Before I had kids, I definitely felt the bad vibes going on between parents and non-parents in the workplace.
Parents were… more finicky about time, given more flexibility, way too distracted, and sometimes perceived as more successful or “together.”
Ah yes, the all-important “family” to get home to. Sure, we can push the deadline back. Again.
Now that I’ve had kids, I see a bit more of the truth. Kind of like a new Plato’s allegory of parents.
I don’t pretend to speak for all parents. Some people seem to have entered this colosseum without adjusting their personal lives too much (or maybe they just don’t show the world the whole picture). And some people never changed their work life (at the expense of their family life, I might say).
But what I see most in myself and my circle of women in business is that having kids changes your gravity.
Before, you might have made a plan for the week (work and food and sleep) and the weekend (chores and laundry and grocery shopping) and it was just above manageable. Sometimes even pretty darn good, varying from week to week based on stress levels.
After, the plan makes you.
Near-constant exhaustion and distraction makes work, food, and sleep luxuries indeed. Chores, laundry, and grocery shopping require superhuman planning, concentration, and activity that doesn’t always happen when it needs to, leaving you scrambling around feeling somewhat subhuman most of the time.
(That might explain parents that come off as cold or uninterested at work — it’s more that we’re still in shock.)
I think it’s the same “handicap” (in the sense of a golf handicap) as any major life event, like depression, divorce, losing a loved one, moving. Except it lasts until your kids are 5 or above.
Until then, you’re operating on just a bit of a delay from the rest of the world, pushing extra wide scuba fins through a slightly heavier density of water.
It’s not enough to stop you, necessarily. (It’s not enough to stop me.)
But everything you want to do requires just that bit more of extra energy, and leaves you feeling like you’ve summited Mount Everest every time your children are asleep. There’s not much to do but look at the view.