Thursday, August 31, 2006

Austin American-Statesmen paints a balanced and flattering portrait of the childfree.

Families of two
Growing number of couples are childless by choice.


I was impressed by the couple in this article, who do a good job of making the childfree appear selfless and giving without apologizing for their choice not to have children.

Charlie and Sara McCabe travel like crazy.

Recently, the couple went to Borneo, on a safari in Africa and on a hike through the rainforest.

The two are exercise enthusiasts, too. They love their action-packed lives (Sara plays in a steel drum metal band InsideOut Steelband), and they love each other.

The couple has been married for nearly 16 years and is childless by choice.
. . .
There are misconceptions and stereotypes of couples who choose not to have children, including not liking children, having difficult childhoods or lacking maturity.

However, many child-free couples, including the McCabes, volunteer generously with children and enjoy spending time with them.
. . .
"We think a good part of the success of our marriage stems from the fact that, because we don't have kids, we almost always have the energy to be kind, patient and generous with each other," said Sara McCabe, 41.

The couple said that they very much admire their family and friends who are parents but that it boils down to a personal choice.
The reporter also interviewed Laura Carroll, author of Families of Two. And although the author is a parent who didn't think she wanted kids before having them, she manages to avoid the pitfall of assuming others will change their minds.

I'm glad my surprises came along, but it gave me respect for the choices of various couples who decide not to have children.

I believe that far too many couples have children without thoroughly thinking through the responsibilities, sacrifices and rewards of nurturing a living soul, caring for their needs and molding their hearts. I admire those who believe that it is a better choice for themselves not to have children because they do give incredible thought to the issue.

And though I think they are missing out on some of the most incredible memories and emotions, we as parents also lack some of the experiences that they receive by being child-free. Tighter finances make it somewhat more difficult to travel, and date nights must be a decision to make time for our spouses.

Although I am well aware that many childfree don't care for children (I personally only enjoy the company of adults and teens, and know the latter are usually not good company for their own parents) that stereotype is exposed enough that heading in the other direction is a positive thing. It just makes plain old sense that people who don't like kids will end up not having them, and I do sometimes bristle at the idea that everyone loves kids, but ultimately we suffer more from the child-hater stereotype than the picture painted here. I know quite a few people like Charlie and Sara from the New York City chapter; I am glad the media is finally giving them the attention they deserve.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Top Story on Sept. 4 Newsweek: The Childfree


Why More Married Couples Are Going Childless
Even in once conservative societies, more and more couples are choosing not to have kids. That means good things for restaurants and real estate. But a backlash has already begun.

The trend has spawned a new culture of childlessness. In Britain, there's a growing market for books such as "Child-Free and Loving It," which journalist Nicki Defago says she wrote "to let women deciding against children know that their feelings are perfectly normal." New support groups for the childless have sprung up, from the Vancouver-based No Kidding! to the British Childfree Association. In Japan, the trend toward postponing or not having children has given rise to an array of products like bedding supplier Kameo's Boyfriend Arm Pillow, and fueled trends like the unprecedented surge in pet ownership. Capitalizing on the growing status of these baby-substitutes among young Japanese, Honda is now designing cars that replace child seats with dog crates, and has even created a glove compartment with place for a Pekingese.

Apparently, our effect on the real estate market is being felt:

With their generally higher spending power, the childless are driving real-estate prices in expensive areas like Manhattan and central London; a recent British study showed a house's value drops by 5 percent if neighbors move in with teenage kids.
And internationally, our recognition as a marketing demographic is building:

Hotels are catering to the childless, too; Italy's La Veduta country resort promises, "Your Tuscan holiday will not be shattered by the clamor of children." In Rome, many restaurants make it clear that children are not welcome—in some cases by establishing themselves as "clubs," where members must be older than 18 to join.
Like it or not, if marketers begin targeting the DINK set, the result will be some very beneficial perks such as the above. I suspect that it will also reduce the amount of babies in ads for things unrelated to children (tires, anyone?).

This article also adds significantly to the dialogue: unlike the bevy of similar articles seen in the last few years, it examines the phenomenon of the childfree in more than just yuppie America. It delves in to an emerging childfree across classes and national borders. The reaction of some governments makes me realize that perhaps stork spots, child tax credits, and laws forbidding childfree housing are not the worst some childfree see:

From Germany to Russia, there is increasing talk of sanctions against the childless. In Slovakia, a leading adviser on the government's Strategic Council on Economic Development proposed in March to replace an unpopular payroll tax with a levy on all childless Slovaks between the ages of 25 and 50. In Russia, where the birthrate has dropped from 2.3 in the 1980s to 1.3 today, a powerful business lobby has called for an income-tax surcharge on childless couples. In Germany, economists and politicians have demanded that public pensions for the childless be slashed by up to 50 percent—never mind that such pensions were invented as an alternative to senior citizens' having to depend on their offspring. These moves resonate favorably with voters and the media. Since a large majority of people in all countries still do have children, critics say such measures in effect serve as middle-class tax breaks in the guise of social policy.

In any case, there is no reason to believe that sanctions against the childless will do much to raise the birthrate. Germany, for instance, already spends more than any other country on family subsidies, and has the world's second-highest taxes on childless singles (after Belgium). Yet that hasn't done a thing to boost the birthrate.

This is an extensive article with more topics than I can properly cover here. However, since it ends on a note evaluating how dropping bbirthrates can be solved, joining the popular assumption that they are indeed a problem, I suggest that a few readers head on over to the letter submission section after a thorough read.


There is a discussion on this article on LiveJournal. (scroll below the lj cut thread).

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"When You Have Children": presumptive wording just part of New York Times reporter Louise Story's pro-natalist debacle.

The New York Times last year printed an article describing how many professional women, including those educated at the Ivy League, plan to be stay at home mothers. In Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood, Ms. Story reported that:

While the changing attitudes are difficult to quantify, the shift emerges repeatedly in interviews with Ivy League students, including 138 freshman and senior females at Yale who replied to e-mail questions sent to members of two residential colleges over the last school year.

The interviews found that 85 of the students, or roughly 60 percent, said that when they had children, they planned to cut back on work or stop working entirely. About half of those women said they planned to work part time, and about half wanted to stop work for at least a few years.

What I didn't know was that this wasn't just another pronatalist article. The methodology flaws and bias were extensive enough to stir up a minor controversy. As it turns out, the survey (posted by David Goldenberg of Gelf Magazine) included such gems as:

When you have children, do you plan to stay at home with them or do you plan to continue working? Why?
In day-to-day interactions, the presumption that all people will have children that is conveyed by the term "when" is irritating. In a survey, it amounts to more than that: it taints the results of the study.

. . .Emily Holleman, a current sophomore . . . says she declined to fill out the survey because she thought it was flawed. "I felt that it was very badly phrased and strongly suggested that ALL women at Yale planned to a) get married and b) have kids. It also assumed that all women at Yale were straight," she told Gelf in an email. "It was relatively clear to me and several of my friends that she was either unable to construct a suitable survey or had already decided what answers she wanted to receive and constructed her survey based on what questions would induce these responses."

(emphasis added)

These flaws prompted a flurry of reactions from publications such as Slate and Salon. An article in The Nation, Desperate Housewives of the Ivy League?, noted:
In fact, Story presents no evidence that more Ivy League undergrads today are planning to retire at 30 to the playground than ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Simultaneously, an armada of bloggers shredded her questionnaire as biased
(hint: If you begin with "When you have children," you've already skewed your results) and denounced her interpretation of the answers as hype. What she actually found, as the writer Robin Herman noted in a crisp letter to the Times, was that 70 percent of those who answered planned to keep working full or part time through motherhood. Even by Judith Miller standards, the Story story was pretty flimsy.

(emphasis added)

Fishbowl NY contacted some of those students quoted in the article. One student replied:

She in fact did interview my other suitemates who answered the survey as either not wanting to have children at all, or would continue working as a mother. I am somewhat shocked that she did not include ANY of their ideas or views in the article. . . Because of my own life experiences, I simply hold the personal attitude that I would be willing to stop my career for children if/when I have them.
Although that student remained anonymous, the evidence remains that one of the women cited as a future SAHM isn't even sure she'll have children!

Ms. Story did indeed post a response, albeit a weak one which does little to addressss the concerns with her methodology. Indeed, her citing of Sylvia Hewlett as a "top researcher on trends in women in the labor force" demonstrates just how little Ms. Strong understands.

While only a few noted the particularly relevant anti-childfree wording, it is still a good thing for us that this article is being scrutinized to this extent. Perhaps pro-natalist reporters will think twice before letting their bias run away with them.

Oh, and since Strong chose Yale because she was a recent grad, I can't resist:

Monday, August 28, 2006

"Childless" v. "Childfree": Which term is more appropriate for the childless-by-choice?

Choosing to be Childless

I could use the term “childfree,” but it just doesn’t sound right, either. “Childfree” has a self-conscious, PC quality that makes the writer in me squirm. It also seems like a jab at people who do have children. Ha ha ha, we’re footloose and childfree, and you’re stuck with a bunch of kids. I don’t want to seem as if I’m judging people who decide to have kids, any more than I want to be judged for my decision to remain childless. In my mind, reproductive choice isn’t solely about legal access to abortion and birth control—that is, it’s not just a matter of choosing when to have children. It’s also about deciding whether one wants to become a parent. True freedom of choice would mean that we respect all decisions related to parenthood.
I have added my own comments - I don't think it is fair to co-opt the term childless. That term does - and should - apply to couples who are unable to have children. The suffix less implies that something is missing, which is never so true as when a couple is infertile and wants children. Even the large and established infertility community (such as Resolve)uses the term childfree for when a couple decides to stop trying to conceive and starts focusing on the positives of a life without children. That comunity is hardly promoting a 'jab' at parents. As a group who have, or still do, want to join that group, I think it is unlikely that they are 'judging' parents for their choice.

I don't think I need to go into why -free is an appropriate suffix. That subject has been covered extensively.

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Finance: Don't Have Kids

The mother of all mistakes
We would not advise you to invest your entire life savings in Dodgy Mining Ltd or bigscam.com. In general, we are rather in favour of thrift and caution at Times Money. In that spirit, we want to advise you against the single, biggest financial mistake you will make. This error is so monumentally ruinous to your finances that it makes betting your bank balance on black look like a rational investment choice. Don’t do it. Avoid childbirth if you value your wealth.
This article actually deals with how to handle the costs of having children, but the opening paragraph was begging to be shared.

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More On the Wage Gap Myth - Fathers Don't Cut Back On Work

New fathers do not cut back on work - study
Fathers may take time off immediately after the birth of a child, but they soon settle back into their old routines and remain at work as long as childless male colleagues, according to a study published today. The research, carried out by the University of Bristol, calls into question the idea that modern fathers want to work fewer hours so they can spend more caring and sharing time with their children.
. . .
Contrary to popular belief, fathers do not work shorter hours than non-fathers, and nor do they want to.
If fathers are working he same hours - guess who is taking care of British children? This is further evidence that the wage gap - seen between mothers and men, but much less between childless women and men - is a result of choices.

It is also interesting to note that the fathers are not chomping at the bit to spend time with haggard wife and new baby. The article does note that they desire more flexibility to attend important events for their children.

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Aussie Politician Wins Worst Statement Award for Anti-childfree Comment

Full Article

The political award went to Bill Heffernan, a member of Prime Minister John Howard's conservative government in a hotly contested field.

Heffernan chastised opposition Labor MP Julia Gillard for being single and childless.

"Anyone who chooses to deliberately remain barren. . . they've got no idea what life's about," Heffernan said.

The comment itself is so commonplace it is barely noteworthy. The fact that it was recognized as offensive is what is really remarkable here.
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Interviews with childfree women

Me? A baby? No thank you…

JILL CAMPBELL MACKAY speaks to women who don’t want to be mothers and face society’s prejudices for it

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A defense of the large family by a 'six-time breeder.'

The Case for Kids

For the Befuddled
Given the rise of the Childfree and One Child Only movements and my nearly weekly public encounters, I feel moved to post a reply—a moral, biblical, and political defense of the larger family, or at least some insights for those who are genuinely befuddled or even fearful. I can do this because I understand the concern and befuddlement. It took ten years of marriage before I ventured nervously into motherhood. . . . I had an impressive list of prejudices and stereotypes, many of which I now see on the Childfree websites.
. . .
Yet even though our birth rate is historically low, the U.S. still has the highest birth rate of all industrialized countries.
. . .
[In larger families] Children with multiple siblings are also more accepting. They practice living with a variety of temperaments, quirks, and ages. Older children cannot stay safely within their own peer group. They learn to hold babies, sing lullabies, and change diapers. A teenager cannot retreat, morose, into his bedroom every afternoon to listen to his music—his 3-year-old brother will jump on his back and demand a gallop around the room. A 16-year-old girl will trudge through the door from school, worry on her face, to be greeted by a flying 18-month-old jumping into her arms.
. . .
Longing for Sacrifice
For all this, I am not a proselytizer for large families. I do not encourage couples to have more children than they want. I tell younger women the truth: If you aspire to be a mother, you aspire to a job without pay that is harder than any job you'll be paid for. It's a job with no time off, only time away. I tell them they should not have children to derive anything from them—not love or joy or fun or a legacy. It is possible that any or all of these may come, but there will be long stretches when little fulfillment is in sight.
. . .
But fewer couples worldwide choose this kind of life. What do we miss without children? What does the world miss with fewer children? Alarm bells are already beginning to ring from demographers, and, in keeping with tradition, their concern is primarily economic. They warn that although declining fertility rates bring a "demographic dividend," that dividend eventually has to be repaid. At first there are fewer children to feed, clothe, and educate, leaving more for adults to enjoy. But soon enough there are fewer productive workers as well, while there are also more and more dependent elderly, each of whom consumes far more resources than a child does. Even after considering the cost of education, a typical child in the U.S. consumes 28 percent less than the typical working-age adult, while elders consumer 27 percent more, mostly in health-related expenses.

How do we order and feed such a top-heavy, resource-consuming society of elders . . . ?

I'll admit this article might be a bit diificult to read- it skips between topics, doubles back, and has internal inconsistencies. For example, it acknowleges the high U.S. birth rate - which is currently at replacement rates, then worries about a 'top-heavy' society. If the author is trying to suggest that we expand the population, the ever-present pyramid scheme argument for population growth, the adjective used is still out of place.

Also, her argument for how a large family develops a personality could be dangerously applied to many other kinds of childhood hardship, such as losing a loved one, taking in extended family, caring for an elderly parent. Any childhood difficulty, such as having no privacy or personal space described here, will develop positive characteristics. So will simply having two loving parents who teach you life lessons, even if there are only one or two of you (and from what I have heard, more likely to happen in those cases).

Crippling our society with overpopulation just so kids can get a built-in tough childhood, using immense resources on schooling and health care just so we can have greater numbers paying into social security (so it can be. . . what? slightly less doomed?) doesn't seem any more well-reasoned than the layout of this article.

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Parents should remember that their childless colleagues are the put-upon, unsung heroes of the office

Give Bank Holiday martyrs a break

This reporter flips back and forth about how hard it is to be a parent, but does keep returning to the unfairness of asking the childless to carry the load without recognition.
But the general cry to stop discrimination against non-parents is irrefutable. Birth rates across Europe are declining: 28 per cent of degree- educated women currently end their reproductive lives childless. We risk alienating a significant proportion of the workforce if we don’t redress the balance a little. Why, they ask, should parents get preferential treatment, subsidies, tax breaks and unscheduled time off when the childfree are not afforded the same privilege if, say, an elderly parent needed caring for?
. . .
It goes without saying that it was not only right but essential that working parents’ rights have improved to such an extent. And though maternity — and paternity — leave are not holidays in the sun, they are a priceless offshoot from the relentless motorway that is the 45-year working life. After years of taking up the slack, child- less workers deserve a similar break.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Childless People Have Rights Too!

Childless people have rights too!
At the very least, they should have a spot for "people who are royally peeved because people with kids get a premium parking spot," complete with a pictogram of a guy grimacing with steam pouring out his ears.
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Russian Leader Proposes Barring Childless from Public Office

Zhirinovsky proposes restricting public office to fathers of two or more
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Liberal Democratic leader and Duma deputy speaker, has suggested barring from public office those who are single, childless, obese and have not served in the army.

"With the purpose of stimulating an increase in birth rates, Zhirinovsky has suggested hiring for public service only individuals who are married and have two or more children," according to a press release posted on the party website.

In autumn the Duma should pass corresponding legislation to improve the moral climate and social situation "through personnel changes in the government machinery," Zhirinovsky said.

Singlehood, hence childlessness, on the rise in Thailand

Fears for labour force as women shun marriage

Nearly half of Kingdom's women now single, demography expert tells seminar

Nearly half of Thai women are single, prompting concerns that as more women go childless, the country may face a labour shortage and end up having to import workers, a demographer said yesterday.
. . .
Pramote quoted census findings that show that 22.7 per cent of Thai women aged between 15 and 49 years were single in 1970; the count went up to 25.7 per cent in 1980; 28.5 per cent in 1990 and to 31.8 per cent in 2000.

The number of single women older than 50 has risen, too, from 2.2 per cent in 1970 to 2.5 per cent in 1980; 3.1 per cent in 1990; and 4.5 per cent in 2000, he said. Based on these figures, it is estimated that 34-35 per cent of Thai women aged between 15 and 49 currently were single while the proportion of unmarried women above the age of 50 years had climbed as high as 10 per cent.Overall, Pramote put the percentage of Thai single women at about 44.

The main reason they were shying away from marriage was that their rise up society's status ladder had spawned a desire for greater independence, he said. And working harder and longer hours than previously left them with no time to look for boyfriends.

The census figures and the fact that 75 per cent of women use birth control has led the institute to estimate that currently the birth rate is 1.7 children per woman, compared to 6.3 in 1964; 4.9 in 1974; 2.7 in 1985; 2.2 in 1991 and two in 1996, he said.

With the birth rate having plunged below the two mark, the number of children was no longer sufficient to replace the preceding generation. This means Thailand will face a severe shortage of labour in the future, and might have to depend on immigrants, said Pramote.
. . .
By 2022, its population will have risen to 65 million but, with the birth rate getting closer to the country's death rate, the population growth rate will dwindle to about zero, Somyos said, so that in about 15 years, the elderly would outnumber children in the country.

More strangers are laying down the law to rowdy children and their parents.

When kids run amok

"I love kids. I have kids. I work with kids," she said. "But parents who think they are fabulous just for having kids need to understand the fabulous part of being a parent is having a child who respects other people."

Of course, no one is tracking how many adults have decided they have had enough. But if you believe experts and anecdotal evidence, more say they are embracing the "it takes a village approach" and demanding Mom and Dad do something to control their precious progeny.

Children are now showing up in places that, 30 years ago, would have been inconceivable. According to the National Restaurant Association, one in 10 adult diners at a "tabletop" restaurant — meaning it's not fast food — will have a child younger than 13 in tow.

The article includes tips for dealing with kids in public, for both us and for parents.

Will Childfree Couples Be Forced to Divorce?

Indeed, that is the logical conclusion of a recent court decision, according to this journalist.

Marriage: It's all about the children
BOSTON — After hours spent poring over Washington state’s Supreme Court decision upholding the ban on same-sex marriage, I’ve finally figured it out. The court wasn’t just ruling against same-sex marriage. It was ruling in favor of “procreationist marriage.”

This is the heart of the opinion written by Justice Barbara Madsen: “Limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents.” In short, the state’s wedding bells are ringing for procreators.

Well if that’s true, isn’t it time for the legislatures in Washington and in New York, which issued a similar ruling against same-sex marriage this summer, to follow their own logic? If marriage is for procreation, shouldn’t they refuse to wed anyone past menopause? Shouldn’t they withhold a license, let alone blessings and benefits, from anyone who is infertile? As for those who choose to be childless? Nothing borrowed or blue for them. Indeed the state could offer young couples licenses with sunset clauses. After five years they have to put up (kids) or split up.
. . .
This is where the courts’ reasoning leads us. . .

Guardian: Wills in the childfree era.


Willing my friends to have a holiday on me

With some estimates suggesting that as many as one in five women are choosing to be childless, and with the longevity of relationships in apparent decline, the winds of change are reaching the world of wills. Many people now over the age of 50 have valuable assets - mainly tied up in their homes, pension arrangements and general savings - and quite a few are without dependents.

Those who do nothing and outlive their parents will probably, in effect, be passing their assets on to surviving siblings or half-siblings or, if none of these remain, to the Treasury. So unless you positively want to throw in more to the state coffers, start thinking about which friends, charities or other causes dear to your heart you would like to inherit your worldly goods.