You Can’t Say That, HR Lady!

151446I interviewed for a job a few weeks ago that seemed like it could be my dream job…if there’s such a thing, given that I’d have to make my own company, Golden Door Consulting, my part-time gig, if I took it. That’s how almost-perfect this job sounded, so I was delighted when they invited me in for an interview.

My first interview was with Human Resources, a nice young lady who kept telling me how impressed she was with my résumé.  I thought, “So, we’re off to a good start.”

 

We chatted awhile about the job requirements, the people who would be on my team, and the company’s culture…and the company culture conversation is where things got tricky.

 

Nice HR Chick mentioned that she had Googled me and came across this blog. Then she 140167said that it was great that I’m single  because the two other women I’d  be working with are married with young children.  Screeching brakes sound in my head. What is she implying?  First of all, you can’t discuss marital status as a job requirement. It’s illegal. But more importantly, what was her point? That I would be expected to take up the slack for them because my home life wouldn’t be making demands on me?  Au contraire, Naive HR lady. I have a very full home life, it just doesn’t involve a husband or kids. But it’s every bit as important to me.

 

Before I could respond, she caught herself and apologized for her slip. She tried to clean it up by saying something about diversity in the workplace being good for everyone. Yeah, right.

 

So I played along. I wasn’t going to ruin what seemed like a good thing just because at least one person thinks the single lady is going to be the fill-in whenever there’s a school play or appointment with the pediatrician.

 

As it turns out, this wasn’t my dream job after all because they made the decision to move the position to their Los Angeles office and I’m not willing to relocate. But it reminded me of something I always suspected when I had a “real” job: being single and child free means always-available…to some. I got really good at having ever-ready excuses as to why I wasn’t available,  either.

 

This conversation was really timely, as the blogosphere, online and print magazines, and tv shows everywhere are discussing women’s roles and behaviors in the workplace, spurred by Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, about what women need to do to fare better in the workplace, and Marissa Meyers, Yahoo’s new CEO who had a nursery built in her office but is cutting out the opportunity for others to work from home. (I know; that was a really long sentence). These conversations have mostly left single women without kids out of the conversation and, instead, focus on wives and mothers. It’s been interesting to watch from afar.

 

But the HR lady let me know what she thinks about people like me. I wonder how many others do, too.

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13 Responses to You Can’t Say That, HR Lady!

  1. Onely says:

    Well, good, for once in an interview the interviewer is put in a position more nervewracking than the interviewee! I think the universe puts out signs like that to let you know beforehand that it’s not right for you (even before you find out they’ve moving to LA).

    But yes, a sobering reminder that single is in, but not in enough! = )
    CC

  2. cns says:

    Npr.org ran a story about singles without children getting the shaft especially around the holidays. It was perceived that if you didn’t have kids then you were expected to work your full shift or fill in for others who had holiday plans with kids. If you had holiday plans with kids you could leave work early or got first pick on holiday time off. If you didn’t have kids then you got the bottom of the barrel. Childless people were told to their faces that their plans were less important without kids. Oh this brought back memories. Singles are well aware of unfair treatment and will return the favor when least expected. LOL.

  3. Judy says:

    Talk about timely. I regularly work with a women who has two kids and is newly single. She uses those kids like a tool. When she wants to go home early; it’s the kids. When she’s broke and wants to get assignments above others; she’s a single mom – oh poor me. She has told me that she is receiving child support from both ex husbands, her sister runs a day care center and her retired parents moved just to help her out. Then there are the times where she bugs out early then posts on FB how she was out and having a good time – seriously. I know not all single moms are like this, but there are those women who get special treatment because they play the “mom card”.

    It’s not easy being on my own, but I accept the choices I’ve made and don’t expect others to pick up my responsibilities. Maybe “it takes a village” to raise kids, but the work place isn’t part of that village.

    • guatli says:

      As a single mother by choice, I have to say I still get the “you’re single so have no life” treatment at work. And if at lunch I dare to mention a difficulty with my child or with being a mother, I get the “you can’t complain because you chose it” attitude. (Didn’t ALL mothers “choose” it?!) I hate when singles are expected to pull up the slack for others. I never expect special favors. Those that are given those favors are somehow seen as victims. Because I chose to become a mother as a single person, I am not seen as a victim and I’m proud of that. I think singles without children and singles with children who are doing it all on their own should take great pride in their accomplishments. The marrieds and singles who pull the “parent” or “family” card should feel ashamed. After all, aren’t they really just saying they can’t handle their own choices?

  4. Goddiva says:

    Eleanore coming to the conclusion you did is understandable, because childfree and unmarried usually translates to available to pick up mommy slack in the workplace. I’m extremely vocal in letting the powers that be and the mommies know that their decision to breed, the responsibilities that comes w/ it and their activities are their concern. Stop expecting and assuming having kids means I want or am willing to fill in where they fall short.

  5. Beth O'Donnell says:

    She read your blog and still said it, and probably the only reason she apologized is because of your blog. People’s real feelings come across in unguarded moments.

    Breathtaking.

  6. cb says:

    this is nothing new, and it will continue

  7. Debbie says:

    Why would you jump to that conclusion off of one statement she made? MAYBE she thought someone who wasn’t full of “my husband” and “my kids” stories would add a nice change/different perspective to the workplace atmosphere. It could have been for ten other reasons that she made that comment…but of course, you could be right. I was just wondering if I missed something in your story that CLEARLY pointed to the meaning of you could take on more work load since you’re not married or don’t have kids.

    • Eleanore says:

      You have a point, Debbie. I suppose it’s possible she meant exactly what you said. I did jump to the conclusion I wrote about because I’ve heard it so many times before, where I was expected to take up the slack for those whose family commitments made them unavailable.

  8. Chef Bob says:

    You are doing what makes you happy. Why do you worry about things like what other people think? I say you’re happy, so leave it at that. Enjoy what you do, snd keep sharing through your blog! Chef Bob

  9. Yes, it’s not exactly a black and white subject. Some young naive college student told me that if I don’t have kids, I’m technically a man in the work place and don’t deserve any recognition for my work because working moms are entitled to promotions and raises since their lives are “so difficult”. I wanted to nod and pat the little girl on the head and say, good luck with that sanctimonious attitude.

    I know if somebody in the office treated me as if their life was more important because they had kids and I didn’t, I would not be willing to help them out.

    • Kim says:

      Thanks for this comment Lisa and to Eleanore for the post. I have a co-worker who uses her marital status as a weapon. It’s clear she thinks she’s more important be/c she’s married now and planning to have kids (yes, they’re not even here yet). I’m sick of it, and I know this is only what I now refer to as female Alpha baboon behavior (my reference point is a Nova documentary on Stress). She’s a woman seeking to gain/maintain power over others who haven’t made these life choices. Anyway, my approach now is to limit my exposure to folks like this and still cultivate the team player image I need to succeed in the workplace.

  10. Veviticus says:

    I have come to point in my life that I don’t CARE what people THINK about me when it comes to things like that, and I don’t male excuses as to why I say NO. when asked why I said no, I say because “I don’t want to” if that’s the case.

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