Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Everyone hates Mummy?

Photo / Greg Bowker
Photo / Greg Bowker

There are those that breed. There are those that like to keep their lives child-free.

Both are worthwhile choices, in my opinion.

I know that child-free women (especially those in relationships) are often bugged to death about when they'll start breeding, but apart from this constant intrusion into their privacy, it's generally accepted that if one doesn't want children, one should not have to have them.

But has sentiment against parents - against breeding, and particularly against mothers - swung too much the other way?

According to Lynn Harris, writing in from the US this week, it has.

In a blog entitled Everyone Hates Mommy, Harris details a litany of abuse mothers are subjected to across the media.

The general tenor of the criticism is that mothers have become overly whiny about their lives and full of the importance of their offspring, who are a pain in the ass and are inflicted on the general public at every opportunity.

She wrote a piece first about it for the New York Times, which garnered a "record" number of comments, followed by the piece on Salon which is at 405 responses and counting.

Here, she talks about the NYT responses, but the same is true for those commenting at Salon.

[It's] mostly some version of this: "I am sick and tired of young mothers' sense of entitlement. It was your choice to get pregnant. Deal with it. You do not get a pat on the back or a seat from me because you decided to reproduce."

I don't think in New Zealand the level of animosity has quite got this high yet. Perhaps this is largely because New Zealand has a mostly urban, suburban population (rather than an inner city heavily populated by the childfree) and so whiny mums wheeling their spoilt brats in huge strollers don't bump up much against those who would prefer getting the plague to handling preschoolers.

But there is a strain of thought that's started to take a bigger prominence in public debate even here, I think, and it's around the issue of how much support parents can reasonably expect through the taxpayer.

The argument hinges on whether having children is seen as a public good or a private good - and it seems now the thinking is that having children is more a benefit to the individual than to society at large.

Those who argue children are the taxpayers of tomorrow are frequently drowned out by those arguing, for example, that the world is overpopulated already and children leave a damaging carbon footprint.

It's also an issue in the workplace, where mums (specifically) often try and meld jobs around their home lives, in some cases meaning single colleagues inevitably have to pick up the slack.

The problem - about working women in the UK demanding too much in the way of workplace concessions - is detailed in this Daily Mail article.

Like many women I have been on both sides of the debate. As a childfree woman in the workforce it would annoy me greatly that mothers always seemed to get crucial holidays off and when they said they needed to leave early they could - no questions asked (in general).

However, as a mother now, and someone more aware of the importance to everyone of well balanced future adults, I think there is definitely a case for ensuring workplaces are as accommodating of mothers AND fathers as possible because

a) There will always be those that breed; and
b) when children are here, it's in all of our interests that they have happy home lives.

It doesn't mean single people should have to do more though, and certainly doesn't excuse a sense of entitlement in parents or bad behaviour in children!

- Dita De Boni

Photo / Greg Bowker

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

Read more by Dita De Boni

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