People Who Don't Have Kids: We Want Work-Life Balance, Too

"My time isn't less valuable just because I didn't procreate!"


Men are often left out of the work-life balance debate, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote last week, before asking male readers to respond with their thoughts about what it means to "have it all." We received many replies from men (some of which you can see here), but we also heard from members of another group that feels excluded from the conversation: people who don't have children. As one woman wrote in an email:

When are you going to get it? Work/life balance isn't just an issue for parents; it's an everyone issue! My time isn't less valuable just because I didn't procreate!

Several commenters elaborated on this sentiment, including bear118:

Another perspective that is rarely raised in these discussions is that of singles. It's usually us who are left to pick up the slack when parents get family leave or take other time off for family issues. So making the workplace more sensitive and conducive to work/life balance for families often creates LESS work/life balance for us. And now we're also being asked to pony up for more government and workplace programs and benefits that will never apply to us. The assumption seems to be that we don't NEED work/life balance, simply because we don't have partners or dependents, and it sometimes feels like many of the proposed solutions for the issue exclude us from the benefits while at the same time putting the costs on our backs. If this is really about making work life better for everyone, we ought to have a place at the table, too!

kmj428 argued that this is isn't a question of single vs. married, but rather having children vs. being childless:

People who are married but do not have children face the same issues of being forced to work late while others have to leave to pick up their kids. We are essentially saying that the time of people with children is more valuable than the time of people without them, which needs to change.

Bert Walker, however, pleaded with childless readers to be patient with those who do have children:

Single folks, you can kick the shoes off, grab a Scotch, leave your dirty drawers in the middle of the floor, and honestly, no one really cares. You can fornicate yourself silly with the partner of your choice for the evening if that's your thing, you can go take evening classes, you can take the aardvark out for a stroll, and have a grand old time playing MMPORG's 'til 3AM, as long as you make it to work on time. Work. It's how we pay the bills. Getting your nose out of joint because someone got some time to take care of the kids...that's being a little mean-spirited. That's an obligation they have to tend to, for the next 20 years. Have sympathy.

Ok, now that the problem has been identified, what are some solutions? What do childless people need to achieve work-life balance? Are those needs different from those of people with kids? Respond in the comments or via email to

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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