is it okay to bring your kid to work when your child care falls through?

Is it ever okay to bring a child to work with you when your child care arrangements fall through? If you wake up to a sick kid who can’t go to school or if your normal child care provider cancels and you don’t have a back-up, you might be wondering if you can simply bring your kid to work with you. Or you might have noticed a coworker doing this on occasion and wondered what the rules are about when this is and isn’t okay.

First and foremost, the answer depends on your workplace culture. There are some offices where this absolutely isn’t done, and where doing it would be considered wildly unprofessional and inappropriate. But there are also offices where it’s considered okay to do in rare emergencies. (There are even a handful of offices where it’s okay to do more often than that, but those set-ups are unusual, and you probably already know if you’re working in one of them.) But the first step here is to understand the culture where you’re working.

Second, make sure your boss is okay with it. Even in a workplace that’s friendly to working parents and where kids make an occasional appearance in other departments, your particular manager might frown on it. So make sure your boss doesn’t object before you show up with a kid in tow – or, if it’s a last-minute emergency, give her a heads-up that explains the situation as soon as you can.

From there, your priorities need to be minimizing the impact on your coworkers and on your own work. And be aware that kid noise that might feel normal to you can be jarring to your coworkers, even to coworkers who have kids themselves, since they’re generally expecting a quieter environment at work. That means that you should close your door if you have one; make sure your child has books, toys, or other quiet forms of entertainment; ensure they’re supervised at all times; and be prepared to take a crying baby (or an older kid having a meltdown) outside

And think twice before asking coworkers to babysit if you need to go to a meeting or even just run down the hall. It might seem like a small favor, but it can be a big imposition on someone who has their own work to do or who just doesn’t feel comfortable being responsible for someone else’s kids. And if you’re a manager, be especially cautious about asking your own employees to do this, since they’re much less likely to feel comfortable telling you no. (And having someone watching your kid who doesn’t really want to do it isn’t good for anyone, including your child.)

There are also times when you shouldn’t bring your kids to work even with the precautions above in place:

  • When you’re new on the job. As with taking time off in your first month, this can make your new manager and coworkers wonder if this is going to be a regular thing. It raises questions that won’t be issues when they know you and your work better.
  • When your kids are high-energy (their energy or yours). Ultimately, an office is a place of business. If they’re going to significantly distract from that, bringing them in isn’t fair to your coworkers or your employer.
  • When your kids are contagious. Bringing sick kids into work with you can seem like the easiest solution, but it’s likely to frustrate your coworkers, who won’t appreciate the germ exposure (unless you can keep them truly contained). (And fo course, depending on the illness, your sick kid might be much more comfortable at home in bed than stuck in a conference room.)
  • When it’s the substitute for solving an ongoing child care problem. Most coworkers will understand that even the best plans fall through now and then. But if your child care arrangements are falling through regularly, that’s a sign that you need to shore up those arrangements rather than relying on your office to be the back-up plan.

Ultimately, as with most things in the workplace, this question comes down to knowing your office and your manager and being thoughtful about how your actions impact coworkers. People will generally cut you a bit of slack if they can see that you’re making an effort on those fronts.

I originally wrote this article for publication on

{ 276 comments… read them below }

  1. Colorado*

    I think this applies to dogs too. I am an avid animal lover, have 3 dogs of my own but not everyone feels the same way, including me while I’m at work. When I visit the home office of my employer, one person insists on bringing his un-potty trained (untrained in general) dog to work. The dog chews people’s shoes, runs wild through the office, uses stinky puppy pads to pee on, and is a general nuisance. He thinks it’s cute, I think it’s highly unprofessional.

    1. EM*

      That’s even more bizarre to me than someone bringing their child. I know there are some dog-friendly offices out there, but if yours isn’t, I would think bringing a dog to the office would be even more frowned upon than a child. Most buildings that I’m aware of don’t even allow animals inside, except for true service dogs.

      1. Colorado*

        They actually are not allowed in the building where the office is rented. Only the tip of the iceberg of dysfunction, but I digress.

        1. fposte*

          Aren’t any of the higher-ups there worried about losing the lease? Or does the dog belong to somebody so high up that nobody will say anything?

    2. BethRA*

      Full disclosure – I bring my lab mix to the office one a week, so I am a little biased. I agree the situation you describe is inappropriate and unprofessional, but to me the problem is the specific dog or rather the owner who isn’t being responsible.

      I wouldn’t bring Bailey in if her behavior was disruptive. In fact, we have a second dog who does not come to the office with me because he would cause problems. IMO, the same standard should apply to children. If they’re sick or disruptive, they don’t belong in the office. And if the parent/owner can’t or won’t monitor the situation appropriately, the management needs to step in.

      1. JB*

        This is the tricky part–not everyone thinks their badly behaved dog is badly behaved. I also agree that management needs to step in when the dog isn’t well behaved.

        I used to let a friend bring her dog with her when she came to visit me. She thought the dog was charming and well behaved. The dog barked at everyone and chewed on anything lying around, including TV remotes, furniture legs, and books on the coffee table.

        I lost a friend when I told her she couldn’t bring her dog with her any longer.

        1. LQ*

          I think a lot of people know their badly behaved dog is badly behaved, they just think it is cute, or unchangeable, or acceptable.

          I have a friend with a pair of badly behaved dogs and she knows they are badly behaved but she excuses it with how cute they are etc. This is something I’ve heard a lot of people do.

          (But I also can’t see how someone couldn’t see how eating a guests’ shoes is acceptable ever in any universe so I may be biased.)

          1. chewbecca*

            My mom is one of those people. Her dog is over a year old and still isn’t house trained. They have relied too much on potty pads and I think it’s to the point that it’s almost a lost cause now (from what I’ve heard, he doesn’t even use them consistently). Their house reeks of urine. It’s gross.

            He’s also chewed holes in their carpet, but she doesn’t do anything about it. Their sitting room has several 2 inch holes in the carpet and they’ve done nothing to stop it.

            But of course, he’s sooooo cute, so it’s all okay.

            1. LQ*

              It’s not ok!

              I do feel a little bad for those dogs, like what happens if they get bitten by another dog and get less cute? (Much like people who get old and less cute.)

            2. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

              My old landlord was like this. Her dogs all used puppy pads because “it’s too dangerous outside” (??) but they mostly just went anywhere. Even with hardwood flooring it still smelled like urine all the time on her floor. The washing machine and dryer were shared and I had to start bringing my laundry to a laundromat because she’d wash her puppy pads in there and everything you washed came out smelling like dog. But she was oblivious to the fact that all her clothes and her whole house smelled bad. It’s like the hoarders who don’t see their mess after a while.

              1. chewbecca*

                Yeah, I’m pretty sure they don’t smell it, either.

                I feel really bad, because the dog has a lame foot and it makes me physically uncomfortable to watch him walk. I’m not normally squeamish (our dog had his front right leg amputated before we adopted him), but for some reason I just can’t deal with it. Still doesn’t excuse the lack of discipline or proper training, though.

          2. Mallorie, the recruiter*

            LQ – are you talking about me? LOL. I literally say the phrase “They are SO BAD, but SO CUTE” once a day about my wildlings (2 chihuahuas).

            1. LQ*

              Nope the 2 dogs she has are not chihuahuas!

              I think it is fine to do that for yourself, just don’t go imposing the dogs on others.

              I have a dog I watch often who is so obnoxiously cute that people cross the street to tell me this (I really wish she looked meaner, it would keep people away!) but I know that she is evil and should be kept to places like dog parks only.

        2. hayling*

          OMG I would be so embarrassed if my dog behaved badly at a friend’s house, and I would totally understand if they said I couldn’t bring him. Also any time I bring my dog somewhere I bring his kennel so if he needs a time-out he can go in there and hang with his chew toy for a bit.

      2. TL*

        I agree with JB. I have very, very high standards for what constitutes a “well-behaved” dog – and I wouldn’t want anything but a dog that meets those standards in the office. (In the dog park, your home, or other dog-specific places is another story, of course).
        But I know a fair amount of dogs whose owners think they’re well-behaved and who I think are miscreants. Of course, I also know some owners with some lovely, amazingly well-behaved pups who also think their dogs are well-behaved (and I would agree.)

      3. kac*

        Did you confirm whether people have allergies to your dog first? My husband has incredibly sensitive allergies to all pets, and I always fear for the allergic officemate when I hear stories of offices with resident dogs. (That said, I personally would love an office with a nice pup hanging around!)

        1. Lanya*

          Yeah…allergic officemate here…I would not do so well with in-office dogs or cats. Or ragweed, for that matter.

            1. Elizabeth West*


              I was talking about the flowers in my yard one day at Exjob and the boss said I could not bring irises to work because she was allergic. She said if I had roses that I could bring those, but I don’t, darn it.

        2. Mep*

          Yep, I also know a few family members that are allergic to most dogs.

          There are others, like me, who are just afraid of big animals (and yes, that includes little pups). It took me a few years to get adjusted to my sister’s dog. So, a company that has an open policy for animals isn’t a place for me to work at.

      4. KrisL*

        I like what BethRA said. A well behaved, quiet kid or animal is usually fine in the office.

    3. TychaBrahe*

      My boss has invited me to bring my cat in. He calls it Take Your Foxbat to Work Day. I think he’d like to have a pet but travels too much.

      Our building doesn’t permit it, which is a shame, because Foxbat is fearless and very friendly, and we have lots of empty boxes.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I would LOVE a Bring Your Cat to Work Day! At my former job, my coworker and I were working hard to get the CEO to agree. We were a very small company where employees were more like family so it would have been totally cool with everyone. I would often bring my cats in after vet appointments and everyone would play with them. Especially the two new kittens I had at the time. And they loved seeing the Persians after a lion’s cut appointment.

          1. Kat*

            I recently got married which included a lot of boxes, bags, and ribbon. I totally referred to our house in the unwrapping states as Six Flags for Cats. They were so happy! (We kept the bows as cat toys).

            1. chewbecca*

              Our cat’s Favorite Thing Evar is a green ribbon that came off a present. I went to pick it up one day and he got all excited kitty and attacked it. It now resides by the bed so he can hide under the bed and attack it while we twitch it.

        1. Jean*

          My spirit loves cats (spirited! elegant!) but my lungs disagree _passionately_ and in the last decade my previously mild allergic reaction has become quicker and more serious.

          Please, please, please don’t bring your animals to work, unless you are clearly in the business of supporting or advocating for animal rights, no-kill shelters, caring for feral cats, etc.
          (Not trying to go off-topic here! I kept wanting to apply to a cat advocacy nonprofit, but alas, they had 5 cats in the office. Ultimately my good sense and sense of self-preservation prevailed.)

          1. Annie*

            Same thing- great job- at an animal non-profit- and then it said the dreaded 4 letter word- CATS… I have 2 friends who have multiple cats (one has 4 one has 2) and if I’m at their places for more than an hour or two I’m on sinus medicine for at least 2 days- if I keep my limit (less than ~90 minutes) I just have itchy eyes until I shower… it sucked to have to forgo applying for a job because they had cats in the office.

        2. Lanya*

          Allergic Coworker here again. My throat would close up if someone brought a cat in. They are very cute, though! Wish I could have one myself.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I would get shredded if I tried to bring my cat to work. If I managed to get her into the carrier, she would yowl all day and no one would get any work done.

        4. Agile Phalanges*

          I’m late to this thread, but just wanted to chime in because I’m organizing a cat day at my work. :-) We’ve always allowed dogs, and there are a few regulars who come in a couple times a week. I checked with HR and the dog owners, and we’ve scheduled a cat day next week. The dog owners won’t bring their dogs that day, and any cat owners are welcome to brings their cats. As it happens, I just got a batch of four foster kittens–perfect timing!

          1. Agile Phalanges*

            Oh, and I checked with the whole office, not just HR and dog people, and welcomed objections, and there were none, so we’re proceeding. I would’ve been fine with not having a cat day if anyone were allergic, but the only person in the office who was allergic to my knowledge left as of Friday (we’re all being laid off, so people are leaving here and there, and we’re down to about half capacity now).

      2. Canadamber*

        That would be amazing!!! My cat is so cute and everyone would love her (although she *probably* wouldn’t sit on anybody’s laps unless they were wearing jeans), but she’s really annoying when she wants something. Oh, God, those meows. They just eat into my soul!!!

      3. KC*

        At my first job out of college, our office had an atrium in the center of the building with shrubs and plants. We had two cats who lived in the atrium and were the company’s mascots.

        When we moved to a larger building with no such space, the company adopted the cats out to employees. The idea was that, due to folks with allergies and potential danger for the cats to be accidentally trapped in vacant rooms, we couldn’t have cats wandering loose in the new (HUGE) building.

      4. Anx*

        Cats at work would be a nightmare for me.

        I have a cat, and I like cats, but I really don’t like working where their paws go. Litter toes, blech.

        I know, I know. I’m no fun. But I’d get some serious anxiety trying to keep it under wraps that I find litter toes gross and distracting.

        1. Anonsie*

          My boyfriend feels like this about rabbits (my rabbit never had the stained icky feet that some rabbits get because he had a litter area that was wire bottomed so he wasn’t walking where he tinkled anyway, but I digress) and cats. He calls it “pee feets” and he won’t touch them because of it.

          I find this amusing because I also have a snake that he’s ok with, but has solidly put his foot down about bringing a rabbit into the house because they’re “gross.”

          1. Bea W*

            That’s a deal breaker for me. Maybe that’s why i’m an old maid. :D

            Rabbits don’t get pee feet if you have a proper litterbox with absorbant bedding/litter or a grid set up that keeps them up off the catch area. Newspaper does not cut it with rabbits. Their bits are too close to their giant feet, and they can’t avoid standing in the puddle. Males can at least shoot it backwards, but with a bad litterbox setup, it’s still a losing battle for them. There are few things more annoying to a rabbit than pee feet.

            Cats and rabbits spend a great deal of time grooming themselves. They don’t like “pee feets” either. Their feet are much cleaner than people feet. I’m skeeved out by people wearing street shoes in my house. How many pets get athletes foot, plantar warts, and toe nail fungus? That stuff is all way grosser than the (mostly imaginary) “pee feets” of pets.

            1. Anonsie*

              I didn’t own any rabbits anymore when we met (had them a long time ago) or it would have been a deal breaker here as well.

              On the one hand I’d like to have bunnies again but realistically I don’t have the time to take good care of them, so he wins for now.

          1. Anonsie*

            This is what I always tell my dogs when they try to lick me. “Don’t touch me with your nasty butt tongue.”

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          I have more anxiety about the humans in the office who don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom, or who sneeze into their hands, or pick their noses, or dig at their teeth with a fingernail. I’m much more likely to get sick from human officemates than from any potential feline ones.

      5. KrisL*

        I’ve got 2 kitties, but I’m not sure they’d want to be brought to an office. The younger one might be OK for a while, as long as she had some room to run around.

    4. Rat Racer*

      And some people are scared of dogs (like on the order of actual phobias) or are allergic. That seems like a terrible imposition.

    5. BadPlanning*

      At a friend’s job, they have an area where dogs can hang out (if they’re not in your office). They had to setup a puppy cam so they could track down incidents. No one believes the puddle is from their dog until it’s on film.

      1. Angora*

        LOL. They do not want to clean it up or afraid they’ll be told not to being them back if they are unable to hold it, or guilty of not walking them enough during the work day.

    6. MaryMary*

      My first job out of college, we had a team goldfish. He was quiet, well behaved, and never caused disruptions.

    7. Windchime*

      A previous co-worker used to bring two little yapping dogs to work with her from time to time. We are not a dog-friendly environment generally; sometimes people will bring their well-behaved dog if there is a late-night or weekend project going on. It was majorly annoying to have to listen to her dogs whining and barking all day. Any supervisors who cared were off in different parts of the building.

    8. Callie*

      To me the difference is this: You can leave your dog home by itself while you are at work. You cannot leave your child at home by themself until they are old enough. It really bothers me when people bring pets (not service animals) to work. It is never necessary.

    9. Piper*

      We actually have bring your dog to work days at my office. I have four dogs, but I only bring one of them – the calmest one. She could seriously come to the office every single day and no one would even know she’s there. She just lays on her bed at my feet, waddles to meetings with me, and sleeps on my lap or on the floor during meetings. People marvel at how well behaved she is. I probably wouldn’t bring my other dogs (and certainly not all at the same time), not because they’re bad, but because they would get restless sitting in an office for hours at a time without being allowed to wander around. I’m all for dogs in the office, as long as they are well behaved.

  2. Mena*

    Kids in the office are distracting and affect others’ productivity. Better that the parent telecommute from home (and keep the distractions his/her problem rather than bring them all to the office).

    And a sick kid, um, no. That will surely affect others’ productivity.

    1. Chinook*

      “Kids in the office are distracting and affect others’ productivity.”

      This is an example of applying your expierences as the norm for everyone. I once worked in an office that was all cubicles of IT programmers. One of the guys had obviously worked out something with the boss because he would bring his daughter in about once every 2 or 3 months. I never knew she was there until about halfway through the day when I went by his cubicle where she was either working quietly on a laptop (not one of ours) or watching something with headphones. Now, I know every child is not like this, but she was the perfect example of how this can work in the right situation.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think that’s right — it’s the forceful “always” (implied or explicit) that gets me. (I suppose you could read Mena’s statement that way, but I didn’t.)

        1. Chinook*

          I actually did read Mena’s statement as being a forceful “never” but I can see now how it could be read differently.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree. What I was talking about in my comment earlier today was when people argue a point of view with others vociferously — like “X always has a horrible outcome” — when there are other people right there telling them that they’ve seen X work out fine.

        I don’t want to see this turn into a thing people are nitpicked over either, so hopefully this resolves it!

      3. Ellie H.*

        I have a strong tendency to soften things by saying “I think that . . .” or “In my opinion . . .” and I remember that a LONG time ago (high school or even middle school) I was advised not to use such language because it weakens your point and if a statement is spoken/written by you, obviously it is your opinion or what you think. When I remember, I try to eliminate such phrases in order to be more concise, direct and confident sounding. However, sometimes it is helpful for social/cultural reasons to make a suggestion less emphatically. I see the same issue with this; sometimes it’s useful for the social element of a discussion but sometimes it’s unnecessary words.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          I haven’t given this too much thought before, but I’m ALWAYS weakening my statements like that, and it’s probably hurting me in subtle ways.

        2. jmkenrick*

          I think (lol) that’s it’s a pro/con. Sometimes it helps to acknowledge that you know something is your opinion and not a fact.

          Especially in personal disagreements, I find this can be helpful, since stating something as a fact can sometimes make people feel defensive, and that’s rarely helpful. AKA: “In my opinion, that behavior is disrespectful” versus “That behavior is disrespectful.”

          On the other hand, if something IS a fact and you’re just adding ‘I think’ to soften the blow…that’s when it can be good to check your language. (“Actually, I think it was Davis, not Lee, who was the president of the Confederacy”)

          1. Ellie H.*

            Exactly – “That behavior is disrespectful” and “In my opinion, [etc]” could each be the best choice in different contexts.

    2. Xay*

      It depends on the child. I would never bring my son to work because sitting still and being office environment level quiet for hours at a time is not in his skill set. On the other hand, my supervisor brings his daughter into the office occasionally and she is entirely self-entertaining and quiet. You’d never know she was there.

      1. hildi*

        “…sitting still and being office environment level quiet for hours at a time is not in his skill set.”

        Not his skill set – I love it!! I’m totally going to steal when I’m talking (not in front of her) about my daughter. That’s very apropos.

      2. TychaBrahe*

        My mother used to bring me in to the office. She would make an announcement that I was “available,” and if anyone had any photocopying or filing to do, I did it. I had started working for her, at home, at age 6, copying chart numbers into billing records and being paid a quarter a sheet.

        When I got a bit older, she would drop me off at her biller’s office every day during winter break. I would spend the day tearing apart computer forms and putting bills in envelopes.

        When I was 16, I was filling in for their receptionist, booking appointments, filing lab work, working the front desk. I even set up my mother’s first patient database.

        The thing is, I was a quiet, bookish child for whom this sort of work was fun.

        1. Chinook*

          My mother has been known to do that with her grandchildren when my dad is unavailable to babysit as promised (usually that involves a last minute dump of snow in the mountains and him being a poor influence on his unretired, working from home ski friends). The 3 year old is great at sorting hangers and the 6 year old truly enjoys breaking down boxes for recycling.

        2. Mallory*

          I used to bring my son and daughter to work once in a while when they had a day out of school due to a teacher in-service day or some such. I had a semi-private office (I was the only one in there, but it housed the Xerox machine and the coffee pot, so others were in and out) and people would bring #2 pencils for my kids to sharpen using the electric pencil sharpener, or they would bring stacks of paper that they needed to have shredded and my kids would shred it for them. I would still usually end up leaving around 2pm on days when they were at work with me, because it was distracting to ME to have them there once their patience for being stuck at work wore out.

        3. dangitmegan*

          My mom did the same! I got to go in and prepare the envelopes for mailing. I stamped confidential and the address to different county offices on different types of envelopes. All my moms coworkers would prepare little tasks for me and I’d go around to all the offices to collect work. I called it my “sepertary” days and I would have gladly done that everyday of my little kid life. The admin assistants loved having me there because the amount of mail they had to send daily was crazy and preparing the envelopes was such a time suck.

        4. Annie*

          This was us too!
          My mom works at a university (she & my dad went there, I went there and my sister goes there) and previously at the local YMCA. We used to get paid $20/day for coming in and doing mailings on school breaks (I was about 15- siblings were 13, 11, & 7) each of us had what played to our skill set (One folded them, one put the address labels on, I made sure everything matched then stuffed them, my sister (the youngest) was on sealing duties. I think it helped that she had students working for her and in and out of the office all day so it wasn’t a traditional office place- my past job would have been a nightmare for kids (we had a few stop bys on days when their mom ended up having to work from home/was supposed to be off and they needed something nothing like an all day stay). I knew how to answer an office phone at 15/16 and we would get to see where mom worked and get paid for it.

        5. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Yeah, that was my experience to. If I got brought to work for whatever reason, I got put to work doing menial office stuff.

        6. Mallorie, the recruiter*

          I’m not saying this in a smart-alec way but in an actual wondering way — would this be a child labor issue?

          1. Prickly Pear*

            Apparently yes, as I found out when the lunch lady at my old elementary retired. My mom was a lunch lady at a different school and come summers, we’d be with her, and I’d wash tables because we got put to work. When school rolled back around, it was natural for me to ask at my own school if I could do the same. Who knew it wasn’t quite kosher to have kids using hot bleach water to scrub a table down?
            (For the record, the retiring lady disavowed all knowledge of me. My mom doesn’t have that luxury.)

          2. Anonsie*

            My parents both did this with me sometimes, but they both worked at nonprofits and signed me up as a volunteer. I “worked” with their regular volunteers doing filing and hole punching and stuff. So that’s one way to do it, I guess.

        7. Cath in Canada*

          You guys all got paid?!

          Apparently my Mum owes my sister and me a LOT of back pay for tidying supply closets, shredding paper, and filing when we had to spend the day at work with her…

        8. Rebecca*

          Haha, one of my old bosses (department store manager) used to have to bring in one of his daughters every once in a while. She was probably 7 or 8 and he had her opening boxes, sizing things, etc.

        9. bbanon*

          My grandmother used to bring me along with her when she worked weekend nights in a university library. I LOVED checking books in and shredding. She also let me push the closing alarm! She paid me in 2 vending machine snacks/shift. :)

          1. Evilduck*

            That’s adorable and would have been my perfect first job. Instead, my parents owned a restaurant, so I got to wash dishes and hostess. I do remember really enjoying clocking in with one of those old time clocks that made a loud KA-CHUNK sound. When I got my first non-nepotistic job, my parents made me give two weeks’ notice to the chef; at the time I was annoyed, but now I’m grateful to have had a lesson like that at the age I was.

        10. Mona*

          I remember going to my Mom’s office when I was about seven and doing sorting or filing. Her boss would stick his head in her office and say, “I see your assistant is here today, how much is she charging us this time?” I would reply “a bag of Jolly Ranchers and a Snickers!” I have since learned how to negotiate a better salary.

      3. Del*

        Agreed! I used to hang out at my mother’s office after school (she worked on school campus in one of the offices, so it was a pretty reasonable arrangement) but that meant sitting quietly at a table in the cafeteria reading or doing homework. Most people didn’t seem to even notice I was there and I certainly didn’t bug anyone. I even liked it because it was easy to focus on getting my homework done, and there were vending machines full of treats we didn’t have at home.

      4. Aimee*

        This, exactly. My kids are almost 6 and 17 months. My almost-6-year-old would be perfectly fine for a while if he had his “phone” (and old iphone that no longer has the ability to function as a phone, but on which he can play Minecraft), but even after a couple hours he’d be unable to sit still any more. And he is LOUD without meaning to be.

        And my 17 month old is…well, 17 months old. And she’s recently learned how to scream, and thinks it’s great fun.

        Thankfully, I have a boss who is perfectly fine with me working from home with my kids around if I need to. My older one does really well with that since he has lots of things to do at home. And my little one does much better than I’d expect her to (my day care provider recently moved away and we were without day care for almost a month. My husband and I were able to work out our schedules so one of us was able to work from home each day for a couple weeks until my mom came for a pre-planned visit. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked out fine; I was very happy for her to start her new day care this week though!)

        1. lachevious*

          “recently learned how to scream, and thinks it’s great fun”

          Oh such fun :) My 2 1/2 year old has started hissing. It’s…something.

          1. Aimee*

            The demon growl she did at 5 months or so has made it’s return too. We had great fun on the drive home yesterday, alternating between screaming and growling.

            I find it cute, most of the time. But I wouldn’t subject my coworkers to it!

      5. Elizabeth West*

        Sometimes, we would walk to my parents’ store after school (it was a Hallmark store) and sit in the office or storeroom. Sometimes we’d play with the typewriter, or wrap gifts (I was and still am HORRIBLE at this). There was also a bow-making machine we would make bows with (I was good at this). Often I would walk to the library and then to the store when I didn’t want to take the bus home and sit and read until five, when the store closed.

        We were forbidden to pop the bubble wrap, but I just could not resist. I would sneak a piece out and wait until my parents were in the front and then pop away. >:D

    3. MaryMary*

      Honestly, I’m not crazy about people telecommuting when they’re home with small children. If you have a child who cannot be left home alone, then you’re not going to be able to concentrate fully on your work. Maybe older school-age children are the exception (your 11 year old may be pretty self-sufficient even if you’re not ready to leave her on her own for eight hours), but infants are not (your baby is unlikely to sleep for eight hours straight during the day). I don’t understand how anyone with a toddler and no additional help can work from home.

      OldJob required anyone who worked from home regularly and had children to also have childcare. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a job that’s 100% flexible (i.e no one cares when you write that article or debug that code as long as it’s done by the deadline), then I feel like you end up half paying attention to both work and your kids.

      1. JayDee*

        Telecommuting with a child at home also depends on the situation. Some jobs require you to be physically at the workplace, while others don’t. Some jobs have better PTO/leave policies than others. I don’t see telecommuting as a way to avoid having childcare, and I hope no one else is advocating that in a general way. But for a job where it is possible, would you rather your employee take a full day off with a sick kid and get no work done, or would you rather they work from home and get even 30-40% of a day’s work done?

        1. MaryMary*

          I think it depends on your company’s/manager’s expectations. Let’s say you have the flu. You stay home, respond to a couple emails and call into that status meeting, but spend most of the day asleep. Are you expected to a) take a sick/PTO day, b) take a partial sick/PTO day, or c) everyone is fine with you calling that “working from home.” Not to equate sleeping with taking care of children, but if you’re not putting in a full day of work in either scenario. Some workplaces are fine with this, others are not. I’m not too bothered by the one-offs, but I am by the people who work from home “so I can spend more time with my kids.”

          1. mortorph*

            I’m trying to come to grips with this at my workplace now – the flexibility to work from home so they can also pick up children, watch children, etc. I personally cannot work from home (I know I am unproductive), so I can’t tell if my frustration of other office members working from stems from my personal experiences – or if I am truly frustrated because I think if you work from home, you shouldn’t be trying to manage a household, too.

            1. MaryMary*

              Well, to clarify, I have no issue at all with people who work from home to make daycare/school pick ups and drop offs easier, or folks who work 6:30 – 2:30 so they can be there when their kids get home from school. It’s even nicer if that same flexibility is available for other people who don’t have kids (OldJob let me work from home one day a week so I could take a class that started at 5:30 – a yoga class). It’s the folks who are home with small children, no additional childcare, and who call it a work day that I have a problem with.

            2. C Average*

              Last summer, I had my schedule set up so that I worked from home in the mornings. I did this so that my stepkids could have a taste of the kind of summers I used to enjoy: sleep until you wake up, play outside with the neighbors, sit in the hammock with a good book, graze rather than eat meals. I liked the idea of them having a break from getting up early to be rushed off to one camp or another. They were with their mother in the afternoon, so I dropped them off and then went in to the office for a few hours.

              I made it very, very clear to them that I needed to work and that if they prevented me from working, their lovely, languid mornings would come to an end because I’d return to the office where it’s quiet and I can get stuff done.

              They were amazingly well-behaved. Barely made a peep. (They’re 8 and 12 and both rather bookish, so I never really thought they’d make any trouble, but I wanted to make sure they understood that I really did HAVE to work.)

              Sometimes they had questions about what I was doing and I got to explain bits of my work to them. That was actually pretty fun.

          2. Jamie*

            I agree with this. I have no problem with telecommuting, but it cannot be done regularly and properly combined with child care. Something will suffer.

            Regarding being home because a kid is sick – absolutely you’re not 100% the way you’d be if you were in the office or working from home without caring for a child.

            But sometimes being at 40% is better than nothing and at least you’re available for some stuff. If I take a sick day and I spend 2-3 hours remoting in and working from home, actively working, they adjust the time so only 5-6 hours is taken from my PTO. Because I would resent burning a whole day if I have to log in and do stuff while hacking up a lung – but they are reasonable about it so I do what can.

            On the other hand there are days where I’ve stayed home with a residual sneezy/coughy thing and I am at 100% – just don’t want to be drippy in the office and that is a full day working from home – because I’m actively logged in and working as if at my desk. Same as when I was recovering from surgery – I was mentally able to work 3 weeks before I was physically cleared to drive or sit up for long stretches of time – so being home allowed me to position myself where I could sit/recline without pain and work a regular day.

            I couldn’t have done it with small kids, though. There is no way I could give full attention to my job while caring for children properly.

      2. KellyK*

        I think the real question is telecommuting *as opposed to what?* Of the options, is it more or less disruptive than a sick day, or than bringing a kid to the office?

        Sure, unless you have a fairly self-sufficient late elementary school kid and a job that can be done well remotely, you’re not going to be at max productivity. But you’re also pretty much guaranteed to get *more* done than if you’d just taken the day off. (It may also be that you’re less productive Monday, but you work later the rest of the week to catch up, and in the end it doesn’t make a difference.) So it can be a good middle ground if something comes up, even if it wouldn’t work all the time.

        Personally, I’d rather work in an environment that cuts people a little slack for the occasional child care (or pet care, or transportation problem, or what-have-you), and I don’t mind picking up a little slack for coworkers if they’ll do the same for me when I need.

        1. Anonsie*

          This is how I feel. I am absolutely fine with working around whatever issues my coworkers have because I want them to be able to take care of their lives in whatever way works for them. As long as nothing is irrevocably destroyed by their absence (which is possible in my line of work but easy to navigate around), I can deal. It’s a golden rule thing.

        2. KrisL*

          I agree that it’s good to be able to cut people some slack. Hard working people sometimes need time to deal with stuff during the work day. Gotta take care of the good workers :)

    4. kac*

      In my last office, during snow days or school vacation some of my co-workers would bring their children in. They would commandeer an unused conference room, close the door, and spend the day quietly playing and reading. I would go the majority of the day without even knowing they were there. Our director had reservations about people telecommuting so this was the compromise, and I think it worked out very well–so I think it depends on the office lay-out and children in question whether it’s distracting or not.

  3. Case of the Mondays*

    This is a great article. I agree with all of your points. I have worked in offices with a variety of attitudes on this. My personal take on it really depends on the situation at hand – both the emergency that required the kid to be at work and the urgency of the employee having to do her/his work rather than just taking a day off.

    Here are some examples from my experience:
    1.) Kid’s daycare has a boiler emergency and no heat. Daycare cancelled that morning. Mom is assistant to lawyer with major filing deadline. Kid is very well behaved and not sick. Kid comes to work and colors and watches movies with headphones at an empty desk near mom all day. This was an okay exception.

    1.) Kid is too sick to go to daycare. Mom brings him to work. He is whiny all day (poor thing is sick!). We all don’t want to catch it! Mom had nothing urgent requiring her to be at work that day. Not a good idea.

    2.) Rude kids that are rude to everyone and not corrected by mom or dad.

    Snow day. Firm announces kids can come to work and stay in the lunch room with movies and activities and lunch. Admin staff will rotate watching them, two at a time in one hour shifts. This worked out awesome and was really fun for the kids and staff but I don’t know if a staff member who didn’t like kids or wasn’t comfortable with kids could have backed out. I’m not 100% comfortable turning people who aren’t child care providers into child care providers. However, we all have to do things beyond our job responsibilities on occasion. We all do things we hate at work sometimes. So, this one time thing shouldn’t have been too big a deal. I would have been more supportive if EVERYONE took turns watching the kids, not just the (predominately female) support staff – but I understand the firm doesn’t lose as much money with them since they are non-billable.

    Personal to me:
    No kids, but a large dog. My condo had an emergency and needed immediate work. Neither me nor my dog could be in it while it was worked on. I had just moved to town for this job and didn’t have a friend to leave the dog with. The doggy daycares wouldn’t take her without a doggy interview. The kennels were full or wanted a shot my dog hadn’t received in old state. I asked my boss if I could keep my dog in my office with the door shut just for that day and explained why. He agreed. It was a pain in the butt to keep her quiet all day and not have other people see her and want to play with her, etc.

    I do expect employers to be flexible in the rare emergency. People just shouldn’t make it a habit.

    1. Steve*

      In my opinion, it is never ok to expect a person to care for someone else’s child(ren) under the rules of “we all have to do things beyond our job responsibilities on occasion.” NEVER.

      1. fposte*

        I would agree with that. It’s different to say that you have to do things for the organization that aren’t in your job description, but babysitting kids isn’t for the organization, it’s a personal service.

        1. Laufey*

          Tangentially related side note – I worked for one of those horse-rental trail ride places during college – awesome job, but totally dysfunctional. One of us wranglers pet peeves was that there were no minimum age for kids to be unaccompanied, so we had several times when parents would send their kids – not teenagers, but actual kids, under ten, – for rides, but not actually ride themselves. The wranglers weren’t paid; we worked only for tips (dysfunctional, remember), and when this happened, we would invariably get only around $5 (ie, being paid less than $5/hour to babysit multiple kids on horseback.

          We did eventually convince the boss to require parents to purchase lessons, rather than the generic trail ride price, when kids went unaccompanied, and one of our arguments was that I charged a hella lot more to babysit than our boss did, and I didn’t have to feed forty head of horses.

            1. Laufey*

              simon & Mallory – that is part of why this is a former place of employment, and not a current one, and why all the wranglers with options left for (metaphorical and literal) greener pastures.

        2. KellyK*

          Yeah, I agree. Not only is it *way* out of the range of their job description, but it seems like a liability nightmare to put someone with no training in charge of a room full of kids. What if one gets hurt?

          I like that the firm was flexible, but I think it should’ve been on the affected parents to either trade off watching kids or bring in their own baby-sitter, so that all the office is providing is space and some movies.

      2. AVP*

        I think it’s better if you can ask for volunteers who have a slow enough hour in their day to do it – potentially the parents who brought kids.

        I’m not an admin but I love kids and dogs and would probably volunteer. Many other people would probably be miffed or on a deadline – and do you really want an annoyed or distracted person in charge?

        1. BRR*

          Exactly! Ask for volunteers due to both deadlines and affinity. I am not a huge fan of children. Other people in my office love children.

          1. Ethyl*

            Yeah same here. The thought of my boss expecting me to watch his kids in an “emergency” (which, I dunno, I’m from Upstate NY and a snow day is hardly an emergency) is making my shoulders go up around my ears.

        2. Rebecca*

          Agreed, that should be a volunteer basis and I like the idea of it mostly being the parents who brought in the kids.

          I like kids but I don’t have any of my own and zero experience babysitting!

          That said, it sounds like it worked out well in that particular situation. Kudos to your employer for being flexible and understanding!

      3. BRR*

        I agree with this completely. I can’t imagine coming in to my job and being told I will be in charge of a group of children’s well being. Even with another person and only for an hour as stated above. If one of them accidentally gets hurt, I would not be surprised if the parent would file a lawsuit.

        1. Windchime*

          Me, too. I generally only like my own kids and very few selected others. I hated babysitting as a teenager and I sure wouldn’t do it at this stage, especially when I’m being paid to do something else.

      4. ali*

        agreed. if anyone asked me to watch their children, well, they get what they ask for. I have zero skills in that area and that is not something I was hired to do. Watch me crash and burn and take your kid along with me.

        1. lifes a beach*

          no kidding! Not a kid person myself! But your children might come home with a more interesting vocabulary.

          1. Sophie*

            Yes, this! Since none of my friends have children, I try to censor myself around them, but inevitably fail. I would be very uncomfortable and also very BAD at child minding in this scenario.

      5. Cat*

        Agreed. Especially since having admins do it definitely falls under the rubric of making your employees watch your kid.

        (Conversely, I have and will happily babysit my co-workers’ children for a bit when they’re in a meeting and conference call, but these are people who are my peers who know I’m completely willing to say no.)

      6. Case of the Mondays*

        Just to be clear, I was not in management and involved in planning or executing this. They may very well have asked for volunteers but that wasn’t in the memo. My understanding was on snow days the lawyers tended to just work from home or take the day off. With the lawyers out of the office the admin were less productive too. The firm never just closed for snow. So after a bunch of snow days, when the city closed school the day before yet another storm, the firm put together this “solution” so the lawyers would still come to work. There were about 30 lawyers and I think maybe 15 or so kids showed up.

        Since I’m former law enforcement I couldn’t help but think what if someone “can’t” be around kids. That would be an awkward conversation. Uh, boss, pursuant to Megan’s law, I can’t be within 200 feet of a kid so um, I’m going to have to work upstairs today.

        1. Chinook*

          “Since I’m former law enforcement I couldn’t help but think what if someone “can’t” be around kids.”

          I never even thought of it from that angle (and I doubt most employers have either). I know recent practices have changed here in Canada where background checks are the norm for being around vulnerable people even when logically they shouldn’t be necessary. For example, a teacher can take their own students on a field trip but need a separate background check to chaperone their child’s field trip in another school, even if they are within the same school board. So, if my company were asking for volunteers to watch a colleagues child, I would wonder how they would deal with these background checks?

        2. OhNo*

          That was my concern. There were a few years when I was young that I wasn’t allowed to go to work with my dad for any reason, no matter the emergency, because one of his coworkers wasn’t allowed to be around kids.

          My parents found that out early on when he was working there, so luckily they knew in advance that if there was an emergency, either my brother and I had to go to work with my mom, or we had to stay home by ourselves with regular check-in calls.

          (As a side note, I’m kind of surprised that more parents don’t do this now. My parents did this pretty regularly from when I was eight onward – just call every hour or two and if I missed a call and didn’t ring back within five minutes, they came straight home. Do cell phones make it untenable nowadays?)

          1. Cat*

            I don’t think cell phone made it untenable; I just think the culture has seriously changed. My parents used to do this too (and I was babysitting from the age of 11 on); but my friends and co-workers with kids now would never even consider it.

        3. Jamie*

          I didn’t even think of that – but very good point about the legal aspect if people can’t be around kids.

          I’d think this would be something the company would know from a background check and would have to make a no kids policy if hiring someone with this background.

          Are there stipulations on that – like being alone with them or for a period of time, etc. Because I would imagine it would be impossible to go to a store, or a doctor’s office waiting room, etc. without encountering kids in the environment. Maybe for work situations where it’s unexpected (someone stops in to pick something up on a day off happens to have their kid with them, etc.) that would apply? I don’t know.

      7. KJR*

        Plus I would think it would be a liability for the company if something were to happen to the child while under an unqualified person’s care. Granted, it’s not likely, but still. Personally, though, I wouldn’t want someone I didn’t know (or hadn’t had background checked, interviewed, etc. taking care of my child.) My kids call it being overprotective, I call it being smart!!

      8. kac*

        Expecting that doesn’t seem okay with me, but personally when I was an admin if someone asked me if I would spend an hour or two of my day hanging out with some kids, I would have been psyched.

      9. Cath in Canada*

        Agreed! I worked in a movie theatre one summer that lots of local parents used as a day care; they’d drop their kids off at the start of the day with enough cash for three movies, a burger, and arcade games. One of the parents yelled at a colleague once for not watching their kid, who’d wandered off to another store in the strip mall (the kid was fine, they just weren’t where they were supposed to be at pick-up time). Um, that’s not our job? And the kid’s already seen all the age-appropriate movies we’re showing this month five times each?

      10. Mints*

        Agree. And I think it’s funny because I’ve worked childcare, but I would not at all want to watch kids in an office setting. Childcare was VERY strict about all kinds of things that you don’t really think about in informal settings. Our bathroom policy was like three pages long. I have all these liability and child abuse prevention things running through my head now

      11. Anonsie*

        I can think of one exception where this would make sense, though: The workplace is one that primarily supervises/provides services to children, so the kids aren’t out of place and dealing with them is already part of everyone’s job to some extent.

        1. Jamie*

          Aren’t there rules (laws?) governing the child to staff ratio in such places?

          If I were paying to keep my kid in daycare or some kind of program I wouldn’t be happy if that ratio was exceeded because people brought their kids.

          1. Anonsie*

            Not sure about the rules for daycares– laws would be local (I believe) and then there’s the regular policies. I wouldn’t be miffed if a handful of extra kids were there during a weather emergency if it meant they were still open to watch my kids… Though where I’m from you never see less than 30-35 kids to a teacher in a school and you typically have 20-30 kids per two people at a daycare, so my perspective on what’s acceptable may be a little skewed as apparently those numbers are horrifying to most people.

            I was actually thinking about places I’ve worked, none of which were daycares or schools. One is a nonprofit that provides mentoring and guidance counseling programs to children under 14 but didn’t have children on site– they normally go out to schools, so there’d be no displacement of “regular” kids, but the staff/volunteers are almost all people who regularly go out and manage large groups of children sometimes. The other is a large pediatric medical center that actually has a really nice system for helping deal with siblings & etc that’s open to staffer’s kids when necessary. Since essential medical staff need to be on hand, if there’s a blizzard or something you really need to have a system for how to get those people at work and working, and the support staff do what we can to make the essentials keep running no matter what.

            1. Mints*

              This never came up when I worked childcare, since most staff didn’t have kids and we don’t have snow days in California, but the rules were really very strict. The ratios would mean we’d have to call in extra staff if a bunch of extra kids came (actually, we turned down kids all the time when they weren’t scheduled ahead of time), and the kids would have to be registered with all the emergency and medical info. You couldn’t just drop off extra kids like you would with relatives or even under the table baby sitters. I think at my old job, we’d be less likely to take on an unexpected kid than lots of office-type places.

    2. Shell*

      As support staff, I would have been livid if I had to watch kids. I’m not a kid person–I acknowledge that, I can converse with them fine in very small bursts, but they exhaust me and on the (very rare) occasion where I had to watch them without their parent present, it was incredibly stressful for me.

      It’s one thing to pitch in for the organization with things that aren’t usually in the job description. But childcare is not part of the organization’s goals or mission (unless this was a daycare), and I would so not be okay with that.

      1. Jess*

        Seriously. Your kids, your choice, your responsibilty. In my opinion, the parents needs to be the one supervising them at all times. And if you’re going to ask your coworkers or employees to it, you should be paying them nanny wages on top of their regular work wages for the hours they put in watching them.

      2. OhNo*

        Yeah, that would be my reaction, too. I don’t even want to be in the office if there are kids around, let alone having to watch them or interact with them for any length of time.

        If I had been on that staff, I would have just used one of my sick days instead of being forced to deal with kids.

    3. Allison*

      “However, we all have to do things beyond our job responsibilities on occasion. We all do things we hate at work sometimes.”

      Yeah I wouldn’t use that to justify expecting someone to watch your kids. I’d use that to expect someone to answer the phone or take over another employee’s work duties, but these are kids we’re talking about! babysitting is far enough outside of most people’s job duties that I don’t think that “suck it up and do it because WORK” sentiment. I don’t have kids but if I did, I wouldn’t entrust to someone I didn’t feel was both willing and able to watch after them.

      1. Leah*

        Yeah. I’d be pretty miffed if I was expected to be childcare at work. Many people have told me I ought to be a teacher because I’m patient and explain things really well. I have never entertained the notion for a second because groups of more than 3 small children drive me up a wall. Particularly little kids’ voices. I know it’s simply how their voices are naturally and 90% of the time when they’re shrieking, it’s not a game of annoy-the-grown-ups. Still, I can sit through nails on a chalkboard and forks scraping plates but have to hightail it when there are large groups of young children lest my head explode.

        So, yeah, if you’re in a job that doesn’t generally involve children in some way then telling people to act as childcare instead of volunteering is asking for problems.

    4. Angora*

      Now I am one of those administrative assistants that would have been pissed at asked to watch kids during the day. Not into kids; and do not want to watch them.

      If there was going be a group of kids at work due to a snow day; the firm should make arrangements to have a temporary childcare worker / baby sitter arrangement.

      I work in the university setting and it happens a lot here. Some of the AA love watching the professor’s kids; but I think it’s out of line and sure in the &*^ do not a sick kid in my office sharing germs.

      I pissed off a faculty member about 10 years ago when I refused to watch their sick kid when the were teaching a class. The kid was throwing up and too young to be left alone …. so he tried to leave the sick kid with me. I was polite but said I didn’t want to catch anything; than he get uppidty and I turned around and got my back up and informed him that I’m not a babysitter. His wife worked nights at the hospital and was at home sleeping … and didn’t want to be disturbed with a sick child so he bought her to work. Felt sorry for the kid; but so not part of my job description.

      Not sure what he did; but he never asked again. I think one of the other faculty members jumped on him for the way he talked to me. He avoided me for a few days. I know I sounded cruel to some people; but when you choose to not have children because it’s not your thing; you do not enjoy watching others at work.

      1. Traveler*

        It does not sound cruel at all. No way would I want to be cleaning up the vomit of another human being – just because they are little doesn’t change it for me.

    5. De Minimis*

      We had issues with snow days this past winter–one employee in my department did bring her son in [he’s around 8-9 I think.] He watched TV in our area and was relatively quiet, other than the TV itself, which is not normally on. Apparently it is against policy though, and I think had more people known about it a stink might have been raised…

      Guess she could not take off, probably not because we had a large number of days this winter when school was out and she may have exhausted her leave options.

      1. LJL*

        WE had that same situation here: an inordinate number of snow days, plus over a week when the schools were closed because of nonpotable/contaminated water. All in all, the kids missed over a month because of these 2 issues. My friends with children were losing their minds. Fortunately, my friends’ employers were understanding, and all the kids that I saw at work (despite the no kids at work policy) were quiet and well-behaved. I’m so glad, for their sakes, that the policy was altered due to the crisis.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Nope, I would not want to watch someone’s kid as part of my in-office duties. That’s not my problem and it’s not a work problem–it’s a personal issue.

  4. Katie the Fed*

    Eww. It’s bad enough when coworkers drag themselves to work when they’re sick, but please for the love of pete don’t bring sick and contagious kids in (I realize you said that, just re-iterating). Ear infection, something non-catching, fine. But otherwise, please no.

    1. hildi*

      Kids are amazing petri dishes. When a new teacher starts at my kids’ daycare, I can just about time it that a week later they will be out sick. I have no scientific proof, but enough anectodal evidence to show that when you are around kids you’re not normally around, you WILL catch something. Whenever my folks come around, they leave with a cold. I talk to them a few days later and they are under the weather. And neither of the girls nor my husband are obviously sick. It’s just a new germ that wreaks havoc on those not used to it.

      1. simonthegrey*

        I worked in a daycare for about a year. I had NEVER been so sick so often as I was during the first three months of working there.

        1. Angora*

          Working with kids and handling money will make you sick. When I was working in banking; the newsletter stated that bank tellers had a 40% higher chance of catching colds & the flu than the general population. Wish they had increased our sick time allotment by 40%.

      2. Chinook*

        When I was teaching, I was out sick like clockwork for a few days in October (and it took a lot to have me call in sick due to the amount of prep work that requires). Since I have left the classroom, this has never happenned.

        1. De Minimis*

          My mom worked in teaching and said new teachers usually were sick a lot during the first year. After that I guess they might build up more resistance, but I imagine some never do.

          I used to tutor just a few hours a week at an elementary school during college and picked up one really nasty bug one semester.

      3. matcha123*

        I worked at a kindergarten for some time and with elementary school kids before that. I found that obsessively washing my hands, carrying hand sanitizer and making very sure not to touch my face (rubbing eyes, touching mouth) helped keep me relatively germ-free.

        But it’s a massive pressure on top of watching the kids!

      4. kac*

        My mom and best friend are both teachers. In their first year, they were out sick ALL THE TIME. Now they both have seemingly invincible immune systems, because over the years they have been exposed to just about everything.

      5. Callie*

        The first year I taught elementary school I was sick like eight times from all the germs. The next year I moved to a new school and was sick all over again. I taught in that school for 13 years and the last 5 I was never out sick again. I guess I built up immunity!

  5. Adam*

    Yet another reason why the prospect of being apparent moderately terrifies me. Things happen that you can’t control of course, but bringing a child to work at all (mine or a coworker’s) just makes me nervous. And bringing a child who’s ill seems really unfair to the kid. An office is already boring enough for a child; having to be there while sick would make it positively unbearable to them.

    1. hildi*

      “And bringing a child who’s ill seems really unfair to the kid. ”

      I totally agree. Ever since becoming a parent, I have softened considerably toward children. Like someone mentioned upthread – of course they are whiny and disruptive – they feel horrible! And they’re made to sit in a boring office while they feel like crap. I do feel sorry for kids in those situations and maybe if anyone ever finds themselves in a situation where a coworker brings a whiny kid to the office, if you shift perspective into thinking how sucky it must be for the kid, it might help you endure the day better.

  6. Allison*

    Both my parents had to take me into work from time to time, and while I can’t remember if I was that big of a nuisance (aside from swinging on the climbing rope while my dad’s athletes were trying to stretch for practice that one time), I definitely didn’t like it. I had ways to pass the time: books, coloring, playing with some of the workout equipment in the gym, some Spongebob jellyfishing game on the internet, stuff like that, but I would’ve much rather been at home.

    My point, of course, isn’t merely to whine about how my parents made me go somewhere boring (that’s Being a Kid 101), but that when the kid has to be dragged into the office, it’s not really an ideal situation for anyone, so parents should avoid it, but as a co-worker, one should at least try to put themselves in the parent’s or kid’s shoes and remember that they don’t like it anymore than you do.

    1. BRR*

      I remember my mom bringing me in and the administrative assistants gave me files to shred. It was basically like just being a really young intern (not applicable to all organizations).

    2. Rat Racer*

      My dad used to bring me to his office occasionally. I LOVED using the big law firm’s fancy office supplies for art projects when I was younger, and homework as I got older. The trick is though that although that law firm was quite stuffy, all those attorneys had huge offices, so it was pretty easy to stash a kid and keep her out of site.

    3. Mints*

      From what I remember, when I went to my dad’s office, I had books to read but would occasionally get bored and wander around the building. Lots of people had comics on the outside of their cubicles and cool stuff inside so I would kind of creep around looking at everything. I wasn’t disruptive like I was yelling, but I might have looked like a stray cat who stares and then runs off you say hello. Man, I was such a weirdo kid

      But yeah, they’re probably bored

    4. Jamie*

      I’d stop by my mom’s work pretty often to grab a ride home about jr. high age – she was a geriatric nurse in an adult day care facility and I’d play checkers or talk to the elderly people as they waited for their families to pick them up.

      To my knowledge no one minded, but I wasn’t hanging around my mom and they had volunteers there to socialize with the clients, so I was just kind of an unofficial volunteer. One gentleman loved when I came because he got a kick out of trying to teach me Italian.

      I only went to my dad’s office once to stop in for a little bit while he took care of something. It was big, he had a giant green glass ashtray which needed to be emptied, a ton of computer stuff, and a huge leather chair that spun around.

      I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own office just like that and I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t in a great mood all the time since he got to spend all day with all that cool stuff.

      Well, with the exception of the ashtray all my dreams have come true. Suffice to say I now totally understand why that’s not enough to put you in a good mood all the time. Although I don’t spend nearly enough time spinning in my chair fast enough to make my hair blow back.

    5. C Average*

      My dad worked for the Forest Service, and his office wasn’t far from my high school. When I had play practice or other after-school activities, I’d often wander down to his office to catch a ride home with him.

      I loved the ranger station! There were lots of interesting maps on the walls, and posters of birds and butterflies and trees. Most of his colleagues had the same dry sense of humor he did, and many office doors were covered with comics and other fun stuff. I loved just hanging out and listening to people talk shop about trail work and noxious weeds and land exchanges.

      This was all way pre-interwebs, though the USFS had a contraption called the Data General that spit out printed communications from other ranger districts. As far as I know, the DG was used solely to exchange information about job openings and to tell jokes. I thought the DG was SO COOL.

  7. fposte*

    I’m in one of those offices where we can cut a lot of slack for kids in the office. However, the reason it works is that people are sane about it–the kids aren’t in for a full day when they come, and we have space where they can park quietly during meetings, which they do.

    We have had people in the past who were not sane about it, and if that happened again it might ruin a good perk, so I hope it doesn’t happen.

    1. Rat Racer*

      The not having kids in all day is an excellent point. Because most kids, even quiet bookish ones, will struggle to sit in an office all day. Even with an iPad. (Heck, many college grads struggle to adjust to an 8-hour day in an office).

      I used to bring my kids (1 at a time) to my office on days when they had check ups because I worked in a medical office building, and it was much more convenient to have them with me, rather than leaving mid-morning to pick them up from daycare, then bring them in, then bring them home again. But never for more than an hour or two at a stretch. I have little girls who aren’t inclined to run around an office wreaking havoc, but they are likely to (a) complain that they are bored and/or (b) beg for the candy in everyone’s office bowls.

    2. Jamie*

      Mine too – it’s works because people are very aware of the impact on others.

      Bonus – when the little girl who is also a HK fan is here I let her play with my toys and in return she colors HK pictures for the walls of my office. Win- win.

      When we have kids here they are still the least disruptive thing in the office.

  8. Meredith*

    I had a former colleague who brought her kids in with increasing frequency. They were sweet kids, but we are an academic department, not a daycare. Alas, it was a point in a larger pattern of unprofessional behavior.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      Yes. I worked in an office with two people who brought their kids in. One was an employee with her own office who occasionally brought her exceptionally well-behaved child in. The child would draw pictures, watch movies with headphones in, and charm the living daylights out of our boss when the boss came by. This was fine.
      The other was an INTERN, working in shared space, with a pattern of unprofessionalism. The pattern extended to bringing her children to work, where they would hang out and be loud around other people who were working. They weren’t bad kids, but like most kids, they couldn’t entertain themselves silently for hours. The intern just couldn’t understand why my first colleague was allowed to bring her child to work but she wasn’t.

      1. Tina Marina*

        While I understand completely that was a huge professional annoyance for everyone, I can also sympathize that it must be tough to be at the intern level and also deal with parenting multiple children. I can’t imagine trying to figure out childcare on an intern’s salary/non salary. Obviously it should have been handled differently (the number one thing you should have if you’re going to bring kids to the office is privacy and personal space) but it must be very challenging.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          She was in a tremendously difficult situation–multiple kids, single parent, full-time student doing an internship. Unfortunately, she brought her kids with her both to work and school, and I believe was asked not to in both places.

  9. Betty*

    I have a co-worker who brings their children in once a week at the end of the day. I’m generally okay with it and most people are gone by then but it definitely has gotten uncomfortable at times. The children, being children, fight sometimes and there’s yelling and crying. I don’t know what’s worse, hearing the children fight or hearing my coworker discipline their children.

    Sorry for my awkward writing, I’m trying to use gender neutral pronouns!

  10. TotesMaGoats*

    I don’t remember if I was ever taken to my parents work because childcare fell threw or sick reasons but I did go and work with my mom as a child on multiple occasions. Usually during the summer. I was printing schedules and filing at 8. The summer after we moved to Maryland, she had a corporate job with a medical supplier and we got to work in the warehouse and office that summer. Best job ever because they paid us cash. Sweet deal for stocking, filing and calling oxygen tank owners about refills. I was 12.

    AAM is right on all points for the emergency situations and how to handle, of course. There are times though when it can really be an advantage to you and your child to have them in the office. It spurred my career in higher education.

    1. Chinook*

      “Sweet deal for stocking, filing and calling oxygen tank owners about refills. I was 12. ”

      TotesMa Goats, I am honestly curious – how did the customers react to the 12 year old voice on the phone? Or did you sound older than a kid?

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        They reacted just fine. I actually still sound like a kid unless I consciously deepen my voice. I’m 31. I was calling in a food order a few months ago and the person taking the order asked me if I was old enough to place an order. Yep.

        My mom just drilled me on being professional and courteous. The people didnt seem to realize they were talking to a kid. Lots of people have high pitched “child-like” voices, I guess.

    2. AVP*

      I remember getting like $60 for filing a huge box of paid invoices at my dad’s company when I was 11 or 12. He owned the place, and would stop by on weekends and sometimes take me. I was RICH.

    3. Mints*

      Haha I just remembered a bit on Modern Family: Lily, who’s maybe five, answered the phone at her dad’s job (a law office) with “Hello Daddy’s office” then a pause, then she yells “YOU sound like a little girl!” and hangs up

  11. AnonEMoose*

    A coworker in a previous department used to bring her daughter in on rare occasions. She was never a bother; just sat at an empty desk and quietly occupied herself.

    But I think that parents need to be realistic about both the work situation and the child, and whether the two will be compatible.

    And please don’t ask coworkers to babysit. I don’t have children and don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s children. Maybe if he/she was old enough to mostly just need someone to go to for help finding the bathroom or a drink or something like that, but other than that, no. Just no.

    1. Kai*

      Agreed. It’s also awkward when the parent kind of expects you to ooh and ahh over their cute child. If there’s no other option and your kid is well-behaved, cool. Just don’t parade them around!

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Yes – it’s one thing when someone brings their new baby in for a visit. When handed to me, most babies promptly fall asleep, and I can manage a few oohs and aahs. But keep it to a short visit!

        This discussion is also reminding me a of a client at a previous job. I was filling in for the receptionist’s lunch hour, and this woman comes in for an appointment with a consultant…and has her son (maybe 10 or so?) with her. And then proceeds to ask me in this syrupy-sweet voice if I wanted a “little helper” at the desk while she was at her appointment.

        After I picked up my jaw, I was able to come up with the excuse that the regular receptionist was due back any minute (which she was), so I really couldn’t commit on her behalf. Client wasn’t happy; I didn’t care. Her kid = her problem.

        1. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

          Oh, God, the “helper” you didn’t ask for. We had a bad snowstorm this winter where several people had to bring their kids in (frankly, with the state of the roads, it would have been safer to leave them at home). Some were okay, most were demons. That said, it was actually worse to have them offer their kids as helpers. One person sent around an email that there was “an eager 11 year old” in his office. Okay, fine, at least that’s a choice and someone might have a suitably simple task. I mean, our copiers are effing complicated and have passcodes, the shredders are just bins that get collected…idk what a kid could even do. But a coworker brought me (why? why me?) their kid (maybe 7?) and said in that sweet voice “I brought you an assistant! Anything you need done, he’s right here!” No. Nonono. Nope. Biggest Leaning Tower of Nope in a long time. Don’t try to frame this like you’re doing me a favor when you’re the one asking for it. There is literally nothing I can give this kid to do that wouldn’t involve me taking twice as long to hold his hand through it than it would take to do myself. I was actually having a good day as far as thinking on my feet so I told her that I was kicking butt that day and couldn’t justify taking away her helper. She didn’t know what to say to that.

          I have to wonder what these people would do if you walked into their office with a random kid and said “Here he is! Put him to work!” before hightailing it out of there.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            That last sounds like a great set-up for a “Candid Camera” style thing.

            What still makes me snicker about that incident years later is the memory of the surprised/offended look on her face when I told her “no.”

  12. Annie O*

    Liability and productivity are obvious concerns. Another concern is for the kids themselves. Depending on age, it’s mean to expect a kid to sit quietly and entertain themselves for 8+ hours.

    1. Mallory*

      Yeah, I’ve never made it past about 2pm with my kids at work. They would have exhausted all the fun things to do by then and would turn to asking me every two minutes if it was time to go yet. And at some point after they’d asked me that five or six times, I’d say, “Yes. Yes it is.” And leave.

  13. LiteralGirl*

    I’ve had my kids in the office from time to time (not both together, though). My older daughter searched on the internet for something for my boss and did homework. My younger daughter has just watched movies or played on my iPad. I would never bring them for the whole day; that’s just asking for a crabby kid.

  14. Bend & Snap*

    My office invites short visits, but nothing else. Not at all an environment for kids.

    At a previous company, higher ups brought their kids in and turned them loose. So people on deadlines had to be nice to/entertain the bosses’ kids. That was fun.

    I’m not a fan of children in the office for any period of time, but I’ve never seen it work well.

  15. CanadianWriter*

    One of my coworkers brought her son (6 years old) to work a lot this winter (for snow days). He sat and coloured quietly, and when a customer said hi to him, said “hello sir/ma’am” and then went back to colouring. Children like that are the only kind that should be brought to work.

  16. hildi*

    My only plea to those of you that find yourselves in an office where a parent unthinkingly brings their kid in: please be nice to the kid. Don’t take your frustration and anger out on them, when it should really be directed at the parent (unless the kid is truly being a horrible little shit that needs to have his head thumped).

    I was at the library the other day with my girls and saw the three boys of a woman that used to work at my kids’ daycare. We’re not close friends, but I knew those were her children and the youngest boy recognized me and my daughter. So he came over and started talking (he’s 6). Through conversation he said that he and his brothers had been there since the library opened (3 hours ago) and it was just about closing time. I didn’t mind talking to him and letting him in on what we were doing because the little guy was probaby getting bored and lonely. His brothers were using the computers so they weren’t paying attention to him. One of the librarians (who to me generally looks a sour-puss) came over and asked if I knew him or his mom. She said they’ve been trying to call the mom to tell her it was closing time soon and they couldn’t reach her. She said “he’s been here all afternoon,” in a disdainful and generally annoyed way. I asked the boy if his mom was working today and he said no. Then the librarian went over to the two older boys and chewed them out for being on the children’s computers and that they’re too old for it, etc etc. The boys bewilderdly left the computers and then just sat at a table. I felt bad for everyone. I felt bad that the librarians felt like they were a daycare center (FTR, I do NOT agree with dumping your kids at the library all day), I felt bad for the boys that probably didn’t have much of a choice and were doing the best they could (and they really weren’t disruptive. They were very well behaved the whole time I was there). But I thought the librarian should have dialed back the vitriol to the boys when it was evident she was annoyed at the mother. The mother is who she needed to address the issue with.

    So….whoa. I guess I just needed to get that off my chest! But that incident makes me think of this conversation – just be decent to the kids. They probably don’t want to be there anymore than you want them there. Take it up with the parents.

      1. hildi*

        Thanks, yeah, I am much more sensitive to how kids are treated now that I have them. I maintain that for many people it’s much easier to be irritated, angry, annoyed, or confrontational with children than it is with adults. People that get all pissy at a situatino like this have no problem being snotty or irritable to the kids, but don’t or won’t approach the parent. And I totally get that because confrontation is hard. It’s just not fair to the kids that truly don’t deserve it.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Ugh, mom should be glad they didn’t call the police on her for abandoning her children there. That’s ridiculous. I used to work at a children’s museum and we’d catch people trying to do the same thing. We’re not childcare – you can’t just dump your children here.

      But yeah, don’t take it out on the kids.

      1. Museumphile*

        I really wish I understood why parents think museums are daycare centers. So many parents that fall asleep/wander off/or carelessly leave their children. I can remember a grandparent (who was 80+ and senile) who brought 5 children alone and within an hour of being there, lost 3 of them in three different parts of the museum. I wasn’t upset with the grandparent or the kids – but I wanted to give the parents a lecture.

    2. Mallory*

      Those kids will probably remember for the rest of their lives how they were treated by that librarian. And the mother is the one who should be spoken to.

      Our library has a minimum age for kids unaccompanied by someone at least 18 (I don’t remember what that age is, but it is more than six, that’s for sure). Sounds like the two older brothers were not old enough to be left responsible for a six-year-old, either.

    3. matcha123*

      If the kids were well-behaved, then it’s mostly not a problem…until they get hurt.

      I used to work at a library, and there were some parents who could leave their kids in the children’s section with no problem. Other kids were absolute terrors; pulling piles of books off the shelves and leaving them around the room, running around, shouting, tearing pages, etc.

      I understand trying to be civil to the kids, but after so long and lots of patrons to help, it’s too much. Our library also had a time limit. Annoying, but too many people abused it…

      1. hildi*

        I suspect you’re right about that over time it gets to be too much. We are in a very small town and the library at that time only had a handful of people in it. And I wasn’t there earlier to see if he was being annoying or not. I witnessed during the school year that the library is a place where Kids With Nowhere Else to Go end up after school. And collectively they are a pain in the ass. So I probably shouldn’t be judgy to the librarian because I bet that truly is a cumulative effect thing going on when they confront a kid.

      2. Laura*

        I don’t think anyone is asking for the rules not to be imposed. Just…don’t be rude to the kids, as much as possible, if the problem isn’t their fault. (They’re running around pulling books off the shelves? Unless it’s a _really_ small toddler, it’s their fault. They’re present unsupervised? Not so much their fault.)

      3. annie*

        I worked at a library in high school and this happened there too. It is never an occasional thing, it was almost always a pattern of child neglect. On many occasions, we did have the director of the library tell the parent who came at closing time that they needed to be there with their child from now on, or else we would have to contact the police. It was very tricky because usually it was a chaotic home situation so we felt for the child, but at the same time, it was not fair to our staff or other patrons (or, the child who had been abandoned) to have our time taken up regularly by unsupervised children for many hours. Also, because it was normally a situation where you could tell there was a chaotic home life, there was sometimes suspicions of other things going on (domestic abuse, parent who was a substance abuser, etc) – heck, the kids would even tell you flat out sometimes – and you needed to navigate the best way to help that child. Sometimes that was allowing the library to be a safe place, getting them involved in the youth reading club, and introducing them to worlds of books – and other times, the best thing might be to get them into the child welfare system and removed from their parents by contacting the authorities.

        In general, libraries are hard because they are public places that belong to all of us as members of the community – often you would get people who felt entitled to do whatever they wanted because their tax dollars were paying for the library to exist… and they would tell you that!

      4. Cat*

        I feel for the parents because I suspect a lot of them are in really untenable situations. If childcare costs as much or more than you make, which is the case for a lot of people, then you’re in a huge bind when school lets out. That doesn’t make it okay obviously–and librarians are absolutely not child care and shouldn’t be treated like it–but I do think in a lot of cases it’s about issues other than the parents. (I’m only replying here because your comment made me think about it not because I’m trying to disagree with you or anything.)

        1. hildi*

          Agreed – I happen to know this woman is a single mother and I have no idea what else was going on in her life that day but parents are often in tough spots. It’s a hard deal all around and everyone has their own reasons for feeling the way they feel depending on which position they are in.

    4. kac*

      Oh no! Poor kids. I’m glad you were there to be kind to them in the midst of all of that.

    5. lachevious*

      Thank you for addressing this, I agree that grownups shouldn’t take it out on the kid that was left somewhere. It sucks for everyone – I doubt the mom was happy about having to do that, too.

      Wasn’t there a time when it was normal for kids to be in libraries/museums without their parents? I doubt I’d let my kids do it – but I am a paranoid stranger-danger mom :-(

      1. hildi*

        Probably there was a time when kids were more free than they are now. And I do hope we get back to that feeling. I remember walking to and from school when I was a kid and it was a fair distance away. I had been drilled on stranger danger and all of that, but we were largely free to roam. But now as a parent I have a hard time thinking about my daughter walk to school (that’s within visual distance of our house, for pete’s sake!!). Then again, I can’t imagine her doing it as a 4 year old. Maybe when she’s 8 and more mature it won’t be such a leap.

      2. Who are you??*

        One of my first memories is walking to the store at the end of the street we lived on…by myself…to buy bread and some milk. My parents were married at the time and they separated when I was five. My mother has confirmed that this memory is accruate.

        Not sure if anyone here is familiar with the area near Tufts University in Medford, MA but that’s where I lived from ages 5 to 10 and I ran wild through the streets there. Busy traffic, lots of strange faces every year, and a mother who, like so many others at the time, just let her kids do their thing. I’ve only just started letting my kids play outside without me being outside as well. I have to restrain myself from checking on them every 10 minutes. My daughter has started asking if she can ride her bike outside the confines of our condo complex. I’m working up the courage to let her do it. I’ve honestly noticed that when I pay less attention to the news, I’m a more relaxed mother.

    6. Daria*

      My mother’s a librarian, and they had this kind of thing happen so often that they call the police to come pick up the kids if they’re really young. The liability is just too terrifying. If the kid is there for like, 20 minutes and is being good, they don’t worry, but hours and hours and they’re really young? Nope. They try to call the parents first if the kid has the number, but otherwise, the police pick them up. They’ve had toddlers dropped off in the kid area at the start of the day and they’re shocked (SHOCKED!) when they get back from work 9 hours later and the kid is not there and the police want to talk to the parent.

      1. Mallory*

        Our library calls the police, too. Children 8 and under must be accompanied by an adult at all times; children 9 – 12 can be left unattended for one hour; 12 and up can be alone as long as the library is open. If the library closes and a child is not picked up, they call the police and put a note in the family’s file.

  17. Allison (not AAM!)*

    It completely depends on the environment AND the kids. In my last job, the VP of our division set the precedent by bringing in her screaming grandsons – seriously, running through the office screaming about 60% of the time that they were there. It wasn’t due to a lack of babysitter, it was just because she wanted to. After that, a coworker started bringing her daughters in when daycare was closed. She had no concept of “indoor voices”, and made no effort to discipline the girls. And since our big boss was the one who started it, no action was taken. All 4 of the aforementioned kids were under the age of 5. And then there was Justin – he was an ANGEL. He would sit quietly and color, or play video games or watch videos wearing headphones; the most we’d hear from him was an occasional giggle.

    This was an open environment, short-walled cubicles, with about 15 employees. The days when the kids were brought in usually ended with a couple of us going out for a drink or three afterward! Now I work from home, none of that is an issue any longer.

    Before bringing children to the office, all other options should be exhausted. I was a single mom, and was very fortunate to have a strong support system when she was young – I know not everyone does. But think – is there family? a neighbor? a daycare with drop-in service? NO? Can you telecommute? NO? Then call in sick.

    1. Rebecca*

      “When your kids are high-energy (their energy or yours). ” Exactly.

      One of my coworkers brought her son to the office, several times. She said “he’s a little busy”. He was loud, distracting, and had a issues with ADD, ADHD, whatever, you name it. Yes, it was an emergency, but he just isn’t suited to being quiet for more than a minute, so she’s been told to take PTO time in the future.

      We are all glad.

      1. Prickly Pear*

        I don’t have children, but I have live-in nieces. The oldest one is quiet, would probably explode before willingly talk to a strange grownup, and if I took her to work with me, would both proclaim it the happiest day of her life and would basically live at my side. The youngest one gets called Tazmanian Devil and whirling dervish on a regular basis. She’s a blur of motion. Everyone would burn if she was made to be in an office setting.
        Know your kids, folks.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      Not all kids are created equal. (See my comment above.) If I hear a parent say, “Kids will be kids,” I brace for chaos. Sure, kids will be kids, and that’s fine at home… but if they’re going to be in an adult space, they better be able to behave like adults.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Those disclaimers (“kids will be kids,” “boys will be boys,” “I’m only human”) are all-too-often used to explain away behaviors that the vast majority of (kids, boys, humans) are able to control.

  18. Jules*

    I would only bring my kid to work on weekends or on days I know that 80% people will not be there. I would think a million times before asking a co-worker to babysit my kid at work if I have to step away.

  19. Coelura*

    Growing up, my Dad took me everywhere with him when I wasn’t in school. He was an executive VP of a large insurance company and I spent lots of time in lawyer offices, negotiations, etc. this started when I was 4. The coolest thing was that the attorneys and others would ask me to explain what I heard and saw, so I really got to learn a lot. Because I was involved, I was rarely bored and what I learned is the foundation of my own corporate success. As with others, as I got older I was paid to do different jobs around the offices like shredding and stuffing envelopes. Unfortunately, newer labor regulations prevent companies from paying kids unless the parent owns the company and the company is a farm.

    My own experiences were so positive, it makes me sad that it is so hard today to include children in the workplace. On the other hand, the key word is “include”. If the child isn’t engaged in the office work, it’s just boring for the kid and stressful for everyone else. And I think it’s the rare person who can engage a child appropriately in an office.

    I am grateful for all the people who made my time with my Dad interesting and included me as a full participant.

  20. Lily in NYC*

    I used to always get stuck with people’s kids when I was younger and not as assertive. On the day after Thanksgiving (years ago), there were about 6 kids in the office and my boss told me to deal with them. I brought them to a huge conference room and let them run wild and played with them. One mom came in and told me that that Precious was not allowed to play with imaginary guns (they were using fingers to point and shoot each other). I told her that she should have paid for a babysitter at home and then I pretended to shoot her with my finger. She was so mad but that’s what you get when you expect free babysitting from me. I will corrupt your child on purpose. I think I let them all have gum and soda too. I should have gotten them drunk (kidding).

    1. JMegan*

      “Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy.”

      That is pretty awesome, though! I’m sorry you got stuck babysitting at work, but it sounds like you made the most of it, and I bet the kids enjoyed it too. They probably all remember it as “that one cool day when my mom took me to her office, it was so much fun!”

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Oh, it totally backfired because the kids had fun and the parents started feeling like it was ok to bring them in more often. I just realized all of those kids are probably college-aged now. Yikes.

    2. Anonsie*

      This is one of my life aspirations– I want my friends to leave their kids with me and then deeply regret it later because I swear and let them play with my pet snake and let the older ones watch R-rated movies. And then they’ll want to keep visiting and my friends will either have to cave or officially Ban Auntie Anonsie, which would be even funnier.

      I don’t know why I want to do this so bad.

  21. Christine*

    I work at a place where bringing children in is Not Done. The only exception that flies is if you wind up coming in to handle an emergency outside your normal work hours or on a vacation day, and the only way you can come in is with a child in tow. When I have done that on a vacation day, I made sure I was (nicely) dressed in street clothes, so it was apparent that I was not in the office in my usual capacity.

    1. azvlr*

      Christine, I made the mistake of bringing my child to work in such a place. I was coming from a work culture where my child was not only tolerated, but actively welcomed by higher-ups. My son would take the bus from his school to mine, so he was there at the end of the day everyday. A few weeks into my gig at NewSchool, we had a staff meeting that was outside of the normal child-care hours. I picked him up from school and had him sit quietly working on homework. He was never a disruption, and it never once occurred to me to ask if it was ok to have him there. Apparently, it was not, and this negatively colored their perception of me for the rest of my tenure (I was never spoken to about it, but it showed up on my eval!) Imagine a school that doesn’t welcome children!
      Anyway, the lesson learned is that it depends not only on the child, the situation, and the work environment (type of work, safety, etc.), but very much on the specific culture of that workplace.

  22. Rat Racer*

    The telecommuting piece of this is tricky. I work full time from home and try to make myself available during East Coast hours even though I live in CA. My one ask is that people not schedule meetings between 10-11 east coast time, because that is the hour when I am getting my kids up and out of the house. I block that time on my calendar, but from time to time, I have to take a meeting then anyway, in which case, there are going to be little voices in the background and there’s nothing to be done about it. I find the most people, even those who do not have (or like) children are understanding.

    As the American work week expands, work and non-work lives blend. For me (and my company) that means they can easily get 60 hours a week out of me without any problem, but occasionally, you’ll be aware that I have a family in the background.

    1. AVP*

      As an East-Coaster who also works with a lot of people in California, I also think we understand that it’s not a normal work hour for you and there’s not exactly somewhere else you can take your kids at 7am on a school day!

  23. Annie O*

    At what point does it become a child labor violation if you bring your kid to work and have them actually perform work for the company?

    1. De Minimis*

      It would depend on the state’s laws…but I think a lot of the time there would be no problem with a little office work. Many of the laws seem to be more about dangerous equipment, although the definition of dangerous seems fairly strict…

    2. fposte*

      I’d change it to the pragmatic question of “At what point does it become a child labor violation that the law would genuinely care about?” And I’d say where there’s danger, pay, or job-level responsibilities and expectations for kids under 14. (And they’re not the owner’s kids, since family business is another matter.)

  24. hayling*

    I used to work at a blood bank and my director had the cutest little kid. Sometimes if Director was going around visiting blood drives on a weekend, he’d bring the kid. That kid was a better recruiter than some of our employees!

  25. Anonna Miss*

    Coleura, I think that it very awesome that they asked you to explain what you heard and saw. It’s like you were market research or a test jury pool of one.

    My mother worked in a hospital, so bringing me in for the day was out of the question. I would stop by on my way home from school to say hello if she wasn’t busy, but I didn’t stay more than a couple minutes. When I was twelve or so, she had me come in one Saturday to help with an inventory of the supply closet for an audit or something, but that was the only time I was there for any length of time. (Well, and the time when I was a patient at the hospital.)

  26. Paloma Pigeon*

    I think this is one of those things that calls for allowing workers to have unlimited PTO to ensure work gets done. Sure, some people will abuse it, but for the majority the relief of not getting penalized for taking a sick day/half day/unexpected pickup is a lifeline.

    One thing that is not addressed – schools are completely out of whack with the modern workplace. There are endless meetings, conferences, early pickups, late drop offs, etc that are very hard to plan for. As people work longer and longer, it becomes a direct conflict and very hard to juggle, even when all are well. Add that to the idea that it is criminal to leave any child under the age of 10 alone for any amount of time, and you have a lot of stressful situations.

    1. fposte*

      There’s no federal law saying that it’s illegal to leave a kid home under 10; that’s all up to the states, and many states have no such laws or a different cutoff.

      1. Paloma Pigeon*

        It’s more about cultural expectations, I didn’t express that clearly enough above. I remember growing up a ‘latchkey’ kid in the 1970’s and the level of supervision (or lack thereof) would be considered shocking today.

        1. fposte*

          Ah, I see what you mean. Yes, as a fellow latchkey kid, I agree that we would elicit neighborhood horror nowadays.

        2. Jamie*

          Totally agree – the expectations have completely changed. I was left alone at a much earlier age than I did for my own kids, even going out to play in the morning and just told to be home by the time the street lights came on.

          I don’t think my parents were negligent – I had the same rules or stricter than my peer group – it was just a different time.

    2. Allison*

      I remember my hometown’s schools system had something called Extended Day, where elementary school kids whose parents worked late would be bused to the high school where there was a playroom set up for them to hang out in until their parents could pick them up. You had to enroll and I think it cost money, but definitely seemed like a helpful program for a lot of families. Never occurred to me how uncommon something like that was.

      1. Cat*

        I don’t know that it’s uncommon, but for my co-workers, at least, that often shuts down when schools do (so you’re out of luck on snow days, for instance, and schools are WAY more liberal calling snow days than are workplaces).

        1. CanadianWriter*

          My schools were always open for kids that had nowhere else to go. Is that not a normal thing? The teachers would babysit us with Bill Nye videos and board games.

          1. De Minimis*

            A lot of schools where I grew up had a thing called Extended Care…I think parents paid a small amount and the teachers were paid a bit extra just to keep the school open an extra couple of hours—most of the time the kids were just kept in the gym, sort of like more restricted form of recess.

      2. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

        Our district has a variation on that where the HS (which gets out first) and the ES (second) kids whose parents work for any school are bussed to the nearest MS (which gets out last). Some school principals have a room for them, others just send them to the library. The librarians at those schools were Not Amused that they were expected to watch the ES kids in addition to their other work (which includes having classes come in). So the principal at my first school (the year it opened) made a short-lived decision that the HSers had to watch the ESers.

        A very short-lived decision.

      3. Who are you??*

        Our town has an extended day program and you’re right, it does cost. Over $800 a month for my two kids to attend…and that doesn’t include school vacations, early release days, holidays, or teacher conference days. Those cost even more! The month of February cost me close to $1500 just for childcare. That’s more than my rent and car payment combined.
        My daughter is 9, my son will be 8 in a few weeks. I’ve seriously considered letting them come home and be latchkey kids but it’s a hard decision for several reasons. 1) I know I’ll open myself up to all kinds of comments from people who have no business weighing in on how I parent my kids but will think that their opinion matters. I know I can ignore it, but I don’t want to hear it at all! 2) My kids are close but they’re also at that age where they fight all the time. I have visions of coming home to screaming, crying, hair pulling kids. 3) as much as I hate doling out the cash (and I HATE doling out the cash!) for childcare, my kids love it. They have so many friends there and they get to do crafts there that I don’t allow in my house. (fuse beads, playdough, etc are all a pain in the butt to clean up!)
        I agree that schools need to get more in line with what working parents need. Our state currently has vacations in December (Holiday break), February, and April. This is excessive. Add snow days, teacher conference days, early release days, and those randomly placed Monday holidays and it can feel like my kids are never in school.

        1. Coelura*

          The school district here requires an adult to meet the elementary child at the school bus or the bus driver is not allowed to release the child. So latchkey kids are not an option here. My kids are in their 20s now and are trying to figure out the whole elementary school plus child care thing. I’m so glad that I didn’t have their challenges!

  27. SD Cat*

    I remember ending up in my parent’s offices on occasion when I was little. I usually read the whole time, which didn’t seem to bother anyone (that I noticed).

    1. Sharm*

      I think I went to work with my dad once. My brother and I went, and I don’t believe we were allowed to bring toys. We had to brings books and homework. Thing was, we were excellent students who already finished all our work. I remember being terribly bored, even though I loved to read.

      I hid behind his desk in a corner and didn’t say a word. I was a very shy kid, so parents loved me. I remember it being very quiet and not seeing any other adults, so I’d like to think I didn’t annoy anyone.

  28. Brett*

    One thing I learned from the IT world is to be wary of workplaces that are a little too accepting of kids at work, especially those that actually provide daycare at work.

    What looks like a family friendly work environment or great perk can actually be a trap to get you to stay at work longer and longer hours.

  29. Kelly O*

    Believe me, I’d love to have the flexibility to telecommute, but it’s not an option for me.

    This week has been insane, and it would have been nice if I could have logged in remotely or had a laptop to work on the weekend or after my daughter went to bed. (Or while she was napping or playing a game or doing any of the things she’s now old enough to do on her own during the day.)

    Personally I think this goes farther than kids. There are some times that everyone has a “thing” that comes up, and flexibility is important for everyone.

    My current office is clearly not kid friendly so there is no way I could bring her here, even with something to keep her occupied. Although we did have a dog here one day but that’s another long strange story for another day.

  30. Lia*

    My kids are teens now, but I have only brought them to work with me about five times, in total, ever. Once each for Take Your Child to Work day–with my older one, the company arranged kid events and tours from 9-3 and he had a blast. He then came to my office with me for two hours and filed papers — and made a bunch of paper airplanes. My younger child’s experience wasn’t quite as fun but she got to shred documents and help with mailings.

    I don’t think kids belong in the office as a regular thing, most especially if they cannot be quiet. Too, it’s not only a distraction to the parent, but to everyone else there.

    Don’t get me started on pets in the workplace. I am not allergic, but I am dog-free for a reason, and I’d not apply at a place with a pets-welcome policy.

    1. Who are you??*

      My Old Job had a Take your Child to Work day and my daughter was too young to attend. New Job doesn’t do the event because of privacy rules. She is very sad about that.

      It’s also nice to see I’m not alone in my desire to work in a pet free environment. I am so not an animal person.

  31. DarthAdmin*

    I have a 5 year old, and I’m lucky enough to have the flexibility to work at home/take PTO when he’s sick or childcare falls through. However, my boss has recently told me to bring my son to work b/c she’d like to meet him. I haven’t for several reasons, not least of which is that I don’t want to be perceived as “mommy” by my coworkers. I’m probably being paranoid, but I just don’t want to cross those streams.

    For people without flexibility in their schedules and PTO, this is really a hard call. I agree with others that this is a matter of culture and knowing your kid, but if the choice is to get written up or fired because you stayed home with a kid, or bring in the kid… well, I understand why people choose the latter.

    1. HarryV*

      I think you are just over-reacting. I pick up my sons from preschool at noon and sometimes head straight over to my wife’s work place for a family lunch. At times, we would park and go upstairs just to meet her co-workers. It does depend on the culture I suppose. She works at a company where there are very few singles and lots of employees who are families and grandchildren.

  32. lachevious*

    When my sisters and I were young my mom would take us to work when we were sick. She was an RN, so work was a hospital. She did put the fear of god in us, though – and we didn’t run around the hospital infecting everyone. We did eat about 9000 tons of puddings, sandwiches, milk, jello, and whatever else they had in the fridge. Mmmm.

    I always thought it was normal and I never understood why people hated going to the hospital. We loved it – cable TV, beds that MOVE, and PUDDING!

    Now that I have kids and work in an office, bringing my kids to work makes me break out into hives. Thankfully I have only had to do it twice – once when my oldest had a high fever and ear infection, and once when I had to work crazy late and the sitter nor his dad could keep him. It was a four-person office and I asked everyone if it would be okay.

    I wouldn’t dream of doing it at my current job – I’d just take the day off.

    1. lachevious*

      Oops three times – right after I had my youngest I was scheduled to meet with my boss (she was in a different city) and she asked me to bring him in because she wanted to see him, so he came to visit for about 20 minutes or so. Then the other manager (not mine and also remote) commented on how she would NEVER bring her children to her work. My manager didn’t stick up for me by saying she had specifically asked me to do just that – that was rather annoying.

    2. OriginalEmma*

      That’s so funny because PUDDING!! is a major memory of me going to work with my mother as well. She was a waitress/manager at a relative’s bar and restaurant. I LOVED spending time there. Crayons, paper place mats to color on, all the ginger ale I wanted, pudding!!! and getting to windex the glass table covers? Awesome! But even I tired of it after a time, so I would get put to work rolling napkins of utensils and refilling condiment containers.

      I occasionally got to go to work with my father, who was a carpenter. I would fetch tools, gather loose nails and bits that fell, and sometimes apply compound cement or paint…. really poorly, haha.

  33. LV*

    A former boss once brought her 12-year-old daughter to the office because the daughter had the day off from school. Boss would usually take a vacation day when this happened in order to stay home with the daughter, but she was out of vacation days that time.

    I was a bit taken aback, because I was a latchkey kid at age 10 and when I was growing up my parents couldn’t have afforded to take time off work every time my school had a ped day. And I felt pretty mortified for the kid because my boss introduced me to her with the words “She’s much too immature to be left alone by herself all day!”

    1. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

      That’s so mean. I hate it when people air their family grievances with the kid standing right there. It doesn’t “teach” them anything, except to be petty and vindictive when you can get away with it. Not to mention uncomfortable as heck for you or whoever else gets to stand there. What were you expected to do, say something like “Well, you’d better start growing up soon, Missy!”?

  34. Who are you??*

    I have kids who are currently too young to be left alone at home, but old enough to know how to behave. This being said, I wouldn’t bring them to work with me. I find children to be very distracting in the workplace. It bothers me when a co-worker will have their kids come in for a few minutes before lunch or the end of the shift to “say hi” to everyone in the office. I don’t like the way I feel when other people’s children are around in the work place and I wouldn’t want to make anyone else feel like that.

  35. Artemesia*

    I worked in an environment where people had their own offices and an older child coming in after school and doing their homework was no problem and generally the random kid here or there was not a problem. But small kids are almost always a distraction and problem at work and I think should not be brought in. Just as if a person has permission to work at home, they should be required to document that they have childcare if they have small kids. You can’t supervise toddlers and work.

    The worst is bringing in a sick kid. I think I may have shared this before, but I sent the bosses personal executive administrator home when she brought he kid with chickenpox in to work. In the office space were a pregnant secretary and an elderly secretary who were upset but unable to push back against their own boss. I didn’t have authority per se, but the boss was out of town and I was higher ranking if not in their line of management and so just insisted she not have an infectious child in the office because clients and staff shouldn’t be exposed.

    No one should ever bring a sick kid who might infect others in the work place. Well kids when day care falls through is situational — generally a big no for young kids and babies, but maybe for older kids.

  36. MissDisplaced*

    I think it could be OK for a short time, as in an afternoon or for a few hours in a pinch or due to an emergency, or for an hour before you leave (if other parent needs to drop them with you). Basically, this is being flexible, but it shouldn’t be a regular everyday thing.

    But no, generally I don’t think it’s ok to bring your kids to work, and especially if they are sick.

  37. KayDay*

    My mom was a community college instructor when I was a pre-teen, so occasionally she would pick me up at school and I stay at her work until she could leave (I can’t remember the details of why, however). She would normally park me in an empty classroom and I would study until she was ready to leave. It worked out quite well, but I think that was pretty situation to her job, and also maybe the fact that I was a very quite/shy kid.

  38. Bea W*

    I am going to indulge in a rant befire reading, because i had a co-worker who would routinely bring her sick pre-school age children to work and leave them unsupervised in the cube farm while working alone in her office.

    Please do NOT bring sick children to work. Not only is it crappy and miserable for the child who doesn’t feel well and is probabky bored as heck, but you are then exposing everyone at work to whatever your child has, and your co-workers bring that home to their kids. That is NOT OKAY. Your child’s daycare has insisted they stay home for all the same reasons you should not take them to work. If you are a parent with the ability to either work from home or take PTO (like my former co-worker. She was just straightout entitled and/or clueless), there’s no excuse for it.

  39. SherryD*

    When my dad was a courier, my brother and I used to ride along in the backseat sometimes. We were about 3 and 5. My dad would radio the dispatcher, and get us to sing, “I KNOW A SONG THAT GETS ON EVERYBODY’S NERVES…” over and over. We loved that!

  40. Scmill*

    I used to work for someone who picked her kids up from elementary school every day and kept them in her cubicle where she supervised their homework.

    As far as being available to the members of her team while the kids were there? Nope. We were dead to her. She might as well have gone on home.

    So I’m a firm keep-the-kids-at-home and not in the office except under extreme circumstances and for a very short period of time. And if you have to run make copies/go to the bathroom/whatever, I am not your babysitter.

    (Yeah, that experience which went on for the entire school year pretty much scarred all of us on that team.)

  41. Sophie*

    When I was a kid, I would go to my parents’ work only if all babysitting options fell through – but both my parents were teachers. So I would sit in the back of the the classroom with some books or art stuff (Dad was an art teacher) and not pay attention to what was happening. It couldn’t impact on other teachers, and the other kids never seemed to notice us.

    Once mum moved to an office job, I never ever went to work with her, and so we’d always go to dad’s work instead.

  42. Marcoms Coordinator*

    My parents owned a takeaway shop when I was a kid – at night and on school holidays, I was put to work taking phone orders and bussing tables. From the age of about six or seven mind you! As soon as I got my driver’s licence though, I graduated to the home delivery meals. Wouldn’t change it for the world.

  43. Kat M*

    I love that more businesses (mine included) offer employer-sponsored back-up childcare and eldercare as a part of their benefits package. Your sitter gets sick, you call a hotline, and they find you an open spot for the day at a participating daycare. Here’s hoping it catches on in more places!

  44. KrisL*

    Alison’s rules make sense to me. I have a co-worker who would occasionally have her kids at work, but they were always quiet and well-behaved, so that was OK with me.

  45. HarryV*

    When I first became an IT manager, I had direct reports who had kids. This happened quite frequently where they had a school or after school emergency. I simply let them take off work early. As an IT manager, I fully understand there are times when the employees work beyond 40 hour weeks and there will be times when I need to be considerate and accommodate. I apply the same principle for people who don’t have kids who need to take their mother to the doctor’s or a single woman with two labs. Needless to say, the team worked their butt off and made me look good :)

  46. Mags*

    I work in a very small family owned business everyone here as a pet except me. When I first got hired here I was aware of the dogs the had and they didn’t bother me but it seemed weird. well time went by and someone else got hired in the office so now there is 4 of us. I had a daughter about a year ago and sometimes my babysitting doesn’t come though I asked if it was okay if I could bring me and they said no due to insurance and blah blah ablah but they can bring there dogs and recently the other person who got hired here brought her dog who by the way barked at me and it is totally fine when she brings her pet, I feel like this is unfair and I am not getting treating equally anyone has advice please….

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