male coworkers don’t believe I’m coming back after maternity leave

A reader writes:

I’m currently the youngest member of my team and the only female non-manager within my team. I’m 6 months pregnant and I’m the breadwinner of the house while my husband is finishing out his MBA program.

My all-male coworkers have started bombarding me with doubt when I mention that I will be returning after my maternity leave. I have communicated my exact return time and intention multiple times, and always met with: “Well, when you have a kid everything changes,” “You’re a childless person pretending to be an expert on children,” “All the chemical in a woman’s body when that kid hits the ground means that you stop being a separate entity,” etc. In short, I’m now beyond annoyed and feel harassed.

I feel like HR within my company is only there to protect upper management and will not do anything except set up a meeting with me and my coworkers for me to say “stop it.” I pointed out today how offensive it is to say these things to me when within our broader department, all the women are working mothers. I also pointed out how making those comments touches on a personal issue and how coworkers are not aware of everyone’s circumstances so they should not be making judgments. I got a grudging apology from one coworker, but he didn’t seem to understand what he’d done wrong. Any suggestions?

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 334 comments… read them below }

  1. Laurel Gray*

    I really like your advice on this topic but I had to say that I literally laughed out loud at this:

    Editor’s note: columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues–everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

                1. BRR*

                  But we know chocolate teapots, wakeen, and a third inside joke that I’m too tired to think of but lists sound better in threes. We can make it happen!

  2. Helka*

    I’ll never stop finding the “you stop being a separate entity” concept incredibly insulting. Really? Because you’ve given birth, you’re somehow no longer your own person? Obnoxious.

      1. Sans*

        I think I let out an audible “f you”.

        Sometimes it’s dangerous to read this stuff at work …

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      I would also think that their made-up science isn’t even consistent! If it’s the “chemicals” then really the ceasing to exist thing would be happening well before the kid “hits the ground.” I mean, clearly if they want to use some BS science they should at least make it sound fancier.

    2. Clever Name*

      Well, from personal experience as a mother (and my knowledge of human biology that includes, yes, hormones) it is really common to feel that your baby is a part of you and not a separate entity. It’s part of the bonding process that keeps babies alive, yadda yadda. I distinctly remember going out to lunch with a friend and her toddler when my son was a baby. The hostess called out “party of 4” and I was surprised that they meant us, because in my mind there were only the two of us (plus babies). So yeah, it’s normal even to feel that your baby is basically an extension of yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t/won’t go back to work if you feel that way. As Alison mentioned, most mothers do go back to work. Your coworkers are being really obnoxious.

      1. Adam*

        I imagine it’s pretty easy to lose track of the mindset that your infant is a separate being since they are literally helpless without you (or someone) to take care of their every need. But since we don’t live in the caveman days anymore it is entirely possible to find help taking care of your kids while you work and have them turn out as good as any other kid out there.

        1. Joey*

          It’s not just moms. I remember thinking just after my kids were born “I can’t believe we actually created another human. Im having a hard time believing it eventhough he’s right there in front of me.” Then I changed a poopy diaper and it got real real quick. :-)

          1. K.*

            Our daughter is 19 months and every day I am *more* gobsmacked that somehow I grew this actual human being from scratch *inside my own body*. It seems less and less plausible a reality with every inch she grows.

          2. Ops Analyst*

            Yup. My husband says this regularly to me (and I to him). The problem is really not that someone might see a child as an extension of themselves, but that only women would feel that way and that a working woman will suddenly not want to work anymore after having a kid. I got bored real fast after being home with my daughter and have been working intermittently for the past 3 years waiting for something permanent to come along. My husband and I just made the switch from stay at home mom to stay at home dad so that I could go back to work full time. I love my daughter, but I have a lot more drive to work and am a lot more success driven than my husband, who is pretty content to do the same thing day in and day out at work without advancing and is a lot more satisfied being home with her. It’s personality, not a male vs. female thing.

            1. maggie*

              I really appreciate this comment, as someone with a similar marriage (no kids yet, but I already know we’d do the same).

              1. Ops Analyst*

                You should absolutely do what’s right for you and your family and who cares what anyone else has to say about it! I think a lot of people forget that taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kids. If working is how you do that your kid isn’t going to resent you just because you’re mom instead of dad. Plenty of working parents (male and female) have loving, supportive relationships with their children, just as there are many stay at home parents with not so great relationships with their children (and vice versa of course). Just remember the health of your relationship with your kid is really not going to depend on whether you work or not. It’s no where near that simple and people who think it is are really misguided about what it means to be a parent.

              2. Melissa*

                Me too! No kids yet, but my husband would be way happier as a SAHD than I would ever be as a SAHM. He’s very domestic! Me, I’m like “Dust? We’re supposed to do that?”

            2. Connie-Lynne*

              My best friend and her husband also do this — he’s so much happier being a SAHD and she is so much happier being the breadwinner.

              I was visiting her about a year ago, and at the breakfast table, her son asked if I could stick around and play Indiana Jones with them that day. I said that, no, I was going to go into work with his Mommy (she and I had worked at the same place for a while, so I was visiting the old gang, so to speak). His reply, “Oh, right! Mommies go to work and Daddies stay home. Well, we can play after work.”

              It was so sweet.

            3. A*

              This is the arrangement my husband and I have had since our daughter was born, nearly 3 years ago. I’m much more career-driven than him and my work involves weird hours that make child care arrangements stressful so it has worked out well. I love seeing their special bond.

    3. UK Nerd*

      Insulting comments aside, surely giving birth is the point where you start being a separate entity?

      1. MashaKasha*

        *standing ovation*

        I’m a week late, but still had to post to say how much in awe I am of this comment.

    4. OhNo*

      Oh, wow, I didn’t even catch that one the first time around. What an obnoxious comment to hear from a coworker!

    5. Tinker*

      Yeah, it amazes me that there are folks out there who are wrapped up in that sort of thinking enough to actually say it to a coworker, of all people.

      In addition, I get creeped out by the glorification of enmeshment — not to dismiss entirely the intense experience of the early years of having a kid, but there comes a point when it’s unhealthy and relationship-damaging to fail to recognize that the person in question IS in fact a separate entity. In that regard, I think it does everyone involved a great disservice to promote the idea that such ideas and the consequent behavior are the unavoidable and laudable consequence of parental love.

      1. Elkay*

        There’s one today, first one criticising women returning to work then a tweet that’s too incoherant to understand.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I’ve no idea what he said but I’m pretty sure it’s not even worth giving it air time. No doubt it’s some foolish misogyny.

      1. Helka*

        Seems to me like “having enough money to provide for the baby’s needs” is a pretty good sign of values, love, and “care-ing” actually.

        1. some1*

          In my experience, the people who go out of their way to tell you how noble they are because they/their wife stays home are usually living beyond their means. “Sure, we are thousands of dollars in debt, but at we can’t have our kds be raised by STRANGERS!”

          1. Helka*

            Either that or they’re extremely wealthy and blind to the idea that people who make a quarter of what they do can’t live the way they do.

      2. Allison*

        I went to his feed, he posted a link to a video about why the 60’s was a “better time” than the present. I can’t stand people who romanticize any point in history as being a simpler/better time.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Ugh, that’s one of my pet peeves. It almost always reads like there’s a silent “because white men were in charge and everybody else Knew Their Place” tacked on. And it’s usually based on fictional versions of past times that someone got from TV anyway.

          1. Allison*

            I believe the idea is that everyone knew their place *and was content with it*

            Poor people liked having next to nothing because they had each other; people of color enjoyed serving rich, white people; women enjoyed the pursuit of marriage and loved being housewives. Supposedly.

            I mean, people will one day watch movies and TV shows from this time period. I wonder how they’ll perceive the 90’s and early 2000’s based on it.

            Believe me, I’m a swing dancer (lindy hop and balboa) whose wardrobe has some choice pieces from ModCloth. I love old music and movies and I’m not always content with the present, but I wouldn’t want to live in a different time period!

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yes! i can like old fashion while not wanting to live there. I like medieval dresses, too, but I’d prefer to avoid the bubonic plague.

              1. Lizzy May*

                Right? The best part of history is that we get to keep the good and learn from the bad.

          2. OhNo*

            It’s always one of my pet peeves, too. I think I’m going to start responding with that every time someone says that.

        2. Artemesia*

          I came of age in the 60s — I was flatly told that med school and law school only admitted the occasional woman (I was admitted to law school and if I had gone there would have been one of 5 in the class — and with an LSAT about 2 standard deviations above their average). Jobs were listed: for women and for men and pretty much all entry level blue collar jobs were men only and of course executive management track was pretty much men only. And of course black people couldn’t vote in the south and segregation was pretty much the norm even in some parts of the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. While there was no legal segregation and white drinking fountains, it was obvious black workers were often ‘zoned’ e.g. the big department store had black waiters in the basement restaurant/cafe and white waiters in the 4th floor ‘tea room.’

          Yes — those 60s sure were great for everyone.

          1. some1*

            Being gay was considered a psychological disorder, a wife could not legally refuse to have sex with her husband, public places didn’t have accomadate you if you were disabled, etc, etc, etc

              1. Snork Maiden*

                Not your answer, but related: in Canada marital rape became illegal in the mid 80’s, if I recall correctly. I’d check this, but I’m at work, and I really don’t want to google “marital rape”.

              2. Melissa*

                I think some states started passing laws in the 1970s and 1980s, but the first federal Violence Against Women Act wasn’t passed until 1994.

          2. Allison*

            And – maybe I’m going off The Help a little too much here, so forgive me – didn’t a lot of wealthy families hire maids and nannies to take care of the housework and child rearing? Before the kids were shipped off to boarding school, of course. Now we realize that perhaps parents need to be at least a little involved with their kids lives, but it seems like even now people who appear to support stay-at-home motherhood concern themselves mostly with middle class women who hire sitters so they can work, and kind of ignore the absentee parents in the upper class.

            1. VintageLydia USA*

              No you didn’t have to be particularly wealthy to hand off your housework and childcare to a nanny. That’s just how low the wages of those women received.

                1. Natalie*

                  Fun fact,* a lot of the labor saving devices we all know and love were developed because of the industrial revolution, which allowed poor women to have jobs other than household service.

                  *fact may not actually be fun.

            2. Leslie Knope's Waffle*

              Interesting enough, I have a friend who came of age in the 90s in the Deep South and he was raised by an African-American nanny. Many of his peers in his town were raised the same way. His family was (and still is) a very traditional Southern family.

          3. Ed*

            My mother was a nurse in the early 60’s. She once told me the male orderlies in the hospital made more than the RNs because it was understood they had to support a family while the nurse had a husband at home. That blew my mind considering orderly is basically an entry-level job.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Holy privilege, Batman.

          It’s probably a really good thing I hate tweeting on my phone; if I could do it on my computer now, I’d be in SO MUCH TROUBLE.

          *holds head* Do not engage….do not engage….don’t feed the troll……

        4. jag*

          I agree with you overall, but there are exceptions – generally in places affected by large-scale warfare or mass violence – when when looking back 5 or 10 years we can honestly say things were better.

        5. BananaPants*

          Someone needs to read “The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap”. Basically, the Leave it to Beaver lifestyle was only ever practiced by a relatively small subset of the population. Women from poor, working class, and minority backgrounds have ALWAYS had to work, whether in a factory, on a farm, or at home (taking in washing, doing piecework, etc.) – in addition to raising/caring for children.

      3. LizNYC*

        Based on his Twitter feed, he looks like he’s a professional troll. Ignore and move on!

      4. Emma the Strange*

        You know, I was raised by a working mother, and I relate to her just fine. I was also raised by a working father, but funnily enough, no one is worried about me not relating to him.

        1. Artemesia*

          I had no relationship with my ‘working father’ because my parents were very into the divided gender roles in family of the 50s. But I also today have a far better relationship with my children than either of my parents had with us and my husband has a far better relationship with our kids than his parents had with any of his siblings. We also see our kids more or less emulating our partnership marriage and our politics whereas our 50s stereotype parents on both sides alienated their kids politically and as models for marriage. I suspect I would have done more damage as a SAHM than as a WOHM.

        2. Melissa*

          I actually really admired my mother for going back to work when I was 16 and her example – following her dreams even in her 40s and going to school to do something she’d wanted to do since she was a kid – always inspired me to stay my own course in college. Working moms can be very good for children.

        3. Ellie H.*

          My mom worked a job she could do from home until I was 13. My dad is a bit of a workaholic and would often get back late at night when I was a kid. (Now he works from home way, way more than my mom does, but I’m in my late 20’s and don’t live at home anymore so even though I visit my parents a ton, it’s obviously not the same.) I am REALLY close to both of my parents, but I wish I were closer to my dad. My mom is almost always the person I automatically talk to when I am stressed out, have a problem or just want to talk through something or chat or tell someone about my day. My relationship with my dad is a little different where we don’t necessarily have the same kind of “automatic” conversation as I do with my mom. We talk about ideas and books and external-to-us things as opposed to chatty everyday narrative things, so it’s less frequent. This bothers my dad a lot and me too, but it’s hard to change something more underlying and subtle. I think that probably the fact that my mom was around so much more contributed to this. So to be honest I don’t think it’s a meaningless rhetorical question.

        4. Mel R*

          I was raised by a working mother, who waited until my sister and I were in school and then found a job that would let her work 9-3 in the office and take home paperwork to do to make up the rest of her hours. Then she kicked my cheating, checked-out, emotionally unconnected biological father out of the house, and we sailed on just fine without him.

          I have a pretty good relationship with her still. I have essentially no relationship with him, but that’s got a lot more to do with his personality and lack of commitment than his work hours. :P

        1. Leslie Knope's Waffle*

          Oh, they totally do. I was reminded of it just a few years ago at a job interview actually. I was interviewing with a man who went on and on about how women should stay home and take care of their children, and asked me several times if I was married/had children (and he was not asking in a “getting to know you” type of way). Shockingly, I declined the job offer.

          I also volunteer with a group that involves many SAHMs. You wouldn’t believe some of the comments they say to me – “Do you really HAVE to work?” and “What’s it like to a businesswoman?” I’m definitely not saying all SAHMs have this point-of-view, but it’s just really interesting to me to hear comments like this, especially in 2015.

          1. NJ Anon*

            I remember telling (when asked) a group of women at a bridal shower that I worked in NYC (I live in NJ-hence the name) and one of them said,”every day?” Now this was way before telecommuting became A THING. It was so hard for me to say “yes” with a straight face.

      5. Rin*

        I must be bad at reading Twitter. I don’t even understand what he’s saying. Someone translate please, especially his second response about 1 of those women?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I thought that maybe he believes the only source of love/care/comfort is women because men don’t know how. It could be that he just wants to get everyone stirred up. Not sure why that would be an achievement.

      6. Kat M*

        Dude, why would anyone have a problem that their child related to me? I can change a diaper with my eyes closed. I can tell you all the latest research on child development. I know the Raffi songbook by heart.

        I’m not a “stranger,” I’m a professional. And just because babies love me doesn’t mean they don’t love their parents.

    1. Adam*

      When people use numbers in place of non-numerical words it comes across as gibberish to me. So I have to expend extra energy to decipher what they mean. You’d think I’d learn by now as when I have to do that 9 times out of 10 (see what I did there) the comment wasn’t worth reading anyways.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That’s why I despise the whole concept of Twitter. Very little worth saying can be said in 140 characters or less.

        1. Adam*

          Never been on Twitter, but if I did I’m sure we’d have weird relationship. I’d either learn to ruthlessly self-edit, or I’d go insane from forced brevity.

          I’ll give you one guess which is more likely.

        2. jag*

          Twitter isn’t just 140 character statements. It’s a network of ideas and exchanges. There is surely a lot of terrible stuff on it, but as far as social media goes, when used right it can be amazing. AND it’s very hard to really “get it”, and get the most out of it, without being on it and using it a lot.

          1. Snork Maiden*

            Texting : phone call :: Twitter : email. Quick, punchy, and rapid fire news transmission vs lengthy in-depth analysis. Neither one replaces the other but in many cases complements it. I use all four of these depending on the situation – a thread on Twitter will evolve into a blog post, or someone may email me about something I was discussing earlier in public online.

            I love the real-time discussion aspect of Twitter, how people can jump in and contribute to the conversation (though not always in a positive manner as Alison’s experience today showed.) It’s possibly who I follow, but Twitter to me functions at several levels above what I encounter on Facebook – I get to read and participate in really smart (or funny) conversations about everything! And it’s really increased my ability to deliver a snappy comeback or a forceful, curt statement, two things that come in handy when someone will not stop complaining about how you get to work from home.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Not on Twitter, and this certainly hasn’t done anything to make me think I need to be. Ugh. What an ass.

    3. Clever Name*

      Block and report. Twitter is trying to crack down on stuff like this. I was informed on twitter that I must be a “dyke” because I was offended that a friend’s daughter’s teacher told the girls they had to wear skirts for a presentation where the students were expected to wear “business attire”.

      1. fposte*

        It didn’t seem to be a personal attack, though. Just a retro rant about how women should raise children, with random numbers for extra incomprehensibility.

    4. BRR*

      Five bucks says if he has kids his wife is the one staying home even if she’d rather work.

      1. Allison*

        He looks like he’s retired, so I’ll bet that when he did have children, it was during a time where women did stay home and raise the kids.

        1. Allison*

          Furthermore, he strikes me as someone who has nothing to do but sit at the computer all day and complain about the president, women, and “the blacks.”

          1. maggie*

            Yup. Like after the kids went to college his wife moved out and now he spends his days drinking bloody marias at the golf course (actually, he may even live at the course) and then comes home and spends his afternoons watching his ‘stories’ and after his nap reading Yahoo articles and ‘twatting’ to try to get some bit of interaction with other human beings because the family no longer puts up with his entirely sexist and racist nonesense (good for them).

            Oddly, this little exercise made me feel better about his attitude.

            1. Snork Maiden*

              I hope he says that. “Just doing a bit of twatting today, son. When are you coming to visit? It’s been ten years.”

            2. I'm a Little Teapot*

              I love your image of him. I’d also like to add that his family is annoyed at him for losing so much money to Glenn Beck’s goldbug schemes.

        2. Helka*

          During a time and in a class where women did stay home.

          Low-income women have pretty much always worked for pay in some capacity. It’s something that tends to get glossed over when we talk about the socioeconomic changes of the 20th century.

          1. davey1983*

            I was reading a report that indicated that in the past few years the trend has become such that low income woman were actually more likely to be stay at home mothers (and minority woman were more likely to be stay at home mothers as well).

            One of the reasons given for this is that childcare cost more than what they could make actually working– so you had to be relatively well paid/educated to be able to afford to go to work.

            Interesting read, if I can find it online I’ll post the link.

            1. Helka*

              Yeah, it’s much more of a modern phenomenon than a “bad ol’ times” one, if you fall below the middle-class income bracket.

        3. Anna*

          But consider this. Even though he may be retired, he was out working during the time when women were entering the workforce in droves. He would have most likely been in his early to mid career years in the late 70s. His attitude was outdated even then!

      2. some1*

        I would have guessed bitter divorcee. He sounds like the kind of man who trashes his ex-wife in a way that you think they just split, then come to find out they split up 20 years ago.

        1. Anna*

          That describes my father-in-law so well. Wait, is the tweeter my father-in-law?! Now I have to look.

        1. Andy*

          he’s AT LEAST on his third. tho he might be o so care-ing 2 his 4ends. (sorry. I had to do that. I hate number/letter substitution.)

    5. Connie-Lynne*

      I’m so curious why he thinks she’d be turning the baby over TO STRANGERS instead of to her husband!

      Except of course I know why he thinks that.

  3. Cruella DaBoss*

    I would try to get to the root of the problem with a ‘WHY ARE YOU SO CONCERNED?”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, really. Don’t these guys have work to do? Why do they have all this time to talk about her baby?

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    How incredibly obnoxious. I’d probably say something like, “You can keep on thinking that I won’t return after maternity leave, and it will keep on not being true.” Or maybe, “OK, well, if I prove you right by putting my career on the back burner after I have my child, the first round of drinks at the I Told You So celebration will be on me.”

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      “OK, well, if I prove you right by putting my career on the back burner after I have my child, the first round of drinks at the I Told You So celebration will be on you.”

      Fixed it for you ;)

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Haha. I like where you’re coming from with being assertive, but I think the point is less that they are wrong, and more that it’s none of their business. OP doesn’t necessarily want to set up a situation where if she does, for some reason, decide to stay home, change jobs, etc., they can all feel excited that they were right and she was wrong. I’m not sure she’s looking for an “I told you so” moment – I think she wants to find out how to hold her boundary about her personal life.

    3. A Cita*

      My first thought of a response was the Snape quote:

      That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Mr. Coworker. Tell me, are you incapable of restraining yourself, or do you take pride in being an insufferable know-it-all?

      1. jamlady*

        Well I’m absolutely using this when my turn comes in a couple of years.

        Maybe they won’t get the reference and it’ll just freak them out into not saying anything to me again. Either way, problem solved.

  5. Celeste*

    “I am going to have an absolutely wonderful time watching you eat your words.” And walk away.

  6. Apollo Warbucks*

    The co-workers are so rude and clueless, there is no reason to assume that a mother wont return to work. I’m really pissed off by the judgemental tone they seem to be taking as well as the spurious pseudo-science they are spouting to back up their flawed point of view.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Right? There is always a chance that someone will decide to stay and then change their mind, or that someone will decide to leave and change their mind, because life is fluid. But the absolutes and condescension of this bunch are just gross.

      1. JB*

        Seriously. I had a friend who worried she’d want to stay home with her kids, but couldn’t because she was the primary breadwinner. But after her maternity leave was up, she was so glad to return to work. She loves her kids more than anything, but she really needs adult time every day.

        1. Beancounter in Texas*

          Yes! If you don’t do anything else, just follow your plan! Let them talk. Yeah, life does change after you have children – for all caregivers, not just mom. I’m a working mom and I wouldn’t have it any other way, because “mother” isn’t my primary identity. I love my child more than anything, but because I have daily adult interaction, a fulfilling career, and child-free lunches eaten while hot, I am a happier, better mother to her.

  7. Jamie*

    I had a few co-workers at a previous job make the same kinds of comments, but they more or less stopped after mentioning it once. What really dumbfounded people was me breastfeeding and pumping when I came back to work. A co-worker told me she overheard the HR (!) exec (also a mother) say that the room where I pumped was “disgusting” now and smelled like milk (I always cleaned it throughly). I thankfully got the hell out of there shortly after. It’s not just men perpetuating this mysoginistic crap unfortunately.

    1. maggie*

      Not to be a total crap nugget, but I still haven’t met any HR reps that I have genuinely liked or trusted. Which is really sad.

        1. jamlady*

          Don’t worry – the wonderful HR folks in my past have simply ruined me for small companies that don’t have them. So it all evens out!

    2. Melissa*

      I have literally sat next to/across from women who were breastfeeding and pumping and have never been able to smell breastmilk, so I think she was full of it.

  8. Jules*

    Oh goodness, I’ve been telling people that I’ll be out on maternity leave for 6 weeks and someone keep on interjects, “At least 6 weeks.” I’m like… I guess if I have a c-section it will be 8 weeks. Not every working mother can experience the full 12 weeks of leave. I actually need to feed my family. Plus we will be in a thick of a cycle. I am not ditching my team to stay at home while they slog at work. Even if I can’t come back full time at week 7, I would at least start working from home or something. Mother or not, my career is important to me. My husband is a parent as much as I am. I am lucky because he steps up and co-parent with me instead of thinking it’s a woman’s job.

    1. Jenn*

      This is exactly what I keep hearing! I know that pregnancy and childbirth is pretty much the universal signal for people to overshare and bombard a person with unsolicited advice, but hearing all about how I don’t know what I’m talking about and how I’ll cease to be my own person is getting pretty old. I just keep responding to these types of comments with “Well, I guess I’m lucky enough to be one of the few people out there who loves her job.”

    2. Juli G.*

      I also had the experience of feeling bad for taking too little time. I took a week unpaid on top of my paid time and everyone said, “You should take the full 12.”

      Couldn’t afford it and I was fairly ready to get back at it.

  9. NJ Anon*

    I had all three of my kids while working (well, I didn’t actually give birth at work, you know what I mean!) and I never had an issue. If someone even tried to raise that point, I would just laugh and tell them they would be in “time-out” when I got back. I guess it depends on your relationship with your co-workers. I don’t ever remember it being A THING.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Good for you. I really think that this deserves a comeback that shuts it down. I can’t understand why these men keep telling OP this. Do (did) they sit around and encourage each other to keep bugging OP?

  10. Amy*

    We have had a few people get pregnant and then jump ship, mainly from entry-level jobs. It’s hard not to be dubious after losing several colleagues that way.

      1. JB*

        Especially since so very many women *do* come back. If you start being dubious, it’s because your focusing on one part of the working mom population and not the whole. If it’s especially common at one workplace for women not to come back, then maybe that workplace should start looking at why it’s so common rather than generalizing that it’s What Women Do.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Right! Like maybe it actually sucks there, and when the woman has some time off during her leave, she realizes just how glad she is to be away from there.

          1. JB*

            Exactly! Or they like the job, but it doesn’t pay enough to make paying for child care a wise option.

            1. Melissa*

              Or it’s a terrible place for working mothers or women in general, and they only realize that after taking some time away.

        2. K.*

          Yup. I only came back from maternity leave for 12 days… because when the baby was 10 weeks old, I landed an interview and an offer at a place that paid WAY better, with better benefits, better flexibility, and more growth for my preferred skillset.

          There’s a difference between “going back to work” and “going back to a particular job that doesn’t value me as much as they should.”

        3. Juli G.*

          This! We had that issue for awhile. Now we have most women coming back part-time, which is a big win.

    1. Kat M*

      Entry-level….Did they qualify for leave? Was paid leave an option (via short term disability or actual paid parent leave)? Where is your company based (I can see some regions where men wouldn’t even think of being home with the kids). Daycare can eat up quite a bit of an entry level salary, too. Not to mention that, while it’s not uncommon for more senior staff to get flexibility, entry-level workers might not get the same benefits as senior staff (which begs the question-have them younger, when fertility is more of a guarantee or wait for more security, when you might not be able to have kids as easily?).

      I have friends-mainly young ones-who wanted to keep working but either they couldn’t get the leave or flexibility or daycare was just too cost prohibitive (yes-I know, raises can outstrip daycare spending, but if you don’t have the money RIGHT NOW, well, what can you do?).

      1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

        The “entry-level” part of this jumped out at me as well – I live in a part of the US where daycare for one infant can cost $300-$500/week. Also, basically all of the daycare centers have set hours of 8am-6pm, which can be really hard for parents to make in a region where the average commute is 45-50 minutes each way, so even if you can afford the cost, you still need to have schedules that allow for that pickup and drop-off time, otherwise you need at least a morning and/or evening nanny on top of the day care costs. It takes a lot of sacrifice to make it work, and in an entry-level job (at a presumably entry-level salary), I can completely understand someone deciding it just isn’t worth all of the financial and other trade-offs to try to stay with that particular employer.

        1. Kat M*

          Even with that-entry level….still….And I’m assuming you mean FMLA? Still unpaid leave…….What about your field? Is there room for these women to move up? Or do they typically stay in those positions, making earnings and such a wash? One of my relatives recently had a kid and inability to move up in her field (and increase her salary-at least without more education) was a big reason for choosing to forgo paying for daycare. Do you live in a region of the country that has strict social norms regarding gender? Maybe these women’s husbands (assuming they had husbands) were not able or willing to pick up the slack at home.

          My husband and I are still fairly entry level. We would love to have children and I, for most of my life, hoped to be a young mom (like my mother). However, if we were to become parents now, one of us would have to stay at home. Likely him-because my job carries the benefits and I am the breadwinner. However, it’s still a hard choice to make. The way you write makes it sound like these women just enjoy pulling one over you when maybe, it’s just slightly more complicated and certainly not at all helped by institutional sexism and a poor safety net.

    2. MaryMary*

      As a manager, I contingency plan for a woman not to return from maternity leave. It has happened. At the same time, I do that sort of planning any time someone goes on medical leave. I hope everyone has speedy and problem-free recoveries, but you never know when a minor surgery and two week leave turns into four weeks, or disability, or worse. But I certainly don’t say “*if* you come back” to people going out on medical leave.

      1. jag*

        I’d speculate there is a small but significant percentage of women who don’t (and an even smaller percentage of men who don’t). And I’m sure there is data on this.

        So it’s not out of line, as a manager or planner to think “Oh, we’ve got 10 women on staff having kids in the next year, so perhaps 1 or 2 might not come back.”

        But to predict that any particular individual won’t come back is both insulting and discriminatory – plus probably wrong. There is a chance it’s right, but it’s probably wrong.

    3. Observer*

      Oh come on!

      As others have mentioned, it’s easy enough to keep your mouth shut. And, there is a HUGE difference between a low paying, entry level job and a career track, or similar situations.

      Beyond that, are you really claiming that EVERY woman who had a child at your employer left? In a workplace where there are a number of mothers of young children, this kind of comment is beyond out 0f line.

    4. Jules*

      A decent daycare cost is about $50 per child a day. Do entry level pay that much? Idk, depends on what position I would imagine. Highly unlikely though.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      If I still had an entry-level job (most of mine have been shitty) and I got pregnant and could do it, I’d probably have jumped ship too. I wouldn’t do it now. I think I’d get bored REAL fast if I couldn’t talk to other adults all day.

      I don’t know how my SAHM friend with four kids does it. I really don’t. She homeschools, too.

    6. Jen RO*

      I don’t really get what the people disagreeing with Amy are really saying. She never said that she is *telling* her coworkers “lol, pregnant, you’re deffo not coming back”, just that some of them don’t come back from maternity leave.

      Then people disagree… then people try to find reasons why they would be justified in not coming back… so they do in fact agree with Amy that some women don’t come back? And I don’t see why the reasons are relevant – I’m sure every mother who decides to stay at home has perfectly good reasons, and yet they are completely irrelevant to the current thread. The bottom line is yes, some women don’t come back, no, you should not generalize that to all the women you know.

  11. Adam*

    Maybe I’m a bit more reclusive than need be, but I never understand why any of this is anyone’s business. I think it’s fair to ask what her plans will be once baby comes, but after that one time until something changes and she lets you know why keep harping on it?

    1. AMT*

      Parenthood seems to be one of the last acceptable ways to harass your coworkers. I’ve been asked whether I wanted kids and then flat-out told: “No, you DO want kids! You WILL have kids!” This has happened more than once. Nothing is more frustrating than being told that you don’t want what you want.

      1. Cat*

        Heh, to be fair, I think there are actually a lot of acceptable ways to harass your co-workers; we just tend to notice the ones that apply to us. But I agree that everything about parenting is definitely on the list of things people are terrible about meddling in.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Family does this, too. I told one family member, “Oh. Okay, then.” and walked away. She read the real message: “And you can just HOLD your breath while you are waiting for this to happen.” She never said it again.

  12. Gene*

    While past performance is not indicative of future results (to quote a common financial disclaimer), humans are wired to predict the future based on the past.

    I won’t reiterate my entire response to the original posting, in our workplace we had a long-term return rate of <20%, and this is a place where the median longevity is ~15-20 years. So I expect that any woman here who takes maternity leave will not return.

    1. My Fake Name is Laura*

      You can expect it all you want, but to make rude, condescending, and insulting statements about it to the person in question is extremely unprofessional and opens up your company to legal risks they’d rather not deal with.

    2. LJL*

      I’ve seen that happen too. Expecting and planning for contingencies is one thing, but hassling them about it is quite another.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I would like to see the stats regarding the number of women that jumped a toxic ship and used the baby as a reason. But the real reason was the toxic environment. We don’t know things that people are not willing to tell us.

    3. Jo*

      The other women the OP works with also have children, yet manage to drag themselves in to work despite the anecdotal trend you’ve personally observed. The OP points this out, implying that if there WERE a pattern of women jumping ship after having babies, she might be more understanding of the comments – but that isn’t the case in her workplace.

      Also, these guys should be perfectly capable of keeping their predictions to themselves now that she has made it clear she doesn’t appreciate or agree with them. She’s the expert on her life, not them.

      Third, you say, “I expect that any woman here who takes maternity leave will not return.” ANY woman? You would think that of any woman in your workplace, just because some of the other women did it?

      I mean, really??

    4. Squirrel!*

      It’s almost like you’re stereotyping based on sex. That’s not what you’re doing though, is it? Because that would be silly and backwards and sexist wouldn’t it?

        1. Gene*

          Nope. Because in my 25 years here, no father has taken time off for paternity leave and not returned full-time, long term (at least a year).

          Yes, I’m stereotyping; and I’m fully aware of it. As Shakespeare said, “what’s past is prologue”. Just because I don’t expect any given mother-to-be to return doesn’t mean any individual won’t.

          I spend a lot of time walking in parks after dark playing a game, sometimes off the paths. Should I be offended when I come out of the bushes and a woman walking alone or with other women assumes I’m up to No Good and starts walking faster while looking over her shoulder at me (an overt action based on a stereotype)? No, I accept that she sees me as a possible threat and do what I can to be non-threatening – usually walking the other way, even though where I need to go is her direction.

          I never said I take action or make comments based on that assumption, I simply said I make the assumption. As we are currently fresh out of women of usual childbearing age around here, I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to make those assumptions any time soon. :-)

          1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

            Your analogy doesn’t work for me – women reacting to a strange man popping out of the bushes in a dark park at night are in fear of their personal safety and reacting accordingly.

            Men who harass pregnant women at work because they believe they won’t return to work after the baby is born are in fear of what, exactly? And protecting themselves from that fear how? I’m really profoundly unclear on how being a total jerk to a co-worker over her stated post-pregnancy plans is analogous to walking faster to get away from a stranger who popped up out of the bushes in the dark.

          2. Sadsack*

            I’d be wary if a woman popped out of the bushes and started following me in the dark though. Like, really, one should be wary of any person popping out of the bushes at night, don’t you think?

          3. jag*

            In aggregate, Gene may be right about the numbers/percentages.

            But to apply that generalization to a particular employee is insulting and perhaps illegally discriminatory. Yes, as a manager you might want to plan for eventualities that are moderately common. But it’s wrong to make assumptions about any particular person on this basis.

            1. Observer*

              Actually, Gene is wrong in the aggregate, if we mean “employment in general”. I have no doubt that he is right in the aggregate at HIS workplace, though. There are places that don’t retain women. I imagine that a workplace that doesn’t recognize the wisdom of treating people as individuals rather than archetypes of their gender would likely be such a place, because places like that ALSO tend to have reductive and narrow archetypes for women (eg “Women don’t stick around once they get pregnant.”)

          4. Squirrel!*

            Another thing is how do you know that they aren’t leaving for legitimate reasons? Look at how many women have posted on here about how they have been mistreated, undermined, and harassed at work after they come back from maternity leave. Why would they want to stay somewhere they aren’t welcome?

            1. Melissa*

              Well, staying at home because you have decided that you want to be a stay-at-home mother is a legitimate reason, too. But I get what you’re saying – it might be reasons related to lack of support in the workplace for working mothers (or women in general) and they’re using the baby as an excuse to bow out.

          5. Jen RO*

            I am honestly shocked at the replies Gene is getting. How on Earth do you guys think it’s OK to accuse him and his workplace of being discriminatory?! And on what planet is it true that more men than women decide to stay at home? Simple statistics don’t mean discrimination, and being aware of them doesn’t make Gene a crappy person, just a good manager who plans ahead.

            This conversation is turning into the “It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them” part of Life of Brian…

            1. I'm a Little Teapot*

              It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that a place where fewer than 20 percent of women who take maternity leave return (not the norm at all) and there are no women left of childbearing age is discriminatory toward women. And that a guy who positions himself as more logical than all those emotional wimminz and whines about how it’s sexist for women to get away from him when he pops out of bushes in the park at night – rhetoric familiar to anyone who’s seen a lot of MRAs – is also rather sexist. So yes, I think “accusing” him is perfectly OK.

              1. Jen RO*

                And sometimes feminism taken to the extreme is just as bad as MRA. Flame away.

                Even if Gene’s workplace is a sexist cesspool of menz, what should a manager do? Quit in protest? Sit there twiddling his (or her) thumbs and then scramble if a woman doesn’t come back from maternity leave? There is a big, big difference between sexism and contingency planning.

                I work in a company where all women have come back after maternity leave, and I still think of what we might need to do if my counterpart does not come back next year.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Whoa, wait. Gene didn’t say that was sexist; he said he understood why a woman would walk away.

                Gene is a regular and highly valued commenter here who has never been anything other than civil and helpful to people, and he absolutely doesn’t deserve to be accused of what you’re accusing him of here. I am really displeased with the tone of responses toward him (not just yours); this is no more okay than if you were talking a guest in my home this way.

                We know nothing about his workplace and shouldn’t pretend that we do.

                1. Observer*

                  You are right – we know very little about Gene’s workplace. But we DO know, based on what he says, that they have an abysmal retention rate, which does not come close to mirroring that of the rest of the world. He also says that expecting all women to continue that patter is a reasonable way to respond to a pregnancy – even while acknowledging that individual women might actually not follow the pattern.

                  That doesn’t make him a sexist jerk. It does, however, indicate a workplace where women, especially of childbearing age, are not treated to well. And, it also indicates a person who is a bit oblivious to some of the issues around what women in general, and mothers in particular face.

              3. Gene*

                I’ll pop back in here for a minute.

                I am not a manager here, though the possibility of a promotion is coming up. My office is at a sewage treatment plant, though we are not part of the plant organization, we are environmental regulators who need regular access to the lab and the plant, so here we are. Of the women who work, and have worked here, most have been admin or lab personnel, Operations and Maintenance are typically 100% male, the last female O&M person retired about 10 years ago. For some reason, we don’t get many women applying to herd turds. :-)

                Things have changed since I posted that original reply in 2011, we are down to 3 women, an admin person who will be retiring end-of-month, a lab person, and the plant manager. Most of the recent departures have been transfers to other City jobs, none have been child-related.

                And I made no value judgment on the walking away quickly observation, I simply stated that it was an action based entirely on a stereotype.

            2. Saurs*

              But it is every man’s right to have children if he (and his partner) want them. Men have children all the time. They’ve never had to face this dilemma. They don’t get a lifetime’s worth of pre-emptive guilt trips that imply “choosing” a career makes them a bad parent, and many of them (the white cis ones) are the beneficiaries of a racial and gender gap which creates an additional incentive for them to stay full-time no matter the size of their family.

          6. Lamb*

            What are you doing in the bushes??
            That’s just suspicious behavior. You could be male, female, enough smaller than me that I think I could fight you off and outrun you, if you pop out of the bushes while I’m walking after dark, yeah, I’m going to keep an eye on you and put distance between us. It’s not necessarily an assumption about men but rather an assumption about people who hide in bushes.

    5. Rana*

      You know, if I worked some place that was constantly assuming that the state of my uterus was more important than my past work performance, professional ethics, career ambitions, and so on, I’d be considering leaving too.

      In other words, maybe so many women leave your particular workplace because your company’s such an asshat to women, not because they had a baby.

    6. Observer*

      So, even though 1 in 6 women actually DO return long term, and even more are presumably coming back for a while, you are going to TELL *every* women that they are NOT going to come back AT ALL. That sounds incredibly logical to me.

      (In case you are sarcasm challenged, that was sarcasm.)

      On a non-sarcastic note, I would ask you what you median longevity for men vs women who don’t have children is. And I would ask why you have not bothered to look at why your LONG TERM retention for women with children is so utterly abysmal. It’s waaay out of the range for WOHM. (I would venture to guess that the kind of assumption you express are an indicator of a more fundamental problem.)

    7. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

      In my workplace the retention rate is 100%* (and actually, arguably more than 100%, because a number of the women who join our company each year are relatively new mothers, who are leaving their prior workplace and joining us because – GASP! – we treat mothers well here). If you’re retaining less than 20% of your new-mom workforce, you’re doing something wrong.

      *We’re a small-ish company – around 75 employees – so I’m aware this is anecdata and not actual data, but if we’re basing wild assumptions about large swaths of the population on anecdata, I figure I’d add my own anecdata to the mix!

      1. Judy*

        I’ve been in the engineering workforce for 20+ years. Admittedly, my career makes for some small numbers, but I don’t remember anyone not coming back after their first child, out of maybe 30-40 people. I do remember two who didn’t come back after their second child. Both of those ladies ended up having 4+ children.

        1. Glorified Plumber*

          I’ve seen it both ways… in 5+ years at one office I saw 8 coworkers (all engineers) have kids (Boss was a sleazebag who liked to hire attractive women when he could, so we ended up with a lot of 25-30 attractive, but very good, engineers. At least he hired good engineers!).

          7 never came back, 1 did.

          I transferred offices, and it was the total opposite, all the female engineers were older, had 2 kids, and worked long hours.

          Have not been able to put rhyme or reason to it.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Maybe the 7 never came back from the first workplace because the boss was a known sleazebag.

    8. JC*

      I’m nosily curious—where do commenters work where the majority of women leave after having a baby? My sample size is low, but I have never worked with a woman who has quit after having a baby, and thus I (and my coworkers) always assume that a pregnant colleague will return a few months after the baby is born. I’ve worked places where a) my colleagues have PhDs, and thus are pretty invested in their careers/aren’t in entry-level jobs, and b) the working hours are very reasonable. I’m guessing that a woman will be more likely to leave if she doesn’t like her job to begin with, has to work long/inflexible hours, etc.

  13. Joey*

    I think telling people that behavior is legally anything is going to get you eye rolls in the “you’re no legal expert” or “is that a threat” type way.

    If I were you the next time those dudes did that Id tell them “look, I already told you in no uncertain terms to stop with the comments about pregnant women. If you don’t stop next time I hear that sort of crap I’m going to report it. Do you really want to be the guy who is harassing a pregnant woman with misogynistic comments?”

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      “Do you really want to be the guy who is harassing a pregnant woman with misogynistic comments?”

      This is brilliant.

    2. jag*

      I’m not an attorney but people ask me about legality in a certain area (copyright), and I talk about it, all the time and am taken seriously.

      I know people working in HR who can talk about illegal activities too and be taken seriously.

    3. Jean*

      Joey, your comment just vaulted into my private AAM Comments Hall of Fame! (Heck, I established said Hall of Fame in order to properly honor your comment.) You also get special commendation for using “I already told you in no uncertain terms to stop…” and “that sort of crap” in consecutive sentences.

      I don’t need (fortunately!) to use this language in my own workplace but in my car I will enjoy quoting you (quietly, with the windows rolled up) to other drivers.

  14. Allison*

    Is it just me, or does the world simply not trust young women to make sound decisions about their lives? Anything we do, especially big stuff relating to our finances, careers, marriage, family planning, or even car ownership is questioned and criticized. Does it not occur to people that adult women are capable of making informed, intelligent, mature decisions without everyone getting involved?

    Even in high school, if I made any comment about my life plans, someone would interject with “yeah but what about your husband? what if he doesn’t like that idea?” (as if men are ever asked “yeah but what about your wife?”) It was like, I’m not married, so while I understand the need for flexibility and fluidity with my life plans, I’m not going to take into account the possible opinions of a man I haven’t even met yet?

    1. Phyllis*

      Yep. Like the articles that pop up talking about how women are damaging their retirement by spending money on purses and manicures and trips. Interesting you never see articles talking about how men are damaging their retirements by spending money on golf clubs or boats or haircuts.

      1. Allison*

        Wha? Excuse me, but as long as someone’s putting money into a 401k, keeping up with bills and making sure they (and their families, where applicable) have what they need, who cares how they’re spending the rest?

        We can’t win. If we don’t take care of our appearances, we’re accused of being lazy, depressed uggos who must not care about getting married. How rude of us to not give the world something nice to look at! But if we do, we’re vain bimbos who spend too much time and money on stuff that doesn’t matter.

        But yeah, I’m super tired of people commenting on how I spend money on clothing, personal care items, and haircuts. It’s like, I’m putting money into a 401k and even more into a savings account for emergencies; my credit score is solid and I’m keeping up with bills and rent. I’m making it work, leave me alone!

        1. Rana*

          Yes, especially since appearance maintenance is generally essential for most professional women – it’s like owning a suit and having a cell phone contract, not like buying a weekly truffle or foofy drink.

        2. Heather*

          Unless I read it wrong, I think Phyllis was agreeing with you (i.e., no one feels the need to comment on how men spend their money)?

          1. Allison*

            I wasn’t arguing with Phyllis, we’re just preaching to the choir over here. I was more reacting to the articles than her comment.

      2. Anx*

        I hate whenever I click on some sort of financial health article on ‘guaranteed ways to start saving’ and everything is telling me to stop drinking lattes and buying new clothes. Of course, everyone can drink lattes and buy clothes, and maybe I’m the one doing a little stereotyping here, but I can’t help but feel like frivolousness it tied to femininity in these articles.

        And you know what? I’m going out for a $5 milkshake later this week for my birthday even though I have no nest egg. And I spend less than 100 dollars a year on clothes, but sometimes I get something I could probably live without. I’m pretty sure it’s my salary (<5K last year), not my spending habits, that makes it so hard to save. Going out to eat or shopping once in a while helps you feel like you're living and not just surviving sometimes.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Those last couple of lines nail it. Wealthy people have always been fond of finger-wagging at people who don’t have much money about spending anything at all on anything not 100% essential. But when the difference between never spending anything on fun at all and treating yourself once in a while is a few hundred dollars a year, self-deprivation is simply not worth it. Those tiny savings will never amount to anything unless you start getting paid better.

    2. AW*


      There is a Tumblr post floating around has a statement from women at various life stages stating their current child-having situation (no kids, working parent, etc.) and society’s reactions to them. Basically it amounts to the woman always being wrong. You’re wrong for not wanting kids, having kids too young, having kids too old, not being a married parent, not being a stay-at-home mom, not being a working mom, & not having kids at all.

      It’s particularly a thing with young women because 1) that’s when society expects women to hit several big life milestones and 2) young women are less likely to tell these fools where to go and how to get there since they’re socialized to be “nice” at all costs.

    3. Jen RO*

      The woman who waxes me (of all people) is on a crusade to convince me to get married and have kids. It’s incomprehensible to her that I might not want children… And I’m not even that young anymore!

        1. Jen RO*

          She’s good at waxing and I’ve been going there for 12 years and at this point I’m not eager to let anyone else put hot wax on my personal bits… I’ve just started to answer ‘mhm, we’ll see’ at all her comments, which shuts her up temporarily.

          The kicker: she announced her second pregnancy to me as ‘well, I got pregnant, and we figured we might as well keep it’.

          1. Allison*

            Fair enough. I’ve been going to my stylist religiously and can’t imagine anyone else cutting my hair. But if I knew my visits to her would be riddled with “why aren’t you married yet?” or “why can’t you hold onto a man?” (in any other context than “you’re awesome and hot as hell, I can’t imagine why no one’s gotten down on one knee yet”) I would seriously consider looking elsewhere.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        But if you do that, you won’t have the money to see her! That’ll probably make her think about her comments.

        1. Jen RO*

          Her ‘plan’ is for my mother to take care of the kid. I would only ‘have to take care of it on weekends, at most’. Yes, she had a plan for my potential baby. Last time I went there she let me know that it’s the perfect time for me to get married, since Easter Lent has already started, so religious weddings are not performed, so I could book a restaurant for my civil ceremony for cheap. (Surprisingly, she did not have a problem with my refusal of a religious ceremony.)

          1. Rosa Diaz*

            Wow. Yeah, I wouldn’t willingly give someone that unpleasant any money, no matter what.

      2. chicken_flavored_deodorant*

        You’re going to have a hard time convincing her to knock it off as long as you are actively funding her advice-giving sessions.

        1. Jen RO*

          Yup, but I can stand 30 minutes of preaching a month for cheap and good waxing and eyebrow plucking.

      3. Another Ellie*

        I love it when almost-strangers want you to have kids! /s Our dry-cleaner, who is a wonderful dry-cleaner, always asks why we don’t have kids yet. The best part is that she’s Asian, as is my husband, leading to lots of “Oh, Asian parents want grandkids! Your mom wants you to have babies” and (my favorite) “If you have a baby, your MIL will take care of it! Asian parents want grandkids!” (My MIL lives in a different state and is a wonderful but somewhat emotionally unstable person. She would not be the primary caretaker of our theoretical baby). Luckily we only have dry-cleaning once every few months, so I only get to hear that quarterly or so.

        1. Dmented Kitty*

          Maybe my MIL wants grandkids. Maybe my parents want grandkids. What about MY wants? I want no kids. Last I checked, none of my eggs have my parents’ names on them.

          My mom started hounding me for a baby. She lives on the other side of the world, and I already told her we have no plans on having any. Then I asked her that they should come visit us since the last time they were in the US we didn’t have a house nor a car to show them around town. She told me, “Not likely, unless you have a baby.”

          Well… too bad. I wish you could come visit again, but I don’t consider a baby as a bargaining chip. Besides, easy for them to say — it’s not as if they’re the ones experiencing all the sleepless nights and poopy diapers and teenage angst for the next 18 years — I am.

      4. neverjaunty*

        Burst into tears and sob that your doctor told her you can never have babies and it’s just too painful a subject to discuss again, ever.

        That, or tell her that every time she opens her mouth about your personal choices, all you hear her saying is “Jen RO, time to give your money to a different stylist.”

    4. Observer*

      (as if men are ever asked “yeah but what about your wife?”)

      That’s actually a question / comment both I and my husband have made to our sons on more than one occasion. Let’s face it, if you have any brains, then you take your spouse into consideration when you make bog decisions. And if you don’t have a spouse, but would like to one day, then you think about whether the path you are contemplating meshes with what you can expect from the type of spouse you would like to find.

      1. Allison*

        Oh totally! It’s important for both men and women to understand that if they’re married, or even in a relationship, there needs to be some flexibility and a willingness to compromise on certain things.

    5. Heather*


      When my best friend got married and kept her last name, one of her coworkers’ response was “Does your husband know?”

      1. Observer*

        Is it just me, or does that question strike anyone else as INCREDIBLY demeaning to men? I mean, really? How could he NOT know, if he’s not a cretin?

        Or maybe the co-worker is the cretin?

    6. No, Seriously, I Run This Ish*

      Ugh yes, this drives me nuts.

      I’m married to someone five years older than I am. I’m also a lawyer, and husband is in a creative field. To give you an idea of his level of managing-stuff savvy, before we met he was renting a room from a family member because he wasn’t confident in his ability to figure out his own utilities if he got his own apartment. We now have a system where I tell him how much his share of household expenses are, he hands me a check, and I manage everything (gladly, I should add, since management-type tasks come pretty easily to me and it’s not a big deal for me to do it – I keep husband as up-to-date as he wants to be on the state of the family finances, and we talk through big decisions together, but I’m in charge of the day-to-day management).

      When we were buying a home together, EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. we dealt with started out talking to him instead of me. It was infuriating. Even our own lawyer – who knew I was a lawyer (with a specialty in real estate litigation, no less!) and had only ever communicated with me and did not even have my husband’s cell phone number in his file – started out talking to my husband at the closing. It took my husband four or five rounds of “I have no idea what you’re talking about, please talk to my wife – no seriously, she’s the lawyer, talk to my wife – I DON’T KNOW TALK TO MY WIFE” for the folks in the room to get it and start addressing me first. It’s absolutely crazy-making.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        Back before the Internet, I met a woman with fake attorney stationary and whenever someone would basically dismiss her arguments because she was female, she’d refer them to her male “attorney.” This “attorney” (herself, of course) would only correspond via written communication – no phone, no meetings in person. I don’t know for how long she was successful at winning her arguments this way and I guess nobody thought to check to see whether this attorney was licensed to practice law.

        1. No, Seriously, I Run This Ish*

          Ummm, I think that’s actually a *crime* in some jurisdictions (unauthorized practice of law, never mind the fraudulent aspect of it), so I’m not sure I’d recommend that as a course of action, although I understand the impulse.

        2. Marcy*

          I don’t think I’d recommend pretending to be an attorney but I get why she did it. When I was in college, I worked in a grocery store and the manager on duty at night was female. A male customer came to the office one evening and demanded to speak to the manager to file a complaint. I called her to the office and he refused to talk to her. He demanded to speak with a man. She didn’t miss a beat and called one of the baggers over to take the man’s complaint. The man actually stood there complaining to this 16 year-old kid while the kid had no idea what he was supposed to say. I got a kick out of watching the whole thing.

      2. Allison*

        Reminds me of when I went to buy a car, and my dad went with me for support and to be an extra set of eyes since it was my first time buying a car. Until we clearly established to the dealer that the car was for me and I was paying for it, the guy talked almost exclusively to my dad.

        1. No, Seriously, I Run This Ish*

          The first time I bought my own car (I was 22 or 23) I was living in a different state from my parents, and I ended up fake calling my dad on the phone to get the dealer to do what I wanted. For some reason “I won’t pay more than X/month for this car” didn’t get the price down, but “I just talked to my dad and he said don’t pay more than X/month for this car” worked.

          Joke’s on the dealer. I was walking outside and calling my best friend to crack jokes about the whole thing.

        2. Aunt Vixen*

          Couple of friends of mine had to buy a car. She happened to be the one who did all the research, reading, pricing, etc., and decided where they should go and what they should test drive. They get to the dealership, she says “We’d like to test drive a $vehicle,” salesman goes and gets the keys and hands them to her husband.

          Husband hands the keys right back to the salesman and the pair of them turn around and leave. The eventual sale went to a competitor who paid attention to who was leading the expedition and who was along for the ride.

        3. Anx*

          Car stuff scares the crap out of me.

          I know I don’t know much about cars. I don’t own one, never have. I didn’t have my license until I was out of college.

          My boyfriend knows a little bit more, but also has absolutely no ability to assert himself in these situations. I have a hard time having my assertions taken seriously, since I’m the girl and I don’t know as much about cars.

          1. Dmented Kitty*

            Same here. My husband is better at understanding the terminologies and mathematics of buying a house or a car. I probably could understand it, but I typically zone out after a few minutes :P

            My husband handled the house purchase (he’s got a better credit history than I did), and also our first car. When I bought the second car for myself, I asked him to come with since I want a second pair of ears just to make sure I don’t get weasled into a bad deal. The guy at the dealership actually was very accommodating and I managed to snatch the car I wanted from a customer who was minutes away from wanting my desired car but was too slow in making his decision.

            Which reminds me — there was a online car price comparison website (I forgot what site) that kind of irked me when I first saw it because it always featured female characters declaring the “anxiety” they had in buying a car. Oh, please. This doesn’t only happen to females.

        4. Jean*

          I’ve heard of this (women being ignored while men get listened to) happening at car repair places, but never before at car salesrooms. I guess there’s always one more place for a damsel to be stricken by IDon’tHaveaPenisitis.

    7. Lamb*

      Big stuff? People don’t trust me to decide if it is cold enough to justify a jacket that I currently have on as they are talking to me, while we are both outdoors. It literally has no consequences for any other creatures on earth, and if I did mess it up, all that would happen is I would be a little warm.

  15. AW*

    “You’re a childless person pretending to be an expert on children,”

    I’m sorry, WHAT? How does that even make sense? How does planning to return to work, a thing that millions of women do all the time, equate to claiming to be an expert on anything? That statement doesn’t even make sense.

    The LW should tell her male co-workers that she can’t talk to them when they’re being so emotional. Or that having children is clearly a subject they can’t talk about objectively/logically so let’s stick to work topics.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Or respond with, And you’re a male person pretending to be an expert on females.”

      1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

        “You’re a uterus-less person pretending to be an expert on the contents of my uterus” could also work.

        Alternatively, LW could just start answering all of their comments with “Thanks.” Then, when they ask why she’s thanking them, she can tell them she’s thanking them for making it super-easy to identify the misogynists in her workplace, because usually biased idiots try to hide their biases better in a professional setting.

    2. Cube Diva*

      “I can’t talk to you when you’re being so emotional.”

      This is great. Turn the stereotype onto them, and I bet they’ll shut it.

      1. Anx*

        There’s a bit of a movement I’ve seen on Tumblr advocating to turn the ‘I can’t talk to you when you’re so emotional’ back around.

    3. Samantha*

      Seriously – who says that?! I think I’d have to pick my jaw up off the floor after hearing that one. Just NO.

    4. Jean*

      Maybe these Neanderthal coworkers will wise up if the OP looks them straight in the eyes and says “My, you’re worked up about this topic! Is it *that* time of the month for you?”

  16. jpnadia*

    This is incredibly timely. Yesterday, suspecting something was up, I talked to my probably-new-manager (I’m also in reorg limbo, which is probably part of it.)

    ME: “You know I’m still looking for growth and challenges post-baby, right?”
    HER: “Actually, I’d heard [through the grapevine] that you wanted to have a big family and lots of babies, so I didn’t know what your goals were.”

    This article makes me feel less like I’m being hypersensitive about trying to balance the physical reality of bearing children with my dedication to my job and people’s perceptions related to my dedication to my job.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      What the… HUH????? It never occurred to her to COME ASK YOU what your goals were?

      (…shakes head and wanders off…)

    2. Caroline*

      I love the phrasing of that. Not just you’re coming back to work but you’re “still looking for growth and challenges post-baby”. That’s a great way to put it.

    3. Amy*

      I would never come out and ask a woman if she planned to stay long-term. I would hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Being up front with your boss about career goals is totally a good idea regardless of the reasons why it might come to mind. I like to steer projects that are a bit off-the-resume toward peoples’ long-term goals and interests. Likewise, if someone says they don’t plan to be here in six months I’d appreciate the heads-up in case there are both long- and short-term projects to choose from in assignments.

    4. No, Seriously, I Run This Ish*

      “Funny, I’d heard through the grape vine you’re kind of sexist as a manager – good thing we both know better than to rely on the grape vine, right?”

        1. jpnadia*

          New!Manager has been managing for about three months total and managing me, still unofficially as paperwork hasn’t gone through, for about four weeks. She hasn’t had an opportunity to have a conversation with me about goals, as she’s had to take on the workload of someone who left, also four weeks ago.

          I initiated the conversation because I was frustrated I haven’t been able to get involved in any new and challenging projects since my return, and wanted to see if I needed to do something different.

          She has, to the extent of her ability so far*, been trying to be flexible with work-life balance.

          It is just frustrating to see how unconscious assumptions regarding “work-life balance” can impact the assignments one gets and therefore one’s ability to advance. Or: it’s too easy for one well-meaning person to make an invisible mistake.

          I count blessings that once I brought it up, she immediately got it.

          * Four weeks is not a very long time.

  17. NacSacJack*

    I am so over this whole gender whatever you want to call it. We live in an age where all people, regardless of gender, are expected to go to college, get a degree, get a job, then get a life. I was raised with two older sisters and never in my lifetime was there ever a time that I remember that it wasn’t made explicitly clear that ALL THREE CHILDREN would be going to school and that we were all three required/ordered/told to get degrees in the STEM fields. Not once!! I am pissed we are still dealing with this idiotic mindset. You need to tell your idiot coworkers to GET OVER YOURSELVES AND JOIN THE 21st CENTURY!!! That being said, some women do choose to stay home after maternity leave. So what??? Some dont (majority in my memory). I wish more men would stay home after paternity leave.

    1. Allison*

      Oh no doubt, growing up I was also expected to go to school, get a degree, and then start a career after college. My parents were definitely the “you can do whatever you want” kind, but I doubt they’d accept it if one of us said “no, screw college, I’m just going to get married and be a housewife.” I think most women are raised with this expectation nowadays, so they at least have options. Still, a large portion of society still sees women’s careers as less important, even disposable, compared to those of their husbands. Not to mention, women are supposed to be the flexible ones in marriages and relationships. If he has needs, she deals with them. If she has needs, she’s high maintenance, run away!

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Sadly my dad raised us three girls figuring we’d all find a husband to take care of us and when I did want to college he said ok but you’ll probably just be there til you get your Mrs. degree

        1. jamlady*


          My parents have a totally stereotypical marriage, but it fits them. My sisters and I are all naturally ambitious and my parents were totally like “do what you want, but learn how to take care of yourself and any family you may choose to have”. People are always surprised when they meet my parents and assume we all had to fight the patriarchy, but no. I’m sorry your experience wasn’t as easy :/

      2. Not So NewReader*

        [Raises hand.]
        Some women think women’s careers/jobs are disposable. “Just because I make less money than you do, does not mean my job is throw-away and your job automatically is more important than my job.” I can’t tell you how many times I bit my tongue rather than say those words.

        I think part of the message here should be to women to watch what they say/imply to other women, even in personal relationships, such as family and friends. The person I needed to say this to was not a business relationship, it was a personal relationship.

    2. Ife*

      Society has some very contradictory expectations. Everyone “must” go to college with the aim of getting a good job, but women are still pressured to stay home after having kids or put their careers on a slower track. After, what, maybe 10-15 years of working? Doesn’t make sense. And the debt we’re in for college now probably won’t even be paid off by the time we’re having kids… so you aren’t even breaking even in a financial sense! I totally get/share the desire to stay home with the kids until they’re a little older, but it doesn’t make sense for society to act like that is the ONE. CHOSEN. WAY.

      1. Anx*

        This hits home. I am nearing 30 and still haven’t been able to get a full-time career up off the ground. I have student loan debt, invested a lot of my time, money, energy, and passion into preparing for a few possible careers. Now I’m at a loss of what to do. I don’t want to leave to stay home right after I finally establish myself (if I do). I always thought I’d have kids after working for a while. Now I’m considering having a family earlier so as not to interrupt a career at the very beginning.

        Some of my friends are further along in the careers than me, but most of them are similiarly thrown off but the way things are turning out. There’s a lot of pressure to have kids (a lot of it is out of desire) by 35, but there was an expectation that we’d be starting careers in our early 20s, not our mid 20s or even our 30s.

    3. soitgoes*

      It’s an issue because a lot of us have seen women have children and opt out of working. Worse, the women who do this often fall into predictable and typical patterns. It’s not something you can say out loud, but people who have a clue (not the men in the letter) are able to predict fairly accurately when a woman won’t come back. In my industry, with the type of work I do, the women almost never come back.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

          Seriously. I would really like to know if these women who left soitgoes’ industry in droves actually stayed home or just took a different job at a place where their coworkers didn’t try to predict their career trajectory by the status of their uterus.

          1. soitgoes*

            I have no idea why a statement of fact (“I have rarely seen women come back to work”) is an attitude all of the sudden. The specific nature of my work and larger industry makes it difficult for people to get back into the swing of things after a long absence. It’s just how this industry operates. They’re free to come back, and many try, but they often find that they’ve missed too much. Similar things happen with other sorts of accidents sometimes. People opt out because of the work.

    4. Not Having Kids*

      “We live in an age where all people, regardless of gender, are expected to go to college, get a degree, get a job, then get a life”

      That may be the case where you live, but it is very far from a universal experience. And the lived experiences of others do not deserve to be dismissed.

  18. Jake*

    I’m a male and I’ve had several male coworkers state thing like that almost word for word to me when discussing children.

    While sex may play a role in this situation, I don’t think it’s a given. I think this could’ve easily been more about the bias parents typically exhibit around non parents and soon to be parents.

    Or I could be way wrong, just throwing that out there from personal experience.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      I think you’ve got a good point there. Pregnancy brings out the unsolicited advice/wisdom/back-handed compliments in a lot of people.

    2. Not Having Kids*

      I’m finding it hard to imagine people telling a man that he won’t be coming back to work after his aprtner has a child, though.

  19. Jack*

    My wife took her maternity leave and then I took my paternity leave right after. One of us is at home reading Ask a Manager in the middle of the day while the baby plays and it’s not her!

  20. Kethryvis*

    So here’s a question… Allison said in the article on Inc. that pregnant women are a protected class… what about women who are trying to get pregnant? A friend of mine is going through a super rough time at her job, and it all seemed to really start when she told her boss she needed some time for doctors appointments due to infertility. He’s even alluded to the fact that maybe this position isn’t going to be right for her “due to what you’re trying to do in your life right now.” Which seems… borderline illegal to me.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      Borderline? Nope. Just wait till he passes her over for a promotion because of this. Or “encourages” her to quit.

      1. Kethryvis*

        oh we’re at the point where they’re ignoring their own handbook completely, and put her on three PIPs with no written or verbal warnings. Two of them were back-to-back. And no idea of what needs to improve. So we’re past encouraging quitting or promotion not-getting. This is at the point of insanity and my recommendation that she talk to a lawyer.

    2. fposte*

      EEOC says: Employment decisions related to infertility treatments implicate Title VII under limited circumstances. Because surgical impregnation is intrinsically tied to a woman’s childbearing capacity, an inference of unlawful sex discrimination may be raised if, for example, an employee is penalized for taking time off from work to undergo such a procedure.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        Interesting point. I had no idea infertility was covered by the ADA.
        IVF and similar treatments require a huge investment of time and money. Appointments are not always able to be scheduled with a lot of notice.
        I guess from an employer’s perspective, the employee is taking a lot of time off from work and will take even more should they be successful. The good news is, they’ll likely be in debt up to their eyeballs and will NEED to come back to work after the tricycle motor is delivered.

      2. Kethryvis*

        this is SO helpful. They’re now trying to tell her she has to give like, several weeks notice for any time off, including doctor’s appointments. Well then!

  21. HepHep*

    OP, these coworkers sound clueless and/or insensitive, perhaps both. I’m sorry!

    Sadly, these types of comments don’t always stop after pregnancy. It always baffles me on the occasion I venture out without the kids and someone says, “oh, is your husband babysitting the kids today?” Um….no! It’s called being a parent. One does not babysit one’s own children.

    1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

      My friend is a SAHM, so she gets the “Oh, hey, Husband is babysitting, how nice!” comment so frequently when she’s out without the kiddos, her response is now to do the confused-head-tilt and ask “What do you mean by babysitting?” in a genuinely confused tone. Usually the comment-maker gets it immediately and back-tracks, but occasionally the person actually starts to explain that they meant that Husband was watching kiddos, at which point my friend usually responds with “Hmmm, funny, my husband and I usually call that being a dad.”

      It’s not an ideal response if you want to keep the peace, but it works well with nosy acquaintances and in one-off interactions.

      1. LBK*

        I love that. If the dad is the babysitter does that mean the mom has to pay him when she gets home and scold him if she notices a couple beers missing from the fridge?

      2. Kathryn T.*

        I usually respond to that with “Oh, I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood — he’s their father.”

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I never understood that, and I grew up being with Mum and not Dad (unless Mum was ill–when my brother was born, I remember my dad making dinner) or a babysitter (not Dad!) most of the time. When we were old enough and Mum went to work with Dad in the shop they owned, we were latchkey children. I never heard it called babysitting when Dad looked after us, even though he rarely did.

  22. Meg Murry*

    I know this is an old story being re-hashed, and I have to agree that it sounds like most of the men are being jerks, but if some of them do have kids, its possible that they were trying to tell her to calm down on the 100% certainties. For instance, the letter writer says “I have communicated my exact return time and intention multiple times …” and the teammates may be trying to say “that may be your intention now, but it is possible it will change.” For instance, if OP’s due date is April 15th and she is planning to take a 6 week maternity leave, she may be saying “of course I’ll be back in plenty of time for a meeting June 10th!” but the co-workers (especially if they have a wife that has been there) may be saying “nothing is that certain, leave yourself some wiggle room”. I was like the OP, being SURE I would be back June 1st (in the example listed), but first the baby more than was 1 week late, and then I had some medical complications that meant I needed more than 6 weeks recovery time, so the day I actually returned to work was almost a month after my original estimate.

    But yes, most of the comments are jerk-ish and should stop. But its possible that OP is letting the truly jerk-ish comments color her opinions of the ones made by sane people. Especially if OP’s “exact return time” is based on an extremely optimistic timeline.

    1. NJ Anon*

      This is a valid point. But it is no excuse. Even if OP is adamant that she will be back on a given date and her co-workers are not, they need to just drop it if she doesn’t want to discuss it.

    2. BethRA*

      Well-intentioned or no, it’s still not their business, is it? And it certainly ins’t their place to repeatedly push unwanted advice on someone else, as the OP describes.

      1. soitgoes*

        They have no right to speak to her disrespectfully or to act as if she’s lying, but it literally is their business whether or not she comes back on the date she is stating with such aplomb. The exact date of her return might not be a long-term concern, but she might not be willing to opt out of things like scheduled conferences and time-sensitive projects because she’s so intent upon returning back by the date she has in her head. It is absolutely her coworkers’ business if she’s out for two extra weeks and her group misses a deadline because she’s refusing to allow for any wiggle room.

        1. Kat M*

          Actually, it really isn’t. As long as she keeps in touch with her boss and makes sure her work is covered, it’s no one else’s business. If they are concerned about the work in general, they need to frame the concern as such and have a legitimate professional conversation about it-like they would need to in ANY event. Otherwise, her pregnancy is off limits.

          1. soitgoes*

            I can think of many situations in which returning to work a week or two behind schedule would be disastrous, especially if you refused to prepare for that contingency ahead of time. Staying in touch doesn’t always help, and since we’re talking about medical stuff, it might end up not being an option. Yes, her coworkers suck, but the OP wasn’t open to the possibility of being out of work a day longer than six weeks and therefore wasn’t making the necessary preparations.

            1. A*


              I work in a very fast paced industry and one of my coworkers extended her maternity leave by 2 weeks at the last second – we ended up in heaps of trouble because the temp we had trained as her replacement had already arranged another gig that she had to move on to.

            2. BuildMeUp*

              But like Kat M said, they’re not her boss. It’s not their job to make sure she has a contingency plan in place if she needs to take more time off. And they’re not really talking about an extra week or two because of medical issues.. They’re assuming she’s just not going to come back at all, or to take a much longer leave, because she’ll somehow stop caring about her career once she has a baby.

              There’s also not enough information in the letter for us to know whether there’s a contingency plan in place — she and her boss may very well have one, in case of serious complications. I don’t think it’s fair to assume the OP hasn’t considered the possibility.

              1. soitgoes*

                It doesn’t matter that they’re not her boss. I’ve never had a job where an unexpected absence of an employee didn’t put strain on the other employees. In the matter of business, having to cover someone else’s workload is literally their business.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          ” It is absolutely her coworkers’ business if she’s out for two extra weeks and her group misses a deadline because she’s refusing to allow for any wiggle room.”

          But that hasn’t (hadn’t) happened, yet. Meanwhile, one of these men could (heaven forbid) get hit by a bus and never be able to work again. It is up to the boss to handle that one, also.

          When thinking starts down this road where do we draw the line? I knew of a boss that declared his employees could not do X activity in their spare time because they could get injured and be out of work for a while.

          It is up to the boss to have some idea what to do should ANY of his people not be able to report to work for any reason. I wonder if the employees think the boss is not competent enough to have a contingency plan.

        3. Observer*

          None of this is what the OP is describing, though. They are telling her that SHE WILL NOT COME BACK. PERIOD. People who worry about schedules not working out say things like “you do realize that your schedule might not work out exactly the way you think, don’t you.’ They might even be a bit more forceful. But, they DO NOT, absolutely DO NOT, say “You stop being a person when you have a child.”

          1. soitgoes*

            They are telling her that they don’t expect her to come back, and her response is “I will be back on this specific date no matter what.” We’ve already established that the coworkers are being stupid, but her response is inappropriate as well. Saying “I’ll be back in exactly six weeks” isn’t the same thing as, “Shut up, I’m coming back when I’m ready and able.”

            1. Observer*

              It’s totally not relevant – Her coworkers are not just being stupid. They have made it clear (at least some of them) that they do NOT expect her to come back AT ALL. It would make no difference how realistic her schedule were, since this is CLEARLY not about schedule AT ALL.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Also ( and they are being aholes) it occurred to me they may be bitter over their own wives either not going back to work or taking several months longer and the financial hardships it may have caused

      1. OP*

        OP here- :) I’m still lurking around. The culture changed QUITE a bit in the years since I got back from maternity leave. (Thankfully) Also we got a few more women on the team, which helps!

    1. OP*

      Also the two really clueless people in the department moved on, and we have had a lot fewer issues with personality clashes, inappropriate comments, etc.

  23. TW*

    Long time reader – rare commenter
    On my PC I just had a pop up ad that followed me down the page blocking the screen unless I clicked it closed.
    Not sure if this falls into the category of ads you don’t want. Just alerting you.

  24. A*

    Ugh this kills me on so many levels. I work in a male dominated field where it is very uncommon for women to work above an admin level and there’s a strong assumption amongst the men that women will not return after maternity leave. What kills me even more is that it’s somewhat based on truth – most of the women in my industry who left after having a kid only did so after getting their paid maternity leave. While I compketely respect the choice, it doesn’t exactly help debunk stereotypes like this. Wish everyone could just respect each other’s choices!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I tend to wonder if they were leaving because of a toxic environment and the baby made a good cover story.

      1. jamlady*

        I was going to say the same. Because I would much rather stay home with my child than go back to that. Ew.

      2. AW*

        Even if it wasn’t before, the LW’s environment became toxic once she became pregnant and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case most of the time. If you were getting grief about having a kid for months before you gave birth, there’s not a lot of reason to think it will get better when you come back. Basically, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        Work Dudes: “I bet you won’t come back after you have the kid. They never do.”

        Pregnant Worker: “No, I’m coming back. Also, we have other women co-workers with kids so obviously it isn’t true that they never come back.”

        Work Dudes: “They all say that. We know better.”

        Pregnant Worker: “Look, I don’t want to have this conversation anymore.”

        Worker Dudes: *ignore co-worker’s boundaries*
        Worker Dudes: *continue condescending comments*
        Worker Dudes: *more complaining*
        Worker Dudes: *make work decisions based on assumption co-worker’s leaving*
        Worker Dudes: *insists co-worker will be too distracted by baby even if they return*

        Pregnant Worker: *gives birth, enjoys environment free of sexist Worker Dudes*

        Formerly Pregnant Worker: “I’m not going back to that *bleep*.”

        Worker Dudes: “See! Told you so!”

  25. voyager1*

    I am a male, so y’all can take this in that context. I have had people (including coworkers) make similar comments. It seems that every person with a kid seems to think that they need to tell people who are expecting what they need to know and how to parent. I don’t know if it is harassment, but it sure is annoying.

  26. Not Katie the Fed*

    So, this is the part where you tell us that this letter was from your Grandmother’s work advice column in the 50’s, right? Please…

  27. Lanya*

    I agree with Alison when she says that the tone of the OP’s response is very important. I have known all my life that I do not want to have children, but being newly married and of a childbearing age, I get the related annoying questions and comments frequently, both at work and social events. I used to laugh off or lighten my responses, and I would continue to get bugged by the same people until I changed my tone to a more serious and definitive one.

    This also works when you want people to stop calling you “Kimmie” because you prefer “Kim”.

  28. einahpets*

    I am not saying I excuse the OPs coworkers / managers at all, and as a working mom of a 2 year old myself I totally understand how annoying it would be. BUT, last year my cousin told her manager / coworkers she’d be back after maternity leave…. while telling her friends and family that she was planning to quit on her last day of maternity leave and never come back, as she always dreamed of being a SAHM. At that is exactly what she did.

    So, there are women who do this. It is completely unprofessional and totally boggles my mind, but maybe there was someone who did this at some point in the past to these coworkers?

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