Being a child-free woman in the workplace comes with its own set of benefits and struggles that differ for everyone. Many studies have shown millennials are shying away from starting families. We’re also seeing a spike in millennials postponing parenthood and opting for a pet. Not to mention the many issues women in the workplace encounter that could contribute to their choice to have or not have children – wage gap, vague maternity leave policies, expensive benefits, etc. We’ve previously outlined how women without children can support and empower their coworkers with children, but how can moms help out those who aren’t? Let’s break it down.
Advocate For Their Commitments
Just because a woman doesn’t have children, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have commitments that might take priority over work. Maybe she has a sick parent, an important event, or even something as simple as a weekly therapy appointment she needs to prioritize. Help her out by being understanding when she’s running late in the morning or when she needs to cut out of a meeting early to accept an important phone call. For many workplaces, it’s socially acceptable and understandable when you’re running late because your kid was sick in the morning. It’s not as accepted for a woman to say she was running late because her therapy session was extra tough this morning, or her chronic pain was flaring up, or her mother had a rough night the night before. Give your fellow women the benefit of the doubt when they simply shoot you a “running late” message.
Just like the choice to be a mother is unique to everyone, the reason for not having children can be deeply personal and complicated for every individual. Some women struggle with infertility. Some women are on long adoption waiting lists. Some women don’t feel like motherhood is for them. Some women simply haven’t thought about it or are waiting, for a variety of reasons, for the right time. Whatever a woman’s reason is —and whether a woman discloses that to you or not — is 100% up to her, and it needs to be respected. When talking about parenting, be careful not to assume anything about your child-free colleagues.
Don’t Contribute to the Pressure
There is still a lot of pressure on women to be maternal and have an innate urge to have children. Though many women understand that you don’t have to be a mother to be a valid woman, there are still societal understandings that women should have kids, and a notion that having children almost makes you “more” of a woman. This same pressure is not given to our male counterparts. Continuing to enforce this pressure helps keep women in the box we’re fighting so hard to break out of. If a woman discloses to you that she’s not planning on having children, or is struggling to do so, respect her experience and support her.
Don’t Take Advantage
It’s understood that women without children might have more flexibility to come in early or stay later than their mother counterparts. Maybe your child-free coworker is taking a few hints from our blog to support you by accommodating your work schedule! That said, don’t take advantage of her willingness to help you out and pick up any slack when things go haywire at home. It’s important for you both to find that balance with each other so you can be successful together.
So, whether you have children or you don’t, you are an absolute warrior, and supporting your fellow female colleagues shows them support and appreciation more than you’d ever know. Give your child-free coworkers the same respect and visibility you’d give to mothers, and always feel free to ask how you can help to stand together when they need you.
/written by Nora Allen
/image by Toa Heftiba