REWARD AND PUNISHMENT

A former student with whom I have kept in contact asked me a while ago what the post-college years – the twenties, in essence – are like. I thought about this a lot when I hit 30, and it boils down to this. First, everyone you know moves away. Then everyone you know gets married. Then everyone you know has kids. Then you never hear from anyone you know anymore.

This piece – "All Joy and No Fun: Why parents hate parenting," forwarded to me by my sister with three children – is all over the interwebs for the last few days. One of the few inviolable taboos in modern society is that no one may admit how much they hate having children or express any regret after having made the decision to do so. You hear this every once in a while, usually followed by outward expressions of horror from the listeners or a strong rebuke. But all of us, whether we have children or not, struggle with the same unavoidable question: if having kids is so amazing and rewarding, why does it look like it's so awful?

Being a non-parent the question is more important to me. And I do think about it quite a bit. If kids are wonderful, why does everyone who has them look like they would murder someone for an uninterrupted night of sleep? Why do Mom and Dad always look so unhappy wrangling their multiple children who have no interest at all in obeying basic requests? Why does the joyous addition of a child to the family drive the parents apart, up to and including divorce? Don't get me wrong, I'm sure parenting has its benefits too, but think back to before you had kids. From the outside looking it, it looks like a lifetime commitment that takes up all of one's time and money, straining all other relationships and necessarily forcing one to give up most if not all of one's independence.

Everybody understands this before having kids. Yet most of us will do it anyway. Why?

The sad truth, and the article only tapdances around this, is that a lot of people do it because they expect it to make them happy. Depending on someone else, be it a child or a spouse or a friend, to make you happy is of course a very poor strategy. The best answer to the "Why?" question, however, is the difference between happiness and joy. Long- and short-term rewards. Yes, the day-to-day of parenting sucks. Having kids changes everything about your life. But in retrospect people (mostly) say they would do it again and/or that it was the most rewarding part of their lives. Like anything else, it seems like we're more likely to regret not having kids than having them. So I suppose having kids sucks, until it doesn't. It's hard and miserable, but we don't regret doing it.

That conclusion makes a lot of sense, and I think it explains why so many people are reading and recommending the article. Joy vs. pleasure. Gratification vs. satisfaction. My question is why we, and by that I mean Americans, think we have to pick one.

The article touches on this so briefly that it's easy to miss, but a major contributor to the short-term misery of parenting in this country is directly or indirectly related to politics. It makes little sense to me when I read public opinion research explaining that having kids tends to make people a little more conservative, because there is no better way to get a first-hand look at how badly our welfare state has deteriorated. And it hasn't happened by accident.

Parenting is miserable in part because we make it miserable. Other countries have a year of paid maternity leave; Clinton had to fight tooth-and-nail to get the FMLA passed, granting a generous 6 months of unpaid leave. Parents also have to panic about how they are going to pay for their child's health care, because family plans are pricey and are getting more pricey in a hurry. Then they fret about affording college, because while college is free in most of the western world even the public schools are expensive here. Then they panic about paying for private K-12, because of course no one can send their kids to public school given the systematic dismantling of public education in this country since the seventies. Then they have to find affordable child care, because Mommy (or Daddy, depending on who takes the unpaid leave) needs to get that ass back to the office and start bringing home a paycheck ASAP to afford all of this stuff. And of course because of our idiotic urban planning and absence of workers' rights we have long commutes and 9+ hour workdays that guarantee we'll spend precious little time with our kids before we collapse in bed at an embarrassingly early hour.

Throughout the article the author emphasizes the point that parents can't seem to think or talk about anything but parenting. "I swear I feel like I’m surrounded by women who were once smart & interesting but have become zombies who only talk about soccer and coupons." It it amazing, then, that in a country in which so many adults have kids and elections in which working- and middle-class parents are far more likely to vote than singles we don't insist on policies that encourage family life and child rearing. On the one hand, we realize that the bare basics found in other democracies would alleviate many of the worst, most taxing aspects of parenting. But on the other hand, SOCIALISM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's a very persuasive counterargument.

Be Sociable, Share!

170 Responses to “REWARD AND PUNISHMENT”

  1. ZenPoseur Says:

    This is why so many species eat their own young.

    That, and because babies are delicious.

  2. Lisa Says:

    I'm a 36-year-old childless/childfree academic myself and I, too, am fascinated by this article and the questions it raises. I agree with you that a stronger welfare state would make a huge difference. I also think that this article is a great example of moving the goalposts for a score. We are so invested in the right answer (having kids makes you happy) that we will re-define happiness, reconfigure its boundaries, and shuffle our priorities so that we get the answer we want.

  3. Lisa Says:

    Oops… one more thing! I don't understand why there has to be ONE answer? Why can't it make some people happy, but not others? Again, I think this says a lot about what we (and by "we" I mean parents) want to believe.

  4. duck-billed placelot Says:

    A lot of people say something about children being the most meaningful thing you can do. Of course, if the most meaningful thing a person can do is replicate, it's hard to see how we're any different than a virus… Really, I think it just kicks the meaning-making can down the road a ways. Some people keep their kids close and marry 'em off young, so that grandbabies can fill the void, but that whole empty nest syndrome is fairly telling. And there's never a guarantee. Your kid could be a Joyful! Rewarding! Experience! or Leukemia! Addiction! A Cross-Town Express! Or a Republican.

    @Lisa – of COURSE there is only one answer! How else can I be sure that what I'm doing is right and that you're Satan's handmaiden?!

  5. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Part of the problem is that in our society, there is still a negative view towards women who make a conscious decision not to have kids and express this decision.

  6. 16shellsfromathirtyaughtsix Says:

    Hard to imagine a sensible welfare state helping much. Kids will still be expensive little ungrateful assholes. Shitty improved to somewhat less shitty.

    If I ever have a kid, it's adoption all the way. Old enough so I'm at least 80% certain the kid isn't a fucktard.

  7. Maren Says:

    We're planning on starting a family next year, and it's interesting that I almost never see our reason listed under "why I had kids" — we're starting a family to have a family. I don't expect to love every minute of pregnancy and the first year of infancy, and I expect it to get even worse at varying times beyond that, despite the fact that I do really like kids, but beyond whatever ideas I have about "my children" I am mostly thinking about to when I'm 75, and how I don't really want to spend the holidays at my siblings' houses or on vacation, and how our childfree life right now is fun but fairly empty. It's something to do with I guess what you'd call "legacy" — wanting to share my memories and favorite things with someone else — and wanting to have even more people to care about and feel close to and have a connection with. When they're, you know, 32 and not 2 and screaming on the floor about cookies.

    I think if people went into parenthood considering the whole experience, not just the Kodak/Playskool commercial version or how fun it will be to dress them in little hipster onesies that say "Sonic Youth" and name them Che or whatever, and remembered that childhood is just part of the whole thing, parents might be less dissatisfied. I also plan to be as laidback a mom as possible, with none of the "give my kids everything I never had" BS or weird inter-parental competition, which I hope will help. How many of us grew up in apartments and went to public school and rode the bus places and turned out just fine? I live in the semi-wealthy commuter suburbs now and the children in the area are just awful. Keep those expectations low, I say.

  8. HoosierPoli Says:

    I love the USA and all that bullcrap, but when it comes time to have kids, I am going to give very serious consideration to raising them in another country, one that actually supports parenthood, rather than suffusing it with a thousand worries about "Can I take my kid to the hospital if he gets sick? If money gets tight can I put food on the table? Can I afford a second mortgage to send them to college?" The US has become a cruel joke at the expense of families, and the fact that "family values" is actually just a dogwhistle for homophobia says a lot about politics and society.

  9. Bugboy Says:

    I may not know much, but I do know about being a parent. It's why we are here. The rest is just BS. When you see your baby in your arms, it kind of puts things in perspective. Saying "I'm going to wait until things are right" or "The world just is too crappy to bring kids into" means just one thing: no kids for joo! Don't sweat it…really. Too many think having kids fixes things. Especially those with no parenting skills. That is no accident of nature.

    People are miserable in spite of their kids, not because of them. I really didn't get the continuity of parenting, ie. how you pass your parent's inate teaching on to your kids, until my own son was maybe 12 or 13. It's all worth it when I think of how I will be shaking his hand as a man soon, and think about grandchildren to be. There is no satisfaction in there, it's being a human being, and gratification comes to those who wait.

    This quote from Kurt Cobain sums it up for me:

    "Birds are and always have been reincarnated old men with Tourette's syndrome having somehow managed to dupe the reproductive saga. They fuck each other and tend to their home repairs and children while never missing their true mission. To scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth. They know the truth. Screaming bloody murder all over the world in our ears, but sadly we don't speak bird."

    Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – c. April 5, 1994)

  10. Ike Says:

    There is, also, a certain biological imperative whereby our germy little bodies have, by definition, a very strong inclination to reproduce. We are, after all, despite our hoarding and collecting and preening, just a bunch of animals.

    Bugboy- I have always imagined the existence of a bird to be rather bipolar. I can't imagine they have very much foresight, so when the sun goes down and it all gets dark, I suppose it feels like the end of the world. But in the early morning, when the eastern side of the sky starts to glow and they all erupt in jubilent song, it's like, "Hooray! We're alive! The world didn't end! There's another sun coming up! Yea!" They don't seem to make such a triumphant racket as in the very early morning. And speaking of "happiness," waking to the birds is one of my own simple joys, because every morning they remind me that not all is lost.

  11. Crazy for Urban Planning Says:

    I don't have any opinions about children, except that they are good with hot sauce and a side of eggs. I'm just glad you can see how dumb the urban planning is in America. Parents are supposed to live in "safe" suburbs, where kids need a drivers license to leave and become very bored of everything by the time they turn 12… become left looking for marijuana and beer.

  12. Crazy for Urban Planning Says:

    In regards to contrasting America with another Democracy, in the Peace Corps I spent two weeks with a Finnish girl's family I had met traveling. For each child the parents had (12 kids) they received a monthly check for 800 Euros from birth to 18, then the kids had money in a bank account every month during university, plus free health care and subsidized housing. I want to move to Finland *Suomi* in Finnish.

    I would just speculate that people wouldn't be so stressed out if our system worked this way. Why do you think old people are so comfortable with being fat and angry all the time? Social Security and Medicare. I'd speculate that in Finland more people are willing to jump over a limb and take a risk of starting a business or try to write the next great novel because they won't have to worry about starving in the street! It sounds like a good place to live. Winters are not the best time to visit though.

  13. Bill Says:

    There's a fairly common trait in humans (in my experience) that if something was bad or unpleasant in the experience of it, then many people who had that experience don't want to relieve others of the same experience even if they can. Student teaching is that way–there is actually a strong undercurrent amongst the "mentors" to show the novice how "bad" teaching is, and probably even some pleasure in the negative outcome of student teachers choosing never to teach again at the end of their student teaching experience.

    My guess is, parenting is a lot like this. And these "pay back" types tend to cluster in the GOP and the Tea Party–have you noticed? Thus, reforming the US work world is hard to do not only because we're hard core capitalists, but because a lot of us don't want anyone to have it easier than we did. Because that would be "unfair." A lot of racism is also generated around this sense of injustice, obviously–and the Southern Strategy of course works with this, again explaining the clustering of misanthropic folks in the GOP and Tea Party ranks.

  14. ladiesbane Says:

    Most of the parents I know love parenting — the shaping of a young mind is meaningful work, don't you think? — and their own growing jadedness is washed away by seeing the world through the eyes of a young child. It's not that it's not terribly hard; it's that it's worth it.

    To them. I am the person Aslan mentioned: a woman who never wanted kids. There is not a man I know, no matter how nice / charming / smart / fair / "real" / etc. who does not, on a basic level, regard taking care of his own young as "babysitting", and think that if he lives with another full-time wage earner (me), taking out the garbage weighs equally against my scrubbing kitchen and bath, all the cooking, all the dishes, all the bedmaking vacuuming laundry. About men, we say, "Oh, he'd make a good father," if he's not an active pedophile (to our knowledge), but women must never be individuals again (or sexy, or career-minded, or purveyors of punk rock) lest they be seen as candidates for Springer or Wife Swap.

    So I guess I'm saying: it's still a sweet deal for men. Go for it. It's not much more work than you're doing now.

    And the next woman who shakes her head and sadly tells me, "You can't be a REAL woman until you have children," is going to get my chunky hipster boot right in the stretch marks.

  15. Hazy Davy Says:

    Parenting, like *anything* , will not make you happy.
    It is both the best and worst thing I ever did. Best: kids do bring entertainment, pride, etc. I had that as an Uncle. But I get it 100 fold by being a father.
    Worst: You realize that:
    1) It's hard
    2) You're going to make a lot of mistakes
    3) The world is surrounded by people who insist that it's easy and that they know what you should do (which kind of defeats the control-of-another-human aspect.) And, really, *none* of them do. None. That's not hyperbole. It's baffling how bad most of the "experts" are at child-rearing. This is scary…you know, finding out that your safety net is actually a flaming pit of mutant alligators.
    4) One false move and you've raised Jeffrey Dahmer. If your kid wins the Nobel Prize, it's his doing. But if he becomes a serial killer, it's probably your fault.
    5) It's a big project, if you decide to do it right.

    On the other hand, I didn't follow your transition to politics. It's probably my kid's fault.

  16. Hazy Davy Says:

    Also, nice generalization, ladiesbane. Burns real good in support of your point.

  17. acer Says:

    Ladiesbane,
    Seriously, grow up. Or stop dating strawmen.

  18. Tteddo Says:

    Maren- In my experience (46, no kids), and based on observations on other families I think you hit the nail on the head. Having a group of people (a family) with a huge list of shared experiences over a span of years seems to me to be the whole point. But that is looking at the big picture and I know most people have a hard time with that.
    But I tell you, when my sisters and brother are all together, all you have to say is "Bring me and ashtray and make sure it's clean!" and everyone will crack up.
    That being said, in the big picture, as other commentators have pointed out, I can't believe this country which supposedly prides itself on "family values" does almost nothing to support it. As was pointed out on another site I frequent when you have to decide whether your kid is really sick or not because you can't afford a $500 trip in an ambulance something is terribly wrong.

  19. comrade x Says:

    " Family values" is probably my favorite bit of Conservative doublespeak. The white American proletariat, in the name of defending the Holy Nuclear Family, votes into power the very people who are doing everything they can to protect an economic system that is absolutely corrosive to family life. Capitalism demands that they uproot themselves every few years and move across country, requires that both parents work long hours, and while they are away their kids are exposed to televised messaging that tells them their parents are stupid and that they need to obtain useless shit that drives their parents deeper into the financial abyss.

  20. acer Says:

    Ladiesbane,
    Stop dating strawmen.

  21. Amanda Says:

    @ladiesbane: Thank you. I'll send my sandal clad foot right behind yours.:-)

    I think that most people who have kids because our society says you must or you aren't complete/a family/a real woman end up discovering that it sucks and so in turn they have to scream as loudly as they can that it is worth it/the best thing you will EVER do/fulfilling to reinforce the expectations or else what they are doing might be for nothing. They need people to think that what they are doing is the most important thing ever so that their efforts will be praised and they receive what little encouragement is involved with such an endeavor.

    I used to want kids, and then I was single for a long time, honest-to-god poor, and busy out of my mind. Once you stay like that for awhile it burns those hormonal/societal urges right out of you. No way would I want to bring a child into this world when all I want to do when I get home is cook myself a good dinner, watch some tv, exercise, and go to sleep. Why would I give up that life or any other life that might be ten times as cool? *Insert all of the aforementioned "it's the best thing you'll ever do" statements here*

    Now that I'm getting married (on Thursday!) I can see how two people and two incomes offer more stability to the equation, but another angle not explored here is that I would rather have the rest of my life living with this wonderful man and exploring our relationship and bringing it to its potential than risk losing him because we have to focus on a little person who needs all of our attention, patience, and time. He means more to me than a child ever could, and I wouldn't jeopardize that for the world. Sure I get the urges now and again to have kids with him, but that might just be nature and society talking. Maybe that urge would be stronger if we lived abroad where I wouldn't have to fear the dismantling of my relationship, my bank account, or my sanity.

    Everyone has to do what is right for them in their own situations, and so I don't need women who have had children that I am not as good as them because I don't have any. It's not selfish to avoid children, in some cases it is the smart thing to do. I'll just flaunt my sleep, enjoy my low water, electric, and grocery bills, and wait for either the right time to have kids for us or that next trip that we might have planned. :-)

  22. Shane Says:

    I think this article is much more about the changing conditions of society and our ideals than about the effect of having children. As Ed correctly points out, so much of what is hard and stressful about having children could be alleviated or at least dramatically lessened through both social change, and a simple change in perspective about what is important.

    One thing the article didn't mention that I think plays a significant factor is the transition to more isolated nuclear families. Due to a whole host of factors, our concept of family today is generally two parents and X number of kids, not grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, etc. Not only do we do more as parents to try to keep up and make sure our kids don't get left behind, most do it largely on their own or only with the help that they pay for. We were very fortunate to have my parents right next door for my daughter's first two years. Now, even though we live far away from any actually family, we are incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by trusted friends that we consider family. It makes a huge difference when you have someone you can call that will tell you your doing fine, or that what your kid is doing is normal. It also doesn't hurt to have the ability to say, "hey we need to get away by ourselves for the weekend, here's our kid."

    Thanks for the post, it is the first thing to actually make me feel better about having kids early (25). While I have never regretted us having a family, there are times I have lamented all that we forfeited by doing it so early. Now I realize it would have just given us more stuff to miss.

    And lastly, in regards to the effects on marriage, I think that depends a lot on the individuals and the relationship. I now appreciate my husband in entirely new ways. For one, he is the only other person in the entire world who thinks my kid is as great and special as I do, and that is something amazing to share together.

  23. Keifus Says:

    Being a non-parent the question is more important to me.

    I guess that's true in the sense that it's a decision left to be made, the box sitting there unopened sort of thing. Having cracked it, and dealing with the full measure of what was inside, well, that's another sort of importance.

    Everybody understands this before having kids. Yet most of us will do it anyway. Why?

    One thing to keep in mind, is that the equation changes as you get older. Part of it is the long-term satisfaction, but I'm also thinking here in my late 30s, that my fun-time ambitions aren't so …frenetic as they once were. A camping trip with the family is rather pleasant these days (and of course I bring beer). The article features young attractive people suddenly burdened with twin babies, and there can't be a higher possible single moment for second throughts. It makes a lot of sense these days to wait till you're 35 or so to spawn, even if I'm going to be laughing at those suckers in ten years or so.

    Another thing is that they're only whining blobs of recalcitrant (but frequently cute) floor-putty for a short time. Before long, you can talk to them, which is really nice.

    It makes little sense to me when I read public opinion research explaining that having kids tends to make people a little more conservative, because there is no better way to get a first-hand look at how badly our welfare state has deteriorated.

    It might make people more socially conservative when they turn back toward their family network, or if they get skeert of the endless parade of boogeymen the news trots out every night. There are some deep-seated fears that come with children, on which the Man likes very much to capitalize. They might become more liberal if they are inclined to do anything that requires services (you know, like go to the hospital, or work). I do think it tends to make most people more authoritarian.

    **

    And for all that, what kind of fucktard has kids and says, "well there goes the basement bar"? I mean, they take a lot of time and responsibility, but these people who go down the rathole of self-sacrifice at the expense of their entire individuality? I've never understood them either, and my general problem as a parent is that I can barely relate to those sorts of automata (and once the doting baby years are passed, they become the sports parents, and professional scolds, and the entire menagerie you remember from your block growing up). I often conclude that they had kids because they ran out of other ideas. The people who were well-adjusted stay well-adjusted.

  24. Patti Says:

    @Amanda – YEAH FOR THURSDAY!

    I was reading the article this post was based on, and was struck by the sentence "Most people assume that having children will make them happier." It parallels the constant moanings of a friend of mine who daily pines about what she wants in a man: the man will make her happy. Where do people get these expectations that other people (spouses, children) will make them happy? If you can't make yourself happy, how can you expect someone else to, especially a small child? If you set these lofty unrealistic expectations, you have set yourself up for disappointment and disillusionment.

    I can totally understand some of the reasons to have children. I would love to have a couple of small, impressionable people to warp in my own particular way, to pass along a lifetime of knowledge and information, and build up a tollerance for projectile vomitting. But, to make me happy? That's an awful lot of pressure to put on one small person.

  25. John Says:

    I, for one, have no intention of ever bringing a squealing, demanding mini-me into this world. Even apart from the fact that I absolutely loathe children (yes, I'm well aware I was one once — I'd have hated me if I went back in time), I don't feel I'd make a very good father; I'm too fatalistic and jaded to support a child's requirements for a basically optimistic outlook on life.

    In my younger days, I worked as a 'courtesy clerk' (read: bagboy) for a Kroger grocery store, during one of the Shrek marketing blitzes. Having been tasked with sweeping the aisles, I was 'lucky' enough to fall into pattern behind a mother who's screeching child absolutely had to have every single food item that featured Shrek on its packaging. I mean literally, the kid was belting out "Mom, we need to get that, it's Shrek!" every other step.

    I don't have the patience for that sort of nonsense. Had it been my child, I would probably be in jail. It doesn't help, of course, that I'm well aware of how our glorious corporate society specifically targets children for exactly that reason, to get their incessant screeching and whining to whittle down parents' resolve until they eventually buy whatever overpriced bullshit MegaCorp USA wants them to buy.

    My parents divorced when I was around five years old, and though my father did go through a few other wives during my childhood, I never really had any parents at home. Both of them had to work all the time, with lengthy commutes. Fortunately my mother and father both instilled a sense of self-reliance early on, but the fact is that even with him being more absorbed in work than raising me, my father still had trouble making the mortgage every month. We lived a relatively comfortable life by many standards, but it was still a struggle to make ends meet, and that's without investing vast amounts of time into directly interfacing with the kid.

    America simply doesn't care about childrearing. There are almost no systems in place to make it a bearable experience, or to make children anything other than a financial and emotional burdern on their sires. The proof is in the pudding — the vast swaths of children who don't care about their education because their parents don't care about their education, mostly because they don't have *time* to care about their kids' educations. People have kids because society tells them they should, not because they actually want kids. In short, this is a horrible nation to have kids in.

  26. Wes Says:

    On your hypothesis that a stronger welfare state makes parenting easier, I'd love to see some data there. I'm sure there are studies that try and tease out the effect of things like more paid leave. My uninformed guess would be that the effect would be minor, but probably positive.

    I'm wondering if that's the sort of thing that should be incentivized though. State-sponsored incentives to have more or less kids kind of make me nervous (see: China), but it's not as if things are horrible in Sweden because of their longer maternity/paternity leave.

    I guess the rationale for redistributing resources away from people without kids is that they're more wealthy in happiness terms?

  27. Del Says:

    Yeah, I often sit up at night and think about all the things we could have bought with the money we spent on the kids. That would definitely have been the right choice. Fuck, we really blew it.

  28. Jimcat Says:

    A lot of good points being made here. I think that one of the biggest problems of parenting comes from anxiety. When you're single, or even part of a childless couple, you're better equipped to weather economic failure, and you can accept a reduction in lifestyle if necessary because the only person affected is yourself. Once you have children, you not only have to provide more resources, but if you go down, they're going down along with you, through no fault of their own. I can imagine nothing more horrid than my children's lives falling apart for reasons that they had nothing to do with and can hardly understand. If that's not a reasonable argument for a strong social safety net, I don't know what is.

    Crazy for Urban Planning has an excellent point. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood that I describe to this day as "a great place to raise your kids, but a terrible place to be a kid". Nothing but houses, woods, and farms for miles and miles. The nearest thing to a town center was half an hour away by bicycle (and I'd catch hell for riding there before high school). Even something as simple as a bus stop would have made my childhood a lot more tolerable.

    As for the question of "why have children", it was never something I questioned. I had good role models in my own parents, grandparents, and friends' parents, and I always assumed that someday I would become a parent myself because that's what people do with their lives. Maybe I'm just rationalizing the biological drive, or maybe I want to take all the good experiences that I had growing up and do my best to bestow them on the next generation.

    Bugboy is correct that if you're worried about being able to provide materially, or that this world is too screwed up to bring children into it, then you're not in the right place to be a parent. I waited until my late thirties to have children because I lacked confidence in my ability to give them a "good life", but after much soul-searching (and my wife's influence) I realized that the best things I could give them couldn't be bought with money. Perhaps corny and cliched, but it's held true ever since they were born.

    As for ladiesbane, I've seen you post a lot of insightful comments with which I agreed, but as far as your outlook on fathers, all I can say is that there are a lot of better men out there, who you seem to have never met.

  29. oldfatherwilliam Says:

    Y'all don't seem to be getting it. Parenthood is what all you post-adolescents DESERVE for yr own performances as snotty little self-involved adolescents. No better cure for narcissism than to endure a narcissist in yr own house. My own father told me once in my 30s that "a man becomes an adult at exactly the moment he realizes that he owes his father an apology for his adolescence."
    The sadness of this is that it didn't occur to me at the time that he was talking to ME. Too soon old, folks, too late smart.

  30. bb in GA Says:

    Following up on what Wes said…

    IF THESE TRENDS CONTINUE…The Western European Socialist Democracies and the cultures that support them are expected to sink into the mists about 2100. If what I have read is correct, the reproduction rate of native Europeans is seriously below replacement. If so, some of the young'uns here might live to see the Islamic Republic of France (or whatever the hell the Arabic name will be…)

    The US is closely approaching replacement levels (about 2.1 in our developed country) thanks in no small way to our POC (People of Color – no doubt some of whom are illegal!)

    //bb

  31. brent Says:

    "Amen" to Patti's post. My wife and I did not ever have a discussion about how having a baby would make us "Happy," our decision wasn't really made with that (or really with anything) as the "goal". We knew it would be an experience that would have moments of pure joy but would also result in tremendous changes to our lifestyle. Of course, knowing that these changes will happen and actually living through them are two entirely different things.

    And I think Shane is right to point to the changing nature of the extended family as a crucial back-story. I am currently lucky enough to rely upon my parents to help out with my 11 month-old while my wife is out of the country. If I didn't have them, I couldn't imagine how I would be coping now. The old cliche about taking a village to raise a child is no less true now than whenever it was coined- only now few of us have an extended family living nearby or even know anyone in our sub-division by a first name basis.

    Also Ladiesbane, I am not sure if you are talking about actual men you have met or characters from "Mad Men." I don't care if you (or anyone else) has a kid or not, I am just sorry that you haven't met a man since the 1950s.

  32. Ed Says:

    For serious, I am starting to think that Ladiesbane's friends are setting her up with characters from "According to Jim" and/or "King of Queens."

  33. Monkey Business Says:

    My best friend got married a year ago this month. He and his wife agreed they'd have between three and five kids, probably starting within three or so years after they got married. We've discussed it over wine and beers, and every time she talks about motherhood, she gets this glassy-eyed look and goes to a place far, far away, where all babies are endlessly cute and babyesque and never grow into horrible, horrible teenagers. My friend, on the other hand, gets a look not unlike what you hear Vietnam vets described as. The thousand yard stare, the deep drag on his cigarette and a deep drink from his beer.

    I bring this up because it represents quite acutely how I feel about the subject. Precious few people have children because they want to have children. They have children because they're supposed to have children. Society says, go forth and multiply, and like the good lemmings we are, we do. Nevermind the fact that kids are expensive and putting all that money into a 401k would guarantee a sweet retirement. Nevermind the fact that kids are incredibly time and labor intensive, and all that time and labor could easily go in to work or personal pursuits or really anything except child rearing. And yet, despite these things, we continue to do it.

    I consider myself neither pro- nor con- childraising. Right now, I acknowledge that I'm exceptionally ill equipped for anything outside of the biological aspects of it. In the future, perhaps five or ten years, I may change my tune. In the meantime though, I thought the entire article could have been summed up in a single quote: "[Children are] a huge source of joy, but they turn every other source of joy to shit."

  34. Anonymous Says:

    How babies will destroy your fuckability: male edition
    http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-babies-destroy-your-fuckability.html

    How babies will destroy your fuckability: female edition
    http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-babies-destroy-your-fuckability_07.html

    Parental parasitism
    http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com/2010/07/parental-parasitism.html

  35. Mr. Wonderful Says:

    He means more to me than a child ever could

    It feels that way now. But the mother of my kids (from whom I am ecstatically divorced) was very persuasive when talking about how the experience of pregnancy changes you fundamentally. It would have to, for survival reasons.

    I think my motive in having (2) kids was that I thought it was too fundamental a human activity not to experience. Plus, of course, I'd always liked them (as a camp counselor etc.). The moment one is born, if you're anything other than a sociopath, you start practicing a kind of selflessness you would otherwise probably not experience–both because you have to and because you want to.

    I don't think less of anyone, man or woman, who doesn't want kids. In fact I'm happily married to a woman who never did want them. But denouncing parenthood because "kids are selfish little monsters" seems childish (!) and short-sighted to me.

    Don't have them because you don't want to be on call, all the time, or have your options significantly narrowed, or you can't afford it and don't see how you'll be able to, or don't think you'd be able to be that selfless. But don't blame "kids".

    I thought the post that started this thread was, not only true, but importantly true.

  36. Elder Futhark Says:

    I want to see numbers/studies comparing the amount individuals paid for child rearing through "socialist" state support versus the unrecognized "private tax" doled out to corporations for the same services (child care/education/health,etc ). Short on time to explicate but you get the idea. My suspicion is the individual is paying more out to private industry through these disguised taxes than through equivalent state services. Suggest there should be data to compare to say, enlightened Scandinavian set up. And please spare me the "apples vs oranges" bullshit.

  37. Blurm Says:

    I have 3 kids under 5 and for all the incredible pain-in-the-ass-ness there is with raising them, one smile means more than 1000 days of sleeping late or spur of the moment trips could ever bring. That and the fact that the childless will die sad and alone in a nursing home while I will have at least one of these punks repay all my work with loving changes of my diaper as I grow slowly more demented in their spare bedroom until I die.

  38. AC Says:

    Jimcat writes: "As for the question of "why have children", it was never something I questioned. I had good role models in my own parents, grandparents, and friends' parents, and I always assumed that someday I would become a parent myself because that's what people do with their lives."

    I think this is how it is for most of us. We get married and have kids mostly because that's just what people do.

  39. Jimcat Says:

    @oldfatherwilliam: Ah yes, children as karmic revenge. It's certainly happening in my household. My father-in-law once remarked that my wife "never listened to us, so I don't know why she expects her kids to listen to her!"

    My older boy is not yet four years old, and when he gets into trouble, he still tries to argue his way out of it on technicalities, or, as he's being physically hauled to timeout, shout "You can't treat me this way!" The only thing that prevents me from going all Homer Simpson on his neck is the realization that I did the same thing and my father put up with it for my whole childhood without strangling me.

  40. JohnR Says:

    That clearly struck a nerve in some of us. It's suggestive how many of us take our own personal experiences to be representative of humanity as a whole. Me, I figure part of why we have kids is that it's one of the many hindbrain, pre-programmed things that govern our behavior, but we're each of us unique sacks of quirks, neuroses, biases, beliefs and misunderstandings, so we each approach the idea from different directions. Have kids or don't – I certainly don't care about your mealy-mouthed self-justifications, and explanations why your decisions are because of everyone ele's failures. I'm no fan of growing up, either, but we can't be kids forever unless we're literary characters. Anyway, despite what I kept assuring my kids (Sorry, it's the rules!), there is no Daddy Rulebook that requires us to do certain things or not – we're all pretty much making it up as we go along, and hoping for the best. I sometimes wonder how many of us are so hell-bent on avoiding our parents' mistakes that we make our grand-parents' mistakes that our parents were trying to avoid (or am I over-analyzing it a bit?) Both the journey and the preliminary results have been unbelievably worth it for me, but you can do as you please – who am I to decide for you what you should be doing? I'm not a Republican any more, and neither am I a *shudder* Democrat. And I only "parent-ize" (God, I hate that verbization of "parent"!) my own children.
    I still can't understand why so many people are willing to let the present-day Republican-Lunatic Party dictate to them how they should live, work, fuck and raise kids, but maybe we're a nation of children after all. (I was going to say 'Peter Pans', but old Peter was shrewd, self-confident and independent enough to manage fine as a street kid).

  41. comrade x Says:

    Ah, middle- age! Where we stop blaming our parents for everything and start blaming our kids!

  42. Maren Says:

    I should have mentioned in my earlier comment that, although my husband is a permanent resident, he's kept his Swedish citizenship for the six years since we got married "just in case," and that the decision was cemented after seeing Sicko. He doesn't actually speak Swedish since he never lived there, but EU citizenship makes it easier to move anywhere in western Europe (like England), and we've always had it in the back of our minds that maybe we'll move once we have kids to somewhere with a better social safety net.

  43. Elle Says:

    I entirely agree with Ladiesbane's points.

    I know an goodly number of men who love their children, love their partners, and have an emotional and political commitment to childrearing, and yet do nothing like half of the tasks involved in actually raising a child. I know one man who has used UK flexible working regulations to work part-time so he can do half of the childcare. He's in the same boat as all of the women struggling for promotion because there is a lack of part-time work at senior levels.

    I know a further goodly number of men who cleave (somewhat) to traditional gender roles, and are a drag on the family's net capacity to cook, clean, and clothe itself. Men who don't know where the sippy cups are kept, and don't know how to bath their children. Men who play X-Box rather than get the dinner started, and whose partners get sad when we go out for drinks because they hate the sound of their own voices nagging, but it's that or feel so angry and miserable they could throw shit at the walls.

    The evidence is also right in Ladiesbane's corner. Writes Susan Maus in Wifework:

    The Dad of one of my six-year-old's friends rang to accept a party invitation yesterday, and it was all I could do to stop myself congratulating him. Maybe I should have gone ahead and done it. We've had twenty-three kids' birthday parties in this family in the last ten years – which works out to a total of perhaps 500 guests – and I can recall only one other instance of a [partnered] Dad doing the RSVP-ing, when his partner was recovering from a stroke.

    Maus cites a whole range of studies that calculate the average amount of time women working full-time in the formal labour market spend doing household tasks, and providing childcare and it is massively more than men. (Five times more childcare, and twice as much 'unpaid domestic labour', and three times as much cooking.) Interestingly, at the same time, men and women both are drastically overestimating the amount of time men put in to doing domestic work.

    The experience of parenting in the UK is incredibly gendered. This is not to deny that more and more men want to spend time with their kids, and that some men are aces at parenting. However, if we dismiss or deny the fact that women do the time-sucking majority of drudgework, and that this affects many things, not least their participation in the formal labour market, then policy interventions that support families of all kinds will be hard to come by.

  44. BK Says:

    @John –

    "In your younger days" you worked as a bagboy at a grocery store during a Shrek marketing blitz… that would put you in your early twenties (maybe)? I'm soprry, but not a whole lot of life experience to pull from at that point in your life.

    I'm glad you made the decision for yourself not to have children because you come across exactly as you describe yourself, which is a degree of self-awareness many of us are probably envious of.

    Unfortunately, your smug, holier-than-thou attitude, in describing a child saying thay want something in a store as nonsense and your *expert* opinion on America not caring about childbearing seemingly would make you an excellent date for 'ladiesbane.'

  45. fmla sucks Says:

    FMLA is not 6 months unpaid leave- it's 12 weeks. And, if you have 2 chidren close together (like I did) this may mean you are not entitled to FML w/ your second until after they are a few months old. All in all, it's appalling- but I wouldn't change things on my ned.

  46. fmla sucks Says:

    oops- wouldn't change things on my end.

  47. MarilynJean Says:

    I echo the comments that say happiness is not found in simply having children. This is 2010. We no longer need to have children so we can have someone to wipe our asses when we're old. They are not little forms of future elder care. I don't need them to share my memories and all that jazz. I don't have any scrapbooks I need to pass along. Those women who put all their worth in their roles as mothers are kind of sad. Children are not trophies–they are human beings with their own feelings and personalities.

    I think Elle's comment supports ladiesbane's points about sharing duties. Anecdotally and statistically, women do the bulk of domestic work including childrearing. As a woman you take these things into account. In addition to the pregnancy, we have to consider breastfeeding, our jobs, childcare, etc. It's society who forces these rigid gender roles and I will admit that "modern" men are probably more apt to step up, but we have a long way to go in that department. This is where Ed's post rings true for me: if we had a system that supported parents (and let's admit: women as caregivers), maybe it would change people's perspectives and make having a family with dependent children easier (more appealing?). I echo a couple others who have asked for any data that would back up this assertion.

    I forget who said it up the thread who alluded to this, but childfree by choice women are hyper-defensive because we're told that we're worthless as women until we have children and that no moment will ever compare yadda yadda yadda. It gets tiring having to defende a personal choice. Also, the whole 'selfless/selfish" arguments don't speak to the countless people who have dedicated their lives to making society as a whole greater. Maybe you're raising the person who will cure cancer, but it doesn't mean that people who choose to work in fields that make significant contributions to our way of life don't understand the concept of selflessness because they refuse to have children. Realizing that you don't want children is in a way selfless, because the children don't have to suffer through parents who are indifferent to them and a lot of us have seen those cases and they suck.

    I will also say that my fellow child-free people who use arguments like: I like going on unplanned trips, or I love having sex in my kitchen whenever I want(serious argument I have heard), or kids are annoying, do nothing but make us all look like assholes. I think (and again someone said this already) it's about respecting individual choices.

    (and bb in GA: you can go fuck yourself with that lame ass comment. Maybe you were joking. I can't tell.)

  48. Hazy Davy Says:

    I'm inspired by some of these people. I, too, want to single-mindedly make everything about my issue of choice.

    My issue, of course, is the lack of free pizza in the world.

    If Ed brings up the pressure for dual-incomes in our economic system, I'll point out that "to each, according to his hunger, from each, according to his ability."

    If Ed points out the hypocrisy of opposing welfare while accepting subsidies, I'll point out that a deep-dish Zachary's Spinach and Mushroom is both and neither.

    If Ed writes about campaign strategy, I'll talk about the "fixed pie" of voters.

    Crimony, ladies. I get that you're angry, and your anger is justified. But it's not nearly as justified as you make it out to be, nor is it the key, relevant point to every single topic involving women.

  49. bb in GA Says:

    Thank you ma'am.

    I wasn't joking, but I'll cop to lameass (one or two words?)

    //bb

  50. Elle Says:

    I will also say that my fellow child-free people who use arguments like: I like going on unplanned trips, or I love having sex in my kitchen whenever I want(serious argument I have heard), or kids are annoying, do nothing but make us all look like assholes.

    Having been berated in a business meeting, by someone I didn't know, to "have children before I found out I couldn't" I wonder if some of this persiflage is deployed by people who feel like they can't say one of the following things:

    1. I can't have children.
    2. I had a child. He died.
    3. I've had four miscarriages, and I feel like my heart is breaking in my chest when I think about having another one.
    4. My partner and I are both Tay-Sachs carriers, and the risks seem too great.
    5. When you had a child you became so boring and self-involved that I shudder to imagine that happening to me.
    6. I don't know how I could have a child and keep them safe from their grandpa, without moving away.
    7. My partner is infertile, and we actually fight all the time because I want to adopt and he wants a biological child, even though the chances of that are close to zero.
    8. I feel trapped by the idea of having children, because yours are whining, brawling, stupid little brats.
    9. I wish I wanted to have children, because it would make all the ceaseless nagging of my family so much easier to bear, but I just don't.
    10. You may think my desire to go out at the drop of a hat, and lie in bed on Sundays, is trivial and selfish, but that's pretty much what I think about your powerplay with other parents over which school your child goes to.

    It's a curiosity that it seems perfectly socially acceptable to ask people anywhere, and at any time, when they plan to have children, but that it would be pretty socially unacceptable to give most of the above answers to all but the closest of friends.

  51. Elle Says:

    Crimony, ladies. I get that you're angry, and your anger is justified. But it's not nearly as justified as you make it out to be, nor is it the key, relevant point to every single topic involving women.

    Does anyone else have the KLF running through their heads?

  52. Ben Says:

    In defense of my gender (male) – here are a personal annecdotal points:

    I don't slack. I cook. I clean. I change diapers and perform a huge amount of duties that need to get done. Yes, I goof off too on occasion, but if I'm goofing off, I encourage my wife to do so too. … because life is short and the likelihood that me watching 30 minutes of the Daily Show instead of cleaning the kitchen right away is going to somehow inhibit my child's growth, destroy our family, or otherwise cause us financial or physical harm is a chance that I'm willing to take.

    … because somedays if I don't, I'm gonna snap. and if I'm going to snap for not shirking responsibility, then so is my wife… so damnit, she needs to cut loose some times too. In the long run, yeah, I get things done and I make sure that my wife gets things done slightly slower so that she remembers to breathe. Because hey – otherwise we'd work till we'd drop.

  53. Jimcat Says:

    I have no doubt that the men who don't carry their share of the load, as ladiesbane and Elle report, do exist. I know plenty of them too. They may even be a majority. What I take issue with is the assertion that there are no (or vanishingly small numbers) of men who work hard for an equitable household.

  54. mothra Says:

    That and the fact that the childless will die sad and alone in a nursing home while I will have at least one of these punks repay all my work with loving changes of my diaper as I grow slowly more demented in their spare bedroom until I die.

    I surely hope this is sarcasm, because betting on your children to take care of you and be your companion in your old age is a very, very bad idea.

    Just one story of many like it: the children of an old friend of a woman I work with are trying to get their mother declared incompetent so they can lock her up in a nursing home and her money.

  55. mothra Says:

    Oops, I meant those children were trying to put their mother in a nursing home and GET her money. Doh!

  56. Elle Says:

    I surely hope this is sarcasm, because betting on your children to take care of you and be your companion in your old age is a very, very bad idea.

    Also, what if they drone on about poor people sponging off the state, and how there should be prayer in public schools at the dinner table, and you have to spend every day thinking about how you could have been living in a pied a terre in Paris if it weren't for the fact that you splurged all your money on the Harvard Business School MBA that turned them into a snivelling, Milton Friedman-esque bore?

  57. Amanda Says:

    @ Mr. Wonderful: I said that more to indicate that I don't want to sacrifice the love I have for him for a kid who would require a different kind of love, one that could possibly override the one I have for him. I value my current relationship more than any minimal thought of a child.

    I would rather spend my time and money traveling, having a sweet house, and putting money away for retirement (which at age 27 I haven't even started saving for yet) than on a time/money suck that could destroy all of those possibilities and my current relationship.

  58. ZenPoseur Says:

    I gotta go with Ladiesbane on this one. As overblown as that rant was, it was a hell of a lot closer to the truth than any of the responses. In my experience, finding a man who isn't afraid or embarrassed to call himself "feminist" in front of his own family will only net you about a 40/60 division of household labor. You can bring a more typical man up to that ratio, but only if you don't mind hearing yourself nag at him all the time.

    Either way, you'll typically have to put up with an annoying tendency for him to consider himself a fucking superhero because he does 2/3rds of the work that you're just expected to do, because you have a vagina.

    Caveat: My Nigel, all the men posting here, their male friends, and all their male family members, are the exceptions to these rules.

  59. Scott Says:

    Wow, has everyone completely missed the point Ed was making here. Correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm sure someone will), but the original point here is that having a child costs too much, mentally and financially, in this country. Additionally, the US lacks the welfare structures to compensate for this that so many other advanced industrialized democracies have instituted.

    As a parting shot, I have to wonder why it's acceptable for feminists to generalize about all men. Many of the statements made above denigrating men in general could have just as easily been made about African Americans in the 50's, i.e. they're lazy and don't do their work. They could also cite studies that corroborate their line of thinking. All men are not lazy, inattentive fathers and not all women are amazing, wonderful mothers.

  60. Oblio Says:

    In 1989, my wife and I were shocked to discover 'we' were pregnant. Together since 1982, we'd gone back and forth about having or not having kids, and since I already had a daughter from my first marriage, it was an open point of contention. Wife had been in a nasty car accident in '88 that broke her back and neck, then a terrible blood disease in '89 as the result of pain meds she'd been taking for the injury pain. Then… preggers.

    We talked a lot about it… her health and lack thereof, our lives, the future… all of it. After several weeks and much soul-searching, we opted out and had an abortion, with much relief following when later that same year I had a vasectomy. Next to marrying wife, it was the best decision I ever made. For the next 10 years we, as the only wedded couple in the family without kids, we were constantly berated by her parents about having kids until, one day, wife shut her Mom up by saying 'Vasectomy!!!' Brilliant.

    My daughter now has a son who is the light of my Grampa life, but NOT ONCE have I regretted our decision to not be parents. Wife and I have talked a lot about it and she also is really happy that we made our CHOICE to remain childless. Our lives are rich and full of love and laughter and humor and heartache and all the things any humanoid could want.

    No kids. Worked for us. As for the whole parenting thing, since we humans are essentially stupid breeders (Bristol, anyone?), it should be required that anyone wanting to have kids should wait until they are at least 25 years old and have lived a semblance of a real life. Otherwise, said life is never lived and whatever life exists is sucked down the rabbit hole.

  61. Maren Says:

    Oblio, one wonders how you consider yourself "childless" when you actually do have a daughter. Sounds like that custody arrangement worked out nicely for you.

  62. grumpygradstudent Says:

    I think people have kids because their own lives are so goddamn boring that they can't think of anything better to do. Get a fuckin hobby! Write a song! Write a book! Learn to carve fancy walking sticks! Hang out with your friends and watch a baseball game! Read some Shakespeare! Fuck! Life can be pretty interesting and meaningful without breeding (Having kids may also be interesting, but that's not why most people do it).

    Of course, it's hard to have fun because all your friends are busy with their spouses/kids. For those of us who don't pollute the world with more tiny narcissists, the situation is akin to playing hooky from school. yeah, you can have fun, but your friends are still in school. Nobody can come play anymore…too many asses to wipe.

    Resist! Resist the marriage/babies normativity!

  63. Elle Says:

    As a parting shot, I have to wonder why it's acceptable for feminists to generalize about all men. Many of the statements made above denigrating men in general could have just as easily been made about African Americans in the 50's, i.e. they're lazy and don't do their work. They could also cite studies that corroborate their line of thinking.

    I wonder why it's acceptable to conflate feminism, a theoretical model that critiques oppression, with racism, a philosophy that perpetuates oppression. I further wonder why it's acceptable to conflate the plethora of research into work outwith the formal labour market, the majority of which is not done from a feminist perspective, with pseudo-academic racist bilge.

    I wonder how, given that when women talk from experience they simply know the wrong people, and when they talk from the evidence the whole body of work they are summarising is nothing more than (peer-reviewed, Nobel-winning) misandrist pablum, women are supposed to articulate the nature of their oppression at all?

  64. Kevin Says:

    Ed, you clearly touched some nerves here. I like these kind of posts because they force me to think about why I believe what I do.

    Despite mostly winging it, screwing up often, and occasionally cursing having become a father, my wife and I are the very lucky parents of two kids now 17 and 21 who seem to be on a track toward happy, productive lives. The best thing about it all: there are two more people in the world who I love and who love me. Sure there are no guarantees of the outcome, even now, but I'd tell you any day that it's worth the risk. Sometimes the math alone isn't the whole answer.

  65. Jimcat Says:

    grumpygradstudent rants: " Get a fuckin hobby! Write a song! Write a book! Learn to carve fancy walking sticks! Hang out with your friends and watch a baseball game! Read some Shakespeare!"

    I can tell you from the experiences of myself, my family, and my friends, that having children does not prevent you from doing any of those things.

  66. JohnR Says:

    @Elle and ladiesbane: "Lighten up, Francis."

  67. ZenPoseur Says:

    Elle, that was beautifully stated. Though JohnR helpfully points out something you missed: Once you've proved your point, you're a harpy for even bringing it up.

    Because, you know, why are you making such a big deal about an average of eleven extra hours of unpaid labor every week for the rest of your life, anyway?

  68. bb in GA Says:

    I have listened to some serious, sincere, and personal discussion on this topic today. Lets go up to about 15Kft and look down at the USA.

    If we can keep the wheels on this thing for a couple generations with "stuck tape and goat hangers" what are we going to find?:

    Evangelicals – large families now, well represented then.
    Muslims – same
    Latinos (nominally Roman Catholic) – same
    Black Americans (also members of some of the earlier groups) – same
    White Liberals – small or no families now – gone in the future

    While politically a lot of the Liberal Ideas will live on in several of the groups above and to your satisfaction, no doubt, Conservative ideas will be marginalized – Most of y'all won't be here in the genetic sense (your grands or great grands) to enjoy what you have worked so hard for.

    //bb

  69. lowest part is free! Says:

    Elle, I think you're overreacting a bit. I've met plenty of maladjusted men who bitch about women being "gold-diggers", etc., to which I respond that they are at worst a misogynist or at best propagating a shockingly misogynist point of view. In rebuttal, they will always defend themselves with loads of anecdotal evidence (personal and secondhand) and cite scientific studies showing a strong socio-evolutionary drive in females to seek out a mate who "provides", blah, blah, blah.

    Regardless, it's as indisputably a vapid and offensive generalization to declare "most men are shiftless domestic partners" as it is to declare "most women are shallow gold-diggers" because you've some personal experience to that effect or the presence of scientific statistics that add support to your position.

  70. Ed Says:

    I'm not sure why it's socially acceptable – and even put forth as a good argument – to make blanket generalizations about What Men Are Like. Don't get me wrong, it's excellent logic. I can watch sitcoms too, from which I can make sweeping judgments about women. You nagging harpies, always standing in front of the TV during the big game.

  71. ZenPoseur Says:

    I detect some sensitivity on this issue.

    So, guys, given that it's a well established fact that a woman has to be pretty damn lucky to land a fabulous guy like ya'll who'll do 50% of the household labor and childrearing, what do you suggest we do about it? If you think that calling out the behavior is beyond the pale, since innocents such as yourselves will have their feelings hurt, then please suggest an alternative strategy.

    Modern feminism eagerly awaits your advice.

  72. Scott Says:

    Don't get me wrong, I believe men and women are equal. Members of both genders are perfectly capable of performing any job or task, up to and including parenting. In that sense, I believe I am a feminist.

    @Elle – The way you describe feminism is very noble. On the other hand, I could say that both racism and this kind of feminism both propagate themselves by the denigration of a particular segment of the population. Tomato, to-mah-to, I suppose.

  73. Ed Says:

    My feelings are not hurt. I think you have read this site long enough to recognize that illogical arguments tend to get called out.

    My advice would be to not expect people to take seriously arguments about What Men Are Like. There are about 3 billion of us, as there are 3 billion women.

    If your personal experience is that men Are Like ladiesbane's description and/or the average Jim Belushi sitcom character, stop associating with men who are pieces of shit.

    My uninformed guess would be that women who would pair with such losers who represent the worst stereotypes of men are, in different but numerous ways, not exactly winners, and representative of all of the worst stereotypes of women.

    I do about 98% of the housework in my heterosexual pairing. So, don't assume I do 10% of it and I won't assume that you're a skank, nag, ditz, or any other equally generic stereotype about women that would rightly infuriate you if I held it to be true.

  74. ZenPoseur Says:

    Hey, hey hey. Chill out there, bro. We've already established that ya'll are exceptional.

    The fact remains that most men aren't, and the data backs that up. If doing only 20% of the housework and childrearing makes someone a loser, the worst kind of stereotype, and a piece of shit, then the average guy in this country is all of those things. Do I think the average guy is a piece of shit? Of course not. He's just used to being privileged, without even realizing that his career, his hobbies, his free time is privileged in a way that the average woman's isn't. I don't blame him. I just want to educate him.

    So, I'll ask it again, because I really would appreciate an answer, and because a lesson on how to be logical would help me to avoid getting you guys all butt hurt the next time this has to be called out: How do you propose we deal with it?

  75. Entomologista Says:

    I'm not sure why it's socially acceptable – and even put forth as a good argument – to make blanket generalizations about What Men Are Like. Don't get me wrong, it's excellent logic. I can watch sitcoms too, from which I can make sweeping judgments about women. You nagging harpies, always standing in front of the TV during the big game.

    Aren't you supposed to have a Ph.D? Maybe instead of dismissing decades worth of work by feminists you could actually look at the evidence. Start here: Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women. It's possible I'm mis-reading, but I don't think that anybody is arguing that all men are lazy slobs. I think people are arguing that men have privilege, which is often unexamined, and that means that they do less housework than women. If you do +50% of the housework, then you are awesome and we're not talking about you. (For example, my husband does about 75% of the housework – so I'm not talking about him!) But you should know, as somebody who I expect has taken graduate level statistics, that anecdotes != data. And the reason that housework is pertinent to the original article is that when children enter the picture women do even more of it. Please see this compilation of research on housework.

    But please, continue to mansplain to us silly ladies about how we're hairy-legged man-haters who are just tarring you all with a broad brush.

  76. My Says:

    The same way it's been for millennia: We're all here, therefore the emptyheaded nagging phatties keep banging the lazy pompous douchebags, the lovingly kind generous moms keep giving it up to the tenderhearted caring dads, etc. Let us not get too far way from Mr. Vonnegut's dictum and pretend we aren't all fucking around on some/most level(s).

    Also, grumpygradstudent, finish school (or drop out) and keep doing all those things you think are so awesome for another ten or fifteen years and let me know if you got as bored with it as most of the rest of us eventually do.

    Also also too, ladiesbane: You don't sound like any great prize to me, either, and it was cinched when you admitted you're a dipster running around unable to decide if you want to look more like an early 80's punk wannabe or a mid-90's post-Cobain wannabe, all the while not realizing that self-identifying with that crap is laughable. Everyone is an individual, except you.

    Now, repeat after me: "Think for yourself. Question authority." Repeat.

  77. beau Says:

    I get so disillusioned with male-ness whenever gender issues are raised here at g&t. It so often devolves staight into shit about gold diggers and hos and "if we're not allowed to say this, you're not allowed to say that". Shit, guys. Grow the fuck up.

    Do you REALLY believe that ladiesbane, elle, et. al. are wrong when they make these sweeping generalisations about 'most guys'?

    *Most* guys ARE less than equal partners when it comes to housework / relationship tending / child rearing. It's observable. It's quantifiable. It's a fucking fact.

    I know this 'reverse discimination' stuff is a favorite soapbox, Ed (it's come up once or twice before), but it's crap. It's just a manifestation of white male victimhood, albeit dressed up in academic fancy-talk.

    You, my friend, are what the zee ladeez like to call a CATCH – tall, smart, able to hold down a job and grow facial hair, and funny. Oh, and you do housework. You're the exception, not the rule.

  78. Robert Says:

    Well, speaking of parenting . . . . my husband and I became parents by choice. We adopted both our sons through the county's Social Services department, from foster care placements. It has become much simpler lately, as I qualified for medical retirement from my civil service job of many years. While we did get everything done when both of us were working, it makes a big difference having a stay-at-home parent.

    As for the 'joy vs fun' issue – we knew going in that it was going to be a lot of hard work. That was certainly true. One thing I did not anticipate was the tremendous support and encouragement we received from everyone we knew. It occurs to me that no-one would have wondered if we had NOT adopted; it wasn't taken for granted that 'oh, of course, they'll have children.' My younger sister and her husband are childfree by choice, and I do not know how much noise she gets about that choice. It is most likely dwarfed by the noise she tosses back.

    But I do experience a certain kind of joy from having this experience. To see my son across the dinner table saying, 'Thanks for making dinner, Pop!' is not an experience I had ever expected. Knowing that the two of them will have a better childhood than they might have had, because we were able to do this, that does mean a lot to me. It's like a message we're sending into the future, telling the rest of the world 'This is what we thought was important – this is what we meant when we said I AM HUMAN'.

  79. Ed Says:

    Maybe instead of dismissing decades worth of work by feminists you could actually look at the evidence.

    We wouldn't be having this conversation if the issue had first been raised by offering evidence rather than a straw man,

    If 50% + 1 of a group meets a certain criteria, does it become acceptable to use generalizations and treat it like common knowledge? Women get into more car accidents per hour behind the wheel than men. Can I say "Women are bad drivers"? I don't think you would appreciate that much. Along the same lines, I don't think a post about how women are bad drivers would be excused with a caveat like "Well if you're not a bad driver, then I'm not talking about you!"

    In short, I think the average self-identified feminist would disagree that it's OK to create a straw man about a group of people as long as you have some numbers to back it up.

  80. ZenPoseur Says:

    Ed? You're whining.

  81. Entomologista Says:

    In short, I think the average self-identified feminist would disagree that it's OK to create a straw man about a group of people as long as you have some numbers to back it up.

    A strawman is a misrepresentation of an opponent's argument. Saying that all men are lazy slobs isn't a strawman, it's a stereotype. But it's not a stereotype to say that men have privilege and one of the ways those privileges manifests is in the amount of housework they do. I will give you that there is a difference between saying it the way I just did in the preceding sentence and saying "men are lazy slobs".

    Now let's talk about why stereotypes about minorities are not the same as stereotypes about majority groups. It's the power differential. Negative stereotypes about rich straight Christian white dudes don't typically have an adverse affect on, say, your ability to get elected because the government is already full of rich straight Christian white dudes. Majority groups have the power to systematically deny minority groups access to economic opportunities, and negative stereotypes about minorities are used to rationalize that oppression.

  82. ladiesbane Says:

    The change in my work schedule has certainly affected my interaction here.

    Among the many things on my mind at this point: does anyone here know the difference between anecdotal evidence and a straw man argument? A show of hands will do.

    I now feel obliged to point out that my friend of 13 years, beau of nine years, and husband of four months would be the first to agree that what many women view as unhygienic filth, many men regard as business casual. Shrug. I need sparkling fixtures, clean dishes, and a made bed before I can leave for work in the morning. He doesn't care, and I do, so he tries to minimize his impact. For my part, I try not to resent his tendency to use a clean class for each new sip of water. As it happens, respecting each other and not sweating it isn’t an occasion for apocalypse, or for martyrdom.

    My original thought was that this sort of unremarkable difference between the sexes (ooh! generalities! Anyone who needs to wet himself may be excused now!) could escalate to Defcon Five between all of my married friends — as any little thing does, when both parties are strung out, sleep-deprived, and suffering from mastitis. (Pardon my last; it doesn't count, because men don't get it.)

    A tremendous affection for one another, indifference to the petty stuff, awareness of what constitutes petty stuff, and generosity of spirit will help those who try to do a good job as spouses, as well as those who are raising children. Both are worthwhile endeavors, I think. The negativity of my post was mostly the product of my many hours with friends who are mothers ("He won't let me be sexy anymore! He just gives me that shocked look like I'm the Virgin Mary, Mother Of His Children! But seriously, it's the most meaningful thing in my life, and you could never understand, since you're not a real woman,") and buddies who became fathers ("She never, ever wants to have sex, seriously!" — and the blank look that follows when I say, "Treat her the way you did when you were trying to get in her pants the first time, and you will get there again, Grasshopper." Especially when their next move is to try to cop a feel during the goodbye hug. Sigh.)

    I know people who have never had pet animals, and think I am insane because I cherish something with a short lifespan that will never care for me when I'm old. Can't explain it, amigos; I love cats and dogs and mice and snakes and all creatures great and small. They are wonderful. They don't have to earn their way with me. I love them for free. I love my male friends, even when they are egocentric jerks; I love my female friends, even when they poison their relationships over which way the toilet paper should unroll. I may secretly feel sorry for women whose mates pee on the floor and aren't civilized enough to wipe it up, and for men whose mates shriek for ages because the spare binky wasn't stored in a baggie of ice prior to the car trip — but I don't mention it. I just wipe up the pee and remember the ice when I visit them. They are under stresses that I am not, and my job as their friend is to ease their pain rather than accentuate it. But in Downtown Blogville, I can mention the floor-peeing and shrill shrieking. It’s observed phenomena – not fiction, not necessarily the exception or the rule. Just what I’ve seen, over and over again.

    And, as a last thought, since (hopefully) all the WHAT ABOUT THE DUDES dudes have moved on, please consider: the average self-identified feminist is a relic suitable for a museum diorama. I know lots of lovely women who think burlesque performance is feminist because it gives them leverage over men. ("They respect me because I can twirl my tassels counterclockwise and clockwise at the same time!") Let's define our terms, if we are going to use words that have multiple meanings, such as "feminist".

  83. HoosierPoli Says:

    What I'm wondering is how a topic about the pressures of child-rearing got twisted into a fight about how men are lazy scumbags.

    I will freely admit I'm a lazy scumbag, but petty chore-tallying is only relevant to parenting if you're a sociopath.

  84. ZenPoseur Says:

    And, you know, just because I'm not up to my quota for longwinded reflections that go nowhere, let me add some more:

    As a matter of fact, you ARE allowed to say that women get into more car accidents than men, if it's true. And if I scoff at that, but you can back it up with data? Well then, I really don't have the right to get pissy and call you illogical because you didn't lead off with the p-values and error bars.

    And Jesus Christ, Ed, are you seriously putting on your righteous hat because someone made generalizations about a large group of people? Have you read your own blog lately? I'm forced to conclude that you haven't — which is a shame, because it's GREAT.

    What's the cutoff, anyway, before I'm allowed to generalize? Has it occurred to you yet that every identified female who's weighed in on this subject tells the same story? Ladiesbane's experiences are not a statistical anomaly. My experiences are not a statistical anomaly. Talk to ten women about this, and nine of them will sing the same song. Women's time is judged less valuable than men's, even among a lot of men who ought to know better. Even among men who are the sweetest, most thoughtful partners, who would gladly walk over hot coals for you. That's not a statistical anomaly, it's a problem of unexamined privilege.

    You, on the other hand, are a statistical anomaly. Doing 98% of the housework puts you around four sigmas from the mean, right behind men whose wives are in comas.

  85. ZenPoseur Says:

    You know, I considered daring someone to make light of the average difference between men's and women's childrearing responsibilities (women's time commitments to a child aged 5-11 being 4.06 +-0.81 times greater than men's, on average, that's FOUR TIMES GREATER, on average,) but I thought, "Nah, that really would be a strawman. No one here's going to demean the obvious significance of that." Yeah.

    By the way, has anyone actually called anyone lazy? If you think anyone's being called lazy, I think you're missing the point. Lazy is not the problem.

  86. Elle Says:

    My advice would be to not expect people to take seriously arguments about What Men Are Like. There are about 3 billion of us, as there are 3 billion women.</blockquote

    I'm possibly on a fool's errand, but I actually do expect you to take seriously discussion of what patriarchy is and what that means for politics and policy. The rest of your blog suggests that you can muster up pretty sophisticated analyses of systems when it comes to class. This one isn't much different.

    Talking about men and domestic labour isn't a roll-call of individual people and whether or not they leave towels on the bathroom floor. It isn't impugning anyone's character. It's talking about many interesting things, like the value societies place on childcare, and the gender-blindness of much labour market policy. Like micro-credit and how to count work not mediated by the market. Like how to get girls educated when their families see them as a source of more domestic labour in a marginal agricultural enterprise. It's a rich, textured area of inquiry.

    There is a real observation bias I see in progressive men who don't enjoy some of the specific fruits that their privilege might afford them, and it weakens (and renders incredibly annoying) the discourse. It would not be acceptable, in a discussion of how biology, the law, and public policy combine to present a barrier to LGB parenting, for the proponents of that point of view to be shouted down by those who were nice to their gay friend Bud, or thought that Burt Hummel was a totes awesome character. The fact that straight people are all different does not mean that there are not systemic barriers to the political representation, labour market participation, and establishment of family life for LGB people.

    The fact that in your household the amount of domestic labour you do isn't a problem for the women in your life does not mean that other women who bring up the unequal distribution of domestic and emotional labour are: lying, too 'angry' to take seriously, as academically mendacious as a 1950s eugenicist, too polemical to take seriously, or being mean to you. Really, we're on your side, because the 'family-friendly' workplace provisions and gendered social policy that feminists advocate for, will benefit you.

    In short, I think the average self-identified feminist would disagree that it's OK to create a straw man about a group of people as long as you have some numbers to back it up.

    I'm not sure that feminists have one single policy on the creation of straw men, but feminism has been pretty well informed by the decades of research on the gendered allocation of domestic labour, and what that means along the life course for girls and women.

    A survey carried out at the University of Houston, identified that women who identify as feminists like men more than those who don't. Melinda Kanner, one of the researchers, had this interesting observation:

    Our work finds that, indeed, non-feminists believe in traditional gender roles such as men being breadwinners and women being caregivers. At the same time, these non-feminists actually appear to resent the confines of the traditional roles they advocate, which presents a paradox for women and men in traditional heterosexual relationships.

    I spend a lot of time with members of the feminist academy, women who work around gendered policy, and random feminists. The most viscerally anti-men rhetoric I have ever heard has come from those parties where the men go into one room and the women hang out in the kitchen.

    I don't believe that men have less capacity to love, to care, or to be gentle and kind. I don't believe that men are less thoughtful, less creative, less able to fucking multi-task. I don't believe that men pretend they're sick when they're not. What I do believe is that we all need the system of patriarchy off our back, so that men and women both, can flourish.

  87. Jimcat Says:

    @bb in GA: your mistake lies in the assumption that liberal thought is transmitted genetically.

  88. Elle Says:

    @bb in GA: your mistake lies in the assumption that liberal thought is transmitted genetically.

    Word. Although doubtless there will be some comedy EvoPsych, published in the Weekly World News, to support this hypothesis. There usually is. (See also: Digging, Gold; Affairs, Men having.)

  89. Bugboy Says:

    Frame of reference…please remember that is what we all do when we consider other's actions.

    For myself, my mother's child first neglected, then abandoned him. No blame is to be assigned here, she was sick, I tried to help her and could not. I took responsibility and raised him and was lucky enough to bump into a woman who helped me. My son calls her "Mom". Do we share domestic duties %50-50? No, but we are comfortable with it, and that is what counts, communication of your needs.

    There is NO question I would not be able to raise a child as a single father, on my income alone, and there is NO question my wife would not be able to raise a child alone. IT IS A TEAM EFFORT. Particularly in light of how the real estate market has trended toward dual income mortgages, can you even buy a single family home on a single income anymore? I don't believe so, not with how the market has driven prices toward dual income families.

    Hence, Ed's point about the system being rigged.

  90. Bugboy Says:

    Bleh not awake yet: My son's mother first neglected, then abandoned him.

  91. Anonymouse Says:

    I have to agree with Elle and LadiesBane. I see it, too. In a stunning 100% of the married couples I know, the wife runs around like a rabid squirrel on crack trying to manage all of the housework, child care, social obligations, family medical appointments AND a fulltime job…while the husband is a frickin martyr entitled to weeks of pouting and sighing if he can be nagged into picking up his dirty, wadded-up socks off the floor. 'Cause, you know, it interferes with his XBox time.

    As a matter of fact, in the divorces I've seen, the wife is almost always jubilant that she's got ONE LESS CHILD to care for.

  92. BK Says:

    Just a quick question… if the majority of men suck ass as much as many on here say they do, then why do women (who according to what I've read, must know this):

    1.) Have sex with horrid men thus creating an opportunity to become a parent?
    2.) Marry such men?

    We all have choices folks, and while I will give you that there is a lot of societal pressure to get married, have children, or hell just have sex from time to time (not to mention some biological drivers in all of this behavoir as well) I cannot seem to get my head around the fact that we have choices here folks…

    /I didn't marry a harpy nag.
    //I have two wonderful kids with another on the way
    ///I still have hobbies, friends and a job that aren't centered on my children
    ////My wife does as well.

  93. Bugboy Says:

    I think sample selections may be a little skewed. Just saying. You can't observe something without effecting its outcome, it's a basic scientific rule of thumb.

    This author presents so many "what's wrong with this picture" moments in the first paragraph, I'm sorry I couldn't read the rest.

  94. VALIS Says:

    It's the 21st century and the grass is shit brown on both sides of the pasture. Life sucks, with kids, kid-less, it's a battle to find some kind of salve to soothe your fragmented, pointless, deeply ironic existence. in other words you have to try to make yourself happy.

    i love having kids.

    let's not pretend it's merely the breeders searching desperately for significance…

  95. Robert Says:

    I think some of the mansplainers on this blog would do well to go spend a few days lurking over at Tiger Beatdown (Sady Doyle's wonderful ladybusiness blog). It is VERY educational.

  96. Anonymouse Says:

    BK: >>Just a quick question… if the majority of men suck ass as much as many on here say they do,>>

    Because when they're dating, men are actually capable of putting a dish in a dishwasher/making their own dental appointments/writing out a bill BEFORE the electricity gets turned off for non-payment. Even after the wedding ring goes on, they're still mostly capable of that. Once the children come, however, so very many miraculously regress to infants themselves. Maybe they see the baby getting diapered and in their minds believe they deserve the same kind of waited-on-hand-and-foot treatment?

    :::shrugs::: If I only observed this in one or two marriages, I'd say it was just a fluke. But ALL OF THEM? Or maybe if I was the only person who observed this, I would say it was just something weird in the water here, but several others have weighed in with the same observations.

    Face it. Patriarchy lives.

  97. BK Says:

    Anonymouse – so you're going to continue with this notion that just because you've seen it in every relationship, it must be true line of bogus reasoning?

    I will agree patriarchy lives but I will not accept that it happens everywhere and in every hetero, married relationship.

    And please, enough with 'once the ring goes on men turn into shit' line of argumentation. It's tired, and the last time I checked, relationships are two-way streets. Don't tell me that men are the only ones who change once the honeymoon is over or after the stork drops of the first kid…

  98. Elle Says:

    Just a quick question… if the majority of men suck ass as much as many on here say they do, then why do women (who according to what I've read, must know this):

    1.) Have sex with horrid men thus creating an opportunity to become a parent?
    2.) Marry such men?

    I don't think men suck ass. I think patriarchy sucks ass.

    There is no question from the research that men entering into any kind of domestic partnership have an increasing expectation of, and commitment to, egalitarianism within those relationships.

    Where the system (the patriarchy part) kicks these plans into touch is within the intersection of socialisation, labour market regulation, and culture that gives men a thousand cues that domestic and reproductive labour is not their concern, and women a thousand cues that it is.

    (Heteronormative) examples of these are:

    1. Maternity leave policy that entrenches the birth mother as a the primary caregiver. (Sweden, the Netherlands and other countries have tried to mitigate with their 'Daddy months' of leave.)
    2. Family accounting/budgeting practices that balance only the mother's wages against childcare costs when deciding on early years caring arrangements, ignoring the long run impacts on earning potential for the mother, or the father's notional contribution to childcare costs.
    3. Assumptions made by health visitors and teachers and nursery nurses about who the primary caregiver is (or that there is one), and the ability of fathers to nurse sick kids or deal with complex emotional issues.
    4. Extended family assumptions about masculinity, the breadwinner role, and how childcare relates to that.
    5. Workplace cultures that privilege presenteeism above other methods of calculating productivity, and grudgingly agree that women can have some measure of flexible working in exchange for being diverted onto the 'Mommy track', but that subtly (or unsubtly) dissuade men from any flexibility at all.
    6. Extended family and social networks that train women throughout childhood to notice and deal with mess, praise them for learning childcare/nurturing skills, and judge women hard for having a messy house.
    7. The assumption (which still exists) that men who like hanging out with kids are weird/dangerous/abusive.

    Although we have been edged away from a breadwinner model of family, into a dual-earner model of family, the shift in structures and systems has only been partial. A lot of the ethos of service delivery for children is predicated on a Mother-and-child model, just as the deep culture of the workplace is still hugely masculine.

    I don't think men are awful for sliding into the grooves that exist for them, and there are completely rational reasons on the micro level for going with the flow. I feel for my friends who are walking against the tide, and trying to construct equality within a system that privileges a starker division between the public and the private sphere.

    We have half a revolution. (Or a bit of half a revolution.) Women are out of the home and into public space in greater numbers than ever before. What we haven't figured out a way to do is to engineer the levers that will enable/encourage/facilitate men to move into private space.

  99. Nunya Says:

    Although I'm sure this has already been said, I'm certain that much of this angst regarding childhood is from the simple fear that without constant scheduling of activities and diligent preparation for the future that one's child will be an abject failure in life. After all, we've all bought into the idea that only those that attend the most elite colleges deserve to earn a decent living or live a life free of financial uncertainty.

    America has forged a path in where everyone is expected to produce (generally for the benefit of the aforementioned crows) for as long as humanly possible and for diminishing rewards. We have ignored the basic fact that life is about more than simply going to work and competing for scarce resources. Ideally, it should be much more about family, friends and enjoyment of our mortal coil.

    As a nation, we must change our thinking to include the following as fundamental rights of our population as a whole:

    1. We support our children during childhood. This includes child care, proper nutrition, education, and basic economic security.
    2. We allow parents time to actually parent their children. This means we offer paid maternity/paternity leave, offer a reasonable amount of time outside of work to have a part in our childrens' lives, and have a system of support for those that fall on hard times.
    3. We protect our elderly. We establish an actual pension system that is not subject to market whims that allows us to actually stop working in our final years. This is necessary not only for quality of life but to make room for the upcoming generation of workers.

    Without respecting these basic standards of an orderly society, we cannot hope for improvements in our standard of living or our basic enjoyment of life.

  100. ZenPoseur Says:

    so you're going to continue with this notion that just because you've seen it in every relationship, it must be true line of bogus reasoning

    Seriously, dude? So inductive reasoning is off limits, now? INDUCTIVE REASONING? Even backed by statistics, even when we go out of our way to tongue-bathe the good guys and point out that they're sitting on the happy tail of the population distribution, we're not allowed to use inductive reasoning to describe a pervasive social problem?

    You know, if you point out that men get better SAT scores, or men get paid more, or men have more upper body strength, no one's gonna argue, because these are ACCURATE statements. They are not PRECISE statements, but precision only seems to be a prerequisite to seriousness when the dude patrol gets its feefees hurt.

    Shit, I still haven't gotten an answer, so I'm gonna ask this motherfucker again: Just what AM I allowed to say, to combat the fact that ON AVERAGE (on average, dude patrol!) I'm expected to work the equivalent of a second job once I get home from my first?

  101. Nunya Says:

    Wow, reading down the comments has proven that even the normally upscale commentary on this site can devolve into a gender war in short order. I'll give you my take on the current state of equality in the household and why both genders are, in some ways, correct in their interpretations of the situation.

    Let's accept, for a monent, that the status quo of child rearing has changed fundamentally since the 1970's. Before then, most women had the luxury of being stay at home moms. The man was able to earn an adequate salary to provide for his family and the wife, rightly so, took care of the household. This is essentially how it worked for the past few millenium.

    After 1970, we woke up as a nation and realized that women were just as capable as men of working outside of the home in just about every industry there is. The market flooded with this new talent pool but failed to adjust to the new reality of both parents working outside the home.

    The Gex-Xers were the first to deal with this situation. Does anyone remember the "latchkey kids" phenomenon of the 1980's? Daycare became the most common way of occupying our kids while both parents went out and earned a living (for less and less each year, it seems.) We dismissed the valuable role of motherhood in lieu of the joys of working for the man.

    OK, fast forward 40 years. We still have most parents working outside of the home but we haven't yet made the adjustment in societal perception of our roles in parenting. Men are still not free to shag out of work early because of their kid's recital or to blow off that meeting because Billy has the sniffles. The truth is that men are still expected to be as dedicated to their careers as they were in the 1960's and those that fail to meet these expectations soon find themselves out of a job.

    Women, on the other hand, are generally allowed much more flexibility in their schedules. I'm not arguing that this is the right way to go but the fact remains that their is a societal preference for women as primary caregivers to their children.

    Attitudes are chainging. Men in their twenties to forties were weaned on feminism and in most cases would love to have more time to spend in rearing their children. Until corporate America catches up with the new reality, however, the ladies are going to have to pick up the slack unless you prefer the new emerging trend of men staying home to raise the children full time. Maybe then you can understand just how hard it is to get by in this society on one income.

  102. brent Says:

    This is getting silly and disjointed- mainly because the argument keeps shifting. Some of you are speaking in universal language (e.g. all men behave in a certain fashion once they have kids, or have a latent-Jim Belushi gene lurking somewhere even if they "seem nice") while others are referring to statistical averages. The former argument is bullshit and I believe that those who are advancing it are willfully deceitful.

    The latter argument, however, has plenty of merit. The "second-shift" phenomenon is an unfortunately persistent reality for far too many mothers in the US. It should be noted, however, that this phenomenon may be unrelated to the lack of social services we have in the US relative to other western industrialized countries and therefore significantly deviates from Ed's original post. In Germany, for example, gender roles are far more "traditional" than they are in the US.

    I, of course, have no idea about what can be done about it. I shudder at the argument that this is the result of "THE PATRIARCHY" because it completely removes agency, and it is something that goes well beyond requiring men to be "educated." Since becoming a father, I have seen that there are a great number of subtle (and not-so subtle) signals about the role of the genders in child-rearing.

    And the signals have often come from women. The fact these signals exist doesn't excuse uninvolved fathers but it does reinforce behavior.

    But why is it that the Birth Services agency in my progressive town claims to offer a number of programs for "new parents" yet in the description of these programs only invites mothers to take part? (see: http://bloomingtonbirth.org/services/parent_groups.shtml)

    For example:

    Parent-Toddler Playtime at BABS
    Fridays 10am-12pm
    Cost: Free
    Your little one getting a bit too big for Parent-Baby Playtime? Come hang out with some mammas and toddlers on Friday mornings

    I suppose that at some fundamental level one could argue that this is the result of "THE PATRIARCHY" and that the women who are actively scheduling these classes, and reinforcing gender roles, are operating under "false consciousness", but that really seems to be a really long way to get nowhere.

    I am not stupid enough to suggest that using more inclusive language for child-parent activities will reduce the second shift phenomenon, but it wouldn't exacerbate it either.

  103. Elle Says:

    In Germany, for example, gender roles are far more "traditional" than they are in the US.

    Cite? The WEF Gender Gap Index, which is a very imperfect measure of gaps between women and men across a range of indicators, ranks Germany seventh (US 31st). German women participate less in the formal labour market, but they also have relatively low fertility rates.

    The EU Presidency report around Beijing+15 indicated that German men's "tied time" slightly outstrips that of women, in contrast to the other EU27 countries for which figures were provided. (Sweden came close.)

    shudder at the argument that this is the result of "THE PATRIARCHY" because it completely removes agency, and it is something that goes well beyond requiring men to be "educated."

    I'm not sure why you've capitalised patriarchy, and put it in scare quotes, but your style choices are not my style choices. Identifying a problem as systemic, does not make it unsolveable. In fact, without recognising the causes and consequences of the distribution of domestic and reproductive labour, it's difficult to see how they can be mitigated.

    I suppose that at some fundamental level one could argue that this is the result of "THE PATRIARCHY" and that the women who are actively scheduling these classes, and reinforcing gender roles, are operating under "false consciousness", but that really seems to be a really long way to get nowhere.

    Yes, that's the policy solution that is being proposed: consciousness raising sessions for childcare schedulers. Sweet mercy.

    At EU level, feminists have won the argument (to a degree) for a gendered approach to policy formulation, through a set of processes called gender mainstreaming. (I summarise, for brevity.)

    Variants of these processes are written into the law of individual states within the EU, like the Equality Act (2006, as amended), which require a gendered lens to be used in the formulation of policy.

    Binding on the public sector, (I will spare you the constitutional niceties around devolved administrations), this requires public bodies to consider the different needs of men and women, and the differentiated impacts of policy on men and women.

    With our childcare example, this requires public sector providers of childcare (and their private sector contractors) to consider the needs of male primary caregivers. In the UK this has led to small-scale projects to engage men in working in childcare, the development of specific services for fathers, and the inclusion of fathers in other childcare settings. It's not perfect, and it's an iterative process, but it's eminently possible for a feminist, gendered analysis to lead to better service delivery.

  104. Elle Says:

    I meant to say above that the Equality Act (2006, as amended) is a piece of UK legislation.

  105. BK Says:

    ZenPoseur –

    I will ask you this – just what the hell qualifies as an 'average' relationship, or person, or man, or woman, or job or anything for that matter?

    Do you have the average number of friends, the average number of dreams, the average number of jobs in your work history, the average number of cars, dogs, houses??

    If I ran around here saying the average woman was less intelligent than a man because her SAT scores are lower, or the average woman is weaker because she can't bench-press what an average man can I WOULD HOPE TO HOLY HELL I GOT CALLED ON THE CARPET.

    Just what argument are you trying to make – that women are less happy because men don't hold up their half of the responsibilities of child-rearing and household work? Or that men are happier because apparently an average number of us don't do enough to help out around the house? Or is that everyone is not happy becuase …

  106. brent Says:

    Regarding Germany and traditional gender roles. This is not my acknowledged area of expertise and I do not know what public opinion data bears out, however, my statement was based on my pretty wide experiences living with and visiting the German side of my family.

    Of course, there is a variation- especially between the former East and West. In fact many women from the former East still complain that reunification has pushed them into more traditional roles.

    I think it is telling that in many parts of (former West) Germany, the school day ends around 1:30 so children can return home for lunch. Which gender do you think usually is there with lunch?

    It is also telling that only a few years ago there was a very public debate about whether separating toddlers from their mothers in order to attend day care harmed children (http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,468709,00.html). Hell, there is even a word for mothers who leave young children at childcare: "Rabenmutter," raven-mother.

    I could search out some academic articles that describe perceptions of gender roles in Germany- especially in the former West, but honestly don't have time.

  107. brent Says:

    ^the "a" before "variation" should have been deleted.

  108. Elle Says:

    my statement was based on my pretty wide experiences living with and visiting the German side of my family.

    Well, that's interesting and all, but the data across a range of indicators doesn't really bear out your hypothesis.

    I think it is telling that in many parts of (former West) Germany, the school day ends around 1:30 so children can return home for lunch. Which gender do you think usually is there with lunch?

    Many school systems across Western Europe have really long lunchtimes, during which, schools/kindergartens do not have legal responsibility for their students. Childcare provision usually expands into these gaps. If it isn't doing so in Germany's case, then the gender analysis of their childcare/education policy that their law requires, should (probably incrementally) start to shift their systems.

    It is also telling that only a few years ago there was a very public debate about whether separating toddlers from their mothers in order to attend day care harmed children.

    You mean like the ones that play out in the US press every other week? Yeah, critiques of mothers, on any ground you care to name, are a fairly universal, cross-cultural feature of public discourse.

  109. brent Says:

    Oh, I see… I am an ass for referring to my experience with other people's attitudes, yet when others do so it is inductive logic. It is all clear, thanks.

    By the way, I am uncertain the WEF Gender Gap Index measures anything at all related to the domestic duties that I thought we were talking about. I could be off base here, but it seems that by pointing to it, the discussion is being shifted again. Point me to that data and then we can talk. I would genuinely interested in seeing that data.

  110. HoosierPoli Says:

    Sweet sassy molassy, this is an annoying subject.

    Elle, if you have a problem with the way your relationship is going, you need to sit down with your partner and talk it out with him. Jumping online and shrieking about how all men are lazy bitches isn't gonna change a thing; respecting your partner enough to treat them like an adult will make you BOTH happier. And if Joe Schmoe really isn't getting it done, you need to decide whether clean dishes are more important than having him in your life (which may in fact be the case).

    Your husband/boyfriend/life partner will only act like a child if you treat them like one.

  111. Elle Says:

    Oh, I see… I am an ass for referring to my experience with other people's attitudes, yet when others do so it is inductive logic. It is all clear, thanks.

    You're not an ass at all. Your throwaway remark, that gender roles in Germany are more 'traditional' is just not borne out by the collected indicators in the WEF GGI. Although, there is something in the notion that women in former West Germany are more likely to be described as 'traditional' in terms of their reproductive labour than women in the US, who are more likely to be described as 'traditional' than women in the former DDR. In terms of US/Germany comparisons, it does seem to be somewhat of a wash. Of course, the experiences of women in the labour market, and the division of reproductive labour, in post-communist countries are another whole, complicated story.

    I could be off base here, but it seems that by pointing to it, the discussion is being shifted again.

    The feminist and pro-feminist commentators in this thread have posited that the division of reproductive labour is gendered, which has implications for fertility rates, women's political representation, and policy interventions around childcare and labour markets. I'm not sure why citing the WEF, which explicitly relates to labour market participation, and women's political representation is 'shifting the discussion'. It may not be the discussion that you are interested in, but that's not really the same thing.

  112. Parrotlover77 Says:

    112 comments! Ed, you hit a nerve! I'm not even going to pretend to read them all, but I am going to reply to your original post.

    I'm 33, married and child-free. Four years ago I made it official and snipped the pipes. I couldn't be happier or more complete. My older brother JUST had a kid and it looks to be their only one. Both my older brothers have kids, although my second oldest just turned 40 and had his first, and likely, only one. Both my brothers seem to quite enjoy it. I really don't hear a lot of complaining, but then again I don't live close enough to either to get the day to day experience. I do know that the nephews drive me crazy when I do see them, although I do love them.

    I think there's too much pressure on starting a family by what is basically societal norms (every TV ad with kids in it just makes it look SO WONDERFUL AND FULFILLING and the moms and dads COULDN'T BE HAPPIER). I'm not blaming 'the media' as I think TV/movies/radio/magazines just reflect the greater attitude that already existed long before that.

    It is a biological drive, after all. None of us would be here if it wasn't. Horniness and the orgasm are only persuasive (from the standpoint of a biological drive) before the invention of birth control. The amount of broken condom babies would not be enough to sustain a population.

    But that doesn't mean everybody has to feel that way. Some of us are just wired different (I won't pretend to know if it's nature or nurture or both at this point). So it would be nice to not be looked down upon as something sort of weird. Just because we're not a part of the baby club, doesn't mean we must hate kids and worship satan.

    It's important to realize that too many babies is bad for the world too. We're fighting over scarcer resources, as so many of our species die horrible painful deaths as a result. Not to mention all the other species on this wonderful planet that must die to fit the next generation's subburban houses, farm lands, airports, and highways…

  113. Elle Says:

    Sweet sassy molassy, this is an annoying subject.

    Elle, if you have a problem with the way your relationship is going, you need to sit down with your partner and talk it out with him. Jumping online and shrieking about how all men are lazy bitches isn't gonna change a thing; respecting your partner enough to treat them like an adult will make you BOTH happier. And if Joe Schmoe really isn't getting it done, you need to decide whether clean dishes are more important than having him in your life (which may in fact be the case).

    Hoosier, I'm deeply sorry that you find an issue that is of some importance to labour market, social security, and health policy annoying. Perhaps it is that you don't really understand it? My advice would be to go and read something else, because I'm not sure you're adding anything to the discussion.

    I am also not really sure why you perceive me to be 'shrieking' when I talk about gender mainstreaming and the power of the EU directive, except that it is one of the go-to insults of women by men who find themselves unable to substantively engage.

    Your faux-concern for my relationship is endearing in a is-this-your-first-attempted-takedown-of-a-feminist? kind of way, but slightly misdirected. If is, of course, no business of yours, but my husband, who is utterly delightful in every way, does his half of the housework.

    Of course, that wasn't your point. Your point was that this is a silly little issue, discussed by sad women who hate their relationships, rather than something of substance. You can run that line all day and all night, but I think that the grown-up members of the academy and all of their publication records, render your argument facile. For those of us who've cracked a book, or a thousand books, on this subject, it's like listening to someone argue that homeopathy has a robust evidence base.

  114. Robert Says:

    The number of men on this thread uttering some variation of 'BUT I'M NOT LIKE THAT! STOP IT, STOP IT STOPIT!' is truly awe-inspiring. I do notice how gynocentric the 'parent culture' seems to be – I take my youngest to weekly therapy at a clinic run by Children's Hospital Oakland, and the materials available do occasionally reveal the existence of male parents.

    My own take on it is that many men have grown up being indulged by their mothers, although 'indulged' is certainly not the word these men would use. Rather, they were nurtured and cared for by their mothers, and they naturally expect than any woman who claims to love them would cheerfully do the same. So when he comes home from a hard day's work, he would prefer that the children be clean and happy and 'his woman' be eagerly waiting to hear all about the pile of shit he calls his day. And if he drops the towel on the bedroom floor, it's not that big a deal for her to pick it up, put it in the laundry hamper, eventually wash it, dry it, fold it and put it away, so that he can drop it on the floor again tomorrow morning. What is she COMPLAINING about?

    He takes out the garbage, doesn't he?

  115. Nunya Says:

    @ Elle,

    Shouldn't you be in the kitchen fulling your paternal society's mandate to cook your man a decent meal? After all, your gender are utterly powerless in this society to deny this power.

    Also, why did some oppressive man let you learn to read and write much less address a strange man directly.

    Jesus Christ, lady. Lighten the fuck up.

  116. ZenPoseur Says:

    BK and others: Again, I can't recall ANYONE saying that men are lazy because their share of childrearing is dramatically lower (as an average, median, aggregate, or whatever you wish to pick) than that of women. Maybe someone did and I missed it. I dunno. If so, I disown their argument. YOU are the one putting those words into MY mouth.

    "Men take less responsibility for childrearing" is to "Women score lower on the SAT" as "Men are lazy" is to "Women are stupid". Do you see how that works? Do you see how one set is a statement of fact that could potentially lead to an illuminating discussion, and the other is an insult? Do you see how reading one as the other is an impediment to intellectual discourse?

    The argument I'm making is quite clear, and I've repeated it again and again and again: Women's time is judged less valuable than men's. Women's skills are judged less valuable than men's. (Corollaries: Women's hobbies and skills and careers are judged less valuable than mens'.) This is a pervasive social phenomenon that doesn't go away because you're a fantastic guy (which I'm certain you are.)

    Am I mad about this pervasive social phenomenon? Of course I am. Walk a decade in my stylish but sensible sneakers and you'll be mad too. I guarantee it. Am I mad at men? Well… sometimes, yeah, which I realize is petty of me. But I'm a lot more mad at humanity.

    The good news about this phenomenon is that just being aware of it helps to abate it. But if you're going to jump down a woman's throat anytime they try to make people aware of it, you're inadvertently working for the other side.

    Now, to address the "just find a better guy" argument: THE GUYS WHO DO THIS ARE NOT BAD PEOPLE. They are not losers. They are not shitheels. They are not lazy. God damn, I WISH they were just lazy. Then we could solve the problem by dropping caffeine pills in their morning cereal. We'd have equality locked up by lunchtime. No, it's that they just don't get it, or their wives don't get it, or (more typically) a combination of both. And they don't get it because most of them grew up in a family where dad's free time was his own, but mom's free time belonged to dad and the kids. NOT THEIR FAULT.

    This is not an issue that can be solved by threatening divorce or rejecting any man that doesn't consider my time as valuable as his. I mean, are you telling me I shouldn't fall in love with someone because he's less than 1.5 sigmas above the mean, in this area? Or are you just saying that I have to turn up my nose at my partners, over and over again, until I hit triple-cherries and land on a co-equal relationship? Fuck that noise. No, people, you are NOT allowed to pull out the, "Either leave or stop complaining about it" line.

    Women do not cede the right to talk about this shit because they're not doing what you imagine you would do, if you were them.

    Anyway, most of the men in question are perfectly salvageable. They're not bad people. Hell, for most of them, their wives are as much to blame as they are. They just need to be educated. Maybe if, instead of trying to denigrate the very real experience of the women posting here, you could just put your feefees on hold and listen, you might learn something too.

  117. Elle Says:

    @ Nunya

    Your originality is surpassed only by your ability to craft a well-turned sentence. I really don't think you're even trying. Hoosier's misfire at least managed to bring the pith.

  118. Nunya Says:

    @ Elle – What I lack in composition skills and originality I more than make up for in humor and good cheer. Your singular focus on just how rough you have it as a woman is, frankly, boring as fuck.

    Men and women both have their individual roles to fulfill and perhaps you live in some backwater locale in Skeeter's Holler County but professional men in cities tend to pull their weight in child rearing but wouldn't condescend to breed with an insuffereable shrew like you have proven to be.

  119. ZenPoseur Says:

    It's terrible, really, how insulting the feminists in this comment thread have been. Goddamn feminists took a civil discussion and made it all personal.

  120. Elle Says:

    in humor and good cheer.

    You will forgive me if I didn't notice your sparkling badinage, and frisky sense of fun, in the midst of you swearing at me.

    Your singular focus on just how rough you have it as a woman is, frankly, boring as fuck.

    You know nothing about me, Nunya. Not a damn thing, except that I have an interest in gendering policy. If you find the subject of gender and policy tedious, then go do something else. I don't get my thrills by telling particle physicists that the minutiae of their interest is dull.

    Men and women both have their individual roles to fulfill and perhaps you live in some backwater locale in Skeeter's Holler County but professional men in cities tend to pull their weight in child rearing but wouldn't condescend to breed with an insuffereable shrew like you have proven to be.

    I live in a cosmopolitan European city, where I have the most lovely life with a beautiful, clever professional man.

    I think I'd like our interaction to end now. It doesn't seem to have any substance to it, and I'd like the insults to stop escalating before you call me a cunt.

  121. Nunya Says:

    @Elle – Thanks Elle. I've enjoyed our time together as well. Perhaps we should hang out and get to know each other further. I'll be sure to discuss particle physics and you can further berate my oppressive gender.

    I'd like to book a flight right away so please let me know when you're available to discuss.

  122. ZenPoseur Says:

    I, on the other hand, love to tell particle physicists that they're overwrought and tedious. Particle physicists, and string theorists.

    Fuck string theory. Fuck it right in its eleven dimensional ass.

  123. Nunya Says:

    In honor of the Insane Clown Posse – String theory? How does that shit work?

  124. beau Says:

    Yeah, this is pretty much what I was talking about.

  125. Entomologista Says:

    Why are feminists such shrieking, unfuckable shrews? It's probably because we don't have a sense of humor.

  126. ZenPoseur Says:

    Take heart, Beau. Most women and a growing fraction of men get it. Hell, most men even understand that it's not appropriate to turn into masculosaurus rex and start tearing shit up because some lady on the internet is tired of the way things are and not afraid to talk about it in terms that are inconsiderate of his personal status as a legitimately great guy.

    Oh and, when I name a character in my unpublished novel after you, he's going to be tender and sensitive to women's issues. And he'll have great upper body strength.

    P.S. Fuck String Theory.

  127. Ed Says:

    Why are feminists such shrieking, unfuckable shrews? It's probably because we don't have a sense of humor.

    It is pretty unpleasant when people make unfair generalizations about you.

    I've met lots of feminists who are humorless assholes, so I've concluded that most of them are.

  128. ZenPoseur Says:

    For God's sake, won't some male PLEASE tell me how I'm supposed to broach the subject of a pervasive societal ill that will affect almost every woman's life, on average leaving her with an additional part-time job to do for no other reason than that she's female, without tripping his "not fair to generalize!" alarm?

    Because I would really like to know! I mean it. This is not sarcasm. I am genuinely ignorant here, and want to be educated, so I can perform better next time.

  129. Ed Says:

    I am just messing with you now. And enjoying the phrase "butt hurt."

  130. Hazy Davy Says:

    @ZenPoseur: You might start by broaching it in an appropriate context. Perhaps you'd like to start your own blog, dedicated to castigating the patriarchy. Or maybe when there's an article about gender relations (rather than one about people's decisions not to become parents).

    But as long as we're going off on tangents: I find that individuals who keep a balance sheet on their interpersonal relationships are thundering dullards. Seriously, shared activities are all cost? Then don't bother, regardless of the basis and distribution.

    Happy to be a father. Probably changed the majority of the diapers, do the vast majority of the cooking, hate doing dishes, would only shop for the kids clothes if she disliked it and he didn't mind having mismatching clothes…don't recall ever giving him a bath as a baby (which means she did), but do 90% of the bathing and bedtime rituals now that he's conversant, and for pete's sake, I wish there were more free pizza.

  131. ZenPoseur Says:

    Ed: When I control the universe, you will write hilarious blog postings while being consumed by ants. The ants will be specially bred to appreciate not only your delicious flavor, but also your acerbic wit.

    Hazy: Are you for real? Because I'm wondering if that comment isn't some sort of elaborate performance art. Are you honestly suggesting that the average woman bearing 80% of the responsibility for childrearing isn't relevant to why people do or don't decide to have children? Maybe it wasn't relevant to YOUR decision. It sure as hell was relevant to mine.

  132. Anonymouse Says:

    BK spews:>>Anonymouse – so you're going to continue with this notion that just because you've seen it in every relationship, it must be true line of bogus reasoning?>>

    Wow, so now you refuse facts that are observed by MANY (not just one), in favor of your little fantasy that all men everywhere are superheroes who single-handedly hold up the world? Overcompensating much?

    That many women observe and feel exhausted by "The Second Shift" is reality. Too bad you refuse to see it.

  133. Anonymouse Says:

    ZenPoseur:>>Are you honestly suggesting that the average woman bearing 80% of the responsibility for childrearing isn't relevant to why people do or don't decide to have children? Maybe it wasn't relevant to YOUR decision. It sure as hell was relevant to mine.>>

    Anecdotally, I've heard that very fact mentioned by childfree-by-choice women: for various reasons, they choose NOT TO take on the overwhelming, never-ending responsibility for raising children. IMO, it's far more "selfish" and "irresponsible" (to quote the usual blather) to have a child and then ignore it than to never go down that path in the first place.

  134. Anonymouse Says:

    ZenPoseur:>>Hell, most men even understand that it's not appropriate to turn into masculosaurus rex and start tearing shit up because some lady on the internet is tired of the way things are and not afraid to talk about it in terms that are inconsiderate of his personal status as a legitimately great guy.>>

    Seriously, why is it so threatening to men when a number of women stand up and said, "You know what? Something is seriously wrong here, and this is what is making me so tired and frustrated…" Geeze, if they only spent their energy actually stepping up to the plate and doing a reasonable share of the work, the exhaustion and resentment wouldn't exist.

  135. Ike Says:

    136 comments!! Fuck! G&T has moved to an entirely new level. So You're still not writing for The Atlantic, Ed, but you certainly have some readership.

  136. Nunya Says:

    @ Anonymouse – It's not that it's threatening but the fact that the 20-40 year old men are invariably linked in with their fathers who might much more accurately be accused of shirking household duties. The younger group, having been raised by working mothers are sick to death of being blamed for the sins of their fathers and being assumed to have the
    privileges enjoyed by previous generations.

    There is nothing more tiresome than to be berated by anyone that assumes you have it easier than they do. The advantages of being male are largely relegated to history and, frankly, we're fucking sick to death of hearing that we're not holding up our end of the bargain when the latter is decidedly more accurate.

  137. Hazy Davy Says:

    @ZenPoseur. Actually, I think the whole thread long ago ceased to be about why people choose not to be parents. Frankly, I'm not sure who to blame (and there's plenty to go around), but it now seems to be about the veracity of the 80% claim, sniping between people on both sides.

    I mean, suppose I didn't have kids because I didn't have a steady job. That would be a legitimate point to make.
    Then, I might argue that "The Man" is repressing me with economic policies that prevent me from having a steady job (insert some current argument about excessive regulation and racism). And the next thing you know, folks are arguing about whether or not my economic theory holds water, or whether I need to take responsibility for my own employment woes, or some other nonsense.

    "But really, won't some member of the bourgeoisie please tell me how I'm supposed to talk about the oppression of the proletariat, without getting people all defensive about their own ownership of capital?"

    Your point could be totally right.
    And the responses to it could be totally irrational.
    And the division of labor in "average" childcare could have influenced your decision not to have kids.
    But we're no longer discussing the parenting decision; we're discussing the inequity imposed by the patriarchy, and insulting each other.

    So, I tried to answer your question, sincerely. I'm not much of a performer, and even less of an artist. The best place to discuss the inequity imposed by the patriarchy is somewhere where it's not a tangent. (It's related, sure, but it's tangential.)

    I wish I had some free pizza.
    (And I wish I could delete my prior comments, and this one, and just have not participated in the discussion.)

  138. beau Says:

    My penis and I are both experiencing SUCH intense wagonhalt right now.

  139. Elle Says:

    You might start by broaching it in an appropriate context. […] Or maybe when there's an article about gender relations (rather than one about people's decisions not to become parents).

    I share the complete perplexedness of ZenPoseur at this. (I'm not being critical of HazyDavy, per se, because I think that this is reflective of a range of comments made in this thread.)

    Lowered fertility rates in Europe have been the subject of mainstream media articles aplenty, and anyone who works in any area of social policy in most European countries will long ago have tired of the phrase 'demographic time bomb'. I don't recall reading any article that didn't refer to the gender dimensions of this, even if (in the more right wing press) it's simply to berate women for being careerist, because it's so obviously and inextricably linked to fertility rates. There is nowhere, from the mainstream media to the academy to the public policy process, where these links aren't taken as a given, even if the way they function is still a subject of investigation and discussion.

    The Lisbon Agenda, to give you an example of a piece of enormous, old, stodgy policy, Europe's (failed) economic development strategy for 2000-2010, included childcare measures. It did so with the explicit understanding that reducing women's disproportionate responsibility for caring was essential to achieving the 60% female labour market participation rate that was one of Lisbon's outcomes.

    If you wish to insist, in the face of the vertiginous mountain of evidence that exists, that it's wrong to say that women do more domestic and reproductive labour, and that this is unrelated to fertility rates, and to wider policy agendas that really matter, then of course there's nothing I can do to stop you. (Unless I am your supervisor, in which case I will do my best to stop you getting your ass handed to you.)

    However, for anyone who does run this line, it does make your criticism of Republicans for failing to make evidence-based policy look somewhat hypocritical. And it does kick the door shut, however meaninglessly and in the comments section on a blog, on the men who really want to engage with childcare, but are prevented from doing so by the structures and processes that women on this thread are critiquing.

  140. Elle Says:

    Why are feminists such shrieking, unfuckable shrews? It's probably because we don't have a sense of humor.

    I would have laughed if I weren't, y'know, constitutionally incapable of it.

  141. Elle Says:

    My penis and I are both experiencing SUCH intense wagonhalt right now.

    'Wagonhalt' is the greatest fucking word! New vocabulary for the win.

  142. HoosierPoli Says:

    Dear Elle:

    My sincerest apologies, in the sprawling mass of this thread, I managed to get your line of argument (with which I find little fault, and I think we both agree that there are serious economic inequalities to be worked on) with at least one other poster, and definitely ladiesbane, whose line of argument was "All the men I know are shit and lazy". So I owe you an apology for mixing your words up with others'.

    That said, I readdress my post to her: If your partner isn't pulling his weight, tell him, not us.

  143. Anonymouse Says:

    Nunya:>>@ Anonymouse – It's not that it's threatening but the fact that the 20-40 year old men are invariably linked in with their fathers who might much more accurately be accused of shirking household duties. The younger group, having been raised by working mothers are sick to death of being blamed for the sins of their fathers and being assumed to have the
    privileges enjoyed by previous generations.>>

    While you have somewhat of a point, reality once again leaps in and points out that the previous generation did perhaps (warning: completely made-up figure ahead!) five percent of the non-career work, and 20- and 30-somethings do perhaps (same warning) 20 percent of the non-career work.

    ABSOLUTELY this is a step in the right direction, but the fact remains that working women in their 20s and 30s are STILL pulling the disproportionate share of the second (and third!) shift. As evidenced by the number of women who have spoken out about this both on this blog and other places.

  144. twiffer Says:

    my wife and i both were anti-havingKids…until we met each other. why have one? it's extraordinarily cool to create not just another person, but one who is a combonation of yourself and someone you deeply love. it's fascinating to watch a curious mind learn and to help it along; to watch a personality form from its beginings as a limp, helpless shitting machine. also, my little guy is FUCKING HILARIOUS. okay, not so much the other day when he whacked me in the head with baseball bat, but hey, you gotta roll with the punches (sometimes literally).

    there are definate sacrifices. we discussed them, rationally. you give up a degree of spontenaity, for example. you give up a good deal of time. there are things that must be done. there is cost. you give up some self-indulgent luxuries. are they still days when work is a grind and i want nothing better than to sit down, smoke a bowl and watch terribly sci-fi movies? sure. but that's not really much to give up. also, his bedtime is before mine.

    it comes down to a personal choice based on emotional reasoning. if logic dictated, there would likely be less children about. there is much in the way of work. there is much that is not fun (thank FSM we are now potty trained! hooray for mastering basic bodily functions!). having an intelligent, curious and very independant-minded (or, if you prefer, stubborn and willful) toddler is difficult. discovering the world is inherently dangerous and as a parent, you have to walk that knife's edge of allowing mistakes to be made and keeping the little ball of suicidal energy alive.

    i know what i gave up. certainly there are aspects of pre-child life that are missed (waking up to find the boy has crawled into bed tends to put the kibosh on morning sex, for example). yet, i wouldn't go back. cause (cue sappy parental hyperbole) my son is AWESOME. the world, or my world at least, is better for having him in it. take that as a reason.

    besides, when you think about it, much of life is work, toil and drudgery anyway. having a kid just doesn't change that, though it might bring it into sharper focus for some people.

  145. Elle Says:

    Dear Hoosier:

    Thank you for the grace of your apology, and for its content. It is cordially accepted.

    (Of course, whether Ladiesbane has employed hyperbole or not in making her point, ripping your response to her from Boilerplate Blog Smackdowns for Misogynists is not exactly endearing. You seem smarter than this, from what you've posted elsewhere.)

  146. Hazy Davy Says:

    "If you wish to insist, in the face of the vertiginous mountain of evidence that exists, that it's wrong to say that women do more domestic and reproductive labour, and that this is unrelated to fertility rates, and to wider policy agendas that really matter"

    I didn't insist any of that. (Hell, I even had to look up "vertiginous" to figure out if I did, but I was dizzy before the evidence…)

  147. ZenPoseur Says:

    Looks like things are winding down, and that makes me sad. I had a blast on this thread. I love to learn, and some of ya'll taught me a LOT about yourselves.

    Really, I loved this thread from the beginning. Right from the "You called me lazy and that's a strawman!" thing (I didn't call you lazy, and that's projection) to, "Just because it happened to you and everyone you know, and data suggests it happens to a majority of couples, that doesn't mean you're allowed to draw attention to the phenomenon!", I was hooked from the start.

    But then it got even better! We learned that having to work an extra, unpaid part time job (on average over 10 hours per week) for the rest of your life is no big deal and you should just quit whining, but that having to spend 10 seconds reading a lady complain about it IS a big deal.

  148. ZenPoseur Says:

    Oh, sorry. That's an EXTRA ten hours per week, above and beyond (ON AVERAGE!) what he puts in. Not ten hours per week total. If only.

  149. ZenPoseur Says:

    Oh, and the hits keep on flooding back into my memory…

    We learned that tangents (even when they're obviously not tangential, and you have to admit that they're at least ARGUABLY not tangents, since intelligent people are arguing about it) are inappropriate to blog comment threads. To that I say: Welcome to the internet! I see you're new here. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it.

    Then there were the froth-mouthed rants calling people angry and shrill. Those may just have been my personal favorites.

    Oh, and how could I forget the "It's wrong to generalize!" standard. A standard which, as far as I can tell, has never been applied to anyone in the history Gin and Tacos (certainly not to Republicans, young people, old people, Americans in general, etc.) but which was rushed to market five minutes after someone said something disparaging about men.

  150. Elle Says:

    I didn't insist any of that.

    Then what is your rationale for this topic being 'inappropriate' area to which to apply a gendered lens?

  151. Elle Says:

    Actually, I withdraw that question. I can no longer find it in myself to care.

  152. Ed Says:

    After careful reconsideration, I am leaning toward seeing it your way. I am not quite ready to cave in to the point of prostration and profuse apologies, but looking back I think I sound more defensive and stupid than I traditionally care to sound.

  153. ZenPoseur Says:

    No apologies required. I'm happy if just one or two people are slightly more aware of these issues, and slightly less likely to squelch (or tolerate the squelching) of women's voices, when these issues come up.

    Also, Elle? You are a rock star. I mean, holy crap, did you kick ass here. You're a bona fide riot grrrl.

  154. Hazy Davy Says:

    Elle, ZenPoseur, and any who are arguing against their point:

    It's not at all inappropriate to "apply a gendered lens". And I didn't say it was, either. It was ridiculous for everyone to have such a heated discussion about the veracity of the point.

    A totally fine point to make in this context: Some women choose not to be parents because the burdens are far greater on them than they are on fathers. (Furthermore, I expect this may be a more dominating factor than perceived economic pressures, etc. etc.)

    But that's not what people are arguing. Folks are still saying "oh, no, not me. I'm a good guy." or "YOU DON'T KNOW" or "no, really, here's some data, mothers have a raw deal". They're arguing about the veracity of your assertion of the inequity, rather than about that perception's impact to the decision to become parents. [And really, nobody can argue that the perception doesn't exist, with a straight face, can they?]. Discussing people's choice to not be parents because of a belief there's inequity = contextually relevant. Discussing whether or not the belief is valid = tangent. (Insulting each other with condescending remarks, well…)

    Now, I am sorry I didn't take the time to parse out each of the individual comments. It really isn't right for me to have railed against the aggregate as though only one person had made all the statements on each side of it. Judging from some of the replies, I'm quite sure the same was done to me.

    I am, at least, consistent. I have quite a long track record of taking related tangents off into separate threads on the community blog I've run for >10 years (8 years of which, you could have easily found, ZP, before claiming I'm "new here").

  155. Elle Says:

    @ ZenPoseur – Aw, shucks. It was a pleasure hanging out on the thread with you. (Also, Anonymouse.)

    @ Hazy Davy – Thanks for your last comment, which has clarified things considerably. I had thought, following on from your 'no need to get quite so angry, ladies' that you meant something more fundamental (and more obnoxious) when you said that things were going off at a tangent.

    You are quite right, of course, that this thread has consisted more of scoping the evidence base (I am being generous) than it has discussions of the main thrust of the original post. It's unfortunate that if argument B depends on set of facts/assumptions A, that any disagreement of what constitutes A will derail the whole discussion.

    @ Ed – I loved, loved your posts on Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Jackson, and the Super Bowl ads. You do, by and large, Get It on violence against women. (I wish you would take time away from fighting with bewinged cockroaches to write a book about it, because the USian men currently writing VAW books are so very, very sanctimonious, and you are very funny.) This blog is the only generalist American politics blog that I regularly read, and I think it would be a truly unstoppable force of awesome if it had the tiniest sprinkling more of Getting It across other things you write about.

  156. Acerbas Says:

    The last several posts sure read as if some of you are congratulating one another as if this was a sport and your team won. But looking over this massive thread reveals that very few commentators (of either gender) were actually reading each others posts and responding to one another in kind.

    So congratulations to the victors, I suppose. But anyway you cut it, discussion and communication lost (as it usually does on the internet).

  157. ZenPoseur Says:

    Personally, a few is all I aim for, Acerbas. You can't change the world in a day.

  158. beau Says:

    @Acerbas – This is what it looks like when people have an argument, and no-one storms off in a huff. A little backslapping, a little backpedalling, and evryone's friends again (pretty much).

    It's weird, I know. But it happens here from time to time. One of the many reasons I love g&t.

  159. Elle Says:

    The last several posts sure read as if some of you are congratulating one another as if this was a sport and your team won.

    How odd! There is a culture on feminist blogs of the commentariat giving each other props when they like what each other has to say, or the way it's been said. It's got nothing to do with 'winning'.

    But anyway you cut it, discussion and communication lost (as it usually does on the internet).

    No internet discussion is truly complete without such an observation. Will no one think of the children?

  160. Anonymouse Says:

    @Elle: @ ZenPoseur – Aw, shucks. It was a pleasure hanging out on the thread with you. (Also, Anonymouse.)

    Right back at'cha, and a ^5 to Ladiesbane, too, whose post jarred me out of Lurkerdom and got me to post.

    The bottom line is that there is a PERCEIVED problem that women are frustrated and annoyed at bearing the disproportionate responsibility in a household. Is there documentation to prop it up? Several people have provided sources that affirm there is.

    Much like we saw the Affirmative Action thread, rather than face that and discuss how to change the perception (if not the reality), several posters spun off into furious screeds about how "they're making me CELEBRATE the LESBIANS".

    I learned a lot on this thread; I'm not usually a debater. Thanks, all, for the education!

  161. Hazy Davy Says:

    (Huh? Did I miss something?)

    lesbian

    (Thinking that my homage to The Boss is going to now result in people just nicknaming me "Hazy". I kind of like that.)

  162. Hazy Davy Says:

    (That didn't work… the second line should say:

    " lesbian" (control F was misidentified as an HTML tag)

  163. Hazy Davy Says:

    @#$%^

    CTRL-F Lesbian

    There, now at least the word has been said a number of times in the comments.

  164. Glynda Vatterott Says:

    Very good written article. It will be useful to anybody who usess it, including myself. Keep up the good work – looking forward to more posts.

  165. randkiwmoieiokolicy Says:

    gdzie bezpłatne randki intyernetowe