I think it’s time we admit the truth once-and-for-all: when it comes to getting out of work, parenting excuses trump everything else. We all know it. I think if we stop pretending that it’s not true, we’ll get along a lot better at work.
Ayana Byrd writes about “the latest type of workplace discrimination” in her piece for Marie Claire this week – “single women who carry an undue burden at the office, batting cleanup for their married-with-kids coworkers.” According to her article, childless women are expected to make sacrifices in their personal lives to pick up the slack that their co-workers with children aren’t expected to:
Corporate lawyer Mary Mathis says she worries that her life 10 years from now will look exactly like it does now: “My coworker with kids leaves early twice a week, but I work from 9 to 7 in the office every day, another hour at home, and throughout the weekend,” says the 30-year-old from Plainfield, New Jersey. “No one has ever directly said this to me, but when late nights or extra projects come up, it’s clear the thinking is, She’s single, she has time to do this.”
A mother that has to flee to help a child with the flu is going to be seen as a hard-working martyr. A single co-worker that has to flee to make that amazing guest instructor at the yoga studio is going to be seen as selfish. That is just a fact.
I know there are circumstances that are equalizers: sick parents, visiting in-laws, important doctor’s appointments. I’m not talking about every different anecdotal situation that is out there. I’m talking about the regular day-to-day stuff that comes up for working parents and the day-to-day stuff that comes up for childless ones. Whether we are game to admit it or not – those of us with kids think our circumstances are more pressing and important.
In the grand scheme of things, your sick child or that spelling bee is more important – to you. But it is very important to remember that your co-workers have no obligation to care for your sick child or to put you into an optimum position to be in the front row of that spelling bee. I think it’s almost impossible for parents to see outside of ourselves because we know that as soon as we are done with work, we are racing home to perform at our other job – caregiver. Parents really don’t get any time off. It’s easy to excuse ourselves for slipping out of the office early because we can justify it with, “Well, when they get off they get to go relax and have some time to themselves. I don’t get that.”
When we start realizing that workplace sacrifice needs to be quid pro quo, we will get along a lot better. You need to leave early to make that doctor’s appointment? Volunteer to stay a little later so your childless or childfree co-worker can do the same. Stop comparing circumstances. It’s not your co-worker’s fault you never get any time for yourself.