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Do parents deserve more flexibility at work?

So, as you look around the office this morning, are you noticing the parents you work with are still AWOL? As the first day of school rolls out today, chances are there were more than a few failed alarms, time-sucking lunch preps or tearful meltdowns stalling family mornings - and work start-times -  everywhere.

Are you sympathetic? Or ticked-off?

For those without children, it may be one more reminder that flexible work schedules can seem a lot more flexible for those with daycare- or school-age kids. In a New York Times piece, Hannah Seligson suggests that in theory,  flextime was supposed to benefit all, "But one person's work-life balance can be another's work-life overload. Someone, after all, has to make that meeting or hit that deadline."

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She goes on to ask who has the higher ground: "The mother with three children, the son taking care of elderly parents, or the 20-something who is learning Mandarin once a week? And should the reasons even matter and be brought to the table in the first place?"

One argument out there is the "de-parenting" of the talk around flexible scheduling to, in effect, make all those scenarios equal.

But over at the paper's Motherlode blog, lead blogger  KJ Dell'Antonia points out that average working parents do have a particularly crazy time of it.

Indeed, the senior execs mentioned in the original piece who leave work early to take their kids to classes -- not to mention some of the recent high-profile examples of women who proudly blend motherhood and work, such as Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and who can set their own rules -- just don't experience job-threatening stress.

She suggests caring for kids is a social issue, not just a parent issue.

"We still live in a society that assumes, by the way it structures work and school, that there's a parent at home for every child too young to tend to herself between 3 and 5:30 p.m. and during the months of July and August. We are each equally likely to suddenly need to care for our own ailing parents, or face an unexpected personal medical issue. But the parents of young children are 100 percent more likely to have to find some way to keep their children safe and healthy during those hours."

Do you think parents deserve more flextime than other workers?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More


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