Thanks to Jill, for blogging about this otherwise I wouldnt’ have seen it. Apparently, the Slate columnist Emily YoffeYoffe (known as "Dear Prudence") has been taking some heat for advice she gave to a woman wrote that she and her fiance don’t want children, and wrote in seeking advice on how to break the news to family members.
Yoffe’s answer was basically "reconsider not having children," which then started a firestorm of emails blasting her response. If you ask me, Yoffe’s response to the avalanche of emails isn’t likely to warm anyone to her point of view.
What is going on when there is so much scorn for parenthood—the way a society perpetuates itself? Fertility rates are much in the news these days. The United States is rare among developed nations in that it is still producing children at a replacement rate. But many countries collectively agree with the people who wrote to me—that children are a tantrum wrapped in a diaper and not worth the trouble. So, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, among others, are going down the demographic tubes, with shrinking pools of young workers to support growing masses of seemingly immortal retirees.
Excuse me? Scorn for parenting? Why does everyone need to have kids? I got news for Yoffe. Scorn for parenting isn’t coming from people who choose not to have kids. It’s coming from a socioeconomic system that doesn’t support families in the first place.
First off, let me say this. I have a great deal of respect for people who decide early on that they don’t want children, and who thus remain childless by choice. Four years into parenting myself, I can tell you that it’s a huge amount of work. And this is coming from someone who wanted to be a parent. Even when you want it, it’s work. But if you want and welcome the experience, it’s highly rewarding work. And yes, as Yoffe points out, it’s fun. For every moment of frustration or exasperation I’ve experience at least two or three moments of joy and wonder with Parker. But if it wasn’t something I wanted in the first place, I’d probably have fewer of those happier moments.
If you ask me, there are probably a lot of people who shouldn’t be parents, but who fall into it by accident or because everyone from thier mother to the mainstream media is telling them should. And probably a good deal of those situations end up being detrimental to child and parent (and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity). So, if there are people who know in advance they they shouldn’t or don’t want to be parents, and decide to remain childless, I applaud them. The world would be a better place if more children grew up in families where they were wanted.
As for scorn for parenting, like I said it’s not the people who choose to remain childless that are the source of that. Look around you. Wouldn’t a society that values children, families and parenting make sure parents could earn living wages? Wouldn’t a society that values children and families make sure that every family had good, reliable healthcare? Wouldn’t a society that values children provide more access to reliable childcare for parents who have to work to keep their families afloat? Wouldn’t a society that valued families structure work in such a way that parents could work and spend time with their kids?
I could go on, but you get the picture. People who choose not to have children aren’t necessarily "scornful of parenting." It’s a job that isn’t valued much across the board in our culture, and probably because it’s still largely considered "women’s work." (Of course, in our house parenting is a man’s job too.)
I could also go on about Yoffe’s ranting about birth rates as though the human race is in danger of extinction, but that’s another post for another day. For now, if we can fix the above, then maybe Yoffe’s argument would make more sense. But then again, I doubt it.