October 7, 2017

Do Parents Make Better Teachers? A Childfree Teacher Responds

Teacher

Teacher (Photo credits: www.myparkingsign.com)

When I read the title of the Slate article Parents Make Better Teachers I was livid!

I’ve spent years dedicating my life to children and education. I didn’t need to have kids of my own to make a difference in the classroom.

Do eye doctors need to have glasses?

Do chefs need to be fat?

Do gynecologists need to have vaginas?

So why the sudden childfree discrimination in education?

Author Sara Mosle writes about her teaching experience as a response to an article in this week’s New York Times about high turnovers at charter schools:

“If you aren’t a parent, maybe this won’t strike you as odd. It wouldn’t have struck me that way more than 20 years ago when I joined Teach for America in the program’s first year and taught for three years in New York City’s public schools. I was single, childless, and clueless about even the most basic aspects of child-rearing. My students’ parents seemed like creatures from another planet, remote and distant from the job I thought I was doing. To the extent I understood family dynamics, it was solely from the perspective of the teenager I’d been just a few years before.

Nearly two decades later, I returned to the classroom, this time as a mother, and have become acutely aware of how being a parent has made me a better teacher.”

Fine. But what about life experience and maturity? Does adding twenty years of life to your resume change anything?

As I read more of the article I learned that the sensational headline was misleading. Besides Sara’s personal story this article says that many charter schools hire recent college graduates to teach and after a few years they leave because there is no room for financial growth or advancement. This turnover makes it difficult for students. Recent grad=cheap labor.

Childfree Teachers are Hot

This has nothing to do with parents being better teachers. So why bring the childfree into it? Because we are HOT! The recent TIME magazine cover article stirred up the debate and got clicks so now even Slate is cashing in on the action. Shame on Slate. Many childfree readers, like me, were annoyed by the deception and blatant childfree attack.

The responses to the article were amazing and worth reading. Childfree teachers called out Slate and the author for baiting the childfree for responses. Go team CF!

Still, it doesn’t seem that people actually read the article. Instead they were responding to the ugly headline, so score one for Slate.

Some of the best comments include this one busting Slate for the obvious lure:

From Tom Tildrum:“Old vs. young, school choice, *and* Mommy Wars? Slate’s editor must have plotzed from excitement when they pitched him this article.”

Other favorites include:
from TravisNelson76:

To suggest that schools should have teachers with relevant life experience is not strange. To suggest, however, (as this article does) that relevant life experience can only come with parenthood is VERY STRANGE INDEED. Who would make a better teacher? An 18-year-old mother with no teaching experience? Or a 45-year-old non-parent with twenty years of teaching experience? This article seems to (VERY STRANGELY) suggest the former.

From NinjaofSin:

“You’re not a parent, you can’t possibly understand”

Bah-loney.

From mh:

I went to Catholic schools. None of the nuns had children, but they were excellent teachers.

Childfree Teachers Rock

If you really want to know what this childfree teacher thinks about this subject check out this WNK post:

My Favorite Teacher Didn’t Have Kids

What do you think childfree teachers?

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Seuss: “Celebrity No Kids” Funny Follow Up

Cover of "Green Eggs and Ham (I Can Read ...

Cover via Amazon

WNK readers were amazed to learn that the guy who wrote the most notable kid’s books of all time, Dr. Seuss, never had kids of his own.

We recently stumbled upon a funny blog post from our friends at “I Kid You Not” waxing in Seussian rhyme about the argument to be or not to be child free:

(From www.choosingkidfree.wordpress.com)

“Except in this version, Sam-I-Am is a chick named Mindy Sue who believes everyone should procreate and green eggs and ham are the little buggers themselves.

I’m Mindy Sue.

That Mindy Sue.
That Mindy Sue.
I do not like that Mindy Sue.

Don’t you want a kid or two?

I do not want one, Mindy Sue.
I do not want a kid or two.

Do you want one in a year?

I do not want one in a year.
I’d rather shove glass up my rear.
I’m happy being childfree.
Now take a hike and let me be.

But don’t you like kids when you fly
Even though they scream and cry?

I do not like them on a plane.
I do not like them on a train.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.

Don’t you like them where you eat?
Don’t you think they’re cute and sweet?

Not where I eat.
Not at the beach.
Not at the park.
Not on an ark.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.

Do you like them at the store?
I’m sure you would if they were yours.

I do not like them at the store.
I don’t want kids.
But wait! There’s more:
I do not like them where I eat.
I do not like them at the beach.
I do not like them on a plane.
I do not like them on a train.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them ANYWHERE.

But every little girl and boy
Is a precious gift, a joy!

Holy balls, give me a break
I just don’t think kids are so great.
I like to fly and eat in peace.
Now please go take a flying leap.

  • http://whynokids.com/uncategorized/dr-suess-didnt-have-kids/
  • http://americanvision.org/975/dr-seuss-had-no-children-of-his-own/

What Makes a Family?

The definition of a family has changed to include same sex couples and single parents, even unmarried couples with children, but if you are in a child-free partnership you are not a family.  What makes a family? Children. According to dictionary.com a family is a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family. That means same sex couples and married or unmarried couples are still not considered equal in society. While it warms my heart to see people post charts that include same sex couples and their children as families, I am sad to see that my choice to be child-free keeps me out of the family category.

An ABC news story on a 2010 survey by sociology professor Brian Powell shows that most Americans believe that kids make a family:

“In 2010, almost everyone — 99.8 percent — agreed that a husband, wife and kids count as a family. Ninety-two percent said that a husband and wife without the kids made a family.

“Children provide this, quote, ‘guarantee’ that move you to family status,” Powell said. “Having children signals something. It signals that there really is a commitment and a sense of responsibility in a family.”

For instance, 39.6 percent in 2010 said that an unmarried man and woman living together were a family — but give that couple some kids and 83 percent say that’s a family.

Thirty-three percent said a gay male couple was a family. Sixty-four percent said they became a family when they added children.”

So while we are making baby steps with our wider definition of family it seems that the child-free might be considered family-free for now.

Hey WNKers do you consider yourself part of a family?

Related articles
  • ‘Traditional’ family not typical (bbc.co.uk)
  • http://www.themotherco.com/2011/11/what-is-the-traditional-family/
  • http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/features_momsatwork/2011/07/guest-post-what-makes-a-family.html

Viagra 1 Birth Control 0

Picture Of Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral contraceptive...

Image via Wikipedia

Conservative groups including religious colleges and hospitals continue to pressure the Obama White House to give them exemptions from providing hormonal contraceptives to their employees and students. But the interesting fact is:

“The Guttmacher Institute analyzed US Government data and found that 14% of adult women and one-third of teenagers who use oral contraception are on it for non-birth control reasons. Some use it to manage menstrual symptoms like cramps and heavy periods, others use it to help clear up their skin. About half of the teens who use the pill for non-contraceptive reasons have never even had sex— but all of them are sinners who are going straight to hell!” (Jezebel)

And insurance companies continue to pay for Viagra for medical reasons but not birth control. Where is the fairness in that? Bill O’Reilly famously said that birth control is not a medical condition. He’s kind of right, but that’s like saying Viagra is not a medical condition. It’s not. The very real medical conditions that birth control prevent include: acne, ovarian cysts, irregular menstruation, PMS, etc. I promised I wouldn’t get political on this blog but this is about fairness and if I have to keep watching stupid erectile dysfunction commercials on television I going to scream about inequality and sexism in 2011. Maybe if I had more affordable birth control I wouldn’t be so PMSy.

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Open Letter to a Green Mama

A landfill in Poland

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Green Mama,

I just bought diapers. They are for your new baby. As a childfree woman this is an exceptional and eye-opening day for me. Thank you for taking the time to research the environmental impact of having a child and choosing to use cloth diapers instead of disposables. And thank you for educating me on the new technology of the old standard cloth diapers. Gone are safety pins and saggy rubber pants. Cloth diapers are now made of wool, bamboo, unbleached hemp, and cotton with snug waterproof covers in every color in the Crayola box. You also told me about the burden of disposable diapers on our landfills:

“An average child will go through several thousand diapers in his/her life. Since disposable diapers are discarded after a single use, usage of disposable diapers increases the burden on landfill sites, and increased environmental awareness has led to a growth in campaigns for parents to use reusable alternatives such as cloth or hybrid diapers. An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the US, resulting in a possible 3.4 million tons of used diapers adding to landfills each year.” (Source Wikipedia)

There has been much debate over landfill for disposable diapers vs. water usage for cloth diapers. Which is better for the environment? Bleached industrial cotton is terrible for the environment and so is using a washing machine and detergent. However, if you use a full load (pardon the pun) and green laundry products they are better both baby and the world.

Fact: The use of cloth diapers goes up in hard economic times. Parents will spend between $2,000 and $3,000 before potty training on each child vs. $300 for cloth, and the cloth diapers can be recycled and reused for additional children. (Or how about skipping that next child to save some money and the environment?)

But are the cloth diapers better for baby? Many experts believe that potty training is easier for kids with cloth diapers because they can actually feel when they are wet. The fabrics are also free of chemicals and are relatively easy to use.

Back to Green Mama. Thank you also for having a “green shower” free of wrapping paper, decorative paper bags, and plastic bows. Instead, presents will come in reusable baskets and “wrapping” will include cloth diapers with reusable bows. Just during the holidays alone wrapping paper makes up four million tons of waste. I love the idea of eliminating wrapping paper and using cloth instead of disposable. This is one idea that we can all make part of our routine. Just a suggestion, you may not want to wrap your gifts for the childfree in cloth diapers.

Dear WNKers, What do you buy your friend’s babies for gifts?

Related articles
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What if…Oprah had kids?

Mary Cassatt (1844–1926), The Bath Oil on canv...

Image via Wikipedia

I admit that sometimes I think, ‘What if I had kids?’  Would I be a better teacher? Or a better person? Would I write better children’s books? How different would my life be now?

What if certain childfree female role models throughout history had had kids? Would their lives have had the same focus?

What if Oprah Winfrey had kids? Would she have felt the need to educate hundreds of African girls?

What if Mary Cassatt had kids? Would she still have created countless paintings and pastels of mothers and children?

What if Condoleezza Rice had kids? Would she have felt differently about sending other people’s children into war?

What if Florence Nightingale had kids? Would she have been the “lady with the lamp” running from patient to patient night after night?

What if Sally Ride had kids? Would she have been the first American woman astronaut?

Do you need to be a mother to have empathy? To better understand children or humanity?

Do you ever wonder ‘What if I had kids?’

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No Kids Alliance

Today’s guest post is from Kimberly Rielly , director of communications for Lake Placid CVB / Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

Singletracking Frontier Town, North Hudson, New York

Singletracking Frontier Town, North Hudson, New York

I personally made the choice to live kid-free before I was old enough to know from whence they came. I said it out loud at the ripe old age of 3. I was sure that if I had a child, it would be just like me – and who needs another sarcastic drain on my attention and wallet who has no respect for their elders?

I’ve never wavered from this decision, and when I met the guy who would be my husband, it was a mandate that he agree wholeheartedly; which we did, and do, about almost everything.

We have fielded reproductive questions from the audience ever since our first date.  I know that my parents genuinely wished to have grandchildren, but I suspect that our friends, who found themselves chasing two or three toddlers around, just wanted us to share in their misery.

During the first ten years of our relationship, we diagnosed ourselves as being selfish. Why no kids? We would save money, and be free to live the lifestyle to which we would become accustomed. Take off for the week and go rock climbing? Sure. No babysitter required.  Tear the house apart for reconstruction while living in it? No problem. We weren’t endangering the health of anyone but ourselves.

We chose to live in the Adirondacks, where we grew up, in order to enjoy the healthy quality of life here. But living in the Adirondacks requires an economic balancing act. Though we are DINKs, we also live up to the level of our double income without much to spare. Adding kids to the equation is beyond my math abilities.

And then there’s the worry factor. Having had the pleasure of being owned by a dog for over 15 years, and living with the associated anxiety about his safety, I can only assume that a kid would increase that level of anxiety by a sizable multiplier. More math.

As I understand from reading the news, our contribution is unnecessary for the survival of the species; there are plenty of other people keeping the planet’s population growing.  And good for them – we actually LIKE kids.  We especially like to be the doting, fun, favorite aunt and uncle.

Luckily, we’re not alone. We’re oddly surrounded by (or maybe attracted to?) a number of workaholic friends who have made the same “no kids” decision.

Perhaps as a result of the this no kids alliance, but more likely a result of maturity, I no longer think that we made a selfish decision. Rather, we have the freedom (though not necessarily the money) to make a greater contribution to society. Instead of driving kids to piano lessons and coaching basketball, we are able to donate our time and perceived skill sets to organizations and individuals that enhance our lives and our communities.

And at this point, we’ve successfully dodged family and friends who repeatedly insisted we’d change our minds – 18 years of dodging. Still no kids. Now that I’m 40-something, I think they FINALLY believe us.

Kim Reilly (@krielly) is an Adirondack adventurer, destination communicator, friend of all dogs and most people. Find out more at her Lake Placid tourism blog or her personal blog.

I’m not infertile. I Just don’t want kids.

Me with my god-daughter and her brother

She slipped a small piece of paper into my hand, closed my fingers around it and allowed her hand to linger on my closed fist.

“I want to recommend someone to you. He can change your life.”

Huh? Why, in the middle of a Northern Westchester Junior League meeting was this woman, whom I hardly knew, handing me some piece of paper that would change my life? I opened my hand and found the answer. It was a card for a fertility doctor.

“Oh, no,” I protested, “I don’t have kids because I don’t want them. I’m not infertile.” Her eyes widened and she looked at me with horror.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I just figured, since you’re the only one without children…” she stammered.

“No problem. Have you met my husband?” She had not. “If you’d met him, you’d understand. Some people just shouldn’t be replicated.” I added. That silenced her. She never spoke to me again.

I left my husband soon thereafter.

Fast forward thirteen years. I’m now forty-five and live in the Adirondacks on Lake Champlain. I have a new husband who’s incredible – with so many qualities worth replicating.

He’s brilliant and beautiful, charming, kind and hilarious and he’s a great teacher (he was one for a living for a long while). He would be an outstanding father. We share the same values, interests and goals. They don’t however include procreation.

We have a great life. We love our friends and family,  our careers, our outdoor lifestyle and our frequent world travels. We’re also at the point in our lives where we are finally financially able to raise children, emotionally equipped, and have a large house full of extra bedrooms and plenty of land for play plus a world of outdoor sports and a healthy community at our doorstep.

Why wouldn’t we have kids? Well, the short and cheeky answer is: Why rock the boat? We have a great life, why mess with the formula? That sums things up pretty well, but, of course there are more complex reasons for our choice to not have children of our own.

Don’t get me wrong, here. I love kids. I probably have more fun with them than most parents, because having fun is all I need to do with them.

We have heaps of kids in our lives.  We spend a good deal of time enjoying our friends’ many children our god-children and our cousins’ multiple offspring.   In our immediate families we have two nephews (11 & 13) from my sister and two nieces (2 and 4) from George’s brother. They are awesome. We’ve loved watching them grow and marveled at their blossoming brains and talents.

Interestingly, if – God forbid – anything happens to our siblings and their spouses, the kids become ours. Do I have a problem with that? No. I would have a big problem with losing our siblings, of course, but would happily raise their children if need be. I would devote myself to being the best second-best mom in the world for them. They are a part of us already.  They always will be.

So, why wouldn’t I want to have my own? For one, we know how our nieces and nephews turned out and we’re happy with the results. Starting from scratch is a much riskier endeavor with all the physical and mental handicap genes floating around in our population, not to mention the heart disease, cancer and depression genes prominent in both of our family gene pools.

Admittedly, we’d all be hard pressed to find a family that doesn’t carry those genes, but with my 45-year-old shriveled eggs and with the myriad health issues that I sometimes battle, what are the odds exactly of my having a healthy, well-adjusted child that won’t need constant attention for the rest of my life? I’m not willing to find out.

Some time ago a gay friend of mine asked me if I would consider being a surrogate mother so that he and his partner could adopt and raise the baby.

I was flattered but delicately told him that I don’t want to be a mother.

He tried to convince me that I didn’t even have to be a mother. Apparently, if I give my baby for someone else to raise that doesn’t qualify me as a” mother.”  Good to know but no just the same.  Good for a woman who can give her child to another to raise when she can’t do it herself, but I could raise one, perhaps successfully.  I just choose not to.

“Well then,” he concluded, “if you and George accidentally get pregnant, would you consider letting us raise the child if you don’t want it?”

Seriously?

Thanks for the vote of confidence in our reproductive skills but I’ll have to get back to you on that…

Upcoming Posts:

  • Monday March 14: Am I Selfish For Not Having Kids?
  • Wednesday March 16: Hanging Out With Moms and Why are Dads Having More Fun?
  • Friday March 18: Forging My Own Kid-less Path
  • Monday March 21: Dog Mom and über Aunt Will Travel

Why I left my children

Woman in Motion by andorpro, on Flickr
Woman in Motion by andorpro, on Flickr

“My problem was not with my children,” author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto explains, “but with how we think about motherhood.” Her poignant, smartly crafted essay, Why I left my children, is part of Salon.com‘s Real Families series. Her unflinching candor is especially powerful coming from the perspective of a woman, a mother, a wife. It’s an unfamiliar perspective, one that is easily and habitually vilified as she hastens to acknowledge. The redemptive arc of her essay softens the jagged edge of realizing — as a married mother of a three and a five year old — that she hadn’t wanted to be a mother in the first place.

I had no idea what to do with these bouncing balls of energy. Even feeding them, finding them a bathroom, was a challenge. It raised a little issue for me that I have neglected to mention: I never wanted to be a mother. I was afraid of being swallowed up, of being exhausted, of opening my eyes one day, 20 (or 30!) years after they were born, and realizing I had lost myself and my life was over.

She loses her marriage but regains her children and discovers her motherhood. It’s a tidy conclusion with a happily ever after vibe, but the essay concludes without returning to the mother-phobia hiccup. I suspect that I’ll need to read her novel, Why She Left Us, to learn more. Her fear that motherhood would/could exhaust her, swallow her up and erase her sense of self strike me as relevant and important (even critical) concerns.

I’m not a mother. Nor will I ever be a mother. I’m a happily married childfree husband. I’m a dog owner, storyteller, adventurer and unabashed flâneur. I’m a DINK. And yet Rizzuto’s perception that parenting has the potential to swallow up the self feels familiar, like it was conjured up out of my own twenty-something anxiety cauldron. A decade and change later, the ingredients are still there. How do I know? Because friends — parents, mothers, fathers — confirm and reaffirm the woes of parenting. They are exhausted. Swallowed up. Lost.

I know, that’s only part of the equation. “Having children is the best decision we ever made,” they always hasten to add. But it tends to come as an apologetic parenthetical after a laundry list of laments, regrets and frustrations. I don’t mean to diminish the splendors of parenting. They doubtless trump the petty concerns I’ve mentioned, and yet I’m not convinced. Frankly, I don’t want to be convinced. I’m okay with exhaustion, but swallowed up? No thanks!

Are you a DINK?

When I grew up in the Adirondacks, a “dink” was a pejorative term for a dullard or a goof ball. “Don’t be such a dink!”

But the acronym, DINK, is something else altogether. It stands for double income, no kids. In other words, a DINK is a two-career childless family. Whether or not the couple is married is beside the point. It’s the absence of children that sets DINKs apart from most “normal” families.

Today a two-career family is common. In fact, it may even represent the norm in the United States. But the decision not to have children? Not the norm. It’s this idea of normalcy that seems to transcend the two dink definitions, the slang from my childhood and the acronym from my adulthood.

“Don’t be such a dink!”

As an educated, hard-working, married adult in my late 30’s I hear it all the time. Maybe not those words, maybe less hostile, maybe couched in patronizing tones, but the underlying idea is still there. If you and your spouse opt not to have children, you’re not normal. Not necessarily a dullard. But perhaps a goof ball. Or maybe my wife and I haven’t quite discovered where babies come from yet? Late bloomers? Fertility woes? Misanthropes? Hedonists?

Actually, I love children. As an uncle to two magnificent nieces who spent the Christmas holiday with us; as an uncle to two dynamo nephews with whom I enjoyed dinner last night and nine energetic days in Costa Rica a week ago; and as a teacher, coach and adviser to middle and high school students at Santa Fe Preparatory School (1996-9) and the American School of Paris (1999-2002) children occupy a central, essential and rewarding place in my life. So why have my wife and I chosen not to have children? The answers are multiple (lifestyle, environmental, financial, etc.) and evolving. I’ll endeavor to answer this question in my future blog posts, and in the process, I hope to better understand and verbalize my choice.

What’s your choice? Are you a DINK? (Share your thoughts in the Facebook DINK discussion.)