Monday, June 20, 2011

Does Anyone Care about Your Work-Life Balance?

In real life, that is.
Based on my experience, the answer is -- no. No one but you (and hopefully your significant other) cares about your work-life balance.

There is never a scarcity of conversation about work-life balance in the blogosphere, especially for working mothers. There is no shortage of opinion regarding whether it is ethical enough or feminist enough for highly educated women to work part time or drop careers altogether -- people believe that educated women owe it to the society or other women or future generations of boys and girls to keep working; other people believe that women owe nothing to anyone except themselves and their families, and are perfectly within their rights to SAHM their kids and thereby find fulfillment. Whatever your take is on these issues, this post is NOT about them.

I am fairly exhausted by the recent flurry of blogosphere activity on work-life balance that was sparked by a New York Times article written by Dr Karen Sibert. Several bloggers I know have taken a stab at the article (Historiann, Isis, Cloud, and others), and it seems that Dr S does not have many supporters for her "suck it up and keep working full time, you owe it to the patients/society" message. Instead, there is an overwhelming outrage at the thought that doctors should sacrifice personal life for the profession and there are numerous calls for making work hours more humane and general practice more appealing, so the shortage of primary care doctors would not be blamed on female doctors who work part-time.

One reason for my exhaustion (besides obviously reading too many comments on too many blogs) is the fact that all these calls for balance are, when you think of it and with all due respect, painfully redundant, futile, and ultimately irrelevant. All the well-meaning commenters are preaching to the choir; in reality, the whopping 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave and nonexistent tax-breaks for exorbitant childcare expenses are all you need to know about how much this society really values working mothers. In societies where working parents are considered worthwhile humans and workers, there are accommodations for work-life balance, especially parents caring for small children. Here, it's not the case, and we can all blog our hearts out, it means nothing.

In my experience, the only people who seem to be concerned (or at least say that they are) with anyone's work-life balance but their own can be found in the blogosphere. Certainly no one with whom I am in regular contact in real life gives a rat's ass about my work-life balance: whether I have any, whether I would like to have a different one, whether I face any hardship in achieving any semblance thereof. Everyone in this glorious society is too busy, and presumably too exhausted and overstretched, to think about anyone but themselves.

I am in a medium-size department (~40 faculty) in a discipline that is considered extremely macho. In my department, there are 5 women faculty. Of the 5 women, 4 are tenured: two women are senior to me (full profs), one is roughly my contemporary (we are both associate profs), and one is a few years junior, up for tenure soon (assistant prof). All the women are married. The two full professor women had kids after they had received tenure. I came to the TT with one kid in tow, and I had another one midway through the tenure track. The other two women are childfree.

I remain the only female faculty who has ever had a kid on the tenure track.
I remember mentioning this fact in the presence of the assistant professor woman; there were other people around. She rushed to point out that a male colleague of ours (who has a stay-at-home wife), also had a kid (also No 2 for him) on the tenure track. While new fathers do suffer some sleep deprivation in the baby's first year, it is NOT the same as for a new mother, especially one who breastfeeds. This male colleague had no problem working 12-hour days starting the week his kid was born (perhaps hiding from the baby at work?) I was a complete zombie for many months after birth, definitely not 100% -- physically or mentally. What truly pissed me off was that the first reaction of my female colleague (who btw says she wants to have kids, but is waiting for tenure) was to trivialize my experience. I didn't want to continue the conversation and regurgitate the tired (but true) spiel of how women have it harder than men when the child is born -- whoever does not see that does not want to see it. But I remember this situation as one of many in which I have found the female camaraderie to be completely nonexistent.

My collaborators are overwhelmingly male (95% of them). A number of them are close to my age, having 2 or 3 kids. They all have stay-at-home wives, or wives working only part-time (e.g. giving a few piano lessons per week). My husband works full time.
Over the years, the subject of work-life balance came up a few times with my male collaborators, and after a few sentences I see they no longer want to talk about it. They consider my job and my obligations to be exactly like those they have and when there emerges a hint that they may not exactly be the same, I suppose they want to avoid yet another crazy woman rant/vent/whine-a-palooza and rush to change the subject.

I wish that I could tell my male colleagues that, in addition to all the work at the actual job that I have to do, which is the same as theirs, I am still mommy and do all the non-negotiable-mommy duties that their wives do and a significant load of chores. I don't know how much my male colleagues with stay-at-home or part-time working wives do at home in terms of chores, but I imagine they probably don't do more than my husband who also works full time: my husband mows the lawn/takes care of the yard in the summer and cleans the snow in the winter; he took over a lion's share of vacuuming/cleaning clutter and laundry about a year or two ago, when I simply gave up. He also takes our older son swimming twice a week and packs his lunch. I am the primary breadwinner in the family. I also do 100% of the cooking, washing dishes, and grocery shopping. I also do nearly 100% of playdate organization, immunizations, summer camp tracking, any forms that need to be filled, and communication with the daycare/schools or other parents. I do a vast majority of childcare, especially sick-child care: 90% of the time if someone has to stay at home from work for a sick kid or take him to a doctor it's me because I don't have a boss. I do 100% of middle-of-the night calls for a drink of water, needing to pee, vomiting, or getting another dose of ibuprofen for a feverish kid. Also, I am always on the poopy-underwear and cleaning-the-potty duty because I tolerate bodily excrements better. Only mommy is allowed to get my younger son ready in the morning or give him a bath and put him to sleep, every single day. And my biggest peeve -- I never get to sleep in on the weekends. :-(

That's what I would like to tell my male colleagues if they cared to hear. However, they likely know all this, but simply don't care. Many times I have had to cancel a meeting when a kid is sick; I do not recall any of my male colleagues with kids having ever done that. I have yet to see any of them, whose kids are of similar ages to mine, cut down on the number of trips or meetings because of their kids; they don't have to, because there is always their wife to pick up the slack. But that doesn't matter -- since I have the same job as them, if I cannot cut it, it's my weakness; I should make it work and not whine about hardship or ask for special consideration. Right?

I know people have their own problems. But this society operates with so much stress and fear about the future placed on everyone's shoulders that, instead of listening to one another and hoping to help, what I overwhelmingly see in real life is that any obstacle that a person overcomes becomes a badge of honor and enables said person to look down on all others with "Look what I had to go through to meet these criteria of excellence. You too have to rise to them or go to hell." I admit I am frequently guilty of this attitude myself. We'd all nominally like more of a balance in our own lives, but don't wish for others to have a balance, because then they may drop more work in our lap. This is what I hear or read way too often in regards to maternity leave from both men and women who are childfree or have kids but also stay-at-home spouses: us breeding women should be removed from the workforce because we are such a burden on everyone else when we take a leave to have kids. It is oh so very very unfair that all the righteous workers who don't harbor uterine squatters end up picking up the slack after our lazy postpartum asses.

It's been a while since I stopped discussing work-life balance with most colleagues in real life. And I have stopped justifying why I am missing meetings or trips. But then my current pregnancy became obvious. As my belly grows, my perceived IQ and competence drop -- I become ever less a scientist, and ever more a lower being: just another procreating woman. Who apparently dumps work on others.

So, yes, while it's nice to read all these calls for work-life balance on the internet, when it comes to real life, I fear most of us only care that we ourselves get the balance. If balance for all means sometimes shouldering a bit more because someone else temporarily cannot, and especially if they cannot because of personal choices that we ourselves would not make, then the concept of balance becomes unacceptable; instead, rigid rules must be followed and complete sacrifice at the altar of work is expected. What I see in real life is nothing more than every man and woman for themselves. Until that changes, we're all screwed. But I am totally not holding my breath for it to change in my lifetime. I'd sooner expect to see a real live unicorn.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can completely relate to most of the two-parents-working-problems you describe above. Me and my wife also work both full time while have two small children. There's however one aspect that you seem to forget: For example you write that you had to call off meetings several times because of sick kids (while complaining that you are the one who has to take care of sick kids 90% of the time). Do you have any idea what the reaction is if you (as a man) call in at work saying that you will not be able to make it today since you have to stay at home with your sick child? That is career suicide! (and an efficient way not to have your contract extended). One of the reasons that my wife (like you) is reducing her work-related duties more often than I am is simply because it seems to be professionally accepted that women do this while men still can't (and believe me, I'd like to help out more)!

prodigal academic said...

I totally hear you, GMP. And that is (mostly) my experience as well--no one outside of my family cares about my work-life balance (or my spouse's for that matter). It is like anything else personal--I find that no one else cares about your career either.

I find this to be more of a generational thing than a gendered thing. I am really lucky that my current department skews young for our field, so I have many colleagues (tenured and untenured) close to me in age. Most of us are in 2 career couples, and about half have young kids. Most of the men are pretty involved parents too. So while I don't get any special breaks or anything, I am also not the only one unavailable from 5 to 8 pm without prior arrangement or who cancels things due to family obligations. It really helps to feel like I am not living on the Mommy Planet by myself.

This makes a huge difference from my previous workplace, and is one of the things I noticed and liked at my interview here. I suspect this is the only thing that will EVER force change (men and women who work to change their own work conditions to improve balance), but boy is it a slow process. And I really admire the people who joined the department 10ish years ago at the beginning of this hiring wave, swimming upstream against the Dr. Sibert culture to produce the (somewhat) more accommodating one we have now.

Science Professor Mum said...

Hi GMP. I agree that there is very little to be gained by going on and on about work-life balance. Like you I am the major breadwinner, and have had two maternity leaves during the equivalent of tenure track (Admittedly we get 26 weeks paid over here so there is a small additional value attached to being a mum - we can now share this value with fathers too so that if Mum want's to go back to work but daddy wants to stay home, he can get the parental leave transferred to him. How many people take up this option based on your discussion of the impact of breastfeeding etc etc remains to be seen but it's technically possible).

Where was I... oh yes, I am the major breadwinner even though I work 80% time. Since I work 80% time I also do all the laundry and a lot of the home logistics (that 20% was supposed to be for giving my children quality mummy time but it doesn't really work like that). However, we are looking at a big change next year when son number 1 goes to school and we need to cover the additional hours at home. I was prepared (but relictant) to drop my hours down to 65% to deal with this, whilst husband remains at 100% despite the fact that economically it makes more sense for me to stay full time. Two colleagues (married to each other) then introduced me to the concept of Equally Shared Parenting and I now see that by both dropping some time and by staggering our hours perhaps we can share things a bit more evenly. This will only work if we can persuade my husbands employer to be flexible - mine seem very happy for me to be being paid at 80% (and so they should be as I reckon they actually get 90%...) - but we're going to give it a go.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that talking about work-life balance is only pointless if talk is all you do (and that's all I've done for a long time). Like prodigal acamdemic says the recent support of other young-ish colleagues has allowed me to start thinking differently and I'm hoping our dept is starting a journey towards a better place. It's really hard without that support - maybe that's why there is so much stuff on the blogosphere as people search for it - but it's only support in the real world that is actually useful.

Anonymous said...

1. You do explain that you weren't 100% for work. And then you complain that people around you see you as less than 100%. Not sure where is the contradiction.
2. Your whatever balance is mainly defined by your choices. Unlike those Afghan women, you chose if and when to have children, what job you have, what husband to marry and how much of the chores to share with him. Unlike those Chinese workers, to whom you (and your new home country) owe huge amounts of money, you chose to have a sabbatical. Your only limitation truly is time, as you afford food and primary education for your children, and everything else is a bonus. (In my birth country, which might be yours too, judging by the Latin in high school story, I never had the option of swimming classes.) The week only has 168 hours, of which you must sleep about 50, commute 5, shower 1 etc. There is a limited way to divide the rest between childcare and work, and that's there, everywhere in the world.
3. True, in some European countries, people give up work altogether to care for children, and the government still gives them 1000 euros a month, but these are desperate places, where people need to be coaxed into reproduction. United States doesn't have that problem. You didn't have that promise. Those Europeans will soon run out of money.

Dr. Sneetch said...

So true GMP so true. This gets to the heart of the matter.

Also as anonymous notes (who for a moment I thought was my spouse writing in but I have no plans to reduce my work) it is hard for men to call in and say they have sick kids. I'll add that there is a cost to a woman when she does it. It may be more acceptable, but there's a price she is paying -- lower salaries, longer road to tenure etc.

nicoleandmaggie said...

I'm in a university in a small town in the middle of nowhere and a great spousal hiring program. Almost all of the female professors, of which there are more than average for an R1 (especially among younger hires), even in male-dominated fields, are married to other professors. I would guess across the university that maybe a quarter of the male professors are married to female professors, though that will vary a lot by department.

Women are expected to have babies before tenure. Husbands are expected to do daycare pickup or drop-off and sick duty. My husband and I have managed alternating teaching days so that one of us will be available in case of child sickness.

As time goes on, we see more and more dads out running errands with their kids, and not just on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

I'm not saying we live in paradise (it is a small town in a very red state), just offering a snapshot that some areas do seem to have more reasonable expectations about division of labor, even in a university town. Even at an R1. I'm not sure if the different demographic profile (lots of married women professors) is responsible for that, but that would be my guess.

On another note, you've been talking a lot recently about how unhappy you are with the amount of chores you do compared to your husband. You're obviously very unhappy and stressed about the state of things on this dimension. What can you do to ameliorate those problems? Giving up caused him to step up on the laundry front, what else can you give up on? Can you change your budget around to afford a personal assistant or cleaning person? I know, from previous experience on mother's forums, I shouldn't be asking but I was good and didn't ask the first few times. I just could not stand to live like that.

fubarator said...

Who knows the motivations of your jr colleague, but I actually like it when people mention that my tenure-track buddy has had FIVE kids pre-tenure, even though he's a guy and it is different for them. He brings in kids often and is successful in research. Then people here must admit that the model for success need not be 100% work/0% family.
Now to do something about our whimsical, ad-hoc parental leave so there's less uncertainty for the next folks. Cripes, at least we should have a department policy that's written down somewhere.
USA! USA!

Clarissa said...

"The whopping 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave and nonexistent tax-breaks for exorbitant childcare expenses are all you need to know about how much this society really values working mothers"

-That's exactly it. What else can anybody say on the subject after this? Barbarity is my name for this attitude towards motherhood.

Alethea said...

Yeah, I'm beginning to think there's no such thing as work life balance, only juggling! I'm a little optimistic about change though, because I see more fathers wanting to engage in family and home-related stuff, and it's become (slooooowly) more acceptable for a dad to take time off, bring kids in, etc. And once the guys are into it, it becomes ok for us too.

I'm only a grad student now, but it's been nice to see how my current lab balances stuff. My PI has his kids in his office after school now and then, doing homework and playing legos. When the post-doc's kid had to stay home from school with a cold, she played in the post-doc office. No one has ever said anything about post-docs or students taking personal time for kids, as long as they're still getting stuff done. We have post-docs in my department (male and female) on a 7-3 schedule, people who work Sunday-Thursday and other unconventional arrangements that help people make life work. I may be in a crazily permissive department, but I'm hoping I can find someplace similarly accommodating when I try to do the postdoc+babies thing.

Anonymous said...

I had two kids pre-tenure at a R1 university. During my wife's first pregnancy, I asked my department head about paternal leave. He said that the official policy of the university provided none; HOWEVER, he told me that the female professors in the department (which was 50% of the dept.) would kill me if I left my wife home and came back to work any time soon. They re-arranged the teaching loads to give me a semester off. So I would say that the number of women in our department was definitely a driving force in the support of young parents.

Alex said...

You point out two things:
1) Nobody except you will look out for you.
2) The level of work and sacrifice expected in academia is huge.

All of this just reinforces to me that, for good or for ill, the rules for success in academia are identical to those explained by rap group Cypress Hill.

"So you want to be a rock superstar
And live large, big house, five cars
You're in charge!
Coming up in the world
Don't trust nobody
Gotta look over your shoulder constantly."

And later on:
"My own son don't know me
I'm chilling in the hotel room lonely
But I thank God I'm with my homies
But sometimes I wish I was back home."

We pay the same price as rappers, but we don't get the big house and five cars. If we're very, very lucky we get a big lab with five postdocs. What I say is, if I'm going to spend my summer on the road at workshops and visiting and giving seminars, then I want to be able to afford gold chains like rappers on tour.

Or, at the very least, I want a DJ scratching records and a sidekick saying "Yeah! Yeah!" as I present my results.

FrauTech said...

Couldn't let this slip by. Anonymous says:
"1. You do explain that you weren't 100% for work. And then you complain that people around you see you as less than 100%. Not sure where is the contradiction."

I am curious what 100% "for work" means. Many of the engineers I work with have kids at home. Maybe some of the fathers even know their names. I'm just kidding. But what you DO hear about here are personal hobbies. The guys work on cars or play sports or whatever. Presumably us ladies also have hobbies outside of work. The difference is, when a dude takes a day off to fix his car that is an awesome manly hobby. When a woman takes an hour off to tend to a sick kid, she is suddenly not serious about work. A man's children/hobbies/alcoholism do not make him any less "serious" about work. Versus a woman is probably never serious because she is a woman, but if she has kids by the laws of patrimathematics she apparently can't be serious at all.

Also to the guys who are saying they "can't" cut back to part time or whatever, you know what? Suck it up. Women have been going into careers now for decades where we are not always taken as seriously as the men just because we have lady bits. I'm very proud of the guys where I work who were unafraid and unapologetic about taking off paternity leave, leaving work every now and then to be a part of their kids' lives, and talking about their kids with other parents rather than treating parenthood as a disease we don't discuss in the workplace. There are women pioneers for many things and men can be pioneers for parenting. Is it easy? No. Will you take flack? Probably. Deal with it.

PQA said...

You sound exhausted, fighting to be recognized and valued is tiring, the beautiful thing about community is that no one person has to be/do everything all the time. So rest up, take care of yourself and your little corner of the world, and let some of us younger folks be the agitators for a while. If I finally do find a unicorn, I will let you know.

FrauTech said...

Also for my own venting's sake I am the planner in my household. I arrange all our social activities, plan dinner, do the grocery lists, etc. We don't have kids and don't plan to by choice. I can not even imagine this relationship with children present. I'd like to think my husband is pretty pro-feminism on many things and yet I'm the one still cooking dinner every night (we started paying somebody to clean the house so that didn't have to be part of the weekly argument). When I was going to school while working full time I still did the majority of these tasks and when I finished school the implicit assumption was that I "pick up the slack" on these tasks. Maybe I am a bad feminist in that I choose not to fight at home about this. I feel like I have enough to fight about that I don't really care about the cooking and planning.
o
It's ironic because I now too am the breadwinner. And we're trying to get to a point where he can quit work and go back to schol while I support him. I am totally cool with this if it is what he wanted (I mostly hated school and chose to keep working to keep myself sane, plus we could not have afforded one income living then). So I wonder what my male colleagues really think goes on in my personal life. Do they realize that I, too, do the majority of the household tasks just like their wives undoubtedly do? Do I mention that I'd like to support him while he goes back to school because that makes me more like them, the macho breadwinner stereotype. Or do I not mention it because it's bucking the stereotype for him and they will see him as weak and me as an evil harpy shrew? I feel like there's no winning. Thankfully the men I work with just know all this stuff "gets done" for them while they bring home the money. I suspect they think my husband still earns more than me, and so therefore I make plenty in this alpha-male career role. There's no winning and I wish I had more friends and support who were okay with me being a career-focused female and my husband wanting to drop out of the workforce for a few years to pursue a goal. If our genders were reversed no one would blink an eye.

Dr. O said...

I've had quite a difference experience so far, in that many people I've worked with care about work-life balance, and even (*gasp*) talk about it. I'm not sure what the difference is, but I also notice that many people I know are much more open about their personal lives than what you indicate for yourself. It's not that we share everything about our lives, but the topic of family, activities away from work, vacations, etc. definitely comes up. I've even heard of people on TT interviews being asked about how they balance their time at/away from work.

I think talking about it is also a good thing. Maybe it feels like it's mostly isolated to the blogosphere in some fields, but I think the more we uncover the fact that scientists have lives, the more the discussion might start to have a positive impact on policy. Pie in the sky, maybe, but I don't see how having the conversation hurts.

Dr. Sneetch said...

Good analogy by Alex. I want the sidekick and DJ and gold chains too.

Alex said...

SCIENCE BLING IN DA HOUSE!!! I be the opening act at ALL yall's departments! Science tour coming to yo city soon, be knockin' out da mad science beats for my peeps. Peace! Out!

Yael said...

Dr O: I think it may be field dependent. I am (now) a biologist but was a physical scientist in my past life. The department I am in now is decent about work life balance, but one bio dept and one physical science dept I used to work in were very macho and annoying. My guess is that it has to do with the male/female balance (and you can guess which one is which..). Interestingly, my current dept is also the most productive one I have worked in...

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed reading your post, GMP although it is incredibly depressing. It resonates with me and the experiences I have had so far and I am an NTT without children. As my husband and I discuss when to have kids, it seems there is never a good time wrt my career (and his although it is implicit that I will take on 100% of childcare duties).
I am in a small dept but the only female prof, and my colleagues have/ had spouses who stay at home with the children. that cannot happen for us (and i dont want it!) but the idea of adding even more to what I have now seems impossible.
I agree, the system is broken, no one really gives a sh!t about work-life balance.

Gears said...

I'm not sure how this is going to make you feel better but there are male scientists/engineers/academics out there that do appreciate the work life balance. Since I'm in academia and my wife is at a company, I expect I will have to do the emergency pick ups, dr's appointments, etc because I have a lot more flexibility being in academia. We also split cooking and cleaning duties 50%ish (depending on travel and whatnot). And since I've arrived at SnowU, I've been open and honest with my colleagues about daycare pickup and raising my daughter. Hopefully, when we bring new people on, both male and female, that can help set the tone for a work-life balance.

I do have a bone to pick though.

"The whopping 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave and nonexistent tax-breaks for exorbitant childcare expenses are all you need to know about how much this society really values working mothers".

You'll get no argument from me about the maternity leave. And some expensive things like breast pumps should be tax deductible. But I don't think fundamentally think you should get a tax break because you had a kid. I'd rather see that money for those tax breaks go into sex education and explaining to young people how expensive raising kids can be.

GMP said...

Thanks for all the awesome comments, folks!

I agree, in dual-career couples the men who want to be involved with their families have as hard of a time balancing their obligations as women, and there is often more of a stigma with openly admitting you as a man are a devoted/involved parent. And in couples where one is an academic and the other isn't, I agree that it's often the academic who takes emergency leaves. But I also think it's a generational thing -- it looks like younger men in dual-career couples are more involved in childrearing.

Gears, regarding tax breaks for childcare. If the government wanted to support dual-career couples, one way to do it would be to offer tax breaks for childcare. Another way would be subsidies (they exist for the poor); there are childcare subsidies for everyone throughout western Europe (Sweden and Germany are good examples, also ample parental leave) because the society expects that both parents work. Raising kids is a benefit to society, it's not just an expense like having a luxury car. I will be paying over $30 K in childcare this coming year for having 2 kids in daycare (and it's not even as expensive as it can get) after taxes, that's a huge amount of money, like another mortgage. And it's not like I am buying luxury items with this money. I don't understand why it's OK to incentivize owning a house -- you get a tax break in the amount of interest on your mortgage, so you are de facto encouraged to grease the banking system -- yet it is not OK to incentivize both spouses' continued engagement in the workforce?

Loved Alex's science rapper metaphor! :) I think we need a picture of a scientist with some gold chains and losing his ultralow-rise pants while giving a research talk.

Alex said...

I think we need a picture of a scientist with some gold chains and losing his ultralow-rise pants while giving a research talk.

I nominate PhysioProf to pose for that picture.

FrauTech said...

I have to agree with GEARS. I'm not a huge fan of the tax breaks for pro-creating (where's my tax break for not adding a strain on society?) True I'm not creating little ones to pay for social security, but I AM paying property and education taxes that I'll never have children to use. Plus soc security will likely be gone when I am of age anyways.

I think the mortgage interest tax deduction is equally bunk. Tax breaks should be used as an incentive for things we as a society want to encourage. Tax breaks for employers who have or subsidize childcare would be a better way I think. Not to mention tax breaks for hiring and increasing workforce rather than sending jobs overseas...but that's a whole 'nother story.

GMP said...

Tax breaks should be used as an incentive for things we as a society want to encourage.

I absolutely agree with this statement. And it is clear that this society does not want to encourage dual career couples with children to remain engaged in the workforce (or dual career couples to procreate). My colleague from a university in Munich, upon hearing that I am having another kid, said "You should move here, we're dying out." Apparently, we need to start dying out like Germany for parents to start to register on the legislature's radar.

Even if I didn't have any kids, I think I would still be able to appreciate that as a society we need most people to decide to have kids. Do you really feel kids are nothing but strain on society, that people who procreate are all just hurting the society?

As for the tax breaks or subsidies -- my kids will contribute to social security for everyone, not just me. While I am hemorrhaging money on diapers and daycare and school supplies and college (that's hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of one kid's upbringing), a person with no kids can put all that money away for retirement (or exotic trips or whatever they choose). If the social security really goes bust, I may be screwed because I invested in kids instead of retirement, whereas someone without kids has the potential to be in a much better financial shape. I really don't think people with kids end up screwing people without kids financially in any scenario, no matter how you slice it. Kids cost a ton of money to raise and benefit the society at large, so I really don't see why people without kids would be so opposed to people with kids getting some sort of a financial break.

Anonymous said...

Well written article and so sad that this truly is the state we are in today. Please don't ever stop talking about work life balance because "self care is not about self-indulgence, it is about self-preservation" (Audre Lord). You need a break..whatever that looks like for you. I highly recommend this site for tips/inspiration for reclaiming some balance: www.reneetrudeau.com

og said...

Even before I had kids and when I thought I might not even want kids, I didn't think I was "subsidizing" those with kids. That highly individualistic way of thinking just hurts our society and is the reason why the U.S. is at the bottom in terms of supporting working parents! It's just sad. I know many child-less people who feel this way and I keep asking, who is going to be your nurse, doctor, fire fighter, when you're old and alone? Who will be contributing to Social security and the tax systems when you're no longer working?