Do the Childless Get Ripped Off at Work?

Childless employees, especially women, get the shaft in the workplace. Right? How many times have you watched a co-worker run off to watch a soccer game or take her child to the dentist while you had to cover her hours or finish her work because hey, you don’t have any kids to worry about?

Jody Day, speaking at the NotMom Summit earlier this month, described five areas of dissension:

1) The dominance of mom talk and mom activities. People who just want to do their jobs are subjected to baby showers, mothers bringing their babies to work, baby pictures, and co-workers conversing about subjects the childless don’t feel comfortable joining in.

2) Unfair holiday allocations. Who gets to work on Christmas? Not the moms and dads.

3) Lack of consideration for any real-life needs besides children.

4) Caring for parents, pets, spouses, etc., does not get the same consideration as caring for children.

5) Unfair work load distribution. Give it to her; she doesn’t have kids.

Does any of this sound familiar? I have certainly felt left out when the moms at work all gathered to talk about their kids. But I haven’t experienced discrimination in the same ways that others have. During my years in the newspaper business, we all worked nights, weekends, and holidays, lucky if we got time for lunch. I suspect my co-workers’ kids were fending for themselves.

I think we have to understand that it’s not easy balancing work and family. Children require a lot of maintenance. Somebody has to take them to doctor and dentist appointments, pick them up when the school calls, or accompany them to sports activities or lessons. Somebody has to take care of them when they’re not in school. Parents would tell you that’s more important than any job.

But how is that our problem, you might ask? It’s bad enough that we don’t get to have kids and now we get extra work dumped on us because of it? It’s definitely not fair. Employers need to understand that we have lives, too, and that includes taking care of our homes, spouses, pets, and aging parents. And ourselves. We need time for doctor and dentist appointments, too.

I’m rambling. There’s a situation going on at my church job that has me totally distracted. It has nothing to do with the fact that three out of four of us employees never had children, more to do with working for a crazy person. I’ll bet you can identify with that, too.

So I turn the discussion over to you. Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace because you are the one without children? Are you constantly forced to deal with baby pictures, baby showers, and baby talk that just makes you feel worse about your own situation. Let ‘er rip. I want to know.

Here are just a few of many articles on the subject of workplace discrimination against employees without kids.

“Discrimination Against Childfree Adults”  by Ellen Walker, Psychology Today, May 2, 2011

“Family-Friendly Workplaces are Great, Unless You Don’t Have Kids”  by Amanda Marcotte, Slate, June 21, 2013

“Do Childless Employees Get the Shaft at Work?”  by Aaron Guerrero, U.S. News & World Report, July 17, 2013

I await your comments.

The childless go invisible again

I just finished reading an anthology of blogs by women over 45. Most of these women write about their kids and grandkids. They might as well have titled the book “Mommy blogs.” Why are there no childless writers represented? One out of five women over 45 does not have children. That is a significant number. But you wouldn’t know it from this book. Or from many others that I have read. The book I’m reading right now about working from home assumes the reader has children. It’s everywhere!

A year or so ago, I published an essay in another anthology by women—and I was the sole voice of childlessness. Why? Are women without children not writing? I know that isn’t true. Is this part of what we talked about a couple weeks ago, trying to blend in by not discussing our lack of offspring?

In my work as a writer, I study listings of publications looking for submissions. As I go down the list, some of them are so mommy oriented I would never fit in. Cross them off the list. The doors are closed to me. Parenting publications are a huge industry. There are plenty of parenting readers, but also, most publications are supported by advertising and there’s a lot of stuff advertisers can sell to parents and future parents. Even most of the so-called women’s magazines cater to moms. Whereas I’m reading “coastal living” and drooling over the decorating and cooking tips.

It’s not impossible for childless people to write for parenting publications. I did it for several years back in California when I freelanced for Bay Area Parent and Bay Area Baby. I researched, interviewed and wrote, not mentioning my non-mom state unless I had to. (“How long was your labor?” “Uh, I don’t actually have any children.”) I did have a live-in stepson at that time, so I could relate to a certain extent. Plus, a good writer can write about anything. Research is research. I also wrote about business for several years, and I hate business. I’m not handy at all, but I have written about fences, paint, wood stoves, and windows. But at this point in my life, I cross the mommy mags off my list of potential markets.

Whether it’s publishing or other aspects of life, we notice barriers, even when they’re invisible. For example, a church retreat for women is coming up. I’m not going. I can tell from the flyer that it’s going to be all about being a good wife and mother. Our church also hosts a monthly “family movie night.” Not going to that either. “Family” is code for parents and children.

How about you? Do you see the childless represented realistically in your reading? Does it bother you? Have you noticed parent-oriented situations where you don’t feel welcome, even if nobody openly says so? Please comment. Let’s make a list of places we feel left out. Maybe we can make another list of places we feel included. Chime in.