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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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why Do Men Give So Little Thought to the Choice to Parent?

Fatherhood? Oh, go on then
. . . I discovered that there are many men who, like me, feel ambivalent about the prospect of parenthood. And what struck me as remarkable was how these men, many with highly demanding jobs that oblige them to make significant decisions on a daily basis, have given less thought to starting a family than they did to choosing their next company car. Crazy? Perhaps. Uncommon? Surprisingly not.
. . .
Modern British males are culturally hardwired to have the strongest opinions on all manner of relatively insignificant things, from our football team to our favourite brand of lager. So why this passivity when it comes to contemplating fatherhood? “It’s not about being passive,” says Dirk Flower, a psychologist specialising in families and children. “For many men, it’s a simple delegation of responsibility. They see themselves as the provider and anything on the home front as the wife’s responsibility, and that includes the decision to start a family.”

The responsibilities of fatherhood in the 21st century are more burdensome than ever before – and rightly so. “Traditionally, men were only there for the conception,” says Dr David Cohen, a psychologist and author of The Father’s Book. “Nowadays, it's expected for them to be at the birth itself, and fathers are also socially obliged to play a much greater role in terms of daily childcare – something that would have been unthinkable even a generation ago.”
. . .
It seems to me that; until we become fathers, we just don’t give the idea of having children a lot of thought. And so if it comes down to a choice between losing the woman we love, or having a baby that there’s a good chance we’ll grow to be crazy about, well, surely we’d be crazy not to. My only issue is that I personally don’t feel that strongly about it either way. And deep down, there’s a part of me that’s worried that for something as momentous as this, perhaps I ought to.
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Monday, October 01, 2007

A thank-you to my childless friends and family

To those of you who have chosen to take a path other than as parents, I salute you. You are brave and strong to have made that choice, one that may illicit criticism and questions from some.

To me, you never have to defend your choice, just as you've never asked me to defend my decision to become a parent.

In fact, your choice was much harder. In the time most of us grew up, it was simply expected that we would settle down, get married and raise a family.
. . .
If we did find a partner, the "When are you going to have a baby?" question soon followed.

But you knew that wasn't the path for you, and you stuck to your guns. Parenting isn't always an innate need, and it certainly isn't for everyone.
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