Wednesday, August 29, 2007

FT- Motherhood & Work

The high price of motherhood at work
Today’s Mums and Dads seem to think they have a fundamental human right to be parents and employees – including the inalienable right to work only until school lets out, without ever missing a promotion.

Increasingly, US courts and juries are siding with them, feeding a whole new breed of job discrimination lawsuit: litigation over "family responsibility discrimination".
. . .
US workers who care for dependants - from the new baby to the senile Grandma to the nephew with autism - are suing their employers much more frequently than before. . .

The EEOC makes clear that penalising caregivers is not always illegal: companies can refuse to promote everyone with young children - so long as they punish Mums and Dads equally (and not just women, who are a protected class under federal job discrimination law).

Except that mothers and fathers do not, on average behave differently. There is still a huge gap between the parenting roles that men and women typically take on.
The crux of the problem, says the EEOC, is stereotyping: the boss is not allowed to make employment decisions based on how he thinks a caregiver will (or for that matter, should) behave, but on how they do the job.

That is fair enough, as long as we are careful where we draw the line. A pattern of employment practices that appears to favor men may be based not on stereotypes, but on the realities of our culture, parenting, and the workplace.
Laurie Chadwick says she is the victim of stereotyping: the Maine woman claims she was denied a promotion at a health insurance company because her employer assumed that, as a mother of four children including six-year-old triplets, who was also studying for a university degree, she had "too much on her plate". . .

No boss should be allowed to tell a Mum in advance that she has "too much on her plate": but if she repeatedly fails to do her job because she has too many kids, or too few babysitters, she should not expect childless colleagues to pick up all the slack all the time. The laws of discrimination have not totally suspended the laws of economics. There is no fundamental human right to be a Mum in the workplace.


I think the author makes a good point here. It would seem that employers can best protect themselves by not acting preventively, but by waiting for a problem to arise before making these decisions. There is a real cost to this, especially in the reduced productivity one has to wait through before the case is clear and another employee can be found. But when the stakes are high - not just of litigation but of losing good workers based on false assumptions - this may be a price businesses have to pay. It also seems to satisfy basic fairness.

I can only hope the courts will police this line objectively, and not inject society's general pro-natalism into the proceedings. A blurring of the lines between roles and behavior that forces companies to keep on failing childed workers will result in a court-created business-funded welfare system.

Unfortunately, the full text is not available to non-subscribers. I have excerpted relevant portions here under fair use laws in order to incorporate my own commentary from a childfree perspective, in the creation of a new work.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

I Love The Onion

Woman Overjoyed By Giant Uterine Parasite
"I'm so happy!" Crowley said of the golf ball–sized, nutrient-sapping organism embedded deep in the wall of her uterus. "I was beginning to think this would never happen to me."

Crowley's condition is common and well-documented, with millions of women between the ages of 12 and 50 diagnosed every year. Studies have shown that while the disorder strikes without prejudice across racial, ethnic, and class lines, it bears a very high correlation with the consumption of alcohol at the time of infection. Although there is a low-cost daily medication available that can prevent the harmful symbiote with 99 percent efficacy, many women inexplicably choose not to use it.

Symptoms of potential uterine blight are wide-ranging and can include nausea, vomiting, constipation, irritability, emotional instability, swollen or tender breasts, massive weight gain, severe loss of bone density, fatigue, insomnia, excessive flatulence, hemorrhoids, vaginal tearing, and involuntary defecation.
. . .
In what will likely be the most painful experience of her life, Crowley will eventually require hospitalization in order to remove the giant entity. There is at least a 15 percent chance doctors will be forced to cut the parasite directly from her abdomen, a procedure that would result in severe trauma and scarring. If Crowley survives the operation, she will have to cope with the minimum 18 additional years of emotional and financial drain that is typically associated with this parasite, as well as irrevocable harm to her toned and relatively youthful body, This includes scarring to her breasts and stomach, and a series of visibly pronounced veins along her thighs and groin.
. . .
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Choosing Not to Have Children

Choosing Not to Have Children
Vincent Ciaccio, the organization's strategic planning director, conducted a study revealing what motivates some people to be child free.

Among his findings:

The reasons for being non-parents were not wanting to sacrifice time, privacy, or personal space for children, having no compelling reason to have them, actively not wanting children around, being perfectly content with pets, and seeing the effects of children or family/friends.

Three subgroups emerged from this: Those concerned with the effects of childrearing on their lifestyle, those that just didn't like children, and those concerned about the environment and their own misgivings about their parenting ability.

And there were two other groups: Transitional Women-They put off having children until it was too late, or had planned to have children when a certain goal was reached (financial or educational) had been reached, at which point other factors made the tming unsuitable for having a child.

Transformative Women-They are intentionally child free,motivated by the desire not to be a parent, and enjoy the time and focus they can give to their other relationships and their careers.

(Ciaccio's study involved generally college-educated, high earning Causasian women. I personally have spoken to a wider demographic (or spectrum); 100% agree with the study subjects.)

The child free are strong advocates of parental responsibility, both in having children (You would not believe the vast numbers of men out here who seem to have sired at least fifty different kids from the Eastern seaboard to the California coast...with at least fifty different women.) and for the children's personalities and actions. They feel that people should know what parenting involves BEFORE having children. If more men or women knew or were taught this beforehand, many more would be child free. Many children's behavior problems can be attributed to poor parenting. (If left unchecked, a behavior problem can and often develop into serious criminal activity.)
. . .
And of course, the child free do not want to be discriminated against in the workplace or in everyday life. And they do not appreciate stereotypical attitudes or statements directed at them, such as "You're being selfish", "All women should be mothers", "You'll change your mind about having kids", "But you seem so mature!". "Are you retarded?", "You're supposed to have kids, it's in the Bible", and "What's wrong with you?", among other choice gems.
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Dogs, Not Sprogs in Japan

In dog we trust: Japan's childless turn to canines
For Horikoshi, sharing her life with dogs instead of babies is an active choice. She divorced her husband who had asked her to follow Japanese tradition and become a stay-at-home mum; she wanted to pursue her career. Her current partner has to accept that her dogs and her work are at the centre of her life.

A specialist in cataracts, Horikoshi is now at the top of her profession and likes to spend her money on travel, her black Porsche and her dogs. Her friends share her choice.

"My friends -- married, one poodle, no child. Married, two Chihuahuas, no child. Married, one Chihuahua, no child," she counts off her fingers.

With its low birth-rate and rapidly ageing population, Japan is considered a saturated market by many.

But Horikoshi's case shows that fewer births, coupled with an economic recovery and the emergence of women as independent earners and spenders, also create new needs.

DOG MUMMIES

"I don't want a family, I want to continue to work hard. I don't need help, I don't need a husband. I have a lot of free time, I can do everything by myself," said Horikoshi, who has her own practice and performs 15 eye operations in an afternoon, leaving most mornings free for shopping.

"But sometimes I feel lonely, and now when I come back to my apartment, I can see two dogs."

Dogs now outnumber children aged 10 and under in Japan -- there were 13.1 million dogs in 2006. As the number of humans shrink, the dog population is growing, research firm Euromonitor says, and so is the market for dog-related products.
. . .
"Dog parents" often have more spare cash for frills and fads than people with children. After all, they don't have to pay college fees or a mortgage for a big, family-friendly house.
. . .
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Would your life be better without children?

Enfants terribles
The book is surprisingly funny and is making me smile as I read it in the departure lounge at Luton Airport, surrounded by a good many badly behaved, tiresome examples of why this outspoken French writer might be on to something.

“Open your eyes,” she tells French women. “Your children will be baby-losers, destined for unemployment, insecure or low-grade work . . . They will have a life even less rigol-ote (fun) than yours, and that’s saying something. No, your marvellous babies have no future, as every baby born in a developed country is an ecological disaster for the whole planet.”
. . .
“Children are there to stop you enjoying yourself. It’s a child’s hidden face. Believe me, he will be very inventive in this area. He will be ill when you (finally) arrange a night out, he will bug you when you celebrate your birthday with your friends, he will hate it if you bring someone he’s never met back for the night, and beyond that you won’t dare tread for fear of traumatising him for life.” She goes on to list the things you will almost certainly have to give up after having children. They include: a full night’s sleep, a lie-in, deciding to go to the cinema on the spur of the moment, staying out later than midnight (babysitters have to be relieved), visiting a museum or exhibition (children start mucking about after five mintues), taking your holiday anywhere other than destinations where there is a beach and a kids’ club, taking a holiday during term-time and smoking in front of your children, now deemed a “crime against humanity”.
. . .
Nevertheless, it is still shocking to read her declaration that there are moments when she regrets having children – a taboo thought that few mothers would dare to admit. “If I hadn’t had children, I would be touring the world with the money I made with my books,” she writes. “Instead of that I am forced to stay at home, to serve meals, to get up at 7am every day, to go over idiotic lessons, and to put the washing machine on. All that for two children who treat me like their maidservant. Certain days I regret having had them – and I dare to say it.”
This excerpt is only part of a long article.

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Is it Really Unethical to Be a Parent?

Dear Ethan,

I saw some French woman on television today, who reckons that it is ‘irresponsible’ to have children in rich countries like France and Britain, because of all the damage they will do to the planet. Apparently she has written a book called ‘No Kid’ that is creating a big stink. Yet she has children of her own, the hypocrite! I know that you do, too, Ethan, and my partner and I would like to have one some day. Can it be so un-ethical to have children? We all know about the environmental and social problems caused by bad parents, but is it really bad to be a parent in principle?

Sammi, Manchester
Ethan's Response

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dame Mirren Ramps Up Forthright Childfreedom

'I am better off without kids,' says Helen Mirren
Veteran actress Dame Helen Mirren has lashed out at people who think that childless women are sad as "bulls**t".

The Oscar winner recently admitted that she is more contented without kids and isn't disappointed at not having any of her own.

"I am thrilled that I don't have children - I have the thing I love, which is freedom. In a funny way, if you don't have children, you can concern yourself more generously with the extended family and let other people have the children," Contactmusic quoted her, as saying.

"It's a bit of a guilty secret because as a woman, you're almost expected to be sad if you don't have children, but that's bulls**t. There have always been women who don't have kids," she added.
. . .
As one of the few openly childfree celebrities, such remarks are particularly notable. Ironically, they have recently come only from mothers, such as Hayek and Hoffman, who perhaps can get away with such things more readily than we barren.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Aussie Politicians and Rabid Pronatalism.

This article is a follow-up to an item back in May when a Senator declared that a childless female politician was unfit to govern. It appears that, sans attacks, the new government is taking this pronatalism to new heights.

Offspring springs eternal for Spring Street jobs
Mr Holding, 34, and Regional and Rural Development Minister Jacinta Allan, 33, are the only ministers in the 20-member state cabinet without children.
. . .
In an interview with The Age in 2005, [Mr Holding] said: "I have a lifestyle that suits being a member of Parliament — I don't have a young family or anything like that, so I just feel I can throw myself into the job … There's probably not a lot of work/life balance here."
. . .
Family values has been a central theme with Mr Brumby and his senior ministers . . . In his first interviews as Premier, Mr Brumby said being a father had helped prepare him for the job.

One of the reasons he understood the extent of the problems with Melbourne's public transport system was because "my kids, who are regular users of the trains, tell me how congested they are".

Attorney-General Rob Hulls, after being elected as Mr Brumby's hand-picked deputy, posed for photographs with his pregnant wife, Carolyn Burnside, and their children, Jack, 4, and Nicholas, 18 months.

Mr Brumby said Mr Hulls, once Labor's political head-kicker, was a "family man" who had mellowed.

Forty-eight-year-old Mr Lenders, after beating Mr Holding in what Mr Brumby had declared was a two-horse race for the Treasury portfolio, said it was "a job I'm ready for", in part because "I'm a father of three".

Last month, Labor MP Evan Thornley, parliamentary secretary assisting the Premier on national reform policy and himself a father of three, floated a radical idea to give parents the right to vote on behalf of their children under 18 — the more children, the more votes.

Mr Bracks' catchphrase — embraced by Mr Brumby — was that under this Government, Victoria is "a great place to live, work and raise a family".
Wow.

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Book Review: Psychology book ignores childfree, among others.

The brain that reigns is mainly in the Janes
The Female Brain. . . is -- a fascinating map of what happens at every stage of life. . .
. . .
Brizendine's premise is that female brains change radically -- values, perceptions, and all -- as hormones course through in childhood, puberty, adulthood, pregnancy, "mommy brain" and beyond. Oddly enough, the phase that most changed my female brain doesn't seem to be a factor.

That would be college, thanks for asking.
. . .
For all the females out here who are childfree by choice; who are in love with their work; who are tomboys; who don't frame themselves in terms of emotional networks; who are lesbian; whose teenage worldview was more profoundly affected by their first computer than their first period; who are carrying around a boy brain -- are we not women?
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. . . and on this side of the world, the government pays you not to have children . . .

India Offers Honeymoon Packages To Newlyweds Who Can Delay Having Kids
Officials of the Satara district in Maharashtra, India are offering incentives to newlywed couples who can delay having children by at least two years.

The project, aptly dubbed "Honeymoon Package," is an attempt to control the overbooming population in India, which grows at a rate of 1.7% a year to a most recent count of 1.1 billion people. In Satara alone, which sees around 25,000 new marriages annually, the population is 3 million. A whopping 87% of newly married couples already produce their first children during their initial year together. The rate alarmed Indian authorities, especially as the country is touted to outdo China's population growth rate by 2025.

The Honeymoon Package offers 5,000 rupees worth of honeymoon-grade vacations to newlyweds who choose to not have kids during their first two years together, and nearly 7500 rupees to couples who can stay childless for three years.

The health department is hopeful that if 20% of newlyweds adhere to the Honeymoon Package incentive, the number of new births could be decreased by 4,000 a year.
Quite a contrast to the European countries who are paying people to have children, and the US tax incentives that achieve the same thing, for some.

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