On children and the child-free.

megaphoneI am on record, several times over, as feeling very strongly that only people who actually want to have children should have children.

If you are child-free by choice, that is an excellent choice, and I honestly and happily support you in making it. I cannot for the life of me understand why family, friends, and often complete strangers feel the need to pressure the child-free into reproducing, or explain to them the error of their ways. People get to be who they are, not who we want them to be. Period. And if someone in your life hasn’t figured that out yet, send ’em to me.

And having said that.

Every once and a while, one hears complaints from the child-free that we breeders get an unfair number of Life Perks, simply for having failed to use birth control. This occasionally comes up around things like parental leave and/or “I have to go home early today to pick up my son.” Yesterday, apropos of the fiscal cliff, it came up around the very notion of a Child Tax Credit.

And here’s the thing: I will not force anyone to breed, nor suggest that if they don’t they’re lesser humans or even “missing out.” But I will remind the child-free that much as society is not made up exclusively of People Like Me, society is also not made up of People Like You. Indeed, the human collective that is “society” has a vested interest in the pre-adults produced by People Like Me, whether an individual member of society actually likes pre-adults and wants them in his or her individual life, or not.

Which is to say: When I have a little more dosh to spend on the pre-adults in my care, and have a little flexibility to spend time with them, they are more likely to grow up into actual adults who are not a drain on society. When my children are well cared for, everyone benefits. And that is what the Child Tax Credit is about.

Indeed, I would suggest that American society does not invest nearly enough in breeders and our spawn, because American society frankly doesn’t care very much about spawn who have the misfortune of being born to genuinely poor parents. American society doesn’t provide any parents with a shared and decent safety net that allows them to both work (contribute to society) and know that their children are well cared for (and thus will later be able to contribute to society). We punish people for breeding, mostly female-people, all the time, every day, by taking away professional opportunities, making child care a wildly expensive and difficult-to-find luxury, and (if the breeders happen, again, to be poor) making parents choose between earning a (bad) living and being available to their children. Who are, let’s not forget, tomorrow’s wage-earners and tax-payers.

So stop it. Stop whining about Child Tax Credits and parental leave and the fact that every now and then, someone you work with has to take off early and you have to pick up the slack (and if you have a co-worker who does this all the time, then he or she is an inconsiderate and annoying person, but not a reflection of Every Breeder On Earth).

That’s just the way it goes. You need me, and I need you. That’s why it’s called “society,” and not “a hermitage.”

And, of course, if you are among the child-free who does not so complain? I thank you, most sincerely.

I thank you for your understanding, and your tax dollars, and your moral support. I need you, and I’m very grateful to have you in my village.



  1. Never have more elequent words been spoken!! Thank you!

  2. taylor16

     /  January 2, 2013

    You know, I’m childless by choice and I really hate when people without kids whine and complain about the supposed financial and employment “benefits” that parents get.

    A lot of childless by choice people will say that one reason they don’t want kids is because they are so, so expensive. And yet when parents are given a tiny tax break in exchange for all of the money they shell out for food, clothing, medical costs, etc etc etc, I’m supposed to get outraged and think they’re getting some kind of unfair handout and advantage? Sorry, no. Or I’m supposed to think that having (unpaid) time off of work to take care of a sick child is some kind of leisurely vacation I should be jealous of? Again, no.

    And as for me “paying for” this stuff via my tax dollars? I’m happy to do it. Because I’m not a selfish asshole and I realize that we are all in this world together.

    I’m sorry there are people out there who are this selfish and ignorant. It’s obnoxious. (And on a personally selfish level, I hate it because it makes us normal childfree people look bad by association. 😦

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I despair when I see this kind of stuff go down. It is alarming when otherwise open-minded, progressive folks can’t see that we all benefit when children are well-cared-for. EW BREEDERS YUCK is not a compelling or mature argument. There is nothing liberal about saying, “this is not my life choice so I’m not going to pay for it.” It’s almost Republican, honestly. I don’t see much daylight between that lousy attitude and those who begrudge unemployment benefits or affordable health care simply because it’s someone else who receives them, not you.

    And yeah, I’m a parent, so I’m biased. Anecdotally, I spend fourteen hundred dollars a month in childcare for my sons so that I can go to work each day. Which is completely average for their ages and where I live, and average facilities, too. (And it was much more – $2200/month – when they were younger!) I’m not sending them to some kind of gilded private academy; that’s just what daycare costs. And most of that money I shell out in child care is taxed as income, even though I never see it. They will someday outgrow the need for childcare (thank God), but then I’ll soon be paying for college. In addition to, I don’t know, feeding them and clothing them and buying them books and signing them up for sports teams and all the other expenses. The tax credit barely makes a dent.

    The financial situation of not having children is always better than having them. On top of the social costs you rightly mention. Lots of us do it anyway, and wouldn’t do otherwise regardless of the financial analysis. But it’s patently absurd to begrudge parents that one measly little bone this otherwise pretty family-hostile society throws us. And counterproductive – the mega-rich are bleeding the country, and we’re going to argue amongst ourselves about the token of a Child Tax Credit? I’m on board if people say the whole system needs fixing, but to harp on just that one thing?

    And yeah. To read the internet, you would think every single childless person is slaving at work until the wee hours of the morning to cover for parents who barely deign to show up at all. If you work in such a situation, does your manager (or THEIR manager) know about it? If so, are they taking any steps to fix it? That’s not a healthy organization. That shouldn’t happen anywhere. (And I’ve never actually seen it happen anywhere, even when I was the childless person, but who knows, maybe I just worked in all the wrong places.) That said, having to pick up slack for someone who happens to be a parent every once in a great while is not some kind of referendum on the merits of breeding. Because someone has to pick up slack for the childless sometimes, too. Unless the childless have amazing powers to never get sick, never go on vacation, never take care of sick relatives, never lose pets, etc. etc. Picking up slack is part of being a civil human being. For ALL of us. Sometimes you give, sometimes you take. The humane solution for employees everywhere is for companies and co-workers to respect and acknowledge that we all have lives that are meaningful to us outside the office, and it doesn’t matter if those lives include children or not, and we should be allowed to attend to those lives without fearing for our jobs. We should be agitating for that. Instead, we draw lines in the sand between “breeders” and “not breeders” and hurl insults at each other.

  4. Will the real “Family Values” please stand up?

  5. Seriously. Raising human beings is labor, work that I’m just not cut out to do, in the same way I don’t have a vocation for bridge-building or the nation’s military defense. I am so, so grateful for the people that do take on those jobs, and I will happily pay more taxes to make sure you all can do them well.

  6. Captain Button

     /  January 3, 2013

    Add me to the list of “childfree but not a dick about it” people agreeing with you here.

  7. Snoring Dog Studio

     /  January 3, 2013

    As a child-free-by-choice woman, I admit to feeling a bit cranky about the many, many days off my coworkers with children take. And I’ve found out that in quite a few instances, their children weren’t sick; they just wanted a day off. I’m cranky about that. I admit it here, publicly. Don’t rail on me, please. Single women without dependents face their own trials. I can’t take too many days off for my dogs. People wouldn’t be as understanding. Grousing is a natural, human trait. You see people, you compare. We shouldn’t do it, but we do. But it doesn’t mean we don’t value the choices that parents make or respect their role in bringing up responsible adults. We just want all parents to be responsible parents. I’m horrified at how expensive day care is. If a tax credit helps, then so be it. But let’s not create another division, another class that needs special protection. Let’s support each other.

  8. I completely agree with you. We should all support each other, if someone wishes to have a child then at times there will be days when someone has to leave early to attend to a sick child etc.. I think people have a tendancy to feel they have to moan about others because they fear that someone is getting something that the person complaining hasn’t got (leaving early, for example). I say, just let people be. Let people get on with their own lives and we get on with ours. Unfortunately, governments like mine in the UK will often try to create a divide… currently, giving tax breaks to the rich and taking benefits of those who are in need. There should be more access to affordable child care so that more women can work, there be more incentives for men to feel they can take more of a role in the home without the fear of being emasculated. I may be going way off track here.

    My point is, if you choose to have a child then brilliant, for those that don’t that is fine too. Just quit judging one another. We are in this world together not as it sadly often seems, to be in competition with one another. 🙂