Pick Up The Slack

Single and childless people – anyone, really, who does not have children – are often asked to do more, simply by virtue of their circumstances.

Parents get flexible work options. They can amend their hours, leave early, and switch their commitments around. They have to be there for their kids.

While this is understandable and appropriate, it has consequences for those who have to stay at work.

“Can you finish this for me? My kids are sick, I gotta go.”
“Can you stay back tonight? You’re the only one without kids.”
“Can you do Christmas this year? Everyone else has family functions.”

I am not for one second saying parents should neglect their kids. I am not a monster. I am merely pointing out that non-parents are often expected to pick up the slack for parents.

Non-parents are often expected to pick up the slack.

It can be a similar scenario at church. Those without children are often perceived as having more free time and therefore being more available to volunteer.

At least when you are married you can use your spouse as an excuse.

“I’d better take the wife home, she’s tired.”
“I can’t, I have to take care of my sick husband.”
“My other half is already helping out, we can’t do any more.”

It is even harder for singles. They are often perceived as having no family and therefore obligated to be an unquestioning servant to the church’s endless needs.

I believe this places single and childless people at higher risk of burnout, both in the workplace and in church ministry.

This places single and childless people at higher risk of burnout.

It can be hard to say no when you genuinely want to help. You may see the need around you and feel the urge to put your hand up. It might feel good to overcommit yourself and feel a little indispensable.

It feels good to be wanted.

Unfortunately this is a recipe for personal disaster. We can wind up believing our value and worth lies in our busyness and usefulness. We are helping with X ministries or took on Y extra projects this year. Aren’t we fabulous.

There is a myth going around that busier is better. It is a lie.

There is a myth that busier is better.

My encouragement to single and childless people, therefore, is to remember your time is just as valuable as anyone else’s and you have the same rights to say no as what parents do. You do not have to justify saying no. You do not have to invent an excuse. You can just go right ahead and say it.

No-one else knows the demands on your time. No-one can read your mind and figure out you said yes when you really wanted to say no. No-one else can set healthy boundaries that fit for you.

It can be tough when you are worried about losing friends or a job if you dare to say no. But when the alternative is picking up the slack for others for as long as you shall live, I think I would sooner pluck my nasal hairs than be at the entire population’s beck and call.

Do you experience greater demands at work or church because of being single or childless? Do others assume you have more free time because you do not have kids? How do you respond to this pressure? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.

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