questioning an employee about how sick they really are, a sugar-stealing coworker, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Questioning an employee about how sick they really are

My coworker, Sansa, is a rockstar employee. Tenured, dependable, top performer — the kind of employee you wish you could clone! She has no attendance issues, no performance issues, no history of abusing flex-time. Her work is project-based with no in-person client contact and all of her meetings are virtual. Sansa discovered that she’s pregnant but didn’t want to tell anyone yet. But when she needed to leave mid-day for a doctor’s visit (emerging issue with the pregnancy), her boss, Cersei, continued to push back until she finally told her the reason she needed to leave.

Fast forward a week. Our company has a very generous work-from-home policy. As long as the work gets done, we can work from home as needed. Sansa was feeling ill but came in anyway, because she knows that while Cersei takes advantage of the work-from-home flexibility, she isn’t a fan of her staff doing the same. Sansa tells Cersei that she’s not feeling well and wants to work from home the rest of the day. The questions begin — are you throwing up? How often are you throwing up? Are you really throwing up, or just dry heaves? Cersei finally says that if Sansa is “really” throwing up and it’s happened more than once, Sansa can work from home after lunch (which is still two to three hours away).

Am I wrong to think that Cersei is WAY overstepping here? As a manager, I can’t imagine asking any of these questions. I’ve got no standing to intervene — I’m just thinking about how I’d want to handle it if something like this came up on my team. (In terms of hierarchy, I’m senior to Sansa but junior to Cersei.)

Yes, she’s way overstepping. She’s either willing to approve the work-from-home time or she’s not, but the details of Sansa’s medical symptoms are none of her business.

There are some cases where a manager’s stance might be, essentially, “It would be really tough to have you working from home right now, so I only want to approve it if it’s really, truly necessary.” But the way to say that isn’t to play doctor and inquire about the details of symptoms. The way to do that is to treat employees like adults and say, “It would be tough to have you work from home today because of X, but if you’re feeling sick enough that you really need to get out of here, we can make it work.” And if you find that someone is abusing your good will, then you address that — but you assume people are trustworthy and responsible until they give you reason not to.

2. Sugar-stealing coworker

I work in a small department (seven people) which is connected by a hallway to our big sister department (20+ people). Our small team has a microwave and coffee/snack station which we have provided for ourselves. Our team will occasionally bring in treats to share with the rest of the department, including a small stash of sugar, plastic utensils, etc. My desk is in the hallway right next to the microwave and snack station.

So here’s the thing: one woman in particular, from the big sister department, has been coming over to our station and taking sugar from our stash. As the friendly face at my desk in the hallway, I have smiled at her and not begrudged the sugar, but lately she’s come by and taken chocolate that another colleague had brought to share within our department. It kind of irks me because there’s an unspoken company culture rule that snacks/supplies are shared within the department, but if you’re from another department you should ask first. And this woman never asks, just assumes she can have some.

How do I set the record straight now, and how do I do it without messing up the interdepartmental goodwill? Should I just get over it?

One option is this, if you’d be open to this as a solution: “Hey, Jane, our team actually buys those items for ourselves. If you want to use them, we’d want to put you on the rotation to pay for them or restock them.”

But otherwise: “Hey, Jane, our team actually buys those items for ourselves and they’re really only meant for the small group of us since they’re self-funded.”

3. Asking to work from home during a new foster/adoption placement

My husband and I are in the process of becoming licensed as a foster/adoption parents for a child who will be from newborn to five years old. I work in a small office of five and I am the second in command. The person who I replaced worked from a remote office.

I need your advice on how to approach my boss about working from home the first two to three weeks after a child is placed in our home, to encourage a smooth transition and bonding (only if they are under four, as they will be in preschool or kindergarten over four years old). Do you think it is fair to ask about this? I am prepared to use one day a week to come into the office, if needed, as my husband is home one day a week (not working). I am willing to work from the office, but I would like to have the child with me and I am not sure how feasible it would be to have the child at work — which is probably fine, if I asked, but I don’t want to push that, but rather would be at home in a more comfortable environment for the child to bond with them.

Ask to take the time off, not to work from home during it. Most employers expect that if you’re working from home with a child that young, you’ll have separate child care (sometimes with the exception of a day or two for an emergency with a sick kid). The idea is that you can’t work at anything approaching your normal productivity when you’re caring for a young kid.

But it’s totally reasonable to ask for time off for this, and that’s the way to go. And if you’re eligible for FMLA, that law protects your job for up to three months of time off to care for and bond with a newly placed child (for both fostering and adoption) within a year of when the child comes to you.

4. Can I ask my manager what kind of reference she’ll give me?

I currently work in education, and my manager is aware I’ll be leaving at the end of the school year. Since she knows I’m leaving and job searching, can I ask her what her reference would be like?

The reason why I’d want to ask is to determine if I’d want her to be a reference at all. Several months ago, she raised some performance issues, which if not addressed, would have led to me getting fired. The issues were corrected and I’m leaving voluntarily, but I still have concerns about her as reference.

Yes, in general you can ask a potential reference what kind of reference they’d give you. But it also makes sense to assume that what you know of your manager’s assessment of you and your work will be reflected in the reference she gives … which in this case means you might not want to use her as reference if you can avoid it. If you had performance issues that could have led to firing just a few months ago, that’s serious enough and recent enough that it would have to affect the type of reference she gives you. How much of an impact that has will depend on what the issues were and how relevant they’d be to the new job — and it’s possible that “she struggled with X and Y earlier this year but was able to correct it” won’t be prohibitive — but she wouldn’t be my first choice for a reference if you have other options.

{ 279 comments… read them below }

  1. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – At what point do Cersi’s actions become pregnancy related harassment? That’s an EEOC issue and at that point you do have standing to intervene.
    The company has a work from home policy and Sansa has the track record to show that she deserves it.
    Maybe it’s time to talk to HR. As a manager, you’re in a position to report these sort of things (and some companies require worker bees to report it too).

      1. Cherries in the Snow*

        I especially love that Cersi (sp? I hate Game of Thrones) is more than happy to take advantage of the policy herself, but doesn’t want anyone else using it. Even pregnant women with sensitive medical complications.

        1. Julia*

          I had a boss who used “flex-time” (she came in late) and all her vacation days, but got really mad when a co-worker of mine got sick and needed time off. She would lecture and berate people for tiny mistakes and “dumbess”, but was extremely lazy and incompetent herself and basically foisted all her tasks and private stuff unto anyone who couldn’t say no to her. Boy do I not miss that woman.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          One of the great insights into human nature on here was the letter about a boss (parallel to the OP) telling her team they couldn’t take any time off over the Xmas holidays. Multiple people said “Yup, boss is totally planning to take all those days herself.” Update: “So it turns out boss is planning to take all those days herself.”

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Unfortunately, I’ve found that some of the worst pregnancy-discrimination offending managers/employers are women. The NYT had a piece on the persistence of pregnancy discrimination, recently, that was sobering and sad.

          1. Rana*

            Yeah. It’s sometimes lingering resentment over how they were treated during their own pregnancies (e.g. I was treated poorly, so who are you to think you deserve better) and sometimes it’s a feeling that since they chose to either not have children or to slog through their own pregnancies without accommodation no one else should expect “special” favors.

            (It’s not just women and pregnancies, though – I’ve seen men do this when there’s some cultural or generational expectation of how men should handle their work-life balance and someone doesn’t go along with that.)

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              It’s the “I suffered, so you should too!” mentality, which is responsible for so, so many bad things.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Also the reverse!

                I’m reminded of a previous manager who had 4 (what I’m told by other women were) very easy pregnancies: didn’t have noticeable morning sickness, fatigue, anything. She took this as evidence that anyone who talked about pregnancy being tough, or threw up at work, or wanted to take sick time during—including in one case when a woman developed gestational diabetes, among other complications, and was supposed to be on bed rest per her doctor—were all just overacting to get the company to pay for an extra vacation (her words (she had a hate-on for paid sick time)).

          2. Rachael*

            I had a lovely (I loved her to death) manager, but when it came to my pregnancy was sometimes totally impossible. She told me that when she was pregnant (15 years ago) that she picked a doctor who had evening appointments and saw them on weekends if necessary. It was really stressful once I got to the “once a week” appointments and I finally had to tell her that I’m in the city and there aren’t any doctors with those hours that my insurance would take (in the network of hospitals I wanted). Good grief.

    1. HR Here*

      Yep. If they have solid HR, OP, it would be great if they are alerted. I’d want to intervene here. I had something similar where the supervisor was policing medical and bathroom breaks of a pregnant employee, it was bizarre. I intervened.

    2. Not Australian*

      Probably a good opportunity for the OP to play dumb and put the same question to HR: “Just in case I’m ever in this situation myself, is Cersei’s approach the correct one or is there another way you’d like me to handle it?”

    3. Lara*

      +1 this is exactly the kind of boss that (if Sansa chooses to pump) will class pumping breaks as super happy fun time and give her grief about that, too.

  2. Dazedandconfused*

    #1 Cersei sounds like she’s really crossed a line here. It is possible that there is some dynamic regarding cersei and sansa’s relationship that the LW isn’t privy to that makes Cersei question the absence but it sounds weird even considering that.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I was wondering that too.

      The other thought I had was that Cersei has some kind of personal history with pregnancy that she is projecting on Sansa.

      1. a name*

        She has figured out on her own that Sansa may be pregnant and is displeased about the maternity leave,so she deliberately grilled her to get her to crack and admit it so she could feel superior for being right.

        1. fposte*

          It sounds like Sansa’s told her already, though, and it’s still not abating the scrutiny.

      2. SignalLost*

        It seems unlikely to be pregnancy-related projection. In the letter, OP says that Cersei “isn’t a fan” of her staff using the WFH policy, and presumably they’re not all pregnant.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Whenever people make overreaching, baseless assumptions about what other people are doing in a circumstance that they’re also in, I get really concerned about the people making the assumptions. I bet any money Cersei isn’t doing much actual work when she “works” from home.

  3. Wintermute*

    #1– This behavior is pretty outrageous, and I almost wonder if something else is motivating her to want to know all the little details. This is egregious enough I’d consider talking to HR just because of the complexities at play.

    #2– This is one reason I hate policies that make employees provide this stuff on their own, the company is saving a few bucks a week but paying in awkwardness and wasted time (I presume that more conveneiently located sugar would probably pay for itself in productivity if you earn anything close to a decent wage)! I always say “never attribute to malice what could be ignorance”– she may not know where the sugar comes from, and though I doubt she presumes it’s a magical neverending sugar drawer she probably doesn’t realize it’s BYOS. Treat is as no big deal and it’s not likely to be a big deal.

    1. Aud*

      #1 It’s possible she’s pushing back because she doesn’t think that being pregnant is a good excuse for missing work. I was very ill through all three of my pregnancies and the number of people who told me that morning sickness was all in my head was appalling.

      I was told that women only get morning sickness because we’ve been conditioned to believe we are supposed to have morning sickness. That it’s all mind over matter you can over come it you just have to will yourself not sick and they know it’s possible because they did, or their sister did etc…..), that If i just had some sofa crackers and ginger ale and I’d be fine.

      1. Julia*

        To be fair (or actually, more infuriating), this happens with pretty much any medical condition exclusive to women. Endometriosis? Stop being a wimp, we all menstruate and have cramps. Thyroid issues (more common in women than men)? Nope, you’re just “crazy” (hate that word). Stomach problems? It’s probably just your period, women don’t have any other internal organs, duh! Nausea? OMG, she’s pregnant! It’s really, really getting old.

          1. Justin*

            At least as a man with a mental health issue, I still feel it’s so coded as “not manly” we might not even ever share it.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Exactly. That’s a big part of why it’s so disparaged in our society.

              1. Justin*

                And (speaking only for myself) especially in my community of color.

                As a black male educator with mental health issues, I am very far from “macho” societally. :)

                I’m derailing, sorry!

                Hope the LW can find a way to solve this and pushback.

          2. Julia*

            You mean, “what do you mean you’re depressed? Just snap out of it?” Yeah, lovely, isn’t it?

            Although ironically, every time I have a physical issue, the doctor will inevitably tell try to convince me to medicate my “psychological problems”.

            1. JaneB*

              All my problems, mental and physical, are blamed on my weight. Apparently, I’m depressed, anxious and in pain because I’m obese, never mind that all those things were also present when i was in an acceptable BMI range. No consideration that medications, problems with exercise, & attempting to keep going when I don’t have the energy to do anything other than work and sleep but since I can work I cant have a sick note might have contributed to the weight issues… I am of course a hysterical weak willed female obese person…

              1. Julia*

                Tell me about it. I was at my most depressed and anxious when I was also super skinny, because I just couldn’t it. Now, antidepressants have made me gain weight, and suddenly strangers tell me if I wasn’t such a fatty, maybe my problem ankle would stop giving me problems. People can really suck.

              2. Wendy Darling*

                I hurt my knees when I was 17 and a healthy weight and am afraid to go to a doctor about them because I’m worried they’ll blame the problems on my weight, not the nasty fall I took as a teenager. I mean I’m sure being fat isn’t helping, but the actual cause of my problem is the fact that I smashed my knees into a concrete floor and now one of them periodically locks up.

              3. Ego Chamber*

                Right there with you. People are terrible at figuring out the difference between cause and effect, even when those people went to school for it and should know better (also the different between physicality and morality, while I’m on about this (rawr)).

        1. Nanani*

          So, so true. And dangerous, in that many doctors (of all genders!) also have these biases, as do researchers and the funding agencies that decides which conditions get effort expended on them, etc.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          And even worse if you’re a woman of color (or transwoman), because you’re perceived to experience pain differently (including to literally “hurt less”). This kind of attitude causes all sorts of dire inequalities in health care and threatens people’s lives.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Ikr. My favorite is the story about how there’s been ongoing medical research to develop a birth control pill for men, but nothing has been approved because the side effects include nasty stuff like mood swings, headaches, loss of sex drive, increased chance of stroke, etc. And then the punchline: this is what women who take hormonal birth control already deal with as a matter of course, but no one working on it can imagine dudes sacrificing their health to avoid the risk of someone getting pregnant.

        3. Specialk9*

          Chronic fatigue syndrome is treated so shabbily because it’s far more likely to happen to women, and is often triggered by big hormonal changes (eg pregnancy, menopause). Women ailments are far more likely to be seen as imagined or psychological.

        4. Annie Moose*

          ughhhhhh I’m flashing back to the time I encountered someone who insisted repeatedly that the only reason you get cramps when you menstruate is because you’re not respecting Mother Nature enough; if we all just were more in tune with our inner feminine we’d never have cramps at all!

          Which, you know. Is real easy to say if you never get cramps.

          1. MsSolo*

            Mother Nature makes the chocolate and the painkillers, so I’m completely in tune with her when I’m treating my cramps!

        5. SpaceNovice*

          Don’t get me started on hypothyroidism; doctors are literally not taught how to treat it properly, despite the proper treatment being known to science and recommended by experts. (Short story: doctors use old parameters for TSH, only look at T4 and not T3, and often won’t even test for it when women are showing all the symptoms.)

      2. LizM*

        Yup. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “pregnancy is natural. ‘Illness’ or ‘disability’ imply something is wrong, pregnancies are something women have been doing forever.” I got that when my back pain started limiting my ability to carry out daily tasks and I asked for accommodations. I don’t care if it’s natural or not. If my sciatica is so bad I can’t sit in my office chair, I’m not going to have a very productive afternoon.

        Also, women love to compare pregnancies. “I never missed a day of work, and ran a marathon at 37 weeks, so the fact her morning sickness was so bad she had to be hospitalized for dehydration must all be in her head.” I found some of the least sympathetic women were those who had zero complications. Some of them just couldn’t understand that not everyone has a complication-free pregnancy, they seemed to assume those of us who struggled were just making it up in our heads.

        1. Julia*

          LIVING is normal and natural and people still have all kinds of obstacles. Do people also tell asthma sufferers that breathing is natural, so they shouldn’t need any help?
          Plus, women have absolutely experienced complications during pregnancy in the past, and died from them – some still do. Gosh, people can be so stupid.

          1. WS*

            Yes they do! Ask anyone with a chronic illness or cancer! You don’t need that nasty medication/chemo/radiation/time off! Be more positive! Eat this one weird natural food! My cousin’s neighbour’s dogwalker had your condition and never missed a day!

            1. Julia*

              I know they do – should I really be taking “all those pills”? Isn’t it “more natural” to just breathe away the endometriosis and pray it doesn’t spread? People…

                1. Wicked Odd*

                  And if you’re not gluten free, then you’re just not willing to put in the effort to make yourself healthy.

              1. Purple*

                Canabis oil! Some people advice it for EVERYTHING!

                I know that there are cases where this apparently works, for example some patiens with epilepsy. But no, it will not cure you of cancer, or depression or whatever. And it definitely won’t restore my kidney function (nothing really serious, just has to be monitored, one is less active but the other is doing great. But the one working less will not heal “itself” if I use canabisoil)

              2. SusanIvanova*

                Oh, the fun I’m having with perimenopause symptoms. It’s a normal symptom? Great, so what can I do about it?
                Legit medical sites: *crickets*
                Other sites, that look convincingly legit until you scroll down a bit: “Oooh, buy our essential oils and herbs!”

                1. TardyTardis*

                  I’m not the one to talk here, because once I had a Funny Mammogram I had to say goodbye to hormone replacement and pray God the black cohosh and evening primrose oil would work. I’m in my 60’s, and I have an aunt in my 70’s who is still having hot flashes. Arrgh!

            2. anon for POTS and hEDS*

              Oof. Can relate to the gaslighting. “Lots of girls your age have headaches” “Your symptoms just happen because you’re upset or stressed.” “Just turn up the volume on the TV when you have chest pain.” etc. etc. etc.

        2. Rana*

          Oh, and it gets you coming and going.

          Pregnant woman: “I’m having unpleasant physical symptoms. Help?”
          Doctor: “That’s just being pregnant. Suck it up.”

          But also…

          Pregnant woman: “I’ve been having unpleasant physical symptoms.”
          Doctor: “OMG. Why didn’t you come in right away??? This is serious!”

          1. Julia*

            Doctors do that to everyone, though. My entire life has been:

            Me: I have this symptom.
            Doctor: Stop whining and don’t bother me with tiny crap.

            Me: I have this symptom…
            Doctor: And you wait until NOW?!

        3. Mad Baggins*

          I’m going to hold all pregnant women to Serena Williams’ standard.

          If you can’t win professional tennis matches while pregnant, what’s wrong with you??

          1. ket*

            But the converse is true from the doctor side: Oh you have a pain? Suck it up buttercup, here’s some ibuprofen.

            S((*&, it really *is* a pulmonary embolism. Oopsies!

      3. Jamies*

        If it weren’t illegal I’d recommend the next time someone says anything like that to kick them below the belt and when they’re lying on the ground in pain soothingly tell them it’s mind over matter and encourage them to “overcome” the pain.

        1. Merci Dee*

          That’s one of my favorite revenge fantasies when I’m having a bad day with my hands, and no amount of medication stops the pain.

      4. Jamie-Lynn*

        I’m pretty sure I’d have felt compelled to attempt to “will” myself into throwing up on those people. I guess if it worked, I’d run the risk of (in their minds) proving them right but I just can’t deal with that level of stupidity.

      5. Liane*

        If *morning* sickness was all in my head because I’d heard all my life that pregnancy meant being sick in the morning the first trimester, how come both times I had *morning, noon, and night* sickness until I was 5 months along? Shouldn’t I have thrown up once in the morning every day and magically stopped once I hit Day 1 of 2nd Trimester, as determined by ultrasound?
        Cersei sounds like a jerk that no one would want to work under, with, or even over.

        1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          As someone who had morning sickness every day until I gave birth and then had a drug free 4 hour labour in which my kid basically slid out, every pregnancy is the same and yet different.
          Encourage Sansa to speak with HR and become very familiar with the work from home rules. She needs to know exactly how much push back she can give Cersei.

        2. Amelia*

          I actually do believe there is a psychological element at play with morning sickness.

          I am currently in the midst of it and vomit at least 5 times a day.

          Television has a very strange effect on me right now. I need to be very careful to not view any shows or commercials with food. The mere sight of a piece of salmon (something I normally love) or really any non-toast leaves me gagging. I clearly can’t actually smell or taste the food but my imagination is in over-drive and my stomach is on a hair trigger.

          I also have Pavlovian responses to things like ginger. After eating so many ginger candies while nauseous, I can’t even look at a ginger candy wrapper without vomiting.

          But unfortunately this self knowledge of the psychological only goes so far. I can’t seem to change my involuntary reactions. Avoidance of triggers is the best I can do.

          I’m just thankful for Diclegis – it was 5x as bad before I was prescribed it.

          1. Nancy*

            I noticed that my physical gag reflex was heightened during pregnancy. I had to be careful brushing my teeth, and, believe it or not, blowing my nose.

            1. CMFDF*

              I couldn’t go in the produce section. And one time, my husband was preparing food, and while I could eat beef no problem, I had to leave the house while he was prepping and cooking it.

            2. Rana*

              Ugh. Mine persisted (and persists) for years after pregnancy. It’s only now, four years later, that I’m able to eat salmon again without gagging.

              1. Alienor*

                It’s been 20 years since I was pregnant, and I still can’t bear the smell or even the thought of the specific brand of gum I chewed during the first trimester. Ugh!

          2. Specialk9*

            Oh Lord, when I was having morning sickness, anything white and glistening made me heave. Boiled eggs, cottage cheese, tofu, etc. Ugh. I was functionally vegetarian before, but the only protein I could handle on pregnancy was grilled chicken.

            Oh, and I had morning sickness till my kid was 2 years old, thanks to hormonal birth control implant. It’s really not imaginary!

          3. Jennifer Thneed*

            > But unfortunately this self knowledge of the psychological only goes so far. I can’t seem to change my involuntary reactions. Avoidance of triggers is the best I can do.

            Yes. The subconcious is a powerful – but somewhat stupid – thing. I get a really good weekly science magazine and about a year ago there was a story about a study of placebos. The test subjects were given a pill that had a certain harmless but measurable effect, like maybe it increased saliva production for 10 minutes, I really can’t remember. They took that pill at the same time each day for a very short time, like maybe 3-4 days. The next day, they took another pill (at the assigned time) that looked the same but was just a sugar pill AND THEY KNEW THAT, and their bodies still created the reaction that it was used to having.

            I used this to good effect when I had to stop eating wheat. Since the unpleasant physical reactions aren’t immediate enough for me to develop an aversion to wheat, I just trained my subconscious to not desire it. How? By looking at a cake or plate of cookies or whatever, and saying to myself, “That’s poison”. Very matter-of-fact in that. Just “That’s poison” every time I looked at something I knew I shouldn’t eat and it just … worked. I have my gluten-free bread and cookies for when I want, and anything else I see, when I don’t know if it’s safe, I really just don’t want it. I don’t feel like I have overcome cravings or anything; those foods have just moved into the category of foods that I don’t care for.

          4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            I couldn’t think about chicken or I’d get sick with my first kid. I’m pretty sure that everyone thought I was putting on a show. I should have just stayed in the room when I got sick instead of running to the restroom. The morning sickness was intense with that one. It started before I knew I was pregnant and continued the entire time.

        3. Jules the Third*

          This. Ditto for the ‘all the time sickness until month ‘. Then about 3 weeks of ‘ok, this isn’t so bad’ until the pelvic pain started. By month 7, I could barely walk, and 10 years later, I still have stiffness in my hips from those strained tendons.

          When the gestational diabetes hit at the beginning of month 8, I was *relieved*, it meant this symphony of pain and discomfort was almost over.

          Pregnancy can be physically dangerous. There’s a reason I only had one. (He’s great and I’m glad I had him, but it is NOT a trivial thing and no one should have their boss grilling them about the details…)

      6. Arya Parya*

        I didn’t have morning sickness during my pregnancy and consider myself very lucky. I did have other ‘side effects’ though that made work a little harder for me, such as extreme tiredness during the first trimester and some pretty bad headaches. I would not have been amused if my colleagues would have told me that it was all in my head.

        1. Stinky Socks*

          Oh my gosh, the fatigue. THE EXHAUSTION. I could hibernate through the entirety of the first trimester. But thankfully no morning sickness.

          1. Triumphant Fox*

            YES. I’m at the end and occasionally it still hits me out of nowhere – it feels like I’ve been drugged.

          2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            With my first, I would go home on lunch and take naps, then come home after work, immediately eat dinner and go to bed until I had to get up and go back to work the next day. With my second, it wasn’t nearly as bad although I did have the sobering thought that it could be that being that exhausted was my new “normal” since we had our kids less than 2 years apart.

      7. Lara*

        There are some people out there who say that labour pains are all in a woman’s head. The first president of the National Childbirth Trust in the UK, Grantly Dick-Read, insisted that labour pain was mostly the result of fear and that positive thinking would resolve it. (He also said that ‘primitive’ women did not feel any pain, so I’m a bit astonished that people cite him as an authority).

        1. Myrin*

          That is an astonishingly fitting name for a guy who would say something like that!

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          And of course those people are men who wouldn’t have any first hand experience.

          1. Lara*

            Some women buy into that nonsense too. The general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, Cathy Warwick, said that epidurals were only being asked for because mothers were ‘anxious’. Funnily enough, her solution was more midwifery support.

        3. Erin*

          Bullshit, my dog delivered 9 pups and felt pain. So a woman would feel pain too. Maybe not as much as a human, and by the 9th all the hormones and endorphins kicked in that she just sighed and squeezed the pup out. But with the first pup she panicked and was in pain.

          1. Lara*

            Of course it’s bullshit. OB’s have said before that the women who have the hardest time are the ones who believe it, and find out the hard way that, no, labour pain is physiological, and then feel guilty and think they are abnormal because they felt pain.

            I am actually a little disturbed that GDR is still cited and lauded for his contributions to ‘natural’ childbirth.

      8. Flower*

        To be fair there is a psychological aspect to nausea… but there’s also a psychological aspect to pain, whether acute or chronic, and while some jerks might look at someone like me (young, female, appears healthy, has a chronic joint pain disorder) when dealing my sometimes-terrible joints and say that it’s all in my head, they’re not going to look at me (young, female, appears healthy, literally had my wisdom teeth out three days ago) dealing with my not-too-terrible mouth pain and say it’s all in my head and I can just get over it, even though nearly everyone gets their wisdom teeth out so it’s “almost” natural. I know this because a few hours after the removal I was almost fine and kept getting asked by various individuals how it was that I was standing, walking, conversing normally. (Practice, I guess? The pain meds they have me on for this isn’t even the full level of what I take on a medium-bad day otherwise.)

        Note: Chronic pain (not chronic pain due to an injury) is usually coded as female and acute pain isn’t really, so I guess we’ve come full-circle.

      9. MattKnifeNinja*

        I had women coworkers from SE Asian countries that told me they never head of morning sickness or menopause issues until they came to the US.

        Ie…American women are drama queens.

        So yeah…I believe you when your coworkers said morning sickness is psychosomatic.

        1. Carrie*

          Here’s a thought, Matt. Maybe those conditions go by another name in those countries? Or you could try having a child and then report back?

          Lets throw your logic back at you : I am a firm believer that men are drama queens about being hit in the testicles. How could that possibly hurt? The pain is all in your head.

          1. Specialk9*

            I thought Matt was saying that they had heard similar things, not that the things were correct?

          2. Cal*

            You totally misread Matt’s comment. He said he believes women who say they have been treated badly when pregnant.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          What you said. Me, I wonder how many of those women had themselves had children while they were in their home country? Lots of people have ideas about what women shouldn’t know until they “need to” (get married/pregnant).

          Even in this country, nobody used the word “pregnant” in public until like the 1950’s. And if you’ve seen any excerpts from women’s journals of the expansion of the American West, there are lots of mentions of “Mrs. Smith was feeling poorly this morning, so we took a break until the baby was born” where Mrs Smith’s previous pregnancy complaints are lost to time because they weren’t recorded at all, and “feeling poorly” is code for “went into hard labor”.

      10. Igg*

        Mostly this story is a cautionary take to employees that when an overreaching boss asks q’s you say ‘it’s for a doc apptmt’ what kind? A private doc apptmt. And cautionary for nosy but not ill-meaning bosses (though I think we can assume Cersei is def ill meaning), tgat nosy q’s to your employee might make them feel compelled to answer, and so with employees you must use extra caution before asking questions of a personal nature. Well really just don’t ask q’s that are personal

        1. Safetykats*

          This. Your personal medical information is just that – personal – and although you will need a doctor’s cert to take advantage of certain benefits that cert goes to HR, not your manager. OP1 (and pregnant coworker) should go straight to HR on this one. Really, any requests for accommodations should be coordinated through HR, with management involvement. I don’t understand why you would ever go only to your manager, who likely is not well versed in the company policies and state/federal law for FMLA and short-term disability, and is therefore so much more likely to get it wrong somehow and endanger your benefits. I also don’t understand why any manager would deal with this without looping HR in right away, but I suspect it’s ignorance. Having had more than my share of staff on short-term and FMLA, I absolutely don’t care to undertake the process without HR. It’s not my area of expertise, and it can be a lot of work to get it right – and that’s not actually what the company pays me to do.

      11. Sigh*

        I hate the morning sickness is in your head crap. I heard that all the time from the female relatives of clients, who all apparently “ate a cracker and got on to my day.” It is some weird form of something, that people can forget being terribly, terribly ill and then shame people for it. I had clients from the same family and different generations once, and the older woman was shaming the younger woman right in front of me, and I gently popped in to the convo with some polite reminders of what the older woman had gone through that I was present for. It changed the convo completely and older woman was a lot more supportive- it was like she’d completely blocked out her experience in some way. I don’t know. Its trippy.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          We totally do this though! We have a hard time remembering pain in general. Now, I feel like I’ve had a great pregnancy, but as I read these comments I think, “Oh, yeah, I did vomit all over myself in the car on the way to work one day – and I generally vomited in the car most days. That was fun.”

      12. Wintermute*

        This is a really good point, and I’m very glad it’s (relatively) more innocent than the possibilities I was coming up with off the top of my head! Still not okay! so, so not okay!

    2. Artemesia*

      I was once told to ‘help myself’ to the water cooler in my boss’s office, so I did only to be told by the Admin after a few trips that the office staff actually bought the water — it was not paid for by the department. I would assume the sugar stealer doesn’t know (although she probably does) and just say ‘Jill, this group buys our own snacks and supplies, it is not provided by the department, so please don’t use our stuff. You will need to bring in your own as we do.’

        1. Ego Chamber*

          If you overlook how passive-aggressive and rude that is, it would be a really good idea. :)

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I actually would not rule out adults believing in a magical neverending sugar drawer. Or its close cousin, that everyone else has unlimited money, unlimited time, unlimited patience, unlimited magical spill-wiping ability, and so should unstintingly share these on the suffering adult’s behalf.

      1. Igg*

        Yep! I have a coworker who expects me to buy his milk and when I buy 1% he actually complains and says ‘not everyone likes that milk you should buy something everyone drinks.’ Meaning but instead of what I want, what he wants. Yeah not everyone gets to the store to get their own dang milk either… ugh.

        1. Not a Morning Person*

          Why is he helping himself to your milk? Tell him to purchase his own.

      2. Lindsay J*

        I mean a magical neverending sugar drawer is pretty common at a lot of jobs – it’s paid for out of company funds to go along with the coffee that people drink that the company also pays for and restocks.

        (That’s obviously not the case in the OP’s company, and I would think if the woman has been there for awhile she would realize that if the company isn’t buying her department sugar, it’s not buying any other department sugar, either. But maybe she’s new, or just especially oblivious.)

        But I wouldn’t classify this as the same as stealing like, a roommate’s sugar or milk where obviously the money for it came out of an individual’s pocket and obviously it wasn’t yours.

      3. pleaset*

        “I actually would not rule out adults believing in a magical neverending sugar drawer. ”

        It’s not magical – it’s paid for by the company.

        “I mean a magical neverending sugar drawer is pretty common at a lot of jobs – it’s paid for out of company funds to go along with the coffee that people drink that the company also pays for and restocks.”


        That’s a fair assumption by the person taking the sugar. The OP should just tell him/her this. I’m frankly amazed that this rose to the level of writing to a blog to ask for advice.

        Tell the other person. They made an assumption: correct them. It’s not a big deal.

        This should be AAM 101: Tell the other person.

    4. iwouldlikeacookie*

      OP of #2 here – True, it could be ignorance rather than malice which is precisely why I didn’t begrudge the sugar. It’s not a big deal for each of us to bring in sugar packets from our latest trip to the coffee shop. But for sure, the next time we bring in treats specifically for our own group I will be asking her not to take anything and maybe drop in that everything on that condiment table was brought in by someone in the department and she should consider bringing her own to her own department!

      1. Specialk9*

        I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that. (Though I certainly wouldn’t begrudge someone who was poor or hungry from taking extra sugar packets.)

      2. SophieK*

        Begin as you mean to go on.

        You should have explained the deal the first time so she knew the sugar wasn’t company provided. She likely thinks so, since you’ve seen her help herself and not said anything.

        Now you do need to say something but you are going to look like a jerk. That’s on you, not her. So woman up and take responsibility for giving her false information!

          1. SophieK*

            I’ve made mistakes like the sugar “thief” and was not the slightest bit offended to be corrected. I appreciate it so I don’t have people side eyeing me and muttering behind my back and writing in to Internet advice columnists.

            I’ve also had a boss or two save up all their petty, easily correctable complaints for one big dump session, which I think everybody has dealt with at one time or another.

            I’ll say it agsin. If you don’t gently correct right away and just watch someone doing the wrong thing over and over again YOU are the jerk.

            Begin as you mean to go on. Have the ovaries/balls to give people the correct info in the first place rather than letting things fester to the point that you are writing Alison. This isn’t mean or unhelpful at all!

            Rather, it’s the only grownup comment on this thread.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Seriously. Back in my day, even the obvious tr0lls were at least a little bit subtle. There was no sense in giving away the game on the first comment, since then people would just ignore future comments and talk around them. Kids these days…

            1. Parenthetically*

              “This isn’t mean or unhelpful at all! Rather, it’s the only grownup comment on this thread.”


        1. Igg*

          I don’t agree that ‘you didn’t say anything’=‘you gave out false information so now you run the risk of being a jerk.’ Nope nopety nope. LW isn’t responsible for the thoughts running through anyone’s head and she’s not responsible for being the sugar police. Perhaps if sugar police was on her job description the officemate might reasonably assume that she isn’t double parked since she did it on front of the cop. But that’s not a guarantee then either. Officemate should be asking ideally. AAM was spot on

      3. Epic Flavia Haplessness*

        I find it weird that you get refills of sugar packs from a coffeeshop. Aren’t you basically doing the same thing she’s doing—taking extra without paying for it? I totally understand that when you get a traveller container from a coffee shop, you usually get extra sugar and sweeteners that are perfect for the community area, but just grabbing a bunch of extra when you get your coffee?

  4. CJ Record*

    And this is why I read this site, even though it’s not always relevant.* In regards to #3, I would never have thought that fostering/adoption would invoke FMLA. On consideration, it makes complete sense! But I wouldn’t even have thought to ask. Alison, you do amazing work, as always!

    *Academics: it’s a whole nother world.

    1. HR Here*

      Yes, and it can be taken intermittently, which would work well here.
      It would not work to take a child in to work routinely. Children sense your need for productivity and do anything they can to subvert it. They’re all consuming, time off is definitely the right call.
      Good luck, that’s a wonderful thing.

      1. Wtf*

        “Children sense your need for productivity and do anything they can to subvert it”

        I… what? Children don’t care about your need for productivity and deliberately subvert it, they just need attention.

        1. Kat M2*

          I’m not yet a parent, but I know a lot of folks who are like to joke about how their kids need attention right at the moment they need to focus. Meanwhile, when the parents need their kids’ attention, that’s when the kid gets absorbed by something else. I think HR Here meant to make a tongue and cheek comment :).

          If you haven’t had a child or worked with children, it’s so easy to underestimate the sheer amount of physical and emotional work involved to raise them to be good people. People joke about it to stay sane.

            1. Kat M2*

              Awww, thanks :)

              I work with kids/on children’s issues. Yes, wanting attention as a small child is developmentally appropriate but it is exhausting and parents have to do so much these days just to keep their heads above water. We’re not honest enough as a culture about how much work goes into raising small children. It really does take a village!

          1. CMFDF*

            My daughter only has trouble sleeping when we’re 50 minutes into a season finale, or as we’re sitting down to eat dinner. Like, literally, butt will hit seat, pickup knife and fork, and then she starts screaming. (Or she starts screaming, pause the tv, and the counter says 50:27. Every single time, give or take 2 minutes.)

            We frequently wonder aloud, “HOW DOES SHE EVEN KNOW?”

            1. Juli G.*

              No joke. Wednesday I am leaving the house as soon as the kids go to bed at 8:30 and sneaking back in to watch The Americans finale. If I don’t, it’s going to take 3 hours to watch.

            2. Jennifer Thneed*

              When you figure it out, let me know, because it probably applies to my cats too.

        2. Lora*

          Nah, this is a true fact. Children who can be 100% entranced by Thundercats re-runs for hours mysteriously demand you admire their Lego creation EXACTLY at the moment when you try to review the phone bill, call the doctor’s office for your test results or check your email. They have a knack for it. You might get like, three stairs vacuumed before their urgent compulsion to interrupt kicks in, but that’s it.

          1. Naptime Enthusiast*

            Apparently whenever my mom was on the phone, my siblings and I would start fighting/crying/yelling almost on command. And when I babysat, the kids who were more than content to watch TV all day SUDDENLY needed me when I was changing the baby’s diaper. It’s a sixth sense :)

            1. PhyllisB*

              1+ on the phone bit. When my children were young, they could not even be home; off playing up the street, but as soon as I decided to make a phone call, there they were; at least one of them, and sometimes all three with something totally urgent. Like look at this rock I found or something equally earth-shattering. Sometimes if I wanted them to come home, I’d make a phone call. Worked every time.

              1. JaneB*

                My cat was like that too. Apparently fast asleep but as soon as I really needed to concentrate, in my face, climbing by my leg, meow meow meow… gosh I miss her so much

                1. Gatomon*

                  My cat too has this super power! He’ll be passed out in the bedroom and the second I exchange hellos with someone on the phone, he’s all over me. Little fluffy monsters.

          2. de Pizan*

            My 2 year nephew is like that with cell phones/ipads/computers. He can be in the next room happily entranced in his toys for hours, but literally as soon as you open up your electronic device, he’s parked at your elbow so fast you swear he levitated there and then for as long as you have it up, you’ll have to employ evasive maneuvers to keep him from trying to mash all the buttons.

        3. bunniferous*

          Technically you are correct but practically it always seems to work out the way HR Here said. In other words, in the same category as Murphy’s Law.

        4. Specialk9*

          Children can be perfectly happy doing their own thing, until they sense that you’re paying attention to something else. As soon as I try to type an email, my kid appears instantly to demand attention and to try to bang the computer (despite having his own “pooter” right there). I see similar behavior if I pay attention to another kid – he’ll run in and practically shove the kid away. I think they’re pretty similar behaviors.

      2. Foster Parent*

        I did this just this year…I teach and became a foster parent to a newborn 3 weeks before school started. Intermittent FMLA was approved and, thanks to wonderful friends providing childcare, I started the year w my class. After 3 weeks, I took 5 weeks off to be with the baby. I’ve since used sick days under intermittent FMLA to take my daughter on some of her visits with bio mom, etc.

    2. Kheldarson*

      LW3 should also talk to their boss about paternity/maternity leave! It’s a small office, but they might be able to put something in place, and a lot of employers cover adoption/fostering under it as well.

      1. Kittymommy*

        Definitely My first thought was to check into maternity/paternity leave. Most places I know that have them would consider this as applicable.

      2. LeRainDrop*

        Yes! I don’t know if OP’s office offers this yet, but at my last firm, parental leave included 30 days of paid leave for all non-birthing parents (covering dads, adoptive moms, foster moms, and other non-birthing moms). It would be lovely if her office could implement a similar policy.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      Everywhere I’ve ever worked, it explicitly has been stated that working from home is not a substitute for child care. It’s one thing to go part-time, or to adjust your schedule, or to be dealing with an older kid who doesn’t need full-time attention, or to be home with a sick kid who’ll be sleeping, or to take some time off and some time working … but it is virtually impossible to be both fully productive and fully present with your kid.

      In this particular case, that goes double, because your goal is not to care for a child you already know well, but to focus on and bond with a new addition to your household.

      Take the time off.

      1. Red Reader*

        Yep. “How do I get my boss to let me work from home so I can focus on my new child?” The logic, she does not follow.

      2. 2horseygirls*


        This is a completely new environment for this child, who has already been in one or more new environments in his/her short life. If it is a foster situation, who knows how many different placements there have been?

        I would encourage you to take this time to get to learn about this child and help them assimilate into your household. You do not mention if you have older children that are already grown and out of the house, or if this is your first child – if you already have some experience with children, then you know that they are each unique, and will adjust on their own schedule. If this is your first, then all the books and training cannot convey the infinite variables that could affect your WFH ability. The 0-5 age range is the least self-sufficient and require the most supervision, plus this is a completely new/unknown child to you – you have to get to know sleep patterns, food preferences, sensory sensitivities, etc. to set a successful foundation for the rest of your lives. Good luck, and congratulations!

      3. The Original K.*

        My best friend is 100% remote and she’s required to provide proof of child care for her two kids every year. She and her husband have a part-time nanny for when the kids are home from school.

        Another friend of mine was a single foster parent and her first/only placement (she adopted her and doesn’t foster anymore) was a teenager who COULD spend time home alone, but my friend took time off work anyway to help with the transition (which was tough; the kid had been through a lot). Definitely take the time off, OP.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s true! All my friends who’ve adopted took FMLA, and they were all so glad that they did. And luckily, it applies for academics, too ;)

    5. Sigh*

      I’m a graduate student who plans to use FMLA for our (hopefully!) upcoming adoption. My HR presentation made sure to mention it as a benefit for “alternative family creation” and I really appreciated it. I really find this site so helpful- there’s so many good life skills here, there’s enough stuff that applies to grad school, and I’ve gotten to read a lot of insightful comments from academics about differences in academy employment. :)

    6. JustAnnAnonoly*

      It doesn’t sound like her office is strictly bound by FMLA due to size, though. We are similarly sized, but do follow FMLA even though we aren’t strictly required to. It just seems like the decent thing to do! We also offer 2 weeks paid leave for mothers and fathers. That also includes adoption, but not fostering.

      Fostering, to me, feels a little different because it’s often kids coming in at random times and for an undetermined length of stay. Although, I’m not really familiar with the foster system so I’m sure there are also long term placements that would really be more similar to adoption than “kid’s parent just got arrested and she needs a place to crash until her aunt can make it to town” or similar. Even in the cases that I’ve known that ended up being long term, there was a huge amount of uncertainty to the length and it has varied from days to years. I know that our company specifically would be supportive of allowing time off for fostering needs (probably paid – my boss is a total pushover for any causes involving women or children) as long as the necessary work is still being performed and it isn’t being obviously abused.

  5. Cherries in the Snow*

    I really hope Sansa pukes on Cersei’s shoes in the middle of the next interrogation.

    And then files a discrimination complaint.

  6. Scotty_Smalls*

    #3 You might have to take a couple of days off for children over 4 anyway. If they’re going to school you might need to set up their vaccines and enroll them. And you’d need a day to take the child to get their physical.

  7. Espeon*

    OP1: Does Sansa have to be approved to WFH? If the policy is that people can do it whenever they want basically, can’t she just *state* that she’s staying/going home, rather than giving this harridan the power-trip she desires? If she can, then I’d loop in HR and just start doing that.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      A lot of places have flexible arrangements/WFH policies that say your manager has to know about it. There was a LW recently that just left to work from home without clearing it with their manager and was charged a personal day, even though s/he was working.

      We have a very flexible policy at my company that comes down to “does your manager approve? If so, yes”. Most of the managers in my department are very good about letting people use it, but they do have the power to say no.

      1. OP #1*

        This. While our corporate policy is generous, your manager/director has final say. But score one for Sansa – she got her doctor to write a note that she needed to work from home, so she can pretty much come and go as she pleases.

        1. Espeon*

          Excellent! I’m glad she’s doing what she needs for herself to override this nonesense.

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. Our department often brings biscuits, chocolates or sweets when somebody has been travelling. In a previous location we put everything on the top of one of the dividing cabinets for people to help himselves.

    Without fail, somebody from another department would make a beeline for the newly unwrapped box of chocolates and would ask what the occasion was (“Big Boss went to Paris for the weekend”) then start helping themselves. I suppose it might have been better had they actually got something to do with our department!

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      Our department often has potlucks or random eating days where we bring food to share in our small department. Most of us are not highly paid. There is a manager in another department down the corridor who never offers to contribute, brings anything or even asks to be included. But you can be sure he will be there hoeing in before the food hits the table. He earns about 3 times what we do.

      1. Trig*

        Sounds like he needs to be subjected to some very polite, curious, not-at-all sarcastic, totally-innocent-above-board “I brought that one, isn’t it good? And what did you bring?/What will you be bringing next time?” comments.

        He might not get the point… but the pettiness would make me feel better.

    2. iwouldlikeacookie*

      OP of #2 here – What I’ve taken to doing is saying “Oh yeah, Big Boss brought those in for the department” and try to emphasize “FOR THE DEPARTMENT”. Sometimes I’ll even say “He brought 7, one for each of us” so that they know if they take one it will be noticed!

    3. Natasha*

      Every potluck I’ve ever been to has had leftovers, who cares if someone new joins? And for #2, how much does a packet of sugar cost anyway?

      1. AsItIs*

        Some people don’t want to supply others with “free” sugar (creamer, whatever), so why should they, regardless of cost?

      2. Sigh*

        It isn’t just about cost, it is about participating in providing a community activity- these people care enough about each other to all participate in bringing in something. It is kind of tragedy of the commons-ish to take from something that a group of people are doing and not give anything.

      3. Pomona Sprout*

        It’s true that *A* packet of sugar doesn’t cost much, but in this case someone is taking MULTIPLE packets of sugar on a regular basis. That is going to add up over time. In addition to the cost there is also the inconvenience of having to retock more often.

      4. Lara*

        This is the logic that leads roommates to help themselves to other people’s toiletries and food because “It’s just bread.” Like yes, ok, bread is cheap, when bought in the supermarket. It’s considerably less cheap when you’re having to re-buy it three times a week at the local shop (with inflated prices) because someone else has sticky fingers.

  9. Mrs. Wednesday*

    #3: If you’re in California, you may be eligible for up to 6 weeks of paid family leave. It’s a wage-replacement program that many employees pay into and it’s administered by the same state department that handles unemployment and short-term disability benefits. Bonding time with foster and/or adopted children is definitely covered. Good luck!

  10. irritable vowel*

    I hate that we live in such a workaholic society that someone who is feeling ill and possibly throwing up is asking to work from home rather than taking a sick day. Yes, I get that pregnancy-related barfing is not something you can take a sick day for every day until it gets better, but if one of my staff told me they were throwing up and needed to leave, I would send them home immediately to rest, not home to work with a bucket next to them.

    1. Perfectcompromise*

      Really? I feel like morning sickness is the perfect work from home opportunity. They in all likelihood won’t be sick all day, and can rest in the morning and when they feel better work from home. If a woman gets morning sickness throughout their whole trimester it would be fairly inconvenient to keep taking personal days

      1. Julia*

        I think it depends on the severity and duration of symptoms. And also, some days I feel okay sitting comfortably at my desk at home in my PJs, with the toilet right there, but don’t feel okay enough to commute into work and deal with my issues there.

        Caveat: Never been pregnant, but do sometimes battle nausea/digestive issues.

        1. Yvette*

          ‘And also, some days I feel okay sitting comfortably at my desk at home in my PJs, with the toilet right there, but don’t feel okay enough to commute into work and deal with my issues there.’

          Exactly, well enough to work but not well enough to deal with a 2+ hour commute involving several modes of transportation.

        2. Sigh*

          I always feel gross about throwing up in public restrooms. Like no one else wants to hear me, smell me, or deal with the aftereffects (I might just be sensitive but I feel like ventiliation isn’t always good enough to get rid of the gross acidic smell).

      2. Atalanta0jess*

        Morning sickness is definitely not just in the morning….

        It is a sucky thing, because if you have it bad there is just no way in the world to take off time to deal with it. I puked every day for…seven months? Something like that. A long time. I took one sick day. Adding in work at home days would have been nice since it’s better to puke at home,but it would take have mattered which days because they all were the same (bad).

        If someone had kept trying to send me home to rest I would have been irritated, because I needed to save all my PTO and all my money to eek out a maternity leave. :(

        1. Gatomon*

          True, it is not just in the mornings! I had a couple friends with hyperemesis who were sick basically the whole way through, and had really odd triggers that would cause an episode. It saddens me to know that they, and you, had to struggle through working while dealing with those symptoms because they didn’t have the PTO to take care of themselves.

      3. Pomona Sprout*

        But most people don’t get unlimited sick days. One of the benefits ofwfh is being able to conserve one’s sick days so you don’t run out.

    2. LizM*

      Depending on the severity, it may not be bad enough to warrant a full sick day.

      When I was pregnant, “morning” sickness came and went throughout the day. The main reason I didn’t want to be in the office was because it was embarrassing to be constantly throwing up on bad days. Between episodes, I was fine (although I felt much better on my couch in my sweats instead of at my desk in work attire). If an episode was particularly bad, I could work a little later into the evening because I didn’t have to commute. It was also nice because I could control the smells (no microwaved fish or burnt popcorn).

      Especially given that I didn’t have any paid maternity leave beyond my banked sick time, I wouldn’t have wanted to use a full 8 hours for that.

      1. Daisy Steiner*

        For me, it was kind of the opposite. I felt queasy all day, gradually getting worse throughout the day, but I never threw up. Because of the nausea my productivity took a hit for 3 to 4 months (fortunately my manager was understanding) and WFH wouldn’t have made any difference.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Although I felt much better on my couch in my sweats instead of at my desk in work attire.

        This is an important point for a lot of conditions that respond well to work from home. When I was recovering from meningitis, getting into work clothes and then riding a train to the office would have taken most of my energy before I even started for the day. Take those out of the equation, let me walk a few feet to lie down every few hours, and I could do my work.

    1. Sherm*

      Yeah, I don’t get what she’s thinking. Dry heaves just means that nothing was in your stomach while you retched. It doesn’t mean that you feel any better!

      1. Mad Baggins*

        “OK Cersei, how many dry heaves per hour is acceptable before I can go home? 4? OK, I’ve dry heaved 4 times, see you tomorrow.”

        1. Amelia*

          If I had to choose between vomiting and dry heaves, I’d go with vomiting.

          It tends to end more quickly once you’ve fully voided your stomach.

          (I never thought I’d have opposed opinions on such things but I’m in the midst of some incredibly severe morning sickness myself)

          1. many bells down*

            No, it’s totally true. I have a great deal of trouble actually vomiting for some reason. So when I get really nauseated it’s just a round of heaving and dizziness and writhing around in misery for hours. I’ve ended up in the ER with a panic attack from it.

            Actually being able to get whatever-it-is OUT makes me feel better almost immediately.

          2. VelociraptorAttack*

            My “morning sickness” that was round-the-clock sickness during the first 4 months became incessant dry heaving every morning for the next two months. It was so much worse.

      2. Mookie*

        Many times, dry heaves spells no relief and just never-ending pain, gas, and/or nausea, a hoarse throat and voice, plus a lot of false calls running to the toilet only to bring up nothing. I wouldn’t wish a regular occurrence of them on anyone. So frustrating and such a time-waster.

      3. Nancy*

        Not to mention that they HURT!! I once had food poisoning. I would ingest saltines and water even though I knew they would come up because it hurt less than dry heaves.

  11. HR Here*

    Tangental to #2 but our receptionist routinely buys candy for a bowl up front. It’s amazing to me how many people come by our department just to grab a handful of candy, and that no one else even within the department offers to buy it once in awhile. I’ve brought in several bags for her, but I came to kind of resent being the only one. People are odd about the office candy is all I can say.

    1. Gingerblue*

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this blog, it’s that food makes people weird.

      1. Anonimals*

        Same, which is why I was thrown for a loop at my last job. It had a fully stocked kitchen and there was usually a meeting with catered lunch somewhere which meant leftovers at a certain time. Not once did I see people sneaking food beforehand or hoarding stuff from the kitchen. I was both impressed and disappointed at having no outrageous food stories to tell.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Especially simple carbohydrates. Don’t stand between the cake and people armed with tiny plastic sporks.

        One of my favorites was that Bob had a pretzel cart and used to bring in hot pretzels once a week at his own expense. Then Bob retired. WHERE DID THE PRETZELS GO?

      3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        Might be time for another Food Wars comment day even though there was one recently. Office Food Wars is the well that never runs dry.

    2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      A receptionist at an old job used to leave one single candy in her candy bowl. When that was gone she put in one more single candy. She was sick of watching people walk by and scoop out handfuls. Whenever someone asked if there was more candy, she said no, but feel free to buy a bag. That made a few people buy a bag but the vast majority just took their one candy and slunk away.

      1. the gold digger*

        Wait. People actually took the last piece of candy?

        That does not happen in my office. That last piece will sit there, sad and lonely, until the jar is re-stocked.

      2. Specialk9*

        Honestly that feels super trifling. If she was resenting the candy bowl (and how people interacted what it) so much, she could get rid of it. If she has candy out, don’t monitor it with judgment. And if you can’t afford to buy candy for people without getting angry, either get work to pay for it, or discontinue it.

        This is on her more than anyone.

        1. Cal*

          If she’s buying it, she can do whatever she wants with it. She wants to share, but greedy people ruin it. This was her solution. People aren’t entitled to others’ candy.

        2. Natasha*

          I agree, I think a lot of the food discussion on this thread has become petty when sugar is the cheapest it’s ever been.

        3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          Actually, it was a case of no good deed goes unpunished. The candy bowl had been around for years, most people took a few and most people would bring in a bag to replenish it. Then staff turnover created a new generation of candy eaters who did not understand the principle of group sharing. People started taking handfuls as soon as the bowl was filled. A few would spent minutes picking through it and taking out their favourites. One person said that the quality of the candy should improve between Halloween and Christmas because there was so much candy on sale. The final straw was when someone mentioned how evil sugar was and that the candy should be sugar free. The poor receptionist had the bowl to provide a quick treat for people passing by and instead she got a 5 minute lecture about Evil Sugar. So she started leaving just one candy in the bowl. And that is why we can’t have nice things at work.

    3. iwouldlikeacookie*

      OP of #2 here – Since I sit in the hallway next to the microwave/snack area I would NEVER want to have a bowl of candy on my desk because it’s already distracting enough having people walk by and talk to me, let alone having them stop, take food, and then keep talking to me! I have work to do here.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      A long-ago department receptionist went to some effort to keep a candy bowl stocked with a wide variety of candy, figuring there would be something for everyone. Most people were gracious; even so, I heard way too much jerkiness from our employees. Too many hard candies, not enough chocolate/coconut/peanut treats, requests to set aside their favorite just for them, complaints because they didn’t see their favorite, ‘Who the hell likes butterscotch?’-type comments, complaints there were still not enough choices, complaints about too many choices, special requests for Frango Mints, See’s Candy, and other regional specials…you get the idea.

      The candy bowl was eventually retired because, sometimes, people suck when it comes to free anything.

      1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        Just remembered, a restaurant that we go to has a candy bowl by the exit. The hostess asks if you’d like a candy, if you say yes, then she gives you one wrapped candy. I can imagine the circumstances that led to that policy change.

    5. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I feel like people think it’s the job of the receptionist to provide candy, though, if candy is provided? That’s not to say people can’t/shouldn’t contribute, just that I don’t think it occurs to people to do so because reception candy always feels like “public” candy (i.e it could be there for staff or for visitors) as opposed to a departmental treat. But I’m also big on the “if you like doing something, keep doing it, and if you don’t like people being unappreciative of it, you can stop at any time” approach.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, it’s always awkward to figure out what is being provided by the company and what’s being provided by the receptionist. If something is always available for public use, my first assumption would be that it isn’t being payed for out of the employee’s pocket (unless it’s something obvious like “Bob loves baking cookies and brings them in almost every week” or whatever).

    6. JustAnnAnonoly*

      At OldJob, if the candy co-worker let the jar sit empty for more than a day, some of the people who routinely indulged would start tossing money into the empty jar. She didn’t do this intentionally, it was usually just a matter of timing.

  12. Atalanta0jess*

    There is just no way in heck to work a full day from home with a child under 4. You could work a partial day if you park them in front of the TV,or if you have an independent kid. But a brand new foster kid? No way, man. No way.

    I have found that there is one sure way to get frustrated with my kid: care a lot about achieving something in particular while I am caring for him. It’s terrible. It’s not that it’s never possible to get something done, but it’s unpredictable, and if you care too much, they’ll sense it and thwart you every time ;) You’ll feeel pulled in every direction, frustrated and snappy, and doing poorly at all the things. And the kid will be frustrated too, because they don’t be able to meet your expectations during that time. Do yourself a favor and take the time off so that you can focus on the kiddo.

    1. Daisy Steiner*

      That’s so true about it being a great way to get frustrated. My OH is amazing and can keep calm even when he’s WFH and looking after our 18mo. He might get 2 or 3 hours done in the day if you add up her naps and independent play time, then he’ll do another 3 or 4 when I get home from work, and pick up another 1 or 2 throughout the week with evening meetings. We’re very lucky that his boss has approved this arrangement and that we have a fairly chilled toddler. It works for us but every situation is different.

    2. Fish Microwaver*

      I really think you owe it to the child to give them some undivided time and attention until they become more familiar with you and their new home. Foster children can have trust and abandonment issues and need to ease in gently. Please see if your work offers any leave similar to mat/paternity leave that you could access. Good luck, I hope you will all be happy together.

      1. Fiennes*

        This. It’s possible that the transfer will go smoothly, but there can be a host of issues with any child who’s been taken from one home and put into another. You’ll want to have some time blocked out just in case.

        Related: I so wish for an update from the woman who had grown up in foster care and wept upon getting her first cake at her office.

  13. Amelia*

    “Only dry heaves?” What an idiotic comment. I’m in the thick of morning sickness and run to the bathroom at least 3-4 times a day.

    When you are completely overcome by the need to be sick, it makes no difference whether it’s dry heaving, actual vomiting or a combination of the two. Both leave me with a sore throat, tears streaming down my face (an automatic bodily response, not from crying) and bloodshot eyes.

    In fact, there are times when completely voiding the contents of your stomach is preferable – it’s often over more quickly.

    This boss is the worst.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I agree! When I am nauseated and can’t throw up that’s the worst. Actually vomiting can make the feeling go away faster. Plus dry heaves can mean throwing up saliva mixed with stomach acid which is way more painful/burning to the mouth and throat.

  14. Sarah*

    ““It would be tough to have you work from home today because of X, but if you’re feeling sick enough that you really need to get out of here, we can make it work.” ”

    I don’t love this approach– a dose of guilt before telling you that you can take off time. This type of thing is one reason why sick people come to work sick and get the vulnerable sick.

    1. LizM*

      Yeah. If it’s a conscientious employee, you’re likely not telling them anything they don’t already know. They know if they have meetings or deadlines, and have probably already weighed the impact their absence will have against how bad they feel. I would probably approach it by asking them employee – “We have X deadline, and I know the team was planning on sequestering themselves in the conference room. Have you talked to (Team Lead) about how to move forward if you’re not able to attend in person?”

    2. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I think it would be better to talk about what actually makes it a bad day to work from home and what the solution will be. Meetings? Either designate someone else to go, or get a call-in number set up for it. Deadlines? If the work can be completed and submitted from home then that shouldn’t hold them back.

      The only issue I can really think of where you can’t find a work around is a presentation, but if someone is visibly sick then it’s likely the presentation won’t go well anyway and if possible, it should be moved.

      1. Kit*

        There are lots of jobs where work can’t be pushed back. I don’t interrogate my staff when they’re sick but I do make it clear when I need to that someone else (me, probably) will be working a 14 hour day to cover.

            1. Parenthetically*

              You either trust your staff or you don’t; there’s no “I ‘trust’ my staff but also lay a guilt-trip on them.”

        1. Faith*

          Why? Is this knowledge somehow supposed to help them recover faster? Are they supposed to feel sorry for you on top of feeling sick? Being ill is not something that they chose to do. They are doing the responsible thing by staying home to keep their coworkers from getting sick and to recover faster. They know that someone else needs to pick up the slack. That’s kind of how life works.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Wow, no, please don’t do this. Adults realize that being sick is an inconvenience, but it’s also part of running a business where you employ humans and management are the ones who have to account for that in their planning. Guilt-tripping someone who is puking or running a fever (or going to chemo or managing chronic pain — do you “make it clear” about that stuff?) isn’t going to help them get better or create an environment of goodwill.

  15. LizM*

    #3, is this your first child? Even in the best of circumstances, I can’t imagine trying to work a full day and care for an infant or toddler. Especially given that the purpose of you being home is to try to bond with them, and it’s possible they’ve recently been through some form of trauma, trying to work from home while also helping them adjust to their new home would stretch most people, especially people not used to being around toddlers all day.

    My son is 3, and on days he’s with me all day,I’m exhausted and brain-dead by the end of the day. If I need to work, someone else needs to be his primary caregiver. When I try to be his caregiver and work, I end up not really doing a good job at either. If it’s at all possible, I would try to take time off completely and disconnect from work as much as possible.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I agree with this. Also, you’ll be dealing with the child all evening until s/he goes to bed, too, which means you stay “on the clock” until then – and there’s no guarantee that a baby or even older kid will actually sleep all night, especially if they’re adjusting to a new home and may have had something traumatic happen recently.

      OP, I don’t say this to discourage you at all – I think what you’re doing is wonderful and I think it will be a joyful, rewarding experience for you to become parents this way. But take the resources you can to help yourself out, including time away from work. You and the child both deserve it.

  16. Kittymommy*

    #2. Does the lady actually know about this unwritten policy?? I work in a building of 3 departments (5 divisions) and one breakroom. Occasionally some one will leave doughnuts or fruit or whatever in the breakroom for their department (and on communal tables). No note for clarification so none of the other departments are aware of this so people just eat the food. About half way through the day the bringer of food gets pissy and sends out a passive aggressive email. Could this woman just not know? And depending on where she was last at, she make think the company pays for some of it. Going from that work environment to one where it’s not done can be off putting and may need to be explained

    1. WellRed*

      Even if it’s labeled for such and such department, I don’t think it’s reasonable to stick it in the communal break room.

    2. iwouldlikeacookie*

      OP of #2 here – it’s possible that she doesn’t know, but our 2 departments are separated by a hallway and they have their own communal space and we have our own communal space (with their own snack station). In our department (little sister) we never take food from the big sister department unless someone from there has come to invite us to do so. I think I could probably just drop a comment that people within the department bring the sugars in so the next time she stops by a coffee shop she can pick up a few to refill what she’s borrowed.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        There’s no excuse for her taking chocolate and other obviously-purchased-by-someone-else things, but if you’re all just taking extras from wherever you get coffee on the way in to work, is it possible that her department does the same but then she goes to yours when run out since it’s less like the sugar packets belong to anyone because they all say Starbucks on them?

        I’d be a lot more opposed to her taking sugar from your break room if your department was actually buying the sugar, but this sounds a lot like the drawer at my last job filled with salt and pepper packets and single servings of barbecue sauce and honey mustard, which was raided frequently by all of us and no one ever cared—but now I’m wondering if someone did care.

  17. Freya*

    I guess maybe it’s different in the US – over here fostering and adoption are different things approved in different ways – but in the UK you’d be expected to have someone at home and I’m sure that would come up during your panel. For fostering someone needs to come to all the meetings, contact etc and for adoption they’ll expect you to have someone there to bond.

    1. doreen*

      They’re different things in the US as well, but sometimes a child needs foster case while to proceedings to free him or her for adoption are going on and it’s not uncommon for them to be placed with people who are approved for both foster care and adoption.

    2. RedstateMotherJones*

      You’re saying someone would be required to be a stay at home parent to take in foster children? Not here… in the US poverty and poor work history can get your children taken away.
      A woman in my neighborhood drives a working but very modest car (it is a depreciating asset!). I was with her one day got questioned by some bitchy social worker in a parking lot because of her perceived “inability to afford to care for her children”.

      1. TL -*

        CPS is in general very reluctant to remove children from their parents if at all possible; they have a number of things they try first, including parental support/classes, if the situation allows.

        And while I am sure there are bad social workers, there are also lots of situations where they are privy to information not shared with others and know a different side of the story Ryan you do.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          In my state it seems like they deal harshly with poverty, but turn a blind eye to actual abuse. :-(

      2. Freya*

        No, I’m saying that over here fostering is viewed as a job and realistically you need one parent around for all the meetings etc.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Actually, that’s not correct in all cases, it depends on what type of fostering it is.

          There are certainly *some* foster parents who are employed by agencies and do it as their job, and for them, i would expect them to treat is as their job, and not to be working elsewhere while they are fostering.

          However, not everyone does it that way, local authority foster parents and kinship carers are different, and for them it is not viewed as, or paid as, a job (fostering allowances are a lot less than the payments made to employed foster carers). it’s quite common for foster parents to also have jobs outside the home.

          Legal provisions for parental leave do however include provisions for families having children through adoption or surrogacy. The rights include similar provisions to maternity leave (including time off for meetings before the child is placed, similar to the rules allowing time of for ante-natal appointments)

          OP, I would second the recommendation to talk to your HR department about whether they would offer any leave based on their maternity leave policies, particularly if you are fostering with a view to adoption.

      3. MsSolo*

        You don’t have to be, but if both parents work at least one would need an incredibly flexible schedule. It’s one of the reasons foster parents receive a stipend, because there’s an understanding that you are unlikely to be able to hold down a demanding full time job (at least at first) while also fostering.

  18. Zan*

    #1 goodness me, this is so uncomfortable and invasive. How do our non-health professional co-workers and managers magically become medically qualified?
    Similarly I hate the post-sick day interrogation framed as small talk, e.g. “are you feeling better?” “So what was it, a cold then? You don’t sound too bad today” until the poor person confesses the exact details of their condition, often in an open plan office.

  19. Katie*

    #3 – Foster parent here. I would recommend taking a single week (*maybe* 2 if you really think that’s necessary). Hold out on FMLA to use possibly in a few months. In my experience foster children have a ridiculous amount of appointments and you will need to take leave and a lot of half days – but typically not in the first week or two. The first week or two is actually the easiest. I took 6 weeks of leave (my work didn’t have FMLA, but gave me an equivalent) five months into our first placement when the number of appointments became over the top, the challenges of transitions with school, therapy, etc really came to a head after a few months. That’s when I really needed to take the time off and I had already run out of sick and leave days.

  20. Non-Prophet*

    Cersei is so incredibly out of line. And if Sansa is discovering complications with his pregnancy, as the letter suggests, Cersei’s questions are even more invasive. It is unacceptable that Cersei’s unwillingness to trust Sansa resulted in Sansa feeling pressured into disclosing her pregnancy before she was ready.

    I just had to use four sick days in two weeks because of issues related to my pregnancy. That’s more sick time than I usually need to use over the course of an entire year. It was still the first trimester and I hadn’t yet announced the pregnancy. Sadly, I had a miscarriage. I took off two days for appointments, one day for the D&E itself, and one day to recover from the D&E. I ended up explaining the situation to my boss because my abscence meant that she and other execs had to cover for me while I was out. She was very gracious and accommodating about the whole thing.

    But if my boss had behaved like Cersei, it would have really killed my morale as an employee. To have that level of interrogation while going through a difficult time (physically and emotionally) would have been awful.

    1. Canadian Public Servant*

      I’m glad to hear your management was supportive and respectful, Non-Prophet – i.e., behaved like we should expect from everyone, but sadly can’t.

      And, I am sorry for your loss, and hope you are being good to yourself right now especially.

  21. Glomarization, Esq.*

    OP#1, you say you’re senior to the pregnant employee (Sansa) and junior to her manager (Cersei). Still, I hope you consider stepping in and publicly supporting Sansa. Your letter doesn’t go much into office politics or your personal/professional relationship with Cersei, so you’d know best whether you have interpersonal capital to spare on this kind of thing. But sometimes women can be the worst adversaries in an office (Cersei), and sometimes we can be our best advocates in solidarity (you).

    1. OP #1*

      Cersei is Teflon. When she’s confronted with anything, she’s SHOCKED that her behavior came across that way. She was only CONCERNED about her employee. She would NEVER intentionally make anyone feel uncomfortable. She’s gotten away with this stuff for so long, thank to an HR department that never takes action and a grandboss with Cersei-esque tendancies, that even those of us with capital to spend don’t spend it on Cersei. No return on investment.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Sounds like those semi-apologies from powerful dudes caught harassing people. Yuchhh.

      2. Lara*

        *shrug* and letting this go on is how your company will likely lose rock star employees like Sansa. I’m sorry they’re being so incompetent.

  22. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    One option is to physically remove the sugar/supplies. Use sugar packets that people can stash at their desk.
    Any treats can be placed in a drawer that only the staff know about. It would take a lot of crust for the sugar stealing worker to ask where the chocolate is when she comes over and can’t find it.

      1. Teapotty*

        My company had to do this after supplies of the instant cappuccinos disappeared from the kitchen on more than one occasion after being freshly restocked. I keep waiting for the fridge to be moved too as now the milk is disappearing!

  23. Glomarization, Esq.*

    OP#2: Any “unspoken company culture rule” is a rule that may not actually be crystal-clear to everybody.

    1. London Calling*

      How in the name of whatever are people supposed to know about ‘unspoken’ company culture rules? crystal ball? and what IS the point of an unspoken rule anyway? surely if you have rules you want people to keep you TELL them!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Literal answer: observation. They notice that people say hello to Sansa when she walks in the door, but don’t talk to Arya until she comes back to get coffee after checking her email. Most cultural rules are highly case-specific, and that no one has ever written them down in an employee handbook doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

        Some things should not be lumped into what you pick up from observation, though, and where the sugar packets come from might be one of those. People might learn by observing someone who breaks the rules, or assume that the exception for them is because they are the only tea drinker surrounded by coffee drinkers, or that their office is closer to this break room which, weirdly, is the only one that usually has sugar.

      2. iwouldlikeacookie*

        OP of #2 here – It’s very clear that this physical area is the territory of our department, and they (big sister department) very clearly have their own physical area with their own snack/condiment table. As Falling Dipthong notes below: it would be very clearly observed that food within one department’s area is intended for people within that department itself.

        1. London Calling*

          Well that’s fine but obviously it isn’t clearly observed, so why not just say something rather than expect people to be alert to cues they probably don’t even realise they are supposed to be picking up? it does seem to me that ‘Jane, this sugar is for the coffee drinkers in this department and not anyone else’ or whatever rather than getting the hump because people don’t see what you expect them to see.

          1. London Calling*

            it does seem to me that ‘Jane, this sugar is for the coffee drinkers in this department and not anyone else’ would be a lot easier to say rather than getting the hump because people don’t see what you expect them to see, I meant

          2. McWhadden*

            “Don’t take things without asking or saying thank you” isn’t an unspoken office culture rule. It’s a society rule every grownup should know.

            If you are going to a different department to take their stuff you ask first or at the very least thank them. This is a basic. It isn’t an unusual thing in the OP’s office.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              “… you ask first … This is basic.”

              Yes. It’s so basic that I’m wondering if Jane did talk to someone in LW’s department, or was invited, or thinks she was.

        2. MsSolo*

          Is there a chance that big department actually has a different culture, in which their food is available to everyone, and they’re just wondering why no one drops by their break room to themselves? The problem with unspoken rules is you can have multiple contradictory systems operating until they start to overlap, and suddenly it’s apparent that actually each department is working under entirely different assumptions and everyone’s a little offended that other people are/aren’t dropping by to help themselves.

  24. Liz*

    #3 – Another commenter recommended taking the first week off. As another foster/adopt mom, I agree, and would add that this is for *any* age (unless you’re taking an emergency placement and only expecting to have the child for a couple of days). I worked from home the first 4 weeks with our 2nd foster child, and I really regret it. My manager was very supportive, but it meant I didn’t get to enjoy time with the baby, I was very stressed and very tired. It’s exhausting figuring out a new child’s routine. I would never do it again.

    From another perspective, it would be very difficult for a child to be placed into a new home and then immediately start a new daycare or school. They need to start building a relationship with you, and you need to learn about them, figure out their likes/dislikes, how much they eat, how they sleep, and all that stuff. DHR may tell you there are no issues, or X is a problem, but in my experience they either don’t know or don’t share much more (which might include issues like asthma or hearing problems or being developmentally delayed), so use that first week to figure out what’s “normal” for each child.

  25. Kat A.*

    #3. Don’t decide to stay home only if the child is younger than 4 because the child could be delayed or not have had proper preparation for school or could have a physical disability that may require time at home before the paperwork and evaluations are completed with the school

  26. Wendy Ann*

    So what’s the plan once #3 goes back to work after those first couple of weeks? Who’s going to be watching the child during the work day?

    1. Natalie*

      The same people that watch other working parents’ kids, of course. Foster kids aren’t banned from daycare or whatever.

  27. Gotham Bus Company*


    People in my department often bring in bagels or other treats to celebrate their birthdays, retirements, or other special occasions. If the goodies are only for one small working group, the benefactor will simply pass them around within the group. If they’re for the whole 60-person department, then that will usually be announced by email or messenger (“There are bagels for Lieutenant Worf’s birthday”).

    1. iwouldlikeacookie*

      OP of #2 here – We do both! If we bring in treats for the department we’ll send out a message to those in the department along the lines of “Croissants by the microwave. Enjoy! – iwouldlikeacookie” so that it’s clear who is invited to have some and who it came from. People who have been invited can come by and take some when they choose to do so. But it would be weird for someone to come down the hallway (not a high-traffic area) and take one without asking!

  28. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    LW1: …I can totally see an office AU version of GoT where Letter 1 actually happens and it’d be completely in character for Cersei.

    That said – Cersei sucks and isn’t going to change. (I don’t even think parading her around downtown naked while ringing a bell behind her would help.) Like, she just sailed completely past acceptable boundaries – even with employees that aren’t great, I don’t really get into details about why they have appointments. (On the other hand, I overhear things and some employees don’t have appropriate boundaries with ME, so I do have some idea of why people might need appointments.) Even if Sansa was looking for a new job – which she might want to consider doing if she can get a decent maternity leave at a new position – that’s none of Cersei’s business until and unless Sansa leaves.

    But that’s my personal position. Basically, as long as the employee isn’t calling out a lot (and I mean, a few times a month), I’m not going to be too on their case. If it is a lot, then it’s going to be less about the situation and more about what they can do to keep from having to call out all the time.

    LW2: By all means, yeah, invite her to contribute! We have a similar situation in our department (where me and my co-supervisor buy coffee supplies, but it’s open to whoever wants to come by), and I’ve just invited people to donate stuff if they want to. What complicates things is that a lot of our employees are entry-level and not highly paid, and we live in a high COL area, so even though people might regularly just come over and take sugar, I’m not going to begrudge them that.

    But also, there’s a difference between her taking a little bit of sugar for her coffee and her taking an entire cup of sugar every day or something. If it’s a little bit, let it go! (The same goes for the chocolate, even – it doesn’t sound like she took an excessive amount, and it was one instance.) If it’s a lot, then you have more standing to bring it up.

    Finally…correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that part of the reason this is so irksome is that she’s just walking in and taking the sugar and chocolate without saying anything. The last part is key because she’s not acknowledging you guys and your generosity. So…maybe be a little bit more aggressively nice? Ask her how her day is, things like that, if you’re not doing so already. You’re right in that she’s violating a company norm, but she’s also violating a general norm as well. Make her feel like she has to be nice back or else.

    If you are already doing this and she’s still just barging in and taking “her” sugar, she’s kind of a jerk and you can definitely proceed to being blunt.

    1. iwouldlikeacookie*

      OP of #2 here – yes, the irksome part is just coming by and not saying anything to acknowledge the borrowing! Not even asking “hey can I have some sugar” but actually digging around the bowl saying “oh you don’t have have Sweet N Low left”! Next time I’ll just be prepared to ask her to refill what she borrowed the next time she passes by a coffeeshop.

      1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        Well…like I said, return the awkward to sender. Best case is she decides to leave you alone because you guys are the weird team that insists on normal human interaction when she’s just here for the sweet, sweet fructose saccharine and you look good coming out of it. I think even if she does become chattier and still continues raiding your sugar, at least you’ve brought it to her attention that you guys are here.

        Also, she drinks Sweet N Low? I’m judging her so hard right now. Next time when she’s looking for Sweet N Low, you can tell her that a stranger on a work advice blog thinks she’s WRONG.

  29. Former Foster Parent*

    OP #3 – you’re about to take off on a wild, wonderful journey. Congrats! Couple of thoughts – even if the child is over 4, there could still be a delay in school enrollment or childcare. Unless you can keep the child in his/her current school/daycare (which never once happened with any of our placements), it can take days to get the child enrolled in school or get in an approved daycare. We had great luck with keeping a college student on standby. If we got a placement in the middle of the night, or if we had a delay in school enrollment, she had a flexible schedule and could step in to help. Also -when you’re planning your leave, be careful of running through too much time too early. Things can change very quickly with very little notice. A child we thought we would be adopting was sent back to bio parents with less than 3 days’ notice. Another child that we thought was a temporary placement turned out to be longer-term. It will be at least six months before you have a solid feel for whether a placement is likely to turn into an adoption. And while you wait – please please please be this child’s advocate. The caseworker asigned to the child is overworked, underpaid, and overwhelmed. Learn the system and don’t be afraid to push for what the child needs. If you wait for the caseworker to come to you, you’ll wait forever. That’s not a slam against the caseworker – it’s recognition that the system is broken. Best of luck!

  30. Smolfox*

    I’m not understanding I guess but why, if the team is just bringing in packets of sugar from the coffee shop or whatever, don’t they just keep them in their desk? If someone runs out you could probably just ask to borrow some but if you’re just bringing in a few packets at a time wouldn’t it accomplish the same thing as just bringing in packets for yourself. If everyone does that they’ll probably last much longer.

  31. Kat Em*

    OP#3, every place I’ve ever worked that offered any kind of parental leave made no distinction between childbirth, adoption, or foster placement. It’s hard on the employer because you aren’t able to give them specific dates, but that can be true of a premature birth as well; they just suck it up and deal with it. It’s usually best just to explain the situation in advance, and say “Hey, a young child is probably coming into our household sometime soon, and I’ll need to take parental leave for that,” and then talk through the details from there.

    I haven’t been through this process myself, but quite a few of my coworkers fostered and adopted, and this is how they went about it.

  32. Igg*

    LW1. If you want to help Sansa you might consider telling Cersei that her comments and intrusive questioning may actually be illegal. Bc pressuring an employee to provide private medical info may be and treating a pregnant woman this way may be harassment. Cersei sounds like… she’s well named.

  33. nonymous*

    regarding #3, a lot of people have give great advice on how to handle leave after the child enters your home.

    Re: remote work time, I’d personally recommend using it for any period where your home (or you) are being evaluated by social services. For example, if you have a home visit scheduled that day, you can arrange to wfh and then clock out for the period that the social worker is at your home. This preserves your leave time to use with the kiddos and allows you to work right up until the social worker arrives, even if they are late. It also minimizes the disruption to employer and coworkers because the time you are clocking out doesn’t have to account for driving anywhere to get to the appointment.

  34. MJ*

    Can we also talk about how weird it is for Cersei to send an employee home sick to work from home, rather than to take a sick day?

Comments are closed.