June 20, 2014

When employees without children get envious of the accommodations made for employees with children.

You get ideas like this, expressed by a female lawyer at a big NYC law firm:
At a recent Women Lawyers meeting, we had a lively conversation discussing the notion that while large law firms have come to respect the obligations of female associates as mothers, this respect for commitments outside of the office hasn’t yet transcended to young associates who aren’t parents, both female and male for that matter. The discussion centered on the fact that no one would question or fault a woman for being unavailable on a team as a result of “having a baby”, but that other engagements may not receive the same amount of deference. In an effort to find solutions and not simply highlight problems, it was suggested that all associates on a team should be awarded a “baby” every so often – a hobby, engagement or event for which they are unapologetically unavailable and on which the rest of the team volunteers to cover, without question.


At this same meeting, it also came to my attention that, with so few midlevel and senior female associates, second year associates quickly become mentors to younger female associates. As such, I find myself compelled to lead by example, and to try and practice what is preached at these Women Lawyers meetings.

So here goes: I’m having a baby on Tuesday, June 23rd. My best friend is coming into town, and we have amazing tickets to the Katy Perry concert. This is as important to me as a child’s birthday party or ballet recital. I would be very grateful, if as my teammates, you could cover any urgent issues that might arise on our case that night. Please let me know if you plan on having a baby in the near future, and I will gladly repay the favor. Everyone on this team is, simply put, really cool and reasonable, so let’s be the change we wish to see at Cleary.
The link goes to Above the Law, which prints the email and then expresses a strong opinion. But let's discuss it fresh. And please take note that the phrase "having a baby" is not meant to refer to the medical event of parturition, but only being a person who lives with a child in the home and is deferred to over things like birthday parties.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

I realize the reality of life at a big law firm (well, I do in theory, anyway), but it seems like the real issue is this insane American concept that work never ends, even at night. Why does taking a NIGHT off of work require such supplication? Whatever happened to a day off? Personal time? This idea that work is so urgent and crucial that it can't be put off for an evening or two is often not reality — it's an American cultural construct akin to the travel bragging that Althouse has often undercut. I'm just so important, I have to be at work. You're not, and it's not. Go and have a life, whether that's with children or not.

That said, as a father of two, I support the idea that employees should be given equal consideration, whether they have children or not. Anyone who has a sister in dire need of help after an accident, or a grandparent who requires attention, or even a friend going through a personal loss — sure, as a boss, I'd be flexible and understanding about that person's need for time.

Paul said...

Children are the future. So I can see why they need to give them some special accommodations.

John said...

OK, I'll comment, this is a collection of idiots.

SGT Ted said...

None of this whiney "me too" shit was happening when men ran the workplace.

What is with women and their need to constantly alter everybody's lives around what they want?

Jupiter said...

"transcended to"?

Mark said...

Oh, I think there are plenty of babies running around. I hope they grow up some time before actually having one themselves.

David said...

Boo hoo. Practicing law is hard. What a surprise.

Here's a prediction.

Female associates who decide to have a figurative baby will not stop at one. Many will want a large families. Many of that group will not advance as rapidly or far as male associates who decide not to have babies. (Or female for that matter.)

Those who advance more slowly (or not at all) will notice their lower compensation or quicker exit from partnership track. Some of this group will blame sexist discrimination. There will be angry words, recrimination and litigation. Some will be embittered for life.

People, if you wanted a kinder and gentler competitive environment you should have gone somewhere else. This is the Big Time in New York and the prize for advancement is very lucrative. The expectations are extremely high. If you don't like that, you should be somewhere else.

This is not Harvard or Brown where everyone gets an A. Most will get an"O," which stands for O-U-T. It has always been so, and recent competitive developments in the world marketplace are not trending towards kinder and gentler.

Plenty of women can and will play this game hard enough to win. My guess is that most of them were not at those meetings.

SGT Ted said...

Its not "employees without children". It's WOMEN without children, jealous of someone being responsible parents.

Go to work, do what the boss tells you, do a good job, then go home. If you miss the concert, you miss the concert. You took the job and know the hours and requirements. Supporting a child is not the same as Katy Perry concert with a bestie.

Quite frankly, it is none of those ladies business that someone gets time off to deal with their kids lives.

Jane said...

I'm a mother of three. I did quit my job to take care of them all.

People who have a job and no children have evenings and weekends of quietude.

A parent of children never gets quiet, carefree evenings or weekends, unless he or she has the funds to pay for nice breaks, and the children don't need special parenting or shuttling around that a sitter couldn't provide.

I've had these kids for 14 years and since I decided to stay home, we've no money for a sitter. So we deal with our life the way it is. But people without kids really DO have more of a life outside of work.

Birkel said...

Darrenoia:
Are you unfamiliar with FMLA?

John has won the thread. Everybody go home.

Diamondhead said...

I thought the benefit of being an exempt employee was supposed to be: You get your job done, impress the people around and above you, etc., no one begrudges you a night off (a night!) with your best friend or your kid's birthday party. If it happens all the time at in opportune times, there is a penalty. I worked as an auditor for a big 4 firm and that's how it was. Hellish hours and unreasonable deadlines, but if you had something important to you, and wanted to stop working, and you were willing to ask in advance, you were almost always allowed. The concept of teamwork, the sense of shared responsibility and ownership of one's tasks were enough to make sure people didn't take undue advantage of the flexibility. If someone didn't possess those traits they were out of the firm one way or the other fairly quickly.

fivewheels said...

There's nothing wrong with the policy idea. It keeps things on an even keel for everyone.

The idea of calling the absences "having a baby" is weapons-grade stupid and undermines the concept.

Anglelyne said...

My best friend is coming into town, and we have amazing tickets to the Katy Perry concert. This is as important to me as a child’s birthday party or ballet recital.

Whatever the merits of giving comparable consideration to the personal lives of the childless, I find myself strangely indifferent to the plight of an alleged educated professional adult who goes to Katy Perry concerts. (Sounds like her parents need personal time to look after her.) No comment on tickets being "amazing".

I realize the reality of life at a big law firm (well, I do in theory, anyway), but it seems like the real issue is this insane American concept that work never ends, even at night. Why does taking a NIGHT off of work require such supplication?

What are you, some lazy-arse poncy Euro pinko who thinks you're more than a labor widget? (Though in context, as David points on, these people did take jobs at Big Time Law Firm, in which case they did sign away their souls when they signed on. So get back to work.)

Michael K said...

I have to suppress a chuckle, or rather a snicker, at this. Fifty years ago medical school admissions committees chose men over women applicants because there was a doctor shortage and women were assumed to be less devoted to the career than men.

Guess what ?

They were right !

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Has it really gotten so bad in the last 25 years that a lawyer has to explain why they are out of the office?

I remember the old days. You'd call your legal secretary and tell her you weren't coming in, and she was trained not to tell anyone why you were out.

You could call it a Don Draper day, and your colleagues might respect you more, even if what you were really doing was going to a Katy Perry concert.

Kevin said...

It's not only a very stupid idea, an adult going to a Katy Perry concert without a teenage child is an inherently unserious person who shouldn't be listened to on any matter.

chickelit said...

Perhaps Big Law firms should assist such young (and not so young) female associates with "egg banking" (or plastic surgery if they work through their peak years) as reparations. Or maybe such women should get a life or get a wife. There are lots gruntlement possibilities to consider, people.

chickelit said...

At a recent Women Lawyers meeting,..

This is anachronistic and mildly offensive. I presume that men are allowed to attend such meetings -- otherwise, turnabout is fair play and there should be scheduled "Men Lawyers meetings."

Suck it up, ladies.

Darrell said...

Titus gets to pinch a loaf. No questions asked.

broomhandle said...

When my sons were little my boss was very supportive of my need to take my turn staying home when the kids had one of their, seemingly weekly, ear infections. In my turn, I'm supportive of those of my employees who have to meet the demands of parenthood ( or looking out for elderly parents or critically ill siblings). Family first. Yeah, the Katy Perry concert chick would be ridiculed mercilessly.

rhhardin said...

At a recent Women Lawyers meeting

There's your trouble.

Women at work in men's jobs volunteer for the Women's Workplace Issues Committee.

Guys like the jobs.

n.n said...

Equivalence run amuck? The moral hazards created en route will need to be resolved. The reconciliation process is chaotic and unstable, with perturbations introduced daily.

Chuck said...

"At a Women Lawyers meeting..."

So I read the rest of it, carefully and patiently. And now it is my view that no action should ever be taken as a result of a "Women Lawyers meeting."

MathMom said...

Reading articles like this makes me believe more strongly that if the world were run by womyn, there would be no Interstate Highway system, no sound barrier broken, no tall buildings for Islamic terrorists to fly planes into (but there would also be no planes, so...), no footprints on the moon.

I don't think women are driven in the same way as men, and that is just fine. But don't try to make it pay, idjits! You want equal pay? Do the freaking work.

Brando said...

There are plenty of good law jobs at places that won't expect you to put in 80 hours a week and think the idea of asking for a night off is beyond the pale. Sure they don't pay quite as much, but they still pay well. If you choose to work at places with such extreme attitudes toward your personal life because you make a quarter million a year, then cry me a river.

Ambrose said...

Few people it seems realize that accommodations made to mothers/fathers are made on the backs of the childless. What do people think - the work just doesn't get done? No, someone else does it, that's life.

tim maguire said...

First of all, I don't get free time for my child's recital. Does anyone? No. It comes out of vacation or other personal time that everyone has.

Second of all, as Bill Whittle accurately pointed out, the number one duty of the citizen is to raise the next generation of citizens. Don't want children? Fine, don't have them. But for god's sake, shut up and stay out of the way while I raise the person who will pay for your pension and keep you safe and sound in your old age.

Virgil Hilts said...

I believe Mr. Burns already addressed this issue at the Junior Achievers meeting:

"I'll keep it short and sweet. Family, religion, friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business."

Michael said...

We work the lawyers like dogs, like rented mules, when we are headed to a closing. I keep my cell next to my bed and when it vibrates in the gloam i look at th message. 2 am and the lawyers are hard at work. Excellent. I respond. I am not doing the heavy lifting but I can make it as easy on them as possible if I make myself available.

In the olden times lawyers would be very happy when one of their colleagues had to take this personal time. It was an opportunity for them to take territory, to expand their own importance.

As they said at The Walt Disney Company: if you cant make it in on Saturday dont bother coming on Sunday.

The Drill SGT said...

SGT Ted said...
None of this whiney "me too" shit was happening when men ran the workplace.


SGT T, for better or worse, you and I know the Army pays married soldiers more and as luck would have it, singles always get stuck with Duty officer/NCO on Holidays...

chickelit said...

Ambrose said...
Few people it seems realize that accommodations made to mothers/fathers are made on the backs of the childless. What do people think - the work just doesn't get done? No, someone else does it, that's life.

Another fact is that everyone with children was once childless, so they do know "what you're going through." You should consider walking in the shoes of someone with kids for once.

Who are we gonna hear from next? The guy who smokes pot in National Parks and complains about no minorities there?

MayBee said...

I was the stay at home parent and I handled the birthday parties, plays, recitals, etc.

Yes, people work too much. But people these days make their kids lives all about themselves, and not about the kids. They don't need both parents at every single event in their young lives in order to enjoy themselves, learn, and grow.

If there's one movie trope I really hate, it's the "you missed Johnny's hockey game again. You can't keep doing this to him!" sad face wife and kid. Get over it!

So...yeah. People need some space when they actually do have a baby (or another loved one who needs care). But not all kid-centered events need to occupy a holy place at the expense of co-workers.

holdfast said...

Here's the thing: No serious person is going to quit their job because they missed a Katy Perry concert. If you're that butthurt, you're not that serious.

A serious person will eventually quit his or her job if it causes them to miss too many of their kids' milestones.

If Katy Perry is anything like Cher or Madonna, she'll be performing for decades. A kid will do many important things only once.

Scott said...

When I worked at Fiserv, I used to take a personal day on their "Take your daughter/son to work day." You can't get any work done when you're sharing your desk with the boss' kid who is drawing pictures with crayons and asking you to look at what they did. I am a gay man and the company sponsoring a day to celebrate their heterosexual employees' snot-faced payloads was a little too in-your-face for my tastes. I'm glad I don't work there anymore.

Barry Dauphin said...

Are there special accommodations for people who have a cow?

HG said...

Rank Jealousy is what this is..plain and simple..reminds me of the concept of "pet parents "..no you are not parents to your pets..you are owners....so no you do not have "babys" unless you actually do....my wife and i made the decision to live much more closely to the vest so she could stay home..taking time off for your kids is usually not for fun...

HG said...

scott said "snot face payloads" good line .reminds my of my late great best friend and business partner calling us breeders

Jane the Actuary said...

Here's what these jealous singles don't understand: the term "mommy track" has fallen out of favor, but the idea is still very much alive: yes, employers will be accomodating for moms who need flexibility due to sick children, or teachers' conferences, or those nuisance teachers' in-service days, but it comes at a cost, lost promotions, missing opportunities, especially if the mommy-tracker declines to travel.

Now, in my case, I worked part-time, to boot, but even among my full-time colleagues, it's clear that the ones who work the most hours advance the most.

http://janetheactuary.blogspot.com/2013/08/parenting-opting-out-maternity-leave.html

RonF said...

Children aren't hobbies. To equate the two is absurd. Obligations to other members of one's family are much more significant, and pretty much everyone has to face such a thing at some point. The difference is that those tend to be more episodic, rather than constant sa children are.

Freeman Hunt said...

What happens when a mom wants to go to a concert? Can she have a fake baby in addition to her real babies?

This sounds like a suggestion from an immature person who doesn't know much of life.

RonF said...

"My best friend is coming into town, and we have amazing tickets to the Katy Perry concert. This is as important to me as a child’s birthday party or ballet recital."

What a stupid thing to say. And self-centered. Even if it was conceivable that this was anything close to a legitimate comparison, apparently it doesn't occur to this person how important it is to the child as opposed as how important it is to Katy Perry, and how importation to ALL OF US THAT CHILDREN BE RAISED PROPERLY?

SGT Ted said...

SGT T, for better or worse, you and I know the Army pays married soldiers more and as luck would have it, singles always get stuck with Duty officer/NCO on Holidays...

Very true. I did my share before I got married. And the single guys got to go chase tail at the bars while I emptied the garbage and did honey-dos and said "yes, dear".

Life is trade offs.

SGT Ted said...

and how importation to ALL OF US THAT CHILDREN BE RAISED PROPERLY?

It is VERY importation.

newton said...

And what about if the person in question has to take a day or a week off to care for, say, a parent who had surgery, has some important medical appointments to make, or is at a nursing home being cared for? What if any of these people had a parent with Alzheimer's or regular dementia? What if that parent is dying?

Life happens. Babies happen, and so do parents who need help.

Have they even thought, for just one minute, that life has never been, or never will be, about Me-First, Me-Second, Me-Third? Unless they don't have any family, that is...

George said...

Society needs to make it easier for parents to raise kids. There is no need to make it easier to go to a Katy Perry concert. Childless people need to deal with it.

n.n said...

There is cause for a society and humanity to distinguish between various forms of love and its product. Only a truly selfish or indifferent individual would not recognize the inherent difference.

Even the Constitution recognizes the difference in its preamble and accords a greater dignity to our posterity and presumably the behavior, relationship, and marriage which sanctifies our children's development.

I believe that this is the only reference to a natural order recorded in our highest law. The significance of its inclusion should be self-evident.

sean said...

Wow, what an entitlement princess. As a partner, I hate associates and paralegals like that, who don't pull their weight and throw the work on the other members of the team, the ones who aren't spoiled children.

What especially annoys me is that in today's market, there are thousands of bright young law school graduates who would give anything for a biglaw job, and would work night and day for $160K (first year salary at Cleary) if given a chance. This woman is hogging a job that should go to someone who really wants it.

Curious George said...

Katy Perry. I'd bang her.

iowan2 said...

Those that work the hardest make the most money.(Is that the measure of success?)

The answer is not to somehow game the system to equalize the outcome of hard work with those that do not put in the work.

The twenty somethings of today are the kids that started not keeping score for their baseball games. This is what the result looks like.

What is being suggested is those that work hard shall not be rewarded.

The saddest thing I saw in comments was the lady that says she quit work to stay home and raise their family. She claims that her childless friends have more! NO. The don't have family. Someone needs to get a grasp of what is important in life.

Freeman Hunt said...

To make it fair, allow the singles time off to attend elementary school performances and to clean up vomit at venues of their choosing.

SGT Ted said...

Al least this puts paid to the idea that women are more empathetic to and considerate of other people than men are.

Tom said...

Wow, the total immaturity of this woman. Equating the hard and important task of raising the next generation with wanting to go to a Katy Perry concert is beyond stupid. It's selfishness defined.

Big Mike said...

Clearly we -- meaning everybody involved -- are still trying to figure out how to accommodate women in the workplace. But artificial "babies" which are tickets to a concert aren't it.

madAsHell said...

We are empty nesters, and my mother allowed us to both work. My wife still rankles when one of her co-workers pushes the limit to manage her children.

I'm thinking women are more sensitive to this then men.

jr565 said...

In the interest of fairness, shouldn't family leave and accomodations cover whatever we determine family to mean? So, if your family is your cat, you should be able to get the same accomodations as women who are having kids.
It's only fair.

jimbino said...

Folks like Tim McGuire keep bringing up the old chant: "...for god's sake, shut up and stay out of the way while I raise the person who will pay for your pension and keep you safe and sound in your old age."

I, like most people with good sense, are planning for retirement in interesting places like Ecuador or Costa Rica. Why the hell should we be interested in paying for your Amerikan kids? Can we at least sponsor immigrant kids from Mexico?

ken in sc said...

In the military, members with dependents get an extra boost in their housing allowance, and some supervisors will cut parents some slack. Others will not. They have a saying that I have heard more than once, “If the government wanted you to have a family, they would issued you one.”

Zach said...

The thing is, it's only possible to have one top priority.

For the vast majority of people, family commitments are a higher priority than work. It's not that they're asking for time off to deal with a sick baby; it's that they aren't available when the baby is sick. Trying to make them work instead will only raise the stress level, and will ultimately result in losing out on good employees.

For many people, doing something fun on the evenings and weekends is also a high priority. They might do something at work occasionally to help out, but they don't feel obligated to do that every day. If you want that time, you have to bargain for it.

Lawyers in biglaw jobs have bargained away much of their fun time on evenings and weekends. That bargain pays well, but has severe consequences. Many people are very unhappy with the consequences of working all the time, and they resent anybody who gets time off.

The only real solution is not to make that bargain in the first place. Take a job where you can go home in the evenings, and then you can go to all the Katy Perry concerts you want.

stlcdr said...

"Clearly we -- meaning everybody involved -- are still trying to figure out how to accommodate women in the workplace. But artificial "babies" which are tickets to a concert aren't it."

It has been figured out for quite a while. Do the job, get paid. Not seeng any inequality here, boss. It is women wanting special status, and when they don't get it, it's always sexism...or something.

Dewave said...

Going to a Katy Perry concert may be as important to her as having a child is for someone else, but it is clearly nowhere near the same level of importance to society.

Society cannot survive without children, as they are the future.

Society can not only survive, but thrive, if the occasional entitled law student is unable to attend a Katy Perry concert.

Anyway, making the attendance to a Katy Perry concert her hill to die on indicates a lack of rhetorical skill that does not bode well for her future as a lawyer, where she will need to be able to convincingly persuade people.

Brent said...

"If there's one movie trope I really hate, it's the "you missed Johnny's hockey game again. You can't keep doing this to him!" sad face wife and kid. Get over it!"

Amen. Although I work in-house so that I can have a family life and I do make it to most of my childrens' events, I can't agree more with this. Whenever it comes up in movies, I am sure to explain to my children that the Dad isn't "bad" for missing his son's baseball game, because his most important job is to put a roof over their head and food on the table. If he has to miss some or all of his son's baseball games so that he can do that, then he is making the right choice. I explain that it would be selfish of him to lose his job by choosing to satisfy his wants by going to the game. I also explain that his biggest mistake is not explaining that to his disappointed child.