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Admin Pro Forum

Does your workplace get how tough parenting is?

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Q: "The last couple of places I've worked as an admin didn't seem to have a whole lot of understanding of how things have changed for parents over the years—how often school days get disrupted now, how many organized activities kids are involved in, how tricky it is to juggle life when both spouses have full-time careers. Has anyone else been looking for a little empathy, and a little more flexibility in their schedule, but come up short?" - Wanda, Executive Assistant, Finance

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie April 5, 2018 at 5:13 pm

I agree with Val. I’m in a small office and have personally been left completing a coworker’s assignments when they needed to leave expectedly or unexpectedly due to child issues; child sick, early leave for conferences, pick up, drop off, babysitter canceled, activities, etc. It’s very frustrating. I’m always willing to help, but the person with a child always seems to receive the better end of the deal. I’ve even been asked to change my vacation plans to accommodate the coworker with spring and fall breaks with the kids. I don’t feel it is my responsibility to make things easier for those with children.

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MIa April 5, 2018 at 4:49 pm

I agree with Connie AND Val. I was a single mom for a very long time and worked in Corporate America and had to travel a lot for my job. I chose that career and to be a mom. It took many sacrifices to make it work. Unfortunately, life happens but again you have to chose how to handle them as they come and to make the best choices for your family. Good luck to you.

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Mark March 23, 2018 at 12:07 pm

Where I work, supervisors are sympathetic to this and try to make accommodations when possible, but there are just many situations in which this is not possible. Requests often get a “yes”, but they also sometimes get a “no”. For the overwhelming majority of our staff, we have to be here when our customers are here, so that limits flexibility. For security reasons (without getting into what business this is) working from home is not allowed for the overwhelming majority of positions due to our heavy reliance on customer PII (personal identifying information).

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Eline M. March 23, 2018 at 10:34 am

This is most likely going to ignite a small firestorm, but the answer is simple. Workplaces do get how tough parenting is – they just don’t have a choice. I believe this is what contributes to women receiving lower pay than men for the same position.

Many households require both parents to work to make it in this day and age. While women enjoy more freedom to have a career and a life outside of the home, I believe a majority of the time, the child-rearing falls to them. Fathers are more invested in their children’s lives than ever before but it is still the women, as natural care-givers, who take the lead in taking care of the household.

This makes sense from an evolutionary sense and a monetary sense. Think about this. If the husband works at a job that brings in the most money in the household, it makes more sense for the woman to take time off for illnesses, school cancellations, doctor’s appointments, etc.

I am betting, though they’re never going to admit it publicly, most employers see a female candidate as a good candidate – but one who will likely take time off down the road for absences like those above. Her worth as an employee will go down because, whether openly or subconsciously, they expect she will not be as reliable as a man who has no children or leaves the child-rearing to his spouse.

Companies that offer flex time and remote working opportunities are out there – you just need to find them. It doesn’t always work though. My former employer used to be extremely flexible but stopped when some of the admins abused the system. Everyone ended up being ‘punished’ for the abusers’ mistakes. I once worked second shift in an office as front desk staff dealing with the public. One employee would cash out her drawer long before the end of the shift and skip out, leaving the rest of us to do cleanup and closing tasks because she had a babysitter to get home to. At the time, she was the only employee with a child and we all resented her, myself included, for using the child as an excuse when we were all busting our behinds trying to finish for the night. The supervisor put her foot down one night and made her stay until we had all gotten our work done. Her response was that she was going to charge us all for her babysitter’s fees for being late. Tempers flared all around and management had to be involved afterward. They ruled everyone had to back each other up so that we could all close on time. No one liked working with her after that incident and we all felt like we were being discriminated against because we didn’t have children.

I had to adjust my life to care for my children when they were younger. I quit a full-time job to go to a part-time position when my daughter kept getting sick from day care, allowing me to take care of her at home. When I had another daughter, I quit working entirely because it would take every bit of my pay to keep them in daycare, making working not worth it. Either find a company that will be flexible or, perhaps you can find another mother with the same problem who might be able to trade babysitting time with you (she watches your children in the morning while you’re at a part-time job then you watch hers in the afternoons/early evenings).

Things are changing slowly but to expect companies to bend over for parents is unreasonable. As others said, they are a business and it hurts business to have employees skipping out frequently. Who would you want to hire: the employee who will take frequent afternoons or days off or one who you know won’t ever get pregnant and will likely work himself to the end of the day, every day? I know it’s not fair but if a business wants to succeed, I understand it choosing the latter. It is what it is. Just remember, your children won’t be young forever and you have to decide what is more important or necessary for you to do, whether that means driving 45 minutes to work daily as Connie suggested or changing your work patterns as I did.

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Paula March 23, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Interesting response, very well written! At the company I work for, we have a very “It’s not the time you put in; it’s what you contribute” attitude which acknowledges that our work/life balance is often served best if we can stay home once in while to look after the kids or pop out because something came up with them suddenly. We’re not talking making it a habit; I just don’t want to be resented or thought of as deficient because I have three kids while someone else has note. There are times when having those three kids creates a minor kink in the works, and I want to keep working for a company that understands the reality of parenting instead of one that says, “We are more important than anything else–so it’s your kids or us.”

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Connie March 22, 2018 at 4:33 pm

This is tough. I would suggest looking for larger companies who offer either flex time, or PTO. It helps to schedule around quick changes to calendars. But understand that companies are in business to work, and have set hours for business for a reason. As far as organized activities – just don’t sign them up for things that conflict. This comes from a woman that has had a full-time career since my kids were little, and now have grandkids ranging from 18 months to 15 1/2. I help with the grandkids, whether it is Grandma’s taxi service, or occasionally taking a PTO day / working remotely to stay home with a sick one. I work for one of those larger companies that allows for some leeway. But keep in mind, companies for the most part are NOT sympathetic. They hired you to do a job. If you both work, hire a college kid or teenager w/a license to driven them to activities. OR . . . . cut your expenses way back, and one of you look for a telecommuter position with flexible hours, so you can be a stay at home Mom or Dad. Unfortunately, while I think Val was very harsh, she has a point. It wasn’t easy for me – my husband has been an over the road truck driver for over 30 years. I chose to live close to my parents, and they helped when possible. Now I do the same for my kids / grandkids. But it was MY responsibility to make it work, not my employer’s give way. I had to make it work, and still be at work, on time, and sometimes stay late without warning. As one exec. assistant to another, you have more responsibilities than others, because you are responsible for making your exec’s day work. If you can’t handle it, find another job or alternative. It isn’t easy, but the jobs are out there. I drive 45 minutes one way in rush hour traffic every day, just to work at a company that is a little more flexible. Good luck.

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AAinDMV March 22, 2018 at 4:29 pm

I work at a school, so for the most part, our leadership understands school schedules, after-school activities, and the like. However, like Val mentioned, everyone has time constraints, not just those individuals with kids, and the employer shouldn’t be expected to make concessions for anyone. I don’t have kids myself but I do have other commitments in my personal life. Most of the time, I am able to use leave so that they don’t interfere with my work, and I think that’s one of the reasons leave is available to employees. I certainly don’t expect my employer to make an exception for me.

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Paula March 22, 2018 at 4:28 pm

The school thing has bitten me a few times, with schools sending kids home at the drop of a hat–no school nurses anymore, and my district is so much more liberal with inclement weather days than they used to be, that I’ve had to ask my boss if I can slip out for a couple of hours more than once. These are the days of two-career families whether anyone thinks that’s a good thing or not, and it’s a model that often conflicts with how active schools have asked kids and parents to be. All I ask personally is for recognition that if I have to leave early, I’m more than capable of making up the work, and technology keeps me connected wherever I go.

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Val March 22, 2018 at 4:14 pm

Sorry, but this kind of whining drives me nuts. You chose to have kids. You chose to work. Deal with it. It is not your employer’s responsibility to make things easier for you. If your kids are involved in too many activities then say no to them. They don’t have to do everything.
Life is tough and we all have to make choices. Expecting your employer to be sympathetic about your personal issues is ridiculous. Everyone has issues and time constraints … you are not special. And if you can’t juggle it all, they will find someone who can.

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