View Full Version : The Single Girl's Second Shift

09-29-2013, 04:22 PM

When Simone Allen started a demanding job as a litigation attorney at a large Philadelphia law firm a year ago, the 32-year-old packed her after-work calendar to ensure that she wouldn't spend every night at the office: guitar lessons on Monday, Pilates on Friday, and a healthy mix of dates and nights out with friends in between. But in a matter of weeks, her classes fell by the wayside; she couldn't get out of the office in time. And dating? Not in months.

Instead, she's spending most nights poring over her cases—and she's one of the only ones working such intense overtime at her office. With more than 100 lawyers on staff at her firm, fewer than five are single and do not have kids, says Allen, and overwhelmingly, those are the attorneys juggling the extra load. "My coworkers with families make a point to get home by dinnertime," says Allen, who often works through the weekends. "But if they stay late, their families will still be there. If I have to cancel a date for work, that guy won't be around the next night. I figured I'd be married by now, but I'm honestly working too hard to find the person I'd want to marry."

It's the newest form of workplace discrimination: single women who carry an undue burden at the office, batting cleanup for their married-with-kids coworkers. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's best-selling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, makes a strong case for women fully committing to their careers, but this kind of non-optional "leaning in" is not what she's advocating. Instead, it's an inequity simmering under the surface in many corporate cultures, says social scientist Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., author of Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. According to DePaulo, "singlism" represents the myriad ways that our culture rewards married couples, from discounts on car insurance to preferential treatment in the housing market, while treating singles as second-class citizens—and it's increasing in the office. "When almost half of the people in the U.S. are single, why do companies continue to cater to their employees who are married with children?" asks DePaulo.


09-29-2013, 07:31 PM
It's been my experience that having children trumps the childfree. I have worked with women who:

a) went on maternity leave weeks beyond the stated amount due to the heavy time-consuming burden it requires to care for infants.
b) worked flex hours after their children were born although the company had no stated flex policy in place. I am talking coming in an hour late/leaving an hour early every day OR working 3-4 days out of the standard 5 day work week OR both.
c) brought their young children into the office when Husband and Babysitter were unavailable. There was one woman in particular who took advantage of every unspoken perk possible because her husband had a serious medical condition so she worked a shorter day, didn't work a 5 day week, and occasionally brought her daughter into the office who then proceeded to run around and scream outside my desk while the rest of this woman's group cheerfully tried to mollify the brat.

from the above article:
Instead, it's an inequity simmering under the surface in many corporate cultures, says social scientist Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., author of Singlism:

Simmering? This shit has been going on for the past 30 years at least -- I'd say it's to the boiling point. Thank fuck my days of working 45-50 hour weeks is now behind me because it really is massively unfair to those of us who didn't opt to have kids to be expected to pick up the slack caused by others whose parental responsibilities infringed on their workload.

09-29-2013, 07:38 PM
yeah, so true. i totally understand that combining work & kids is not easy, but in the end it is a personal choice. leaving a meeting because you need to pick up your kids is ok, but if i want to go home (after having done my hours) because i have a dinner appointment or want to go to my gym class, it is not seen as a sufficient reason. i have worked two jobs for months, covering for colleagues that were on maternity leave. and in my previous job, colleagues that had kids had priority when booking their holidays. i know they can only go during school holidays, but why does that mean that i have to adapt my holiday plans to everyone else, just because i do not have kids?

09-29-2013, 09:52 PM
yeah, so true. i totally understand that combining work & kids is not easy, but in the end it is a personal choice.

agreed. i do realize how difficult it is to balance work and family and i have always been one to "pitch in" if necessary. but when you marginalize my free time because i don't have kids to raise by expecting me to drop everything so your workload can be lightened, then we have a problem.

09-29-2013, 10:38 PM
That kind of attitude has always bothered me. Everyone has a family/responsibilities/commitments, etc. Children are not a unique situation. Get over yourselves. Besides, if everyone pitches in once in a while then everyone can be able to get most of the time they need. My husband constantly got dumped on when he first started his job because we didn't have a kid. Now that we do, he makes damn sure to be fair to everybody regardless of "child-having status" because he knows what bullshit it is. We all need to get shit done. Be fair.

09-29-2013, 10:59 PM
I went to school part time for classes related to my employment and the firm would not allow me any flex time whatsoever. Bottom line, most companies are out to MAKE A PROFIT. I had people in my group take extended maternity leave and I was told the firm could not bring someone in for 4 to 5 months due to learning curves, difficulty in the hiring process, etc. so it was MY responsibility to pick up the slack (and I might add with no extra pay because my job was exempt.) It is all well and good to say what companies should do in the best interest of those who are both childfree and parents, but it's been my experience that reporting positive P&L numbers to the shareholders is the number one priority. And if that means placing an unfair burden upon the childfree to save some coin, then so be it.

We all need to get shit done. Be fair.


09-30-2013, 01:01 AM
At work after planting we ask farmers to pay for seed. It is an incredibly stressful time because it is our jobs to determine discounts and what actually went in the ground. This lady at work, though not a boss, is kinda an expert at this, while three of us were newbies this year. So we start settling accounts and she excitedly announces her son is going to the Little League World Series (not the big one on TV, a lower skill level one). We are working our assess off...working 12 hr days. People are crying daily it is so stressful. If I were a mom this is something I wouldn't want to miss. For sure. That said, she was gone AN ENTIRE WEEK...the busiest week of the year. I asked off a day to go to Chicago that week. A Friday. I had made up my time Monday-Thursday. Boss said it was too busy for me to go. I was so fucking pissed.

09-30-2013, 02:30 AM
We have a manager at my place who has spent approximately 75% of her time employed with the company either on maternity leave (12 months apiece, twice), long-term sick leave through preganancy shite (6 months apiece) and lots of other days off for dealing with the IVF appointments which got her cranky, miserable old arse knocked up in the first place.

I wouldn't care, but despite this she has always been the biggest cunt on earth to other workers who need time off for family responsibilities or appointments. Utterly reprehensible behavior that has got her dragged up for bullying on a couple of occasions. Fired casuals for asking for a single day to attend to their sole remaining ailing parent who needed critical medical care, that kind of thing. 'Selfish' doesn't cover her attitude to other workers' issues. It's all about her and her perpetually fucking pregnant self. She the type we get at the other end of the phone at my place who shriek 'I HAVE KIDS!' or 'I AM x-MONTHS PREGNANT!' like it's the golden fucking ticket. I truly and utterly despise this behavior.

The knife should either cut both ways as far as I'm concerned, or it shouldn't cut at all. Nobody should be working hours that kill their quality of life. That type of working culture is a killer, literally and I honestly have no idea why anyone chooses it knowing what it entails, male or female. Nobody has ever died thinking they should have spent more time at work and less doing the stuff that actually makes life meaningful or at least bearable.