Childless at work: does it make a difference?

Remember before Mother’s Day when I wrote about Megan Krause’s book Meternity and the idea of childless workers deserving something like maternity leave? That discussion got a little derailed by Mother’s Day—and I’m so glad you all are commenting and encouraging each other, but now that the Mother’s Day madness is over for this year, let’s revisit childlessness in the workplace. Check out this follow-up article, “The Motherhood Divide in the Workplace—It’s Not as Big as You Think.”

Writer Georgene Huang, a new mom, suggests that parents and non-parents want the same things from work. Mostly they want flexible hours so they can attend to other things that are important in their lives besides work. Children are certainly a major concern, but we all have other responsibilities for which we need time, things that we can’t manage on the weekend or the few hours between work and sleep on weekdays.

For me, it was my writing and my music. Sometimes I brought my guitar to work and dashed out for an hour to perform. I know, everybody isn’t trying to do several careers at once like me, but when are we supposed to go to the dentist or the doctor or the DMV? What are we supposed to do if a plumber is coming to our house to fix our broken pipes? What if our parents, our spouses, our siblings or our friends need care during an illness or injury? What if the dog has to go to the vet?

Kids take a lot of time—and you know who was meeting with my stepson’s teachers when he was living with us? Right, me, the childless stepmom. What I’m saying is we all have stuff, and employers ought to give us time to deal with it. Obviously some occupations are more flexible than others. Somebody has to be there doing the job, but those jobs that expect you to work 80 hours a week or you’re not a team player, are not being fair to their employees, whether they have kids or not.

Tell us about your experiences. Have you felt discrimination at work as a person without kids? Have the parents dumped their work on you because they had to tend to their offspring? Do you resent your co-workers with kids? Are any of you employers with moms or dads on the staff who need extra time off? What’s a fair way to handle this?

If you still want to talk about Mother’s Day, backtrack to the Mother’s Day posts and comment there. We need to talk about it all. Thank you so much for being here and for the kind words many of you have offered me for my efforts. You all help me so much.


14 thoughts on “Childless at work: does it make a difference?

  1. Hi Sue, I like this: “parents and non-parents want the same things from work…. flexible hours so they can attend to other things that are important in their lives besides work.” Instead of driving a wedge between parents and non-parents, so much better to see it as something we all want. Much more positive!


  2. I’ve not noticed being treated differently at work because of my lack of children, but then again I didn’t realize some of my coworkers (or my boss) were parents until a couple weeks ago. The biggest problem I’ve had is that I have a coworker who is currently pregnant, and when I received the email letting us know, I burst into tears. So watching her has become something very painful for me, and others seem to be able to tell that there’s something going on. It’s hard to be very active with my coworkers when I feel like crying every time babies and motherhood come up in conversation – and at 24, none of them really expect me to be sad or even know that I will not be having kids.
    But luckily my job doesn’t question about time off – if you have the vacation/personal/sick time, you can use it whenever and however you please.


  3. I do not believe I have ever been treated any different, or had higher expectations of working longer hours because I don’t have kids. However, with that being said, I have had to cover for women who have gone out on maternity leave. I have to admit, it really angered me that the expectation was that I was to complete ALL my work AND theirs while they were out. Obviously I couldn’t, but corporate didn’t care and would be upset with me for not getting all the work done. It’s so not fair. When will it ever be our turn???


  4. I can relate a lot to CCM. I work at a clinic (not an OB/GYN, though, thank goodness), and not only is our newest nurse pregnant with her second child, but we do get mothers and pregnant women in. (And my best friend is pregnant with her second child now). I am so bombarded, and I’m stressed enough at work, I just get so sad. All of my coworkers know how I ache for my own children, but it’s hard. The pregnant nurse thinks that my (new as of last month) husband should give me a child- he gave his ex 3 and he never even wanted to be with her, supposedly. We’re supposed to be moving at some point (who knows) to be closer to the kids when they move. I’m at my wit’s end with everything, from being the mom of an elderly dog with major arthritis to not having a say in anything in life. I’m just verbal vomiting in this box at this point, but to Sue and all the people that post here, you are in my hearts. Life sucks and isn’t fair, but we have to be grateful for what we do have. Even though it’s hard.


    • Amy, Life does not suck. If you look for it, it offers a lot of beauty and happiness. But it can be very hard at times, and you’re deep into one of those times. I hope you can talk to your new husband about all this. He needs to know how you feel. I hope things get easier soon. Thanks for keeping all of us in your hearts.


  5. I agree with Candy’s statement “when is it going to be our turn?” Day to day I don’t necessarily feel that I am expected to do more at work due to being childless, but I have had the experience of having to do extra work during a co-worker’s maternity leave, sometime multiple times for the same person and that favor is never returned. I feel like, we should all be entitled to at least one leave from work to pursue our own interests and dreams. After all, you can take as many leaves as children you have, shouldn’t the childless get just one? I think it would be fair that if you haven’t taken a maternity leave and you are 40 or older, you should get one. For two or three months, you can travel, experience life, maybe work on something creative if you are so inclined and just do all the things that working 40 hours a week with only two weeks off per year never gave you time for, with your job still left open for you the entire time. I have so many ideas on what I could do with that time if I could have it.


  6. I have never felt discriminated against for not having kids. I just get tired of all the parents talking about their kids, showing photos, and thinking that everyone else wants to be part of this. I like kids. I like being with friends who have kids. But coworkers are not friends and I don’t to work to hear about your kids. I come to work. So I find it really frustrating, but it’s not like I can ever tell parents to shut up, can I?


  7. I started a new position in my organization last week, so it’s a new set of coworkers to learn about my childlessness. There were four of us in a room and two have kids [the other is young and engaged], and they were just telling kid stories. I was doing a good job of not exploding, and then the coworker sitting next to me showed me a viral video of a little girl dancing, and I just lost it. I just cried so hard. I said that all morning all I heard was kid stories, and shared the short version of my childlessness, and then the one without a kid showed me a picture of a dog, and I thought that that was sweet.

    Everyone has their something. People go to work after loved ones’ deaths, or miscarriages, or having a spouse be unemployed, or so many stressful and/or sad things. Everyone has their own triggers.


    • Amy, what a hard way to start a new job, but I hope it will help you all bond. You certainly broke the ice. 🙂 Most of us try so hard to hold our feelings back when people go on and on about their kids, but maybe it just makes things worse. I don’t know. But thank God for the one with the dog picture. As for triggers, it’s hard to predict. Sometimes the things we think will get to us don’t and other perfectly innocent situations make us cry. I hope the job is going better now.


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