The anti-child revolt

By Cathy Young

By Salon Staff
Published August 2, 2000 7:14PM (EDT)

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It is discriminatory to grant a benefit to one person or group and deny it (or an equivalent) to another person or group. Childburdened workers are often given benefits that are unavailable to childfree workers. The following are examples of what has happened to me and to other NO KIDDING! members:

Parents are often given first dibs on vacation dates so they can be with their families while non-parents are often left the dregs. Parents are often allowed to arrive late, leave early or skip meetings altogether while childfree workers are expected to be there and on time. During meetings, parents are often distracted, and meetings are disrupted, by "crises" at home (such as "Where's the peanut butter?" or "Kim's picking on me!"). Pre-natal doctor's appointments cause expectant mothers to miss a lot of work, even before the baby is born. Non-parents are often told to work overtime, while parents are allowed to go home to their families. Weekend and holiday work, as well as the less desirable shifts, are often assigned to childfrees, as is work that requires travel. Childburdened workers often arrive late, leave early and are absent from work due to the kids, yet they make the same pay as those who put in a full day's work. Flextime is often offered to childburdened workers, while childfree workers are held to a rigid schedule. When the childcare provider (the stranger being paid to raise one's kids) can't take the kid(s), parents often bring kids to work, which is distracting and dangerous. On-site daycare and lactation rooms are something for which everyone pays and few benefit. Health insurance premiums are often not proportional to usage -- in many cases, a childless couple pays as much as a couple with 10 kids. Etc.

All of the above turn parents into a privileged class of employee and citizen.

I've heard some childburdened workers complain that they aren't promoted as quickly as other workers. Well, imagine you decided to take a 50-lap pit stop at the Indy 500. Could you rightfully complain that you didn't win the race? You consciously took six months or eight months or a year off. Everyone else was working and gaining work experience while you were away. And when you come back, time has to be spent to get you up to speed, as well.

Why are we expected to do more because someone else has chosen to do too much?

Many employers (and co-workers) think that childfree workers don't have families. We do have families. We have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, and we have lots of other people who are important in our lives.

All of the above would be less upsetting if the childfree were subsidized as much as those who chose to have children. People shouldn't be bribed to create more consuming polluters, and compensation should be based on qualifications and job performance, not on the number of children one has produced.

-- Jerry Steinberg
Founding Non-Father
(A social club for child-free couples and singles)

I'm 38, single and childless. While I like children and hope to have one in the roughly 10 years I have left, my opinions on this subject tend to lean toward that of those who advocate the child-free movement. Actually it's not the children I have a problem with. It's their parents.

It seems to me that these days, there is a general reproductive and parental irresponsibility that pervades our society. Why is it, exactly, that, in a time when we have a myriad of birth-control methods, we have an explosion of unwanted pregnancies, infanticides and neglected/abused children?

While I may not agree with some of the more fringe ideology of the child-free movement, I do agree that too many adults are neglecting the results of the choice they made in the first place and that all of us are reaping the harvest that many of us never sowed.

-- Juliette Ochieng

While I realize that there are a lot of self-centered people who decided to whine and act militant about the child/childless issue, the response printed was, in my opinion, just as juvenile.

I have two children, but most of my friends are childless by choice, and one even started a NO KIDDING chapter in our town. Why? To meet other people who don't have to be home by 8 p.m. for children's bedtime and who still have time to play as hard as they work.

She's the least militant person I know, and from the people I've met in her group, militant is the last thing I'd call most of them. When I asked her and some ladies in her group what their reasoning for the childless choice was, I got some very interesting and (I feel) sound answers:

One said that she felt her career was so demanding that in order to be the kind of mother a child deserved, she'd have to quit her job. She loves it and doesn't want to quit, so she doesn't want to be unfair to a child.

One had come from an abusive family. She knows that patterns repeat sometimes and she doesn't feel desire to have a child, therefore she's afraid that if she DID she might not be a good mother.

Another stated that there are so many unadopted children in the world, that she didn't want to have any of her own. If and when she decides she'd like to be a mother, she'll adopt or foster.

Many of these childless people actually like and enjoy children, but choose not to have them. They are content to play with the kids of their friends and take on the roles of the doting aunts and uncles.

I think we should all be thankful for the people who are smart enough not to get pregnant if they don't want the responsibility!

-- Dale Caliaro

Dear Ms. Young, what actually made you sick was swallowing that heaping helping of outdated pro-child propaganda. Kids are our future? Right now that future is freeways-turned-parking-lots and no affordable housing. And who relies on Social Security existing at all in 30 years? I sure don't. Labor shortages? Puh-leeze. I'll just be getting my Egg McMuffin from a vending machine.

Our society has romanticized parenthood and made children into household gods. Deciding NOT to have children requires tremendous effort and constant explanation. The anti-child movement is providing support for those who don't want 'em , can't stand 'em and shouldn't have 'em. Yes, it's a selfish movement, but it's also pointing out that parents are at least as selfish -- in their children's names.

-- Kat Daley

Cathy Young calls the child-free movement "sheer narcissism."

No. Sheer narcissism is the belief that your genes are so valuable to the Pool that you can't resist bringing more children onto an overcrowded planet.

Reproduction is the ultimate expression of narcissism.

-- Yolanda D. Seabourne

Congratulations to Cathy Young for a well-written jab at the latest whiny self-interest group. The only thing more ridiculous than listening to parents bemoaning the burdens that children have put in their lives is listening to non-parents crying over the awful burdens of not having children. I have personally made career choices that leave me more time for my children, but cost me a significant amount of additional income. Many of my friends and colleagues, parents and non-parents alike, have decided not to compromise the way I have and so enjoy higher salaries, but less time for themselves and their families.

Hopefully some day soon the victim mentality will be purged from our culture and people with pseudo-grievances, like the "child-free" advocates, will be reduced to bewailing their lot in life to the only people who care -- themselves.

-- Jeffrey King

Bravo Cathy Young! I am so glad that a single, childless, adult speaks for humanity.

I am a married, working mother of two children, now ages 7 and 10. I have been denied promotions because, as one male boss said, "You need to be there for your children." I had always thought that was a choice I was free to make.

I have sat on long plane rides with my well-mannered children, only to suffer at the inconvenience of loud-mouthed, misbehaving adults, demanding more attention than a hungry infant.

It does take a village, for the young and the old. I would like to know who is going to take care of all these childless people in their old age? Hopefully, all these single, child-resentful folks, will make their plans now for caring for each other. My generation and our children will remember your mean-spirited, selfish ways. Watch out: We'll be taking your handicapped parking spots.

-- Jo Ann Aaronson

The idea that America may be a child-friendly nation makes me laugh my ass off. If you want to see countries where children are not treated like lepers, go to Europe. Children are doted on, provided for and seen in public! People smile at your kids!

I have made a choice to raise two children. I have also made a choice to spend over $1,000 a month on child care, and to feed, clothe and provide medical care for my children, in addition to nurturing them emotionally and intellectually so that they will grow up to be good people who make a contribution to our society. I have never asked for a handout for my kids, have never asked a friend to babysit and only talk about my kids with people who have shown a genuine interest in them. In the meantime, I live in a society that expects women to come back to work when they're often still bleeding from childbirth, could care less about whether children are receiving adequate medical care and nutrition, and whether parents are receiving the support they need to raise the next generation of workers, doctors, professors and writers.

But, should the price of gas rise over $2 per gallon, making it a tad expensive to drive an gigantic, status-symbolic phallus (that flips in the snow, by the way) around town, the whining begins. This country has its priorities so far out of whack that some day, the whole system is going to collapse like a Texas A&M bonfire structure.

So, my word to those who continue to bitch and moan because some co-worker got to take half a day off to care for her sick kid is the following: Shut the fuck up. The rest of us are thinking of people other than ourselves. It's time for you to do the same.

-- Lorraine Berry

While I agree with almost all the points Cathy Young makes in her case against the anti-child movement, I think she leaves out the most unassailable point. Children are people, and our society attempts to accord equal treatment to everyone in it. Imagine the firestorm that would (and does, rightfully) erupt if someone attempted to form an African-American-free, or gay-free movement.

-- Fred Maslin

I am glad some one finally had the gumption to stand up and say what I have thinking every time I read about the "Childless Movement": What a bunch of prima donnas! Being a parent is hard work, and yes I asked for it, but do I have to listen to adults whine and cry about life being unfair? If my kids behaved that same way, they would be on time-out until they were 35! Get over yourselves!

Where are all these great perks parents get that I keep hearing about? Guess what? I get more tax credit for my mortgage interest than I do for my progeny. I have never seen a special parking space for pregnant women or parents with toddlers. As a matter of fact, I often have to drop off kids at school and cannot commit to a carpool, so I cannot park in the carpool spaces at work which are right by the door. And how many employers actually have on-site day care? (Hint: The answer is not very many.) I do not know anyone who has used the Family Leave Act to take care of sick kids, but I do know two people who used it to take care of sick parents and one who used it to care for a sick spouse. All three of these folks were childless, by the way.

Yeah, I made my choice and now I must live with consequences and that's OK. However, the childless whiners need to realize that they made a choice and they have to live with it too. Society has determined that children are more important than your ski vacation or night out with the boys. You knew that and chose to not have kids. Now deal with it and stop setting such a bad example for my kids.

-- Robyn Anderson

Salon Staff

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