Tax credits, childcare benefits, school vouchers, flextime for parents, parental leaves--all have spawned what journalist Elinor Burkett calls a "culture of parental privilege." The Baby Boon charts the backlash against this movement and asks for a reevaluation of social policy. Burkett's cause isn't served by her sarcasm, which leads so easily to exaggeration and strained humor.
She proposes, for example, that there exists an unwritten but widely understood "Ten Commandments of workplace etiquette in family-friendly America," which includes items such as "Thou shalt volunteer to work late so that mothers can leave at 2:00 p.m. to watch their sons play soccer" and "Thou shalt never ask for a long leave to write a book, travel, or fulfill thy heart's desire because no desire other than children could possibly be worth thy company's inconvenience."
Burkett is more convincing when citing real-life examples, such as a legal secretary who applied for flextime and was told that benefit was available only to parents, or the case of Sarah, a childless travel agent in Seattle who invented a fake daughter, put her picture on her desk at work, and proceeded to take long lunches ("trips to the pediatrician") and leave work early for "family emergencies."
Ironically, as Burkett describes, it was the search for equity that inspired the various pro-parent benefits of the "family-friendly workplace." A new attention to childless workers does seem to be in order--permitting them to substitute some benefits for others, for instance, or to receive bonuses instead, and to work in environments that support their choices not to have children. --Regina Marler