Childless professional faces scheduling frustrations

children

Dear Dr. Rachel,

I’m a singleton, never married, no children. I consider myself a PANK (Professional Aunt No Kids.) In my personal and professional life, I feel I make more concessions than my friends and co workers with children. For example, in a work situation, someone may ask me to alter the schedule/meeting for a project because they need to attend a kid activity. Yet I feel I could never do the same for taking a writing class or meeting a friend for a walk. With friendships, the time and sheer volume of emails and texts it takes to set up a get together with a friend who has kids is nauseating. My largest commitment is work (her’s is her family) which means I’m not as available as she is during business hours. You’d think weekends would be easier but they’re also packed with family time for my friend, so it’s still a huge challenge to connect.

I get that everyone has priorities whether they be children, pets, doctor appointments or personal commitments. But where’s the give? Do I need to be more flexible since my commitments aren’t little humans? How does a childless singleton remain patient with others and themselves in these situations?

>>

We all belong to the same society but within it are different cultures. The culture of people raising kids can differ vastly from the culture of those who are child free. At times, these differing cultures clash. People without kids feel misunderstood or infringed upon by those with kids and vice versa. Even within the parenting world lies conflict – look at the tension between parents who work outside the home and parents whose job is to care for the home. At other times, these differing lifestyles come together harmoniously, such as when you’re in auntie mode, loving and learning from the little humans in your life.

How can we respect and support one another, especially when other’s choices rub up against us? In social acronym terms, how can the differing vantage points of PANKs, DINKs (Dual Income No Kids), SIPS (Single Income Parents Supporting), SITCOMs (Single Income Two Children Oppressive Mortgage) or SNAGs (Sensitive New Age Guys) for that matter, understand one another and prevent a NIMBY(Not In My Backyard) attitude?

The underlying tension between those with children and those without occurs frequently but is rarely named out loud. There’s an unspoken rule that disruption in plans stemming from kids prevails over anything else, the end. This is because you’re a self-sustaining adult who can go with the flow whereas kids are unpredictable and needy. Although you might not feel like you have more flexibility in your schedule, chances are that compared to your friends/co-workers with kids you probably do. Nonetheless, this does not mean your schedule automatically gets trampled upon and theirs gets trumped. Your chosen commitments aren’t greater or lesser than those of your co-workers and friends with kids. If you matter to them or their job matters to them, they can and should get a babysitter or rearrange their schedule. This is more clear cut in a professional realm. You have the right to express your dissatisfaction for people who interfere with work projects because of their personal life. It’s not too much to ask that colleagues be available during business hours. That being said, everyone is allotted personal time (PT). You can use your PT for a writing class just as they can use their PT for kid time.

Where’s the give, you ask? You have the choice to no longer bend over backwards to accommodate other’s schedules because of their kids, or any other aspect of their personal time. Choose to stop making concessions for others if it interferes with putting your own self care first or builds resentment. Your life priorities are just as valuable as theirs. Extend yourself only when your tank is full and you genuinely have energy to give. Do it because the individual or the larger purpose deeply matters to you, not because you feel you must carry the load by default. Years from now your friends will have more time once their kids are older but in the meantime make space for new people in your life who are child free and have the time and energy to meet you where you’re at.

You have a right to feel frustrated if a double standard exists at work. You have a right to feel perturbed if you’re inconvenienced by those with children and the ways kids control the agenda. But this is the world we live in. Get curious with yourself about why you haven’t been able to find more peace around this. Take time to explore if there are deeper unresolved issues going on. Could you be envious of people with children? Do you regret circumstances in your life that have led you to be a child free singleton? If so, your anger is an expression of these wounds wanting some attention and tenderness. Keep in mind that your role as an aunt is needed at this time on the planet. Your involvement in their life is a gift, not only to the beleaguered and worn out parents who can use a break, but to the little creatures who will model from you and adore their beloved PANK.

Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to Rachel@DrRachelAllyn.com.

  • Content Generating Machine.

    Get curious with yourself about why you haven’t been able to find more peace around this.

    Because it’s unfair? I love how you assume they’re unhappy with being childfree and single.

    Please Google “I hate being a mom”. Plenty of them regret parenthood!

  • DINKInternational.com

    I’m a professional and childfree by choice (as in, I absolutely never want kids and am not at all envious of people with kids – just of the extra time off they get) with the same issue.

    I’m constantly bombarded (weekly would be an understatement) by parents asking me to change the schedule around for them because of kid-related issues. I used to be understanding, because I get that kids aren’t self sufficient and/or that parents want to be there for their kids… But I noticed the favor nearly always went un-returned. When I’d ask for schedule changes for my own personal needs, the same people I helped were unable to (often again because of kid-related commitments). We get the same salary and we don’t get overtime – I don’t get paid more when I help them out.

    So, I’ve stopped making accommodations for parents for kid related issues if they don’t return the favor; if it’s not a two way street, I put up the road block. And I don’t feel bad about itl! However, what still irritates me is when I literally have to cover for parents because they are late or don’t show up because something happened to their kid/their kid is sick. This is also a VERY frequent occurrence. While I understand that the kid needs someone there to care for them in these situations, I’m tired of having to cover for the parents without ever being repaid/accommodated. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to “be at peace” with this situation yet.

  • Amber Webster

    Gross. The way she talks about children in this response makes it clear she doesn’t at all understand where this question comes from. If I were the one asking this question, I would completely disregard this advice. It is offensive to those of us who are child free by CHOICE to imply that we’re “not at peace” with our decision.

  • LibbyBells

    Proofreading is key.

    OP is clearly at peace with not having kids. She is not at peace with having to pick up the slack, constantly make adjustments to her schedule, and being made to feel like her time is less valuable simply because she doesn’t have kids. No real advice was offered here, other than “suck it up”.

    And the author referring to children as a gift something she might want to “get curious about”.

  • EbonyinOjai

    This was decent answer until the doctor started implying that the writer was jealous of people with kids. That’s a load of crap.

  • Content Generating Machine.

    All excellent points, LibbyBells.
    Notice the author hasn’t replied to any of our comments either.

  • Content Generating Machine.

    Why haven’t you replied to any of our comments OP?

    As a childfree by choice worker, I resent picking up parents slack, without any reciprocation too!

  • Beth O’Donnell

    Would the author say the same thing to a married with kids– that she is jealous of her single friend and ought to look at it??? I bet she would tell the married to feel sorry for the single, in other words, to feel superior.
    And why is ANYONE supposed to ok when things are not fair? Change won’t happen if we are expected and encouraged to accept discrimination, and wonder why can’t instead of calling BS!

  • Aragon131

    I worked with a woman who had a 8 year old son. I often had to cover for her. When it came promotion time, it went to her because the considerable pay raise “would help her with her expenses”. I was THEN asked to cover for her when once again she was late and or left early and I flatly refused to do so. I was told I’m “Not a team player”.

  • Aragon131

    if a parent asks a friend to babysit for a few hours “not at peace” with her choice to be a mother?

  • Ask Dr Rachel

    Looks like I’m a little late to the game. (Comments are a new feature to our publication.) But I’m happy to discover that a lively discussion has occurred around this important topic. I want to clarify that my intention was to suggest this person find peace with aspects of a societal norm that is unlikely to change dramatically, despite how unfair it can be at times. I was not suggesting that all people who are childless are less at peace or regret their choice. I could have articulated that more clearly. I appreciate your feedback regarding this point.

More in Ask Dr. Rachel