Thursday, October 26, 2006

Putin Opposed to Taxing Childless

Putin against taxing childless couples
President Vladimir Putin has said that he is against levying a tax on childless couples.

"The law always carries a moral value, or it is a bad law. I think a law on levying a tax on childless couples would have no moral footing and cannot be passed," Putin said in a call-in session broadcast live on Wednesday
Glad someone said it. Even gladder it was him.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Childfree News and "Like it Is" revisit the famous Ann Landers Survey.

If You Had It To Do Over Again Would You Have Children?

The popular blog "Like it Is" revisits the Ann Landers poll from the 1970s in which 70% of parents said that if they had to do it all over agatheytehy would not have children. The blogger, BritGirl posits that:
[M]any of the observations made by parents who wrote to Ann are, in my opinion, just as relevant today. In fact, today it seems even more difficult than ever to be a parent. And, as HCF points out, this was not a scientific survey. It didn't need to be.
Indeed, has anything changed since the 1970s that would alter the responses?

Well, perhaps. I would argue that in some respects, childrearing is easier now - with the advent of greater government and employer-provided benefits (such as daycare and tax breaks) coupled with a changing social climate may indeed affect the results.

Granted, I was a mere tot in the 1970s, but I do remember that it was far less acceptable to take one's children everywhere (such as fancy restaurants) and therefore parenting put more of a social strain on people. They had to either stay home or hire a babysitter for many things that, today, would be a matter of dragging the child along. Of course, this is countered by the fact that bringing a child along is no easy thing.

Indeed, perhaps the trendiness of mommy-hood that has lead to high-end SUV strollers and soccer moms makes some aspects of parenting more difficult by raising expectations of just how much you must provide for your child and just how full that child's schedule should be.

However, it may have the opposite effect in equal or greater force - the trendiness may mean that social acceptance has been increased as a benefit to being a parent. Perhaps the fact that one would lose their mommy clique at Starbucks may mean that if they had it to do all over again they wouldsacrificeafice their status symbol - I mean child.

Lastly, it well may be that parents today were more free to choose that route. The 1970s were actually a period of declining births, due in no small part to the advent of feminism and birth control. Those who had their children before these came into full swing were then left with those children in the age of the Feminine Mystique - where women were starting to have careers and to have identities outside of mother. indeeddeeed the social impetus was shifting in that direction) In contrast, those who have children today had the full force of birth control and feminism in place before making the choice to parent, and are not faced with any such changing climate. Indeed they are faced with a climate even more accepting of their role as mother, SAHM, etc.

BritGirl continues:
The point it makes is very simple.

Many people do not enjoy parenthood but they will only admit it under the cover of anonymity.
This is very, very true. Indeed I would agree it is even more true today. However, that might effect the survey as well - we might be in an age of such rampant pro-natalism that women will not admit regret, even on a survey. Perhaps the mentality has taken ovemucho mch that women have internalized it.

However, it is possible that the modern thinking encourages women to parent, but that a significant number end up regretting it. In other words, perhaps the atmosphere puts forth attitudes about parenting that are difficult, if not impossible to internalize.

Unless you have a nanny, of course.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

As US Population Nears 300m, a Brief Look at the Crisis Ahead.

The next 100 million and the face of America

As many of you are aware, the population of the US is expected to hit 300 million people this week. This article presents an interesting look at the trends, and at the shortages that may follow.

Predictably, it cites curbing immigration, not births, as a solution. Why is it that when European counties face population shortages, the government bribes people to have children, but do not look to immigration to solve the problem - but when we are facing the opposite problem we react this way?
There will be 400 million Americans in 2043, climbing to 420 million by midcentury, the US Census Bureau estimates. The added numbers will change the nature of the populace, reflecting trends already begun.
. . .
Between the last official census in 2000 and the one of 2050, non-Wars, natural disasters, shifts in the economy, unforeseen social and political developments - any or all of these could affect the numbers, perhaps dramatically. For one thing, America could, as many voters and their elected officials now demand, clamp down on immigration. The country's unusually high teen pregnancy rate could drop. Scientific advances could extend longevity.
. . .
The impact of the aging baby-boom generation, whose oldest members turn 60 this year, will be felt on Social Security and Medicare. "We really are doing very well in terms of extending life, and that is going to increase the rate of population growth," says Samuel Preston, a University of Pennsylvania demographer. It could also have political impact.

As the US moves toward 400 million people, Americans can be expected to marry later in life, and more of them will live alone. Between 1970 and 2005, the median age of first marriage moved from 23 to 27 for men and from 21 to 26 for women. Over the same period, the percentage of single-person households grew from 17 percent to 26 percent. Those trends are likely to continue.
. . .
Concerns about use of resources
This kind of continuing development tied to US population growth worries many environmentalists, as well as those concerned about the loss of farmland.

Annual US population growth of nearly 3 million contributes to the water shortages that are a serious concern in the West and many areas in the East, says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. Water tables are now falling throughout most of the Great Plains and in the Southwest, he warns. Some lakes are disappearing and rivers are running dry.

"As water supplies tighten, the competition between farmers and cities intensifies," says Mr. Brown. "Scarcely a day goes by in the western United States without another farmer or an entire irrigation district selling their water rights to cities like Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, or San Diego."

Concern about a growing populace and decreasing resources is likely to push governments toward conservation and more sustainable development, experts say.

This may be especially true of energy. Nineteen states and theDistrict of Columbia now have renewable portfolio standards that require electric utilities to use more wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other renewable sources.
. . .
Meanwhile, the US population clock keeps ticking: Every 13 seconds somebody dies. Every 31 seconds there's another immigrant - legal or illegal. It adds up to a net gain of one person every 11 seconds, or about 8,000 every day. It took 39 years to add the most recent 100 million; the next 100 million will take a couple of years less than that.

The US population growth rate is expected to decline a bit by mid-century. Still, by then the numbers will have increased to some 420 million, according to official calculations. Critics of US immigration policy say the number could be significantly higher.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cambridge, UK Using Housing as Contraception?

'Lack of homes to drive out families'
CAMBRIDGE will become a city of singletons and childless couples thanks to a lack of family homes, according to a former mayor.

Coun John Hipkin, who served as Mayor of Cambridge last year, said the city council appeared to be using planning permission as a form of "contraception" by allowing hundreds of one and twobedroom flats to be built - but hardly any developments for families.
. . .
He said: "We keep getting developments of one and two-bedroom houses. I wonder whether this is putting huge pressure of a contraceptive nature on this city.

"People presumably start off single or young marrieds and have children, don't they? Where are they going to go? Is there going to be a sign outside saying 'if you want children go elsewhere or get a short-term tenancy'?"
Erm, anyway.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Purple Women & Friends: Do We Count?

Purple Women & Friends: Do We Count?

The childfree blog takes on US Census numbers - why aren't we being counted? Certainly the effect that an individual has, or plans to have, on future census numbers is relevant. They propose new categories:
Family Status:
Non-parent (not planning to have children)
Foster parent
Undecided about children.
The census asks two questions to examine childlessness:
(1) How many children have you ever had and
(2) What is the date of birth of your last child?
and reports the results in its studies of Female Fertility. Interestingly, although the term childfree does not appear on the page itself, the page's listing in Google results is termed "US Bureau of Census Childfree Statistics"

We also can discern trends from the statistics of childless women, and extrapolate that, absent any reason to believe infertility is growing significantly, more people are opting out of parenthood:

Record Number of childless women: the Census Bureau says a record 26.7 million women of childbearing age had no children in 2002, a 10% increase over 1990

That number represents nearly 44% of women ages 15 to 44. The latest numbers reflect the trend of more women going to college and entering the workforce, then delaying motherhood or deciding not to have children. Just over half of women of Asian descent were childless, the highest rate among racial and ethnic groups. "Economic reasons are part of it," says Amy Caizza of the Institute for Women's Policy Research. "But it's also the effect of the women's movement; you don't have to be a mother to be a complete woman."

But questionston still remains whether a more detailed look at the why is the providence of the Census. Differentiating between the voluntary and involutary childless would certainly be beneficial to demographers, as well as to medicine. The questions proposed by Purple Women would allow us to differentiate between the infertile, the childfree, and those in that age range who will have children in the future. Currently, we can imagine that most of the women in the 40-44 age range will remain childless (19.3% as of 2004). However, we cannot differentiate between the countless 15, 20 and 25 years old respondents who will go on to have children, and those who will remain childless. Therefore, we have no basis to discern whether the trends from survey to survey indicate an increase in childlessness in those age brackets or simply an increase in the number of women postponing parenting.

I, for one, would be very happy to see just any statistical study that gave us an idea of the rate of voluntary childlessness in America. Absent that small step, I'm not confident the larger one is imminent.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pregnant Journalist Attends No Kidding Event, Thinks Parents Should Stop Pressuring the Childfree

Honey, where are the kids? Not here!
Columnist Anne Hart attends a meeting of a local chapter of No Kidding!, a social group for single and married adults who are non-parents.
. . .
The kidless-by-choice folks have heard it all from diaper-whipped parents, who, upon hearing about such child-free commitments, go into zealot mode and try to convert them.
. . .
Those of us in the motherhood mafia, or on the verge of being inducted, need to stop trying to persuade non-parents over to our side of the playground. Life is not, after all, a big Red Rover game. Not only should we accept their decision, but also encourage them to talk about their choice, if they're feeling chatty.

After all, the child-free are increasing. U.S. census figures show 18 percent of women 40-to-44 were childless in 2002, compared with 10 percent in 1976.
. . .
Often physicians won't perform a tubal ligation on a childfree-by-choice woman before her late 30s for fear she will regret it.

"There is less of a concern among medical professionals about a man deciding not to have children than a woman,'' Lauri said. "Men are a lot more likely to get their vasectomies than a woman is to get a tubal.''

Which may be just another example of child-free women having to justify their decision not to have kids.

While those of us who do don't have to justify ours.
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Friday, October 13, 2006

Eldercare - important for the childless to grant power of attorney, etc.

Knowing when to let others decide
The ironic thing is that by being so independent and trying not to accept help from anybody, she actually gave up all her choices," said Deni, a librarian who lives in Little Falls. "Now a judge is making decisions for her."

It didn't have to be that way. Lawyers who specialize in elder issues say families can avoid these problems with two simple documents. The first is a power of attorney, which names someone to take care of financial matters in the event of incapacity.

The second is a living will, which spells out the kind of medical care you want and names someone to make medical decisions if you can't.
. . .
Deni and her cousins didn't have that kind of guidance from their aunt, who is childless.
. . .
When Deni showed up at the nursing home, she was treated with suspicion: Was she really a relative? Was she after her aunt's money? Because of health privacy laws, she couldn't even get much information on her aunt's condition. She couldn't get into her aunt's apartment to check for legal papers.
Although not strictly abut the childfree, I thought the specific way these issues bear on the childless make them worth noting. Friends and relatives who want to care for you can face even more obstacles than someone's chldren will - so there is an additional impetus for the childless to take such precautions.

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Parent to Parent: Stop Talking About Your Kids So Much!

Enough with the binkies

Don't go on too long and don't do it too often, said Elizabeth Howell of the Emily Post Institute, which publishes books and columns on etiquette. How do you know when you are going on too long? If you notice people's eyes are starting to glaze over, Howell said.
. . .
"I cherish my childless friends because of the quality of the conversation," said my friend Sally Willis, mother of two boys, ages 9 and 5. "I think what often happens when I'm with another mother is we fall into one of the main things we have in common, which is children. It's not that different from two architects or two lawyers talking about their work. But it's always nice to have some diversity in the conversation."

She also made the point that while child rearing isn't the most scintillating conversation topic, it's a pretty safe one. Politics, religion, books, the environment or most other more interesting topics can often lead to a difference of opinions.
. . .
If you're at a cocktail party or social business outing - "and that holiday party season is just around the corner - you don't want to be bragging about Sarah's achievements in the potty training department or go on and on about the 14 colleges Matt got accepted into, Howell said.

In the 179 pages of the recently released book Mental Floss: Cocktail Party Cheat Sheet Collins, $12.95, from the producers of Mental Floss magazine, there is nothing said about dropping interesting factoids about your own children.

There is no mention of getting to a party and talking about diaper changing or whatever is going on with your kid, said Will Pearson, co-author of the book. You can get stuck with people who go on and on about their kids, he said. Those who don't have kids who are in this situation, feel completely at a loss.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

New Childfree eZine Launches

From their website:

Unscripted is the premiere ezine written by the childfree for the childfree. This publication celebrates a lifestyle unencumbered by the responsibilities of parenting and discusses the important issues we face in a childcentric society.

We are all people who have, through a wide variety of circumstances, reached the ecision not to have children. What unites us is our happiness about that choice and the freedom it brings to our lives.

We chose the title Unscripted because childfree individuals are making a conscious decision not to fall into the traditional behaviors expected by most. We do not follow the “Life Script” set forth by society: marriage and children as a package. Choosing not to have children opens a whole new set of possibilities and options. Our hope is that Unscripted will give our fellow childfree a place to read about their life choices and make their own contributions to an ongoing conversation about what it means to live as a nonparent.

But who wants to read a dozen stories just about childfreedom every month? There’s far more to life, and to us, than our decision to eschew parenthood. So we’ll also be offering movie and book reviews, information on hobbies, and anything else that strikes our fancy. We invite you to come along for the ride.

The new eZine looks highly polished and professional - and the articles are top-quality and interesting. In the upcoming week, I will be posting brief exerpts and links to the articles about the childfree.

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Selfish Childfree Causing Critical Girl Scout Shortage.

Childless marriages, few immigrants account for decrease in youngest Mainers
. . .
But what about the kids?

The Ouellettes, like a growing number of Maine couples, statistics suggest, simply took a pass.

Maine’s population of young children has declined nearly 10 percent since 2000, according to a recently released U.S. Census Bureau report.
. . .
By 2010, Maine will be the state with the lowest percentage of people under age 18. That will hold true through 2030, according to census projections. By that time, just 18 percent of Maine’s population will be minors, down from roughly 24 percent in 2000.
. . .
"Some people might say it’s selfish," said Glenn, who, like Nicki, enjoys being able to pick up at a moment’s notice and go to a friend’s house to play cards or hop onto one of their new four-wheelers for a summertime ride. "But it makes our lives a lot simpler."
. . .
Immigrant and minority families tend to have more children, Reilly said. And while more diverse states have seen growth among their youngest populations, the nation’s least diverse states — including Maine and Vermont — are graying every year.
. . .
While the statistics show Maine aging and young children becoming scarcer statewide, rural Maine has borne the brunt of the decline.

While births at Maine’s larger hospitals, including Maine Medical Center in Portland and Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, have slightly increased since 2001, many rural hospitals — such as those in Calais and Presque Isle — have dropped.
. . .
The Piscataquis County program for young Girl Scouts, called Brownies, was once the council’s largest with nearly 300 girls. But that was five years ago before Dexter Shoe, one of the area’s largest employers, closed. Now there are 149 girls in the program.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pregnancy makes your brain shrink

London Study: May take six months to return to normal
The brains of pregnant women appear to shrink during late pregnancy, according to research which offers an explanation for cognitive problems some women complain of before and after giving birth. The doctors at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London found that it can take up to six months for the women's brains to regain their full size.

Anita Holdcroft, the anaesthetist in charge of the study, said poor concentration, lack of co-ordination, and memory problems in late pregnancy may be linked to the changes in brain size she and her colleagues observed. . . .

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Councilman Advocates Sterilizing Irresponsible Parents.

Shirley offers fix for bad parenting
Sterilize irresponsible moms, dads, he says.

And one of the things he says needs to be talked about is whether bad parents should be sterilized.

"What we've got is a failure in society, whether it's in Mount Pleasant with yuppie parents or whether it's on the East Side with poor crackhead parents," Shirley said Friday. "We pick up stray animals and spay them. These mothers need to be spayed if they can't take care of theirs. ... Once they have a child and it's running the streets, to let them continue to have children is totally unacceptable." Deadbeat dads might ought to be sterilized as well, he said.

Wednesday night, police arrested a 14-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy in connection with a stickup at the Hollywood Video at East Bay and Calhoun streets.

A 9-year-old who was apparently involved was taken home to his mother by police, saying he was too young to charge.

Shirley, like many in the community, was aghast that someone could be turned loose for being too young to be charged with a crime, and that the parents of these kids had no idea what they were up to at 9 p.m. on a school night.
. . .
If a child is too young to do time for a crime, his folks ought to do it, Shirley said.
. . .
State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, says Shirley is correct, that this is a societal problem, but that the notion of sterilizing people is just "crazy."

"What Larry Shirley needs to talk about is getting City Council to provide some recreational facilities and activities for these kids and creating an atmosphere conducive to a normal society," said Ford, a former councilman.
. . .
Shirley said sometimes social services is part of the problem, making parents afraid to whip their kids when they need it. Ford says that's the way it is supposed to work.
"Hasn't he heard, 'It takes a village'?"

One wonders whether such a brazen suggestion would even work: by the time one has a nine year old, they are typically done with having new children.

Of course, the State Senator wants the childless to help pay for what parents are neglecting them.

I am beginning to wonder whether the childless, be it the childfree, singles, young couples, etc, might meet the status of 'politically overlooked minority' that gave racial minorities and women greater legal protection in the past.* Since it is political suicide to back childfree-friendly legislation, our lobbying power is relatively less than other similarly situated plurality interest groups. We're a long way from such recognition, but the elements might be present all the same.

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*Legislation that classifies on the basis of race or gender is subject to "strict scrutiny" by the courts for Equal Protection challenges. While other classification legislation will be upheld when there is the barest of rational reasons behind it, strict scrutiny will cause a court to examine whether it is narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest. The idea behind it is such politically weak groups will not have the same opportunity to challenge discriminatory legislation in the polls.

Childfree vs. Childless - take two: Are We Taking Over the Term "Childless"?

A Google Search for the term "childless" now turns up seven sites that are about the childfree. The other three are "Childless Not By Choice", "Childless- Support for women who want to be Mommies, but aren't",and "Childless Stepmoms" (arguably neutral). In other words, only two hits relating to infertility and those who indeed consider themselves 'less'. Also worth noting is that one of these two felt the need to distinguish the term childless from the childfree in the very title of their site.

On Yahoo!, the same search, results in one site on the infertile, four on the childfree, and an odd mix of extras that are either about both or unrelated to either.

I had the impression that, as of recently, the default meaning of the term childless was infertility, or at least pre-parenting. Has the childfree movement become so massive and influential that we are changing the meaning of a word? Especially - a word that many, if not most, have consciously chosen not to use?

Many have opted out of it, as noted in "Childless" v. "Childfree": Which term is more appropriate for the childless-by-choice?, many childfree dislike the term because it implies we are missing something; that children are such a given that not having them is a lesser state.

I, on the other hand think it is simply a matter of logistical linguistics - less means you are missing something you want, -free implies you don't have something you don't want. You're not called "debtless" or ""witfree". It is less of a normative judgment than simple language patterns that have long been established.

The term childless should be left to couples who want kids but don't have them. While the term 'infertile' applies to many, there are other childless people - those who waited too long, did not find the right partner, are able to get pregnant but physically unable to care for a child, gay couples with trouble adopting, etc. In addition, there are infertile people who do have children, either through medical intervention or adoption.

That being said, I will not take for granted the significance that this has. In my mind, at least, it signifies just how notable the childfree have become.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Seven Lies About Marriage

Lie #6: Children solidify a marriage.

It's about time that 'happily ever after' doesn't always mean the princess rides away to start birthin'. I feel that popular culture still glorifies the idea that the perfect happy ending to a romance always ends in children. Disabusing ourselves can do more than gratify the childfree - it can make future parents realize they need to sort out all the kinks and brace for what is ahead. It can also warn off those who think that children will fix a rocky relationship - a myth that has ended in more than its share of single parents.

A friend of mine is pregnant. In a conversation the other night, she cited the statistic that the first year of marriage and the first year after the birth of a child are the most likely times for divorce. I do believe that her awareness will help her marriage buck this statistic.

Another person chimed in with the fact that another pitfall time is right after the children leave. I suppose that if all you've focused on is the joint enterprise of parenting, when it is gone you might realize that you lost what had brought you together in the first place. The advice in this article, by emphasizing that you need to keep putting the marriage first, can help couples avoid this.

Of course, some of us have figured out a way to steer clear of these pitfalls altogether.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Chicago Tribune's "Dear Amy" (updated)

Couple's choice to remain childless grieves in-laws

Dear Amy: My husband, "Steve," and I have been happily together for nearly 15 years, and we have enjoyed a close relationship with his parents.

We agreed early on that we didn't want children. Unfortunately, his parents had been suppressing a strong desire for grandchildren and are very sad now that it looks as if they won't have any (Steve is an only child). Steve is upset by how badly his parents are handling their disappointment. He is starting to feel that he has failed them.

I am concerned that my choice to not have children may ultimately come up against his slow weakening in the face of this deep sorrow his parents are experiencing.

Amy, they don't even want to spend time with us because it reminds them that they will never have grandchildren. What is the best way for us to interact with them if/when they finally come back into our lives?

I Was Happy a Minute Ago

Dear Was Happy: One challenge of adulthood (and elderhood) is the management of one's expectations and disappointments.

The saddest aspect of this scenario is that your in-laws may be pushing away the family they do have for want of the family they don't have.

You and your husband should sit down with them and restate your decision, acknowledging how difficult this is for them. Say that you hope they can find a way to accept your choice.

Many people get "broody" as they get older; one remedy for broodiness is to spend time with children -- your in-laws could volunteer at a local day care, offer to tutor children, or visit and play with kids who are in extended hospital stays.

Finding a way to satisfy their desire to have grandchildren is their job -- not yours.


Readers Respond

Apparently, most readers of the column pointed out that the parents should have had more children if they really wanted grandkids. I'm not sure about this (neither is Amy) but at least the readers agree that it is not Steve's responsibility to breed to assuage his mom's loneliness.

I should also note that even having multiple children will not guarantee grandkids.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Meanwhile, back on the other side of the Pacific . . .

With forum ahead, Galgiani fires back

"It was a very intentionally laid message," he said. "By bringing up that she's unmarried and childless, they suggested that she has no sense of family values. It's just offensive."

Machado said he would rather focus on the over-spending problem in Sacramento, the tax burden on average citizens and what he calls a "crisis" regarding illegal immigration.

"I'd rather talk about valley values and the $20 billion a year tax burden brought on by illegal immigration," he said. "If the feds don't do something about (illegal immigration), we will."
Machado backs away from 'single' remarks

Republican Assembly candidate Gerry Machado is distancing himself from a supporter's remarks painting Democratic opponent Cathleen Galgiani as childless and single.
. . .
Matthews, D-Tracy, notes in the ad that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also single and without children and says Galgiani, who served as the assemblywoman's chief of staff, "values children and working families."

Asked about the remarks, Machado said the words didn't come out of his mouth.

"I'm the candidate. I've never raised that issue," said Machado, a financial planner and a member of the Tracy Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Machado would not answer questions about press reports that Orrock said at a September fundraiser, "(Galgiani's) only family is the 20 cats she lives with."
. . .
Orrock declined to explain his comments.

Andal, who represented the 17th Assembly District from 1990 to 1994, reportedly said, "(Galgiani) is not married, doesn't have any children and, in my view, she's never had a real job." Andal did not return phone calls.

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