Those without kids

Linnea Ista lkista at unm.edu
Thu Apr 27 03:40:48 EST 2000



Deirdre Sholto-Douglas wrote:

> : How many of our (childless) readers have heard
> : the comment "you have it easy ...." from a tired parent?
>
> ...as someone who's been on both sides of the coin, I can say that
> my childfree days *were* a *lot* easier.  Maybe I didn't have fewer
> committments, but I had fewer unanticipated disruptions.  Those
> who don't have children will never know the joy of having a four year
> throw up on your shoes ten minutes before having to leave for a
> conference...will never be interrupted in the middle of an experiment
> by a phone call from the school saying "Little so-and-so has a fevre,
> can you pick them up?"...or the utter dismay of having a spouse working
> late, no sitter, small children and a call from the lab saying "We've
> got a problem, can you come in?"

> >From a parental point of view, you *do* have it easy.  And I say
> that from the perspective of someone who's jealous of the days
> when going to an out-of-state conference meant finding someone to
> feed the cat for a couple days instead of drumming up a support
> network that a multi-national corporation would envy.  I wouldn't
> trade the spawn for anything, but I'd really, *really* like to
> return to the days when, if you made plans you had a good probability
> of keeping them.
>

But, here is the rub.  Speaking for myself, I was well aware of the
responsibilities and interruptions that come from having children and *that
was part of the reason I chose not to have them*.

If you did not know that would be part of the gig when you decided to become
a parent, I am very sorry.  But it is not the fault of those of us who do not
have children that you made this decision. Too often we are treated as if it
IS and that we OWE parents something.

Don't get me wrong. I like kids (why do we always have to add that caveat?).
I have friends with kids and enjoy helping out with my "nieces" whenever I
can.  I realize that socializing with people with kids means that I have to
make accommodations that I don't with my childless friends.  I do these
things  willingly. I believe in that "village" concept. But guess what? *I*
get to choose my village.

When I, and I think other childless people, get really upset is at the
attitude that somehow we should feel guilty for not having kids.


>
> : or the accusation that we're too selfish?  or that it is somehow
> : unfair that we don't have that child-commitment, and have
> : more flexibility?  i agree with Linnea--
>
> Believe me, you do.  Have a couple kids and watch what happens
> to your flexibility.  You may think you're overwhelmed now, but
> add larvel humans into the equation and "overwhelmed" takes on a
> whole new meaning.
>
> Parents, for the most part, aren't trying to minimise your troubles
> or discomforts, they're simply jealous.  (Gad, I know I am.) From
> where I sit, I'd *love* to have the ability to work late without
> making 15 phone calls, to read journals at home without having to
> worry that they may end up chewed by a teething toddler and to
> simply come home from a trying, frustrating day and *relax*, rather
> than switching hats and enduring a trying, frustrating evening of
> laundry, homework, teen-age angst and juvenile mayhem.
>
> : people need to respect and support either choice.
>
> I've no problem with respecting the childless...as I said, I'm
> frequently envious of their freedom, but all too often, those
> folks who lack mobile recombinant DNA in their lives, fail to
> understand that those of us that *do* have it, have fewer choices
> and options.  And those of us that are trapped between *two*
> generations (such as myself with children on one side and ageing,
> infirm parents on the other) are accountable to so many people
> besides themselves that's it's no wonder they sometimes eye the
> single person and think "Gad, if only you *knew*..."
>

As I said before, I think most of us were/are pretty cognizant of the
responsibilities.  And opted out.


>
> Not ever single or childless person knows what it's like to be
> a parent, but *every* parent remembers what it was like to be
> single and childless.
>

But childless at 36? It is much different  now than than when I was in my mid
or late 20s.  I think regardless of whether you have children or not, you
start getting more personal obligations as you get older.  I also think that
personal obligations tend to take up the time available.  And for me that
includes many people with children.  And occasionally I DO leave work to help
them out.

I also think that priorities change as we get older for everyone.  There
seems to be an assumption that us childless folks continue to act as if we
were 22 and fancy free for the rest of our lives.  The main difference
between the "lifestyle" I and my friends who are parents are living is that,
because the kids are all pretty young, I get a little more sleep ;-).

And not all childless people are single.  I am not.


>
> : As I've said previously, this is a hard profession.
> : Not having children does not make science suddenly
> : warm, fuzzy, understanding, and supportive.  It will be tough
> : regardless.   Be realistic and make your decisions for you.
>
> *Nothing* make science warm and fuzzy...but having options or, at
> the very least, understanding from one's peers, be they parents or
> childless, certainly makes *this* researcher less inclined to foam
> at the mouth or grind molars to dust.
>

I think that most of us childless folks DO understand and empathize the best
we can to our supposedly limited capacity. For example, I know that someone I
am working with closely now has to take care of his daughter until she goes
to daycare at 8:00 A.M. two days a week, and that three days he needs to be
gone by about 4:45 to pick her up.  Or that he will occasionally stay home
when she is sick.  This is no big deal.  We schedule around it.  On the other
hand, he is pretty accommodating of the fact that I live 1/2 hour away from
the lab, whereas he lives five minutes and is pretty cool about stopping a
reaction at 10:00 P.M. so that I don't have to come in really late at night.

It would be a totally different story, if, however, it were presented in a
"poor me, I can't get my work done today and you HAVE to take over for me
because you see I am a parent and you are not so therefore my life is harder
than yours and you owe me" sort of manner.

If someone is jealous that I have more time than they, honestly, too bad.  I
did make your decision for you. I respect that decision.  I am willing to
help you out if you ask respectfully.  I am willing to pay taxes for schools
(but don't get me started on the whole "vouchers" thing). I am willing to
lead youth groups or, because I don't have children of my own and am a little
more flexible, be the person who comes over to take care of Susie so that her
parents can have a much needed night out.

But I am not going to held accountable for your  decision, no more than I
expect the business majors who graduated the same year as I did to buy me a
new car because they are making 10x what I am.  I am willing to work so that
perhaps pay between biologists and people with MBAs is more equitable.  I am
also willing to work for more "family friendly" work environments for my
colleagues.

I refuse to feel guilty or obligated because I do not have children and am
very  resentful of those who attempt to make me feel guilty or obligated
because they do.

Linnea









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