Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Rise of Family-Friendly Cities

Two recent articles have addressed the issue of family-friendliness of cities.

The Rise of Family-Friendly Cities

Urban centers that have been traditional favorites for young singles, such as Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have experienced below-average job and population growth since 2000. . . .

Married people with children tend to be both successful and motivated, precisely the people who make economies go. They are twice as likely to be in the top 20% of income earners, according to the Census, and their incomes have been rising considerably faster than the national average.

The specificity of this statistic worries me. Could it be that there are other numbers out there that don't support their cause. This appears to compare married people with children to all others - including unmarried persons with children. The low marriage rate among the poor could be acting as an outlier - why not just compare those with children to those without if one is campaigning for more playgrounds?
Contrary to popular belief, moreover, the family is far from the brink of extinction. Most Americans, notes the Pew Research Center, still regard marriage as the ideal state. Upwards of 80% still marry, and the vast majority end up having children. Brookings demographer Bill Frey notes that the number of married couples with children has actually been on the rise after decades of decline. . . .

The rapidly increasing percentage of college educated women, a group that places a high value on marriage and children, are emerging as critical shapers of the future skilled workforce. Two decades ago, these women were less likely than other women to marry. Today, a single, 30-year-old woman with a graduate degree has about a 75% chance of getting married, compared with a single 30-year-old woman with less education, who has about a 66% chance. Overall, reports The Center for Economic and Policy Research, women in their late 20s and early 30s who are in the top 10% earning bracket are just as likely to be married as other women who work full-time.

Curious that they cite the statistics for educated women concerning marriage, but not children. Could it be because the more education a woman has, the less likely she is to procreate? This article perpetuates the fallacy that the alternative to families is young singles, and ignores demographic trends that indicate childless couples and older singles are an increasing presence in our cities and workforces.

Is New York City Family-Friendly Enough?

One of the enduring fairy tales about New York City is that of the young person who comes here to stake a name for him or herself. But what happens when a lot of these young people partner up and have children?

They leave New York.

Or so says futurist Joel Kotkin in an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal. Mr. Kotkin argues that married people with children tend to be the drivers of whatever economies they're in; and, increasingly in the U.S., they're in family-friendly cities like Houston, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham--not behemoths like New York, which tend to attract the younger and the childless.
. . .
What can New York do to retain more of the young after they've aged into 40-something economic engines with spouses and kids? Perhaps (gasp!) follow the lead of Philadelphia, which has been trying to spruce up the neighborhoods near its downtown to keep families from fleeing to the suburbs.
Has the homogenization of American cities gone so far that we have begin embracing it as a goal? I call New York home precisely because it is a city for the childless. While it may seem to many that children run amok all over the UWS, compared to the cultures of other cities it is quite adult friendly, and the culture is accepting of the childfree choice.
There is a reason I live in New York and not Houston, Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham, despite the fact that we suffer much worse weather. Those cities need to continue catering to those who call it home, but where on earth would one get the idea that we need to make American cities more alike? Let the people who prefer the 2.3 kids, backyards, and cultural aspects elsewhere flee, and leave NY to the neurotic, the workaholics, the nightlife-obsessed, the singles, and the childless. We deserve a city of our own.
As the first article cited, our population is still growing - I don't see it as a problem that cities elsewhere are growing faster. As long as we have a steady stream of immigrants, fresh-faced ibankers and newly minted lawyers shoring up our economy, we'll survive just fine without those who prefer the sunny, spacious South. Viva la difference.
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In Brief

Family, research, funding

This article addresses scientific researchers in Germany who are parents, and their attempt to balance family and career.

Hey, kidult you’re not fooling anyone

This is yet another article on how the current generation is refusing to grow up, notable only for yet another inclusion of childless status as evidence of our lagging behing.

Pro-lifers must offer alternate solutions

This article proposes a refreshingly novel argument from a pro-lifer: held lower abortions by allowing gay adoptions.

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"Advice" Columnist to Slighted Childless Employee: Get Over It

Pillow talk

. . . I'm fed up with picking up the pieces for my female colleagues. They leave work for months on end to have babies and then, when they do come back with their shrunken, baby-addled brains and la-di-dah attitude, they might as well not have bothered.

I've lost count of the number of times female colleagues have left the office - in the midst of a major crisis or deadline - at five, with the excuse that little Freddie has to be picked up from nursery. . . .

And the biggest irony of all? I'm a newly qualified employment lawyer. - Charlotte S, Exeter

Dear Charlotte

As I read your letter - and this is probably wrong of me - I was expecting to find that it was written by a man. I presumed that, as a woman, you might understand that when children enter someone's life their priorities change. . . .

As yes. Woman = walking uterus = doormat. How enlightened.
For a lawyer you seem to have missed out on a very simple fact in this case - it isn't about you. People aren't trying to be mean to you. They don't care about you. Their main focus is now outside work.

How is that even relevant? I think the fact that these employees are acting selfishly - not considering her - was the very point of the original letter.
You have a couple of options. Move to a company with a younger, older or gayer workforce where this will be less of an issue, or have a baby. Failing that, take up smoking: then you can take lots of breaks while those health-conscious parents are chained to their desks.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

The Hidden Truth about Parenthood

The hidden truth about parenthood

You can admit to disliking just about anybody nowadays; parents, spouses, even a hatred for Don Bradman gets a sympathetic hearing - but what if it is your baby that is the target of your venom?

Almost every parent I know talks up having kids like they are an Easter Show urger, saying "it changes your life!", "you don't know what love is until you have a child!" or "it focuses you on what's really important!".

However, scattered among those exclamations will be a person who will admit "if I'd known what it was going to be like, I probably wouldn't have done it" or "I'm really struggling. I want my old life back."

These disclosures are usually accompanied by a sense of guilt or fear they will be judged a lesser person, or at least parent, because of their "failings".

The shame of this is that with so few people talking publicly about the negative aspects of parenthood they often come as a nasty shock to new mums and dads, with "why didn't anybody warn me" being the unspoken message.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates one in four women in this country will remain childless for "a wide variety of reasons … these range from lifestyle choices relating to the pursuit of education and a career, to a preference for a life without children".
. . .
We all know mums and dads who have put more thought into their Lotto numbers than having kids and it is often difficult to empathise with their plight; it is the couples who think they are ready for parenthood, who read and plan and embrace it, then find the task overwhelming, fail to deal with the seismic change in their lifestyle and fall into depression or bitterness, that scare the hell out of me.

Recently, I've run into a purple patch of mums and dads who have warned me off parenthood like it is a Chinese formaldehyde-laced blanket. Several have admitted that the greatest day of their life was actually the worst because they have realised their little bundle of joy is a mistake they can never undo.
. . .
If you have found parenthood a nightmare, you are often considered weak or selfish or lacking a certain humanity. Perhaps we would all be better off not shouting down or judging those who have found the experience unfulfilling or nerve-shattering and instead let their stories be heard so the rest of us can walk through the nursery door with our eyes wide open.
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Should Spanking Your Child Be Illegal?

Should Spanking Your Child Be Illegal?

Massachusetts lawmakers say a proposed measure that would ban parents from spanking their children, even in their own homes, is a way to protect kids from abuse. But many parents believe it's an example of government run amok.

In all 50 states, parents are legally allowed to spank their children. But in 29 states it's illegal for a teacher to practice corporal punishment, including spanking.

A Massachusetts nurse is hoping to change that and make the state the first in the nation to ban corporal punishment at home.
. . .
The very idea of the bill has stirred huge controversy, because many parents say the state is trying to take away what's been a tried and true method of child-rearing. As many a mom has said, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."
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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sterilized for the Planet

Meet the women who won't have babies - because they're not eco friendly

Arguably more valuable and interesting than the original article are the bloggers' reactions to them. In Going green by sterilization and Sure We’re Green. But Kids Are More Important Than The Planet two well-known childfree bloggers take on the issue, the article, and its comments.

The article women who have undergone sterilization and abortion to back-up their beliefs that a child-free life is more environmentally friendly.
While some might think it strange to celebrate the reversal of nature and denial of motherhood, Toni relishes her decision with an almost religious zeal.

"Having children is selfish. It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet," says Toni, 35.

"Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population."

While most parents view their children as the ultimate miracle of nature, Toni seems to see them as a sinister threat to the future.

It's an extreme stance which one might imagine is born from an unhappy childhood or an upbringing among parents who share similar, strong beliefs.
. . .
"When I was a child, I loved bird-watching, and in my teens that developed into a passion for the environment as well as the welfare of animals - I became a vegetarian when I was 15.
. . .
So, instead of mapping out plans for a family, Toni and her husband began discussing medical options to ensure they would never reproduce.
Toni, from Taunton, Somerset tried to get sterilised, to be rejected by her GP

"I found it insulting that she thought that, just because I was a woman, I'd reach a point where an urge to breed would overcome all rational thought."
. . .
But while other young women dream of marriage and babies, Toni was convinced it was her duty not to have a child.
. . .
"We used to say that if ever we did want children, we'd adopt, as there are so many children in need of a loving family. "At least then, we'd be doing something positive for the world, rather than something negative."
After an accidental pregnancy and an abortion, she tried again.
"This time it was a male doctor. I remember saying to him: 'I want to make sure this never happens again.' "He said: 'You may not want a child, but one day you may meet a man who does'. He refused to consider it.
She did finally succeed in getting the procedure.
Toni says: "After the operation, which is irreversible, I didn't feel emotional - just relieved. "I've never doubted that I made the right decision. Ed and I married in September 2002, and have a much nicer lifestyle as a result of not having children.
. . .
"My only frustration is that other people are unable to accept my decision.

"When I tell people why I don't want children, they look at me as if I was planning to commit murder.

"A woman who does not have maternal-feelings is seen as some sort of anomaly.

"And a woman like me, who is not having children in order to save the planet, is considered barking mad.

"What I consider mad are those women who ferry their children short distances in gas-guzzling cars."
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Often, parenthood comes late or never


[A] trend is being reported by the Public Policy Institute of California: With women delaying marriage and parenthood in favor of higher education and better careers, never in California's history have so many remained childless through their childbearing years.
One in four women in California are now childless in their early 40s - nearly double the rate in 1980, the highest since record-keeping began in 1870, and a significantly higher rate than for the United States overall.

And yet, never have so many Californians given birth in their 40s. With teen birth rates continuing to drop, the bulk of childbearing is moving out of the teens and 20s and into the 30s - or later. Birth rates for women in their early 40s have tripled over the past two decades, for reasons both social and economic. . . . Women pay a wage and career penalty for having children, social research shows.
. . .
"The more fuzzy part is the whole kind of cultural argument that goes along with people's statements about California - that California has more acceptance of non-norm behavior in society. And to the extent that having children is considered the norm, it might be more acceptable in California not to."
. . .
Myra Strober, a Stanford University economist who studies gender and workplace issues, said many women think their early 40s would be a good place in their careers to have children. But biology sometimes says no.

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CEO Moms

The Little Secret of Women Who Have it All

WellPoint's new CEO, Angela Braly, made headlines when she took the helm in June. . . . She's also had some sidekicks on this journey: her three children. Yes, the only woman CEO of a Fortune 50 company is a mom. And not just a mom of one kid, as Linda Hirshman, author of Get to Work, suggests women should have to make it professionally.

Braly is worth studying, because the general sense from all the mommy-war books out there (from Get to Work to Caitlin Flanagan's The Hell with all That, and so forth) is that it's nearly impossible to be a good mom and have a big career simultaneously, or that it requires very stark choices, like having just one kid. Sylvia Ann Hewlett sparked a firestorm a few years ago with her claim that 49 percent of corporate women earning over $100,000 a year were childless at age 40. Then former Harvard President Larry Summers fanned the flames with his statement that the most prestigious jobs required complete devotion to work during your early years, and hence wouldn't be open to women until they were willing to sacrifice their personal lives.
How about they simply do as successful fathers have done for ages - marry another who is willing to be the primary caretaker? While I recognize that finding a mate to do this could be much more difficult than it is for men, our former president's comments were theoretical, as is my solution.

The best way to have it all, we hear, is to focus on building a career -- getting tenure, making partner, getting the corner office -- and then having children. This leads to a compressed baby-making schedule, since few women manage to have children after age 40 naturally, and even assisted reproductive technologies have limited success on older women. One of the reasons the new technology of egg freezing (which I wrote about recently for USA Today) is garnering so much attention is that it offers the tantalizing possibility of letting you cling to this schedule while still beating the clock.
. . .
Old fashioned? Perhaps. But I think these women are on to something, and not in a Danielle Crittenden, What Our Mothers Never Told Us anti-feminist kind of way. There is a professional case to be made for having babies young, as long as you're willing to build a career at the same time.

For starters, even if you do plan to scale back while your kids are very small, career timetables mean less now than they used to. . . . Given how many people spend their 20s finding themselves, you may actually be ahead of schedule -- and you won't face the agonizing choice later on of having babies when you're at the top of your career.
. . .
That makes the debate a lot less stark. That's a good thing, because the worst aspect of the whole "career, then kids?" or "kids, then maybe career?" debate is that it buys into the un-feminist notion that the two can't happen at the same time.
Ironic that the author puts forth this theory while making the decidedly un-feminist assumption that these are the only two options available to women.
When you have kids at 28, though, you build your career according to rules that you'll be able to live with as a family. As Avon CEO Andrea Jung, who became a mom around age 30, once told a Wharton audience, "There are a lot of games and concerts that I miss, but never the most important ones. There are also a lot of days and meetings at Avon that I miss -- but never the most important ones." Those ground rules let her raise kids and become CEO, without the stark choices that changing the rules later can make you face.
This relates to a recent article bemoaning the myth of the supermom. But is even though I am in no position to say whether missing "unimportant" games and concerts makes one a lesser parent, the idea of a CEO making such consessions troubles me. Much like other workplace accommodations, such actions have the potential to reflect on all women, creating the impression that female CEOs are less committed or less capable. If these actions have an impact on the company, it could even create troubling statistics in regards to female-run companies.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

No Kidding! spokesman says the best days of the childfree movement are still to come.

We are childless, hear us roar

Tim Cavanaugh's Nov. 9 Opinion Daily, "Every child left behind," brings up a number of issues related to the childfree in general, and No Kidding! in particular, that need to be addressed. He asserts that the "childfree movement" is "...demoralized, disorganized [and] uncertain about policy." He's quite wrong on one point, and somewhat right on the other two. The problem is, he's right for the wrong reasons.

First off, No Kidding! as an organization continues to prosper. We currently have 50 chapters in five countries (including a recently added chapter in China), and last month we held our sixth annual No Kidding! convention in Las Vegas. We continue to be contacted by childfree individuals from around the world, and we have no doubt that more chapters will be formed as time goes on.

That said, No Kidding! is no longer the only game in town for childfree people. The Internet has made it much easier to find like-minded people of any persuasion compared to 1984, the year No Kidding! was founded. For example, to be affiliated with No Kidding!, chapters must be open to both men and women; I am aware of at least one social club which is just for childfree women. The Internet has also facilitated virtual meetings of childfree people. More than a few childfree message boards and groups have formed and thrived over the past few years. To say the childfree are demoralized would be far from the truth.

As to his contention that the "childfree movement" is disorganized and uncertain about policy, there would be an element of truth to that, if I believed there were a cohesive "childfree movement" to speak of. The childfree aren't monolithic in their beliefs. There are hard left, hard right, moderate and politically apathetic childfree people. In terms of religious beliefs, they're across the board. The one (and only) thing they have in common is never having been, and never wanting to become, a parent. The time may come when childfree PACs form, but it hasn't happened yet. There is no "Million Childfree March" penciled in on my calendar yet, either.

I view that as neither a surprise nor a disappointment. Part of the drawback of our current culture is that society has become collectively impatient. Cavanaugh, who was apparently channeling Rudy Giuliani, uses the "post-9/11 era" as his time frame. Six years isn't a lot of time to generate the "movement" he envisions. Not every person who is childfree self-identifies with the term; some aren't even aware that term exists. For others, "coming out" as childfree could bring about negative reactions from co-workers, friends, and family. For women, the penalty could be even more severe, as some people still equate motherhood with womanhood. These factors suggest a childfree movement isn't going to happen overnight.

On the other hand, there are bright spots that seem to have escaped Cavanaugh's attention. While Elinor Burkett hasn't written a sequel to "The Baby Boon," other authors have written written books about the childfree, both fiction and nonfiction. The news media have continued to focus on the childfree: In the past year alone, we have been represented in discussions about voluntary sterilization, the environment, the cost of having kids (and whether or not it's "worth it" "), and the relative importance of children to marriage. Companies are beginning to target the childfree as a consumer segment, and employers are responding to our needs with the implementation of cafeteria-style benefits plans. On the whole, I feel things are actually moving quite swiftly. As more people realize that parenthood is optional rather than being mandatory, I predict our visibility in society will rise even further.

Taking these facts into consideration, what are the implications for our social and political culture? On the debates regarding the environment, child tax credits, public-school funding? Honestly, I can't say. From my own discussions with childfree people, I've found opinions follow political ideologies more than they derive from a "childfree identity." The childfree can't be pigeonholed any more than parents can.

All things considered, are we collectively uncertain about policy? Perhaps. Disorganized? For now. Demoralized? Absolutely not. And the "childfree movement?" Its brightest days are yet to come.

Vincent Ciaccio is the spokesperson and director of strategic planning for No Kidding!
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

American couples having fewer children

American couples having fewer children
Apparently, not only has wedlock waned, but the desire of married couples to have children has weakened. Forget about all those worrisome predictions of an imminent population explosion. These days, those Americans who choose to wed are having fewer children, or none at all.

In 1960, close to half of all American households had children under the age of 18. By the turn of the century, that portion had dropped to less than one-third. The National Marriage Project predicts further shrinkage to one in four within a few years.

Since 1990, the percentage of men and women who consider children to be very important to a successful marriage fell from 65 percent to just 41 percent, according to a new Pew Research Project report. Ironically, as middle-class married couples either decide to have fewer children or none at all, the nation's out-of-wedlock birth rate stands at 37 percent, increasing the likelihood of a future population that will be disadvantaged.
. . .
Vincent Caiaccio, a spokesman for No Kidding!, which represents child-free couples, reports that 62 percent of married couples are concerned that children will undermine their relationship with their spouse. They expressed a wish for personal space and time, and many confessed to having no compelling desire to have children.
I neglected to post this back when the flurry of articles concerning the Pew Study were written. To recap, only 40% of married couples consider children to be important to a happy marriage, a significant drop from previous years.

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Bringing your baby to work

Babies? In my office? It's more common than you think

One recent morning at the offices of Farm Aid, as managers sat around a long table and talked business, Shailagh Heneghan got cranky.

She squirmed. She grumbled. She made sure everyone knew her displeasure. And so the staff did what they often do at Wednesday meetings: The associate director of the 22-year-old organization held Shailagh. Then the campaign director tucked her under his arm in the football hold. Finally, the operations director lifted Shailagh into her arms.

"We sort of did pass-the-baby," said Wendy Matusovich, Shailagh's mother and Farm Aid's resource development director.
"It's not only good for the employee to have this flexibility . . . but it's really good for the [other] employees in the organization, whether they have children or not. It kind of gives them a different view of where they work," said Gee, former present of Southern Vermont College.

So this is where we're headed, eh?

Let's put all the obvious stuff aside for a moment. This is going to be a human resources nightmare. It is inevitable that "being a team player" now is going to include, at first, tolerating babies in the office, and eventually, helping to take care of the babies in the office. Most of us are expected from time to time to pick up a co-worker's phone if it rings... now it's going to be "can you change my baby while I'm in the meeting?" And I can guarantee you, the people expected to do most of this will be the other women in the office.

The infertile people who had at least one safe haven from seeing the babies they can't have, now lost it. The people who are sensitive to smell? Shit out of luck. And good luck talking to your client on the phone, what with the colicky baby in the next cube over.

Let's not forget the critical mass aspect as well. Maybe the office can deal with 2 or 3 babies, but no more. Now it's time for job interviews. Are you really going to run the risk of hiring more women of child-bearing age, especially when they know your company accepts people bringing their babies?

It's a nightmare in the making.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Work-life plans should not just be for parents

We have a two-for today. Pay attention to the second article, which addresses both time off policies and compnsation packages.

Joyce M. Rosenberg: Personal time off for all

Colleen Haviland, founder and president of Xsell Resources Inc. and Ready to Hire, two businesses in Willow Grove, Pa., sees no difference between giving parents time off for a child's game and giving childless workers time to go to sporting or theatrical events.

"No matter if it's children or any type of other commitment, we all have a real life outside of work," she said "If they're a good employee, when they're here they give 110 percent, so you should make exceptions for them."
. . .
Bonnie Beirne, director of service operations for Administaff Inc., a Houston-based human resources and staffing company, noted that today's workforce tends to be very diverse – with parents, nonparents and empty-nesters who may want time off for a variety of reasons. . . . Jennifer Blum Feldman. . . suggests owners think about how to handle time-off requests before the situation comes up – in other words, develop a policy that will prevent questions of unfairness.

Ms. Feldman noted that without a policy, employers could inadvertently discriminate against some staffers when granting time off. It's safest to consult a labor relations attorney or human resources specialist when formulating a policy, she said.
Mommy-Track Backlash

"Please don't tell me I need to have a baby to have this time off!"
. . .
Your family-friendly policies may be unfair—if your company hasn't carefully considered its approach to work-life balance.

To support all employees' work, home, community, and personal goals, consider these guidelines:

Strive for Equity, not Equality
Childless employees have as much right to their personal lives as working parents. But treating everyone equitably doesn't mean treating them identically. Figure out
how many reduced workloads your department can afford. Then, with your team,
explore creative ideas that may appeal to different individuals.
. . .
Tie Compensation to Quality of Work, not Quantity of Dependents
To sustain employees' commitment to your company, make sure benefits packages don't favor parents over nonparents. Tie all compensation—including time off and other nonfinancial benefits—to work well done. Judge the relative value of each employee to the company and reward them accordingly—regardless of whether they're parents.

The article contains more specific suggestions for achieveing equality. I have notices many articles like this lately. I wonder if companies are listening.

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Women Still Receiving Inadequate Information Surrounding Contraception, UK

Women Still Receiving Inadequate Information Surrounding Contraception, UK

Research released by educational initiative 'Talk Choice' confirms that women are still not receiving comprehensive advice on contraception from their healthcare professionals. Amongst the 1,004 childless career women surveyed, only one third of women felt that their GP, Nurse or Family Planning Clinic gave sound advice on contraception. Worryingly, less than one quarter felt that they had been offered a choice of contraceptive methods, despite recent NICE guidelines recommending women be provided with information on all methods of contraception, including long-acting reversible contraception (LARC).

The results also showed the frightening consequences of women's lack of knowledge, with a worrying two in five admitting to having unprotected sex in the last five years, even though they were not trying to get pregnant.1 In addition, 60% of pill users had forgotten to take their contraceptive pill on several occasions or frequently forgot to take it.1

At a time when 50% of all pregnancies in the UK are unplanned this research highlights that only one quarter of women rely on their doctor or nurse for information on contraception.1 Although nearly two thirds would welcome more unbiased and up-to-date advice on contraception, over one third felt that they did not have enough time to find out what their contraception options were.

In response to this need for improved access to information about contraception, 'Talk Choice' launched a one-stop-shop for contraception information and advice. . . .

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Parent Convinced Kids Improve Marriage

Parenthood alters marriage, for better
My wife and I have been married for 10 years now. For all but the first 10 months of our marriage, we've also been parents. . . . We don't do everything well, but we are good at being fruitful and multiplying. We have produced four kids at last count.
. . .
Long ago, we had time for romance. That was before I stopped sending flowers and started giving her presents like a wheelbarrow for our anniversary and a screen door for Valentine's Day (in my defense, she asked for both).
. . .
She still looks great in a black dress, but her wizardry with car-seat installation and coolness in an emergency room seems far more important now. As a father, I do my best. But I'd be lost without her. We wonder what we did with all of the free time we had before becoming Mom and Dad. How was it possible that we thought we were so busy back then?

We hardly ever have serious arguments, but we do annoy each other. . . . I know we have a good marriage, though, partly because I know what a bad one looks like. Elise was never married before. I was -- a tumultuous, childless union in my 20s.

Kids always change a marriage. I'm convinced they change most -- certainly ours -- for the better. Our lives are far more chaotic than they were a decade ago, but we laugh much more.
This seems less an article than a diary article. He's "convinced" that kids change a marriage for the better, despite the fact that every study on the subject says otherwise. He knows his marriage is good - despite lack of romance - based on his sample size of two. (Of course it is not possible that he has had one awful marriage and one so-so one?)
This evinces parents' ability to convince themselves of the things they need to to get through the day. I suppose I should not begrudge them that - at least until they begin preaching about it in the newspaper. But when someone makes an allegation such as this publicly, they ought to have a lot more to back it up than a brief, 10 month, pregnant union for comparison.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Business Week: Are Kids Worth The Cost?

Business Week

Business Week two-fer today. Main article goes into the financial implications of having children. It's generally informative, rather than pandering, until you get to the end:

The problem, experts say, is that U.S. lawmakers and corporations aren't addressing many of the challenges facing families. Longman points to the continuing culture wars between work and family: "Everyone who wants to may join the paid labor force, but almost no one gets a family wage or enough help from government to defray the costs of raising children." He figures the critical moment will emerge during the next decade, "as millions of Baby Boomers start crashing past the boundaries of old age, and as today's teenagers find themselves saddled with massive student loans, rising taxes, and growing frustration over the difficulty of forming or affording a family."
As usual, someone chimes in with "the government or my employer needs to pay for me to have kids." I can't say I'm surprised, but I'm still disappointed.

The other half of this is in The Debate Room, where two people (including yours truly) discuss whether or not kids are in fact worth the cost. The thing I like about this is neither of us denigrated the other position. I'm sure having a kid is worth it for the "Pro" author, and I'm sure being adopted by a parent who really wanted her is worth it for the child. Much the same, I really don't want a kid, so that would make it entirely not worth it for me.

For the most part, I actually don't care if people choose to become parents or not, so long as they think about it first. You don't have to be a parent to realize it's a huge responsibility, and one worth some reflection before jumping in with both feet.

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Three Prior Presidents were Childless like Candidate Richardson

End of the Line

[C]ompared to the idealized presidential image, there’s one big thing Richardson lacks: kids. . . . Greenfield asks Richardson whether being childless harms his White House chances. Richardson’s response:

“Someone once used it against me or implied it in a race. The explanation is that Barbara and I tried to have children, but we weren’t able to. We tried. We tried in vitro. It’s one of our great regrets.”
. . .
Asked why he never adopted a child, the 59-year-old Richardson tells Playboy, “We were always moving. I was in Congress, commuting back to New Mexico…Time passed us by.”

While Richardson doesn’t have the progeny backdrop Mitt Romney or John Edwards can deploy at a moment’s notice, if elected he wouldn’t be the nation’s first childless commander-in-chief.

James Madison, the nation’s fourth president and the recognized “father” of the US Constitution, was the first. Even though Madison’s wife, Dolley Payne Todd, was 17 years younger than him, the couple did not have any children together.

James Polk, the nation’s 11th president and prosecutor of the Mexican-American War, which ultimately brought New Mexico and much of the American West into the US fold, was the nation’s second childless chief executive.
It is a bit refreshing to see this discussion center around a man; such accusations often resound more with voters against female candidates. Yet this is the US, so the latter are scarce anyway. While we are not discussing many childless by choice presidents or candidates, this is conservative America, and acceptance of such things is hard enough for our Secretary of State, letalone our President.

After all, even this male candidate is being made to answer, even apologize, for his failure to adopt.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Social Costs of the Mommy Track

Flexi-workers are a twist we can ill afford

In the UK, as in the US, flextime is starting to be looked upon as a right, not a privilege. Whatever one thinks of the necessity of such programs to increase the presence of women int he workforce, and to enable parents to properly care for the next generation, no dialogue would be complete without a fair accounting of the costs. Yet the points this article raises about such costs have, until now, been missing from the debate.

There are costs to employers:
Working flexibly is good for families and good for mothers, but it is not good for employers. With the best of goodwill on all sides, flexitime will always cause problems. Some employers may be large enough to bear the inevitable costs and inconveniences. The public services will be protected from such commercial realities by the state and the taxpayer. But that does not change the unpleasant fact that flexible working imposes costs and inefficiencies on almost all employers and the economy as a whole.
To women on the job market:
The lawyer admitted sadly that in her small organisation she could scarcely afford to employ women, no matter how good, no matter how much better than the male applicants; if they disappeared for many months’ maternity leave with the right to return, it was almost impossible to replace them temporarily with a woman or man of the same calibre; why would any such high-flyer accept a temporary job for only a year or so without any security?
To Clients:
The publisher agreed. If a good literary agent disappeared for a year’s maternity leave, she said, her firm didn’t bother dealing with the replacement. It took time and there were so many good agents around; her company would publish books from the other agents. So the literary agency of the woman on leave and the writers she looks after would lose out for at least a year.
And to society as a whole:
For instance, one excellent social worker I contact sometimes about one of her vulnerable clients works only on Thursdays and Fridays. If this client of hers suddenly has a big problem between Monday and Thursday morning, she won’t be available. Someone else may be, but it won’t be someone who knows and understands all the personal details. The costs of handovers between flexi-workers in complicated jobs like these must be astronomical, too.
The article admits that "[a]necdotes such as these are no substitute for argument" but they do present another side of flextime that many have chosen to ignore in the debate.

However good it sounds in theory, in the nasty detail of practice, flexible working all too often imposes a burden on businesses, on standards, on services, on clients and on the economy.

To impose flexible working on employers as a woman’s right and increasingly as a man’s right, too, is yet another step along the road of economic decline. In this light, resentment of flexi-workers doesn’t seem to me to be unreasonable.
Incidentally, although it is illegal in the US to ask about parenthood or plans for children, there is no prohibition against an interviewee volunteering such information. If a childfree woman fears that a small company will, like the lawyer quoted above, be wary of hiring women who might cost them in maternity leave (and, in many cases, lost training cost when the woman goes part time or fails to return) they are free to disclose their childfree status.

To those who might find such a conversation awkward, you can take a volunteer position in a childfree organization, then include it on your resume. This, of course, might cause harm in regions where such choices are socially frowned upon, but in markets such as New York they are apt to do more good than harm.

An interesting note: this article was written by a mother, albeit a freelance writer who never took advantage of such programs.

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Member of House of Lords Discusses Childlessness

All work, no play

The following excerpt is in the context of a much different article, the gist of which is that the notion of work-life balance implies something is wrong; if you are fulfilled at work, "chill out" time is uneccessary. While this idea could be spun into a tangent about childfree and careers, the main point of linking this article is the relevance of the quotes below.
Greenfield, CBE, a member of the House of Lords, the holder of 28 honorary degrees, a director of the Royal Institution, an author, a panel-list and TV personality, is one of science’s great operators.
. . .
All the above she has done while remaining childless, which she does not appear to regret in the slightest. In 2004 she told an interviewer: “I told him [Atkins] that I did not want children.” Today she says: “My then husband made it very clear he didn’t want them.” Perhaps it’s irrelevant who didn’t want what. As Greenfield had been put off motherhood years before by another man: “My brother. He’s 13 years younger than me. I was shocked at the horror of having babies and the smelly nappies and the sleepless nights. All that came as something truly horrible. Although we get on very well now, it came at a time in my life when I could neither be a little mum nor a playmate.”
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Sunday, November 04, 2007

More on Gillard, Childfree Politician

Political scene not ready for female PM: Gillard
Ms Gillard said she had faced "silly jibes" about her decision to remain childless.

"It's perhaps a bit hard when men, particularly from the outside, criticise what choices women have made when they don't face the same range of choices," she said.
"I've obviously chosen to devote myself to my work and, you know, life unfolds and you make a set of small decisions which end up being a big decision at the end of the day.

"It's been one of those things I've had to live through, silly jibes and carry-on about it.

"But I think if it's raised in a debate about the role of women and how we can help women manage work and family life then that's a good thing."
We have heard about this in the past - female politicians (including Gillard) being criticized for their childless status. I'm not sure what to make of these particular quotes; she is not apologizing for not having children, but the last sentence may be a nod to the idea of providing subsidies for mothers.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Garrison Keillor on Marriage, Parenting and Childlessness

G.O.P. recipe for success: God and Marriage
Don't get me wrong. Marriage is a good thing. But as for the sanctity of it, you shouldn't look too closely. Every marriage has its profane moments, especially when children get mixed up in it, which so often happens.

There is yelling and weeping involved and door slamming and a great deal of bad poetry ("My life is a vortex of darkness because/You never loved me,/No, I was only/An object of your wrath,/Bad daddy") and all due to the horrors of parenting.

The childless couples I know seem smooth and easy together, working their old comedy routines, and the fruitful couples seem distracted as if expecting a phone call from the county jail. Childless couples don't go through this. They don't have to yell upstairs and say, "If I don't see you doing your homework in five minutes, I am going to yell and shriek and do such irrational things that they will put me into residential treatment and you will have to fix your own meals and do your own laundry."

The child has created a shrine to herself on Facebook and has a list of a thousand friends but not much is actually taking place underneath that hairdo. Just like with the Current Occupant, who represents them very well. He is a relaxed, easygoing, self-accepting guy whose old retainers love him for his self-effacing modesty, a wonderful trait, but when you are incompetent, it is not so wonderful as, say, a little more intelligence might be. He is heading for the short bus of history where Earl Butz and Spiro Agnew ride. Where are his parents? Why don't they yell at him?
This was a less traditional view than I was expecting from the radio personality behind "A Prairie Home Companion". He does have a daughter, which makes the frankness all the more refreshing.

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The Inadvertent Childless - Adjusting Expectations

Childless by choice or fate, grieving can help

Archibald, who has been in a relationship for four years, is ready to be a mother. Her partner, she says, is not. . . . While Archibald knows she has time, she says she won't be distraught if she never has children.

"I want it because I'm a maternal person and would like to raise a child," she says. "But I'm so happy and fulfilled already inside."

Archibald is in a good place. Others in her situation, however, struggle.

Blame it on the marriage delay, divorce or the increase of women in the work force, but 27 percent of those 30 to 34 and 19 percent of those 35 to 39 are childless, compared with 15.6 percent and 10.5 percent in 1976, respectively, according to the 2004 U.S. Census.

Still, many of these women grew up with a "white picket fence" scenario that involved a man, a house and kids. For whatever reason, their lives took a different path, and now they're faced with the tick of their biological clocks.

Although it's a choice to remain childless for some women, others yearn for kids and feel out of sync with their friends who have families.

Despite their own happy, fulfilling lives, the women are trying to cope with the reality that life may go on, without kids. Experts say it's important to address and grieve this as a loss, but few women do.
. . .
Judy Levitt, a Montclair, Calif., marriage and family therapist, begins by exploring why a client yearns for a child, including expectations, family history of motherhood and what the woman thinks will happen if she does not bear children. At the end of the exploration, Levitt says, she might realize that she's perfectly happy the way things are.

"Today, women of childbearing age have so many more opportunities," Levitt says. "They have permission to be so autonomous that they could feel conflicted between living this fulfilling life and also feeling the pull of nature as they see time passing."
. . .
"Marriage is one aspect of a fulfilling life and there are many many others," Massingill says. "When you are busy enjoying life you don't have time to be sad over what isn't there."
Solid advice. Although part of me bristles at the idea that one has to 'grieve' a childfree life, I must realize that not everyone is wired as I am, or come from communities where childbearing is considered optional (but a graduate degree is not).
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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Childless Aussie Women Showing Career Growth

Childless women prospering
GROWING numbers of childless women are becoming the dominant earner in their relationships as having children remains a serious earnings barrier.
. . .
. . .
Professor Pocock said professional women often experienced a major "occupational downshift" after having children and found it difficult to realign their pay rates with male workers.
. . .
[University of New England sociologist Michael Bittman] said females tended to perform better at school, had higher rates of high school completion and had slightly higher rates of entry into tertiary education and as a consequence higher rates of pay when childless.

"While they are childless, quite a lot of them have relatively high earnings."
This data is for Australia, but probably represents a trend across societies. Coupled with the recent article about lack of stigma, it appears that women are finally starting to have a real choice where career and earning are concerned. Of course, as long as women who do have children continue to take on the brunt of childrearing and household duties, differences will remain. Yet aside from justifying childcare and other benefits, such information bears little import for our readers.
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Do Childless People Have Valuable Opinions on Parenting?

If you have ever been told that your opinions don't count because you are not a parent, take comfort in the following article.
Your Kids
Really, it’s not so idiotic that parents consult me when faced with problem children. I’m not a competitor in the game and parenting is nothing if not a competition. . . . With no child of my own goosing their insecurities, parents can count on me for discreet, unbiased, nearly informed advice.

. . .I add encouragement: “Don’t worry, the beauty of modern child-rearing is that no kids are just plain stupid anymore.” Thus reassured, a segue can be made to the kind of adult conversations I used to have with these people, say, seven years ago.
. . .
[U]nlike parents, I can gain knowledge by reading, watching TV and leaving my home. Also unlike parents, I can observe kids like a sociologist as opposed to watching them like a hawk. Thanks to these advantages, I devised two overarching philosophies of parenting: 1. No one cares about anyone else’s kids. 2. Don’t let children change you or your life.

In an age where one of Britan's most noted (and controversial) childcare experts is childless, perhaps our opinions are not so worthless after all. But that doesn't necessarily mean we all have them. Some of us opted out precicely so we wouldn't have to worry about such things.
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Choosing Career, not Children? Men More Likely to Give You a Hard Time.

Stigma of childless career woman fading
It turns out public acceptance of childlessness has increased, especially among women. Even more, women are twice as likely as men to reject the idea that childbearing is the purpose of marriage, that it is better to marry than remain single, and that marriage is for life.

''Women regard both childbearing and marriage as being less central and more optional in women's lives,'' said Tonya Koropeckyj-Cox, a University of Florida sociologist whose study is in the November issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family. With more opportunity, ``women may be asking more questions about whether everyone needs to follow the same path.''
. . .
But men have a different attitude about children and marriage. Most men still believe that people without children lead empty lives and that children are the main purpose of marriage, Koropeckyj-Cox's study shows. Fathers are the least accepting of childlessness. In fact, some men register strong feelings about children as their legacy.

''For men, fatherhood generally brings enhanced status and emotional benefits, with few if any costs in the labor market,'' says Koropeckyj-Cox.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Helen Mirren, on what motivates her to be childfree

"Miracle" and "Pleasant to watch" are two different things

"They sat us all down, girls and boys, in this horrible school hall. This tweed skirted, dykey sort of woman with short, cropped hair comes on, and tells us about the miracle of childbirth. Then this film comes on, which is a midwives educational film.

"There is a close-up of a woman having a baby, a close up straight up her vagina, and that's all you see, and these are thirteen year old boys and girls, and its bloody and disgusting.


"I swear it traumatised me, I haven't had children and I can't look at anything to do with childbirth, it absolutely disgusts me."

There's no commentary I can add to this, so we'll just let it speak for itself.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

No-Kids Zone on Planes

No kids fly zone: Adults only?
A recent on line chat had a curmudgeonly majority of flyers saying kids don't belong in first class.

Of course in my family it was never an issue, but we were a bit taken aback at the grumpiness of the "no kids allowed" crowd. What's bugging them?
. . .
Some flyers went to far as to suggest the airlines charge an additional 10% to guarantee a "kid free zone."

Others insisted kids and their parents should fly in the back of the plane in designated "family sections," turning the rear of the plane into an airborne playpen. Farfetched?
And the response:

It's not curmudgeonly, it's expecting decent civilized behavior in public
Grumpy, sure, who wouldn't be after eight sleepless hours with unattended brats running up and down the aisles while inconsolable babies cry from every corner? But curmudgeonly, no. A quick poll of my coworkers, who range in age from 26 to 58, many with children of their own, showed 100% would pay a surcharge to fly in a kid-free coach cabin.

The problem isn't the rational adult frequent fliers who complain about the children running amok on planes, the problem is the children. Or rather, their parents. The children on planes issue isn't unique, it's a symptom of the wider problem plaguing boomer-aged and younger parents. They believe they are entitled to continue their childfree lifestyle, just with kids in tow and they are loathe to discipline their children (or better yet, teach them to behave properly before leaving the house so no discipline is required). And bringing babies on a plane is just cruel.
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Monday, October 15, 2007

Do You Need Children to "Grow Up"?

The odyssey generation just won’t grow up
ARE you reaching your thirties but do not feel grown up? Still unhitched and childless or wandering from one career to the next? If so, you are part of an “odyssey generation” identified by American researchers.

“There used to be four common life phases: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age,” David Brooks, a cultural commentator, noted last week. “Now there are at least six: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement and old age.”

The odyssey years cover the ever-widening transition period between student life and adulthood, according to William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “The word ‘odyssey’ captures the sense of exploration,” he said. “The three basic undertakings of adulthood are to get a job, to find a mate and to reproduce. There has been a massive deferral of all those commitments.” . . .
I know a former college professor, married with three children, who is now enrolled in law school at 32, dissatisfied with his previously chosen profession. Does he somehow fail the "adult" test because he is wandering careers? Are 80 year old women in nursing homes still adolescents merely because they never had children? Is my friend, who has already lived on three continents and works night and day to support herself, doomed to never reach adulthood merely because she doesn't believe in marriage? And what of the man who moves in with his ailing mother, or the woman who goes back to her parents' house to save for a down payment on a home? Is everyone who misses one of the proscribed steps from this article somehow failing?

I will agree that there are people in their late 20s who are still adolescents. I know some who live with their parents out of sheer laziness, working just enough part time hours to afford CDs and video games. But the idea that there is this set life "checklist" that we must complete on schedule is downright offensive and stifling. Rather, we should treat people as individuals, and look to the holistic person to further our discussion of extended adolescents. It might not be convenient for those wishing to tout statistics for their findings, but it is intellectually honest.

The first comment on the article expressed a similar sentiment:
Why assume that reproduction is a necessary part of adulthood? . . . With six billion souls in the world it's not as if reproducing is some kind of social duty, so perhaps it is time to reconsider what makes for a fulfilling adult life. It may just be something other than a mortgage and kids.

Anne Ronald, Birmingham, UK
Although another commenter reasoned that:
People say that it is a necessary part of adult life as it is the driving reson [sic] for our being and ultimately the only worthwhile and strongest insticnt [sic] in the world, to pass on your genes and keep your part of life alive. look to the origin of the species and survival of the fittest to try and understand!
This reasoning is troubling. Our earliest ancestors survived by fighting, which later took root as tribal warfare in many parts of the world. Indeed, it was seen as a rite of passage for young men to go off and fight, to kill an enemy and further the "survival of the fittest". At some point, most societies moved beyond seeing violence as a prerequisite to adulthood. As Nobel Peace Prize-winning Al Gore pointed out in his film, overpopulation is a very real and severe threat. It may be time to similarly move beyond out view of procreation as a rite of passage.

I am sure most of my readers know married persons and/or parents who could rightly be called adolescents, and plenty of single, childfree folks who have achieved adulthood even in their 20s. I understand the need for proxies, but we need better ones. Sometimes making intelligent decisions about whether marriage and children are right for you is the most mature act you can make.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

LDS and Childbearing

Conference address by LDS relief society president sparks furious debate

In her first LDS General Conference address on Sunday, Beck did not mention the working-versus-stay-at-home issue, but quoted Benson's infamous speech, "To the Mothers in Zion," urging Mormon women not to limit or delay child-bearing.
. . .
She suggested that Mormon women cut back on activities outside the home "to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most."

Within minutes of giving the speech before the 21,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in the giant Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or listening via television, radio or satellite feed, Mormon men and women across the country were furiously responding on Mormon blogs.
. . .
"I'd love to be the best homemaker in the world, but that's not an option for me right now," said Sallee Reynolds, who works for Ascend Alliance, a nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City, addressing poverty issues in South America and Africa. "I have influence on children's lives. They are just not my own children."

The speech made her feel "like an outsider in my own church and inadequate," Reynolds said. "Whatever offering I can give is not enough because I don't have my own kids."

Now granted, few of us have the perception that being LDS was ever childfree-friendly; and the idea that women should stay home with the children is nothing new in right-wing or fundamentalist christian circles. It is, however, interesting that there is a community which would make a woman who is working to save the world feel inadequate simply because she hasn't bred. In its extremeness, it demonstrates merely a difference in degree, not in kind, than the perception that invades more mainstream American society.

It is also ironic that the women making these statements are indeed committing themselves outside the home, albeit to promote the cause of encouraging everyone else to do the opposite.

However, it appears the the singular obligation of LDS women to have many children, as soon as possible, is not unaversally emphazised - at least not in rhetoric. Arguably, the culture itself has made that a priority.

To many Mormon women, she seemed to contradict the church's direction since 1987. The church has never taken an official stand against birth control, for example, nor in recent years pushed members to have as many children as possible. In 2005, Brigham Young University President Cecil O. Samuelson told the school's female science students that the church "is in favor of [children]. This means not only having them, but caring for and rearing them in righteousness." But LDS scriptures and prophets "have not been explicit about things such as number, timing, and so forth," Samuelson said. "This is because not only are these things intensely
personal in terms of decisions, they are absolutely unique in terms of our customized, individual circumstances."
. . .
They also appreciate the teaching of LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, who has spoken repeatedly about women getting the most education they can and not only to be better mothers.

"You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part," . . .. "Set your priorities in terms of marriage and family, but also pursue educational programs which will lead to satisfying work and productive employment in case you do not marry, or to a sense of security and fulfillment in the event you do marry."
. . .
As we wives and husbands prayerfully and unitedly follow the promptings of the [Holy] Spirit, we will be led to fulfill those promises we made before we came to mortality, and we will know joy thereby," Hudson said, "even if our lives are not identical to the lives of our neighbors."

Not exactly a rousing endorsement of the childfree lifestyle. However, the general idea of not having to mirror the lives of the others around us is, in the least, a good start.
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NY Times: Increasing Childlessness and the Backlash Against "Family Friendly" Workplaces.

The Revolt of the Childless

HR magazine recently published a cover story entitled “Are You Too Family Friendly?”

It’s an issue because of the changing nature of the population in the United States.

“Slightly more than one in four households, 26 percent, consisted of a person living alone in 2006, up from 17 percent in 1970,” Susan J. Wells writes. “Unmarried and single U.S. residents numbered 92 million in 2006, making up 42 percent of all people 18 and older.” That’s up from 89 million in 2005.
. . .
She says one solution that has worked well for some companies is offering a cafeteria-style list of benefits that employees can choose from.

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Religious Cause of Global Declining Birthrates

Babies at a Premium: Canadian Women Opting out of Motherhood

Most of Europe, Scandinavia, many countries in Asia, Australia, and dozens of other nations are experiencing birth rates well below replacement levels. . . . The situation in Russia. . .was declared a national crisis by President Vladimir Putin in 2006.

Canada's fertility rate, which has been plummeting for decades, has now reached a low of about 1.6. Demographers say that in order for a population to replace itself, there needs to be a birth rate of 2.1 children per woman.
. . .
A federally funded study released last week cited work stress as a contributing factor. Twenty-eight per cent of the 33,000 people surveyed said they were delaying having children, having fewer children, or not having children at all because of high levels of work stress.

Faced with the difficulties of balancing work and family, the study found that three times as many Canadians are choosing to make work their top priority, rather than family.
Well, they have now taken family=children to new heights. If, as many have done, these couples are choosing to spend the free time left after work with their spouses (or parents, or siblings, etc) instead of raising children, that is not decreasing the priority of family. It is merely focusing it on a smaller or different selection. Those relationships are not harmed by one having a career.
The article goes on to quite the author of a Christian website, who blames the decline of religious belief in Canada. He claims the comprably high religiosity in the US is one cause of our higher birthrate. Several studies show that couples who go to church have more children

"America is reputed to be one of the most religious countries in the world—it has a vibrant Christian community. It's quite clear that these kinds of marriages tend to have more children than do married couples who do not go to church or identify with a particular organized religion," he says. According to Statistics Canada, in 2005 Canada recorded its highest number of births in seven years, thanks mostly to women in their 30s. . . . In order to boost dwindling populations and head off labour shortage crises, some provinces have begun offering incentives for women to have more babies. Last month, Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, announced that families would receive $1,000 for every baby born or adopted in the province. "We can't be a dying race," Williams said.

Looks like I have a lot to learn about our neighbors to the north. I wasn't even aware Newfoundland was a race.

Quebec, which has one of the lowest birth rates on the continent and the highest abortion rate in Canada, has introduced several incentives over the years including a four-day work week for parents with children under 12. But although fertility rates have risen, they still fall far short of replacement levels.

"Quebec is the most liberal part of Canada in every way," says Jalsevic. "Quebec has more or less led the flight away from faith in Canada."
. . .
While some demographers recommend increasing immigration as a remedy for low birth rates, that may not be a long-term solution. Statistics Canada says studies have shown that while immigrants have higher fertility rates than Canadian-born women, those rates decline to Canadian levels with the second-generation.

Dowbiggin notes that countries that are becoming rapidly industrialized like India and China are starting to keep their best and brightest at home, leaving only the "less desirables" available for immigration. Post 9/11, security concerns are also an argument against increased immigration, he says.

The article concludes by making suggestions about allowing couples to pool their income for tax purposes, making childrearing less putative. However, it concedes that tax incentive programs have not had success in all countries - such as Japan. And yet it fails to ackowlegde that finances may not play a key part in the decision to become a parent for many couples. As a Christian site, they do not disguise their adgenda, and this serves to reinforce the charge in the beginning of the article that childfree people are simply motivated by "selfish" desires to save money.

I'm not sure their rejecton of immigration as a solution makes sense. The argument that immigrants' decendants will not continue high birth rates says nothing about the possibility of immigration as a continuing source of new citizens and residents. Their argument that immigrants will become less desirable is pragmatic, but borderline offensive. There indeed may be an issue with drawing a significant portion of a country's population from countries with poor education systems, and yet haven't undereducated immigrants who are willing to take a wider range of jobs been the key to much immigration? It only becomes a real problem if the country is drawing a higher portion of its population than the portion of its labor that does not require higher education - AND there are not enough educated immigrants to fill that gap.

I often grow suspicious of pleas to help increase the "native" race; it is hard to tell when latent issues of racism or other prejudices underlie the opposition to immigration as an alternate solution. With the current supply of immigrants with college degrees or manual labor skills, it is hard to craft an argument that doesn't boil down to "But we need more Germans." This argument about future effects when changes take place in home countries does present one exception, but is still of quetionable validity.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Falling Birthrates in Europe Prompt Bribes, Shunning of Childless

European Governments Battle the Continent's Birth Dearth

European birthrates have been falling, and only Ireland and France remain at or above replacement levels. The continent averages 1.5 births per women, while the US rate remains above replacement levels at 2.8. Although immigration itself, and the relative birthrates of immigrants are offsetting these numbers, European governments are amping up their baby bribes; Zapatero (Spain's Prime Minister) revealed a plan to pay women 2,500 euros per child.

Sarier still:
[T]here is even talk of taxing those who have chosen to abstain from the biological imperative of procreation.
And yet Germany still stands out among them - childless rates range from 30-40% there. Not surprisingly, it has also responded with the most agressive programs in order to ensure more Germans.
Under the Elterngeld (parents' money), new parents can receive up to 67 percent of lost income for a year after the birth of a child. Working parents can also offset 3,000 euros annually of childcare costs against taxes.
But we've heard all this before, in different forms. This article is especially notable in the culutral backlash happening there.
In a culture that even has a word for the dislike of children (Kinderfeindlichkeit -- though it is used more often to delineate a cultural phenomenon as opposed to an individual disposition), rhetoric against childlessness has rippled through the media and blossomed at the governmental level.

The best seller lists have been saturated with titles forecasting impending doom and gloom for Germany. In a 2006 bestseller, "Minimum," conservative writer Frank Schirrmacher (ironically, father of one) resorts to scare-mongering tactics to depict a future devoid of families, and calls upon women to ultimately "save the day." In an in-depth Newsweek report last year, author Stefan Theil notes that the German media has begun to stigmatize the "cold career woman," citing an article that included photos of childfree celebrities. And most will recall the infamous remark made in 2005 by then first lady Schröder-Köpf, attacking her husband's rival Angela Merkel for not having children. "Mrs. Merkel, with her biography, does not embody the experience of most women," Schröder-Köpf told the German weekly Die Zeit. The stigmatization of the childless and the recent debates surrounding the issue of demographics have certainly touched a raw nerve among Germans.
I don't know whether to be more jealous of their birthrates, or fearful of their culture. Turning pronatal shunning of childless women into a country-wide imperative (instead of a mere organic outgrowth as it is here) raises the stakes for our poor counterparts there. If any readers are residing in Germany, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Conservative pundit smug that her right-wing decendants will rule decaying Earth

The impending liberal extinction
As luck would have it, this [the American liberal] will probably end up on the endangered species list within two or three generations. Liberals, by all accounts, are suffering from a fertility gap - they aren't having children, while their conservative counterparts are being fruitful and multiplying. As time goes on, fruitful conservatives will outnumber childless liberals.

According to a 2006 San Francisco Chronicle article, "Take a randomly selected sample of 100 liberal adults and 100 conservative adults. According to an analysis of the 2004 General Social Survey - a bible of data for social scientists - the liberals would have had 147 kids, while the conservatives would have had 208. That's a fertility gap of 41 percent..."
. . .
Nonetheless, the idea of anemic liberal birthrates gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside that I can only compare to being seven years old on Christmas morning. I'm absolutely giddy, and it's as if I'm bounding down the stairs to see what Santa has left me. As I think of the future of the "progressive movement," I envision silver-haired liberals growing old somewhere in the Pioneer Valley, with nothing but their Subarus and organic vegetables to keep them company. There will be no pitter-pattering of grandchildren's feet, because they will have voluntarily removed themselves from the gene pool.

Parents have a large influence on the political preferences of their children. With some exception, liberal parents tend to raise liberal children and conservative parents tend to raise conservative children. Commenting on the political fertility gap, Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks stated: "80 percent of people that express a political party preference are voting like their folks."
. . .
In any case, the left's power will decline in coming generations if they don't start having more children. Fortunately for me, liberals never listen to my advice and I'm not afraid that they will start now. Perhaps my great-grandchildren will inherit a world without liberals. What a glorious day that would be.
This seems akin to the mentality that drives one to buy an SUV because, although a crash is more likely to be fatal, the death will likely be in the other car. We're grabbing the zero-sum gain because we can assure ourselves it will be lopsided in our favor, instead of opting for the aggregate benefit. How do you reason making the "bad" choice in the prisoner's dilemma before ever facing said dilemma?

My reasoning is thus - the writer rejoices in the idea that her side is out-breeding the enemies, ignoring the notion that unchecked population growth will give them a lesser world to govern. Of course, this is much easier to do if you ignore the environmental effect of overpopulation and possess the kind of mentality that thinks drilling Alaska is a good idea because I want lower gas prices for my H3 now. Perhaps the ultimate downfall of the human race was that we never really evolved the capacity for delayed gratification.

And all this is assuming arguendo that political opinion is somehow genetic, or that parents can, through raising their children, control their opinions. Like the desire for children itself, political views are not directly inheritable, and the information society may indeed change how many of our views derive from our parents. But that's a topic for another day . . .

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Childless by fate, choice

Childless by fate, choice
Blame it on the marriage delay, divorce or the increase of women in the workforce, but 27 percent of those 30 to 34 and 19 percent of those 35 to 39 are childless, compared with 15.6 percent and 10.5 percent in 1976, respectively, according to the 2004 U.S. Census.

Still, many of these women grew up with a "white picket fence" scenario that involved a man, a house and kids. For whatever reason, their lives took a different path, and now they're faced with the tick of their biological clocks.

Although it's a choice to remain childless for some women, others yearn for kids and feel out of sync with their friends who have families.

Despite their own happy, fulfilling lives, the women are trying to cope with the reality that life may go on, without kids. Experts say it's important to address and grieve this as a loss, but few women do.
. . .
In her Berkeley practice, psychologist Judith Beemer says she sees many women who reach the end of their reproductive cycles and become depressed, realizing they are the end of their family line. If they begin coping with the possibility and the grief earlier, however, depression is less likely, she says.

"You have to be fairly psychologically sophisticated to be doing the work in your 30s, but it happens," Beemer says.

Judy Levitt, a Montclair marriage and family therapist, begins by exploring why a client yearns for a child, including expectations, family history of motherhood and what the woman thinks will happen if she does not bear children. At the end of the exploration, Levitt says, she might realize that she's perfectly happy the way things are.

"Today, women of childbearing age have so many more opportunities," Levitt says. "They have permission to be so autonomous that they could feel conflicted between living this fulfilling life and also feeling the pull of nature as they see time passing."
We childfree (myself included) love to moan over the effects of a pronatal society - how a culture that ties a womans worth to her status as a mother can harm us psychologically. It is easy to forget the aggregate effects of such a mentality - including the severe effects on those for whom forgoing motherhood is not a choice. Although many of those women do decline the adoption route - a decision I may not understand - the emphasis our culture places on bearing children may indeed mean there is nothing one can do to escape the effects.

Hopefully, the questions that are being asked here will bleed into general society. Just why is it that we feel driven to be parents? How much of it stems from genuine and worthwhile internal desires to share one's life with a child, and how much from external societal expectations? Asking these questions will do more than merely ease the psychological burden on the sterile - it will ensure that those choosing to parent are doing so for the right reasons as well. And that benefits us all.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

a "whirlwind of controversy, animosity, etc"

How, a Berkeley mother wondered, could one "innocent article" create such a "whirlwind of controversy, animosity, etc?" The mother was referring to a recent story in the Chronicle Food section entitled "Cafes feed need for play dates, lattes" (Sept. 26), "where kids can play safely while parents have a decent meal."

"Wow," said another mother, from Novato, "some folks really can't stand kids and/or parents of kids." She was referring to a separate story, along with SFGate comments, concerning Southwest Airlines' elimination of preboarding privileges for families with young children.

The two stories, in fact, prompted more than 560 registered comments on SFGate. Many of them were "rants about how today's parents don't know how to control their children in public places and should be sent to the gulag," as Chronicle food writer Tara Duggan noted in a subsequent post on The Poop blog. But, if the number hitting back equally hard is any illustration, hell hath no fury like parents of children scorned.

Herewith a sample of SFGate comments (edited for space) on both stories. . . .
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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Two-For Thursday: Kids and Travel

Inappropriate inflight movies
Prompted by parents' complaints about sex and violence in inflight movies, two congressmen introduced legislation Tuesday calling for airlines to create kid-friendly zones on planes.

He and Republican Rep. Walter Jones, also from North Carolina, call their proposal the Family-Friendly Flights Act.
. . .
The bill calls for the creation of sections on commercial flights where there would not be any publicly viewable movie screens. It would still allow airlines to show the movies they choose on big screens in other sections, or on individual seatback screens.
Would this be a good, or a bad thing for the childfree? On one hand, any legislation labeled "Family Friendly" makes my skin crawl. On the other, gathering kids into a single section of the plane seems like a great idea. Ultimately, though, it may be the larger symbolism that breaks the tie: if we start mandating such behavior by private airlines by legislative means, will that justify doing so in other venues, such as cable television and movie theaters?

This may be a great idea, but there is something to be said for making it a suggestion, and seeing if the market responds. If one airline embraced the idea (or instead adopted an all-G movie policy, that would allow the rest of us the choice to fly the others. If the market as a whole embraced the idea, then I would have to start checking the route for the Hooters airline.

Southwest Airlines ends 'family first' boarding
Families traveling with small children will no longer get to jump to the front of the boarding line at Southwest Airlines.
. . .
Families with children four and under will now board after the first regular boarding group unless they have an A boarding pass to be in that first group. Southwest famously doesn't assign seats. Passengers board in three groups, A, B and C, with their letter determined by when they checked in.
Here we have the opposite - a tend away from a "family-friendly" policy that might likewise have questionable results on the childfree. The race to the airport to receieve the special "A" passes may mean more children crowding the terminal.As someone on the discussion list pointed out, having children board first gave the childfree consumer the opportunity to avoid them. However, I am dubious about the prospect that childed families will cluster themselves appropriately. The tiebreaker here may indeed also be the symbolism - the idea that the act of procreation does not entitle one to special treatment, especially where the connection is weak.

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Childfree Military Women/Wives

Operation Homefront's Community of Military Wives and Women in Uniform
The question is inevitable. When asked how many kids you have, if the answer is none, then the next question is, “Are you planning on them?”

For many women, the answer to the last question is never. An increasing number of couples are choosing not to have children and are happy about being child-free.

Go on any military instillation, and it seems there are kids everywhere — in the PX and BXs, the commissaries, at unit family functions. Although it seems that most people in the military have families, according to a recent report from the Department of Defense, more than half of all active-duty soldiers — 57 percent to be exact — do not have children.

More and more women instead are focusing on careers, personal interests and their spouses. They are traveling and enjoying the freedom that comes with not having children. So why are they often made to feel like they are doing something wrong?
This is something you rarely hear about. Indeed, I have often heard that military culture speeds along marriage and children, something I saw first hand when a dear friend eloped right after joining the Marines (the former fence-sitter becoming an instant-stepmom)

I suppose it puts the difficulties of civilian culture in perspective. Yet with the statistics cited above, perhaps this is a case of mis-characterization; of a plurality culture defining the whole.

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Must they subsidise motherhood as if it were dormant farmland?

The UK has introduced or proposed several ideas to reduce our impact on the environment. Here is one woman's reaction. Read it here.
The only way to be really green is not to have children.

Of course, this is a terribly non- PC thing to bring up. Mothers are the last sacred cows in our society, untouchable, beyond reproach.
. . .
Why on Earth does the Government subsidise motherhood as if it were dormant farmland, with lump sums of £250 at birth, free IVF, the right to an expensive home birth and help with child care, when in reality it is fuelling a society in which we all think we deserve everything, from a new car to an exotic holiday to an iPhone or a baby of the right sex, no matter the (environmental) cost?

Isn't parenthood just rampant consumerism? Like leaving the tap running while you floss, only a million times worse?

A brood is the ultimate badge of goodness, used by everyone from the Blairs to the Camerons to the horrid, high-maintenance mum who lives not far from me, who is always posting "Do not ring bell, baby sleeping!" signs on her front door, but then takes the wretched child to a fashion show where the decibels surpass rock-concert levels.

The idea that only parents make up the hard-working backbone of Britain, that the singletons of this world are frivolous and selfish, is nonsense.
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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

NBC's Today Show: 28 Year Old Man Gets Vasectomy

Watch Video or read article.

Although I'm sure her advice to Toby could be applied to nearly any situation, the sex therapists wisdom to ensure this isn't spurred on by childhood trauma seems ill-adapted to the situation. While knowing how difficult childhood can be may be a factor for some childfree, why isn't anyone asking parents the same question? The desire to get a "do-over" to erase or vindicate the mistakes of their own parents, play a role in some parenting decisions. It remains that this blanket advice is being targeted to Toby merely because his choice is out of the mainstream.

To comment on the video, go to the blog post on MSNBC. There is some insightful thoughts included in the 400+ comments, although the original post is rather bland and two-dimensional. However, those commentary are mixed in with some critical-thinking deprived, so bring your Bingo cards. Apparently, those who have undergone expensive IVF treatments while bankrupt have much advice to offer perfect strangers. And indeed some psychotherapist can diagnose someone "spiritually" by watching a short video clip edited by a third party!

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Childless Women Should Join the Mommy "Sisterhood"

Deborah Hill Cone: Sisters in it for themselves
In the workplace at least, the them-and-us scenario between men and women has been replaced by tribes of breeders and non-breeders; gender largely irrelevant.

That's because in the corporate office of today, most women without children are now effectively men, but with more interesting shoes. . . . A study, carried out by a creche chain, asked 1500 working mothers about attitudes towards them in the office. It found more than half felt male co-workers were more sympathetic to the stresses they were under than were women without children.

Since I used to be one of those sneery childless women, this didn't really surprise me. Forget women being from Venus and men from Mars. Mothers and singletons are from different solar systems.
Ah, yes. I keep forgetting. Married=parents. If you don't have children, you must be single.
I used to think children were an expensive, time-consuming luxury like a fussy pedigreed dog. So why should their "owners" get any special treatment at work, like getting to go home at 5.30pm sharp? After all, they chose to breed.

The fact children are necessary for keeping the human race going - someone has to have the little critters - slipped my mind. I deserved a good slap.
Indeed. And we need people to shop to keep the economy going - so I should get time off from work for that. The fact that something, on the whole, arguably contributes to society does not mean that an individual participating in that by their own choice suddenly become more important than their coworkers.

The human race will continue regardless of one more person's participation in the process - indeed, we have many problems cause by too many people doing so. In the end, the choice to parent is not unquestionably one for the common good - at least not so much that the whole of society must bend over backwards for those committed to the holy task.
Before children I liked being one of the boys. Now I long for the feminine cosiness of the old sisterhood; the unspoken assumptions that we were all on the same side against fascists, phonies and male chauvinist pigs (remember them?).

Women don't feel connected to other women, because feminism freed us to become men. No wonder women who have done that have more in common with other men than with women.
There's a reason the childless women are bonding with the men - they are the other ones in the office, picking up the slack when the mothers have fled for soccer practice. Indeed, one might even find this author's request demeaning - as if somehow the fact that we have a uterus means we're co-opted into the cult of mommyhood, leaving common sense and basic fairness behind.

I'll stick to the sisterhood of the childfree, thanks.

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