Single parenting, a medical emergency, and inclusivity: an interview with Bre Sprague

Walker at the hospital

Walker at the hospital

How supportive and inclusive is your organization to the needs of single parents?  As her son fought for his life, Bre got a phone call from her company that changed everything.  She shares her reflections on empathy, gendered expectations, and the particular challenges facing single parents.

You can listen to the entirety of the interview here. The Handle with Care podcast can also be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play.

Bre Sprague

Bre Sprague

Three lessons or perhaps questions emerge from my conversation with Bre.

  1. How inclusive and accommodating is your company to the needs of single parents?  If you don’t know, ask the single parents that work with you.  Create a focus group, send out a confidential survey.  Then consider, what can you offer to show support to single parents?  By offering support systems like flexible working arrangements and results-oriented hours, you can give essential support as well as differentiate yourself as an employer of choice. 

  2. Conversations with people in the midst of disruptive life events really matter, do you feel equipped to have those conversations?  As Bre was sitting at the bedside of her sick son, she had a phone call that changed her work trajectory.  Bre’s life was upended and the company had to absorb the cost of recruiting and retraining her replacement.  This could have been avoided.  What if that person, on the other end of the line, had been able to offer basic support and empathy?  If you would like further training for yourself or your staff in how to have these conversations well, consider engaging a workplace empathy consultant. Information can be found in the contact section of 

  3. Vulnerability can be a way of bringing clarity to a situation. For Bre, that looked like letting coworkers know that her grandmother died and that she was compromised as a result. Are you a part of a culture that allows people to feel comfortable expressing their emotional location? Do they believe that they will be met with empathy when they are vulnerable? If not, what can you do to bring more of this clarity and open communication to the workplace? If you are in leadership, perhaps this starts with sharing some of your own need for empathy and support.

Walker Sprague

Walker Sprague

Here are a few other tidbits from our conversation…

 Single parents are an asset, not a liability

14:36 - Bre Sprague

And you know for me when I look back at everything and I talk to other single mothers and other single parents and single fathers who do it you just find a way to make it work. You stretch the dollar you, you find a way to make sure that the needs of your child are taking care of and that's an asset that's thinking outside the box that's being able to go oh wow like let's look at this from a different perspective.

 Yeah, I really feel that a single parent male or female is a huge asset or a single caregiver because there are a lot of people who are taking care of parents who are having to live with them now. And you know as a single parent that that asset and what I say that you know you're showing up you're, you're doing what needs to get done you're structured you're scheduled and I feel like that and I'm not saying that every single parent or every employee like that is like that be great if everybody was but you know it, it isn't a huge asset to any organization when you have a person who is driven to take care of the needs beyond themselves.


There can be a different standard for men vs. women in regards to time off

18:36 - Bre Sprague

I love men and this is not meaning to be a bash on men. A lot of it is our society and still how programmed we are. And the, the double standards that do exist against women in the workplace. You know I, I know of fathers who coached baseball teams who have to leave work early to go and coach baseball and it's like wow that's great. He's coaching the baseball team and that same excitement and that same you know, you know really applauding and cheering somebody on as a woman needs to be there because all too often it's not. And, and if we want more women to be able to step up to the table and roles of leadership, we need to create cultures where you know what it's OK, you're a mom. That's part of who you are. You know it's OK.

You know your kid got sick and isn't it great that we now have technology that you can work from home for a day if you need to work from home you know or that you know you can do the companies that do unlimited PTO as long as you're getting your work done.  You know your kid got sick and isn't it great that we now have technology that you can work from home for a day if you need to work from home you know or that you know you can do the companies that do unlimited PTO as long as you're getting your work done.  And I think that's the key factor is that moving away from cultures that are micromanaging the old way of thinking to saying how do we allow somebody to show up as their full self


Happy, valued employees stay and contribute

24:29 - Bre Sprague

I am a fan of your mission of your work because people we've heard over and over again people don't leave jobs they leave poor management and they leave toxic cultures and all too often people will make a quick lateral transfer and they're not making any more money but the environment that they're in has been so toxic that they cannot stay any longer.

And I'm a huge fan of what you are trying to accomplish and what you are accomplishing because when a person can show up as their whole self in a workplace happy employees stay happy employees are productive and that's what we really need to try to cultivate more of.

Bre and her son, Walker

Bre and her son, Walker