Every once in a while, I hear childfree-by-choice people emphasize that they’re not anti-child; they just enrich the lives of kids by being actively involved with nieces and nephews, or they teach, or they volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. All of that is essential to keeping the lives of parents and kids afloat, and I’m not dissing it in any way. I think it’s wonderful. It’s lifesaving, in fact. I’m also 100% supportive of the decision not to reproduce. It’s really not for everyone – including a substantial fraction of those who’ve chosen (or stumbled into) parenthood.
But every once in a while someone says that their contribution to society’s future is equal to that of parents because they do some volunteer work with kids – and thus want to claim educational or health benefits equal to those of parents that they could then assign to a beneficiary of their choice – and if not, then no one should get such benefits. I balk at such arguments. In an ideal world, all humans ought to have such benefits, decoupled from their jobs, but as long as they adhere to employment status, then parents do have a special claim to including their kids under those bennies.
My argument for this boils down to this: “Kid puke.” I have lots of recent evidence for this, but since no browser supports scratch’n'sniff technology, you’ll just have to use your fertile imagination.
Because it’s only parents as a rule (occasionally grandparents) who are available to those kids 24/7. It’s only parents who clean up a trail of barf leading down the slide of a child’s cute bed from Ikea, who roll up the terminally soiled carpet and trundle it out to the garbage, and who attempt to decontaminate not just the floor but an amazing array of vertical surfaces. I say “parents” advisedly, because this is not a one-person job … and if it is, that partnership is either moribund or already dead. Surely solo barf clean-up has got to be one of the hardest jobs in single parenthood.
And yes, I knew this was part of the job description before i signed on to motherhood, but that doesn’t make it easy, trivial, or fun. That also won’t help me fall asleep. My ear is cocked for the next round. I know I need to sleep since the new quarter starts tomorrow, and I should be fresh and quick-witted. Instead I’ll probably sway and shuffle into the classroom and hope that my students are chatty.
I’ve got more to say on the differences between parenthood and other caretaking in a serious vein. But something about inhaling those fumes makes it hard to be philosophical or reflective.