telling an employee she can’t bring her foster kids to work every day

A reader writes:

I have an employee who is foster-parenting two troubled teens. My employee is an amazing woman in many regards, and I am overwhelmed when I think about the commitment she is making to these girls who have been tossed around in life.

My employee has been with the organization for many years, long enough that it feels odd to have to explain “how we do things.” However, her foster children go to a high school nearby, and she has been having them walk over to our office after school and wait in a conference room working on homework until she gets off at 5 pm. Using the office for childcare—no matter the age of the children—is not “how we do things” here. We do not have an explicit policy against it—nor do we have one against setting fire to the office. It’s just not ok.

I’m ashamed to admit that I looked the other way for a while. She is no longer my direct report (her supervisor is) and I assumed that this was a short-term situation she had worked out with her supervisor. It came to light today that this is an every-day arrangement, and one of the girls recently vandalized our property.

I know that I need to address the situation, but it feels harder somehow, because she is doing such a noble thing by taking care of these girls. We work in a government setting, and service to the public is our core mission.

Do you have any words of wisdom for counseling an employee for doing the right thing in life that happens to be the wrong thing in the office?

“I admire the commitment you’ve made to these girls, but we can’t have kids staying in the office, other than on rare supervised visits.”

However, this should likely come from her manager, not from you. You should speak to her manager to get aligned with her about why this isn’t appropriate and shouldn’t have been okayed to begin with, and then her manager should speak with her. And when she does, she should own that message — not say “I don’t have a problem with it, but Jane told me I have to tell you to stop.” Otherwise you risk creating an us-vs.-them dynamic that pits you and her and her manager.

So the manager talks to her, but you can coach her on what language to use, framing, and so forth.

Regarding the fact that this feels harder because your employee is doing something good here, you’ve got to keep in mind that there are many noble pursuits out there (and some of your other employees are probably engaged in them outside of work as well), but just because something is good and noble doesn’t mean that it makes sense to bring it into the workplace, when doing so would be disruptive. Otherwise workplaces would be full of kids and foster cats and people with nowhere to sleep. There’s a reason that most workplaces aren’t, and it’s because those things would compromise their ability to deliver on their mission, and that’s what they’re there to achieve.

Assuming you feel that having kids in the office every day compromises your office’s ability to deliver on its mission (and that’s certainly a reasonable stance to take, and one most employers take), then no matter how personally kind it might be to help her out, it’s contrary to the what you’re there to get done. And a reasonable person will understand this.

That said, you can certainly offer to be flexible with her to whatever extent is reasonable — if she needs some flexibility in her schedule, for instance, and her job allows for it. But the key here is “to whatever extent is reasonable,” and that’s the piece that her manager needs to talk with her about.

By the way, if your organization or team would like to support what your employee is doing in a more easily accommodated way, one possibility is getting involved with Foster Care to Success, a nonprofit that helps foster kids pay for college, mentors them, and provides other services. It may or may not be feasible for you, but it’s worth checking out.

{ 169 comments… read them below }

  1. Liz T

    As someone who spent many afternoons doing homework in her mom’s office, I’m a little saddened by all of this. Our society’s set-up seems totally impossible sometimes.

    1. OliviaNOPE

      THANK YOU. I came here to say the same. Over the years in my role as a manager I’ve had countless moms (many of them single) work for me who would have their kids come to our office and sit in the kitchen or break room or an empty conference room and do their homework until mom was done working. The vandalism here is definitely a problem, but I have no issues with well behaved kids in the workplace. In fact, these moms were often my best workers and many of them were part-timers who would come in with almost zero notice to cover as long as their kids were either in school or could come with and sit in the back.

      1. Michelle

        I can see with young children that you can’t just let them roam around the neighbourhood after school, but one would think that high school-aged kids could work at a nearby library or community centre, or do their homework at the school until 5PM?

        1. Marmite

          The OP mentions that they’re “troubled teens”, it could be that the foster mother is wary of what they may get up to unsupervised for several hours. Not all schools have the kind of set up where kids can stay after school hours, so if that’s not an option there may not be a (affordable) supervised place for them to go.

        2. The IT Manager

          I’d bet that the school does not allow unsupervised kids to loiter and hang out past normal departure time. That’s would open them up for liability. An afterschool program, community center, or library might be possible, but the library option would leave them unsupervised and it sounds like that the kids need it.

    2. Xay

      Not every work environment is kid friendly and not every kid is work friendly. I’ve worked in several places where kids were welcome but with the understanding that they had to be quiet and well behaved. Vandalism is not being well behaved.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Plenty of offices simply aren’t set up for this. It’s just the reality of work. The OP works at a government office that serves the public; it’s completely feasible that it can’t sub as day care for kids.

      Particularly when one of the kids has already vandalized the space, but even if that weren’t the case.

      While it’s great that your mom was able to do that, it’s not reasonable to expect that most offices can serve as kid supervision every day.

      1. A-a-a-nonymous

        I agree with both sides of this — well-behaved kids are not a huge problem at some offices, but even the quietest kiddos can be disruptive in others. Given, though, that it does work in some offices, and the fact that every one was “looking the other way” for a while, I’d approach this with kindness — it could really be that the co-worker doesn’t realize this isn’t going to work at her office.

      2. TheSnarkyB

        Agreed. Liz, T – I know what you mean, but I think maybe this speaks more to the kind of work our mothers did and the kinds of offices that women of that generation were allowed to work in/had the educational access to, rather than that offices in general are becoming less kid friendly. I think I still see this happening in more casual or less “high status” offices, which women are more recently gaining access to and success in. (I hope that makes sense..)

        1. Jamie

          Before I went to boarding school I was at the local high school for a couple of months which was right down the street from the adult day care where my mom worked at the time (she was a geriatric nurse).

          A couple of days a week I’d head over and wait the half hour or so for a ride home. But thinking back, she always put me to work. Helping move the chairs back after bingo or helping the participants collect their coats and things to get ready to be picked up…or just chatting with the elderly people …some of them just liked hearing about my life – still not sure why.

          It was almost 30 years ago but I’m thinking some big medical conglomerate owes me some back pay. All I got out of it was a ride home and a love of pear juice and Nilla wafers which lingers to this day.

          1. KellyK

            Smart money says they were lonely. Which reminds me that I need to bug my husband about when we’re going up to visit his grandparents. And email my mom while I’m at it.

            1. Jamie

              I’m not sure about that – we’ll see once I’m that old and if some teenager I am not related to wants to talk to me about ski club and their equivalent of Motley Crue.

              Funny, my HMO is in the same heath care system. I figure I could cut a deal and they can waive the next 6 months of $10 co-pays and we’ll call it even.

          2. Lindsay J

            When I was a kid (early elementary school aged), my parents both worked at a restaurant. Sometimes – I guess when childcare fell through – they would bring me to work with them. With mom I would sit at the bar while she bartended and drink shirley temples, eat popcorn, and read my book all day.

            My dad, on the other hand, put me to work refilling ketchup bottles and salt and pepper shakers, setting chairs the way they were supposed to be, etc. They had a little basket with prizes for little kids and if I did good I got one as a reward.

            1. ThursdaysGeek

              When I was a toddler, my dad would sometimes take me to college with him, where he taught. I sat in the front row and listened to him lecture.

              1. Jamie

                I went to work with my dad once, when I was about 7.

                He had a giant leather chair that spun around and I loved that. Also a huge green glass ashtray and the lingering smell of a 100 Lucky Strikes and a bottle of VO in his desk drawer.

                And everyone was really nervous around him and he never smiled at anyone there. They had no idea that all you had to do is be cute or pout and you’d get your way…no questions asked.

                Then he took me too lunch in a fancy restaurant (cloth napkins and everything!) and I drank enough kiddie cocktails to become nauseated.

                No wonder I went into IT just like him – sigh.

      3. Kou

        I agree, especially since the one kid has already caused trouble, but there’s culturally unacceptable and functionally unacceptable. Even if the kids were perfectly behaved it seems more like the former, especially considering the burn-down-the-building comparison, and that’s just a little sad in general. Reasonable, but disappointing.

      4. Liz T

        No, of course it doesn’t work everywhere. I suppose I was flashing back to hearing coworkers snark about kids being around at my last job.

    4. Marmite

      It is great when it works out, but I can see why it isn’t possible in every office. Part of the problem is it’s difficult to offer the option to the parent with the well-behaved kid and not the parent with the less well-behaved kid. Especially as you won’t necessarily be able to identify how well behaved the child is until they’ve been in the office a few times.

    5. Kou

      I feel the same way. In fact I remember my mom working for a few years somewhere that did not allow it under any circumstances, and I remember it being a big burden on them and I was really disappointed that I couldn’t see what my mom did anymore.

      Actually, my dad did maintenance on commercial buildings and houses, and he took me with him to show me what he did pretty frequently because he would be on-call in the evenings and on weekends. I just bought a house, and what I learned shadowing my dad at work was so helpful– I kept wondering how I would have been able to do it without that background. And I learned about computers from my mom back before that was a normal thing kids did because she was in graphics and had the latest and greatest technology… Come to think of it, going with my parents to work probably educated me more than my actual schooling haha

    6. Lily in NYC

      I just don’t see how this isn’t a liability issue. What if a child gets injured at the office? And one of the children vandalized the place. To me, that’s enough reason to put a stop to it. Every office is different, and I’m sure there’s an office somewhere with a child doing homework in it if it makes you feel better. Personally, I don’t want to see people’s kids at work unless it’s a very rare thing.

      1. Natalie

        But would an employee’s teenager be a greater liability risk than any other random visitor?

        1. Revanche

          I would posit that it’s even-odds who is “worse” or “better” if the teenager were visiting on the same terms as any random visitors if there is a visitor policy like we had.
          Visitors or guests in our office were not allowed to wander around on their own, they had to log in and wear a name tag, and generally be escorted/accompanied by an employee most if not all of the time. In that case, no one cared if someone’s kid came by to wait for their mom if they sat quietly in the lobby like any other visitor not yet received by an employee escort.
          I wouldn’t expect that someone would necessarily (plan to) do that with their kid if they’re using work as childcare. I’m thinking back to when I went to work with my parents as a kid: I either had to help or be tucked out of the way doing homework. They didn’t have time to actually watch over me, they were working. But that was not really an office environment.
          Now I think to one of my previous bosses who would bring his young kids to work and all he would do was play with the kids otherwise the kid would run around and bother us. That was much less appropriate because it was a different environment and they required close supervision.

        2. Jessa

          There’s a difference, you’re insured for employees and for persons doing business with you. That same policy might NOT cover someone’s kids or the damage they do as that is not normal business practise. I’m sure if a place had a daycare or a policy like this they’d get a rider for it. But it’s not the same as “one day the kid came and stayed for half an hour cause it was raining like crazy and mom was driving them home,” and they had an accident and “every single day those kids are here.”

  2. A Bug!

    A couple thoughts:

    One, if it’s possible and you’re willing to do so, it would be generous to give the woman a week to find appropriate childcare. Since she didn’t ask beforehand, it’s not necessary to give notice, but given that nobody brought it up with her sooner she may be assuming that it’s fine and is relying on that to continue. Again, her mistake, not yours or her supervisor’s, but since she’s a longtime employee and seems to be a good performer, it might be worth it to preserve the relationship by meeting her partway.

    Two, and you may not know or be able to find out, is this woman fostering through a program where she’s compensated for fostering the children? If so, the compensation generally includes childcare compensation – the parent can choose to either spend that compensation on third-party childcare in order to go to work, or to keep that compensation and mind the children personally. So if she hasn’t already, the parent should look into after-school programs for these kids, which would probably be more enriching and useful to their development than sitting around in an office lobby!

    1. Nodumbunny

      Except it sounds like they are teenagers. I like Michelle’s suggestion of helping her find a library or community center where it would be safe for these kids to hang out and do homework.
      In some ways, after-school care gets even more complicated as the kids get older, because there aren’t as many organized, safe options. The logistics of getting them to after-school programs, camps or classes that may be in a different location than their school can be complicated, and for many kids, it may be too risky to have them at home unsupervised. I also agree with Liz T. – our system is really difficult to navigate for folks who want to parent but also need to work.

      1. A Bug!

        This is all true and good points, of course (as a kid of a single mom I have lots of memories that I’m certain are fonder for me than they are for my mom and her employers).

        And it’s possible the employee’s already looked into the available programs and came up empty. But it’s also possible that she hasn’t, and in that case she really should, especially if she’s receiving compensation in exchange for fostering these kids.

        If she’s taking these kids on for no compensation out of the goodness of her heart then I have a great deal more sympathy for her situation. I don’t know what the usual setup is in the States but where I live it’s pretty rare for a person to be fostering kids without compensation, unless there’s a family relationship.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          The thing is, even if it’s just out of the goodness of her heart, the employer isn’t obligated to lend their office space for it. Lots and lots of employees do wonderful things in their time away from work, but it’s not reasonable to expect your employer will be obligated to lend their own resources to those endeavors.

          I say this as someone who hopes to become a foster parent at some point, and I’m hugely grateful to those who do it. But you can’t count on your employer being part of the arrangement, any more than you can count on them lending their resources to anything else you choose to do with your non-work life.

            1. businesslady

              in the meantime, you should check out fosterhood[dot]tumblr[dot]com (it’s not my blog, but I didn’t want to get caught by a spam filter regardless)–it’s really great.

          1. A Bug!

            Oh, for sure. Sympathy shouldn’t dictate office policy!

            Or more accurately, I guess, it shouldn’t dictate exceptions to office policy. That’s how you get into battles over who is more worthy of flex time or other benefits that not everyone can enjoy.

            (Chalk another mark up for “Hopes to foster one day”, by the way.)

            1. tcookson

              “Sympathy shouldn’t dictate office policy!
              Or more accurately, I guess, it shouldn’t dictate exceptions to office policy.”

              +1 I’ve worked in offices where the managers wanted to show that they were nice, sympathetic people by granting ad hoc policy exceptions to people based on the sob-worthiness of their stories, and let me tell you, it caused all kinds of confusion and resentment . . . and the policy pretty much becomes ‘we have no policy’.

      2. Kou

        If the kids have a history of getting into trouble, there may be very strict stipulations about where they can be unsupervised.

        And I’m always surprised by how hard it is for teenagers to just hand around somewhere, because people are very uncomfortable with it in general. I used to take art classes at a community center after school as a teenager, but you couldn’t be there if you weren’t in a class. Even my high school didn’t allow kids on campus outside of class hours unless they were with a teacher for tutoring.

        1. Rana

          Yeah, there are a fair number of teenagers around here who hang out in odd corners (like the small plaza near us, which is pretty bare and has nothing to do), but, if you think about it, where else are they going to hang out, if they don’t want to – or can’t – hang out at home? Most places require you to purchase something in order to stay, libraries expect quiet behavior which doesn’t work if you’re wanting to just be with your friends, and society in general looks askance at groups of teenagers no matter where they are. I wish there were better solutions for them.

      3. Laura L

        Just wanted to point out that libraries are day cares and librarians aren’t babysitters. ;-) Not even the children and teen librarians.

        If the kids are able to sit quietly and work or surf the web or whatever at the library for a few hours, that’s one thing, but if they need supervision, they won’t get that at the library.

      4. Sunshine DC

        The problem with the library suggestion is that Librarians and their staff are NOT babysitters or childcare providers. It is NOT OK to leave unsupervised children there, expecting them to be “looked after,” and shows a lack of understanding and respect for the time and responsibilities of those professionals.

        1. Lynne

          And not only that, it’s a space that is open to the public – all of the public – with all that implies. I don’t know why people who (I hope…) wouldn’t randomly abandon their young children at the mall seem to think it’s okay to do at the library. It really disturbs me that some parents do this.

          (I suppose they think the library staff ARE watching their kids, and that actually is true to an extent; we try to generally monitor the space, with varying degrees of success, depending on how busy we are. That, however, is not childcare…so very much not…and relying on us to provide that isn’t really much different from leaving a little kid on the sidewalk and relying on the goodness of passing strangers to look out for her. Some people will, sure. But…)

    2. Marmite

      It sounds like she actually may have asked permission from her supervisor, but the supervisor agreed when she shouldn’t have.

      “I assumed that this was a short-term situation she had worked out with her supervisor. It came to light today that this is an every-day arrangement…”

      In which case it would definitely be sensible to offer her a period of time in which to make other arrangements.

      1. Jamie

        And as I can personally attest some dogs and cats get along beautifully so an office with both? I’d take a huge pay cut to work there.

        1. Cat

          My cat would be in seventh heaven if she could come to work with me and spend the day tormenting people’s dogs, to be honest.

          1. the gold digger

            One of my cat’s great joys in life is to stand at the fence separating my neighbor’s back yard from mine and gaze at my neighbor’s dog, who goes crazy because there is a cat he cannot get to.

            1. Zen_Trekkie

              …which is why many dog owners detest cats – they make a game out of torturing the neighborhood dogs.

              1. Cat

                Simple solution: don’t leave your dog in the yard. (My cat is actually an indoor cat; she confines her tormenting to the odd visiting dog.)

                1. fposte

                  Or consider any cat on your property to be yours and take her in while the dog enjoys the yard :-).

              2. Revanche

                Maybe I’m slightly depraved but I love both (only own dogs) and am kind of tickled how cleverly cats have tormented my dogs. They didn’t always go crazy but they would go up a scale of startled to bewildered to furious, then indifferent. They didn’t take any harm from it. But it wasn’t nearly as annoying as it could be since they weren’t big barkers.

              3. ThursdaysGeek

                Sure, but some birds will do the same to cats. I’ve seen jays sitting on a clothesline or just out of reach, jeering at the cat below, causing no end of frustration to the cat.

            2. tcookson

              My cat does the same thing to my dog . . . they get along, but the cat will sit on the stair railing and dangle and swish her tail around to tease the dog, who then barks like crazy because he can’t “get” her. One day, though, he finally got hold of her tail and snatched her off the railing in one fell swoop — the cat was not amused.

              1. FreeThinkerTX

                Ah, not to start a big thing, but all my cats have always been indoor-only cats because I prefer for them to live very long, very healthy lives. Cats let outdoors are subject to:
                External and internal parasites;
                Other cats who are very territorial and will fight (to the death, sometimes) to defend their territory;
                Outdoor cats carrying feline leukemia which can be transferred to my cat via a bite, scratch, or sharing an outdoor food/water bowl;
                Dogs roving the area who will kill my cat;
                Cars driving through the area who will kill my cat;
                Squirrels, rats, and mice that have been poisoned by a misguided neighbor which my cat could eat and then die;
                And on and on and on.

                As a child, before I had any say-so in how my pets were treated and all were outdoor-only, the average life-span of my beloved cats was 5-6 years (many died as young as 1 or 2, a few lived to 8 — long enough to skew the results). As an adult, my indoor-only cats live to be 18-22 years. BIG difference.

    1. BL

      I recently interviewed for a job that has an office cat. One of the many reasons I was disappointed not to receive an offer.

      1. Windchime

        Vet offices quite frequently have an office cat, for those who are interested in such an arrangement. My own personal cat is still in the curtain-climbing, flower-chewing, glass-tipping phase so I’m afraid he wouldn’t be welcome in any office!

        1. tcookson

          I went with my daughter and her friend to the anime store the other day, and the anime store has an “office” cat . . . since I wasn’t interested so much in the anime stuff, I occupied my time with the cat — it was nice!

  3. Coelura

    Being a foster/adopt parent of teenagers, I completely understand the employee’s point of view. My manager arranged for me to work from home from the time school got out until the end of the day. I ended up taking about 30 minutes to get the girls & then home before I was back online, so I’d work until about 5:30 or 6pm to make it up. That flexibility made a huge difference for me – it allowed me to balance my work life & my personal calling to foster & adopt.

  4. Jen

    If there’s no policy and no danger and it’s simply “That’s not how we do things” – is there a reason that’s why you have to continue to do things? I think sometimes things are done simply because that’s always been the way and things aren’t allowed at work simply because they haven’t ever been allowed but no one ever looks at the reasons.

    If it’s a space issue and you need the conference room that’s a good why and you should give her that reason. Or if it’s a safety issue or the damage they’re making to the office is a reason . . . give the reason. “It’s simply not how we do things” is more of a statement than a reason.

    1. Vicki

      I like this. Especially because, if you can’t find a better reason than “it’s not how we do things”, perhaps you need to revisit “how we do things”.

      1. Jamie

        +1. The kiddo thing at work isn’t always feasable – but there should be a better reason for doing anything than “that’s just how we’ve always done it” or “that’s not how we do things.”

        The only time “that’s not how we do things” is a valid answer is when your kids are small and they want to know why they can’t eat cake with their bare hands, sleep in a tree, or wear cut-offs to a funeral mass when little Billy or Sally’s mom let’s them do those things. And you try hard to keep the scorn from dripping off the word “we” when you say it.

        For a workplace with grown ups you need a better answer.

        1. Cat

          Or if you’re talking to Sheldon Cooper. “It’s a non-optional social convention.”

        2. QualityControlFreak

          Huh? We don’t eat cake with our bare hands or sleep in trees? But … but …

          Oh, okay.

    2. AnotherAlison

      I think because the foster children vandalized the office is a pretty darn good reason why it’s not how they do things.

        1. Adam V

          > “We tried it and it didn’t work.”

          I’m unsure about this – I don’t want other parents thinking “*I* didn’t get to try this, and now I lost out because ‘it didn’t work’ with someone else’s kids”.

          Maybe something more along the lines of “we were unaware this was going on, and now that we know, we can’t allow it to continue”?

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sure, but it’s fine to simply say, “Our culture is such that this isn’t appropriate here.” Or “It’s a potential distraction that we’re not able to accommodate,” or “We can’t allow it for one person without allowing it for more, and that has the potential to be unwieldy, so we’re not allowing it at all,” or “as a government office, there’s too much risk in it.” The OP doesn’t have “prove” her reasoning beyond that.

    4. Christine

      I agree; saying “that’s just not how we do things” is like the classic “Because I said so!” line parents give. That said, I do like Alison’s wording. No it’s not specific, but it isn’t as dismissive a reason either; perfect balance.

      1. Jessa

        Except in this case once the vandalism happened, you have a different issue and that becomes the reason.

    5. Anonymous

      If you’ve ever worked in govt you know you have to be hypervigilant about how issues can be perceived by the public and local media. There is a small segment that look for any reason to cry ” taxpayer dollars are being wasted” and unfortunately keeping them bored is a higher priority than making these kinds of accommodations. I wouldn’t worry as much about the liability as I’d be about a complaint of govt waste in my office. Sorry that’s part of working in govt.

    6. tcookson

      Yeah, it’s like Kou said above about there being a difference between “culturally unacceptable” and “functionally unacceptable”. If people are frowning on an arrangement just because it’s culturally unacceptable (and it sounds as if even that is not universally felt at OP’s office), maybe they need to think more about the specifics.

      I say this, though, as someone who has brought kids to my private office before, but who does not like to be dropped in on at work (by a spouse, kids, friends, or anyone) on any kind of a regular basis.

      My husband started dropping by my work unannounced when I first started my university job (just showing up unannounced to take me to lunch) and I HATED that . . . when I’m at work, I’m at work, and what if I had plans to go to lunch with co-workers that day? I love my husband and there’s no trouble in our marriage or anything like that, but I still want him to make advance plans with me regarding lunch rather than simply showing up like the decision to go to lunch is one-sided. I DO like surprises like that in our home life, but I DO NOT like surprises (of a personal nature) at work.

  5. RubyJackson

    I liked that when I was growing up, I would go home after school and my mom would be there. Call me old fashioned.

    1. LSG

      It’s really wonderful that your mom (presumably) had the means and inclination to do that, and that you have happy memories of that experience.

      However, not only is having a stay-at-home parent not feasible or desirable for everyone, this particular circumstance involves two teens being suddenly added to a family. We don’t know anything about the timeframe, the long term plan, whether or not there’s another parent or caregiver in the picture, what the financial circumstances are…

      This comment feels pretty judgmental, and I don’t think that’s fair to the employee in question or to anyone who makes different choices than your mother did.

      1. Jamie

        FWIW I was home with my kids for the first fifteen years and I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “mom, you’re always here.” And the tone was not one of love and appreciation…but rather exasperation since they didn’t get to use a key after school like their friends did. So I offered to lock the door and let them use keys…but apparently since I was still there it wasn’t the same.

        Point being as long as kids are adored and their well being a priority for those raising them there are a million ways to do it and we have enough trouble without getting judgy about each other.

        We don’t have to judge each other – our kids will be our ultimate judges. When my youngest was about 11 he rolled his eyes at my usual “which park are you going to, who will you be with…” questions to which I replied that I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t love him so much. His response? “Love me less, will ya? This is annoying.”

        He’s the most like me so fortunately I find his riposte mostly adorable.

        Now he’s almost 18 and I got them all to adulthood physically, emotionally, and mentally intact and I’m sure I could have done the same even if I had opted to work when they were younger.

        1. Laura L

          Ha! My mom was a SAHM, too, but eventually got a part-time job and was also involved in activities that sometimes meant she couldn’t be home after school. I got my first key when I was 10 and I was ecstatic! No parents around after school bugging you to do homework? Yes, please. :-) (says my 10-year-old self)

          1. tcookson

            My parents were EMTs who were home unless they had to go on an ambulance run . . . we had a police scanner and a 2nd line for the ambulance phone in our house.

            We kids lived for those ambulance runs when we would have the house to ourselves unsupervised! Every time the ambulance phone would ring we’d hope that they had to go on an ambulance run, and then we’d listen to the scanner to when they’d report to the dispatcher where they were going, and we always kept our fingers crossed that they had to go to the farthest-away hospital vs. the nearer one. We would know how much time we had to raid the kitchen for cookies, chips, and chocolate and then we would listen to the scanner for when they announced to the dispatcher that they were back in the county, back in the city, and then back in the driveway.

        2. Elizabeth West

          My mom stayed home too, for a while. I remember on cold mornings getting off the bus and walking up the long driveway and going in to find she had made hot chocolate. With milk. And Hershey’s syrup.

          Then she went to work with my dad in the store they owned, and we became latchkey kids. That wasn’t too bad; we had the choice of walking from school downtown and waiting in the back office until 5:30, when we could go home, or riding the bus. It was a Hallmark store and sometimes I would make bows, or help out up front, or just walk to the library and then camp out in the office and read until closing. Other times, we’d go home on the bus and spend a lot of time doing things like constructing haunted houses in the hallway for Mom and Dad to tour when they got home.

          Damn, we had FUN.

        3. KayDay

          Ha! At one point when I was growing up, my mom would was working part time, so she’d be home some days and 2 or 3 days a week I would let my self in, make my myself a snack, and watch TRL in peace without being interrogated about “if I had a nice day,” or “how did that test go,” or “if I had fun at school.” grumble grumble grumble.

          I have always and will always need a period of alone time when I get home from school/work.

    2. Anonymous

      I can’t tell if this comment is sincere or not? I think there are problematic ideas inherent, but maybe you don’t mean it the way it sounds? If you are sincere, some more context would be helpful, since you might be able to see how this sort of looks like a bid for a reaction on a career blog written by a woman (i.e., the possible implication that women shouldn’t work/should stay at home).

    3. Anonymous

      Yes, that would be nice, but even in the “old fashioned” days some mothers had to work (widows, for example). It has nothing to do with the times and is just a fact of life.

      1. Natalie

        Not just widows – most poor women have worked since the beginning of time and probably always will work. The 60s/70s “working mother” revolution was largely a revolution of the middle and upper classes.

        In fact, if you dig through civil rights writings from before the 1960s, you’ll find frustration at the fact that so many black women worked out of necessity, and were sometimes the primary breadwinners of their home as more jobs were available to them than black men. A non-working wife was something to strive for at that time, as it was largely reserved for the white middle and upper class.

        1. Jamie

          It was definitely less common than it is now, though. One set of my grandparents were definitely what would be called working class and struggled during the depression and my gramma didn’t work and my mom only had one friend with a working mother and she was a widow.

          When I say work I mean outside the home for a salary. When I think back to what it was like back then I can’t imagine harder work than being home and raising a passel of kids on little money without dishwashers and microwaves or even an dryer.

          Yes, there have always been women who worked outside of the home – but in 2013 it would be impossible to exist on one lower income the way it was back in the early 70-100 years ago.

          1. Xay

            It was less common for white women than it is now. Black women have worked outside the home for a salary for a long time. My grandmother started working as a child, picking tobacco every summer. Eventually she went to a teacher’s college and taught well into her sixties. Other women her age worked in the fields or as maids or nannies while their husbands did farm labor or worked in factories.

        2. Anne

          +1. My mom’s mom, a working-class white woman, worked outside the home her entire adult life (1930s onward).

          1. Elizabeth

            Ditto my grandmothers. The maternal gma took in boarders and sewing, while the paternal one worked in the field alongside her husband.

        3. Elle-em-en-oh-pee

          Hence Rochelle Rock’s (Everybody Hates Chris) mantra:
          “I don’t need this [work related inconvenience]! My man has two jobs!”

          It may be a TV show set in the 80’s, but I hear variations of this theme at least once week…

    4. Ash

      And yet those of us with two working parents somehow grew up just fine. Crazy, right?

    5. Anonymous

      Considering these children are from foster care, I would think they like having relationship with a mom figure who cares about them regardless of the fact that she (the horror) works.

      (Also this is probably a classist comment, etc.)

    6. Xay

      I liked that when I was growing up, I would go home after school and there would be food in the fridge, heat, running water and electricity because my single mom busted her butt working so that I would be cared for.

      1. Taylor

        +1 Thank you! And infinite thanks to single moms, who under the vast majority of circumstances never get the choice to stay at home.

    7. fposte

      It sure was trendy and modern of my mother to die and rob me of this old-fashioned norm.

    8. Ask a Manager Post author

      I liked that my mom was able to build a career and financial stability for herself so that she was able to leave a bad marriage and still support me and my sister without trying to start a career from scratch at age 45. (Thanks, mom!) I also liked that she had a career that gave her satisfaction and fulfillment, and that she wasn’t denied that just because she was A Lady.

    9. Malissa

      I like that when I was growing up my mom showed me that it is possible to raise your position in life. That working full time and going to school full time was an option and that it could be done.
      Then again I guess I could blame her for my no-excuses, no-drama attitude. If I want it, I figure out a way to get it. (legally of course)

    10. RubyJackson

      I am in no way putting anyone down. A few days ago I wrote about my elderly mother, an ‘old fashioned’ type mom who was very lucky that she had a husband who could support her. I was just remininscing about knowing when I got home that she would be there. I like that. I am old fashioned, raised by depression-era parents.

      My hats off to anyone who takes in troubled kids and tries to help them. A hug and pat on the back to all the hard working moms out there. I think all women who work and who raise kids, whether it be one or both, are amazing.

      1. A Bug!

        Here’s the thing, though. You chose to make that comment in the specific context of the comments section of an article dealing with after-school childcare for a working parent. So you may not think you were putting anybody down, but how the heck could anybody take it any other way given the context in which you decided that was relevant?

        So I invite you to reconsider the possibility that you were passing judgment, perhaps without realizing it. It’s okay if you were. We all do it sometimes. We can use these experiences to reflect on things and work toward being more mindful so we can participate in discourse without minimizing or invalidating others’ experiences. If we just backpedal and put up walls when we’re called on insensitive behavior we’ll never grow as people.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Wellllllll… to play devil’s advocate, and maybe I’m just Little Miss Mary Sunshine today, but I didn’t take it that way when I first saw it. It read to me as more of a reminiscence. Like “I’m old fashioned maybe, but I liked that a lot.” Maybe it didn’t come out the way Ruby meant it.

      2. Susan

        I understood what you were saying and I didn’t interpret it negatively or as a put-down. Folks responses seem a little hyper-sensitive. Can we give each other the benefit of the doubt sometimes?

        From my own childhood: I feel like I had the best of both worlds. My mom was a schoolteacher, so she brought home the bacon but still arrived home in the late afternoon and had summers off to spend with my sister and I. Not sure I realized at the time how lucky we had it, but reflecting back, we had it pretty good :)

    11. Ginjury

      1) How does this comment add to the conversation?

      2) How is this comment relevant to the question and response posted?

    12. Elizabeth West

      Unfortunately, things have changed. Many families cannot survive on one income; Mom has to work too. And not every woman wants to stay home.
      I agree, as a kid, it was nice. But then, we didn’t know as kids what we know as adults.

      1. Sarah

        Delurking to say this:

        Maybe women WANT to work. I have a doctorate and work full-time with two young children. I have arranged my schedule the last few years to have a flexible schedule but have usually worked FT hours. I did derail my career a little to gain that flexibility but I am happy I was able to work and be there for my kids when they needed me.

        I gain a lot of my life satisfaction through work accomplishments. Or time with my husband. I love my kids and they are one of the most important things to me, but I do crave adult conversation and work challenges.

        Call me selfish, but I like to see it as I am hopefully showing my daughters how they can balance work and family life.

        My girls go to a daycare after school where they run around with kids and eat yummy snacks. I don’t know that that’s such a bad life for them.

  6. clobbered

    I felt a lot of empathy for the letter-writer when they wrote “I’m ashamed to admit that I looked the other way for a while”. I know from experience that it feels so much harder to raise a problem with someone when you have not acknowledged as an issue before. I suspect this is the reason the OP feels responsibility even though the person no longer reports to them. Yeah, just let their supervisor deal with it – I assume the vandalism was brought to their attention.

    But I also want to comment on this part:

    “Using the office for childcare—no matter the age of the children—is not “how we do things” here. We do not have an explicit policy against it—nor do we have one against setting fire to the office. It’s just not ok.

    So I think this is a bad analogy. Setting the office on fire is illegal. Allowing kids into the office late in the day or on snow-days or whatever is actually a matter of convention and many workplaces (including mine) freely allow non-havoc-wreaking children in the building. So I think this is really an issue where there should be a policy if the intent is really to ban this.

    1. JessB

      Depending on where the conference room the kids are working in is located, and what type of government office it is, it could actually be illegal to have people who don’t have security clearance in that area. It’s not very likely, and I’m sure the OP would have mentioned it if it was, but having worked in some government departments before, when I was given my security card to enter the building it was on the understanding that I was not to let anyone else in, and that I was liable for any damage done by anyone using that specific key card.

  7. fposte

    I think other people are making a good point when they encourage some consideration of the no-kids policy. However, this isn’t just about her, and it shouldn’t be treated as if it were. If the policy gets revised (okay, created), revise it for everybody, not just for her, and make it clear how it would apply to everybody. Right now odds are good that there are other parents in the office thinking how much easier their lives would be if they could bring their kids to work too. It’s not fair to give the privilege only to the person who assumed she could have it. Alternatively, if you really can’t have kids in your workplace, you’re going to want to act soon before other parents do start bringing theirs in on the grounds that it’s been clearly acceptable before.

    1. some1

      “Right now odds are good that there are other parents in the office thinking how much easier their lives would be if they could bring their kids to work too. It’s not fair to give the privilege only to the person who assumed she could have it.”

      This is what I came here to say. How is this fair to the parents who pay good $ for day care?

  8. Today's OP

    Thank you all for your thoughtful responses to this question. I *knew* this was the right forum to work through this issue.

    As a mother myself, I empathize strongly with the side of the argument that asks–why can’t we just change “the way we do things” and allow parents of older, responsible children permission to bring them in to work quietly on homework or help out around the office. Unfortunately, we have two issues with that here.

    1-Employee pettiness–I can already hear complaints of playing favorites and “I wasn’t allowed to do that when my kids were in school” echoing through the halls. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of scorekeeping in our department amongst the staff (who were unwillingly reorganized and all lumped together the year before I came on board.)

    2-Our function just isn’t conducive to it. It would be one thing if we were in a youth-oriented or less formal office, but our office suite houses HR, Finance and IT. Lots of confidential documents and bits of equipment that shouldn’t be rifled through by small hands, and the outside folks who come in for meetings are typically the organization’s big-wigs. Having to shoo kids out of a conference room to have a meeting with a high-level banking or government exec just doesn’t look right.

    All that being said, I like the idea of giving the employee a week to get her situation worked out, and AAM’s original response to have her direct supervisor being the one to deliver the (united) message. Also, it occurs to me that our government’s parks & rec programming office might have an after-hours volunteer opportunity available for the kids that would be supervised, nearby and free. I will definitely check into that.

    Thanks again to all of you for weighing in. Sometimes the internet is really amazing.

    1. Natalie

      I would really focus on your 2nd point if and when you have to explain this to the woman with the kids or her manager. The 1st issue is certainly a problem, but it’s more of a management/attitude issue and could (theoretically) be solved. The 2nd issue is pretty inflexible.

    2. Christine

      Yes, definitely look into the parks & rec program…good thinking!

      Good luck–hope it all works out well for everyone.

    3. Elise

      The park & rec program would be great. Or maybe the local elementary schools have after school programs. It would give the teenagers a great opportunity to learn leadership and get a sense of responsibility for others if they could volunteer to help with those programs.

      And it would look great on their college and job applications!

    4. Anonymous

      OP, it sounds like you have a very good handle on which direction you would like to go.

      I just wanted to comment on issue #1. This really will only help marginally with your current quandary but it sounds like it is a recurring thing. It might be good to think about ways to address that mentality of score keeping. The problem with score keeping is that it chews up precious time and energy. And it puts everyone’s thinking on the wrong road- a non-productive road at best… a destructive road at worst.
      A couple of thoughts:
      1) Agree with them. Using the child care example simply say “yes it is unfortunate that we did not have something for your kids when they were younger. We have rethought that and realized parents need more help.” (This is just an example. You can extend it out to whatever the current issue is…)
      2) Time machine. “Yes, we should have done this along time ago- but we can’t go back and fix it. Tell me, what do you think should be implemented now that would be helpful to employees.” Notice you are just asking for their thoughts- you are not saying anyone is going to do it. This type of question helps to flip the train of thought over to the pro-active side of the question.
      3) General comments- score keeping never works. Everyone loses. Even in marriage, couples who keep score will eventually have to part ways.

      I had to jump on this one because i have worked with score keepers and they are exhausting. They will remember some trivial thing from seven years ago as if it happened yesterday and they are still waiting to get some kind of compensation for that. Some score keepers were so involved in “charting the scores” that they were dramatically less productive than other workers who did not keep score. And of course, the score keepers never noticed.
      “OH I do the work of three people, here.”
      Uh, no. NOT even close.

    5. tcookson

      Yeah, I’d focus on the #2 rather than the pettiness indicated in #1, because you can’t just refrain from ever making a change like that just because petty people will envy it. When I first started at my university job, I had small children and I wished that there was an on-campus childcare for them. Now my children are 12 and 16, it’s too late for me to need the onsite childcare, and lo and behold, there is now an onsite childcare for students, faculty, and staff. Do I gripe and complain that they didn’t have that when I needed it? No, I think it’s a good thing that we’ve needed for a long time, and I’m glad we have it. I can’t personally use it, but it’s still an improvement for those who can. Just because I aged out of needing it doesn’t negate the fact that it’s a needed improvement.

  9. OK then

    I will always be so grateful to my boss for letting my (then) 4 year old son come to the office every Tuesday for an hour. My mom, who was my son’s primary caretaker, had finally made the courageous decision to start attending a certain 12-step program’s meetings, and they were every Tuesday at 10AM. My son sat next to my desk and quietly played with his toys on the floor. We did this until he started Kindergarten. You better believe my loyalty to this employer skyrocketed after that.

    1. Ashley

      Absolutely! I do think this is a bit of a different situation, though. In your case, it was pre-arranged, once a week for a short period of time and was temporary. Not everyday for, presumably, 2-3 hours each day. I absolutely think exceptions can and should be made when they work for both the business and the employee, but I don’t think kids in the office every day without an end date to the situation is good for anyone.

    2. fposte

      I also think little kids can sometimes be easier, because parents generally *know* they have to be supervised. A former co-worker would leave her middle schoolers to their own devices. We did not enjoy their devices.

      1. Windchime

        Yeah, for the most part I don’t want to deal with other people’s kids at work, simply because I usually find them disruptive. I’m fine with people stopping by with kids or showing off the new baby, but I really don’t want to hear constant giggling, running, loud talking, quarreling and all the other stuff that comes with kids when they’re supposed to be quiet. And the vandalism? Total deal-breaker.

  10. EnnVeeEl

    This is a sad situation. But I understand the OP’s and the employer’s position. Work is not free babysitting, for teenagers no less. One time my husband was on his way to a meeting or had to make a trip back to work and it was around 4:00 p.m. I get off at 5:00 p.m. He had our son with him and asked if I could take him home. I had my son sit quietly in my office and color. No one noticed except someone that passed by and heard a little boy ask a question. They stopped to say hi. No one said anything to me, but this has only happened once, on a Friday an hour before closing time. It would be much different if it were for an extended period, every day and my son was doing something he shouldn’t.

  11. some1

    What was this employee planning to do when school got out for the summer? Bring the kids in all day, every day?

    1. Jamie

      Nothing in the letter clues us into the employee’s mind-set at all, but I don’t think that’s a fair assumption.

      Even if she didn’t get clearance for the current situation (and her supervisor may have okayed it – that’s not clear) that doesn’t mean she would assume an equivalency between an hour or so after school and all day.

  12. some1

    “Nothing in the letter clues us into the employee’s mind-set at all”

    Orly?

    “I assumed that this was a short-term situation she had worked out with her supervisor. It came to light today that this is an every-day arrangement, and one of the girls recently vandalized our property.”

    So at the very least this employee is taking advantage of what was supposed to be a rare arrangement. I think someone that thinks this is ok might also cross her fingers and hope no one says anything to her all summer.

    1. Jamie

      What you quoted speaks to what the OP assumed. She doesn’t know what agreement, if any, was struck between the employee and supervisor so no – there is no indication whatsoever of what the mindset of the employee is.

      And she might be crossing her fingers as you say – or she might understand the difference between an hour when there is homework to be done and all day every day with nothing to do.

      My point was that we don’t know what the employee was thinking, only what the OP assumed.

      1. some1

        Right, but it’s also reasonable to wonder (for one’s own curiosity) what the employee’s plan was for the summer. We don’t know the employee’s mindset, but it’s reasonable to assume that if nothing was said, the employee would have continued having the teens come to the office every day at least until the end of the year. I mean, if she has been working here there for several years, she knows good and well that no one else was allowed to have their teens come to the office every day after school for 2 hours.

        1. some1

          FWIW I am saying two hours per day because all high schools in my area get out before 3:00 and the letter says the employee works til 5:00.

        2. Cat

          I’d guess nobody else wanted to have their teens come into the office every day after school for 2 hours. Obviously it’s not working and shouldn’t continue, but she’s not in your normal parent-of-teens situation here.

  13. Seal

    What does the OP’s supervisor have to say about this? Because if the OP doesn’t resolve this issue ASAP, it’s likely THEIR supervisor will get involved and start questioning the OP’s ability to manage.

    Given the circumstances, I’m surprised anyone agreed to allow this in the first place. It would be a very different story if the foster mother worked in a library or some other place that had a large enough public area where it was acceptable for kids to hang out doing homework. Or even if she had the kids in her own office, assuming it was big enough. But having the kids monopolize shared office space on a daily basis – which is what conference rooms and break rooms really are – isn’t cool, no matter how difficult the mother’s situation is. Why should her coworkers have to shoo kids or anyone else who doesn’t actually work there out of or away from non-public work areas? That’s bound to create uncomfortable situations and hard feelings.

    The fact that one of the kids recently vandalized office property should be the perfect excuse to start the conversation; having a specific incident makes the situation far less ambiguous. Doesn’t mean that the OP or anyone else has to be nasty about it, but they do need to speak up now before things REALLY spiral out of control.

  14. The Other Dawn

    My sister is a foster mother of two teenagers. She had them for about five years now. The agency (I’m in CT) takes care of arrangements for after school hours until my sister gets off work. Both teens have a mentor that they see a few times a week. Other day’s they’re with friends or at the mall or library. A social worker picks them up from school and brings them wherever they’re supposed to be. They then bring them home when they’re done with the afternoon’s activities. My sister has never had to worry about what they’re up to while she’s working, nor has she ever had to worry about bringing them to work with her.

    1. EnnVeeEl

      This. I was thinking to myself – “Bored teenagers always get into trouble.” Are there no sports activities they can do after school, maybe yearbook, music, etc.? A study program? The Boys and Girls Club would also be a good resource for her, or the YMCA.

  15. Lexy

    Remembering being a kid in the late 80’s and early 90’s going with my mom to her office (a bank) occasionally and quietly playing/coloring in the big, fancy, conference room. Or getting to watch the teller use the change counting machine. Or somebody setting me up on a spare computer to play solitaire.

    Sigh.

    I’m sorry that having the kids hang out quietly can’t work at the OP’s office (and genuinely sorry, not being snarky). It was such a formative part of my childhood to know what my mom did and see how people work in an office. Of course I was young and was a quiet bookish child so I would never have harmed company property or made a peep to bring attention to myself.

    1. Elizabeth

      You also say you did this “occasionally,” which sounds different from a few hours every day. I, too, spent time at my dad’s office (he’s a doctor) doing things like drawing on post-its or testing my own reflexes with the little rubber hammer. If it was late enough that the patients were all gone, I’d test my vision with the eye chart and roll up and down the halls on the rolling stools from the exam rooms. But I was only there maybe once a month, and usually with my mom along keeping an eye on me. That was enough for me to get a feel for what my dad did at work, but not so much that it interfered with anyone in the office going about their work.

      I don’t think that what you & I remember fondly is the same as the situation the OP describes – it sounds like the office isn’t child-unfriendly in general, just that this situation is having too much of an impact on the main mission of the organization.

      1. Lexy

        Yes, you’re absolutely right.

        I can’t remember exactly how often it was, but there’s no way it was more than once a month. So, not really comparable to the OP’s situation at all. And despite being a bank, it was very family friendly, I remember other employees’ kids being around sometimes too.

        1. Anonymouse

          I wonder if this would still be considered OK in a bank these days with privacy concerns and access to customer records.

    2. Rana

      Yeah, my brother and I did this too, sometimes, with my mother. She’s a librarian, and a cataloguer, so that meant she worked behind the scenes rather than out with the public. It was rather cool getting to see the “secret” part of the library – I still enjoy it when I get to work “backstage” at an otherwise public place, in fact.

      But it wasn’t a regular thing; it was usually only on the odd days when school was out early, or if she had to work late past regular hours when Dad was out of town.

    3. Anonymous

      You sound like exactly the kind of kid to have around an office where work is getting done. My kids? Not so much. They’re loud and can be high maintenance. On the rare occasion where I had to have them at my place of work, I kept them in my office (I was lucky to have a door) and did my work as best I could. I figured it was my job to keep them from disrupting everyone else.

      1. Jamie

        Yep – totally different scenario depending on the kid in question.

        I have three:

        one would have been a dream – quiet, well behaved and content to color or play with cars.

        Another would have made it her mission to befriend every person in the workplace and the CEO wouldn’t have been able to resist a tea party when the little blonde invitee was so freaking adorable – and not taking no for an answer.

        My youngest would have been complaining loudly about being bored…and if he was quiet I’d be nervous because that meant he was staging a coup and soon I’d be working for him.

        What works beautifully with one kid would be a nightmare with a different (but equally wonderful) kid.

  16. Anony1234

    When I was in high school, one of my teachers allowed her first grade son come in from the elementary school next door at dismissal (my schools were opposite – the elementary school started earlier and ended earlier than the high school). Instead of sitting in the library, cafeteria, or gym, the son came to the classroom. That was it! End of class! The child was so disruptive. He played with some of my classmates or, if he wasn’t allowed to, he’d start with a temper tantrum. Then you could really forget it at that point. The last 15 minutes of class were lost. Luckily, the class didn’t occur at the same time everyday, so it was only once a week this would happen, but that was once a week too much! And yes, at the age of 15, I thought it was unprofessional for the child to be there while his mother was teaching, but it was because of the child’s behavior mostly.

    That is one example in which the child should not be interrupting the workplace. You’d have to see if this is really something where the teens are disrupting your workplace. Of course, though, the vandalism has to be dealt with. My only suggestion would be is to ask if it would be possible for your employee to take the work home and she can leave when her foster children arrive from school?

    1. Callie

      The kid couldn’t just sit in the library, cafeteria, or gym, because someone would have to supervise him and it would not be the responsibility of a school employee to monitor a non-student. She shouldn’t have had her child there while she was teaching. If the students were gone for the day, I see no problem with it and have done it myself (see my own comment in this thread), but you can’t watch your child and teach other children.

      If he had come in and sat down and not made a peep for those fifteen minutes, it might be a different story.

  17. Callie

    I used to be an elementary music teacher, and while my daughter was in elementary school, she attended the school where I taught. (Several teachers had their children there.) After school, my daughter sat in the corner of my room and colored, did her homework, and/or napped while I finished my work (we were required to stay 30 minutes after the students went home but usually I stayed later). If I had a meeting after school, I made other arrangements, but otherwise, she sat in the corner and bothered no one. This is what everyone did. Then the district office decided that it was no longer acceptable to have your child in your classroom for 30 minutes after school. Okay, fine, I’ll enroll her in the school’s after-school program, for a fee, though I felt it was silly to pay for a service that lasted till 6 pm when I usually used 30 minutes of it. Then the district office decides it’s going to get rid of the after-school program, not just for employees but for everyone. Thankfully enough non-teacher parents depended on the after-school program that enough stink was raised and they didn’t eliminate it, but that was when I decided that I would no longer spend any more time at school outside of my contracted hours. I couldn’t get over an insitution whose sole purpose was children being so draconian about employees’ children being there.

  18. Patti O'Furniture

    I had a similar situation with an employee who was a foster parent. This employee tended to be unrealistic about things in general, her usual method if planning was to assume that everything would be 100% perfect and panic when it wasn’t . ( Not work – but life stuff ).

    She was single, no reliable family, friends – but not a support network. She had fostered school age children before with minimal work issues ( no more or less than any other parent ). She decided to take on an infant with some medical issues. She expected me with less than a weeks notice to make lots of accomodations for this placement.
    1) missing a lot if time due to baby’s health issues
    2) late a lot and then really tired from being up with the baby
    3) calling in when the weather was bad and daycare was closed.
    4) an exempt employee who was expected to work more than 40 hours a week ( and well paid ) – who left right on the button regardless of whether anything was critical or not needed addressed.

    I started coaching her about the absenteeism and work habits and insisted that she needed to make a plan for snow days and medical days. It was very difficult and her reasoning was that she should get special treatment because of this foster child.

    I had to explain that she did not get special treatment and she almost lost her job. She honestly took on more than she could andle and eventually the baby was placed for adoption.

    I am sympathetic to working mothers, I am one.. but my husband and I made some deliberate financial and lifestyle choices to allow him to stay home.

  19. Sal

    Ok, this is crazy, but maybe you can have the girls get some sort of (unpaid) internship or something there. I mean I don’t know anything about your life, I just happened to have stumbled on this, but consider it for a second. The girls would get a sense of responsibility, therefore improve their behaviors. They would have experience for when they want to get a real job. They would be somewhat supervised, help the firm and be able to wait for their mother and they wouldn’t technically be in the way.

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