What interests me the most about this article is Hewlett's assertion about women's perceptions on how their choice to remain childless affects them in the workplace:
Many companies have a bunch of benefits and support policies around working parents. There's flextime, paid parenting leave, telecommuting options, these things are not unusual these days. Often times, non-parents feel that all the best benefits are going to one demographic: those who are married with small kids. If you've got a two-year-old, you luck out. If you want to run a marathon or play the cello or volunteer, you have a really hard time getting any legitimacy around those things.First of all, I feel the need to point out that those benefits and support policies aren't in place for all (or even most) working parents. The work/life balance is far from a priority in many workplaces, particularly lower wage hourly positions.
But, for the sake of argument, let's say that there is more workplace flexibility for a working parent. I don't have anything against running marathons or playing cellos. I like to volunteer. I have a lot of hobbies (writing this blog among them). I fit these things into the spaces (however big or small they may be at that particular moment) of my life. I write on my lunch break. I volunteer on Saturdays, and I seek out opportunities where I can bring my daughter so that I don't have to lose valuable time with her. I read books while I'm waiting in lines.
I cannot parent on the breaks. I cannot tell my daughter that her diaper can only be changed when I finish grading a stack of papers. I cannot put her on a shelf in the closet while I run errands. My role as a parent is not the same as my role as a volunteer because it is not a hobby and, once the decision is made to become a parent in the first place, it is not optional. It is not a crime to leave your cello in the basement for a week, and no one is going to die if you do so.
I see how this line of discussion can get ugly in a hurry. I understand how those who have chosen not to have children can ask why their choice isn't equally supported in the workplace, and I think that's a valid argument.
I just don't think that trying to compare parenting to a hobby is the way to make that argument. My child is not a cello.