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It's Me vs The Child-Free


Title card with a black girl with curly hair wearing a Christmas bow in it and a crying white boy wearing a striped sweater with the words No Kids? No Christmas? and a separate bubble reads Delete the Comment and Read First.


Ah, tis the season. It's a festive time of celebration and gratitude. We look forward to our annual tradition of forcing child-free folks to take up extra shifts to cover our need to be with our family for the holiday. I look forward to it every year.

(Check out the audio version of this article \/)

I swear to any and all gods you choose to acknowledge that's what folk expect me, a parent, to say. Every year around the holidays, the internet sparks up the discussion, and rightfully so. Everyone wants time off around the holidays, whether or not they've got kids at home. Child-free folks might not have children of their own but they have families, friends, and personal lives that need tending to. So when companies prioritize time off requests of parents and guardians or insinuate that those who do not, will not, or have not yet had kids should cover shifts of parents, it feels very othering.


Let me say this upfront. The decision to breed, create offspring, have children, propagate the species, or create for themselves a tiny sliver of eternal life via passing on their DNA to their young is a deeply personal and nuanced one. I do not believe it is selfish to look at your lifestyle, your goals, or the state of the world and go "No. No kids. That's not for me."


I do believe it is wildly unfair and ego-centric for folks to look at the child-free and go "Oh. You'll change your mind," or, even worse, "You don't know love until you know what it is to love a child." That's just asinine.


First, none of us know why that person or couple has opted out of breeding. It might be that they tried and have acquiesced that biology is not in their favor. It might be that the thought of bringing a child into whatever sort of dumpster fire we are all collectively living in is dread-inducing. It might be they have goals, dreams, or pursuits that don't hold up to dragging a whole-ass child along for the ride. It might be because they just don't fucking want to. The reason behind their decision is not for all the world to know, understand, or agree with.


Second, and I'll give you this, no. The child-free (especially the child-free by choice) will not know what it is to love a child they made or worked very hard to procure. That is true. That doesn't mean they don't know love. That doesn't mean they don't have a whole soul and body understanding of love. I hope that in this, the year of our lord 2023, we aren't looking at lesbians and saying, to their faces, "Oh, if you've never been with a man, you don't know what it is to love." Because we know damn well that's not how that works. And yet, when the child-free by choice enter the chat, folks want to rest on their haunches and pretend they understand all the aspects, facets, and expressions of love better than the whole-ass person in front of them who just doesn't want kids.


Okay, all that out of the way, let's discuss the distribution of time off and the child-free. It is perfectly reasonable to get pissed off if it is even hinted at that a person without a crop of womb fruit is less entitled to time off. And I've heard some almost compelling arguments. A child-free person has only themselves to consider. A parent not only has their own need for time with their family but there's a kid or four who need their parent at home for their growth and development. Okay, yes. I understand and don't disagree but I wonder how that is the child-free co-worker's problem.

 

Absolutely no one on this planet has a perfect solution for work-life balance. How do you have a career or maintain a job and still balance being your own person, being someone's partner, being someone's parent, and all the other various identities and roles we fulfill? If I had an answer for that, I don't think I'd be idly blogging on some forgotten corner of the internet.


Having kids cannot and should not be the basis on which companies decide who gets time off. On the whole, it is my opinion that most businesses that are open on holidays probably shouldn't be. But that can't be a broad sweeping statement. Certain industries do have to stay open and staffed. Of course, the medical, first responders, law enforcement, and public safety fields have to stay staffed. I'll even leave space for the case that a handful of gas stations might NEED to stay open, service professionals (like plumbers, electricians, or HVAC techs) might NEED to be on call, and of course, there's all sorts of businesses owned by people who do not celebrate certain holidays. They may choose to remain open for the sake of others who also don't celebrate.


So as much as I want to say the simplest solution is just stop making people work on fucking Christmas, nothing is quite so black and white. As for companies pressuring the child-free to forsake their holiday, yeah, that's still bullshit. You get to be pissed. You should be. But, and here it comes, the people you should be pissed at are not the people with kids.


Nope. My decision to have kids is just as personal and nuanced as your decision not to, fellow co-worker. It has nothing to do with you and should not be made your problem. But I want the time off just as much as you do. The ground I'll give is that my having kids does not make me more entitled to it. We shouldn't even be arguing with each other. Cuz neither of us is the problem. The problem is corporate culture and bad management, friends.


If at any point a manager makes you feel like you should volunteer to work for a co-worker who's got kids or tells you that a child-free co-worker got their request in first but since you've got kids they are going to approve your request...when I tell you the red flags should be bursting like fireworks what I mean is that is super-problematic behavior.


A collection of calendars displaying different dates

The onus of keeping the place adequately staffed isn't the employees' problem to solve. That's wholly on management. In the same way, the world will look at parents venting about how hard it is to have kids and say "Well, you chose this," the decision to pit parents and the child-free against each other in some sort of Hunger Games cage match over time off requests is, in fact, a choice that either management or the corporate culture created by the company has made.


If child-free folks didn't feel absolutely attacked by this notion that you are less than if you choose not to bring a child into your life, I don't think they'd feel so put off by parents simply existing and kids being kids. This is wholly my opinion but it's a hill I'm willing to get hurt on at least. (I'm not fully committed to dying on it yet. I'm working out my own biases there.)


If parents weren't constantly under pressure to be perfect in all aspects and be both the sitcom-perfect parents and consummate professionals at all times, they wouldn't feel so threatened by folks who were capable of making a different decision with regard to procreation.


And it's companies who continuously redirect employees to go after each other rather than admit they are understaffed, underpaid, issuing shit benefits, and absolutely refusing to see their employees as whole-ass people who encourage us to fight amongst ourselves.



Okay, great. We are on the same page. How do we fix it? Well, to start, we have to get everyone else on the same page. It is not an us against them scenario in the way hustle culture and the "corporations are people" folks present it. There is an us and them. But it's not parents v child-free. It's employees and employers. It's companies devaluing all their employees and reducing them to labels that are creating this division.


While we cumulatively examine and break down corporatized barriers around our personal lives, here's my temporary solution. If they want you to fight about and blame the other side for who got the time-off request first, if they want you to duke it out amongst yourselves, then do just that. But do it like adults.


  1. Remember that dates are arbitrary and time is made up. You don't have to celebrate a holiday ON the holiday. I recognize it is nigh impossible to convince Nana June that we can just pretend December 22nd is Christmas Eve, but if you're in control of the family event planning, you can just move the holiday as is convenient.

  2. And while we are on planning, for fuck's sake, plan. Don't wait until the last minute to put those requests in and then blame those who got them in before you for getting the approvals you felt entitled to. This is true whether you have kids or not.

  3. Communicate with your co-workers face to face. Don't let management be the middleman in these conversations. It takes a village to raise kids. Even if you're child-free you're a part of that village. Give grace where you can and stand your ground where you can't. If you're a parent, remember you're looking at someone else's kid and asking their parents to give them up for the holiday. How would you feel if, every year, your kids' school decided whether or not they got to come home for Christmas? That's what's happening here.

These are stop-gap solutions while we cast a critical eye on corporate culture. But I want to believe, nay, I need to believe there is humanity in those suggestions. We don't have to be pitted against one another.


As for breaking apart the company policies that dehumanize and view employees as commodities, that's outside my scope and so far away from my lane, it's a whole different highway. I have thoughts but no ground to stand on there. I can identify the problem but struggle with explaining my position on a solution. But I can offer these perspectives from others.



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