The opening sentence of Sue Shellenbarger’s piece in the WSJ caught my eye:
Has the workplace become so pro-family that if you don’t have a child, you have to make one up in order to get fair treatment?
I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently. At my job, there are many parents, but I also have many colleagues who don’t have kids. I’ve found that I’m often conscious about how I might be perceived as a working parent and careful to not expect or demand any special treatment from my boss or colleagues. For example, when we had a product release coming up, I knew that it would mean several very late nights in the office. So I lined up some extra babysitting (from my dad, thank you!) and asked my husband to please be home on time — I wanted to make sure that I was there, with my colleagues, as a team during that important and stressful time. I thought it was important that if I could swing it, that I not use the “I’ve got a kid at home” excuse to leave the office early.
Obviously, I am a working MOM and this means that there are days when I come in late or have to leave early. During another product release my husband happened to be out of town on a business trip and I had to get home on time one of the days. This meant leaving my team to cover for me at the office during a very late night, for which I was very appreciative. But that’s life and in my opinion, totally fine as long as it doesn’t happen as a rule. My non-parent colleagues need to come in late some days (doctor’s appointment, for example) or leave early (to meet up with an old friend visiting from out of town). The way I think about it, as long as I don’t expect anything above and beyond what the rest of my colleagues expect in terms of flexibility at work, I’m not crossing a line.
When I was starting out in my career I was on the opposite side of this, as one of two non-parents on a team in a very demanding job. More than once I remember being told that I should stay late to finish something because I didn’t have kids at home to run to. I absolutely hated this and would never, ever want my current non-parent colleagues to feel this way.
What do you think — should working parents get a bit more slack/flexibility at work? Are you conscious of not asking for or expecting special treatment because you’re a parent?