I read an article in the Globe & Mail today that looked at why single people seemed to always get the short end of the stick when it came to working overtime. The theory of the “singulists” was that employers were more empathetic with staff who had family/children priorities to tend to, and that this was unfair and unequitable. Single people feel that they should be given equal flexibility to pursue their interests, too, and that their time should not be seen as less worthy because they don’t have children to look after.
But to me, this line of thinking presumes that parents are leaving work to have fun. For childless people who don’t yet know: raising kids is hard work! I leave work to work even harder at home! And I don’t get paid or recognized for it!
When I started my sentence in the corporate jail, my boss also expected me to work a lot of extra hours. I was in the office almost every weekend and worked until at least 8 or 9 o’clock at night 2-3 nights a week. I didn’t mind it that much: I was still new to the city, didn’t have friends, didn’t have much of a life – what else was I going to do? But here’s the thing: my boss – a man and a father – worked even longer hours than me. I didn’t sympathize with him, though. He had a stay-at-home wife who would have dinner on the table for him and laundry and house cleaned when he got home. Meanwhile, I would have peanut butter and crackers for dinner at the office. I thought he had it easy.
Of course, as a childless single person at the time, I never appreciated how much his wife did raising 3 young children, how difficult it had to have been not having a father available that much to help her.
The thing is: I’ve been childless before, but childless people have not had children before, so you don’t know what you don’t know.
There is no question that kids are fun. You honestly cannot understand the joy and the intense love they bring into parents’ lives until you become a parent. But make no mistake about it: it is work, it is a huge commitment in time and patience, and most parents make this choice. So to childless workers, I would say: Yes, you absolutely deserve to have a life of lesiure outside of work and you shouldn’t be punished for not having children. But taking care of kids is not a leisure pursuit. Parents deserve a break sometimes, too.