Thursday, February 08, 2007

Who benefits from benefits?

Just to let you know, I already wrote a great Valentine's Day post about vaginas, but I'm saving it for closer to the actual holiday.

Now my post for today will probably seem boring. Perhaps I should have waited to tell you about it (I was just so excited!).

Well, anyway: I've enjoyed discussing childfree and childed issues with Brit Girl on her blog for the last little while. Recently, her post on the myths of parenting prompted a brief discussion about the benefits parents do and don't get from the workplace. I am writing this from a U.S. perspective, and Brit Girl is writing with an eye on Canada and the U.K. That may account for some differences in our opinions, but I'm not sure that it does.

I wrote:
One thing - despite all the pressure to reproduce - and I totally agree that this is a breed-oriented society - speaking from the U.S., we don’t do much to help parents. We act like we do, and we pay a lot of lip service to it, but when you get down to it, we’ve set things up so that parents who have jobs (which most parents need to have) are screwed, and their families are screwed.

This is not to say that the proposed solutions for parents in the workplace have always been great for cf people. I think we need a whole workplace revolution that will make *all* of our lives better. But I don’t think the U.S. really values parent-child or family relationships in general. I think it values the labor of employees, and that the encouragement of breeding is in part about creating a labor force and in part about gender roles.

Brit Girl responded:
...much more is done for people with children than for childfree people. While I will agree that the many work envrionments are not tailored around women bringing up children (and yes, this causes all sorts of issues for women who have to work and their families) at the same time many are bending over backwards to create more "family friendly" workplaces. They are doing this because they need to retain workers.

They need to be mindful that they need to support their workers, but they also need to be aware that if they don’t make a profit, the company will be gone.

Which is fine, except that family doesn’t mean person with no kids, or person who is single. It means people with children. People with children have - for example (at my company) - time off if their kids are sick, time off to go to parent teacher meetings, very good health benefits coverage extended to all dependents, subsidized childcare, on-site company childcare, time off if they are adopting kids, preferential tax breaks, tax credits and child benefit, a christmas party for workers children. During March break, childfree people can’t take vacation, because parents are on vacation.

Pregnant women can take up to a year off as maternity leave with all benefits and can return to their substantive grade. Their vacation entitlement remains untouched. This is also the case in the UK. When you consider that, some women are have vacation entitlement of 3-4 wks (depending on years of service) the time off is subtantial. (Vacation entitlement is more in the UK. I was entitled to 5 weeks/year). Employers cannot fill their positions, they must keep them open. Fathers are now entitled to paternity leave - though many don’t take it, mothers can opt to job share, flexible work, or work part time. PLUS there are many other ways government supports parents. In Europe, benefits for people with children are even more generous - depending on the country. Plus companies are sympathetic to parents when they have to dash out of the workplace to tend to a child, or attend a school function or a kid’s sports function. Not for the Childfree. I think you’ll find that even the US has many more benefits for parents as opposed to those without. So I think while it isn’t perfect, it’s more than lip-service.

Contrast that with what is provided for childfree people, or as mercurior says, young men (a pretty vulnerable group btw). We get no extra time off outside vacations and public holidays, even if we are taking care of a parent or a pet. There are signs that is now changing in larger corporations but it still is much less time than people with parents are able to take. Small companies may go under, they don’t have the same luxury of economies of scale. So, rightly or wrongly many won’t hire women.

We get no extra benefits. We can, of course, take a year off - but it will be without pay - unless we use our vacation time. We pay more tax than parents and get no tax breaks, no government support, no subsidized transportation, no subsidized elder care payments. And by the way, I work for one of the most family friendly companies in Canada, and one of the best employers, with over 50% of employees being women. Many in very senior positions. Might be different in the US, but I would guess that good companies still have more benefits for parents than non-parents. Generally we understand - children are demanding, but lately we’ve been getting fed-up at what we perceive as preferential treatment for parents.

And even if they try and make things more "family friendly" and "do more" for parents, childfree people will be even more marginalized as far as the workplace is concerned. In my opinion It’s already tipped far too much in parents’ favour - and we pick up the slack. As you said what’s needed is a more equitable solution - for childfree and childed alike.

I want to discuss these issues in more detail, and this may end up spilling over into another post. So to begin, I want to argue my original point - that while there is a clear expectation that we will all become parents, that the state of parenthood (motherhood, in particular) is a state to which we should all aspire, and that not wanting to be a parent is somewhat abnormal (note that I'm saying this is what's expected, not what I agree with), American society simultaneously withholds the very resources parents need in order to be good parents. And those resources are things like extended and paid maternity leave, flexible work schedules, decent pay, good and affordable health benefits, good and affordable child care, and, of course, JOBS that offer these things in the first place. Most jobs, of course, do not, and so these benefits are not available to the majority of the population.

I will say at the outset that these benefits should not be set up only with an eye toward what parents need. They should be available to all workers; instead of maternity leave, for example, workers should be able to get similar leave for any care-giving (and yes, I would limit this to care-giving or grief leave or something along those lines). Employers should offer flex time to all employees (and studies have shown that flexible work schedules result in employees who are more productive AND more loyal, so it would seem that this would be beneficial for employers). I hardly need to present an argument for decent wage and health insurance, right? I mean, we can understand why those would be necessary. And as for childcare - while I don't think it's crucial (or, in many cases, practical) for employers to provide childcare, providing the other things, like good pay and flex time, would allow parents to work with available childcare in order to find a good solution.

In other words, when we think about improving the workplace for parents, which is absolutely necessary, we should also be thinking about improving the workplace for all workers. Because while childfree workers may not face the same stressors as childed people, we could all benefit from a work environment in which individuals matter, in which employees are treated as if their lives outside the workplace are valuable.

One of the problems, though, is the sense I get, having participated in discussions re. stopping the tenure clock for new mothers (sometimes fathers) on the faculty, is that everyone is simply terrified that someone else might get something that would give them an unfair advantage.

I gotta be honest, here. To me, this sounds a lot like the people who argue that students with documented disabilities shouldn't have extra time to take a test because that gives them more time to write better answers - even when, as has been my experience as an educator - that extra time merely affords them time to laboriously do the work of almost completing the written exam. It isn't the thinking of the brilliant answer that takes the time, often - it is actually writing it down. And it's just small-minded to complain, when faced with a student making his or her way through college in this way, that he or she is getting something extra that someone else is not.

So, yes, at first I was a bit unsympathetic to this claim. And I'll add that, for new parents, parental leave is not a matter of having the time off to enjoy the baby. The experience of sleep deprivation alone is more intense than most people have experienced outside this situation. And then, for mothers, there are all kinds of biological issues to address, as well, as hormone levels change and so on. On top of that, we could argue that babies and mothers need to be together for at least the first several months for breastfeeding and bonding (no, of course I'm not saying that moms can't make other arrangements work). My point: maternity leave is not a vacation, and the time should not be offered up generally to people who want to take an extended trip. It should be offered for care-giving or for other monumental occurrences that necessitate a serious leave of absence.

I had a similarly unsympathetic attitude to those who begrudged parents the kinds of resources I mentioned earlier. But then I heard some stories from an unlikely source - a good friend, a feminist friend, and one who'd been very supportive of me when I had my son. This friend routinely was saddled with extra work due to the family responsibilities of a co-worker who frequently had to miss meetings and so on. And this is not right. Employers need to work out maternity and other leaves so that co-workers do not bear the brunt. It is the EMPLOYER'S responsibility to find temporary help to protect the other workers but also so that a leave does not pit employees against each other.

Let's move on. Brit Girl mentioned subsidized childcare. I may be wrong about this - I am open to being proven wrong - but I think, in cases where people argue that they should get the actual monetary equivalent if they don't use the service, that this is another case of "hey, it looks like someone else got something that I didn't get!" Subsidized childcare means a discount on a service. If you don't have children, why would you need that service discounted? Since childcare is still an expense, I don't think it's reasonable to expect that people without children be given a chunk of change equivalent to the discount. But I do think it's reasonable that they could be offered that same discount to be extended to other care-giving situations - childcare for nieces and nephews, in-home care for elderly parents, etc.

Brit Girl also mentioned time off - for sick children, for school meetings, for vacation. It is absolutely unfair not to allow all workers the same time off. Now - in my experience, when I have had emergencies come up, I was able to use my sick time or my vacation time or, sometimes, I would work through a few lunches to pay back the time I took. I think a more generous allowance of time off - for everyone - would be helpful in most cases, however. And when it comes to scheduling vacations, I'm going to take a hard line. Parents should not have their vacations given priority due to school scheduling. There is no reason that anyone *needs* to take a vacation, anyway (see? told you it was a hard line.). If it conflicts with school, too bad. There is ample time for that in the summer.

I also want to speak to the tax breaks. This actually really disturbs me because it's not an issue of, "oh, you have a kid? Hey, let me give you some money." It's an issue of, "oh, you have another mouth to feed/person to clothe/take to the doctor/etc. That's expensive. Let's arrange to lower your taxes slightly." Having a child means paying more money. The tax break attempts to ease this burden. Childfree people will still have more money at the end of the day, given equivalent income, than childed people. What's the problem? It's a lot like the single tax. The government used to give single people a break, realizing that they were paying more (for example, in rent) with relation to income than were married couples. But then the right wing got all freaked out about what they called a "marriage penalty" or "marriage tax," and guess what? Now there is no longer an eased burden for single people, who often continue to make less income than do dual-income couples. So the argument that childed people get a tax break doesn't really interest me. Figure out what it costs to take care of a child, and compare that to the tax "break," and see where you end up.

Finally: I think this business of comparing pets to children is particularly frustrating. They are not the same. And frankly, I thought they were, until I had a child. Now, I know saying that might make me sound like an asshole, but bear with me. I don't think that childfree people love their pets less than childed people love their kids. I do, however, think there is a qualitative difference in these relationships. Even if I'm right, though, it wouldn't matter, because the fact is, when you love someone or something, then you love them, and being told that your experience of love is different than someone else's is absolutely unhelpful. But I just want to make the point that saying - as a former friend once said to me - that she was in love with her new puppy, and she was sure I knew what she meant because I had a baby - is not going to win you any points with parents. (And really, how would you feel if someone said that to you about your boyfriend, or sister, or mom?) Nor is it going to help either of you understand each other any better.

One more point about the pet thing - I know exactly why someone who doesn't have a child would say this. I've felt it. I've said it myself. I'm trying really really hard to avoid saying, "you don't know until you experience it," but at the end of the day, that's all I can say. I'm sorry that sounds so patronizing - that is certainly not how I mean to come across.

Now that I've got that off my chest, let me add that there's no reason why health benefits couldn't be extended to veterinary care for dependent pets, or leave to care for sick animals, and so on. I think perhaps I draw the line at a tax break for dependent pets, but only until we restructure our tax system to tax the wealthy and no one else. Then, I'd be fine with it, and I would certainly list my two cats along with my son as dependents.

I'm sure I have more to say, but that's all I can think of at the moment. Let the comments begin. (I mean, really. Let them begin. Delurk.)

UPDATE: Just as I went to post this, I noticed that Brit Girl had also posted something on this topic. There is good conversation afoot!

22 comments:

Danielle said...

I guess I am in the middle here. I think you should know that there are costs involved with having a child, and accept that responsibility before choosing to have it. I checked out all the daycares in my area, and I know how much it will cost to send the baby there- and I accept that. I am not pouting because someone else won't pay for it or give me a subsidy. I know how much the health premiums are going to go up, and I accept that, too. If I didn't want the expenses, or couldn't afford them, I would have stayed on the pill. My employer is understanding with a lot of stuff- both of my bosses didn't even work when they were pregnant, and sometimes I feel like they are giving me too much good treatment. With some of the benefits that are being talked about in this post, I mean, if all employers did that much for parents, soon, there wouldn't be jobs for anyone to get! I used to work for one of the "best employers to work for" and I left, because not only did I hate the job, but all those great benefits were costing me so much, that I didn't get beans for a take home check.
There has to be a point where you accept responsibility for your own actions. If employers and/or the government kept giving parents more, more more, then when would it stop? Would parents EVER be satisfied? From what I have heard from them, I don't think many would. Some are just way too hung up on parenthood being hard, that even if and when things are handed to them on a silver platter, they still want to complain. I have found in life that when I find too much difficulty in the negative aspects of something, it usually means I really didn't want that thing in the first place. When you truly want something, you take the bad with the good. Before you have a baby, and another, and another, do the math! Find out what it will cost you. If you feel like you shouldn't have to shoulder that burden, then I wonder if you really wanted a child.

Trin said...

"I gotta be honest, here. To me, this sounds a lot like the people who argue that students with documented disabilities shouldn't have extra time to take a test because that gives them more time to write better answers - even when, as has been my experience as an educator - that extra time merely affords them time to laboriously do the work of almost completing the written exam. It isn't the thinking of the brilliant answer that takes the time, often - it is actually writing it down. And it's just small-minded to complain, when faced with a student making his or her way through college in this way, that he or she is getting something extra that someone else is not."

Exactly. People don't realize how much work having kids is, and how much it changes a person's life.

The whole idea of stopping the tenure clock for new moms is about aligning their opportunities with everyone else's. If I were going for tenure I just wouldn't have that extra issue weighing on me at the same time.

Danielle said...

Actually being handicapped is extremely different. People who are handicapped didn't choose to be that way.
The comparison reminds me of the parking space issue for pregnant women.
(Some of us want a change in life, by the way.)

sallysunshine_26 said...

Interesting topic. Can I speak to the issue of taxes for a moment? Over the years that I’ve been doing taxes, I've seen firsthand, those clients who receive substantial refunds on their tax returns because of a dependent(s). In fact, yesterday, a client of mine got back $4,494 from the federal government because she has a qualifying dependent with respect to the earned income credit.

Now, this might raise a few eyebrows on the "fairness factor" issue. Because I know I won't be getting a $4,494 refund, in fact, I'll probably have to pay in this year. However, my client, who received this large refund, had earned income of $15,100 for 2006. This is hardly enough to support a child, let alone herself. Do I mind that she got a $4,494 refund? Heck no!

By the end of 2007, I will have:

1) Been on three major international vacations (not all paid time off, but who cares!- I can afford to take unpaid time off, I don't have children!)

2) Deposited a substantial amount of money into BOTH of my retirement accounts (The possibility of retiring at 45 yrs. looks better and better each year!)

3) Bought fabulous clothes, pedicures, manicures, trips to the gym, personal training sessions, and hours and hours of rest and relaxation without little to no interruptions at home.

Am I upset that fellow co-workers with children get time off to go to Billy's Little League game? Not really- sitting on an uncomfortable bench sandwiched between other parents while talking about our horrendously routine existence does not sound fun! (Not that others wouldn't find this incredibly stimulating, but I don’t.)

So I say, go ahead, parents should be able to have their extra time off and their tax refunds. In the meantime, you can find me in my office working hard, planning my next super fabulous vacation, or depositing my big fat childfree check at the bank.

Brit Girl, there are many perks to not being parent, let's not forget those! :)

Kelsey said...

A year off for maternity leave? Subsidized childcare? Extra time off for kid-related issues? I seriously need to leave the country when I decide to reproduce. I personally don't know anyone who's gotten any such 'benefits.'

Britgirl said...

Conversation is afoot indeed! And this is a far from boring issue.I think the differences in opinion comes from you being a parent and me being childfree... but anyway.

I have to say that I think Danielle has hit the nail on the head here. From my perspective, though while I agree with several of your points and several of the comments, having kids costs money. Parents are expected to be able to afford them. If people can't( and that includes working options) then maybe they shouldn't have them.

I believe that before having them people need to seriously do the math and work out if and how they will be able to afford them. I know of few who do -until after the fact. If people can't afford them, why have them and expect employers or government to pick up the tag?

Personally, I don't think parents will ever be satisfied at the benefits provided in the workplace. They always seem to want more. And more.
Childfree people for the most part aren't so much saying "we want the same", more an acknowledgement that parents get more ONLY because they decided to have kids.

And we want some semblance of fairness when we want to have time off for things that are important to us. To award all those benefits in the same way has an enormous cost - and I don't think it will happen.

Parents want more extended leave, more paid leave, more flexible work schedules, more time for to tend to kids etc etc. Oh, and they want to get pay rises and promotions at the same rate as their non-parent counterparts.

But they do not say WHO will pay for these benefits.They just want them. They want the same grade/level and pay as non-parents, yet they work fewer hours.

The employer has a responsibility to ALL its employees. They don't have a responsibility to make up/pay for people's decisions to have children. This is not to say they should not provide decent benefits for their workers. My company does, and they are very good. But they cost money. They are expensive. There is no free lunch. Companies are in business to make profit. If you are not productive in the workplace, the employer will see that you are fired - and so they should. It's in the contract. No productivity, no profit, no profit, no company. No jobs. So never mind benefits, just give me a job. Today Chrysler, one of the most successful (past) companies is shedding over 2000 workers. Why? Apart from competition, they can no longer afford the benefits package. Companies are whittling benefits down - just to survive. Many will not make it.Those who do are told their workers are too expensive - cheaper workers in India. Hey, we'll just outsource. Et voila, 1,000's of workers have no job. Parental benefits? What benefits?

But this is economic reality. When deciding whether I was going to be childfree I thought about how/whether I could afford it - on my own steam, not counting on benefits or the government. Additional benefits mean the tax burden goes up - on everyone and ability to hire goes down.

Companies want productive workers. I work with women who have kids, and most of them actually take very little time off in terms of dashing off to do kids stuff. There are other women who, after having a year off in maternity leave entitlement for one baby, 6 months later get pregnant again and off they go for another year. This is not uncommon. There is a cost to the employer - and someone has to pay it.

I already accept that everyone's taxes go towards paying for benefits/services that we, as childfree people do not use. And frankly I would totally agree with Sally Sunshine... I don't sit fretting over a parent getting a tax refund. I can get a refund if I pay enough into my retirement fund ;-) and being childfree I can afford to do that. Childcare is expensive. It probably shouln't be, but it is. Subsiding it means that, even though I carefully considered my options and decided not to reproduce, I am still paying towards subsidizing those who did no such thing. If I had had kids, I'd have been thinking of how I was going to afford to pay for my OWN childcare costs.

I find it annoying when parents are off doing their "kid stuff", (I really do not care that little Billy has a hockey match at 5 or your daughter has to go to music lessons... do that in your own time I care that you pull your weight on the team) work "flexible" hours when I don't and while I stay behind working on completing their work.

And to top it all they want employers to provide more... for what is in effect, their personal lifestyle choices! I ask again - who are parents expecting to pay for these additional benefits?
@SallyS - I never forget the perks! There are many.

plain(s)feminist said...

No, it's not about my being a parent. I worked for many years before I became a parent and had similar feelings then. I think - and I don't mean to sound obnoxious, but - that this difference in perspective is about compassion and understanding the reality of many people's lives.

And for the record, I do not even *have* a retirement account and I am 38. And it isn't because I have a child. It's because I am and have been underemployed. When I had my son, I had the option of returning to work in 6 weeks (which were unpaid) or quitting my job. I don't know anyone in the U.S. who has received any of these benefits that only a small percentage of companies offer.

The kinds of benefits I'm talking about in my post apply to *all* people (and I made this clear in my post): living wage. flex time. long vacations. lots of sick leave and personal time. good health care benefits. Studies show - as I stated - that these things result in more productive and loyal employees, which in turn ends up saving the employer money. These points have not been addressed in the responses to my post.

What I'm still hearing is "they get something I don't, and it's not fair."

Now, people who own homes get tax refunds I don't get. I don't see a movement rising up to oppose that. Why not? Why should the government support the lifestyle choice of those who own homes and expect other taxpayers to pay for it? Why is the childfree movement not equally upset about this? Could it be because there are home-owners in the movement? So, SOME privilege is ok, as long as it is not privilege given to someone else?

Are single heterosexuals in the childfree movement actively fighting against the marriage tax credit? Isn't getting married a lifestyle choice?

Further, I'm a bit distressed at the way we see having children as nothing more than a lifestyle choice. There are people for whom it is far more than that. And I think the choice of whether or not to reproduce is a RIGHT, not a privilege, and that society owes all people the means to freely make either decision. The fact that we don't do that is why we are having this conversation.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that it is a lifestyle choice. So is having cable. So is having HBO. So is going out to eat. So are the other examples I mentioned above. Well, the average person is carrying $13,000 in credit card debt - so this is not an issue about parents who can't afford their kids. It's about every single one of us, including many in the childfree movement, who live beyond our means.

Frankly, this sounds a lot to me like what my "friend" told me in college, "people like me, who are paying the full tuition, are paying for you - on financial aid - to attend school here." It's a classist argument, and I think that this argument against benefits for parents is classist, as well.

Personally, I don't think parents will ever be satisfied at the benefits provided in the workplace. They always seem to want more. And more.

This language is disturbing to me. Parents as a drain on the system. This is really what it's about, isn't it? Those horrible people who suck up our resources. The reason parents want more is because what we get is not enough to make it work. The notion of a model employee is still someone who has no family responsibilities and no health problems, someone the company can exploit as much as possible. And that is not good for ANYONE. I know a lot of single people without children (and they would not call themselves childfree) who hate being owned by their jobs in this way.

Childfree people for the most part aren't so much saying "we want the same", more an acknowledgement that parents get more ONLY because they decided to have kids.

I have to call bullshit here, because the rest of your comment argues the opposite, pointing out all the areas where childfree people would indeed like the same.

And we want some semblance of fairness when we want to have time off for things that are important to us. To award all those benefits in the same way has an enormous cost - and I don't think it will happen.

I said this in my post. And "I don't think it will happen" is not an acceptable response to a societal problem. If you see a problem, you have a duty to do something about it. But you could do it in a positive manner, by working with parents to change the workplace so that *all* workers get what they need, instead of trying to take away benefits that others need.

And honestly, this is why people say the childfree movement is selfish. I mean, there are childfree people who don't want to pay school taxes because they don't have kids attending the schools. What a great way to shoot oneself in the foot! Taking money away from schools doesn't just hurt kids, it hurts the entire society. And, in fact, there is a direct ratio in the U.S. between the defunding of education and the funding of new prisons. Who do you think ends up in those prisons? Ten points if you guessed the kids who got the shitty education. So by taking money from education we are creating a class of people that has few options and directly contributing to the growth of criminal activity.

Again: Why not fight for better working conditions for all people instead of fighting against benefits that families need? Don't tell me that won't work. If it didn't work, we wouldn't have the *weekend*.

plain(s)feminist said...

Ok...now that I've ranted, taken a deep breath, and calmed down, I want to add something.

My perspective is shaped far less by being a parent than it is by being a feminist and Women's Studies prof. I have a similar attitude about a lot of things - immigration, language immersion schools, multicultural curricula, abortion, euthanasia, affirmative action, etc. Different people have different needs. I believe that the goal of a society should be to meet those needs, in large part by enabling people to meet their own needs, but also by establishing a sense of community in which people help each other out.

Here's just one creative example. What if I need to go on maternity leave, and BritGirl and Danielle agree to take up some of the slack of my position and get paid extra. Or what if, one year later (not nec. the end of my leave, but when the baby is old enough that I'm getting sleep and functioning properly), Kelsey and I then agree to take up some slack and BritGirl and Kelsey get an extra four weeks (or whatever) of paid vacation?

I really do believe that there are ways we can work together so that parents and childfree people feel they are respected, valued, and accommodated equally (though they may receive different things) in the workplace.

plain(s)feminist said...

...some people have argued for changing maternity/parental leave into a sort of sabbatical leave that would be available to everyone. Not sure how I feel about that, only b/c in an academic situation it would mean that mothers (it's usually mothers who bear the brunt of the child rearing) would not have as much research to show while their colleagues would, and in a competitive environment, that could really hurt a career. But I do think we should be thinking along these lines.

belledame222 said...

I want to argue my original point - that while there is a clear expectation that we will all become parents, that the state of parenthood (motherhood, in particular) is a state to which we should all aspire, and that not wanting to be a parent is somewhat abnormal (note that I'm saying this is what's expected, not what I agree with), American society simultaneously withholds the very resources parents need in order to be good parents. And those resources are things like extended and paid maternity leave, flexible work schedules, decent pay, good and affordable health benefits, good and affordable child care, and, of course, JOBS that offer these things in the first place. Most jobs, of course, do not, and so these benefits are not available to the majority of the population.

I will say at the outset that these benefits should not be set up only with an eye toward what parents need. They should be available to all workers; instead of maternity leave, for example, workers should be able to get similar leave for any care-giving (and yes, I would limit this to care-giving or grief leave or something along those lines). Employers should offer flex time to all employees (and studies have shown that flexible work schedules result in employees who are more productive AND more loyal, so it would seem that this would be beneficial for employers). I hardly need to present an argument for decent wage and health insurance, right? I mean, we can understand why those would be necessary. And as for childcare - while I don't think it's crucial (or, in many cases, practical) for employers to provide childcare, providing the other things, like good pay and flex time, would allow parents to work with available childcare in order to find a good solution.


Word.

One of the problems, though, is the sense I get...that everyone is simply terrified that someone else might get something that would give them an unfair advantage.

That can't be stressed enough.

It all comes down to scarce commodities, innit? If it's not material commodities (though it often is, as you note, esp. in the U.S.), then it's something more ineffable, which is even less often really explored. (love? strokes? happiness? validation? attention?)

but I always think of y'know how much traction the whole "no special rights for gay people" thing had and has, how easy it is to push that "look what THEY'RE getting while YOU go without! it's NOT FAIR" button.

maybe they think it means something specific and maybe they don't--christ knows there're enough disinformation campaigns around;

but, and especially with the marriage thing, i keep thinking: it doesn't seem to make sense because it -doesn't- make sense. not in a practical sort of way. not all of it, anyway.

and apologies, given the subject of the actual post, but this keeps coming to mind:

"there was a young woman from Wheeling
who threw her young tot through
the ceiling.
When asked why she did't, she said
"To get rid
of a strange, overpowering feeling..."

sallysunshine_26 said...

Plainsfeminist said: “Further, I'm a bit distressed at the way we see having children as nothing more than a lifestyle choice. There are people for whom it is far more than that. And I think the choice of whether or not to reproduce is a RIGHT, not a privilege, and that society owes all people the means to freely make either decision. The fact that we don't do that is why we are having this conversation.”

I’m going to take the opposing view here and say that while society should provide right to or not to reproduce (through access to birth control, the morning after pill, abortion, family planning, and STD testing ect…) society is NOT, and CANNOT be responsible for people’s choices after the initial choosing. First off society, as in the bureaucratic system, is not efficient enough in its operational activities to take on this task. Ever waited in line at the courthouse to renew your car tags or visited the DMV?
Obviously, the federal government has not mastered the concept of efficiently allocating resources, and I don’t believe they will in the future.

Next, I’d like to speak to the topic of choice, consequences, and responsibilities. For example, if I get pregnant, I have a choice to make, which society provides services for: Abortion, adoption, or Parenthood. Resources, at this point, in society are available at my disposal to support these choices. But after that, I am on my own. If I chose to have an abortion, I am expected to pay any necessary travel expenses and the actual cost of the abortion, society doesn’t foot the bill. If I choose parenthood, for practical purposes, I need a financial plan. How will I support this child? Do I fully understand the cost and responsibilities that come with my choice? If I make my decision without considering the practical elements I will be doing my child and myself a great disservice.

Part of the reason I CHOSE the accounting field as a career is because I wanted the benefit of being financially literate, as a woman, this is a very powerful life skill. Parents who CHOOSE to have children need to seriously consider this aspect of their lives. Are they fiscally responsible? Do they understand the power of money management and making smart choices? When society is expected to carry the weight of others who do not, it’s really very tiring and irritating. And, if I may venture to say, I think that’s the point BritGirl may be trying to make.

However, it is a fact in life, on any given team, there will always be dead weight, someone who isn’t contributing as much as the others. And yes, it’s not fair, (for parents and childfree alike) but we have to make the most of it. Over the years, I’ve learned not to pay much attention to what others are getting, and be happy with what I have. I’m proud of what I have dammint, I’ve worked hard for it. I don’t really care if Joan in HR down the hall gets extra time off to be with her kids. I’m focused on what I’m here to do, and am only responsible for myself. If Joan needs me to help with her workload, I don’t have a problem with it, but I WILL make damn sure I’m not being taken advantage of at the same time.

What I’ve seen a lot of in the world today, in general, is people who are freaking out because they believe there are not enough resources available for all of us. And yes, it can be argued, resources on this planet are not being distributed equally.

However, we know from the collapse of the USSR that communism does not work, nor is it realistic. Utopia is just that, utopia. It’s not reality. Reality is that we all have to work hard and kick a little ass to get where we wanna go, we cannot rely on others (government included) to provide for us. Yes, government can help in limited ways, but ultimately, it’s up to us. We are the creators of our destiny.

The concept of “fairness” is an interesting thing. “Fairness for all” is nice warm n’ fuzzy concept to talk about, yet the ideal is misleading. It can be just as debilitating to a society as harboring an attitude of complete selfishness. “Fairness” attempts to keep everyone on the same playing field, yet, this is not human nature, plus it’s impossible.

This concept of “fairness” is creating a culture of entitlement, and I see it in the classroom constantly. Students expect to get the A without having earned it, which is a shame because it makes the learning process more difficult. When others are constantly rushing into save us (government included) it stunts our growth and ability to survive.

I think parents and childfree people have a lot to learn form each other. Let’s keep the dialogue moving. ~ Sally S.

One last thing: How did this post turn into a critique of communism, socialism, and capitalism?

plain(s)feminist said...

How did this post turn into a critique of communism, socialism, and capitalism?

Hee. Those are, indeed, the underlying issues, aren't they?

plain(s)feminist said...

Obviously, the federal government has not mastered the concept of efficiently allocating resources, and I don’t believe they will in the future.

True. But individual employers could do this. It doesn't have to be the government. And if allocating resources to moms improves the bottom line (see http://marketingmommy.blogspot.com/2007/02/when-mamas-happy-her-employer-makes.html), I would bet allocating resources to everyone would do so, as well.

Next, I’d like to speak to the topic of choice, consequences, and responsibilities. For example, if I get pregnant, I have a choice to make, which society provides services for: Abortion, adoption, or Parenthood. Resources, at this point, in society are available at my disposal to support these choices. But after that, I am on my own. If I chose to have an abortion, I am expected to pay any necessary travel expenses and the actual cost of the abortion, society doesn’t foot the bill.

Not necessarily. Depending on the situation, health insurance may cover some costs. If you have any complications, health insurance would likely kick in.

Also, I think we're neglecting in this discussion the reality that shit happens: parents die; parents get laid off; parents have health problems that incur large expenses; babies are born with health problems; pregnancies go awry; etc. So even if everyone planned carefully - and many people do - that wouldn't mean that people would not need society's help.

Danielle said...

You raise some good points here, about the other forms of taxes. I am actually going to pull a Sally Sunshine here and say that as a non-homeowner, I don't mind at all that homeowners get a tax break. Especially here in a state with no state income tax and such high property taxes that they pretty much work out to what we pay in rent every month. Plus mortgage, repairs, maintenence, utilities, associations...
I don't mind a bit that they get a tax break!

(I'm covered under FMLA and get 12 weeks unpaid, btw. It works out great for me that those 12 weeks just happen to be all of summer break)

Britgirl said...

"...that this difference in perspective is about compassion and understanding the reality of many people's lives." Wow! I think you are implying that I lack compassion and understanding because my perspective happens to be different! Nice one. And you don't mean to sound obnoxious??


"This language is disturbing to me. Parents as a drain on the system. This is really what it's about, isn't it? "

I'm sorry that's how you interpreted it. Maybe that's how you see it. I certainly never said that and I have to marvel at how some of what I've said has been turned into something completely different.

As I said quite clearly in my comment, it isn't about wanting the basic wage leave etc vacation etc. It is about parents wanting and often getting additional things on top of the standard everyone else gets, whether this be extra time off, preferential time for taking vacations subsididies etc, additional child related hours off etc.

Most of us "selfish childfree" people know and accept that when we pay taxes we pay for kids whether we have them or not. Most people I know accept that that's part of where our taxes go. I accept it. But If some think they would rather have a choice about it why are you so up in arms about it? It's their money isn't it? And as for asking why childfree people aren't up in arms about getting refunds from owning a house - I'm not sure exactly what you mean but these are these not available to parents and non parents alike?

Yes, we see parents want ever more time off for their kids at the expense of those who have no access to even half that time off. We see it every day in the workplace.

And while you say it's the companies responsibility to provide all this, you still say nothing about how you propose this to be funded. FYI - in some countries they have exactly those benefits and more. Everyone pays hefty tax to support that system, so that means we would be paying ever more tax.

I see you managed to bring in the notion that childfree people are selfish... that is never too far away from the surface, is it? As soon as they raise an issue about the status quo that looks out for their interests, we are called selfish. But that's okay. Happily they're or you thinking it does't make it true.

Childfree people for the most part aren't so much saying "we want the same", more an acknowledgement that parents get more ONLY because they decided to have kids.

I have to call bullshit here, "
Well, thanks.

"because the rest of your comment argues the opposite, pointing out all the areas where childfree people would indeed like the same.

Of course they don't want "the same" Childfree people are not asking for maternity leave. They don't need it. They are asking that if they need to take some time off they will be considered and not automatically turned down because simply because they don't have kids. Could be a couple of weeks or a longer, but right now they are turned down. Yes, it would be good if everyone got time off when they want it. Employees can already take sabbaticals. They are not asking for child benefit to be paid to them as it is to parents.But when the government in some countries pays women for having an extra child, so they can raise the birthrate, they will raise eyebrows as they lose out.

In fact they are not asking for any money to be paid to them other than whats paid to any other employee. Are they asking for tax refunds if they have no dependents? Would be nice. But no. Would they like some kind of equality when it comes to taking care of sick parents or elders. Yes, that would be nice. And they are not saying maternity leave or any other leave should be "taken away" from parents.

Basically, if you have a kid, it is a decision you make. Benefits are unearned. That's why they are called benefits. Parents get certain ones simply because they are parents - whatever implications that brings. Thinking that benefits of the type you describe are going to be applied to everyone equally is unrealistic because it would cost most companies an huge amount of money (a living wage is not a benefit by the wayl ong vacations are.. And why do you want lots of sick leave? when there is already Long term disability).

But of course if you are willing to pay more taxes maybe you might see the government giving breaks to companies who provide these types of benefits. But who are the first to scream when taxes go up? Ah yes, parents.

If people have kids and need benefits to make it work and expect employers and government to provide them, then maybe they should have worked out how they would support their life choice before having their children.
If you can't afford a house don't buy one. If you can't afford a kid to take care of a kid on your own steam, then don't have one.

plain(s)feminist said...

BritGirl.

"...that this difference in perspective is about compassion and understanding the reality of many people's lives." Wow! I think you are implying that I lack compassion and understanding because my perspective happens to be different! Nice one. And you don't mean to sound obnoxious??

OK, yeah, that was obnoxious. I resented what I perceived as your dismissing my argument on the basis of my being a parent, when ironically, my being a parent has very little to do with my position here. (I mean, Danielle is pregnant, and she disagreed with me, as well - so it's not parent-based.)

"This language is disturbing to me. Parents as a drain on the system. This is really what it's about, isn't it? "

I'm sorry that's how you interpreted it. Maybe that's how you see it. I certainly never said that and I have to marvel at how some of what I've said has been turned into something completely different.


You said:
"If people can't afford them, why have them and expect employers or government to pick up the tag?"

"Personally, I don't think parents will ever be satisfied at the benefits provided in the workplace. They always seem to want more. And more."

"But they do not say WHO will pay for these benefits.They just want them. They want the same grade/level and pay as non-parents, yet they work fewer hours."

"Additional benefits mean the tax burden goes up - on everyone and ability to hire goes down."

"do that [soccer games, etc.] in your own time I care that you pull your weight on the team) work "flexible" hours when I don't and while I stay behind working on completing their work.

And to top it all they want employers to provide more... for what is in effect, their personal lifestyle choices! I ask again - who are parents expecting to pay for these additional benefits?"

I'm thrilled (for me, because I hadn't liked to think that that's what you were saying - and sorry, to you, for misinterpreting) that I've misinterpreted you, but I think, looking at these quotes, that it's not out of the realm of understanding that I would interpret you in the way I did. I'm not insisting that you meant what I thought you meant, just explaining why I thought that.

As I said quite clearly in my comment, it isn't about wanting the basic wage leave etc vacation etc. It is about parents wanting and often getting additional things on top of the standard everyone else gets, whether this be extra time off, preferential time for taking vacations subsididies etc, additional child related hours off etc.

But BritGirl, twice now I have responded to this and said I think these kinds of things should be available to all workers. First you say that it's not fair that parents get these and that childfree folks don't (ok, I accept what you're saying - something equivalent but the same). But then you say that there's no way to pay for it. So then we come back to "it's not fair." What do you want to do about it, then? Are you advocating stripping parents of the benefits they have, or of particular benefits that some parents get (I have never gotten any of the benefits we've discussed, by the way)? This is an honest question - I don't think that you are saying this, but if you're not interested in pressing for better benefits for all, then what is it you want? (Note: I see that you answered this somewhat below.)

The thing is, though, that these are valid requests that parents have. The fact that they are beyond the standard doesn't make them less so. Most workplaces are far from family friendly - that's the reality in the U.S. A new study just found that women with children are four times less likely to be hired than women without. It seems to me that childfree women certainly have an edge.

Most of us "selfish childfree" people know and accept that when we pay taxes we pay for kids whether we have them or not. Most people I know accept that that's part of where our taxes go. I accept it. But If some think they would rather have a choice about it why are you so up in arms about it? It's their money isn't it?

No, it's really not. That's what it means to live in a community - some of it is *not* our individual money. We all pay taxes, and the money goes to help social programs, and that's the way it is. I think it's a good thing. It ensures some level of safety net for those who need it. (Frankly, I am much more upset that the American childfree movement would rather complain about paying school taxes than about their taxes paying for the effing war, but that's just me.)

And as for asking why childfree people aren't up in arms about getting refunds from owning a house - I'm not sure exactly what you mean but these are these not available to parents and non parents alike?

That's my point. I was saying that there are *lots* of people who get refunds and benefits that are not available to the whole population. Parents are not the only group. If the issue is really about fairness, then focusing solely on parents doesn't make sense.

Yes, we see parents want ever more time off for their kids at the expense of those who have no access to even half that time off. We see it every day in the workplace.

ARgh, BritGirl, I'M ON YOUR SIDE WITH THIS ONE!!!!

And while you say it's the companies responsibility to provide all this, you still say nothing about how you propose this to be funded.

That's true. I'm not an economist. I can't even balance my checkbook. But I do think (know) that there are plenty of wealthy corporations who have the money - they just choose to spend it on high-paid CEOs.

FYI - in some countries they have exactly those benefits and more. Everyone pays hefty tax to support that system, so that means we would be paying ever more tax.

I have no problems with paying more taxes as long as they are - I can't think what it's called - when you pay less when your income is less. I am totally fine with paying taxes. Where I grew up, city taxes paid for garbage collection for everyone. Here, you have to hire a private garbage removal company or haul your stuff to the dump and pay to dispose of it. Frankly, I'd rather pay the tax and know that everyone's trash was being hauled, whether or not they could pay. (And the city collectors did a better job of it, too, I must say.)

I see you managed to bring in the notion that childfree people are selfish...

And in all fairness, I have also argued against that very notion. You'll remember that I've posted here and on your blog that not wanting to have children is not selfish. I do think it's selfish, though, to focus solely on the needs of one group of people at the expense of the other, which is what I think it is to argue against paying school taxes (I can see how my point was unclear from the way I wrote it in my comment - I didn't mean it was unfair to want the equivalent benefits - and I also know that you are not arguing against paying school taxes). Isn't that what you feel parents are doing? I've raised this point several times now, that we should be working together, and I feel like you are dismissing it.

that is never too far away from the surface, is it? As soon as they raise an issue about the status quo that looks out for their interests, we are called selfish. But that's okay. Happily they're or you thinking it does't make it true.

Yeah, it's a danger word, and I probably shouldn't have used it. I know you get that thrown at you unfairly.

Childfree people for the most part aren't so much saying "we want the same", more an acknowledgement that parents get more ONLY because they decided to have kids.

But again - to what end? What would be a good solution? I mean - yes, that should be acknowledged. But then what?

I have to call bullshit here, "
Well, thanks.

"because the rest of your comment argues the opposite, pointing out all the areas where childfree people would indeed like the same.

Of course they don't want "the same" Childfree people are not asking for maternity leave. They don't need it. They are asking that if they need to take some time off they will be considered and not automatically turned down because simply because they don't have kids. Could be a couple of weeks or a longer, but right now they are turned down. Yes, it would be good if everyone got time off when they want it. Employees can already take sabbaticals. They are not asking for child benefit to be paid to them as it is to parents.But when the government in some countries pays women for having an extra child, so they can raise the birthrate, they will raise eyebrows as they lose out.


My "bullshit" was because I thought you were saying, "yes, we want the equivalent of a maternity leave" and my point, exactly, is WHY would you need one? But you've explained that here - and again, I'm on your side with this one. (I wasn't aware about the practice of paying women to have another child. Yuck. I don't like that at all.)

In fact they are not asking for any money to be paid to them other than whats paid to any other employee. Are they asking for tax refunds if they have no dependents? Would be nice. But no. Would they like some kind of equality when it comes to taking care of sick parents or elders. Yes, that would be nice. And they are not saying maternity leave or any other leave should be "taken away" from parents.

OK. We are in agreement here. Thank you for explaining this.

Basically, if you have a kid, it is a decision you make. Benefits are unearned. That's why they are called benefits. Parents get certain ones simply because they are parents - whatever implications that brings.

For what it's worth, this is also true of all health benefits, sick leave, vacation time, and so on. All unearned. And most workers in the U.S., perhaps globally, do not get any of these benefits.

Thinking that benefits of the type you describe are going to be applied to everyone equally is unrealistic because it would cost most companies an huge amount of money (a living wage is not a benefit by the wayl ong vacations are.. And why do you want lots of sick leave? when there is already Long term disability).

I said sick leave but really I meant the ability to have time off for doctor appts, sick kids, sick parents, cat to the vet, whatever. Again - something for all workers. Even if it's unpaid. Because all of us have lives outside the office, right?

But I don't think it's as unfeasable as you do. Again, studies have shown that flex time and the ability to work from home, for example, end up saving companies money due to increased worker productivity. That's not everything, but it's something.

But of course if you are willing to pay more taxes maybe you might see the government giving breaks to companies who provide these types of benefits. But who are the first to scream when taxes go up? Ah yes, parents.

Sure, it could come from the govt, but as I said above, there are also companies that DO have the money if they choose to invest it in their employees.

Do you have stats to back up that claim about parents, by the way? It really makes no sense to me - "parents" are a pretty varied group of people. The parents in my circle are recycling, biking-to-work, co-op shopping, thrift-store-buying, credit-union-using, community-volunteering type people. I also know some SUV- driving, right-leaning, fundie parents. These two groups don't agree on just about anything.

So please don't tar all parents as anti-tax unless you have some proof for that claim.

If people have kids and need benefits to make it work and expect employers and government to provide them, then maybe they should have worked out how they would support their life choice before having their children.

As I said, though, shit happens. If you get laid off tomorrow, should I tell you that you should have planned better? If you have a death in the family and need to take an extended leave, should you have worked out how you would support your life choices? I think this whole workplace thing is blaming parents when it is a problem with the whole way in which work life is structured.

Britgirl said...

It would be nice if everyone was treated in exactly the same way when it came to benefits. But since this certain benefits come to parents because they are parents, it will be very difficult to get any equality on this front - in my opinion.

Several companies have flex work and all those good things. I work for one of them. I have worked for a company that had less, no flex time, not very good benefits compared to where I work now... the women were the top performers. They never took flex time or demanded preferential treatment. They worked hard and did not expect the company to reorder the workplace around them. When I needed to take time off I never had a problem. They are now CEOs. And they have kids. Pretty good kids. What I am saying is, in many workplaces parents are treated differently. And to treat everyone the same so that the childfree play "catch up" will have a cost. Which is why I think it won't happen.

That cost is probably jobs. Sorry, but I cannot as easily as you ignore the economic realities that I see every day. Notwithstanding the rich CEOs. So,for me, while equality is an ideal, I believe it will be too costly to do. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe as childree workers grow employers will realise that - hey, we count too. But the only way this will be paid for otherwise is government tax breaks to companies, meaning I pay more tax. I pay enough tax already. And as I earn more I will pay even more. And I should be happy when my taxes go to pay for childcare? or fund IVF? Dream on. Have kids? Pay for your own sitter. Most can afford it.

As for a solution - well how about reducing subsidized education for parents who can afford it? Or time off considerations for non-parents which they don't have to justify. Or asking parents to see about kids things in their own time? Or no option to work shorter work weeks?

But the Utopia you describe, to me will never end up as equality for the simple reason that parents are seen as more important that non-parents.

If you want to read in more detail about how the childfree are continually screwed over by Family Friendly America, and have been for years, have a read of Elinor Burkett's "Baby Boon" It's replete with stats facts and figures.

"If you get laid off tomorrow, should I tell you that you should have planned better?"
Actually, if I had planned better I would have saved enough to tide me over. And btw, a few years ago, this did happen and that was partly how I was able to tide myself over. Bad example. Been there, done that.Being laid off is no longer an anomaly it is sadly a fact of life. Plan for it.

"If you have a death in the family and need to take an extended leave, should you have worked out how you would support your life choices? "
That's entirely different, as is your first example. If one gets pregnant as an "accident" there are still choices. You can choose to abort or keep it. If you keep it you make a decision to support it. Yourself. So pregnancy is your choice.

If someone dies, that is outside your control. And employees can take beravement leave. They can also take extended leave, it may be paid or unpaid.

"I think this whole workplace thing is blaming parents when it is a problem with the whole way in which work life is structured".

Perhaps they should carry some blame. No, work is not structured ideally. What we are highlighting is this sense of entitlement and favour that many parents seem to have. They want the promotions AND they want extended time off to bring up kids. They want shorter working hours. They want job share.They want shorter working weeks. They want additional time off with kids in their early years with their jobs held for them.

Whereas I know that extended time off with kids is not the way to earn more in certain jobs. If it takes 60 hours a week to be a top lawyer, and you can't hack it because of children then either don't have children, get a baby sitter, childcare or do another job that is less demanding and doesn't interfere with your childcare. It is really about choices you make and responsibility for them. Like I said I did all the considerations myself.

And by the way benefits for parents? Tends to mean benefits for women in many cases. Like child support/benefit. Not men. Men don't take flex time. Why? Because it will seriously dent their promotion prospects.You can argue that it shouldn't. Promotion means more money. But it does and men know it. Of course, I know the blame is going to be laid at their feet anyway.

I wasn't as brief as I wanted to be, but I'm done on this one.

plain(s)feminist said...

I should be happy when my taxes go to pay for childcare? or fund IVF? Dream on. Have kids? Pay for your own sitter. Most can afford it.

Point of order - I can only speak for the U.S., but childcare here is quite expensive and most *can't* afford it. Especially in my state. Or, I should say, what people can afford is not adequate or safe childcare.

As for a solution - well how about reducing subsidized education for parents who can afford it?

Absolutely with you on not subsidizing ANYTHING (my addition) that people can already afford.

Or time off considerations for non-parents which they don't have to justify.

Interesting. Why *not* ask employees to justify their time off? I mean, pregnant women have to justify maternity leave (probably more in the U.S. than elsewhere - I assume not in Canada). Is it a concern that the reasons will be picked apart and rejected?

Or asking parents to see about kids things in their own time? Or no option to work shorter work weeks?

As for parents seeing about kid things in their own time - it would be nice if kid things were scheduled in a way to make this possible. They aren't. And this is a larger battle. Pediatricians are open during business hours; after-school activities and games and so forth operate on their own schedules and frequently assume that there is a stay at home parent (mom) available.

I can't really speak to shorter work weeks - I don't know how that works.

However, when you talk about the things your taxes pay for from which you don't benefit, you are singling out parents for blame. There are other groups of people you end up spending tax money on, as well, and you don't benefit from this - so why single out parents?

I'm frustrated by an analysis that would force women to have abortions if they can't afford to carry an accidental pregnancy. How is that any different from forcing them to carry the pregnancy? And I continue to be troubled by an analysis that sees everything in terms of choices - choices that are often not freely made. I do understand your point about having chosen not to have kids for financial reasons - I really do. And I'm not suggesting that parents shouldn't be responsible. I have two separate points and they're kind of contradictory. One is that having children or not is a right, not a privilege, as I said earlier. That's a philosophical position. That doesn't mean my general feeling is "go ahead and have kids and let the government take care of them." But with so many working poor, having children quickly becomes something that the majority of the population couldn't do. And that strikes me as a classist issue.

The other part of it, which is more practical, is that accidents happen. If one parent dies, for example, that has a huge impact on the ability of a parent to care for a child financially.

Several times now I have suggested that there could be work - activist work - done to correct inequalities in the workplace. Because I can't tell you *how* to fund the kind of changes I'm talking about doesn't mean they *can't* be funded. I'm not ignoring anything - I'm saying, "I don't know." Because I don't. But the research suggests that the real issue is not paying for it, it's convincing employers that it's worth it to them to do it. And in fact, people used to say that flex time would be too costly - proven wrong.

You've said that you didn't (or that the childfree movement didn't) want to take benefits away from parents, but then your solutions above mostly involved doing just that.

I know you're seeing the workplace situation through a larger lens of not feeling respected for your choices and of being pressured to make different choices. And further, your choices themselves are not respected, while the choices others make (to the extent they are choices, but whatever) to have children are not merely respected, but rewarded. I can appreciate your frustration re. parents' sense of entitlement - entitlement pisses me off, too. And I understand your point that parents are seen as more important than non-parents. I personally don't think this, obviously, but I agree that that is a common belief.

But I don't think the answer is to combat that entitlement and that disrespect by trying to take away benefits that have been hard-fought and won after lengthy struggles, benefits that most people, globally, parents or not, still do not have.

I would also add that it's clear (from what you write here and on your blog) that you've had frustrating experiences with parents in the workplace who haven't done their share and who have benefitted in all these ways that you don't while you were stuck doing their work. My experience has been different. I've not seen this happen. That may place me in the minority, but I do think it's true what they say about a couple of bad apples spoiling the whole barrel.

I think we're probably going to have to agree to disagree on this one, but I'm still holding out for the value of coalition work and I still believe we can change the system. It has, after all, been changed many times before. It's not Utopian, I don't think - it's just the lessons of history.

plain(s)feminist said...

but I always think of y'know how much traction the whole "no special rights for gay people" thing had and has, how easy it is to push that "look what THEY'RE getting while YOU go without! it's NOT FAIR" button.

Exactly. Same thing with affirmative action. There are white people all over who swear that "their" job was given to "a black." I've read some research on this that found that that was an excuse given to the losing applicant simply so that the employer didn't have to deal with telling the person they were not the best candidate. In many cases, though, it's that sense of entitlement again...

I'm still having problems, though, with the approach of the movement. I think a good analogy would be the queer community trying to ban marriage (and, in all fairness, some folks have tried to do exactly this). Others have tried to separate the benefits from the act of marriage, which strikes me as closer to what I was proposing.

andi said...

" Is it a concern that the reasons will be picked apart and rejected?"

Picked apart is not even a concern, for many- if not most- if it's unrelated to child care, it's rejected point blank. I'd like to go back to college, that would ential a reworking of my schedule one day a week, for one semester ( one semester is all I would need to finsih my degree) and I can't because it's not viewed at "important", yet over and over again parents are allowed to rework their schedules to accomadate their kid's activities, not even school related stuff, but after school sport, music lessons, and other interests...those are ok, but furthering my education is not? That's why folks want not to justify their time off.
And in many jobs parents are given first consideration for vacations, sabaticals, weekends, and holidays, another reason that justification should not be necessary. Yes, I've read that you think this is not how it should be but it is how we are routinely treated.

"However, when you talk about the things your taxes pay for from which you don't benefit, you are singling out parents for blame. There are other groups of people you end up spending tax money on, as well, and you don't benefit from this - so why single out parents?"

For me - and others that I know of - it's because parents in my state (NY) are now complaining about the school taxes they pay. There is a bill here in the legislature that would give parents a tax break on their school taxes if they choose to homeschool or use public or private schools- because they 'are paying taxes for schools they don't use". Ok, the next extension of that should be the childfree...we don't use the schools either, but there would be no relief for us. And IMHO - breaks for either group woud be stupid and devistating to the public school system.

Would you be infavour of changing the "child deduction" to "dependant deduction" and extending it - in the same amounts to those who are supporting parents, siblings or significant others finacially?

plain(s)feminist said...

Hi Andi,
Thanks for your comment.

Picked apart is not even a concern, for many- if not most- if it's unrelated to child care, it's rejected point blank. I'd like to go back to college, that would ential a reworking of my schedule one day a week, for one semester ( one semester is all I would need to finsih my degree) and I can't because it's not viewed at "important", yet over and over again parents are allowed to rework their schedules to accomadate their kid's activities, not even school related stuff, but after school sport, music lessons, and other interests...those are ok, but furthering my education is not? That's why folks want not to justify their time off.

And in many jobs parents are given first consideration for vacations, sabaticals, weekends, and holidays, another reason that justification should not be necessary. Yes, I've read that you think this is not how it should be but it is how we are routinely treated.


Thanks for explaining this. I didn't understand before why people wouldn't want to justify the time, but this makes sense to me now.

This is tremendously unfair. I mean...really. Particularly with just one semester left - I can see why you are fed up. I would be, too. It just seems mean, and I'm angry on your behalf.

For me - and others that I know of - it's because parents in my state (NY) are now complaining about the school taxes they pay. There is a bill here in the legislature that would give parents a tax break on their school taxes if they choose to homeschool or use public or private schools- because they 'are paying taxes for schools they don't use".

Just have to say that, as a former New Yorker, that pisses me off, and there are a lot of parents who are also pissed off by this (this is the school voucher deal, correct?). If I understand it correctly, it's a way to defund public education (I think Pataki was a big proponent of this). And it sucks, and it's not fair, and it basically allows people who have the money to either stay home and homeschool their kids instead of working outside the home or to send their kids to private school to get a further deduction, leaving everyone else to foot the bill. I'm a big supporter of public schools - and, further, of employers working with employees to allow for them to continue their education. The whole thing makes me furious.

Ok, the next extension of that should be the childfree...we don't use the schools either, but there would be no relief for us. And IMHO - breaks for either group woud be stupid and devistating to the public school system.

I agree.

Would you be infavour of changing the "child deduction" to "dependant deduction" and extending it - in the same amounts to those who are supporting parents, siblings or significant others finacially?

Oh, absolutely, and I'll go further than that - for ex., I think health insurance as it is (I'd prefer universal health care) should be able to be extended, not just to spouses and dependent children, but to siblings, etc. - whomever the insured wants to put on his/her insurance. I'm for anything that equalizes things - I don't want to take away the benefits (for the most part) that parents have because I feel that most of them are necessary. BUT - I do not want parents to get them at other people's expense, and I do not want CF people or ANY people to not have the same options to invest in their own families and lives and futures.

I think the main opposition to these kinds of changes that make benefits less dependent on family status is coming from the religious right, who wants to keep marriage and children central to citizenship. But I know a lot of feminists and queer activists who would support many of the kinds of changes we're talking about here.

Thanks for coming back and for posting. The discussion is continuing on the front page.

Anonymous said...

Regarding pets versus children, I have to say that anybody who's offended at having their children compared to someone else's pet should get a life. I have one daughter and three cats, and I sometimes joke that the cats are her sisters. For some people, pets are truly their children (I add that they're the children who never grow up - but then again, you don't have to worry about their college education).

Actually, before I had my daughter, I worked with a woman with two grown kids. She didn't have any pictures of her children at work, but she had one of her dog. So I asked her, "How come you have a picture of Sadie (dog) but not your kids?" My colleague replied, "She's my baby now." And we both laughed.

I will say I share your reservations about some childfree sites (which, of course, do not represent everybody who chooses not to have children). But sometimes parents don't look much better. In my view getting offended because someone thinks of their pet as their child looks as silly as some childfree posters' getting in a tizzy because someone tells them, "You'd make such a good parent" - which I would consider a compliment, just as I would consider being told I would make a great doctor a compliment even though I have no interest in medicine.

So maybe both sides could use a little maturity.

Emilia (emilia_e_murphy@yahoo.ca)