

On the other hand, many of these happiness studies were done at a time when having children is a choice - as is, often, childlessness. If children are depressing the hell out of those who wanted them, just think what they would do to our lives?

Friday, May 19, 2006

New line of products reflects wistfully on life before parenthood.

Elwood Street Designs, LLC Introduces Humorous Giftware For Moms
Moms can now enjoy humorous giftware and lifestyle items that remind them of their more carefree childless days. Before Kids products make light of the realities of parenting. For example, financial pressure, Before Kids, I had shoe money; exhaustion, especially with new babies, Before Kids, I slept late; or the plights of the working mom,, work ended at five.
. . .
One day DINKS (double income - no kids) and the next a family on the go. There are also new financial worries, childcare concerns, and other real life issues. Yes, there is a reality to parenting, but there is also a light side. Please join Before Kids in celebrating kids and the constant challenges of parenting – no regret, just reflection.
Before Kids, I had time to format a press release without repeating the same broken link three times.

I know that in reality, childfree people have a range of financial situations. As a grad student, I'm back to Life With Ramen myself. Yet I can't help the urge to make an "I Still . . ." line of T-Shirts to wear with my Manolos.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Guidelines: Treat Nearly All Women as Pre-Pregnant

Forever Pregnant
New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves -- and to be treated by the health care system -- as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.

. . . experts say it's important that women follow this advice throughout their reproductive lives, because about half of pregnancies are unplanned and so much damage can be done to a fetus between conception and the time the pregnancy is confirmed.
. . .
Some medical facilities have already found a way to weave preconception care in with regular visits. At Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., a form that's filled out when checking a patient's height, weight and blood pressure prompts nurses to ask women, "Do you smoke, and do you plan to become pregnant in the next year? And if not, what birth control are you using?"
Great . . a hospital in the Bronx is better able to figure out an equitable system than the federal government.

I understand the need to guard against all the damage done by accidental pregnancies (aside from the fact that better birth control seems a better solution than vitamins) but the fact that it doesn't differentiate for women with tubal ligations, on Depo Provera, etc. is just stupid.

Is it just me, or does the title "Forever Pregnant" sound for the making of a great horror movie? Just like Snakes on a Plane, the name alone could fill the seats.

Cheerfully Childless no longer just a book title . . it's a statistical fact.

Study shows moms, dads more depressed than other adults

A few weeks ago, a study revealed what most childfree people already suspected. Of course, they had to get in their dig about how it must be because parents aren't getting enough benfits (at the cost of childfree taxpayers and coworkers, of course)

I long for the day when a plan like Xerox's becomes the norm.
Hey, you moms and dads out there showing off the latest photos of your kids and ragging about their recent achievements. You might not want to be quite so smug: Parents are more depressed than adults without kids. Despite the joys you think parenthood may bring, a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior reports that having children does not make you happier.

‘‘We believe the costs associated with the role overshadow those benefits,’’ said Robin Simon, co-author of the study published in December in the journal published by the American Sociological Association. ‘‘We romanticize parenthood. It’s difficult and it is expensive.’’

This depressing statistic — depressing that is, if you’ve already ventured down the procreation road yourself — includes everyone from parents still changing diapers to, more surprisingly, those who sent their kids to college long ago. The finding runs counter to those on other social roles in the United States, such as marriage and employment, that do help your emotional well being, the study said.
Along these lines, I've noticed an odd trend among those parents trying to engage in a debate about childfreedom. Out of one side of their mouths they discuss how offensive it is to do a cost-benefit analysis of having children, and out the other side they gush about how the rewards of children outweigh the drawbacks. Ummm. . . that's a cost-benefit analysis. Why is it such a stretch to think that those of us who would not realize those same rewards would not undertake all those burdens?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Pre-existing child incentives in France have helped them buck the European trend of falling populations . . . but France is still adding more.

French government eyes 'le baby boom'

In Europe 2.1 children per woman is considered to be the population replacement level. These are national averages
Ireland: 1.99
France: 1.90
Norway: 1.81
Sweden 1.75
UK: 1.74
Netherlands: 1.73
Germany: 1.37
Italy: 1.33
Spain: 1.32
Greece: 1.29
Source: Eurostat - 2004 figures
. . .
According to recent government figures, France's population should reach 75 million (from 62 million today) by the middle of the century, in the process overtaking Germany - whose numbers the UN says will fall from 82 million to 70.8 million in 2050.
. . .
Until now, there has been a pay-out of £345 a month for mothers (or occasionally
fathers) to take time off for up to three years for a third child. Under the new measures they have the option of taking a bigger pay-out of £508 for just one
year - the idea being to win over women who were reluctant for financial or professional reasons to stop work.

On top of that, tax-credit for hiring child-minders is being doubled, and the carte famille nombreuse is being extended to cover museum entrance fees and other leisure activities. "

Even Germany and Russia, who are scrambling to introduce pay-to-breed schemes, thinks it's just plain silly to make more French people. Just kidding.

At least for once I'm glad to be an American.

Russia's Birth Rate Declining as well - for some reason they think it's a problem.

Putin Urges Plan to Reverse Slide in the Birth Rate

President Vladimir V. Putin directed Parliament on Wednesday to adopt a 10-year program to stop the sharp decline in Russia's population, principally by offering financial incentives and subsidies to encourage women to have children.
. . .
Mr. Putin has raised the issue in the past, but never with such a clear set of instructions aimed at increasing the low birthrate, or at such length in a prominent speech. Among his proposals were one-time cash grants to mothers upon the birth of a second child, extended maternity leave benefits and a graduating scale of cash and day-care subsidies as a woman has more children. "The situation is critical in that sphere," he said.
. . .
His attention to this issue brought a rare moment of levity when Mr. Putin said, "Now, the main thing, what we see as the main thing" and he was interrupted by a call from the floor.

"Love!" the voice said.

"Right," Mr. Putin answered. "The Defense Ministry knows what the main thing is. Really, I am going to speak about love, women, children" there was applause from the assembled officials "family, and Russia's most acute problem today: demography."

The subject, however, was not light. Mr. Putin then warned that Russia's population had been declining by almost 700,000 people a year, and that the state must stop this fall. The shrinking birthrate could undermine the economy and tax the pension system, among other effects.

A number of other countries facing declining birthrates have offered similar incentives. Australia offers a $4,000 bonus for every baby, and recently proposed to pay all child care costs for women who want to work. Many European countries, including France, Italy and Poland, have offered some combination of bonuses and monthly payments to families.

Some Japanese localities, facing near catastrophic population loss, are offering rich incentives. Yamatsuri, a town of 7,000 just north of Tokyo, offers parents $4,600 for the birth of a child and $460 a year for 10 years. Singapore has a particularly lavish plan: $3,000 for the first child, $9,000 in cash and savings for the second; and up to $18,000 each for the third and fourth."

Many industrialized countries are crying a dearth of people, while other countries have an excess population, many of whom would love to live in an industrialized nation. Are they simply that obtuse, or is there an undercurrent of ethnocentrism, perhaps even racism under the insistence that more Russians (Germans, Japanese, etc) are the only possible solution?

The ironic thing is how America is also paying people to have children, albeit slightly less directly (and denied to the poor) through tax credits. We have no such population crisis here.

See also a related article on CNN.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Do you think all women are meant to have children? This mom doesn't.

Mama Don't Preach: Thoughts on Respecting Parenthood Decisions
" . . .Thrilled as I am to be a mother and to hang with this astoundingly
adorable little person sprung from within, I refuse to jump on this particular parental bandwagon, the one packed with proselytizers peddling their baby-centric life view.
. . .
I'm here as a new parent to stand up for all those nonparents out there -- the ones who haven't yet made up their minds about kids and the ones who definitely have -- and proclaim that there is nothing wrong with not having children. I did it for more than three decades and led what I'd consider a pretty rich life, filled with learning, love, travel, adventure, laughter...and other people's children.

You're not being selfish. Your life won't be empty. And you're certainly not destined for a sad, lonely end. People can find meaning in their lives in ways that don't include progeny."
This five-part essay, excerpted from the new book Maybe Baby, is on American Baby of all places. Perhaps that is where such sentiments are most needed. If you cannot stomach the website (and that well may be as much because of the incessant pop-ups as the content), it is also available on MSN.

Republican mailing criticizes candidate's childless status.

Controversial Mailing Creates Waves In Congressional Race
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Some think Republican Vernon Robinson's campaign against 13th District Congressional incumbent Brad Miller has gone too far. Others say his style is simply aggressive, and could make for a more competitive election
. . .
Robinson highlights the fact that Miller and his wife don't have children. 'We can't have children,' said Miller. 'I shouldn't have to be on television explaining that we can't have children.'"
The sad thing is, it just might work. I think that this is a relevant childfree issue even if Rep. Miller is childless, because no candidate should have to answer any questions about why they don't have children. It is appropriate to criticize neither choice nor circumstance, and too personal even for politics.

Are Mothers Better Managers?

Most employees think so. Most employers don't.

McKay says that good mothers understand that being a good parent means avoiding favoritism. Why, then, can't they also understand that a good CEO can't consistently demand that childless omen pick up the slack when mothers leave for the emergency du jour?

The highest stress levels on the job are found most commonly among women who work full time and who have children under 13, the World Health Organization says. But McKay says she has noticed that granting mothers special treatment never seems to end. Women with teens become active in such things as the prom committee. Women with adult children start to take on responsibilities of parenting grandchildren while their children embark on careers.

It might sound heartless and dictatorial, McKay says, but "the best leaders in my company have been the women with no children."

I found the article fairly balanced, and it addressed the fact that while there is no consensus on whether parenting makes you a better manager, there are many who feel that any benefit is countered by the distraction from the job.

They surmise that those who are patient and nurturing are more likely to be mothers, rather than necessarily being the other way around. Fortunately some point out that there are a lot of life experiences that can bring such benefits as time management skills.

I wonder why no one addressed that fact that while being nurturing might make you a more popular boss with your inferiors, it doesn't necessarily mean you're a better manager. Isn't a better manager largely determined by productivity?

The premise of this article might have seemed overly pro-natalist, but I thought their execution was fairly balanced.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sex is essential, kids aren't in Germany

Why are 30% of German women choosing to go childless? Free will, baby.
"It is notable that child-wariness is not only characteristic of highly developed Germany (and northern Europe as a whole), but that it rises from 30% to more than 40% among German women who are college graduates.

When it comes to our behavior, evolution is clearly influential. Of this there can be no doubt. But only rarely is it determinative, even when something as deeply biological as reproduction is concerned. Indeed, the trend toward childlessness is neither particularly German nor strangely "un-biological" but profoundly human. "
I've always loved when parents try to tell people they should have children because it's only 'natural'. When these parents are out living in caves, hunting deer with pointy sticks and eating them raw, then they can talk to me about living the natural life. Hell, just stop using disposable diapers.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Childfree Villages - I'm Moving to Scotland

Do the shouts of your neighbour's children disturb your peaceful afternoons in the garden?

If so, a new housing development in the Scottish Highlands may be for you.

The homes in Firhall near Nairn are being offered exclusively for buyers aged 45 and over. And no children are allowed, except for holiday visits.

By the way, these would be illegal in the United States - which prohibits discrimination based on 'familial status'. The only statutory exception is for senior housing. Some places have established 'vasectomy housing' which creates child-unfriendly layouts, but cannot directly discrimiate.