Surveys Saying A Working Mom’s Worst Enemy Is Her Childless Female Colleague Are Really Starting To Piss Me Off

Yet another survey proclaims a childless female colleague is a working mom’s worst enemy. This one took place in Australia, but the results are pretty familiar and seem to be on par with studies we’ve seen before. The gist – women don’t have each other’s backs.

I imagine an awful, insecure little man somewhere – sitting behind a curtain sort of like the “Great and Powerful OZ” churning these stories into cyberspace. Indulge my somewhat sexist, feminist fantasy for a minute, okay? What better way to stop all of the advancements in the workplace that professional women could make, than by using the tried and true “divide and conquer” strategy?

The United States Department of Labor reports that in 2010 women comprised 47 percent of the total U.S. labor force. Women are projected to account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018. That’s huge! We’ve arrived, right? Not really. The median weekly earnings of women who were full-time wage and salary workers were $669, or 81 percent of men’s $824.

These statistics mean we still have a lot of work to do, and we need to ban together to do it. How do we do it? First, we stop giving any power to these stupid surveys. All they do is fuel debates about how “unfair” it is for women with children to require special treatment, how “bitter” women without children are, and (insert stereotypical talking point here). I have a few strategies about how we can make real change happen. Ready?

First, let’s realize that balancing child rearing and work is a “woman’s” issue, not a “mother’s” issue. Women with children are no longer tethered to their homes. That is an accomplishment for all women, not just mothers. Even if you have no intention of ever being a mother, you can certainly conceptually understand that balancing motherhood and a career is a huge undertaking, right? Why not be supportive of that? For the sisterhood?

The following may be a bad example but I’m going to use it anyway. I’m not a smoker, but I understand that some of my colleagues have an addiction. Several times a day, they get time away from work to indulge in it. I’ve never measured how much time they take, but it would definitely amount to a few extra hours a month if it was timed. Instead of thinking all of that extra time they are getting is “unfair,” I’m just glad that I don’t have an addiction that costs a ton of money and makes me stink. Why can’t we view the mom that needs to take an extra sick day in the same way? Instead of thinking it’s unfair, why not just be glad that you don’t have to spend the day covered in someone else’s vomit like she does, and realize that she is still an asset to your company?

Similarly, working mothers need to have a lot more respect for women who don’t feel the biological necessity to multiply. Breaking the stereotype that a woman is nothing without her uterus is – yes, I’m going to say it – the biggest accomplishment and milestone that we have achieved. Let’s stop viewing the woman that has no kids – or the one who has kids and has the resources to prioritize more time to working her ass off to get to the top – the reverence she deserves. She’s breaking the glass ceiling for all of us. You never see driven professional men torn apart like their female counterparts.

I guess the bottom line is this: the next time you have the urge to play into one of these tired, old arguments – remember we are all working our asses off to change the way things are. I think that change would come a lot quicker if we were doing it together.

(photo: Piotr Marcinski/

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  • SweaterMeat

    I love you. Well said. Thanks for covering my barren self. Its one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations a lot for women, and the grass is always greener. I get extra work at every job I have had because I am single and childless, which evidently means I am worth exponentially less not only as a woman, but a person. And clearly I have nowhere to be but at work. It makes me want to wear a sign that says I CANT HAVE KIDS BUT PRETEND I DID!

    The bottom line is, women have to support and elevate as many women in their lives as they can. We have to all stick together!! Mom, not mom, grandmother, teenager. Period. Im so tired of being pitted against other women. I refuse.

  • Flora

    Vaguely ON topic: As a person, a woman no less, who will do anything to help out any of her co-workers I say to women who don’t have each other’s backs– SHUT UP! That counts for moms and non-moms equally. We are all people who share the same air and (in this case) the same office space, so why don’t we make life pleasant all around?

    Vaguely OFF topic: I’m tired of people apologizing for referencing smoking– it is a completely valid argument! I wish that I could find the article I read last spring totaling up how many hours a week people use up on smoke breaks, but it wasn’t an insignificant number. Use that example as much as you want.

    Vaguely On AND Off topic: I love you so much, can I be you when I grow up? (that came out creepier than I intended…)

    • Denny

      You know… I smoke. And I get irritated when I see that “Your smoke breaks…” Because I can’t answer for other women, but I take TWO smoke breaks on an eight hour shift. I am outside for less than ten minutes. In return, I do NOT take my two fifteen minute breaks. All the time I hear, “You waste so much time…” by the same women who I will see take fifteen minute bathroom breaks twice a day, or hang out and talk for 10-15 minutes.

      It comes down to this, responsibility. I know that my smoking takes time from my job, so I do my best to make up for that time. I’m always at work 15 minutes early, so when I do clock in, I’ve got my area organized and I am ready to work. I don’t linger in the ladies room, I don’t chat at the coffee machine. In other words, I am responsible for myself and I am not trying to rip off my company. If truth be told, I’m giving MORE time to compensate for those two measly breaks per shift.

    • Susie

      This, exactly. As a former smoker at a restaurant, I used to do all of the daily jobs nobody else wanted to do (garbage, bathrooms, etc.) to compensate for taking a single smoke break on an 8 hour shift.
      Also, I think there’s an important point missing here. If we’re all taking care of each other, why can’t my single mom coworker cover for me when I have another obligation unrelated to having kids? I don’t want to make generalizations, but it seems like my mom co-workers (in the restaurant industry, to be perfectly transparent) are taking more help than they give out. Just sayin’

    • Julie

      Maybe it’s a restaurant thing! Because I agree with you :) I have an infant, but I don’t leave work because of her. But I’ve worked with a lot of moms in the business who were constantly leaving because of their kids. I worked with one mom who had 7 children. It felt like she should have named them all after the days of the week so she could remember which one she had to rush home for each day. I’ve never heard this complaint from my friends in other industries, so maybe it is just that… I dunno.

    • Flora

      I’m just going to reply down here since the thread has continued… Denny, I apologize if my generalizing got under your skin but I rarely meet people who are as responsible with their smoke breaks as you are. Restaurants, airlines, offices– everywhere I’ve worked I’ve had to pick up the slack for people who took frequent smoke breaks. I don’t intend to exclude responsible smokers from the realm of possibilities, but I have never worked with one and have spent an inordinate amount of time covering for them.

      Also, I think that (having worked in restaurants for 10 years) there’s some sort of camaraderie, a sense of community that pervades. The smokers that weren’t respectful never lasted long, but neither did anyone else who wasn’t willing to pull their weight which I think is what this boils down to:

      When we have the opportunity, there’s no reason to not help someone else out. I covered for someone when her kids were sick, a few months later I had a test and she covered for me. We’re all in this boat together.

  • lea

    “First, let’s realize that balancing child rearing and work is a “woman’s” issue, not a “mother’s” issue.”

    I know that this article is specifically talking about women in the workplace but I still wanted to take issue with this statement.

    Balancing child rearing and work is a PARENT’S issue- and is (or should be) just as much the responsibility of the father as the mother of the child(ren).

  • Julie

    I am a new mother- my daughter is 8 months old. So up until 8 months ago, I was a childless woman. I always viewed this kind of situation as not just about parents, but about all my coworkers. Like you, I work in the restaurant business. I have coworkers who are parents, students, have other jobs, are cheerleading coaches and camp counselors. They all have other obligations that could take time away from their job. I would get annoyed at the people who needed to leave early at the end of the night because of this or that, or couldn’t stay to work out a whole lunch shift because of somewhere else they need to be. Their other obligations shouldn’t mean that other people have to pick up their slack. If they have class at 2 on a Monday, and the shift ends at 4, then they should take off on Mondays. I know that there are extenuating circumstances that can’t be avoided- sick kid, family emergencies, etc. But if you KNOW that you have somewhere else to be, that’s their responsibility to plan their time accordingly. Now that I’m a mother, I don’t see myself any differently. My life, my time, I’m responsible for it. The fact that I have a kid shouldn’t become a burden to everyone else I work with.

    I guess my situation might be different from someone who works a nine to five because my schedule can be made flexible, but I’ve worked with quite a few people who took advantage of this- I worked with one girl who claimed her daughter was sick more than half the time just so she could get out early without finishing her work. And another who kept her availability open but would always have to leave early to get to another job.

    • LiteBrite

      Actually, your situation isn’t all that different from someone who works a standard 9-5 job. I was once the single, childless woman in the workplace and the one slated to pick up all sorts of extra work to cover for the parents who had to leave because [insert parenting obligation here]. Most of the parents I worked with were cognizant of the fact that others were picking up their slack, but there were a few that took advantage of their status (for lack of a better word) as parents.

      Now I work for an employer who really believes in work/life balance and also believes that flexibility extends to EVERYONE, not just parents. I would say about half of my co-workers do not have kids, but I’ve never felt like they think less of me as a professional when I have to take off of work or leave early because of parenting, just like I don’t think any less of my childless co-workers when they leave early for whatever reason. It’s their time and their flexibility, and only they can judge how to best use that. But trust me; I am very much aware that when I’m gone someone else has to do my work, whether they’re parents or not. As you said, the fact that I have a child shouldn’t be a burden to the people I work with, and I try not to make it so.

    • Julie

      I’m not saying I have a problem with people who have to leave because of this or that from time to time. I just always took issue with the people who took advantage of the fact that our boss is a lot like yours. She’s very lax when it comes to others obligations. Some people are mature enough to know that when they’re in the building, their job comes first. Others think that it’s OK to just do whatever the hell they want, when they want, because there are still people in the building and it won’t burn down without them. I would hope that if I had an issue at home with my infant that my coworkers would be understanding, but it’s not something that I do all the time. As a matter of fact, I’ve only had to leave work once in 8 months because of an emergency.

      I don’t think less of these people for having children or jobs or other obligations. The only reason I mentioned the flexible schedule was because it does make it easier for time management. If you have school on Tuesdays, don’t come into work expecting to leave early because there are other people there who can finish your job for you. Take off on Tuesdays. Their school is not my responsibility- I can only be responsible for myself. And there ARE people who do know how to manage their time- those are not the ones I take issue with.

  • Amused

    I stumbled upon this article, but decided to comment. First off women are always against each other. From the second they walk into a room, women are sizing each other up. Men only behave that way when there is money on the table. Secondly no one is against people with children, but when you are constantly leaving early or skipping out on overtime because of your child it starts to get old real fast. Men and women do this alike, you act like raising a kid is the hardest thing in the world, and maybe it is, but in most cases you choose to do so.

    Also single childless women who want to have a family and can’t, yeah they do resent you. Its human nature to do so. Your co-worker may not want to, she may try not to, but when her 37th Birthday rolls around and the next day you go on about how hard being a mother is or how precious your child is, it hits a nerve. It’s not “divide and conquer” its basic psychology.

    Finally, who cares what percentage of the work force different genders are? Do I as a man get a pay cut and you a raise when then number of men working drops below 50%?

    And the pay disparity thing, sure some of it might be sexism. The harder pill to swallow is that it might be occupational choices. Men take 200k a year drilling jobs and 100k year trucking jobs, those jobs are really hard, that’s why they pay so much. The Freedom Tower in NYC has 10,00- 15,000 men working around the clock building it. They are well paid for two reasons, construction is hard and construction workers make a lot of overtime. I have a friend who can make 100k dollars a day trading stock futures, I think he’s insane, but he takes big risks to make millions of dollars. My point is that a lot of high risk or physical jobs are done by men. That might be why they make more.

    A more honest assessment of work place pay should be done by analyzing salary by job sector and years of experience. If you want to get really crazy you could even add performance as a metric, but that might not yield the desired outcome.

    That’s my perspective, its different then yours so human nature dictates that its wrong, but I thought I would share it anyway.

    • meteor_echo

      ” Your co-worker may not want to, she may try not to, but when her 37th
      Birthday rolls around and the next day you go on about how hard being a
      mother is or how precious your child is, it hits a nerve.”

      Some of us just have a hard-to control urge to high-five ourselves when we hear somebody complain about their kid on our birthday and realize that we went another year without THAT being our problem.

    • lea

      Your comments about how pay disparities have to do with job sector/occupational choices are valid to a point.

      As an example, the teaching profession used to be well paid and well respected. It was up there with lawyers and doctors and the like. Then women started to become a bigger part of that work force, and as a result pays and societal respect for the position dropped.

  • Justme

    Women are the most judgmental of each other no matter the arena.

    • Patrick Bonacoscia

      I agree… And childless women at work at aslo fed up that some mothers at work
      consider themselves as superior beings, while their childless colleagues pick up the slack. They are paid for a job…. either they do it or quit. It’s far to easy to leave the unfinished job to their colleagues.

    • Justme

      I’ve never run across a mother like that in my workplace. Things come up, life happens whether it is a sick child or dog, a car wreck or something similar. The bottom line for me is that I do my job and show grace to my co-workers. If a co-workers behavior (regardless of gender or child status) becomes an issue, I alert my supervisor and move on. Two of the biggest problem people at my work are NOT parents but instead single (irresponsible) 40 year old adults.

  • Madame X

    The balance of child rearing and work is decidedly NOT a woman’s issue. It is a PARENT’s issue. As in, a mother’s and a father’s. The entire problem with this discussion is that, because it’s framed as a woman’s or a mother’s issue, it impacts all women whether or not they want to be or ever will be mothers. So, yeah, you can see how childfree women may be a little bitter about that. Meanwhile, fathers, to say nothing of men in general, continue to get a pass. If we insist upon making this a parent’s issue, men have to deal with their role in it, too, and childfree women don’t get lumped into a category they have no interest in joining.

    This of course is incredibly heteronormative and I would be really interested to know how same-sex couples are impacted by the work/child balance.

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  • Patrick Bonacoscia

    What I saw at my work place is mothers acting, talking to their colleagues like they were little kinds that needed to need to be breast fed. Very arrogant at time. I’m fed up of mothers at the work place that think think that all should consider them as Godess, while their childless colleagues have to do all the slack, to do all the work they leave behind