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Vasaris, the Fuzzy Dragon
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March 2014
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Vasaris, the Fuzzy Dragon [userpic]
Parents, Childfree/less, and the Principles of Equality

Over the last week or so in cf_debate there have been several discussions essentially regarding equality in the workplace for those with and without children. Actually, I wanked mightily in a polite fashion, but it was still pretty wanky.

For those who are curious:
The first discussion was about accommodations for parents more or less in general (maternity/paternity leave, flex time, etc) followed by a question of whether parents should receive preferential treatment in regard to holidays and there's another one about vacations that seems to have devolved into a general discussion regarding child-free (as opposed to CF) venues.

In any case, the first debate in particular has raised some issues that I find puzzling/intriguing.

My position of equality for parents/non-parents in the workplace is very simple:

1. Parents choose to have children. By making this choice they have actively chosen to make their lives more difficult in a variety of ways and enriching them in others.
2. Being parents does give them needs in regards to flexible time, emergency leave, etc., because, oh, they've got beings who are dependent upon them.
3. Employers should offer all employees sufficient flexibility and benefits to meet their needs, be they parents or not.

Make sense?

In no way do I believe that parents should not have their needs met. I believe that their needs can be met by giving all employees the requisite flexibility to leave work early on occasion for essentially frivolous things (a parent's trip to see little Sarah's recital/a CF's trip to see the symphony), to call in sick for themselves or someone/thing important to them (sick child/sick pet-friend-family member), or to leave in the case of emergency (child in hospital/parent-friend-family member in hospital) without repercussion. While a parent might conceivably need such things a bit more often than those without children, knowing that management will treat all such things equally would certainly reduce tension and should increase morale.

But for some reason there are parents who are opposed to this. They believe that the ability to leave early for their child's play is a right, not a privilege; that those without children should automatically cede holidays to parents; that the treatment is fair because all someone without children has to do to get the privilege is have children.

One parent argues that much like a 401(k) that one must pay into in order to get anything out of, or like working part time does not give one benefits or paid vacation, it is simply a matter of non-parents not meeting the criteria for these privileges. Have kids, he says, and you too will reap these benefits.

Last I checked, my retirement and vacation time are things my company "rewards" me with because I'm providing a service to my employer. I work for the company -- I pay into that 401(k), and my company provides me with a (laughably small) contribution. I work for the company full time -- they give me a small amount of paid vacation.

Where does the logic extend to be I make a choice about my personal life -- my company says it's okay for me to leave work early (or get paid for coming in late)? By that logic companies could say "Those who play EverQuest can leave work early or come in late and be paid for it." Having children is no more a service provided for an employer than purchasing a videogame.

The same commenter made an (in my opinion) snide comparison to disaster relief, saying that a CF coworker should no more have access to the same kind of flexibility a parent should be afforded than someone who wasn't affected by Hurricane Katrina should get FEMA benefits.

I'm unsure if he realizes he basically compared the birth of his child to a natural disaster.

In the thread about giving preference to parents on holidays the vast majority of people responded with a resounding "NO!", but two commenters stand out in my mind:

One stated that it was just "polite" to do so. I wank mightily downthread disagree. A parent does not have a right to holidays because of their child. In a truly fair workplace everyone has a more-or-less equal chance to get major holidays off. Out of kindness and/or consideration a CF person might choose to take days that do not directly correspond to holidays, but it should not be expected.

My reason? My feelings and those of my family are no less valid than the person with a child. I understand perfectly well that a child's feelings will be hurt if mommy or daddy is not home for Christmas Day, but I do not believe that this is *inherently* sufficient reason for me to disappoint my family.

The other felt that holidays should be traded off. In the main of this I actually like this idea -- everyone being guaranteed to get at least one major holiday -- but in the details of it she reveals that she still believes that parents should get preferential treatment for certain holidays. In this example she revealed that she felt parents should get preference on Halloween because if all a CF person has on that day is, oh, a party to go to, obviously it's more important that the young children go trick-or-treating.

The mind, she boggles, because ultimately all of these assumptions about what parents should have the right and privilege to have rests on the assumption that I and others without children, be it by choice, chance, biology, or gender, are inherently less valuable than those with them. Our time, our feelings, our activities, our beliefs, our aspirations -- all of these things are somehow worth less because of the lack of children.

"You can have it too, just have children."

I don't want children. I want to be treated equally to my male coworkers, to my childed co-workers, to my elderly co-workers, to my young ones. I'm not asking for anything more than what so many parents expect -- access to the same flexibility without justification, access to the same holidays without having to be called a selfish bitch since I don't have kids, access to the courtesy of being *asked* to cover for another person in a non-emergency rather than being expected to because of my lack of child.

And the final argument, the one that really pisses me off?

"That's just the way the world is. Live with it."

No. I refuse. I reject this. By sitting down and just taking it are people oppressed. By not standing up and screaming "THIS IS WRONG" are people oppressed. Be they white, black, hispanic, asian, native american; be they gay, straight, bi, transgendered or of other persuasions I don't have names for; be they male or female, childed, childless, or childfree. It is in our inaction that we are made slaves to what is currently real, not by our action.

So no. I say this to the parents who are bewildered by the notion that they are, indeed, given special privileges that could be extended to everyone without detriment.

I will not shut up about the inequity.

I will not simply agree that this is the way it is or how it should be.

I am not a child.

I am not a slave.

I am not your servant.

I will not simply accept and accept and accept that I am worth less for the inactivity of my womb or that you are valued more because you have proven your fertility.

I have worth and value far beyond my ova, my uterus and my vagina.

And so, goddamnit, do you.

Current Mood: annoyedannoyed

I knew I wanted to internet-marry you for a reason.

Thank you so much for saying everything I have been feeling in the last few days in a much more civilized and eloquent way than I have had the patience to do.