Attention Single, Childless, Working Females: Stop Apologizing
As a working female, with no children, there have been moments in my professional career where I have felt the pressure to do more because ‘less’ is expected of me in my home life. Though it may not necessarily be true, (that I am doing less outside of my work hours) I felt that there was an assumption (or unspoken rule) that my life is ‘easier’ than females with a family.
This (false) idea slipped into my psyche quite silently. I would hear colleagues being firm about leaving work on time because they had to pick up their children from daycare or a supervisor expressing not being able to do something, after traditional work hours, because of family commitments and I started to realize that I did not have those external pressures. I assumed since I did not have those pressures it was expected that I was available; how very wrong I was.
No one expected that of me, but myself. I thought working late and/or outside of scheduled office hours was expected because (a) I was really busy and needed more than the allocated time (b) I did not have a family to go and care for, so I did not have a legitimate excuse to push back about my large workload.
I can think of at least a dozen examples of this (self-induced) pressure from the past (almost) ten years as a working professional. It felt like a silent expectation hanging in the room; when someone needed to volunteer for a project or I felt overwhelmed at work, I did not think there was the room to ask for help, time or adjustments because (technically) I could take the work home with me and finish it there (since I guess I thought having no kids equals working all the time?).
Learn from my mistake ladies. It took a long hard road for me to realize that these expectations had been placed on me by myself. No one thought these things of me; it was me feeling less than other women because I had not checked off the mom box on the list of life. Who cares? This does not change the fact that we have both busted it out for the last eight to nine hours at work.
We need to quit apologizing for having (or not having) certain identities by specific ages or at all in life. This problem delves much deeper than the anxiety felt by childless women trying to grow and rise in the ranks of their professional careers; we need to all support each other. We need to quit comparing our basket with another person’s basket or our ability and capacity with others; we need to do what is right for ourselves, first and foremost.
Another thing many childless women deal with is the judgy, working mom. The mom who is ‘doing it all’ and a part of her arsenal (to make herself feel superior, I am guessing) is to let you know that there is still so much for you to learn and that you will ‘get it’ one day, when you have a real life. Ignore these people in your life. You are too much of an adult to justify or defend your adulthood to ignorant people. Someone who (needs) go out of their way to let you know that you are not as ‘accomplished’ as they are is dealing with some personal shit that you are lucky not to be dealing with. You have to be in a pretty dark place to be deliberately making other people feel bad, in order to build yourself up.
Our ‘real lives’ are happening right now. Not all of us are going to get married and have children and many women do not want these things.
If you are like (the former) me, we need to quit apologizing for not meeting traditional milestones. We need to quit punishing ourselves by taking on more because we supposedly have more time or more to learn than individuals in our professional realm who are at a different stage in life or on a (completely) different path.
If your workload is too heavy, do not reflect on your personal life to see if you deserve to have a more manageable workload; our personal lives have no bearing on our work lives. Do not take work home because you feel that your time is less valuable because you spend your evenings doing something other than child rearing.
Do you go home and knit for an hour, make dinner and then meet friends for a drink on a Tuesday night? Good for you. Does it matter if your supervisor or colleague, on the same type of night, goes home, takes their kids to gymnastics, then grabs takeout on the way home, and checks in with their partner before heading to bed? No, and neither one of these situations is better or worse, or more meaningful or substantial than the other.
Whether you are single, married, a mother or anything and everything in between, quit apologizing for your life and own it. It is the only life you will be living, so live it on your own terms and forget the rest.