Friday, November 30, 2007

Because I Have So Much Free Time

One assumption that alternately sends me into fits of laughter and makes my blood boil is the one that many parents make, assuming that I have so much free time to relax, because I have no children.

It bothers me because they are making many other assumptions that go along with it: that I don't work overtime, that I don't feel exhausted when I get home, that once I get home, there is no housework that needs to be done, that I never have plans with friends or family, that I don't have errands to run, and that since I only take care of myself, how hard can it be?

So apparently, many parents have this idea that child free people go home and do nothing but relax. Dinner? Where does that come from? Apparently for child free people, a healthy, delicious dinner appears out of nowhere. Oh wait, we always just go out to eat, or have food delivered, because we have money to burn since we don't have kids. Right. It's not as if we have to save money for anything. Life is so easy for the child free!

And evidently the household chores that are such a burden to the parents of the world are not an issue for childfree people: dishes, laundry, vacuuming, cooking, shopping for groceries - they are all somehow magically done with the wave of a wand for childfree people!

Then take into account that I happen to live in an area that has one of the highest costs of living in the United States. Townhouses in my neighborhood sell for $500,000 or more. Condos sell for $300,000 and up. Could I find cheap condos? Sure, but in those neighborhoods I'd be afraid to take my dog out to potty after dark.

Oh, and of course, child free people have no responsibilities! We live a blissfully stress free existence, apparently unfettered by bothersome things like rent, mortgage, car payments, car insurance, paying for food, clothes, and medical care. We have so much money we could use it for toilet paper!

And of course, we just fritter away our free time doing selfish, frivolous things like going out with friends, drinking, dancing, and just doing fun things.

I think that one bothers me the most - the assumption that since I don't have kids, I live a frivolous existence that is contributing nothing to society.

I have volunteered for three years for non-profit dog rescue. I now serve as a board member for a rescue organization. I love animals, especially dogs. I have since I was a child. I love my dog deeply and we have a great bond. It breaks my heart do see other dogs of his breed abandoned or surrendered to shelters because the owners made an impulse buy when they saw a cute, fluffy puppy ("like the ones in the movies!") and then got tired of the energetic teenager that the puppy grew into.

I give a lot of my time, and do a lot of work, and evaluate a lot of shelter dogs. I do a lot of driving to help get shelter dogs to their foster homes. I offer training advice to people who want to give up their dogs because they didn't train them and now just want this undisciplined dog taken off their hands. It can be frustrating, depressing, heartbreaking, and incredibly fulfilling. At times I have wished I could just stop and rest. But there are so many, many animals that need homes, that need our help. And there just aren't enough people doing this kind of work. So I rest a little and then jump back in.

So the implication that because I do not have children, I live like a perpetual teenager, free of worries, obligations, with ample time on my hands, and doing nothing but frittering my time away shopping and watching Sex and the City is a huge, huge insult.


InnerKeening said...

Yeah, exactly. And to even suggest that our doing laundry and dishes and housecleaning gets us nothing more than a "well I have it much worse than you because I have kids"... well, you popped the kid out by your choice, so shut the F up.

Oh, excuse me while I go throw some more of my copious money into the fire and sit back and drink a martini.

M said...

I agree that many do seem to make this assumption, including at the workplace (i.e. you don't have kids, therefor you have no urgent and important needs/responsibilities, so you can stay late, finish so and so's work, etc.)

I also agree that this assumption is largely false.

There definitely are some childfree people however who do represent their lives as very carefree, blissful, and full of adventure and frolicking, wealth, comfort, and ease.

I don't think they should have to be dishonest or silent about their lives, but I do believe that type of representation does help fuel those stereotypes onto the rest of us.

Not all childfree are constantly (or at all) traveling, going out all the time, and living large. Many of us struggle, most of us probably, just the same as anyone else, with all the same issues everyone else struggles with, just as you noted.

M said...

I accidentally pressed published before I finished. Just wanted to say, I hope we (childfree) can help bring more awareness to others, without turning it into a nasty battle, and help educate others that, yes, childfree people have responsibilities and struggles as well.

I don't care as much about this on an individuals level, in that people have a right to their own personal views and beliefs (of course it's better to clear up misconceptions than not).

But, I do care very much about these issues in terms of workplace and official societal expectations and regulations. I'm not talking about something like paying taxes for schools, but things like the childfree being asked to work late so parents can repeatedly leave early.

Besides, the truth is even if we childfree didn't have equally urgent and important responsibilities--though we do--we shouldn't ever be "punished" for that. We give up the benefits of parenthood and thus deserve to enjoy the advantages of being childfree as well.

Parents make the choice to be parents, and I don't believe we should have to pay for their choice, for example, by being treated unfairly at work and being forced/encouraged to pick up their slack by working overtime because they are busy leaving early or coming in late every day to care for their kids.

As you noted, we have lives, loved ones, and responsibilities that are just as important and urgent as parents' responsibilities-- including kids--are to them.

Too often at work (and perhaps elsewhere too) "family friendly" means "childfree unfriendly" and that is not right. I'm all for helping parents and especially kids, but not at the expense of the childfree.

Shannon said...

Just today someone actually asked me,"So what do you "dinks" do for Christmas since you don't have any kids?"
Excuse me? Like we couldn't possibly know what to do about Christmas, or we are somehow excluded from the holiday because we haven't bred?

Michelle L. said...

Just like m said, of course you can work overtime, you don't have kids!

But I don't know where this idea that we have more time came from. I go home and am busy from the time I get home from work until I go to bed. Not to mention that the nights I teach I am on campus an extra three hours.

Also, because I am the grandchild who doesn't have kids of their own, guess who gets to take grandma grocery shopping and to her doctor appointments?

Seriously, after teaching and grandma duty, I almost think I would rather have a kid for all the extra time it would give me!!

Gak, strike that. Sorry, lost my mind for a minute ;)

Angry Grrl said...

Like Shannon said, I've gotten some attitude before, especially on years when my husband and I don't travel for the holidays. Look -- just because we don't have kids doesn't mean that we don't have our own holiday traditions. It also doesn't mean that we want to spend every holiday every year sleeping away from home. One year in three we don't go anywhere for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and this is that year for us. I tell you, Thanksgiving was SO RELAXED since we didn't have to obey anyone's schedule but ours...