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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