Working Singles Find Work More Demanding Than Their Married Counterparts

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Working Singles Being single in the workplace has it challenges. When it comes to finding someone to work a weekend shift or take a spur-of-the-moment business trip, bosses and supervisors often rely on those with fewest familial obligations to pick up the slack.

But that doesn't mean that single workers like it. A growing number of them are fighting back and demanding time to do the things that they feel are equally as important as raising children, tending to elderly parents or other family demands.

Another complaint among the unhitched is that not only do married workers with children get more favorable work schedules, but that family leave -- even if unpaid -- rewards child-rearing. Further, as The (Toronto) Globe and Mail notes, some singles feel spousal benefits are inherently discriminatory against those who choose not to marry.

And that has some calling on employers to offer a menu of benefits that would flatten out the playing field between singles and their married counterparts.

Whether it's money or time, everyone would get the same amount, says Bella DePaula, author of the book, Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It.

"The idea would be you create equivalencies so no worker is privileged over any other worker," DePaula told the newspaper. "It shouldn't be about 'Are you married?' or 'Do you have kids?' but what are you contributing to the workplace."

Though it may seem antiquated, businesses routinely look to single people to fill in during situations where there's a perceived hardship for married workers or those with kids, says Wendy Kaufman, founder and CEO of Balancing Life's Issues Inc., an Ossining, N.Y.-based firm that provides seminars to workers on how to balance demands of work and life.

"The interesting thing about it is that it's so ingrained in some [corporate] cultures that it's totally accepted," she says. And employees don't always push back.

But it isn't just single people who often get the shaft. "There's a hierarchy," she says. It moves from singles to divorced people, and then older workers whose children have left home.

"It's a manipulative way to delegate things," Kaufman says, noting that single people are still entitled to balancing the competing demands of work and homelife just like married people are.

Having "another life" to single people may involve a hobby, regular charitable works or a long-term goal, such as writing a book, remodeling a home, furniture projects, etc. To many single people, those activities are equally as important as raising a family.

There is another side, however: Young, single people who are willing to put in long hours and otherwise devote themselves to work -- hoping to get ahead precisely because they don't have families to worry about.

Three years ago, when 27-year-old Alexa Sterbinsky first joined the downtown Philadelphia brokerage firm where she now works, she routinely worked holidays and took on additional projects to prove her worth to her colleagues, she says.

Sterbinsky, who works in risk management in a typically male-dominated industry, decided early on that "I definitely want to have a career," she says. "So I put everything into it."

For now, she is content with carving out a niche within her firm and has put ideas of marriage and having children on hold.

Nevertheless, she says, it isn't clear to her whether being married or other commitments would lessen her desire to work so hard.

Putting career first is a choice that she has made, Sterbinsky says. "It's not like I feel bad about what I've chosen."


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