It’s was a slow day in the research lab yesterday. I’m working for the school this summer and “M” and I are getting all the truly bizarre projects that require working at weird hours, coming in early, and staying, sometimes, horrifically late. M pulled me aside frantically yesterday and blurted out:

“The baby is teething our toddler is waging war on my wife and she’s running a fever of a 102. I really hate to do this, but I need to go home.”

I said sure and shooed M out the door. He came in this morning apologizing profusely and swearing up and down it would never happen again. When I asked him what his problem was and why he felt the need to apologize to me, his answer was this: “I don’t want to be that guy“.

That Guy is apparently the guy at the office who uses his kids as an excuse for everything including not doing his job. M played adult-on-the-job-babysitter to more than one of those guys at his previously employment and swore he’d never be on of those guys. So much so that after all these months of working with him, this was the first time I had ever heard of him being married let alone having kids. Honestly, I had no idea.

But there’s another side of that coin: M kept his family status hidden because in some places of business, the minute you leave the office for a family emergency you become The Other Guy: That guy who can’t be counted on because he’s obviously not devoted enough to forsake his family well-being for the Good of the Company. Hence, he will never be promoted, never get a raise, and will stagnate in the middle until he moves on or dies there.

I’ve been on the receiving end of both these scenarios. The one where I get all the work dumped on me because my colleague can’t manage to work more than two hours without her kids interrupting. I’ve also been fast tracked on promotions because the guy ahead of me couldn’t be “counted on” in a pinch and I was single with no kids and therefore could be.

So where’s the balance in all this? While I don’t believe persons should be penalized for having families and should be allowed some flexibility to deal with family issues, as long as their work is completed and not dumped on me, I have no problem with someone not being chained to a desk. However, we are in the middle a crunch war on time where workers are being asked to work longer, do more and with less pay and not being chained to the desk somehow makes you disloyal. This isn’t the 1950’s, most families require both parents to work to survive. Some allowances must be made.

This is an impossible position to place workers in. Yes, there are those who take advantage, but then there are those who need to occasionally be a parent during the 8-5 work day and shouldn’t fear for their career in doing so. Just as you shouldn’t fear not being hired for a job because your boss assumes that as a 30+ year old woman you’ll obviously be wanting kids in the near future.

Well, as a 30+ something woman whose family is harassing her daily to get knocked up, I look around at all this bullshit and can only think: Not on your freaking life.