updates: the group project, the kid-obsessed coworkers, and more

Here are updates from four people whose letters were answered here in the past.

1. My partner on a group project is holding everything up

I had done some of what you advised previously and towards the end told her I would be finishing up my part of the assignment. As expected (by me anyway) our presentation was a little disjointed (though understandable, so no harm). During my little presentation, my partner did interrupt me twice to add clarification. Normally I wouldn’t mind except a) we never practiced because she was always unavailable and b) to be quite honest the room was full of colleagues and clarification wasn’t necessary. I’ve since chalked up this manager to be high strung and try to avoid working with her too much.

2. Horrible old boss is messaging me incessantly on LinkedIn (#3 at the link)

A lot of people in the comments didn’t understand why I had added Fergus to begin with since he was so awful and honestly, I don’t use LinkedIn that much so I didn’t give it much thought. I really thought he was just using me to superficially get his numbers up since he seems like that kind of guy. I 100% did not think he would reach out to me since we clearly weren’t fond of each other. Right after Alison published my letter he messaged me again. It was a very bizarre message with him getting quite snippy about why I wasn’t jumping at the chance to network with him. I promptly followed the advice of everyone here and blocked him. Hindsight is 20/20.

3. Can I negotiate credit for future publications as part of a job offer?

I wanted to provide an update on this (as a frequent reader on your site, I have to say, I love updates). I was offered the job but, following your advice, did not mention the authorship issue. I’m glad I didn’t, because I felt nervous enough about requesting a higher salary and/or certain benefits that I considered reasonable. They did not budge on salary or benefits and, as a result, I declined their offer. (I’m still wondering if I made the right decision, but that’s another question.) Coincidentally, I’ve now been offered a short-term contract at an organization much more similar to my former employer and one of the (payment-tied) deliverables is a draft of a peer-reviewed article. Although I’m glad I didn’t bring up the authorship issue in my former negotiations, in this case I think maybe I should.

4. My coworkers are obsessed with talking about their kids (#2 at the link)

I have an update to this that is unfortunately tragic. At the time of writing, a colleague was heavily pregnant and her baby died shortly after birth. The colleague who had been very aggressive with me about my desire to remain childfree understandably suddenly stopped — but not before comparing the death of the child to the very recent death of my father (“it’s not the same,” “you will never understand”). When I spoke to our line manager about this, she said that others in the office had agreed there is way too much baby talk and they got caught up in it but wanted to change this before our colleague returns.

A couple of weeks later, however, I came into the office to find a picture of a former colleague and her newborn son had been stuck to the wall in the office. I found this to be incredibly odd and insensitive given what had happened but didn’t raise it. I guess I figured since they are all mental health clinicians they know what they’re doing. After this, the baby talk has been minimal but there is now a sort of shrine in the office of pictures of everyone’s kids behind my desk. Personally I think this is kinda of nuts but like I say, they work in mental health so there must be some reason for it. Our bereaved colleague is returning to work in a couple of months.

Thanks for posting the question and to all the commenters!

{ 133 comments… read them below }

  1. eplawyer*

    Good heavens, get those baby pictures off the wall. They might be mental health professionals, but that seems nuts to me. At least ASK if there is a reason for it. If not, other than we think the grieving mother might appreciate it, get them off the wall, She might, she might not. But unless you are very sure she will appreciate it and no one is projecting what they would want, then it should come down.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Oh, yes. This seems like it could be them projecting what they (think they) would want, but there’s no way to be sure unless you ask. Maybe the bereaved colleague does prefer this, who knows, although that picture seems very weird considering she’s not in the office yet.

      1. Sylvan*

        And the baby shrine includes a picture of a former colleague. Someone who doesn’t even work there anymore! “Look, this person you used to know had a baby. We all have babies. Babies are great. Iä! Iä! Babies fhtagn!” …Not a normal response to a death in a coworker’s family.

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*

            For some reason I now have the mental image of one of Bloodborne’s endings in which the Doll is holding an infant Great One like a baby and asking if it’s cold.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Shout-out for the unexpected Lovecraft reference.

          And from experience – just because they’re mental health professionals doesn’t mean they know how to deal with other people. Seriously.

    2. Sylvan*

      The baby shrine is creeping me out and I haven’t even seen it.

      I am not a parent so I can’t speak on that kind of grief, but I don’t see how it would help the grieving mother. It sounds like it would be a painful surprise to her.

      1. Say what, now?*

        I am a parent and I would be 9-alarms pissed if this was my co-worker’s welcome back to me. Throwing their very much alive babies in my face would have me in tears and any progress I would have made in the wake of this tragedy would be swiftly undone. Please, don’t sit back and let this happen.

        1. K.*

          I’m not a parent but I was thinking the same thing – it would feel like a slap in the face to me. It made me do a double-take.

          I had a coworker who found out late in her pregnancy that her baby would not survive. She opted to carry to term and took time off afterward. There were three other pregnant women who delivered during her leave (the team was made up primarily of women in their 20s and 30s, with a few men of varying ages sprinkled in – there were also two weddings when I worked there), and I don’t think it occurred to any of us to put up a shrine to those kids. We mostly took our cue from her when she got back – we asked her how she was doing, and the people with kids waited for her to ask about them and took the hint when she did it. A lot of us sent her messages of condolences when she went out on leave. It feels horrible to me that these coworkers would do this. I’m sure it’s not malicious, but it’s REALLY obtuse.

        2. Artemesia*

          Me too. The heart ache of losing a baby is bad enough without people at the office figuratively dancing around going ‘nyah nyah, na nyah nyah — We have a baby and you don’t.’ Is there any other way to read this wall? And the woman who posted this stuff and keeps pushing baby at work — officially now a monster.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Holy feces yes get those down STAT! It is the mother’s child and the mother’s loss. It should be her choice to post a picture (or not)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I know someone who lost a baby right after birth–her second child–and she had to make a mental effort to recast all the Mother-Child images (it was Xmas, so… a lot of them) as representing her still living child, so it was a little less of a gut punch. It’s hard enough if you have a still-living child to do that with, and if you don’t…

        I am usually a proponent of it being fine to celebrate people’s milestones without having to take the emotional temperature of every passerby, but this… come on. If I were the new mom I would totally grasp not having a public Baby Celebration Wall and passing around the photos amongst my closer work friends, in a more private way.

    4. Oilpress*

      I agree. There should be no communal photo wall. If people want their own photos at work then they should stick to their own allocated space. Communal spaces should be for work-related stuff. And the photo of an ex-coworker does not need to be posted. Use Facebook (or countless other social media options) if you need that sort of thing in your life.

    5. Anon anon anon*

      It’s concerning that these people are mental health professionals. What they’re doing doesn’t sound healthy at all.

      Moving on to solutions, it sounds like some kind of sensitivity training could help. It doesn’t sound like OP is in a role where she could formally suggest that, but what about leaving some reading materials somewhere in the office? Or just having a conversation with whomever is the most approachable? Maybe these are people who take certain things for granted because they live in a proverbial bubble. Maybe they just need to expand their horizons a bit and see that life is different for different people.

    6. SallytooShort*

      Since the manager was aware enough to ask for significantly reduced baby talk before the colleague returns I’m hoping she’ll take down the wall before she returns, as well. She may just be choosing to leave it up for the next couple of months.

    7. Pine cones huddle*

      I really truly do feel like it would be a good thing for LW to just say “hey guys, so and so will be back in a couple of weeks after a rough time in her life. Do you think that maybe finding all these new baby pictures will be a little hard for her?”

      I had a similar situation at work. Someone had delivered a baby at like 24 weeks and she only lived a few days. Everyone knew she was pregnant (she’d even started to show), and it was very sensitive. We wanted to acknowledge her loss, but also not hurt her when she returned to work. We chose to send her a card and notes from everyone with flowers and some gift certificates for self care. Upon her return, we had kind of discussed that we would keep it simple with greetings like “so glad you’re back let me know if you need anything” instead of everyone feeling like they needed to ask her how she was or express their condolences.

  2. Jenn*

    Re: #4 – I’ve lost a baby 4 days after her birth so I can speak a little just to the picture of the newborn. Every bereaved parent is different, but many of us do appreciate having our parenthood and our children acknowledged. One of the things about losing my baby that I found difficult was that I felt like I was a “parent without portfolio,” and that our culture buries a lot about perinatal loss/miscarriage/stillbirth/infant loss. There is nothing “creepy” (not that you said this) about my daughter or her birth or her death, and when people have included her in family photo montages or family trees I’ve been glad.

    I still struggle a very tiny bit years later when people ask me how many kids I have. I generally don’t want to get into a death conversation, and so I usually say 2 (surviving) but it still pricks that sense of a life unacknowledged that’s part of my own grief. But I think it’s very kind of your office mates to be acknowledging your colleague’s loss, assuming that she is ok with it.

    If you meant having a wall of kids behind you is weird in general, not that picture in specific, then yeah it sort of is. But I’m glad the chatter has settled down.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      The problem is that the wall isn’t acknowledging the child of their coworker who is on bereavement leave. It started with a photo of a *former* coworker and her kid, and turned into a collage of their own kid pics. Their coworker whose baby passed away is going to come back to a new wall full of baby photos.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It would apply in a much more healthy work environment, certainly.

      1. Pine cones huddle*

        Yeah, pre-existing photos would be ok. But a wall of new photos is going to stand out. I’m not saying perhaps people should remove photos that have always been at their desks, but maybe the *new* shrine is going to feel weird. Or it may not to her, but I’d err on the side of not putting a bunch of baby picture in her face. She’s going to be raw for a bit.

    2. Good Company*

      FWIW, I read it as the photo with the newborn is not the bereaved, as OP referred to it as “a former colleague”. So it’s celebrating a former colleague’s new child, not acknowledging the bereaved colleague’s loss.

      1. Say what, now?*

        This is speaking to the crux of that issue, I think. It’s both throwing other people’s celebrations in her face and sweeping what happened under the rug. It’s horrible judgment on two levels.

        1. Pine cones huddle*

          Yes, I read it as a former colleague had a baby and had sent a photo announcement or something like that to her former co-workers at the office. Not at all unusual. And maybe because of the recent loss, others thought that they would share pictures of their babies. And maybe it snowballed into a “shrine”. But a little insensitive considering the timing.

          1. MerciMe*

            It feels Too, like there is a difference between “update from former colleague with a few photos that has been posted in a central area so those interested can catcu up on her life” and “suddenly everyone is posting pictures of their children in this space in a strangely overwhelming way, too.”

            That said, if there hadn’t been a miscarriage and it sprang up organically, I’d support a photo wall where people posted pictures of important things to them (including but not limited to kids) as a humanizing, coming together sort of thing. It’s really the combination of miscarriage with exclusive focus on pictures of kids that makes it feel painful to me.

    3. doreen*

      Everybody is different, as you said – but while I agree with almost everything you said regarding acknowledgement, if I had returned to work after my son’s birth /death to a photo of him on the wall, I would have lost it. It took months before I could look at the couple of photos I had without crying. And that’s if the shrine includes a photo of this woman’s child- and it doesn’t seem that it does. Rather, it seems that the shrine started with a photo of some other (former) colleague and her child and then everyone added photos of their own kids so it’s not an acknowledgement of her loss – it’s more like everyone is completely ignoring her loss.

    4. Millennial Lawyer*

      I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for speaking about this, what you said was very insightful.

    5. Specialk9*

      Jenn, thanks for sharing your experience. I have heard a similar thing from a coworker whose adult son died – people didn’t want the discomfort of having a conversation about kids dying, so he felt intense pressure to edit his son out of his conversation. That has stuck with me, years later, and continues to break my heart. How much worse to live with that erasure.

    6. Observer*

      I totally hear you – your child was born and you don’t want that to be excised and her existence negated.

      As a parent, I could see reacting either positively or negatively to a picture. The problem here is that the shrine is to the OTHER kids, not to this woman’s. As a parent I simply cannot imagine I could ever have a positive reaction to a bunch of pictures of other people’s kids in my office under those circumstances.

    7. eplawyer*

      I am so sorry for your loss. Of course, your child should be acknowledged, if that is what you want. That’s why I said they need to check if this is what the grieving mother wants or not. Some might be okay with it, some might not. See what is okay for THIS PERSON at this THIS TIME. Not what you think the person would want.

      BTW, there are organizations out there that donate quilts to parents of stillborn babies and babies who pass shortly after birth so they can wrap the baby in the quilt and hold the child. That way there is something tangible of the child’s to take home and keep as a memory. I keep meaning to donate a quilt to one of those organizations. Need to do this soon.

      1. I heart Paul Buchman*

        Where I live (Australia) it is an option to donate your wedding dress to make a gown for a (or maybe more?) baby’s funeral.

        Not that I know if you have a wedding dress – I’m mentioning for readers who like the quilt idea who may have a gown to donate.

    8. Thinking out loud*

      I agree that she might want to talk about it, and I agree that she may not. My recommendation for those who are not close to the bereaved mother: Say, “I’m so sorry for your loss” at a time that feels appropriate. Email is fine. My recommendation for those who are close to her: At a time that feels appropriate, say, “I’m so sorry for your loss. If you’d ever like to talk about it with me, I’m here.”

    9. Not That Jane*

      Jedi hugs to you. We lost one of our twins 3 days after her birth, and I related to so much that you said.

      For what it’s worth, I would NOT want to return to work and encounter a bunch of new baby pictures of coworkers’ families on the wall! (I also would not want anyone to take anything down for me if it was previously there, though.)

  3. Anna*

    Yeah, OP #4, just because they’re mental health professionals doesn’t mean they don’t make HUGE errors in judgment and the baby shrine sounds like one of them. Take them down, OP, and don’t think twice about it. It’s a weird way to show support for someone who has gone through something unthinkable.

    And your coworker telling you “it’s not the same” is an ass.

      1. SoCalHR*

        ^^exactly! lol “physician heal thyself!”

        I think OP’s “childlessness” is allowing her to see a blindspot that the others are missing when it comes to being empathetic to the bereaved coworker’s return. I hope she can gently nudge her coworkers to see how coming back to this collage of kids – that didn’t exist before the coworker went out to grieve a lost child (it would be hard enough if it was preexisting) – is insensitive, *especially* since they are in the mental health field.

        I also hope her saying something does not get misinterpreted as her own “disdain” for children, rather than empathy (not saying she says she hates kids, but her stance could be hyperbolized as such by the parents in the office).

    1. Specialk9*

      I can’t be the only one who has noticed a correlation between very odd behavior and personality, and choosing to enter the mental health/psych world? I was a psych major, and noticed significant trends in both professors and students.

      1. K.*

        One of my friends is a psychologist and has one of the messiest personal lives I’ve ever seen. By all accounts she’s very good at her job, but she has a tendency toward making “Oh, honey” personal decisions.

        I have a wonderful therapist and I wonder sometimes if her personal life is messy! I was a psych major and I don’t think I’m that odd, but maybe I am.

        1. Snark*

          In fairness, a psychologist is not a therapist or a life coach – it’s a scientific/medical field, and she might know everything there is to know about, say, the development of memory in the brain, and be a train wreck of a human being.

          My wife is a social psychologist, and she has to kindly decline to give people life advice on a weekly basis.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            I’m a social psychologist, and I still have to deflect “Are you psychoanalyzing me right now? Hurr hurr” comments all the time. Worse, people always think they’re the first person to make that joke/voice that anxiety.

            1. Bingo*

              My undergraduate degree is in psychology, but I work in another field. I get that joke all the time when people ask about my education. I just deadpan reply with “yes.”

        2. LemonSugar*

          It bums me out a little when people say stuff like this, about how someone’s personal life is ‘messy’ with the implication it somehow affects their ability to do the job. Lots of people go into the field to help others in the dark place they once experience. The vast majority of my colleagues suffered some kind of trauma that made them more attuned to MH difficulties and their impact on someone’s life.

          I am good at my job. Get good feedback and results and have strong rapport with my patients! Yet: I lost a mum to alcoholism. I’m estranged from my abusive brother, permanently. I have diagnosed depression. I’ve been bankrupt in the past. Had my heart broken. My life is very stable atm. But even during this job I’ve had periods of depression and family issues outside of my control where I’ve had to gather myself, take meds or have therapy to stay afloat and able to work at my best.

          A lot of those things, the family stuff especially, are not my fault. Yet most would look at my circumstances and history and say my life is ‘messy’. Life is messy. People aren’t simple. We all have our challenges. Having a difficult personal life doesn’t mean you can’t do a good job helping others, as long as you take safeguards and supervision and have self awarness and boundaries.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Well, there is the old saying that the difference between the patients and the staff is who holds the keys…

      3. Alison Read*

        Holy crud, Yes!!! In a past life my department shared a floor and reception desk with a psychology school’s outpatient clinic. As an outsider on the inside it was mind boggling to observe. I will say everyone meant well, but the phrase the inmates were running the asylum was an understatement.

        Please don’t rely on their certification as an assurance they’re doing the right thing. I’ll stop now to try to limit maligning those mental health professionals that are doing good work. Sadly it seems the bat sh!t crazy ones stand out and tarnish the profession.

        Please do what you can to protect the grieving mother. Take cues from her, I’ve had friends that were hurt terribly by people avoiding talking about their lost child and others that fell apart at any reminder. One thing I’m fairly sure of though, a new wall of babies on display would be extraordinarily insensitive for the grieving mother to face on her return.

        1. Jessen*

          Oh I have some stories, some that are very not pretty, and often backed with “but he’s a professional, it must be the right thing!”

      4. Junior Dev*

        Heh. My mom is a psychiatrist and she has a history of… eccentric… behavior, to put it kindly.

      5. AKchic*

        Oh, you’re not wrong. A lot of people going into the field acknowledge that they got interested in it because of their own issues, or because of familial issues that they wanted answers for.

        A lot of the time, substance abuse counselors are former clients, and are open about their prior treatment and history. It also gives them an uncanny nose for B.S. on the client’s part.

        1. K.*

          I think all the interventionists on the show Intervention are addicts in recovery. One was even intervened-on on the show, got sober, became a substance abuse counselor, and now does interventions for the show. I’ve watched the show for a long time so it’s a trip to me to see Sylvia, who in her drinking days conducted herself as though she was the center of a Tennessee Williams play (screeching “WHERE ARE MY BABIES?” heavenward in her southern drawl with no one around), intervening on addicts and being GREAT at it.

      6. Not Me!*

        Oh man! I had a psychiatrist I was seeing who had serious issues with her daughter that she projected onto my relationship with my mom (not what I was really seeing her for, it was a side issue that came up). It was sad and hilarious at the same time. I really think she should’ve seen somebody about that!

      7. Plague of frogs*

        I crossed paths with a number of psych majors in an Ethics class. Hitherto in my college career I had led the sheltered life of the engineering student, and a few of these people blew my mind. My personal favorite was a middle-aged woman who cut her arms–I naively asked her what had happened and she told me all about it. Later, we were discussing euthanasia as part of our classwork, and she said that she had considered killing her brother when he had cancer. We were all sympathetic, and asked if it was terminal cancer and he wanted to die? She said no, he had no desire to die, and subsequently recovered. It was a real conversation killer.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Mental health clinicians are capable of bad judgement. Please don’t assume they must be right. I wish you could have faith in this but…

  4. LSP*

    It drives me nuts when people feel the need to compete over grief or sadness. Why is this a thing humans do? Pain is pain. Grief is grief. And it’s no one’s business to judge them!

    1. Specialk9*

      Agreed. Being the best human possible means finding ways to give a big psychic hug, in whatever ways work best for that person. (Including, for many people, NOT hugging or touching.) Competing over pain is cruel and selfish and awful.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        It’s like older people grumbling going to school in the snow, by foot and uphill both ways.

        Or the oppression olympics.

        1. Lara*

          *shrug* – thing with that phrase is that some people are more oppressed than others. A biracial Muslim lesbian with disabilities factually experiences more prejudice than an able bodied white Christian straight dude.

    2. SallytooShort*

      It’s a disgusting thing to do.

      The only way such a response would ever be remotely acceptable was if the OP was saying something like “well, I came back to work within a week after my father died.” And then it would just be acceptable as a reminder that everyone handles grief differently.

      OP there isn’t even a small part of me that thinks you said anything remotely like this. That guy is a jerk.

    3. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      I’ve noticed an uptick in this type of competitive behavior and not just as it pertains to grief and sadness. Anything that gives people “the feels” is open to this weirdness. EX: Recently I was having a conversation with a friend about a show I watch and how much I loved it. Right before my eyes I watched her get angry and become willing to actually argue with me about how there was no possible way I could love the show as much as her. When I told her that I wasn’t going to engage in an argument this stupid she smirked and said that she knew she loved it more. I’d like to say this was the first time this has happened to me. I’d be lying.

    4. cheluzal*

      My mom does this. She likes to remind people who lost their parent how it’s not as bad as losing a child (my brother). Such a lack of awareness, this lady…and sh ewonders why people are tired of hearing about my brother all.the.time.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh how comforting. NOT.

        I read of studies that show in the loss of our parents we begin to exhibit the symptoms that will eventually kill us.

        1. Chi*

          So true. I lost my parents in the past 2 years and I feel like I have died more each day.

          Even so I would feel so much more grief if I lost a child. It is not natural to lose a child. There is no word to capture that or a blueprint for grief. Your coworkers are vile. Their lack of compassion astounds me.

          1. Artemesia*

            It is easier to lose someone ‘in their time’ than prematurely. We all die and when elderly parents die, it is sad but it is part of life’s cycle. To lose a child or in particular a young adult child is the worst loss I can imagine.

    5. NextStop*

      Sometimes it’s a clumsy attempt at empathy. Like, “I’ve been there, too,” and it’s meant as solidarity, but comes out as one-upping.

    6. JenM*

      It’s like a competition to some people. I’ve been told I was lucky to lose my parents young because it meant I didn’t have to deal with dementia. Like WTF?!

    7. Julia*

      Probably because people just like to win terrible competitions. “I haven’t slept in days.” – “I haven’t slept in weeks!” etc. (hello, grad school)

  5. Lynca*

    I sincerely hope that the person that told you that ‘it’s not the same’ is not a clinician. I would be extremely worried for the people they serve.

  6. Specialk9*

    Agreed. Being the best human possible means finding ways to give a big psychic hug, in whatever ways work best for that person. (Including, for many people, NOT hugging or touching.) Competing over pain is cruel and selfish and awful.

  7. SallytooShort*

    You know these people better than I do, LW4, but I think the baby wall is a passive aggressive strike back against the request for less baby talk by management.

  8. OP 4*

    Ok so I’m the OP of the 4th post. I very recently left that employer, my update was sent in early November. I’m going to call the breaved mother Mia, the baby obssessive Jill and the former colleague Wendy.

    Prior to leaving I did stress how odd it was to have the picture of Wendy & her newborn, mentioning that the timing of them putting it up was strange (like 2 weeks after the news). I also told them the pictures of all the other kids was odd too and found out Jill was responsible for that. She has pictures of all their kids on her phone and printed them. She is truly kid obsessed (we had to share an email account which she set up- the password and security questions were all based on her son, things like that so it permeated everything!).

    Anyway so I raised it in a serious manner, emphasising that they need to consider how it will appear and what a shock it would be if Mia was to pop into the office which she had been thinking about doing. There was agreement but the pics remained. I reminded them on my last day that they should take them down asap. I didn’t want to remove them myself because I felt it would be offensive to remove pictures of my colleagues children, especially since no one else seemed to be bothered by it, and quite frankly I didn’t want the grief that would come from Jill. She will go on and on and on about stuff and I’ve had a lot to deal with this year so I didn’t want to deal with her again.

    Wendy was working for a partner organisation at the time of writing but will return to working for my former company in the new year. To make things more difficult another person who works there is currently pregnant and will give birth in the new year so the baby fever will start again. All around the time Mia is due back at work. Apart from the pictures everyone has been very sensitive about the situation but they were a few insensitive comments when I was breaved so I don’t have faith that they’ll do any better with Mia. I know they’re not perfect just because they work in mental health but all of them collectively seeing no real problem with the pictures made me think I was crazy!
    Hopefully this further update explains things better. Not to be rude but I think that’ll be the last update /comment, don’t feel like talking much more about it so apologies if anyone has any further questions. It’s a bit draining. Apologies if any of this was triggering or upsetting for anyone also.

    1. Observer*

      Jill presents a genuine problem, if you ask me. I feel REALLY bad for Mia if she has to walk in on this. But, it’s not just that. Jill’s judgement just seems totally skewed. It makes you wonder what kind of things she might say to the clients…

      Being a minority of one, especially when the people you are facing down are the “experts” can really mess with your head, so I can see how it made you feel like you were crazy. But, sometimes the lone voice really IS right. This was such a case. Good for you for trusting yourself on this.

      Thanks for coming back with this. I do understand why you don’t want to talk about it much. Congratulations on the new job, though!

      1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        “You feel crazy because you are a normal teabag steeping in Crazy Tea.”

        This is a great way of putting this.

    2. LSP*

      I’m glad you are out of what sounds like a bit of a toxic environment. Jill sounds out of touch with professional norms (passwords that everyone uses related to her son? what?) and I would not be a bit surprised if Mia finds herself unable to deal with all the baby talk when she returns. People’s reproductive life should not be a part of regular work discussions, for many reasons, including it being a triggering event for parents who have lost children. Jill appears to have no chill in this regard, and Mia is going to pick up on it pretty quickly.

    3. Still Anon*

      The whole situation sounds exhausting and I think you’re well rid of them. I hope you are doing well in your new situation.

    4. LBK*

      She has pictures of all their kids on her phone and printed them.

      Oh nooooooooo. Jill has a serious problem, and I feel so bad for Mia since I imagine this is going to be a mess when she gets back and sees it (I’m doubting it’s going to be gone by then). At least you won’t be around to have to deal with it.

      1. Pine cones huddle*

        Yes. Frankly, my co-workers and I have shared pictures of pets, kids, new cars or homes… whatever through text. But if anyone was to the print pictures I texted them or that they’d seen on social media (or even share them with someone else) I would be highly PISSED. I find that to be a strange way to cross a boundary. In fact, I’ve even stopped sharing pictures with my MIL because she has been known to then share them all over town. Not a big deal to share a simple photo, but it is a big deal to share a picture of a sick or hurt kid and get people all worked up. I had to field calls about “oh my goodness is he going to be ok we are praying for him” like dude, it’s a cold. Or my SIL who legit put a sonogram picture I shared with her on Facebook. Like what is wrong with you? Even if everyone I know is aware of the pregnancy, this is not your picture to share.

      2. Anon anon anon*

        Yeah. Jill has issues with boundaries. And, honestly, it sounds a little creepy. Kids are people. They’re family members. They’re friends’ family members. Obsessing over people is a sign that something is wrong.

    5. Relly*

      I’m glad that you’ve left that environment, and I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m also sorry that your pain was diminished and dismissed; please be kind to yourself, and do what you need to heal.

  9. Candi*

    1) Ergh. Some people don’t realize how they inconvenience themselves or others.

    2) Good job!

    3) I’m sorry you didn’t get the job. I hope you find something long term soon.

    4) Baby pic collage-shrine thing? Oh heck no.

    Look, one of my kids’ past therapists told me the reason she was leaving the field because she was becoming too callous. All the pain and hurt and all that she dealt with meant internal shielding to avoid being sucked in beyond a professional scope -but she was getting to the point where she was having to fight dismissing legitimate need.

    Maybe it’s a type of burnout?

    Anyway, I’m genuinely worried at least some of your coworkers have reached that point -but without the wisdom to realize it.

  10. strawberries and raspberries*

    I guess I figured since they are all mental health clinicians they know what they’re doing.

    Wow, this is like the M. Night Shyamalan twist of the whole letter.

  11. Quickbeam*

    #4…..as a child free person myself, I tend to stay out of it and often redirect conversation to work issues. I feel for you since often the work place is filled with land mines that way. I once expressed the slightest interest in someone’s kid’s soccer only to have his entire athletic scrapbook on my desk the next day. The baby shrine seems odd but maybe they know the person would appreciate it.

    1. LSP*

      That’s just loony-toons! I think in the 3 years I have been at my job, I have showed 2 pictures of my son to colleagues, and only because the pictures related to something we had been talking about.

      I have pictures of him up in my cube, and sometimes people comment, but most of the time they don’t, and it doesn’t matter because those pictures are there for me.

  12. bunniferous*

    A good friend of mine lost a very wanted baby at birth a couple of years ago. She was ok about talking about it but if she had been confronted wirh that wall…..tjat sounds about as cruel as it is possible to get.

    That wall needs to come down before she gets back to work.

  13. Optimistic Prime*

    Having worked in public health for several years before my transition to technology, one of the things I learned is that not all health professionals actually adhere to or even know a lot about the research in their field: some physicians and nurses have really strange health and medicine beliefs (see Dr. Mehmet Oz), and some mental health professionals don’t always use or embrace standard tenets of their profession either (see Dr. Phil, who actually is no longer licensed to provide mental health care in any state). So while I generally trust health professionals unless they give me some reason not to trust them, I also wouldn’t assume that some crackpot stuff they’re doing is fine because they’re professionals!

    1. Snark*

      There’s also a weird phenomenon where some fields – medicine being one, engineering being another – either promote a “because I am expert in X, I am also competent to have Strong Opinions about Y and Z” attitude, or attract people with those mindsets. I’ve had doctors and dentists ‘splain at me at great length and with voluminous and spurious detail, that global warming is a scam.

      1. Artemesia*

        My husband used to prosecute securities fraud and victims of ridiculous scams are often doctors who think they are very very smart. They do have extensive knowledge of human plumbing but their narrow educations rarely prepare them to know diddly about finance, investment (and apparently global warming) We actually have a doctor in the family who is noted in his field who is a ‘Young Earth’ fundamentalist.

  14. cheluzal*

    I really feel seeing everyone’s healthy, live kid pics when returning to work would almost be a stab in the heart of the mom; like: look what we have and you don’t. Good sentiments don’t trump this ill-gotten idea.

    I can’t even imagine putting my kid’s picture up on a wall with others without anything bad happening! A frame on my desk, sure, but that’s it.

  15. Not So NewReader*

    OP4. I see you aren’t going to comment anymore, I can understand. It’s very hard when an entire group does not “get it”.
    Other than Jill is there someone in the office that everyone seems to respect or look to for advice on work problems?
    If there is, I would suggest getting this person a book on grief. That is the common thread here, none of these experts have really dug into the topic of grief.

    Perhaps if you told the boss that you are concerned Mia will see this wall of-what-she-does-not-have and turn, walk out the door and never come back. Maybe that will get some attention.

    FWIW, OP, I am disgusted also by these folks unwillingness to commit to constant learning. To me it’s less about the fact that they don’t know and more about the fact that they are refusing to learn. We all have times where we come up short, we don’t know about this or that. That is not our fault. When we fail to acquaint ourselves with a relevant topic, that IS our fault.

  16. teclatrans*

    OP4, I just wanted to say that I am so, so sorry for your loss. (Also, I am so glad you are out of there, that is some serious WTFery.)

  17. dawbs*

    re: #4, I know it has been said before, but I do wish people would step outside themselves.

    I probably talk about my kid to much too (sorry!), but my kid is about 5 years younger than we’d planned–because infertility is a bitch.
    The people around me back then, who had no clue what I was going through, had no idea that “so, when are there going to be little ones?” was a knife to the gut, and that giving a gift then ducking out of baby showers was self-preservation not to cry.
    I did have at least 1 or 2 *burst into tears and flee* moments, and I felt no guilt about how awkward the pushy person felt.

    And that’s nowhere NEAR the level of heartbreak that returning coworker is going to face. I really hope that the manager stands up and that other people, those with kids, take up the charge for her.

  18. Sarah*

    #4 – I’m glad to hear that you are moving on, I hope the next workplace is a better fit. I have a similar situation at my workplace (minus the baby shrine….) as I am one of the few women without children. I keep finding that I am either a target for condescenion, resentment, or pity. I try to be really understanding and remind myself that this is projection and I make an effort to show an interest in other people’s lives, I listen to co-workers complaints/stories about their children – even pretending to be interested when deep down I am not. However, so far my approach has not worked, as much as I try to understand their world, I find that most of my co-workers aren’t interested in showing me the same courtesy, or in trying to understand my world. I keep being told that I will understand once I have kids -(funny how it never occurs to them that I won’t be having children). I’ve noticed that in my workplace this mostly happens when people are trying to one-up each other in terms of how stressed/tired/busy they are. I’ll be leaving this workplace soon and its such a relief, I really hope that people will be more self-aware or open minded in a different setting. On the positive side, it’s definitely made me hyper awaere of supporting other people who are somehow ‘going against the grain’ in terms of their life circumstances, and even more aware of the need to keep my personal life quiet and respect other people’s right to privacy as well.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      My go-to theory for the condescension and resentment for childfree-by-choice people (especially women) is that others don’t realize having children is an option and secretly resent not having thought about that.
      Which doesn’t mean I don’t feel sympathy for people who want children but can’t have them for whatever reason, of course.

    2. Kristine*

      Hang in there. It’s pretty annoying, but later in life you’ll hear the “S/he never calls, never comes over, I love the grandkids but they wear me out, spent all this money, wish I had more time, you’re lucky you never had any kids, look at what you’ve achieved, good for you for not putting up with…” blah, blah, blah. ;-)
      Yeah. We’re “lucky” we made a choice.

  19. mscate*

    I’m also happily childfree and i remember when I worked as a student advocate at a university. I shared an office with an older colleague who had photos of her kids up including one of her husband and them in the bath. I tactfully pointed out that I felt it was inappropriate but she couldn’t see the problem and my manager had to get involved. People in the helping professions are some of the most clueless when it comes to boundaries.

  20. Oranges*

    As a person who dearly wants a child (adopted or bio) but probably cannot because reasons (mental stability). I love living vicariously through other people’s little ones. I coo over baby pictures and will be the first one to go “BABY!” when someone brings their little in. I go look at cute baby/animal pictures on breaks.

    I’m telling you this so you know where I’m coming from when I say “I find the baby-shrine uber creepy” on its own. Add in that there’s a grieving co-worker and I’m just like… what even is….

  21. Constant Reader*

    “I figured since they are all mental health clinicians they know what they’re doing” – not necessarily. My acquaintances in Clinical Psychology range from amazingly grounded & wise to absolutely bats**t insane, and all of them think they’re regular average people. It’s the immediate reaction of the woman who lost her child that’s relevant, and you might be the only one clear-eyed enough to take note of it.

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