Are you in hiding? Do you keep one half of your life separate from the other half? Apparently a lot of parents in America are in hiding
A combination of societal pressures, long standing cultural norms, and a lack of any government policy or support has led many of us to keep our children hidden at work. No, we don’t mean under the desk, we mean you literally pretend they don’t exist. It’s led to some pretty clandestine efforts by working parents: vague reasons for not having late meetings, excessively flowy clothing throughout a pregnancy, no family photos in an office.
The issue with keeping a big part of your life hidden is that it becomes impossible to change the very norms and pressures that forced you to be so secretive to begin with. Like most thing, change will need to come from the top. Bosses, managers, and CEOs need to openly discuss having kids, leaving at 5 PM to make a sports practice, or being open about childcare needs. As Oster explains, “We can’t fix problems that we pretend don’t exist; we can’t improve the lot of parents at work if we pretend we aren’t parents.” Transparency is crucial for change, and this needs to come from both employers and employees. It’s not only a burden to keep your life as a parent hidden, it has real, tangible impacts on families and employers. It continues to drive the gender gap and force valuable employees out of the workforce, a result that impacts the bottom line for businesses. This is not a women’s issue, a millennial issue or moral issue; it is a very important business issue.