We seem to focus quite a bit these days on businesses that provide benefits and perks to mothers and fathers. Companies that are empathetic to the needs of parents and provide a working environment that helps them balance family and career are repeatedly rated as some of the best companies to work for. What about childless couples though? Are you missing out on these work-life benefits because you don’t have kids?
One of the benefits that companies often provide employees is the ability to take off work when a child is sick from school. This, to childless employees, may appear as an unfair benefit given to parents working for the company. While very few people will argue that staying home with a pukey kid is a great way to spend a day off, it does pose the question of whether or not people who have children are sometimes provided a better opportunity for work-life balance than those who don’t.
In a recent Dear Prudence column, a reader asks a similar question. As a junior attorney in his/her late 20s, the co-workers with children in the law office are permitted to leave each day at 4:30 or 5, on the dot, to pick up children or attend events. Being one of the few in the office without children, the reader is often stuck with finishing work, sometimes several hours later than everyone else.
As the reader mentions, although childless, he does have a life outside of work. One of the myths that parents often have about their single or child-free co-workers, is that they have less responsibility, less to do, less stress, and worst of all, for some reason they don’t mind spending their lives in the office.
In these instances, it’s best first, to acknowledge that the company you work for is sensitive to the needs of those with children. If you decide one day to have children, this is one of the most important benefits you will need from your employer, and may also be the most appreciated. This, of course, is no consolation if you aren’t planning on ever having children. However, if you are basically just getting shafted and somewhat taken advantage of, the issue is certainly something that you want to discuss with management. Ask how the duties are supposed to be divided, and make it clear with your co-workers that while you love them to pieces, you too have obligations and a life outside of work.
Keep in mind also, that apart from having to work more than anyone else and other blatantly unfair issues, sometimes the greatest benefit of not having kids is well, not having kids.
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