The HuffPo Post Of The Day: Having It Both Ways In The WorkPlace

As I was taking my daily stroll through the electronic corridors of the HuffPo, I ran across a post by Anita Sarah Jackson called “Maternal Profiling — People Are Talking About It.”

My first thought was, “Hey, I can relate to that,” because “maternal profiling” has happened to me. My first job after college, in a horrible job market, was as a Wal-Mart Photo Studio manager.

There’s nothing quite like having a two hour wait to take pics at Christmas when everyone waiting has a small child, dressed in itchy, uncomfortable clothes. Worse yet, there are the newborn babies who #1) Aren’t even capable of smiling yet #2) Sleep 20 hours a day — and the moms who wanted to try to wake them up and get a shot of them smiling.

Long story short, it was a miserable job! Wait, how does this tie into anything?

Oh, right, “Maternal Profiling.” The portrait studio jobs were not traveling jobs, but every so often they would send us on a week-long road trip out of the blue when one of their traveling people couldn’t make it. This was a horrific experience because they gave you minimal notice that you’d be gone for a week and a tiny hotel/food allowance that meant you had to stay in an awful hotel room and try to get by on a couple of meals consisting of whatever was on the dollar menu at the local fast food restaurant. I literally, I kid you not, stayed in hotel rooms with holes in the wall when I had that job because dives like that were the only thing I could afford on what they were paying out.

Well, I complained to the District Manager that he was sending me out on these trips more than the other people in the district and his reply was, “Well, you’re not married and don’t have any kids, so I’d prefer to send you than some of the other people.” So, even though we were all doing the exact same job, I got sent off for a week at a time on unpleasant photo shoots because I was single? Naturally, I raised hell and almost got fired, but that’s a whole other story.

Now, back to the HuffPo post about “Maternal Profiling.” Essentially, the author’s idea of profiling, of discriminating against married women, is to treat them exactly like the people who aren’t married. In other words, she’s demanding special privileges,

When ABC did their story on maternal profiling, I was really glad about it. Not, of course, about maternal profiling, but the fact that a mainstream media outlet was picking up on this issue. Many of us talk about suspected maternal profiling (discrimination in the workplace due to parental status) with our trusted friends and family, but outside a couple of New York Times articles mentioning it (like this great one about a real mom in PA), there didn’t seem to be much light shed on this publicly.

So, it was refreshing to know that the facts and real people’s stories got airtime. Many of us have experienced discrimination in hiring because we’re mothers, or family caregivers, or just have some regular responsibilities that mean we simply cannot be chained to our workplaces at any hour of the day or night.

… So many of the comments following the stories are from moms who have been there. One pointed out that kids today are tomorrow’s leaders, and even people without kids are going to be relying on them for services in the years to come. I really appreciated that– it took the cliche that “children are our future” and made it concrete. Who will be our doctors, teachers, laborers, office workers in five, ten, twenty years? Yep, the current crop of 13 year olds and younger are going to hit adulthood sooner than we think. The time to parent them is NOW.

And let’s be clear: no parent is asking for the moon here from their employers. No one is expecting special treatment. Heck, almost every other country in the world manages to provide family-friendly benefits like paid family leave, and the world economy isn’t on the brink of collapse (well, not due to that!). So it’s not impossible. We just need a shift in corporate culture and in the laws of the land (that’s all!). A shift that recognizes that society does not rest solely on the fourth quarter earnings of a corporation. And let’s recognize that employees don’t come from nowhere– we were all born to someone, raised by someone. Maybe come home to someone who shares our life. Those someones are our family.

Bottom line: We cannot expect society to keep rolling along as usual if we don’t acknowledge the reality of the time and effort of child-rearing.

Translation: I want to have the freedom of a stay-at-home mom and climb the corporate ladder without penalty at the same time. And if I don’t get it, it’s discrimination.

That’s just horsecrap.

Life is about making choices. When women spend all day in an office instead of at home, their kids, at least in certain ways, are going to suffer for it. If women spend more time at home instead of working, they’re not going to be able to climb to the top of the corporate ladder. Sure, there are people who do both, but as a general rule, they don’t climb as high or as far as people who don’t have kids because those people are able to put more effort into it.

Put another way, what we’re really talking about here is Congress tanking the economy by deliberately driving down productivity, so that people like Anita Sarah Jackson can compete with the men and single women who are lapping them on the job because they put in more hours. Oh, and lots more mandated vacation time! Wheeeee!

Here’s a better idea: if your job doesn’t give you enough flexibility to deal with your kids, then either,

#1) Stay at home with your kids.
#2) Accept that you are going to spend less time with your kids than you’d like.
#3) Find another job that better enables you to do both.

That’s how families have been handling this situation from time immemorial to the present and trying to have the government “fix” the whole situation would only create an entirely new and much worse set of problems.

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