ask the readers: bringing your toddler to meetings

A reader writes:

This morning, I was at a breakfast meeting with our executive director, with about 15-20 other employees, to talk about our annual employee feedback surveys. About a half hour into the meeting, an employee who just returned from maternity leave this week walked in holding her one-year-old and apologizing for them being late, saying, “We had to rescue a chihuahua on 14th Street.”

Everyone on the surface seemed completely fine with her walking into the meeting with her child. The executive director even made a joke about whether her son had valid access to the building, and my boss echoed this. I’m guessing she probably had clearance to bring her son in the first place, but all I could think in my head was, “WTF?! This is completely inappropriate.” Although for a one-year-old he was well-behaved, it was very distracting to intermittently hear baby noises and him banging keys on the table. Am I being uptight and unreasonable? Is this becoming increasingly common in the workplace, or was this bizarre and unprofessional behaviour? Any feedback would be appreciated.

I gave my own opinion about this four years ago (wasn’t a fan of babies in the office then, and still am not now), but what do readers think?

{ 441 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous

    A little off topic, but if she just returned from maternity leave why is she bringing a 1 year old to work? Unless the newborn is at home and this is another child, or the child was adopted…

    1. Anne

      Also possible she took an extended maternity leave in the U.S. I could have taken a year-long maternity leave (although only as much time off as I had banked would be paid) from my employer.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m almost positive this person is in the U.S. (based on additional details in the letter which I removed for clarity), but some people do take longer maternity leaves here as well. Alternately, maybe it was a six-week leave, and the older child is slightly older than a year — 14 months or something. There are lots of possible explanations.

    3. Judy

      The law in the US is 13 weeks of Family Leave. Most companies I have worked for allowed longer leave, just that after the 13 weeks, returning to the job was not protected by law. And of course, anything beyond the short term disability pay for the delivery and any PTO was unpaid leave.

      1. fposte

        Twelve weeks, actually. And you have to have worked enough hours to qualify (1250 in the previous year) and be at a company with enough employees (50 within 75 miles).

        States can raise that requirement in various ways–California has pregnancy leave in addition, for instance.

        1. Aimee

          Yes, CA has, I believe up to 4 weeks before delivery, 6-12 weeks after (more than 6 has to be medically justified according to my OB), and an additional 6 weeks of “bonding time.” All are covered under state short term disability. Plus you can use FLMA to cover time for doctor’s appointments, etc (thankfully, I am exempt with no set schedule, so I don’t have to do that. I just make my appointments as late in the day as possible, and work from home afterward if necessary).

          In CA, the first week is not paid (which may be where the other poster got 13 weeks I don’t remember if it’s 12-18 weeks, counting that unpaid week, or 13-19 weeks); my company let me use sick time for that week with my first kid. If the HR person who handles maternity leave would ever get back to me, I will find out if they still do that. Otherwise, I’ll take PTO this time around, but I’d rather not if I don’t have to.

  2. Gina

    I work at a university and a student wanted to bring his newborn to one of the class laboratories. Can you imagine? Some people don’t understand common sense…

    1. Bridgette

      Now that is definitely not okay. An office is one thing, but a lab? With expensive, breakable equipment, gas valves, glass everywhere, and most likely dangerous chemicals and/or microorganisms? Oh hell no. A newborn in a Baby Bjorn MIGHT be out of the way but what if that student wanted to bring a curious toddler who knew how to climb…

      1. Natalie

        When I took chemistry in college, we got a safety handout that included warnings about working the lab while pregnant. I can’t imagine those chemicals would be great for a small child either.

      2. The Other Kat

        Lab doesn’t always mean chemical lab. A language lab, for instance, has headphones and a table.

    2. Anne

      Some people don’t have very good options. Childcare is expensive, and extremely expensive for a newborn (it is demanding work). No daycares in my town will accept a child under 6 weeks old.

      Also I took a lab class in college where the subject was the climate so none of the equipment would have been dangerous. It was mostly making weather observations. I still wouldn’t have taken a baby (and am a new mother myself).

      1. Bridgette

        I could see it if it was for one of the labs were no equipment is used and no materials handled – that was my astronomy lab in college most of the time, we just sat around for 3 hours and listened to the professor talk. However we were still in a lab space that had equipment.

      2. Anonymous

        It’s still potentially very disruptive to the class and certainly to the parent. Not to mention that just because your lab isn’t using dangerous substances, equipment, whatever, doesn’t mean that the lab space is clean. My university shared the freshman labs with some of the upper division classes and as one of the people who took care of the lab… we weren’t too particular about getting it clean or keeping it anywhere near baby proof (under the assumption that everyone in the lab understood basic safety measures and, eh, it probably wouldn’t kill them anyway.)

        1. Natalie

          That’s lovely in theory, but not exactly something you can always put into practice. People get pregnant on accident, a person’s circumstances might change sometime post-pregnancy… most people try to make the best of whatever situation they end up in.

          1. KellyK

            +a million

            When birth control is 100% reliable and time travel has been invented (so that if you get laid off, you can go tell your past self to hold off on the kid-having), this might be reasonable.

            1. K.

              Or when you accept that choices have consequences and that sometimes life hands you difficult situations and yes it’s not fair but THAT’S LIFE. You find a way to deal with it that doesn’t involving imposing your children on other people in situations where they don’t belong, whether it’s a kid at a nice restaurant at 9 pm because you couldn’t get a babysitter and decided your night out was more important than anyone else’s or a baby in a meeting at work.

              1. Anon

                +1 Love this! Also happy NYC is banning children in some restaurants. I don’t have kids, don’t plan on having them, and cannot stand it when I have to be subjected to someone else’s crying brat. My parents used to yank us out of restaurants when we misbehaved and we never went back again. It seems that some parents now are so oblivious to their child’s disruptive behavior. I know you cannot hear the keys banging on the table, but I can!

              2. EngineerGirl

                +++ Yes, it is unfair. But you deal with the circumstances. It’s wrong to put your problems on others without their consent.

                If that means eating at Happy Place for the next ten years then so be it. There will be other compensations for the sacrifices you made.

    3. Zee

      I knew a student who was having childcare issues and basically said the toddler will be in class with them if the issue was not resolved. I put my foot down on that in defense of the other students in class.

      1. Hari

        There was a couple times when I was 3-4 my mom had childcare issues (basically I was a brat and didn’t want to be left with people I didn’t know) and I came with her more than a few times to her grad school classes. However, I was one of those rare behaved children in public. I was a bratty nightmare at home but since I was shy around new situations and people, in public I always stayed next to my mom and I was always content with a coloring book, I never made a noise. So not all children are hellraisers in public but I would definitely be wary in your situation as well.

    4. Anonymous

      That makes me really sad. I bet he really had no other options and really wanted to get to class. Poor guy :/

      1. Lilybell

        Oh, c’mon. A toddler in a classroom would be ridiculously distracting unless the kid was in a straightjacket. A newborn might sleep through class, but a toddler needs constant supervision.

        1. Natalie

          You can’t convert a class to online for one period because your babysitter fell through. And most science classes with a lab component are not available online for obvious reasons.

          1. Anonymous

            Yeah, but missing a day when you’re in college isn’t a huge deal. Stay home with the kid. There is no reason to be bringing a child to a college class multiple times. If someone knew their child care wasn’t stable they should sign up for the online class. Again, a science *lab room* is different from a regular class room and is NO place for a child. Maybe the parent should pick a different major if that is available entirely online if many labs are required.

  3. Laura

    Look–if this was the ONLY time it happened (or one of a very small few), I think it is fine, and should be encouraged.

    There has been a flurry of attention about need for women executives and how hard it is for women to move up the ranks (since they can’t just drop everything on a weekend and work on a project when they had a baby at home).

    If something personal happened today (her sitter called in sick, etc), her only choice was to call in sick to work. Do you you think her boss preferred her to be at work (with a calm baby in tow) or to just sit at home? I would prefer her to be there.

    Again SHOULD NOT happen more than 1-2x a year, but I think people should encourage this!

    1. Verde

      Agreed.

      It happens at my office once in a while – my boss has great child care, but when she is in the middle of a crazy work time and the nanny gets the flu, we all pitch in so that she can get to her important meetings. It’s only been one day here and there, and she just needs the chance to find an alternative or rearrange her schedule for the rest of the day(s) that the nanny is sick. It’s not a big deal – we take turns entertaining the kid for an hour, and then she takes him with her to some of the lower level meetings. It’s a nice break for us, and we know that she’s doing big stuff to benefit the org and that we’re helping out. In three years I can count the number of times it’s happened on one hand.

      If someone were abusing this, or the situation was inappropriate for a child to be at (unsafe, etc.), then obviously there are issues. But once in a while to keep things going is a good thing.

    2. Liz

      I totally agree. This just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, assuming the child can be reasonably quiet. And I don’t get all the “Children should never appear in public” gripes on the thread either.

      You’re a grown up. You can control your time and your schedule. Enjoy that privilege and just deal with the occasional disruption. It’s part of being human and living in shared spaces.

  4. Bridgette

    Once in a while if you’re in a tight spot and can’t get a sitter (and it was approved by the boss)? Yes, I’m okay with that. I have had coworkers bring their kids up for a couple hours because they couldn’t find anyone to watch the kid. But making it a habit? No. I think in OP’s case, it’s not that big of a deal – yes it’s distracting and I would have been annoyed – but unless the coworker is doing this on a routine basis, just let it go. Is it professional? Eh. Probably not. But sometimes you’re in a bind.

    Please note I do not have children of my own and I am highly selective in the babies I like.

  5. Roja

    I agree with OP, it’s bizarre and unprofessional but I also find it very rude. Not everyone likes children and being disrupted like this during work by someone else’s child, is a clear screw you in the face.

    1. Tina

      That’s a bit of an overreaction to say it is a “clear screw you in the face”. New moms are under an incredible amount of pressure not to slack off at all at the office, and if she had a meeting (which she may have been told was mandatory) and her child care fell through, then really, it has nothing to do with the OP, or the other co-workers, and clearly cannot be a “screw you in the face”, whatever that even means.

      1. Roja

        The “screw you in the face means”, I am a parent, my child doesn’t stop me from working neither should it stop you. Well that’s simply not up to the said parent to decide. Seriously a lot of parents overestimate the cuteness of their child and underestimate how how annoying their child can be to others. Btw, I my book it takes two to tango, so where is the father?

        1. Hari

          Who says the father is around/alive/available? Better not to assume so much on people’s situations we son’t know. I agree that a lot of parents don’t consider their children to be annoying. However keys banging on the table and crying is one thing, having them around and hearing the occasional coo or gurgle is another. If they aren’t causing a distraction (their mere existence in the room doesn’t count) , effecting the parent’s productivity, or if it isn’t a safety violation then it should be okay.

        2. Liza

          I agree with Tina. Completely inappropriate. Not to mention that she was late bc she was rescuing a chihuahua? To me, this suggests that the meeting was not so important that she was rushing to be on time. Maybe if something came up, she should have just skipped the meeting.

          1. OP

            I found out today from a co-worker she’s been bringing the baby to all sorts of meetings. I seriously think people are just afraid to stand up to pushy aggressive people like this co-worker of mine. I also sense she’s fully leveraging that fact.

  6. Sil

    Her babysitter/nanny/daycare center may not have been available, there may have been an emergency. And she had to make a choice between “not going to work” and “bring a quiet and calm baby to a meeting, just this once.”

    I think she chose correctly.

    Questions like this show how hard it is to be a working mother.

    1. Anonymous

      What about her co-workers who then had to be distracted by a baby during what sounds like an important meeting? Why is it that the rest of us have to deal with the fall out from parents’ choices?

      1. Anon

        Because ultimately we’ll all benefit from the propagation of the species (we’ll be in trouble if there’s nobody left to run society when we’re old).

        Though I do think the better way to distribute that amongst society would be excellent state-subsidized daycare like they have in some countries. That’s more equitable than putting the burden on individual co-workers.

        1. Anonymous

          We’re in no danger of the species running out. The problem we face is actually overpopulation, so parents aren’t exactly doing something selfless by propagating the species…..

          I’m at work. I expect not to have to deal with the noises, smells and other distractions of babies.

          1. Laura

            Ugh.
            . There are many brilliant women and men who choose to have families (and probably would choose that over their career if they were forced). So your choice is to loose their contribution from society, or have a heart once in a while.

            I am 23 years old with the dream of being a CEO or a large corporation some day (i think there are currently less than 20 women who have accomplished this feat for a top 50 company). I am told constantly that I am going to have to choose career or family. If I choose both, and still want to be a CEO, that means my children will probably be raised by nannies or my husband.
            I am scared, but I hope that I have a boss who will let me bring my quiet 1 year old to a meeting once a year.

            Oh –and I hope you NEVER make popcorn in the office, make a phone call at your cube, or eat potato chips. Those sounds are incredibly annoying, and if I can’t bring my (future) baby in one time because of an emergency, than you better never distract me with a personal phone call EVER.

            Sorry for the rant! I swear, i am a pleasant person, but some things get us fired up!

            1. jmkenrick

              I can’t say that I agree with you. Yes, it would be nice if everyone could have it all, but life is certainly not fair, and the fact that you want the best of both worlds is no reason your coworkers should have to accomodate your child.

              I’m not saying you need to listen to the people who say that you “have to pick one.” I think there are ways to balence children, and a high-powered career. But I fully agree that it’s unreasonable to bring a baby to a meeting.

            2. Heather

              +1

              Well said! We’ll never get work-life balance if the people at the top never face it as an issue in their own lives. Most male CEOs have kids – but they also have stay-at-home wives. These men don’t ever face the problem of the nanny not showing up on the day of their big meeting. So of course they don’t see childcare (or pet care, or elder care) as an problem that needs to be solved – because for them, it’s not.

              1. Anonymous

                CEOs could be divorced or widowed, for all you know. The difference is that people who get ahead do so by planning for emergencies, like, I don’t know, having more than one sitter they can call or a daycare as backup.

            3. Anonymous

              Yeah but I’m sure no one is eating popcorn, chips, or answering their cell phone during an important meeting. So no one should be bringing their baby either.

            4. Hari

              “Oh –and I hope you NEVER make popcorn in the office, make a phone call at your cube, or eat potato chips. Those sounds are incredibly annoying, and if I can’t bring my (future) baby in one time because of an emergency, than you better never distract me with a personal phone call EVER.”

              THIS. THIS SO MUCH. There are so many other annoying/distracting things people do around the office that a mere coo/gurgle of a baby would not even equate (its more on the level of a cough).

              1. Anon

                It’s not so much the gurgle or coo. It’s the ice pick in the ear “happy” shrieks babies make that would bug me more when I’m trying to concentrate.

                1. Hari

                  That’s completely understandable, and I think anyone would agree to that, but what is being discussed here is babies period, regardless if they are being quiet or nor.

        2. Mike C.

          You’re telling us that the fate of h. sapiens will rest on the ability for a mother to bring her small child to work? Are you kidding me?

          1. Anon

            Huh? Of course I didn’t say that. In fact, I specifically said I’d prefer that we had better social systems to support parents that didn’t involve inconveniencing their co-workers. Yeesh.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I think Mike was responding to the argument that we should tolerate kids at work because we all benefit from the propagation of the species. I share his reaction to that argument.

              1. Anon

                And I was reacting to “Why should the rest of us have to deal with the fall out from parents’ choices.”

                I don’t think kids should be at work on a regular basis, but I do think we live in a society that doesn’t have generally good support for parents when something out of the expected happens* regarding childcare. And since we don’t, the fallout from that is that occasionally someone is going to get stuck bringing their kid to work or not coming. It’s up to the individual employer to figure out which of those they’d prefer their employees do, but until we have a society where there are better options for parents in that situation, it’s going to be one or the other and non-parents (which, by the way, includes me) are going to end up a bit inconvenienced by it. But, in the grand scheme of thing, raising a new generation is actually an important thing and being occasionally inconvenienced – or supporting decent social services for parents and others with our tax dollars, which, as stated, is the better option – is not that big a price to pay.

                Don’t get me wrong, I find babies at work as annoying and distracting as anyone else, and it sounds like the person here maybe wasn’t in a situation where she really had to bring the kid in. But in general, yeah, if the daycare is closed or the babysitter is sick, and a big project needs to be finished? I understand sometimes a kid is going to be here.

                * Or at all, but that’s less relevant to this discussion.

                1. fposte

                  I think that there’s the general “be a mensch” rule–it’s beneficial to all of us have stresses, strains, quirks, and needs that aren’t going to be kept to ourselves, and that the world goes a lot smoother when we have some tolerance of that. The corollary to that is “don’t assume you’re entitled”–people are a lot more inclined to cut you slack if you’re asking to have slack cut for your tuna needs or your baby in the office than insisting it’s your right. That’s why it’s not really effective to make it an argument about children or parenting, being in a special category that other people aren’t–let’s make it about the advantages for all of us if we can both allow for some life flexibility and respect people for being able to allow for that.

                2. Ellie H.

                  I really agree with fposte. Let’s put the “propagation of the human race” aside because people can argue about that heatedly for hours. The fact is, the vast majority (~80% I think?) of people DO have children at some point, so you can’t deny that having children is a huge part of life, not going anywhere, and unreasonable to decry. I hope it’s not going to far to say that having kids is a generally reasonable thing to do (regardless of whether or not it is “necessary” for human civilization). And as fposte says, it’s important to be tolerant of other people’s behavior, even if some of it bothers us for legitimate reasons. If the behavior is not egregious and insensitive, I think it’s in everyone’s best interest just to tolerate it.

                3. K.

                  Cool. then can I bring my large dog to meetings too because I can’t always find someone to walk him during the day? If no, why is that again?

                4. Ellie H.

                  I feel the same way about dogs, K (I personally like dogs a LOT more than babies . . . I’m delighted to see dogs in the office whereas I really dislike seeing babies in the office). But the fact is that more people have children than are dog owners and that young children often require more immediate/less flexible care for a longer period of time, so the situation is unfortunately a bit different.

                5. Anon

                  K, I’ve worked in more than one workplace where people brought their dogs to work (occasionally or all the time). Personally, said dogs have always distracted me more than kids, but that doesn’t mean lots of employers don’t allow it.

                6. And if

                  K because when you put your dog in a cage at your house while you are gone to work for the day, you do not go to jail and have the dog taken away for pet abuse. When you do it to a kid…

              2. Anonymous

                So what do you guys want a parent to do if their child care falls through? Whats your solution? We all have to tolerate certain things at work that we don’t like – no one ever promised work would be a haven from irritations.

                1. Malissa

                  Have a back-up plan! And have a back-up to your back-up! I’m traveling 100 miles tonight to watch grandkids tomorrow because I am the back-up to the back-up.

                2. Mike C.

                  Just because we aren’t promised a workplace free from distractions doesn’t mean we should tolerate it.

                3. Heather

                  This is really in response to Malissa and Mike C, but there’s no reply button so I’m guessing the software limits the number of posts that can be nested within each other.

                  I think fposte said it very well above – part of being in a community is that you tolerate the little stresses because no one’s plans always go perfectly, but also try not to regularly impose on others. That way, when you need someone to cut you slack, you’ve built up some goodwill and they don’t feel taken advantage of.

                  BTW, fposte, do you often have people at work asking to be cut slack for their tuna needs? (“There is a sale on Starkist at ShopRite and it ends in an hour, I MUST LEAVE WORK TO MAKE IT IN TIME!”) ;)

                4. K.

                  What do parents who work at any of the MANY (maybe MOST) jobs where you could never bring a baby to work do? That’s what these people should do.

                  Can I bring my elderly mother to work when she needs care? How about my dog? What about my nephew, if I can get away with it at my office but my brother can’t at his?

                  “Parents” are not some special class that should get special favors that no one else gets. And some of the comments here really imply that some people think they’re entitled to leniency from the rest of the world, even though they don’t show the same leniency in the situations above.

                5. Kelly O

                  Malissa, I wish I had a back up plan, or even something else to back that up.

                  It is my husband and me. Period. We live in Houston. His mom lives in El Paso (and has a packed schedule herself.) My mom and stepdad live in Birmingham, and they both also work full time. My dad died eight years ago.

                  I have a daycare. Period. That’s it. During the week, during working hours. Other than that, I am on my own with my husband. One of us is always going to have to choose. That’s how life is. I wish more than you know that I was close enough for grandparents to be an option.

                6. fposte

                  Since I cannot understand anyone consuming tuna for pleasure, I can only assume they’re fulfilling important tuna needs.

                  And K., I’d love to have your dog at work. But one important difference is that you can legally leave your dog alone, whereas the law is fussy about you doing that with babies, even if you leave them kibble.

                7. EngineerGirl

                  You really need a plan B and a plan C. I know that’s hard. But it needs to be done and you should spend time planning. For example, car break down:
                  *Take bus
                  *Telecommute
                  *Take taxi if extreme emergency and eat the cost

                  I would think children merit even more planning. You certainly don’t want to leave them with strangers so you need to find out as many alternatives as you can. I suggest you take this weekend to do it.

                8. Anonymous

                  We all have to tolerate things in life we don’t like, also. And one of those things is that having a kid is going to mess things up if you aren’t willing to do something simple like have an agency on call for when the babysitter doesn’t show up.

                  Having kids is not a right. People act like they’re doing humanity some huge favor by having several kids when in reality we’re overpopulated and there are kids growing up in foster care because no one wants someone else’s “used” kid.

          2. Anon

            Actually, if you live in the United State and wants entitlements to exist into your old age, the decision for people (you or other people) to have children is in your better interest. Currently in the United States, the ratio of young workers to retirees paying for social security and medicare has dropped from 1 to 12 paying when these entitlements were starting to 1 to 4 and will be 1 to 2 when these annoying babies grow up. When the US passes a law suggesting that if you don’t pay into the system by having children to cover your entitlements then you no longer qualify fully for the entitlements, then I’ll feel sorry for all the people who are put upon at work. Otherwise, you are part of society and you need to get over yourselves. Certainly this should not be a common issue, but sometimes stuff happens. Grow up.

        3. Anon

          So I would have to pay for other people’s kids to get taken care of? I think we pay for enough state-subsidized plans for those who don’t work… I don’t want to pay for someone to watch someone else’s kids just so they CAN work.

          1. Anon

            Then you’re going to have to expect to either (a) pay more for people for people who can’t work, or (b) have kids in the workforce. Not everyone has convenient family members or spouses they can leave their kids with for free. Either we accept that a certain percentage of people will be plunged into dire poverty or we come up with systems of support for them.

            1. Anon

              That is such a typical liberal solution to everyting — create more welfare programs. Just to clarify, I am neither libreral nor conservtive (I am a little of both and consider myself a moderate). But I do not think it is fair to have other people pay for problems that they did not create. If you want social support systems, enlist the help of your neighbors and friends. State tax dollars should go to things that everyone uses and takes advantage of (roads, buildings, green space and parks, recycling etc…) not things that only a few get to have and for doing nothing to deserve the benefits. State-assisted childcare on top of the already existing healthcare, social security and food stamps being given out like candy to single mothers will not help those children in the end. It only perpetuates the cycle…

              1. Anon

                Anon, it’s instead of existing social security programs (or allows you to cut back on them). We have a social policy of not letting children starve – if more single parents can work without actually losing money because of childcare costs, then fewer will be on food stamps or other government aid. Seems like the cheaper solution to me and, as discussed in this thread, better than putting the burden on those parents’ co-workers when they’re stuck bringing their kids into the office.

              2. Melissa

                Healthcare benefits prevent you from having to pay higher costs at the hospitals – because when sick poor people go to the ER and can’t pay the bill, who do you think is paying? You, in the form of higher costs for procedures and higher insurance premiums to cover those costs. And when coworkers have to miss even more days of work because a simply-managed disease became something serious because they have no preventative care, you have to pick up the slack.

                State-assisted childcare (or subsidized childcare, which already exists) expands the workforce and puts qualified workers into the pot. The parent who needs childcare may be your next amazing boss, the person who decided to overlook X weakness to hire you or the person who restructures a failing company or invents something important or valuable. Not to mention that it decreases social expenditures in other areas. Parents who work because they have subsidized childcare are less likely to need Medicaid, welfare, WIC, SNAP benefits – all of which cost much more then subsidized childcare. And their children are also less likely to use those things when they are adults, and are more likely to be working and self-sufficient members of society themselves.

                Think big picture.

                Also, public assistance doesn’t perpetuate the system. All evidence points to the contrary. Most people on public assistance are only on it for short periods of time (3 years or less), and most are employed. And it does help those children – by keeping them from starving or dying of easily treatable medical conditions until their parents can improve their own living conditions so that they can support themselves.

      2. Natalie

        The baby is truly calm and quiet, any distraction sounds like the distracted employees’ fault. Of course, the minute the baby gets loud in any way, mom should take them out of there.

      3. Anonymous

        What about other types of distractions that can occur such as construction, weather, outside noises? If you cannot concentrate in a meeting or at your desk because of little distractions I think the problem may within rather than the cause of the distractions. Lack of understanding of mothers who work and the challenges they face is why women have been behind in the work force in regards to promotions and salary. A sick nanny is not a choice, it is a challenge that cannot be foreseen and there are little last minute choices available to choose.

      4. Anonymous

        Oh, come on. We don’t work in bubbles, we deal with fall out of our coworkers’ choices (aside: calling a problem with child care the parent’s “choice” is probably erroneous, I’m sure she didn’t choose to have her sitter back out) constantly. Just this morning an entire department at my office had to make a bagel run because a woman toasted a bagel in the kitchen and the entire office smelled so strongly of bagels for a moment that they all became obsessed with the idea. They had to deal with the distracting fall out of her choice to toast a bagel.

        This is just part of working in an office. We’re not talking about a massive disturbance here, just a calm and happy baby.

        1. Anon

          Yeah; honestly, I’d ban people eating canned tuna in the office long before I banned babies, were I dictator of the world.

          1. Heather

            Wish I’d read this before I commented on fposte’s tuna autocorrect above. I guess people really do have tuna-related needs at work!

        2. KellyK

          Good point! Also, mmmmm, bagels.

          I totally agree that people should do their best to minimize the distractions they cause for coworkers. Keep your music quiet or wear headphones, don’t cook really strong-smelling things in the office kitchen, etc. But the flip side of that is accepting that there will be things in your office that you find annoying or distracting, and it’s not your coworkers’ job to build you a bubble to work in.

          If the choice is between one person being vaguely irritated and somewhat distracted but still having a productive day overall versus the parent accomplishing absolutely nothing because they had to stay home with the kid, that skews things pretty heavily in the direction of bringing the baby in.

        3. Jamie

          “This is just part of working in an office. We’re not talking about a massive disturbance here, just a calm and happy baby.”

          I know the OP’s question was about the effect on the rest of the office – but there is a very real issue of productivity for the parent themselves.

          As most parents will attest, you get things done at home when the baby will let you. (And to be clear, I’m talking about babies and toddlers – not school aged kids).

          Baby down for a nap? Toss in a load of laundry and try to get the dishes done (or when the planets align, get a little extra sleep, too.) Content in the swing for a little bit? Try to get downstairs vacuuming done and another load of laundry. 2 year old riveted to Blue’s Clues? Maybe you get one of the bathrooms done while keeping an ear for sounds of unrest from the living room.

          When the baby is hungry you stop what you’re doing to feed. When fussy you stop what you’re doing to soothe. When restless you stop what you’re doing to teach or play.

          My point is, the kid’s schedule runs the show at that age – and most businesses can’t absorb that level of disruption without having a serious impact on productivity.

          In an emergency – maybe an employee at 50% is better than nothing. But most bosses demand better, and ALL babies deserve better.

          1. Ellie H.

            Serendipitously I happen to be eating a toasted bagel with goat cheese at the very moment of reading this comment thread! Sorry to rub it in everyone’s faces . . . it just seems like a delightful coincidence. Bagels!

          2. Aimee

            My company has bagels in the breakrooms, but someone took the last cinnamon raisin one, cut it in half, and put half back in the bag this morning. I wanted, no NEEDED (I’m pregnant, so cravings are needs, right? ;) that cinnamon raisin bagel this morning, only to be cruely taunted by the half bagel someone TOUCHED AND PUT BACK IN THE BAG! Who does that?

            I settled for cinnamon raisin toast instead – it was good, but not quite the same.

            1. Hari

              I’ve done that before. Although I make a point to wash my hands before I touch food, I don’t like to waste food either. I would rather someone else eat the other half than through it away. But I understand other people’s reserves about not wanting to eat something someone touched, especially while preggo.

              1. Ellie H.

                I am a big “half eater” and it never occurred to me that this could bother someone. Oops. That said, I’m also totally unsqueamish about germs/eating something someone has touched (unless I know that a person I really hate or am grossed out by touched it first) so I’ll always eat a leftover half . . .

      5. And if

        So are you seriously going to say that you are NEVER distracted in important meetings that babies are not in?!?!

    2. Job Seeker

      I agree with the statement it is hard to be a working mother. I have so much respect for those that do. I have a best friend that is a single working mother and a sister and they are amazing. I know sometimes they have been put in hard situations. I know it is easy for all of us to not put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

  7. Juana

    I’m fine with kids at work if it’s not a common occurrence, or if there really was NO other option than to bring them in, as long as they stay QUIET. I remember occasionally going to work with my mom when school was closed- I’d just sit in her cubicle and color and it was a big adventure.

    However, at my last job people would frequently bring small children in and let them run around, yell, and make noise. Once a temper tantrum happened right near my desk while I was on the phone with a client. I’m not okay with things like that! Although keep in mind this is coming from someone who is single and never wants kids of her own.

    1. -X-

      This.

      Occasionally is fine. Just like we sometimes take work home with us at night.

      Frequently, or in a majorly disruptive way, is not good.

      But sometimes? Some of the posters here need to lighten up, it’s not that big a deal. I’ll add that I’ve never brought a child to work, but have co-workers who have.

      1. EJ

        +1

        Everyone is taking things very seriously today.

        But it is an interesting reminder that things I find harmless are not harmless to others (and vice versa).

  8. Cat

    Ugh. In the rare instance that this woman was both absolutely vital to the productivity of said meeting (which, given the meeting started without her, seems unlikely) AND caught with a legitimate childcare crisis…okay, bring the kid. Otherwise, no.

    I wasn’t reading AAM back in 2008 but I completely agree with the linked post. (And truly hilarious in hindsight because I’m pretty sure that was posted the day after a disastrous kids-in-the-office-for-Halloween at an old job.)

    Maybe relevant to the story, maybe not, but did this woman take a year of maternity leave or did she leave the infant at home and bring the toddler. If the latter, ???

    1. Jen

      I find it really interesting how people in the US noticed that detail. To me it’s perfectly normal to be on maternity leave for a year and I keep forgetting that it’s much shorter for the US. (Actually, in Romania you can have up to 2 years of maternity leave…)

      1. Anonymous

        Haha, 2 years of maternity leave… that would be glorious. I picked up on the maternity leave length because I’m a pregnant HR person well schooled in the FMLA Act! I guess I should have moved to Europe :)

        1. Jen

          Well, if I don’t remember it wrong, if you take 1 year you’re paid 75% of your normal salary; if you take 2 years, you get paid a ridiculously low sum, decided on by the state. It’s worth it only if you’re already badly paid and you have someone to support you.

          1. ANB

            UK is 90% of your salary for the first six weeks (as long as you’ve been with the same employer for a qualifying period) and then £135 per week (or 90% of salary – whichever is lower) for a following 33 weeks. I think you can also elect to take 6 months unpaid after that too. That is all funded by the Government but your employer can choose to top that up and pay you more if they wish.

            1. Tina

              And I shall look forward to experiencing this first-hand in January! As an American abroad, Statutory Maternity Pay is a bit of a wondrous thing.

          2. Natalie

            I wonder if there is state-funded child care in Romania. From what I understand (I don’t have kids), here in the US it is sometimes a wash between working and paying for child care and not working until your kid is pre-school age. Although that probably doesn’t take into account the long term affect on one’s career that taking several years off probably causes.

            1. NicoleW

              That is correct. When I had my daughter, a day care center was more than I made after taxes and commuting expenses. But we couldn’t pay our bills on just my husband’s salary. So we found the cheapest decent care we could find for an infant, at a woman’s home who watched a few other kids as well.

              There are times when care has fallen through – yes, in an ideal world we would all have back-up plans but that isn’t always feasible. Most day cares – even in home ones – you have to pay even if they close or are sick. So to also pay the $50 a day for drop-in care at another location, is cost-prohibitive for your average income level. For me, we also have no family within 1000 miles. Some days, emergencies pop up, you do your best and hope it doesn’t reflect too poorly on your career.

              1. And if

                I do not understand: Day care costs per day are MORE than you make after taxes but you cannot afford to live on your husbands salary alone?! Sounds to me like you already are. Perhaps doing some consulting from home or working a shift when your husband would be home would be more advantageous than your current situation of basically paying for the privilege of working.

                1. H

                  She said a day care centre was too expensive. It sounds like her baby goes to a babysitter instead. They’re cheaper.

            2. Jen

              I’m not sure I understand, but if you’re asking if there’s state funded (i.e. free) nurseries, then yes, there are. Too few for all the kids, sadly (I hear it’s a big struggle to get your child into one), but they’re an option, so parents can go back to work after a year quite easily.

        2. estonian

          the maternity leave is 3 years in Estonia. 1,5 years fully paid at the rate of your salary (with a max cap) and 1,5 years paid at min level.your employer has to keep your job for you for 3 years.

            1. estonian

              they are on a fix term contract…often though women go back after 1,5 years when the full salary payment stops and often the replacement finds another job in the organisation or the woman returning requests a different (part-time) job.

  9. Jen

    I would find it bizarre too. Yes, it might have been a real issue (babysitter bailed at the last moment), but in such a situation I would expect the person to say something, an explanation, an apology… Children do not belong at work unless the mother is just passing through (we’ve had coworkers who are on maternity leave and bring their babies for people to coo over them, but they do not attend meetings with babies in tow!).

    1. Candice

      I agree. It should have been at least acknowledged by the mother, even if she had express permission. The baby was more important to mention as an interruption to the meeting than the dog on 14th.

  10. Kelly O

    I think that without knowing more about the specifics, it’s really hard to judge this mom.

    It could very well be that she had childcare issues and didn’t have anyone who could watch her kid, and she had to be at the meeting too. In that case, I’d also want to thank the company and boss for being flexible enough to allow her to do this – there are so many out there who would not only say no, but would then lecture the mom about missing the meeting due to her extenuating circumstances.

    I don’t agree that it was rude, and it sounds like the child was remarkably well-behaved considering the circumstances. (And one is probably the better age for this. I can’t imagine my two-year old being quiet enough to last through a meeting.)

    Now, could you argue that maybe the mom could have phoned in? Possibly. I don’t know if the logistics of the meeting would have allowed her to participate over the phone or video conferencing.

    The bigger thing, I think, is understanding that your employees have lives outside of work and sometimes those lives have things that inevitably bleed into the workday. A good employer recognizes that and makes accommodations for “unavoidable delay” – especially if the employee is doing her part. I’ve read several articles recently that propose that work/life balance is a myth. Work is part of your life, and its not so much balancing the two like opposite weights, but finding ways to get them all in the same jar (like the old rock/sand visual.)

    Just to head it off at the pass – although the mom/child example is visible at this meeting, I think the flexibility should be there for those without kids. Everyone has things that come up, whether its needing to be there for the plumber, or caring for an older relative, or caring for your animals.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      +1.

      If the kid is well behaved, have at it (but it shouldn’t be the go-to solution; it should be for true emergencies, when the nanny quits without notice or school closes due to a blizzard). I think accommodating a parent in that situation is no different from other situations that cause minor inconvenience to a team because one employee is having an emergency (such as an employee working from home when the team would be better off with him/her in the office because the employee’s bathroom has flooded and needs to be fixed NOW). I’d much rather deal with those little inconveniences now and then than work at a place that basically says, “When you have an emergency, you will ALWAYS be in the impossible situation of having to do your work with no accommodations and fixing the emergency at the same time.”

      For the record, I don’t have kids. My coworkers don’t bring theirs often, but I am grateful that I work in an office that allows that occasional flexibility to them (and to me, when something cray-cray happens).

      1. Stells

        You word this perfectly! I don’t have kids, but if someone needed to bring their kid in as an emergency solution, I’d deal with it. It may be annoying/distracting, but so are lots of things that us non-parent employees do (reschedule an important meeting last minute because we need to leave early because you have a migraine, or your house is flooding…whatever). It’s the nature of working with people.

        Now if this was happening often, that’s another story.

    2. twentymilehike

      I think the flexibility should be there for those without kids. Everyone has things that come up, whether its needing to be there for the plumber, or caring for an older relative, or caring for your animals.

      Thank you for mentioning this! Those of us without children sometimes get held to a different standard. As if children are little excuses and we don’t have them. Any member of your family is important! I’ve missed work because my husband was having surgery, or because my mom was sick and needed help. One time my apartment flooded and I had to take the cat work for two days.

      Its not that I have a problem with kids–I’m just no in a position to be having any of my own. I shouldn’t be made to feel bad for it.

      1. Catherine

        Agreed. We all need to be flexible for the various things that come up in life, like the mother who needed to bring her kid to a meeting, or the coworker taking classes with rigid exam schedules, or the other coworker who has to take care of a sick relative because no one else lives close enough, or the insane hours that service people have that forces us to be home between 8am-5pm.

        Taking your cat to work sounds awesome. I would love to have my cat at work, just for stress relief.

      2. Candice

        Similarly (kind of), it drives me nuts when smokers get little breaks throughout the day but non-smokers are chained to their desks.

      3. Ellie H.

        I agree. I’m pretty pro-kids but I find it really unfair when childcare or children related activities are seen as more “legitimate” than something that a childless person would want to do, and that childless people can be automatically expected to put in more random overtime or stay late.

        1. Jamie

          I have kids and I also find it really unfair as well.

          Time is time and who the heck am I, or anyone else, to assume that my off-hours are more sacred than theirs just because I have children? That’s so wrong.

  11. photodiplo

    IMHO, children at the office are distracting and unnecessary. Bring them to lunch, keep them in your office, but it is not fair or appropriate to expect your colleagues to entertain them or stay focused on their own work when your kid inevitably get cranky, wiggly, or otherwise distracting. Working from a distance when the unforeseen comes up should be more than enough, keeping in mind that the *man* in the picture (assuming there is one) ought to share this occasional unforeseen burden equally.

  12. Miriam

    I have two small kids — ages 2 & 4 — and I would never want to bring them to work on a regular basis. It would disrupt everyone and I wouldn’t be able to get anything done.

    That said (to echo some others)–its quite possible this woman was in a child-care bind and cleared it with the bosses ahead of time. I think if it happens once in a while it is no big deal. My husband and I live in a city where we have no family nearby, so if something comes up or one of our kids gets sick, we need to miss work. (Luckily we have flexible jobs where this is concerned, and can make up missed time if needed.) I suspect there are lots of parents in this boat. I hope that if for some reason I had to bring one of them to a meeting (again, very rarely), my co-workers would be sympathetic. (If I did it constantly, I’d understand their irritation.)

    1. Anonymous

      I had two thoughts:

      1) This is a *breakfast* meeting. That usually means slightly more informal and often means it starts earlier than normal working hours, which can mean “before daycare opens”.

      2) It sounded to me as if she’d already gotten permission to bring the baby and was only apologising for the lateness (which could have meant “there was a loose dog running in the street and I didn’t want it to get hit by a car”). In that case, she’s just responsible for keeping the baby as quiet and unintrusive as possible. Keys didn’t do it, but I’ve been in situations where I needed to stay in the room and it was a choice between a louder-than-I’d-like toy or 90db screeching.

      1. fposte

        If the choice is screeching or a loud toy, though, the parent really needs to leave the room with the kid, because the distraction issue has become a problem.

        1. And if

          UMMM….what if the parent has to be in the room because they are doing something important like say running the meeting and doing the talking… I guess, using your logic, the rest of the people should have to sit there and wait for say 30 minutes while parent- either momma or daddy- gets kid calmed down so that they can continue to talk because YOU did not want to be bothered by some rattling keys.

          True that does not appear to be the case here, but it can happen. To say blanketly that the parent should leave with the kid rather than subjecting people to the distraction of the kid is ridiculous. We have all sat through meetings where we were distracted and there were no physical kids in the room. Lets face it, long meetings are boring and we find ways to entertain ourselves.

          Me, I would be thrilled to have a little one in the room to keep me entertained while having to listen to crap that has NOTHING to do with my work and that will be of no use to me. And a meeting about “annual employee feedback surveys” would be such a meeting. The feedback they got was, typically, the feedback they wanted rather than what employees really felt. At least that is the way at every company that I have worked with has had results for their surveys. Employees who answered the “anonymous” questions use the link that told the company who they were suddenly ended up getting worse jobs to do.

  13. Ally

    Bringing a baby into the office is not uncommon in my office. In fact, there have been times when people brought their dog in (“he needs medicine every two hours, so I just brought him in”). I can always tell when there is a baby on the floor because everyone starts making a lot of noise, talking in high-pitch voices. I’ve heard many employees asking other co-workers that are newly returned from maternity leave “when are you bringing in?” like it’s expected. I find it annoying,
    BUT, it does seem that those that bring their babies in get prior permission and do it on days that are quiet. The coworkers that bring their kids in (3 years-12 years) usually set them up in an empty office with coloring books, ipad, whatever, so they keep to themselves.

    As flexible as our office is with kids, no one would EVER interrupt a meeting and bring a child in. Seems like that is the kind of thing that would ruin it for everyone else. I would have been very annoyed.

    1. K.

      What if someone in your office had allergies? There was a suggestion at an old office that we have a pet day, and the CEO brought up allergies and shot it down immediately, citing staff and possibly client allergies (among other things – she hated the idea). I literally had no dog in the fight since I don’t have pets, but I agreed with the CEO.

      1. Kimberley

        I’m laughing because my mind went first to “allergies to babies”. Probably the most unique excuse I’ve heard! Then I read the rest of your comment and it made much more sense!

        1. Heather

          I think I REALLY need to use that the next time someone asks me why I don’t have kids. “Oh, I have a really bad allergy and my throat swells up just from being in the same room as them.”

  14. fposte

    We’re pretty flexible on kids in the office, and aside from one person with obnoxious kids and little tendency to supervise (who, alas, outranked me), people have been good about it–in general they don’t come in for the workday, just while people who work remotely are here for a meeting. That being said, I’d prefer they not come to a meeting where we’re all supposed to be focused (we have other kinds of meetings where we’re all working on stuff, and the pace there is very different). But since I work in a predominantly female field with predominantly young people, and require some particular skills that are hard to find in my area, I’d demotivate some people I really want if I banned kids.

    1. The IT Manager

      I find this comment interesting. Who watches the kids while theese remote workers work from home?

      I just joined an organization with lots of telecommuters, but our telecommuting agreement is very clear that a worker cannot use telecommuting as an alternative to child care or elder care. And we have well defined “duty hours” (up to the individual) when we’re supposed to be working so we don’t really have lots of flexibility to alter our work hours on a whim. Mangement level staff also have tons of meeting – way too meetings – so so they really can’t choose to work evenings instead of days.

      That said having telecommuting support (including laptops and VPN access) does allow people to stay home sick or stay home with sick family members and still work when they would have otherwise been unable to do so there is an advantage. I do think some employees do get to avoid child care expenses with older children during the summer – the ones old enough to be around the house without close supervision but not old enough to be home alone. A co-worker mentioned though that her 13 year olds don’t like it that much because they are stuck at home all day too since the parent cannot leave the house to take them places when they’re working.

      I can’t imagine anyone with a child less than 5 or 6 being able to do a good job working from home while also watching the child. Children require too much supervision for the parent ever be able to really focus on work.

      1. fposte

        It probably helps that none of them are full-time workers. But honestly, I figure all that is their problem. As long as they’re producing like I need them to, which they are, they can do it in dribs and drabs or work from 2 to 4 a.m.

        I know this isn’t a model that can work everywhere. But I can’t offer much money, there’s not much possibility for direct advancement, and the state component makes the future pretty uncertain; I think this kind of flexibility has really helped me retain qualified people in an area where there aren’t that many of them.

      2. pws

        Well, to shed a little light on how I do it as an independent contractor for a company where I do the work remotely from home: I hire someone to watch my toddler at my home during my working hours. Because like you said, it’s pretty much impossible to work AND take care of a young child without sacrificing one or the other. To me, there really isn’t much difference between the childcare considerations a parent working in the office would face vs. a parent working from home, just a little bit more flexibility when dealing with sudden emergencies at home and the like. Seems entirely possible your other telecommuting colleagues have similar childcare arrangements.

      3. EngineerGirl

        I was thinking of a meeting last week with a colleague. Her kid was home (normally not). She was really well into a technical presentation when all of a sudden you could hear the child doing something to the dog (who was vocally howling). It was sad/funny listening to the colleague trying to deliver her presentation while knowling that she desperately wanted to find out the cause of the dog howls in the background.

        Kids just don’t mix well with work.

        1. And if

          There you go- She kept on with the presentation while all of you were subjected to the sound of the dog being tortured and you lived through it! Sure it was distracting, but you chose to get past the distraction. Just like you would get past the distraction if, right during a major presentation, a trash truck started backing up and you had that incessant beeping!

          It is not so much that kids do not mix well with work, it is more a matter of what do we, the people in the meeting, allow to distract us from where we should be putting our attention.

            1. And if

              Well then you would not have to worry about the dog howling anymore. :-P

              Seriously, if it was that bad, the dog would have been growling, not howling. And you are correct the trash truck is SOOOO much more annoying with the BEEEP BEEEP going on!

  15. K.

    From the 2008 article:
    I can’t imagine having to work next door to a crying baby or — almost definitely worse — adults speaking in baby talk.
    Absolutely definitely worse. I loathe baby talk. I never use it with kids I interact with. (My parents hate it too – they never used it with us, which is probably where I get it from.)

    In an emergency, OK, but all the time, no. An office isn’t a day care. And if people DO bring their kids to work, they should behave. A former coworker had three ab-so-lute hellions that she would bring in from time to time, and people would be slamming their office doors to get away from them. No discipline whatsoever, she didn’t bring anything to entertain them, nothing. I remember going in to work with my parents sometimes and we got the “Now, we’re going to my office. Lots of people are trying to get work done, so you have to be QUIET” lecture before we left the house, plus they’d pack books and whatnot to keep us occupied.

    1. A Bug!

      The only time I can tolerate baby-talk is when one of the very severe-sounding men in the office engages it, which he basically does for any kid under eight. He kind of has to in order to avoid scaring them, as he’s a naturally-intimidating person even with adults.

      Then, and only then, it’s totally hilaridorable. Of course, it helps that his “baby-talk” is strictly tonal rather than affecting a speech impediment.

      1. fposte

        One of my favorite babies *hated* baby talk. She liked me because I’d explain the business to her as if she were a colleague.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          My mom used to read the Wall St. Journal out loud to me and my sister when we were babies (as that was her only chance to read it herself). I think this is why I hate baby talk now.

        2. K.

          (By the way, there are two Ks. posting. I did not make the comments up thread that start with “Cool, then I can bring my large dog to meetings …”)

          Some babies totally hate it! My pretend-niece, who is 23 months, has parents and relatives and pretend-aunties who have always talked to her the same way they talk to each other (her parents even curse in front of – but not AT – her, which I make a point of not doing). So when someone else asks her “is my widdle bibbity-boo hungwy?” she gives them the side-eye. Reason #million why she’s a great kid.

          1. And if

            To clarify on the cursing, you mean that you make it a point to not curse in front of her, not that you make it a point to curse AT her, correct? Just clarifying since you stressed they do not curse at her then said you then said you make it a point not to do. ;)

            1. K.

              I make a point of not using profanity in my pretend-niece’s presence. I stubbed my toe in front of her and said “Rats!” Had she not been in the room I would have said “S***!” Her parents, however, would and do say “S***!” in that situation, but they would not say “[Pretend-niece], I stubbed my toe on your f****** rocking horse!”

              1. And if

                Just checking. I have a pretend niece who is a total brat. Believe me, it is all I can do not to curse AT her.

  16. Malissa

    You know I might have given the baby leeway, but the worker was already 1/2 hour late to the meeting. At that point why not just stay home with the baby for the day?
    But then again my office becomes baby central on some days and nothing ticks me off more than to see someone playing with some one else’s kid when I’m waiting on them to finish work that they are already behind on so I can continue my work.
    At the end of the day I really don’t care if people rarely show up to work, are constantly late, bring in a baby, or talk all day long as long as their work is getting done and they are not holding anybody else up.

    1. fposte

      Well summed up. In our prior instance, having the kids there interfered considerably with work. The way it’s happening now, it actually makes it a little smoother because the remote people are likelier to be able to show up for stuff. It’s also regular enough that there isn’t the distraction level that occurs when it’s a Special Occasion.

      I actually would have been strongly theoretically opposed to this, and it just sort of crept up on me as something that I actually consider advantageous. We’re also a workplace where it’s likelier to succeed–university, lots of remote and part time, small group, thematic relationship to work, etc. Plus the parenting is all sane, which obviously makes a difference!

    2. Indie_Rachael

      As a parent who has occasionally had to bring her kids to work, I always found my coworkers’ reactions to my kids more distracting than my kids (or most other people’s kids). My children will sit quietly with a book or electronic device and headphones, and even when the youngest was a toddler people didn’t realize they were there until they walked by my cubicle…and THEN came the incessant line of questioning: Are you sick? How old are you? What grade are you in? Etc, etc. THAT was the distracting part…that, and not being able to talk to anyone about work because they’d rather fuss over my kids (who ARE pretty awesome, I’ll admit).

      1. Indie_Rachael

        And I’ll add that my attitude toward kids at work, right or wrong, changed when I was no longer the only coworker bringing kids to work. One coworker brought her loud child AND a niece and nephew. It’s one thing to have to bring your own kids, but don’t turn the office into your extended family’s daycare!

        Employers should be as flexible as possible in helping any employee meet the responsibilities of their job (flexible hours, telecommuting, etc), but until most cities of any size (not just major cities) have after hours daycare or daycare with nurses on staff who can care for mildly ill children, and widespread drop-in care (I can’t find a daycare in my city that does not require you past weeklytuition to save a spot), then the issue of childcare emergencies will continue to be a factor affecting worker performance — one that can, and should, be reasonably accommodated.

  17. Piper

    A good alternative to this problem is to allow video conference meetings and more flexibility with work-from-home options.

    Personally, I do not like having babies or children running around the office, but I work for a fortune 50 company and it is a surprisingly frequent occurrence, even there. It’s so disconcerting to be working and hear a baby crying.

    However, I’m much more tolerant of dogs in the office than I am of babies. I used to work somewhere where I could bring my dogs in and it was great. They followed me everywhere and laid at my feet under my desk. It was awesome. They were the best coworkers I’ve ever had!

    1. Blinx

      I SO want to bring my dog to work. It would be just so great to have my little buddy with me. I’ve seen a couple of postings for jobs at a “pet friendly company” and my eyes just lit up! Wasn’t qualified, though.

    2. Jen

      Honestly, even if I’m definitely not a baby person, I would find a dog just as distracting. You never know when it will start barking and that noise drives me up the wall. A quiet baby or dog wouldn’t bother me, but I doubt either of them can stay quiet for long…

      1. Blinx

        I know. Not sure how much work I’d get done, either. But I’d still like to try it! When I’m in my home office, my dog just curls up on the window sill and sleeps. Until he hears a strange noise or the mailman, that is.

      2. Stells

        Depends on the dog/baby. My boys sleep all day – regardless. The days I work from home the only distracting thing is that the oldest one tries to crawl into my lap and obstructs my keyboard.

        Alternately, my best friend’s toddler is notorious for playing quietly. Her favorite story is when she noticed the toddler had been in her room dead quiet for over an hour, so mom poked her head in to make sure she was alive. Toddler was playing with dolls and just looked up and said “It’s ok Mom; I’m just playing”.

        But that child (and my dogs) are outliers, for sure.

  18. Tater B.

    Generally, I don’t mind. I have seen some of the most well-behaved children in my office and I couldn’t help but smile. It reminded me of my own childhood and “the look” my mom gave me whenever I had to accompany her to work.

    Slightly off-topic, but the only problem I ever had was with a woman who told me I didn’t need as much PTO because I don’t have children. I had to take a walk around the parking lot to deal with that one….

    1. Malissa

      I would have honestly stared at her like she had just had a third boob grow out of her forehead.
      I don’t have children of my own, but I have 5 grown step-children and many grandkids. But the most time-sucking person in my life was my elderly Father-in-Law. I may have taken more time off than the average when dealing with moving him down, helping him get help for his wife, and dealing with picking him up after he dropped his car for repairs, or ferrying him to doctors appointments. No kids at home does not mean one doesn’t need time off.

    2. The IT Manager

      OT sort off, but do you know what organization discriminates against single people by paying them less?

      The US military! People with dependents (spouses or children) get paid more than people without dependents. So unfare and yet somehow apparently considered legal by the US government.

      At least everyone, dependents or not, get the same number of days off. That’s no doubt a reminent of the fact that men served in the military and their wives were the ones who stayed home with the kids and took care of them when they got sick so the married men didn’t need extra days off.

  19. KellyK

    I don’t think there’s one set answer, I think it depends. At my office, people bring their kids on occasion, and it’s never caused a problem that I’ve noticed. I’ve never seen a baby in a meeting, though. We do, fortunately, have individual offices on this side of the building. Over in the mini cube farm, I could see it being a problem.

    In that specific situation, a meeting to discuss employee feedback surveys doesn’t sound like one that particular employee absolutely needed to be at, and I think coming in late was distracting all by itself. Bringing the toddler just compounds that. But if someone’s presence is really required, I’d much rather have a quiet baby around than have to reschedule the meeting and possibly scramble to get things accomplished.

    As long as the baby is immediately removed if they’re loud, the mere presence of a baby doesn’t seem like any worse a distraction than a lot of other common office noise–chitchat, inappropriate use of the speakerphone, someone with a cold sneezing or coughing.

    For people who insist that babies should never, ever, be in the office because you find it distracting, would you hold yourself to that same standard—that if you ever distract a coworker, you need to go home? For example, if you have allergies and are sneezing all day, would you be cool with taking a sick day—or a day without pay–to avoid distracting your coworkers? If not, then you really aren’t entitled to expect the same of a parent who might have childcare issues occasionally.

    1. Anonymous

      That’s not the same thing. I signed up to work with adults. I didn’t sign up to be around babies while I’m trying to do my job. For many of us, babies are legitimately more distracting (and annoying) than a sneezing adult.

      If you choose to have kids, you choose to deal with the inconveniences that come along with having them. I don’t know if some people don’t realize how incredibly distracting and unwelcome some other people find babies in the office but it reminds me of the discussion on holiday parties: just because you think they’re fine doesn’t mean all your co-workers agree with you and aren’t put out by it.

      1. Kelly O

        Okay, I will say this, and I don’t mean it to sound mean, but I really detest this sort of attitude.

        You know what I find unendingly distracting? The coworker who spends half her day on personal calls. The person who drenches herself in body spray after her smoke break. The person who insists on keeping her speakerphone on with the door open so we all hear every word of a conference call.

        Yes, there are “inconveniences” to having children. There are “inconveniences” to being alive. I chose to have a child. I understood when I had her that things would happen.

        But you know what? My company gives me five days off a year. Total. Sick, personal, vacation, whatever. Five days. So I am often in the position of trying to figure out how I can deal with making less than my budget allows because she is sick and I need to take her to the doctor, or she is running a fever just high enough that she can’t go to daycare. Can’t take her to work, but I can’t work from home, and if I don’t work I don’t get paid. And if I don’t get paid, I can’t afford the childcare that eats up about a third of my take-home pay on a full week.

        And yes, this is my individual situation, but I would just about guarantee you there are lots of people in similar ones. And the power company or the daycare does not care about whether your coworkers are bothered by your kid coloring in your cubicle, or if she starts asking Mommy for something a little louder than you thought. (And I’m fortunate. I have a spouse who pitches in. We don’t live in the same town as anyone in our family, so there are no grandparents to ask. And quite honestly our parents still work and are in the same bind. I can’t imagine if I were a single parent this far away from family.)

        1. Jen

          5 days? Wow. Is this normal for the States? My company is American, but I’m in Europe and I used to envy my US coworkers for their sick days policy (we can only take PTO or medical leave – i.e. with a note from the doctor, no calling in sick)… but yikes, 5 days! The law here says everyone gets 21 days paid holiday per year and you can negotiate up.

          (Also, employers should realize that working from home should be encouraged! It’s not exactly the norm where I work, but I know that if I have problem I can just talk to my manager and WFH for a day… instead of having to take PTO just to sit around and wait for the plumber for 6 hours.)

        2. Heather

          OMG, Kelly. 5 days is just insane. We are people, not robots.

          I agree with your whole post, and for the record I am not and will never be a parent, so I’m not chiming in out of selfishness. I’m just really bothered by people who blame individuals for “not taking responsibility for themselves” without acknowledging that there are system-wide barriers preventing them from doing so.

          1. Heather

            Also, I would like to add that I missed the part of the original post where the baby was banging keys on the table. *That* is not OK!

          2. And if

            Most companies I have worked at have only had 5 total days per year. And that is with me being in the workforce for 20= years.

            So yes, I would say it is close to normal. 21 days is definitely not the norm here.

        3. NicoleW

          Kelly O – all well said – I was feeling the exact same things.

          And while I could predict needing to balance work/life issues with a child, there is a lot that has been harder than I could have predicted. Trust me, if I never had to bring my child to work, I wouldn’t. It’s so stressful to try and entertain and quiet them! I’ve done it very few times over the last 5 years, and usually it’s because I need to be there after daycare hours. In a perfect world, we would never need to bring a child to work – she’d only get sick on weekends, daycare would never close, and Grandma would be around the corner as a back-up. But reality isn’t like that. We exhaust our back-up options, flip a coin with our spouse as to who is taking off, and decide whether to miss a meeting or bring the child for a few hours.

        4. Malissa

          5 days suck! I heard some where that California is trying to get mandatory paid sick leave for all workers. Which, IMO, is totally awesome. Nothing suck productivity more than people passing germs around the office.

        5. EngineerGirl

          But look at the other guy! My issue isn’t nearly as bad as his!

          I’m sorry Kelly O, I agree with you many times. But not this one. Both are distracting. But I can keep the kids out of the office. I’m sorry it is hard for you. I hope you get a better employer.

        1. KellyK

          Exactly. If you have really strong feelings about it, it’s worth asking in an interview, but simply assuming that it *should* be the case is just your preference for how the world should work.

            1. fposte

              Ever? Even for a moment? I don’t think that’s true. Even the old suit-and-tie places in the 1960s had babies and kids cruise through for visits–I know, I was one of them. So if you’re really looking for a place where no baby turns up evereverver, then yes, I think you do need to search explicitly for that and can’t assume that as a default policy.

      2. KellyK

        Well, is it something you asked about? When you say, “I didn’t sign up to be around babies,” do you mean you specifically looked for a workplace where bringing a baby was completely verboten, or that you assumed that was the case?

        I do think employers should make it clear what kind of work environment they have so that people can plan accordingly. But if a coworker has cleared it with their boss to bring the kid in in an emergency, they don’t owe you a distraction-free environment. (Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be allowed to listen to headphones, take your laptop and work somewhere else, or do whatever you need to do to focus in that situation.)

        The flip side is that some people find sneezing more annoying than they find babies. I used to work across the hall from someone with a terrible chronic cough and it was *much* more distracting than the coworkers who bring in babies. But I can still close my door and turn up my music a *lot* easier than that coworker could just stop coughing, or a parent could find a last-minute babysitter.

      3. Anon

        You signed up to live in a society. I worked with adults in an office environment who are total pigs…for all we know you are one of them…can I suggest you go home because I didn’t sign up to work on a farm? Your attitude sucks.

    2. Roja

      To be fair sneezing is not only more common but also something entire different then a baby. I hardly ever notice when someone sneezes or coughs.

      1. KellyK

        I’m thinking more of constant sneezing or coughing than the occasional sneeze, though. Loud and continual throughout the day.

        1. Roja

          Part of the office culture I signed up for. I signed up to be working with adults, and to be fair they can be annoying too. If I wanted to be working with baby’s I would have been a working in a daycare. A lot of parents overestimate the cuteness of their “pumpkin pie”.

          1. Nodumbunny

            For the most part, people aren’t bringing their kids into the office because they think you’ll think they’re cute. They’re doing it because they don’t have any other choice, or any other good choice.

    3. KayDay

      In terms of annoyingness, I would much prefer a baby to strong perfume. A woman from down the hall just walked into my office–she’s since left, but her perfume is still here. And now I’m sneezing.
      >:-\

    4. Meghan

      I agree with the Anon who said that when you decided to have a baby, you decided to shoulder the inconveniences that come along with it. Quite frankly, the office isn’t a daycare and shouldn’t be treated like one.

      I have coworkers with children, and on rare occasions the child will stop in for 10-15 minutes if the other parent is taking them to an appointment in the neighboring area. That doesn’t bother me, and in fact, it lightens up the day because the kids are of an age where they’re outgoing and say silly things. Having a baby or a toddler in the office is totally different, since they require different amounts of attention and are exponentially needier than a 6 or 7 year old.

      1. Anonymous

        +1!

        We all have choices and there are consequences to every choice. I chose not to have children. Instead, I’m saving extra money in my 401K to cover assisted living when I’m old, rather than relying on my children to care for me.

        Similarly, few things irk me more than when someone brings their kid into the office because of a daycare snaffoo. Sorry, but no. And honestly? I respect them a little less for it (perhaps I’m being too honest). I’ve seen both men and women do it at my office and in my mind, it shows an inability to balance. If you choose to have children, it’s your responsibility to have back up for child care and that backup should never – in any circumstances in my mind – be to bring them to work unless it’s for under an hour.

        1. KellyK

          Do you have similar backups for every possible way you might inconvenience your coworkers?

          The idea that other people are obligated to arrange their lives around *NEVER* irritating you is fairly entitled.

          Should people with kids have a back-up plan? Yes, absolutely. But sometimes life happens, no matter how carefully you plan, and sometimes Plans B through F fall through at the same time Plan A does.

          I think it’s arrogant to say, “I don’t care that your daycare is closed, your backup babysitter is sick, and your parents are out of town. You should take an unpaid day off because I find your kid annoying, and my annoyance is a much higher priority than your kid, your paycheck, or the work you need to get done.”

          1. K.

            Why is it arrogant? Many offices aren’t set up for kids and in fact most offices don’t allow kids in meetings. It’s because it’s not conducive to the atmosphere they want. That’s their call.

            What about jobs that can’t possibly have a kid tagging along, like a receptionist who needs to answer calls & can’t have a baby crying in the background? Is it ok to tell her she can’t bring the baby but the CEO can?

          2. Heather

            Yes! I mean, if you’re late to work because there’s an accident on the highway between the previous exit and yours, you’d probably be pissed if your boss said you should have planned ahead and bought an off-roading vehicle in case you were stuck in that situation, so you could drive through the woods and make it to work on time.

            Shit happens and you can’t plan for every possible contingency. Why do some people find it so hard to accept that?

          3. Anonymous from above.

            (1) It’s not arrogant in the least. It’s not about annoying me (frankly, this isn’t about the individual coworker at all). This is about being a responsible adult and owning up to your choices. I don’t believe bringing a kid into work because plans A – F fell apart should even be on the table.

            (2) (to the anon below) comparing dragging a one year old into an important meeting that you’re already nonchalant about interrupting due to your tardiness, to running late because of a traffic incident makes no sense. My running late from the accident doesn’t negatively impact my entire team and distract them for the day. It’s something out of my control completely. You’re comparing watermelons to raisins. And yes, I’m saying the option of an unpaid day off should be on the table before bringing your kid into the office. Bringing your child into the office for the day shouldn’t be an option IMHO.

            (3) In most countries in the western world, having a child is always a choice. Getting pregnant might not be, but birthing that child and keeping it is.

            1. fposte

              I think that the “Is the OP’s colleague a jackass?” isn’t the same question as “Is it unacceptable to have kids in the workplace?” I suspect I’m not the only one that thinks the OP’s colleague is a jackass, but not because it’s unacceptable to have kids in the office.

            2. Laura L

              Have you been following the US abortion debate lately??? It’s NOT always a choice whether or not to “birth that child.”

          1. Indie_Rachael

            Exactly! What is it with all these comments about women “choosing” to have babies? As an American woman, I’m painfully aware of the efforts political groups are making right now to prevent any kind of “choice” women might have over their own reproduction activities.

        2. Anon

          Are you giving up social security and medicaid too? the amount you paid in won’t cover your increasing lifespan and inflation. plus the ratio of retirees to those annoying kids has gotten lower. Again, if you agree to have your entitlements lowered AS WELL, then OK. If not, you aren’t paying your fair share and should be made to deal with that consequence as well.

    5. Mike C.

      The distraction comes from the fact that many of us work in places that are simply unsafe for non-adults to be in. The mere presence of a child would serve as a huge distraction.

      1. OP

        Yeah there are huge safety hazards here. It’s a nuclear facility that requires extensive safety training to gain free access.

      2. KellyK

        I think that’s a totally different situation than an office. Bringing a kid to a conference room and bringing them onto a factory floor or into a power plant are very different things.

        1. Kelly O

          What Kelly K said. I think there is a world of difference between my daughter coloring at my cubicle in an office than if I worked at a construction site, or in a manufacturing plant. But I would think we all know that there are some places it’s simply not safe to bring a child. That’s a whole different set of problems.

        2. Roja

          Really, taking care of the legalside of a multi million dollar deal while childeren in conference room next to you are having fun isn’t dangerous? Do you realise that a small mistake due to unnecessary distraction could cost company tons of money? There is a reason why in most offices there is no place for children, the distraction they cause, cost way too much money.

        3. Anonymous

          Of course it’s a different situation. But how do you explain that those who work in potentially dangerous to kids environments can handle child care emergencies without bring their kids to work, but those in offices can’t find a solution other than bringing them to work?

          1. Wondering too

            I’m wondering that too. Also, jobs outdoors or just offices that would never allow children to be brought in. I’m being genuine, not snarky in asking, if people in so many lines of work handle child care emergencies without bringing their kids in, why can’t the people here who say they have to?

            1. EngineerGirl

              Interesting thought. So if construction-driver Joe has to find an alternative (because he must) why can’t desk-sitter Suzie? What do the people in dangerous jobs do if their child care alternatives fall through?

  20. Alexandra Levit

    ONLY 70-80 percent as productive? I have two kids ages 4 and 1, and I would say I’m not productive at all when they’re around.

    As a general rule, I don’t believe parents should bring children to the office unless it’s a designated special occasion (i.e. company trick or treat) or an emergency.

  21. cf

    I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. My group would have marathon meetings, i.e., eight hours on “should our mission statement be to serve Mapuche women or to serve YOUNG Mapuche women?”

    I got so tired of wasting so much time in stupid, pointless meetings that I started taking my knitting so I could be productive in some way.

    The director of the agency finally told me to stop – that my knitting was distracting.

    While she was telling me this, she had her blouse open so her 14-month old daughter, whom she brought to work most days, could nurse. At least three other women in the meeting were nursing babies/children up to four years old as well.

    But I was the distraction.

    1. Serendipitous

      I can just imagine how outraged the OP’s letter would have been if on top of this, the mother started nursing haha!

    2. Your Mileage May Vary

      +1 for knitting!

      I wish we could go back to olden days where it was considered virtuous to be working something in your hands all the time. I’d be a lot more productive.

    3. Katie (sans kids)

      Well this thread certainly touched a nerve, didn’t it?

      I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I’m going to tack on my reply to this one, because I think it so clearly illustrates how the petty vitriol spat out in this thread is borne primarily from one’s personal prejudices. I’m not sure where all this breeder hate comes from, but claiming that children destroy office productivity and disrupt the workplace seems to be a smokescreen for a very real hostility towards those who work and have families (or just families in general). That anger is misguided and ultimately bad for all of us, because it feeds the beast that demands that we silently sacrifice our personal lives at the altar of our jobs.

      I get it. It sucks to feel like parents get special privileges. It sucks to feel like someone gets leniency with their schedule and you don’t. But I can’t help but feel like posters here are back in the sandbox fighting over toys. As other people have mentioned in this thread, it would be great, and probably more productive, if all workers were granted reasonable accommodations to deal with life circumstances that would otherwise disable their ability to work (see what I did there?). But I’m not going to throw a fit when someone brings a child into the office because it’s either that or getting arrested for neglect or endangerment. It’s just not right.

      1. OP

        No one threw a fit about it. Just wanted to point that out. Basically it was seeking carification about work culture and also voicing some annoyance over someone walking into a professional meeting without even acknowleging there’s a one year old on their arm.

        1. Katie (sans kids)

          Sorry, OP. I should have been more clear. You indeed did not throw a fit about it, as much as it raised your eyebrows. I think that comment was more directed towards some folks in this thread.

          I guess because I’ve never worked in an environment where I was made to feel like less of a person/worker for being single and childless, I have trouble relating to the venting in here. I tend to be a very accommodating person in my professional life, and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt (I imagine that this might make me a mediocre manager). Ergo, the resentment expressed here (again, not by you) blindsided me.

      2. pws

        +1 million. An incredibly thoughtful response, Katie, and one that completely articulates the feelings I haven’t quite been able to find the words for myself. I really hope people re-read your response and actually absorb what you’re trying to say here.

        Your comments about perceived privileges also reminded me of the Atlantic article “Why Women Can’t Have It All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, specifically the section titled Revaluing Family Values. She actually argues it from the other side, in that employers tend to privilege single workers over workers with families. I think this all ultimately proves your point about our own personal prejudices coloring the perceptions we have about the other side, sometimes fairly, but most of the time unfairly, and this kind of attitude does favors for no one.

        1. Katie (sans kids)

          This reminds me of a discussion I had with my old adviser, a butch lesbian who railed against the unfair privileges granted to families in the academic workplace. Her attitude towards “breeders” was particularly aggressive and resentful, similar to that of many who have posted here. Moreover, it was something totally opposite what I encountered as a student, who regularly heard the clucking hens of senior faculty chastising female students for getting married or having children while in school. Here’s a snippet from the email she wrote – it captures our collected thoughts nicely.

          I’ve been thinking about our conversation–I am intrigued by the conflict and suspect that the whole reproductive thing is covering over something else (which may be why I am, as you say, so strident about it). I suspect it actually goes back to and occults that same ol’ sexism. Hmmm. In other words, the anti-reproductive thing you feel is not so much anti-reproductive as it is, in the end, –“Girl, why are you in grad school?” And for me the feeling of privilege accorded reprodcers is really–“Girl, why didn’t you just become a good ol’ wife (and conformist to the sex/gender norms of Patriarchy) like everyone else?” In the case of the enceinte teacher, the problem has been dislocated onto her, when the issue should be why she doesn’t have child care. And the answer is she may not because her job really is to stay home and take care of the kids.

          People aren’t always receptive to accusations of sexism, but it explains why the mere presence of a child is considered a profound affront to the workplace in ways that coughing/chip eating/music listening/dogs are not. I can’t help but think that behind every post that berates families for not having proper backup plans, there’s the latent seed of hatred towards those who dare defy traditional family roles. I’m guessing I’m going to catch hell for that opinion, but I would welcome a thoughtful critique.

          P.S. I’m pretty sure she wrote this email before feminist Ryan Gosling started, but I think that makes it even better.

          1. OP

            This comment really made me think :-)
            I think there can be a myriad of reasons why something provokes the response that it does. For some people, anger at the presence of a child in the workplace could very well be an indicator of a prejudice against those defying traditional family roles. For others, it could be that the presence of a child makes them genuinely uncomfortable for the safety of that child. It is difficult to wrap this up with a neat bow and I can only speak for myself but for me, it was not the defiance of “traditional family values” but the apparent lack of regard for the comfort, appropriateness and respect of those around that bringing a young child without explanation into this professional setting created.
            I’ve realized that for me the principles of decency and regard for others trumps my belief in people’s right to defy social norms. We all weigh these values differently and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt in the intent of their actions. Maybe this woman really was in an emergency situation or maybe she really did have clearance to bring the child in. In those scenarios it completely makes sense and again-I love babies. But I don’t think that my or anyone else’s right to lead their own life and defy social norms should come at the cost of respect for others. In my opinion she wasn’t respectful and that at the core of it was what rubbed me the wrong way. I suspect that for some commenters this might be the real core as well.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            Wow. I’m a woman who has defied / is defying traditional gender and family roles in many ways, and I completely understand the no-babies-in-the-workplace folks. As I wrote above, I think it’s fine if it’s very occasional, done with sensitivity to the fact that it’s a huge distraction for many people, etc. — as do most people on the “no babies” side of this conversation, I think — which frankly seems like a pretty practical, inoffensive approach, and I’m surprised it’s generating allegations of sexism. But let me try to explain again why.

            People’s ability to focus in a professional environment matters. And some people find babies in the workplace to be extremely distracting — more so than other typical office distractions because they’re so dissonant with a professional environment. (Personally, if a baby is in the room, I’m looking at her. I can’t help it. Call me weak, I don’t care. But I’m watching her, both because I like watching babies and because I’m making sure she’s not about to pull that pen apart and put it in her mouth or whatever.)

            I don’t buy that a baby is no more distracting than a construction truck; in my experience, to me, a baby has been the larger distraction. To me, and to many others. I understand that not everyone experiences it that way — but enough people do that it’s dismissive to insist we’re all just lying out of some sort of latent misogyny. We’re not.

            So you have a big distraction factor, and you have it happening against a background of many people feeling that parents are unfairly privileged in many workplaces at the expense of non-parents. I won’t repeat everything I’ve already written here on that; see my previous comments.

            These two factors, to me, easily account for the heatedness of that side of this conversation.

            I’d appreciate not being accused of something I find abhorrent just because you’re not grasping my point of view.

            1. Katie (sans kids)

              I am sorry this post was offensive to you, AAM. I knew it would be controversial, so I’m willing to take the heat that I anticipated. I believe I understand your point of view: (1) children are very distracting in the workplace, more so than other workplace distractions, and (2) parents often get special accommodations for their children that other workers do not, and that’s unfair. It seems the second point probably heavily influences attitudes about the first.

              My post was meant to suggest that perhaps there is something distracting about children beyond the sum of their distracting parts (noises, the dissonance of having them in a professional environment, etc.). You seem to think that is the case, but for reasons other than any kind of sexism (instead, workplace unfairness).

              I’ll admit that I do struggle with understanding how a child in an office could get so deeply under a coworker’s skin, but that’s clearly the case for many, many, people, so I am listening. I can hear that people are pretty fed up about it, and that most likely wouldn’t be the case if it wasn’t a privilege they thought to be consistently abused. But for me, a child isn’t an affront to professional standards, or an act of disrespect. Perhaps that reflects my lucky roll of the dice professionally thus far.

              Again, I’m sorry if you feel accused of something abhorrent. This was not my intention.

                1. Katie (sans kids)

                  Ah, you’re right – it’s totally confusing. So here’s what I meant. I wanted to post the possibilities of sexism being at the root of this animosity, but I’ve found in the past that even mentioning sexism on the internet, or even hinting at the possibility that it exists, unleashes a torrent of anger. When I wrote “people aren’t always receptive to accusations of sexism,” it wasn’t because I intended to label everyone in this thread who wasn’t setting up playpens in the break room a sexist. It was (unconsciously) in anticipation that people would think that’s what I meant, just by mentioning the possibility of sexism at all (and apparently, worrying about that happening only made matters worse…blergh).

                  I think the possibility of sexism is worth some extra thought, and here’s why. I’ve (figuratively) burned a fair share of bras in my time, but I’ve also held some sexist opinions of women that I’ve become deeply ashamed of. Being progressive and defiant of traditional roles doesn’t make us immune from all the -isms of the world. It’s worth thinking critically about why something like a child in the workplace would get some of us so steamed up, would be viewed as automatically disrespectful and offensive, and inspire so much internet posting.

                  I’m a firm believer that the things that make up deeply angry say more about us than the things themselves. From what you’ve written, the thing the deep anger is saying is, “I’m so tired that you’re given carte blanche to constantly disrupt/leave the workplace because you have children, and I’m powerless to do anything about it.” For others, it’s “I’m trying so hard to make this work, I planned for childcare but things fell apart, can you please just cut me some slack and not look at me like I’m a failure as a parent and coworker just because the babysitter has to study for finals?” I’m very sympathetic to those later arguments, and they remind me of the struggles women face/have faced in workplaces where they are/were only begrudgingly welcome. Ergo, I’m wondering if sexism might be hiding out in here somewhere.

                  P.S. I know this post doesn’t unilaterally apply to women, but as they are disproportionately in charge of child care in American families, I generalized (also, I wouldn’t be surprised if men in this position would be treated differently from women [my father certainly was).

  22. S.L. Albert

    The OP also mentions that this was a breakfast meeting. Does that mean it was out of the usual time that meetings normally occur? Maybe the daycare wasn’t open yet. She was a 1/2 hour ate. Maybe she was late from dropping other children off at school, and that wouldn’t have been a problem with an ordinary day.

    I am also of the opinion that once in a while, in emergencies, it’s okay, given well behaved kids. Having been a child with two working parents, I spent several snow days in the corner of my mom’s office before I was old enough to watch myself at home. She’d park me in the corner with a book, or give me a stack of old papers that she needed shredded, and I think I rarely saw anyone else in her office. Was it an every day thing? No.

    That being said, I also agree with Kelly O – the flexibility needs to be there for everyone, not just parents with kids.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I edited out some details that apparently I should have left in for clarifying purposes. (I edited them out because I thought it would help put the focus on the core issue, but clearly I was wrong!)

      I’ve now added this back into the original letter in case it clarifies: She walked into the meeting “apologizing for them being late, saying, ‘We had to rescue a chihuahua on 14th St.'”

            1. S.L. Albert

              Fair enough. I guess I’m just slightly biased-the only chihuahua I’ve ever liked is Pinky the Chihuahua, and he’s animated.

        1. ANB

          To the lateness? Yes.
          To the baby? No.

          Also apparently not mentioning the baby at all? That strikes me as if she doesn’t even see why the baby would raise a question with anybody.

          If the comment was “Sorry, the sitter is ill and I ended up rescuing a dog on the way here” then its been acknowledged. The letter suggests the baby wasn’t even mentioned or acknowledged by most people as if this is considered “normal”.

          1. Jen

            Pretty much this. I wouldn’t have a problem if the person explained it this way, I would probably be sympathetic because it sucks for your plans to fall through.

          2. Heather

            But the OP says she guesses that the employee probably had approval to bring the baby. So if she was on the way in with the baby, with permission, and came across a dog that needed help, it doesn’t seem any different from if she’d been alone and found the dog.

            1. Lala

              But if I were her , I would still have apologised.
              Eg “sorry I was sick yesterday and had to dump my work on you”- even if my sick leave was approved.

              Well not always if it wasn’t a huge inconvenience.
              But if having babies at meetings isn’t a norm , I would have !

              1. Heather

                Oh, definitely! I didn’t mean that she shouldn’t have apologized; she absolutely should have. I was just saying that it didn’t sound like the dog-finding was the reason she brought the baby into the office.

                It also sounds from OP’s clarifications that because she’s a parent, this woman is getting some favored treatment that the other employees are being denied. If the OP, for example, had to come in late because she had to bring an elderly parent to the doctor, she should be allowed the same leeway as this woman, but it sounds like she wouldn’t be. To me, that crosses the line between being compassionate and being unfair.

      1. Blinx

        I really want to know what that means, “rescuing a chihuahua.” Was it about to get hit by a car? Was it’s head stuck in a fence? Did they select it at a shelter and had to fill out all the paperwork? Was it dressed in a frilly pink sequined outfit that just wouldn’t do? Really interesting excuse, that!

        1. fposte

          Yeah, on its own I’m not impressed with that as an excuse. And while I’m the one saying that I’m finding kids in the office to work okay, it’s a latitude, not a standard, and I would think somebody doing that would really make a point of getting there on time or *calling* if she was going to be late.

        2. Ellie H.

          Honestly the mention of a chihuahua sort of invalidates the legitimacy of this in some way . . . it just SOUNDS silly. Doesn’t it? I hate excuses anyway though and prefer just to apologize (this may be unnecessarily stoic).

  23. ChristineH

    I think bringing in your children into work once in a while when in a bind is fine, as long as they can stay quiet and don’t distract others in the office. I don’t think bringing a toddler into a meeting is the most appropriate idea, but it sounds like there was no other choice in this instance. The banging of the keys would’ve driven me NUTS though. If you must, please keep noisy objects out of the child’s hands!

    1. S.L. Albert

      Oh, yes. I meant to mention that to. One-year old toddlers aren’t born with noisy things in their hands. Someone one gave the baby those keys, and that person should be shot. Well, not literally, but that’s the bigger sin than showing up with the toddler. A soft plush toy for a meeting, not keys/rattles/drums.

      1. Job Seeker

        I had to laugh at this comment. I raised three small children ages newborn, 1 and 3 at once. A soft plush toy will not solve the noise problem. Little children especially babies or toddlers are noisy. I remember the days of the pacifiers and Cheerios and sliced bananas in a zip lock bag. Bringing a baby or toddler into a business meeting is not smart. A little child has to have your undivided attention. Things happen so fast and your mind has to be on them. A job is important too. Other people cannot do their job and babysit your children. Anyone that has raised small children will understand what I am saying.

    1. Ornery PR

      Amen. I put this in the “people trying to control everything others do” category, and that’s just as annoying as the original annoyance. If this person is a problem in general, than yes, by all means work something out that everyone can live with. But one time? you got annoyed? meh. It happens. So much energy gets wasted on people and things you can’t control.

      The way I see it, any amount of flexibility built in to the meeting/department/company in general – benefits everyone, not just parents. I’m saying that as a single 30something who doesn’t have or want kids. My workplace allows new moms to bring their kid to work every day all day for one year after birth…yeah. Now, I don’t like kids, but I love working for business owners with that policy. They truly get that they have people working for them and not robots. Plus, I get to bring my dog in. So it’s a win-win. And I have to say, that my office is quiet. Eerily so sometimes. It’s not some playground with kids and dogs running around. The owners show respect and the employees do so in return by getting things done. Sort of amazing how that all works.

      1. Anonymous

        You’d think by the comments in this post, all of these people are trying to disarm a nuclear bomb at work. Dial it back a few notches and keep it moving.

  24. Elizabeth

    I’m in agreement with the people saying that it could be acceptable very occasionally in certain circumstances. In my opinion, it is more acceptable if the parent is still on leave and coming in for a meeting kind of as a favor. (This happens sometimes in my workplace, as people at my school tend to take long maternity leaves – half a year or more. It’s less disruptive to the students to have who their teacher is only change once in the school year, not flip-flop back and forth. Often the teacher who is out on leave will come in for a meeting with the replacement to discuss curriculum once or twice, and sometimes she’ll bring her infant.) It’s also more acceptable if it is a very young baby and the meeting is scheduled during naptime so the kid just sleeps in a carrier next to the table. Also, I think this is only all right in rather informal meetings – never a presentation to the board or something of that sort!

    I do think that in the letter-writer’s case, the woman bringing the toddler should have let the other meeting attendees know ahead of time, if possible, or have apologized and given a brief explanation when she came in – “I’m so sorry, but Billy’s sitter was in a car accident this morning and so I was left without childcare. Don’t worry, this won’t be a regular thing!”

  25. KayDay

    (FWIW, I don’t have kids) I’ve actually thought about this a few times. I definitely don’t think an important meeting is a place for kids. Also, bringing kids to work is definitely out of the norm and would totally be considered unprofessional at most places. That’s just how it is.

    However, I also don’t necessarily see a legitimate reason for this. In the purely hypothetical sense, it would be nice if offices were more accommodating to working parents, and let them bring their kids in in a pinch. My dad actually used to take me to his office as a toddler, outside of normal work hours (in the evenings or on weekends) in order to give my mom a break. I got to press the green button for him. It was awesome.

    Also, infants who aren’t yet walking could sit in their car seat/carrier thing in an office, as long as the parent doesn’t have any big meetings. Just keep the door closed. (Obviously, this wouldn’t work in a cubical farm environment). Older children could easily sit quietly for an hour or two with a book or coloring while a parent takes care of something.

    However, this clearly is office-specific thing–some offices could handle children better than others. Perhaps we should reassess are kids-should-never-be-in-the-office cultural norms.

  26. Liz in a Library

    Ooh…I’m so not down with kids in the workplace. It’s completely inappropriate, and I would find the sound of a child playing (even semi-quietly) insanely distracting.

    I wonder if the comments made by the director about the kid having clearance to the building could have been an indirect way of pointing out to the mom that the kid is really not OK in a meeting situation…

    1. fposte

      “I would find the sound of a child playing (even semi-quietly) insanely distracting.” Since my library world is entirely youth services, this was pretty funny to me :-).

      1. Liz in a Library

        Hah! I’m in an academic library; our campus (not decided by the library) has a strict no-children policy, so perhaps I’m just spoiled.

        Although, in the actual library environment, it doesn’t bother me as much, as long as the child is reigned in somewhat. It’s more the idea of a child being present in a meeting or another time that full attention is required.

    2. Stells

      I read director and boss’s comments the same way you did. Maybe there were more details in the original letter, but I interpretted the comments as a passive aggressive way of calling out the employee.

      1. EngineerGirl

        I took it that way too. That it was NOT OK to be doing it. There may have been a follow up conversation that the OP did not know about.

  27. Candice

    I think she should have at the very least apologized and acknowleged the potential inconvenience to everyone else. I wouldn’t make a habit of bringing a child to work as I don’t think it’s appropriate (unless it’s a family business, maybe), but I can understand how there are some circumstances that you can’t help and you don’t always have a backup sitter at a moment’s notice.

  28. Ask a Manager Post author

    Yeah, it seems to me that the key is to recognize that plenty of people really have a problem with babies in the office while they’re trying to work. Even if you don’t, you’ve to recognize that plenty of other people do. (And comparing this to distractions such as construction noise seems to miss the point, to me; those are normal part of office life, whereas babies — to many of us — are distracting in an entirely different way. They may not be to you. But you should believe it when some of us tell you that they are to us.)

    So if a parent is in a very occasional bind where bringing a baby to the office is their only good choice, then it’s key that they do it with an awareness of and sensitivity to that reality. That means:
    – acknowledging and apologizing for the inconvenience, not being cavalier about it
    – taking steps to ensure the baby is as little of a distraction as possible (not giving them KEYS at a meeting, for god’s sake)
    – altering their own schedule to minimize the inconvenience on others, such as not attending non-essential meetings with the baby in tow
    – not assuming that parenthood entitles you to exceptions that aren’t made for non-parents

    As a manager, I realize that many great employees are going to be people who happen to have kids, pets, or other factors outside work that will sometimes cause emergencies, and I’m willing to accommodate that in emergencies because I want to retain great employees. But it also needs to be balanced against the interests of everyone else in the office … and in the case of something as disruptive as babies/toddlers, that means that it needs to be very occasional and subject to the rules above.

    1. BW

      To add to that list “Not bringing your baby or child into the office when they can’t go to daycare because they are SICK”.

      I worked with one woman who would do this regularly. Many day care facilities will send sick children home or not allow them to come in. So everyone got the benefit of germy coughing runny-nosed twin toddlers running around the office. It was made worse by the fact that she didn’t keep her children with her in her office. They were literally, just free roaming in the cube farm.

      I really can’t think of much more selfish than bringing sick children into work, and if the child really doesn’t feel well, it’s miserable for him or her to as well, not just the rest of us who are forced to endure it and expected to watch her children for her while she worked without having to be distracted by them.

      I’m not thrilled with kids in the office, but as long as parents are respectful of maintaining an adult working environment and they truly have no other options, I try to be understanding.

      1. A Bug!

        Well, she couldn’t possibly coop them up in her office – she wouldn’t be able to get any work done with the distraction!

      2. Laura L

        I like kids, I don’t mind them at the office occasionally (very occasionally), but this I won’t tolerate. I get sick frequently enough as a single person who lives alone, I don’t want sick kids running around the work place!

        And, yeah, a sick kid would NOT be happy at their parents workplace. They’d rather be in bed.

    2. Jen

      I love the ethos of what you are saying but the world at large never treats the needs of pets on par with the needs of children. Are there fair housing laws out there for dogs? No way. And compare what it’s like to live next door to screaming toddlers vs. well-behaved pets (I’m just venting.. I do have a more substantive on-topic comment below. Thanks.)

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, but I’m saying that employers should — because it’s not good business to treat workers with kids better than you treat workers without kids.

      2. Rana

        Um, that’s because pets, no matter how beloved, aren’t people. Children are. We don’t put children “to sleep” when they’re sick; we don’t neuter them; we don’t ID-chip them or track their breeding. Because, you know, people. I do understand that pets are often beloved members of the family, with their own personalities and needs (see, my own very needy demanding cat) but they are not people, and children are people, albeit young ones.

        (And it’s not just toddlers that scream (as the drunk yahoos outside my window every week demonstrate).)

        I know I’m ranting at you a bit, but this whole thread is full of the attitude that babies and children aren’t really human beings deserving consideration. It’s one thing to compare them to spouses, parents, siblings, etc. who also don’t belong in the workplace, but another to compare them to smells, dogs, and construction work. Good gad.

        1. Rana

          And, for what it’s worth, I do agree that everyone should have flexibility as to their time off, and parents shouldn’t be privileged at the expense of non-parents. But that has nothing to do with babies or children per se, but with how employers choose to handle the fact that their employees are not robots.

        2. Indie_Rachael

          +1

          Pets aren’t people. They’re pets. Only people (including children) are people.

          It seems like a no-brainer to me.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I think the point is that Person A’s thing-that’s-important-to-them doesn’t always get to trump Person B’s thing-that’s-important-to-them when it comes to privileges at work.

            1. Indie_Rachael

              Jen said above that “the world at large never treats the needs of pets on par with the needs of children” and then went on to list different ways society doesn’t give pets the same legal protection as children. This is what we were discussing. Definitely not part of the A’s vs B’s discussions going on elsewhere.

            2. Rana

              Oh, I don’t disagree with that. Or even with people who think that having children at work is a bad idea. It’s more that it’s disturbing to see people treating children as if they’re things or pet-equivalents, instead of humans, some of whom, yeah, are annoying. Surely we can defend the right of single and childless people to have their non-work commitments respected without having to turn this into another “Oh those selfish parents and their brats” conversations?

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                I really don’t think people were doing that (with one or two exceptions). The point is that yes, your child is important to you, but other people have things important to them, and yours doesn’t win; we should be treated with equal flexibility. The “pets aren’t people” argument sounds like you’re saying that children do win and their parents should be entitled to special flexibility that others don’t have. Otherwise I’m not sure what the point is of that statement. If I’m misunderstanding, please correct me!

                1. Rana

                  I think I made the mistake of trying to argue two points at once.

                  So, point one: I agree with people that employees should have personal time, and flexibility, and that I don’t really care what specifically that flex time goes toward, whether it’s taking care of a sick child, going with the well child on a field trip, looking after an elderly pet, going on a hiking trip, picking up laundry, whatever. If parents are allowed to leave for emergencies, so should non-parents be allowed to leave for for equivalent emergencies. If parents are allowed to leave for fun kid-related stuff, non-parents should be allowed to leave for fun non-kid-related stuff. And neither group should have to cover the other at the expense of their own work.

                  But, here’s point two: regardless of the similarities in how children and pets may alter workplace behavior (by being noisy, cute, distracting, prone to getting sick, needing care, etc.) it really disturbs me when I see people describing children – human beings! – as if they were possessions or a hobby. It’d be like saying, “Oh, I hate old people. They’re annoying and smell funny. And it’s really awful that people with elderly parents are always time off the deal with them and crap. I mean, really, shouldn’t they just shove them in a home? Nobody forced them to take care of them, after all.”

                  I think we can both agree that a frail and elderly parent doesn’t belong in the workplace any more than a vomiting child, but there are ways to point that out – as by pointing to behavior, work environment, fairness, etc. – without resorting to “Ugh, children.”

                  In other words, regardless of your opinions of their parents, and regardless of whether their presence is reasonable in a particular work environment, children deserve to be treated with the same level of basic decency as you’d afford to other classes of people, and not treated as if they were little more than toys or pets or hobbies.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I don’t see anyone here arguing for not treating children with decency! I’m not sure what you’re referring to there. (Unless you mean that equating someone’s need for accommodation for kids with someone else’s need for accommodation for their own stuff is somehow diminishing children? But then we’re right back to my comment just above.

                3. Rana

                  Sigh. I think I’ll have to drop this after this comment because I’m just not able to explain this clearly enough. All I have to say is that children are not the same as dogs, not the same as hobbies, not the same as sneezing or stinky microwave fish, etc., and I’m tired and a bit disturbed to see these being the things people evoke as equivalences in order to argue that children shouldn’t be in the workplace, instead of, well, more human arguments based on behavior and their not being employees. And, yes, I DO think it’s more important that you get time off to care for your dying parent or child than your dying pet, though in a kind world the latter would be honored as well.

                4. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I think you’re frustrated because you’re responding to an argument no one is making.

                  People are arguing that every employee deserves flexibility for things in their lives, to the extent that it’s possible for a given workplace, regardless of the reason. You seem be passing judgment on whether some people’s reasons are as good as other people’s, but I haven’t seen the non-parents here doing that.

                5. Jamie

                  “People are arguing that every employee deserves flexibility for things in their lives, to the extent that it’s possible for a given workplace, regardless of the reason.”

                  Even though this has been about kids, you can apply the same fairness point to parents and it still holds true. While not everyone has kids, the vast majority have or had parents.

                  If I had to pick up the slack at work for people with parents; work late, travel more, work weekends, holidays all because my parents were no longer living, so my free time was somehow seen as less valuable that would be just as wrong as different standards being applied to people with kids.

                  I think it’s just a matter of consistent rules and the same measure of respect regardless of how any individual defines their family or the important things in their life.

                  And in discussing the disruption or irritation associated with having a child in the office in no way diminishes the humanity of the child(ren) in question. If I’m distracted because of a child in the office, or if I’m distracted because a coworker has the flu and keeps coughing they are comparable in that they are both distractions. It doesn’t create an equivalence between the child and the flu germs.

    3. A. Dylan

      “And comparing this to distractions such as construction noise seems to miss the point, to me…”

      Agreed. It seems pretty defensive to argue that a baby in the workplace is comparable to the smell of tuna fish, someone sneezing, and/or someone else breathing loudly. Certainly parents sneeze, breathe, and eat; as far as I know, childless people aren’t the only ones who have mildly annoying mannerisms.

      It’s just that, in this situation, on top of being yet another sneezer/breather/eater, the employee was late and was carrying a toddler. Certainly she wasn’t going to have her rights to eat smelly food or cough revoked as a result…

    4. Joey

      Alison,
      You’re forgetting that child rearing is a special status not just by parents but by law. Just look at Fmla, PDA, dependent care tax deductions, employer benefit contributions for dependents, etc. So peeps without kids just have to accept that in this country there are going to more benefits that come with children. And if a company decides to add on more benefits like daycare, bring your child to work or whatever it’s going to be a losing battle.

      I get a similar complaint all the time: why doesn’t the company compensate single people for employer paid dependent benefits.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        But what we’re talking about here aren’t benefits that are dictated by law. They’re choices that employers make, and I continue to argue that it’s not good for business to treat parents better than you treat non-parents.

        1. OP

          In our office of two non-parents and one parents plus a manager with kids this creates huge obvious morale issues. It’s been a good little case study actually of what happens when managers treat parents better than non-parents. That’s how I try to think of it so I don’t lose my mind.

        2. Anon

          But there are certainly less legal requirements related to caring for your dog. You can’t be put in jail for leaving your dog at home during the day, whereas you could be jailed for leaving your child alone. So it might not be a legal proscribed “benefit” but it does relate to legally proscribed requirements of the worker.

  29. Anonymous

    It is fine to bring kids from time to time if your work culture and boss support it. I have seen people bring their dogs. We should offer flexibility for family situations. That should also include taking care of sick parents or a spouse not just children.

  30. ag

    I don’t have kids, but I do appreciate when my employer allows flex time to deal with the emergencies in my life. Likewise, I try to cut my coworkers slack when they have an emergency in their lives, kid-related or not. As long as no one abuses the policy, tries to make up the hours and generally be available and focused during that time, and the kid (if any) is well-behaved, I don’t see a problem with it. But this is in true emergency situations, like the babysitter in the car wreck, or daycare closed for a holiday you don’t have as vacation, or in my case, when we had five leaks in the upstairs bathroom flooding the downstairs from above. It should happen very minimally.

    Still, in my office it’d never be okay to bring a kid to a meeting, or keep a child in the office who was obnoxious, loud, or ill, or care for another person’s child unless they were an equity partner and you were their direct assistant and it was a REALLY important matter.

    1. fposte

      That’s an excellent point about the general flexibility. I think that one of the reasons it can bug people is that it seems like an unequal privilege, and I suspect it bugs people less when they’ve had latitude for their non-child-related stuff too.

      1. Anonymous

        I firmly believe compassionate care leave time (or whatever you want to call it) should be included in every job. At my job, I had to take several days off to take care, not of my children, but my husband who injured his arm. In a time of great stress it was good to know I had a supportive job and that I wouldn’t have to scramble to use my vacation days or my overtime for the care of my husband.

        I joke I’m ready for three decades of working at my current job, but there is some truth to it. I value being in a work place where I can see myself growing, and a job which will take into consideration that I will go through different stages in life. After all, now I am in the young parent stage, but in a few years I may be at the stage where my parents need some care or my husband needs some support.

        1. ag

          Compassionate leave is actually one of the few benefits we don’t get! So frustrating to decide whether to go to Grandma’s funeral or family vacation.

  31. Dom

    I’m not sure I get why this is such a big deal. Yes, a baby is distracting, no, we don’t like babies at the office, its not an appropriate place for babies. But life happens sometimes, and if there is a baby in your meeting, for whatever reason, just deal with it. Unless I’m in charge, I don’t necessarily feel entitled to an apology or explanation, and seems the boss was okay with it. Move on, get stuff done. Especially if this isn’t a common occurrence, and from this correspondence, I’m guessing its not or that would have been mentioned. In general I find people get way too worked up about things that really don’t make that much difference.

  32. Jamie

    I’ll make a deal with everyone. I’ll work in an office populated with nothing but babies, toddlers, and pets in exchange for no other co-workers.

    The above group must have fewer IT needs and a higher degree of computer literacy than many grown-up people.

    You know work is hectic when the idea of an office full of babies with keys sounds like a meditative experience.

  33. Joey

    It’s fine to do and I’d encourage it in fact. But only if the manager determines it doesn’t interfere with work.

    And I don’t buy vague comments that the mere presence of a baby/toddler interferes or could interfere with work. I’d lean towards allowing it unless there was a clear reason not to like a front desk job or safety issue. If people complained then I reserve the right to see for myself if it’s a problem or people are beig unreasonable.
    I think it could really be a great thing to tell employees if there’s ever a situation where it’s needed we’re open to considering it. But that we reserve the right to change our minds if it interferes with work.

    1. K.

      Oh, I think it definitely interferes with work, even white-collar work where you sit at a desk all day. Babies and toddlers require attention. Diapers need to be changed, tantrums need to be soothed, feeding/nursing has to happen, toddlers need to be discouraged from climbing, little kids get fussy when they’re bored, etc. You can give a four-year-old a coloring book and tell her to be quiet for a while, but you really can’t do that with an 18-month-old. My pretend-niece (my best friend’s kid) is a well-behaved two-year-old, but … she’s two.

      1. Jamie

        I never realized before how well parenthood prepares you for a career in IT.

        Babies and toddlers require attention. Diapers need to be changed, tantrums need to be soothed, feeding/nursing has to happen, toddlers need to be discouraged from climbing, little kids get fussy when they’re bored, etc. You can give a four-year-old a coloring book and tell her to be quiet for a while, but you really can’t do that with an 18-month-old.

        End users require attention. Passwords needs to be changed, technophobia needs to be soothed, data uploads need to happen, end users need to be discouraged from being curious about their registry, end users visit virus laden places on the internet when they’re bored, etc. You can give an mid-level user new software and they will be quiet for a while (studying the help files), you really can’t do that with a low-level user (what help files?)

          1. Jamie

            Absolutely NOT – I thought it was very well said and I agree completely.

            I just loved the way you worded it and it did make me draw parallels between raising babies/toddlers to dealing with people as an IT – I just loved the wording.

            Definitely no mocking involved.

      2. The IT Manager

        I depends a lot on the kid too. My oldest nephew has always been quiet, helpful, and can play quietly on his own. His younger brothers cannot (one with ADHD and one with a mild form of Asberger’s which leads to melt downs on some occassions). The oldest I can see bringing into the office expecting him to be quiet – not because he’s older but because of the personality – the others I cannot especially the one with ADHD. Although they can become enthralled with an ipod, ipad, or hand held video games in the times when they are not, they’d be extremely disruptive.

    2. Mike C.

      And I don’t buy vague comments that the mere presence of a baby/toddler interferes or could interfere with work.

      Try working somewhere like a laboratory or a secure manufacturing facility. Knowing that there are roving and uncontrolled safety hazards is incredibly distracting.

      1. Blinx

        At the site I worked, kids weren’t a problem. At the MAIN site where there were manufacturing plants and research laboratories along with thousands of offices, kids were strictly forbidden, no arguments allowed, even if your office building was blocks away from the labs.

        Seriously, what are people thinking, bringing kids into that environment?

      2. Thomas

        I work in the epitome of a cube farm (albeit a small one), so kids around here wouldn’t be a huge deal. A lab or manufacturing? I’d be freaking out that we would have an accident.

  34. Jamie

    I don’t have a problem with it as an occasional thing in an emergency – I wouldn’t be able to deal with it as a regular occurrence because:

    1. Adults speaking baby-talk is like chewing tin foil.
    2. Children need attention and focus and being drilled to hush for 8 hours on a regular basis isn’t an optimal for their happiness or development.

    Dogs, on the other hand, I wouldn’t bring mine in but I would love to work in an office where people brought theirs. I have never had a mood so bad that couldn’t be lifted by fuzzy cuteness.

    But this is all so individual – so policies should be crafted for the greater good. Just because I’d rather listen to a happy dog bark for 8 hours than to hear one person eat pretzels loudly doesn’t make that universal.

    What we find particularly annoying is so individual that the best we can do is strive to be as non-invasive as possible for our co-workers, while accepting that even if we all did that we have to deal with stuff that makes us want to jump out of windows from time to time.

    If a workplace is baby or pet centric and they are upfront about that from the get-go so new hires know exactly what they are getting into, I have no problem with that. It’s springing it on the unsuspecting who are just trying to earn a living that’s the problem.

    Oh – and regarding the OP…no baby should be playing with keys. They are not only noisy, but filthy and babies don’t need graphite on their hands or in their mouths. End of PSA.

    1. KellyK

      If a workplace is baby or pet centric and they are upfront about that from the get-go so new hires know exactly what they are getting into, I have no problem with that. It’s springing it on the unsuspecting who are just trying to earn a living that’s the problem.

      +1

    2. Kate

      Thank you for articulating this. A workplace with dogs would literally be my worst nightmare – I would spend my time fighting panic attacks rather than being productive. The key is expectations and those all-important things – fit and culture!

  35. some1

    I used to work with a woman (who I was friendly with) who brought her newborn into the office continually. And she would cry and the mom wouldn’t remove her. While I like babies in general, I felt like I couldn’t say anything because nobody else seemed to have a problem with it.

      1. some1

        Yeah, it was frustrating. I should emphasize that no one else *seemed* to mind, but my coworker got laid off several weeks after she returned from maternity leave, & the baby visits probably didn’t help.

        That’s the part where I empathize with the OP — how do you address this if it feels like you’re the only one it bothers?

  36. Wilton Businessman

    Note: I stopped reading the comments when we started arguing about procreating the species.

    It really depends on the environment if children are tolerated in the workplace or not. Some do. Some don’t. Some intentionally leave the lines blurry.

    I’ve worked in both environments. The first job I ever worked was at a State University. The office was within a couple blocks of the local elementary school. Parents would frequently “take lunch” at 3PM and pickup their kid and bring them back to the office. Just before I left there were about four parents who did that and the kids consumed the conference room after 3PM to do their homework. The director (a PHd) allowed it and even helped the kids with their homework. Effective use of resources? That’s not for me to say.

    In my office today it would be totally frowned upon if not outright forbid. The attitude around here is if you have personal business, take a personal day.

  37. Jen

    I have a lot to say about this. I had a job in the past where people with kids were always given privileges not given to people without kids (e.g. less scrutiny in being given time off), which is unfair if not discriminatory in my opinion. Then we got a great new boss who put his foot down and respectfully and kindly said “if you have a child here in the office, you are only able to give your attention to one thing or the other, you really can’t do both, so just go home and decide if you’re using sick/vacation time if your family needs you.” (within reason.)

    Meanwhile I did some research and discovered that some forward-thinking companies (or maybe those with money) started recognizing this dilemma: being fair to folks with kids vs. those without kids in the workplace, and started offering different stuff like extra time off, or exercise classes on-site, or whatever it may be, but recognizing that not only people with kids have a life. I get the idea that kids are everyone’s future, but I believe in equal rights. If I don’t have kids why should I have fewer “benefits” than those who do?

    1. KellyK

      I think that’s an important point. Companies should not be “family-friendly” in ways that assume that only kids count as family. Everyone should get slack when they need it for whatever emergencies come up, and they should be expected to balance that by being as considerate as possible to their coworkers (e.g., limiting occurrences of kids in the office and making sure they have something to do). Parents may well end up needing that slack more often, just due to the nature of having kids, but the slack should be equally available.

    2. Joey

      Equal rights for being single without a kid? Please. Good luck overturning all of the family friendly laws.

    3. Anonymous

      In my company , we have child care leave and family care leave.
      If you have kids and/ or aged parents , you get more “benefits ” than others.
      But child care leave (3 days) is obviously not enough to take care of your kids, so it eats into your vacation time.

  38. Toot-Sweet

    Don’t worry, I would never bring my two-year-old to a meeting. All anyone would hear would be:
    “LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH LAHDAH”

  39. Jamie

    For those who advocate babies being allowed at work on a more than emergency basis – is this for everyone?

    It’s one thing for the C-level or Director to have a pack n’ play in her office and shut the door when the baby is fussy or feeding. What about the receptionist who is making far less and has even fewer child care options. Do you allow her to bring her baby to the front desk as well? Because toddlers and ringing phones are such a great combination.

    If not, does that create a bigger problem. It seems like the people least in need of this accommodation would be most likely to get it.

      1. Jamie

        Well – the point that it wouldn’t interfere with work aside, because if you aren’t ignoring the child work will be interrupted. I was just wondering if those advocating this are doing so with the intent of offering it to some parents and not others?

        I totally get that with certain positions come certain perks, and I’m fine with that. People earn different amounts of money and the CFO will likely have a better parking spot than the clerk in the mail room. But some of the arguments were pointing toward daycare being so cost prohibitive and that’s far more be a crippling financial burden to a receptionist, for example, as opposed to a CFO. But there is no way a baby or toddler at a front desk isn’t interfering with work…so it would seem this would be something that, if offered, would only be doable for a select group of people.

        And again – I wasn’t talking about an emergency basis but for offices offering this option to mothers. Do you open it up to all mothers and if so – how do you work around certain positions (reception, call centers, cubical workers, etc.) where this would be a tremendous impact on productivity.

        1. Joey

          It’s available to everyone but only if it doesn’t interfere with work or pose a safety issue. If it interferes it’s not personal it’s just not possible because of the nature of that particular work. It may work well for a low paid person and not for say a high paid salesperson who drives. It’s not about salary, hierarchy, or anything personal it’s all about the work.

    1. Anonymous

      Maybe develop onsite daycare or affiliate yourself with a daycare? I work at a place that doesn’t have onsite daycare but it has a partnership with a daycare. So you can join it and you pay less than you would at another site. This place also offers emergency care, so even if you normally take your kid to Daycare A close to home or have a nanny, you can drop off the kid at Work Affiliated Daycare B in a pinch.

      1. Jamie

        I think if a company wanted to do this as a perk to attract workers that could be a good resolution.

        My question was strictly out of curiosity as I didn’t deal with this when my kids were small, and they are all old enough to drive so they don’t so much bang keys on the table as take them to borrow my car. :)

        This is one of the few areas where I’m kind of laid back. I don’t mind other people’s kids, but I wouldn’t work in a place where it was part of the culture and an everyday thing. Not because of the kids so much (although, the baby-talk…) but because I don’t want to have to try to work around the availability of people who are basing their availability on their kid’s nap/feeding/poop/play schedule.

        IMO there is no way that doesn’t disrupt work. If you have a culture where that’s built in so that kind of thing is accommodated, that’s great…you’ll attract people who want to work in that environment.

        That said – an emergency is an emergency. I would totally accommodate someone who had to take off early to take their car into the shop, run their elderly parent to the doctor, or a pet to the vet. Things happen and we all have lives outside of work. But accommodating emergencies is totally different than a baby-centric office culture.

      2. Indie_Rachael

        On-site daycare would be a dream come true! But it isn’t feasible for many companies. I think daycare affiliation is a great compromise that benefits parents and nonparents alike. Employer is family-friendly without offending nonparent employees since they can have a stricter no-kids-at-work policy.

    2. fposte

      I think this is one of those things that precludes blanket rulings. I could actually see this working okay in some receptions and not in others (I worked on a reception desk that had like one call a day), and I also think it’s fine to say that this is only acceptable if it doesn’t affect the nature of the position, safety, weasel words, etc. And I totally subscribe to the “withdrawable privilege if it turns out to be problematic” clause. (Probably best not to say “Your child is why we can’t have nice things!”)

      I also think that there’s a tacit fear of baby creep, as it were, here–that an office is going to end up with kids there all day every day, and not just at the occasional handover or sick babysitter. And I can see that an office might find it simpler to forbid entirely than to police the grey area–but, again, I’m currently surrounded by reasonable people, and the grey area hasn’t needed policing.

      I’m honestly not an evangelist on this; I’ve just been surprised to see how much of an advantage it gives my workplace when it involves the right people.

    3. Anon

      I don’t know that anyone on this thread is advocating this in non-emergency situations. But, I work at a lawfirm that has a long history of hiring women lawyers, including back before there were many daycares (and when most women graduating from law school were only given offers to work as legal secretaries). This was all before my time, so I’m going off stories. But apparently it was not at all uncommon for some of the women who worked there then to bring their babies in and let them chew on file boxes all day while they worked.

      Not long after that became normal, though, the receptionist, a young, single woman, had a baby and was thrown out of her parents’ house. I’m told she brought the baby to work every day for at least a year; they set up a little area for it in one of the file rooms and the staff would take turns watching it on their breaks. I gather it worked out fine, and helped someone out of a difficult situation.

      A good idea for every workplace? Definitely not. Good social policy on a large scale? Definitely not. But given the choice, I’d rather work somewhere where people help out employees who desperately need it even at cost to themselves and their productivity than not.

      And I think it’s totally reasonable for other places to make different choices. Just wanted to offer a counter statement about how it can work under certain sets of circumstances.

  40. OP

    Hi all, OP here. Thanks everyone for the awesome feedback and input.

    First off to clarify, I am in Canada I have no kids but love them and plan to have them. I had naively thought year-long mat leaves were standard. I didn’t want to give this information initially because I thought it might colour people’s perspectives on child-rearing. She’s around 40, probably a closeted lesbian although she is extremely private.

    I think what irked me about her bringing her baby in wasn’t that she brought in her child it was that she apologized for being late and acted extremely entitled to bring the child. But more than irked i was just confused and though maybe I am just out of the loop on workplaces who are lenient about these things because I’ve never worked in one.

    As for the dogs at work thing: the only dogs that would be here would be for scientific research purposes (under extremely strict ethics with absolutely no mistreatment).

    I like what people said about flexibility for all and i completely agree. Also the point about the director saying “Does the child have access” jokingly could well have been a way to point out that it wasn’t appropriate. He was in “receptive nice Executive Director mode” because of the nature of the meeting so that would make sense.

    I’ll have to keep an eye out if this baby is here often. It really isn’t that safe imo for children to be here on a regular basis because they are more susceptible to radiation in the type of facility we work. But to each tier own.

    1. OP

      Oh and the ED did stop at one point after a sentence when the baby was banging keys to say: “Does he have a question?”

      1. OP

        it’s not really a lab, There’s the machine part where only nuclear safety worker can be and then there are other parts of the facility that are safe for the general public. People who aren’t just here for a tour in the higher risk areas need safety training. It’s pretty extensively laid out. I wouldn’t bring my baby here on a regular basis though. That said no one has ever gotten a noticeable dose of radiation here and we are constantly monitored.

    2. Anonymous

      Ideally your Executive Director or manager would make the culture of the company known to everyone when they are hired. For example, I was told it was perfectly fine to bring the kids if in a pinch when I was hired (or to just not show up that day) and the Director of IT had his son in his office a couple of days this week.

      There are other places I’ve worked at where a kid would never be okay. And I also know a place where people bring their dogs in (because it was a pet related business). But, again, that’s part of the chat that ideally you would have when hired so it doesn’t come as a surprise. Other things, such as the ability to take compassionate care leave or sick leave to take care of a relative (brother, sister, mom, husband, child) should also be part of that discussion id not when you are being interviewed, then when you do your first day of the job. That way it doesn’t come as a total shocker that Worker A can bring their baby to work.

    3. fposte

      It’s also possible that they didn’t want to say anything to her publicly and privately told her afterwards that that wasn’t appropriate. Though no matter how startled I was, the key thing would have meant ejection on the spot for me.

      1. OP

        It’s not overly relevant I just thought it might give a frame of reference that she isn’t in a conventional situation and it seems like that might be a factor in her pushing the boundaries of what she can get away with regarding the baby. She’s the type of person who if anyone questioned her bringing the child to the meeting would probably accuse them of having a problem with it because she’s a lesbian when it’s completely not about that in the slightest.

        1. Anonymous

          It seems odd to me that you claim she’s both “probably a closeted lesbian” and yet would also claim people have a problem with her being a lesbian. (Oh boy, I love hearing about the race/sexuality/whatever cards!)

          1. OP

            Yeah you missed my point and I frankly resent your implication. I didn’t say people would have a problem with it, I said she might assume they did or try to use that as an opportunistic reason she should get away with behaviour that others couldn’t because that is her personality. I should have just said she seems opportunistic and left closeted lesbian out of it because someone was bound to jump all over that.

            People are people with personalites all over the spectrum regardless of their sexuality, gender, race or any other factors. I resent that I even have to clarify that. But this is a blog and I understand that you can only guagemy meaning based on what I’ve written here which may not have come across as intended.

  41. Lilybell

    My biggest pet peeve about kids at work:
    DO NOT ask other people in your office (usually any young female they can find) to watch your kid while you work. This always happened to me when I was younger – and one woman actually came and yelled at me because her kid was pretending to play with a gun while I was entertaining her. She told me “we don’t allow Precious to play aggressive games” and I responded that she should have found a babysitter if she wanted someone to follow her rules. And then I fell to the floor and played dead like the kid shot me. She stomped off in a huff and I admit I got a kick out of it (she was not my supervisor).

    1. Tiff

      LOL – I’m sorry, that’s just hilarious. Good one. My problem is the opposite, if I bring my kids in they’re usually “kidnapped” within the first few minutes and I don’t see them again for about one (blissfully peaceful) hour. I only get them back when a dirty diaper is involved.

      1. fposte

        This is usually after that stage, and it’s often not even explicit–it’s a parent who’s let the kids wander and somebody else has stepped in to keep them from jumping off the balcony or microwaving pens.

  42. Ask a Manager Post author

    Wow, I go away for a few hours and come back to this!

    I think everyone needs to recognize that this question isn’t occurring in a vacuum. It’s against a backdrop of a society where parents often impose their kids on others in ways that aren’t appropriate, assert special privileges for themselves that others don’t get (and generally don’t speak out in favor of their non-parent coworkers getting those privileges too; they just take the privilege for themselves and move on), and when challenged on that, sometimes respond as if child-rearing should be a special status and as if other people don’t do equally worthy things outside of work as well.

    If that weren’t the case — if we lived in a world where none of that were true — I suspect people would be much more sympathetic to the occasional need to bring a baby to work. But clearly people are reacting to the larger issue, not just one baby in one meeting one time. And I think that’s worth other people factoring in to their thinking.

    (And yes, it’s also true that we’re in a society that hasn’t made things especially easy for working parents. But that viewpoint has been well argued here already.)

    1. A Bug!

      I think it’s important to remember that no matter which side you’re on, the most visible set of the other side will always be the entitled, inconsiderate members.

      So when you’re a parent, even if you have extremely well-behaved children and are thoughtful about where you take them and when, you’re going to be faced with dirty stares from people who feel entitled to never have to see or hear children no matter where they go. (See: people who refer to parents as “breeders” and children as “crotch-droppings”).

      And when you’re not a parent (or when you are a considerate parent), you have to deal with parents who voluntarily take their kids to inappropriate venues and expect others to tolerate inappropriate and disruptive behavior from themselves and their children.

      So, to me, it boils down to the simple fact that a lot of people suck for a lot of different reasons, but we should try to be mindful not to punish or judge people who try really hard not to suck but may end up faced with a choice between “sucky” and “less sucky”.

      Sounds like the letter-writer’s coworker is probably just sucky, though.

    2. OP

      To Alison’s point: my direct manager has told myself and my co-worker who are both not parents that we need to accept that she will be making exceptions to accommodate our other co-worker being a parent before. We are not given the same vacation privileges as her, sick days off etc. so that might also have contributed to my being irked by the baby in meeting thing. The issue is definitely far more extensive than my one limited snapshot. It’s a very interesting discussion here :-)

      1. Heather

        OK, now that’s messed up! No wonder you were annoyed.

        I wonder if your coworker knows that she gets special treatment, or if she just thinks everyone else is getting the same little perks she is?

        1. OP

          Yeah she knows. But because she knows she has opposite issues of being annoyed at my boss for clearly displaying favoritism toward her. We try not to direct our annoyance at her but at my manager because it isn’t her fault she is treated differently after all. That said though at the end of the day she has never stood up for our right to have the same privileges. As Alison put it ” they just take the privilege for themselves and move on”. That’s what she did. And now she’s leaving the job, ironically.

          1. Anonymous

            It’s not really her job to stand up for your right to have the same privileges. It’s up to you and your manager to have such discussions.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I’m going to argue differently. When one class is given privileges over another, I think they’re obligated to speak up against unfair disadvantages other suffer as a result. And if they choose not to, they can’t be surprised that others resent and dislike their exercise of that privilege.

              1. Anon

                I’m curious, do you feel that student loan repayment benefits are also verboten? Not everyone went to college/has student loans and not all jobs benefit from a random degree, so it doesn’t benefit all employees equally. Is it up to people with student loans to argue that the company needs to come up with an equal benefit for people who didn’t go to college and don’t choose to or for anyone joining the company who doesn’t have loans? And let’s assume that the degree is completely unrelated to the job and that for some jobs even having a degree really doesn’t matter, so no one gets to hide behind arguing that its relevant. If you really believe that anything privileging any group is unfair across the board, not just in relation to parents or groups you don’t value, then I agree with you. That said, I have a feeling that if the post was about a coworker who was doing their art homework during a meeting, which was really distracting because its art which was so bright and interesting and distracting because the markers they were using made a lot of noise and smelled and that they are getting benefits the poster isn’t, the answers would be quite different. Of course, I realize this is a challenging example since more people value education than parenthood, but there are certainly workplaces where people without advanced degrees feel slighted and would be every bit as upset…its just parent bashing has become a norm.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I might not be following, but no, I cannot imagine anyone thinking it was appropriate to do an art project for class in the middle of a business meeting.

                2. Anon

                  So here’s where the situations are analogous:
                  1) Just like parents, students are people who probably are given time driven flexibility not given to everyone in general and not related to the specific situation (i.e. they are not asked to work OT on days they have class, understanding that they have homework, etc.)
                  2) There is a population that has made different choices that strongly resents the way they are favored…talk to anyone who worked their way up from the mail room without a degree…its just as personal to them as to the people who choose not to have children re: kids.
                  3) I brought up a monetarily driven benefit that is not given to everyone. People who choose not to get degrees, people from a socioeconomic background that don’t need it, and like parents of grown children, people who have already paid off their loans. This would be similar to discussions over daycare benefits.

                  At least to me though, I think your response is very different. You responded by dealing with the individual situation as an individual situation; you didn’t turn it into a referendum on a class of people (students/the college educated). You didn’t address the unevenness of the repayment benefit I mentioned at all (and again with the example of the art student, it doesn’t necessarily benefit the employer from a work perspective, its to make it easier to retain employees (unless its only applied to relevant degrees)), nor did you include in your response the various other instances in which they are privileged (time driven flexibility and expectations) which weren’t mentioned in the original situation. I suspect no one would have worried about whether there were extenuating circumstances (its right before finals, the person was working a lot of OT beforehand, was sick, and his dog died last week) and/or whether he does this all the time. Even if the poster assumed that he had permission to do it this time and the boss didn’t make the artist stop, I think that the level of vitriol toward the student in comments would be a lot less, even if everyone agreed that’s not appropriate, though I’m sure that mail room person would still feed in.

                  I think there’s an element class/group baiting here and of bias against this particular group, parents, in both your response and the responses of others that goes beyond it being merely an issue of fairness or a consistent response to “any” privileged group. While I really enjoy your site, I do find this concerning.

                3. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I think we just disagree.

                  In most workplaces, the person doing an art project for school in the middle of a business meeting would face open ridicule, as well as being told to stop and that it couldn’t happen again. It wouldn’t be more acceptable than a baby; in many/most places, it would less so.

                  Tuition reimbursement is open to anyone who wants to take advantage of it, not just one class of people.

                  I’m not sure where you’re seeing bias against parents in my responses. I’ve said several times that I think in some contexts, it can be acceptable to bring a baby/child to work, as long as it’s very occasional and done with marked sensitivity to the fact that others find it distracting.

            2. Natalie

              It might not be her job to stand up for the other co-workers, but it would certainly be a good thing to do. Sometimes people in positions of privilege are also in the best position to argue for leveling the playing field.

            3. Moi

              I wasn’t saying it was “her job” but if she openly acknowleges that she knows she’s being treated differently than the non-parents (which she did) and then clearly takes full advantage of those privileges and never even bothers to say “Yeah I think they should be able to take such and such a day off since I get so much time off for daycare” it does impact how we feel about the way we’re treated in the office. It’s no one’s obligation to necessarily stand up for their co-workers but it’something that wouldn’t even have to be done in an obnoxious way and would end up reflecting well on her in several ways. So it would have just been a nice thing to do.

            1. OP

              Was that supposed to be snark or am I misinterpreting you? I was honest on my survey in all areas if that’s what you’re asking.

              1. And if

                It was serious. Too often I have seen these employee surveys and they do not want answers like “Boss has pets who get away with murder” So I was wondering if you put it on there since it bothers you so much. If you do not tell them, they do not know. But if you do tell them, you land on ‘the list’

      2. Anonymous

        To me this changes things a little bit. If an employer is giving people with kids extra sick time that childless employees don’t get, they should be expected to use it to take care of their kids, not bring their kids in.

        In general I’m not against the idea of bringing kids to the office as long as the parent does their best to keep the kid quiet and contained. It’s on the parents to enforce appropriate “office behavior” with the kid, or be prepared to stop on a dime and take a fussing infant for a short walk or car ride or whatever until they calm down again. It does depend on the workplace.

      3. Laura L

        OMG. That’s ridiculous.

        In my office, everyone accrues PTO that can be used for anything, the only time that is increased is when you’ve been with the org for a certain number of years, and, in my department, we have a lot of leeway to work at home.

        More workplaces (particularly offices where people do all their work on a computer) should adopt this model. It will keep everyone happy.

        This also makes me think that your boss’s and the ED’s comments weren’t subtle insults.

        1. OP

          I agree. I don’t think they were subtle insults either. I’m curious to see if this baby is around all the time now that this co-worker is back. I love occasional visits by babies but I just don’t think it’s the environment to have them around all the time at the office and especially not the facility I work. There are safety concerns involved.

  43. Kelly O

    I have to admit, my blood started to boil reading some of these comments. That doesn’t really happen much, and I know its because this hits so close to home for me.

    I don’t bring my daughter to work, even when people say things like “oh we haven’t seen her in so long, why don’t you bring her by one day?” because I know she’s a distraction to other people. I get that. I think most reasonable parents do.

    I guess I just think about the times I’ve had to drop everything and leave because daycare called. If they’re running a temperature over a certain point, they can’t stay. It doesn’t matter if they’re just teething and aren’t truly “sick” – still can’t stay. Last summer when Hand, Foot, and Mouth went around her daycare, she was not contagious after 48 hours, but had to wait a full week to go back to daycare.

    For the last two years, I have literally spent every second of my time off with a sick child. When we go home to visit my mom (a once a year trip nowadays) I have to take unpaid time off. I know when that trip is and can adjust my budget in advance. I don’t know when Sarah’s going to be sick, so I have to save my time for that purpose.

    I’m luckier than most. I have a husband who can help out, and since he’s taken this new job and works from home, he can be a good backup for me when she gets sick. But he still has to work and take client calls. It’s not like we can just assume he’ll be okay with her all day, or that she’ll magically be quiet while he’s on the phone, at least until she’s old enough to better understand that.

    But I guess what I’m thinking, more than anything else, is that I wish we could have a little compassion for each other. I remember when I worked at a university and my Dad was sick, there were lots of times I had the flexibility to run over to the hospital (literally right across the street) and be there when the doctors made rounds, or to spend time with him on my lunch break. This same office went out of its way to allow people the time to do things that needed to be done. Some things could be done from home, some things could be done outside of regular hours, and sometimes we all pitched in to help each other.

    The point being, if you acknowledge the humanness of your employees, you’re going to have a healthier functioning company. That can be anything from understanding when daycare is closed on Columbus Day and you’re open, to having an aging parent who needs extra care, even taking a loved pet to the emergency vet, or even just getting yourself to the doctor when you need it.

    (I won’t go into my spiel about how many people could benefit from results-oriented environments, because it’s a whole other problem. Suffice to say sometimes I think too much emphasis is put on how long your backside is in your chair and too little on what you actually accomplish in those eight hours.)

    But it’s like people only acknowledge that need for flexibility when it affects them directly, or when they feel like someone else is getting a benefit they don’t receive themselves. I do it too, I’m not excluding myself. I try to remind myself to be more mindful of that.

    1. NicoleW

      Kelly O – I’m just going to follow you through the comments today and agree with you!

      For myself, coming from a very NOT-family-friendly workplace, it’s a lot easier for me to see the challenges for working parents. There is no paid family leave, no working from home, no flexible hours. Being in a downtown area, there isn’t an affordable child care for miles. I understand that in other companies, employees are upset because parents are receiving special treatment. And I get that. I think your average [sane] parent doesn’t want extra benefits, just wants some flexibility. And a workplace can make things flexible for everyone.

      1. Jamie

        Me too. Kelly has this way of making want to simultaneously buy her a cup of coffee, smack the people that get in her way, and elect her President.

    2. TW

      Kelly, are there any children’s hospitals near your home? I ask because all of the local children’s hospital in my area run what they call a “sick child day-care”. You can drop off you child with any kind of illness for a reasonable price (~25$). It allows parents to still go to work when their kid has an illness (or worse is not really sick but can’t go to school. The programs are not highly advertised though.

      Now granted, I do worry that my kid would come home with more illness – but at least its an option.

  44. Anonymous

    Totally unprofessional, though I know emergencies happen.

    If the employee has a closed office with a door, I don’t see a problem, as long as any noise from the child does not bother staff outside the office.

    If a meeting is involved, or if it’s an open office environment, the employee should apologize profusely to the others and make sure the child keeps quiet.

  45. Job Seeker

    I did not work outside our home when my children were small. I don’t possible know how I could have. I have such respect for those that do and make it work. When I came home from the hospital with my youngest my children were ages newborn, 1 and 3. Could you imagine me bringing my little group into a meeting?

    I love children but I understand how busy they are. You cannot give them your attention and something else at the same time. Things happen very quickly and they need your full attention. I would also want to give my job my full attention. You cannot also keep a young child quiet. I think having respect for your job and co-worker should count for something.

  46. CC

    Preface: I AM *NOT* A PARENT.

    If it was a rare occurrence, I would not have a problem with it. I’ve only ever seen children at my places of employment occasionally, and only during emergencies (no one else to watch the child, and work needing to be done). Then again, I have no problem tuning out a babbling baby.

    Honestly, if this is not a common occurrence, I would not be bothered. If you work is SO DISTURBED by something that happened once during a meeting, and you absolutely could not tune out a small child who wasn’t under your care, I’d be more worried about your own overreaction to these things.

    Again, this response is about this particular letter. I am not responding to the debate on whether parents get more privileges from society, just to this particular question.

    1. OP

      I did successfully tune out the child. Given the circumstances and her attitude though, yes it irked me. I guess you had to be there.

      1. fposte

        And I think that’s the thing–it’s sometimes not the kid itself that’s irksome, it’s the parent and the problems in the way the company is treating the situation. That certainly seems to be the case here.

  47. Tiff

    Well, I’m glad that I work in a place where bringing your kids is allowed and occassionally encouraged. Every once in a while I bring them in – not for the whole day, and not very often. When I did, my director let me use her office to breastfeed my twins. I’m not special, this is the treatment for all of us, moms and dads alike.

    No wonder the average length of employment here is 20 years, 30+ year employees are pretty common, and we have a better track record of promoting women up the chain of command then most. Our chair, director, several division chiefs and mid-level managers are women (and mothers). There is nothing strange about the chair saying that she can’t make xyz meeting because she has to pick her kids up from school, or that so-n-so has a sick parent and will be caring for them.

    I’m amazed at how heartless some of these comments are, and a little sad about the work climate outside of my place of employment.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Hey. I don’t think throwing around words like “heartless” is warranted here. Reasonable people can disagree on this issue without being heartless.

      1. Tiff

        Someone commented that we shouldn’t even have children unless we can afford child care. Generally, telling people when they should and shouldn’t have kids rubs me the wrong way, and I do think that comment was heartless so I’ll agree to disagree. It reminds me very much of the folks who say that we shouldn’t have kids unless we can afford for one parent (and usually mom) to stay home.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Eh, I think it’s not unreasonable to say that it’s not wise to have kids until you know how you’ll support them and yourself (allowing, of course, for the fact that people’s circumstances change in ways they couldn’t have predicted).

          Plus, if you’re going to argue for this “it takes a village” type of stance, then part of that package is that others in the village will have opinions on when/if you should have them.

          1. nev

            1. You can’t always plan your kids. Even the best-used contraception occasionally fails. There is no “good time” for children.

            2. Soo… working class and lower-middle-class people just don’t get to have kids?

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I didn’t say any of that. I said it’s not surprising that people feel entitled to have opinions about it, if you’re also expecting them to buy in to the idea that helping to accommodate them is everyone’s job.

              Just like I get to have opinions about the public schools, even though I don’t have children going there, because my tax dollars fund them. If you want me to be part of funding/accommodating something, I get to have an opinion about it.

              1. Indie_Rachael

                It’s not constructive to tell a parent, especially one who is doing an otherwise standup job, that they shouldn’t have had kids simply because they can’t guarantee that they will always have reliable childcare, yet this is what many comments seem centered around. Focusing on what someone *should* have done 9 months to 18 years ago is pointless and, frankly, heartless as someone else said above. The discussion ought to be on how employees can deal with coworkers who bring kids to work, how much is too much, and what kind of other options are out there and NOT on where the father is in all this (unless we are discussing the division of labor in two-parent households) or whether it was advisable for someone to have a children at some time prior to right now. Just because someone is entitled to an opinion doesn’t mean they’re obligated to share it.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I agree with nearly all of that, but I’m not surprised by those comments, given that we’ve also got people claiming they’re doing the important work of propagating the species. There’s hyperbole in both sides here.

                2. Anon

                  But . . . they are doing that work. It’s not that they should be treated as special for doing so; they shouldn’t. Nor given privileges others aren’t. It’s that kids are fundamentally an important part of society and we need to figure out how to have them in society in humane and reasonable ways.

                  I mean, sorry to use the “propagate the species” language. Clearly it’s a lightening rod; I didn’t realize. The only point I’m making is that we can’t treat kids as completely separate from other societal institutions like the workplace. There’s always going to be overlap, whether that overlap is because workers are out because of their kids (e.g., maternity leave), because they’re distracted because of their kids (say, one who’s having trouble in school), or because they need to choose between coming to work with the kid or staying home (back-up daycare falls through).

                  Kids aren’t the only thing that’s true about, of course. It’s true of all sorts of things and all sorts of outside work commitments should be recognized and respected. But it is also true of kids.

                3. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Anon, yes. The problem is that so often it’s only kids that get that recognition as a special outside commitment deserving of accommodating, which is unfair to people who don’t have kids. And hence the borderline warfare you see here over it.

                4. Anon

                  I guess so! I’m childless myself, and feeling lucky to have a job where other commitments are recognized and people are on part-time and flexible schedules for all sorts of reasons (religious, medical, educational, etc.).

          2. Tifff

            We don’t disagree on many of those points. All I’m saying is that a sick kid or caregiver can throw even the most dedicated and responsible workers off. I didn’t mean to give the impresion that we just bring our kids in all the time…far from it. But reasonable accommodations are made for our workers whether it be a sick kid, busted tire or ailing parent. To me that’s part of a great culture. Workers give more of their personal time here because of it.

      1. Jen in RO

        I’ve seen this topic discussed before and I just… what? It’s one of those cultural things. Who cares if you’re wearing pantyhose or not? Why *is* it a topic? Can you please enlighten me?

        1. Jamie

          Was just kind of an AAM joke because the comment section on a post about pantyhose was (I believe) the only time Alison had to close the comments because it got so contentious.

          I have no idea why people felt so strongly about that.

    1. Rana

      Agreed. This discussion has made my blood pressure go up in ways that 99% of the discussions here do not.

  48. Miss Displaced

    Think of it this way.
    Would you bring your dog or cat to work?
    Would you bring your husband or boyfriend to work?
    Would you bring your mom to work?

    Why then would the situation change for babies?

    Granted, I’ve seen all of the above in the offices, but usually they are “just passing through” or there is a special event (bring your daughter to work day) and then they are never in an official meeting.

    1. fposte

      The situation would change for babies because if you leave them at home alone you go to jail. Come on, I understand wanting a baby-free workplace, but it’s really not just about entitlement of the employee –this is an actual need of the “invader” involved in the way it’s not for a pet or an adult.

    2. Anonymous

      Generally, someone’s husband isn’t 100% dependent on them for absolutely everything. Even a pet can be left home alone in a cage with some food for eight hours. I don’t suggest trying that with a baby.

  49. Another Emily

    At my office this would be okay, but unusual. This has never actually happened at a meeting, but people have brought their young kids in for brief periods of time before. The kids are well behaved like the kid in the letter.
    However at my office if something comes up it’s okay to phone in to a meeting rather than show up in person.

  50. Simply Don't Get It

    I can never understand why people just don’t do their own jobs and quit looking at everybody else and what they might or might not be doing. Can’t you simply do your job, to the absolute best of your abilities, worry about your own productivity, and mind your own business? I think most managers know what they’re doing when they hire people. Didn’t they hire you? Why do you even care about this child being in your meeting, especially if it was obviously approved by the higher-ups? I simply don’t get it.

    1. OP

      well that was rude but I’ll respond anyway. It wasn’t approved by the “higher-ups” to my knowledge, I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt in thinking it might be. I cared because it was disruptive and kind of bizarre to waltz into an hour long meetiwith the ED a half hour late acting like she owned the place and there wasn’t a one-year old in her arms. It was weird, ok? And it made me wonder if I’m totally off-base with thinking it was weird. Gaging by the reaction here, apprently other people have wondered that too. So there you go.

      1. Anonymous

        Yes, it was weird. However, in your e-mail you wrote “I’m guessing she probably had clearance to bring her son in the first place.”
        So now you don’t think she had clearance? Do you know for sure? It’s odd but maybe she phoned, said she couldn’t make it because she had problems with the daycare/nanny and was told to come in anyway. She then scrambled to get there.

        1. OP

          I believe my usage of the word “guessing” and the definition of “guessing” would denote that no, I do not know if she had clearance as I was GUESSING. Yes maybe she did, maybe, maybe, maybe….which is all speculative. But we don’t know that hence it is still weird.
          Geez, grasping at straws now people.

    2. Mike C.

      I would care because the kid would most likely be killed on the factory floor if the parent wasn’t attentive. Do you expect me to just ignore that?

  51. Cassie

    I wonder what happens with parents who work at secure facilities, when their daycare/babysitting arrangements fall through?

    If it was a one-time thing, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it although the “we had to rescue a chihuahua” thing would make me a bit annoyed. Of course, if the employee was just late (on her own) because she had to rescue a chihuahua, I would be annoyed too.

    What I don’t like is when people bring their kids (or sometimes, their dogs!) to work just because. I’m trying to do work, while everyone else is oohing and aahing over the kid/dog. Though I get that sometimes the parent/kid don’t want the attention – it’s the other people who keep trying to cajole the kid.

    This discussion reminds me of my mom and her mom (my grandmother). My grandmother was a teacher and one day when my mom was a baby, she couldn’t get someone to watch my mom. So she brought my mom in her crib to class and put her in the lectern. The students found out my mom was there because she cried during class :) One of the students told his/her parents and the parents found a nanny for my mom, so it worked out in the end!

  52. Editor

    At my last workplace, most of the smaller meetings were in rooms that had speaker phones, so people who had childcare crises or other issues could phone in or be phoned and then listen to the meeting with the sound from the employee’s end on mute, except when they wanted to ask a question. This was very helpful, and it was also used to have people at the branch offices participate without using time and incurring mileage costs to drive 15 to 30 miles.

    Increasingly, I am not a fan of a late arrival apologizing when entering a meeting. Slip in quietly and try not to interrupt at all; apologize later. To me, it is ruder to send the meeting off track than to show up with a quiet child. As the parent of a toddler, I had a makeup pouch full of kid stuff in the purse — some wet wipes in individual packets, tissues, a couple of toys, a ziplock of Cheerios. I would note that it is hard to find a quiet toy that will keep a toddler busy, although one of my relatives swears by his iPhone.

    Please do not complain about how people who have children should plan ahead. Kelly O has mentioned some of her challenges. I understand her frustration — we got transferred out of state and had to register our children for school, which required listing an alternate to pick up the kids. The secretary at the new school said something like, “well, if you moved here, you must have family here.” Nope. The company had transferred us to a rural site four hours from the nearest family member.

    Finally, I’d like to note here that when I was expecting my second child, I lined up three different people to take care of our first in the event I went into labor early (before the scheduled C-section). At 11:30 p.m. on a weekday night, I had to start making calls, and found not one of them available.

    Please don’t tell parents that when they decided to have children, they should have known they would have to plan for the unexpected. Responsible parents know this, but sometimes their plans and multiple backups fail.

  53. KT

    I’m wondering if more went on behind the scenes. Like the execs announced the breakfast meeting, the employee says she can’t make it because her daycare is closed. Execs reply with “bring the baby, people like to meet him/her.”

  54. Anonymous

    I’ve tried to read most of these posts so I’m sorry if I repeat something.
    The workforce and society have changed. More women and mothers are in the workforce. This is about accepting change. I believe people/employers will be more accepting as this becomes more prevalent. I am lucky that I work in an organization that does not discriminate against fathers and mothers who bring their children to work because they have no choice. It’s almost common!
    I only work part-time and finish at 3pm. If I have to pick up my kids from school and go back to work because something is due then I have to take my kids and no one questions that as long as I do my work.

  55. Anonymous

    Kids at work tend to be a hot button for me because I used to work for a manager who picked her two kids up from elementary school every afternoon and kept them in her cubicle for the rest of the day. She should have just gone on home instead because she was useless once they were there. All she did was hover over them and monitor their homework, and none of her employees could get her to focus on answering questions, leading meetings, reviewing work or any of the things she was supposed to be doing. Fortunately for our project’s success, within a few months, she was demoted out of her management position and put on “special projects” which was a euphanism for “on the way out”. Her replacement was also a parent, but on the rare occasions her kids were in the office, she didn’t forget why she was there.

  56. Laura L

    I was originally in favor of having a baby in the office on the rare occasion when there are no other options.

    But then someone brought up dogs. :-)

    I would much rather have a baby or child in the office than a dog, but I think for the sake of fairness, I’d rather just not allow any of it!

  57. cncx

    Late to the game on this, but I have had the childcare debate go both ways in two different jobs. I think it is less about children than how your employer handles the situation for those of us without children.

    I had one job where the night secretary consistently had childcare issues, despite having both a husband, boyfriend and mother in law who had day jobs and could, in principle, take care of her kids during her night shift. At least once a week, and usually twice, she was either late or absent. The expectation was that I pull a 13 hour day because I had nothing better to do because I didn’t have kids. Six months of that burnt me out on a job a loved, all because they bent over backwards to accommodate this woman and failed to see (despite repeated pleading on my part) that when you added in a 1.5 hour commute each way for me, I was doing 16 hour days and some Saturdays. I don’t think I slept more than 4 hours a night, but who cares right, because I don’t have kids and my life and sleep aren’t as important as “the most important job in the world.” Never mind the fact that another day secretary who had kids the same age, husband with an IT job (long hours) and no inlaws around never seemed to have childcare issues. I still don’t understand why HR didn’t get a clue- I think the night secretary was pulling the kid card to slack, at least part of the time and no one had any f*s to give that I was burning out slowly. Even my lunch breaks were timed to 60 minutes sharp. You better believe I came away from that job anti-kid anything. But then I started working somewhere “normal”-

    At my current job, my immediate boss has a toddler as does another person in the team. It has happened that they both need to home office or roll in late or leave early about once a month due to kid emergencies, but you know what? No one says anything if I go get my hair done and wind up taking a 2 hour lunch. No one says anything if I have to come in late to go to the doctor or run an errand. No one makes a value judgement on my time being worth less than theirs, and the flexibility for everyone is give and take. Because I know that Monday I can go have lunch with a friend from 12-2, I don’t mind staying late on Friday night because the boss’ babysitter flaked or something. For me, this is key: I feel like my line manager and HR are on board with flexibility applying to everyone and that if I give to them for childcare, they give back to me. We all win.

    I wouldn’t be mad at the kids or the parents in this type of situation- I would be mad about two things:
    1. mad at the managers and HR for not having clear ground rules about who got to have “flextime” and who had to carry the can for everyone else. In retrospect, the problem with my first job wasn’t that she had kids and had the audacity to work, but rather HR and management did not handle her situation appropriately. I was so burnt out at one point I wouldn’t have cared had she brought her kids in as long as she actually came to work for a change.
    2. A commenter above made another very pertinent point: we shouldn’t blame parents when we don’t have the systems in place (affordable child care, flextime schedules, some companies having technology issues with vpn) to support parents. I love my current situation because we have the technology to allow parents to do their jobs from home in emergencies, and we have a corporate culture that is understanding of the fact that sometimes life can’t be outside 9 to 5 and stuff comes up.

  58. nurse

    We have many mandatory meetings to attend during the day. The night shift staff usually does NOT have a sitter for their children and that is why they work third shift. I did this for all four of my children while they were infants and breast feeding. I am still doing night shift and they are teenagers :D While I am sympathetic to the worker; I felt she should have apologized for being late and bringing the child. I would never expect to have toddlers in meetings. You just have to hire a sitter! I used to make arrangements for my children when necessary.

  59. Evalynn Sundeen

    In this day and age the only reason the job markets and education are lacking in the whole equal opportunity concept is because of childcare. I maintain that it is more economically logical for a two parents to live on welfare than to both have an entry-level position and send a single child to day care. If child care were public like our schools, it would A. Cost the Fed. Government less than having the families on welfare altogether. B. Make it easier for social services to catch child abuse/neglect. and C. Create an equal starting point to build an education as kids who had parents working with them on numbers, letters, shapes, colors, etc. before going to school are more likely to do well in school, but families where both the parents are busy working all the time wont have the luxury of time to spen with their kids on such things. Also to expect people not to build families of their own simply because of their lack of fortune is an emotionally stunted perspective devoid of compassion.

    1. Jamie

      “Create an equal starting point to build an education as kids who had parents working with them on numbers, letters, shapes, colors, etc. before going to school are more likely to do well in school, but families where both the parents are busy working all the time wont have the luxury of time to spen with their kids on such things. “

      I don’t understand the point your making. Pre-school age children, even with two working parents, aren’t left alone – and teaching one’s child isn’t a luxury that one does when there is time – it’s an obligation every parent has to their child(ren).

      “Also to expect people not to build families of their own simply because of their lack of fortune is an emotionally stunted perspective devoid of compassion.

      To expect people to have the resources required, including financial, to give a child what it needs is showing compassion – to the child. Every child deserves to have their basic needs met consistently and properly including food, shelter, care and supervision, education, etc. If people cannot provide these needs from the outset that is setting a child up for a severe disadvantage.

      I do believe in safety nets because people can face turns of circumstances where they need help and no child should suffer for that – but I don’t think it’s emotionally stunted to expect that people who aren’t in the position to properly provide for a child to wait until they are.

      Having children is not a right.

  60. Chria

    It’s always interesting to see which posts generate the most comments, and because so many people feel so strongly about this issue, it’s probably worth everyone’s while to explore and discuss both the specific issue brought up in this post and also the larger social issue the post reflects. That being said, I feel that a lot of comments have been devoted to justifying why one point of view is “better” or more “legitimate” than another. I think an important thing to remember is that, while we expect everyone to act like reasonable adults, “reasonable” is actually a subjective term, not an objective one. Even when you attempt to be neutral and fair to all parties, the very thought process you use to determine your objectivity is coloured by your subjective perceptions. So no matter what the topic, we will probably never achieve 100% consensus. The best we can hope for is to try to see things from everyone else’s point of view while also acknowledging that as *subjective* beings we will never understand anyone else’s perspective as well as our own. The truth is, we often make decisions based on majority rather than universal consensus (i.e. educational systems, government, criminal codes…), and it’s fine to do that as long as we understand that there will always be people who think differently and try our best to reasonably accommodate them, whatever our perception of ‘reason’ may be. I do think that that’s a fair way of thinking not only when commenting in discussions like this, but also in life when dealing with situations brought up in said discussions.

  61. OP

    OK I have an update and I just have to share. This was not a one-time emergency situation. According to my co-worker apparently all throughout her mat leave when she was working a few hours a week and since she’s been back the baby has been at the meetings with her and she thinks it’s “normal”. The baby situation came up because she sent out an e-mail today to all staff on “How to Avoid Bad Manners at the Office”. Not kidding. It is priceless.

    1. Job Seeker

      This person sounds unreal. I am glad I don’t work there. I think she is like most new mothers, they hate to leave their child. I feel bad for her because I could relate to that.

      1. OP

        I was afraid my bias might have come from not having children of my own but this has come up amongst co-workers who were at the meeting since then and both parents and non-parents in the group thought it was inappropriate.

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