Is it tougher being childless if you’re Jewish?

Dear friends:

I just got back from a trip to Tucson. You can read about it here. I’m exhausted and suffering from the post-trip blahs. So I am sharing some links today that you may find interesting.

1. Is it harder to be childless if you’re Jewish? This article, “No Kids, No Service” by Jodie Shupac suggests that it is:

“’You’re next’” is a phrase that is often murmured furtively at brises and baby namings. The sentiment–while often well intentioned, though sometimes patronizing–may well be familiar to many Jewish adults who don’t have children, especially those in more traditional subsets of the community.

“The operating assumption in our community seems to be that every person not only wants a baby, but should have one, and that this is the only way to lead a full and happy Jewish life.”

Read the rest.

2. Jacinda Ardern was thrashed because she got pregnant just before becoming prime minister of New Zealand. How could she possibly do the job with a baby? Former Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard and British Prime Minister Theresa May were vilified for not having children. How could they possibly understand the needs of their people if they weren’t mothers? It appears you can’t win. Read these two articles for more on the subject.

“The baby trap: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”

“Why are so many of our political leaders childless?”

3. Finally, here’s a study that shows we might live a little longer because we haven’t had children. I don’t know about the science of this, but it’s something to ponder.

“Having children ages a woman faster than smoking and being overweight

Happy spring! I promise to be back with something new next week.



Childless women in power face scrutiny

Today’s post is sparked by an article in The Australian news site which discusses the rise in power of several childless women, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, former Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and the first woman premier in Tasmania, Lara Giddings. None of them have children.

In her article “Berejiklian, Gillard, May, Merkel: power to childless women?” [link not available]  author Caroline Overington notes that these women in power are always asked about their motherhood status. They are rarely mentioned without that word, childless, attached. Is it really relevant? When Merkel was running for chancellor, she got lots of flak for not having children. People asked: How can she understand the needs of parents and families if she has never given birth?

Do people judge the males in power by their parenting prowess? Sure, most of the men trot out their families on special occasions–note the constant presence of U.S. President Donald Trump’s offspring–but does it have any connection to their ability to govern? Still, can you think of any male world leader who does not have children?

All of these women have been publicly asked why they don’t have children. May has struggled with infertility, so it’s like that’s okay, she tried, it wasn’t her fault. In Australia, a former male senator commented that Gillard had kept herself “deliberately barren” while she pursued her career. Ouch.

Things don’t always turn out the way you plan, Berejiklian says, refusing to get more specific. “I hope that people judge me on my merits and what I can do.”

Women are still rare in high office. Overington contends that most women are occupied with childcare while the men, despite whatever moves toward equality have occurred, are  freer to work their way to the top because they’ve got wives to deal with the kids.

You have to admit there’s some truth to that. Although we may not have done it, we can all see that childcare is and should be an intense round-the-clock occupation that doesn’t leave much time or energy for anything else, unless you can afford to pay someone to take care of the kids. It is easier to work at any career without having to worry about children. Most of us here would be willing to take on the challenge and some of us are already dealing with the responsibilities of parenthood through our stepchildren, but it’s hard.

To me, it seems like women in power will be criticized from both directions. If they have children, then they must be neglecting them. If they don’t, something must be wrong with them. Right?

If Hillary Clinton had won the U.S. presidency, she could please the pro-parenting crowd because she’s a mother and grandmother, but she was also free to do the job because her only child, daughter Chelsea, is a grown woman who not only can take care of herself but can campaign for her mom. Clinton did not become president, but it had nothing to do with whether or not she had children.

In the U.S., where our new president just took office 12 days ago, we have seen many recent pictures of politicians on stage with their spouses and their children. If I were running for office, I might be standing on that stage alone. What would people say about that? Does it matter?

So, what do you think? Does a woman need to be childless to rise to the top? Will she be forever disrespected if she doesn’t have children? Why is it so different for men? Or is it?

I’m full of questions today. Help me figure out some answers in the comments.