by Jeanne Sager
The ongoing battle between the working parents and the stay-at-home parents may get all the press, but it's got nothing on working parents and the child-free who work with them. Working moms want a family-friendly workplace with respect for the fact that they have lives outside of the job. But is it fair of us to ask? Are we "playing the kid card" too much?
As a mother I want to say no. But as a mom who has confessed she often feels guilty leaving work for her kid, I can easily see both sides.
So can Karen Grigsby Bates. She's the mom who wrote the emotionally-charged Slate article "Why Working Parents Should Not Pull the Kid Card" this week. Yes, I said she's a mom. And she thinks her fellow moms and dads are pushing it with all this family-friendly workplace business. Says Bates:
People without children have lives that are as legitimate and that they cherish as much as people who have children. This unwavering entitlement—I need time off; I have to have this holiday; I need to leave a half-hour before everyone else does, every day—kills office morale.
Her comments have merit. Every mom who has ever had to leave work early for a kid with a stuffy nose has encountered at least one cranky co-worker along the way.
But are all parents really killing office morale? Aaron Goldman recently confessed at Mom.me that he was afraid to broach the topic of a flexible work day when his daughter was first born. But when he did, he found it didn't affect his work negatively at all:
As the months went by with our daughter, I slowly started to figure out that I could be more flexible, and that work would not suffer. Going in a little late after dropping my daughter off at day care is not a big deal, and although staying at home with a sick kid is not the best way to work, it can be done, and no one was judging me for it.
And some parents aren't asking for help because they want it. They're put in positions where they're desperate. Take the plight of single dad of three and veteran Dan Greeley. His story hit the news when he decided to take a pay cut at work ... because he was at risk of losing child care assistance critical for his family. Olivia Golden, an expert on child and family assistance programs at the Urban Institute, a non-partisan economic and social policy research organization based in Washington, D.C., explained that Greeley's story is typical of American parents who are desperately juggling to make things work. They don't want special treatment, Golden says, they need it:
Parents who are trying to work at low or moderate wage jobs and raise kids often run into roadblocks where the system just doesn't make sense.
We've been talking a lot about the middle class and the American dream. And to me, people who are working hard, trying to raise their kids, and on the edge of that middle class life, it should be one of our priorities to help them gain the stability they need to have that life that we all aspire to.
But what about the roadblocks other folks, without kids, run into? It seems there may be room for improvement on either side.
Congress recently hashed over a plan called the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 that would have a major effect on all workers, not just those with kids. If it passes, the bill could have employees working unpaid overtime hours beyond the 40-hour workweek. Employees could accrue comp time (rather than time-and-a-half that many American workers depend on), but even that would be up to the discretion of the employer.
According to Eileen Appelbaum, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, that means it doesn't matter if you have a sick kid, you're taking care of a sick granny, have your own health issues, or just want to have some free time to blow off steam, your "flexibility" would be limited: we're all in the same boat.
Do you feel like working parents play the "kid card" too often? Do you ask your employer for time off to take care of your kids?