As a Childfree woman, I have experienced what I consider to be ‘mum bullying’. Or maybe we just call it ‘childfree bullying’. Two sets of rules usually applied – one for mums and one for me!
The reason why I wrote my book A Childfree Happily Ever After, was to try and change the dialogue in society from one of judgment and criticism to that of support and acceptance.
I really want to open up this conversation and show that work/life balance, flexible time off and inclusion in the workplace should not just be all about women with kids. Yet it is always the focus when we bring up the topic of women in the workplace.
I recently approached a large company to discuss the topic of being childfree and the choices we make as women to their internal women’s network.
This company has close to 12,000 female employees. One of their policies is around diversity and inclusion however I am curious who they think diversity and inclusion policy applies to. This means on average 3-4,000 of these are women are childfree. This company didn’t think the childfree conversation was relevant to their female staff, citing one reason being as they are mainly mothers (even though the stats tell us otherwise). Even if childfree women are in the minority, shouldn’t their needs also matter? Just because a group is perceived as being mainly mothers, shouldn’t this conversation be on the table?
This feels like a mummy superiority complex. What is this superiority complex that some mothers have? (I know you aren’t all like that). Women in leadership roles, on boards and running member groups, need to stand up and lead the way, not squash the conversation because they don’t think it applies to them. If the topic was aimed at gay women or aboriginal women, it would be on the agenda. And the % of those in the workplace is much lower than childfree women. When do we get a real seat at the table for this conversation?
To me, it feels like a conversation around conformity. Mothers who don’t want to understand the other side of the conversation and have the power to control the dialogue. You don’t conform so, therefore, you’re not important!
Take some time to consider how the women who are childfree or undecided might feel. Work/life balance, flexible time off and inclusion conversation in the workplace are usually directed at mothers and it should not just be all about women with kids. If so, that is a very small-minded approach that is at odds with the diversity & inclusion policy that many of these companies like to say they have.
Working in the corporate world, I was often subject to hurtful comments, exclusion from the conversation, working with two sets of rules and sometimes being emotionally bullied about my life choices. On one occasion one of my dogs was really sick and I was being asked to go to a conference with the team in North QLD. I told my boss I was not going and needed to stay with my baby. The reply was “it’s just a dog”. I guarantee that it would be a very different conversation if that was about a child. There are many more examples I can share.
One of my co-workers would leave early on a regular basis to pick up get toddler from daycare. I was expected to pick up the slack and go to the events she couldn’t. Two sets of rules. At the time I was working on a side hustle project and trying to start an online shoe store so my free time was very valuable, yet it was recognized “because I didn’t have kids”
I had nowhere to turn to, no one to speak to at work (parents don’t understand or care about our needs) and when these negative conversations would happen, I’d feel hurt, angry, resentful and like I wasn’t valued as an employee because I wasn’t a mum. Why did different rules apply to me?
Don’t stamp the word inclusion and diversity onto a website as a value and wrap it up in a bow with the pretense that you actually practice it.
The workplace seems to be an extension of the school system. Just like at school, in the workplace you’re not supposed to question the system. It’s about following a template and if you don’t adhere to those rules, you’ll struggle. The system expects conformity, sameness and following a set path.
It expects everyone to be the same – 8 am to 5 pm grind, maternity leave for mums, 4 weeks annual leave, 20 days sick leave….. systems! Rules! Conform!
I am over it! It is time for conversations to change!
It is time for all women to support each other.
You are not better than me because you are a mother. Different rules should not apply. Women in leadership roles, in particular, need to walk to the talk and stop using big words like sisterhood & inclusion if they don’t practice with that they preach. Actions are more important than words!!
If you want to help your childfree staff and support them in the workplace, here is an online program they can access >> https://childfreehappilyeverafter.com.au/childfree-events/childfree-choices-corporate-program/
Or talk to me about running a workshop in house.