enjoying time in nature

Yes, You CAN Prioritize Your Time – Even If You Don’t Have Kids

No one should be expected to do more simply because they do not have parental responsibilities.

Working moms and dads have plenty of “excuses” that support the need for work-life balance. They have kids to care for, youth sporting events to attend, school work to help with, and a number of other things that require time away from work.

Those who don’t have children can’t make the same argument. Their time is their own, not spent taking care of dependents. To someone with children, it’s easy to assume that someone with no children has all the free time in the world and should be expected to do more work because they don’t “have a life.”

If you’re a working professional without children, you, of course, know this to be false. You may have other obligations that take up your time outside of work, but even if you don’t, how you spend your time off the clock shouldn’t be of concern to anyone else.

A healthy work-life balance isn’t just for parents, but rather for anyone who acknowledges that they were born to do more than work for someone else.

Overcoming the Pressure to Do More

when employees burnoutJust this year, General Mills and Estee Lauder beefed up their paid parental leave policy for women and men alike, offering as much as five months of PTO. Numerous other companies have since followed suit with their own versions. These are clearly steps in a positive direction, but they neglect to include the needs of others in the organization.

(And if companies are redesigning their policies to create a more inclusive culture for work-life balance, the media isn’t talking about it.)

In many organizations, the theme of work-life balance tends to cater to employees with children, despite the fact that Millennials are choosing to have children later in life—or not at all. Workplace policies simply aren’t keeping pace with today’s social trends, and as a result, they’re creating pressure for childless workers to pick up the slack.

This pressure doesn’t just “exist.” It’s created through our work-centered culture where we constantly feel obligated to do more. For those without children, this pressure is greater because we feel like we appear to have more time and less responsibility. Childless workers don’t feel they have justifiable reasons to leave early (or even on time), take time off, or work from home.

Resetting the “Work-Life Balance” Mindset

It’s important for employers and employees alike to acknowledge that everyone should be entitled to their free time, regardless of personal responsibilities. Vacation time, holiday time, flexible schedules, and work at home arrangements should be accessible to everyone. If this isn’t currently the case in your organization, consider taking the initiative to incite change.

enjoying time in swimming poolNaturally, there will be times when the work is uneven across the board. Someone may have to step in for others when a child is sick or a coworker needs to leave early to catch their kid’s baseball game. But this should be the exception, not the rule or expectation. Policies around schedules and time off should be fair to everyone to ensure more engagement, less resentment, more collaboration, and an overall happier workplace.

It’s hard to argue with the fact that we’re happier when we can unplug from work. You were born to do more than punch someone else’s time clock, so don’t feel guilty about protecting your time, even if you’re planning on doing nothing more than enjoying an evening to yourself. Everyone gets to have a life, regardless of whether or not that life includes children.

Resources:
You deserve work-life balance—even if you don’t have kids
Childless employees say their work-life balance is overlooked
How Managers Can Be Fair About Flexibility for Parents and Non-Parents Alike
40 percent of employers now offer paid parental leave

Felicia Baucom
felicia.conway@gmail.com
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