There’s a great Seinfeld bit in which a couple is pressuring Jerry and Kramer to come over and see their new baby. Ya gotta see the baby!, they insist. Jerry has no interest in seeing the baby and has no idea what to do when he’s eventually forced to.
Just over a week ago, TechCrunch covered a hilarious Chrome extension called Unbaby.me that presents an elegant technical solution to the today’s digital version of Jerry’s problem. Install it, and you’ll be able to block baby photos in your Facebook feed, replaced with cats or puppies or whatever else. Sounds awesome, right?
Not everyone is pleased. Today in The Boston Globe, columnist (and parent) Joanna Weiss uses Unbaby.me as a jumping off point to decry a growing movement apparently spearheaded by hipsters to marginalize the youngest among us:
Now comes a seeping idea, amid the younger set, that there ought to be child-ful and child-less spheres, and that a child’s presence, by definition, violates a non-parent’s personal space. This is the same mentality that gets people wigged out about breastfeeding in public, that makes women feel shamed for going to work with breast pumps, or slipping away from the office to take their kids to doctors’ appointments.
Intrigued, I did some Googling and quickly learned that Weiss isn’t alone. Here’s Janice D’Arcy writing in The Washington Post’s On Parenting blog about Unbaby.me and the conversation around it:
This would be more hilarious if parents in the U.S. enjoyed real community support. Here I am talking about both institutional policy support, like comprehensive parental leave, and also more general acknowledgment that an adult does not cease to enjoy life once a baby arrives.
She notes that “This parent vs. non-parent tension has spilled over into other arenas recently,” in the form of restaurant, bar and airline restrictions on children.
This is apparently what happens when you tell someone you don’t want to see their baby.
To be clear: both authors advocate for strong government support for children and parents, something I, in principle, completely support. And when it comes to something like tolerating kids on the T, I’ve always been a fan of New Yorkers’ ability to tolerate and ignore pretty much any activity in their close proximity. In other words, if something annoys you on the T, that’s the price of living in a city, with all its advantages, so deal with it.
But beyond sucking it up now and again in necessarily public spaces, the attitude above seems to suggest that there’s something insidious about simply not wanting to be around children. There’s not. Nothing says you have to enjoy seeing the baby, and there’s nothing wrong with preferring bars and restaurants you can expect will be child-free. (Ask parents how they’d feel about having drunk college students around all the time.)
Public policy aside, it hardly seems we live in a society that’s hostile to parents. If anything, we live in one that still manages to stigmatize adults who choose to remain childless. That’s a shame considering that it’s far from clear having kids makes you happy, to read the evidence charitably for the pro-kids camp.
I may have kids one day, but when I do I hope I don’t resent those who don’t want to deal with them. In the meantime, I’m going to go turn on Unbaby.me.