I’m getting stuck with extra work because I don’t have a kid

A reader writes:

I joined my current team as an event coordinator about four months ago and am the sole events person on the team. The way our team is structured, we have two project managers who work on different events, managing associates who assist them with the programs, and both project managers work directly with me to plan the logistics for the events.

One of the project managers, Jane, had a baby last year. Because of this, she has been afforded an extremely flexible schedule (working from home two days a week, leaving early all the other days) which I think is great, as it allows her to have a work/life balance. The problem is this: One of the project associates and I are constantly being asked to stay full-time at these programs, when Jane is allowed to come and go pretty much as she pleases, sometimes to be home, but other times she has taken vacation DURING the weeks of her programs, and pushed off the week-of responsibilities to the associate on the team. In fact, usually when this other associate is asked to come to an event, it is not one that she is even working on, but it’s because Jane does not want to be there or says she can’t be there because of her baby and she has the director pull someone off another project to come be on-site.

Another example is coming up next week. Jane and I are working on a week-long program, local to our area (usually we travel a few states away), but initially were both planning to stay at the hotel to ensure that we had someone on-site at all times. However, somehow Jane and the director of our team decided that she will only stay over for one or two of the days (and arrive every morning), and I will have to be there on-site the entire time, 24/7. Am I wrong in thinking that because this is her program, she should also have to be there, or we should be able to switch off? I feel as though I’m being discriminated against because I don’t have a child, and they are assuming that my time is always free.

I want to note that I have no problems being on-site when I need to be…for example, most of our programs are not local, and I am on-site from a day or two before the program until the very last attendee leaves and all the materials are cleaned up. For some reason, though, it’s really grating on me that we are local, everyone else can get to go home, but I have to stay there because I don’t have a child at home. I’ve tried pushing back and saying that maybe we can switch off a few days, but the director keeps insisting someone should be on site for “emergencies.” I know in her head, she is imagining that someone will get too drunk and get in trouble with the hotel, but even when we are on-site the entire time for our “away” programs, there is nothing that I usually can do, and I don’t feel comfortable policing the drinking activities of adults anyway. Any advice?

Yeah, it is indeed very much a thing in some offices that people without kids are held to different expectations than people with kids. In those offices, not having kids means people think that you’re always available to stay late, work weekends, or cover for co-workers’ emergencies, and that, unlike parents, you don’t have “good enough” reasons for asking for flexibility. That’s obviously not reasonable or fair; not having kids doesn’t mean being magically free of responsibilities or a life outside of work, and you’re as entitled to your off-work time as anyone else is.

Not only do non-parents in some offices end up being denied the flexibility that parents get, there’s something even more frustrating going on too: In the process of trying to be family-friendly to one group of people, these employers end up being family-unfriendly to a different group. Plenty of people without kids have other family responsibilities, like significant others, aging parents, and even “chosen families” of friends … as well as other ways they’d like to spend their personal time (whether it’s hitting the gym or lounging on the couch with a book), which they have as much claim to as anyone else.

Your situation is a perfect example of this. It’s great that your company is willing to give Jane a flexible schedule. But instead of taking on those costs themselves (e.g., hiring additional staff, bringing in a temp, paying you more for your time, or anything else that isn’t just “push it all onto existing staff members”), they’re asking you to be the one who sacrifices so that they can be family-friendly to someone else. Being truly family-friendly would mean that your company supports Jane’s schedule — but instead they’re just shifting the burden over to you.

And that’s on them, not on Jane. If your director has approved an abbreviated work schedule for Jane, possibly for reduced pay, then Jane is acting exactly as she and your employer agreed that she would act – and the issue is that no one is addressing what that means for you or making the workload adjustments that the situation necessitates. Instead, everyone involved seems to be assuming that you’ll just happily step in without anyone ever having a direct conversation with you to discuss how this is shifting the expectations for your role and whether that’s feasible for you.

So, what can you do about it? Since no one has bothered to talk to you about what Jane’s flexibility will mean for you, you’re going to have to initiate that conversation yourself. I’d start with your director, and say something like this: “I’m finding that Jane’s schedule means that 100 percent of the coverage for her events is falling to me. For example, for next week’s event, originally we had planned to switch on and off so we each had time away, but it’s ended up that I’ll be responsible for 24/7 coverage that week and she’ll only be there one or two days. I’m happy to help out in a pinch, but it’s not sustainable for me to continue filling in for her as often as I’ve needed to recently. If she’s not expected to return to full availability soon, can we explore other ways of getting additional coverage?”

Note that the language here isn’t passing judgment on whether or not your director should be approving all this flexibility for Jane; that’s her call to make. Instead, you’re keeping the focus on your part of this, which is that you’re not able to cover for her all the time.

It also might help to get really specific about what you can and can’t do. For example, you might explain that you can cover Monday through Wednesday at the event but have evening commitments on Thursday and Friday and can’t supply coverage then. Who knows? You might discover that you can lay out your own boundaries just like Jane does.

Whether to explicitly name the parents-vs.-non-parents issue is trickier because you’re new and presumably don’t have a ton of political capital built up yet. If you’d been there longer and had a good track record with your boss, I’d suggest saying something like, “I think it’s great that we’re being so family-friendly for a new parent. But the burden of making that possible is falling heavily on me. Is there something that we can do so that I’m not the one shouldering the weight of helping Jane get a flexible schedule?” But that’s tough to pull off as a new person so, for now at least, I’d leave the seeming preferential treatment for parents out of it and just address it as a work-allocation issue.

Now, from here, a few different things could happen: Your boss could take this as a wake-up call that the current system isn’t working and find some other way of allocating work. Or she could tell you that this is part of your job now, even if things were different before Jane’s situation changed, in which case you’d need to decide if you’re up for the job as it’s currently configured. Or there might be some middle ground – like she’ll tell you to just get through the next few months and things should change after that.

But by having this conversation, you’ll get the issue on the table and make it known that this is a problem for you – and that’s the first step. Your director and Jane have probably been assuming that you’re just fine with this because you haven’t said otherwise. So speak up, explain the impact on you, and see what you can negotiate from there.

That said, there’s one potentially huge caveat here that you need to investigate before you do any of this: In your particular case, it’s possible that providing this kind of coverage is actually the nature of your job regardless of Jane’s flexible schedule. It’s pretty typical for an event coordinator to be expected to be on-site the whole time an event is going on – so that might not be about Jane at all. Since you’ve only been there four months and weren’t there before Jane had her baby, is there any chance that this was always how your respective roles were intended to work? My hunch is that that’s not the case, based on the details you provided … but it’s worth finding that out for sure before you proceed.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 526 comments… read them below }

  1. Leatherwings*

    Because of the way women with families have been treated in the workforce for decades (and often still are, though to a lesser degree), I think using Alison’s framing (as your workload issue rather than being discriminated against or mothers getting unfair advantages) is incredibly important.

    Of course it’s not fair to work tons of extra hours on a regular basis. This is something that employers will need to resolve when granting flexible schedules, regardless of the reason they’re doing it.

    1. Mike C.*

      That’s a great reason. Another is that workers shouldn’t be fighting each 0ther regarding an issue that neither of them can reasonably control.

        1. Leatherwings*

          I read it like coworkers can’t reasonably control others’ behavior. I may coworker may have a kid and need time off to pick them up from school. I can’t control that, like my coworker can’t control my therapy appointments.

          1. Mike C.*

            It’s more in the sense that coworkers can’t control staffing and work assignments. That’s the responsibility of management.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Exactly. Getting into the whole ‘well your having kids/taking care of an aging parent/going to therapy is a CHOICE’ nonsense is looking in the wrong direction – at co-workers, rather than at management. It’s management’s job to make sure that everybody shares the workload, everybody covers for everyone else sometimes, and if the workload can’t be fairly distributed, then temps or additional hires need to be brought in.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I don’t think *anybody* believes that is the least bit acceptable. Management needs to pull its head out of its rear.

          1. OP*

            OP here: totally agree RE the flex schedule which it seems she has worked out with our manager!

            The issue is that things that ARE her duty are falling to me because she is not staying on site/arriving late in the mornings for programs, like dealing with instructors (things that may usually fall to an EC, but not in this role normally). I’ve thought about it a bit since writing in–I don’t think that my issue is that I need to be there, because as the EC, I fully feel that’s my responsibility to be there for the event, but that I am there alone, and end up handling things that do not fall to me normally, or that we have discussed in our pre-plan meetings that others are responsible for. I’m all about helping out when needed, but when I can’t get the logistics things accomplished, then it causes lots of extra stress!

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              So are you saying Jane is taking liberties beyond what the manager gave her re her schedule?

              1. JessaB*

                I think whether or not Jane is within the scope of the liberties she was given, the issue is that the OP is completely overburdened and management is not covering for Jane not being there.

                1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

                  Yeah, sounds like it. There was a post a few days ago about someone whose coworker seemed to be taking vacation while he said he was out sick? The issue then and now is about the LW’s workload being too much/overwhelming, not about the hours of the other coworker.

              2. OP*

                I think it’s not that Jane is taking liberties beyond what the manager is allowing–I think that our supervisor is allowing/sanctioning Jane to take these liberties, do it in a non-transparent way, and then pass along the workload to others.

                1. Coco*

                  Sounds like you’re saying (at least part of) the problem is that you aren’t able to plan accordingly because certain delegated responsibilities end up coming back to you.

    1. Leatherwings*

      You know, as a dog lover myself (I grew up with several wonderful and high maintenance pups), this question always makes me roll my eyes. Dogs are a part of the family, they need special care and consideration that employers should consider, but it’s just not the same as having a child.

      1. Not Karen*

        Did I say they were? Regardless, you can’t leave your dog at home for a week because you have to be on site 24/7.

        1. Jaguar*

          How far do we go with this? My mailbox backs up if I don’t empty it occasionally. If you have a dog that you can’t leave for extended periods of time or make accommodations for, maybe you shouldn’t be in a job that requires you to be on site 24/7?

          I don’t actually have an opinion on this, but having a pet is a personal responsibility that you need to make an informed choice about.

          1. the.kat*

            Not that I disagree with you… I have a dog and make time for her outside of work, but your last sentence seems a little dismissive. If having a pet is a personal responsibility that you need to make an informed choice about, so is a child.

            1. Venus Supreme*

              Exactly, the.kat — Having a child is a personal responsibility that you need to make an informed choice about, much like a dog. Hence why I have neither a child nor a dog. I’m happy with simply watering my plants as my only responsibility!

            2. MV*

              Exactly what I was thinking when reading this. A dog and a child are both a personal choice. I don’t think one choice is any “better” then the other.

            1. Jaguar*

              So do we say that people who make the informed choice to have a child need to recognize that a job with week-long, 24/7 components may not work for them?

              1. Vanesa*

                Or they find a way to make it work with their significant others and/or other family members if they want to be in that job that requires week-long commitment at times.

                1. Kate*

                  This. I’m about to leave on a 2 week trip, and I have a one year old. Dad and grandma are holding down the fort. Having supportive family is key. I do get annoyed by how people never question men’s ability to travel after they have kids. It’s only if you’re a woman that it’s somehow an issue. My husband also travels for work and we negotiate who is going to be gone when.

                2. Vanesa*

                  Kate…yes I was going to say that too. It is frustrating that when a man with children takes a job that might require week-long travels it isn’t as much as a debate.

              2. Thermal Teapot Researcher*


                I’m asking this as a legitimate question with no snark intended: are you saying that people with children should get special work privileges, considerations, or treatment that childless people shouldn’t get?

                (excluding things like maternity/paternity leave which obviously they should get)

                1. Jaguar*

                  I have no idea, actually. The tone of “what about pets people” seemed to quietly imply that, yes, people with kids should get extra accommodation and people with pets should also get that extra accommodation.

                2. Oryx*

                  No, the “what about pets people” implies that nobody should get *extra* accommodation and everyone should get the *same* accommodation.

              3. Angela*

                As a parent, I most certainly have and will probably again have to turn down jobs that won’t work for my family situation. It’s part of the trade off. And I know people that would feel the same about their pets and wouldn’t take a job that would cause them to be away from their pet for an extended time.

                And quite frankly, I know people that have neither of those and still wouldn’t take a job that requires that level of commitment. I don’t think jobs with week-long 24/7 commitments are for everyone.

                1. Stranger than fiction*

                  Exactly why I don’t look for another job despite some dysfunction here. I can use my pto with no guilt, even to take care of my pets. I’ve had too many jobs where on paper I have the same amount of time off, but in reality you’re looked upon negatively if you use any of it.

                2. Isabel C.*

                  Yep! I have zero dependents, and I still would be hesitant to take a job where I’d be away multiple times a year* because I value my social life, time at home, etc.

                  * I was originally saying I wouldn’t, and then I thought, well, if it’s something like “go overseas and hobnob with awesome and attractive people while staying in five-star hotels,” sure. So basically if I got to be 007.

              4. Master Bean Counter*

                My informed choice is on having a job in a very limited market because I need to be near my aging parents. I don’t take on jobs that travel because of the need to stick close to home.
                Everybody has to make informed decisions about their career based upon the choices they’ve made in their personal lives.

              5. BRR*

                Yes. You don’t accept a job where the role requires travel 75% of the time and then join and say I can’t travel.

                1. Hannah*

                  True, but I think it’s fair to accept a job that requires 25% travel and regard it as unacceptable if that doubles.

              6. Xay*

                Yes. In fact, this is a topic of discussion among people with high time commitment, high travel percentage jobs all the time.

          2. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

            That was a very harsh comment. Children, dogs, mailboxes, etc. are all personal responsibilities that you have to make informed choices about.

            I think the original point was to highlight that people with children are sometimes given vast flexibility, while childless persons are treated as though they have nothing in their lives that is more important than their job.

            1. Sadsack*

              Exactly, maybe I have zero dependants at home, but my downtime is important to me and should not be infringed upon just because there are no kids/pets/others waiting at home.

            2. Jaguar*

              For about two years, I was the principle caretaker for my dad who has advanced Parkinson’s. Nobody could say that’s a personal responsibility that I need to make an informed choice about. There was no choice in the matter. It had a tremendous effect on the types of work I could and couldn’t do. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’m really not sure where the line gets drawn on this. Every job has to accommodate parents and pet owners? Or do we acknowledge that the choices people have made (or, even, have been forced to make) disqualify them from other opportunities?

              1. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

                First, I am sorry about what you have gone through. I’m really not trying to turn this discussion into the Suffering Olympics, where people feel that they need to prove their bonafides.

                I think that AAM summed my feeling up well in response to a comment below:

                “But everyone should have access to the same basic amount of flexibility. If we can be flexible for Jane and her kid, there’s no reason we can’t be similarly flexible with Fergus and his sick dog.”

                1. Jaguar*

                  Well, it was actually nice. I got to spend a lot of quality time with my dad. I didn’t mean to be looking for sympathy.

                2. paul*

                  the kicker here is it seems like Jane’s gotten too much flexibility, TBH. If she’s basically being allowed to be part time, which is what it sounds like, they need to hire another part timer or a full timer to pick up the slack.

                  I think Jaugar’s last line is pretty on point; you have to acknowledge that sometimes, a job really isn’t viable if you are a caretaker/parent/etc. God knows I’ve turned down a job due to the travel involved–I *have* to be available on weekends for child care most of the time, since my wife works Sat-Thurs.

              2. Vanesa*

                I think ideally we would try to find a job that works with our other commitments. I think everyone is different and some people are more career-oriented and others are more family-oriented (not saying one is better than the other), but for the most part we try to make our choices based on whether we are more career or family oriented.

                I think most companies should want to be flexible when things like this happen (taking care of family or having a baby, etc), but it isn’t always practical and it isn’t always fair to other employees who might have to work longer hours. If our jobs no longer work for us after these types of events happen then we have to make the choice of possibly finding a job that does or staying that job if we need to.

                I think in the case of taking care of a family member it is lot more difficult, because as you said, we don’t have a choice in it and if we love our job, we don’t want to quit, but then feel guilty about not being their for our families.

                This is a tough topic because I think in the US it very hard to have both a full-time career and take care of family/children.

                1. Jaguar*

                  Is it reasonable to fire a single-parent with a kid if the job requires week-long absences that they have trouble accommodating? I really don’t know what the law or ethical answer is here and am just asking for the prevailing stance. It seems reasonable to do (and heartbreaking and profoundly unfair in a cosmic sense).

                2. Vanesa*

                  No! I don’t think that’s reasonable at all (from a person standpoint).

                  But from an employer standpoint, I guess it is reasonable because they aren’t fulfilling their duties. I think I would first try to find an internal move for that person or even tell them they could take their kid (if that’s reasonable).

                  When my sister and I were little my mom had to stay at the hotel she worked for the weekend as weekend MOD. She would take my sister and I and we would stay in the room and watch movies and play video games (we are about 7 and 9). So, maybe they can try to find a way to make it work.

                3. Jaguar*

                  Yeah, I’m talking about strictly from an employer standpoint. What’s their burden, ethically, to try and make the work they need done by someone that has things in their personal life that conflict with that work, when they’re already in the job?

                4. Temperance*

                  I absolutely think that it is reasonable, in that instance. If the person can’t do an essential function of the job, they can’t do it.

                5. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

                  “Is it reasonable to fire a single-parent with a kid if the job requires week-long absences that they have trouble accommodating?”

                  I would ask: “Is it reasonable to fire a person with a dependent if the job requires week-long absences that they have trouble accommodating?”

                  I think that point that many people are arguing is that it shouldn’t be up to employers/companies to rank the importance of a person’s dependents. If you are going to allow flexibility to people with special situations, you really need to offer it to everyone as equally as reasonably possible.

                  To be clear, I am not trying to argue whether a human life is more or less important that someone’s pet parakeet, just that the employer shouldn’t be able to make decisions about employees’ private lives based on their own personal scale of what is “worth” it. You either need to offer accommodations for emergencies, with reasonably equal boundaries on how much will be offered, or you don’t (preferably they will).

                6. Hotstreak*

                  Jaguar – Assuming that week long travel is a requirement of the job, and the person is no longer able to perform that job requirement, then of course you can fire them. The fact that they are single, or have a child, does not give them permission to stop performing their job (unless they negotiate a change in their job duties of course, which is what happened in the OP’s case). And look, I don’t even feel bad for the employee. There was presumably a 9 month pregnancy during which they should have spoken with their boss about whether they would be able to avoid travel. That’s quite a long time to negotiate an accommodation or find a new job.

                7. Vanesa*

                  I think ethically an employer should try to make reasonable accommodations, but at the end of the day, I think it is reasonable to fire an employee if they can’t meet their job commitments.

                8. Jaguar*

                  “I think that point that many people are arguing is that it shouldn’t be up to employers/companies to rank the importance of a person’s dependents. If you are going to allow flexibility to people with special situations, you really need to offer it to everyone as equally as reasonably possible.”

                  Yeah. That’s what my mailbox comment was about. Where is it no longer acceptable to accommodate things in people’s personal lives? Obviously my mailbox example doesn’t count. Therapy that can only be done at a certain point? AA sponsor where you’ll need to be tied up for a length of time randomly and with no notice?

                9. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

                  “Where is it no longer acceptable to accommodate things in people’s personal lives? Obviously my mailbox example doesn’t count. Therapy that can only be done at a certain point? AA sponsor where you’ll need to be tied up for a length of time randomly and with no notice?”

                  I suppose that my fantasy situation would be that a employee declares that they have an emergency and need flexibility, and the company puts into action the well known and documented flexibility plan (or flexibility options). Then the employee can go take care of their therapy/AA/pet/family member/etc. This assumes that the employee has been well versed in what options and boundaries that these emergency plans make available well before something bad occurs (such as at the hiring stage).

                10. Lindsay J*


                  I argue that they should be, assuming that the week-long absences are part of the job.

                  Ideally (and I think this is what generally happens) the requirement for extensive travel is in the job ad, or spoken about during the initial screening or interview. There are plenty of people who can’t or don’t want to take on jobs with significant amounts of travel. The compensation for the job generally reflects that; people get more money to take jobs that require extensive travel.

                  If you hire, say, an internal auditor, and the majority of the internal auditor’s job is to go out and visit each of your 100 locations across the USA and audit them to ensure they are in compliance with federal laws, you need the person you hire to be able to perform that job. Someone who isn’t capable of doing that is incapable of performing a major function of their job, just like a cashier who is incapable of giving correct change.

                  This sounds like it is the case for the OP; if you’re an event coordinator you need to be at the site of the event.

                  Now, ideally if they were a good employee you would try to find them a position where they would succeed and travel would not be an issue. However, whether or not they’re a single mother shouldn’t have bearing on that.

                  However, if it’s not a general part of the job and is something that is for a required training that happens once a year or something, I would think that the company should do whatever they can to accommodate the person in some way if the alternative is firing them: allow them to bring their child, allow them to travel home each evening if it feasible, arrange a way for the employee to teleconference in or otherwise take the course online, etc. (But again, also the same accommodation should be provided for someone who is taking care of an ailing spouse or parent, or has a medical need, etc).

                  Ultimately, though, I think generally the responsibility is on the individual to make the arrangements the best they can to meet the needs of the job. So ideally the mom would try to find daycare or a sitter, you would go to the post office and put a hold on the mail, a pet owner would arrange for their pet to be boarded or hire a pet-sitter, your sibling would come down to help take care of an ailing parent, etc. And then only request accommodation if making arrangements on their own is untenable.

                  And honestly, the fact is that the line has to be drawn somewhere. When making accommodations according to the ADA there is the stipulation that the accommodations must be reasonable, there is medical sign off required, and an interactive process which means that both the employee and the employer might not get exactly what they were picturing.

                  There’s a line for a lot of people in what counts as a sick day vs a personal day (and generally a limited number of each available before time has to be unpaid or STD or FMLA both).

                  And for training and stuff like that ultimately cost the company money. What if it costs the company $500 extra for each person who wants to take the course online vs in person? Do you allow everyone the opportunity to take it online on the company’s dime, even if their reason is “I just want to”? (I mean ideally you would, but in the real world there are budgets and things). Or do you start drawing a line somewhere?

                  I think a good line is health and well-being of yourself or another living creature. If you going away is going to have an adverse effect on your own health (flight anxiety or vertigo or missing a medical appointment etc) or if you’re unable to find other ways to provide care to a child, a pet, or other loved one you’re the primary caregiver of that should hold a higher priority than your mailbox overflowing. (The mailbox overflowing is inconvenient, but the mailbox is not a living creature that will be injured by carrying too much mail like a dog will without food).

              3. Formica Dinette*

                You did have a choice. You could have found a facility or another individual to care for your dad.

                1. Jaguar*

                  Well, I mean, ultimately we all have choices in everything. I’m just drawing a distinction between choosing to have a kid versus having a dependant crop up through no choice you made.

                2. Vanesa*

                  Not implying that this is Jaguar’s situation, but a lot of healthcare facilities facilities are very expensive and some people might not actually have that option.

                3. Formica Dinette*

                  @Jaguar “Having a child is optional” and “Taking care of my dad is not optional” are reflections of your personal values and circumstances. They are not absolutes.

                4. Jaguar*

                  It’s really besides the point I’m trying to get across, but you really believe they’re both equal circumstances?

                5. Formica Dinette*

                  I didn’t say what I believe about those two things–only that others do not feel the same way about them you do.

                6. Hannah*

                  Choosing to have a baby and ‘choosing’ to look after a sick relative are not equivalents. Choosing to have a baby can be put off. You can’t tell your ill father to not be ill for a bit because you have a big project due.

                  I want to make it very clear that I believe both circumstances should be accommodated by employers where possible, but they are not the same.

              4. neverjaunty*

                I have no trouble at all picturing a jerk boss telling you that you could have made the “choice” to leave your father’s caretaking to somebody else, such as a paid helper.

                And that’s exactly why ‘drawing the line’ is a pointless endeavor that ignores the real problem. It’s not whether certain classes of people (pet owners, parents) are entitled to have personal lives and other’s aren’t. It’s a recognition that everyone has lives that involve things other than work, and that work needs to make accommodations for that in a fair way. “Well it was your CHOICE to ______” is not a fair way, any more than “you don’t have kids/pets/parents so obviously you have no need for personal time” is a fair way.

                1. Jinx*

                  Yes, this. OP should be able to go to her boss and say “X, Y, and Z are normally assigned to Jane, but they’ve been falling to me the past few weeks and it’s getting overwhelming. What can we do to fix this?”. It doesn’t matter why Jane’s out or whether OP’s personal life allows her to be on 24/7 call; in an ideal world the employer would make sure everyone has adequate work-life balance.

                2. Kelly*

                  I don’t have kids, but am dealing with a mother whose cancer came back. It’s worse this time than it was two years ago. I think I used one or two sick days then to keep her company during chemo treatments and to help her out after her mastectomy. She was diagnosed in July and I’ve used nearly 5 days.

                  My boss, who has a disabled husband, had the nerve to suggest that my family could hire a caretaker for her and that my mother could use a taxi to get to and from doctor’s appointments. I was angry and upset and only managed to stay calm so I could keep my job. I wanted to respond that maybe you could use that option for your own situation because she misses a lot of work on his account and that her husband could use paratransit services provided through the local mass transit.

                  I was honestly expecting a little more empathy and flexibility from her because she has bent over backwards for others, including a coworker who recently retired when her late husband had terminal cancer and another coworker who is a divorced single father. Apparently, only one person can play the difficult life circumstances card in my workplace and it isn’t going to be me. I’m expected to be the one that shows up and works a full week because I don’t have kids.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  @Kelly – I would have loved to see the look on your boss’s face when you handed that nonsense right back to her.

                4. Kelly*

                  @neverjaunty. I didn’t because I wanted to keep my job to make sure my cat could continue getting his grain free cat food. I love the little demon, but not his food allergies.

                  My boss isn’t the type to take any suggestions at all, no matter how well meaning they may be. She thinks she’s more intelligent than she actually is and isn’t a good manager.

                  I really think that the core problem of not being able to give everyone a proper work-life balance, kids or no kids, is being a bad manager/supervisor. For some it’s easier to take the seemingly easier route by accommodating the parents’ requests over the childfree. The parents are more likely to push back than the childfree, so it saves them the situation when Cersei marches in demanding time off for Joffrey’s therapist time while Sansa won’t push back.

            3. Megan Schafer*

              I WISH I could make an informed choice about my mailbox; I’d choose to delete it a la The Sims. No more bills!

            4. Dust Bunny*

              Yeah, this.

              I don’t have kids, and I have somebody to manage my pets, but I used to have a job that involved animals so we had to come in on weekends and holidays even if we were closed to the public. Theoretically ,we all traded off, but guess who got stuck with most of the work? Right. The people who “didn’t have families”. I lived furthest away from the job and got scheduled the most weekend/holiday time because everybody else whined their way out of leaving their husbands and kids. The managers always swore they’d make it up to me, but ha ha ha.

          3. James*

            The difference is that a dog is a living thing, and therefore subject to illnesses, some of which can be catastrophic if not dealt with.

            The mailbox thing is routine maintenance. It’s akin to feeding your dog. Yes, normally your dog’s feeding schedule should not interfere with your work (there are always exceptions–therapy dogs, working dogs, and the like). A better comparison would be your house catching fire. Yes, it’s a risk of home ownership, one you assume when you decide to buy a house (or rent an apartment or whatever). Never the less, any boss that refuses to allow you time off to deal with that issue is an ass.

          4. fed*

            Sadly the argument can go the other way and argue that if you have a kid that you can’t leave for extended periods or make accommodations for that you shouldn’t be in the job either. Just because the workload can be put on a non-parent, doesn’t mean that it is right at all.

            It isn’t really fair for anybody in situations like this. Anything outside of work is a ‘personal responsibility’ and just because the responsibility happens to be a human child, it doesn’t mean you should automatically trump everyone else’s personal responsibilities.

          5. Art_ticulate*

            Yeah, but you can can ask the postal service to hold your mail if you’re going to be on vacation. Finding accommodations for a dog or a child isnt so easy, or affordable.

          6. Hannah*

            Yes, except in this scenario, (if OP had a dog) the only reason she needs to be onsite 24/7 as frequently as she does is that Jane’s family responsibilities are being completely prioritised over her own. OP would have made ‘the informed choice’ based on the hours / responsibilities she signed up for. You cannot make a telepathic ‘informed choice’ on the basis of your manager suddenly doubling your hours because your co-worker has a baby.

        2. Katie F*

          Yeah, but that’s when you contact boarding facilities or particularly kind friends to keep your dog for the week. Very few people can simply board their baby out for a week at a kennel without someone making some phone calls to CPS.

          1. Vanesa*

            This is what I was going to say too. I have three cats and they are my family and I get so happy to see them every night when I come home, but I think it’s easier to accommodate dogs and other pets for a week or weekend because you can take them for a boarding house or ask a friend to come feed and walk them or clean their litter box, but kids need 24/7 supervision

            1. Hannah*

              Yes but it can cost a huge amount to board a dog for a week. In this (hypothetical scenario) why should OP have to bear that cost and upset her pet just because her manager has unfairly doubled her workload?

              1. Vanesa*

                Hannah – I agree with you and I don’t think it’s fair to the person with the pet because the manager has doubled her workload.

                I meant in a general context where people were asking if parents should turn down jobs that require week-long commitments.

          2. Jaguar*

            Right. I feel bad about denying the importance of pets to their owners, but there are significantly more alternatives to dealing with pets for extended periods of time than there are for kids. It seems wrong to me to hold them to the same standard.

            1. Sparky*

              My dog has a lot of special needs and boarding her would be prohibitively expensive. Likewise we don’t want to ask friends to come take care of her because of how much work she requires. We’ve luckily found someone we pay to take care of her when needed, but we have severely curtailed trips or going out specifically because we have to take care of her. Not every pet is of the “leave out some food and water and it’ll be fine” variety.

              1. Vanesa*

                Sparky, I agree and I meant in general pets are easier to find accommodation for week-long trips for commitments than children.

                My viewpoint is that an employer should try to reasonably accommodate everyone equally based on what is important to each individual employee. I don’t think any reason is better or worse and it isn’t really my place to rank them. I just feel like in general, it is easier to find someone to take care of a dog than a child.

              2. Pennalynn Lott*

                Exactly. I have chosen to adopt “special needs” cats, who would have otherwise been euthanized. They need medication (some twice daily, and one needs injections), and their food / water / litter box habits need to be monitored closely. It’s not your typical have-the-pet-sitter-stop-by-once-a-day situation. I purposefully haven’t taken a vacation since 2010 because of them. No, I cannot easily (or inexpensively) find week-long accommodations for them. Therefore, I do not take jobs that require me to be gone days at a time.

            1. Katie F*

              Yeah, but even that kind of daycare center isn’t going to keep your child for a week while you go on a business trip.

            2. paul*

              Pretty much major cities. Lack of day care options during nights/weekends is actually a gigantic issue for our clients, since there’s a lot of them doing various shift work, and only something like 1/2 a dozen licensed child care homes that do overnights or weekend care here–and absolutely no regular child care centers. And that’s in a pretty large, but rural, region.

          3. Hannah*

            By that argument, Jane could leave her baby with relatives / friends for a week, or hire a nanny.

            No-one would think that was reasonable; it would be incredibly expensive, plus being disruptive and upsetting for the baby and Jane. But it is the equivalent of suddenly doubling someone’s away time and saying that the solution is for them to pay to board their dogs.

            1. Katie F*

              I think people think I’m saying “Coworker without kids is fine, lol” but i’m really not. I’m just pointing out that children and pets aren’t the same. They simply aren’t, especially during the infant/toddler years. I think once you have kids who can reasonably do more for themselves, the comparisons make more sense, but the “what about the fur babies” grates hard because it sets up a false equivalency.

              I also don’t want anyone to think I’m siding with New Mother in this situation. I’m a new mother myself and I’ve made the scramble to find friends or last-minute sitters in order to accommodate a work need. That’s part of having a job as a parent – you make sure your needs as a parent outside of work don’t inconvenience your coworkers any more than absolutely necessary.

        3. LawBee*

          I travel a lot for work, often overnight, sometimes for a week at a time. My pets (which I had before getting this job) are either at a friend’s house, a family member’s house, kept in an excellent kennel near my house, or otherwise managed. It’s actually a lot easier than making the same arrangements for a child would be.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        They’re not the same. But it can really burn when people with kids get seemingly endless time off for kid-related things, and the one time a person with no kids needs an emergency day off to deal with a sick pet, it’s considered not a good enough reason. That doesn’t happen in functional offices, but it does happen in dysfunctional ones.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Fair enough. I definitely think that employees should be allowed PTO to deal with sick pets, flexible schedules to let the new puppy out when possible, etc.

          1. Lemon Zinger*

            Quite frankly, if my company grants me PTO, it is none of their business what I use it for, or when, as long as my absence isn’t interfering with events/projects.

        2. Christine*

          Agree. You can be late because your kid spit on your clothes and you had to change them. But be late because your cat of dog was ill and to be taken into the vet or ran out the door when you were leaving. My ex’s cat used to run out the door, and it would take anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 to catch her. A few times year. One boss no problem, she had pets & kids. Current want, a big issue.

          1. nofelix*

            I love cats but that excuse would wear thin after a couple of times. 15 mins shouldn’t be a big deal, but if it’s a problem then getting outwitted by a cat several times a year is pretty silly. Just be careful and block the door as you leave, put the cat in another room etc.

            1. ceiswyn*

              If a cat that’s desperate to get out only manages it a few times a year, I’m actually quite impressed at Christine’s ex’s cat-blocking capabilities :)

              Shutting the cat in one room all day is… not exactly ideal, for most cats. If we’re talking about being 5-15 minutes late a few times a year for cat-related reasons, then any boss who makes a thing of it is overreacting IMO. Especially if they give more consideration to employees who are late a few times a year because of babies spitting up on them; which is just as ‘avoidable’.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                I’d keep a water gun at the door. Or hang a shirt on a hanger on the door, they work great as barriers for our cats. Most cats won’t realize they could run right into and under the shirt. I sometimes use one to keep my cat from darting into the closet when I open it, otherwise we have to wait to hear the yowling to know she’s stuck in there.

                1. DoDah*

                  I have a sweatshirt that my cat has deemed frightening–so everytime I don’t want him to do something–or go somewhere—out comes ScarySweatshirt.

            2. Adlib*

              If it’s a male cat, he has an extreme urge to get out if he’s not fixed. I’ve actually seen cases where fixing the cat helped the issue. (However, I cannot fathom life with an intact tom in my house!)

            3. Stranger than fiction*

              Yeah, mine don’t get by me very often but every once in a while they outsmart me but usually because I’m not paying attention. I literally back out of my front door every day hanging my bags down by my feet to dissuade and block the one.

              1. sam*

                My cat gets out all the time. Fortunately, “out” consists of the elevator vestibule on my apartment building floor that consists of four apartment entrances and about 60 square feet of space, so she just stands there wondering why there’s no where else to go. Sometimes she makes a beeline for the neighbor’s doormat that she likes to scratch.

                On Monday though, I had to put her in cat jail, because I was getting my AC replaced and the availability of an actual open window in the interim was way too tempting: https://instagram.com/p/BJIfYSij-a7/

          2. Vanesa*

            My cat used to run out the door sometimes and since I would take public transportation it usually meant I would miss my bus. We didn’t have to be at the office at a certain time so it wasn’t a big deal, but I can see just a few minutes of looking for your cat causing a longer delay.

            On another note, I’ve heard that managers will often think you are lying if you call in sick or late because your pet is sick.

          3. Whats In A Name*

            But the problem above doesn’t seem to be she’s coming in late every once in awhile because her baby spit up; I don’t think her flexible schedule itself is the issue. Its the way the flexible schedule is causing certain parts of her job to go undone or falls to others to take care of in addition to a workload that already sounds kinda big. Being an EC isn’t easy.

            I agree with the large majority that personal responsibilities are personal responsibilities, whether those are human, animal, plant or exercise. I think flexibility should be granted equally for all, too, but I think it needs to be managed in a way that still gets the work done.

        3. Security SemiPro*

          “That doesn’t happen in functional offices, but it does happen in dysfunctional ones.”

          This. I had a new hire start and their second week had a pet emergency. They offered apologies, did work from home, etc and my boss responded with “Take care of your family.” Done, end of story.

          Functional offices have things in place to support the fact that their employees are people with responsibilities outside of the office. Professional staff will try to limit the impact of outside issues on the office, and the office tries to limit the impact of itself on the staff’s outside responsibilities. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but we all do what we can and 99.9% of the time, it works out.

          I get a little shocked by how brutal people can get around pets vs. kids vs. elderly parents vs. netflix. Its not actually a competition and it shouldn’t be – management should be making sure that everyone is living up to their work responsibilities and that everyone has the ability to handle their out of work responsibilities, including getting down time. Sometimes, in emergencies, lines must be drawn and that sucks, but far more often, management has just screwed up staffing levels or cross training, making problems erupt where they don’t have to.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I get a little shocked by how brutal people can get around pets vs. kids vs. elderly parents vs. netflix. Its not actually a competition and it shouldn’t be – management should be making sure that everyone is living up to their work responsibilities and that everyone has the ability to handle their out of work responsibilities, including getting down time.

            Thank you!

          2. ThatGirl*

            I have a good workplace and an extremely understanding boss. I do not have children, but I’ve had to leave work early or call a sudden work from home day because:
            – my car got a flat tire right as I was leaving
            – my husband needed an MRI to rule out serious problems during a migraine
            – the dog threw up twice in two days
            – we had last-minute scheduling problems with a mattress delivery
            – it was snowing, the roads were lousy and my commute would have tripled

            In all of these cases my boss said “no problem, take care of things, let me know if you need anything”. And in exchange I’ve worked extra time on evenings and weekends to help meet deadlines and finish rush projects.

            1. Venus Supreme*

              Yes, yes, yes.
              Story time to support ThatGirl’s post: My boyfriend of 5 years recently lost his mother suddenly — woke up healthy and died that afternoon. Old Boss at Old Job asked if I was “seriously going to miss work for this?” because she wasn’t a blood relative, and I honestly wish I had more time to privately grieve than return to work ASAP. Among other factors that made this job a toxic workplace, I quit and am now in a functional workplace. A good example of this was the other morning my boyfriend had a grief-fueled mental breakdown which made me 20 minutes late to work. New Boss asked if everything was okay, and when I explained the situation she said I could have gone back home to be with him for a little bit longer.
              It is because of the support and compassion of my colleagues and superiors that makes me excited to go to work. I know if someone else had an issue of their own they could take some time to properly deal with it and come back to work to execute their responsibilities. THAT sort of empathy for any and all outside factors is what makes a department/organization/etc. successful.

              1. ElCee*

                I’m so sorry about your boyfriend’s mom. Hope you all are going OK and I am glad you are at a new job with a not-horrible boss.

                1. Venus Supreme*

                  Thank you so much. The grief comes in waves, understandably so. We’re hanging in there! I’m so thankful to be at a more understanding place.

              2. Hannah*

                I’m close to my partner’s mother to, and I totally understand. Your old boss was being an ass. I’m very sorry for your loss and I’m so glad you’ve found somewhere better.

            2. Rebecca in Dallas*

              That’s how my boss is and it is amazing! I’m actually temporarily leaving early one day a week in order for my dog and I to take a specialized training class (she is extremely reactive to other dogs and no, we didn’t know that when we adopted her). My boss’ response was the same as yours.

              My friend’s fiance died suddenly a few weeks ago and when I found out, I went to my boss’ office (crying, ugh embarassing) to ask if I could leave early. She asked me if I was ok to drive, then told me to pack a bag and stay at my friend’s house if she needed me. No guilt about this not being my “family.”

              1. Simonthegrey*

                My best friend (my sister-by-choice) had a medical emergency this past January and was hospitalized for a week. I called my boss and told him when she was admitted, and then texted each day for the rest of the week that I needed to sit with her (she was on really strong pain meds and out of it, and several times PT or OT or nurses would come in to give her things she didn’t need. One time they wanted to put a new port in her arm even though there was one in the other arm and would not listen to me as I told them about it! I was afraid if someone wasn’t there with her they’d mess something up). Again, this person is not related to me but has been my sister for 15 years. My boss never said a word and let me make up the time over the semester so that even though I don’t have paid time off, I could still get paid.

          3. Liane*

            Oddly, sometimes, even bosses that are not great (at least for some people) can manage to be decent when it comes to non-kid emergencies.
            As a temporary lab tech, I once had a boss and the second-ranking person in the lab that I really didn’t care for their management styles. They were micro-managers and they sometimes made snarky remarks about temps-in-general in my hearing (even though they were happy with me), plus Boss had previously been an internal auditor and kept the mindset.
            *However* both of them were great about emergencies, whether it was kids, spouses or pets. I once got a call from Husband that he was being admitted to the hospital for what might be appendicitis. I told Boss and #1 was there as well. I had barely asked when they both said “Go. Now! You aren’t staying.” From their expressions, I thought if I didn’t run they were going to toss me out the door, drag me to my car or both.

        4. Gaia*

          I don’t have kids, won’t ever have kids. I do, however, have a dog that has been a member of my family since he was 10 weeks old (nearly 9 years now). In the last two years the only time I’ve ever been unexpectedly late was because pup got sick or pup got hurt. I am grateful I work somewhere that realizes that pup is a responsibility I take seriously and that I would not take kindly to being told I couldn’t care for him (if not me, who? He can’t take himself to the vet!).

          It drives me insane when people belittle this stance. I understand he isn’t a human child but he is a living, breathing creature that relies upon me for all of his needs. I worry about him when he is sick or hurt, I get excited when he achieves a new training goal or when he just has a goofy moment. I sacrifice my wants to meet his needs. I expect people to take that seriously whether or not they agree with those choices – just as I take seriously their choice to do all of that for a child whether or not I agree with their choice to have a child.

          1. JHS*

            I have a 2 year old fur child and an 11 month old human child. This is apparently an unpopular position, but I love them both equally. I rescued my dog and he is the most loving, snuggly little guy who has real feelings and attachments. He misses us when we are gone. He has complex emotions. He is an equal family member to all. Of course I am also obsessed with my human baby, but having a human baby doesn’t make you love your dog any less, nor should it.

            1. Hal*

              Unpopular and almost certainly untrue, if push came to shove.

              Pet owners do themselves no favors in these discussions by insisting that people take their pets seriously at the level of a human. It’s a position that even pet owners almost certainly don’t really believe if they were forced to make a hard choice, and it’s a position humankind has taken for thousands and thousands of years.

                1. Vanesa*

                  I think that is more biology, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel for our pets the way we feel about another person. For example, my sister has broken up with guys who don’t appreciate, love, care for her dog, because she values her dog very much. My boyfriend and I got into huge arguments when we moved into together because our cats weren’t getting along and we both love our cats very much! Thankfully, they are getting along much better now, but honestly if they wouldn’t have gotten along, we would have had huge issues because we both love our cats very much. It doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other or love each other less, but we also made a commitment to our pets.

              1. Dankar1208*

                I actually think I’m going to disagree with this one a bit. A survey* recently found that respondents would overwhelmingly choose to rescue their pet over a stranger. If it was a strange person vs. a strange pet on the chopping block, they would overwhelmingly choose the person. It all has to do with personal priorities.

                *I haven’t read the study in full, but Bronwen Dickey’s Pitbull: The Battle Over an American Icon did a really excellent summary, which is where I came across it.

                1. Dankar1208*

                  “This one” being Hal’s comment. I didn’t realize we’d reached the comment-nesting limit.

                2. Honeybee*

                  Well, really all that says is that people say that they would choose to rescue their pet instead of a stranger. But people are particularly bad at predicting what they would do in crisis situations. You can ask a person what they would do in a survey and then put them in the situation and they may respond completely differently, for all sorts of reasons.

              2. Biff*

                This is not true. It’s true that continental European thought has been that Dogs are not people, but you’ll find that many other cultures viewed dogs as people, and sometimes even gave them great honors during life and death.

                1. Vanesa*

                  That is really interesting. I have never heard of that, but I guess you do have a point – similar as to cats in ancient Egypt or cows in Hinduism – it also has to do with culture.

                2. Panda Bandit*

                  Yes, police departments here in the US treat K9 officers with as much respect as they do for human officers. It’s a very serious crime to harm a K9 officer and it’s conventional practice to have an honor guard and other special ceremonies at their funerals.

              3. Hrovitnir*

                I don’t think you can really argue someone’s statement about *their own feelings* is untrue. The fact many people do love their dog less once they have children, to one degree or another, doesn’t mean everyone does.

                And the fact that if forced into a situation where you had to choose between their lives (because we all know that comes up every day!) you may choose your child is deeply irrelevant to how deeply you care for that animal. You might rescue your child over your partner, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily love them “more”; and what an awful thing to try and quantify.

                For me, I can tell you right now I would rescue my pets before a strange human adult, though I’d probably rescue a young child before my pet – but then I would risk both our lives to rescue my pet as well. Not everyone is you, and “biological imperative” is only one contributer to the complex feelings and choices we have and make.

            2. Biff*

              I’m responding to you to give you a +1 because I think Hal’s take down was unnecessary.

              I don’t understand the need some people have to validate that human life trumps all else at all time. I was once asked if I’d kill my dog if it was proven that we could do interspecies organ transplant and my dog was a match for a child. I was horrified that anyone even felt I should answer that.

              1. Vanesa*

                I think a lot of these scenarios are frankly kind of stupid. It’s similar to asking someone to choose between two or parents or two siblings or whatever. They are very hard decisions to make and we will probably never have to make choose.

                1. Dankar1208*

                  I’ve always wondered about those kinds of questions. “If my child/spouse/grandparent/space alien was hanging over an active volcano and you had to choose between them and your dog/cat/miniature milking cow, what would you do?”

                  Like, when is that ever going to be a scenario I’ll need to respond to? It’s just setting someone up to play the most loaded game of Would You Rather in history.

                2. Hrovitnir*

                  +1 to Vanesa and Biff. It frankly lowers my opinion of people who feel the need to push these kind of scenarios – you want to make someone imagine their loved one dying to prove a point about the relative worth of non-human life? Why?

                3. Biff*

                  What bugs me even more is when I answer honestly and people tell me I’m LYING. Or that I’d change my mind if I REALLY knew what was at stake. Like I don’t know the value of my own family member to me. Or that somehow, promises can be broken depending on to whom they are made. (A promise is just that, no?)

              2. Hal*

                It’s not all the time. It’s in a conversation specifically about the issue.

                I don’t think human life trumps all else. I do think it trumps, in general, dog life. And almost everyone on earth agrees with me in practice even if they espouse differently in the abstract. People have voted with their feet on this one even if there are individuals who buck the trend in certain specific cases.

                And note that the original point was about one’s own dog and one’s own child.

                1. Art_ticulate*

                  Almost everyone on earth agrees with you? Wow! How long did it take you to ask all of them? You must be so tired!

                2. Perse's Mom*

                  You are not the arbiter of anything for “almost everyone on earth.” And please note, the question is abstract. The vast majority of human beings on earth CANNOT agree with you “in practice” unless the vast majority of human beings on earth *have actually faced that choice* in action.

            3. ElCee*

              Thank you for saying this, JHS. I am pregnant and am hearing a lot of “oh you will totally ignore your dog when baby comes, lulz!1!” and I am wondering, is this a thing that happens involuntarily to new parents? Because we certainly do not plan on loving our goofy, darling rescue pupper any less. /OT

              1. Brooke*

                “Because we certainly do not plan on loving our goofy, darling rescue pupper any less. ”

                No one plans on it.

                1. Biff*

                  Uh, I’m not sure what you are going for here. I’m pretty sure that my parents never loved the any less because they had kids. I know that my aunt, who has roughly 2, 406 animals loves the animals all about the same as before the kids. If anything, both my mother and my aunt have come to coddle the animals all the more now that the kids have flown the coop.

                2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

                  @Biff, Yeah, my parents are empty-nesters too and I swear they think their cats are actually children…. Lol. I don’t know anyone else who hand-feeds cats treats one by one!

                3. Perse's Mom*

                  Oh, absolutely some people do. The sorts of people who dump their pets at the local shelter (or farm or ditch or whatever) when they find out they’re pregnant.

              2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

                My parents got pets AFTER having children (I was like 6 when we got our first pet, and they still have pets (different pets though, obviously)) – and my parents never loved them any less because they had children. The human-pet relationship is a different one. And even if it weren’t, no one says you’ll love your first child less if you have a second. Love does not divide like that. It multiplies.

                1. Biff*

                  Please don’t take this the wrong way, but are there TWO people posting under the same WTF handle? Because I feel like the remarks made here are sort of representing two very different points of view.

              3. Sam*

                When my little brother first came home from the hospital, the dog we’d had for 5 years came over and licked his face. Little brother developed a rash, and my parents’ question to the doctor was “Is there something we need to give our son for this allergy? We can’t get rid of this dog – he was here first.” Your dog has its own special place in your heart.
                BTW, the doctor reassured them that my brother would probably get over it quickly and not to worry about it yet. And he did.

                1. Brooke*

                  Anecdotally, I’ve seen at least three pairs of new parents swear up and down that they’d still treat their animals the same after the baby was delivered end up giving up their dogs and cats afterwards. That’s what I meant when I said “no one plans for it.” But I know anecdotes are just that.

        5. Janelle*

          Caveat: I’m a parent. I like being a parent, and despite how the following paragraph sounds, I actually don’t get upset about the parent/non-parent debate. Except for this one thing.

          I do roll my eyes a bit at the notion of “seemingly endless time off for kid-related things” as though kid-related things are an unqualified fun thing that I get to do that non-parents don’t. Turning around to go pick up my kid from school at 10 a.m. because she has a fever only to spend the rest of the day catering to the whims of a whiny and sick child is not fun. Honestly, I’d rather be at the office because I have things that need to get done which do not involve 5 back-to-back episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

          It’s a little like that year in your twenties when you realize that you have 10 vacation days and you’re going to use them 8 of them for weddings and holiday visits. So they don’t feel like true vacation days.

          1. Katieinthemountains*

            It’s not that anybody thinks being puked on/worried about a kid/listening to recitals of very small children is fun; it’s that these offices are understaffed. So, if a parent has to leave, everyone else works longer and harder. OP works, like, five days longer than her coworker during events. There isn’t enough slack in the system for everyone to have such flexibility, so generally only parents get it. And after a while, people who aren’t parents start feeling like they’re being punished for not procreating, since the burden of completing the workplace responsibilities falls to them. When both parents of small children work, they both work really hard all day long and sometimes through the night. It is hard. But it isn’t fair when this bleeds onto coworkers and management just tells the coworkers to deal.

          2. OhBehave*

            “Turning around to go pick up my kid from school at 10 a.m. because she has a fever only to spend the rest of the day catering to the whims of a whiny and sick child is not fun. ” THIS!

            Not to mention cleaning the vehicle because said child threw up on everything while simultaneously missing the garbage can! Fun times. BTW to those without children, furry or no, the smell doesn’t fully go away!

            I wish those who grouse about this issue keep this visual and olfactory memory at hand.

          3. Hannah*

            No one thinks it’s fun! It’s just an issue in dysfunctional workplaces. Jane may not be having fun watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, but neither is Lucinda, when she has to reshuffle her busy schedule for the sixth time that month.

            Lucinda should address it with management, but if management are dysfunctional, the resentment can get transferred to Jane.

        6. neverjaunty*

          While I absolutely agree with you, I suspect the other half of this dysfunctional office dynamic gets overlooked. That’s where Fergus is told that he has to cover extra hours and work because he doesn’t have kids like Jane does. Jane, on the other hand, is being told that she just isn’t taking her work seriously enough and isn’t on track for promotion, because she needs to be more like Fergus, who is so very dedicated to his job.

        7. Kate*

          The reverse is true in some workplaces though. In my group, most people don’t have kids and there has at times been a bit of a culture of complaining that someone is ‘acting entitled’ if they need to take any kid-related time off (but time off for other reasons is fine). When my daughter was about 4 months, I was asked to cover one of two lectures (I’m in academia). I couldn’t do the later slot because I had to do daycare pick-up that day. I had a near panic-attack because I knew the other person they were asking would not want to cover the later slot because he plays softball at that time, and I was worried that wanting to pick my kid up would seem ‘entitled’. (it ended up being fine, but I have heard enough negative comments here that this is not a totally ridiculous concern)

          1. DoDah*

            While I believe you–never in a million years would this happen in any of my employers. Parenting trumps all.

      3. Aurion*

        I think it’s a completely valid question. You don’t have to equate pets with human children* for the situations to have parallels. Pets may need special care, may not be able to be left alone for extended amounts of time, may not adapt well to changes in schedule, may have separation anxiety, etc. They are another dependent regardless of species. If the employer wants to be “family friendly”, they damn well should offer the same flexibility to everyone regardless of the nature of the dependents in the family.

        *I read “babies of the fur variety” as tongue-in-cheek.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Yeah, I think that I didn’t take it as tongue-in-cheek as it was intended, which is on me. I agree with you.

        2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

          If you leave your child alone and your child dies, it’s child abuse/negligence. If you leave your pet alone and your pet dies, it’s no legal trouble. So there is a difference.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            That… very much depends on local law and law enforcement. You can absolutely get in legal trouble for animal cruelty (which neglect and starvation (to the point of the animal dying no less!) would certainly be categorized under). Law enforcement may not pursue anything, but that’s not the same as saying “it’s no legal trouble.”

            1. Biff*

              I think Whiskey meant that if you left your pet at home with water, toys, etc, and they just keeled over dead, there wouldn’t be a homicide investigation. If you so much as left your child inside while you say, mowed the lawn, and they passed away in their crib, you most certainly would be investigated even if SIDS was suspected.

      4. AnotherAlison*

        Two kids, two dogs here. Both are a PITA for travel, for different reasons. I can check my dogs in to board with complete strangers for more than a week, no problem, but it can be expensive. I can take my kid to my parents’ house for free, but this arrangement’s success depends on whether the kid is a baby, school age, or a teenager and the locale of one’s parents. With a 12 year old as my youngest, I can leave him home alone all day, and he can meet his own needs. The dogs can’t.

        I’m pretty far on the side of “pets aren’t kids” but that doesn’t make them easy to deal with when you’re a working person.

      5. Blue Dog*

        I agree. Dogs are not equal to human babies and employers shouldn’t be expected to make anything more than minimal or sporadic accommodations for a sick or injured pet. If your dog needs a walk at noon, that’s what a lunch hour is for or look into a doggie daycare.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But everyone should have access to the same basic amount of flexibility. If we can be flexible for Jane and her kid, there’s no reason we can’t be similarly flexible with Fergus and his sick dog.

          1. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

            This. I think that people really get caught up in arguing the societal value of children versus pets versus elderly family members, when the real issue is that it’s bad policy to offer flexibility to one worker and not the other based on subjective beliefs about the relative importance of other people’s personal responsibilities.

          2. Kate*

            I once allowed a direct report to cancel a trip because her pet was very sick (and ended up passing, sadly). I don’t think our organization has policies on this, and I have a fair amount of autonomy, but I figured if my kid was really sick there’s no way I would be getting on a plane, and I knew how devastated she was.

            1. DoDah*

              Bless you! Co-worker filled in for me on a trip once so I could be with my dying cat. I still thank him for it.

              PS My boss told me he shouldn’t have done it–but didn’t ‘forbid’ it.

          3. Murphy*

            Where I work we’re trying to change the culture on flexible work arrangements for our larger organization. Our position is that either the flexible work arrangement works or it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter what the reason it nor is it anyone’s business. That’s the policy we’re trying to get enacted broadly.

            1. Biff*

              Personally, I’d let it be at the manager’s discretion? Fergus can’t stay on track, goofs off in meetings and hands in sloppy work late? Sorry, he doesn’t get work from home days? Janet busts out the big guns on a daily basis, kicks it up a notch every time something has to get pushed through and never misses a meeting? I don’t care where Janet is.

          4. Katieinthemountains*

            I commented above before I saw this – I don’t think most offices are adequately staffed for this kind of flexibility. Since CPS will be called if Jane doesn’t pick up her kid, they tell Fergus he has to stay. :/

          5. BRR*

            I would go a little further and say flexibility for many things. Car problems. Furnace breaks. It’s about recognizing that life happens outside of work and Security SemiPro put it perfectly.

            1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

              Agreed. One of the things I love about my current job/management. If someone needs to leave early for car problems, house maintenance, dentist/doctor, pet stuff, or parenting/kid stuff — it’s all treated pretty much impartially. As long as you don’t overdo it and your work gets done, management has no problem with it.

          6. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            Hmmmm that’s true… The employer has to be impartial even if children have greater value to society than pets or elderly people or cars. (Although it’s in the employer’s best interests to give you time off to fix your car, if you’re using that car to commute to work.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s not just pets/elder care/cars (although I’d argue elder care is pretty damn important and I don’t know why we’d need to make it compete against kids or animals). People do all kinds of important things in their lives outside work — working in their communities, organizing for social change, making art … We really don’t need to inject “who has greater value” into this conversation.

              1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

                Uh, sorry, nope. The next generation of humans has more value than the generation that is dying out, and certainly more value than animals or inanimate objects. My mother works in senior care, so I have nothing against the profession. It’s fully necessary. I’m only saying that children (and by extension, raising children) is more valuable. We do need to inject that fact, because the next generation of humans (and those raising them) are important. I work in my community and organize for social change, but none of that would have value if not for the people raising the next generation, i.e. parents.

                1. anncakes*

                  So Wakeen gets the day off over Fergus because Wakeen’s kid has a basketball game even though Fergus’s mother is dying? Because children are the future and old people are chopped liver? That’s pretty horrible.

                2. Art_ticulate*

                  Your personal beliefs of who is more valuable have no place in the workplace, though. If I choose not to have children, have I lost my value as a member of society? Why does that matter if I need a day off for personal reasons that are no one’s damn business?

                3. Tomato Frog*

                  So true! If only we could know which of those children won’t have children of their own — then we could know which ones were less valuable. But instead we have to keep investing equal resources into all of them! :(

                4. sam*


                  I’ve literally typed out and deleted 3 different responses to this comment, with tears in my eyes, because it just may be the most upsetting thing I’ve read all week.

                  But, you know, I spent two weeks ago with my brother, who I only see once a year at best, because he spends his life doing humanitarian aid work in refugee camps. He just moved to the Syrian border in Turkey to oversee education and child welfare programs inside Syria for the IRC. But neither one of us have kids of our own. So I guess the afternoon I took off work to take the train to see him should have gotten lower priority over someone’s PTA meeting if it came down to it.

                  Thankfully my boss doesn’t think like you.

                5. Hannah*

                  “The next generation of humans has more value than the generation that is dying out.”


        2. Liz Ludgate*

          I am a mother of 3, I disagree. My children’s doctors appointments or school events shouldn’t be any more important than my coworker’s obligations to her new puppy or my office mate wanting to be at her brother’s surgery. We all have life stuff that is important to us. It’s wrong to rank one person’s “life stuff” as more important than another’s.

          I’m lucky to have a boss who gets that. He recently let a coworker take off a couple days during a busy time (time that was technicalky a PTO blackout) to go to a concert in another state. And the rest of us picked up her slack during those days. Some people were annoyed, but it didn’t bother me at all. It was really important to her and my boss’s acknowledgment of that is a bit comforting to me. When something comes up that is important to me, no matter how where that thing ranks in importance to others, I can count on my boss to give me some flexibility.

          1. Alton*

            I agree. And even among parents, not everyone is going to have the same obligations or priorities. Someone who has a spouse might not be able to relate to how much work it can be to be a single parent. Someone whose kids have good immune systems might not have to deal with sick kids very often. Some people are going to want to go to every swim meet, and some people may not prioritize that as much.

            It’s ultimately employees’ responsibility to work out their priorities so that they can take use whatever flexibility is offered wisely and save some leave for big things, and it’s employers’ responsibility to be reasonable.

            1. JessaB*

              This, and it’s also up to bosses not to play workers against each other unless two of them want off at the very same time. Otherwise it’s not on to decide who has the “more valued” reason for wanting something.

            2. Stranger than fiction*

              And some parents would rather be at work than their kids fourth grade play or whatever ;)

      1. Brooke*

        I’m childfree/childless (pick your term, voluntarily no-kids) with pets I adore and even I’m not a big fan of the term. But to each their own.

      2. anncakes*

        I welcome you to spend some time at a veterinary hospital so you can witness the different types of connections people have with their pets. I’m not the biggest fan of terms like “furbabies,” but there are people out there who truly love their animals, deeply, and there’s nothing wrong with them for feeling this way. It’s incredibly condescending, dismissive, and hurtful when people roll their eyes like this. I’ve had clients who were lonely seniors, who had lost family members, who were going through hard times (one client was going through chemo, another had a kidney transplant), who were childless (and sometimes not by choice), and they all showed a love and devotion to their pets that was touching. One of my most memorable clients was a young woman who had ended up living in her car for some time after a string of really terrible luck, and the whole time, she did everything she could to keep her dog. That dog was her lifeline and kept her going so she could get back on her feet. These people’s pets provided them with companionship and emotional support that they desperately needed, and it’s frustrating when people minimize the role pets can play in people’s lives and act superior about it.

        1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

          I saw a paw print bumper sticker with the text “Who Rescued Who?” and I almost started crying. (Good thing I didn’t, I was driving!)

          1. Coco*

            Yes, I’ve seen that one and it’s very touching. My partner had severe agoraphobia until he got his first dog when he was 23. He feels like he owes his functional adult life to her.

        2. MashaKasha*

          I hear you. We had a dog that died last year when he was a bit under ten years old. That dog stayed on my side through a separation, divorce, two moves, loss of a parent, the kids’ teenage years, a painful end of an LTR, both kids leaving home. I lost dozens of friends during those years, but the dog was always there both for me and for my kids. I could not count on any human besides my sons to be there for me, but I could always count on this dog. It’s been over a year, but we’re still talking about this dog in the family. I bought a house for that dog. When I left my ex-husband, I planned on renting, since the kids were going to soon be out of the house anyway. An apartment complex first let us in on a month-to-month basis, but then two months later, they gave us a deadline and said, “after this date, you guys can stay. Your dog must go.” We couldn’t find anyplace to rent with a dog in the school district, so ended up buying a house and spending all of my savings on the down payment. It was a running joke with my friends that we’d bought our dog a house. And he deserved it. I mentioned it recently in a chat with my next-door neighbor and he said, “or you could’ve gotten rid of the dog” WHAT? No, we couldn’t. He was family, you don’t get rid of family.

    2. LisaD*

      I’m not a parent, but do have pets. My boss, who otherwise I adore and who means well, has repeatedly telegraphed how much less important he feels my responsibilities are than his responsibility to his four human kids (who have a stay-at-home mother – my pets have no other caregiver). He doesn’t mean any harm, but when I mentioned that I haven’t taken a vacation day in about 16 months, he brought up the leave I took to travel for veterinary treatment for my dog’s cancer. That was… NOT a vacation. I spent most of the time crying, AND I worked remotely at least 4-6 hours every day. Another time I teased him about his #firstworldproblems (when he joked about his multimillion dollar home being the “fixer-upper” on his very wealthy block) and he teased me back by saying that maybe I’d have disposable income too, if I didn’t spend all my money on my dog’s chemo.

      (My pets all have PetPlan, but that’s beside the point.)

      For those who don’t think this is a legitimate thing to bring up… I understand that human children are different, but love is love. If you love something, whether it’s a significant other, a pet, a child, or even just a hobby, you want the people you spend the majority of your waking hours with to understand that this thing is what you care about and that is fundamental to your identity. Again, I love my boss. He’s a good guy and he’s sacrificed a ton for the company himself. I know he misses bedtime with his kids often when he works late. But it damaged our relationship significantly to have him decide to tease me about something very painful I was going through with my pet. Even if you don’t understand, don’t do this to other people. As soon as you realize that love is in the conversation, treat the subject just the same as you would treat it if you DID completely understand and empathize with the specific form of love.

      1. ElCee*

        I know you say he is nice but I am going to go ahead and hate your boss on your behalf. Joked about your dog’s chemo? No.
        I am sorry about your pup.

      2. DoDah*

        Your boss does not deserve your adoration and certainly doesn’t “mean well”. What an ass.

        I’m really, really sorry about your dog.

      3. Hrovitnir*

        I really do wonder what is different about so many people that they can’t understand joking about your dog *dying from cancer* might be hurtful? Just… why. I’m so sorry.

        When I was vet nursing we had so, so many people who would come and talk to us after their pet died because no one else in their life seemed to think they should be sad for more than a day. That old chestnut “it’s just a [insert animal here]”. It’s so sad.

        1. Biff*

          I grew up with a dog who perceived himself as my brother, and behaved accordingly. Someone said that, and I believe my response was “That’s nice. He was my brother.” I think it helps to reiterate that whatever their perception is, you sure don’t share it.

      4. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        I have to agree with the above, your boss sounds like an ass. So sorry about your dog.

    3. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      “Fur children” are not children. Parents have pets too, btw — I always had pets growing up for instance. Parents don’t have human children and “fur children”, they have children and pets.

      Nothing you ever do in life is as important as raising children, and no employer is going to pretend it is.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, now, wait. That would mean that people who don’t have kids will never do anything as important as people who do, and that’s just not true. I’m assuming you don’t realize how dismissive that statement sounds about people without kids, or people who have kids and other things they value as much as child-rearing. There are all kind of important things in life.

        This really doesn’t have to be a competition; employers can give everyone access to flexibility. It doesn’t need to be a matter of judging whose non-work lives warrant it and whose don’t.

        1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

          “That would mean that people who don’t have kids will never do anything as important as people who do”

          That’s exactly what I mean.

          And it’s not dismissive, it’s the truth. It doesn’t matter how much you value your hobbies, or your friends, or your (non-child) family, or your community, or your volunteer work, or whatever it may be — it all has less value to society than child-rearing, hence none of it is ever as important as raising children.

          Btw, I don’t have children either. This isn’t anything personal, it’s just the facts.

          1. Brooke*

            “This isn’t anything personal, it’s just the facts.”

            This may be the truth for you, and that’s fine, but this is not a “fact” by any stretch of the imagination.

            1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

              It’s a fact until you contribute to the next generation as a “childfree” person.

              I don’t have children either, but unlike you, I don’t delude myself into thinking I’m contributing to society!

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Wow, I totally disagree. World leaders? People who lead social movements that change the world? Authors who touch millions of lives? Community leaders who feed, house, and clothe thousands of people and speak up for those with no voice? Scientists who find cures for disease or new treatments for debilitating conditions? Loads of things have more value to society than the work of any given parent (although I feel gross having to say it, because I really, really don’t think there’s value in turning this into a competition, and I find it bizarre that these conversations must always go in that direction).

            1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

              Then we just fundamentally disagree. People always bring up curing cancer. Well, if a researcher cured cancer, I bet the most important thing in her life would still be her children, and not the cure she found. That itself is proof that children are the most valuable thing, even more so than curing cancer. I wish it wasn’t the case, but there it is.

              And since coworkers compete for time off, it is in fact a competition.

                1. Chinook*

                  Another thank you. As someone who has not the opportunity to have children, the fact that some basically see me a waste of space no matter what I might accomplish can make me wonder to why even bother helping out in ways parents are not free to. I was raised to believe every life has value and that value is not based on how many people you replicate but on how many people you help and support.

                2. Art_ticulate*

                  Alison, are there two different Whiskey Tango Foxtrot handles being used? Are you able to tell? Because there’s reasonable comments being made with this name, and then there’s… Well, this.

                3. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

                  All the comments made under this handle are mine, at least on this thread. I have seen others with the same handle when reading archives, though.

              1. Nela*

                How disingenuous. Importance to a parent personally is not the same thing as importance to the world. The world in fact sees many contributions as more important than the rearing of any 2-3 children. [And fwiw, I have family members who I know see their other life accomplishments as ultimately more of a contribution than raising their children.]

              2. designbot*

                But I think the broader point is that a functional workplace is one in which coworkers do not have to compete for time off, because the workplace is able to handle the normal time off needs of any employee. The whole notion of the workplace being the arbiter of what is more important to society is just a position I don’t think my boss belongs in in the first place.

          3. Honeybee*

            Ending world hunger? Curing a devastating disease (one that ravishes kids)? Caring for the sick and the poor (including children)? Teaching valuable life skills to the indigent? None of that is as important as child-rearing?

            What about people who don’t have children but are nevertheless involved in child-rearing – like child care workers, teachers, volunteers, social workers, etc.?

            I am truly scratching my head at this kind of sentiment. It’s bizarre.

            1. Art_ticulate*

              Right? I work in education but don’t have my own children. So, you’re welcome, rest of the world, for my teaching your children, but I guess my work isn’t important so I’ll stop now!

      2. Nephron*

        “Nothing you ever do in life is as important as raising children, and no employer is going to pretend it is.”

        That declaration of how much more important your responsibilities are than others is exactly why those without kids lose patience and stop wanting to give an inch. I happily came in over the holidays when my coworkers were further away and with their kids because I do not need to start Thanksgiving or Christmas at a set time, but the minute they act like they are entitled to all vacation while I toil away is when I stop.

        I also do not need my employer to validate my life choices all I need is for there to be fair treatment of me and my coworkers so we can all have lives and remain sane. It does not matter if my Thanksgiving is me alone with Netflix or me with a hundred orphans it is my holiday and I get the same access to it as everyone else.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I agree with this. I’m not a robot, I need my time to myself.

          It gets into really sticky business if the employer is starting to make value judgments about personal time. Does the person with 4 kids get more flexibility over the one with 2? A single parent over 2 parents? Parent A’s kid has the flu, but parent B’s kid has to go to chemo?

        2. Anon for this one just in case........*

          The person you’ve quoted has said (s)he doesn’t have kids, so don’t lose patience with parents due to that statement!

          I’m a parent of adult children. I am relieved that our company treats us as adults and as long as we’re getting our work done on a regular basis, are able to schedule things like doc (or vet!) appointments regardless of whether they’re for ourselves, family members or pets.

          In the OP’s case, approaching it as having a full workload already and being overburdened by having to take on extra work and asking for some help (a temp, perhaps?) seems to be the way to go.

          1. Anon for this one just in case........*

            (forgot to fix my name after a post I needed anonymity earlier this evening, sorry! )

      3. Expat*

        In an age of climate crisis, the reality is that escalating food shortages will plague the lives of children born today, and the situation will only get worse for our children’s children. It is no longer socially or morally responsible to bring new life into the world, if it ever was. Especially not when there are so many existing children who need love & shelter.

        I recognize that reproduction is the strongest of biological imperatives, but if you care about the future of our planet and our species, nothing you do will ever be important as NOT having kids. This Foxtrot person is making an absurd, offensive and mendacious claim. Shame on them.

    4. paul*

      I love my dogs (now down to one, sadly).

      But they’re not kids. I can leave them at home for 8 hours with food and water and they’re fine. Do that with a 3 year old, expect a CPS case.

      I’m both an animal lover and a parent, and these sorts of questions are just…unimaginably obtuse.

  2. AMG*

    This is really unfair to the OP. I have kids and while I can’t say that has never impacted my work life, I certainly am not entitled about it either. I like to think that while this comes up, most places are hopefully more even-handed about work allocations to parents versus non-parents.

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      Thanks for posting this. It’s eye-opening (for me) that a parent sees this as unfair to the OP.

  3. Mae*

    I agree this is unfair, but unfortunately 4 months is the tricky factor in the equation. The first 6 months, in my experience, is when you really need to “prove” yourself, so for that reason alone I’m inclined to say, “deal with it for another couple months, then say something.” Hmm. My question is this: Has it been this way for OP since day 1? If so, perhaps this is the expectation (albeit not clearly outlined in the job description). Another perspective on this: Is it out of the realm of normalcy to bring this up with Jane BEFORE raising it to the supervisor? If OP has a good rapport with her, perhaps it can be raised in a light-hearted fashion in the context of something else without appearing as if she’s butting into Jane’s business. This is tricky, IMO.

    1. Newby*

      It doesn’t really seem like Jane is doing anything wrong though. If the supervisor is approving the time off and the flexible schedule, it is up to the supervisor to make sure the work is covered. The solution may be that the supervisor approves less time off or it could be hiring someone part time or coming up with a more even distribution of work. Jane should not be made to feel guilty for taking time off that was approved.

      1. Mae*

        Yeah, I was trying to get a point across without implying that Jane was at fault, because she isn’t (unless there’s something we aren’t privy to). I’m just not sure any conversation with the supervisor at 4 months in will bode well, unfortunately.

    2. OP*

      OP here:

      I think you all are partly right with this being a supervisory issue, and I also think that Jane has learned to work the supervisor, if you will. I’ve heard her saying before that she doesn’t feel like staying the whole week at an event, can supervisor find someone to cover for her? Which usually ends up being one of the associates, which is a whole different issue that I don’t know if I can speak towards, as it doesn’t directly affect me, but certainly doesn’t seem fair to those being brought on board to new events last minute and rescheduling plans.

      However, I do agree that in the first few months on the job, I definitely have to prove myself, and seeing people’s perspectives makes me a little less annoyed that I had to stay on site. Normally I wouldn’t even think about it, as we travel for most events and I’m on-site 24/7 no matter what, along with the rest of the team, and we’re supposedly an “all hands on deck” team, so everyone has different responsibilities during events, but we all are expected to be there and manage different areas. It was grating a bit that everyone else was going home, but we did need an on-site person (although nothing happened!) The issue was then that they would arrive 30ish minutes late every day, leaving me to handle all responsibilities of the team by myself.

      1. TL -*

        Regardless of how Jane is “working” the supervisor – if they’re allowing it, it’s the supervisor’s decision, not Jane’s. Short of her blackmailing the supervisor, it is always their decision to allow it (especially since it sounds like she’s being very aboveboard on everything!) and never Jane’s.

        1. Jodi*

          Sure it’s mostly on the supervisor. But it seems like a lot of these issues would be nonexistent if Jane wasn’t “working” the supervisor, so isn’t that partly on her for taking advantage of the office’s flexibility/accommodations?

          1. TL -*

            No. She’s taking advantage of what the supervisor.company is offering and you can’t hold that against her – why would they offer it as a perk if nobody could take advantage of it? She’s not going behind anyone’s back; she’s not even assuming she can simply take time off whenever. She’s asking and the supervisor is saying yes.

            The problem here isn’t Jane. The problem is the management.

            1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

              Yeah, it sounds like Jane is asking and the management is agreeing, so it’s not Jane’s fault. It’s reasonable to ask, and it’s reasonable for management to say no (to some things).

            2. Lissa*

              Ok, maybe you can’t hold it against Jane but I think it’s unrealistic to think that it’s somehow possible to *not* have an emotional reaction to Jane’s behaviour. I see this a lot — the idea that having any type of frustration because of this situation is somehow terribly unfair, but … I just think it would be really difficult to mandate my reactions quite that much.

              Sure, I wouldn’t hold it against Jane in the sense that I’d not be sending her dirty looks or saying mean things to her, but would it overall, unconsciously probably make me like her less? Yeah, it probably would to be honest.

      2. designbot*

        reading this I would confine the discussion to how you are left to handle the whole team’s work alone. Would you normally be alone on site, or would it normally be you and Jane together? If you would normally have help with stuff in general, then it’s worth asking if there can be an additional person assigned to this, and not bring Jane’s name up at all. If it’s a matter of Jane having specific responsibilities and in meetings sounding like she’ll handle certain things, and then when it comes down to it not being there to do so, then it’s useful to frame it as an issue of communication and responsibilities. If Jane’s not going to be the one actually handling the teapot delivery, then someone else should be copied on all the emails pertaining to it and the delivery person should have the other person’s number in case anything happens, etc. Whether that person be you or someone else, get them what they need to do the job they are now expected to do and stop misleading people (both internal and external) to believe that Jane’s going to be the one handling it if she’s not.

  4. CBH*

    It sounds to me that while Jane may have gone through the proper channels to adjust her schedule around her family, Jane is taking major advantage of the situation. The director does not seem to have thought this through. How else is Jane’s work to get done unless imposing on other employees. It sounds to me like the OP has done more than their fair share of being a team player.

    1. PlainJane*

      This is my take on the situation too. Without knowing exactly what Jane negotiated, I can’t say whether she’s fulfilling her duties or taking advantage, but it looks like the latter (especially when she schedules vacation during one of her events). If that is the case, this sort of behavior makes it tougher for working mothers to be taken seriously. I have a special needs child, an elderly parent with dementia, and a husband with chronic health problems–and I can’t imagine bailing on work commitments on a regular basis. It’s been a juggling act, yes, but with careful planning I’ve very rarely had to be gone unexpectedly or leave a co-worker in the lurch. I have a supportive husband–and I know not all working parents have the same advantages–but from the OP’s description it doesn’t sound like Jane is making much of an effort.

    2. Faith*

      I wouldn’t jump to a conclusion that “Jane is taking major advantage of the situation”. We don’t know if her flexibility came with a significant cut in pay (which it likely did). We also don’t know what this arrangement is going to do for Jane’s career prospects. It’s not uncommon for parents, especially new mothers, to be perceived as not being “100% committed to the job”. As a result, they miss out on career growth opportunities, they don’t get picked for cool projects, etc. So, my assumption I that whatever arrangement Jane has worked out involved some type of trade-off on her end. I would not consider this “taking advantage”. She did what she thought would work best for her family, and it’s the director’s responsibility to make the new arrangement work for the rest of the team.

    3. Mike C.*

      I really object to the idea that Jane is taking advantage here. Staffing decisions aren’t made by her, they’re made by management. Management is screwing up here by putting the costs of flexibility on the OP rather than on the company itself.

        1. fposte*

          It sounds like management is allowing Jane to set her own schedule here. That’s on management, not on Jane.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This. Also, if Jane IS taking advantage, there’s still a management issue. This is pretty visible from the sounds of it – management needs to either talk to Jane if she’s taking advantage, clarify for OP that they are in fact intended to cover all that, or arrange additional coverage until things are reasonable. Regardless of which one it falls into, talking to management is the best first move. (And yes, the ‘four months’ part makes it awkward.)

        1. OP*

          I wish I could–unfortunately I think a lot of the issues with the flexibility that Jane has/takes advantage of stem from the Director. As mentioned before, I’m all for Jane having the flexibility, and for all others on the team to have that flexiblity as well. The taking time off/leaving early from programs is one example of something that the Director has encouraged Jane to do. However, there are other examples:

          Jane also leaves at 4:30 pm every day, but often takes 1+ hour lunches and is not the most diligent worker. She handles all the teapot production for our team, but others are trained in parts of the teapot system, to access parts of the report we need .She owns the entire teapot reporting process. However, when Director will ask her to create a report, she will come to Director and say she has no time to do so, and Director will just say, Oh, that’s ok, have OP or Fergus do it! Completely disregarding the fact that it is not our jobs, we don’t have knowledge of how to do it, and the rest of the team has extremely busy workloads.

          I 100% acknowledge that this is a management problem coming from the top, and Jane is just taking advantage of it (not sure I blame her!) But I do feel as though my hands are tied…if management is letting this happen, who can I talk to about it?!

      2. Aurion*

        Yup. If using the benefits one has negotiated through appropriate channels is “taking advantage”, then I advocate for everyone to take advantage. That’s what the benefits are there for. If said benefits are borne on the broken backs of colleagues, that’s a systematic issue that should be addressed, but using the benefits one has negotiated isn’t the problem here.

        Excessively using benefits is another issue, but it sounds like Jane has done everything with the full approval of management, so I don’t think we can charge her with excessive use absent further info.

        1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

          Yeah, the meaning of “taking advantage” is interesting here. The one meaning of “taking advantage” would mean using one’s benefits to their fullest — no issue there. The other meaning is to abuse the benefits without management’s approval, and that is the issue (if it’s occurring; I don’t think it is in this case).

      3. Anon 2*

        I think depends on her seniority and experience. Yes, management is ultimately responsible, but if she’s senior enough and has be in the position long enough, she should know that having a reduced schedule and taking time off at the busiest times, she is causing significantly more work for her co-workers. Perhaps she shouldn’t care about that, but in a team environment I think most people would.

        1. Mike C.*

          This doesn’t make any sense unless Jane has final approval on scheduling, staffing and work assignments.

      4. The IT Manager*

        Vacation during an event she is responsible for sounds like taking advantage. Even part timers with part time have certain times they should not take off.

      5. LawBee*

        The only thing that stuck out to me as iffy on Jane’s part is scheduling vacation at the same time as an event. But again – that’s a management decision to approve the vacation, so it goes back to them. Jane’s just doing what she negotiated.

        sucks for the OP though.

    4. Temperance*

      Agreed. This reminds me of the letter awhile back where the person’s coworker adjusted her hours and was supposed to be working from home at night, but was instead dumping all her work on the LW.

    5. CBH*

      Hi Everyone – Thanks to those replying to my comment. I want to clarify a few things that I said. I agree that the director is not handling the situation; I agree that Jane has some sort of trade off for her new schedule. From all points of view, I do believe Jane is working a new revised schedule that she agreed to. Yes I agree that in everyone’s lives family/ personal life should have a priority.

      Apparently my “taking advantage of the situation” has caused a small stir. My interpretation of the letter is that Jane was responsible for an event, she purposely booked her vacation during that time. I believe that Jane did this knowing that due to her new schedule tentative arrangements had been made for her coverage (for example management has asked the OP to step up). Any responsible employee, regardless of personal life situation, knows that there are certain times that one can not take off from their job. It sounds like this event was one that Jane should not have taken off, but did so knowing that someone else would have to cover for her. Again, my interpretation is that Jane did this under the disguise of family needs. And also again, I fully support a full personal life with vacations, before and after work. Trust me I’m all for taking vacations! but sometimes vacations need to be booked around your employers needs and in this particular situation Jane did not do that.

      1. Anon 2*

        That was my interpretation. Perhaps because I work in a similar industry as the LW, that is project based and requires travel and onsite management, management largely leaves project managers to their own devices and trust them when they say that a project is staffed or covered.

      2. OP*

        LW here!

        CBH, I think you hit the nail on the head with this one.

        Copying and pasting a response from above–
        I think you all are partly right with this being a supervisory issue, and I also think that Jane has learned to work the supervisor, if you will. I’ve heard her saying before that she doesn’t feel like staying the whole week at an event, can supervisor find someone to cover for her? Which usually ends up being one of the associates, which is a whole different issue that I don’t know if I can speak towards, as it doesn’t directly affect me, but certainly doesn’t seem fair to those being brought on board to new events last minute and rescheduling plans.

        However, there are also other huge integrity issues with the Supervisor, which is probably why this has gotten to this point, and unfortunately I’m not sure if there is a way that the team can let her know this is going on or address it, as she seems to be sanctioning the pushing off of work onto other people.

        1. CBH*

          Thanks OP! Keep us updated on an outcome. Hopefully your management team starts to organize a solution that works for everyone on the team.

        2. Hellanon*

          OP, are you exempt or hourly? If the latter, I do hope you are turning in *all* those hours, especially for the days when you are working 24/7…

          1. OP*

            Unfortunately exempt….although the two associates on the team who are also pulled in to cover for PM are hourly. They get all the benefits of overtime, and PM gets the high salary, but I am stuck in that not-so-sweet spot where I get none of the benefits and all of the work! I sure wish I could be cashing in on the OT.

      3. Mike C.*

        This doesn’t change anything. The managers have final say and they allowed it. They are the ones responsible.

      4. HR Ninja (green belt)*

        I’m not saying that this is or is not Jane’s situation BUT –
        When my youngest was in preschool the school would close down 2 weeks in the summer and 2 weeks in the winter. My husband and I would need to juggle who could take over which days or weeks and where we could lean on family and friends for assistance since we each only had 2 or 3 weeks of vacation at a time and needed to cover at least 4 weeks for just these school closures, not including time for sick kids or school vacations for the other 2 children.
        It’s entirely possible for a parent to really not have a choice about when they “schedule” vacation if they are having to play by someone else’s timeline.
        I would expect that a company though understand that every person has situations like this that come up, not just for those with children.

        1. OP*

          Totally agree! However, I know for a fact these are fun trips to beaches or the like, not scheduled around school breaks as the kid in question is not school age. But this is a good point for those with school-age children!

          However, if that’s the case, when planning dates and who manages what programs in the beginning of the year, I’d hope you’d remove yourself from any programs where there are such obvious, prescheduled conflicts, and swap programs with another person who can fully devote themselves.

          1. HR Ninja (green belt)*

            Me personally? Yes, absolutely. The school gave us the calendar of their closures on January 6 or whenever they reopened and we made plans based around that plus the school schedules for the other two. (want to say no fun? I do.)

            My husbands work is luckily pretty stable and doesn’t have busy or slow seasons, they are just constant.

            I, on the other hand, work with people and so my stuff wasn’t always predictable. I can just never know when someone is going to punch a co-worker, although I bet I would make a lot more money if I could. Or I can’t help that the company has decided to roll out it’s new performance management toolkit exactly over the week I need off in July. I still have to know about the toolkit, I still have to update my managers and their employees on a timeline I can’t control and I can’t opt out because I’m HR and therefore must be all knowing.

            I do completely under that our roles are vastly different though and if I were handling projects that I could opt out of if they were due when I needed to be out for vacation or otherwise I certainly would. I think most people would – that’s where Jane is special in our eyes. :)

    6. Anon 2*

      Not every job lends itself to being able to provide the level of flexibility that many people want. I’m also for employers providing flexibility when they are able to, but sometimes an employer can’t and shouldn’t be flexible about certain things. And this definitely sounds like that type of job.

      The fact that Jane’s boss doesn’t recognize this is a major issue. However, I also agree that Jane is taking advantage of her boss’s ignorance. So a conversation explaining the negative repercussions on the rest of the staff is a good first step. Because it could be that Jane’s boss doesn’t have a good idea of how much slack everyone else is picking up.

      Where I work we have to travel to staff meetings/events and for years people with parents got reduced schedules. It wasn’t until we got a new employee who was a parent (but had a key role that couldn’t be reduced at all) who noticed the disparity and requested the same accommodation. That is when management started looking more closely and realized that their providing flexibility to one group of staff was unfair because they couldn’t or wouldn’t provide the same level of flexibility to another group of staff.

      1. KellyK*

        Is that really unfair, though? Presumably people in key roles that can’t be reduced know that’s what they’re getting into and are compensated accordingly.

        1. Anon 2*

          It was unfair, because there were other people who didn’t have children who were not in key roles that were not offered the same sort of accommodation. And, it also meant those people with key roles were having extended trips to pick up the slack from those people who got to come and leave early. For example, a trip might be 5 days, the people who had children were only required to be present for 2 days, but that meant that others then had to be present for 8 days to compensate.

          1. KellyK*

            Ah, okay, that makes sense. The flexibility was granted based on who had kids, rather than on whose job could allow it.

      2. OP*

        Unfortunately our boss definitely knows whats going on, and encourages it 100%, without considering the workload of the rest of the team. I feel like my hands are tied here, because this is coming from the top.

        …Yes, I do realize I’ve found myself 4 months into a job in a completely toxic workplace.

  5. Joseph*

    This is something that’s always irritated me. It’s a really bad thing to get into a habit of always assuming the childless people have more time. Note that if Alison’s advice on talking to your manager doesn’t help (e.g., your manager promises to fix things, but it doesn’t), a good way I found to handle this is to make scheduled, set commitments ahead of time on days that Jane was supposed to cover. So when she tries to beg off, it makes me more confident in firmly refusing. It also puts Jane in the awkward situation of needing to explicitly ask me to cancel my plans and argue that her family is more important than my family.
    As an aside, the classic 1970’s-era stock photos are a highlight of this column.

    1. PlainJane*

      I love this solution, and I’ve used it a few times when I’ve felt like co-workers were taking advantage of my general willingness to be available.

    2. megan*

      Completely agree on setting up outside commitments ahead of time.
      An added bonus of this tactic is that you might also discover a great new hobby!
      I randomly signed up for adult ballet classes with a friend of mine, and later found that the regular class meetings were a good way to have a standing commitment outside of work. Got me away from my desk, filled up space on my calendar and kept me active.
      That was 4 seasons ago. Ballet has been so much fun! And to my surprise, people at work have been really supportive of my dance addiction!

    3. OP*

      Great suggestion! Unfortunately in cases like this, where we are ALL expected to be on site, I can’t come up with another commitment, so her duties fall to me when she arrives or leaves at her leisure. However, for tasks in the office that attempt to get pushed off to me, I do say that I am working on X but can help this time if they really don’t have the bandwith, which seems to get her to reconsider.

    4. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      Then what do you do if your boss asks you to cancel your plans, and not Jane? Say Jane suggests it, and then your boss says hey, cancel your whatever thing, you can do the extra work. Then they have explicitly valued Jane’s after-work hours more than hours and asked you to cancel your plans. You have no recourse.

      1. Joseph*

        “Then they have explicitly valued Jane’s after-work hours more than hours and asked you to cancel your plans. You have no recourse.”
        If the boss is going to be a hardass and force you to come no matter what, you have no recourse *regardless* of what you say. But you will clearly realize your boss doesn’t value you, which is good to know even if you’re not in a position to switch jobs.
        HOWEVER having actual plans greatly improves the odds of your boss being reasonable. There’s an unwritten (ridiculous) assumption that single people can just change their plans on a whim and have endless flexibility. It’s just general human behavior that bosses are generally a LOT more reluctant to force you to change pre-made plans to do X than if the boss is just sort of thinking you have nothing major planned.

  6. AnotherHRPro*

    This happens so often and managers do not even realize that they are doing it! They are trying to be flexible and accommodating (which is a good thing) for parents but the work still has to be done. That often means that those without kids have to pick up the slack. I really believe it is unintentional. When talking about this, it is important to keep the focus on your own workload. Not the perceived “unfairness”. Leave that for gripping to your other single friends over a glass of wine. :)

    1. fposte*

      I think some of this is just the squeaky wheel getting the grease, too. It’s therefore key for other employees to have ways to “squeak” in response.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Squeaky wheel is a great way to put it. At my current workplace, flexibility is given for all kinds of life events, but you have to ask for it. I had a coworker who was annoyed that parents could take off early for events of their children’s, when she wanted to be able to do similar things to visit an ill relative. She finally got frustrated and said, “Look, can I have Wednesday afternoons off to see my aunt?” and the boss approved it without a blink. Other people have been approved for things like flexibility for volunteering opportunities (ie, that aren’t “family” things but that are “important personal” things).

        That is obviously not true everywhere. And there’s some frustration that the coworker with e.g. the new baby doesn’t have to initiate the conversation, since most employers will proactively have a discussion as soon as the pregnancy is announced. But sometimes the flexibility is there, and you just have to request it, because the boss has no way of knowing that you have a sick aunt to take care of. (It would be helpful, too, for managers to proactively mention that flexibility can be offered for family issues/volunteer work/whatever, so that people don’t go into the conversation with no idea of what the response will be.)

  7. CR*

    This happens to me, and I don’t even have kids…but I am the only single person in my (small) office. So obviously I don’t have a life outside work!

    1. Coco*

      That sucks, and could even mean heterosexually-coupled employees would get more benefits than someone in the closet.

  8. Christine*

    Another thought. Is the OP’s job a totally new one? If it’s a new position, it may be because of the co-workers flex schedule. If you were hired to fill a vacated spot, the requirements may be the same of the co-worker.

    I’ve been the single one before, and it sucks. I have gotten stuck with working all of the holidays, etc. when I have worked in larger offices. You can do a bit of pushback, but it’s hard when you are the new hire.

    Follow the advise given.

    1. OP*

      This is a new job for me, but the role is not new-I’m filling an old role that was open, and the roles here are pretty clearly defined, and not filling in for the flex-time of this other woman. I’m the only one who handles the things that I do, ie hotels, travel, registration, but often am asked by this person to handle managing instructors (commonly an Event coordinator task but not in this job) as well as pulling reports and creating course materials, which squarely do not fall in my role (in this company at least)

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Even if the role is existing, it’s entirely possible that the hiring manager expected the new person to cover Jane’s flexible scheduling. I can totally see this happening in my own organization. We need to replace someone and somehow new responsibilities (born of pain points) drift into that job description. So, Jane needs more flexibility and the hiring manager is thinking “okay, this new person can help with event coverage.” And then it just gets rolled into ongoing expectations.

      1. OP*

        Definitely could be applicable to many situations, but I know for sure that is not the case here. The way our team is structured, I am kind of an outlier in my own little event world. If there was someone intended to take on the PM’s extra duties, it would be one of the associates “under” her, not myself. However, the way that the team operates in practice is that our overarching supervisor is horribly unorganized, horribly biased, and has a whole bevvy of questionable management practices that would make Alison cringe, so in actuality, whoever pops into her head first or happens to be walking past her office is the person who is lucky enough to take on the additional work from Jane.

  9. Storage Box*

    Ugh. This letter has finally motivated me to comment. I work at a medium sized nonprofit, and for six years had to work under a very entitled parent who alienated and mistreated her department until everyone but her left. I stayed, because there are parts of my job that I love that aren’t easily transferable to another position in my city. She was finally forced out under our new director last year.

    Some stuff she did: To spend more time with her kids, she attempted to change her schedule to 6 am – 2 pm, even though we were a regular office with regular office hours, and part of our nonprofit involves dealing with the public during “normal” hours. That didn’t last too long, because she fell asleep driving to work and rear-ended a car at a red light. She continually created programming that resulted in more work for everyone in the dept BUT her, because she had to be home with her children creating Martha Stewart-esque tableaux. She would obligate us to volunteer at other city events that required working nights and weekends, when she would never show up. She spent three weeks crying at work incessantly — we thought a family member had gotten a diagnosis of cancer or something, but it was all due to pressure regarding her son’s soccer tryout. She quit using email because she was too inundated with work, yet she was never at work to finish anything. If she was at work, she was ordering school uniforms, dealing with playdate issues, or scheming the themes for upcoming birthday parties. On snow days, other staff would go get their kids and bring them back to the office, but she would stand in the hallway and have a fit about how hard her life is. When we’d take out interns or staff for lunch, she would dominate conversations asking about our childhood memories, our childhood eating habits, etc, with little interest in our answers except how they applied to her two kids. This was particularly offensive with some interns who had harder upbringings and had to eat everything on the plate, or weren’t able to take lavish family vacations.

    She continually told us, the staff in her dept, that we had no idea what it was like to be her. In the meantime, I lost my father to cancer, another co-worker lost her brother to disease and lost a pet, and the third person in our dept was dealing with stress from financial issues (she made well below a living wage). She was a special case — she had NO empathy whatsoever — but I lost all respect for her and her aspirations for motherhood while working with her.

    I play soccer, go to the gym, have pets and friends and family, and my time is valuable too. After working with this lady, I truly think this is my hill to die on! Fortunately, as stated above, she left, and then my position was elevated to a level where I wouldn’t have to work under her even if she was still employed here.

    1. Meeeeeeeee*

      “She spent three weeks crying at work incessantly — we thought a family member had gotten a diagnosis of cancer or something, but it was all due to pressure regarding her son’s soccer tryout.”
      Hahahaha. Wow.

      That whole “you have no idea what it is like to be me!” attitude is so annoying. Mostly because it is typically not displayed by people dealing with actual difficult issues.

      1. Storage Box*

        Yeah, she was definitely off her rocker and so narcissistic about her role as a mom that it really superseded normal boundaries. We were actually organizing casserole delivery when another employee volunteered what was up, and then our manager confirmed it.

        The stories I could tell… She would also disappear from work to attend school events, and of course her kids were in private schools very far from work. She would be technically on the clock, but would be doing science fair, or a field trip, and consistently missed inter-dept meetings that SHE had set up. No one took our dept seriously the last few years of her employment.

    2. BTownGirl*

      Oh God, these people are (thankfully, so thankfully) rare, but they are out there! I once had a coworker who had a baby and treated me to a 10 minute soliloquy about how people who don’t have kids don’t UNDERSTAND what it is to be busy. Okay, sis. Did you also know that you don’t know what love is until you have a baby? Because that’s my personal favorite from The Obnoxious Entitled Parent catalog.

        1. BTownGirl*

          How could I have forgotten that one?! When we bought our house, someone actually questioned whether or not it was fair that we wanted a lot of space and don’t have children. Like, this thought actually crossed their minds. Note to people without children, please find a responsible Parent Council that you can run such decisions by! My thoughts and prayers are with the rational parents who have to attend PTA meetings with these people.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            I’m seriously laughing so hard at this! Oh, the Entitled Parent Martyr, I’ve dealt with my fair share of those.

            1. BTownGirl*

              *waits patiently for stories*

              You almost can’t even get mad, it’s just too damn funny! ;)

          2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            My coworker with two children recently bought a house (they were renting a smaller house before). She said the house had 4 bedrooms. Immediately another coworker asks, “What do you need all that space for, you only have 2 kids!” — as if someone cannot have guests or relatives who visit, a home office/studio, storage, or just extra space…

          3. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            This is an entirely false understanding of fairness/unfairness. If a family wanted the house, they could have bid higher than you did and bought it! It’s not like parents were not allowed to place offers…

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I actually think it’s a lot worse when they don’t berate you—when they just state it as if it’s an unemotional fact: we childfree people don’t know what love is, apparently. It’s just not possible for us to love another person.

        1. BTownGirl*

          Because we were raised in the woods by wolves and our only friends were pinecones! It’s like a community theater production of Nell, only with more selfishness and no minivans ;)

        2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

          I do think there is a special bond between parent a child… but all people have parents, whether or not they have kids of their own. So I have some idea of that bond: it’s the bond my parents supposedly have toward me. (I guess that doesn’t apply if you have bad parents though.)

          Tbh I’ve known way too many people who were abused, beaten, disowned, and worse to say that it is some kind of special love necessarily. And given the number of people who disown their children for what I consider trivial reasons (choice of spouse/partner, sexual orientation, etc), I doubt the love is truly unconditional.

    3. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*


      She spent three weeks crying about her son’s soccer tryout?! OMGWTF. I feel sorry for the poor kid; the expectations must be crushing and the emotional neediness smothering.

      Also, I’ll bet she’s one of those badly behaving sports parents who screams at the referee or gets in fistfights with parents of kids on the opposing team.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Seriously, any elective event in my kids’ lives that reduces me to tears for most of a day, never mind longer, I would either (1) be seriously evaluating my mental health and divorcing myself from it (if I didn’t think there was a ‘real’ issue), (2) taking steps to address whatever was That Flaming Ridiculous about it*, or (3) explaining to my kid that they were done with that item, we were quitting (if there was a real issue, that was not addressed after being discussed or that was ridiculously egregious, then yeah, we’re done with that).

        I wouldn’t cry, or snarl, or react in whatever way, for weeks on end. If it’s optional, and it’s that bad, it *goes*.

        * Not tears, but irritated growling and glaring, over last-minute scheduling, did in fact cause me to politely address this with one group. I shan’t worry about late notifications much again; if they want us to participate and help out, they can tell us soon after they know about it, instead of at the last minute.

        1. Storage Box*

          I am probably leaving out a very important fact, which I omitted because I didn’t want to sound like a jerk. She was born in South America, and is very proud of her Latin heritage, which she felt further separated her from all of the normal mothers also employed here. I don’t know if it was because of her narcissism, her Latin roots, or that she was an only child, but her histrionics, which involved crying, foot-stomping and hair-tossing, were so stereotypical they were almost unbelievable.

            1. Storage Box*

              She claims it does… She likens herself to Sofia Vergara (sp?). She is from the same country as that actress.

              1. Honeybee*

                There is such a thing as internalization of stereotypes and marginalization. It may be hard to conceptualize, but even if a person of a certain origin says a stereotype applies to their group that doesn’t necessarily mean it actually does. For example, South America is a continent with many countries and many cultures within those countries. For another, it sounds like there is a conflation of Sofia Vergara’s character Gloria from Modern Family and actual Sofia Vergara going on, potentially.

              2. Marcela*

                Hell, NO. Being Latino is not synonymous with hysterical behavior. She is watching too much tv. Please do not believe that kind of crap about us.

                1. Storage Box*

                  I wouldn’t. I apologized below for how that comment read. It’s totally my fault that you or anyone else perceived my comment that way. I was posting while at work (ha!) and was distracted and used very poor wording. None of my other Latino friends, who are Mexican, Costa Rican, Cuban, Venezuelan, and Colombian, act anything like her. She is truly one-of-a-kind.

          1. Kathy*

            I am a only child who has an only child – we do not have crying jags nor are prone to histrionics . I really question your stereotyping of people based on their race and birth order.

            You probably need to think twice before coming to these asinine conculsions about why someone is behavior in a manner that you disapprove of.

            1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

              Yeah this sounds like a rare, individual-specific problem and not one that affects an entire group of people….

            2. Storage Box*

              My apologies. I wasn’t thinking hard enough about how I responded. SHE would frequently say things like, “Do you watch Modern Family? Latin moms are different, we feel differently about our families.” Or she would state, “maybe i come across as self-centered but I can’t help it because I was an only child.” I shouldn’t have used the word stereotypical, or implied that I thought these facts made her who she is, but reading what I posted, it certainly seems that I said just that.

              She is a rare bird who I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

              Mea culpa.

              1. Panda Bandit*

                Silly me, I didn’t realize Modern Family was a documentary. It’s rather disturbing that she can’t differentiate between television and reality.

      2. Storage Box*

        She was apparently so upset because she couldn’t decide whether her 9yo should play in a competitive league or a fun league… She had pros/cons for both. Her younger child was missing out on their own extra-curricular activities because she couldn’t separate from the eldest and attended every practice and every game. She also felt bad for her kids during summer break, which I understand, so she signed them up in a multitude of camps, which meant that there would be tennis at one location across town in the morning and then theater across town in the afternoon, with her transporting the kids back and forth. She lost it on one camp because she didn’t read the fine print and didn’t realize that outdoor camp would be cancelled when it rained. She also constantly talked about it like she was a single parent, when she had a husband who was home every night and who, as far as we could tell, seemed to want to be involved.

        And twice, she hired my PT assistants to help with her kids’ elaborate birthday parties, and they both left the non-profit soon after.

        Her kids seemed pretty indifferent to her hovering. After Christmas one year, she came back to work sniffling because her daughter was too young to enjoy a photo shoot/cookie making session. Apparently the 3yo had a tantrum and refused to participate as mama envisioned.

        I sound so bitter, but I also love telling these stories because they are always so over-the-top! Yes, she refused to grant our vacations until hers were booked, and yes, we frequently had to work right up to holidays rather than take OPT because she had already called it… She was our senior, so I guess she had a right to do it, but she always took a week off around Thanksgiving and Easter, two weeks at Christmas, and an extra day or two anytime we had a three day weekend.

        1. BTownGirl*

          I would pay actual money to see this woman’s Facebook feed. You had me at “photo shoot/cookie making session”. Not to go off topic here, but I can’t be the only one who sees people posting 20 separate pictures of their child every day and wonders how much time is actually spent playing, parenting and just having some good old-fashioned fun. But why do that when you can pose the kid all day for likes?

          1. Kyrielle*

            To be fair, on a weekend day when I haven’t got any undone household chores, I can get 10-20 good and different shots of my kids while they’re having fun (while we are in fact), just by occasionally hauling out my cell phone when a good moment presents itself). If I were a stay-at-home mother, I could probably post way too many pictures (though I hope I might not). And the preschool my youngest is in provides photos from their day 1-3 times a week, and usually at least one of those is pretty fun.

            1. BTownGirl*

              The difference here being your kids actually get to play and you’re just capturing the fun! :) What I should have noted is that I’m talking about the people where you can tell it’s posed . I actually saw a shot this winter (and I do mean winter with a capital It’s 10 Degrees Outside) where someone had their little one outside in an angel pose…with just a blanket over their clothes. As in, no jacket. As in, she made the child stand outside until they got the shot. That’s the type of mess I was talking about, not glorious, adorable, kid-playin’ cuteness!

              1. Kyrielle*

                Ahhh. I hear you! I do formally-posed photos with the kids…for 5-20 minutes, once or twice a year. That’s it. They don’t have the patience for that on the regular, and neither do I. :)

                1. BTownGirl*

                  HA! I remember when my niece and nephew were really little, my sister took them to a photographer. Sweet Jesus, there were tears, bribes and and dramatic costume changes (so basically a soap opera). The pictures were precious though hehe!

      3. Isabel C.*

        I was going to say: smart money is divided between whether that kid’s future includes “multiple DUIs”, “intensive therapy,” or both.

    4. KTB*

      OMG, your manager totally reminds me of my boss at LastJob. She was the ED of a small nonprofit, and was a totally narcissistic parent.

      A few shining examples: she once yelled at me for scheduling an afternoon (approx. 3PM) meeting with a major funder despite the fact that her calendar was wide open. Apparently she had made personal plans, and when I asked her to block out her calendar so that I wouldn’t schedule things when it wasn’t convenient for her, she snapped at me and told me her personal life was none of my business. She also insisted on calling all of our constituents “families,” despite the protests of multiple staff members, who would have preferred households or community members. She also had NO boundaries, and would pester all of the (mostly female) staff about when they were getting married/having kids/whatever life event came next.

      I don’t miss her.

      1. Storage Box*

        Hahaha! It sounds like the same person. My “mom” wanted to change our website so that info listed for families was the “mom section” — nevermind the same-sex parents or widowed fathers who might want to access our liberal arts non-profit. She also branded everything with her kids all over it. They weren’t terrible humans in their own right, but I hate the sight of them because of knowing every detail of their toilet training, friends issues, teachers, etc.

        1. KTB*

          Holy crap, they might be the same person!! Our promotional materials almost always had her kid’s picture plastered all over them, and I felt the exact same way about the kid. She was a decent little human, but I could not stand to hear one more word about her.

          Hilariously, according to my former coworkers, my old boss apparently decided that when I left my last job, it was because I was moving back to my hometown to have a baby. I just bought a house in my current town (not hometown), and still don’t have kids almost two years later. So there you go.

  10. Photoshop Til I Drop*

    I had a coworker at an old job who would make constant jokes that he was going to get a fake kid so he could share in the parent-only flexibility perks at that company. He detailed his ideas: taking lots of pictures with his nephew to place on his desk, talking in the cafeteria about the boy’s soccer practices…it actually perked up the manager’s ears, because it was a reality check about how unbalanced the employees’ treatment had become.

    1. CR*

      Reminds me of Mike on Veep (now there’s a fantastic show about a workplace) with his fake dog to get out of work commitments.

    2. BTownGirl*

      I love this! I’m very close with my nieces and nephew and once was told it would be too much of a burden for me to leave early to go one of their events. It was a biggie and this was the only time I’d ever asked, so I was…annoyed. I very politely reminded my then-manager that I was constantly covering for people who were absent for something kid-related and this event was a really important one. I got the sense that he realized he was being really, really unfair and it all worked out.

    3. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      Google “The Office Kid, your fake kid kit” — apparently your coworker was not alone in his ideas!

  11. LCL*

    What makes this a whole ‘nother level of weird is that OP believes she is expected to stay on site locally so that she can run interference for her co workers? attendees? members of the public? that get too drunk. What exactly is going on at these events? Is it OPs, or Jane’s, job really to babysit people that drink too much? I think OP and her boss and anyone else who is responsible for these events should talk about this, and figure out what their policies are about drinking, and who watches people who get drunk after hours and if that should be their responsibility at all.

    1. Leatherwings*

      It’s probably more about smoothing things over with vendors and/or the hotel. When I worked events like these there were constant fires to put out that attendees would start. I would be the one to calm down the hotel manager after one too many noise complaints, build a relationship with caterers so they would come back next year, and answer questions attendees had (inevitably in the evening) about the accommodations, events, schedule etc.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      For people in event planning, it is a very normal responsibility to have someone onsite 24 hours a day for the event. Your job is to make sure everything for the event goes smoothly. This includes overnight. Anything can happen (sick guests, power outages, fires and yes drunk participants) and your job is to make sure it is managed smoothly with as little disruption to your event and guests as possible.

      1. Leatherwings*

        As far as alcohol goes, it’s usually not about cutting people off at the bar, but it is about making sure drunk guests don’t get belligerent with hotel staff or puke all over the elevator and leave it for someone else to deal with.

    3. AnonEMoose*

      It’s pretty much what Leatherwings said. Plus, the company might need someone on site with authority to make decisions regarding the contract with the hotel on site at all times. The science fiction convention I volunteer for has the board of directors on site at all times during the convention. Because stuff happens, and needing someone with that authority can happen at a moment’s notice.

      Sometimes, it’s more minor stuff, too, like the hotel neglected to set up function space the way they were supposed to. Or isn’t refreshing rooms or filling water stations as often as they should, or bathrooms aren’t getting cleaned, stuff like that. And so the company needs someone there who knows what the agreement was and can go to the hotel management and say “Hey, this isn’t happening and needs to per our contract…”.

      Or, for an example on the more serious end, if an attendee at one of the events the OP coordinates is caught assaulting another attendee at 3 am. Or someone wants to make a report about being harassed. Or someone’s stalker ex shows up. In all of those instances, the hotel is going to want someone with responsibility/authority for the event to be there.

      1. OP*

        Totally agree–this is a great point, and it’s helpful to see it from another perspective. I do agree that these are part of my responsibilities, and I do admit that I got a little caught up in the “fairness” of having to stay on-site while everyone else went home. The way I viewed it is that I am always the first one on-site and the last to go, and would never leave before everything was set up perfectly and ready to go for the next day, and always arrive way earlier than anyone else to confirm that in the mornings and deal with any issues that may have arisen. I think my issue was with having to be on-site every night to deal with “emergencies”, a responsibility that I thought could be split amongst the team as originally discussed, but then was changed to just myself staying on-site to handle all week. If it’s my job, its my job, and that should be discussed, but it basically was a change in plans because no one else felt like staying.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          But this is where I think having 2 people to alternate is key and shouldn’t be all on you. Being “on” 24/7 is a lot, and 3 consecutive nights of 3 a.m. phone calls can be exhausting.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          I think it’s reasonable to be a little upset about having the entire responsibility for it land on you when that wasn’t the original plan. A solid week of being “always on” would be very, very hard on me, personally. I need some down time! And for you, depending on the size/complexity of the event, having more than one person available could be kind of important. Because what happens if you’re dealing with one issue, and another one that really can’t wait crops up? That might be a point worth raising with your manager.

    4. OP*

      That was my other issue! The way it was presented to me was not that we needed someone on site for emergencies or issues with the hotel, but rather to babysit the drunk people, which I feel is not and should not be my job, as that puts me at risk and honestly, I’m not sure what I could do anyway besides tell them to go to bed. Additionally, we don’t have any super drunk people! This is a business event, and I strongly feel that if we are not paying for the drinks (which we weren’t) I have no business telling another adult how much to drink when they are in their personal time outside of the event hours.

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        These are all reasonable points. It could put you at risk, indeed. And it’s weird to have to police the drinking of other adults!

  12. Anna No Mouse*

    I rarely bring up my kid at work in a reason-to-get-out-of-something way, but I may have made a faux pas the other day when I mentioned to three childless colleagues how I always get into the office on time or no more than 10 minutes late, despite having to wrestle with a 3 yr old each morning and dropping him at daycare, and they are often 15-30 minutes late each morning. I meant it in a lighthearted kind of way, and I *hope* that’s how it was taken. I honestly don’t care who gets into the office when, especially since I leave on time each day and at least one of my colleagues stays late regularly. Reading this post made me think my coworkers may have been offended by what was a lighthearted comment, in the midst of a conversation with one coworker whose wife is expecting their first child in November.

    1. Temperance*

      I would have been offended if I was a person who stayed late to cover and you made that comment to me about coming in on time. Especially if we shared a workload and my staying late was covering your work.

      I really hate parent perks, though, FWIW, and I don’t know *you*. If you were one of my colleagues that I generally liked otherwise, and you pulled your weight in other ways (like covering some early mornings), I probably wouldn’t be as angered. (Although if you were like the coworker who claimed to “help” by taking all the lunchtime OT or claiming all OT that ran until 6 PM because your kid gets out of their aftercare program then … I would be raging.)

      1. Anna No Mouse*

        There’s only one of them who works late all the time, and she wasn’t really in the conversation I was having with the other two (more kind of off to the side). The other two tend to leave when I do. We all work on the same projects, but have different responsibilities. They don’t cover for me. I don’t cover for them. It was in the context of one of my colleagues starting a new job as a teacher in a town farther from his home than his current job. He’s also the one expecting a new baby this fall, so I was kind of saying that he needs to get in the habit of getting going earlier in the morning. I feel badly about lumping my other coworkers into that statement, but to be fair, she kind of laughed about how late everyone comes into the office.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Er, this explanation doesn’t really make it any better. It makes it sound like you A. are monitoring when people come in B. are making comments about the lifestyle the expectant parent is going to have and comparing to their existent habits. Most expectant parents find that kind of thing really annoying in my experience, and it’s not your job to fix his schedule.

        2. Aurion*

          This really doesn’t help your case any. We’re all the heroes in our own stories, but when it comes down to 15 minutes…an extra coffee break, an extra bathroom break, more efficiency during the day, and any number of other things can easily cover those 15 minutes. Maybe your colleagues can say that they’re so efficient they more than make up those 15 minutes they’re late, even compared to Anna No Mouse the parent who comes in 15 minutes early.

          If they’re getting their work done, if their work or lack thereof doesn’t affect you, don’t snark about their schedules. I would apologize if I were you.

          1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            Yup, my office is similar — +/- 15 minutes doesn’t even register. So this looks like you’re monitoring when your coworkers come and go, even though you say you don’t cover for them and they don’t cover for you. This doesn’t help your case, indeed.

    2. Leatherwings*

      Yeahhhh that probably didn’t come off too well. I might quickly apologize and resolve not to compare your schedule to theirs from now on.

    3. misspiggy*

      Your colleagues might assume that you do care who gets into the office when, seeing as you mentioned it….

    4. Aurion*

      Ouch. No, I don’t think that would’ve been received well, especially since “staying late” probably negates the “coming in late” part (I’m assuming your jobs aren’t ones which needs a fixed start/end time).

      I’d apologize to your colleagues. If I were them I would’ve been fuming at the very least.

    5. Oryx*

      If one of my colleagues with kids said that to me, I’d give them a serious side-eye, no matter the intention. You don’t know what my mornings are like, I may have non-kid commitments that make me run late and nothing annoys me more than colleagues paying attention to the comings and goings of other colleagues. Because just the fact that you mentioned it, even as a joke, suggests you DO have an issue with it.

      1. Temperance*

        Last time someone commented that I’m never here before 9, I told them that I’m often here by 7, so it’s just fine for me to come in at 9:15. Unless they wanted to cover my early events.

    6. some1*

      “I mentioned to three childless colleagues how I always get into the office on time or no more than 10 minutes late, despite having to wrestle with a 3 yr old each morning and dropping him at daycare, and they are often 15-30 minutes late each morning.”

      Did you actually come out and point out that they are late? Then, yeah, that was probably annoying in a My Coworker is Acting Like My Boss way, but not in a childfree vs. parent way.

    7. SilverBee*

      I certainly would have found that comment inappropriate and been annoyed by it (not offended, but certainly annoyed).

      If you truly don’t care what time they get in, why are you commenting on it at all?

    8. CMT*

      Ooof. If you really don’t care, you shouldn’t “joke” about these things. I have a coworker who says things like this and then says he’s just joking. But they’re not jokes. These are not inherently funny situations. There’s no humor in “Haha, you come in late every day”. It’s not appropriate or professional.

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        Yeah exactly, this does not come off as a joke but as a serious comment you tried (and failed) to veil as a joke. Sorry.

    9. LQ*

      I think it really depends. I can imagine one coworker who if they said it I would laugh and it would be funny (and I’d likely say something back), but I can think of a couple of coworkers who it would fall really flat from. I can also think of a coworker who would be pissed at anyone who made a comment like that. Seems very much like a know your audience thing, but I’d definitely veer away from it.

    10. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m voting for faux pas, because (a) the parent thing, (b) it’s preachy, and (c) at least one of these people stays late, so it implies they’re slacking when they’re really not.

    11. Rob Lowe can't read*

      Yeah, this would have resulted in a giant eye roll from me. I’m not interested in my arrival/departure times being policed by coworkers, and I honestly could not care less about why someone else is late unless it’s impacting my work – and if it is, then I don’t care that it’s because of a child, I care that the late-comer is dealing with the problem so it stops impacting me. I can tell from your post that you didn’t mean it this way, but what I would have heard is “I’m a parent so all my excuses are valid, and yours are not!”

  13. Newish Reader*

    The best offices that I worked in allowed flexibility for any number of situations – kids, parents, other family, pets, school, etc. When the offices were fully functional, everyone that wanted it had some type of flexibility to deal with their outside commitments. The majority of the staff (of course, there were also some exceptions, hence the need for this blog) found ways to ensure the work was getting done while we had flexibility.

    There were times when I didn’t mind taking the later shift so a parent could leave early for kid-related stuff a few times a week, but then I was taking long lunches a few days a week to attend classes for my degree. I didn’t mind covering for a parent that wanted vacation to coincide with school vacation because co-workers covered for me when I was out during the busiest week of the year for a family medical issue.

    I’ve also worked in offices that favored one type of personal situation over others and that is the pits. Keeping it about the work as Alison suggested is the best course of action. I don’t want to judge someone else’s personal priorities, but I do want to ensure my workload is reasonable.

  14. Aurion*

    Only tangentially related, but Alison, I want to say thank you for running this site and showing what good management looks like, and giving us tools on how to advocate for ourselves.

    I’m adamantly childfree, not good with children, don’t care for children. If I were in this situation, the me a few years ago would’ve resented the hell out of Jane for “taking advantage of coworkers” and “skipping out on her work responsibilities” and “got a free pass for having kids” etc etc. But reading this site and the thoughtful comments here gave me a lot more perspective–situations like these are the results of management failure, not Jane-failure, because Jane is of course entitled to take the flexibility she was offered (and she may have made career or monetary sacrifices to do so).

    I realize accolades are only tangentially related to this post, but this topic is one I feel strongly about–but I feel just as strongly now than I did before, but with a very different perspective now. :) I think I grew up a lot after reading here regularly.

      1. OP*

        I agree as well! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question, Alison. I really appreciate your insight! :)

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      I agree too, I appreciate the perspectives on this site. I too see these as management failures. My resentment would not be directed at Jane, but at management. Jane and I are in this together.

  15. Muriel Heslop*

    Observation: Jane is a PM; OP is an events coordinator. Do they have the same job? Are they peers? I think this is worth exploring. Jane may have been with the company for 10 years and negotiated flexibility based on her history. OP, I think you suck it up for a while and just focus on taking advantage of Jane’s absence to knock it out of the park on her events, and build the experience to move up or move out.

    That said, I HATE when people act like they are so special because they have kids. I hate it more when they inconvenience their co-workers with it. The greatest compliment one of my colleagues can give me is to say that they forgot I have kids.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s what I was wondering about in the last paragraph of my answer — it’s actually possible that as the event coordinator the OP is expected to be doing this stuff regardless of Jane’s situation, so she needs to find that out first.

    2. Mae*

      I think I’m with you. People seem to be forgetting that she’s very, very new. Because of timing alone, I’m not sure she has much choice. However, a few months down the road, yes.

      1. Temperance*

        Alternatively, though, do you think it could prejudice her protesting this down the line? As in, her bosses pointing out that LW was fine with it for X months.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nah — that’s when you say, “I was glad to help cover for a while, thinking it might be a short-term measure, but it’s not sustainable to do it indefinitely.”

    3. Anon 2*

      Based on my experience with those job titles, Jane is more senior as she has the more senior title, but that also means she has more responsibility.

      For example, I have a coordinator in my deportment. The coordinator can do many things, and can pinch hit when absolutely necessary, but ultimately the project manager for the event or program is responsible for the event or program. So in my experience, the person with the greatest responsibility for the project/program/event is the person expected to carry the heaviest part of the load. Where I work if a project manager needed the level of flexibility that Jane needed/requested they would be demoted to a role that had fewer responsibilities or asked to transition out of the organization. It’s one thing to provide that level of flexibility and accommodation for a specific clearly defined timeframe, and it’s another to allow it to go on long-term without any sort of clear end date. And it’s on that point where management has clearly failed.

      1. OP*

        Thanks for summing this up–I think this is what I was trying to say in my letter, but summed up more eloquently.

        I’ve worked in events for quite some time, and definitely understand the needs of the role and the 24/7 nature of the program, but the feeling that I get is that she is not pulling her weight on this, when she should be leading the charge, and is more than happy to push off her responsibilities to me.

        I 100% agree that she should be afforded all of the flexibility she needs during a normal week, when quite often, we all work from home at least one day a week, and are able to attend appointments as necessary. That flexibility is great. However, for the programs, which are fixed months in advance, and which we are all expected to be there for, she is rescheduling and leaving early/leaving her responsibilities for others to handle, often at the last minute, and unfortunately with the support of the manager, who decidedly has a bias and definitely has other huge issues with her management style. These are not sudden unexpected issues that have cropped up that someone can take on, but HER programs that she is deciding she no longer wants to go to. Our manager letting her get away with it is definitely the root of the issue, but my hands are tied there, as she knows what is happening and encourages it.

    4. First comment!*

      YES, this.

      OP really needs to make sure she’s clear on her job duties. In my world (a nonprofit with loads of events) the event coordinators are the 24/7 people – first in, last out, and own the logistics. Managers are in charge of strategy, overall timeline, and relationship management, but that doesn’t come with an expectation that you’re standing around the whole time with a walkie talkie to direct vendors to the appropriate table. I’d sit down with the team’s boss and try to understand what’s expected from this position – at 4 months in, it’s too soon to know everything the rest of the team has been assuming about the coordinator role.

    5. neverjaunty*

      I wouldn’t take that as a compliment at all. Would you tell a co-worker “hey, you’re so responsible with your work time that I forget you’re caring for a parent with dementia!” (I sure hope not.)

      The whole thing where it’s OK to be a parent as long as you hide it well has been used to beat women with paid work over the head forever. The rea measurement is whether you pitch in as much as you take, not whether the reason you left early is for a school play instead of a baseball playoff.

      1. PlainJane*

        Well, as someone who has cared for a parent with dementia (and has a kid), I’d probably take it as a compliment unless I had cause to perceive it otherwise. I take great pride in fulfilling my work responsibilities and not making my personal issues into my co-workers’ problems. It’s not so much about hiding it — I’m pretty open when something personal is going on, because that’s the culture here — but it’s about not shirking the work I’m paid to do unless it’s truly an emergency.

    6. Goats*

      I’m with you here. It does not sound like they have the same job. In my experience it is common that the Event Coordinator would be the person on site, while the PM would just pop in here and there to ensure the event is running smoothly.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I think it also depends on the size of these events. I have been onsite with 1 Event Coordinator/Program Director/Trip Director (different companies have different names) but the group has been small, 20-30. With larger groups, it is pretty much impossible for one person to do all the work. I don’t know how large these groups of the OP’s are, but IMO it’s not fair of Jane to come in late when she knows OP is the only one there.

        It may not be Jane’s “fault” (i.e. the baby spit up/was fussy/there was an accident) but still, as the senior person on staff who is already being given a great deal of flexibility, the least she could do is show up on time for the event. If Jane cannot be away from the baby overnight (and while not having children of my own, I get that breastfeeding is not something that can be turned on and off at will), then management needs to come up with some sort of “Jane will be in a semi-supervisory position for the next X months. She will work closely with you OP and another member on $UpcomingEvent, but it will be up to the two of you to run it together onsite.” sort of thing. Because what’s going on now isn’t working for anyone, except maybe Jane.

  16. anonanonanon*

    I get annoyed by this at work too. While I am not the only person w/o kids, the people with kids get to do things the rest of us can’t (example: work remotely at the last minute because their child care fell through but I’ve been told I cannot work remotely). Total BS.

  17. Single without kids*

    I left my last job for this reason. I’m not trying to disparage working parents but my last job was so stacked against people who didn’t have kids vs. parents that it wasn’t even funny. Some examples:

    1) Parents got first dibs on vacation and people without kids got what was left. So regardless of seniority or work ethic, parents automatically got all the best days and time around the holidays. The job supported people in customer service sometimes so coverage was required. The rule was that as many parents could be off as requested but not people with kids. They had to cover if too many parents were off.

    1)b) If someone without kids had a day off or vacation booked, and a parent wanted it instead, the person without kids would lose it so the parent could have it. Didn’t matter if you had it booked months in advance and had already bought the plane tickets. Same if you booked a day off months in advance for a specialist appointment. They could tell you the day before or while you were off. One person quit because her bereavement leave after her father’s death was cancelled after one day and she was called back, because someone with kids wanted the time off instead.

    2) Parents got sick days paid. Anyone without kids had to take them unpaid and bring a doctors note. Parents also had unlimited ill dependant days when their kids were sick but people without kids didn’t get them for people like their spouse or parents.

    3) People without kids had to work overtime, weekends and come in early and stay late. Parents were allowed to come in late or leave early and take extra long lunches so they could take their kids to the dentist or something. They were also not required to work weekends or overtime ever. They could tell people without kids 5 minutes before they were scheduled to leave that they now had stay for hours because a parent was leaving earlier for a kid related thing.

    4) Parents were allowed unlimited phone calls with their kids or for things about their kids. I understand that emergencies happen but people without kids got written up for any personal calls, no exceptions. Didn’t matter if your spouse got hit by a car. Too many write ups meant getting fired.

    5) People without kids were expected to work extra time to cover for those pumping breastmilk. I don’t mean like 10 minutes. At one point I had too work two extra hours a day to cover and get things done for women who were pumping and didn’t have enough time to do all their work. This was on top off being asked to stay late if a parent wanted to leave. And we were being paid the same even though I was picking up their slack and doing twice as much work.

    I know not all working parents are jerks by far, but I got so sick of things at my last job that I quit without something lined up. My old office was “family friendly” at the expense of everyone else. I don’t even mind covering for a working parent once in a while, but it was too much there.

    1. some1*

      “One person quit because her bereavement leave after her father’s death was cancelled after one day and she was called back, because someone with kids wanted the time off instead.”

      Of, F that. There’s a special place in hell for whomever came up with a policy like that.

      1. Sunny Days*

        I’m not sure if it’s a state or federal law in the US, but at least in some places, employers are required to provide bereavement leave.

    2. BeezLouise*

      Ugh. That sounds terribly unfair!

      I pump at work (so I’m sensitive to that issue) but I usually work through it (I know this option doesn’t exist for everyone — I have a private office with a door) and it definitely doesn’t create extra work for anyone else. But none of this sounds fair to anyone without kids (and maybe to people with kids if it causes resentment, because it’s not exactly a policy they made, just one they took advantage of).

    3. Mike C.*

      I hope your wrote this employer up on Glassdoor, folks should really be aware of it.

      By the way, did they ask for proof of children?

    4. chickabiddy*

      Many years ago, I worked a freelance/contract job with daily deadlines. From about November 15 to December 15, parents were given most of the work so that they could have extra money in their Christmas budgets. From about December 20 to January 5, parents were given very little work (and non-parents had to make up the difference) so that they could spend time with their kids. I was not a parent at the time and I was quite unhappy because I was working to pay rent, not to buy toys.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yeah, this is a very thinly-veiled version of “We pay Fergus more than Jane because he has a family to support.”

    5. Beancounter Eric*

      Wow…..just wow.

      Actually, my experience is that an unhealthy percentage of working parents are jerks with a big entitlement mindset. From incessant droning about their kid, to dumping unfinished work on others because they had to leave to get to daycare, school event, little league, soccer, etc., to very direct “You don’t have children and you have to cover for those of us raising ours” while they dump work in the laps of others.

      1. Honeybee*

        I don’t think working parents are any more likely to be jerks than people without kids. I know lots of really hardworking, pleasant coworkers with children – and there are lots of entitled jerks who don’t have children. I think it’s really unfair to stereotype working parents or imply that they’re more likely to be awful than people without children; they’re not.

        1. Biff*

          I bet it’s a perception thing. The people that make the biggest deal out of being a parent at my prior job were like this. There were definitely some quiet parents who didn’t act like this. You might not even realize they had kids at home because they just never said much. But the ones who went on and on about it were as Beancounter said — expecting special treatment.

          1. PlainJane*

            Yep. As in so many areas of life, the bad apples are more visible, while the people who don’t expect special treatment just hum along quietly and get their work done. FWIW, I’ve been a working parent for 18 years (yay! Son is officially an adult now!), and I have no patience with people who play the parent card to get out of doing the jobs they’re paid to do. I have no problem with reducing hours (assuming the employer is OK with it) and taking the resulting pay cut, but if you draw a full-time salary, you do a full-time job. Flexible hours have saved me many times, but that doesn’t mean doing less–it just means doing it at a different time sometimes.

    6. Kobayashi*

      That sounds not only unfair but potentially illegal (depending on where the business was/is located). Yikes. Ridiculous.

      1. Sunny Days*

        That’s what I was thinking too. Isn’t “family status” a protected class in some places?

    7. Daisy Steiner*

      Up to now, based purely on my own (childless) experiences, I’ve really never understood the resentment against ‘parent perks’. I’ve never really seen it happen or been affected by it and, honestly, on some level thought people were just being a bit mean and exaggerating.

      Now I understand. This is not right.

    8. paul*

      Holy crap, that is absurd. Is there any grounds for discrimination claims there? I thoguth “family status” was protected class….

    9. Lemon Zinger*

      That all sounds discriminatory against childless people, possibly legally in some cases.

  18. Temperance*

    I’m fortunate that in my current job, we all have the same flexibility. I’m not penalized for being childless, and I don’t have to deal with the outright discrimination of being told that my family isn’t as important because I didn’t give birth to its members. Here’s a tip: never, ever tell your childless or single staff that they don’t have a family.

    I’ve probably shared this before, but I have run into the parent favoritism issue at all of my prior jobs. I’m pretty outspoken, so I always advocated for myself, but the pushback from parent coworkers has always been intense when you do that. I’ll never forget the parents at the restaurant where I worked in college throwing a tantrum because we pushed for them to have the same holiday work requirement that we did.

    1. Cafe au Lait*

      I have dealt with the parent vs. childless worker divide and it was not easily resolved. While there were always subtle things, two examples stick out in my mind.

      1. A new training process was implemented for new hires. Only we were using the old training checklists while the new checklists were finalized. I forgot, and had a new hire start training the “old” way. (The information hadn’t changed, just the sequence in which we were training). My coworker freaked out, and chastised me by saying ““This reflects on me. I have a husband and kids to think about at home.”

      On a scale of 1-10, this goof was maybe a 4. I would not have been fired for this mistake, and it was pretty squarely on my shoulders.

      2. My coworkers and I had to pick one night a week to close. I said I could close any night except Thursday since that’s when my knitting group met. My coworker wanted to be excused from closing Wednesday AND Thursday. Wednesday for church, Thursdays to watch her daughter play basketball. As it happened, my other three coworkers couldn’t close on Thursdays. I’m hazy on the details, but I know my coworker complained in a meeting and my boss told her that everyone had to close one night.

      Later, my coworker told me that knit night wasn’t a good enough reason to not close on Thursdays; when I had kids I’d understand. I didn’t have the backbone then to shrug it off and say “Oh, well.” It wasn’t that I hated kids, or hated her kids. I switched shifts with her when she had a school or childcare conflict. I stayed late so she could take a very important form where I needed to go. She constantly misread the schedule, and when I could I would swap with her.

      No, how I spent my time out of work was automatically less important than her kids.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        when I had kids I’d understand

        Also obnoxious, because for some of us, there is no when.

  19. BeezLouise*

    This is really tricky for me, because I’m Jane (essentially). While I no longer work from home two days a week, I did for the first three months after I returned from maternity leave, and I know my (childless) coworkers hate that I leave at 5 on the dot every day.

    But to be honest, I was this person before I had a kid too. Meaning, I was never the person who was going to work late (especially since I’m not sure why you would in my job — we work nights and weekends occasionally as is, and we do a lot of travel, though I am, ahem, more efficient that some of my coworkers at getting things done) or come in early (and I do work through lunch almost every single day!). I’m just wondering if Jane was this person before she had a baby too — which I’m not criticizing her for (though the vacation the week of her project is odd). I just mean generally, maybe her job has always been structured with this flexibility and the OP came into the situation with this already existing, or possibly came in to help cover some of the holes created by this flexibility.

    Also, I don’t know how old Jane’s child is, but I have a child less than a year old and it would be extraordinarily difficult for me to travel overnight somewhere right now. Figuring out where to pump, and traveling with breastmilk, etc. are logistical nightmares in some of these scenarios, and that’s a situation my co-workers just don’t have to deal with. I go along to everything else, and I make arrangements at all these places, and of course this is my choice and I don’t complain about it. But since it sounds like both the OP and Jane were supposed to stay at this overnight event together all week, and now Jane has negotiated staying there just a few of the nights, it doesn’t sound like the OP’s job changed drastically, just that she is upset that Jane isn’t there also, which again, may be how things generally flowed before OP got there as well.

    1. Kate*

      Ugh, pumping was the absolute WORST part of travelling when my kid was < 1. My first trip she was still exclusively breastfeeding, so I brought her (and my mom – to watch her) with me (on my dime). Other trips – pumping in airports, on 8+hour flights, and in whatever space they could provide during meetings. Awful, awful, awful. I think you have to go through it to fully understand. (and I just dumped the milk – I couldn't figure out the logistics of keeping it cold on a 24hr itinerary from Africa to the US)

      1. BeezLouise*

        Ugh, I can’t even imagine. I do a lot of in-state day travel, and that’s hard enough. I’ve so far avoided travel where I have to fly somewhere (which my job theoretically includes now, but didn’t when I started or at the time I was pregnant with my child) but it’s such a struggle.

      2. KG, Ph.D.*

        And as a friend learned the hard way, the breastmilk exemption for liquids on planes only holds if you have the child with you. As she pointed out to TSA (to no avail — I’m aware that the screening folks don’t set policy), she wouldn’t be carrying an insulated bag full of milk if she had her son with her! *facepalm* I’d like to think there’s a good reason for that particular policy, but it just seems incredibly counter-intuitive.

        1. Kate*

          I have had a surprising number of TSA agents (and the equivalent in other countries) challenge me, asking “why do you need the pump if you don’t have your baby with you?”. In Canada especially this happened every time. I can understand the average Joe not knowing, but seriously TSA?!?

          1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            Wow. I don’t have kids and it seems obvious to me that you would need to pump when you DON’T have baby with you. *facepalm* Dammit TSA!

      3. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        This sounds immensely trying and difficult. I would hope there is some better way but I can’t think of any :/

    2. DCompliance*

      You make a good point, BeezLouise about being that person before you had the baby. Many people don’t even realize that.

      The issue I think people have is when you are stating you worked at home two days week after you had the baby. If you can do the job from home two days, the company should open that perk to all workers who had your same position. Now that is not fault of yours, but those are the types of things managers need to be on top of.

      1. BeezLouise*

        While I know this isn’t true everywhere — A LOT of people (regardless of child status) at my current job work some sort of flex schedule that includes the freedom to sometimes or routinely work from home. I started this job pregnant so it was definitely sold to me as a post-baby perk, but a lot of people in a wide variety of jobs have this available to them as well. But again, I know that isn’t true everywhere. In fact, I’m somewhat pissed because my supervisor billed it as “post-baby” and not a general perk, and put a time limit on it, and now I’m hesitant to work from home, even though others on my team occasionally do it, and many in our wider group do it more frequently.

        1. DCompliance*

          Oh I’d be pissed too. The who can “work from and for what reason” is in many offices is often unfair.

    3. New Bee*

      I’m also that person. I’m currently pregnant, but even before now I was the person pushing for more efficient ways of operating, like conference/video calls instead of in-person meetings. Our office has some wonky ideas about “fairness” that was resulting in things like people driving 2 hours each way for a 1-hour meeting, plus passive-aggressive callouts when people had last-minute conflicts. (When the meeting organizer asked for feedback, I said it might’ve been possible to join remotely when mildly ill had that been an option, but the prospect of 90+ minutes in rush hour traffic both ways made it easier to take a sick day/wfh on something else.)

      I’m pretty much an individual contributor so no one has to take over my work, but I have noticed more of my coworkers asking, “Does this require we come together in person?” and “What are the benefits/drawbacks of meeting in person vs. remote?” We’ve always had the flexibility when it comes to our individual work schedules, but folks are feeling less shy about taking advantage of it and feeling less like they need a “valid” reason.

  20. Kate*

    Agree with Alison’s response but I think her caveat is REALLY important. I am mid-level and lead several projects, each of which has a number of meetings and fieldwork, and I have a number of other responsibilities in addition to this. While I am happy to help out in a pinch, it is 100% not my job to be on-site making sure things run smoothly for events – that is the coordinators’ role, and it is not a good use of my time. I can’t do my job and be on-site for every event (and often it’s physically not possible, as there are meetings and fieldwork happening simultaneously in different countries). I do have a colleague at my level who insists on being on-site, but she is on fewer projects and tends to micro-manage (or so I hear).
    And I do have a kid, but that is not relevant to the above. I also try to be equally considerate of non-kid commitments – eg pets, housing issues, and other family/community commitments.

    1. Anon 2*

      I think this is very industry and organization dependent. Where I work project leads/managers are always onsite, and it would looked upon very poorly if they were not onsite. Because ultimately the they are responsible for the outcome of the program/project and there are some issues that occur onsite that cannot be anticipated and that need to be addressed by the person with the most knowledge of the project (at the macro and micro level).

      The LW finding out what the expectations are for them is a great starting point.

      1. Kate*

        Agree that it’s probably industry dependent. I am faculty in academia so a pretty technical role responsible for development and oversight of research projects (+teaching and advising). This is different than a project management role. We have project managers and coordinators who make the trains run on time.

        1. Anon 2*

          I work for a non-profit, and at our biggest key events of the year, even our CEO is expected onsite. To be fair, my employer isn’t unreasonable when it comes to time needed off. A co-worker didn’t staff an event because they had a parent die, another co-worker didn’t staff an event because they had surgery, another because she had just had a baby and was on maternity leave. Those things happen, and I am more than happy to fill in for those people when needed. But, when that happens it’s always a major life issue, not an ongoing life choice.

    2. Goats*

      I agree that the caveat is really important here. It sounds like this is likely just part of the OP’s role as the event coordinator.

      I don’t know what industry this is in, but from my work in non-profits and universities, the event coordinator is the person who is on site all the time. Echoing what someone else said above, the PM would be responsible for the vision and direction of the event, but Event Coordinators are the ones on site making sure the event goes smoothly.

      It sounds like the expectations are not clear here. If the OP does discuss this with the higher ups, I’d expect to hear that this is an expectation of their job.

  21. Pwyll*

    I used to work somewhere that had a very, very “butt in seat” culture. You were expected to be there from 9-6, and though you got an hour lunch, it was wink-wink expected you take it at your desk, in addition to long evening events. Then, the COO and the VP both had children (with their respective spouses). And suddenly, magically, “butt in seat culture” didn’t exist anymore . . . if you had children. Now everyone with children worked 9-3, with effectively unlimited vacation, and the rest of staff was expected to fill in and cover the holes. Before one of the highest performers quit, she had worked a double-week with travel covering for clients that aren’t hers, her pre-planned vacation had been cancelled to give flexibility to the VP to see his daughter’s play, and she was denied additional vacation time after the double week. She explained that she felt she would never be given any type of flexibility at the company unless she had children, which wasn’t what she signed up for. The CEO spent the next week “consoling” her by explaining that, of course she will have children one day, not to worry. And when she meets the right person, and they have that beautiful baby, she will be thankful for the flexibility they offer parents.

    So she quit.

      1. Anonymouish*

        As someone with a child who will always be more important than work…

        …yeah. F that very hard indeed. The idea that children are what everyone wants and are the ultimate achievement is so completely bullsh-t, and still shovelled with astounding regularity.

        1. LQ*

          I am incredibly grateful that I get it a lot less at this point. I went through a period in my early 30s where it was the first thing on everyones mind, I think I got rid of a lot of those people, and dumping someone for it made an impression on my family, especially since I’m still single after. But at work? People bringing that noise out at work? ARG! I guess I have moved into a bubble when I can pretend it doesn’t exist. WHOMP bubble popped. :(

          (And for the record? I can be thankful for the flexibility offered to parents, but that doesn’t mean you have to treat other employees poorly. I have a coworker who was having some childcare issues at the start of summer, my boss quietly (we aren’t supposed to have flexibility at my current job) let her shift her hours a little bit. It was really refreshing to see that! It is a good sign around here that there might be some easing of things. And this fall I’ve got something my boss has agreed to let me flex a little as well. It can be good and beneficial for all.)

        2. SevenSixOne*

          “The idea that children are what everyone wants and are the ultimate achievement is so completely bullsh-t, and still shovelled with astounding regularity.”

          Ugh, and I can’t even imagine how awful it must be for anyone who desperately wants children and can’t have them!

          1. Hrovitnir*

            Right? I don’t want children and never has so I hate this line of thinking with the fire of a thousand suns, but it’s a whole new level of awful directed at people who are struggling with fertility/cannot have children they very much want. People shouldn’t have to tell you their painful personal experiences for you not to be an arsehole!

            1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

              “So, when are you going to have children?”
              “When I can stop miscarrying them.”

              Knocks ’em back a bit…

    1. LibraryChick*

      Yes. Ugh. I have experienced this type of workplace discrimination more than once. Basically, the employer wants to be family friendly without having to experience any additional expense to them. The first time it happened, I put up with it for almost a year before I tried the tactic being recommended by AAM, but I immediately received push back – I was accused of not being a team player, and both coworkers and management became hostile towards me. The last straw for me was being put in the same situation as the OP – having to take over at an event which I had not been in charge of planning. Things went wrong, and I was formally reprimanded for the problems which never would have happened if I had been in charge of it from the beginning! After that incident I landed another job and left that place.

      1. OhNo*

        Unfortunately, this conversation seems to happen with astounding regularity. I think every young woman I know has at least one story about being on the receiving end of a conversation like this. It’s amazing that people still think this is actually okay to say!

      2. neverjaunty*

        You’re kidding, right? In this century, young women still get asked about their family plans or put on the ‘mommy track’ without any inquiry as to whether they in fact need to be. That management makes a company “family friendly” exactly to the extent it’s convenient for their own lives surprises me not at all.

        1. Lemon Zinger*


          The idea that a woman may NOT want to have children is still scandalous. Enough so that many of us have to keep silent on the subject or pretend to want/like children to avoid looking bad.

        2. (Another) B*

          I’m 31, been married a year, and I’m HOUNDED by people asking when I’m going to have kids. It’s on the plan, but I kind of feel like saying “never” just to screw them.

      3. Kelly*

        That happened to me in the last job I worked in retail, at a department store. I was annoyed and frustrated about being scheduled to work a double shift on Thanksgiving evening to Black Friday. I was technically only part time but getting scheduled nearly 40 hours a week with one person out on medical leave and being down a couple people. I asked the scheduling person/HR manager if someone else could be scheduled for one of the shifts and her excuse was they all have kids. My jaw dropped. I wanted to spend Thanksgiving day with my parents. I also wasn’t going to be able to see my sister because she was in grad school in Chicago at the time. My response is why am I expected to give up time with my family whom I don’t see daily so they can get some Kodak moments with their kids and spouses they see daily. Wrong response because I paid for it by having her escalate a BS customer complaint from a verbal to a written one a couple months later and not make a big deal when I had the best individual sales in the store and made the top salesperson list chainwide for the year. I got back at her by quitting for my current job and encouraging all but one of the other part time people to give their notice at the same time.

  22. I'm Not Phyllis*

    Oh man, I have faced this issue so many times. I may have no children of my own, but I have family responsibilities including care for my autistic sibling who may never be able to live independently (since my mom passed away 5 years ago). People who assume I don’t have any responsibility because I don’t have kids have no idea of what goes into getting her the support she needs. But it’s not their fault that they don’t know – it’s just not something I share with my coworkers. I think that in general assuming that everyone you meet is fighting their own battle is generally a good way to go.

    OP Alison’s advice is great. Focus on how this is impacting you and your schedule.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Indeed. It’s not like you’re sauntering into the office talking about how cool it was that you left work early to hit Happy Hour. Your co-workers should very much be butting out.

  23. Anonymouish*

    So, I’ve been on both sides of the coin here and feel like there’s a point that hasn’t been brought up (and that, to be honest, I didn’t understand before): When forced to make a choice between work and childcare, parents MUST choose childcare. There’s no option to have the kid wait a couple of hours to go for a walk (as per a dog) or to skip dropping them at daycare or whatever. Parents know this and employers know this. If they didn’t afford parents flexibility, there would be a whole lot of failed ultimatums, of the ‘come in or lose your job’ variety, happening regularly (and I do know that those ultimatums sometimes ARE issued and followed-through, too).

    By contrast, people who need to spend time with aging parents/pets/drive a friend to the doctor often present it as ‘may I do x on Thursday?’ or “I actually need to wiggle out of working the event because of xyz…” with a lot more apology and acknowledgement that it’s not ideal, whereas parents present their time constraints as a matter of fact, because they are. I think approaching conversations with your management to the tune of “I have a nonnegotiable obligation”, even if that obligation is to your couch, will give you an approach that is slightly more comparable. Note that I don’t say ‘equal’, because I’m not naïve–but then again, the way parents, by which of course I mean mothers, are perceived in the workplace regardless of output isn’t exactly equal either.

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I’m not sure I agree with where you’re going in your first paragraph. There are many cases where waiting a few hours wouldn’t be a viable option in caring for a relative, or a sick pet, etc. But I do agree with you that parents will often say “this is what I need” and others who may word it as “is it ok if I do this?”

      But I think where OP is going with this (correct me if I’m wrong) is that there’s a difference between a new mother being allowed to amend her schedule to accommodate her new life, and other employees being expected to amend their schedules to accommodate the new parent’s new life. It’s great that a company can be flexible enough to accommodate the new parent’s schedule, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of their other (parent or non-parent) employees.

      1. Anonymouish*

        You’re right that I was being kind of purposely clumsy with the examples above, but my point is that managers may feel entitled to say “Can’t your dogwalker get the dog”, but nobody says “can’t someone else stay with the child”, because it’s understood that if there were someone else…that option would be in place.

        I take your point that accommodating any given employee shouldn’t come at the expense of the others, but I am a little uneasy with the comments that ‘a new mother’ is taking advantage or otherwise abusing flexibility. If flexibility is required, requested, and granted, is Jane not supposed to take it or somehow intuit that her management team hasn’t thought it through?

        Don’t get me wrong, I fully agree that, as per Alison’s response, a workplace should afford flexibility to Fergus AND to Jane. But there seems to be a tendency to vilify parents who, when given the opportunity to use some flexibility, actually take it.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I agree with your last sentence, but trying to rank parents, as you did with the rest of your comment, does nothing to detract from that problem.

    2. Mae*

      I just don’t understand the comparisons in the first place. That’s the root of all this madness. Sense of entitlement is dangerous for everyone involved. Flexibility, at the expense of others, is no longer flexibility.

      1. Hrovitnir*

        “Flexibility, at the expense of others, is no longer flexibility.” Nice.

        Some people are going to need more accommodation than others, that’s life. But if you not only are flexible with one group but actively resistant to flexibility with another, or straight up will not provide enough staff to cover your needs, that is no longer flexibility.

        1. PlainJane*

          Love your last paragraph. Flexibility should be available equally to all employees who meet performance standards, regardless of why they want it. Some jobs can accommodate more flexibility than others, but it should never be doled out based on some ranking of status. I’d also add that “flexibility” is not the same as, “not doing your job.” Flexibility may mean that as a parent, I leave early to pick up my kid or work at home because my kid is sick–but I’m still doing the work, either from home that day or the next day–or better yet, staying on top of my work so that I can be out unexpectedly for a few hours without it impacting other people. “Never leave anything till the last minute,” became my mantra when I had my son.

  24. DCompliance*

    In response to these comments:
    “However, somehow Jane and the director of our team decided that she will only stay over for one or two of the days (and arrive every morning), and I will have to be there on-site the entire time, 24/7.”
    “I’ve tried pushing back and saying that maybe we can switch off a few days, but the director keeps insisting someone should be on site for “emergencies.”

    You need to ask, point blank, “why was I selected to stay 24/7 over Jane?” If you get a response, “well we need someone staying there 24/7”, you need to respond with, “I agree, but I am asking why I was selected over Jane”.

    1. Anonymouish*

      But we know why OP was selected over Jane. Jane has obligations. Whether you agree with their relevance or not isn’t the point. It’s now on OP to say “In fact it’s not feasible for me to stay 24/7, so can you/Fergus/someone else help out? If not, let’s talk about what other arrangements we should make.”

      1. DCompliance*

        By dodging the question, it’s appears the director knows their is some unfairness and is successfully avoiding it. It helps your argument to get the other side to person to admit to the unfairness.

        I would do my best to make the Director answer the question and then jump into my conflicts.

        But that’s just my style.

      2. Mike C.*

        Open acknowledgement of the issue by all parties is an important part of solving these issues.

    2. OP*

      I didn’t go so far as to ask point blank why I was selected–as I think I already knew the answer. However, I did ask if we could go back to the original plan that was suggested which was to have people alternate nights…the top supervisor ignored that. I did push back, and ended up getting the PM and the associate to volunteer to stay a few of the nights, our director said well ok, thank you both for volunteering to “cover” for OP–snotty tone and all.

      If it was expected of me to stay the entire time, I would have preferred that be said upfront, rather than having weeks of discussion saying that we would alternate, nobody needed to be there all nights, etc etc, then go to well, OP needs to be there every night. Since it’s coming from the top down, I’m not hopeful that I can change it, but I do push back where I can!

      1. Anon 2*

        Can you ask your boss for clarification about your onsite responsibilities? If you are going to be expected to be on call 24/7 for all events, I think that is information you need to know so that you can determine if you need to look for another opportunity or determine if you can negotiate something to compensate for the lack of flexibility.

      2. DCompliance*

        He’s avoiding the questions, he is being snotty, this is clearly not a situation where he is oblivious. So I still believe you should push, in these situations, to find out why he selected you. And because you are new, you can play this up as wanting to hear feedback. “I am very interested in getting feedback. Can you tell me why I was selected over Jane?” I still think there is some power in getting them to say it.

        1. CMT*

          I don’t think that would go over well. OP is brand new and asking why she has to do what she’s been assigned to do isn’t going to sound good.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, that’s going to come off as strangely adversarial. It would be better to have the direct conversation I described in my response to the post.

      3. Master Bean Counter*

        And now you know why the job was open in the first place.
        I see two ways to go here:
        1. Decide you aren’t in this for the long haul. Get a plan together and start looking for work.
        2. Document every single time you have to go above and beyond. Keep track how many times your schedule gets changed at the last minute. But in doing this be gracious and professional about it all. When the time comes up, show how much extra you are doing and make your argument for either another body in the job or more money.

  25. meg*

    This seems to happen all the time in my field, as well. I finally stood up for myself last week when I was asked (or told, is more like it) by a co-worker to stay late because he had not completed a task within a set timeline and he needed my assistance. Although I am not married and do not have children, I said “Sorry, I’m not able to.” He continued to push, and I pushed back and finished the conversation with “I’m not able to stay late tonight. I have responsibilities that I need to see through and I cannot drop those responsibilities.” Those responsibilities? They were me. I had a responsibility to myself to go home, make a nutritious dinner rather than picking up fast food because I worked late, and going for a walk before dark for a better me.

  26. InadvertantlyScrewedByParents*

    Ugh, I am the letter-writer x5.

    I’ve worked at small and medium-sized non-profits my whole life, and I’m now 35. The “don’t worry, you’ll want this level of flexibility when you have kids!” argument is so exhausted at this point. And also, the “hmm, I care that you’re super-overworked, but I PAID MY DUES, and my child is the most important thing in the world now.” argument is also seriously lacking.

    I’ve had to cover a truly momentous amount of maternity leave in my career. I’ve started to wonder if I’m some sort of fertility charm for other people. I believe and advocate for paid, generous maternity leave. Lots of organizations are on board with that, which is awesome! However, literally all of the ones I know of are making it work on the backs of the other staff people, not bringing in more help or letting some goals go unmet.

    To be honest, I’m really resentful of working with parents now. The expectation that when something comes up, everyone just sits silently staring at the childless person until they can take it on is just infuriating. I also get totally sick of the “well, I’m SO BUSY with my life outside work, I can’t possibly take on as much as you are forced to!”

    The problem about asking for more support or money is that quite often, the people with kids are your bosses, so they don’t want to jeopardize their own flexibility by offering more to the person who gets screwed. It’s like the one spot where good managers just…stop willing to move.

    I know parents don’t want me to get screwed, but I’ve been screwed quite significantly since I was about 21 by this. So it’s been almost 15 years, with no end in sight. The place I interviewed at last week had a pregnant manager…

    1. InadvertantlyScrewedByParents*

      Just to give an idea of how it’s been, I worked with a team of four (sometimes five) at my last organization. During the three years I was there, two of the women had kids. Two already had kids. Guess who worked 12 and 16 hour days? It wasn’t the parents. My entire life got put on hold. It was impossible to date, ridiculous to try to see my family around the holidays (parents came first, of course). Management kept telling me it wouldn’t last forever, that once I had my own kids (sadly, no one had considered the fact that having kids isn’t on the table for me), and that “what goes around, comes around.”

      Well, it’s never come around to me.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      The problem about asking for more support or money is that quite often, the people with kids are your bosses, so they don’t want to jeopardize their own flexibility by offering more to the person who gets screwed.

      Well, the real answer is that you have to hire someone to cover. I’ve mainly worked in schools. In schools, if a teacher goes on maternity leave, they don’t say “Hey, childfree teachers in the department, can you just take on more classes this trimester?” They hire a maternity leave coverage teacher.

      The answer to significant absence isn’t more internal coverage—it’s external coverage.

      If an employer offers “flexibility” that means the person is essentially doing significantly less work, the employer should then have to create a contract or permanent position that fills the gaps. Or pay overtime to the people who cover.

  27. Recruit-o-Rama*

    This topic always makes me so sad. Women will never break the glass ceiling because when people say “parents” in regards to this topic, it mostly means “mothers”. It should NOT be a choice between having children or having a career, but it really is. I am 100% satisfied with where I am in my career, but I know I would be MUCH further along if I had not had children.

    I know plenty of fathers who are equally involved in parenting, but it’s not the norm. It’s usually the mother who has to leave if the kid is sick. I know there are a lot of women who do not have or want children and I respect (and sometimes envy!) that as a legitimate feeling and life choice. But, most women do eventually want children, it’s a biological imperative. It’s not really a “choice” in the way we think of life choices.

    This topic always makes me so thankful for my individual circumstance (successful career, two fantastic kiddos, fabulous work/life balance and amazing co-workers) but it DOES make me sad for my daughter because she will still be fighting this fight when she grows up and has to make the “choice” between career and having children.

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      I agree this is still how people see working mothers. As for choosing between career and children, I wish I could choose neither!

    2. Anon for This*

      It still sucks that childless coworkers are penalized with extra work and less desirable shifts as punishment for not having children. I’m also not sure I think that the “biological imperative” argument holds water.

      Flexible workplaces should be good for all workers, not just parents.

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        It’s curious that the only people who think it’s a biological imperative are those who have biological children.

      2. Recruit-o-Rama*

        There are a lot of things in life that are not fair. My mom taught me that. She also taught me that I should have compassion for people who have problems I don’t have.

        Reproduction IS a biological imperative, whether you feel it personally or not.

        1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

          I think we had the same mother. My mother’s response to all unfairness was “Well, life is unfair.” Too bad for her, and you, I don’t think that way anymore.

          Also, yes, having children is an IMPERATIVE — meaning mandatory. Not allowed to opt out.

          1. Recruit-o-rama*

            I didn’t make it up, reproduction is a biological imperative for humans (and all living things) as a scientific fact. Because not 100% of the population manifests it in having children does not negate that fact.

            Compassion for people who have problems you don’t have is something everyone should have, parent or not.

        2. Honeybee*

          There are a lot of things in life that are not fair. My mom taught me that. She also taught me that I should have compassion for people who have problems I don’t have.

          Of course, but that compassion cuts both ways. It counts for the coworker with a dying father or disabled sibling they have to care for or a sick spouse or a distant grandmother or an old pet. Or who just wants to take a week off to recharge after working really hard covering for other coworkers.

          Also, biological imperative and choice are not mutually exclusive. You can feel biologically impelled to have children, but you still make the conscious choice to have them (and decide on the number). There are few things in humans’ lives that are solely determined by our genetic/biological structure; pretty much everything we do is shaped by both biology and by social influences.

          1. Recruit-o-Rama*

            Being a woman in the professional world is a disadvantage, being a mother doubles down on that. Being a pet owner is not a disadvantage. People with a temporarily sick relative are not disproportionately left behind the way women, particularly mothers, are. I get what you’re saying and work places should offer flexible time to humans with human problems, but being a mother should not hold women back the way it does, institutionally.

            1. DCompliance*

              I think your concerns go back to something addressed in Alison’s response. It is great that the company offer this flexibility, but they should be bearing the cost, not making one employee bear the cost.

  28. MissDisplaced*

    This already generated a lot of comments, but, just GRRRR!
    This has happened to me at two workplaces, including even my being forced to stay on night shift because the mums with kids just couldn’t be asked to do THAT!
    Usually it ends with leaving.

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      At my mother’s last job, she was regularly pulling 18 hour shifts “because your children are grown, so you don’t have to go home”. It ended with her leaving.

  29. Comp Time Queen*

    I’m late to this party and I usually don’t comment, but I couldn’t let this one go. I think culture is really important in this equation as well. I have worked in my position for ten years. Due to the field, we have slow periods followed by extreme emergency situations because of natural disasters. The way our office is structured, those of us that have been here longer and know the ropes switch off being in the office during a state of emergency. “Newbies” are expected to be here for the duration if they are able to safely travel between their home and the office. So there’s essentially one person that knows what needs to be done and runs point and three people to carry out those projects and duties. That may seem unfair to someone just starting out, but unless you want to hear me wax nostalgic about the three weeks I slept on a cot in the office after Hurricane Katrina, maybe don’t challenge me about how I’m not pulling my weight. I have 600 hours of compensatory time and a large bank of goodwill. If someone this new to the organization tried to accuse me of shirking my duty or “manipulating” my boss, I would come unglued.

    1. Temperance*

      I think that’s different, though. This woman’s job is running and planning events, and she’s not working any of the events.

    2. paul*

      …have I worked with you? Katrina was before my time, thank god, but I’ve done Ike and Gustave. Ugh.

      But that doesn’t seem to be the case here?

  30. stevenz*

    I’m generally OK with a lot of flexibility when it comes to parenting, even though I don’t have children, and have never been able to call in because little Scooter has a fever. Still, I understand that there could be resentment about what seems to be an unfair distribution of benefits.

    Looking at the larger picture, I believe the US labor market culture in general needs to finally adapt to the fact that women have babies and that’s a good thing for everybody, and not penalize them for doing so. One part of the LW’s problem with Jane is that the US has a very stingy approach to maternal leave benefits. If they get with the rest of the world it would be *much* easier to replace a new parent with a contractor – or whatever – so they aren’t left under-resourced.

    Now, when it comes to unfair benefits, can we talk about smokers’ breaks…? Kinda the opposite of incentivizing new life…

    1. Temperance*

      Except, the issue is that Jane is back at work and not doing her fair share of the grunt work. There’s no need to hire a contractor – Jane is in a job that requires her to handle nights and weekends, by choice, and she shouldn’t get to shirk that responsibility and dump it on the childless coworker.

  31. stevenz*

    Another thing. Perhaps I missed something, but if this particular even is local, why does anyone have to be on site? You’re a phone call away.

    1. Grapey*

      I’ve never worked in an event planning company, but my company has worked with plenty, and that’s not something you just leave in a customer’s hands. Like for those that hire a wedding planner – the planner should absolutely be there the day of the wedding, not just be a ‘phone call away’.

  32. designbot*

    I wanted to chime in that I’ve actually had success at a previous workplace combating a situation like this. I know this tone wouldn’t go over with every boss, but I had one who didn’t have a lot of boundaries, and was able to put it to him like, “hey, I understand that you want to give Jane and Charles flexibility to handle family events, but I’m at the point where I’m not even being allowed to try to create a family to have events with. I’ve cancelled three dates this month, and I’m never going to get a relationship off the ground much less get to the point where I’m having kids if I have to keep working like this. ” And it actually worked, my boss really seemed to consider it. After that my equivalent to “have to pick up the kids” became, “I have a hot date tonight.”

  33. Allie*

    I don’t have kids. Currently two co-workers in my office are expecting babies, and I know that at some point there’s going to be an email asking someone to volunteer to take over some of their work while they’re on maternity leave.

    Here’s why I have no problem with this:
    1 – We are specifically rewarded, both through how much work we do, and through getting rewarded for “contributions to the office” for doing this kind of work, specifically, in the form of financial bonuses.
    2 – My manager is very flexible about this kind of helping out. I recently took on work from a colleague because one of her assignments ended up getting much, much more complicated and she needed to focus on it. I’ve also taken over work for someone who had surgery and similar.

    I don’t like the work mentality that treats families and kids as some kind of luxury that people are selfish for having. This falls into the mentality that work is everything and lives outside of work are somehow secondary to all else. This is a good way to burn good workers out. My office is the kind of place people work for their entire careers and never leave, despite being headhunted for more money, and being flexible about anything from maternity leave to vacations to sick pets is why.

    Treat your employees like human beings, and you won’t have to deal with the expensive process of replacing everyone.

  34. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

    So to the parents on here, how do you handle a situation when your coworkers make fun of you for not having kids and then tell you to go “partying” and go out drinking. I respond that I don’t party or drink, and I never have. Then they make fun of me for not drinking like they do. ?! Not sure how to handle this. Most of the coworkers who do this have children, a few don’t but they say they are going to have children soon, and they keep making fun of me for not “partying it up before your life ends.” (It’s sad that they see having children as the ending of life, but that is a different problem…)

    1. Honeybee*

      I don’t have children, but I don’t think this is a parents vs. non-parents thing. If your coworkers are making fun of you for your interests, this is a jerks vs. non-jerks thing.

      1. Rana*

        Agreed. I didn’t like partying or drinking before I had my child, and I don’t enjoy it now. Your co-workers are asses.

    2. Daisy Steiner*

      Yeah, becoming a parent doesn’t suddenly give you insight as to why some people are idiots.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      Everyone at my workplace is very kind, but I’ve noticed that too – the people who are most often pushing for us all to go out to the bars and stuff usually have kids! I find it pretty odd, hahaha.

      One thing you could do is just laugh it off when they make a “partying” comment? There’s a decent chance it’s a joke, because that’s a common stereotype – younger people, unmarried people, and people without kids can go crazy partying while the parents are stuck at home.

      Like, I don’t really drink, so when people make a “Eddie is going to tear up the town” comment, I kind of laugh, roll my eyes, and say “oh yeah, you know me!”

      And that’s the end of the conversation :)

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      I hate it when people do that, and I’ve been unable to avoid it in any of my workplaces. I drink socially, but it’s not something I want to discuss at work, and I certainly don’t want to do it with coworkers.

  35. Anon Guy*

    When I was in a similar situation as the single guy in an office where everyone else was married with kids, I dealt with it by saying “I can’t stay late Thursday because of my son’s soccer game”. I never told them that my “son” was a dog.

  36. SuperMomandEmployee*

    I’m a parent and a woman and reading through these comments has been infuriating. It is already difficult being a woman in the workplace. Being a mother is even harder. We go through so much crap to prove ourselves, and having a child undoubtedly limits our careers in ways a childless coworker doesn’t have to consider. The US has abysmal maternity leave laws that punishes women for having a child, while men can have multiple children with no interruption or lag in their careers.

    I think OP is making a lot of assumptions here…clearly Jane is in a more senior position than her, I think I read she is a Project Manager versus OP being an events coordinator? Isn’t that the natural order of things in most places, that a senior person delegates work to the less senior person? Someone commented that it’s frustrating that OP is getting all the grunt work while Jane is being afforded all this flexibility…um, well yeah! That’s what happens in every workplace – you’re lower on the totem pole, you typically get the most grunt work…the worst shifts…the more menial tasks.

    I read it as OP is bitter and jealous of Jane’s work situation.

    How does OP know if Jane has always been afforded this type of flexibility and autonomy over her schedule BEFORE having a child? There is no mention of the quality of Jane’s work…is she a superstar? She very well could be. Maybe she has put in the years of work and dedication and goodwill from her superiors in that they feel she very well is entitled to flexibility in such a crucial time in her and her child’s life.

    1. Hannah*

      I think you misread this, majorly. It really doesn’t matter how good you are at your job or your seniority, you don’t get to give 70% of your work to a co-worker. Nor is doing that ‘delegation’. Flexibility is one thing. Accommodation is another. Management expecting OP to take on a huge chunk of Jane’s work because Jane has had a baby is another and it’s unacceptable. It is hard to be a mother in the workforce and women should get more support. But it’s not ‘bitter’ or ‘jealous’ to not want your workload doubled due to someone else’s life choices.

      1. Hannah*

        I apologise for calling a baby a ‘life choice’. I agree mothers are treated appallingly in the world of work. But it is not the fault of childfree women that the workplace is archaic and patriarchal. We are not bitter and jealous and we are not sat there thinking that moms are out drinking mimosas and getting manicures. We also should not have to cover your work to this extent – the company should hire proper cover.

    2. Hannah*

      Also I must have totally misread what it was to be senior – I thought that meant you had to work twice as hard and set a good example. Not get all the perks and slack off.

  37. Alplily*

    I am single, no kids, mid-career. I am the only manager at my workplace who does not have kids. I am here nearly an hour before everyone else. One woman takes 1.5 hours for lunch so she can go home and make lunch for her kid. Everyone with kids leaves at 3pm… I have to stay until 5pm. I can’t take a 4pm yoga class once a week, because someone has to be here until 5pm. If I have to take my horse to the vet, it comes out of my personal time, but the same does not apply to taking kids to the doctor. The folks with kids come and go as they please or need to. They work from home and no one questions their flexible hours. I work, on average, 10-15 hours more than each of these people at the office each week. My new boss, who makes three times more than I, works fewer hours. The others make more, too, for similar responsibilities, but they “have families to support”. I am honestly all for helping folks out. I am happy to pay taxes to support education for other people’s kids. I donate to the local school lunch program so kids who can’t pay will have food and will not be singled out. I vote in support of maternity and paternity leave, etc. But there is a difference between helping out and being taken advantage of. Especially when my participation is expected. And not one person has so much as noticed, let alone said thank you. And I am tired of the “I am doing something noble by bringing a new life into the world” attitude I see in some who expect everyone to bend over backwards because they made that choice. I am just… tired to the point of verging on burnout. I chose not to have kids, and yet, by default I end up taking care of them anyway. There needs to be some equity and fairness. I am researching how other business entities deal with this.

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