I get a lot of inbox activity and emails regarding career and issues within the workplace. I began writing the Cubicle Confessions series because I needed a forum that would allow me to address some of these conundrums. One that I recently received was by a longtime reader, Lolly*, who feels that she is being unfairly treated at work because she is unmarried and doesn’t have kids. Check this out…
Lolly is a successful careerist in the field of advertising and marketing. She has been working for the same company for almost ten years and has moved up rank to a senior employer. The company she works for has been growing at a rapid pace and has recently hired about 25-30 new employees in the past year. Lolly says that many of these employees are married and are moms of little children, and they often “call off of work due to family vacations, feverish babies, a husband with a pulled hamstring, and field trip days at school” (her words, not mine). She goes on to say that “one woman on my team hasn’t completed a full day of work in six months, since she always has to leave work early to tend to her family. I end up getting stuck with the brunt of the work”.
Simply put, Lolly feels like this: “I work harder than my coworker because I’m not a mom”.
Let’s explore this, shall we?
It is hard for me to be impartial because, after all, I’ve been a mom the majority of my life. All of my working life has been one as a mother (I became a mom at 18). I don’t know what it is like to work without being a parent. I do understand the plight of those trying to balance their career and work and being a mom. It is a lot to balance. For those that don’t have as much to balance, it may seem like they are getting the short end of the stick. Employers cannot discriminate against those with children—and why would they want to? They are just as talented and capable as those without kids. The problem here may lie in the culture of the company.
For the most part, I’ve worked with companies who are family friendly and understand that as parents, duty may call outside work. They’ve been flexible with my needs and have allowed me to work from home when I needed to, or leave work earlier to attend a recital or school activity. I see nothing wrong with that as long as I am getting my work done in the quality that is expected from my position.
If I can get my work done efficiently and leave work early to tend to my family, then what problem is it of yours?
Lolly stated that she’s been left holding the ball because she is single and not a mom— I tend to disagree. She may be left holding a ball because she allows herself to be stuck. Lolly has the same vacation and flex options as her other coworkers. She doesn’t have to be married or be a mom to exercise her right to use personal time. She may feel that since others are doing it, she can’t do it. But that would be a problem for management and scheduling, not Lolly.
I think there is more going on than this. Perhaps Lolly is resentful of these women for whatever reason. Maybe that should be something that is taken a closer look at.
To Lolly, I say this: if you feel you are working harder than your counterparts, you probably are. But that doesn’t mean you are working smarter. As working parents, we learn quickly on how to juggle things to fulfill all of our roles. That cannot be equated in hours or time on the clock. If your counterparts are turning in poor work or not doing their share, speak to management. But if they are doing their jobs and management is comfortable with their performance, then what problem is it of yours?
What do you think about Lolly’s assertion that since she’s not a mom, she doesn’t get a pass at work? Have you experienced this? Sound off in the comments.
*name changed for confidentiality
I have to back you up on your statements to Lolly. In our office (finance dept of a marketing firm), everyone gets the same amount of PTO (that can be used for sick days, personal time, or vacation) and can use them accordingly. My bosses have been wonderful about acommodating me in times of family crisis but I have witnessed the same compassion to my coworker (whose children are grown) when she needed to be out for many dr appts and most recently surgery. We have all pulled for each other and taking up slack when someone has had to be out for getting married, the death of a parent, divorce court, surgery, and countless child-related issues. My suggestion to Lolly would be to take a day off on Friday and have a nice long weekend.
The Cubicle Chick says
Angela, best advice ever! I think when one takes a day off (especially a Friday since they get an extended weekend), it can do wonders! Thanks for commenting. 🙂
I have to both agree and disagree with what you’ve said here.
I do think that Lolly is being taken advantage of. She has shown that she will work hard to make up for her coworkers shortcomings. Lolly is dependable and will make sure things get done. Her coworkers may not even realize they’re taking advantage of her.
What I don’t agree with is the entitlement mentality of “If I can get my work done efficiently and leave work early to tend to my family, then what problem is it of yours?” Maybe it’s because I work in software, where issues come up last minute and cause us to work an extra 2-4 hours on occasion. But office work isn’t that cut and dry if it were, I’d cram 40 hours into 3 days and have a five day weekend every week.
I’m fortunate that I have a workplace that’s flexible to everyone. When I was selling my home my boss let me work from home or go home early if I had showings. She’s let me go home early if I had a puppy emergency. She has the mentality of “your family doesn’t include children but it’s still your family.” And for that, I am thankful.
>what problem is it of yours?
Because the people with kids don’t complete their work and leave it to the rest.
You said your employer is flexible and sometimes lets you work from home.
That’s not fair. People without kids should have the same opportunities. All employees should get the opportunity to work from home then.
Claiming you are able to work more efficiently and therefore be able to leave early does not make sense. Can the childfree woman claim the same and get to leave early?
If it’s an issue of people/parents taking time off with approved PTO or whatnot, there shouldn’t be an issue.
When it comes to staying late and working overtime, however, who stays to pick up the slack can turn nasty really quickly. Obviously no two offices have the same dynamic, but in my first office job, I (no kids but a demanding social life and a dog that needs a lot of attention) would wind up staying late almost every night while the parents skipped out the door right at five. We were a high pressure, deadline oriented company, but the parents didn’t take that into consideration when making their plans. If it’s an emergency, sure, leave when you need to. I’ll never fault anyone for that. But when they used their kids as justification to leave on time every single day, no matter how much work was left, it got old quickly.
I understood that sacrifice and flexibility were going to be necessary almost every day, but it was ridiculous that my counterparts and superiors weren’t held to the same standards. When I addressed it with management after trying to cope for 6+ months, they said that they were sorry, but they really didn’t see another solution. I quit pretty soon after that.
“Perhaps Lolly is resentful of these women for whatever reason. Maybe that should be something that is taken a closer look at.” Why do you automatically think she is jealous of the other women for another reason aside from the fact that they work less? I sounds like she’s upset that she does more work but gets the same pay. If parents are allowed to work from home then everyone should be allowed to since the work is still getting done, unless you think parents are the only people capable of doing so.
If someone hasn’t completed a full day of work in 6 months I doubt they’re just getting everything done. Why would they be scheduled for so many hours if they always got things done early everyday?
Alright.. Lets look at this – “As working parents, we learn quickly on how to juggle things to fulfill all of our roles. That cannot be equated in hours or time on the clock”.
Are you really trying to insinuate that the only way one can learn to “juggle things” and use time management as ANY adult should know how to do, is by havings kids? Honey, no. Just because you decided to pop a kid out does not magically make you better at time management. You know what does, though? The fact that your company let you work from home and get off work EARLY due to personal issues. Was the same courtesy applied to those without kids? I doubt it.
Why should you get treated better because you either missed a birth control pill, or broke a condom? Being a mom does not make you any smarter, more time efficient, or overall better at life than those women who are not mothers.
If parents cannot show up for the FULL workday, they should not keep the job. Emergencies I understand, however, using your kids as an excuse to get out of a 9-5 is just pathetic. If children-free people kept skipping out early, they would be fired. Same should go for those who went ahead and decided to procreate.
Bottom line: your kid is your issue, don’t put more stress on a team by skipping out early to deal with it.
Lolly is not jealous, or resentful as you put it. Lolly doesn’t give a damn about those kids and trust me, there is nothing parents have that child-free people can be jealous of. Lolly is sick of being treated less special because she did not pop a kid out. It should not be that way. You don’t DESERVE special treatment because you had a child. You just don’t.
Having a child does not make you special, it makes you like everyone else. Congratulations.