Everyone knows that work-life balance is crucial for women with children. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the same work-life balance imperatives are assigned to working women without children.
Every time I see a definition of work-life balance, it’s a little different. For me, a great definition is this one: "the ability to enjoy a satisfying experience in all aspects of life — work, family, friends and self." And, I’ve never seen anything indicating that the term "family" is only applied to people with children.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of women without children has increased approximately four percent in the 10 years from 2006 to 2016. These are the 2016 numbers:
- About 30 percent of women 30 to 34 years old don’t have children
- About 18 percent of women 35 to 39 years old don’t have children
- About 14 percent of women 40 to 44 years old don’t have children
Based on those statistics, it’s obvious that many of the women in the workforce don’t have children. I believe that work-life balance is something that should be fair across the board. But, it doesn’t always happen that way.
We’ve come a long way since the days when most people believed that the woman’s place was in the kitchen. But, we’re still seeing remnants of that philosophy in the workplace.
Very often, the culture in the workplace indicates that bearing, raising and caring for children is the most important task for women outside of work. Typically, what women without children do in their spare time isn’t considered as important. In addition, there’s often a perception that people without children have a lot of free time anyway, so why worry about their work-life balance?
As a result, working women without children are often asked to work harder to support their associates with children when necessary. Also, they’re often perceived as being overly career-driven, since they have “given up” having children to aggressively pursue a career. Needless to say, this isn't an automatic truth — not having children can be due to medical reasons or simple personal preference.
Workers without children often feel that their employers don’t care as much about protecting their personal time as they do for working moms. This feeling is reinforced by parental leave policies and flex time policies that are mainly geared toward working parents.
I recently spoke to an unmarried woman without children who works as an attorney. During our conversation, she realized that she was working extremely long hours and curling up with her work at home to compensate for not having children. She also realized that people at work were inadvertently taking advantage of her because they assumed that sacrificing her personal time wasn’t a problem.
As a society, we need to do more to change perceptions about working women without children. More companies need to set expectations and time-off policies that treat all employees equally — regardless of their parenthood status.