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Those without kids

Deirdre Sholto-Douglas finch at mcs.net
Wed Apr 26 11:13:51 EST 2000

SLF <nospam at salk.edu> wrote:

: It is true that there is a tendency *by some people* to assume that the
: "real lives" of those of us who are childless are somewhat less
: "important" because they don't involve children.

I'm not discounting your statement about the importance of your life
"off the clock" as it were, however...

: How many of our (childless) readers have heard
: the comment "you have it easy ...." from a tired parent?

...as someone who's been on both sides of the coin, I can say that
my childfree days *were* a *lot* easier.  Maybe I didn't have fewer
committments, but I had fewer unanticipated disruptions.  Those 
who don't have children will never know the joy of having a four year
throw up on your shoes ten minutes before having to leave for a
conference...will never be interrupted in the middle of an experiment
by a phone call from the school saying "Little so-and-so has a fevre,
can you pick them up?"...or the utter dismay of having a spouse working
late, no sitter, small children and a call from the lab saying "We've
got a problem, can you come in?"

>From a parental point of view, you *do* have it easy.  And I say
that from the perspective of someone who's jealous of the days 
when going to an out-of-state conference meant finding someone to
feed the cat for a couple days instead of drumming up a support
network that a multi-national corporation would envy.  I wouldn't
trade the spawn for anything, but I'd really, *really* like to
return to the days when, if you made plans you had a good probability
of keeping them.

: or the accusation that we're too selfish?  or that it is somehow
: unfair that we don't have that child-commitment, and have
: more flexibility?  i agree with Linnea--

Believe me, you do.  Have a couple kids and watch what happens
to your flexibility.  You may think you're overwhelmed now, but
add larvel humans into the equation and "overwhelmed" takes on a
whole new meaning.  

Parents, for the most part, aren't trying to minimise your troubles
or discomforts, they're simply jealous.  (Gad, I know I am.) From
where I sit, I'd *love* to have the ability to work late without
making 15 phone calls, to read journals at home without having to
worry that they may end up chewed by a teething toddler and to
simply come home from a trying, frustrating day and *relax*, rather
than switching hats and enduring a trying, frustrating evening of
laundry, homework, teen-age angst and juvenile mayhem.

: people need to respect and support either choice.

I've no problem with respecting the childless...as I said, I'm
frequently envious of their freedom, but all too often, those 
folks who lack mobile recombinant DNA in their lives, fail to
understand that those of us that *do* have it, have fewer choices
and options.  And those of us that are trapped between *two*
generations (such as myself with children on one side and ageing,
infirm parents on the other) are accountable to so many people
besides themselves that's it's no wonder they sometimes eye the
single person and think "Gad, if only you *knew*..."

Not ever single or childless person knows what it's like to be
a parent, but *every* parent remembers what it was like to be
single and childless.  

: As I've said previously, this is a hard profession.
: Not having children does not make science suddenly
: warm, fuzzy, understanding, and supportive.  It will be tough
: regardless.   Be realistic and make your decisions for you.

*Nothing* make science warm and fuzzy...but having options or, at
the very least, understanding from one's peers, be they parents or
childless, certainly makes *this* researcher less inclined to foam
at the mouth or grind molars to dust.


Deirdre Sholto-Douglas      
Argonne National Laboratory
Environmental Research Division

I only pay taxes to Uncle Sam, I don't speak for him.

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