never married, over forty, a little bitter

the ghetto

Good points, although I think the 1950s were actually better in that the expectation was 9-5 as opposed to 9-6 (or longer) back then:

The issue, as Slaughter notes, is that this flexibility is still something almost exclusively for parents. Everyone else might as well be working in the 1950s. This is the dangerous part of the story.

Because the moment that we start talking about designing the workplace around mothers (or parents in general), we create a ghetto that’s nearly impossible to escape. The reality is that every employee would probably love to design their work to fit into their life, regardless of whether they have kids. But the hordes of Gen Y workers are confined by expectation and tradition to the office all day, every day, for the first decade of their working life. The message that’s sent to them is deviating from the old norms is something you only do when you’re desperate. Or when you have kids. Or, most commonly, both.

But what if we could convince those wet-behind-the-ears junior staff that flexibility is something that should be baked into modern life, regardless of spouses or kids? To borrow one of Slaughter’s hypotheticals, what if we built a workplace that was marathoner-friendly? Or more volunteer-friendly (my local food bank can only accommodate helpers during working hours)? Or more art-friendly or music-friendly or blog-friendly or whatever-friendly?

Because if we can sever the connection between “flexibility” and “parenthood,” we can start looking at policies to see if they impact productivity without making this about moms. And all of this can be done without reducing overall hours worked.

going it alone

Childcare, in fact, can be a huge burden on single mothers, both because they have no partner to pitch in but also because of the sheer costs associated with it. As “At Rope’s End” puts it, “In relationship to wealth and asset building, the costs associated with single parenting—childcare, housing, health care, and other expenses—contribute to the economic insecurity and instability of single women mothers and directly impact their ability to save.” In fact, the report estimates that paying for childcare accounts for over three-quarters of their monthly expenditures. The price can be incredibly steep: as much as $20,200 a year for an infant in a childcare center.

wood spirits

When I first moved to town, I had no interest in applying to two full-time jobs that were available, and I let the postings come and go and did nothing. Then I ran into an old boss who a few days later informed me they had been reopened for another month (because I was back in town?).

I still held out, and on the last evening before they were to close again, took a leisurely stroll down a wooded path, not a care in the world. There I ran into an old friend, who told me all kinds of scary tales about the job market.

I walked home glumly, pulled up the job postings, and stared at them grimly. I slowly started to fill them out, then closed down my computer and went to bed. The next morning I forced myself to finish them and pressed “send.”

I should find out within another week or so whether I got one.

I haven’t run into that friend from the wooded path again. He sent me a brief email asking me if I’d applied for the jobs, but he didn’t respond to my answer that I had.

Was he a test? Should I have seen him as an obstacle to my dream vision and ignored his advice? Or was he placed in my path because I was heading for disaster by cavalierly dismissing my chance for gainful employment? The coincidence of running into both him and my old boss plus the jobs being reopened is hard to ignore.