Hands on laptop keyboard.

Quiet Quitting isn’t New, Caregivers Have Always Had To

There’s an interesting take on quiet quitting that I had not considered before, probably because I’m not a parent. You can read more about it here:

Moms Have Been Quiet Quitting for Decades—Will Executives Hear The Wake-Up Call?

To quote:

The fact that “quiet quitting” is seen as a modern act of boundary-making reveals just how much moms have mastered the “quiet” component. Make no mistake, our quietness has not been a product of passivity, but an approach born of necessity. Moms in the workforce haven’t had an equal voice in creating workplace culture; instead, we’ve had three choices: One, bend to a hustle mentality that promotes personal sacrifice at the expense of family and well-being. Two, we can opt out, but is that really an option when the alternative leads to burnout and imbalance? Or three, we can quiet quit and risk being mommy-tracked.

This is true. I’ve lived in the legal world, and I’ve seen plenty of examples of moms, almost always moms and not dads, who are forced into making different career decisions because the typical partner-track workload is incompatible with caregiving for children. I’ve also worked in the tech sector, and it’s no different. Not to mention the number of workers who also have to make different career choices due to playing a caregiver role with parents or other family members.

I’ve talked about this before with what Claudia Goldin was calling “greedy” jobs:

The topic she was chatting about was the gender pay gap and how much child care contributes to it, and one of the reasons we have a gender pay cap, aside from the percentage that is discrimination, is that greedy work doesn’t account for child care, but it pays more. So in many families, they have to make a choice between less pay and the flexibility to share the child care equally. The economics of that don’t usually make sense, so one parent takes on the greedy work to maximize the family income while the other steps back to a more flexible role to provide the majority of child care. With social norms being what they are and the other issues contributing to a gender pay gap, that most often means the man in a heterosexual couple, so here we are with women being vastly underrepresented in these positions.

Herein lies the problem that many of our younger employees see and refuse to play along with. Why should our choices be between making a comfortable wage and living outside of work? Why do we live in a world where we have to “quit” being engaged in our work or decide against fully engaging in our families and communities? Moms have had to make this choice for years. Be a good mom and care for your children by lessening your career opportunities, or be a bad mom and focus on your career.

Why is that the choice?

I see article after article talking about the “loss” of productivity to companies when employees are not fully engaged. Still, no one ever calculates the loss in our communities from people who contribute nothing outside of their job. We don’t put a number on the damage done when fathers are uninvolved in kids’ lives or on the missed mental health benefits of being involved in hobbies, friendships, and community groups.

Whenever I see those statistics about the percentage of employees who are “disengaged” from their work, I ask myself the same question. Is that necessarily a bad thing? I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about doing good work, but if being engaged is defined as being someone willing to always do extra and give up on things outside of the office, maybe more of us should be disengaged. It might be better for our mental health and it might be better for society.

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