“Just Because a Woman is Childless Doesn’t Mean She wants to Be a Workaholic” by Rachelle Hampton, Slate, March 30, 2018
This article set off all kinds of bells in my head. When I read it, I was doing my 10th hour at my desk, which tells you something. Today, I got up early today and watered the plants, mopped the floors, and organized my church music before settling down to write all day, followed by playing music at church.
There’s so much to do, I could argue. No matter how hard I work, I never catch up because I’m the one and only worker keeping the Lick family ship afloat. I can’t delegate tasks, say mowing lawns or grocery shopping, to a husband or even to helpful offspring because I don’t have any. Some days, I want to burn it all down, writing, music, house and yard, and walk away.
But am I a workaholic? Probably. I’m not good at relaxing. Am I workaholic because I don’t have children? That’s a harder question. Sometimes I think I work all the time so I don’t have to face being alone. Does that ring any bells for you?
I might work even harder if I had children because I’d want to do things for them, whether it’s making their lunches and driving them to soccer practice when they’re young or planning special birthdays and taking care of their kids when they’re grown. But that would be a different kind of work, work inspired by love and focused on other people’s needs. And they might in turn do things for me. At least that’s the theory.
I believe I was born to write and play music. If anyone asked me to stop writing or doing music, I would refuse. I would leave a man before I’d do that. So am I a workaholic? Would I choose my work over my children? I’m probably lucky I’ll never find out.
Hampton is talking more about younger people with regular jobs, about how some employers assume women without children, like the men, are totally free to take on extra tasks and extra hours while the moms have to run home to the kids. They mistakenly assume that those of us without children don’t have lives away from work.
She’s also talking about this wrestler, John Cena, who believes that husbands are free to be married to their work, but wives have to put home, husband and children first. It’s kids or the job, not both, a mindset that goes back to the 1950s and my own parents. My mother and others of her generation gave up their own aspirations to raise the children. But hey, dude, it’s 2018. Time to share the load.
Hampton quotes a study that shows 40 percent of managers don’t want to hire women in their 20s and 30s because they might get pregnant and because mothers aren’t as good at their jobs. Grr. Those of us who are childless not by choice would love the chance to prove them wrong.
So what do you think? If we aren’t moms, are we destined to be workaholics? I welcome your comments and your experiences with this. That includes any men reading this. I want to hear your thoughts, too.
4 thoughts on “Is This Our Choice: Mother or Workaholic?”
Even before it became evident that motherhood was not going to be in the cards, I would say I was a “work to live, not live to work” person. I was never one to hang around the office, whether I really needed to or not. I (mostly) enjoyed my work and the people I worked with; I cared about doing a good job (and being rewarded/recognized for it) — but I could have cared less about promotions and climbing the corporate ladder. I would stay late at the office if it was necessary, if my bosses asked me to, or it I was working on something that was really urgent — but otherwise I was out the door at 4:30 every night. With the commute, my husband & I were out of the house a solid 10-12 hours a day, on average, even without working overtime. It was tiring, and we had other interests, not to mention grocery shopping, laundry, housecleaning, etc. etc…! Just because we don’t have kids doesn’t mean we don’t have lives outside of work.
I’m a bit of a workaholic because I love being challenged, I love the recognition and I don’t like people telling me I can’t do something. And I’m now a workaholic because I’m my own boss. It (working at 110%) has been one of my greatest satisfactions and a big downfall when it contributed to my depression and anxiety. For now, I’m running my own business, a cafe, so it’s me, my husband and my loooong hours. But when I had my corporate job, it was obvious that mothers with kids got the preferential treatment. Having said that, it generally suited me. I didn’t want to take Christmas or Easter holidays when everyone else was on leave and paying top dollar for their travel. And like I said, I love working so the extra project work was right up my alley!
I do wonder how I would be if I had kids, whether I’d thrive even more on the Adrenalin of balancing it all. Or choose family. Or crash and burn by trying to do it all. I’ll never know. But one thing I have learnt over time is to put work on hold on those rare occasions I have my substitute family with me, my niece and nephews. They’re getting older by the day and won’t want to know me soon, so on those rare days they are with me, it’s about them and not work. And that’s the best I’ve got.
I did not read the article but I have to say that I have found many employers did tend to assume I had unlimited time on my hands because I was kid-free. I often thought it would have been so hard to continue in the teaching profession with children because teaching took everything I had.
I’m not a workaholic in the least. I do what I have to do at work, but I leave early every day, I take all my vacation time every year, and I don’t consider my job to be an important part of my life. I don’t feel pressure from anyone at my job to work harder because I don’t have children, but I work in the mental health field where there’s really no big money and advancement anyway. In other fields I’m sure it’s different.
Where I do feel the pressure is outside of work from other people or society in general. I think there’s the idea if you’re not busy raising kids then it must be because you chose to focus on your career and are having success there. I get pretty down about myself for being someone who has no family AND no career ambitions.