parent opinion

"What if I need to leave early?" I'm not a mum. But I deserve the same work flexibility.

It seems to me that workplaces still only give mothers or men the trust to work truly flexibly. There's this idea that if you are a woman and childless, you have no excuse and, therefore, should dedicate your life to your work.

Now, don't get it twisted; I think mothers deserve and need flexible working conditions, but so do childless women, and I'd always stand up and fight for both. You need to leave early to pick up your kid, fabulous! But if I need to go early for a personal matter, I expect the same flexibility.

Watch: Five women on why they decided not to have kids. Post continues after video. 


Video via The Guardian.

I want to clarify that I don't resent mothers needing extra flexibility. I actually think workplaces could still be doing more for mothers. Anything they need to do their job well should be given to them.

I don't begrudge mothers for leaving early or starting late. As far as I'm concerned, workplaces work best when we give people freedom. But I think it's unfair that childless women aren't given the same freedoms. Instead, our needs are treated as frivolous or negotiable. 

"I know you have your therapy, but you can miss that to stay back for this meeting."

But can I?

I'd argue this is because women are still valued based on if they are mothers. If you are a mother, you are seen as a worthy member of society, moulding minds and being a good person. If you're childless? Well, you're just young or selfish. Single, childless women are still treated like we are living like Carrie Bradshaw. We are spending our paycheques on designer handbags, and our only commitment is the next brunch date.

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But that's not my reality. Yes, there is a bit of shopping involved, but I have responsibilities. I have a chronic illness that needs managing, an ageing father who requires support, and sometimes I might just have an STI screening I need to fit in.

Why is there a value judgment placed on my priorities? Sure, you might need to leave early to attend your child's soccer game, but I might want to play in a soccer game and then log in and work past nine. Why isn't that seen as worthy? And why would I feel completely ridiculous asking for that?

You see, I place these own values on myself too. I'd genuinely feel embarrassed to ask for some flexible work to have more time to take care of my dog, or visit my parents, or pursue a hobby. But I don't think that is actually correct. Why aren't those things considered important? Just because I'm not rearing children, it doesn't mean my responsibilities don't matter.

I also think it’s worth acknowledging that women are often caretakers in some capacity. Sure, you might not be a mother but if you are a woman, you're usually taking care of someone. Might be a grandparent, parent or even just a stray cat but usually caregiving falls on women and it takes up time.

Listen to No Filter, a weekly Mamamia podcast where women join Mia Freedman as she has fresh and original conversations with interesting people who have fascinating stories to share. Post continues after podcast.

In my experience, childless women are expected to stay chained to their desks. I don't believe that flexibility should be decided based on if you have children. It should be based on the individuals' needs. Then there's also the other lie we are sold, your time will come! You can work back now, but that same flexibility will be given to you when you have kids.

First of all, maybe I won't have children and what happens then? And second of all, I don't think working mothers are actually working less, they are just working differently, and everyone should be allowed to tailor their work in a way that best works for them. It shouldn't be something you earn through childbirth.

Feature Image: Instagram @maryrosem.