During the pandemic, agency employees with children have struggled to juggle childcare, remote schooling and activities with crushing work schedules managed from sometimes chaotic home offices. That has inadvertently created—or some might say widened—a divide between parents and non-parents in agencies.
But a new survey released today during this week's 3% Conference indicates that working agency parents are not nearly as resented by non-parents as they themselves perceive. In fact, the survey found that non-parents feel decidedly more positive emotions such as respect, empathy, and appreciation toward parents than the other way around.
The study was conducted by McKinney and surveyed 500 parents and non-parents from various agency and marketing backgrounds. It was presented at the conference by parents Jasmine Dadlani, chief strategy officer at McKinney, and Jenny Nicholson, executive director, brand experience at the Durham, N.C.-based agency.
The survey found that 75% of parents believe they have a harder time with work-life balance than non-parents. More than half, or 53%, of parents in the survey said they feel they have been held back in their careers due to parenthood. Overall, two-thirds of parents said they have experienced negative emotions as a result of expectations of them as a working parent during the pandemic.
But here's the reality: 81% of non-parents in the survey said they respect parents versus 46% of parents saying they respect non-parents. Sixty-four percent of non-parents said they feel empathy for parents; that's more than double the 30% of parents who have empathy for non-parents. And 74% of non-parents said they have appreciation for parents verus 56% of parents saying they appreciate non-parents.
“So the question becomes, why are parents projecting so much negative energy when it's not really there?” Dadlani said “A big part is because of all the guilt and struggle that parents feel with being torn between two worlds constantly, and the pandemic made those choices so much more frequent and so much more difficult. One dad who works in media talked about how he's got daily angst around going to his son's soccer game. He now has the ability to do it because he's working from home. So he's actually around to be able to do it, but he's not sure if he should tell his team he's cutting out early or not? Should he just check his email while he's at the game and pretend like he's still working every time he has to deal with this?”
In fact, the survey found a nearly equal amount of parents and non-parents said "people I work with make unfair assumptions about my work versus personal time" (47% of parents versus 46% of non-parents). And 21% of parents in the survey reported feeling resentment toward non-parents; only 14% of non-parents reported feeling resentment toward parents.
Nicholson said another reason is a misunderstanding from parents of the struggles non-parents go through.
“Parents think they know what it's like to be in the other's shoes,” Nicholson said. “If you are somebody who doesn't have children, you recognize that you don't know what it's like to have children, whereas if you have children, there was a time in your life when you didn't. And it's very easy to assume that you know exactly what that experience is like, even though it was probably a long time ago, under very different circumstances, and if we're honest, we're probably romanticizing it a little bit."