Diary of a single working parent #1 – Workplace gets harder

Blog writer at COLL

We all know how hard being a single parent is and it gets harder when you have to keep a full time job. This series called Diary of a Single Working Parent hopes to inspire you; engage your mind and allow seeing life from a different lens.

The background : I was divorced and had 2 children to support. Was working in a metro city that has no pardon for missing bill payments so I was holding on to 3 jobs at one time. The early morning and late evening job, was with a local consultancy outfit. This helped to provide my children a slightly easier life. But the company I worked for as full-time employee, despite being a large brand, didn’t see single parenting as a legitimate reason to be given any consideration. The industry I worked in was more cut throat than a butchers knife. School commitments for two tiny kids, their creche’, tuition, food, transport just about everything had one me to manage. The most valid reasons for adjusting working hours like a PTA or GP appointment would be pinned against me – like I failed yet again. If I came in later by 2 hours I would make up by working more than 2 hours but somehow the morning absence would be noted by 85% of the colleagues on the work floor. Some people would rub it in, asking if I work half days.

Empathy is relative : I don’t blame them. When our own life is good, we find it hard to empathise with someone else for whom life is hard. Other peoples realities get clouded in the luxury of our own comforts. Like that poor vendor selling and sweating in the sun who looks gaunt and tired is just another face when you sit in a car and whizz past. Good AC, great music, bottled water and your favourite magazine makes it easy to be cold to his reality. Empathy has a lot to do with personal experience. If you came from a place of struggle you feel and adjust more.

The Demand to be in Control : Because I worked with people who had set lives with partners who juggled responsibility with them – they had predictable charts and a steady existence. I was chaos personified. Chaos in my head, in my life and my emotions. But as a professional it is important to keep a poker face and not let anything faze you else you will also hear that you have “emotional maturity” issues. The only way such tremendous control could be achieved I realised was to sleep less and stay up late to prepare for the next day – then wake up early by 4 am to ensure the day to begin would be in order.

No representation = NO consideration: In time what such “cold” organisation cultures do is that they frown so long and hard – you stop reasoning with them, stop making meek protests, stop educating them in a bid to help them empathise and then just give in. 2005 I was the only woman divorcee in all of my company that boasted 3000 people. Either that is true or others were closet divorcees. There is discussion and recognition only when a certain type of people become a percentage to reckon with. I realised then – when more marriages fail, when there are divorcees by the truck load – that’s when my luck will change. When you are an oddity – you are the rarity no one budgets. So I would be in discussion rooms on the subject of “Talent Inclusivity” which one day touched the integration of gays. They had not bothered to think of single parents for a second. While I was playing with my toe sticking it in a duct hole of the carpet I thought “This means there are more gays than there are single working parents right now…. long way to go, for me “.

The 12 years of being a Single Parent taught much more than any Academy or Leadership program could. More ….In Diary of  Single Parent #2

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