I loved my career. As an editor at a popular magazine, I got to work on big stories, attend cool events, and meet famous celebs all the time.Predictably, the parents who took parental leave in order to be parents weren't impressed.
And yet, after 10 years of working in a job where I was always on deadline, I couldn’t help but feel envious when parents on staff left the office at 6 p.m. to tend to their children, while it was assumed co-workers without kids would stay behind to pick up the slack.
Maternity leave is a lot of wonderful things — but, especially for first-time parents, it’s a crazy, sleep-deprived period of time in which your entire life is turned upside-down. For birth mothers, it’s also physically devastating as your body recovers from producing a new human.That's not to say that the current dispensation in the workplace isn't one that gets people to think favorably of time away.
Most white-collar workers today are expected to be constantly connected to work, without much time away to truly disconnect. Even when we’re given permission to be out of the office, many of us have bright shiny iPhones that lure us back with a constant stream of notifications and beeps and the promise of instant distraction.Yes, I was fortunate enough to get away with telling colleagues and administrators that I did not have a mobile 'phone. People doing more time-sensitive work, not so much.
The fundamental tradeoffs still apply.
There's no intellectual basis for criticizing the individual who is willing to outwork others in order to secure income, or promotions.And perhaps working parents might have reasons to want to offload the rugrats, at least temporarily. On the other hand, those supposedly family-friendly workplace policies place additional burdens on the workers that can't use the tee-ball game as reason to get out. I was feeling testy when I wrote, "Grasp the proposition that other people might be bearing some of the burden of your balance, by taking on the work you have shirked." About the same time, though, advice columnist Caroline Hax put the same proposition more tactfully.
On the other hand, there's no reason for a corporation to restrict its promotion opportunities to the most conspicuous time-servers, or to restrict its flexible job descriptions to mothers.
The ones without spouses and kids, meanwhile, are often the ones families count on to travel farthest to family events, to nurse ailing parents, to work late when everyone else has to bail, to throw themselves into volunteer work in ways that people with more demanding ties simply can't, to be the best uncles and aunties (or Big Brothers and Big Sisters) around.That such behavior might produce bigger pay packets and promotions might be incidental, or it might be intentional.