Saturday, December 31, 2011

Are Childless Woman Untrustworthy as Workmates?

A 2009 article titled “Why bosses are right to distrust women who don't want children... by a VERY outspoken mother (and ex-boss)” that appeared in the UK’s Daily Mail and was recently posted on the Childless by Choice Project facebook group page is generating a lot of chatter amongst the childfree and childless members of this group (BTW, this is a closed group but you are welcome to join us, just click here).

You really have to read the entire article to understand why but here’s just one of the many statements made by Carol Sarler, the writer of this piece, that got us all a-flutter:
In my experiences both as a colleague and an employer, I have found that mothers almost always bring something extra to the job, to the benefit of all.
It's not the mothers, for a start, who are going to turn up late and hungover after a night on the razz; they'll have been up, dressed and alert for hours, having cooked a family breakfast and delivered their children to school. On time.
It's not the mothers, usually, who run the office bitch-fest.
They're not there to compete for the attentions of the male executives; they're there to get out of the house; they're there because they genuinely enjoy some adult company; and they're there because they have mouths to feed other than their own and shoes to buy for someone else's feet.
She parrots the stereotype noted in the study she cites that childless woman lack an “essential humanity” and goes on to say “we actually need our children; they complete us as women, they are our light and our love and our legacy.”

This last statement alone speaks volumes. First there is the word “need” which is a red flag for me as a life coach. Then “they complete us as women, they are our light and our love and our legacy” which indicates a core belief that women must have children to feel complete or whole which is unfounded and, in my personal experience, untrue.

So to support her belief that childless women are weird and cold and undesirable as workmates, she points to a study that shows that these tired old stereotypes and assumptions are shared by others like her. This is just sad. It’s like saying “Yes, me and my buddies down at the factory believe that people who own cats can’t be trusted, have bad work habits, and are just plain weird. The fact that so many people believe this must make it true!”

What also raise alarm bells for me is what is not said here--her omission of childless men. Are they untrustworthy too?

Flickr Photo by Massdistraction

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sitcom Childfree Women at Odds with Reality

Jessica Grose, writing for Slate wrote an excellent article titled Child-free on TV about the childfree characters on some of our favorite situation comedy shows. Grose points out that these characters tend to exhibit masculine traits and send the message that women who don’t want kids are somewhat flawed or dysfunctional:
This message was driven home this week by the way two prime-time shows—How I Met Your Mother and Whitney—dealt with female characters who say they don’t want children. While this may be an uncommon choice on an American sitcom, it’s of course not an uncommon choice in America; the share of American women who don’t have kids has doubled since 1976. But neither of these characters—Robin (Cobie Smulders) on HIMYM and the titular Whitney (Whitney Cummings, also the show’s creator)—was allowed to fully embrace her desire not to have kids. Though Robin’s conflicted feelings about baby-rearing were treated in a much more enlightened way, it’s telling that on both shows, the characters who don’t want babies are women who like shooting guns and talking dirty, but who are grossed out by feelings. These shows are implicitly saying: Of course only a woman who’s not really feminine wouldn’t want to be a mom.
This article merits a full read as it highlights so much of what is wrong about the portrayal of childfree characters in our most popular media. If these characters bore an actual resemblance to the childfree women and men I know I might not be concerned but the reality gap between the sitcom childfree and the childfree that I see and know is so wide and troubling that it can’t be ignored or condoned.

Photograph by Chris Haston/NBC.