Sisterhood Blog

Childless Does Not Mean Clueless

By Erika Dreifus

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
Christine Quinn

As if back-to-school season and the High Holidays weren’t enough to command our attention and energies, here in New York we’re anticipating mayoral primary elections (slated for September 10). Last week’s campaign developments, as noted in Kate Taylor’s “Trailside” column in The New York Times, included the following: “Two Democratic front-runners, Bill de Blasio and Christine C. Quinn, on Wednesday got into an ugly dispute over whether Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, had suggested that Ms. Quinn could not understand the problems of parents because she did not have children herself.”

Of course, there’s more to the story — including corrections to the Maureen Dowd column, also for The Times, in which McCray’s comments appeared. Regardless of McCray’s original remarks or intent, the situation spotlighted something familiar to some of us who don’t have children: the claim that we simply don’t understand the lives of parents. More important for The Sisterhood’s purposes, it has provided an occasion to counter that claim: In truth, some of us are childless (or childfree, or however you choose to describe the situation) at least in part because we understand the lives of — and the pressures faced by — contemporary parents.

We understand quite well.

I’ll admit that, as a little girl, I never envisioned a future that didn’t include children of my own. But I also never expected to remain single, nor did I count on a host of other personal circumstances that made becoming a parent even riskier than it normally can be. And I’m not much of a risk-taker to begin with.

What I’ve absorbed from a variety of sources over time is this: Even in the most auspicious of circumstances — two parents who are committed to each other and their offspring; everyone in the family enjoying good health; and steady, plentiful income — parenting is the most daunting of responsibilities. And things change. Couples separate (people also die); health deteriorates; jobs are lost. It’s one thing to manage those life-altering circumstances for yourself. The stakes intensify exponentially when you are a parent.

More than once, I’ve been surprised to hear new parents remark, with some astonishment, that they had no idea how hard the job would be. No idea that sleep would become the most precious of elusive commodities. No idea how much day care or preschool cost. Why have I, sans enfant, seemed much more clued in to these realities?

I don’t believe that I possess any special gifts of insight or awareness. I simply pay attention to what other people tell me, to what I witness and what I read. I understand that parenting brings unquantifiable joy and meaning to many people’s lives; I’ve experienced some of those blessings in my roles as aunt and cousin and family friend. But I’m also aware that as a daughter — and to most outward appearances a “good child” — I have caused my parents pain I don’t think I could endure. And as a sister/cousin/friend/fellow citizen, I see up close and personal, nearly every day, the range of challenges, big and small, that today’s parents face.

I’m still not sure whom I’ll vote for on September 10. I can’t say that Christine Quinn can count on my vote. But she can depend on this: I won’t assume that she doesn’t understand parents’ lives because she isn’t a parent herself. In that, I hope that I’m far from alone.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sisterhood, motherhood, jewish women, feminism, children, family

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.