Last night, I was in a bit of a funk, so I settled down for a few episodes of Cheers on Netflix. Good wholesome show that can’t help but put a smile on your face, right? Unfortunately, I happened to land on the episode where Sam decides to quit his bartending duties and become the full-time manager/promoter at Cheers. He hires another bartender, Ken, to help Woody out pouring drinks. After just a couple of weeks, it becomes very clear that the management thing wasn’t really working and Sam belonged back behind the bar. Though he feels bad about it, he knows Ken needs to be fired because there’s not enough work (or payroll money) for three bartenders. He’s all set to do it when Ken’s wife arrives with – of course! – their two small children.
Though Woody had become a beloved fixture at Cheers over the past several months (or years?), a good friend, and an excellent bartender, Sam took one look at those kids and immediately decided that the “right thing to do” was let Woody go because he didn’t have a family to support. The episode wrapped up neatly, as they always do, with Ken being offered a better job elsewhere and Woody coming back with a nice raise, but the message left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It seemed to suggest that those of us without children are somewhat expendable. That we’re better equipped to handle life’s hard knocks because it’s just “us”. And that when the going gets tough, those with a family are going to be given preferential treatment.
I’m not saying that I don’t understand Sam’s actions. When I was in HR and we had to do cutbacks, the person I remember most vividly was the one who’d just bought a house for his family and now had no idea how he was going to make his payments. Should he have been given special consideration over his peers who were still renting, or didn’t have children? Of course not. Did it make it any easier to watch, or sleep that night? No.
So I get it, I really do. But it was just another reminder of where those of us without children fall in the rankings when important decisions need to be made. And that, my friends, is a very scary notion in these difficult economic times.
Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at http://www.MaybeBabyMaybeNot.com.
J Thorne says
Wow, this really hits home because I see it every day at work when my co-workers who have children (most of them do) receive special treatment or at the very least “special understanding” when they need time off or to come in late or leave early to tend to their children’s needs. While I understand the challenges of working mothers, some people just use it as a convenient excuse. Very frustrating! Those of us with no children have no such “excuses” and just do our jobs.
Thank you for this point! Just last week I was discussing with a co-worker that I really need a full time job, and can’t afford to keep working part time. His first reaction: Well you don’t have kids do you?
*nods in agreement* I have observed the very same behavior at work. And I even noticed when my dog was poisoned, I’d be freaking out, taking her to the emergency vet, I was told it was “only a dog.” Yet, when one little kid had the sniffles (as quoted), the co-worker said she was staying home. Sometimes I wonder perhaps why I hadn’t be promoted despite being excellent during my annual evaluations (no problems), yet I saw other promoted- and they happen to have kids. Do they think we childless folks don’t need money, promotions, seniority?
This is a little off topic, but in the same vein, I think.
I love Anne Lamott’s work, as a rule. I love her down-to-earth, funny and self-effacing wisdom. I love her stories about her little boy, Sam.
Over the holidays, I bought her book, Traveling Mercies, and have been saving it up like a chocolate truffle to savor. I thoroughly enjoyed it, right up to this paragraph, set in a chapter where she is trying to decide whether or not to let her son go paragliding. “Here are the two best prayers I know: “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” A woman I know says, for her morning prayer, “Whatever,” and then for the evening, “Oh well,” but has conceded that these prayers are more palatable for people without children.”
So, what, because I don’t have kids, my prayers (and by extension, my wants, hopes and dreams) are less urgent and meaningful? I don’t think I’ve ever prayed “whatever” or “oh well.” Maybe I would be better off if I could.
I tried to go back to the book, but I was so angry, I found I’d lost all capacity to take in anything she had to say.
I was recently reading some reviews of Eckhart Tolle’s last book. I enjoyed the book myself, but one of the negative reviews ended with something along the lines of the need for someone who is a working mom to write a book on enlightenment and referred to Tolle as a childless, hermit. Once talking about a mutual friend who was going through depression, another friend emphasized that my friend is a mother, hence more prone to worry/depression. Another friend once responded to my concern about my husband not taking proper care of his health (we had been saying the same about her husband), that her husband had a child who depended on him. I think people live inside their own heads so much that too often they are unable to see the world beyond their immediate experience.
I have indeed seen many cases of where not having a child hits negative in the workforce. For me, it not only is with money…but also with staying late. So often I have heard, well…I have to pick up my kids…so you can stay to finish it. Having to go home to let the dog out to do business apparently doesn’t take the same importance.
On the other hand, in these hard economic times…my husbands coworker is a bit underpaid and is extremely hard working and kind. We found ourselves talking that if raises start to occur regularly again, we would be willing to pass along our raise to him for the year to try and help out.
So, I guess the door can swing both ways.