The Mommy/Childless Wars rage on, and I’m back to Ranting Feminist FTuesday (What? It’s not called FTuesday?) in response. I was reading STFU, Parents (which is a great and hilarious site all about parental oversharing – come on, you know someone who does it, or you do it yourself!) and the owner of that site posted an article that polled a number of working moms about their perception of how their childless coworkers felt about parents needing flexible work schedules.
Back up. “Perception of how childless coworkers feel about parents needing flexible work schedules.” So, not even how childless coworkers ACTUALLY feel? This is just perception on the part of the parents? Whatever happened to balanced reporting in the media? (Don’t answer that. Just don’t.)
And secondly, the people featured in this article? Women. Childless women against female parents. Because this issue doesn’t affect men, right? Because men never find themselves needing to go to daycare early because Junior threw up, or childless men having to pick up the slack? What??
First of all, I think part of the reason there are still Mommy/Childless Wars is because the media thrives on pitting women against each other. You heard it here first, guys, this is my particular hobby horse. And it’s about the perception – not the actual reality. That’s the biggest problem with this whole thing! Perception CAN be reality, but it rarely is. That’s why we need to be objective in cases like this.
I am a childless woman. In another life, I also worked in offices. And because Canada has a year of maternity leave, we don’t have some of the issues women in other countries have. Most women can breastfeed without the bureaucratic issues of finding places to pump and getting enough breaks. Most women don’t have to deal with small babies in daycare or going back to work after six weeks postpartum. But daycare issues ARE daycare issues – and there’s really not a lot parents can do when they get a call that their child is sick. There’s not a lot they can do about exorbitant late fees being charged if they have to stay late at work or the commute is rough. It’s not easy to be a working parent.
Could that be a childless person admitting that it’s not easy to be a working parent?
Well, it’s not easy. And actually, most childless people I know understand that. We know there’s nothing you can do when your child is sick. We don’t want you to bring him here, so we actually would rather you go home and stay with him until he’s better. Most of us don’t mind picking up the slack – though when it comes to parents taking all the best vacation days and leaving early constantly, that’s another issue – and we know that the best place for a sick child to be is at home with Mom or Dad. Same with needing to leave early to reach daycare before late fees kick in. No one wants to pay more (and I’m not criticizing daycares for doing this – after all, they deserve a reasonable work day, too!), and most childless folks get that.
The issue comes when parents insist on taking the best vacation days (“Well, I’m going to need first crack at Christmas week, because of my kids”) or leaving early constantly (“Billy has a doctor’s appointment . . . at 3 pm for the next week”). Many people write this off as “childless people don’t have families, so, they don’t need those days as much as parents. They can just suck it up and work”. Most of us do have families, actually. Our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and significant others. Why is your family more important than ours? While I agree that holidays are predominantly for children, I have to say that sometimes, your childless coworkers who have been covering for you all year while you attended to your children deserve a break, too. Maybe you could work one or two of the days you want off to say thanks. Same with leaving early – while we get it, we’d like the chance to leave early sometimes, too. Some parents choose to come in early, letting their childless coworkers sleep in a bit, and if that’s your arrangement, most of us would appreciate that greatly.
Maybe the perception of childless coworkers wouldn’t be so scary if childless and parents worked together. Childless people aren’t unfeeling drones who can’t understand family or children. Many of us have children in our lives that we love dearly (and in my case, many, many children that I love dearly!). Parents aren’t selfish people who think of non-parents as unimportant. We’re both human. And in the case of women, we have more fellow feelings for each other. We understand that being a woman in the workplace, childless or parent, is hard. We need to prove ourselves more. And while some childless women may resent mothers because of this, it’s not because those women chose to be mothers. It’s because the whole system surrounding the corporate world is wrong. We need to change the inherent misogyny in order to break this resentment we have towards each other. But that won’t change until we’re willing to meet each other halfway.
Next time, why not speak to your coworkers about how they really feel instead of relying on your perception? Communication is key – without it, we can’t break through this misogyny we’re displaying towards each other.
And The Daily Telegraph? How about actually polling both sides instead of relying on hearsay from one?