Childfree adults are speaking out more and more these days about discrimination, and while this murmur growing to a small uproar is actually a surprise to many who didn't realize the discrimination existed, consider the following real life examples:
A young male professor recently contacted me, asking for advice on dealing with discrimination in his workplace. He explained that, at the start of each quarter when teaching schedules are selected, the parenting professors, both mothers and fathers, are given first pick, so that their work does not interfere with their children's school and extracurricular activities.
A twenty year old college age client complained that, despite being the first to ask, her request to have Halloween night off to be with friends was turned down because the parents she worked with "needed" to have this evening off to go out trick or treating with their children.
Maternity and paternity leave is routinely given to parents of newborn children, but other employees are seldom if ever offered an equal amount of time off for endeavors that are, to them, of equal value. For example, they may wish to go away to do volunteer work for several months, help out an ill or elderly relative, do a home remodel, take an extended journey, or write a novel.
Parents are given tax-breaks for children, while childfree adults pay a higher percentage. Parents with children under a certain age are allowed to bring them onto airplanes for free, while travelers with small pets that can fit in a travel case under the seat are charged substantial fees.
On some airlines, parents traveling with children under a certain age are allowed to board ahead of others, even on airlines that don't assign seating. And on a recent international flight I was on, a small child who was flying for free screamed, threw food, and ran up and down the aisle, resulting in a number of exasperated passengers who were seated nearby. When I asked the stewardess about the possibility of moving the mother and child, I was told that I could find another seat if I chose to do so, but that nothing would be said to the mother about her lack of management of her child's behavior.
So, how should childfree adults respond to these and other discriminatory situations??
If you're being discriminated against in the workplace, speak out assertively. Insist that your requests for scheduling and time off be given equal priority to those of parents. Ask that leave away from work be offered on an equal basis, so that everyone can have the opportunity to focus on dreams and aspirations. Join the outcry from passengers who are asking that airlines make an effort to seat parents and children in separate sections, so that other passengers can travel in peace. Ask parents who choose to not manage the behavior of their children to do so. Ask a second time if necessary. Speak out about tax structures, and question the lack of logic behind financially rewarding procreation in an overpopulated world.
Childfree adults, you do not need to apologize for your choice. Remember that parenting is an option, not an obligation, and with this comes sacrifices as well as responsibilities. There will be less of a divide between parents and childfree adults if we all take responsibility for the decisions we make and have mutual respect for one another's life choices. Allow yourself to feel generous towards your colleague when she leaves early to attend a soccer game, but give yourself permission to also leave early and without apology for an activity that is important to you.