Diary of a Single Working Parent #2- Dealing with tough work environments

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The professional space begins to demand more from you when you are a Single working parent. Not that the work grows or their expectations rise but because some prejudice and assumptions begin to work AGAINST you. Now if you happen to be non social and all to yourself that can be a problem but if you are social and mingle normally, it can again present it’s own set of challenges. My time at work as a Single working parent showed me much about Human psychology and Sociology than all my years of college education did.

Human nature is determined some parts by curiosity, evaluation of control over the other and ability to dominate through power of position or place. There is a great subtle force that penetrates the mind and blocks logical thinking even for the well qualified and educated. The below experiences are set in India at a time when the workplace and rights were not as pronounced as they are today.

Mature organisations have changed but companies that still think productivity and profits come from “better business and not treating people better” – could be languishing in the same old mess. Many times insensitive orgs breed insensitive people that makes good people leave and only the calloused ones stay making the environment worse than ever. Sensitive organisations is a mark of Strength and not weakness. Here are some notes from first hand experiences.

The venom that sings : I was aware some people spoke behind my back. What bothered me most was how when people got close to me, they would land on how I got divorced and the standard opening for that one was ” WHY did he leave you”. It never occurred to anyone that a woman could leave a man ? 12 years ago before internet, smart phones and social media injected liberal thinking many people lived in a dark place. If there was stigma attached to being divorced and single, they left no stone un-turned to let you know that. I recollect being almost apologetic and defensive at first. Then over time I merely posed the question I had anyway meant to ask right away…”What made YOU think he left me?” and then they would turn apologetic and defensive.

Traits change due to Need : One exceptionally mean woman who had a bone to pick with anything that walked on 2 legs – asked me “how can you be a behavioural trainer ? How can you teach Relationship management or Relationship building when your own marriage didn’t work ? It takes a lot of self control in moments like these when best your best sense fails and anger seethes. The blind vision of such a brutal tongue cannot be softened by kind explanations. I found myself growing strong in the moment – just as things happened. I heard me say “Does not apply. But that logic applies if YOU ever decide to give a talk about Weight Management, considering you are at least 30 kgs over weight”? I had a new enemy every time I was attacked and defended myself. Many people landed at the wrong end of my new grown Blade tongue; but I needed it for survival. I realised personality traits grow out of need. 

I was typecast as “aggressive” “dangerous” and  “snooty”. Then when my career blossomed and as I moved to significant leadership roles; they decided I was a “Fire-brand” instead. I have laughed a lot in the 12 years I was a single working parent….mostly at people who have no idea what Single Parenting means.

The Change needed : Organisations need to accept societal structures are changing. Flexible working hours are a must. Evaluation of performance needs to be based on quality of work and productivity not long hours spent hatching on a chair going through Youtube videos. If we make considerations for pregnant women, we need to make considerations for the Single working parents as well regardless of their gender. They are not like the rest of your workforce operating with all resources. They are their ONLY resource. Organisations are not required to treat them differently, just with some consideration and respect. Environment of Respect and Dignity applies to all. Organisations cannot talk about it and not bother to follow. This is the age of Dignity for All – this would not be too much to ask.

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