One Twitter user inspires a big debate about work-life demands when you’re a working parent

For every sympathetic co-worker, there is a handful of others who can’t help but roll their eyes at parents who leave work early to care for their kids. For those flustered employees, a colleague who rushes out the door (seemingly whenever they like) to deal with family matters appears to have a Get Out of Jail Free card in the form of a tiny human. At least, that’s how this Twitter user sees it:

And judging from the likes, they’re not the only one. But what’s missing from this observation is what actually happens once a working parent heads out. There’s a good chance, at least in this hellish season of nonstop illness, they’re tending to a kid who is under the weather (at best) and possibly in need of medical attention (at worst). And let me tell you, dropping everything to find an available doctor’s appointment or waiting it out at urgent care isn’t the vacation you think it is. And even if it were, it’s not like work magically disappears, as commenters pointed out.

That work gets done—whether the parent is doing it right in front of you or entirely rearranging their schedule to fit it in before the day’s end (often after the children have passed out). That, friends, is called “leisure” time. But it doesn’t stop working parents from feeling guilty. After all, we know how our last-minute adjustments look to many co-workers and higher-ups.

The “oh NO, whose turn is it this time?” flurry of texts between partners is real—and someone always gets stuck sacrificing. Even when absences aren’t tied to sickness and parents are simply navigating drop-offs, appointments, and the endless minutiae of child-rearing, trust us when we say you wouldn’t want to take our place for the fun of it.

In truth, what we should aim for is a working environment that supports contributions from every employee and recognizes that the “how” may be different for each individual. By acknowledging us as people rather than strictly as “workers,” companies can inspire loyalty and achieve even better results. In the meantime, maybe we should all take it a little bit easier on colleagues who miraculously get it all done in just 24 hours a day.

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