Family Friendly for Whose Family?
Do workers without children reap the same rewards as do their colleagues who are parents? Equal work for equal pay has long been the American mantra, but are parents more equal? The childfree say it is dangerous to promote one lifestyle and set of personal choices above others. Granting special privileges to those that reproduce creates unprivilege and subtle social pressure for those that don’t.
Parenting is a choice. With that choice comes responsibilities. In the last decade, as parents have struggled to balance responsibilities at home and at work, they have simultaneously raised the bar politically and in the workplace.
During the 106th Congress, dozens of bills were introduced to increase the child tax credit, award stay-at-home parent grants to return to school, and expand the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act.
Childless adults have had enough. They feel they have become second-class citizens in the eyes of their government and their employers. They say family-friendly policies that have become the norm, place an unfair burden on childfree workers and don’t consider their families or lifestyles. Is it fair to give tax credits to parents regardless of income? (CNN 1) Should the childfree be expected to work extra hours because they don’t have children? Should employee benefit plans reward fertility rather than longevity or merit?
The childfree see a world of colleagues who are stressed out because they’ve chosen to believe the lie–you can have it all. (Burkett 55) You can have children, careers, and excel at both.
They say we’ve taken a step backward to the days when married men made more than women doing the same work because they had families to support. They’ve watched as children invade places sacred to adults such as R-rated movies and the workplace itself,
(Belkin 32) employers create benefit packages that are full of maternity leave, pregnancy coverage, and other child-friendly perks that mean parents effectively earn more than non parents for doing the same job. They’ve grown tired of parents who play the kiddie card and exempt themselves from overtime, travel, weekend, and holiday duty as well as employers who expect non parents to take up the slack. They watch as parents get away with things like bringing children to work, coming in late because of day-care issues, or working at home to save on child care.
The childfree are mad and they’re not taking it anymore. For a starter, they reject the term childless.
Childless has a connotation of loss or regret.
Childfree implies satisfaction and deliberate choice. To be childfree means giving thought to not having children as opposed to the contemplation most parents give to having them. (Belkin 33)
While in the past adult workers without children may have grumbled privately about the benefits afforded their coworkers with children for fear of being called child haters, they have recently begun to organize. Two groups in particular, the Childfree Network and No Kidding! and have emerged to give voice to what may turn out to be a political/social movement to protect the rights of adults without children. (Burkett 45)
The Childfree Network is a four-year-old organization with a mailing list of 5,000 people and regional chapters in 33 cities.
It focuses on several issues–political and social. First and foremost is respect for the decision to be childfree. People are childfree for many reasons, but whether it is by choice or circumstance, it is a lifestyle that deserves as much respect as any other lifestyle choice. No one goes up to the mother of an infant and says *Just wait, you’ll change your mind, yet choosing to remain childfree will definitely cause people to see you as odd. Society places pressure on people to have children against their better judgement. The childfree point to the number of abused and neglected children as evidence that without societal pressure to reproduce, more people would realize that they don’t want children.
Another issue the organization is tackling is that some workplaces actually are child-friendly, not family-friendly. In these companies, benefits are structured with more opportunities for parents, and less flexibility for non parents. The childfree point to the fact that some employers expect childless employees to fill in when parents take .