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The Hidden Costs of Living Alone (theatlantic.com)
155 points by prostoalex 87 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 173 comments



The article stretches to portray this as a cost imposed by society, but I think the bulk of it is far more innate than that. There simply are economies of scale to household size. A lot of housing costs are proportional to surface area, and the ratio of surface area to volume drops are structures get larger. Building larger units is more economical. It extends to selling as well - it's going to take less effort to sell/rent one 2-bedroom apartment than it would for two 1-bedrooms. The cost of user acquisition for things like paper towels is lower if the average customer is buying for multiple people too.

I totally get the desire to live alone, but I never have because having roommates/cohabitation always seemed like such an obvious economic decision compared to other ways to reduce living expenses.

The Onion put out a video[1] in 2009 about an economic recovery plan that amounted to boyfriends finally agreeing to move in together with their girlfriends. I've spent a lot of time researching the housing market and macroeconomic reasons for its current distortion from historical norms. That video often pops into my mind when I do. The overall housing stock in the US has more than kept pace with the growth in population, but the reduction of household size and related growth in housing space per person has created a huge amount of incremental demand.

I don't think those are purely bad trends. My parents' generation paired off young and quickly, and the long term effects are easy enough to pick out in divorce statistics. But I do have to wonder how much of the economic woes 20-40 year olds face right now might be alleviated if the pendulum swung back a little in that direction.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ADncN9HIa4


Yes. This is why I live in a place where housing costs are so low that surface area doesn't matter. On 12 acres of land.

Given the cost of marriage and divorce, it makes far more sense to live alone. I've been married twice and I learn this the hard way - twice too many times!

Additionally, the simple fact that is that woman are responsible for 80% of budget decisions which tend NOT be be things men would buy, so if you are a single man, NOT pairing off sudden save/raises your income by 5x if you don't marry.


I think divorce statistics are not related to age of pairing off, which if anything was younger farther in the past than it was even a generation or two ago. Divorce is simply not the social stigma that it used to be, and it's easier to get so it happens more now. Rather than working through their problems, people think it seems easier to just split up.


It's easier for women to support themselves now too, so they don't have to stay married for financial reasons.


... and get a large payout through divorce, in some cases!


In very few cases these days. The majority of monies given out is for childcare, it is very difficult to have court ordered alimony for terms longer than 10 years even if the spouse was a stay-at-home parent for more than 10 years.


It often is easier to just split up. People grow and change, and often that growth and change between two people isn't compatible.


AFAIK, evidence is pretty clear that delaying marriage (up to a point!) reduces the likelihood of getting divorced.

https://ifstudies.org/blog/want-to-avoid-divorce-wait-to-get...

Of course you are correct that lowered social stigma associated with divorce is also important. This topic must be difficult to study over very long periods of time, because so many things are going on (changing age of first marriage, reduced social stigma associated with divorce, women's liberation, changing religiousity, etc. etc.).


Divorce has steadily declined in cohorts married since 1980.


I would guess this is driven by the decline of marriage overall, with those forgoing marriage being those most likely to divorce


> Rather than working through their problems, people think it seems easier to just split up.

For some problems, this is indeed the absolutely correct decision - but it simply wasn't culturally acceptable in the past.


But in an economies of scale line of argumentation, shouldn’t the cost of building/selling houses for single people go down precisely because plenty enough people (and plenty more are projected to) live alone? It does seem that culture lag is to blame.


Pairing off will likely mean providing for your partner, and it will almost certainly mean providing for children. For the provider that’s a lot more expensive than living alone.

Musing out loud… I wonder how much TV has to do with the decline of shared households. Perhaps in the 1920s I would have happily lived in a boarding house with other unmarried workers. These days I’d have to really love someone to make myself subject to their choice of television programming, which is generally inescapable in a shared apartment.


I find somehow that the housing market is immoral. Well I guess that's because I'm not american, there even epipen are a cold quantified market .. but the negative effects on humans are so immense it should not be.


>"Many who live by themselves are effectively penalized at work too. “Lots of people I interviewed complained that their managers presumed they had extra time to stay at the office or take on extra projects because they don’t have family at home...”"

This is my concern when parents say they require accommodations (less work and lower expectations of productivity) because they have children (especially when working from home); they implicitly assume that non-parents can and should 'pick up the slack'.


I have a family, and I'm very protective of my time because failure to, for example, pick my kid after school would quickly escalate to criminal negligence. If my work demanded that I commit any crime, I would refuse until I got fired (quitting is for losers, in this case: I want my damned severance).

I don't assume that non-parents can or should pick up the slack. I expect all of my coworkers to be protective of their work-life balance and I'm dismayed whenever I see them prioritize work in a detrimental way.

Said differently, if you're upset at parents putting their children's wellbeing before your team's performance, then you should re-evaluate your relationship with work.


Kind of a strawman argument, and a bit dramatic. The parent is discussing parents wanting to leave early and be given less work


It's no more a straw man than the poster they were referring to; both describe their perspective of a described situation, from opposite sides.

Neither is discussing "leaving early", both are discussing "leaving on time".

If you choose to work unpaid extra hours then that's on you.


Fine. A strictly capitalist take on the situation: your inability to negotiate for desirable hours & wages is not the responsibility of anybody but yourself. Go work in a union if you want everybody to have the same contract.


No disagreement with your argument about being protective about one’s time. But in your case you haven’t negotiated anything. You just go when you have to.


I mean it’s an implicit negotiation of sorts. If you can routinely leave work early and not get penalized for it, you’ve basically “negotiated” that arrangement.

This all comes back to the fact that everyone should be protective of their time. I’m single but regularly run errands, exercise, go grocery shopping etc in the “middle of the workday”. I get my work done. Nobody complains.

It’s just a matter of knowing and recognizing your own value.


I literally negotiated for the flexibility of my working conditions. Had to renegotiate when the pandemic hit.

Parents needing such negotiations may be a "hidden cost" that y'all aren't considering. Also, parenting is a ton of work so when I kick off the paid job, I'm still working 'til 9 most nights.


That’s awesome, it was clear for everyone involved what your situation is so things can be planned around.

Out of curiosity, was there ever any situation that your manager would reach out and ask for you to put additional time because of an urgent requirement / situation?


Yeah, there was a recent slow-emergency situation, which did require more work than I typically budget for. In that case, I ended up working after I put the kid to bed. It was the result of a bad decision by management, they were quite apologetic and my team got some un-accounted-for time off afterwards. If this turned into a regular thing, I'd quit with or without another offer in hand.


You're really just doubling down on making the parents point huh.


Sure, if you insist on reading past the part where I expect everybody to demand better for themselves and I'm dismayed when they don't.


> I don't assume that non-parents can or should pick up the slack.

Maybe you don't assume that, but the system built around parenting does assume that. A clear example of this is "new parent" time off. At my company, new parents can take 4 months off work (paid). So, if you work on a team of a dozen people, and 10 people on the team have children at some point, that means, at a minimum, 2 people are picking up more of the slack than the others.


Let's be clear here, the "system" in question is just exploitative management. If management knows a worker will be taking their leave they can either hire to make up for it or adjust their productivity expectations for a few months. If they don't, that's not the fault of the person taking the leave that they're entitled to as part of their compensation package.


Filling in for the missing teammate is only part of the problem, though even that assumes temporary (possibly skilled or specialty) help is readily available for a short-term assignment, or that productivity can be scaled back without missing deadlines which in some cases are set years in advance and are essential for coordinating schedules with other teams.

No, the real issue here is that everyone is paying for this benefit which only helps a subset of the workers. Ordinary PTO—vacations and holidays—is available to everyone to use as they wish. Sick leave is only for those with medical issues, but statistically most employees will end up using it at some point and they all benefit from having that protection since it's (more or less) a random occurrence. But parental leave is not random; it's specifically tied to the employees choices, and some employees are not in a situation where it would ever benefit them. Logically, then, paid parental leave should be an opt-in benefit which employees pay for, not a default part of the general employee compensation package.


At my work, new parents tend to give 3-6 months notice before that PTO and we hire temporary replacements. What's wrong with your workplace? It's not the parents.


Alternatively the firm can take a productivity hit for a couple months.


You're ignoring the fact that in most cultures saying you have a kid related event will get you out of something while usually retaining your standing in a company. Trying to negotiate leaving at 4pm so you can go home and relax is not seen in the same way. As a parent you're bargaining with more leverage.


This is an issue with your workplace. Yes, a parent is essentially threatening to be fired every time there is an issue with their kid. What we need is more people implicitly threatening the same whenever they have non-kid issues crop up that the business refuses to accommodate.

It’s not that parents have more leverage, it’s that everyone knows a parent’s threats are real.


> What we need is more people implicitly threatening the same whenever they have non-kid issues crop up that the business refuses to accommodate.

Much more fun to beat up on parents than cancer patients, isn't it?


Sure. But when my daycare falls through and I need to pick my kid up outside my normal schedule, I don't go home and "relax," I go home with parental duties which is work. So, no duh, going hone to "relax" is not the same. Now, if you need to run home because your basement is flooding, that will also be seen as different from going home to relax.

When my kid is sick, I take a sick day. When school and daycare are both cancelled, I take a vacation day. Everybody at my work gets the same amount of both, only I'm more prone to using up my sick time and using vacation days to cover illness. Single people generally get all their vacation as vacation, and their vacations are breaks from responsibilities. My "vacations" happen on a schedule determined by school, and it's a vacation for my kid, with no real reduction in my responsibilities. "Hidden costs" indeed.


Employee A: I have an event that I must attend and cannot inconsequentially avoid.

Employee B: I want to go home and relax.


Employee C: I'm leaving, see you tomorrow!

As your co-worker or your boss, why do I care in the slightest whether you're going home to take care of your kid, to smoke a bowl and watch a movie, or because a new video game was released that day?

If A, B, and C are all getting their work done in the time that they are working, I think equally of the three of them, as subordinate, peer, or supervisor.


Bingo.

A, B, and C should all just leave at a regular, reasonable time. And sometimes each of them has reason to leave early, and doesn't need to justify it.


Employee B: [to prevent burnout so that I can remain a functioning member of society.]


As you posted down below, this should all be seen equally if the person is getting their work done, but it's not, and that's the point I was making.


They have to prioritize work because your kid gets sick, or gets out of school early, or you have to go to their event. Kids have much more time to disrupt your life, and parents need more accommodation than single people for flexible scheduling. It's single people who pick up the slack for you, the whole "negotiating" thing is BS because its rarely the disruptions are on a fixed schedule.


God forbid you get sick, injured, have a family obligation (marriage, funeral, etc), doctor's appointment, etc. If your management is so incredibly inflexible that you get punished for having events outside your control that impact your availability, then that's a problem with management. If you see parents having responsibilities as the problem, then your team/management is toxic. They want you to stay socially dependent on the team, to the point that you cannot have a life on or off the clock. Find another job, that's a sickness.

Or, stick it to the parents: go out, meet somebody, have a baby of your own. If that sounds impossible, the problem is almost certainly how you're spending your time. Probably a work/life balance issue.


> God forbid you get sick, injured, have a family obligation (marriage, funeral, etc), doctor's appointment, etc.

This isn't a binary issue. Work/life balance is obviously important for everyone, but where that balance point lies varies depending on individual circumstances. Employees with children have all those same obligations plus the additional responsibilities related to their kids. They receive more accommodation, on average, than employees without children. Performance expectations relative to pay should be the same for everyone regardless of their situation outside of work but that isn't always the case. If you need an excuse to claim time off, those with more excuses will tend to get more time.


Point is that the parents have all those things happen to. They just get the excuse of their children having those things happen to them and they get to take time off of work for it too. Whereas the single/childless/whatever people are not going to have that freedom. So, yeah, they’re gonna have to pickup the slack at work as per usual.


We don't "get to" take time off work. We need to take time off work. You seeing my obligations as privilege is a problem.


Ah yes - well I need to work less but for some reason it falls on deaf ears with my supervisor. Soooo weird how that works - hmmm….


Fire your supervisor.

But does your "need" involve a legal responsibility, as parents have to their children?


Do you have a legal need to reproduce? No.


Ah, yes, the misanthrope defense. Ask your mom if you deserve to live, and see what she's got to say. If she asks why, explain that you think that she'd have been a better wageslave if you didn't exist.

Thankfully, reproduction is thoroughly protected constitutional right. You'll thank me when my kid's taxes are paying for your social security and medicare. You're welcome. Because we live in a society.

But weirdly enough? There's a new law in Texas, and copycats coming to a state near you, that will legally oblige women to carry a child to term, even in cases of rape. So, the answer to your question is yes. Fuck.


> I have a family, and I'm very protective of my time because failure to, for example, pick my kid after school would quickly escalate to criminal negligence. If my work demanded that I commit any crime, I would refuse until I got fired (quitting is for losers, in this case: I want my damned severance).

> Said differently, if you're upset at parents putting their children's wellbeing before your team's performance, then you should re-evaluate your relationship with work.

Who are you arguing with?


It's a redirection of focus. In this thread, non-parents are upset at parents because they feel crunched when we have obligations that prevent us from working certain hours. The reason that they feel crunched is not the fault of the parents; it's the fault of management. I'm arguing with the notion that this is some sort of privilege parents have, that non-parents necessarily pay the price for. If management takes this sort of interruption into account, you won't feel the crunch. If management punishes your team because of circumstances outside of your control, that's abusive. If you ostracize the teammates with those external circumstances, you're playing into a divide & conquer tactic. You'll probably end up on the receiving end of that at some point.

If you think it's important to be a team player, show some loyalty to your team and demand better of your management.


Your comment clearly demonstrates OP's argument. Parents believe their time is more important than that of people without children.


No:

> I expect all of my coworkers to be protective of their work-life balance and I'm dismayed whenever I see them prioritize work in a detrimental way.

I agree completely, as a parent. I don't expect non-parents to put in extra time. Kids certainly do give you "real time deadlines" that can't be moved or pushed out of the way, but I don't expect to work any less because of them.


Those real time deadlines that take you away from your work is what they're talking about. You leaving for those deadlines means someone else implicitly needs to pick up the slack.

Or at least that is the argument.. but there are a few assumptions here that aren't true. Namely, someone doesn't need to pick up the slack, the work will be there the next day in most cases. Someone else with kids might be around. If your boss is treating you different it's on you to call it out and move on.


> You leaving for those deadlines means someone else implicitly needs to pick up the slack.

It really doesn't. That's only the case in an abusive work environment.


Wouldn't this really depend on the job?

Maybe there is a assumption up thread that it's a tech office job being discussed?

But many jobs, if you had to leave to pickup kids because a bus brokedown, a no-change deadline - and you were working the afternoon shift at a wendys. digging trenches for a sewer line, paving a road, processing a line at an ER - all sorts of jobs - I think there would be no choice but for others to pickup the work being skipped.

So I think it's very job dependent. Even some tech jobs probably can't just be postponed till the next day.


We're on hacker news, most everyone here works in tech.


> I expect all of my coworkers to be protective of their work-life balance and I'm dismayed whenever I see them prioritize work in a detrimental way

What does "[prioritizing] work in a detrimental way" even mean?


It means prioritizing working over one's non-work life, i.e., ignoring the "balance" in "work-life balance" in favor of doing work for someone else.


> ignoring the "balance" in "work-life balance"

Is the balance not a personal choice? If I consciously choose to have a 90-10 work-life balance, why is that detrimental?


If you're also among the folks getting mad about those of us who don't work outside of work hours, then it's not a precisely a personal choice. But, benefit of the doubt:

When I was in university, I did the 90/10 thing. When I graduated, I lost almost my entire social network. I don't want you, or the people I work with, to experience that. Non-work hobbies make you a whole person, more pleasant to be around, more interesting to talk to. Please don't spend the prime years of your life pulling for somebody else's dream.


I'm not mad, I just found this a bit odd:

"I expect all of my coworkers to be protective of their work-life balance and I'm dismayed whenever I see them prioritize work in a detrimental way"

I'm keenly aware of the effects of working all the time and that I'm in my "prime", even moreso because I'm remote.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be working a lot if I didn't enjoy it and think I was gaining something valuable from it. Being in my "prime" also means it's a great time to learn and grow because everything compounds.

Btw I'm not working 90% of the time, that was just an extreme example.


No, it's not really a personal choice the way you mean--which essentially makes "balance" have no meaning.

It's detrimental because it's unhealthy for you (c.f. consciously choosing to smoke tobacco products) and it's also unhealthy for your peers--because your employers will always prefer the person who devotes himself to service of the employer over balanced individuals who don't, forcing them to adjust toward the unhealthy end.


> which essentially makes "balance" have no meaning

Only to you. Someone else may feel that 90-10 is a good balance for them at that particular time.

> It's detrimental because it's unhealthy for you

Working a lot isn't inherently unhealthy. You can be physically and mentally healthy while working a lot.

> forcing them to adjust toward the unhealthy end

Only if they want to keep up. I don't think about working more as "service of [my] employer", it's about faster personal growth. I don't expect other people to also work more, but I'm also not going to slow down for them.


It really depends on what exactly you're talking about. If you want to be unavailable for an hour every day during the standard "work day", that goes well beyond reasonable protectiveness of work-life balance in my opinion.


If you’re explicit about it and your manager accepts it, that becomes part of the deal.

Just as other people will take 2 hour lunch breaks every day to exercice or leave early for months to go find a new home etc.

To your point, these arrangements usually go both ways, and are compensated for instance by starting earlier or bringing some work home. But it’s far from being limited to parents.


> If you’re explicit about it and your manager accepts it, that becomes part of the deal.

I'm confused. What authority do you have to say that something has become part of a social contract involving your coworkers when those same coworkers had no input on the process?


That's how social contracts work. They're not explicitly negotiated formal agreements done by equals. They're the outcome of never ending negotiations that happen not daily or hourly but on a minute by minute basis. If you don't like the social contract of your workplace you quit and find a new one. If you don't like it but you have no good BATNA you grin and deal with the shit. A social contract is an accomodation with power.


Your manager’s authority.

By definition they get to say what is part of the contract, on behalf of your coworkers. They can still complain after the fact, but will need to convince your manager(s) to reverse the decision. If your manager doesn’t have that authority you need to deal with HR or whoever had it, but by definition there will be someone holding that role in your company.

Of course consulting coworkers on important arrangements makes thing go smoother, but it’s only consulting, the chain of authority doesn’t disappear.


Maybe if you’re manning a conveyor belt. I couldn’t care less when my coworkers get their work done and think it’s completely reasonable if someone wants to shift some hours around if it makes their life easier/more enjoyable


I'm a programmer working from home. My manager does not give a shit if I'm randomly unavailable for an hour every day.


They give a shit if you expect full pay for 7/8th of the work. And they give a shit if you only do 7/8ths as much as before you had a kid.


o.O

If you're delivering on schedule and performing comparable to expectations then it shouldn't matter what hours you work.


Honestly, I think that my peers without kids who work crazy hours are, simply put, suckers.

I don’t expect them to pick up slack. I expect the employer to properly staff and schedule.

If they have not learned to stand up for themselves, that’s not on me. And if they choose to work extra (like I did when I was a newbie) then that’s their freedom to.


The problem is that if someone asks "man, we really need to get X finished today; Jake needs to pick up his kids, would you mind?" it's pretty darn hard to say "no" unless you actually have a good reason not to.

You can call them "suckers" if you will, or you can call them "nice people forced in a situations where all options suck in some way".

Some employers are better in managing this than others. I've been at one small company where I was just a bit too often the "go to guy" because I don't want to be the asshole causing my coworkers to miss out on family time; or that's how it felt anyway if I had said "no".

Some employers will consciously emotionally blackmail employees like this (although it wasn't conscious in my case).


> The problem is that if someone asks "man, we really need to get X finished today; Jake needs to pick up his kids, would you mind?" it's pretty darn hard to say "no"

This scenario seems like bad manager working with an insecure-overachiever.

It-least in software it shouldn't be hard to say no. Most of the time they don't "really need to get X finished today". If its so important why are they telling you last minute?


This is before I worked in software. They needed people to staff the shop (as in, literal shop) in the evening. Also see my other reply for some more context.


It sounds like learning to set some boundaries and thinking about what you really want out of work would benefit you. You are the go to guy because you acted out that role enough so that it became real.

If you want to be needed at work, then great! Keep doing that. But if you resent being the go to guy on a regular basis, start by changing that which is easiest to change: your own behavior.

Easy way out here: schedule something after the typical end of the workday, even if it’s meeting friends at a bar.


I was working slightly above minimum wage in a shop, and before that as a complete minimum wage worker in a warehouse. Now, almost 15 years later working as a fairly well paid software dev, yes, I would (and am) more assertive. In that kind of position; the dynamics can be rather different; it's not the kind of dynamics where you can "just" push back to your manager (depending on the person, not even gently) and losing your job is a big deal since you don't have a lot of financial reserves.

I was actually fired for declining some night shifts at a different job once; and that was actually because I had obligations as a scout leader. These people were right assholes though for this and various other reasons (but I did manage to hack the barcode scanning machine there so I could program some toy programs on that when there was nothing to do during the night, hah!)

This is probably some context I should have added to my previous post.

> Easy way out here: schedule something after the typical end of the workday, even if it’s meeting friends at a bar.

So becoming alcoholic is the solution? haha


I don't understand this line of thinking like a teenager in some drama series - its business and you have contract to get paid for a set number of hours a day.

Either the company compensates you for working overtime and you want to do extra hours, or you say no and they can hire more staff or descope features.

There's no need to be scheduling events for excuses, just say no, its none of their business why you say no and you will get more respect by having boundaries.

From my experience management see people who go above and beyond as compliant suckers and will lowball them on compensation and bonuses.


I wouldn't say no, but if this is happening consistently I would point during reviews out that I've been putting in greater contribution and expect commensurately greater reward.


> it's pretty darn hard to say "no"

Why is it hard? It shouldn’t be.


Sure, in which case since no one talks about salary because it's "taboo" go ahead and negotiate yourself a raise for doing that.


> it's pretty darn hard to say "no" unless you actually have a good reason not to.

Why?

You say, "No, I'm tired and I've already worked a full day." And without waiting for a response, you stand up and walk away.


This - unless its causing a production outage just say no.

It's managements job to maintain expectations for delivery dates, not your job to work extra hours.


> Honestly, I think that my peers without kids who work crazy hours are, simply put, suckers.

I've seen these people get much more work done than their peers (sometimes) and get compensated with higher salary and promotions. They might be suckers, or they might be prioritizing money or experience while they still have a lifestyle that can support it.

So passing judgment by calling them "suckers" seems kind of ignorant IMO.


The problem is when these people only get more done because they work more hours for the same money. They basically lower their own salary.

I can totally understand this for someone that is paid hourly and wants to get overtime pay to have enough money to fix their car. But our context here is usually highly paid, salaried tech jobs.

If I work more hours I can also get more done. I don't want to though and that has nothing to do with children or family. I've never in my life worked more for free. I sometimes work more when something needs doing but then I take extra time off somewhere else. So far no issues with promotions or anything else like that.

All my bosses understood that this is a money transaction. They give me flexibility to come in late, leave early, have a dentist appointment in the middle of the day etc and I'm flexible too. Production is burning at 5pm? Of course I don't leave even if I have a date later that night.

EDIT for clarity: if someone takes a 40h job for 100k and works 80h weeks they have now effectively lowered the market rate and their own salary to 50k. Why anyone would do that is beyond me especially since I see the same people complain about "H1Bs undercutting them" .


They’re not suckers if they get raises and/or promotions. Then they are being fairly compensated for their time and commitment, and have no reason to complain, right? It’s only a problem if there’s no reward for all that extra work.


Or maybe they like what they do and don't have much else going on, and are happy to fill their time with more work.


That would make them suckers.


I literally write programs in my spare time for free. Perhaps that makes me the ultimate sucker. If I do some of that for my employer out of my own free will, it’s no worse.


Well then you have the opposite problem. "employees with kids are being paid 20% less than their non-kid-having counterparts. what type of discriminatory policy is causing this?"


I know I'm going to catch flack for saying this, but married men rarely complain about this. They usually know they're not working as hard as their single, or otherwise less family-occupied, counterparts and as such cannot expect the same career trajectory. It's a trade-off and usually a conscious one.


Those people are at the mercy of their employer who gets to decide if all their free work deserves a raise or promotion. It’s not a great system.


I didn't realize that my employer can hold the skills I gain by working hostage.

"free work" is a really weird way to word what I would consider as learning.


Who else should decide if the sum total of their accomplishments warrant a raise or promotion?


That shouldn't be the assumption. If there is slack to be picked up, good management should hire more labor rather than stretch existing labor thin and burn out their workers. Companies that grind people right to the deadline are doing it wrong.


I agree. At one company my team had a new manager start and one of the first things he said to us was "if you have to work overtime I'm not doing my job properly". That attitude should be more widespread in my opinion.


A different perspective, assuming none of us will have kids, now imagine what is going to happen on all the services you must have when you age, who is going to provide them?

They will be provided by all the children many parents including your colleagues are busy raising while having a job(or more than one job). We will all benefit from this one way or another, it's vital for any nation to maintain a healthy birthrate(2.3 per couple) for the same reason.


This assumes the rate of deaths stays the same, that we can't automate certain processes and that we also maintain the current economic model which requires growth to sustain retirement funds and government services. “Healthy birthrate” is entirely dependent on the underlying structure of that society. Alternatively, we could adjust and actually require less people over time. I'd argue that in many ways we've reached the point where a growing population is not healthy at all.


This is just the fundamental nature of human nature. People are hardwired to watch out for the kids in their “tribe”.

Ask yourself how you would respond as a manager, on a gut level to two different scenarios. One is a subordinate comes and says “I need to leave early today, my daughter’s the lead in her school play.” The other says, “I’m gonna dip out mid-afternoon. Tryna make the 4-20 celebration at Mission Dolores later”.

We can argue till we’re blue about whether this is fair or not, or the burden and benefit of making people for the next generation, and entitlement and so on. But at the end of the day, none of it will matter. You can’t change human nature, and people who care for young children will always be given a certain unique level of respect and accommodation in any society. Period.


> “I need to leave early today, my daughter’s the lead in her school play.”

"And you tell me now?"

> “I’m gonna dip out mid-afternoon. Tryna make the 4-20 celebration at Mission Dolores later”.

"Yeah, no you're not gonna dip out."

Note how you phrased "I need to leave early today" vs "I'm gonna dip out". Semantically they mean different things. It's also just bad form to dump these kinds of things on your manager on the day itself.


"Bet. Enjoy!" works for both.


> they implicitly assume that non-parents can and should 'pick up the slack'

Not accurate. I expect management to “pick up the slack”. If the work can’t be finished in a normal work week then that’s not my problem (and it wasn’t before I had kids either)


why the eff are you lot fighting each other? it's your managers putting the expectation on you that you can pick up the slack for your coworkers going home on time. who's really out of line here? the people going home to take care of the rest of their lives, the people staying to "pick up the slack", or the people who insist that it's reasonable to ask you to do that in the first place, instead of, I don't know, hiring adequate numbers of staff or paying you overtime for the extra hours worked?


Even if parents require accommodations the way you suggest, considering that we (parents) are subsidizing the lives of single people, it isn't an unfair ask.

However what you suggest is the exception rather than the rule. Instead one or both of the parents tend to work very hard and struggle to juggle career and domestic obligations, often to the detriment of raising their children. It's worse the lower the socioeconomic ladder one goes, too, because of the extreme physical and psychological pressures that build.


Who, and how, is forcing parents to subsidize the lives of single people? Either I don't get what you are saying, or that argument was made in bad faith


Who do you think provides the economic activity that supports our civilization? It's human beings. Who makes these things? Parents, and at great sacrifice, given how abusive and demanding employers are.

Single people benefit from having parents make the sacrifices and do the work of raising those human beings. They benefit substantially. And then complain about property taxes and supposed 'special treatment' parents get. It's petty and ignorant of them.


That economic activity is the product of the kids' choices to work and not the parents' choices to bring more kids into the world. Single people are not being "subsidized" by the parents of the other (perhaps also single) people working for them—they're paying their way in full. If anyone owes compensation to the parents for the cost of raising their kids it's the kids themselves, not the parents' employers or random strangers.

The only basis for saying that the parents deserve compensation for the kids' economic activity would assume that parents own their kids (and thus the fruits of their kids' labor) and can force them to work for the parents' benefit, but that sort of slavery is out of vogue in modern society.


The parents birth and raise the kids to make those choices--this isn't a difficult concept to understand.

"The only basis for saying that the parents deserve compensation for the kids' economic activity would assume that parents own their kids..."

That's an interesting perspective that is completely divorced from the context of this conversation--it's entirely irrelevant and non-responsive to anything, in fact.


> The parents birth and raise the kids to make those choices--this isn't a difficult concept to understand.

It's still the kids' choice and the kids' labor. They deserve the credit for doing the work, and receive that credit through their wages. Society doesn't present bad (or merely unfortunate) parents with a bill when they raise kids who end up being a burden; the flip side of that is that they don't get a prize when their kids turn out to be over-achievers.

Most kids, over the course of their lifetimes, will end up consuming about as much as they produce, which means bringing them into society is not some grand favor to the human race on the part of the parents. Unfortunately, the rare cases where the balance strongly favors production over consumption (i.e. gaining wealth) tend to invite more suspicion than appreciation.

> That's an interesting perspective that is completely divorced from the context of this conversation--it's entirely irrelevant and non-responsive to anything, in fact.

The only thing "completely divorced from the context of this conversation" is this nonsense I just quoted. You claimed that parents subsidize the lives of single people by having and raising kids who then go on to produce things for single people. I responded, completely relevantly and on-topic, by pointing out that considering the fruits of the kids' labor to be a subsidy paid by their parents presumes that the parents own their kids and the fruits of their kids' labor, a situation most commonly known as "slavery". If they don't own the labor (and they do not—it's the kids' labor, not theirs) then they aren't subsidizing anything. Their efforts as parents are a gift to their children alone, not to society.


Flexibility is great for everyone, for people with kids and without. I’ve never heard that used as being code for lower productivity before.


Seems to me that your supervisor and coworkers should never hear about whether or not you have a family or kids.

Surely that sort of information is need-to-know at work?


OP's point though is that in some companies, revealing that you have kids at home unlocks a "go home early and never be contacted outside of work hours" perk which is unavailable to those who don't have (or want to share that they have) kids.

It's a tough balance, because if you don't allow the same perks to your childless employees, they end up being "suckers", working extra hours for no extra benefit. Conversely, if you were to eg pay them more, even for working more hours and being extra contactable outside of regular hours, it could be seen as discrimination.


Come on, seriously? What kind of robot would hide the fact they have a family from colleagues?


I don't really talk about my personal life with my coworkers. HR only finds out because I have to contact them to change the beneficiary and dependent information on my life insurance and health benefits.


My family or lack thereof, as well as my commitments and happenings thereby are not work-relevant, and, in my view, not work-appropriate matters of discussion.

It's not "hiding" anything, it's keeping personal things personal. I don't talk about my medical issues at work either. It's not hiding, it's just not need-to-know.

Show up and do your job, and then go home.


Very seriously. I can corroborate that these people exist. Took 5 years to figure out the guy had a girl friend. For the entire 5 years. Couldn't tell. He'd definitely not volunteer any info, couldn't tell from any other behavior whether or not he had any family. For all we knew he didn't even have parents.


Yep. Came here to say that this is a consequence of revealing too much about your private life to your co-workers.


True story, I once worked with a guy who got out of being "voluntold" to work a weekend long migration project by bringing up "I've got dad duties this weekend, sorry".

A few months later he and I were hanging out at a bar, the time gets away from us and I go "hey man don't let me keep you out here away from your family all night, it's cool if you gotta go".

He looks at me and asks "what family?" I am confused.

That's when he drops it on me: he's been at this company 5 years lying about having a family because it gets him out of doing off-hours work and nobody asked any questions, they'd just assign work to someone else. Whereas when some of the younger, childless, and more impressionable workers try to protect the boundaries of their off-time...well you see where this is going (if not: they would get talked into doing it anyway)

It's a kind of malingering that I found...honestly....kind of brilliant in a bastard kind of way.


I've done this before. What one of the earlier posters says about being able to negotiate completely disregards cultural context and what you come to the table to negotiate with. Having the kids excuse allows you to get away certain things while also maintaining your standing in the company.


You can also simply opt out of this sort of additional unpaid work by enforcing strong boundaries with your employer.

It doesn't require lying.


I'm 58, female, never married, no kids. I'm not raising the next generation but my coworkers with kids are. I want to be supportive of a group of people who have chosen to do something - and someone has to do it - I have chosen not to do. If I stay late at work to finish a project and my coworker with kids leaves to pick up her kids, why is that a problem? When child-free workers fail to understand their responsibility - paying taxes for public schools, supporting parental leave, staying late so a parent can pick up their kid - in helping to ensure that children have parents who are available to them, they fail to understand the role we all need to play in creating and nurturing a community. I would make the same argument for coworkers caring for aging parents.


So what do you suggest instead? I can see a few options

- nobody being a parent

- parents being bad parents so they can be good workers

- any work dropped on the floor due to parents stays on the floor until they're back

Options 1 and 2 lead to worse societies and therefore decreased efficiency in the slightly longer run.

I guess the last option would work the best?

Overall it should be blindingly obvious to everyone that parents work way more than non-parents, at least for the first ~7 years of their kid's life.


Option 4: "asking employees to do extra work because they are single constitutes discrimination based on marital/family status. Don't do it. Ever."


So that's kinda like my option 3. I kinda agree, although if "asking" includes an option of denying the request, then I think it's perfectly fine to ask those people who have more free time to do more work when needed.

Note that where I live, things like this will usually be compensated 1:1 (sometimes better).


So what you're saying is: you're expecting parents to simultaneously work as much as singles do, and 'in their free time' raise the next generation of people that can wipe your ass in 60 years when you expect someone to take care of you?

Alternatively, you can vow to never take any service/product/support/technology from anyone of a younger generation. Then it would be fair.


Yes, why would should we expect less of people because of choices they made external to the workplace? If someone volunteers at a homeless shelter, should they get slack analogous to parents because they're doing something beneficial to society outside of work? If someone is single, but contributes to lots of valuable open source projects, should they get the same benefit as parents? There are plenty of things that people do outside of the workplace that benefit society. Furthermore childless people still pay taxes to fund public schools and other services for the young, they're already contributing towards other people's child rearing.

Also, think of this from the employer's perspective: if parent's output is smaller than childless people it's in their incentive to hire childless people over people with families.


I’ll repeat it for you: Alternatively, you can vow to never take any service/product/support/technology from anyone of a younger generation.

Everything else is freeloading.


If a childless person buys a coffee from a teenage barista they're freeloading how? They're not taking a service, they're paying for it with money.

Childless people already subsidize parents by paying taxes to public education and other children's services that they will never make use of. By your logic, parents should stop freeloading off the taxes of childless people and shoulder the entire burden of these services.


It’s freeloading because you are relying on someone else putting in the work and money to raise that person. That’s an externality you just take for granted - it works because the social norm so far was that everyone contributes to the social contract ‘survival of the species’. If that contract vanishes, it’s time to introduce payment to the producers of the working force that you then can hire - parents.

What you do now is to say ‘I pay the cab driver, and of course I expect someone else to provide the car free of charge so that I can take advantage of it. I assume it just falls from the sky’.

I don’t know where you get the impression that it’s for the fun of parents that kids get an education. Maybe it didn’t occur to you, but parents pay taxes, as do their children.


1. Those children don't need much particular upbringing to wipe asses.

2. They will be compensated for the ass-wipings.

3. The majority of the children's service will be to their parents, not me.

So why should I give others a pass and do their share of the work so they are free to produce a series of systems to take care of them and not me?


Yeah, but they need someone to bring them up.

So if you agree that ass wipers need to be compensated, you will surely agree that the producers of ass wipers need to be compensated?

But sure, as I outlined above, if you vow to never use a service/invention/technology/etc from anyone younger than you are, by all means, then you are indeed not a freeloader. How’s that working out so far (unless you’re 20)?

Everything is else is you freeloading and relying on someone else to do the work for you.


Why isn’t it possible for both groups to have an equal work life balance?


It is possible. Don't work extra hours just because you don't have responsibilities waiting for you at home.


It sure is, if you adjust for that at work. If you don't, you're expecting parents to work (at least) two jobs.


If that's an issue for you then don't be a parent. Or have one of you be a stay-at-home parent. Or get a job with fewer hours.

The unspoken assumption here is that people without kids aren't doing anything outside of their work that might be considered "work". They just choose to spend their time on different things.

Parents really aren't special.


Oh I’d be happy to speak that out openly. And it’s easy to test: what are you doing that is so essential that it will ensure that there are still humans in 100 years, and how many hours do you put into this?


Because clearly there is a shortage of people on this planet... Indeed, humans are on the verge of extinction!

Gosh this has got to be one of the most entitled attitudes I've come across in a long while.


Haha, says the freeloader who expects the world to organize around their needs!

But you didn’t answer my question: what is your grandiose contribution to this world? What do you do for others, without which humanity would go extinct within 100 years? Some open source project to organize your music collection?


Also - I don’t have a problem with parenting, I have a problem with freeloaders.


Raising the next generation of people who pay singeltons' salaries and make their lives possible is different from indoor rock climbing and slamming avocado toast, and relatively at least it very much is special.


You have a very curious view of childless/single people. Gosh, this must be the first time I've seen someone use "avocado toast" other than a parody of these kind of views.

And ironically, I actually spent many years volunteering as a scout leader and some youth computer initiatives shrug


A lot of these things seem like complaints about reality rather than complaints about the way society is organized. I'm sure there's some social bias against single people in the workplace and out. That seems like a reasonable complaint.

On the other hand smaller food packages, for example, require more packaging material, more shipping weight per portion, some fixed organizational overhead per item, etc. Two people sharing a bedroom, kitchen and a bathroom is always going to be more cost efficient than one person in the same bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Two people sharing a car is more efficient than two single people each buying their own. A family phone plan is more efficient to manage cost-wise for a phone provider since they only need to manage one account.


A family phone plan is cheaper per person purely for capitalistic reasons. It’s not due to some magical overhead issues. After all, managing an account is a trivial amount of expense for those companies when it comes to the monthly income from a customer.


The cheapest phone plans tend to be available to singles anyways so maybe that wasn't a good example. Mint Mobile is $15 a month.


Bella DePaulo Ph.D. has been writing about this for at least 14 years now [0]. This article is actually a good summary of her thesis and perspective which is simply society is biased against single people. Her book titles include Singleism, Alone, Singled Out, and Single with Attitude.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3ABella+DePaul...


> These all may seem like small annoyances, but in practice they are regular reminders that American society still assumes that the default adult has a partner and that the default household contains multiple people.

Well, it is the default, so it's completely reasonable for society to assume that. It's the default for historical reasons, but it's also currently reflective of the vast majority of people's experiences. If the options are "single household or not single household" and only 28% of households are single, that's not even close to parity.

Also, check my math, but: if 28% of households are occupied by people living alone, doesn't that mean that closer to 20% of people are living alone? That's assuming all non-single households have exactly 2 people, which of course is wrong: on average they have more.


well we should definitely only consider the “default” of every dimension of human being. says whoever is default in that particular trait.


The biggest cost of living alone is getting on the housing ladder. Even with a large deposit saved up, on my fairly average UK salary, the amount I can borrow on a mortgage does not get me very far in my area. If I had a partner, even if they were on a minimum wage job, it would change what I could afford from 2 bed terrace to decent 3 bed semi-detached.

Not saying it's unfair, just that it kind of sucks.


Could it be that your expectations of what housing should be are formed by the "default" households? I think 2 bed is way too much for one person, while 3 bed is barely enough for two, so it looks like you are getting a better deal now :)


FWIW, I found it's cheaper per capita to live alone. Almost every non-negligible non-housing cost scales linearly. When I was alone I was happy in a studio; I could work, sleep, exercise, have guests, etc. all in the same room. At most I'd have a small 1-bedroom, to hide the bed from guests :)

With 2 people you need to have a separate bedroom in case only one person is sleeping, a living room to have guests (we also use ours for exercise, which has on occasion prevented me from exercising when it was occupied, so ideally we'd need a gym room too), then you need an office for each person in case someone else is in the living (or in case both are working and need space), suddenly it's a whole 3-bedroom house and it feels more confined than a studio did.


> American society has been slow to adapt to people who are single or live alone.

The elephant in the room is that most societies actively want to penalize people living alone.

It’s not hidden in any way, the centuries old rhetoric is people are supposed to get into cis-gendered couples and have kids. There is cultural lag on allowing LGBTQ to get the same status, but our society will always pay lip service to helping single people, and strongly push for building families, whether it still makes sense or not from the population perspective (I have no idea about that).

Single elderly people are tougher problem, but old farts will just blame them for not having kids caring for them (physically or financially).


>It’s not hidden in any way, the centuries old rhetoric is people are supposed to get into cis-gendered couples and have kids

I mean, society ceases to exist if enough people don't reproduce.

From a pure evolutionary perspective the society and culture that prioritizes having kids is going to expand and grow compared to cultures that don't. There are tons of anti-natalist groups that existed and died off because the entire group died off and there wasn't anybody to replace them


You can be anti-natalist and still adopt or foster.


> The elephant in the room is that most societies actively want to penalize people living alone.

This rings very true for me.

Where I live, and likely many other places, one bedroom apartments and studio apartments have a huge overlap in rent. Both are way too high, but it's absolutely bonkers that studio apartments are almost every bit as expensive. This is not a large city/tech hub/anything notable.


  > The elephant in the room is that most societies actively want to penalize people living alone.
i dont know if "actively want" is the right way to put it, but it does seem to be a kind of situation (overwork, output, expectations) that as time goes on, ironically makes it harder for them to "make a family"...


A lot of shit that has been pulled on working women, where there's a point it just breaks (shitty work with little career prospect, no support, low wage and too much living cost) and they drop out of the work force, leaving them with few choices outside of marrying. For guys it can be more subtle, but bullying into marriage is still a thing depending on where you live. Making it shitty for singles can work in the long term (I'd argue it's been done for centuries)

Overall I think people refusing to build families is less on the expectations (though it has a role, I concur) than the overall economic situation where being poor/"middle class" is just so bad, anyone that's not dreaming of having kids just understands it's a bag of hurt all the way down.


No shit. It's called survival of the species. Let's call this society A.

Now try to imagine a society B where everyone with a kid is penalized. Let's make it as clear-cut as possible: death penalty.

Which one do you think will continue to exist after a few generations?

Obviously it's not as straightforward for LGBTQ+, but it turns out - if not denied the right by an oppressive society - many are happy to adopt or find other arrangements to take care of and raise children. Win-win.


"living separately is about 28 percent more expensive than living together"

Only if everybody in the household is in paid employment.

Ask a sole breadwinner if living alone is 28 percent more expensive...


I think it's really funny that fantasy and DnD artists draw taverns as spacious inns with tons of rooms, when in reality most ancient people were sleeping together in the same room, peeing together in the same bathroom, and generally never alone except if you had the money to afford such a luxury, or you gave yourself alone time by running off into the forest.


I can happily live with my parents and save a fortune (assuming the logic in the article is correct), but the mating market wouldn't agree with we. The only way I can compensate living alone is to work extra harder to accumulate more professional currency; even if it means that I am so-called stealing jobs from people with families.



Definitely have much higher costs to living alone. Some hidden - some not. Having mostly lived alone for the last 10 years, all of these things are obvious to me and not-obvious to my partnered, family’d, and roommated peers. The surgery thing is real - part of my not looking into one surgery I should do is because I live alone and won’t have anyone to take care of me. I might be able to get a friend to drive me from the hospital but that’s it.

Where I am - I spend more on rent than some of my peers spend in their entire month. I’m not living in a lavish place either - just a 400sqft inlaw unit in the backyard of a 4000sqft lot. This is due to the lack of housing for single people and communities built around it. Unfortunately, many developers out there aren’t interested. After all - why go after a bunch of individual customers when you can target groups of customers just as easily? (Cost is effectively same to get a group of four to purchase than an individual - but now you can sell 4x more) These could be addressed but I don’t think our capitalistic society is willing to do such because the incentive structure isn’t there. They’re always seeking maximum profit and single people will continue to be pointless to cater to - especially since single people often will buy the group thing because there are no other options. So you can now sell 4x the product to just an individual - huge win. Rig the market further and support this fucked up system as much as possible. No reason to ever change this structure because it maximizes draining bank accounts. So while it makes sense for the companies - it completely fucks the consumers. This is where capitalism fails so often in the real world and deserves all of its criticism.


Part of that lack of 'single person housing' is a zoning issue. It sets minimum sizes and makes building multi-family units literally illegal. Thus with things needing to be a minimum size and multi-family units illegal, developers only go for what is economically viable in an area, which is the SFH.

The most capital efficient kind of construction is actually the large wooden house designed as a fourplex. You also get more total rent & $$$ sold from multi-units than you do from a single family house, because multi-units are more land efficient. If developers were not limited, you would see a lot more of them.


> If developers were not limited, you would see a lot more of them.

I agree to some extent. In the end - I blame developers and the political climate of demanding that your house always appreciates in value... Which is beneficial for existing homeowners who choose to not move and for developers. However, it's not beneficial to those who do not own.

I think capitalism, a lack of social safety net, and people looking for anyway to get even a small win in our horrible system is why we see such unjust dynamics in the market.


I texted a group of friends who are in relationships earlier today if they would take bags of garlic powder because the 1.5lbs 9 Dollar container was so much cheaper than another option but I didn’t want to devote like half a shelf in my kitchen to it.


Higher tax rates despite having higher living costs. Your coworkers and boss assume you're cool with off-hours work because you don't have a family. Food packaged in sizes that you can't possibly use before it spoils or molds.


Thanks for sharing this valuable information.


It's the same in Europe. And likely the rest of the world.




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