I have to take calls from my kids at work, and my manager doesn’t like it

A reader writes:

First, the positives. I work for a small firm in a small town. One owner, one office manager, me, and 5 professionals. The professionals work directly under the owner, while I alone work under the office manager. I love the work, I love the people. The owner and office manager are good people. The office manager is the only other woman other than me, so we laugh and get along well. I’m extremely grateful to have a job in this economy and my pay is adequate.

Now the negatives. The office manager is very exact when it comes to break times. My two breaks are 10 minutes each, and my lunch is 1 hour. I try extremely hard to save 95% of my calls and interactions with my family (my husband and 3 teenagers) for breaks and lunch, but in reality that is unrealistic. Sometimes the matter can wait, sometimes it can’t. When the school is calling because one of my kids is sick, I can’t “take that call later.” When one of my kids is calling because their car broke down and they don’t know what to do, I can’t “take that call later.” She’s very critical of this with me and it doesn’t matter what the situation is. If I get a call, I get up from my desk, go down to the copy room to take the call, quickly take care of it, and it’s over in less than one minute – literally. I still get written up for these matters, as well as being scolded about them.

I don’t want to lose my job, but I feel that during the next evaluation, I should counter her criticisms, but am a bit afraid to. She’s never had kids and doesn’t get it.

The reason I brought up the other professionals being directly under the owner is because that owner is never like that with them. They turn their 10-minute breaks into half-hour breaks and nothing is ever said to them.

I’m not lazy, I’m a hard worker, I have a good work ethic and don’t believe in taking advantage. But I believe her being so exact about breaks and phone calls is a bit extreme. She has even scolded me for taking 11 minutes on my break instead of 10 – forgetting about the numerous times that I didn’t take my break at all. Am I just whining or are these negatives legitimate?

I wrote back to this reader and said, “I think she’s probably being remarkably unreasonable, but before I give a full answer, let me ask — how often are you having personal calls, even if they’re just a minute or two? Is it multiple times a day, just a couple of times a week, or something else?”

Her response:

Honestly, I would say about 2-3 a day. And no, it isn’t usually “mom, I’ve wrecked my car.” But it is EXTREMELY brief. One question, one answer. I’ve asked them to text me, because I can text back answers without her having a fit. And they do – but with 3 teenagers, it’s honestly always something. I really try to a) find out what it is, b) if it can wait, I tell them I’ll have to call back or c) try to take care of the matter in less than a minute. Even this is scold-worthy in her eyes.

I’ve always held higher level positions where this was never an issue, so I’m probably a bit spoiled. But my last company closed down, and I ended up being a stay at home mom for 3 years. This hurt my opportunities returning to the workforce and probably spoiled my kids with the “mom is always here, so we’ll just ask her” attitude (therefore, the calls).

There was one time, I don’t think I’ll ever live this down – she was standing at my desk explaining a task to me. My phone vibrated and I happened to glance at it. I noticed it was the school – I apologized and told her “I’m terribly sorry but I have to take this.” It ended up being very serious; my 14-year-old had actually fell and knocked out her front tooth. My manager still refers to this as “the time I stepped away from her to take a call.” I’m sorry – any call from the school is going to get priority over her. I thought she was an adult and would treat me as such, instead of scolding me like a child.

I know, I know – the economy is terrible and I need to be grateful that I have a job at all. I am. I have an awesome work ethic. That’s why I’m writing you. I honestly don’t know whether I’ve turned into one of those bratty “I’m entitled” people or if she’s just being really ridiculous. Either way, I know I have to suck it up – I don’t believe I’ll ever change her mind.

Well, your manager is certainly being an ass. Caring that your break was one additional minute long is ridiculous, and so is hassling you about taking an emergency call about your kid (let alone hassling you about that incident continuously). She also doesn’t appear to know how to address concerns, which we’ll get to in a minute.

But the complicating factor here is that 2-3 personal calls a day, every day, is a lot. Even if they’re brief. And yes, I know that you’re probably thinking “it all adds up to barely five minutes a day,” and that could be true. But three daily interruptions from your personal life — well, it’s more than what’s typical, and it makes it seem like you’re not all in when you’re at work.

And the idea that she just doesn’t get it because she doesn’t have kids is … well, no. People without kids have been around kids, have been kids themselves, and have families. But more to the point, having kids doesn’t mean you should be held to a different standard at work — and you might not have intended to imply that you should be, but that’s really what that statement conveys, because otherwise it wouldn’t matter that she doesn’t have kids.

And the reality is, plenty of people with kids, whether they’re toddlers or teenagers, don’t get 2-3 calls per day from their family while they’re at work. Many of them get none. You’re framing this as an unavoidable necessity, but it’s not. There are people with jobs where they can’t be reached by phone during work hours at all (unless it’s a true emergency, in which case someone finds them), and their families handle it. So I think by framing this in your mind as “just the way it is when you have kids,” when in fact it isn’t really just the way it is, you’re keeping yourself from being able to find a better solution to this.

Now, back to your manager. The way she’s handling this is ridiculous, yes. But I have to wonder if part of the reason she’s coming down so hard on you about individual calls is because she’s reacting to (a) the overall quantity and pattern, and (b) the resistance she’s getting from you to the idea that you should be stopping or dramatically cutting down on these calls. (Here’s where she becomes a bad manager again: If that is the case, and she’s concerned about the pattern, then she shouldn’t be tackling this piecemeal, each time she sees you on a call. Instead, she should sit you down and say, “Hey, this is what I’m seeing, and it’s too much. Let’s lay out a reasonable standard to use.”)

In any case, here are the facts that I see:
– You’re working for someone who’s a stickler on time, to what sounds like a pretty silly extent.
– You’re not used to working in that kind of environment, so you’re understandably bristling.
– But you’re also digging your heels in about wanting to take 2-3 personal calls a day, which actually isn’t a super reasonable thing to be digging in your heels about.

(I’m not including anything here about the other people in your office not being held to such a strict schedule, because they have different roles and a different boss, so it’s comparing apples to oranges.)

Ultimately, this might come down to having to decide if you’re willing to do what this environment requires of you. And if you’re not, it doesn’t make sense to stay there and continue to butt heads; you should probably accept that she wants A and you want B, and therefore it’s not the right fit.

But before you conclude that, why not sit down with her and see if you can come to some happy medium? For instance: “Jane, you’ve raised concerns in the past about me taking a few extra minutes on a break or answering a personal call during the day, and I’d like to talk about that. From my perspective, it seems unwarranted to time my breaks to the minute, especially when I’m performing well and getting all my work done and when I sometimes don’t take a break at all. And regarding the phone calls, I will talk to my family about not calling me during the day unless it’s an emergency — but I also want to know that when something important does come up, my answering those calls — which should only be occasional — won’t be held against me. I’m asking to be treated like a responsible professional who isn’t slacking off, gets my work done, and can be trusted to manage my time.”

If she agrees to this, you’d need to follow through on your part of it and put the kibosh on all the calls and texts. And if she doesn’t agree to this, then you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to work at a job that places these restrictions on you.

What you can’t do, though, is stay there and keep ignoring pretty clear rules she’s laid out; that’s not really reasonable, even if you think the rules are silly.

{ 607 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    It’s really weird to me that these teenagers are calling their mum constantly. Calling? Who does that these days? Get the whole family a texting plan. Answering a couple of texts at work is way less of an interruption than answering a couple of phone calls.

      1. Kelly*

        I have one lady in my office that took over 200 calls in three days from her 3 kids – ages 9, 16 and 28.

        The other lady in the office has her 21 and 26 year old sons calling her non-stop all day in addition to her mother. I would say that on average she is getting 5 to 10 calls or more on any given day.

        I’ve complained to management more than once and they figure that as long as they are getting their jobs done every day that it’s no big deal. Obviously I strongly disagree with this and it drives me bonkers! But 2 to 3 calls a day – seems like heaven to me.

        For the record, I have 2 kids. I NEVER get calls from them during work hours unless it’s really important. I can probably count on one hand the number of times they’ve called in an entire year.

        1. Jen in RO*

          You seem to work for very reasonable managers. If they’re finishing their tasks, who cares what else they do? The only problem I see here is if they are taking these calls next to you, not outside. That would drive me nuts too.

          1. Bea W*

            If they are taking the calls inside within ear shot and you can hear the phone constantly buzzing or ringing, it can be distracting and it gets old fast. If they all sit in cubicles, this is a problem. Going outside isn’t great either, because even without being disruptive, it sends a bad message to other employees and while you may be getting your work done, the perception of those immediately around you is that you are spending way too much time not working or don’t have enough to do (very frustrating if you are swamped yourself and need help).

        2. bearing*

          Is it driving you crazy because it is affecting your work? Or only because it seems like she takes more calls than a parent “ought” to take?

          1. some1*

            I can’t speak for Kelly, but I’m not a big fan of being forced to hear other people’s long, personal conversations on the phone because I am somewhere I can’t really leave (my office desk, the bus). If Kelly’s co-workers are taking these calls at their desks, it’s distracting and she has no where else to go.

            1. LizNYC*

              +1 I had a coworker who used to answer her cell CONSTANTLY for her two kids (able-bodied college students, I assumed), husband, mother, friends, etc. And all at her cube. Not even my earbuds with the volume turned up could tune her out.

              The best overheard conversation: The real-life game of telephone where she talked to Daughter A about Daughter A’s yeast infection (blech), then called Daughter B to tell her about it, then called her husband to tell him he needed to transfer money to cover the doctor’s bill for Daughter A. I was not the only person grossed out by this conversation that day.

            2. tcookson*

              Yes! I had a co-worker once who was a great worker and got everything done (plus more), but it was still annoying as all get-out to listen to her phone conversations with her family, who were constantly calling to get her advice: on whether they should pay the cable bill or the water bill since they were short this payday; on whether they should take little Mini-them to this dentist or that one; on whether they should by 87-octane gas or 92 . . .

              She was running her own life plus that of her two or three grown, married sons. She had taken over the finances of one son (he turned over his paychecks to her, and she ran his financial life for him). So we all knew waaaay more than we ever wanted to know about her home life, and we were frustrated from a)listening to her complain about how hard it was to deal with her family and b)watching her keep enabling them to be dependent on her.

          2. FiveNine*

            That’s a heck of a lot of non-work calls to be taking and to expect a coworker to be happy you’re taking. For some reason work conversations become background noise to me but non-work conversations (whether they’re on the phone or in person near where I’m sitting) just absolutely stand out and demand attention, I don’t know why. And being — let’s face it — interrupted THAT many times a day with non-work-related chatter would drive me bonkers.

    1. Jessa*

      Particularly since the OP says she can text with less boss interference. The law should be laid down, and whatever is decided with the boss, the boss should CLEARLY hear the OP saying “this call is not an emergency, text me or I’ll talk to you later, bye,” AND ringing off immediately after telling the caller this. These callers need to be trained “mom does not get called unless injury, property damage, someone lost, etc.”

      Also I don’t mean to ask a personal possibly non relevant question since there may not be another parent in the picture but is OTHER PARENT also getting this many calls (whether permitted or not,) because that means as many as 10 calls a day from the kids and that’s just right out.

      The kids need to be told you will call them/take calls at lunch and if the call is not important enough for them to actually call your office switchboard (not your cell,) and be put through after an explanation of urgency, then they really need to call at lunch.

      1. Sue*

        Do you call her at work? Yes, that’s not only odd but extremely rude and inconsiderate of her career and employer

  2. businesslady*

    not strictly on topic, but I’d like to make a public apology to my mom for all the times I called her at work to basically pick a fight with absolutely no awareness of how frustrating that was on her end. she went back to work when I was 14 & because my dad was usually more likely to be out of town or in meetings (in addition to being the one who’d historically been unavailable during the day), she was the go-to parent for “can I do XYZ thing after school” & so on. I would NEVER respect the times when she’d say “I’m at work; we’ll talk about this later.” I wasn’t the worst teenager ever, but I’m sure my mom’s managers were not a fan of this trend, & I feel for the OP since I suspect she’s in a similar situation.

    adolescents don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to looking outside themselves. :(

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      My mother is getting her revenge now that she’s retired, but I’ll second this feeling.

      1. Bea W*

        I hope she has better conversation than wanting to discuss, in detail, her funeral plans. “Sure mom, I’d love to funeral plan with you while I work!”, said no child ever.

        She started that conversation by saying right out of the gate, “I want balloons at my funeral.” I think that beat out the time she called me at work, and just blurt out “WHERE AM I?!” as soon as I answered the phone instead of explaining first she took a wrong turn somewhere and was lost. “Um…I don’t know. Where are you?” O_o

        1. Kat*

          My mom calls me at work then acts surprised when I answer. She has worked retail most of her life and the fact that I can and do work a job where my colleagues really don’t care if I take an occasional personal call baffles her. My phones calls consist of several minutes of me explaining that no, its fine that I am talking to her. Followed by me explaining that if her goal was to leave a voicemail she could just text…

          1. Michelle*

            Personally, I’m baffled when people respond to text messages to say they’re busy will talk to me later. Isn’t that the whole point of text messages, that you can answer when it’s convenient?

            Of course, I also ignore phone calls from anyone but my husband and kids if I’m busy or sleeping. Yes, I will wake up, look at my phone, decide that you can wait, and go back to sleep. :-P

    2. Anonymous*

      I was a “latchkey kid” back in the mid-60s. My mother was a former secretary well on her way to becoming a corporate Controller by 1980. (she started as a shorthand girl during WWII) I was to call her every time I got home from school, then get the laundry done and, once I got to the grand age of 8, start dinner. More than a few times, my mother was in a meeting and could not answer her phone. Her boss did — the corporate president. I remember talking to him, or sometimes his wife. Or his mom. They made allowances for my mother, and she worked hard for them.

      No point here, just a nice story about a company run business that never lost sight of what’s important.

    3. Meg*

      I’d like to second that apology for myself. Growing up, my mother had the type of job where she WAS more available to take personal calls than my dad, and I’m afraid I abused that. :/ Sorry Mom!

    4. Liz in a library*

      Yeah, I did this too…way too often. Luckily cell phones weren’t a thing, or I’m sure I would have been even more obnoxious.
      Sorry, mom!

    5. Anon*

      Same. I don’t think I called my mom very often at work, but I distinctly remember one time when I called just so I could give her the silent treatment over the phone.

      I …wasn’t always the easiest kid.

      1. Anonymous*

        You pay up when you have your own kids and they inherit your personality. Just ask my brother, who wasn’t easy either, and oh guess what. I try not to laugh, but it’s so hard.

        1. LD*

          That brings back memories! My friend’s kids call this the curse from their Mom…”When you grow up I hope you have kids just like you!”

      2. Jessa*

        It was made clear to me that injury, property damage, lost, etc. Were the only reasons I was to call parents at work. Later pre cell I would make a daily call to my dying-of-cancer da when I was on my way home from work to make sure I didn’t need to do something (took public transport so if I needed to get a different train or bus to do something on the way home it was important.) Also if he needed me he called the switchboard and explained why.

    6. Dawn K*


      My oldest dd went through a period where she would fight with me all the time and so have some of my other kids. Or they will call me to referee a fight and I rush them off the phone as fast as I can or go into a file room. Thankfully I have a wonderful, understanding boss who does not nickel and dime me on time because my work is done excellently and I take on extra work when I am slow.

    7. AdminAnon*

      Yes! I’d like to apologize to my father, though. He worked from home for about 12 years during my middle school, high school, and college years and I called him CONSTANTLY, despite the fact that my mother was either not working or only working part time. Usually, he would either tell me to call her or walk his phone up the stairs and hand me off, but looking back, it was probably not the best thing to do.

    8. Jubilance*

      I was just coming in to say this. I’m the oldest of 4 and I’m sure we worried our mother with unnecessary phone calls while she was at work. Looking back I’m sure we called more than was necessary, and I hope she was able to handle it well at work.

    9. Donnatella Moss*

      I called my mom every day when I got home from school, on her instruction. It was usually a quick call. If for some reason she did not pick up, I had to leave her a message.

      But I may have called her at work several times a week when I was in college…I was a horrible child.

    10. NewToThis*

      My mom is able to take and make personal calls but thinking back, my sister and I definitely abused that. Whether it was refereeing a fight, telling her something “urgent” that really could’ve waited until she got home from work, or starting off the call with “mom can we…” followed by something outrageous, I’m sure she wished school was from 9-5.

      Even now, I’m so use to calling her whenever that I call her for the littlest things .. I think I’ll start sending more texts now.

    11. SevenSixOne*

      Same. I had no idea how irritating my frequent calls must have been to my parents and their colleagues… until I had a colleague whose family called all day every day with dumb stuff.

  3. Diet Coke Addict*

    Sounds like a little blame on both sides. Yes, your manager is being a doofus about 11-minute breaks, but it sounds more like she’s reacting to frequent phone calls and choosing this to pick at you on, because it’s easier than saying “stop talking to your family.”

    As for the teenagers, you can tell them to quit calling, but wouldn’t it be more effective to just quit answering? Yes, answer if the school calls, but just let the calls go to voicemail, only answer texts, etc. Because it’s true what AAM says–millions of families with kids manage to get by when one parent is unreachable during working hours.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      And because I missed this the first time around–it’s possible that because it is such a small office and you’re her only direct report, that you may think it’s affecting less than it actually is. You may see only stepping away from your desk twice a day, but I can easily see the manager seeing you stepping away from your desk twice a day just as she needs something from you–and it doesn’t take very many repeats to get a poor image of someone in your head.

      But no matter what, framing this as a “you don’t have kids so you can’t understand” is a bad, bad, bad tack to take.

    2. Leigh*

      This is what I was going to say–just don’t answer, and then text whichever kid called when you have a free minute to find out why they called. Right now they’re used to you answering, but you can quickly train them to get a better response if they text you.

    3. Lils*


      They’re big kids–they will deal with it. Anything that happens 2 – 3x per day (or even once per day, dividing # of calls by # of kids) is not an emergency. And your husband should know better! Set some boundaries with your family–they’re jeopardizing your job.

      That being said, your manager sounds really unreasonable. I’m betting she’s a bit insecure and the conversation Alison suggested will go a long way toward fixing this situation.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        +1 Teenagers need to be capable of solving their own problems and more importantly, recognizing that their actions impact others. The kids are probably not thinking “this is putting Mom’s job in jeopardy” so much as “Ehhhh I’ll just call mom and have her answer [what’s for dinner] [can we go to Target tonight] [can I go to the movies tonight].” So start teaching these kids boundaries and the way their actions affect others. It’s a life skill.

        1. ellex42*

          If your kid is old enough to drive, they’re old enough to handle most situations that arise from having one.

          “Mom, the car broke down, what do I do?” Your kid should have a roadside assistance subscription and know how to call it for assistance.
          “Mom, I was in a minor fender-bender, no one is hurt, the car is drivable/not drivable.” Your kid should be able to exchange insurance info and either drive on home or call roadside assistance.
          “Mom, I was in a major accident and I am hurt/have been arrested.” That’s an appropriate time to call you.

          Your kids’ schools should also be notified to call you during working hours only for emergencies.

          1. KLH*

            This, 100x. Look, the ubiquity of cellphones has made everyone a bit lazy, but there is something to be said for honing your problem solving skills by not calling your parent, spouse or personal expert to check what temperature the oven should be. What’s the worst that could happen? What is truly irreparable about making a mistake?

            1. SevenSixOne*

              YES. Long-term, the lesson you learn from ruining dinner or taking a wrong turn and ending up 10 miles from your intended destination or having to make do without your favorite chocolate teapot is much more valuable than the lesson you learn from having a resident expert hold your hand and talk you down from every tiny setback you seem to think is a crisis.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Yes, thank you! That is something I was going to say. Teach your children what to do in these cases and expect them to do it. Write it down and put it in the car if you need to, but do not allow them to suck up your time at work with things they should be able to solve on their own.

          3. Zillah*

            I would actually even argue that *all* of those are acceptable reasons to call a parent – I know that if I was 17 and the car broke down, my parents definitely would have wanted me to call them. They might also expect me to be able to handle roadside assistance, but they would want to know, not get home and discover that the car was messed up or totaled. 17 years olds should be able to fend for themselves to some extent, but they ultimately will not necessarily have all the information they need, which is totally okay.

            YMMV, and obviously it depends on the job, but it seems to me like “my kid was in a car crash” is usually not what’s going to get bosses irate, especially since even with three kids it can’t be very common. It’s going to be all the other silly nonsense calls that bug them.

            1. Jamie*

              I agree with this. Car broken down and certainly accident I want them to call. But if either of those things are frequent that’s a problem beyond phone calls…alternate transportation.

          4. JuliB*

            When I was 16 I drove a beater car. There was a very long wait for a train (45 mins – we were near a huge railyard and it was cheaper for the rail co’s to pay the fines than do whatever else they could have done) and my car overheated yet again. But this time my McGyver tricks wouldn’t work – turns out the engine block was shot.

            I called my mom (a widow) from a nearby bank at a pay phone. She asked me what I thought she could do about it and hung up on me. (I think it was the stress of just one more problem and not enough money…) I took care of it and it was a moment that helped shape me.

      2. fposte*

        I wonder if they’re not setting each other off a little–the manager isn’t thrilled that the OP is so family-interruptible and therefore takes even legitimate interruptions harder, and the OP isn’t thrilled with the time micromanagement and therefore gets resentful even about reasonable dialing-it-down expectations.

        1. Observer*

          Except for the “awesome work ethic” bit, and the condescension. Stepping away from your desk 2 – 3 times a day for non-emergencies is not terrible, but hardly constitutes “awesome” work ethic. And not seeing that you “Have” to take those calls is not a function of not having kids. Because there are lots of us WITH kids (I have 6) who agree that you do NOT “have” to take those calls. As others say “I’m going to the hospital” merits an emergency call. “I was in a minor fender bender, but I’m ok, Talk to you later.” can go into a text. Anything less than that needs to go in text or wait.

          1. fposte*

            Sure, but the manager really isn’t handling this well either, and it certainly is possible for the OP to be an effective and valuable employee even with this habit.

          2. Windchime*

            Agree with not HAVING to take the calls. I’m in control of my cell phone, and that includes when I answer it. My kids are adults now and I’m in a professional position with lots of flexibility, but even so I still don’t answer the phone every time they call. Because sometimes I’m busy working.

            Also, this: I’m sorry – any call from the school is going to get priority over her. is probably not the best attitude.

            1. Judy*

              I guess I’m not sure that’s a bad attitude. I have 2 kids, one in 4th grade and one in 2nd grade. I may have gotten 4 calls from school during school hours in the 5 years since my son has been attending school.

              At least for me, there’s lots of emails from teachers, sometimes several per week, but when they call, it is important.

            2. LD*

              I agree with controlling whether to answer the phone. My cell phone has voice mail, as does the phone on my desk. If my manager is standing in front of me talking, I don’t answer either one. I think it comes across as very unprofessional and even rude. Most callers can leave a message.
              Now that said, if a child is sick or undergoing some tough situation, it’s important to share that you might have to take a personal call during that limited time frame.
              Just because it rings, doesn’t mean you have to answer.

        2. Hooptie*

          Just thought of something – I kind of think the same way – that both sides are waiting for the big showdown. Someone is going to draw a line in the sand, the other is going to cross it, and one of them will most likely be out of a job.

          OP – if I were your manager (though this would have been nipped in the bud long ago if I WERE your manager), I’d be documenting every discussion about personal calls and keeping track of every personal call I see/hear you take.

          If the line in the sand gets drawn, you bet that I’m going to have all the documentation I need to win the shootout.

          Just saying – is this the hill you want to die on, or if you are being stubborn is it worth your job? If it comes to a head, I can almost guarantee that your manager will ‘win’ this one, though really everyone loses. Such a shame.

          1. Marcy*

            This is my thought exactly. I would even go as far as saying that the manager has already started the documentation stage. That is why she is bringing up even what appears to be really picky, like the 11 minute break. She may be documenting EVERYTHING right now because she is about to fire her. And with that many personal calls still going on after being talked to and written up several times (she said she is STILL getting written up, implying it is ongoing), I think it is safe to say, her manager probably feels like she doesn’t have any options left but to start documenting in preparation for firing her.

        3. ExceptionToTheRule*

          It also strikes me that for the manager, the digging-in is, by now, about insubordination. She’s been clear about her expectations and the OP continues to ignore or defy her.

    4. Laufey*

      A sort of unofficial rule that my family developed when we were teenagers was calling the cell phone vs office phone. If we called a parental unit’s cell phone, it was going to be along the lines of “I’m going over to Wakeen’s house” or “What time does the chicken need to go in, again?” – non-essential stuff. If we called the office line (or company cell phone) directly, it was more of “I am going to the hospital, now.”

      I think that might be a good way to still be able to take emergency calls from your kids without having to step away from the desk for non-emergency things.

      1. bearing*

        I am also a parent, and occasionally I find myself on the “caller” side as well because I sometimes have to call my spouse at work with emergency and non-emergency information.

        I suggest a system whereby the kids are instructed to use one channel for ordinary questions and information, and a different channel for emergencies; and in which you are very clear with the teenagers what constitutes an emergency. Examples of the two channels are: text for ordinary, phone for emergency; or personal cell for ordinary, office line for emergency.

        Here is another option if you only have one channel, such as a personal cell. My husband has his cell phone on his person. We use a system whereby I call him and he generally lets it go voicemail for me to leave a message that he can return at a good time, which is what I do if the call is non-emergency. If I have an emergency call, I hang up when it goes to voicemail and immediately call back. Getting two calls in quick succession from me is his cue that he has to take this call. Otherwise he knows he can follow up later.

        It goes without saying that if your teens disobey the rules about reserving “emergency” calls for real emergencies, that is something that needs to be dealt with on your end by whatever means you typically use to deal with disobedience that prevents you from doing your job. If they need clearer instructions, provide it; if they need some kind of correction or discipline, provide that as well. Non-emergency family situations need to be dealt with in a way that doesn’t keep you or your coworkers from doing their jobs.

        1. Judy*

          My dad got in trouble with my husband for that one. Dad needed something so he called my husband’s cell. Didn’t leave a message, and then decided he needed to leave a message, so he called back. My husband then, seeing a second call in 2 minutes from my parent’s house, stepped out of the class he was teaching to answer.

          “Can I borrow your [insert random tool here] this weekend?”

        2. Bea W*

          This was my mom’s system whenever she left us home alone. If it was an emergency, she’d let it ring once, hang up and then call back because for the most part we didn’t answer the phone when home alone, not until we hit puberty anyway. This was back in the stone ages before voice mail.

          1. Cassie*

            We did this too – we had two landlines, one which was in the phone book and the other which was unlisted. If we needed to be picked up, we were to call twice on the unlisted one. Saved the 25 cents or however much pay phones were back then.

        3. Anonymous*

          I agree with all of this. We use the ‘double call on the cell for emergencies’ system, text messages, and old fashioned ‘fending for oneself as long as blood isn’t gushing.’

          I have four kids and have pretty much worked since they were babies. I don’t get 2-3 calls A MONTH.

      2. Elizabeth*

        That seems like a great rule!

        I’ve had a bit of the reverse problem – I’ve been trying to train my mom to let calls go to voicemail when she can’t talk. I’ll call her just to chat, and she’ll answer in a rushed whisper, “I’m in a historical society meeting! I’ll call you later!” I’ve told her repeatedly that if I ever have an actual emergency, I’ll call her more than just once… but she can’t help answering every single time, just in case.

        Also I’ve learned I should always leave a voicemail if I do miss her, even if it only says “I just called to chat; talk another time!” …because otherwise she calls me back worrying that I needed something from her.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have to do the same thing–my mom works at home, and if I get the answering machine on her personal landline (she has another business line), I just hang up if I want her to call me back. If I don’t need her to, THEN I leave a message with whatever it is I wanted to tell her. She has caller ID so she always knows it’s me.

      3. r*

        My old boss had a system with his wife. If she called once, it meant that it wasn’t a time-sensitive issue, and he’d get back to her whenever he had a free moment. If she called twice back-to-back, he’d pick it up immediately. Maybe something like this could work for the teenagers as well.

        1. bearing*

          Yes, the more I think about it the more I think that one of
          OP’s obstacles is that she has no way (yet) of determining whether a call is emergency or not unless she takes the call. Given that, every call is a *potential* emergency.

          I bet if she sets up some way to find out before taking the call if it is an emergency or not, the problem will largely be solved. (One method is very simple: “Do not call me if it is not an emergency.”)

          1. Jennifer*

            It also depends on what the kids consider to be an emergency…. This is the problem I run into with my mom: EVERYTHING is an emergency and she doesn’t filter. Kinda sounds like her kids might be like that too.

            Unfortunately, I think she probably needs to tell her kids that she cannot be contacted except during the lunch hour, period. My mom works at a place where the bosses throw a shit fit if she does anything personal at all on the clock (even texting, even e-mail), so you just can’t contact her from 8-12 and 1-5. It’s very obvious if she gets a personal call since she’s the receptionist, so she gets crap for it. Unless the school calls, the LW should probably operate under a policy like this as well because her boss is not remotely okay with this. Plus job hunt.

      4. Parcae*

        Cell phone for trivia and office phone for emergencies was the rule for my family, too, but in our case it was a hard-line one. My brother once “forgot” the rule, and Dad made him apologize to the receptionist for bothering her with a non-emergency call! It was a good early lesson in professional behavior.

        My parents explained it as a safety issue: in a Real Emergency, the receptionist could have pulled Dad (the on-call parent; Mom was unreachable at work except in cases of Actually Dying) out of a meeting or sent someone to fetch him at a worksite. If we called his cell, it might be on silent, or locked in his trunk for safe-keeping, or in an area with no reception.

        1. Marcy*

          I agree. That is a great lesson in professional behavior for your brother. I couldn’t help but wonder how the OP’s children will handle personal calls at work when they are old enough to get jobs since the message they are getting now is that it is ok to call for non-emergencies.

      5. JessB*

        I totally agree, Laufey! I know that my high school had my Dad’s office phone number for EMERGENCY emergencies, but never had to use it. But they did occasionally call my Mum on our home phone, if it was just a mild emergency – although right now, I can’t think of a single time they did this.

    5. JCDC*

      I just realized that my fiancée and I have an unofficial ranked system of communication during the workday: email means non-essential (“want to see a movie tomorrow?”), text means more important but not time-sensitive (“the dog puked so avoid the rug”), and phone calls mean serious business. Could you employ a similar system, only more official? And explain that a call equals an emergency, so don’t go there unless you want to cause panic.

      (I’m also the child of two teachers –so even when cell phones were more commonplace during my high school days, calling during the workday could mean asking someone to interrupt their class. Eek. So in my mind still, calls are for The Serious.)

      1. annie*

        I was just going to say this too – I was the child of a teacher in the pre-cell phone era, and a dad who often was on work sites or far from our home meaning it would not be practical/timely for him to come pick us up in case of emergency. You learn to get along on your own, but I knew in a serious emergency I could call the main office and get them – and did, in the case of a car accident once when I was a teenager, or once when I was sick and had to be picked up from school. Now as adults, I do rarely have urgent updates or questions for her, and I just text her cell which I know she will check right after school.

  4. Anonymous*

    If you were the manager, I wonder if you would feel same way? It’s her job to make sure that you’re doing yours. Not to say that she’s being at all reasonable based on your question, but you’re there to do a job and the other non-emergency stuff, can honestly wait. Not to say it’s never okay to take personal phone calls at work, but there has to be a balance. (This also makes me think of all the people in the workforce today that absolutely CANNOT take phone calls at work – for any reason.)

    1. Windchime*

      This was my mom. When I was a kid, she worked in an apple packing plant. If we called her there, her boss would answer the phone, then find someone to take Mom’s place on the line, so Mom could come to the phone. Needless to say, it had better darn well be an emergency. I don’t remember ever calling her at work; she might have gotten just a couple of calls the whole time she worked there. This was in the days before cell phones.

      Today, Mom doesn’t work but she’ll call me at work. If I’m busy or can’t talk, I just don’t answer. Pretty simple.

      1. Jessica*

        Same here. My mom was a nurse. I think I called her at work twice over the course of my entire childhood.

  5. fposte*

    Additionally, frame this as a change to your family–you will not be picking up or responding to non-emergency messages at work because it’s not going to fly in your current workplace. Right now they’re trained to do it because it’s been okay, and they’ll need to be retrained. (What’s their father’s work like? If he has fewer restrictions, maybe the kids could be redirected to call him.)

    And while there’s nothing wrong on general principle with talking to your kids several times a day, there’s also nothing wrong with not, so it’s not like you’d be a bad parent for changing your conversational ability at work.

    1. Canuck*

      OP, I agree with fposte, this needs to be looked at as a change to your family. I understand that it can be difficult to adjust to a work environment that has more restrictions when it comes to taking personal calls. I think that in addition to discussing with your family that you aren’t able to respond to non-emergency messages at work, it may be helpful to clearly define what is an emergency and what isn’t an emergency in this particular context. Perhaps your children could text you any non-emergency questions (I always find it easier to delay responding to text messages) and then you can use your breaks and lunch hour to respond to those non-emergent text messages? If you take your breaks and lunch hour at approximately the same time each day your children will know when to expect a response from you.

      1. Canuck (the original?)*

        Argh! We have the same username. Was I first, or have you been posting for a while and just took a break?

        1. Canuck*

          No Canuck (the original?) you were here first. I am new to posting in the comments. My apologies for hi-jacking your username. In future comments I will change it. :)

    2. Ruffingit*

      A very good point. So many people frame issues like this as “my manager/co-workers/CEO/whomever at work needs to change to make this work for me…” when in fact, it’s the OP who needs to make the change within her family structure. She’s assuming that it’s totally normal and OK to take 2-3 personal calls a day from family. “Oh well, that’s kids for you..” UH no, no it isn’t. What that is is YOUR kids because you’ve taught them it’s OK. Teach them now that it’s not. Because it isn’t since it’s putting a crimp in your work life. Your manager’s stringent behavior is actually beside the point in my mind for this problem. You can solve this by changing the origin of these calls.

      1. Jessa*

        This and also it’s going to happen in other jobs. There are plenty of jobs where you can’t even have your phone with you. You can’t go into an interview and say “hey what’s your personal call policy,” it will make you look…well you won’t get hired.

    1. thenoiseinspace*

      To elaborate a bit, thank you, Alison, for taking on this point! It’s infuriating to hear this flawed logic and you’re exactly right that it’s demanding special treatment. I think my favorite is when these same people also turn around and complain they they aren’t being treated the same as everyone else in the workplace – well, you asked to different, so there you go!

      1. tesyaa*

        Tangent: We have a childless employee who seems ticked (from his attitude) that people with kids in our department get different treatment, i.e. more flexibility in their schedules. What he overlooks is that those people, who have kids, are still way more productive and contributive than he is. He hasn’t earned the flexible schedule since he hasn’t shown he can handle it. I can’t imagine how he’ll perform when he DOES have kids.

          1. tesyaa*

            No. Even the employees with kids don’t get the flexible schedule until they show they’re capable of performing better than adequately in a remote or flexible situation. This guy just thinks that he should get the same perks as people with years of experience and demonstrated productivity. He seems to think that ANY perk than anyone has, he’s entitled to also. And he’s acted this way since Day One.

                1. Jessa*

                  Then management is completely responsible for this mess. Because if there’s a way to earn it, everyone should know specifically what the criteria are. And the criteria need to be the same for anyone, IE it has to be clear and measurable and the people with children are not obviously getting passes on it, when people without, or people who care for adults do not.

          2. tesyaa*

            Plus, some of the people with flexible schedules don’t have kids either. It’s just they’re competent; he’s borderline.

            Here’s an analogous situation. A guy gets to work from home several days because he has along commute. Fair, or not? How is choosing a long commute (with no plans to move closer) different from choosing to have kids?

            1. some1*

              A guy gets to work from home several days because he has along commute. Fair, or not? How is choosing a long commute (with no plans to move closer) different from choosing to have kids?

              Good analogy.

            2. Yup*

              FWIW, I think people often perceive differing treatment among employees as ‘unfairly unequal’ treatment. Because some “benefits” stuff is universal within a company, people think that every single thing under the benefits umbrella should be universally accessible.

              It sounds like this one employee sees flexible time as a baseline benefit like insurance that everyone should get, rather than as a perk that’s earned by high performance. Because the guy with the long commute isn’t really getting the work from home perk *because* he lives far away – he’s getting a perk that’s meaningful to his personal situation because he’s a high performer. Companies/managers need to distinguish the difference on this kind of stuff when people get the wrong idea about what’s standard versus problem-solving versus reward.

            3. Saturn9*

              Then why did you originally frame it as Unproductive Childless Guy vs Uberproductive Employees Who Have Kids?

              It seems like the issue is actually the productivity and has nothing to do with someone’s family-related decisions. (Which is how it’s supposed to work, unless I’m missing something.)

              1. Ethyl*

                Sure, and it’s easy to mistake the “employees with kids get special treatment” when you only see the employees with kids making use of flex time (or whatever), especially when they use it for reasons like sick kid/pickup kid/soccer game/etc. Seems like a communication problem, not an attitude or competence problem to me.

        1. Mike C.*

          And you’ve bothered to point this out with explicit guidelines, right? If not, then what do you expect?

          1. Mike C.*

            Oh, good catch. I can’t tell you how many times someone has done something rude and explained, “It’s ok, when you have kids you’ll do that to someone else”.

            1. Andrea*

              That’s a huge pet peeve of mine, too. Having kids is a choice; it’s not mandatory; it’s not just something you do because everyone else is doing it or because your folks want grandkids. It’s a choice. If you make it, then own that choice and take responsibility–don’t act like parenthood was just foisted on you.

            2. Saturn9*

              I loathe “You’ll understand when you have kids.” and I’m fond of countering such statements with “They can control that with medication now.”

        2. nooee*

          …and there it is. WHEN he has kids. Because god knows everyone who does not procreate is not leading a normal life. What if he is single? Gay? Infertile? DOESN’T WANT KIDS?

          It is beyond infuriating dealing with an office full of parents who think the non-parents in the office should pick up their slack because they need to do x y or z related to their kids. My life is not less important than yours because I don’t have kids, and my time is no less important. Get over yourself.

              1. Anonymous*

                I’m not the person you’re responding to, but your comment *did* ignore the whole concept of adoption. And gay people having kids. Single, gay, and infertile people aren’t here to be used by you for arguments like this.

                Before you assume things about me and get offended, I’m single, LGBT, can’t have kids, and don’t want to.

          1. Marcy*

            Yes, that! Those of us who do not have kids would also like to take time off around a major holiday once in awhile.

            1. Windchime*

              I don’t understand this at all. Getting holidays off is not based on whether or not a person has kids, at least not in anyplace I’ve ever worked. It is based on other factors, like who applies for it (and when, if not everyone can have the day off). I see people talking as if this happens all the time, but I’ve never seen any managers say, “Oh, Susan has kids and Jane doesn’t; therefore, Jane can’t have Christmas off.” Not saying it doesn’t happen; just that I wonder if this is really as common as people say.

              1. Sourire*

                I feel like it’s more of an unspoken thing. It’s never explicit, but as someone both without kids and who is agnostic (though born Jewish), it’s fairly expected I will volunteer for those days. I have experienced this working in a grocery store, working in retail, working in an office job and now also in public safety.

                The public safety part is actually the only time it has ever annoyed me. We ALL signed up for a 24/7-365 job and signed on the dotted line knowing that. I also can get paid 2.5x time for working OT on something like Christmas, but instead I get guilt trip stories so I will switch shifts for straight time (not from management, but from the employee themselves).

              2. Kitty*

                Coming in late, but this is a pet peeve of mine. We choose vacations by seniority, but we still have at least one person who believes she’s entitled to holidays off because she has kids. Sorry, that doesn’t make you special. You knew when you took the job that you’d have to work holidays.

                My family may not include kids but you never know when you’re going to lose someone. I lost my brother in 2008. Thank god I was able to see him on Christmas the previous year. My time with him meant just as much to me as someone else’s time with little Timmy or Janie.

      2. CN*

        On the other hand, I think there is something to be said for remembering that there ARE things you can’t necessarily intellectually understand about another person’s experience simply by having second-hand experience with it.

        Note: I do NOT believe parents should receive preferential treatment at work. I’m also very against coddling/helicoptering, and as far as the OP, I join the chorus in saying there isn’t really any reason teenagers should NEED to call their parents that frequently (barring special circumstances).

        But as someone without children, I wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable saying that just because I’ve been a kid, or have been around kids, I know what it’s like to be a full-on parent. Similar to the case of people who have never had pets but have simply been around others who have — I tend to believe there’s something you can’t NECESSARILY understand about someone worried sick that their dog needs surgery, or whatever. I’m sure there are people who can empathize via only second-hand experience, but I wouldn’t take it as a given.

        Like I said, I don’t believe anyone should receive preferential treatment at work, but that’s not the same as saying, “Of course I know what your experience is like; I’ve experienced it secondhand,” which I don’t always think is valid.

      3. Childless Anonymous*

        When does the subject of kids and accommodations at the workplace cross the line?

        A coworker of mine uses her teenaged child as an excuse for getting preference on shifts. Her son, according to her, has Asperger’s. I only have a basic understanding of this syndrome. But does it, at the age of 16/17, prevent him from being home alone? I just hope she’s not using it just for herself and in hopes of duping the rest of us.

        But after all these years, she still can and does use him as a reason for not helping out coworkers; our shifts are inconvenient for her to work. Has this crossed the line? If it’s still legit to those who know this syndrome (themselves or have a child with it), then I’ll shut up.

        1. Mary*

          Actually – I have a friend with a child who as Aspergers. He is 26, has worked at Target for 6 years; but he cannot stay alone. Anytime she leaves the house for an extended period of time, she needs someone to stay with him. On the other hand, there are high-functioning people with Aspergers. It is really hard to tell, even if you meet and talk to them if they can be left alone for a long time.

          1. Anonymous*

            I think he might be high-functioning because he’s learning to drive! If someone is learning to drive, they have to know how to cope with a wide range of situations that can come up instantly. Like what ella says below, sometimes they cannot be left alone in case an emergency situation comes about. Well, what is the difference really between being left home alone or being out driving? If he’s home alone and decides to make himself dinner, he can burn the house down. If he’s out driving, he can hurt or kill himself and/or someone else, heaven forbid.

        2. LD*

          Maybe this person has accommodations because she is taking care of someone with a serious health problem. Depending upon her situation she may be using FMLA benefits. She’s shared a little about it with her coworkers, but she doesn’t have to provide medical paperwork to coworkers. Perhaps she’s working it with the HR department and her manager and using FMLA to protect her job. It’s frustrating from the outside to see what appears to be extreme accommodations, but may just be the organization fulfilling their legal obligations. Just one option to consider.

        3. ella*

          Adding on to say, yeah, it’s entirely possible that a teenager with Asperger’s can’t be left alone (it’s also entirely possible that his mom is being overprotective, but that can be a surprisingly hard thing for parents of kids with disabilities to realize they’re doing, since kids with disabilities so often *need* protecting). Depending on the severity of the syndrome and how it presents–and I really want to emphasize that there’s a WIDE range of severity and functionality–he also might be really entrenched in his routine. Which means two things: if he’s home alone, and there’s an emergency of some sort, he may be completely unable to evaluate situations and come up with safe ways to cope with them (I have a disabled sister, and she can be home alone for short periods of time, but she would have no earthly idea what to do if, say, the oven caught on fire). And if he’s a kid who needs routine, having mom’s work schedule change for even just one day might cause him serious stress and anxiety. An example: my dad picked up one of my sister’s friends once to carpool him to a social function, but was running late. To this day (and it’s been YEARS), my sister’s friend needs to remind my dad of times, and has a sort of running monologue under his breath about being late whenever he’s in my dad’s car. If her son reacts to changes in routine like that, I can see her not wanting to mess with her schedule. (I can also see her not wanting to explain that, and just saying, “He can’t be home alone” and calling it good.)

          Now, it’s possible that none of those things is true. There’s a lot of diversity in the Asperger’s/autism population. But one or more might be.

    2. Piper*

      Total pet peeve of mine. As if the childless of the world are completely clueless about “real” life with kids and those with kids should receive preferential treatment. No. So irritating.

        1. tesyaa*

          I assume none of the childfree folks are interested in receiving social security benefits. Where do you think your payments will come from? (Recall that social security is a pay-as-you-go system).

            1. Laufey*

              For the American Social Security program to stay solvent, there must be more young workers (and ergo, children on a continual basis) than retired workers.

              1. TL*

                I understand that, but is tesyaa honestly suggesting that you shouldn’t be able to withdraw SS if you don’t have children, after paying into it your whole life because you chose not to reproduce?

                1. fposte*

                  Additionally, plenty of people who do have children aren’t eligible for Social Security anyway.

                  However, I think what may have happened is that tesyaa interpreted Anonymous’ remark as being generally anti-kid, whereas I did not.

                2. tesyaa*

                  Sorry for the misunderstanding. Just pointing out that our kids will be paying your benefits. If we don’t have the kids, you won’t get the benefits.

                3. fposte*

                  They’ll still be able to pay those benefits if they don’t call their mom on the phone three times a day.

                4. some1*

                  “Sorry for the misunderstanding. Just pointing out that our kids will be paying your benefits. If we don’t have the kids, you won’t get the benefits.”

                  Really? I don’t remember my financial planner mentioning your kids putting into my IRA.

                5. Bea W*

                  By the same token tesyaa, people who don’t have kids are paying for everyone else’s kids’ public education.

                  In both cases, it really doesn’t matter if you have children or have children but don’t use the public school system or are not eligible for Social Security benefits. These are social safety nets that work indirectly to the benefit of everyone in society, not just those who use them.

                  Likewise one can argue that of we don’t have kids, the human race will become extinct. That doesn’t mean that everyone on earth is required to have children in order to avoid human extinction.

                6. Tina*

                  I initially thought the suggestion was that childless people should have kids for purposes of having more SS contributions, but I’m glad I misunderstood that.

              2. Jessa*

                The American Social Security system IS solvent or would be if the government just paid back all the loans they took out of it. And if they raised the taxable income to just 200k from nearly half that. Social Security insolvency is an accounting myth used by certain factions of the US government to scare the voting public.

                Sorry it’s a soap box of mine. It is also despite some government rhetoric a paid in for benefit (you and your employer) it is NOT an entitlement.

          1. Rindle*

            Did you actually just suggest that I should have children as part of my retirement plan? LMAO

            Where do people with children think their public education comes from? (Recall that folks don’t get a tax deduction for non-existent kiddos.)

          2. Victoria Nonprofit*

            … And I assume the folks with kids would be ok with childless people ceasing to pay taxes that support public education.

            C’mon. We live in a society. Don’t be ridiculous.

              1. fposte*

                Plus, some people’s kids aren’t going to pay into social security. Some people’s kids are going to mug us and go to prison, or leave the country, or draw on taxpayer-funded SSDI because of disabilities, etc. Having a baby just creates a human with human complexity for a future, not an automatic economic asset to society.

          3. dee*

            I don’t think that’s really accurate. As far as I know, people working now pay into SS to benefit the people collecting now, and the cycle will continue. So I don’t have children, nor plan to, however I have worked and paid taxes for the last 15 years. Are you saying I don’t deserve SS when I retire because I don’t have kids.? Or that if I don’t have kids, the pool for who is providing the benefits will dry up?

            1. tesyaa*

              Obviously the pool won’t really dry up. But if everyone followed the lead of the happily childfree, it would.

              1. Frieda*

                But no one is suggesting that EVERYONE stop having kids. Just that some people specifically prefer not to have kids, and that there is nothing wrong with that and it doesn’t make their lives empty or mean they contribute less to society.

                It’s one of my bigger pet peeves when someone says “I prefer not to do X” and other people react as if they said “No one should ever do X because it’s evil!” I even get this all the time because I don’t drink coffee. I just don’t like it. But 90% of the time I mention this, people get SO defensive. Listen: drink all the coffee you want! It’s just not for me. And neither are kids.

                1. tesyaa*

                  Who said that the childless don’t contribute to society? Not me. Some of my favorite people happen to be childless (in their case, not by choice), but of course they are contributing mightily to society.

                  And I’m certainly not bitter towards the childfree. I just think the perceived “perks” that parents get are magnified in some people’s minds. Imagine that the parent with the flexible schedule (which you don’t have) gets paid 15-20% less than someone in the same role with less flexibility. Does it look like such a great perk now? If you don’t see their pay stub, maybe this is really what’s happening.

                2. Nonprofit Office Manager*

                  Ditto for me but with alcohol. I’ve had several people quietly ask my husband I’m an alcoholic because they never see me drink. I don’t have an alcohol problem, and I don’t give a hoot if people around me drink. I just don’t enjoy alcohol myself. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do like fancy drinks (e.g., chocolate cake martinis) but I’m too cheap to pay $10 a pop!

              2. fposte*

                And if every adult had a dozen children, that would be bad too. But since neither of things are going to happen anytime soon, I don’t think they really factor into the OP’s issue.

                1. Bea W*

                  @tesyya – not a tough crowd at all. Recall, all we are seeing is text, and not hearing a tone or seeing the body language that is essential to successful sarcasm. It sounds different in your head than they way it looks on a screen when read by complete strangers.

              3. TL*

                There are happy childful, as well, though. I don’t think Anonymous meant to imply that was the only sane option.

                1. Anonymous*

                  Of course I didn’t mean being childless was the only option. Some people love kids, and I am glad I realized I am not one of them before I had one of my own.

              4. Bea W*

                Not everyone wants to be child free. People who want children will continue to have children. The child free people won’t deter them from doing so any more than people with children can convince people who don’t want children to start having them anyway.

                Plus, people who are child free aren’t advocating we all stop having children in the first place.

              5. Anonymous*

                You seem confused. “Childfree” people do not personally want to have kids. They don’t want to somehow make everyone else stop having kids.

          4. Mike C.*

            You’re really coming off as bitter against the childfree here.

            Did you stop and consider all the stuff that the childfree pay for that goes directly to support the raising and training of children? Do you know how many of us out there are more than willing to contribute even more?

            And as far as Social Security is concerned, there are many, many changes that could be made to take care of differing economic conditions. It’s not all about the raw number of babies women choose to have.

            1. Anonymous*

              LOL, you made me remember the day someone was ranting about how important basic education is, how it teaches important skills….and without missing a beat the local smart-mouth breaks in “it’s important so your child can read his arrest warrant”. Oh, if looks could kill we would be short one wise guy right now.

            2. tesyaa*

              Children keep the economy going. The low-population European countries are having trouble partly because of low population growth. Same with immigration. Immigration is good for this country from an economic point of view, even though some people complain that immigrants are taking the jobs meant for “real Americans.”

                1. tesyaa*

                  There are many comments in this thread referring to kids as “holy terrors” or similar. Whether or not certain kids have behavior issues is not related to the question at hand.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  People aren’t saying “don’t have kids because they’re holy terrors.” They’re talking about reasons they themselves decided not to have kids.

                3. Bea W*

                  No, they are saying they don’t want to be patents. Not everyone is cut out for parenthood even people who enjoy and like children. It’s the same as any other “career” choice. Just because I don’t want to work as a pizza maker, doesn’t mean I don’t like pizza.

            3. Kelly L.*

              There was a woman in MyPreviousTown who ran for local office on the platform that people without kids shouldn’t have to pay any taxes toward education. My thought is that I’m glad to do it–when I’m old and today’s kids are my doctors, etc., I sure don’t want ’em to be dumb!

          5. Moe*

            Um, Social Security is gonna be tits up in very short order so nobody is gonna get anything from it whether they have kids or not.

          6. ellex42*

            I have never heard anyone saying that no one should have children ever (apart from a very few people who clearly had other issues, like hunkering down in a bomb shelter to await the end of days). However, I have heard plenty of people saying that those who choose not to have children are “selfish”, “childish”, or not fulfilling their biological/societal/cultural/religious duties as a man/woman. Bringing Social Security into the mix is no different.

          7. Marcy*

            Are you really suggesting having kids for the purpose of what the PARENT will get out of it? That is akin to the argument “but if you don’t have kids, who will take care of you when you are old?” argument. Purely selfish reasons. Imagine the surprise when one of these people who had kids for selfish reasons then ends up with selfish kids who DON’T take care of them when they are old.
            Either way, this is supposed to be about the OP thinking she should get special treatment at work for having kids, not about how the social security system works.

          8. JoJo*

            Seeing that my childfree self has been paying through the nose for property taxes to fund their schooling, your kids owe me.

          9. TT*

            I assume the payment will be coming from what I have personally contributed to the fund during the years when I worked.

          1. A cita*

            Awwwwww….I am child free by choice, but I ***love*** children and can’t imagine how much it would suck to not have them if I wanted them.

      1. some1*

        For me, it’s not even the preferential treatment it’s the idea that I don’t intellectually comprehend that children need their parents and how much.

        No, I don’t have kids and I might not ever. But I will never forget the first time I went to Girl Scout Camp for a week when I was 9. The last day, my dad was one the last parents to arrive. I was starting to get scared that he forgot me, and when he showed up I have never been so relieved to see my dad in my life.

        I know that’s an extreme example, but don’t tell me I can’t understand that.

        1. TL*

          Haha, those were my parents. One time they took a day trip while all of their kids were on a a field trip and completely forgot about us. We called and called (this was in the age of bag phones and they were doing shopping) and waited for two hours before the principle drove us home.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            At least the principal drove you home. I had to walk 2 miles uphill when I was forgotten.

            1. TL*

              We lived more than 10 miles away down a busy highway and we did have to walk a flat mile from our gate to our house.
              They didn’t really have a choice but it was super nice of him. :)

              1. Carpe Librarium*

                Uphill! Both ways! Through 10 feet of snow! And we didn’t have those fancy cement sidewalks, ours were paved with thistles…


          2. Anon*

            lol Yea… one time my mom managed to forget me at school for 5 hours. She forgot that I told her I needed to be picked up because I was staying after school. She went shopping, got home at 8, and wondered were I was…. *click*

            I didn’t have a phone number for anyone else so I just sat at school for 5 hours.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit*

          … But I actually don’t believe that kids need their parents in this way. A broken down car can wait a couple of hours (it sucks to hang out and wait for the tow truck, but it’s not something someone old enough to drive needs to be rescued from).

          1. some1*

            No, I don’t think it’s stuff like this, but my point is that I understand what it feels like to think you *have* to see/talk to your parents *this second*, because I felt that way once.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit*

              Oh, sure. I get it from the kid side. But parents make rules (or guidelines or agreements) about what kids do.

          2. TL*

            Maybe not rescued, but permission to put money on the family credit card or support getting through it the first time. There have been times when I’ve called my parents for things I’m able to handle that I just want support for because I’m unsure. If they’re busy or don’t answer, I do it anyways but it’s nice when they can talk me through it.

            And sometimes it’s truly stupid things, like the time I called my dad for advice on buying a space heater because I was so overwhelmed by the different options!

            1. Elle D*

              I agree with you 100%. I didn’t bother my parents all day at work about nonsense, but I don’t regret calling them for advice when my car broke down or I got into an accident where no one was injured. Especially if whatever decision I made was going to cost money I presumably didn’t have. This behavior didn’t ruin me or cause me to become an adult who can’t make decisions for myself – if anything, I learned from my parents and make better independent decisions now because of it.

              1. TL*

                Yup. And my parents feel free to ignore my calls if they’re not free to take them, so I don’t worry about interrupting them. :)

              2. cecilhungry*

                Yes, I call my dad probably way too often with computer/wireless problems. In my defense, I sometimes work freelance (and for a while I worked at a startup where I had to bring my own computer), so it was pretty important. But not always. My dad is fast and/or cheaper than any help line, so I always go to him first, even if the answer turns out to be “I can’t / don’t have time help you with that.” I regret nothing.

              3. Zillah*

                I agree. I don’t think it’s coddling your teenagers to want to know when their car breaks down/they get into an accident, or something similar. Teenagers don’t always think clearly or rationally, and their lack of experience dealing with these things can cause them to overlook something important. And that’s not even getting into the money aspect.

                These sorts of things don’t happen that often. I don’t see the harm in them.

                1. Layla*

                  I too agree that car breakdowns eg constitute mini emergencies and it’s ok for a teenager to call a parent who could answer calls at work for that.

                  But these things don’t happen 2-3 times a day.

                  I might have called my mum 2-3 times a day when I was under 10, at her request , but I wasn’t so attached as a teenager !!

        3. Forrest*

          One time my grandparents forgot my aunt at a gas station on a family vacation. Guess with seven kids they were lucky it didn’t happen more often.

      2. ellex42*

        One of the (many) reasons I don’t have kids and don’t want them is that both my parents worked in the early childhood education field. I know more about children than many people who have children do.

      3. Liz in a library*

        Yep. We have a friend who makes particularly patronizing statements about how we just don’t understand what it’s like. Actually, I love your kid a lot, but it is exactly because I understand so well that I don’t have my own…

        1. Jessica*

          Oh my, I need to steal this, if I may. Most people aren’t super nosy about it, but those who are and tell me I’ll understand once I break down and have kids? I need to say, “It’s exactly because I understand that I’m not having kids!” Hey, I’ve worked in education and with kids of all ages for many, many years. I understand how kids are. Heck, I’m around kids more than I’m around my husband during the week! But that’s precisely why I want to come home and not be around more kids.

    3. bearing*

      It isn’t fair to people with kids, either, to assume that we will automatically be “understanding” or tolerant of all situations in which a parent is unable or unwilling to set limits.

      Yeah, I can imagine situations where it isn’t the parent’s fault that ordinary limits don’t work (disabilities, for example, or unusual childcare arrangements, or the like). I know that even ordinary situations sometimes take time to resolve, once you start taking steps to resolve them. I have known people with huge obstacles to overcome, and they do the best they can. But “just being a parent” isn’t automatically a ticket to Understandingville where any problem that normal parents have with normal kids is automatically excused as the inevitable consequences of raising kids.

  6. Kate*

    When I was a teenager … I can’t even imagine calling my mom every day. Or even more than once a week. Do they have to call you because they need your express permission to like, go to a friend’s after school? I mean, do you have house rules in place that feed this constant contact?

    Your manager is definitely loopy for bugging you about going one minute over your break time, and I don’t want to downplay that, but the kids contacting you 2-3 times a day is at least as odd, if not more so. Reminds me of posts on here about people whose bosses text them constantly about non-emergencies. Just quit answering. They’re nearly adults, and furthermore, they’re children of the age of Google. I think all of you will be amazed at how they figure things out when left to their own devices.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      Yeah, that’s a LOT of calls. When my brother and I were latchkey kids in the ’80s (so before phones had caller ID, and long before texting and cell phones), our “secret code” to let my mom know we were home safe from school was to call her work line, let it ring once, wait 30 seconds and do it again. And of course she knew about what time to expect the secret ring. We actually called her to say something once a month at most, and essentially never as teenagers.

      I have three kids myself now, and get a similarly low rate of calls from home as my mother did. Text FTW for dealing with non-emergency issues like “I need red socks to go with my soccer uniform” and “can I eat the mozzarella or are you saving it for something in particular?” It really isn’t inevitable to take multiple calls a day.

      1. Sophia*

        Also, what about emailing the parent for small requests or updates? I talk to my husband multiple times throughout the day but via email and we can respond when we can. This would work obviously only for people with smart phones and access to computers and tablets (with wifi).

      2. Lils*

        We got in trouble for bothering my parents at work with unimportant things. We were latchkey kids from the age of 9 and were told to go ask the neighbor if we needed help, never ever answer a stranger’s knock, and don’t fight. Breaking rules = being punished. We did not always ‘fess up to the fighting, though :)

        1. Bea W*

          Oh yes, the not answering the door thing. Did she also give you a code word in case she had to send someone else to get you, so you would know that person wasn’t some creepy kidnapper?

          1. Anon with a name*

            Yes! And a meeting place outside the house in case there was a fire! We also weren’t supposed to answer the phone when we were home alone, and to especially never tell anyone *who* was home (definitely not if it was just you!).

            1. Lils*

              Yes to the secret code, yes to the fire drills, yes to the not telling a caller “Mom isn’t home right now”. I also remember being very little and being drilled on my phone number, address, and full name. I can still remember the address of the house we moved out of 32 years ago bc of that! I don’t think kids today are left to their own devices as much. I was babysitting other people’s kids alone at age 11.

      3. Anne*

        I almost feel like I must have been neglected somehow. I don’t think I EVER called my parents at work, even to let them know I was home safe, although I was a latchkey kid. Maybe it’s a New York thing. Once you can happily put them on the subway themselves you pretty much stop worrying about your kids?

        This whole thing is pretty mystifying to me.

    2. Bea W*

      Yes, it needed be necessary to call up and ask for permission to do this and that if that is what they are doing. It’s enough to set some “house rules” about what your kids are allowed to do after school, where they are allowed to go, and at what time they have to be home. Those rules should cover most situations, and then they only need to let you know when something falls outside of those perimeters.

      It also shouldn’t be necessary to keep calling for basic information. If they are in charge of starting dinner, have written instructions and tell them where to find whatever they need. My mom kept a list of phone numbers posted in the kitchen, so at any time we could look there and find out who best to call for certain things. We all knew where to find things in the kitchen or the closets – cleaning supplies, batteries, flashlights, the can opener, etc.

      This thread really makes me appreciate my mom is new ways, and she was really kinda messed up.

  7. tesyaa*

    I agree, train the kids not to call. As for the call from the school about the broken tooth, even if you waited 5 minutes until she was done and then took the call, no real harm would be done. (Parents sometimes step out of cell range, or even go to the bathroom, so in an emergency, the school would keep trying). I can see why she was annoyed that you interrupted to take a call in the middle of training (even though it turned out to be a semi-emergency).

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I was thinking about that as well. I get that if you don’t know why the school is calling you’re not going to know the level of urgency until you answer, but most situations like this the urgency is the parent wanting to know, not what the parent will do to change the situation, so a five-minute wait isn’t going to do anything.

      1. Colette*

        Yes, if it’s a true emergency, I hope they called 911 first. Otherwise, it may be urgent, but 5 minutes won’t make a huge difference to the outcome.

      2. Jess*

        This. Unless your kid is with you, nothing you do in those 5 minutes is likely to change the outcome of the situation. Especially if they’re at school, etc, where there are adults who are (presumably) handling the situation.

        And I had my car breakdown 2 or 3 times as a teenager, as well as a bad car accident. My parents didn’t immediately answer the phone any of those times. I sat with the car, once asked a friend’s parent for help when they came to pick her up, fixed the problem myself, and called the police.

        I think what you’ll find is that if you can reduce the number of calls, the ones you do take will be more acceptable.

        1. A Bug!*

          Absolutely. If you cut out the non-urgent calls (and that probably needs to come with a reassessment of what constitutes an emergency), so that you really are only taking calls that need to be taken, then those times will be more acceptable.

          And that does involve educating your children, setting boundaries, and then enforcing those boundaries.

          Any children allowed to be unsupervised should be able to independently respond to most minor emergencies, and recognize those times where they need outside help. In such situations, “Mom who is at work right now” is often not the right outside help, 911 is.

          But if Mom answers the phone all the time for anything, then there’s no reason to actually think for oneself. What would your kids do in an actual emergency if you weren’t able to answer the phone? Would they be able to figure it out for themselves? If so, then let them. If not, then the problem isn’t your manager; it’s that your kids shouldn’t be left without adult supervision.

          If your kids really don’t know what to do in an emergency, then I’d recommend signing them up for a first aid course and a babysitting/home-alone course. These are often available through community centers like YMCA or boys’ and girls’ clubs.

      3. tcookson*

        Yes, if I were in the middle of a conversation or work session with my boss, and I saw that my child’s school was calling, I wouldn’t immediately interrupt our conversation. I’d make a mental note to call the school back ASAP to see what was going on, and then do that at the next natural, non-rude break in the work session.

        1. Windchime*

          Same here. If I was expecting an important call from one of my kids, I might tell my boss that as we were sitting down to talk. But I can’t imagine a situation where I would just interrupt my conversation with the boss to step away and chat with the kids, while having the attitude of, “sorry, my kids will always take precedence over my boss”.

  8. some1*

    Just to touch on something, it sounds like you are in an admin role since you report to the office manager. I’ve been in admin roles my whole professional life and have been held to different standards than the professionals I worked with in regards to taking breaks more often than not. It can definitely suck. When I was a receptionist I even had to take breaks and lunch at the same time everyday.

    In a lot of admin roles, it’s very important for people to know where you are. A VP I used to support always thought I had gone to lunch or left for the day if I was away from my desk. It was annoying, but I ended up just checking in more often or making a point not to be away from my desk for too long when I wasn’t on break.

    And if you are a receptionist, you walking away from your desk to take a call except on break is BfrickingDeal.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Good point – if you accept an admin role, you accept that you won’t have as much freedom. I’ve had jobs where I had to find coverage just to go to the bathroom.

      1. A Bug!*

        Yes, it is a good point. Different roles have different needs, and with those needs come different expectations of those filling the roles.

        I’m in an admin role in a law office and I certainly wouldn’t dream of saying “Well, the lawyers take long lunches all the time, why am I held to my one hour?”

        1. some1*

          Exactly. Whereas the lawyers are more likely to work overtime than the admins. I have been the only person to leave at the regular quitting time more times than I can count.

    2. QualityControlFreak*

      I get the sense that this is what is happening here; that OP is the sole admin/receptionist reporting to the only other admin (the office manager) supporting a professional firm.

      If this is the case, OP, remember that every time you walk away from your desk to take a personal call on your cell, it is your manager who will be answering the business phone(s). If she is being pulled away from higher level tasks to cover the reception desk 2 – 3 times daily, every day I can assure you she is annoyed by that whether or not she has children.

      Agree with many others here; set up a system, train your children to use it and this problem will solve itself.

      1. tcookson*

        I remember our former dean’s assistant had finally talked the dean into letting her have a receptionist/direct report to take some of the pressure off herself to do those tasks.

        Then the receptionist started getting involved in things that took her away from the desk (personal calls, conversations with faculty and other staff, and other miscellaneous, unnecessary activities). It was even more frustrating to the dean’s assistant to get stuck with the tasks that the receptionist was supposed to be doing than it had been to have nobody in that position.

        Maybe this is how the office manager feels about the OP’s availability.

  9. Jen*

    Can you text them back when they call? I’ve had to do this with family before – my husbad will call. I’ll click ignore and then text back “In a meeting, what’s up?” and he will usually text back something very silly. If it’s major like “Our son’s school called” I will call as soon as I can. But a lot of the time, it’s nothing and he texts me the question like “Going to target after work, do you need anything?”

    But yeah, I would talk to your teens and say “Mom’s manager isn’t thrilled with all the phone calls. I need you to keep the contact to a bare minimum – emergency only and I’ll call at my first break and take care of any of your non-emergency questions. If it can’t wait, text me.”

    If you can retrain them to not bug you with non-emergencies, I’m sure the emergency calls won’t be as big of a deal.

    1. Xay*

      This is what I do – my phone has an option to automatically respond to calls with a “I’m busy, what’s up?” text. I very rarely get personal calls during the day since we mostly text for the “can you pick up some milk” and “can I stay after school today” stuff, so I assume most calls are important. But if the call is important, there will be a follow up text or a voicemail.

  10. Jen in RO*

    I don’t have kids and I think the manager is completely unreasonable. 2-3 short calls a day is nothing, really. I just don’t get how someone can justify getting so upset about 5-10 minutes spent on the phone every day… Yeah, maybe you should ‘train’ your kids to phone less, but the situation, as described, is being ridiculous to me.

      1. Marmite*

        Yes, it’s difficult to make that call without knowing what her role is. 2-3 short calls a day would also be less intrusive if OP was stepping away to make the calls at convenient times, but receiving 2-3 calls at random times might mean she’s walking away in the middle of a meeting or conversation or time critical piece of work 2-3 times a day.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        My initial thought is that the manager is being a little ridiculous.
        However, if the OP is a receptionist for the office, or has some other function that requires her to answer the phones it would be a different story.

        Hopefully, we will hear that they can come to a happy medium where calls from the kiddies are taken only in emergency situations or perhaps at ONE specific time of the day (such as when they get home from school).

    1. Sandrine*

      Well, I’d agree with you if I was using my own logic, but putting myself in an employer’s spot, yeah, 2 or 3 calls a day is too much. If it was “ouch we had trouble this week” and there were that many calls over 2 or 3 days, sure. But every single day ? Nope, too much for me.

      1. Jen in RO*

        I did put myself in my employer’s spot. If she’s getting her job done, who cares how many phone calls she takes? And if she’s not getting the job done, the conversation should be about the tasks she’s failing at, not about the phone calls specifically.

        1. Joey*

          It’s not always as easy as that. In a lot of jobs you don’t know what work might have come your way if you step away to take a personal call. A customer might not bother walking to the register to buy something for example if there’s no one there to help.

          1. Jen in RO*

            I’m kinda grumpy tonight, sorry. I know that a lot of things depend on the OP’s actual job description, but I assume she’s an admin, so I don’t see the difference between taking a 2 minute phone call and a 2 minute pee. Or is the manager going to manage her daily water intake too?

            Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by working for companies that only cared about results…

            1. Anonymous*

              Lots of managers would be just as mad about a two minute pee break. I have been written up for peeing pretty much everywhere I’ve worked.

              1. Jen in RO*

                I now appreciate my job even more! I’ve been spending my lunch breaks (and some ‘breakfast breaks’ too) watching Firefly at work last week…

                1. fposte*

                  But it’s not just the effect that has to be taken into consideration. Managers accommodate a health situation because the employee has no choice. That doesn’t mean that all the other employees have the option to stop working every time the staffer with the UTI heads down the hall.

                  It’s kind of like the fact that it’s illegal to drive with headphones even though it’s legal for deaf people to drive. The point isn’t that it’s okay to drive without hearing whether by life or by choice, it’s that it’s fair to accommodate people who don’t have a choice if it can be done so without unreasonably endangering others.

            2. Bea W*

              Many of those 2 minute calls are avoidable and can wait until a better time. a 2 minute pee is a biological function that cannot be avoided.

              1. Bea W*

                or to put it another way – You can get through your day without taking a personal call. One can’t say the same about peeing.

            3. Marcy*

              Are you saying she is answering calls instead of restroom trips? If that is the case, then ok, but my guess is she is peeing AND calling. Maybe she should try both at the same time, then the boss can’t complain.

    2. The RO-Cat*

      Yeah, this time I’m 100% with you, Jen (culture meddling in, maybe?). I don’t see anything unreasonable in 2-3 short calls a day. Teenagers are even more troublesome than toddlers, in my experience – they tend to mix facts with emotions and God know how they will react.

      I see why the office manager might be ticked, but in my book family trumps job in any setting. Maybe OP could train their kids to call less (email? IM?), but according to my judgement OP’s boss’s way of dealing with things is waaaay out there.

      1. Jen in RO*

        Thing is, I agree that her teens are calling too much – but it’s coming from my POV of ‘God it must be annoying to answer silly questions all day long’. I don’t agree with the fact that it’s a problem, unless she is bothering someone (I’m assuming she is taking the calls outside).

        (And I’m sure it’s a bit of a cultural difference too, but I’ve started to bore myself by saying that. American teens seem waaay more independent than any of the teens I knew, but then again I was pretty sheltered all my life. If I had gotten my license at 16 and I’d had a flat I would have freaked out. When my car died in the middle of the intersection I didn’t give a damn where my dad was, I called and yelled ‘omgcarstalledwhatdoidoooo??’. I was 20…)

        1. hamster*

          I had a calling issue too. My mom used too call me a lot and i was annoyed at her. Than, she just said “i want to know that you’re fine. you can reject you call. it’s when you don’t answer that i worry” . As soon as i implemented this, setting my phone on silent/vibrate and quickly rejecting any call+ calling back at the appropriate times ( during lunch/during a break/when i was free) we started communicating better. Now she always asks “can you talk” even if i pick up , and I say yes-Green light go ahead an chat no-pretty much ends it if it’s not mega urgent or punctual-that means short objective
          answer ( yes/no/the key is is drawer 2 etc) . In time, she just mostly dropped calling me during work and i call her when i have time ( in the evening/ in the morning etc). My job is in IT and i pretty much manage my own time ( unless in a meeting/call with client) but I was really annoyed to interrupt my focus randomly too often. I know it might look stupid, but for us it was a big deal, since during my teenage period she was quite used to me answering-at-any-time because i got you a phone and i need to know you’re safe or you-re in college and i miss you phase. This way i kept a good communication/relationship with mum & proved the point i need to work focus free. Kids might be different, some ways can be learned ( texting, im’ing, calling and accepting a reject and a callback during break, etc).
          Your manager seems way to annoying though. My manager is
          very sweet in this respect. She came to me to talk, my phone started ringing ( stupid me forgot to set it on silence) and she said sorry, you take that , i’ll talk to you later. Actually i did not take the call, but she made me feel soo much better.

        2. hamster*

          Also, i think we’re criticizing her parenting too much. I am an adult ( 25 , millennial, etc) and my mom is definitely helicopterish. I talk to her a lot. That is no-one’s business , and mostly because i don’t let her interfere with my work. i definitely get her feeling that she was reprimanded unfairly.
          OP, just saying people’s image is affected by many factors. I had a mentor in my first job who noticed 1. i had a zodiac key holder different than my own sign. 2. i rushed to the phone most times it rang and told me once “let that Capricorn boyfriend of yours wait, we’re talking serious design here”. (* it was not even my bf calling* ,it was my roommate) I did not actually went to my desk to pick up the phone that particulat time( wouldn’t dare as important person was speaking to me) but i visibly was distracted for a second. I took note of that and i try to project a more professional image. Was that a joke ? Maybe . But you know, it got me to think & alter my behavior & set my phone on silent

      2. Marcy*

        I think the office manager has gotten the message that “family trumps job” and is about to relieve the OP of that pesky job so she can concentrate on the family.

    3. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I don’t necessarily think 2-3 calls is a huge deal either, but it sounds like she is dropping everything to take the calls. I was semi horrified at the “I apologized and told her “I’m terribly sorry but I have to take this.”” anecdote. Yes, it was an emergency, but to cut your boss off mid sentence like that is little rude. That call could have waited 5 minutes. Seems like she is prioritizing the phone calls, which is my over all issue – not so much the calls themselves.

  11. ExceptionToTheRule*

    If there weren’t for the daily interruptions, then the big, emergency stuff wouldn’t be such a big deal. And it’s more than the phone calls, I promise you she notices the text messaging too and each one of those is a distraction & interruption. If you’re sharing an office space, each time your phone goes off, it’s interrupting her concentration as well.

  12. Colette*

    I definitely agree that this is too many calls. The goal of being a parent is to raise self-sufficient children who become independent adults, and I don’t think that’s compatible with 2 – 3 calls from teenagers every day – especially since they are presumably in school for many of the work hours.

    If it’s an issue with permission to do X, then lay out the boundaries in advance and work out how they should let you know. If they’ve forgotten Y – well, consequences are good teaching tools.

    I do volunteer work with 12 – 15 year olds, and by the time they finish the program, they are expected to plan a weekend camping trip (or equivalent event) on their own, and carry it out as the leader of other girls. (Adults attend, but only in case of true emergencies – it’s basically a weekend of relaxation for us). Teenagers are capable of a lot, if you let them be.

    1. Anonymous*

      THIS! My sister and I were latchkey kids from the time I was 10 and she was 13. We walked home from school and were expected to watch ourselves until Mom got home at 5 p.m. The only time we were allowed to call her was in a true emergency “if you are bleeding” was the phrase of choice. Even in that case we would have been better off calling 911 or asking the neighbors for help since we lived 20 miles from her work.

      Anything else we were responsible for ourselves, making snacks, etc. If we wanted to do something in our small town after school, that was fine. We were responsible for leaving a note with where we were going and what time we would be back as well as the phone number there. We were also responsible for calling and leaving a message on the answering machine if our plans changed.

      I may be a Millenial, but my parents don’t helicopter.

      I’m now the mother of a toddler and in the 7 months I’ve been in my job, I’ve had to take 5 TOTAL phone calls from home (all related to her being sick enough to go to the doctor). Most things can wait.

    2. Jamie*

      I was also struck by the number of calls. That’s a lot – I can count on one hand the number of actual emergency calls (school nurse, etc.) I got in a year.

      My personal calls aren’t monitored but if mine were doing this I’d put a stop to it because the interruptions would annoy me. I guess I treat my kids like I treat my end users when I’m off hours. I want to be called during an emergency and I’ll drop what I’m doing to help, but they need to understand the definition of emergency.

      Whether the micromanaging is warranted, probably not (unless working reception) but I can see how the consistency and frequency could lead to the perception that you’re always on the phone with family…and regardless of how much actual time it’s taking perception is everything.

      1. KarenT*

        I agree–I just don’t understand the frequency of the phone calls. 2-3 calls a day is a lot of interruptions.
        I don’t think the time matters much (5-10 minutes shouldn’t register as a problem) but it doesn’t sound to me like the OP is handling it very well. Interrupting your manager during training to take a phone call? That’s a bit much. It sounds like the OP is being unapologetic, as she is approaching it like “how dare my manager monitor this stuff,” instead of, “how can I reduce the frequency of these calls?” I’m reading between the lines here, but the OP is coming off to me as difficult.
        OP, do you have someone that can help with these phone calls? (Grandma? A partner? The oldest sibling?) I get true emergencies, but those should be a couple a year, not a couple a day.

  13. Anon*

    I agree with everything AAM said. Especially the bit about “she doesn’t have kids”. And if you’ve never been in a job where your time was monitored this closely then I can understand how you probably were spoiled by that freedom. Do what AAM said and see what happens.

    All of that being said, if I was training/instructing one of my staff about something and the cell rang and it was the school, I would never in a million years think of reacting the way your manager reacted. And to be honest, as long as you were getting all your work done and your clients/customers didn’t have any interruption in service (if you were in a receptionist type position), then I wouldn’t care if you did get 2-3 calls a day.

    Do your kids need to back off and text you stuff instead of call? Probably. Can Dad pick up some of the slack of the calls? My mom always worked farther away than my dad and so he was always the “sick pick up” person for my sister and I. Do you need to sit down and explain what actual emergencies are to your kids vs teenage world emergencies? Absolutely.

    1. tesyaa*

      I know. I’m wondering what they’re calling about. Broken down car is one thing, wondering what’s for dinner is another.

      1. Anon*

        I always knew what was for dinner because from age 12 on, my sister and I were responsible for cooking it before/as my parents were getting home. And doing laundry. And our homework. And. And And. Put those kids to work.

        1. Andrea*

          No kidding; this was my first thought, too. My parents have always been self-employed (they owned several businesses but didn’t run them; my mom was a homemaker for most of my childhood, though). They were always busy and they volunteered at our schools and such, but they were also around the house with us a lot. Regardless, my sister and I both had a lot of chores. We learned to do laundry when we were 6—Mom made a chart with instructions and posted them on the washer, and every day after school, we had to wash a load of laundry and fold it and put it away. We also had to vacuum, dust, help with dinner, clean the bathrooms, work in the yard, wash dishes, etc., etc.—we had something like that every day. In addition to homework and taking care of our dog and making our beds and keeping our rooms tidy. I mean, I didn’t love it, and I had to do more than my friends did. But a parent’s job is to raise productive, responsible, considerate adults, not people who can’t do anything without calling Mom. If your kids are really calling you that much, OP, then they need more chores to keep them busy. There are always things to be done. Don’t you have a basement or garage that needs to be cleaned out and organized? Are all of your leaves raked and bagged? And if they’re getting good grades and doing their homework, then they can also get after-school/weekend jobs and earn some spending money. But teens who call mom 2-3 times per day, even just for a minute or two each time, are not teens who are going to grow up to be productive, self-sufficient adults with strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Give them work to do and force them to figure out their own problems.

          1. Elizabeth West*


            Not only do the kids pitch in and help the family, but they learn how to take care of their space before they go out on their own. As I’m fond of telling the kids I know, nobody likes to visit someone whose house/apartment/dorm room is a smelly pigsty. And that goes double for boyfriends/girlfriends.

            1. Kate*

              Heh. My parents tried to give us chores but I moped about it so much that they eventually gave up. Now my apartment is perpetually dusty. But I think otherwise I turned out ok!

          2. TL*

            Depending on the school system/after school activities they’re involved in, the kids may not actually have a lot of time for chores. I was at school from 6:30 until 5 many days and busy nearly every Saturday, all day Saturday. Had my school challenged me academically, I would have had absolutely no time anything not school-related.

            Or they may be doing a lot of chores already and just calling anyways.

        2. Kou*

          You know, the people I’ve worked with whose kids were the most demanding of their time were the people who were also demanding of their kids’ time. The teenagers (or younger, but usually older) have to call for permission and with updates and etc because they’ll catch hell for it if they only update mom/dad when s/he gets home or make decisions on their own. That or they get angry at the kids for things out of their control, even if they handled it well. If you don’t give your kids any autonomy or you’re excessively judgmental about how they handle things on their own, of course they’re going to ask what you want every time something comes up.

          An example that comes to mind is a call that interrupted a meeting I had recently where dad forgot to pick up the teenage kids to take them to their extracurriculars, so they were calling mom to ask if they could take the bus. She said they weren’t allowed to take the bus because they were being whiny and rude, and it was their fault for letting dad forget. This of course prompted repeat followup calls and bargaining from the kids, and that was the end of that meeting. To my coworker, that’s just how things are and there’s no way around it. To me, she threw gasoline on what could have been a small fire.

          Similarly, if the kids have problems and can’t call dad, why is that? Is he less available, or is it somehow considered mom’s job because she stayed at home before?

          In any case, balance at home here is off and it’s skewed unfairly toward the OP being hyper-responsible for everyone. Whether she created that herself or not, only she can set it straight.

  14. Marmite*

    I have one of those jobs where I can’t be contacted directly in an emergency, someone from my office has to relay outside calls to me (I have a company mobile phone but, for complicated reasons, it’s number changes so I can’t give out a number for people to call). I also have a toddler. We recently moved and he switched to a new nursery school.

    Turns out new nursery are big on calling parents for minor issues, or non-emergency issues that could, in my opinion, wait until pick-up (kid didn’t eat much at lunch, or kid fell over and scraped up his knee). Someone in my office had to route these calls to me, out in the field, every time. It wasn’t 2-3 times a day, but it was more than once a week.

    My concern, aside from this being irritating for the person having to get the call put through to me, was that in a genuine emergency I (or the person in the office) would ignore the call, because, geez stop with the calling already!

    I spoke to the nursery and asked them not to call as much. They weren’t particularly willing to do that, so we compromised on providing grandma’s number (she lives over 100 miles away but can at least answer the phone and tell them that, yes, they may put a plaster on my son’s slightly scraped up knee) for non-emergencies.

    I also spoke to my female, not-a-parent manager and apologised for the crazy kid-related call volume. She was very understanding but happy to hear I was working on a solution.

    So, the point to this ramble:
    1) See if you can redirect non-emergency calls from your kids. Maybe Dad can take some? Maybe a grandparent or other relative? Spell out what constitutes emergency so they know when it is okay to call.

    2) Don’t assume your boss can’t understand because she doesn’t have kids, and let her know you are working on a solution. Even if it takes a week or two for your kids to get the message to stop calling, your boss will at least know you’re aware of the problem and working on fixing it.

  15. Lily in NYC*

    Honestly, your kids are calling you too much. I don’t take my phone out of my purse during the day – it sits locked away in my desk. Your manager is being jerky, but a child that is old enough to drive needs to learn how to get by without calling mulitple times a day. Our big boss’ assistant is always texting/talking on her cell with her kids and it’s obvious the boss hates it – but she chooses to ignore his wishes and then wonders why he is nicer to his other admin. Seriously, tell your family to only email unless it is a real emergency. If you are married, how often do they call your partner every day?

    1. Colette*

      That’s just it – this kind of thing affects people’s opinions of you, even if they don’t directly let you know about it.

      I have coworkers who take multiple personal calls from their kids every day. Their manager hasn’t said anything to them (as far as I know) but it definitely affects my opinion of their professionalism.

    2. PJ*

      Try this — turn your phone off and leave it in your desk, and check it only on breaks and lunch. Give the school your work number for true emergencies. Tell your kids the new rules, and teach them what must be dealt with during the day and what can wait until you get home from work. If they “forgot” to mention something and need an immediate response from you, make them deal with the consequences of forgetting. Give them other resources to call — i.e., emergency road service. IMO, a kid who drives should know what to do if a breakdown occurs.

      I think you hit the nail on the head — you’ve been available to them for a very long time, and now you’re not. Calling you for things is just a habit, and it can be changed. Good luck to you.

      1. Ashley*

        “If they “forgot” to mention something and need an immediate response from you, make them deal with the consequences of forgetting. ”

        Love this. This is a great point.

        1. tcookson*

          Yes, you have to get comfortable with letting the kids deal with consequences of forgetting things. I rarely take anything to school for my kids; they have a morning routine for a reason.

          Just last week I saw that my son had left his trombone at home and I almost took it to the school for him on my way to work (I could have done it without being more than 10 – 15 minutes late, and nobody would have cared). But I made myself not do it, because I want him to learn how to remember all his stuff. I just said to myself, “Well, I guess he’s getting in trouble by the band director today,” and went on about my business.

          I’ve also long ago quit taking forgotten lunches to the school for them. Once they learned that they would be hungry if they didn’t pack a lunch, they started making that a daily priority.

    3. Michele*

      I agree. My old managers child called twice a day to let her know that he was walking home from school and when he arrived at home. He was 11 years old at the time and living in NYC/Brooklyn. Sometimes he would call more often and it was usually to ask permission to use the toaster oven. She was a single mom that had absolutely no help so we absolutely cut her some slack when he would call.

      1. doreen*

        This has nothing to do with the manager not having kids- and to be perfectly honest, the OP might be worse off if she did. I actually hear childless coworkers/supervisors excusing someone because “She’s got kids” far more often than I hear it from other parents

        I have kids, who traveled to and from school in NYC by public transportation. They probably didn’t call me at work three times a year- and they couldn’t text because I wasn’ t allowed a cell phone at work. Did I want to make sure they got home from school? Yes, which is why I called them from my office phone, just like my mother did in prehistoric days. Making the call has three advantages- 1) there’s no cell phone ringing to alert the entire office that I’m on a personal call 2) nobody ( I hope) would ever interrupt their supervisor to make this call 3) I’m not going to call them back in 10 minutes to tell them what’s for dinner, give permission to go to the mall etc. If they didn’t ask those questions when I called, they ‘d have to wait until I got home for the answer.

        1. Zillah*

          I traveled to and from school in NYC by public transportation, too, from when I was 11 to when I was 19. I grew up there. And I would like to point out that what is reasonable depends a lot on the time period and what neighborhood(s) you’re talking about. I’m not sure about Michele’s manager, but if you were in that situation in the era of cell phones, the city had already begun to get much safer.

          Regardless, I don’t think a quick phone call to tell your parent that you’ve made it home safe when you’re eleven is unreasonable or coddling.

          1. doreen*

            No, a phone call is absolutely not unreasonable. And it’s much safer now than it was when I was a kid. But a call on a cell phone draws more attention than a call on an office phone and making the call yourself around 3:30 (or whenever the kid gets home) means your phone won’t ring when you’re talking to the manager, in the restroom

            ( BTW I don’t know how this comment ended up here- it’s not a reply to Michele, I hadn’t even seen her comment before I wrote mine)

    4. JuliB*

      I’m a consultant and we travel a lot. I’ve heard catty comments about the frequency of phone calls rec’d from spouses. We had one guy (very good at his job) who would talk to his wife 2-3 times a day. Granted, we work long hours, but it seemed excessive.

  16. KinKS*

    Thank you, Alison, for tackling the “She doesn’t have kids, so she doesn’t understand” point. This is infuriating when a parent uses this excuse. I’m sorry, but parent or not, everyone should be held to the same standard (Whether or not they’re allowed to take personal calls, for example). As someone who is child-free, seeing the parent-centric attitude is really maddening. Please – accept your choices in life, and if they conflict with your job, then make changes in one area to accommodate. Don’t expect others to accommodate you just because you have kids.

    1. toeswiggle*

      I agree could you imagine if someone without kids was taking calls from their boyfriend or parents or someone else it would drive the “parent” in that office crazy. I don’t have kids and I was a teacher for a few years before I transitioned into business where I learned to manage 25-30 kids I stopped because the parents were harder to work with.

        1. Frieda*

          Exactly. Notice the F in FMLA–it’s not Parents Medical Leave, it’s Family. People without children still have older parents that may need care (either daily or just to have someone drive them to an appointment), partners who have emergencies that need to be dealt with, dogs that get hit by a car and need to go to the vet right away. There is nothing anti-parent about favoring a leave policy that allows people flexibility to take care of personal things, whether it be a sick child or a mental health day.

      1. KinKS*

        I oppose leave intended just for parents. If parents get the leave, then so should non-parents. And, it shouldn’t be made an issue of when non-parents choose to take such leave. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Parent and Non-Parents should be held to the same standards and should enjoy the same benefits regardless of their status… Don’t get me started on the “I have kids, so I get preference when it comes to vacation time” argument, either… oy!

        1. tcookson*

          I don’t think it’s fair, either. At my workplace, we get 8 hours a year for “Kids’ Educational Activities” (which can include parent/teacher conferences, recitals, etc. but specifically excludes sports activities).

          Anyway, I have two kids, so I use it. But I think it would be more egalitarian to make it 8 hours for educational or charitable activities. Then people could use it for parent/teacher conferences, to go volunteer at the animal shelter, or do some other qualifying activity independent of whether they have children.

          1. fposte*

            It might be law, not company policy; my state (Illinois) mandates 8 hours leave for school visitation, and I don’t think it’s the only one.

            1. tcookson*

              I bet it is law, since we are a state university; I hadn’t thought of that. I just thought it didn’t seem quite right that there is the whole extra 8 hours that only parents are getting.

      2. Oh, parental leave*

        Can’t help but chime in here. I don’t oppose parental leave, but I don’t think the standard expectation of other employees having to pick up a coworker’s slack is fair. Having a baby is a personal decision, and I don’t want my work life to be hugely impacted by someone else’s personal choice. To me, added work caused by a coworker going on parental leave is no better than a coworker saying, “OK, guys! I’m going backpacking through Europe for a few months. Have fun doing my job for me!” I know folks get testy when people compare maternity leave to vacation, but on my side, the impact is the same (more work). It’s pretty inconsequential to me what you are doing with your time off. It’s especially annoying in situations where parental leave is paid, yet the coworkers working overtime to absorb the lost capacity get nothing in return. For the record, I feel completely different about pitching in during unexpected family emergencies, etc. The difference being, having a baby is an (often planned) choice while emergencies are unexpected and out of the coworkers’ control.

        1. Anonymous*

          Don’t most workplaces hire a replacement for the year? I see tons of job postings that are one year maternity leave positions.

          1. Marcy*

            Mine doesn’t. I just dealt with a 6 month maternity leave and another coworker and I were left with all of the work. And we are exempt so no pay for overtime. It sucked. Our job requires a certain college degree and a lot of experience so we can’t just hire a temp for 6 months.

        2. new dad*

          If there’s too much work and not enough people, that’s on the office for not hiring help in the meantime. Unless you think women should quit their jobs if they aren’t planning to come back the day after they’re done with labor?

          1. fposte*

            While I don’t buy the backpacking/maternity leave comparison, I will say that offices can’t always afford to hire a replacement while somebody’s out with maternity leave, especially if it’s paid leave.

            1. new dad*

              Lots of offices don’t hire people when someone leaves these days, regardless of whether that person’s coming back. Nobody blames the person who left for leaving, though.

            2. Oh, parental leave*

              In my opinion, if an employer can’t pay for a replacement, it should give unpaid maternity leave and use the saved wages to provide additional compensation to the employees picking up the slack.

          2. Oh, parental leave*

            Agreed. It’s the office’s responsibility to find interim coverage. And if it can’t/won’t, it should give unpaid maternity leave and use the saved wages to provide additional compensation to the employees who are left filling in.

            1. Kat*

              I’m late to this so I’m sure no one will really see it unless you subscribed to replies. But, I’m not sure I agree with this line of thinking. First of all, at least in the US, maternity leaves aren’t always paid, and if they are, it’s with stored vacation and sick time. Secondly, giving birth requires physical recovery time, especially in the case of a C-section. There are many reasons co-workers can be out for months or weeks at a time, and you as their co-worker need to step up and cover their duties. At least with maternity (or paternity) leaves, there is typically advanced notice unless there is an emergency. If your management can’t work with a new parent to minimize the burden on their team members, the problem isn’t the policy, it’s the way the manager enacted the policy.

              And quite honestly, in an office setting we are all going to have to step up and work harder to cover for each other during different times whether its maternity leave, extended sick time to deal with illnesses in the family (or yourself), extended vacations, or simply someone leaving a position and it not being filled immediately. Seeing it as a burden instead of an opportunity to grow your skills and show off what you are capable of seems like a waste of energy to me. You can use that experience and those skills to leverage for a promotion or raise once you’ve proved successful. Some of the best accomplishment I put on my resume came from having to meet stretch goals because of a maternity leave.

              I’ve had colleagues leave for large periods of time for many reason: 6 months to thru hike the Appalachian trail, a year to bike across America, and one was given an open ended as much time as need to recover from cancer. These have all be much longer and more disruptive than the 6 weeks for maternity my colleagues get after having a baby.

        3. aebhel*

          That sounds like a problem with the company’s management. And, you know, it’s a legitimate reason to be pissed off, but taking that out on the woman giving birth instead of the managers who can’t be bothered to hire a temporary replacement seems kind of misdirected. Unless you’re going to go down the road of ‘nobody should ever have kids’ and/or ‘women should quit their jobs when they get pregnant’, it’s not a problem that expectant mothers can actually solve. That’s on the employer.

          Also, I’ve never even met someone who got actual paid maternity leave–as opposed to, you know, using their own accumulated sick time/vacation, which is theirs to use as they please.

  17. Lillie Lane*

    Wow, I remember when I was in school and the only phone we could access was one pay phone. I think parents today really need to think long and hard how coddling can affect their kids. I can see the occasional sickness or car problem, but more than 2-3 problems a day? Teach your kids to use common sense and work out their own problems.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Exactly what I was thinking. Cell phones have transformed the way people interact. In the old days when you had to hunt down a pay phone and correct change when out of the house. I bet there were a lot less phone calls to mom.

      My mom was a teacher and a mother of 3 kids. We never called her while at work and my dad never called her either. My dad rarely got calls from us or her at work. So the idea that a parent or mother **needs** to take 2-3 calls a day is a fallacy.

      She can train her kids by not answers their calls like she has been. She can then check voice mail for the message and presumably ignore most of their requests until she has a break or leaves at the end of the day. Also train them that they won’t get immediate permission for things during the work day. If they want permission to do something after school they have to ask the night before.

      I really feel the LW is letting the “always available” cell phone culture drive her thinking, and that she and her supervisor are equally unreasonable here.

      1. The RO-Cat*

        Well (just for the sake of conversation, since I agree with part of what you said), “in the old days” people would walk or take a horse wagon to get from here to over there; they would hunt down and kill dinner; and men would sip their bourbon and smoke a pipe while women would get busy with dinner, serve it and then retire to let men talk… well… manly matters (a hyperbole, of course, but still…).

        The ways of the old days are long gone, and “people did that and survived so why don’t we all do it today too” is a fallacy in and of itself. Cell phones, internet, tablets, Android and iOs… all these have created a new reality, where 2-3 calls are like… nothing, really.

        Do we, parents, need to teach our kids to be self-sufficient? Of course. Do we all succeed at it? Not really, no. Is it our boss’s business? No way.

        OP’s boss should talk work shortcomings, if any. Otherways, Not Their Business.

        1. fposte*

          Generally I’d be with you on that, but I think this sounds like the calls are disruptive, and in the situations other commenters are describing they’re clearly disrupting co-workers. I also think managers are allowed to value presence and availability, so long as they make that clear, and not just the hours at the office address. As I’ve said, there are definitely positions I supervise where this would be a problem.

          My underlying concern as a manager would be with what sounds like the LW’s belief that the family call will *always* trump the work in front of her. That’s not a philosophy that all employers are going to be on board with, and I think that’s valid–if you’re being paid to be there doing your job, I think your work gets to object to being made a lower priority on their dime.

          1. The RO-Cat*

            Well, we don’t disagree that much. It’s not the calls per se that should be the focus of a manager, but their consequences on the quantity and quality of the work. If any. In this letter what could raise my eyebrows would be taking a call while in a conversation with the manager. Except that the school calling is not really nothing, I presume.

            All in all, OP maybe should start teaching their kids to call less (this takes time and patience…). But I tend to think OP’s boss has way more learning to do (people skills and all that) then the three teenagers put together.

      2. Kacie*

        I had two teacher parents, and each worked well over an hour away. I never called them while they were at school. I don’t even remember having an emergency to call them about.

        My neighbor had parents that owned their own business. I remember when she got a car phone in high school. She talked to them multiple times a day. It was such a different culture to me then, but it’s certainly the norm now.

    2. Elysian*

      I was thinking this, too. Even if I was at home when my parents were at work, I would have been horrified to call them away for something like “What are we having for dinner?” It would have meant that my mom or dad would have to be paged and would have had to leave their work post to go use the phone. I know that cell phones are everywhere now, but I think we might need a “National Cell Phone Holiday” or something so that everyone can remember how things were done before we were all constantly available.

    3. Kevin*

      Another situation is that she micromanages her kids. I have a co-worker who gets a couple calls a day from her kids but it’s because she required them to call her about everything. I’m pretty sure the children would love to not call her so much.

      1. Hooptie*

        Yes, as I was reading the OP’s letter the words ‘helicopter parent’ floated through my mind over and over again.

      2. Jennifer*

        Hah, I used to work with a woman who phone-stalked her kid after school every day. God forbid the kid go to the bathroom or take a nap and sleep through the phone ringing, or mom would start calling everyone she knew looking for her.

        Extra added bonus: no cell reception in our building, she didn’t have her own phone line as a temp, and she was doing this on a coworker’s phone for hours a day.

    4. tcookson*

      Really. Even when I am at home, I spend a lot of time telling my kids to “figure it out!” They don’t always like it, because they sometimes want to be told what to do without having to exert themselves, but I’m at the age (and they’re at the age) where I’m pulling back from so much doing for other people.

    5. Turanga Leela*

      Agreed. I’m always surprised when parents I know insist that their kids need their cell phones to get in touch with them. When I was in high school, not all that long ago, I used a pay phone if I had to leave my parents a message. (They usually couldn’t pick up the phone during work.) My mom gave me $20 for emergencies and told me to use good judgment.

      1. Anonymous*

        I let my daughter have her first cell phone when she was 15, because that was the age when she started doing way more running around with friends independent of adults. Until that point, she was always under the supervision of adults (parents, teachers, friends’ parents) who would meet her needs should anything happen. I’m doing the same with my son, who is 13 now; he won’t get a cell phone until he is of the age to start running around without adult supervision.

      2. Judy*

        The problem is there are not many pay phones any more. I was at my high school the other week, and when I was there in the 80s, there were two sets of pay phones, one near the front door and one back by the gym. I wasn’t in the gym area, but the 4 pay phones near the front hall had been removed some time ago.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Definitely a good point. In my friends’ situation, their kids had payphones in the school, but not all schools do. High schools in general have landlines available if there are emergencies, though (in the office or whatever).

  18. JoAnna*

    Can you ask your kids/the school to call the main work line, or even your manager’s work line, in an emergency instead of your cell? That way both you’ll both know if it’s an emergency situation, and you’ll know that any call that comes to your cell isn’t an emergency. Of course, you may need to make clear to your kids what is/is not an emergency.

    1. thenoiseinspace*

      With this manager, I feel like calling the main office line might make things worse, but on a similar line of thinking, can’t the kids just email and leave calls only for emergencies?

  19. Anon*

    My mom went back to work full time when I was 11 and my brother was 13. From that point through high school, we were alone after school each day. I think I probably called my mom a maximum of once per month at work, and that’s a high estimate. That was back before cell phones, so I would have had to call her front office, have her paged, and have her pulled away from work, so it was understood that this was just NOT DONE unless it was a true emergency. There were also times when she couldn’t step away, and would have to call me back when she had a chance – sometimes I would wait 5 minutes, and sometimes I would have to wait an hour or more. OP, I’m not trying to pick on you or your family, but I am guessing your kids are contacting you when they don’t really NEED to. As other posters have mentioned, I would start by trying to retrain your kids.

    The other point that stuck out to me was taking a call when your boss is standing there with you and you cut her off. Frankly, it seems dismissive to me and it would bother me if one of my employees handled it that way. Yes, it was important, but I think there’s a better way to approach it. To me, there’s a huge difference between telling your boss “Sorry, I have to take this call,” and “I’m so sorry – it’s my child’s school. Would you mind if I took this call – it might be important.” The first approach would bother me, especially in the context of a work-related discussion, and given the frequency of personal phone calls in this situation. Because you know she’s sensitive to this issue, I think you could do more to acknowledge this type of interruption during the work day – to my mind, asking if it’s okay to take a call that interrupts a conversation acknowledges that the person you’re talking to is also important.

  20. Lisa*

    You are encouraging these check-ins, and the the next call could put you out of a job. Do you want to be fired for answering these calls?
    – What’s for dinner?
    – I made it home from school
    – I’m going to Jane’s
    – Bob is hogging the remote, make him stop it.

    Set expectations with your kids.
    – Text me where you are at 2:30, but no need to respond back and forth
    – If you are hurt, bleeding, got arrested, any real emergency, then call me
    – Any sibling fights, should be worked out on their own or when you get home

    1. fposte*

      And also, make sure the kids *do* know what to do in the event of a breakdown. That doesn’t mean they’d never call you, but it’s a lot more empowering if they know how to call the relevant service.

        1. fposte*

          In fact, my initial response was assuming they had it, and I had to rewrite in case they didn’t. I wouldn’t have kids driving without a breakdown service.

          1. TL*

            I always say I had Triple B – three brothers who would come change my tires or pick me up. (I can change tires, mind you, but blow-outs always seem to happen when I’m in a skirt/nice clothes.) :)

          2. Lisa*

            This qualifies as an emergency where its ok to call your mom, 2-3 calls a day seems to be more about check-ins and asking questions that can wait.

            1. fposte*

              Not disagreeing, but this is also something that young drivers should really know for their own safety. I’m not even talking about how to change a tire–just who you call that can tow you/jumpstart the car/etc.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                It’s still good for them to know how, if they’re physically capable of changing the tire. That way, they don’t have to depend upon the friendly Ted Bundy clone who stopped to help.

                1. fposte*

                  I felt hypocritical saying that given that I’m not sure if I could do that any more :-). But I could definitely call AAA.

                2. tcookson*

                  My grandpa made me learn to change a tire as part of my driving lessons. I had to prove that I could do it to — there were demonstrations at least a couple of times. I haven’t done it since then, but I bet I still could if I had to.

              2. Editor*

                Plus, if a child has the AAA or some other road service membership that works similarly, the child can call even if they’re the passenger. Having AAA service in college helped my daughter several times when a friend’s clunker broke down.

                Plus, I think anyone has better self-esteem if they can take care of themselves, as someone upthread pointed out. Teach skills and make the kids use them.

      1. Amber*

        I backed into a ditch out in the country the other day, and I tried to call my mom/house first; no one answered… I was just about to get the Costco Auto Club on the phone when someone with a truck drove by and pulled me out, haha. But I definitely know that I have options!

  21. Nodumbunny*

    I just want to weigh in because 1) I am also the mother of 3 teens. I work from home now, but worked outside the home for years. My kids are definitely trained to call me whenever they need anything, and I would absolutely have to re-train them if I were to return to a full-time job. Sometimes even now I push back because really? “I’m not a servant” has come out of my mouth on more than one occasion. As an aside, my kids don’t call their dad because a) I’m available and b) he’s always crazy busy, but if I were to go back to work he’d have to pick up some of the slack and I’m wondering if that’s an option for you too.

    2) I just realized my husband (the same busy guy) is managing me! I call when I have something I need to ask, emergency or not. If he can’t answer he usually tries to text me – “in a meeting, what’s up?” If it is really an emergency and he doesn’t text me, I call a couple times in a row and he knows to step out of his meeting (if at all possible) and call me back.

    Alison’s answer is good – this calls for some give on both your manager’s part and your part.

  22. Anon Accountant*

    Alison covered my thoughts exactly on this matter. I think the OP’s boss is being a bit ridiculous about the 1 minute over on breaks but I can see where she is trying to reign in the personal calls.

    A coworker recently resigned after receiving many warnings about her personal calls and texts. She got an average of 7 phone calls plus many text messages per day from her 20-something kids and her husband. The office is small and very open so noises echoed throughout. To say it was distracting is an understatement.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I should elaborate. The calls were at least 15 minutes long each. If they were short calls and her work was getting completed, the management probably wouldn’t have had issue with it.

      But her work wasn’t getting completed so management took action.

  23. toeswiggle*

    This sounds like a great opportunity to teach your kids how to be independent, critically think, and problem solve. There was a generation before this one where cell phones didn’t exist and they grew up to think for themselves and guess what they survived. Those one minute calls are more than that, the time it takes to walk away hear the problem and give advice and then get back to work is more than one minute. If the answer is one minute then it’s probably not worth calling about. It sounds like the mom has some co-dependency and can’t let her kids make decisions without her. It’s prbably nice to be wanted in a world where kids are into technology and not parents.

    1. Cruella Da Boss*

      I was thinking this too. I will never understand “helicopter parenting.” How are we supposed to equip our children to be out on their own? I have had to teach my kids how to resolve issues on their own, and not call me or my husband at work, unless it is extremely important. Important like, someone must be bleeding, or the house must be burning down.

      As I have mentioned before, I have 4 children, one of which has Asperger’s. They all display pretty good common sense, but my Aspie has some difficulty determining what might be considered enough of an emergency. While the “don’t call me unless someone is bleeding,” works great for his siblings, HE would not call if the house was burning down, simply because no one was bleeding. But he’s learning to think for himself, and that is what matters.

  24. PuppyKat*

    My first thought was: Where’s the father/partner in all this? Perhaps his/her job is more flexible.

    I think the OP should have a talk with the father/partner and work out a deal that the kids call them first. *Then* I would have the talk with the manager and say, “This is what I’ve worked out at home. Can we come to a reasonable agreement here at work that takes into account my new plan at home?”

  25. Thebe*

    Plus, when you get so many calls from your children a day, you don’t build up any goodwill. I go weeks without a call from a child. So when my 9-year-old son called from the school one morning wanting a website password so he could retrieve his homework from the cloud (what happened to writing on paper? he could use the practice), I didn’t feel bad painstakingly spelling out the ridiculously complicated password over the phone. My boss was amused, actually. But he wouldn’t have been amused if I’d been fielding 2-3 calls a day.

  26. TL*

    So my mom had 4 teenagers at one point. My parents are self-employed, so we could call whenever we wanted with no repercussions – but it would have been very unusual for her to get 2-3 family calls a day.

    Not to be judge-y, just to say that I don’t think 3 teenagers necessitates that many calls on a daily basis. (There were probably days where we had 2 or 3 minor emergencies happen but they were the exception, not the rule.)

  27. Aisling*

    My parents both worked when I was a kid, and my three sisters and I could only call one of them if – to quote my mom – we were “dead or dying, or the house was on fire.” We got into so much trouble if we tried otherwise! And this was when my mom went back to work after being a stay at home mom for ten years. We learned.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Same here. The kids are calling so often, because no one has told them it’s not OK. Or, OP told them, but there aren’t any consequences.

    2. Natalie*

      In my field we have a similar saying about emergencies – they have to involve blood, fire, or substantial amounts of water where it doesn’t belong.

    3. Anon*

      This! In fact, one day my teenage brother actually did light himself on fire trying to burn weeds near our house. It was terrifying, but we still didn’t call my parents. He threatened me not to tell them because he didn’t want them to know it happened! Since he wasn’t dying, dead, and we hadn’t lit the house on fire, it was years before either of us mentioned it!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        When my mom went back to work with my dad (they owned a store in our town), we were told not to call unless it was an emergency. Until we were a little older, we had a babysitter (she saved two of us from choking on two separate occasions). After we got older, she only stayed with us overnight if my parents had to go out of town.

        We had the option of either riding the bus home to our house out in the country and letting ourselves in, or we could walk uptown from the school and wait until closing to go home with them. I often took the second option so I could go to the library. ;)

        We usually managed to amuse ourselves (building haunted houses in the hallway, playing in the barn and the woods), but there were two emergencies I can remember. One was mine, and I wasn’t present for the other. The first was me–I let the parakeet out to play in the family room, and the phone rang. I ran into the freshly-mopped kitchen to answer it, slipped, fell, and my foot hit a little glass bowl on the floor we used to feed the kitties treats (no, it wasn’t supposed to be there!). I cut myself so badly I can’t even tell you. Luckily, my mom was on the phone and I was able to tell her I was hurt, grab a towel, and put pressure on it until she got there.

        The second happened toward the end of my first year at college. My sister and brother were messing around in the woods and my sister fell and broke her arm horribly. My little brother dragged her all the way back up to the house (she was in shock) and called my mom. So we were pretty self-sufficient and resourceful. We had to be.

        Sorry if I gave any parents nightmares; I know if I have kids (hope), I’m going to remember those instances and make sure they know what to do if something like that happens.

      2. Bea W*

        My brother and sister were the only ones home when one of the upstairs toilets cracked and sent water spraying everywhere. My mother came home to the two of them dressed in raincoats and holding umbrellas while it rained from the ceiling. My brother and sister were 13 and 10 at the time.

        TBH, I was 16 and not sure what I would have done had I been home except maybe remove myself from the rainy part of the house. My mother never thought we’d have to know what to do in case of ” substantial amounts of water where it doesn’t belong”, so she never left instructions for that!


    I cut and pasted your recommended reply to her manager. I was written up for not adhering to the working hours. To preface this next part: this company was a family ran company with a very very small company culture. My other co-workers either do not have children or their children are grown. I have a teen, a pre-teen, and a toddler. Now for the explanation: Our hours are 9am to 5:30pm. I am always in the office by 8:30am or before. When the children are off of school, I let them stay home with their older teenage sister and I take advantage of this opportunity to come into work an hour or 1 1/2 hours early. I have worked through my lunch break, then have stayed 15 minutes to an hour later. This is all when we are extremely busy. So why did I get written up you ask? I was written up because I did not stay till 9 – 9:30 pm like my other co-workers! Yes, I am still shocked about it. I pleaded my case that I have never missed a deadline nor have I lost a customer. I have looked for another job, but have not found one in this tight economy. It has been 3 years since and many other professionals have come and gone. I think the culture has changed a bit to accept whenever someone else works, it is indeed working ‘over’ the 40 hours. However, it still burns the bleep out of me!!!!

    1. Observer*

      Having kids doesn’t come into the picture, here, really. What your bosses are doing is probably illegal.

      Unless you are exempt (not likely), you have to be paid for EVERY hour you work. And, if you work over 40 hours, you MUST be paid overtime. And, you CANNOT waive your right to overtime.

      Oh, and in most jobs, you are REQUIRED to have a 1/2 hour break during any 6+ hour stretch of work (the break does not have to be paid for, though).

      If you are working 8:30-5:30 daily, you’ve already gone over by not taking lunch. And, even if you are taking a full hour, you are already working 40 hours. Are they ready to pay you extra for the extra “office hours”?

      These people are nuts. Keep looking for a different job.

      1. HR Comicsans*

        What the bosses are doing that the OP has addressed has nothing to do with what you are addressing.

        What is being addressed is legal- 100%

  29. Vicki*

    I’m having trouble understanding what kind of micro-managing relationship the OP has with her office manager that the o.m. even _knows_ that she’s stepped away from her desk for a short phone call (or a bathroom break, or a cup of coffee) 2 or 3 times a day.

    In 25+ years of corporate work, I can’t think of a time when anyone would have noticed if I stood up and walked away from my desk a few times a day.

    Doesn’t the o.m. have an office to manage?

    Oh, and the description of the o.m. as “good people”? She’s not. She’s controlling and she pays more attention to what the OP is doing than she should.

    1. fposte*

      I’d notice it for the positions where staffing the desk is part of the job, and I’d certainly notice it if the answering the phone while talking to me happened.

    2. themmases*

      I don’t know, in a company that small I could picture them being in the same front office or in the same larger room that’s been broken up by cubicles or dividers. The OP also said she leaves her desk to take these calls, so she could be passing the office manager’s desk when she does that. If the OP fills any kind of reception role (which I suspect she does, at least part of the time, if she reports to an office manager in a tiny company) then her work calls could be going through to the manager if she steps away.

      Some offices/professions are also much more demanding of support staff IME. I don’t work in a “coverage” role, but my supervisor still has to field occasional whining if a particularly high-maintenance doctor tries to drop by while my coworker and I are both at lunch. This is the case even though we are in no way interchangeable and not really available for drop-in “I’ll be back for this in an hour” type tasks anyway (we support research). Lots of bosses would want to move that type of complaint back to the OP.

  30. tesyaa*

    I am slightly annoyed by the comments implying that parents should be treated exactly the same as non-parents in the workplace. I’d agree if it meant that EVERYONE was treated exactly the same in the workplace. No special remote arrangements for people with long commutes. No flexibility in hours for people who are traveling. No flexibility for people dealing with elderly parents or other family needs.No bump in pay for taking courses not directly related to job performance.

    The fact is, if parents get special treatment, it’s no different than an employer extending special treatment to any non-parent the firm wants to attract or retain. If a parent (who sometimes has to attend to family needs) is a desirable and needed employee, why shouldn’t he or she get special treatment in the form of enhanced flexibility? An employee (parent or non-parent) who is a desirable employee may get a higher salary than a person in a similar role who is less competent. Does anyone have a problem with that?

    1. TL*

      The problem is the perception that parents are given special treatment because they’re parents, without regards to their job performance.
      There have been plenty of examples on this blog where parents are granted flexibility that is not granted to others equally in need, because somehow parenthood trumps all; i.e., someone gets time off to take care of their kids but someone else doesn’t to take care of an elderly parent. Or parents get holidays off and non-parents are expected to work because it’s not as important to spend Christmas with your non-rugrat family.

      1. Anonymous*

        At my next job I think I might pretend to have a kid so I don’t have to work weekends and overnights and Christmas.

        1. Lisa*

          My co-workers with kids get to use the kid-excuse to get out of mandatory fun early. I give them the evil eye as they smirk / skip out of events that i have no ‘good’ excuse to get out of.

          1. Anonymous*

            Have you tried to just not agree to go to the “mandatory fun”? Just declined?

            And if so, what happened?

    2. Just a Reader*

      You actually did just make the case that parents and non-parents should be treated the same, if the company wants to retain them. The accommodations may be different but the motivation is the same.

      The idea that employees should be accommodated based on value and performance is smart. The parents vs. non parents dynamic sucks.

      1. tesyaa*

        A desirable parent employee might need flexibility. Everyone sees that, and some complain. A non-parent peer may get more money and less flexibility. That’s what he or she wants or needs. But no one sees the pay stub, so no one complains that the non-parent gets paid a lot.

        1. Lillie Lane*

          All of your arguments here revolve around the idea that parents may get more flexibility, but people without children often earn more money. In the places where I’ve worked, this is rarely the case (and I knew what my coworkers made). They, as parents, had more flexibility but made the same $$ as me, a childfree adult. That comes across as unfair.

          1. Marcy*

            I’ve even heard the “they have children to support” argument for the parent to have more flexibility AND more pay.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          A non-parent employee might want/need the flexibility as much as the parent employee. Kids aren’t the only reason people sometimes need to leave early, come in late, or take a phone call. What would be unfair is if the employer lets the parent do it because of the kid but won’t let the non-parent do it for whatever personal reason he/she has, because “you don’t have kids.”

          1. tesyaa*

            That would be unfair – and also not good business sense. Assume all things being equal, the company prefers not to offer flexibility. Why would the company offer the “benefit” of flexibility to a person (parent or non-parent) when they could get an identical person to do the same job without flexibility? Why do companies even offer flexibility, if they can get people to do the jobs on their preferred terms?

            Maybe the person asking for flexibility is valuable enough to command such a perk. Maybe the employees aren’t actually 100% identical in terms of work output. I assume companies are trying to maximize the bottom line, so if they are giving flexibility, there must be a reason.

          2. Jessica*

            I was the primary caregiver t0 my grandparents for several years, and I received no flexibility in my work situation for that. Those with kids were allowed much flexibility for a variety of situations that, when they were similar for me as a grandchild who was a primary caregiver for my grandparents, I was not allowed. I will always be a non-parent by choice, but I have been in the past and I likely will be again (with my own parents) a long-term primary caregiver for family members. There are often more doctor’s appointments and medication checking for those involved in elder care (not always, as I know from my work in child rehabilitative care), and in-home care is not always a possibility.

    3. fposte*

      Why would being treated equally mean that nobody got flexibility? Why couldn’t mean that everybody did?

      1. tesyaa*

        See below. Some people may need flexibility. Some may prefer a higher salary. In a perfect world, each person, parent or non-parent, could select the perk (including money) that they need most.

        I have a flexible job. I could make a lot more money in consulting but I wouldn’t have flexibility.

        1. fposte*

          But you haven’t identified the problem in everybody getting flexibility. You’ve just said some people may not like it as much–but it’s not about making sure people value equally what a workplace can provide.

          1. tesyaa*

            The workplace can provide many different things. My point is people have different needs and should be able to choose the job-related benefits they need most.

            I did not say everyone shouldn’t have flexibility. I didn’t really mean to imply everyone should be treated the same. It’s more the childfree complaining that everyone isn’t treated the same. So here goes:

            1 – parents may be earning less money in exchange for their flexible schedules. Unless you are in HR, you don’t know.

            2 – People shouldn’t be treated the same. People aren’t the same. In the end, two employees of identical merit in identical roles should get the same total compensation – composed of salary, H&W benefits, and less-tangibles such as flexibility. If the OP could take a small cut in salary in exchange for personal time for calls, and if the company could accommodate this, maybe she’d do so.

            1. Sophia*

              But you’re being imprecise about “parents” – men with kids tend to make more money. Women, especially single moms, do not.

            2. Kara*

              What are you basing the “childless people make more” thing on? I can think of a number of instances where parents were granted raises over childless people “because they have families to support.”

              1. tesyaa*

                I assume businesses are trying to make money and are acting rationally. If they truly grant someone more money for equal work, they must find that employee valuable enough to pay more to retain. Same with a perk like flexibility or telecommuting. Or maybe the work isn’t really equal.

                Companies are in business to make money, bottom line.

                1. Observer*

                  However, companies are run by people. And people don’t always act rationally.

                  If they did, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion – AAM would probably close down!

                2. A cita*

                  I assume businesses are trying to make money and are acting rationally.

                  Were you an economics major in college? Rational choice theory, maximizing one’s options for increased bottom line, etc…all very workable in the model. Until humans are added and screw the whole thing up. :)

                3. ellex42*

                  I worked for over a decade for a company where making money was not the bottom line. Maintaining the status quo, at all costs, was the bottom line.

            3. Marcy*

              There are two things wrong with your argument:
              1. You don’t have to be in HR to know someone’s salary. I can look up any and all of my co-workers salaries and I do not work in HR.
              2. You are assuming that the OP is an employee the office manager wants to retain. I disagree. The office manager has been very clear about her expectations and the fact that the OP is continuing the undesirable behavior. My guess is the manager is ready to give her the boot and hire someone who will do as they are asked. It sounds like this employee is a low-level employee and wouldn’t be all that hard to replace, therefore no real desire or need to retain her.

    4. Mike C.*

      Simply put, fecundity is not a moral value and folks like me are sick and tired of seeing it treated that way.

      I hate the fact that I’m not considered a “real adult” in many people’s eyes because I’ve been married for a year and my wife hasn’t had a litter of babies yet. I’m tired of the idea in some workplaces that people with “families to support” (where family always means a wife and kids and nothing else) get the better schedules, better projects and higher pay increases.

      Most of all, I’m tired of being called selfish, incomplete, indifferent the the needs of other human beings, “not living up to my manly duties”, which include fathering as many children as possible and keeping my family name alive and so on. That’s nothing compared to the shit my wife catches, because “she’ll just change her mind anyway” and until she does she’s not fulfilling her duty and highest calling as a woman. Sure, it’s “her body, her choice” until it becomes a matter of public judgement that she’s not a mother.

      So when someone comes along and says “if you don’t have kids you just don’t understand”, they’re punching the bruise. It’s incredibly aggravating as someone who is an endless cheerleader for public services to help parents out, parental leave laws, non-discrimination laws, public health, education and so on. I’ve never voted no on a school or parks levy and I support candidates with similar attitudes even when it does raise my own taxes.

      Starting to see the picture here?

      1. Just a Reader*

        What kind of company are you working for?

        I was married 10 years before having a baby this summer and I never faced anything like that. Adulthood isn’t tied to parenthood in the eyes of anyone I know.

        1. some1*

          I can’t speak for Mike C., but I’m an unmarried woman without kids who has gotten outright pity from co-workers when they find out.

          I’ve worked in Finance, government, publishing and retail. When I worked retail, I got the worst shifts and scheduled every holiday because “I didn’t have a family.”

          1. ellex42*

            I’ve gotten that treatment not just for not having kids, but also for not having a significant other.

            1. Bea W*

              Same, and it’s worse in some regions than others I think. It depends on the local and office culture.

            2. Jennifer*

              Hah, yeah. I’m assuming Mike C. lives in one of those states where being married-with-kids is the only way to be considered human.

          2. Liz in a library*

            I also can’t speak for anyone else, but as a married woman of baby-making age, I am *constantly* questioned about my child-having status, plans, and told that I’ll change my mind if I mention that I plan to be child free. By coworkers, friends, family, random people I might. It is a big society-wide thing, and it can be extremely frustrating.

            I’ve also been told that my reasons for needing flexibility, time off, and other workplace perks are less valid because I don’t have a family. I’m not sure what my husband, siblings, nephew, parents, elderly grandparent (for whom I was the primary caregiver for years) counted as…

            1. Andrea*

              For me, this is the best thing about getting older. I’m 35, and folks are starting to cool it with that crap. And I usually only got those questions from people who barely knew me or from idiots who would inadvertently reveal things about their lack of brain power by saying things like, “but having kids is just what people do!” My loved ones know and understand that I’m not interested in raising kids, and they don’t say stuff like that. But in the workplace, yeah, it sucked. Even at more progressive places! My husband worked for a very long time at a company that didn’t promote him because he didn’t have a family. Well, he did have a family–he had me and I had him, and we were and are a family of two. (He left that job, BTW, and they just couldn’t understand why. This was in 2010, and in a big city in the Midwest.)

            2. Just a Reader*

              I guess I got lucky. But then, I’ve also worked in places that were hostile to parents, so kids would have been detrimental.

          3. Kara*

            Ditto. I got it less in NYC because people tend to put off marriage and kids for longer, so being 30 and single isn’t odd at all. I work in the suburbs of another northeastern city now (live in the city itself) and I have a number of coworkers who think adult = married parent, no exceptions. One coworker is engaged with no plans to have kids and people say “What about your husband?!” as though she made this decision unilaterally and out of spite.

            1. Mike C.*

              Yeah, I’ve gotten lots of “what about your wife?!” as well. I always love that tinge of implied spite too, as if I’m doing it to hurt my wife of all people.

              1. TL*

                I know some childfree women have gotten the phrase, “Well, if you won’t give him kids, he’ll find someone who will!”

                1. Jessica*

                  Or “What will you do when you meet a guy who wants kids?” Ummmmm, I won’t marry him? He certainly should find someone else if he wants kids, because I don’t want him if he wants kids. Why would I marry someone who was expecting me to do something I would hate doing? (By the way, men who don’t want kids aren’t some kind of magical unicorn. They exist! In the wild!)

                2. LPBB*

                  OMG, I have been dumped so many times because I don’t want kids. I learned to make it very clear early in the relationship!

                  It was actually a huge source of anxiety to me when my partner and I started dating. He would make some comment along the lines, “I always thought if I had kids, I’d do XYZ.” And then I would earnestly over-explain to him that I am not having kids and if he wants kids he needs to get out of this relationship NOW, because I am not changing my mind. Poor man, I think it may have taken two years for the message that he is A-OK with the idea of not having kids to sink in and for me to actually relax about it.

                3. Jessica*

                  I’ve never dated anyone who wanted kids for this reason, LPBB. It’s something that I’m so adamant about that it wasn’t even worth trying to start a relationship if it was remotely on the table for a guy. Luckily, my husband was my best friend for a couple of years before we even started dating, so it was all on the table anyway before the romantic part came into play.

          4. kelly*

            At last retail job, when I told people that I didn’t have kids and wasn’t in a relationship, I got the pity treatment. Current job in academia, it’s no big deal. My boss doesn’t have kids and only one co-worker has kids. I will admit to being grateful that I got first priority for using up vacation time because I had to use so many hours or lose them. I wouldn’t have gotten that kind of consideration at my last job. The people with families would have gotten first priority for time off, not the single adult living with her parents. It was frustrating getting scheduled more frequently for evenings and weekends because “I didn’t have a family”, even though I had more seniority than the people pulling the family card.

            I’ve known since I was a teenager that I don’t want kids because I don’t have the temperament to be a mother. People have told me that I’ll change my mind once “I grow up”. I still don’t want kids and I’m approaching 30. My parents are okay with it. They would love to have grandkids to spoil, but are willing to wait until I decide I want kids. I’ve been getting more subtle pressure from my dad’s sisters that I need to give him a grandchild and they have been informed that said scenario is probably not going to happen. He also told them to shut up because he is so far happy with the choices I’ve made and was happy I didn’t make him a grandfather before his 50th birthday and wouldn’t care if he didn’t have grandkids before 60.

            1. Jessica*

              I apparently announced that I wasn’t having kids to my own mother at the age of 7. I’ve never changed my mind on that, never vacillated, and I’m in my mid-30s. I think some people just know that they don’t want to, for whatever reason, and I don’t think it matters if they are 20 or 40: I believe them when they say they don’t want kids. When I told my parents that my now-husband and I weren’t having kids, my mom acted surprised that it was even being discussed, and she reminded me that I’ve always been very upfront with them about that. (A lot of other people assumed I had changed my mind because I was getting married, so I was just making sure I touched all bases to avoid all the awkward conversations from parents and siblings. Luckily, my parents have never pressured me to have children either.)

              1. A cita*

                The same for me. I knew and announced it when I was around that age as well…actually probably a couple of years younger. I’ve just always known. And my parents always believed me. Was never an issue with them and they’ve never expected me to have them.

                It’s other folks who didn’t take me seriously. Even better, they’re surprised how much I adore children and dote on theirs. Not wanting children does not mean not liking them. I like them just fine. It’s the whole parenting thing I’m not so keen on.

              2. Kara*

                One of my best friends has known she doesn’t want kids for as long as I’ve known her; we met when she was 16. She got married a few years ago and the number of people who assumed she’d change her mind now that she had a husband was baffling. She was like “Why would you think I’d marry some on who wants something I vehemently do not want?”

            2. ellex42*

              You “need” to “give” your dad a grandchild? Comments like that make me go, “Y’know, you make it sound like a child is equivalent to a table saw or an Ipad. A child is not a birthday present.”

              Kudos to your dad for having his priorities straight, though.

        2. TL*

          I hear “oh, you’ll change your mind one day” EVERY TIME I tell people I don’t want kids.

          Now, maybe I will, but I find it highly unlikely as my decision to not have kids is actually very well-thought out. And when people say that, I immediately want to get a tubal ligation. It is very irritating.

          1. ellex42*

            I just turned 39. For the last few years, I’ve been getting the “Time is running out” and “Your biological clock must be ticking really loudly” type of comments. I’ve even had a few people ask “How have you managed not to get pregnant?”

            For the first two comments, I figure if I haven’t heard my “biological clock” ticking by now, it’s well and truly dead. For the third…well, there’s this thing called birth control, and without a S.O., there’s this other thing called masturbation…it’s really quite easy.

            1. A cita*

              LOL! I’m early 40s, so people don’t make these comments any more about my child free life. Now they look at me with pity when they hear I’m unmarried and without children. I like the pity much more than the condescending accusations. I can milk pity. “Yeah…*sigh*…my life does look incomplete…*sigh*…is that last slice of cake for me?” :)

          2. Windchime*

            Back when I was a younger woman of child-bearing age, the doctor would ask you if your spouse agreed before they would perform elective sterilization. The doctor that I was seeing would actually refuse to do it if he felt you were too young.

            I’m amazed that I would go to a doctor like that, now. But back then, it was just the way it was.

            1. Jessica*

              Unfortunately, it’s still this way with some doctors in the United States (at least, as that’s where I am), especially in regard to women who want sterilization. Some doctors outright refuse to do it, no matter what, even if your spouse does agree. It’s easier to find a doctor who will approve a vasectomy than a tubal ligation for those who haven’t had children. (Ask me how I know…)

              1. Judy*

                I had to sign the paper before my husband’s “snip-snip”. This was when we were in our late 30s and had our 2 kids.

                1. Jessica*

                  I know several married men who have had a vasectomy in the past five years, and none of them had to have anything signed by their spouse and a consult with the spouse present was never done. They didn’t sign anything other than the regular surgical procedure papers, and the doctors only asked if they were sure they didn’t want any more children or any children (depending on the guy who was getting it done). There isn’t a law about it either way, and a physician can still require a consult with the spouse or a signed paper if he/she chooses to do so (and which does sometimes happen, depending on the doctor), but it’s not as common for this to happen for men as it is for women to just be denied the surgery, especially if she hasn’t had children.

                  Many physicians refuse outright to do one on any women under a certain age (depending on the physician, that may be under 30 or under 40), no matter parity/gravidity. I have two friends who have multiple children and were refused tubal ligations when they asked for them multiple times over multiple years. The physicians’ reason was simply that they were in their 20s or 30s and couldn’t know if they were done. Their husbands (also in their 20s or 30s) went in and had a vasectomy without any issues. This is or has been a problem in many countries, and some countries have now effected laws that require doctors to provide sterilizations to women who request it after a certain age (or a lower age combined with a certain parity, such as two or three births) after multiple consultations.

                  Yes, spouse approval can be required no matter what, and I agree spouses should know when sterilization is going to happen to the other (maybe not to the extent of requiring a signature), but how many children you have should have no bearing on the outcome.

              2. Kara*

                The friend I mentioned up thread has been trying to have her tubes tied since she was 22; no one will do it.

                1. Andrea*

                  This happened to me, too. I just got a Mirena IUD instead; I’m on my second one and I love it because I don’t have a period at all. But even IUDs were not considered an option for women who have never been pregnant until fairly recently, and I had a hard time finding a doctor who would agree to insert one (back in 2005, in the Midwest). (And of course this method isn’t an option for all women.) We decided that my husband should get a vasectomy, too, because no one is more careful with birth control than the childfree (especially those who live in areas where it would be nearly impossible to deal with an accident), and I had to sign a permission slip for him and attend a little informational pre-surgery session with him (I would have done that, anyway, but the permission slip thing was ridiculous).

          3. Bess*

            The “have you changed your mind yet?” comment from people with children to people without is a joke in my family. My husband’s and my reaction is always “have you changed YOUR mind yet?” We both have a tendency to mutter that whenever we’re out in public and hear a small child screaming or crying.

        3. Mike C.*

          My current job isn’t like that, but I (and as you see many others here) have had those in the past.

          1. Lillie Lane*

            My [awful] boss constantly gossips to others that my husband and I are “weird” for not wanting kids and wonders aloud “what’s wrong with us”. Ugh. His kids are holy terrors.

        4. Marcy*

          You must not get out much or you have been really lucky to know only the people you know. I hear the same stuff all of the time. I even endured a lecture from a taxi driver once because I stupidly answered honestly to his question of do I have kids.

      2. Jean*

        Thanks for all of your pro-family words and deeds. It’s awful that so many parents in your workplace don’t know how to be polite. There are in fact MANY ways to be an adult…and not all of them involve siring, birthing, or adopting small people. (Not to mention that the mere fact of having done any of the above doesn’t guarantee 100% instant maturity.) I hope you and your wife eventually find a community and a workplace that values your pro-family disposition and your basically cheerful outlook.

        1. Mike C.*

          I wasn’t clear about this, but I was speaking more about society in general. Friends, family, work, all together. My current workplace is generally pretty cool, luckily.

    5. BCW*

      The problem is that the parents use their kids as a reason for more flexibility. Its not just “I’d like to have a flexible schedule”, its “My kids have all these needs and activities, so can I leave early these days every week to deal with it”. And people get annoyed because many employers ONLY give that flexibility to parents, regardless of whether they are the best employee.

      1. tesyaa*

        The non-parents in my workplace get flexibility to go to the dentist, get an oil change, etc. Does someone with kids get more? Maybe. But maybe the parent is a more valuable employee, and the firm extends flexibility as a way of retaining the employee. It’s not a special perk in that case, any more than a big salary offered in order to retain valuable employee is a special perk.

        1. BCW*

          My point is, I think ANY valuable employee should get the same level of flexibility. Clearly many people have experienced this. I refuse to believe that when this happens so often that only the parents are valued employees. And to a point, perception is reality. So if the perception is that the parents are getting these perks simply for being a parent, then something needs to be done about that.

          1. tesyaa*

            But the non-parent may not want flexibility. He may want more money. Why make him take a flexible schedule he doesn’t need and deprive him of a higher salary?

                1. fposte*

                  So I’m not sure what you’re arguing *against* here. If you’re arguing that people should find jobs that offer the perks that matter to them, I don’t think that you’ll get much disagreement.

                  The problem is if an employee believes that a job owes them this perk because of their situation, and that having children is a situation that gets you owed more perks.

            1. TL*

              I think Mike C. pointed out (and we’ve heard other examples here) that the more flexible schedule often comes with higher raises/paychecks because the parents need to support their family.

              You’re coming at this from an egalitarian view – everyone’s getting the same compensation in different forms, regardless of family state – but others are saying that overall they are treated worse because they don’t have children.

              1. Just a Reader*

                I really don’t think parents get paid more because they have families. Nobody’s going to shell out cash on employees that aren’t valuable. Flexibility doesn’t necessarily cost anything but a high salary certainly does.

                1. TL*

                  We’ve had a few examples of someone being passed over for a raise while their coworkers weren’t because their coworkers had families, IIFC.

                2. Mike C.*

                  You’re assuming rationality here where it might be lacking. :)

                  The issue is more along the lines of “why do you deserve a raise, it’s not like you have a family to support or anything”. Also the variant, “Sweetie, I don’t need to pay you all that much, you have a husband to make most of the money!”

                3. Marcy*

                  I know for a fact that they do. I have been told that to my face. “Henry is getting paid more because he has a family to support”. I guess I could always sue but it shouldn’t be that way to start with and I was lucky to get an honest answer. Most bosses wouldn’t tell you why and you would never know it is because you don’t have kids.

                4. Cassie*

                  My boss chose to pay one postdoc more money because the postdoc was married and had to support his wife, while the unmarried postdoc didn’t have to support anyone (at least, in the boss’s eyes). Had nothing to do with qualifications – I know this because when we were discussing payrate for the new (married) postdoc and I mentioned the (unmarried) postdoc was making $X, my boss actually said “well, (this guy) needs to support his family, so $X + 5%.”

            2. Colette*

              Do you have any sort of proof that non-parents get paid more for the same job as parents?

              Or do non-parents get paid less, because they “don’t have a family to support”?

          1. tesyaa*

            I didn’t mean to imply that. I was trying to make the point that employees are not equally valuable. IF a parent is truly getting extra perks, just maybe, their employer finds them more valuable. That’s just one example.

            My point is that workplace perks which are visible,such as flexibility, seem to engender more anger in those who don’t have the perks than invisible “perks”, such as a higher salary.

            1. Just a Reader*

              It’s coming off as if having kids has anything to do with how good an employee one is. It doesn’t.

            2. doreen*

              And in addition to that, sometime people attribute situations incorrectly. My husband once had a job where he had more flexibility and was paid more than most of his coworkers ( and they knew this becasue someone was nosy and gossipy). I can almost guarantee that at least one coworker believed that both were because he was married and had kids . In reality, he had more flexibility than the other “married with kids” people . The reason was the owner knew he was willing to walk if he didn’t get the flexibility/pay he wanted and didn’t believe the others would .

              1. Just a Reader*

                Right, this is what I’m getting at. Nobody but the decision makers really know that people are getting X because of Y.

              1. doreen*

                Not certain if this is a reply to me – it was incidental . But that doesn’t mean the others recognized it

            3. A cita*

              I think I get what you’re saying: you think there’s a chance that people are attributing certain perks (in this case, flexibility) to certain workers (parents) because they are parents, when in fact that may just be a coincidence. In some cases it may be that the person gets perks because they are a valued employee and they pick flexibility as their perk because they are parents.

              True enough. I don’t think anyone is arguing against that.

              However, what is being shown in the comments here is that, in many cases, parents are getting perks for no other reason except that they are parents. Comments here indicate this happens quite a bit. They don’t even have to guess as they are told outright: You don’t get Christmas or Passover off because you don’t have “real” family to spend it with; You don’t get to leave early ever, but your coworker does because they have kids; You can stay late and work weekends because you don’t have kids; etc.

              1. tesyaa*

                When and why is it good business sense to treat employees unfairly? I understand you may not be able to walk away from your job because you don’t want to stay late. But by the same token, parents aren’t either, so they should put in their fair share of late evenings. I object to unequal treatment of otherwise equal employees; I’ve tried to make that clear.

                1. A cita*

                  Yes, that’s very rational choice theory. But bad managers happen all the time and make bad, not good-for-business decisions all the time.

                  And that is what everyone is commenting on.

          1. tesyaa*

            You’d be surprised how little time parents have for their own needs. So if we go, we probably don’t go as often as we should, or even go on a weekend so as not to take MORE time away from the office.

            This reminds me of an Eddie Murply skit on SNL.

            1. Colette*

              Wow. That’s some martyrdom.

              Everyone’s lives are busy, and most people who are professional about work try to keep their personal life from affecting their work life unnecessarily.

              If a parent doesn’t have time for their own needs, they need to reevaluate their life – either take a job that lets them work fewer hours and adjust to the decrease in income, or reduce the activities they (or their family members) are involved in, or reevaluate what they’re spending their time on and cut the things they don’t value. A parent who can’t take care of themselves because they have kids is not effectively managing their life – just the same as someone who can’t take care of themselves because they spend too much time on their pets/ are addicted to online poker/ spend every night at the bar.

                1. tesyaa*

                  Well, some of us parents might be sensitive about their co-workers assuming that they get tons of unfair perks just for having kids, so we’ll go the extra mile to find a dentist who is available nights or weekends.

                2. some1*

                  “Well, some of us parents might be sensitive about their co-workers assuming that they get tons of unfair perks just for having kids, so we’ll go the extra mile to find a dentist who is available nights or weekends.”

                  I’ve been working in some capacity with people who were parents since the 90’s. I can’t remember one instance when I or anyone else resented a co-worker (parent or not) for taking work time to go to the dentist twice a year.

                3. Colette*

                  I don’t think anyone resents parents who legitimately need more time to deal with child-related emergencies. Broken arm? Babysitter sick? Allergic reaction? Fine.

                  However: Forgot your homework? Can’t get the lid off the peanut butter? Wondering what’s for dinner?

                  Those are not emergencies and are not valid reasons for disturbing a parent at work.

                  2-3 calls a day does not fit the definition of urgent – they’re just a sign of poor planning or a failure to allow children room to grow.

            2. Zillah*

              I also try to schedule things for the weekend when I can, because I don’t want to take time away from work/school.

              I don’t have children.

              Having to go to the dentist on a Saturday once or twice a year is not a horrible hardship.

                1. Cassie*

                  Mine does! I prefer to go on Saturdays so I don’t have to take time off work (although I had no choice for getting my wisdom tooth pulled). Not a fun way to spend a Saturday though :)

        2. Marcy*

          My guess is the parents also go to the dentist and get oil changes PLUS the time off for school activities or holidays.

          1. Jeanne*

            Maybe my field is different, but as a woman, statistically, your chances of being promoted are much less likely than a man. If you become a woman with children and ask for flexibility, your chances become even lower. I was unmarried for many years and received no grief for being single and without kids, in fact it was looked at as an advantage. I am now married, but don’t have kids, so I can’t speak to what that is like. But I don’t envy women in my position with kids —- it’s long hours and there are no exceptions, which makes it very hard to have a family. All that to say, there are fields where being single or married and childless works to your advantage, and statistics would support in some cases, this is especially true if you are female.

  31. Just a Reader*

    I’ve worked in a company the same size as the LW’s, and everything you do is very very visible. Including taking and making calls. You just don’t have the buffer of a lot of people the way you do in a larger organization.

    I was spoken to while in that company while making one personal call a day at my desk while eating lunch. They perceived that I was spending a lot of time on the phone since they could hear me that one time every day.

    Perception is reality. And if the LW cut off her boss off to take one of many calls from her kids, it makes sense that the boss is going to think she’s more interested in phone calls than in work.

    Also, is knocking out a tooth “very serious?” It’s not a head injury. It makes sense to start training the kids to prioritize their calls. Can’t find their other shoe? Not an emergency.

    Anyway. My point is that everyone in a small company is highly visible, and the manager has already clearly communicated that the calls are unacceptable, so it’s time for a change.

    1. Anonymous*

      Knocking out a tooth is a big deal for a kid. Are they going to drive themselves to the dentist, and then pay for it themselves? Unlikely.

      1. Just a Reader*

        It probably could have waited 3 minutes instead of the LW telling her manager to buzz off.

        I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, but it’s also not life threatening.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          Yeah. It sucks and is painful and scary for the kid, but it’s also not like lifesaving treatment is necessary that must be administered in the next thirty seconds. The call will wait until the manager is done talking and Mom can return their call. I 100% guarantee that the school nurse or receptionist is used to fielding callbacks, even in cases where kids are hurt/scared/being rushed to the hospital.

          1. Zillah*


            And I think it’s also worth pointing out that her cutting her manager off would have been much more forgivable if she wasn’t regularly fielding 2-3 calls a day.

          2. Jessica*

            I had to call in to my mom’s job and leave a message with the office to have her call me on break if I needed to talk to her. No exceptions. They would write a note and put it on the board for employees to grab on break, so if she forgot to check the message board, I didn’t get a call. (And if I was in class, there was no guarantee I’d get pulled out.)

            I did knock out one of my teeth in 7th grade, and I had to call in and leave a message like the above. I even explained that I broken a tooth off and was in severe pain, but that was the rule. (My dad’s job wouldn’t even do that, though, so at least hers was that flexible.) I had to wait and ride the bus 1.5 hours home after school and then wait for my mom to get home from work an hour later even though I had broken my tooth off first thing in the morning. (By the way, this is a good way to teach “suck it up and deal with the pain,” but I don’t advocate it if you don’t have to. ;) ) The school nurse basically just gave me a bunch of ibuprofen and wished me luck for the day.

    2. Marmite*

      Knocking out a tooth for a little kid, not serious, them suckers are coming out eventually anyway. But in a teenager it could be something that requires rapid medical treatment.

      1. Anonymous*

        If the situation requires immediate medical treatment, then the school staff will have to take the kid to the hospital or call the ambulance. Do you think in such a situation they will want to wait until they’ve talked to the mother first? Do you honestly think the mother would want them to wait on emergency medical care until she’d been briefed? The school staff are there, in no small part, to take care of such issues. They are sometimes better-equipped than parents to handle such emergencies.

        I remember breaking my foot at school once – didn’t call my parents over it. I got a pretty severe burn in school; didn’t call my parents over it. I once got electrocuted at school to the point of losing consciousness; didn’t call my parents.

        I once damaged an adult tooth pretty badly in sports practice. That time, my mother was there for the practice. Guess what she did? Scheduled a doctor’s appointment – for the following week. Took me home early. Wouldn’t really have mattered if she hadn’t been right there at the time; could’ve waited a few hours. Not like she could save my tooth, even being there within seconds. Not like she was much comfort, either – she was more freaked out than I was over it.

    3. Xay*

      A child isn’t making the decision whether or not to call their parent because they knocked out their tooth – the school is for liability and policy reasons. And frankly, I’m really surprised at some of the comments that having a four year old knock out their tooth isn’t a reason for a parent to be called right away. No, it’s not a broken bone, but for a small child with no permanent teeth, there are precautions that have to be taken on behalf of the school and the parent.

      But, I suspect this actual serious incident would not be as big of a deal if the LW didn’t take so many personal calls in general.

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think anyone is saying the parent shouldn’t be called right away. I think they’re saying the parent doesn’t need to put her job in jeopardy to answer right away.

      2. Diet Coke Addict*

        It was the OP’s 14-year-old, not a four-year-old. And I don’t think anyone is saying it’s not an emergency–the parent definitely should be called–but it’s not going to matter if the call is answered right away, or in three minutes.

        1. fposte*

          Though there is actually a time factor with permanent teeth, since they can be reattached under some circumstances, so this is one I’d want to know about with some speed as a parent to make sure that things were being handled properly.

          1. Kou*

            This. It’s extremely time sensitive, for one, and secondly the parent has NO way of knowing why the school is calling before they answer. All you know is it’s an emergency.

    4. Jennifer*

      Yeah, everyone I know who works or has worked as a small company is NITPICKED OUT THE WAZOO, especially the receptionists.

      God, I love working at a large org so much.

  32. Anon*

    Also — as a manager who has a professional staff with one employee who does something similar (though not quite to the same extent, maybe 3-4 calls a week that I notice, though we aren’t in the same office) it’s a serious problem. It seems like every time I need to talk to her she’s nowhere to be found since she “just stepped out” to take a call, often when I need to ask her something and she is at her desk I have to wait for her to get off the phone with her family first. The biggest problem for me though is this: once the family conversation stops, it takes her another few minutes to get her mind back around what she was supposed to be doing. So even a phone call that’s “just a minute” actually wastes about 5 minutes what with the walk to the copy room and the re-focusing needed afterwards.

    Interruptions don’t help your work and don’t impress your boss. Just my two cents.

  33. Legos*

    Honestly, if I was in the middle of explaining something to an employee and they stopped to take a personal call in the middle of the conversation, I would be beyond livid! I’m not sure if the OP understands common courtesy when dealing with a manager. I don’t care who it is- call back when the conversation is finished. No, your kids don’t take priority while you’re at work, your work does. Having children does not change the rules in your favor. Where is your co-parent/spouse in all of this? Do they have a more flexible schedule to deal with your needy children?

    1. BCW*

      At best, she should have given it some context, such as “Sorry, this is my child’s school, do you mind if I take this?”. That most likely wouldn’t have rubbed the boss the wrong way as much as her way did (based on what was written)

    2. Jill*

      I was also wondering where the kids’ father is in all of this. We have a horrible double standard in the U.S. where men and women both work, where two-income families are the norm…yet it’s the mom that always has to take off when the kids are sick and, like with this OP, it’s mom that gets all the calls from the kids during the workday.

      One more thought, is this just a Millenial generationg thing where kids in this age group are so used to having over-involved parents that they are near adult age and still can’t solve simple problems for themselves? I have five siblings. We never called my folks at work once. Then again, we wouldn’t dare because my folks set clear limits that way.

      1. fposte*

        It didn’t just start with millennials, though. One of my mother’s visiting nurses would spend her whole shift on the phone talking to her kids.

      2. Forrest*

        Well, as noted by numerous people, the invention of cell phones had a big impact as well.

        There have always been needy, sheltered children whose parents did a lot for. Its not a generational thing.

      3. Anne*

        There have been a few of us in this thread who have noted that we’re Millenials and find this bizarre. I don’t think it’s just a Millenial thing. Although yes, cell phones make it easier for it to happen.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I agree. The only exception I would make is if it was 2 calls from my daughter’s school, daycare, or husband back-to-back, because that just never happens. Literally — it’s never happened to me. So if it did I would be safe in assuming that it was a true five-alarm emergency. If someone does that, it usually means they need to reach you urgently and so they’re trying again immediately. And how often does that happen? Rarely.

        Otherwise? Let it roll to voice mail and check in a few minutes.

    3. Forrest*

      Glad I’m not the only one who thought they’re are needy kids. I can’t even image calling my mom once a day – what in the world would I have to say that can’t wait? “Whats for dinner?” – what does it matter, are you going to change it for them? “Can I go to Bob’s house?” – set rules on after school activities or have them text or ask in the morning.

  34. BCW*

    First off, your kids need to understand what an actual emergency is, because I’m sure they aren’t getting them 2-3 times a day. If its not an emergency, they don’t need to call you during work. Or, if since you say you have to take breaks and lunch at the same time, tell them the time and say those are the times you can be reached.

    Next, you do sound a bit entitled to me. I have no children, but if I was taking any calls from anyone that much, I’d expect my boss to say something. I fully agree with the manager on how she is handling your phone use. As Alison said, there are many jobs where you can’t answer the phone at all during the day. People who have those types of jobs, such as teachers or construction works, and are parents get by just fine.

  35. The Other Dawn*

    OP’s boss sounds ridiculous, but it also sounds as though she’s reacting to a pattern she sees in the OP. A call from the nurse’s office or a call to say the toilet overflowed is fine, but 2-3 calls per day is a lot. The boss should address all this once in a conversation and OP should be prepared to tell her boss how she plans to stop all these calls. And I don’t blame the kids. The kids are calling so often, because no one has told them it’s not OK. Or, OP told them, but there aren’t any consequences.

  36. Elysian*

    This reminds me of when I taught Kindergarten. I had 35 little ones, and because they are little, they wanted my attention all the time. With so, so many kids and only one adult, I just couldn’t give them what they needed. So our classroom motto became “What can Ms. Elysian do to fix this?” When a kid came to tell me something (usally tattle on another kid) I would ask “Is there something I can do to fix this?” and he would have to tell me yes or no. Eventually the kids got the idea. One would say to the other “I’m going to go tell Ms. Elysian that Joey wouldn’t play with me at recess last week!” and another would say, “Can she fix that? No.”

    I guess the moral is that you can re-train your kids to stop calling over every little thing. But really this post just reminded me of that story.

    1. Kevin*

      This ties for the best teacher solution ever with “no what if questions.”

      That was installed to shut down any, “what if there is an earthquake while a tornado is going on during recess.”

      1. Elysian*

        I LOVED “what if” questions! I thought they were easy. The answer is always the same – “That’s a GREAT question! What do YOU think would happen??” Eventually they either come to a reasonable solution (life leasson learned!) or wear themselves out and then have a great story to write about during the Writing portion of class the next day.

        1. the gold digger*

          The management equivalent for that is (at least, when you are running a voluntary group like the returned Peace Corps volunteers of Memphis and you are president because you made the mistake of going to the ladies’ while everyone was voting), “That’s a great idea [that you have just proposed]! Why don’t you be in charge of implementing it?”

          That’s how you take care of the person who wants to have Socially Responsible Activities in a group that was formed to have parties. Put her in charge.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          We learned some Lots of Love method (or whatever it was–I don’t remember) when I went to teacher school briefly, and my favorite thing was this:

          Child: “Whiney whine whine whinety whiiiiiiiiiinnnne….”

          Teacher: (in sympathetic voice) “Wow, bummer.”

          Sometimes just having someone agree that something sucks is enough!

          1. Elysian*

            Nice! I didn’t go to traditional teacher school, so I think I skipped “Lots of Love” and went right to “Lots of Snark.”

            To be fair, for every kid that thought “Ms. Elysian can’t fix this, I don’t need to tell her.” was a kid that said “You can’t fix this but I’m going to tell you anyway.”
            At least they knew I was just going to smile and nod at them.

          2. hamster*

            I have a colleague that tells me “bummer” every time i whine about something. And used to have one that told me “super idea. go and implement it ” every time i’d rant about an issue / fantasied about a possible fix. ” . Guess i was acting like a kid and they used the appropriate methods with me :)

          3. tcookson*

            My daughter came home from her first day of kindergarten with my favorite teacher quote ever: “You get* what you get, and you don’t throw a fit”. I use that one all the time, and she’ll be 17 in a couple of weeks.

            *We’re in the south, so “get” actually does rhyme with “fit” here.

            1. HannahS*

              Hah! I’m Canadian and our version is “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” …still rhymes! It’s a great response to “but I wanted the greeeeeeeeeeen lollipop”

        3. ellex42*

          I showed this and the “Can I fix this?” bit to my mother, a former preschool teacher. She gives you an enthusiastic two thumbs up and a gold star sticker.

    2. A cita*

      “Is there something I can do to fix this?”

      I actually like this for use with my work colleagues. I will be incorporating this for now on. :)

    3. Mints*

      I was trained to deal with whiny parents like this “What would you like me to do to fix this?”

      Because “wahh the bus was ten minutes late” usually just meant “I’m annoyed and want to vent to somebody on payroll” even though I had nothing to do with annoyances

  37. Jess*

    It sounds like your manager is passive-aggressively dealing with the situation. My guess is she keeps bringing up the school phone call that you stepped away from her to take because it (a) is the easiest to point out as directly interfering with work, and (b) fits the pre-existing pattern of too many personal calls in her mind and therefore is difficult to distinguish as a true emergency from all of the other, non-emergency, personal calls. I’d also guess that’s why she’s so nuts about taking one extra minute on your breaks. It’s a lack of trust that you’ll be there and on top of everything if she happens to look away. The little allowances that would generally go unnoticed (i.e., an extra minute at lunch) tend to become an issue when the manager already sees a pattern of stepping away from work in the office. To gain her trust you’ll need to demonstrate for a period of time that you’re fully engaged in work matters while at work without the repeated distraction of personal calls.

    1. Jennifer*

      Plus (c) the manager probably took it as a personal insult to dump talking to her to her FACE in order to deal with your kid drama….again. She sounds like she’s the sort to do that.

  38. Laura*

    This reminds me of one of our family’s favorite stories.

    Mom had gone back to work and we were occasionally home on the weekends by ourselves. She was a nurse, so calling her at work meant calling the nurses station and having her paged. (Dad was usually at work, too, and his job was completely phone unavailable.) After one memorable instance of mom being called out of a sterile procedure to answer my brother’s call about missing peanut butter, the law was laid down and we knew only to call in emergencies.

    A couple of weeks later, I made a small boo-boo and put a twist tie in the microwave, which of course led to sparks. I threw a cup of water on it…which led to more sparks when I finally remembered baking soda and dumped the entire box in there. That worked!

    I checked with our neighbor and he okayed everything. I decided not to call mom…after all, everything was fine and we were only supposed to call in emergencies, right? My brother snuck upstairs, dialed my mom and said “Laura said not to tell you, but we had a small fire.”

    The Emergency Phone Call List was revised to include all fires, small or not.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      LOL! Funny story and you learned, didn’t you!

      I can’t imagine how mad your mom was to be pulled out of a sterile environment to answer a call about peanut butter!

      My mom worked 3rd shift and my dad 1st so they they overlapped in the kid rearing time. I don’t think I ever called my dad or mom while at work. It would have been only allowed for something DIRE.

      Today’s helicopter parents need to get a grip. Their kids will be all right for a few hours.

  39. holly*

    maybe just don’t answer the calls from the kids unless they text you what the issue is first. it sounds like they don’t know what a real emergency is. emergencies can’t happen 2-3 times a day every day.

    if you don’t need to text/call right back, then it isn’t an emergency and can wait until you’re on your break.

    this way when you do take calls, everyone will know it actually is an emergency.

  40. PPK*

    At this point, it’s probably the frequency and not the duration of the calls.

    I think the OP is going to have to garner goodwill by cracking down on the phone calls — as suggested by others, if the calls are rare, I think the boss won’t be so concerned. You might have to be “mean” and ignore their calls until they’re retrained to the system that you want.

  41. Bea W*

    My jaw dropped a little reading this one. I’d say 99% of the people I have ever worked with are or were parents and to kids of all ages. I don’t think any of them would have found that frequency of calling during work hours acceptable even if it did happen, but they were never to the point where this was even remotely an issue to begin with!

    What the OP really needs to do is explain to her family is that it’s not appropriate to call someone at work unless it absolutely can’t wait. It sounds like everyone but the boss in this scenario is clueless about how this works. It’s very much like school. Your kids can’t take or make personal phone calls while in class and that applies to the workplace.

    Even before the clarification I had a feeling the calls were way more frequent than emergencies. 2-3 calls per day on an ongoing basis is ridiculous. As a kid it never occurred to me to chat up my parents at work because they were WORKING, and somewhere along the line I’d been taught that this was not a good time to chat because they had to do their jobs. Calling work was to be done only in emergencies or when something could not wait. For everything else, mom and dad would be home soon enough. This lesson ends up being useful when you grow up and start working. I don’t think twice about declining a personal call or cutting a non-urgent call short and telling offenders that I can’t take these calls at work and can talk to them later when I get home. Kids old enough to drive or have their own phone are old enough to learn to use some common sense and discretion when it comes to calling mom at work.

    Get AAA for the drivers and teach them how to handle the inevitable breakdown as independently as possible rather than insta-dialing mom to come save them when it’s something like a flat or a dead battery or an issue that can be fixed without needing a ride. They really need to learn what to do to get back on the road and other options and plans for dealing with stranding, because it is unlikely mom can just up and leave work on the spot to go fetch someone anyhow. This goes doubly if any of these drivers are legal adults.

    Overall, this is a situation where everyone’s behavior needs to change. The kids have to learn to ease up on the calling and the mom needs to learn how to set those boundaries and that it is okay to not be at the beck and call of her personal phone while at work.

  42. ellex42*

    I was a latchkey kid in high school, looking after my middle-school age little brother. In 4 years, I never had to call either parent. Even in an emergency, my mother would not have been able to leave her job at all, and it would have taken my father at least an hour to get home. Granted, we never actually had an emergency, but we had neighbors who would have helped, and I had a list of emergency numbers and instructions on what to do in every eventually we could think of.

    In my last job, I had a coworker who started off by having her elementary school age daughter call her at work “just to check in” when the child got home from school. As time went on, these calls lengthened from 10 minutes to 30-45 minutes. Needless to say, we were all disgusted when we found out the daughter was calling mom from her grandmother’s house, where the school bus dropped her off every day. Eventually she was fired for a variety of complaints that included spending too much time on personal calls.

    In my current job, I’m the office manager. I had to speak to one of my workers about her near constant calls and texts from her daughter and her daughter’s school. I tried to cut some slack, since there was a messy divorce going on and the daughter was having a hard time dealing with it. But the school would call multiple times a day for things like the daughter mouthing off to a teacher, and the daughter would call (from school! On her cell phone!) to scream and cry and complain. I found numbers for the worker for counseling for her and her daughter; I asked her to talk to the school about calling only for emergencies or serious behavioral problems; I asked her to not answer the phone and just check messages once an hour. This was all going on while I was training her, and it greatly affected how long it took her to learn the job, and how well she learned it. When the business had to suddenly downsize, she was one of the first to be let go. When business picked up again, I could not, in all conscience, recommend that she be re-hired.

    OP, you need to reprioritize. Whether you think your office manager is unreasonable or not, she’s not doing anything legally actionable or even anything that could be taken to an HR department. Do you want to keep this job? Then you need to do something about the way YOU behave.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yes. The personal phone issue is a delicate one but if there is no line drawn, the employees that are there to do everything but their jobs will take advantage and the cross that line every time. I have a current employee that is doing this in addition to other performance problems – that I am monitoring (we a tracking process before we can fire).

  43. A*

    Honestly, LW, I don’t feel a lot of sympathy for you.

    I worked with someone who would tie up the main line with her personal calls from her two children who were both older than me. No emergencies — just to say hi. You think it’s a minute at a time, it’s probably more like ten or twenty times that. Do you have any idea how long five minutes on hold feels? At the time I was in my mid twenties. This was a cardiologist’s office, with me, her and the office manager and the cardiologist. Patients complained. Nothing was done about this, and in fact she’d get extremely aggressive about those particular messages. Her adult child was reprimanded by her work for spending too much time on the phone calling my work. She still didn’t get the hint.

    In contrast, the manager would very rarely get calls from her sons, who were middle school age, but because she and the office manager were buddies they’d snot about the fact they had children and I did not. They also snotted about the fact that I was younger and they were over 40.

    Learn how to manage your personal life so you don’t tie up the office line and don’t step away from your desk so often. You clearly aren’t managing your time properly and that’s why your manager is acting like a human alarm clock and being unreasonable about actual emergencies. You say you’re a good worker and you’re not taking advantage, but it seems like you might be.

  44. Elizabeth West*

    I will talk to my family about not calling me during the day unless it’s an emergency —

    You may actually have to define “emergency” to your kids; to a young teenager, a pimple is an emergency. (At least my niece acted as though it was the END OF THE WORLD!)

    Maybe it’s time to sit down and workshop with them about what to do in certain circumstances if they can’t call you. There will be emergencies, certainly, and no one expects you to ignore a call from the school, but they should not be calling you all day.

    If they know they have alternatives, and/or know how to find them when something is a bother but not an emergency (or even if it is, and they can’t get hold of you for some reason–you’re in a meeting, etc.), they’ll feel more confident and and probably call you less.

    1. Xay*

      “You may actually have to define “emergency” to your kids; to a young teenager, a pimple is an emergency. ”

      Yes. When my son first received his cell phone this summer, I had to explain that unless he was dying, about to die or the house was on fire, he should not call me at work and not to expect a quick response to any texts.

  45. Anonymous*

    I’m wondering too if the 2-3 calls are coming in fairly close together during the last hour or so of the day, assuming the kids are in school and unable to call until after school.

    (My kids know not to call unless it’s an emergency; we have the blood/fire understanding as well).

  46. Ann Furthermore*

    Your boss is probably nitpicking at the 11 vs 10 minute break because she’s digging her heels in about the number of calls you get.

    2-3 calls a day from teenagers (or kids of any age) is too many. I have a 4 year old and a 16 year old. The 16 year-old has never called me at work (she’s my stepdaughter and has been living with us for the last 2 years). My other daughter’s daycare provider has called me maybe 3 times in the last year. Once was to inform me that my little one was sick, and once was to tell me that she had fallen on the playground and hurt herself. My husband calls me maybe once a week — if that. We are both busy and have things to do, so we talk when we get home. If one of us calls the other, it’s for a specific reason: to change up the daycare pickup schedule, to let one another know that a big credit card payment is scheduled to go out, and so on.

    And seriously, as a mom I’m begging you….stop with the “people without kids just don’t understand.” It’s condescending and rude. I’ve been working on a project and putting in very long hours, as have the users I’m supporting. They are in Europe. The other day I offered to start making our working sessions earlier in the day, and I said, “I know that when you have kids, it’s hard to work later hours,” because one of the women I’m working with has 2 girls. The other person doesn’t have any kids. So I stopped and apologized to her and said that working later hours is difficult for her too, because she’s got a life to live just like the rest of us.

    When I had my daughter I promised I would never be one of THOSE people, and on the occasions I catch myself thinking that way, I always stop myself and apologize (if appropriate).

  47. Anonymous*

    What would happen if you just didn’t answer? If it’s something you can fix in a minute or less is it really a pressing issue? At my job (which is only retail at min-wage level jobs), employees are not allowed to have their phones on them full stop. Many of them have young children. We can check our phones on our break. If there is a specific issue (ie. “my child is sick”) a manager may let us go and check our phones several times outside of our breaks when the store is quiet.

    I can’t think of a situation where teenage children would need to ring so regularly with an issue that can’t be texted and then replied to when the employee takes their break or ends their shift.

    Especially as this employee seems to have 3 points in their shift where they’re on break (2 x 10min and 1 x 1 hour) so the delay in answering is likely to always be less than a few hours (even if they’re contacted immediately after starting work or returning from a break).

    I don’t think the manager would be in the wrong if they do not want the employee to take personal calls while working, even short ones. They may not necessarily have approached it in a tactical or thoughtful way, but I don’t think it’s a ridiculous expectation for employees to save personal calls for breaks

    1. Anonymous*

      Also, the fact that you get so many calls actually makes you unable to determine if it’s an actual emergency or not.

      If your kids ONLY contacted you in an emergency (so… perhaps once a year or none I’d say, based on the fact that my brother and I have never contacted my parents at work while growing up, and they both worked full time) then you would know that if they were contacting you, it was a real emergency and you could answer the phone knowing you really needed to.

  48. Erica B*

    after skimming the thread it seems most of the people agree with what I was going to say.

    There was a person who mentioned switching emergency calls to the office phone. Assuming it’s not an issue with the office, I would request the school call you on that line (assuming you are not in a position where you are constantly driving/not in the office), and not your cell, and talk with the kids (and in some cases your spouse) about when it’s okay to call, and when it’s better to text or email.

    There are many jobs where cell phones aren’t allowed and are inaccessible. There was a time when there weren’t cell phones. People use the regular phone, and I think, are more hesitant to make actual calls as a result for non emergency things. Your children are old enough to understand, “I keep getting in trouble at work because I am receiving too many calls from [all of] you”. They may think, “I only called once”, but if everyone has their own phone, then that’s really 3 times, which they may not be understanding fully in terms of call volume.

    I get more calls from my husband at the end of my day (it’s usually only 1, if that) to see about picking up a child, than I do getting calls from anyone else in my family.

    I do have a job with flexibility though and in my previous job I wasn’t allowed to have my cell on me (I worked in a family run store & deli) and all was fine. My husband would call the store line if it was important and I would call back if it wasn’t

  49. Chocolate*

    I didn’t read all the way through the comments, but did anybody suggest setting aside 10 or so minutes of break/lunch time and using it to take these calls? For instance, you could take two 5 minute breaks and save 10 minutes for phone calls, or take a 50 minute lunch and save 10 minutes of your lunch for phone calls. This would only work if you clearly informed your manager that you are setting aside xyz minutes of break/lunch every day to take phone calls. You could even volunteer to fill out a log showing how long you took to answer calls each day.

    1. A cita*

      I assume she’s already doing that and the 3 calls/day are calls taken outside of those break times. She said she tries to take 95% of the children’s calls during breaks and her manager is upset about the other 1-3 calls during non break times.

      So actually, we’re probably looking at a lot more than 1-3 calls per day.

      1. A cita*

        Also, just to point out, in her letter she says she gets 2 15 minute breaks and a 1 hr lunch every day.

        1. fposte*

          Hey, did I only just figure out who you are? Is this a shortened version of your former posting name?

          1. A cita*

            Yes! :)

            I posted about it a while back in comments, saying I was going to shorten my name here to this since the down side of this blog being super awesome was that I was continually recommending it to colleagues and others I might not want to recognize me.

      2. Chocolate*

        @ A cita: Well, the point is that she could possibly set aside time during which she is technically not on the clock for all the calls, not 95% of them. This solution would only work if she has the flexibility to take a few minutes of her break here and there. If I take 5 minutes of my morning break at 9:00 to take a phone call, 5 minutes of my morning break at 10:47 to take a phone call, and spend 5 minutes of my morning break on the internet at 11:15, I still had a 15 minute break, so I should get in trouble for doing personal things at random times. Again, this only applies if she doesn’t have to always be at her desk except on authorized breaks/lunch. Also, it is irrelevant how long her breaks last. No particular need to nitpick that issue.

        1. Chocolate*

          Sorry that last bit sounded a bit snarky. But I wasn’t making up the 10 minute thing- she said “My two breaks are 10 minutes each.”

          1. A cita*

            I understand what you meant; I was just pointing out that if she’s already using her break time for personal calls, then she’s receiving too many calls if they are overflowing outside of break times. So breaking up her breaks probably wouldn’t be that helpful.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        A cita, you are right. If she is taking 95% of the calls on breaks this means that she is taking between 20 and 60 calls a day at work, all total.
        I don’t think that is what our OP meant to say.

  50. Anonny*

    My mother worked when I was a teenager. I never called her once. If something like a medical emergency would have happened, I might have called. But I never called her once. And the school never called her either. 2-3 calls a day is extreme. 2-3 calls a year, maybe. But not daily. Mom should just let all calls from school go to voicemail, and all calls from teens go to voicemail. Check voicemail only on your next break. Call the school back on your break. Don’t call the kids back at all. If the kids problems are not emergencies, don’t respond at all and just give the kids their answers after you get home for the evening. Explain that the reason you waited to give them their answers was because it was not an urgent matter. Explain that in a real emergency, like a fire, or being kidnapped, they need to call 911. If they are unconcscious on school premises, the school will call 911. The tooth problem could have waited 15 or 20 minutes, while you finished your work with your boss. Nobody has ever died from a tooth injury to my knowledge. The school would have left a message and tried again in a few minutes anyway. You could give the school the names and phone numbers of your family dentist and pediatrician and a letter authorizing them to call the medical providers directly. Teens old enough to drive are old enough to learn how to handle flat tires and breakdowns without mom, such as membership in AAA. If they would be injured in an accident, and conscious, they should call 911, not mom. The hospital will go ahead and call mom later if needed. If it is for kids to ask permission to do something after school, tell them that they need to ask 24 hours in advance, and if they are asking same day, automatic answer is no. If they leave a message asking to do something, if you don’t answer, it is an automatic no. Mom needs to stop answering the phone. If the kid is calling, obviously kid is alive and conscious, and it can wait until she gets off work. If school calls, they will leave a message, and you can call back on your break. In a true medical emergency, the school would call 911. If a minor problem, they will just wait for a call back. Mom does not “have to” take those calls. She can stop taking them and probably should.

  51. Interviewer*

    I think you must be comparing 2-3 calls to either (a) the questions you get being a stay-at-home mom, or (b) the personal calls the other professionals are taking routinely. Which, in both cases, the personal time involved is obviously FAR less than taking 2-3 calls a day, so what’s the problem, right?

    What you need to do instead is compare those 2-3 calls to the ZERO calls you should be taking each day. That’s up to 15 calls per week, that’s 60+ calls per month, and no matter how long they are, I get the sense that’s not even counting the calls you may be making or taking during your breaks and lunch hours. Seriously, that is A LOT of calls from your kids. I don’t know how old your kids are, but they need to learn self-sufficiency, independence and good judgment. How much were you doing for them as a SAHM that they really can’t do it for themselves? Do they know where the first aid kit is? Do they know how to make themselves a snack? Do they know where the craft supplies are? Do they know how to do their chores? I think that about covers it. Plenty of latchkey kids here have already pointed out they did everything just fine after school with no phone calls whatsoever. My sister & I are 2 more of those kids.

    Emergency calls from the school are one thing. How many of those do you actually get? Emergency calls from home should be very well-defined. Nothing about sorting out fights, nothing about “what’s for dinner,” nothing about an alternate plan for that evening’s activities – everything is set in stone and mapped out before you head to work, just like the old days. Maybe you make a rule that changes must be submitted for approval 24-hours in advance, that sort of thing, and it cuts down on the chaos. Emergency calls should involve fire, blood, or a missing person.

    The professionals you are comparing yourself to, they probably have their own target goals to meet, and they’re responsible for managing their own time. Your role is supposed to be managed, including tasks and time spent. You can’t compare yourself to them – they’re paid on salary, to get tasks done no matter how long it takes. You, on the other hand, are paid by the hour to be there. Taking 15 or longer minutes each week to not work, but instead manage your personal life, goes against the purpose of your compensation arrangement. Their compensation arrangement isn’t the same as yours, so don’t compare your personal time at work to theirs.

    Does your job depend on it? Probably. You need to make a better impression that your head is in the game. Don’t look around & compare your activities to everyone else and think “I’m doing better than THEM, it must be okay!” or “It’s only 3 minutes worth of calls!” Instead, think of what your manager actually has a problem with YOU doing, what she has told you she doesn’t like, and then, if you really want to keep that job, actively make a plan to stop doing it.

    Good luck.

  52. Anon*

    When I was a teenager I never called my mom when she was at work. What I find odd is my coworkers with teenagers who get 3-5 calls from their kids daily. It doesn’t both me in the slightest but I often wonder why these young people can’t get through the day without calling their parents.

  53. Lily*

    My boss and manager (2 different people) both take 3-5 personal calls a day from their adult (22+ year old) children, spouses, parents, friends, etc. We have an open office plan so each call is a major disruption to the other seven people in the office even when the person leaves the office to take a call. The office culture is terrible, partially due to this and other reasons. Team members have brought up the excessive phone calls several times, but don’t have much say since the offenders are both supervisors. In addition, newer additions to the team text messages nonstop throughout the day. This is also disruptive, as the person’s phone is on vibrate and sitting on a surface that amplifies the vibrations.

    From someone on the other side of this situation, 2-3 calls per day is annoying, disruptive, and totally unnecessary. It is impossible to “mind your own business” when you are subjected to loud vibrations, actual ringtones, and personal conversations held at normal speaking volume. Also, it truly makes you look unproductive and/or lazy when coworkers or subordinates can hear you discussing your grocery list, what you’re having for dinner, what movie you should rent, etc. in the office.

    1. kelly*

      Sounds like last retail job. My supervisor’s kids and boyfriend would stop in to talk with her while she was on the clock and have lunch with her. The last part I didn’t mind because sometimes my parents would meet me at a local place for lunch, but she would clock back in and continue talking to them after she was supposed to be back at work.

      The place had a no cell phone on your person policy that wasn’t rigidly enforced and was very frequently ignored by associates. One co-worker had hers on her and wouldn’t silence it once she was on the clock. It wasn’t unusual for her to take personal calls on it interrupting her interaction with a customer who needed assistance. The customer got upset and I offered to help them out. I got the pretty substantial sale and a complement from the customer for my customer-centric customer service.

  54. Kiwi*

    Reading this story and these comments, it underlines again to me the cultural differences between North American workplaces, which seem very restrictive, and where I live, New Zealand. I have never had an office job where it wasn’t acknowledged (and often celebrated) that your real life doesn’t stop at the office door. As long as you’re reasonable about it, it’s never a problem to take a phone call, pop out to deal with a personal issue, or otherwise keep your life ticking along while you meet deadlines and get the job done. In my current job – a major bank – I told my boss early on that I had to pop out for half an hour for a medical appointment. Her response? “Why are you telling me? I’m sure you’re grown up enough to manage your own time.”

    How is it possible for adults to feel responsible, satisfied and invested in their jobs if they’re presented with the same rules of a high school student?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Many, many U.S. jobs are like yours too — and the ones that aren’t are often non-exempt (meaning that you’re paid according to the time you put in, as opposed to exempt jobs, where you’re paid to get the work done and it’s not as much about time).

      1. Jen in RO*

        I’m starting to think that this is where my disagreement comes from – “non-exempt” doesn’t exist here, so there is never a reason to time someone’s breaks or phone calls, unless you’re a micromanager or the person’s not doing his/her job right*. I understand the concept, I just couldn’t work in such an environment after 30 years in an “exempt” world.

        *In this case, this would mean: “Jane, someone called and you couldn’t answer because you were talking to your kid. This can’t happen again” versus “Jane, you spent 2 minutes on the phone with your kid. This can’t happen again.”

    2. fposte*

      It’s also not about the occasional behavior but the constant behavior. If you left before the bank closed every day to do errands, would that be okay as well?

    3. Eli*

      I also had slightly the same culture shock at some of the details here but I think it really depends. For example, I work somewhere where leaving my desk for half an hour for a medical appointment wouldn’t be seen as much different to being away from my desk for half an hour in a work meeting elsewhere in the building. But constantly taking personal calls (and interrupting work conversations to take personal calls) would be disruptive to the office – we mostly do stuff that needs a lot of concentration, the office is generally pretty quiet, and there are 20 of us in the same open space.

      I think I remember maybe one or two times in several years of being here where people interrupted a conversation/meeting with me to answer their phones, and they were always profusely apologetic (or warned in advance that something major was happening). I definitely notice when people pick up personal calls here, which is probably once about a week (between the 20+ of us) – people are considerate and do stuff by text/email, or if a call is required they step away from the office to then ring someone else in privacy. Whereas, if we all had separate offices, no one would even notice. So. I think basically even without micromanagement, the particular details of what you need to do make an individual workplace run smoothly really vary.

  55. KimmieSue*

    My kids are now older (21 & 16) and I’ve worked mostly outside the home their entire lives. They are both trained…if not urgent, text or leave a voice mail. I’ll respond as soon as possible.
    If its an emergency, call cell phone twice (back-to-back). I will pick up after the second call. I have actually done this while conducting a training class with 30 people in the room. My first response is “Is anyone bleeding or not breathing?!” If their answer is “no one” they are busted. Likely, whatever they were calling to urgently ask me…the answer is “no”.
    I agree with most comments, OP needs to set some ground rules with her family, 2-3 non-emergent calls each day is too much.

  56. Jax*

    Alison, I love your advice here. I love that you addressed her question and validated that her manager is being unreasonable, but also pointed out that the phone calls aren’t okay.

    I’m disappointed that so many of the comments are along the lines of “Well, when *I* was a kid and my mom worked…” Comparing 1990 to today isn’t helpful for the OP. I couldn’t reach my mom either, but now that I’m a parent, my kids can reach me. Reading comments addressing THAT would be more helpful that remember-whens.

    OP, I think the best course is to remember that work expects you be fully at work. It’s hard to transition from being a SAHM and teach your family that you’re no longer 100% available (I’ve been there) but it’s best to put your cell phone in your purse and check it on breaks. Companies don’t care who is calling or texting you–when you’re tethered to your phone instead of your tasks it looks bad.

    1. ellex42*

      I think the point people are trying to make with the “well, when I was a kid” comments and anecdotes is that the OP seems to have the impression that she HAS to take these calls from her kids. And while it’s great that parents and kids now have the capability of being constantly connected, our own experiences show that she really doesn’t have to take all these calls, and she needs to re-evaluate her attitude about this. The modern convenience of instant communication does not change her children’s ability to start learning to be independent and responsible for themselves.

    2. Anon*

      Jax, I think the point of the “back in my day” comments, of which I was one, is that somehow we all managed to survive without the constant contact that cell phones provide, so why should that have to be different now when they are available?

  57. Anonymous*

    I have a coworker who teenager would call her cellphone, and then when the coworker didn’t answer because they didn’t have their cellphone on them*, would then text the cellphone and then call the lab phone. Some days this happened multiple times, and the questions were stuff like what’s for dinner, what time are you leaving work, can you drive me someplace, stuff that didn’t need a phone call, and definitely didn’t need the additional text and phone call that us coworkers would have to answer. And even with the constant calling the teenager still ending up getting into trouble.

    *In a lab it’s not unusual to leave you cellphone someplace so you don’t get anything on it. Trying to answer a cellphone while wearing gloves is not a good idea.

    1. Ethyl*

      “Trying to answer a cellphone while wearing gloves is not a good idea.”

      As a former wearer of gloves both in labs and on contaminated remediation sites, this always drove me NUTS about CSI. They would be on a crime scene, beavering away, doing their thing, then the phone would ring and they’d just reach their gloved hand into their pocket! What about the weird chemicals and dyes they use? What about contaminating evidence? ARGGH.

      1. Anonymous*

        Or touch their hair. Or touch their own clothing then pick up a sample. Lawyers would have a field day with that.

  58. Claire MKE*

    Everyone has great feedback…I also wonder if your kids really need/expect you to answer your phone. When I was a teen, I would call my dad’s work cell fairly often (by which I mean maybe once a week if that) if I had a question, even about stupid things like dinner, because I knew that he would either answer if he could talk or I could leave a message. It wasn’t at all a big deal (and most of the time I’d just end up saying “just wanted to ask a question, never mind, I’ll see you tonight” so he didn’t worry I was hurt or something). Can you set up an emergency “code” like some other commenters have mentioned and just deal with voicemail on your breaks?

    1. Kou*

      I didn’t think of this, but you’re right. Maybe they wouldn’t even care if she stopped answering, since they assume (and rightly, if they’ve never been corrected) that she’ll only answer if it’s not an issue.

      It actually reminds me of something my mom likes to do sometimes, which is interrupt whatever she’s doing to answer my calls and then hiss at me for it even though she knows full well I can’t know when she’s busy. And I always text if it’s something she needs to see urgently… Which is almost never the case, as I’m a grown woman and haven’t lived in the same state as her for many years. I just like to call at least every other week to chat, but her job has odd and often unpredictable hours, so I can’t really know what’s a safe time.

      I call to shoot the breeze at 8pm and she’ll answer in a stage whisper “WHAT!? I’m supposed to be meeting someone! I had to step out!” How should I know, and why on earth would you step out??

  59. Seattle Writer Girl*

    Just wanted to chime in on the “fun” stories of co-workers with too many personal calls. Boss at two-jobs-ago liked to carry his cell phone in a holster clipped to his belt. This was so that he could answer calls (with the ringtone turned up to FULL volume) from his two daughters (both of whom were within a couple years of me in age–early 20s) who only ever called to ask for money. Oh, and did I mention that he actually stopped in the middle of a meeting HE HIMSELF was running to take one of these calls and we all had to sit there awkwardly for 5 minutes until he got off the phone.

    1. Anonymous*

      But he’s the boss, so if he chooses to do that, it’s his prerogative. That behavior might be eyeroll-worthy to you, but maybe you don’t know the whole story.

  60. Laura*

    I do sympathize with the above poster seeing a call from the school and assuming the worst….

    I am guessing though that your boss has seen you “cry wolf” too many times. If this was the first time all quarter you picked up a personal call, and you let her know it must be an emergency, she would have been more understand. I still would have let her finish her conversation though. However, because you take calls ALL THE TIME, she probably thought it was something non-important.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I had the same thought. Boss sounds unreasonable, but most people would be more understanding of this kind of interruption if it was very rare.

      I would have been tempted to pick up the phone immediately too. In fact, I have interrupted a conversation with my boss to answer a call. In that case, my father was in the hospital, and I told my boss ahead of time that I was waiting for an update on his condition. It arrived while my boss and I were talking about a project, and I didn’t even think about the fact that I was interrupting. (Thankfully, my boss is incredibly understanding.)

  61. Mephyle*

    What Bea W wrote – “It’s very much like school. Your kids can’t take or make personal phone calls while in class.” — reminded me of the Cell Phone Rules that we parents were told at the beginning of middle school, which could be summarized as:
    1. Students are not to have cell phones in class.
    2. Cell phones must be turned off in class.
    3. Or at least silent.
    4. Do not phone your child during the school day.
    5. Please take note of the schedule so that when you call your child, you do so preferably during a break between classes.

  62. Anonymous*

    My two cents:

    Please make sure your children have an adequate support network, and encourage them to develop some better problem-solving skills. Not only for your own sake, but for theirs.

    You won’t always be able to pull them out of the fire, no matter how dedicated to that role you are. Right now, you can nearly always drop what you are doing to save them. However, some day, you won’t be – some day you will be injured, or ill, or have a bigger emergency to deal with. Some day you will have your own emergency. Some day, sad to think about, you will die and no longer be able to help them; I hope you live to a ripe old age, but for your children’s sake you should plan as if you’ll die tomorrow.

    Prepare them now for when you aren’t available. Start immediately. And then make them use that system when you are busy at work; stop answering every call. A good starting point is getting your husband more involved. There are also aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, family friends, and school personnel. Sometimes, you will miss something major, like the tooth incident – don’t get upset over this, be glad that other people can and will help your children in their times of need. Be proud as your children learn to handle emergencies like adults.

  63. Shannonigans*

    I have a co-worker in another department who probably takes 3-5 personal calls a day. She leaves the office to take the calls, but as I sit by both her desk and the door, I first hear her ringtone (no silent here!) and then the beginning of her conversations which range from detailed descriptions about her child’s activity to doctor appointments.

    She has a bit of an… odd reputation, and I don’t think taking so many calls a day is helping her to combat it, especially as she’s a relatively new hire. This may be a bit snarky, but I know I’m having my own opinions of her affected by how often she takes calls in addition to her arriving 15-20 minutes later than everyone else in the office with the spoken understanding that it’s because of her child. Of course, it also doesn’t help that she leaves 30 minutes before anyone else and proceeds to berate my co-worker and me, “Go home! Don’t you two have lives?”

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      My coworker D does that – she’s always making annoying comments like “Aren’t you going home, do you love it so much here that you want to spend the night?” if we don’t start packing up dead on time but stay to finish something off. If it weren’t for the fact that your coworker has a lot of child related calls I’d half wonder if it was the same person (my coworker’s personal calls aren’t child related).

      This same person used to have a weekend job and used to get a lot of calls during the working day which related to that, and it got to the point where another coworker, S, complained. D denied it at first but then later started making a big point of telling them to call at lunchtime because she was getting told off for the calls – this lasted for a couple of months until S left, and I think D must have either known or suspected that it was S who complained as the calls about the other job shot up to their previous level after S left.

  64. Cassie*

    2-3 calls a day does seem like a lot, even if it’s just 1 minute per call. When I get interrupted, it takes at least a minute to remember what I was doing and get back to it. Worse is when the interruption is longer since it takes me longer to remember where I was.
    At least half of our dept speaks a language other than English, so it’s usually very easy to tell who is taking a personal call because they’ll be speaking in a different language. It’s not a given, though – since we deal with a diverse population, it’s not uncommon to speak in a language other than English for our work. My boss works closely with a foreign-government’s local office and when we talk on the phone, we speak in the other language. I’ve always wondered if my coworkers think I’m on a personal call.

  65. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I cast my vote with those who said to consider how important this job is or isn’t to you.
    Really, it does not matter who is calling. The boss does not want daily personal phone calls. I think she has been pretty clear that the matter is not up for debate.
    Whether I agree with her or disagree is moot. She’s the boss. And at this point it will probably be a very long time before she will overlook one of your personal phone calls. This is going to be a sticking point for her for a very long time. Probably several years. I have seen bosses react like this before, so I am guessing this is what is coming next.
    Again, it does not matter if it’s right or it’s wrong. This is just the way the work place is.

    So you have to figure out if you want the job or not.

    Personally, I am surprised because most jobs I have had the rule is no personal calls at work. In extreme situations people might tell the boss “I have sick parent, so I am expecting the hospital to call.” Those types of situations would be accommodated, but the explanation came before the phone ever rang.
    Yeah, that is harsh. But that was the rules.

    Alison gave some great advice here, OP. I hope you consider it.

  66. LadyTL*

    Just an aside to people commenting on helicopter parents and the teens seeming to not be able to take care of herself. That may not be the mom’s fault. I am seeing alot of the shift in attitudes first hand since my sister is in middle school right now but not being a helicopter parent can get someone in alot of trouble depending on the school’s attitude or even the neighbors. People have called CPS on parents over alot of things that would have been just find ten or more years ago so ignoring school calls even for a short bit can lead to months of trouble if she has an over reactive school.

    It’s just the atmosphere right now in places and not enough people are pushing back against it.

    1. arkangel*


      I used to oversee a woman who was raising her grandchildren after their father died, and their mother was diagnosed with serious mental problems while in prison. The kids did and still do act out a lot, so the school called her at work A LOT. She never let the calls affect her productivity – she did literally twice as much work as everyone else, but I knew the calls were an issue, so I had a talk with her. I explained that the phone system is designed to track all calls, and which extension they went through. Furthermore, our manager reviews them. Once she understood that there was an automatic paper trail, there was a major reduction in calls.

  67. Mena*

    2 – 3 calls each day is way too many. You need to ‘train’ these kids to text you for important questions only. And an actual phone call means blood or Police. And please lose the attitude that ‘this is the way it is with kids and she doesn’t get it’ – you are in the wrong here.

  68. Bess*

    I’m late on this, but it reminds me of a funny story from when I was a teen — about half-way through high school, my mother and I both got cell phones for the first time. She was an elementary school teacher, and didn’t get good reception in the classroom. The rule was, if it was an emergency, I was to call the school office (as I did pre-cell phone) and they would call her room. If it wasn’t an emergency, I was to call her cell phone and leave a voicemail. (This was pre-texting.)

    Once I accidentally lit the curtains in my room on fire from a candle. I quickly put the fire out with water from the bathroom, and then called my mother’s cell phone to leave a voicemail that would have said, “I accidentally started a fire, but don’t worry, I put it out and there’s no harm done.” For whatever reason, my mother decided to pick up the phone when I called, so instead of leaving a voicemail, I had to *tell* her that I had accidentally lit the curtains on fire — only the reception was so bad that all she heard was “….on fire….” and then the call was dropped. She called me back on the land line, yelling “CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING CALLING ME INSTEAD OF CALLING THE FIRE DEPARTMENT!!!”

    I might have nearly given her a heart attack, but at least she was so relieved that the *house* wasn’t on fire that I didn’t actually get in trouble for lighting the curtains on fire. ;)

  69. Jake*

    Alison is dead on.

    1. Her not having kids doesn’t mean anything. Parents feel like having children earns them all these additional rights and privileges…

    2. My mother received exactly 0 calls at work from me growing up, and she worked when I was ages 2-18. Having kids doesn’t mean they need to call you everyday, let alone ever. A true emergency is the only time you should EXPECT for a company to be understanding, and no, getting a tooth knocked out is not an emergency. If the company chooses to allow more calls than that, great, but expecting more than that is unfair.

    3. I think there is more to this story, and the manager isn’t addressing issues directly. I have to assume the OP isn’t getting the work done that needs to be done, or is in a position where being seen on the phone or not at her desk could be off-putting to clients/coworkers that rely on her. Things like a help desk worker or receptionist would fall into this category.

  70. Mishsmom*

    OP, i’m on your side here. i had a supervisor who was the same way. and i understand it’s about you being an adult, having a life that sometimes interferes with work (really people, 5 minutes a day is long?) and this supervisor is looking at the small bs stuff. if you are getting your work done and done right why is she busy with counting minutes of a break and phone calls? it’s the lack of respect for what you do – like in the job i had – i could have just saved the world and adopted all the starving children – not taken a day off in 5 years – but then call in sick one time and she’d be all over it and saying she was “concerned” – seriously. when i moved to my new position this previous supervisor called in my supervisor and said she was “concerned” about my absenteeism. so my new (and awesome) supervisor said to her “well, she has over 150 vacation hours accrued so i’m not sure we’re seeing the same thing”. you know how valuable you are – find a place that puts value over nitpicky bs. and in the meantime, all you can do is suck it up and tell your family to just stop calling. i’m amazed by all the judgeyness in the comments…

    1. Sandrine*

      It’s not judgeyness.

      It’s about listening to what your manager tells you, and not being stubborn.

      It’s INSANELY RUDE to interrupt the manager to take yet another personal call as mentioned in the letter.

    2. Kaz*

      It sounds like your previous experience with a supervisor who was not into flexibility is seriously coloring your reading of this letter, because your story has almost nothing to do with the letter.

  71. Ed*

    Any time I hear about any phone-related issues at work, I think back to what things were like pre-cell phones. It was very common for there to be a single office phone and you had to ask permission to use it. And guess what? Yep, we all survived somehow. That’s why I laugh when I hear how people today can’t possibly get through a work day without texting/calling people, being on social media, etc.

    You need to understand the difference between want and need. You certainly don’t “need” to talk to your kids 3 times a day and your manager knows that.

  72. Kerry*

    I’m a little disappointed that there are 500+ comments and not ONE is a defensive rebuttal from the OP!

  73. Anonymous*

    Well – I’m the OP and since I’ve been scolded for not responding, I will. To all the supportive, encouraging and kind responses – they’ve been helpful and appreciated. To the manager – much gratitude for a respectful thought out answer. To the others who deem it necessary to criticize and judge me – I certainly don’t hold any ill will towards you but certainly feel sorry for your kids who feel that they can never talk to you. I will definitely take the well-intentioned advice of most here, and thank you again.

    1. Aisling*

      There’s a time and place for everything. I think that’s something you’re choosing not to see. It looks like you aren’t looking for a real solution to the problem; rather, you wanted Alison to back you up on what you feel is the only solution. After 600+ comments, I hope you realize that your kids are the anomaly. A proper work ethic means leaving your personal life at home, unless someone is dead, dying, or the house is on fire.

  74. JJ*

    I have a coworker who has 2 grown children (with children of their own) and they call her between 10 and 15 times a day. Over the last 9 years here, they grew from teens and became more and more dependent on mom because she answered the phone and / or dropped everything every time they called her during the day at work.

    9 years later, they have become so dependent on her, they call constantly, “mom- my kid just did x and what do i do?” “mom, make me a doctors appt” “mom, can you do this / that?”

    this started out as a few texts / calls throughout the day and after 9 years, they have become such a nuisance for the entire office. If they can’t get mom by text or calling her cell within 5 minutes, they will call our 800# and ask for her to be paged. she spends an average of 2 hours a day (2 working hours, plus her lunch hour) on the phone dealing with her kids and grand kids personal business.

    lucky for her, our manager has a wife that doesn’t work who calls him 10 times a day, so he doesn’t say much. in any other place, this would not be tolerated. I don’t want to judge your parenting, but now might be the time to have them “toughen up” a bit – learn that mom’s working, take it seriously, and they will learn to make their own choices and be independent before they get into their 20’s and can’t even make a doctor’s appointment for themselves. like these kids.

  75. Curious*

    I am dying to know what the kids are calling about 2-3 times a day that is not an emergency. OP, if you’re still reading, I hope you’ll please satisfy my curiosity? I won’t judge… I’m just honestly wondering.

  76. Kitty*

    I’ve worked with people like this. 9 times out of 10 the issue wasn’t so important that it couldn’t wait until mom got home. In one woman’s case, her husband was home with the kids, but she still felt she had to call and bug them to start homework. Another co-worker “had to” referee fights between her kids over the phone! Kids need to be given guidelines on what is acceptable for mom to deal with while at work. They need to respect the fact that mom (or dad) has a job and is responsible to the boss for getting it done. I had one co-worker who told her kids not to call her unless the house was burning down. She rarely got calls from her kids at work but everyone turned out okay. Obviously people are all different, my point is that emergencies don’t happen every day.

  77. Anon*

    I still feel odd about this whole thing. Growing up, I am a millennial, I had a single father. The only time he was ever called was when I was sick at school by the school and the first year I started staying home alone, he had me call for 5 minutes to his office phone, I left a message if he wasn’t there so he knew I arrived home. There were days where I would walk 5 miles home and he knew sometimes I would be later than usual, but he didn’t care as I got older.

    My father involved me in dance, swimming and many other activities. He spent most of his time shepherding me around to that when he was off work but I didn’t call him – unless it was an emergency.

    Being a child who had a brain condition that resulted in emergency surgeries, one time I rode the bus home when I had an emergency failure that involved going to a hospital 90 minutes away for major brain surgery. I still didn’t call him.

    This isn’t a millennial thing, it just depends on what background you come from, the family dynamics involved and the office culture. If your and your manager’s perspectives don’t align, then you either need to remedy something at home or find a new job. It is not something you can force upon your job, if you have a disagreement over priorities,t hen you need to take a look at what you find a priority and then adjust it appropriately. What won’t work is being in an uproar over this. For your best interests, figure out a situation that will work, leaving it like this will only lead to trouble and unhappiness on all accounts.

    I will also note when I lived with my sister during my high school years, I contacted via email if I needed something. Most cellphones has some sort of email and I went to the library during my lunch hour to email her. If I needed something within a few days, she knew about it beforehand. Then again, I did walk around on a broken foot for 3 days before I told her, so I am the exception not the rule.

  78. Cranky PM*

    Funnily enough, the person who called me the most / caused problems for me at work was my MOTHER. She would call, I would explain that it was a bad time, she would then call my father and complain and then he would call and yell at me for making my mother upset. Luckily, when I was younger,I had three VERY understanding bosses. When I was older I just wouldn’t answer the phone – then they could only yell at me after work. Funny how they never understood why I didn’t call them often.

Comments are closed.