B, I, N – G – O

I shamelessly self promote on a few websites, including on Feministe most Sundays. I always try to click through to a few of the other posts. I read this post at eriepressible(tm), and was able to mark off at least two squares on Mommy Wars Bingo. In a nutshell, the link at Feministe complains that Mommy bloggers are “unsupportive” (huh?) of childfree bloggers. Then, when you click through, she proceeds to serve up some rewarmed leftovers of childfree stereotypes that are so predictable they made it on my bingo card. I didn’t see the video she is complaining about, but I don’t feel the need to follow the trail to get to her tired stereotypes.

She is upset that some prominent mommy bloggers “do quite the half-assed job of even pretending to understand.” Understand what? That the simple fact that children exist are a problem to this childfree blogger? I am not defending that one of the mommy bloggers thinks she will change her mind about wanting to have kids. If that was it, there would be no rant here. I have never heard someone say that someone needs to be a parent to learn how to love. If anyone said something that stupid, why make up for it by serving up tired, divisive, angry stereotypes? How hard is she trying to understand what it takes to parent?

The blogger complaining about a misbehaving child in a coffee shop wasn’t complaining about all children in public, “…unless said children are behaving like ill-mannered, tantrum-throwing, undisciplined little assholes and their parents aren’t doing jackshit to alleviate that situation. Most of us don’t go around breathing fire on perfectly well-mannered children.”

Why should children be perfectly well-mannered? Adults aren’t! Should I complain about the childfree drunks that used to vomit on the table of the Denny’s when I worked the nightshift and pretend all college students were like that? What about the smokers at my medical school who sit right outside our classroom door and blow smoke on us every time we leave the classroom? I could list an encyclopedia of adult behavior I am not fond of, but I don’t need to make this a child vs. adult issue. Parents CANNOT control every move their child makes. Yes, I have even had a problem with children in a coffee shop before. It was 11 o clock at night, and the kids were running around. But, the parents were visibly drunk, laughing screechingly (much louder than the kids were playing), and had the children out way past their bedtime, which made them ill tempered and out of place. When the parents were confronted by the staff, they got belligerent. Adult behavior problem, not child behavior problem. And an exception, not the rule. Wow, some parent took a kid to a rated R movie at 11 at night. What about the other 60% of the audience or so that behaved responsibly and got a baby sitter? What about the rest of us parents that don’t go to movies very often or at all? PEOPLE can be assholes. Not just parents. Not just people under some magical age with higher standards of behavior or people who are breeders.

I wanted to reply directly to the post, but she requires registration to comment on her blog. I could see the irony of someone with “Mom” in her handle registering to post a comment on this post, so I didn’t.

She predictably blames the mommy bloggers for stereotyping, then pretends that parents screw the childfree “at every turn”, not pulling our weight in the workplace, expecting special treatment as the childfree “constantly pick up your slack.” Excuse me? I get more done than almost every childfree member of my medical school class. I have never, ever asked for more than my fair share, and have yet to see it happen in any of the many workplaces of which I have been a part. Many of my childfree classmates stumble into class late, if at all. They want days off for ridiculous things, like traveling to see their long distance lovers, or to nurse their hangovers, or just to take enough naps. Are they all like that? Of course not, and I would never, ever pretend that they were. But spare me the stereotype that all parents are traipsing off to their children’s ballet recitals constantly and asking for equal pay as their slaving childfree counterparts. My husband and I go to work and school sick occasionally because we 1. have work ethics and 2. don’t get to take our own sick days off, because we used them already for our children. We scramble for our measly support system to help us on early release days and teacher’s work days. People with disabilities, sick adult partners, sick parents who become dependents (oh my GOD the nerve!), other interests, drug habits, etc. can all ask for and need time off from work. Some people come to work and don’t work at all, like the asshole I used to sit next to who would fight with his wife loudly for half of his workday, and spend the rest of his workday looking at pictures of boats. That’s what performance reviews are for.

I can’t tell you how many times my childfree classmates tell me how overwhelmed they are when I try to get them involved in an extracurricular activity, only to proceed to talk about the yoga class they are attending later, or show me their new pedicure. I am on the executive board of three extracurricular clubs and run the HIV testing clinic for a fourth club, on top of seeking a dual degree. The president of the club that is responsible for the HIV clinic (the only club she is involved in, and it never has any activities other than the clinic) told me she didn’t want to “waste her precious free time” getting certified to do the HIV testing. They don’t have time? Fine. We all make our choices with our time. But being a breeder doesn’t make one especially more likely to ask others to pick up our slack. I make my decisions on how to juggle my time, which involves not going to her precious movies at 11 p.m., getting pedicures, or getting my eyebrows threaded. If my childfree classmates want to, good for them. But it makes me angry if one of them wants me to pick up her slack to do it. Will I stereotype all my childfree classmates as self-centered and lazy because of it? Please call me out if I do.

Eriepressible ™, there is a reason people are calling you angry and discriminatory. You sound angry and discriminatory.

I will leave off with this excellent piece from Motherlode about how a mom of a child with autism is seen by judgmental eyes while trying to check out at a register.

And, do me a favor. Work on that “understanding” thing you seem to treasure so much from others.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “B, I, N – G – O

  1. Madame Filth

    i can see not being into having kids or being a mother. i really can. but hostility toward mothers is a whole different animal. bitter much? geez.

  2. I always like how the “childfree” complain that we’re screwing them . . . by providing the future workers that will pay for their social security. How terrible of us!

  3. You’re perfectly welcome to register and comment on my blog. If I didn’t like having intelligent, civil discussions, I wouldn’t have a blog. ;)

    The hostility felt by some in the childfree community comes from several different directions.

    First of all, with regard to the professional arena, whether or not it has been YOUR experience isn’t really the point. Many of us have to pick up the slack of our childed co-workers when they have to rush out to tend to a sick child, attend a parent-teacher conference, or get refreshments to the soccer field by a certain time. In the past, I worked for a company that gave first preference for taking vacation around Christmas and Easter to those who had a “family,” which meant children. Apparently, those of us who didn’t have children were all raised in orphanages and had no family… and certainly couldn’t possibly have any family on the other side of the country that we might like to visit around the holidays. I also know people who have worked for companies that extended the option of flex-time only to parents. Good for you that you’re such a stellar worker. That absolutely has not been my experience. I really can’t help it if you don’t believe me or the other childfree individuals (and some childed – apparently fathers tend to get shafted, too) who have had similar experiences.

    In one of my past blog entries on the childfree topic, I espoused my support for employers to offer “smorgasbord benefits,” where each benefit is assigned a point value (depending on what that benefit actually costs the company) and employees are given a certain number of points. Benefits would range from health insurance for the employee, health insurance for the employee’s family, more vacation days, parking/mass transit passes, health club memberships, etc. Employees could then choose the benefits most important to him/her. Parents might choose the family health insurance and vacation days, while childfree employees might prefer to take advantage of the mass transit passes and health club membership. I’m not advocating screwing parents. I’m advocating equity.

    Oh, how times have changed. When my parents raised their children, we were taught from a very early age how to behave in public. When in restaurants, we stayed in our seats, we used our “inside voices,” we didn’t throw food, and there were certainly no tantrums. My parents told us if we misbehaved, we would all have to leave and it would be a very long time before we were allowed out with them… that if we were going to act like babies, they would have to get us a babysitter. And we knew our parents did not make idle threats. My siblings and I were not an anomaly. Most of my friends have related to me that they were raised quite similarly. So, the question is why aren’t people raising their kids like that now? I honestly don’t know, but I do know that having a child running around in a restaurant is dangerous, not only to the child, but to the waitstaff and other patrons, as well. Having a child kicking the back of your seat in a movie theater or on an airplane is incredibly annoying to most people. Is it really that difficult for a parent to insist his/her child not do that? Having children run screaming through a coffee shop while their parent chats away on a cellphone is simply rude. But to answer your question, yes, I would complain about a rude, obnoxious adult, too. It’s bad behavior I abhor, not the age of the person exhibiting the bad behavior. Perhaps I’m just a magnate for parents who can’t/won’t discipline their children?

    And I’ve heard the story about parents who use all their sick days up to stay home with sick kids and then the parents have to go to work sick. I’m not sure I understand how spreading cold/flu germs to co-workers is an admirable thing, but I guess that’s just me.

    The childfree have BINGO cards as well. They contain such common phrases as “Who will take care of you when you’re old,” “you’ll change your mind,” “people who don’t want children are selfish,” and a litany of other rude, dismissive, and condescending phrases that we hear quite often.

    I guess it’s a case of the age-old adage, “walk a mile in my shoes.” My experiences have obviously been quite different than yours, but that doesn’t make them any less valid.

    And, before I hit submit, I have to ask, what the heck is “having your eyebrows threaded?” Never heard of it, but it sounds rather painful.

    • MomTFH

      What is the point is that you are generalizing individual experiences that you have had and are using them to paint all parents that way. “Kids these days”…please. Kids misbehaved in ancient Egypt and will misbehave in our satellites once the Earth is dead and gone. And, believe it or not, I am sure some intolerant adults complained about your behavior when you were a child at least once. Oh, gasp! Yes, it may have happened. And, it may happen about your behavior as an adult. You don’t reach a magic age in which you are suddenly immune to being labeled as an asshole.

      Yes, children can misbehave in restaurants, but most don’t. As I pointed out, so do adults. My son did kick the back of an airplane chair all the way from California to Florida once, but I could not physically hold his legs the whole way. He would have been screaming, which many people would also find annoying. A parent cannot completely control every move a child makes, no matter how many threats they make or how much discipline they use. No, you cannot raise a toddler to not kick a chair that is inches from his feet when he sits there for four hours strapped in. I begged, pleaded, threatened, did everything I could to get him to stop but he has (gasp!) free will and his own brain! He would stop for about fifteen minutes, and then start again. That is completely age appropriate. All I could do is apologize profusely to the person in front of him. I am sorry I flew with my toddler son, but my uncle died and I chose to go to his funeral. I could list many adult behaviors I have found annoying on planes, and there are many, but that is not the point. It is not something to make a philosophy around, or to blame whole groups of people for. Complain about individuals, not entire groups of existence.

      Not all sicknesses are contagious. My husband and I have been to work and school with sicknesses such as headaches, sinus allergies, etc. Please, again, don’t jump to conclusions.

      I don’t need to walk a mile in your shoes. I have many childfree friends. I have not said such ridiculous things to them, and if they said some of the ridiculous things that you said on your blog, I wouldn’t use it as an excuse to pretend that all childfree people are the same. As for your work experience, do what you asked the mommy bloggers to do. Talk about specific examples. Don’t pretend that all business places discriminate against the childless. I was part of an EEOC lawsuit (great case, but we didn’t have the legal support to beat the million dollar team that my former company had) when my former workplace “made an example out of the mothers” to show how tough the new CEO was. New mothers were not allowed to telecommute, but single men who were friends of the owner were. Pregnant women were fired. I have heard that people are being fired or not being hired now if they have families because of the increased cost in health benefits. Let’s not even start on the “mommy tax” in lost wages.

      Just be reasonable and fair and don’t make sweeping hostile generalizations if you are complaining about others doing the same thing in the same breath.

  4. I’m not sure what you want here. I DID give very specific examples that occurred in places where some friends and I worked. Did you read my comment? Did I say that every childed person I ever met was an asshole? Please, show me where that is. What more specific information do you require for me to be believed that it did, in fact, happen? Names? Addresses? Phone numbers? Your specific examples are somehow more valid than mine? Why is that?

    And why is a mother’s anger regarding work situations (hello? momsrising anyone?) okay, but anger on the part of the childfree is completely out of line? The childfree are supposed to just suck it up and take it? Um, no thanks. If I feel someone is getting the short end of the stick, I’m going to scream about it from the top of the mountains… as should anyone who is being discriminated against. Not only do I get angry and scream on my own behalf, but I use my voice to benefit others via advocating for same-sex marriage (although it wouldn’t benefit me in the least) and CASA (Gasp! The evil childfree woman actually volunteers to help children… run for your life!)

    Oh, and by the way, had I been the person in the seat in front of your son, the solution would have been simple. I would have just suggested you switch seats with me. ;) Of course, I also know that when my parents told me NO, that’s what it meant and there was no bargaining – knock it off or there would be consequences. But, you know, that’s just my experience (about which I’m surely lying because you seem not to believe a single thing I’ve written. Perhaps I should provide you with my parents’ e-mail address and you can ask them how they did it?). But again, my experiences are apparently so much less valid than yours.

    Geez, and you think the childfree are angry? Try re-reading your OP and comment. You completely ignore every example I give or call me a liar. Way to have an intelligent and civil discussion. Brava.

  5. MomTFH

    Your OP did not have specific examples, even if your comment on here did. It had sweeping generalizations. Seeing a child misbehave in a coffee shop is not discrimination against the childless.

    I never said I don’t believe a single thing you have written. I just think your post about people not being understanding of your situation and making sweeping assumptions was incredibly hypocritical and ironic. I managed to reply to it without making the same mistakes.

    And, I think it is simply laughable that you seem to think that your generation (whatever set of years that is) was somehow a magic time of no misbehavior and amazing parenting. That your parents somehow had magic discipline skills that we slackers don’t seem to possess. That you never misbehaved as a child. That your parents’ “consequences” threat (oh, parents these days know nothing of these magic things called “consequences”) would somehow magically change age appropriate behavior in a toddler.

    I am not ignoring any examples. I simply pointed out that your post was full of sweeping generalizations and over reaching angry comments about all parents being slackers and all childfree people having to pick up our slack. It was incredibly hostile and overboard. There were no specific examples there. There were no “this has been my experience at one place of business” caveat.

    Where is your acknowledgment that you were making assumptions about my husband and I working with contagious diseases? Where is your acknowledgment that parents, especially mothers, experience serious discrimination all the time?

    Seriously, I am applying for residency as a doctor in a few years. I am wondering whether to even mention my children in my applications or on interviews. Do you really think your childless issues even compare to this kind of situation? How many jobs do you think you would have to hide your childless status to get? Telling a residency program you are staunchly against having children is exactly what they want to hear. I have heard time and again how much less productive mothers who are doctors are seen as (even though many argue we make “better”, more empathetic doctors, and our”lack of productivity” is simply due to spending more time with each patient.)

    In every interview for medical school, I had to defend being a mother. I had to defend how I was going to juggle my time. I guarantee not one childless applicant had to defend their time management skills. My time management has seriously improved as a mother. Will I make sweeping generalizations that we parents are better at it that the childless? No, because that would make me a big hypocrite right now.

    I never said anger on the part of the childless is out of line. I said sweeping hypocritical hostility about having to pick up our slack is out of line. I said calling children assholes based on the behavior of a few outliers is out of line. I said assuming your parents and their generation had some sort of parenting secret that has been lost by stupid parents of my generation and that you and your siblings and your peers were angels and current children are devils is blatantly ridiculous.

  6. Oh dear. It seems you’ve changed my words to fit your argument.

    What I said was “Most of my friends have related to me that they were raised quite similarly.” You conveniently twisted that around to “your siblings and your peers were angels…” “Peers” is certainly a much broader term than “most of my friends.”

    Of course, you completely misrepresented my “sweeping hypocritical hostility” and what you perceived to be “full of sweeping generalizations and over reaching angry comments about all parents being slackers…” in my OP, too. What I said was “If you expect us to work every holiday for you so you can spend it with your kids…” Clearly, (at least to someone with moderate reading comprehension skills) if YOU are not one of those people, then I wasn’t referring to YOU.

    I have no idea why someone would mention his or her parental status in a job interview or on an application. If memory serves, my current employer knew I didn’t have kids before she even scheduled my interview (small town, small network of people in my chosen profession). However, in past positions, I was never asked and I never volunteered the information. Ditto marital status. And ditto just about any other aspect of my personal life. But that’s just me.

  7. MomTFH

    Look, I think it was pretty obvious “you” referred to employed parents as a whole. Ditto on the other sweeping generalizations that you seemed to detest coming from others. If “you” know you won’t change your mind about having kids, why does it upset “you” when people say that? See how stupid that sounds? I just think someone who seems so concerned about others understanding her frustrations and avoiding sweeping stereotypes and judgments should extend the same consideration to others and scrutiny of her own tone and word choice. You also said your generation quite specifically, so I am not changing anything.

    It’s been interesting communicating with you, thanks. I am done with this useless bickering.

  8. Hi–I just stumbled across your blog from somewhere (???) and have been completely fascinated by this discussion…I went to the other blog and tried to read her rant, but ran out of interest before I got to the end.

    First, your blog post was great–totally well-reasoned.

    Second, to settle this discussion, I think statistics would be very helpful: How much do mothers earn compared to childless women? How many mothers are employed in management positions compared to childless women? Etc. So if we learn through our statistical analysis that moms are raking in the big bucks compared to non-moms, then I guess we could call that discrimination against the childless–but somehow I doubt that’s how the data will turn out. Of course the argument could be made that mothers just don’t work as hard and don’t really want the upper-level jobs, but then that’s the same argument used by explain the wage disparity between men and women, and we all know that’s bullsh*t.

    Third, here’s an idea, how about we AS A SOCIETY decide we VALUE CHILDREN inherently, and stop looking at them just one more way us wimmin are trying to screw the system. Regardless of who their parents are, how they are raised, how they are behaving in the present moment, let’s just decide that hey, kids are great and they are valuable to us as a society, in and of themselves, but also becasue they are our future doctors, air plane pilots, dentists, wait staff, politicians, reporters, and that if we treat them well (ALL of them, not just our own) it is good for ALL of us, as a society, 10, 20, 30 years down the line. I have heard tell that in countires like Spain and Italy people LOVE kids–just love them, love to see them in public, etc. Let’s try to adopt that attitude.

    Fourth and last–last week one of my (childless) co-workers took a sick day because his DOG kept him up all night. Who picked up HIS slack??? If I’d taken a sick day every time one of my kids kept me up all night, I would have worked approximately six months out of the last seven years.

    So that’s is. Love your blog. Bookmarked it.

  9. These children that run screaming through a coffee shop were, as Emma state, raised differently than she was. And different MUST be BAD. Not only do they fail to meet her cultural standards for “good behavior,” but so do their parents.

    America’s first major eugenic organizations, like the Race Betterment Foundation, defined eugenics as “good parenting.” These versions of eugenics attempted to help all children, but they still depended on distinguishing between good and bad parents. http://tinyurl.com/cuybk8

    The American eugenics movement prior to 1920 used a variety of words to classify persons of low intelligence, such as feebleminded, moron, imbecile, and idiot. Or in Emma’s case, on her blog, accusing a person with whom she’s had an online disagreement as someone who cannot read.

    Parents who do not force their child into submission and “allow” them to run screaming through a coffee shop have not done a good job in acculturating their children according to Emma’s standards. Is it appropriate to assume that everyone should have the same upbringing as Emma?

    With a background in critical pedagogy and bilingual and multicultural education, I’ve seen how culturally and linguistically diverse children and adolescents suffer from this attitude. Biased teachers perceive that certain children are “acting up” and pathologize their behavior without once stopping to think that the child was raised with an entirely different set of values, circumstances and cultural expectations than they were.

    The challenge to Emma would be to imagine that others might not share a life experience that is identical to hers, nor should they try to mimic her upbringing just to make her feel more comfortable in public. To demand anything different of others and their children can be filed right under “Eugenics” and we’ve all seen how that turns out.

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