Listen, I’m the first one to stand up and say that there’s an unconscious bias against working mothers. I think that this issue should be addressed and that business owners and managers should consider this problem when they make personnel decisions. I believe that corporate cultures need to adapt to give workers the opportunity to have a life outside of the office and still maintain a successful career.
You know who I don’t blame for the challenges that face working mothers today? My childless co-workers. I don’t think that it’s their fault that working mothers face judgment and stereotype. My peers normally have the same goals I do, to succeed in our jobs. And most of us would like to do that and still leave a small slice of our time and energy to pursue individual passions, hobbies or activities. I spend my personal time raising a child. They might spend their personal time volunteering in our community, playing a sport or sitting on their butt. But it’s still their personal time and I think that they deserve to have it just like I do.
Apparently, the New York Post isn’t feeling quite so conciliatory. Today, they wrote a piece titled, “Mommy and me - Childless workers’ gripe: picking up slack for parents.” The post starts off talking about a young, childless worker who wasn’t allowed to have time off for a doctor’s appointment. Originally, she assumed that the request would be no big deal. After all, “Her co-workers were always coming in late or taking off ahead of schedule because their kids needed to get vaccinated, didn’t feel well at day care, were in a performance at school and so on.” Those mommies and their needs. Unfortunately, the young woman was made to feel guilty about taking time off and told to schedule the appointment “on her own time.”
Obviously, this woman should have been able to go to a doctor’s appointment if she needed to. But the enemy of this story is not the mothers who get their requests accepted, it’s a manager who made an unfair and completely unrealistic demand of their employee. This article should not have been about “picking up the slack,” it should be about businesses who refuse to acknowledge their employees’ rights to have lives outside of the office.
If childless employees and working parents continue to make this debate a competition to see who has it worth, none of us ever going to win. We all have difficulties to face in the office and challenges that pop up in our career path. Working mothers get more flexibility, but they often face judgment and stereotypes about their dedication to their job. Childless employees are seen as more career-focused and dependable, but they aren’t always afforded the same workplace perks that parents are. We all have our own burdens to bear. Comparing their isn’t going to do us any good.
In a follow-up comment on the story, Laura Donovan at The Jane Dough agrees, ”It’s not about who suffers more, but management structures.” We all deserve to have a form of work-life balance, and research shows that it’s not just parents who demand balance from their employers. But we aren’t going to achieve it if we’re blaming each other instead of blaming the corporate structure that demands 100% of its employees’ energies.
Yes, childless employees deserve work life balance. But it’s not workings parents’ fault that they don’t have it. The problem is managers who aren’t willing to let an employee leave work for a doctor’s appointment. That manager and the corporate structure that created them should talk the blame.