I have often found myself in a peculiar situation at work. I am single in a world where having a family seems to be the ultimate trump card. While I do not have a spouse waiting for me at home or children to tend to, it does not mean I am twiddling my thumbs. Yet, the assumption that I have all the free time in the world persists.
The discrimination I have encountered does not always come in overt forms, but it is there, lurking beneath the surface. While most of my work friends are adept and do justice to the duties assigned on paper, it is those unforeseen and often late-afternoon gigs which they unceremoniously pass on with a kind of collective apathy. Authorities too tend to believe that people who have a conjugal household deserve to be excused by default.
This is not to undermine the difficulties faced by working parents, especially those belonging to discriminated genders. I am well aware that balancing a career and family is no mean feat. My intention is to call out the casual assumptions made on my behalf regarding the “lethargic eternity” I have at my disposal. I have deduced that many believe that all I do after work is go home and stare at a wall for hours. Frankly, even if that is the case, it shouldn’t matter to anyone. How I spend my personal time is not for anyone to judge. My after-hour pursuits are what keep me sane and give me the mojo to turn up for work every day.
Let me set the record straight — my life is not an endless stream of leisure and free time. Just because I do not have a partner or children waiting at home does not mean my plate is not full. Like everyone else, I have responsibilities, interests, and a life outside office. There is a myth that single folks lead carefree lives, complete with spontaneous vacations and late-night escapades. It’s a stereotype that is as inaccurate as it is unfair. While I do appreciate the flexibility that comes with being single, it does not mean my life is devoid of responsibilities. My personal life is just as varied and complex as anyone else’s. I have commitments, passions, and responsibilities that deserve recognition. Bills to pay, chores to do, personal goals to pursue — it’s all part of the package.
Equality in the workplace should extend to everyone, regardless of their family status. This unequal distribution of responsibilities does not just affect me; it affects the entire office atmosphere. When I see my colleagues being excused from certain tasks while I am left holding the baby, it can be demoralising. It can lead to frustration and a sense of being undervalued. When employees feel this way, it cannot possibly be good for overall productivity.
To create a more inclusive workplace, it’s essential for employers to address these biases. Opportunities and responsibilities should be assigned based on skills, qualifications, and willingness to contribute, not on assumptions about our personal lives. A workplace that embraces diversity benefits everyone and can lead to increased innovation and collaboration.
In sharing my experiences, I hope to shed light on the issue of workplace discrimination based on marital and family status. So, the next time you think a single individual has all the free time in the world, remember that there is more to life than meets the eye. It’s crucial for all of us, employees and employers alike, to recognise that everyone deserves equal treatment in the workplace. Let us challenge these stereotypes, promote inclusivity, and work together to create a fairer, more equitable professional world for all, where our personal lives are respected, and our professional abilities are celebrated.