Friday, January 26, 2007

More Childless Families, Longer-Lasting Marriages in Oz; Journalist Only One Surprised By Connection

Families with kids out of vogue
Childless families have gone up by a third since 1991 and sole-parent families by 38 per cent. Twelve per cent of people are living in de facto relationships and couples are waiting longer to marry, with the median age for men at 32 and 29 for women.

What is surprising, however, is that marriages are lasting longer, with the average couple staying together for just over 12 years.

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Dads Refuse to Grow Up, and Journalist In Denial Thinks It's a Good Thing

'Hipster dads' trying hard to keep their cool
From a recent posting on media-skewering blog Gawker: "Self-consumed male hipsters have suddenly discovered parenthood, and we'll be forced to listen to them for years on end."
. . .
Babble readers aren't "vain or adolescent just because they have an iPod," says editor in chief Ada Calhoun, 30. They want to hold onto the culturally rich life they had as childless adults, "and they want to be good parents."
. . .
The rise of the alternaparent makes sense, says Robert Lanham, who archly documented pre-spawn hipsters in 2003's The Hipster Handbook. As hipsters come of age, they wonder: "When is the expiration date on being cool? Is being a hipster parent an oxymoron?

"If you're resting your kid on a pool table so you can hang out at the bar, maybe it's not cool," he says. "But maybe a pool table is a good place to change a diaper."
The expiration date on being cool is set firmly at the point in life when a station wagon or minivan becomes a practical necessity. Keeping your Beatles albums is one thing, but if you refuse to grow up to the point that you think its OK to being a kid into a bar or change a diaper on a pool table, you are definitely not cool. Just dangerous - but not in a good way. In a health hazard way.

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Cafe With DayCare Caters To Weary Parents

Child-friendly cafe gives moms a respite
Many parents with young children envy their childless friends' luxury of going out for dinner to enjoy a quiet meal uninterrupted by flying food or tantrums.

Apparently, even parents don't want kids around when they dine. If only we could get these in New York, instead of turning Starbucks into de facto daycare.

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AirTran Kicks Unruly Child Off Flight, Then, Of Course, Wusses Out

3-year-old unnerves airline [Girl taken off flight for crying too much]
“Sir, you need to get off the plane now.”

They got off the plane, while their luggage and car seat flew on to Boston. In the terminal they were directed to an AirTran supervisor, who told the couple that the stewardess was uncomfortable “because you have an unruly child who struck a woman on board.”

Mr. Kulesza was incredulous. “That was her mother,” he explained. “She hit her on the arm. Lady, this is a 3-year-old child we’re talking about.”

“Sir, we don’t differentiate between 3 and 33,” the AirTran supervisor replied. Mr. Kulesza said the woman proceeded to lecture him about child discipline, and how she would never tolerate her children behaving in such a manner, at which point Mr. Kulesza said, “You really need to stop talking now.”
The article itself is written from the "But it's a Chyyyyld!" perspective, and the author apparently sees nothing wrong with taking a young girl recovering from ear surgery on a flight. My ear hurts just thinking about it.

But the comments . . the comments. If you add one, please come back and add it here, too!

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No Kidding! In the News

Radio-Canada(in French)

In this group, no parents are allowed
The group began in Vancouver, Canada, in 1984, founded by a man named Jerry Steinberg.

The history of the Lincoln-Omaha group goes like this:

In 2004, a couple named Julie and Paul Jonsson moved to Omaha from San Diego. They had belonged to a No Kidding group there and missed it. So they organized one in Omaha.

A story ran in the Omaha paper. Church read it. So did a lot of other child-free Omahans.

The group grew. Couples from Lincoln started driving to Omaha for the weekly events — things like brunches, happy hours, dinners, the occasional concert.

The Jonssons moved away and others stepped in to take over the organizational duties.
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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"Condi Attacked" Part Two - Media Firestorm

Our readers have pointed out to us that the comment was taken out of context; and indeed it may have been blown out of proportion. However, the media's reaction to it is newsworthy in and of itself.

Have we finally come to a place where attacking, even indirectly, a woman for being childless is disdained?

Passing Exchange Becomes Political Flashpoint

“I thought it was O.K. to be single,” Ms. Rice said. “I thought it was O.K. to not have children, and I thought you could still make good decisions on behalf of the country if you were single and didn’t have children.”
It appears as if this incident has made Condi "claim" her childfree status more than she had before. Perhaps some unintended good will come out of it by bringing her out of the shadows. I am not hopeful that Oprah will follow.

Of course, it is the Times, so they continue:
During the Thursday hearing, Senator Boxer told Ms. Rice: “Who pays the price? I’m not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You’re not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families. And I just want to bring us back to that fact.”

In an interview on Friday, Senator Boxer said her comments had been misunderstood and were now being turned against her by the White House and by Republicans. “What I was trying to do in this exchange was to find common ground with Condi Rice,” she said. “My whole point was to focus on the military families who pay the price.”
Which again, might be good. Is Senator Boxer realizing that if she did attack Dr. Rice's childless status, it would have been wrong? The full quote does indicate, as in the comments on our previous post, that the statement was not meant that way.

A 'leap backward' for feminism?
As for Rice, who assured Boxer she understood the sacrifice of military families, she later had a more pointed response, telling Fox News: "Gee, I thought single women had come further than that." On the same network, White House spokesman Tony Snow called Boxer's remark "a great leap backward for feminism."

Not to the country's most prominent feminist, Gloria Steinem, who said Snow's remark "takes your breath away."

"It had nothing to do with feminism," Steinem said. "It was perfectly reasonable, and it could have come from anyone -- a grandfather as well as a grandmother. Sen. Boxer was trying to draw a parallel" between herself and the secretary.
I'm sorry - how would the statement be any different coming from a grandfather? I understand Steinem is making the same contextual argument made before, but her framing of the issue makes it unclear that she understands why some take offense.
For Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Boxer's comments were not so much a "leap backward" as merely "mean-spirited and thoughtless," not to mention "sexist and politically absurd."

"She seems to be saying that an unmarried, childless woman should not be involved in decisions that affect traditional families," Sommers said. "By that standard, Susan B. Anthony would be disqualified. And how about Elizabeth I?"

"But I don't expect to hear much protest (from feminists)," Sommers added, "because their left-wing politics always trump their commitment to the cause of women."

Obvious political divides aside, did the Boxer-Rice incident tap into genuine feelings among ordinary Americans? Women interviewed seemed much less ready with a quick verdict on the exchange, but some said it evoked struggles they're having in their own hearts and minds.
I don't expect the feminists to protest either, and not only because they side with the left. We're not exactly on their radar.

Feminism issue arises from hearing on Iraq War
Conservative blogs and commentators were quick to seize on the issue. "One Great Leap (Backwards) for Womankind," read one blog, Bikini Politics. "They will be known by their Fruits," read another, Macsmind, which billed itself as "Conservative News, Commentary and Common Sense."
It appears that this issue has made us strange allies. Of course, it is springing entirely from the political sides on which each party lies - I don't imagine for one moment that conservatives would otherwise spring to the defense of the childfree choice.

Witches of the West
For her part, Rice said, "I guess that means I don't have kids. Was that the purpose of that?" Rice said. "Well, at the time I just found it a bit confusing frankly. But in retrospect, gee, I thought single women had come further than that. That the only question is are you making good decisions because you have kids?"
Strange bedfellows? Indeed. Will the conservative pundits, media and blogosphere turn on us once again when it suits their needs? Probably. At least we'll have this smidgen of ammo when that occurs. And at least we're talking about it.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Parents, Children Drive Each Other to Early Graves

A small portion of the article...
"Older mothers were four times as likely to die in the year after having a child than their mates. Having lots of children was especially risky. A mother of 12 had five times the risk of dying prematurely as a mother of three. Even after their child-bearing years came to an end, women who had had many children died earlier than women who had had few.

The price of parenthood wasn't trivial for men, either. Despite the obvious fact that men avoided the hazards of childbirth, fathering more children meant more risk of dying before their time, too.

And it wasn't only parents who paid the "fitness cost" of reproduction. The later-born children in very large families had less chance than their older brothers and sisters of surviving into adulthood and having children themselves. Losing a mother raised every child's risk of dying young."
Who knew my vasectomy could have added years to my life?

From The Washington Post

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

New York Times: The Trend Toward Childfree Hotels

When 'Welcome' Doesn't Mean Junior

No one tracks just how many hotels have added ''no children'' policies in recent years. But the practice has become so common that the latest edition of the Zagat Survey of hotels, spas and resorts in the United States has a new category, ''Children Not Recommended,'' with more than a dozen listings, from the Kenwood Inn near Sonoma, Calif., to the tiny Point resort on Upper Saranac Lake in New York. ''If parents brought children, they'd be tiptoeing around ordering the kids not to touch this or that,'' said Tim Zagat, the co-publisher of the guides. ''These probably aren't places where kids would feel comfortable.''

The hotels say the adults-only policy is a way of maintaining their sophisticated atmosphere, with three-hour dinners and well-stocked wine cellars, and of cutting down on upkeep (no sticky handprints to clean up). Safety may also be an issue when there are swimming pools without fences and balconies with widely spaced balusters.

An old article, but I thought it bore posting.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Condi Attacked for Being Childless

As much as I hate to link an article in the New York Post tabloid, and despite knowing how most childfree people feel abut this administration and the war, I couldn't quite let this one slide.

"Condoleezza Rice came under a shocking Democratic attack yesterday - as a childlesswoman who can’t understand the sacrifices made by families of U.S. troops in Iraq. In a bitter personal assault on the secretary of state during her appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, anti-war Sen. Barbara Boxer fumed that Rice didn't comprehend the "price" of the war.

"You're not going to pay a particular price, as I under stand it, with an immediate family," Boxer (D- Calif.) ranted.
. . .
"I visit them. I know what they're going through," said Rice, who has never been married and has no children."
Boxer does have children and a grandchild, none of whom are military age. She is also a strong pro-choice advocate. As with many liberals, our 'choice' only seems to extend to when we want to have children, not if.

Well, OK, the Post may well be blowing the comment a bit out of proportion. But when even the stalwart Washing Post reports that
"A ferocious Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), not[ed] that the childless Rice is not at risk of losing her own offspring in Iraq,"
the implications of the statement seem to be clear no matter which side you're on.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Childfree pals often feel dumped just when new moms most need support

Baby makes 3: How kids rattle friendships
“[A new mom] may get jealous and a little exasperated when you tell her about the sexy little dress you bought for a party that you’re going to with a hot guy. She may even tell you that your life feels a little ‘trivial’ to her now that she has found her true meaning in life,” says Iovine. “Don’t let it hurt your feelings — she is really just frustrated and a little jealous that you can even think of being sexy when she is trying to express milk with an electric breast pump.”
. . .
As lives evolve, so do priorities. Some childless women complain their friends with children turn into mommy machines — always wanting to talk about their babies and resembling very little of their former fun selves.
This is a separate article, but continues on the Salon/SF Chronicle debate posted below. There is also a discussion about the topic on the MSN boards.

Personally, while I understand while people would want to hold on to old friends, the few I have known who had kids were lost causes. that is what happens when your friends were doctors or lawyers to begin with, and barely had time for you then.

Fortunately, my husband and I had the foresight to join our local No Kidding! chapter when we were 23, before this really became a problem. Most of our friends are childfree, either coincidentally or because we met them through NK! These are issues I don't really have to worry about, and its a great feeling.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

National Study of the Changing Workplace

As promised, I have begun my dissection of the National Study of the Changing Workplace on the Childfree Issues Blog.

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Are We a Family?

I was combing through the Families and Work Institute's 2002 study in order to see whether I can draw any new information from the raw report. Although that is still pending, I felt the need to pause to comment on what is yet another example of people using the term "Family" as synomomous with "People with Children". We have expanded the definition of family in so many ways. Most now include single parents with children, and many even include gay couples with children. Yet the use of the term to the exclusion of couples without children remains.

Has political correctness swept right by the childfree without taking notice of us?No matter how you may feel about such movements, they still remain a hallmark of society's awareness, if not it acceptance. PC terms have swept through the neo-liberal parent worship, dropping such terms as 'housewife' for "stay at home mom" "homemaker" and even "domestic engineer".

Does the term 'family' properly belong to a childed unit? I would argue that the term has achieved such broad usage for a group of close-knit people who share their lives that our exclusion is not necessary to give the term meaning. We have even adopted such terms as 'urban family' to describe close-knit friendships among people living away from their parents and hometown. The term's broader usage in things such as 'family emergency' 'family medical leave act' and 'family time' also argues for our inclusion. Taking care of one's spouse* should certainly qualify under these definitions, and indeed a co-parent is presumed to be included in them. That inclusion implies that the marriages of people with children somehow deserves greater respect. Our exclusion semantically places us beyond the reach of the vital recognition of the importance of our relationships.

And yet the term seems to have its own, separate meaning when it pertains to children. "Family friendly" and "family programming" speak of things appropriate for children. With the unquestioned acceptance of parents and grandparents into the term, this usage seems odd independent of the childfree issue. Additionally, an easy substitute of the term 'children' would pose no obvious problems.

So why don't we reclaim the word, and let them work the issue out themselves? The next time you're going on a date with your wife, tell people you're spending quality time with family. And the next time someone asks you when you're starting a family, tell them you did, long ago, at your wedding.

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* I apologise to those unmarried cohabitants who are seemingly excluded from this article. I think we need to take this one step at a time, and it is an easier argument to make for those relationships already recognised by the state and sometimes religions. With time, hopefully we can reclaim the term so that everyone who shares their life with another will be given the same respect.

Losing best friend to the trappings of motherhood

In the San Francisco Chronicle, a freelance writer authored a piece about the loss of a close friend to mommyhood:


OK, I won't argue. I know you accidentally got pregnant. But when I asked why you wanted to have a child, you told me it was because you didn't feel complete as a woman.

I never told you then, but it made me want to cry. You were always complete to me. You were always so confident, smart, bright and such a great friend. But that seems gone now, and in your place is this strange Stepford creature who tells me she's happier as a mother than she's ever been. Maybe if you say it enough, it becomes true.
This article apparently hit a little too close to home for one Salon author, who felt compelled to trash the piece in her own article:

Friends and mothers

Taken as a whole, this piece is a startling reminder of the level of rage that so many of us -- men and women, but mostly women -- attach to every issue surrounding motherhood. Motherhood has become so charged, thanks in large part to regressive forces that would have us think of it, as Gonzalez Clark rightly complains, as the be-all and end-all identity for American women. In this case, mommies may be taking the heat for the author's grief over friendships that have gradually grown distant for other reasons.
As many of the letters from readers point out, a large part of the Salon trash-talk is actually a mischaracterization of the other piece, which is a lot more about personal grief over losing a friend than it is "rage". Interestingly, Salon's "Editor's Choice" letters all seem to side with the author, even though many of the un-selected letters defend the original author. Where is the of Hip to Snip? and the book Maybe Baby perhaps, like the original author, we have lost an ally.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dame Helen Mirren: "I am so happy that I didn't have children"

60 Minutes Interview
Also in her fifties, she married director Taylor Hackford, her husband of nine years. They live in London, in a house by the Thames, when they’re not at their house in Los Angeles, or New York, or the south of France.

Asked if Mirren regrets never having had children, she says, "No. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I am so happy that I didn’t have children. Well, you know because I’ve had freedom."

She had the freedom to become the person she dreamed about when she was barking at the suckers on the pier in Southend-on-Sea.
Perhaps most notable is that the write-up of the interview focused instead on her comfort with nudity. When a celebrity says such a thing aloud, it is a benchmark When they can do so without it being a big deal, it is the hallmark of real change.

Oprah - you're next!

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Large Familes Aren't Back - But Who Is Having them Has Changed

a related post on this article is also at Childfree IssuesAccording to this article, the hype about the return of the large family is more of a product of celebrity culture and the news media than actually based on statistics. The number of families with three kids or more has actually dropped a percentage point from ten years ago.

Family Size In America: Are Large Families Back?

Martin says it's not so much that big families are back, as that they never disappeared in the first place. "Large families have consistently been common," he points out. "Two is the norm, but for every 34 mothers who stop at two, there are 28 who have three, four, or more."

So why does it suddenly seem like you can't walk down the street without tripping over a double-wide stroller and a few toddlers?

Despite the nationwide numbers, big broods could be a trend in certain areas, says S. Philip Morgan, sociologist and demographer at Duke University. "You do get clusters of behavior that are very real," he says. "But it's not appropriate to generalize them across the country, because there are other pockets that are behaving very differently."
. . .
While the percentage of moms having Brady Bunch-sized broods has held steady, the women who make up their ranks have changed somewhat. These days, professional and wealthy moms are having bigger families -- traditionally more common among certain religious groups and poorer women with less education, according to government surveys.
One wonders if the rise in fertility treatments is somehow to blame; granting twins, triplets or more to a woman who might otherwise had a single child. I'm not quite sure that the shift toward the large broods among working women instead of the poor is quite a positive thing. In terms of environmental damage and consumption levels, it may mean the planet will be worse off. In terms of entitlement mindset, trendiness, and the chaos in Starbucks, its a lose for everyone.
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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Rowdy Kids Force Library Closure

Lock the Library! Rowdy Students Are Taking Over
Every afternoon at Maplewood Middle School’s final bell, dozens of students pour across Baker Street to the public library. Some study quietly.

Others, library officials say, fight, urinate on the bathroom floor, scrawl graffiti on the walls, talk back to librarians or refuse to leave when asked. One recently threatened to burn down the branch library. Librarians call the police, sometimes twice a day.

As a result, starting on Jan. 16, the Maplewood Memorial Library will be closing its two buildings on weekdays from 2:45 to 5 p.m., until further notice.

Generally speaking, this article seems to contain the NYT liberal bias (which is not unlike conservative bias) toward pro-natalism.. even if it is pronatalism in its latest stage. Even though the behaviors described are horrible, the tone seems to weep for those poor teenagers who have lost their literary afterschool hangout. For example, this gem from the article:
“If there are little kids making noise, it’s cute, and they can run around, it’s O.K.,” Ms. Braun said of standard library operating procedure. “Or if seniors with hearing difficulties are talking loudly, that’s accepted. But a teen who might talk loudly for a minute or two gets in trouble.”
It is funny that they bring this up - I would argue that in a library none of these behaviors are acceptable. This is not just my child-free bias talking. When visiting my parents, I attempted to study at the local library. (I typically inhabit the world's largest academic law library several hours per day) Several older gentlemen were talking loudly, when I asked them to quiet down, they protested that they were hard of hearing. All the more reason not to be having a conversation in a library - the paradigmatic example of a place of quiet.
Fortunately for me, the children were relegated to another section, into which I didn't dare to venture. But if teens (and seniors) are permitted to use a library as a place to hang out and talk, they are being provided a hangout at taxpayer expense - and at the expense of those looking for a place to study and read.
This is one more example of how our society pushes the needs of adults to the back burners. Instead of watching after their children, finding a better place for them to spend time, or campaigning for after-school programs, parents simply co-opt a place not meant for that use. And now, thanks to the inability to stop it, adults in this town are not just effectively, but completely denied a place to study. How long before we start pushing back?
The article mentions a town which banned unaccompanied minors under the age of 14 during after-school hours. Of course, similar measures have provoked lawsuits.

Has political correctness gone so far that obnoxious and disruptive teens must be allowed to overrun us?
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Study Shows Adults With Children At Home Consume More Fat

Got Kids? Check Your Fat Intake
Adults with children 17 and under living at home eat more fat than adults in childless households, according to a new study. Their daily fat intake is about 5 grams higher.

"It's not a large amount, but if you do that every day, over time that adds up to be a lot of fat," says Helena Laroche, M.D., an author of the study, published in the Jan. 4 online edition of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

For years, experts have known that parents' eating habits influence children's food intake. Laroche decided it was time to investigate whether children's food preferences while in the household affects the parents' eating habits, specifically fat intake.

She hypothesized that adults with kids living at home would probably eat more fat for several reasons.
This study has spurred articles in countless publications, many of which have comments sections. Of course, parents are complaining that they are being unfairly maligned; that they need more calories because they are always running after children. A toddler I'll give you, but this article included parents with infants and teenagers, neither of which require 'running after'. Besides - the childfree people with free time who spend it in the gym probably burn the same amount.

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