Monday, December 01, 2003

The Choice to Have Kids

(I'm back after half a pot of coffee, two large teas, one coke, and a beer. Is it really bad for your health if the only beverages you drink contain alcohol or caffeine?)

Last month, my good friend, Susan, called. She was really pissed off because all the parents left work early the day before to take their kids trick or treating. She had to stay at work until 10:00 to pick up the slack.

Susan said if you choose to have kids then you have to accept the penalties. You can't have everything. It was not fair that she had to toil while others played.

This sentiment was echoed by a commenter over at the Invisible Adjunct. Chris said, "To have a child is a choice one makes, right, and with that choice come certain responsibilities and consequences." People do have to choose between the kid and the career.

(I am a bit afraid to attack this topic. A good number of my friends don't have children or are trying very hard to have them. I don't want to offend or hurt anyone, but I feel strongly about this topic.)

I don't think it is a choice to have kids or not for most people (though not everybody). Making babies is what we do. Having kids was not a choice for me or my husband. When and how many, yes. But there was no question that we needed kids in our lives. Just as one's sexuality can't be chosen, having kids isn't a choice either. Being a parent is part of who I am.

Just as we shouldn't discriminate against homosexuals and feel that it is right to accommodate people with disabilities, society has to accommodate parents. That means changes in the workplace. And it means sacrifices from the childless.

And the childless benefit from the well adjusted children of others, as other commenters at the Invisible Adjunct point out. The childless benefit from the next generation as they enter old age and require expensive social services funded by my kid's pay checks. The childless also benefit from my kids being well adjusted and not requiring extensive social services or jail time.

And when we leave work early to treat or treat, to care for sick kids, or to go to a school meeting, we're still working. We're raising healthy, happy kids, which is just a different kind of work.

Having kids is an incredible sacrifice, and not only in the sleep department. My friends without kids may put in an extra couple of hours on a Friday night, but parents work all weekend to feed the kids and keep them safe. It's also a huge expense. Couples who work full time without the expense of childcare or diapers are much better off than we are. They have houses, while we live in a dumpy apartment. They take vacations and only pay for two plane seats. They have two full time salaries with benefits. Children are the leading indicator of poverty.

What are the implications of saying that having kids is an innate human need? Have conservatives used this argument to keep women barefoot and pregnant? I'm not sure, but I think the choice argument has been used to keep families out of the workplace. And somewhat guilty for burdening others with their responsibilities.

UPDATE: Harry at Crooked Timber picked up this post. He argrees with most, but not all, of these ideas. Harry asks "What is a sensible family policy from the point of view of non-parents? and What are parents owed?" Go there to get his views and comment.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

< ? Redhead Blogs # >

< ? Blogging Mommies # >