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TalkBack Live

Are Children a Burden on the Childless?

Aired July 26, 2000 - 3:00 p.m. ET


BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST: Kids! Who wants them around, especially when they're not yours? That's a gripe voiced by a groundswell of childless boomers. From the workplace to restaurants, they're fed up with what they see as an invasion of rugrats, curtain climbers, crib lizards, and ankle biters. They've had it with family-friendly everything: maternity leave, flex time, flex spending, on-site day care, tax breaks, and other perks that parents get and the childless don't. And they're not taking it anymore.

The backlash against children: Are yours a burden on the childless?

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to TALKBACK LIVE.

Well, they are childless in a family-friendly world: outsiders among soccer moms and softball dads -- the guys and gals who pull extra hours because someone's baby is too sick for daycare.

Meet Elinor Burkett, married and childless by choice. She is the author of "Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless."

Also with us, James Barron, board member of the National Parenting Association. He is author of the book "She's Having a Baby and I'm Having a Breakdown."

Welcome to both of you.

Elinor, let me start with you. What is your beef with kids? Why do you think you're being cheated?

ELINOR BURKETT, AUTHOR, "BABY BOON: HOW FAMILY-FRIENDLY AMERICA CHEATS THE CHILDLESS": Well, it's not kids. I'm very fond of kids. It's the parents I'm not quite sure about. It seems to me that's an important distinction.

I think that the problem here is that increasingly as we become more -- quote, unquote -- family-friendly we haven't stopped and said to ourselves, "Why are we doing all these things?" Why are we giving six-digit-income parents more of a tax break just because they have children? When did parents become a needy class? And why is my time and energy less important -- my time, let's say, to take care of my friends, my husband, my mother -- is less important socially and by social policy than James' time because he has kids? BATTISTA: How many -- you know, I never really thought about this that much. How many people think, feel the way that you do? I mean, is it movement out there of some kind?

BURKETT: Well, you know, it's always hard to know what's a movement. I mean, it's very easy to declare movements in the United States. So there is now a parents' rights movement, for instance. I don't know what a movement means.

I know that there are 13 million childless adults over the age of 40, and I know that increasingly they are grumbling, complaining, complaining to their supervisors, their HR directors, writing letters to their member of Congress, and if they could threatening to sue, because equal pay for equal work is evaporating in a world in which everything is being based now on fertility.

BATTISTA: I'm curious: Do people think that you're being mean- spirited and selfish sometimes?

BURKETT: Well, I mean, you know, I don't know what -- I think people who say to me, people who make $150,000 a year, who say to me, "I should get more tax breaks for my children," are being a little bit selfish, because, you know, the interesting thing here is there's a real class issue.

Almost all of these family-friendly policies are geared toward the middle- and upper-middle class at the very moment that, for instance, with welfare reform we're taking things away from poor parents and poor children. So, for example, the president has recently proposed that we use unemployment insurance to allow parents of newborns to stay home and take care of their kids. Sounds really nice. Doesn't help parents of newborns if those parents are relatively poor parent who are not going to get enough money to stay home and take care of their newborn. So these are middle- and upper- middle-class entitlements. And I want to know why I should be paying to make sure that $150,000-a-year couple can stay home with their newborn when they can perfectly well afford to take care of the kids themselves.

I'm happy to help take care of the children of the poor, but that's not what I'm being asked to do.

BATTISTA: James, Elinor does have a point. There has been a revolution of sorts over the last couple of decades for family- friendly acts in the workplace. Has it gone a little bit too far?

JAMES BARRON, AUTHOR, "SHE'S HAVING A BABY AND I'M HAVING A BREAKDOWN": Not at all. To me it's a totally outlandish allegation.

Parents are struggling and we need some help. But to me it's sort of like pay now or pay later. We have the problem with Columbine and all our high schools with violence. What we need are parents who are more involved, not less involved.

Workers, American workers -- moms and dads -- are worried. They're working really hard, they're looking over their shoulder. They're not even taking advantage of the benefits which are only available to a small number of -- or not even a majority of the companies in this country, anyway.

BATTISTA: Well, if there are extra benefits in the workplace for couples with children, how do you make that fair for everyone? Let's look at it not as taking away those benefits but perhaps making it fair for everyone in the workplace.

BARRON: Well, what I'm really concerned with is not, you know, worrying about other groups. This is a group, parents, 63 million parents in the United States, and we are a very, very quiet group. We're not voicing our opinions. We're not saying, you know, we're right about, we need more help.

Many of the mothers I know who work, they feel that no matter what they do they're wrong. If they work in the office, they're viewed as not being a good mother. If they stay home, they're not -- so they don't have an adventurous spirit, they're not out there becoming an interesting human being, contributing to society. With fathers it's even worse, because we're just supposed to be bread winners.

What I'm looking at though is the people that I've interviewed for my books, hundreds and hundreds of people that I've interviewed, and everyone says that when you get out there with the baby in the world, you're a hero.

I don't understand this type of animosity that's being described here. I would take my kids to the museums all over the place, I'd bring them to parties, I'd bring them to business parties: a front- style pack. I remember doing that wearing a black tie once.

People came up to me and said, god bless you for doing it, because you are the sort of person that's going to help change this country. We're going to be a stronger country if we have stronger children.

BATTISTA: Elinor, nothing does change your life more than having a child. I mean, do you think that's at the heart of the matter here, where people who have not had children have absolutely no way of understanding, you know, what it's like and how it does change your life to have child?

BURKETT: Oh, no I think I -- I think I understand very well. I mean, we all have dependent-care responsibilities, and for people who are parents to pretend that the rest of us can't understand what dependent care means -- I mean, I've taken care of elderly parents. I've taken care of three roommates who've died of AIDS. So I know what dependent care means, and I understand this is a very serious responsibility. It's also, I should add, a voluntary responsibility.

But I think, you know, when I was coming up and I think when most of us were coming up, there were standard phrases like, "If you can't learn how to behave in public, you're not going out." And I think that some of the backlash in terms of the public spaces with children is not a backlash against the kids but a backlash against children. I'm not sure why America is a safer and stronger country because parents take their children to black-tie dinners or to museums or to fancy restaurants. I think my generation, the pre-baby boomer generation of parents, in fact didn't do this with their children and I think we turned out very well.

Perhaps part of the reason that we're seeing this backlash against parents is because they're raising their children poorly. And I don't think my giving them more of a tax break is going to take care of that.

BATTISTA: James, I mean, it's true: There are more children in the country it seems today and they are showing up at places where they traditionally did not. And sometimes that is inappropriate. It's not appropriate to have, say, a 3-month-old at the movie theater. And I see that happen a lot.

BARRON: I think parents have to take responsibility. There's no doubt, Bobbie. What parents have to say is "When is it appropriate to bring my child out in the world and when is it not?"

However, there is a revolution with parents. What today's parent wants to do is excel at parenthood in a way that maybe they feel their parents might not have. I think that I feel that there are many people who I interviewed who are in their 60s or 70s or whatever, and they said the biggest missed opportunity of their life was not work, it was parenthood. They let it slip by. They didn't take advantage of it.

And they see people out with their strollers or joggers out in the parks, and they say, yes, this is fabulous, they're not leaving the kids at home, they're including them in their life.

BATTISTA: Let me get some audience reaction here -- Melissa?

MELISSA: I'm wondering where the compassion and the apathy for the family is going. It seems that we want the families to be -- the children to be better-raised, to have better values, a better work ethic. Yet if you want to penalize the parents for wanting to give them the time -- I mean, what I'm saying is that the tax breaks, these things are helping the parents to be better parents. So if it costs us a little bit of money, isn't it worth it?


BURKETT: I have no problem with helping out parents. I have no problem at all with using my time or money to help out parents who are needy. The issue is, if you are talking about $150,000-a-year couple, and you're giving them time and tax breaks and unemployment insurance to stay home, how does that make them better parents? They don't need the money!

I'm happy to give that money for people who are needy, but none of the breaks that we're talking about does anything for the parents of the children who are at-risk. So these are entitlements for the upper-middle class; these are not about helping poor children. BATTISTA: So how do you -- how do you level that? I mean, you can't just offer it to some employees...

BURKETT: Oh, I think it's easy to do that.

BATTISTA: ... and other other. Or where -- where's the cutoff?

BURKETT: I -- I think it's really -- first of all, a lot of this is being driven by federal public policy, like the unemployment insurance issue.

I have no problem giving federal subsidies to people for dependent care. And by the way, to me, the issue isn't just children. At the moment, we are trying to give unemployment insurance to, as I said, six-digit income parents to stay home to not work.

What about the parent who makes $40,000 a year, or the person who makes $40,000 a year, whose husband gets hit by a truck. They can't work. They have to take care of their husband. They don't get paid. The government is not going to give them any money. Your spouse gets very ill. This is just about parents for children. I think we make these things income-sensitive. I don't think there is any problem doing that. And I wouldn't be complaining about any of these benefits if, first of all, the word family included full families, not just children, but parents and spouses.

And, second of all, if the benefits were income-sensitive, so that we were really targeting where we need to target -- if the issue here is to underpin America's children, why are we starting with the children of the upper-middle class, rather than with the children of the poor?

BATTISTA: I have got to take a quick break here. As we do, tell us what you think on TALKBACK LIVE "Viewer Vote" on Today's question is: "Who has more advantages: child-free people or parents?"

We'll be right back.


BATTISTA: New federal regulations would allow states to offer unemployment benefits to parents of newborn or newly adopted children who choose to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued the Labor Department last month challenging the regulations, arguing that unemployment benefits are only for those actively pursuing work.

Couple of questions from the audience -- Dasha, go ahead.

DASHA: What are the advantages for those who don't have children?

BATTISTA: Are there are benefits in the workplace for those who do not have children? BURKETT: Well, I mean, the benefits are that our employers will expect us to fill in for parents whose baby-sitters call in and they have to leave early, or that we have to work later, or that we're given the work shift -- the worst shift work, or that we're expected to work every Christmas.

BATTISTA: But aren't we -- aren't people without children maybe more likely to get promotions, or, you know, travel opportunities?

BURKETT: I think people -- I think that people who put in the most hours, whether they are parents or non-parents, are most likely to get promoted. The question is, do we want to stop that? Do we want to have a workplace in which those who work the least -- have the fewest hours to put in -- are promoted over those who have the most hours. I don't think that is about whether you are a parent or not. I think people who work more hours, and have more time and flexibility in their careers, are more likely to get ahead.

And do we really want to get rid of the meritocracy?

BATTISTA: You know, what, James, it seems to me, that, you know, if you have to cover for somebody that leaves because of a sick child, it sort of seems to me that that kind of evens out eventually. I mean, you know, the single person may come in late the next morning, because they've, you know, been out, I mean, late the night before. They might have to go to the dentist, or they might -- doesn't that kind of even out in the workplace?

BARRON: Bobbie, I agree with you entirely. I mean, I don't see this world that Elinor sees. I see that parents are afraid to leave the office. If a kid is really sick, they'll do it. But they'll work harder. And, you know, in our society right now, in our world, you can be at home, you can be working on the Internet. You can be hooked up to your office. You can be working after your kids go to sleep. I see parents wanting to get really organized.

They don't have time, if they go to a party, to tie one on. They can't drink more than a beer or two, because the reality is, you have to be focused the next day. You take your kid to school. Then get to work. You take maybe a five-minute lunch break instead of an hour. You don't dilly-dally on the phone. You read the newspaper in five minutes. I see parents struggling to get everything done. But there are two major concerns. How do you do it -- number one. And how do you stop my kid from floating away?

And that's what all Americans are worried about. We see it all the time in our schools with all this violence. And we have to pay the price. And the price is, fortunately, a fun one: get involved in fatherhood, get involved in motherhood, jump in with both feet, and work also. Be really focused.

BATTISTA: On the other hand, Elinor, I have also seen it in the workplace, where single people or people without children are expected to work, you know, the holiday shifts or the lousier shifts -- the overnight shift -- like a 24-hour news network. BURKETT: Yes. I mean, what's funny, Bobbie is, I have to just put in -- I really resent the implication that I'm a drunk who goes out all night and parties. I'm 53 years old. I work. And I have a lot of family responsibilities. I don't have children. But I have other kinds of family responsibilities. And the way James talks, and the parents talk, make it sound like the rest of us live the high life, and all we're doing is out partying with our free time.

And if -- I mean, that's just a ridiculous -- that's part of the problem is, the presumption on the part of parents that the rest of us have no other really significant socially important responsibilities, like taking our friends to the hospital. And I really resent that. And that's part of the problem.

BARRON: Well, I never meant to imply that in any way.

BURKETT: You did imply it. You said it, James. Come on.

BARRON: No, I think that parents have been humbled by parenthood. Actually, I don't agree with Elinor that it is possible to understand what it's like to be a parent in the workplace unless maybe you are a parent. The reality is, everything is happening at once. You are trying so hard to stay on top of all of it. And it's a struggle.

Also, I think we should clarify, we're talking what, $500 tax deduction a year.

BURKETT: No, tax credit, James.

BARRON: Tax credit, excuse me. This is not -- you know, it costs $160,000 to raise a kid towards college years. And that's not even including college.

BURKETT: How much does it cost to support a dependent parent or dependent sister? I'm not saying we should get child...

BARRON: Do we not have dependents, parents also?

BURKETT: No, the child tax credit is on top of the regular dependent deduction. And that's the problem. If we raise the dependent deduction so that, if I were taking care of an elderly parent, I got the same deduction you did for a child -- but the minute you only give that tax credit to parents of minor children, you're saying that the costs or the social importance of taking care of a dependent adult are somehow not as great, and that's demeaning.

BATTISTA: Let me go to Sarah here in the audience.

SARAH: Mrs. Elinor, I have the question for you. Those -- you're talking about corporate America here, you're talking about people that's making six-digit incomes. What about people like me that work the 70 and 80 hours a week, and I have children and I take care of those children. It was not my choice to be a single mom. I was married. I was in an abusive relationship. I got out. I take care of my children. But people that don't understand seem to think that, OK, I'm paying for her child care. What if I was a welfare mom and said, I'm not going to work at all, I'm just going to sit on my tail?

I said from the beginning, I am happy to help you. It's people who make six-digit incomes receiving most of the tax credit. It does nothing for you at all. It comes off the credit of the taxes you already paid. It helps wealthy people but doesn't help you, if they want to make this more income sensitive so it only goes to you, I'm not complaining, all the help is going to the parents of the upper middle class.

OK, so what I'm asking you is because you have the issue of six- digit incomes instead of backlashing against me.

BURKETT: I totally agree with that from the beginning. I'm happy to help you. I would pay more taxes to help you. It's just people who make six-digit incomes, which are the people who are receiving most of these tax breaks. My guess is that this tax credit does nothing for you at all, because it's a credit that comes off the taxes you've already paid. It helps wealthy people, but it doesn't help you. If you want -- if they want to make this more income- sensitive so it only goes to you, I'm not even complaining. My complaint is that all the help is going to the parents of the upper middle class.

SARAH: OK, so what I'm asking you is, because you have this issue of the six-digit income by also having it, instead of you backlashing against me, and -- well, parents and children.

BURKETT: I'm not backlashing against you. I'm very clear in my book about this.

SARAH: OK, so let's go to the legislatures instead of to everybody else, and you and I together can change this, instead of everybody else.

BURKETT: You bet. I'm way out there with you. Let's go to Washington together.

BATTISTA: OK, we've got to take a quick break. Carl, right to your comment right after this.


BATTISTA: According to a 1998 study by the Families of Work Institute, about 78 percent of married employees have spouses or partners who are also employed. Forty-six percent of workers have children under 18. Nearly one in five employed parents is single.

Those Internet folks.

All right, Carl had a comment?

CARL: Yes, I just think that as people that don't have children that are paying taxes, I'm a little bit upset that if I correct a child for littering that's not mine I'm told I'm out of line, and I could be considered abusing this child for correcting them. But the other thing that I find really interesting is that our taxpayer's money as childless parents is going to promote some of the best Nintendo and video game players this country has ever seen, but we're having to import all the talent from other countries to do the work here because our children are growing up lazy with no work ethic.


BATTISTA: James, do you want to address that?

BARRON: I don't approve of all the video games and a lot of those violent games. It's extremely important that parents get away from those things by being involved. Those things, TV screen time -- all of that is an excuse for parenthood. And part of the reason they're so popular is parents have too much to do. They're working. They come home. They have to prepare dinner, whatnot, parents need some help with that.

BATTISTA: Let me take a phone call from April in New Jersey, sounds like a song -- April.

APRIL: I have a comment that I've been on both sides of the fence, incidentally. I worked and then I quit when I had my two children. And I think that family is one of the most fundamental institutions of our society. And really am sad that people are fighting over people's children. I just don't know when it became offense to reproduce and to raise a family. I think it's pathetic.

And as far as I'm concerned, the tax breaks -- it wasn't only the rich that got a tax break. The tax credit applies to people who make $50,000, $30,000 and people who make $130,000. So I don't really understand what the beef is about.

BATTISTA: Well, and, Elinor, I guess it begs that question, too -- does it take a village to raise a child? And are we disassembling the village by throwing up all these barriers?

BURKETT: Well, I think it takes a village to do almost everything. You know, it was interesting, the last caller called in, began with the word family, and then went right from that to parent. Families come in many different forms. We allegedly live in a society that's very respectful of diversity. Some families include elderly parents and there are now grown children who take care of them. Families include brothers and sisters, but the tax breaks we're talking about, the workplace benefits, with very, very few exceptions, apply only to parents with children.

So for example, the unemployment insurance proposal that you flashed up a while ago on the screen and that we've talked about, why is that only for parents of newborns? So then we leave people whose spouses are deathly ill and are in the hospital, they don't get any break from the government, but parents, and parenting is volitional, are going to get time off? It seems to me if we want to talk about the village and families, we need to talk about all kinds of families, with and without children. And if we were making "family" a broad word, rather than this narrow, it means parent, I wouldn't have any complaint, but family in the speak of people like the caller or James has come to mean only parents.

BATTISTA: Steven in New York e-mails us, "Our society has a responsibility, though, to help every parent raise their children. They are our future."

And William in Illinois says, "As a frequent business traveler, I sure wish child-free flights were an option."

Believe me, let me tell you about mothers traveling with children on flights, that's no day at the beach for them either. Down in the audience here to Mark. You're a teacher?

MARK: That's right. I teach fifth grade in Oklahoma City. And I think that we sort of are stuck on this "what do we get?" mentality. And I think that oftentimes we lose focus of what's really important. I teach an inner-city school, teach fifth grade, and I see children that come to my classroom that have no parent involvement, that go home at night and put themselves to bed, raise themselves, and I think instead of focusing on how much money do we get back from the government for having a child, or what are we not getting from the government for not having a child, we need to focus on the fact that we all have an obligation and a duty to take care of these children, to read to them at night, to volunteer at the public school. I know a lot of my kids could benefit, and a lot of us single people have an opportunity to do that in the classroom, and I would love to see more involvement like that.


BURKETT: And a lot of us do that. The questioning is, will my giving -- you know, the presupposition here is if we give more tax breaks to parents that they will read to their kids more at night, or if we give them more benefits at work that they will take them to the ball game more on Saturday. And I don't know -- I think it is interesting that we flap back on the -- an older generation, I'm the daughter of working parents...

BATTISTA: But you know what? Elinor...

BURKETT: ... and my parents did all of those things with me.

BATTISTA: I don't think companies think that at all. I mean, it's economics for company, they are not doing this because, you know, that they are being so kind to their employees...

BURKETT: Well, there -- no, it's also politics, it's not just economics.

BATTISTA: They are doing this because they need to keep those people in their employ and they need to keep them happy.

BURKETT: But it's also politics, and there is a lot of political pressure right now in companies coming from the White House down to make the soccer mom happy. And we can't forget that there is political pressure here.

BATTISTA: I have to take another break. In a moment, Marilyn Kentz of "The Mommies" will join us right after the news.


BATTISTA: OK, e-mail, Tammy from Pennsylvania says: "Children need mentors and good parents. If society is against parents being able to go see their children, God help the children." Barbara in Washington says: "When we make the choice to be parents, we must also make the choice to raise them. When did we begin to expect everyone else to take care of us? What kind of message does this send to the children?"

All right, joining us now is Marilyn Kentz, who along with Caryl Kristensen make up "The Mommies." The two are neighbors, they're friends, and they are stand-up comedy partners. Also here in Atlanta, we welcome Monica Ricci. Monica is a professional organizer who made the choice not to have children.

Marilyn, good to see you.


BATTISTA: Are you -- good. Thanks. Are you feeling guilty at all about cheating?

KENTZ: Guilty? Are you kidding me? Elinor has got me a little riled up over here, OK.

BURKETT: Good, you liked it.

KENTZ: I have a couple points: OK, first of all, I am actually writing a new book called "A Mid-Life Goddess," where I'm researching women 40-plus and it's turning out that a lot of these women, these child-free women, change their mind in their late 40s and early 50s, they kind of try to play catch-up and have their kids, while those of us that had children earlier -- well, we -- our kids are grown and gone. And so, the role is beginning to reverse. Those people that were all irritated because we got time off are now the ones that need time off as well, and I don't see any compassion coming out of Elinor. I wish -- we should just be compassionate with each other.

BURKETT: Well, I'm not having children. I'm 53, I am post- menopausal.

KENTZ: I am too.

BURKETT: So I am not changing my mind. So I don't know what...

BATTISTA: Well, let me ask Monica -- Monica has chosen not to have children. Monica, how old are you?

MONICA RICCI, CHILDLESS BY CHOICE: I will be 35 next month, and I have known for pretty much my whole life that I do not want children. And let me say that many of us in the community that -- we call ourselves child-free, not childless. Many of us have known for our entire lives, it's just not in us. When you are not called to have children, you know it and... KENTZ: Well, that's fine if you don't want to have children, but being bitter isn't going to help anything. And that's what it feels like, you guys are being bitter.


KENTZ: You know, I think that most women in the workplace that have children do not want to even be there, they want to be with their children, but they feel compelled to work.

BURKETT: Then go home.

KENTZ: And -- no, not -- they can't go home, they can't afford to go home, Elinor.

BURKETT: A lot of them can. I'm in New York City, and my guess is you can go home too.

KENTZ: And a lot of these people do want to -- do not want to be working with women who -- barren women who stand around being bitter and...


BURKETT: Barren, oh, excuse me.

KENTZ: ... because they have to go get their kid inoculated.

BURKETT: And that's really, really being pleasant.

KENTZ: Well, I'm telling you.

BURKETT: Barren? Now, excuse me...

BATTISTA: So let me ask Monica, because you have your own business.

BURKETT: That was really -- that was so rude. Would you have let someone use an epithet against someone who is Jewish or someone who is gay on the air? Come on. No, wait a second.


BURKETT: How could you just -- what about all the women there who really were unable to have children...

KENTZ: It's a choice.

BURKETT: ... and you are calling them barren?

KENTZ: I am not.

BURKETT: You -- no, you...

KENTZ: I am calling bitter women who choose to not have children... BURKETT: I am not bitter.


BURKETT: I am bitter against nothing other than the entitlements you want to take from me. I'm not bitter about not having children.

KENTZ: I don't want to take entitlements, I want to raise my children.

BURKETT: I'm bitter that you called me barren, because you're rude.

KENTZ: OK, all right.


KENTZ: I take it back.


BATTISTA: I have to say -- let me jump in. I have to say there are a lot of women who do choose not to have children and we have to respect that choice.

Monica, you run your own business, so you don't really -- aren't too concerned about the workplace situation. But what are your concerns? I mean, why do you feel sort of cheated?

RICCI: Well, I have to say that I can't speak to the corporate America issue, because fortunately, I am self-employed. I made that choice. And I think a lot of what our community really resents about the childhood community is that parenthood is a choice and you make that choice freely, and it is your responsibility to rear your children in the best way that you know how, using your own means.

And the reason that I can say that confidently is because I had a single mother growing up, I'm 35 years old, we never got government help, we never took a dime, and you know what? My mom sacrificed, and that is what you have to do. When you make the choice to have children, you make the choice to have children.

BATTISTA: You know what, James? We have always had a society where -- excuse me. My equipment is falling off and I am falling apart here -- where we had had -- some people have had children and others have not. Why is there so much anger about that today?

BARRON: I don't think there is, quite frankly. I was really shocked when I heard about Elinor's stance, because I feel that the people who see me as a parent and the parents I've spoken to and interviewed feel nothing but encouragement, like "Go do it; this is fabulous what you're doing; we admire it; you look awfully frazzled right now, but keep going, you know."

So I don't -- I don't really see this as any movement at all. I think there are a couple of anecdotes here and there, and I think it's a lot to do about nothing, quite frankly.

KENTZ: Well, the other thing, too, is I do agree with you, Elinor, on one part. I think family should be expanded to include everything else that you said: the aging parents and other things like that. And I just think we should be supporting one another and not fighting it.

You know, I would be happy to take some time -- extra time if you needed to help an aging parent. I would be happy to do that.

BATTISTA: We're talking about two different issues here. You know, we are talking about legislative issues that involve the workplace, and you know, tax credits and this sort of thing. And then we're talking about the social issue, you know, which is where people like Monica have a problem with, you know, being in a fancy restaurant and somebody's -- a family's in there with three kids under six, and there is french fries and ketchup all over the place, and it's not exactly enjoyable for you.

KENTZ: Oh, for god's sake, get on Prozac.

RICCI: It's very hard. It's very hard.

You know what...

BATTISTA: But you know what, Marilyn, can I tell you something? When I was a kid, I was not allowed to do a lot the things that kids are allowed to do today.

KENTZ: Yes. So?

RICCI: Can I make a point? Marilyn, can I make a point?

KENTZ: Sure.

RICCI: You know, there are things that are appropriate for children to do and places where it's appropriate for them to be, and there are places that are for adults.


And children grow up to be adults, and they won't be children forever. And when they get -- you know, do you ever remember your mom saying, when you grow up you can do that, too?

KENTZ: Well, you think a museum is not a place for a child.

RICCI: I think a museum is a place for a child who is old enough to learn and appreciate it.

KENTZ: Well, sure.

RICCI: I don't think a museum -- I went to the Burnbank (ph) the other day, and they specifically said, no strollers in this exhibit because it's amazing artifacts, and there was an infant in there yelling and crying. And I was -- it was a very serene atmosphere, and I thought: "You know what? Why do you have an infant with you?"

BATTISTA: I've got to take a break. We'll be back in just a moment.

Earlier this year, a New York theater reviewer shouted at a mother in the audience of the Broadway revival of "The Music Man" for not controlling her children. John Simon says the woman allowed her children, who ranged in age from 4-8, to talk, clap and sing along for more than half an hour before he protested.


JANE: Hi. I'm Jane at American University. I raised three children, but made sure they behaved in public. I don't like dining in a restaurant and being subjected to rude, obnoxious youngsters.

BATTISTA: E-mail. Here we go. Ellen in Nevada says: "Other people's children provide the doctors, nurses, waiters, drivers, pilots, soldiers, journalists. Need I go on. Single people get a good deal out of society. They don't have to help create it."

Kate in Texas says: "I love children. I want them to be taken care of and cherished by their families and their communities. But I choose not to have them and I don't think I should be penalized."

Up to the audience. Angela.

ANGELA: Hi. I am 28. I am child-free by choice. I'm not bitter or barren. But I want to make a comment. The main thing that I'm concerned with is that the funds and the programs that are available, they're there to help people who don't want to help themselves. They're not there to help those that are struggling trying to make it, working jobs, because then you make too much money and then they're not there to help people that are coming out of college, that have tried to, you know, establish themselves. There's nothing there to help them. There's only something there to help those that don't want to do anything. Then they have all types of welfare, and they'll take care of your children. They'll do everything for you if you don't want to do nothing with yourself.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are funds available, but don't sit back if you're struggling and want people to come and help you. You have to take the initiative to want a better atmosphere for your kids, and then you have to take the initiative to have them in activities and stuff, because personally I wouldn't want to be sitting at home doing nothing over the summer.

BATTISTA: She wants to work. She wants a job. All right.

Marilyn, let me ask you: Do you -- I think this is so hard for both sides here to appreciate and have empathy the other side.

KENTZ: Well, when they talk about obnoxious children in the restaurant, that's one thing. I mean, we have to learn to control our children, and if they're misbehaving, take them out. I agree with that.


RICCI: What we say.

KENTZ: Yes. That's OK. But that doesn't sound like what Elinor's saying. She's saying that there are places that just shouldn't have children. Am I right?


BURKETT: Well, I really haven't been talking about these social issues at all, because it's not the major concern of my book. My major concern is social policy.

But I think -- I don't understand what's wrong with the tradition that we've had in America for the 53 years I've been around of having certain spaces that are appropriate for adults and certain spaces that are appropriate for children.

I don't understand why that's so offensive to parents. We were all raised that way. And what was wrong with that?

BATTISTA: I've got to take another break. Back in a moment.


BATTISTA: Let's take a quick look now at the results of our TALKBACK LIVE "Online Viewer Vote" "Who has more advantages: child- free people or parents?" was the question -- child-free 37 percent. Parents have more advantages at 63 percent on the old computer there.

A couple of e-mails before we go, then we have got to get out of here. Frederick in New York says: "I didn't ask you to have kid. And your kids didn't ask me to grow old. It seems each needs the care of the other. Can there be no accommodation?"

We will leave it that, I think. That's probably a good way to phrase that. I would like to thank all of my guests for joining me. Thanks very much for you time.

James, Elinor, Marilyn, good to see you again.

BURKETT: Bye, sorry about that Barron thing.

BATTISTA: See, we are accommodating each other already. And thanks to all of you at home for joining us as well. We will see you again tomorrow for more of TALKBACK LIVE.

Our guest tomorrow will be Harry Browne, the Libertarian candidate for president. So all you Libertarians, join us tomorrow.



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