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Jewish World Review July 9, 2002 / 29 Tamuz, 5762

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

For some reason it's no longer acceptable to hold that the workplace is not primarily a child resource center | It appears all is not sweetness and light in today's modern, socially correct family-friendly workplace.

The singles are rebelling.

According to Reuters newswire, singles and the childless are complaining that in today's "pro-family" work environment they are constantly shouldering the burden of their fellow workers with children. You have a kid's dental appointment? School play? The little tyke is sick? You need to meet with his teacher? You have to leave early for a birthday party? You can't take on that extra assignment or travel to another city because it would encroach on "family time?" Jim or Susie over there will fill in - they don't have kids.

At least, according Reuters, that's how more and more singles and childless are seeing it. And there's likely lot of truth to it.

President Clinton seemed to echo what is the one and only socially correct view of the workplace today - "parents shouldn't have to choose between work and children," he once explained as happy-heads around the country bobbed up and down in agreement.

Well, why not? Why should everybody else -- including the kids -- have to sacrifice, before the parents themselves? The Boston Herald recently reported on "child-care purgatory," the week between the end of school and the beginning of summer camp. That's when the kids end up at the office all day, of course. As one Boston area manager told the Herald -- anonymously -- "I really like kids. . . .but it's not professional to have a screaming baby in the background while you're closing a deal. But I'd never say anything." Of course not. She'd be accused of hating children.

The whole issue is "a flashpoint of tension" Alex Hiam, a management consultant in Boston, told the Herald.

For some reason it's no longer acceptable to hold that the workplace is not primarily a child resource center. That it is, in fact, a workplace. And when people are working for pay they are supposed to, well, work. To put it bluntly their time is their company's - not their own. The goal is for the firm to be profitable and productive. Chasing three-foot people around, or consistently tending to a three-foot person instead of work, is not going to advance that goal.

No one is concerned about the occasional trip to the doctor with a child or other reasonable accommodations for little ones. Some would even maintain that "family-friendly" policies attract good workers and are good for the business bottom line. But as such routines continue to mushroom and the childless get leaned on even more, that will be an increasingly debatable point.

In any event, there is apparently already a lot of resentment toward those who view their workplace responsibilities as subordinate to their childcare needs.

A lot of the problem seems to come from men and women who don't think they should ever have to make choices about anything, that they are entitled to "have it all" all the time. It also likely has a lot to do with very guilty moms who got talked into leaving "boring and demanding" home lives for "boring and demanding" work lives. Only now they realize the former was a lot more rewarding, so they are trying to have it both ways.

More than anything it may be a symptom of a culture that's come to idealize and idolize children in unhealthy ways - and which includes the strange belief that the last people who are supposed to sacrifice for their kids are the mom and dad themselves.

If, for instance, one suggested to many of the same people who feel they have every right to bring their child to work or leave to go to the child as they deem necessary -- at their employer's and co-workers' expense -- that they take a different sort of job, even if less desirable, in order to be more available to their child in the first place, they would likely be insulted at the suggestion that they themselves sacrifice anything. (For that matter if one suggested, for instance, that they forgo a pending divorce for the sake of the child they would typically be outraged at the imposition on their personal autonomy. ) And so it is in the office, too: Sacrifice is something that employers and co-workers are supposed to do, not parents.

As a mom of four little ones who is very pro-family, it's clear to me, at least, that such thinking is not family-friendly.

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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