My thoughts about The Baby Boon are a little scattered, and reviewing non-fiction is always a little hard, so I apologize if I end up making no sense.
I feel like I need a bit of an intro here… I don’t have kids, and really don’t want any. I just… don’t. Also, this book was published in 2000, so it’s almost 15 years old at this point.
Okay so the book is about how basically in an effort for politicians and lawmakers to look “family-friendly” and hence get more votes, they’ve created a lot of policies that end up discriminating against people who don’t have kids. People with kids get a crap ton of extra tax deductions and tax credits (for each kid they have), which means the childless are getting stuck paying more than their fair share in taxes. It’s mandatory that companies offer maternity leave (I think the average is about 12 weeks) for women who have babies, but there is no comparable benefit available to people without kids AND the employees without kids often pick up the slack while a woman is out on maternity leave, which violates the “equal pay for equal work” laws. And society as a whole has also picked up this weird trend of catering to people with kids – some companies offer reduced rates on day-care services, some offer to help pay your kid’s tuition, etc. Stores now have “Expectant Mother” and “Women with small children” parking spaces next to the handicapped ones. All of this is SO frustrating for people who don’t have kids – whether they want kids but can’t have them, don’t have kids yet, don’t want kids, aren’t allowed to adopt kids (this mostly refers to same-sex couples), older people who had kids that are grown now, etc.
So, let’s talk about some of the things I enjoyed about this book.
Burkett talks a bit about how and why exactly this family-friendly craze came about.
She pointed out that feminist organizations were also a part of the family-friendly movement and they supported a lot of the laws we have now that favor families and ignore the childless. It’s something I hadn’t really thought of before, but these organizations were trying to gain more followers by supporting women with children who were trying to get into the workforce – but by doing this, they have essentially pitted mothers against childless women, which contradicts the point of being feminist and supporting ALL women.
- She discussed how shortly after the family-friendly trend started, the “for the children” trend came along glorifying children and proclaiming that they were the most important thing and have the be protected from everything. And from that, we now have laws that increase the penalties of spousal abuse if it’s witnessed by a child. THIS IS SO STUPID. Way to devalue the life and health of the woman being beaten by her husband.
- Burkett also mentioned that the childless even get discriminated against in other basic areas, such as medical care. It’s not uncommon for doctors to refuse to perform voluntary sterilization on child-bearing aged women who haven’t had kids yet, and some doctors insist men without kids go through counselling before performing a vasectomy on them. Yet there’s no counselling required to have kids…
I could go on and on about the many issues that Burkett touches on in this book that I appreciated, or that are just SO UNJUST, but let’s move on to the things I didn’t like about this book.
- The beginning and end of The Baby Boon were most enjoyable and readable because those were the parts that focused on the issues above. The middle got bogged down by a lot of politics. The author went back and forth with “and then Clinton did that” and “Republicans did this” and it got confusing as well as boring. I appreciated her trying to point out how exactly the family-friendly craze started, but she didn’t do it in a clear and concise way. It muddled the point she was trying to get at.
- She tried to tie class issues into this, and it was a mess. Yes, I agree that the poor deserve a little more help than the middle class people making a lot more money. But this distracted from the overall message of not discriminating against the childless.
- I wish there had been a section on what you can do to fight this inequality, or a list of organizations to support for that cause, but there wasn’t. However after looking online, maybe that’s because short of childless people starting to sue their employers for discrimination, there’s not a whole lot we CAN do yet. That’s really sad, because I would totally join that organization. We need a lobbyist group for childless people.
- She ended the book on a hopeful note, saying that in the future years the childless people would start to be more outspoken and try to fight this discrimination. And it just made me sad, because 15-years later the situation is possibly even worse than when she wrote this.
SO. The Baby Boon was pretty interesting and had a lot of good information and made a lot of good points, but I didn’t love it because of that big political section in the middle. Finger-pointing at whether this is all the fault of Republicans or Democrats isn’t helping anything. I did really enjoy reading something that matched my general outrage at a lot of these things though, and I think I’m going to search out more books about being childfree.
Sarah Says: 3.5 stars