Single Girls and the Second Shift

For much of my adult life, I’ve worked a second job of some sort. Scratch that-I’ve basically been juggling multiple jobs since I was a teen. I worked at the local themepark, but also babysat and housecleaned “on the side.” During college, I did the same-had a “real” job at a doctor’s office plus babysat AND moonlighted as a Pampered Chef lady. Plus, I came home and occasionally worked weekends and holidays at the clothing store I started working at my senior year of high school. Working Girl, oh yeah that’s me (without the, you know, prostitution aspect).

After graduating college, I worked at an insurance company for about a year (still, working retail on the side) and then I got my first “field” job in the nonprofit world. As you can imagine, the pay was mostly in warm fuzzies and an occasional free lunch. So I still maintained my “side” gig, until one day my boss pulled me into her office and asked how much of a raise she’d need to give me so I could quit working two jobs. I named my price, and she gave me a raise. But…I still didn’t give up the second job, and soon after picked up a third. This was around the time I was getting into photography, and I’d landed a job at a local portrait studio for some extra experience-you know, for fun.

Was I crazy? Poor? Maybe a little; not really, I just kind of liked to shop for shoes. And I liked being busy. And, yeah, being a single girl in a low-paying job field, the extra income definitely came in handy. That was over ten years ago, and I still work two jobs. I have my day job (gotta have health insurance!) and “on the side” I have a small wedding and portrait photography business (although at least with that job I get to control my own hours and how much I work).

So even though I’ve voluntarily worked the “second shift” plenty of times, I’ve still experienced the pressure-and at times, the demand-that I work a second shift so my married-with-kids coworker doesn’t have to. It’s a tricky form of discrimination, because as women, we’re all supposed to support each other and girl power and it takes a village and all that. I’m not a mom-much less a single mom-and I have no idea how hard it would be to arrange to leave my child for an overnight work trip, or even just a late night at the office. But, I have a dog and family and friends and I have arrangements that need to be made, too! The assumption that “single, no kids=plenty of time, nothing better to do” is infuriating. My time is valuable too, and we’ve all made our own choices and they are all equally valuable. It’s happened to me, and I am betting it has happened to many of you single ladies out there (and to a lesser extent, married ladies without children).

What do you think-it is fair to expect single, childless coworkers to pick up the late nights or overnight trips in place of moms (or dads)? Or is it a subtle form of discrimination in a society that values marriage and parenting above choosing singlehood?

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