Can Parents And Childfree Employees Stop Fighting Over Who Has It Harder?

“Let’s not fight, let’s just rip.” Right? That is to say, if you’re not up on your Empire Records, that employees should not tear into each other in a fight over scraps; they should direct their frustration where it belongs, at management.

Solidarity forever! We do better and accomplish more when we band together, agitating for fairer treatment for all. Don’t the many things that unite us matter far more than the few things that divide us? Ignore the higher ups’ attempts to keep us squabbling about petty stuff, Oppression Olympics-style, rather than focused on the big picture.

This is what I sincerely believe. But then I’m tested, sometimes sorely tested, by Internet clickbait that tries to pit parents against non-parents. And sometimes, friends, I fail. Like now. I’m failing right now. I’m walking right into the trap that’s been set for me. Here I am in the trap! Join me, I guess?

Because the “brutal” truth about being childless at work doesn’t sound that brutal to me.

In the workplace, people all too often assume women with no children in particular must be putting their careers ahead of having kids. While true for some, this is certainly not true for many women. It is often assumed that a childfree woman must be that ambitious, driven to climb the career ladder woman who says no to motherhood because it will get in the way of her professional goals. The truth is, most childfree women don’t have children because they simply lack the desire to be a parent.

For childless women, it can be maddening to feel seen as career-obsessed when it’s not the case.

I mean … sure? It’s rough to be misunderstood. But in the context of a workplace, isn’t it probably to your benefit to be pre-judged as being more committed to your job, rather than less?

I’m not saying this isn’t frustrating — just that, in the scheme of things, it seems like a paper cut. Like, this is the hill you want to die on, that bosses sometimes misread you as being too ambitious? This is the complaint you’re taking to the pages of Fortune?

The comments this piece has generated thus far are not making me more sympathetic toward it, either.

Now, at 73, looking back, I’m still sad to say how pronatalism marches on. Many people write to me sharing how frustrating it is, in their work-place, when parents get off time to attend to the needs of their children , yet childfree can’t to take care of an ailing , beloved pet.

First of all, “pronatalism” isn’t a word. Second of all, you really want to equate a child with a pet? The actual exchange rate is 1 child : 2 high-maintenance cats and a dog.

Most importantly, how tinted do your grievance glasses have to be to see a bias TOWARDS parents in today’s economy? The author of the article tries to make the same point, asserting that, “In today’s workplace, employers could do more to show they value all employees, not just those who are parents.”

I’m sorry, employers value parents?

We’ve been over this. America is one of the only countries in the entire world that doesn’t offer paid parental leave. When women have or adopt children, they run right into a mess of red tape — and even after they manage to cut their way through, they incur motherhood penalties that impact their earnings for the rest of their lives. Often they are “mommy tracked.” When fathers ask for some consideration, they often incur penalties and are tracked, too. Trying to work and raise children at the same time in this country is exhausting and expensive, and yet, supporting a family on one income is all but impossible. No wonder parents are miserable.

None of that means that the issues childfree employees have with their workplaces aren’t valid. Being told to pick up the slack for your co-workers while they’re out on leave without being paid extra? That’s frustrating. Having it assumed that of course you can work on holidays, as opposed to someone “with a family” — as though we all don’t have families? Ridiculous.

But most of the issues articulated in this Fortune piece are work-life balance issues, common to every American employee. It didn’t need to framed as an us vs. them; in fact, I think adding that framework is needlessly combative and counterproductive.

We could all use more sick leave, more vacation time, more PTO in general. Nobody’s life outside the office should be scrutinized for conflicts; everyone should have the opportunity to find fulfillment in whatever way they want. Write up that manifesto, the one that doesn’t attempt to put down one group at the expense of another, but instead promotes the general welfare. I’ll sign it happily. That’s what DC so recently and successfully did, after all.

The enemy isn’t parents or non-parents. The enemy is rapacious, unfettered, profits-over-people capitalism. Let’s join together like Mizzou students and take the bastard down.

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