Why SHOULD childless women do longer hours

A provocative headline from the daily mail: why SHOULD childless women like us do longer hours to cover for working mothers  see the article here

More than 1,000 comments already, and the pot has well and truly been stirred. But a headline like “Most people work together as best they can to achieve a mutually satisfying outcome” probably wouldn’t sell newspapers or draw hundreds of shares on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s a new angle on the so called mummy-wars – taking a break from stirring it up between mothers who stay at home and those working outside the home; let’s pit the employees who are mothers against those who aren’t.

Of course most of us have experienced some element of the type of behaviour mentioned in the article – we’ve all been subjected to a colleague (or friend or acquaintance or random stranger) who talks about their own child ad nauseum.
I am a mother and believe me I have no interest in listening to anyone else cataloguing the exact sleep times, feeding times and nappy changes of their offspring day after day. But of course there are people who do this.

And we all cringe.

It’s no different to the working mother who annoys her SAHM friend by telling her that she has it easy.
Or the stay-at-home mum who annoys her working mother friend by, well, saying she has it easy.
Or the guy in banking who says all public sector employees earn too much.
Or the HSE employee who says that private sector staff haven’t taken cuts the way she has.
Or the non-smoker who says his colleagues should be docked pay for smoke breaks.

So let’s agree on that point: there are annoying people in every workplace – some with kids, some without.

image credit Huffingtonpost


Now, moving on to the more serious topic of work-hours and working conditions: this varies from employer to employer. For every situation where a woman who is childless is discriminated against, there are countless employers where this is not the case.

I work for one of the latter. I worked here before I had children too. All staff are treated equally, all requests for flexibility or reduced hours are reviewed, and are awarded based on whether or not the job can be done under the newly requested conditions, and not based on the reason behind the request.

For sure, I am in the office for fewer hours now than before I had kids.
I now condense my work into a shorter day – I skip lunch, I work faster, I manage my time like I never did before, because I MUST leave at 5.15 every day to relieve my childminder.

I’m not doing less work – if I don’t get it done, I log in from home after the kids have gone to bed. But sure, I’m gone from the office in the evening before some colleagues and before my former childless self.
And I can see how this could be perceived as working less because I have children. Happily I work in an environment that focuses on achievement and quality of work rather than hours spent in the office so this isn’t an issue.

I am guessing there are many, many employers who unfortunately do focus on hours spent at work over all else. This is their mistake, and is to the detriment of employees who for one reason or another cannot put in extra hours.

I am also sure that there are many employers who discriminate in small (or significant) ways against employees who don’t have children – there are some examples in the article. Turning down a request for flexibility simply because an employee doesn’t have children is discrimination. But it’s not a reason for disagreement between employees who are parents and those who are not.  

The article refers to the fact that childless women tend to earn more as well as working longer hours – this is logical. Most working mothers accept the fact that while they should be able to maintain and progress their careers, if they want to have a balance with home-life, which may include working a shorter week or shorter day, it’s difficult to aggressively pursue promotion.

Meanwhile women who do not have children may find that they are freer to put in the extra hours and successfully achieve career advancement and monetary reward. Or not – that’s the key point – they should have the flexibility to have step back a bit too and have a better work/ life balance.
That’s the key argument here – employers should be allowing flexibility regardless of the reasons for the request. 

But then that wouldn’t sell as many newspapers.



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