ADULTS ONLY – No Longer Just Strip Clubs

Tom and I just enjoyed a delightful lunch yesterday at a local watering hole called “The Matador”  in NW Portland. This restaurant is commercially zoned as a bar in an effort to maintain an adults only atmosphere.  There is really no difference between this bar/restaurant from any other restaurant other than the fact that the dining area is also considered a ‘bar’ and therefore effectively prevents anyone under 21 from joining the patrons enjoying their wine or cocktail.  The food is delicious and provides an escape for adults and parents from the distractions or disruptions of family-friendly restaurants.  I see no reason that this idea should be offputting, parents too often need a break, the last thing that childfree couples or parents (on a precious reprieve during a date night) want is to listen to yelling, crying, or whining children.

I am not opposed to family friendly joints, as a child I loved those restaurants that had a decidedly ‘childfriendly’ feel.  For example, I think the Rheinlander is a wonderful local, kid-friendly German restaurant. I have taken nieces and nephews there in years past.  The decor is typical Bavarian German with rustic exposed beam ceilings and a waitstaff in lederhosen for the men and dirndl dresses for the women.  It is charming and also leckeres Essen; but not somewhere you go to escape kids or youngins’ following a full work day.

The Matador is not an exclusively local Oregon eatery, so I would not typically mention it, as I prefer to support exclusively local restaurants but with locations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho (Boise only) I feel like this concept needs some encouragement, so other restauranteurs feel comfortable taking the leap to an adult only concept.

Cheers!

THE PRICE OF PROGENY: A Case-Study Approach to Accounting and the Cost of Children

Last week on “Here and Now” Robin Young interviewed a New York Times webproducer, Nadia Taha about an essay she wrote in the Times last month called “Opting Out of Parenthood, With Finances in Mind.”  Nadia is a young, married professional who, when she and her husband confronted the decision to parent decided to first do the math.

This is not new, economists and Pew Researchers publish parenting cost estimates fairly regularly, in fact Taha cites The Agriculture Department as one of the original sources in developing her parenting financial plan.  I am interested in the historical reasons why The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing family data, information that seems clearly within the purview of The U.S. Department of Family Services, or the Department of Commerce, perhaps even the Department of Health and Human Services; but, Agriculture?  Regardless, she started with a report from the Department of Agriculture (here is the link to the Cost of Raising a Child Calculator), she factored in a 17 percent loss in wages based on a 1998 study of the “family gap” (Waldfogel, 1998), the term used to define the disparity of lifetime wages between those women who parent and those who do not–this is also called the “maternity penalty”.  She also accounted for the 4 percent increase in wages that  her husband would make as a father, based on a similarly well-established economic finding that men who parent earn on average make 4 percent more than men who do not.  She further calculated conservative annual costs of college tuition (assuming they enrolled in a state school), insurance, medical coverage, and a variety of other variables (e.g., costs to grandparent, etc).  This is likely the most comprehensive parenting budget available despite the fact that it is clearly not representative of all parents, her grand total was over $1.7 million.  But that is in part the point, Taha’s numbers are based on her financial costs.  The costs are tailored to a couple living in New York City, they calculate her lost wages, which of course is money that she would never see if she and her husband chose to parent, as well as value-based judgements – they include college tuition, this is based on her and her husband’s values that college would be requisite for their child and that they would be fronting the bill for at least half of that tuition.

Taha’s approach to solving she and her husband’s child budget question what researchers call “small-n designs.”  In small-n (meaning small sample [n]) designs you may collect data for a sample of only one or two people, the most basic small-n design is referred to as a case-study.  In contrast, large-n designs generally have several hundred if not thousands or millions of participants.  The problem with large-n designs is that the data reflects an average, it typically never truly reflects any one person, it is the averaged data of the entire sample.  Whereas in small-n designs the data is a more accurate representation of all of the variables, nuances, and individual qualities of the single individuals within the sample, and in Taha’s research, she and her husband are the only cases, so the data is entirely reflective of their circumstances.  I don’t believe in her article, she presumes that their budget would be true for ALL couples in the U.S. but it may be representative of those young urban professional couples who are educated, live along the coasts, and who are within the middle to upper middle-income strata.

There are a number of criticisms of Taha’s budget online (e.g., 12) because the math does not work out for the average American. Taha and her husband make just over $100,000 annually, they are currently in their twenties, so naturally this number will likely increase as they are promoted, accrue more experience and tenure within their respective jobs (and because Taha’s blog and essays receive a good deal of press).  Some of the criticisms specifically address the fact that having children is generally more emotional than financial.  Americans are not having children to support a farm, to care for livestock, or to promote community.  However, as a society, we still assume some of this, during the interview Robin Young asked if she was concerned that as Nadia and her husband aged, they would not have anyone to care for them.  This is such a typical question for those of us without children.  Nor is it a particularly selfless question, it assumes that when we age our kids are going to indenture themselves to the bedside of their parents.  The irony of course, is that generally this responsibility falls to those within the family that do not have children, not those that do, for obvious reasons.

 

 

BUILDING THE DINKlife [My Interview with Cory Jones and Katelyn Watson]

BUILDING THE DINKlife

By Heide Island

   Forget the 47 percent, the 1 percent, 99 percent or any other percentages volleyed between partisan groups.  Instead consider this one, 20 percent.  That is the number of American, married women (and implicitly men) of reproductive age, who opted out of the baby highway in favor of the childfree-way[1]. As a demographic, dual income and no kids (“DINKS”) represent 1 in 5 adults, as such, they are an enigmatic group, both everywhere and nowhere. Totally unrepresented in politics, with absolutely no lobby rallying to support the largely middleclass, educated, employed numbers, their political niche is a series of checked boxes: pro-choice, pro-human rights (i.e., same-sex marriage), middle class, secular, and so on.[2]  Perhaps no one embodies these diverse and dual memberships of the DINK demographic more than Katelyn Watson and Cory Jones, the founders of DINKlife.com, a virtual community center for couples who have either elected to remain childless, who are uncertain about whether they want children, or have simply postponed the parenting decision.

     I met the couple for dinner through a DINKlife “Meet-Out” while they were enjoying a vacation in Oregon.  Cory, a former college, strong man champion is an intimidating architectural presence, with shoulders that could dangle you and10 of your slight-sized friends. In conversation, Cory’s elocution has a subtle, southern lilt, nodding to a childhood of Texas-style barbecue, chili, and hot sauce.  Pair these qualities with a “casual Friday” demeanor and any initial impulse to inventory your pocket for the pepper spray is assuaged.  Katelyn is significantly more diminutive in both height and mass than her fiancé; her mild mien and cherubian blond hair are reminiscent of the muses from a Maxfield Parrish painting. Though corporate experience and a candid communication style belie Katelyn’s calm veneer, as Cory is quick to point out during his recollection of their first meeting, “she came by my desk to introduce herself…she is very succinct and very busy, and you could tell she was clever, I still don’t remember exactly what she said; but it was really funny…I thought this is a person I am going to get a long with really well.”  Their first meeting was actually at work, it might be clear from the branding, beta testing, and the search fluency of the DINKlife website that Cory and Katelyn share a background in marketing.  Both from Texas, they met while working in the Marketing Department for the Dallas corporate office of La Quinta Management, a chain of more than 800 hotels in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Though both have since moved on, Cory is entirely dedicated to the DINKlife community while Katelyn splits her time between DINKlife and marketing for Shutterfly.

Now over four years into their relationship, engaged, and sharing long-distance custody of an aged Chihuahua with Katelyn’s parents, it might be a surprise to learn that the founders of one of the most ‘Liked[3]’ online sites for those without children, are in fact, unsure about whether they want children of their own (or at least the human kind).  Cory notes, “Our families frequently tell us that if we are waiting for the right time to have children, it will never be the right time, you just have to do it.”  He chuckles, “but why have children if the time isn’t right?”  As their friends began to regress into the background of their own families’ Little League games, PTA meetings and soccer practices, it was this friendship recession that prompted Cory and Katelyn to conceive of the DINKlife, “In your thirties, you end up looking around as we did and seeing that most, if not all, of your friends have kids and therefore have created their own social networks…So couples like us need to make new friends to travel, hangout, and connect with…But as I looked out I didn’t see good resources to help do that. So DINKlife all started with, how do we connect people who are in the same situation that we are?  The reality is there are a lot of different resources to fill the needs of a lot of different life stages, there are events, discount deals, and content for parents, for singles, and for seniors but why don’t these same resources exist for couples who either haven’t had children yet or aren’t going to have children? So in 2010, we really started creating a plan [for DINKlife] and by May of 2011, we launched the site…with the hope that it will validate the choice for couples in the United States and everywhere where they [the public] are struggling with this issue.”  Ironically, Cory and Katelyn are so busy with updating the format, search links, and researching content for DINKlife, it has become a demanding child in its own right, perhaps not a genetic endowment of their shared efforts but certainly the conception of their shared vision. When I mentioned one of the common characteristics cited in the trade literature about DINKs, the ability to travel more and for longer periods than their parenting peers, he laughed, “we don’t get to travel nearly as much as our DINK friends, in some ways we are so busy building DINKlife that we don’t always get to live the DINK life.”

The extent of Katelyn and Cory’s parental protectiveness of DINKlife and of their online community is evidenced from an experience Cory shared during this interview, “late last year, the Dr. Phil show found us via DINKlife.com, and invited us to partake in an episode covering child-banning, driven by the news stories at the time [a Pennsylvania restaurateur established a minimum patron age of 6 years].  They were interested in featuring couples without kids [who might support] broad-based banning of children in public places such as planes and restaurants.  As the leadership behind a community of couples without kids, they expected we would face-off against parents, who they expected would take a strong position against all banning, denouncing it as limiting civil liberties.” Of course in the midst of this staged turmoil would be the chastened pacifier, Dr. Phil, who ironically in 2003 conducted a survey of 20,000 parents and reported that 40 percent stated in hindsight that they would not have had children had they appreciated the difficulties of raising a family[4]. Cory continued, “We had a rare opportunity to leverage this moment to share the positive message of DINKlife on a large stage.  However, it was not a positive message, supporting child-bans in a confrontational format would likely serve to give credence to the stereotypical labels [attributed to] DINKs and the childfree.  We decided to forgo this opportunity, feeling it was in the best interests of our brand and those we serve.”

Certainly national television coverage would be tempting for any new entrepreneur; and yet their mission-first value is not limited to their work ethic.  Classic postponers, Cory and Katelyn maintain frenetic work schedules; but counter to pronatalist assumptions of DINKs as selfish and insular, they also contribute time to several local, nonprofit organizations in their San Francisco community, like for example GLIDE, a Methodist-based church, that Cory notes “accepts everyone into their fold” [Cory and Katelyn are strong supporters of same-sex marriage].  They support their local chapter of Planned Parenthood and know the organization so well that upon prompting, Cory had immediate recall of budgets, services, and resource statistics and even clarified a percentage that I offered concerning unwanted pregnancies.  It is through this commitment to service and community that Katelyn and Cory hope to move their DINKlife organization, “There is a place on the website called ‘Job Board,’ where anyone can post employment or community volunteer opportunities, many of the Meet-Outs have already begun to do this.”   Certainly considering the current state of the U.S. and global economies, this kind of searchable database is salient and further embodies the mission of the DINKlife founders’ vision for their virtual community center–to connect other DINKs with support, social networking opportunities, or simply a place to go to find similar others.


[1] Livingston, G. & Cohn, D. (2010).  More women without children.  Pew Research Center Reports, June 25. Retrieved (June 15, 2010): http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1642/more-women-without-children

[2] Somers, M.D. (1993). A comparison of voluntary childfree adults and parents.           Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55, (3), 643-650

[3] Happily Childfree is also celebrated on FB with several thousand members

[4] Frazer, B. (2011).  No Baby Boom.  Details Magazine, April Edition. Retrieved (11-02-11): http://www.details.com/culture-trends/critical-eye/201104/no-baby-boom-non-breeders?printable=true&currentPage=3

An Appeal to Tour Operators…

By Heide Island

I am a west coaster, but I am ashamed to admit I have never really explored much of the California coast outside of LA and San Diego.  The latter is great, the former, in ‘wineaux,’ is not my varietal.  So, we decided it was high time to go and enjoyed our 15th anniversary in the Bay area.  We spent a few days in Napa and Sonoma Valley (hiccup), explored as much of San Francisco as you can in three days and we were fortunate to be there for the dazzling Pride Parade with all the good vibrations that come from a 200,000 plus crowd all decked in rainbows and body glitter, and then traveled further south to Santa Cruz.  I was particularly taken with sleepy Santa Cruz with the hemp wearing youngsters and the surfer owned cafes; although I kept thinking about the scenes from the film “Lost Boys”…how 80s hairband am I?

So as Oregonians and new visitors to the Bay area, we felt it was acceptable to do all of the touristy things.  Naturally we visited the historic regions of San Francisco, hung out around Coit Tower with our bottles of water and hopeful lenses pointed skyward, looking for the elusive Telegraph Hill parrots —we thought we saw a few chirping overhead, but honestly I have no idea if they were parrots or pigeons.  And yes, we took the ferry to Alcatraz.  I must confess, I thought it was going to be total camp, replete with venders hawking toy Capone Derringers and “Birdman of Alcatraz birdseed,” and although there was the token gift store, I was fascinated.  I think the audio tour was very well done, although not all of the buildings were well-preserved, the prison itself was and the island…what a treat! We were there just following the Western gull nesting period, with mottled gray and white puffy, hatchlings everywhere.  It was a cacophony of chick peeping and the gurgling calls of their parents all across the island, that is until the shrieking children shot from the ferry, windbreakers flapping like airfoil trip spoilers. This brings me to the title of this blog…

It occurred to me while I was willing the little chicks to waddle like the wind before the encroaching, unharnessed…and unsupervised energy of 5 and 6-year-olds ran them down, that this was once a maximum security prison, full of serial killers, bank robbers, kidnappers…and tax evaders. Surely this was more of an adult themed destination? Granted I recognize the allure of the island for kids, but is it  unreasonable to have an adult only tour? Even as I type this, I think of booze cruises with adults falling down drunk, smoking and yarking in the wind. I do not mean an “evening” tour that barely enlists an educational pamphlet for the ride, I mean a legitimate tour that is reserved for adults only.  Why is this unreasonable?  There are “family friendly” restaurants, parking spaces, tours, hotels, flights, and coffee shops, even bars have become trendy eateries for children during happy hour (this may be Portland specific) killing the adult post-work refuge, the places where you can tell an inappropriate joke, get your Philistine on and let loose filth and flarin without fear of the furrowed brow of condescending, frowny-faced parents with their wide-eyed pointed glances at the little darlings in the seat beside them.  Really?

Surely tour operators can embrace ONE adult only tour for the frustrated traveler? I would think that tour would be the most popular.  In fact parents traveling alone to reclaim their romance and escape the toilet training for a weekend, surely they would, more than anyone, appreciate a cruise where you can hear the audio program, listen to nature, relax in their chairs without concern of the jarring percussive kicking to the back of their seat, or enjoy the sea breeze, fluid-free from the windward spitting eight year-old?  Please, please, please, please, please….tour operators, I am lighting a candle in your honor to St. Jude…the patron saint of lost causes.

Child-Lite Travel

By Heide Island

As a childfree person or couple, travel is hopefully something you have time prioritized.  Since the holidays are upon us, you may be thinking of taking a trip to see family or going to someplace warmer to escape the cold, if that is the case, now is the time to get advance deals or inquire about blackout dates for mileage.

AIR TRAVEL.  Consider what days you want to travel and the cost-benefit of traveling ON the holidays.  In the month of November, consider traveling on Thanks giving day, and in December select a travel day closer to November or ON Christmas.  Although the eight days of Chanukah and the Muslim holiday of Ashura both occur in the month of December, commercial travel is geared toward the Christian calendar (consider this a bonus if you are not of that ilk- you need not sacrifice your holiday for air travel) so this means traveling on Christmas day.  For the month of January, travel is cheapest on New Year’s day as well (but then increases again on the 2nd of January).   There is great value in holiday travel for three reasons:

1.) as I mentioned, for virtually all air carriers, airfare is considerably cheaper on
the day of holidays.2.)  there are virtually no children on these travel days, families want to have the kids at grandma’s house on Christmas day, Thanks giving day, and so on.  But as rational beings, assuming you are a rational being, you know that dates are
arbitrary designations, especially since the calendar adjusts annually by a
day, so you are never really celebrating the holiday on the same day every year.  As such (and the fact that you are a freaking adult), you can reject the conventional holiday and substitute your own arbitrary holiday designation in its place.  BRILLIANT!  You can enjoy your Thanks giving meal on a day when the grocery store is actually open.

3.)  did I mention there are also fewer adults traveling on holidays as well?  This
means lots of available first class seating, although this is not guaranteed
(some carriers are more liberal with upgrades than others —TIP: be nice to the
flight attendants!) you are more likely to be upgraded.

***IMPORTANT TIP***

Flight attendants and air carrier personnel are more likely to offer you the upgrade if you are dressed professionally.  This does not mean you need to dust off your argyle or brush up on your tie-tying; but, pitch the sweat pants and tee shirts for a button-down and a pair of khakis.

LODGING/DINING.  Before you travel, go to Yelp.com to find restaurants that are highly rated.  Plan your lodging based on the density of highly rated restaurants, these are not generally the most commercial areas in cities.  In Portland, this is actually in North or Southeast Portland, not downtown, where people typically look to stay.  If you are sensitive to babies in bars…call ahead to see if the restaurant offers high chairs, if not, you know that they are not catering to families but couples or business meals.  Although this will not guarantee low volume (certainly adults can be equally obnoxious), adult-centric, or romantic dining, it is more probable.  There are also a number of restaurants that are taking a childfree-stand and may be in the media.  Check out this post from “Shine” on Yahoo:

PETSITTERS. Given pet ownership among the childfree, you may need to consider the custodianship of your other family members when you travel.  If you go to Pet Sitters International or another site like Pet Gigs you can look up qualified pet-sitters who will either stay at your house or visit your pets each day at your home. Veterinary clinics will also likely provide a referral or a bulletin board with business cards of pet sitters. I have only boarded our pups once in 15 years of sharing my life with canine and feline family and it was just heartbreaking.  Since then, Tom and I have always had a pet sitter.  We find it is often even cheaper than boarding and certainly in our case, it has been a kinder and gentler way of traveling sans the ‘babies.’ We have had success with pet sitters in every city we have ever lived but this requires you do your due diligence in meeting with the pet sitter in advance, resourcing their credentials and just generally getting a feel for them when they interact with your pets.  Also if they are available, check out their reviews online.  If they are savvy, they will have a web presence and point you to their testimonials.