my child-free coworkers constantly complain about people with children

A reader writes:

I recently started a new job in an office. Overall the work environment is great — everyone is expected to work hard, but we are treated like adults and our individual methods and moment-to-moment doings aren’t policed much at all.

I share a work-space with a coworker, V, which also houses the printer and the mailboxes for the department. Thus, many other employees pass through our space, often stopping to say hello or chat for a minute. This is mostly fine, and doesn’t impede my concentration.

However, there is one coworker, M, who comes in about 8-12 times a day and usually stays several minutes to chat with V. They engage in venting which is clearly therapeutic for them, and while the negativity can be exhausting to listen to at times, usually I can tune it out. The chats never go on too terribly long, just a bit longer than the office norm.

However, fairly often lately the thing V wants to vent about is receiving baby shower invites from relatives, and that always segues into both of them just talking really poisonous vitriol about people with children and about children themselves, how annoying it is when they cry at restaurants, etc. They are both committedly child-free dog parents and seem to have a lot of resentment about how society relegates their relationships with their pets to second class status, and on a basic level I very much agree: as someone who worked closely with parents and children in a previous incarnation of my career, I feel very strongly that the way parenthood is pushed on people as The Only Way To Experience Real Fulfillment is major bullshit and hurts children as well as adults. Nobody should be pressured into having kids if they don’t really, really want to. Having a dog is a much saner and more eco-friendly choice! The office is full of Pet People, and overall I love that.

That being said … as well as being a Pet Person myself, I do really, really want to have kids, and a big factor in my choice of employer and leaving my old field was this particular company’s parent-friendly benefits policy. Hearing them speak so scathingly of “breeders” and “brats” makes me quite uncomfortable, as it’s easy to then imagine what they’ll think of me when I (eventually) have a child (although I’m hoping not to still be in my same position by then as it’s quite entry level, I’d be happy to stay in this department as I really like my boss, who is child-free too but would NEVER say things like this, so it’s entirely possible that I’ll still be working with both of them).

However much their scorn of parenthood irks me, though, what really makes me go all cold and shaky is their scorn of children themselves. They really say some nasty things, and while I realize many adults don’t, I remember my own childhood and what it was like to BE a child extremely vividly. As I said, I support 100% people’s right to choose not to have children, but when people actively HATE children, I just want to scream “HOW CAN YOU, A FORMER KID, THINK KIDS AREN’T PEOPLE??!” When they say nasty things about children, they’re saying them about me, and about themselves, and it’s very hard for me to understand how they don’t realize how messed up that is. Do they think they sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus? How can I engage with this without accusing them of being delusional?

On principle, I am glad our office culture permits the level of socializing they’re engaging in, and I don’t want to ruin what they clearly experience as a safe space to vent about their experiences, especially since I’m a newcomer. But listening to them spew this kind of hate about parents and children makes me just so uncomfortable, and I can’t just put in headphones as I need to be able to hear the phone. I’d rather address this directly with them than involve anyone higher up, as I don’t want to rock the boat and end up causing some sort of ban on non-work-related conversations.

Is there a way to ask them not to say these horrible things without making them hate me, either as a future producer of “brats” or as That Bitch who took away their only joy in life by stopping them from venting at work? Or should I just wait it out, hope that V’s friends will soon get the hint about her wish to attend baby showers, and cross the “will I become a pariah when I have a child” bridge when I come to it?

There’s no way to guarantee that they won’t hate you if you ask them to stop, but unless they’re truly ridiculous and unreasonable, your chances are pretty good.

I know you might be thinking “well, clearly they’re ridiculous and unreasonable, as evidenced by this line of conversation” … but sometimes people get caught in a weird echo chamber about things like this but still do realize that they should rein it in around others once it’s politely pointed out to them, and do realize that plenty of people they like don’t share their views.

I’d try saying this: “Hey, I agree that it’s BS the way parenthood is pushed on people, but there are kids and parents in my life who I love. Can you lay off the anti-kid talk around me?” Hell, you could add, “I’m going to have kids at some point, so I’m definitely not the right audience here.”

I’m torn on whether you should say this to V by herself, or to both V and M the next time it’s happening. I’m leaning toward saying it to both of them in the moment next time, because that way they’ll both hear it and V won’t need to have a separate conversation to relay it to M, which could easily turn into snarking about it in a way that isn’t quite as likely if you just deliver the message to both of them on the spot.

They may still snark about it because they’re apparently snarky people, but so be it. I don’t think it will be hateful outrage, though, because the message you’re delivering just isn’t that inflammatory. If it is hateful outrage, then they’re truly unreasonable and you were going to trigger that response from them over something else sooner or later anyway … but your chances are good that this will take care of it.

Read updates to this letter here, here, and here.

{ 1,267 comments… read them below }

  1. JokeyJules*

    We get it, they haaaaaaaaaaaate kids.

    This would bug me sheerly because of the topic being beaten to death. It’s also just upsetting to listen to people be so negative, regardless of the topic. Please speak up, you’re probably not alone in being tired of hearing about this.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Agreed. I would have the same type of reaction if they hated puppies or kale or sunshine and then went on about it ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME.

      1. JokeyJules*

        Even if they hated mosquito’s! That’s a one-and-done conversation. not daily, and especially not multiple times a day.

        1. Cassandra*

          Heh. I admit I’ve been a bit one-note about mosquitoes lately. The number of itchy and/or infected and/or scabbed-over bites I currently have, though!

          Thanks for the reminder; I will shut up about those demon-bugs now.

          1. Dorothy Zbornak*

            I must emit some secret chemical that attracts mosquitos. it’s the only explanation for how frequently I get bitten compared to other people.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Actually, I’m pretty sure science has established that some people are just tastier than others to mosquitoes. You just smell better or something.

              1. Zoe*

                I’ve heard that as well. I’m apparently one of those blessed people mosquitoes never seem to bother. Can’t remember the last time I had a bite, and I spend my summer boating on the Chesapeake.

              2. GovtConsulant*

                I read a book once about a guy who ate a bunch of dead mosquitoes so that he’d smell bad to them. I know ants have a chemical when they get killed the that either encourages them to avoid an area, or attack… So maybe the bug food thing works?

              3. Crooked Bird*

                They say if you get lots of vitamin B12 you won’t taste good to them anymore. Can’t confirm from experience because I’m terrible at taking daily pills, but they say!

                1. Marion Ravenwood*

                  My husband used to take garlic capsules to prevent mosquito bites. He didn’t get bitten, granted, but usually I was there acting as a buffer – I could have doused myself in DEET and they’d still bite me on that one patch I couldn’t reach.

            2. Hlyssande*

              Same here. I can be wearing a liberal amount of DEET, an essential oil bug repellent, one of those bug repellent bracelets, and be sitting right next to a citronella candle and bug repellent incense and STILL get eaten alive. We’re just so delicious apparently.

            3. Myles Adams*

              Last year I was visiting my parents and we went to Crater Lake in the spring. Now, I’m known to be attractive to mosquitoes, as is my brother and dad, but while looking over the crater I commented it was a bit buggy.

              Mum looked over and there was a visible swarm of mosquitoes around me, and only me. And it moved with me.

          2. Vicky Austin*

            In fairness to you, mosquitoes aren’t people. You were never a mosquito, nor will mosquitoes someday grow into a creature resembling you. Plus, everyone universally hates mosquitoes.

          3. pope suburban*

            For what it’s worth, I have heard that brewer’s yeast makes one smell less appetizing to mosquitoes. My husband, who works outdoors and thus has a problem with the stabby little buggers, tested this and found it to be pretty effective, although that’s not exactly science. But I’ve heard it enough from people into the outdoors that I pass it along in case it helps anyone else.

            1. willow*

              Back in the 1980s, mega doses of water-soluble B vitamins were used, as the skeeters apparently hate the smell. My field-camp-in-spring-in-Minnesota friend swore by it, except for the face, the skeeters still buzzed around there, but a face net took care of that.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Thanks! There are breastfeeding cookies (oatmeal choc chip) that have brewers yeast.

            2. General Ginger*

              If this works, I owe you a metaphorical fruit basket/flowers/drink. I’m going to try it on this weekend’s hike, because last weekend’s definitely resulted in me being eaten alive, despite being doused in bug spray, AND wearing those repellent bracelets/anklets.

        2. Kat in VA*

          I have been known to flip out about mosquitoes while scratching six or eight bites acquired over the weekend. I don’t know how I’d have the steam to complain them day in and day out, though. Granted, mosquitoes are a lot more one-dimensional than children, but eventually you just…move on?

          1. JoJo*

            Eight bites over the course of a weekend? Pah! My record is fourteen bites in five minutes.

        1. Micklak*

          This. I don’t think that workers need a safe place to vent at work. Don’t vent at work. That’s what you do at home. When you’re at work, you’re supposed to work.

          1. Purple Jello*

            “Stop smiling. Why are you smiling?”
            “Smiling’s my favorite”
            “Make work your favorite”

      2. Antilles*

        For me, it’s not even the hate – I’d have the same kind of reaction even if they were being positive about it, because holy heck guys, 8-12 (!) identical conversations on the same topic with the same people every single day is ridiculous.

        1. Specialk9*

          But, I mean, woman-specific slurs and unrelenting hate speech based on ageism is really the core of the offense. Repetition really isn’t the main problem, the hate and dehumanizing is.

        2. SamPassingThrough*

          Not saying the topic is not horrible – yes it is, yes it’s offensive, and yes it’s inconsiderate – but like, where does one find the time to stray away from the desk for non-work chitchat up to 12 times a day? A few minutes at a time?? That’s at least an hour or two used up on pure chitchat and no work.

          Where is management in all of this????

    2. Fiennes*

      I read a quote once that said, “Having no children is a valid choice for an individual, but not for a society.” SOMEONE is going to have kids. Unless you felt like PD James “Children of Men” painted a delightful portrait of ideal life, you want *someone* to have kids. Maybe fewer kids. Better behaved ones, even! But still, you want younger people around when you’re older, which means they have to come from someplace.

      This is why I loathe the griping about “why should I pay taxes for public schools? My kids go private/parochial/don’t exist” etc. You pay them because you would like well-informed, capable people running the show when you’re elderly, and schools are our best vehicle for that.

      But I digress. I wound up without kids only because I couldn’t have them. Sometimes I get short-tempered about Mother’s Day assumptions or similar as a result. (Sorry, baby-parent friends, but one of the few perks of my undesired childless state is not having to talk about baby poop EVER.) But I understand that these are individual feelings. What the world needs and what other people want do not depend on my individual situation.

      And honestly, painting all children as loathsome beasts is just as nasty as being ugly about the totality of any group of humans. You know, coworkers, you didn’t stop being kids because you tested out special or different. Basic understanding of your own human nature ought to give you SOME compassion.

      1. TootsNYC*

        A Facebook friend of mine once lived in Norway. They have a very strong societal contract there.

        Once, my friend was sort of low-level complaining about the extra work created by someone’s long parental leave or their financial benefits (tax breaks, subsidies) because of childbirth, saying “I won’t get this benefit because I don’t/won’t have kids.”

        And her Norwegian colleague said something like: “True, but those children will grow up to pay the taxes that will pay for our health care when we are elderly. And yet we will not have the expense or the trouble of raising them. Perhaps we should actually pay MORE taxes because of this.”

        It was an eye-opening thing to read. (and for my friend to hear)

        1. There All Is Aching*

          Wow. Was planning to visit Norway next year, and you may have sealed it with this story!

        2. matcha123*

          I kind of disagree with that sentiment. I think that we as a society should be invested in good schools and education, not because most kids will grow to be tax-payers, but because it is the right thing to do for society as a whole. Our entire society benefits when citizens have a fair shot. I pay taxes to a foreign country and I am not going to live here forever. I won’t benefit. However, I am fine with that because my money helps to improve infrastructure.

          1. RightsaidFed*

            Public education is a form of infrastructure. You may not receive a direct benefit if you have no kids in the school system, but you do receive indirect benefits. Companies want to set up where there is a pool of educated/skilled workers.Good schools increase the value of your home. Good schools educate your future healthcare providers, your future lawyers, your future community leaders. Look at other countries that are known for their good schooling, look at other countries that are known for not providing schooling. Which country would you prefer to live in?

            1. TrainerGirl*

              I’ve never understood the argument that the childless shouldn’t have to pay taxes for things like schools. I want ALL children to get a good education, whether I personally have any or not. And I’m childless by choice. I don’t want a bunch of dummies making decisions for me when I’m old and feeble.

            2. matcha123*

              I think you misunderstood my statement. I am fine paying taxes, even if I don’t get immediate/direct benefit from or use all of the services because it benefits society as a whole.
              Children are just one segment of society that benefits from taxes. I don’t pay taxes for kids, I pay them for society as a whole. I would even pay more tax if that helped provide better schooling.

          2. Micklak*

            I agree with you. The aim of education is to produce functional citizens, and that’s something that is crucial to the running of a society. But as a resply to a comment about the financial burdens/benefits of not having children, the Norwegian’s response is pretty apt.

          3. Lastre*

            I agree that it’s the right thing to do but it’s also crucial for society, so that’s a valid point of view, too

          4. Database Developer Dude*

            I like paying taxes that go to schools. I don’t like to live in a country with stupid people.

          5. I'm actually a squid*

            I might be overly pragmatic, but both are good. Sure, it’s nice to do something because it’s intrinsically the right thing to do … but when my property taxes go up AGAIN because of a school bond, I like to remember that I, as a confirmed cat lady, do directly benefit.

          6. TootsNYC*

            I think that “kids grow up to be tax-payers” was a metaphorical way for this lady to say, “we all benefit when everybody benefits.”

          7. JSPA*

            Yep. Appeals to enlightened self-interest are effective, but most of us recognize all sorts of things as “generally good,” even absent any self-interest.

          8. Specialk9*

            Several things can be true, but not all resonate with all people. You basically said that you disagree because you agree for another reason.

          9. NorthernSoutherner*

            Agree matcha.

            That’s the way taxes work. I paid taxes for schools way before I had kids, and I’ll continue to pay them long after my kids grow up. We all pay taxes for stuff we may not use, including libraries.

            On a side point, I’m with the OP at being mystified at kid-haters. We were all kids! It’s just bizarre, IMO. And Fiennes, before I had children, I used to give badly behaved tykes the stink eye. Now I know who’s at fault: the parents. We took our kids everywhere — planes, trains, restaurants, movies, and they behaved because we disciplined them. Yes, it really is that simple.

        3. Specialk9*

          “Those children will grow up to pay the taxes that will pay for our health care when we are elderly. And yet we will not have the expense or the trouble of raising them. Perhaps we should actually pay MORE taxes because of this.”

          This is perfect.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

            Except in the US, people (usually) pay for their own Medicare and SS (and often more). It’s true the money taken is now used rather than saved but people getting Medicare and SS have often paid in for decades. The children won’t be paying for grandma because usually grandma has already paid into the system.

          2. Disappointed Cubicles*

            Yeah, no. That would be like some kind of penalty for not having children, which doesn’t seem right. I need some money to be able to save for my own retirement since I won’t have any family to help me.

          3. RS*

            If I had to pay *more* taxes to aid self-selected parents whom society is relying on to raise the next generation, I’d want to have input into how they do their job (e.g. vaccines). And in fact, I wouldn’t want them to be entirely self-selected – I’d want some minimum criteria to be met (e.g. not actively using drugs).

            1. NotMyMonkeys*

              Also – yes, having kids = more people paying taxes. But having kids also = creating more people who will rely on social benefits, infrastructure, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But there’s no reason people without kids should pay more taxes.

      2. Miss V*

        A few years ago our county was voting on a tax increase that would go to the schools. My boss (and then business owner) at the time was complaining vehemently about it, that he already paid enough in taxes, he didn’t have kids so why should he pay more, he was definitely going to vote against it, etc. etc.

        So I asked him, “Boss, who do you think taught me to do math?”

        And he paused and looked at me. And I went on. “I think almost all your employees went to public schools. You’re reaping the benefits of that education right now.”

        He voted for the tax increase. It passed.

        1. Jen*

          This is a good point. Public schools are woefully underfunded and society as a whole benefits from kids being well educated. But I grew up in a retirement heavy place and some older people would ban kids from their neighborhoods against every single school referendum. It hurt poor kids.

        2. Phoenix Programmer*

          Unfortunately we had an incumbant (who responded to a failed levy by cutting all band, art, and non sports performances mid year) get back in and I am convinced it’s because elderly people with grown kids were like “why should I care. At least he is keeping it cheap!” There is also currently a push to exempt people over 55 from these taxes. Whenever it is brought up I usually snark back with “Your totally right! I shouldn’t have to pay Medicare or Social security taxes since it’s not a thing I’ll benefit from.”

        3. kb*

          That’s an excellent point! And that extends beyond boss/ employee relationships to anyone in society.

        4. Khlovia*

          Ooo! Nifty teaching moment, you jumped right on it, and you jumped effectively! [throwing confetti]

        5. Seespotbitejane*

          Yeah, this is the thing for me. Even if I never have kids (which seems most likely) I didn’t pay my own way through primary school and neither did anybody else. Somebody, taxpayers or your parents or maybe some altruistic 3rd party, paid for you. So you pay it forward.

      3. Me*

        Very good point! Also, I can see how someone who is not childless by choice could be very upset hearing their coworkers vocalize their hatred of children and “breeders”, especially someone who may be going through fertility issues or who has lost a pregnancy or lost a child. How would they like it if they were a captive audience to a couple of pet-haters going on an on about how much they hate dogs on a regular basis?

    3. The Cleaner*

      Yes! I’m pretty proud of my curmudgeon status and tenderly nurse quite a few hates … but you can’t let one dominate like this! Nobody caaaaaaaares.

    4. Working Mom Having It All*

      Yeah, this is my general context for stuff like this. Whether it’s “kids are suuuuchhhh brats amirite?” or any other negative topic that gets beaten to death in a setting like this.

      I’d probably start with a simple “can we change the subject to something less negative?” before commenting on what I think about the whole childfree/kids-totally-suck topic.

      Side question: what are the chances that one of the people participating in this conversation has dealt with infertility and is channeling some of this through being Very Dramatically Anti Breeder? Because having recently had a kid myself, I will say that I have had to tread much more lightly with my friends who’ve dealt with infertility than I have with my childfree friends (who mostly just show up at the baby shower, hand over the cute Doctor Who themed onesie, like the occasional baby picture on instagram, and move on). The outrage over the temerity of someone to invite you to a baby shower feels much more infertility adjacent than typical childfree behavior in my experience.

      1. anon-e-most*

        As someone who is Not Able, I 100% use the child-free-by-choice line because the other option is being pitied or having 400,000 suggestions that I’ve definitely never thought of like seeing a fertility doctor (who knew?!) (also that was sarcasm) and NONE of which seem to stop or minimize the baby-talk around me, even when it’s especially emotionally fraught (oh, you had a miscarriage or three? Let’s segue that to complaints about my toddler’s hatred of peas!). So, I get it.

        That said, I try HARD to stay away from the bitter stuff as much as possible- but I will acknowledge it isn’t always possible to keep it light impersonal (see above discussion on peas). And yes, it’s worse with stuff like invitations to a baby shower or similar.

        (yes, I see a counselor to deal with my grief, yes I know most people don’t know and so my emotional reactions are unfair. It’s a hard thing to talk about, ya’ll, even years later – the point of my post is simply some very anecdotal evidence that WMHIA might be not completely off base overall, even if not in this specific case)

        And no, it doesn’t justify the vitriol of the coworkers and I think you’re well able to ask them to minimize it or cut it out entirely around you – just perspective on some of the sensitivities here. It’s hard. Be kind to each other. And kids. Especially kids.

        1. Sarah*

          Oof. I’m so sorry to hear this, I have a lot of friends that have struggled with infertility and if I’ve learned one thing it’s that the world can be an unthinkably difficult place when your heart desperately wants something your body can’t do.

          Lots of kind thoughts headed your way if you’d like them.

        2. Specialk9*

          Thanks for sharing some really hard and personal stuff. It helps with perspective of why people might act like they do.

        3. Vendelle*

          I’m unfortunately in the same boat and I quite agree. There are days that I can take babytalk (positive or otherwise) quite cheerfully, but there are also days where just seeing a kid from afar is too much to handle (as I work with children, that’s a very difficult thing to handle sometimes). It really depends on qhere I am in my own head.

          1. Anonymosity*

            Same. I’m child-free not by choice but because I can’t find a partner (and not wanting to have a kid on your own is also a valid choice, especially since my employment options are limited). Sometimes I just don’t want to hear about it.

            Also, and this may be related to where I live, but it seems that having kids instantly turns some people bonkers over religion. People I’ve never heard mention it once in their lives, even. “Little Melvin said ‘amen’ when I read him a story!” *prayer emoji* is a real thing I saw on social media today. I don’t want to talk about religion with you either, Melvin’s Mom.

      2. NorthernSoutherner*

        I think you’re right, Working. It’s something I and probably everyone does. When you can’t have what you want, you try to convince yourself you never wanted it anyway.

    5. Red 5*

      I have a coworker that I completely agree with on several topics, that I would engage with in the beginning but it comes up once a week and at this point I’m really wishing I could look at her and say “you know, we’ve covered this. A lot. Unless you’re going to say something different this time can we both just nod and smile and skip to the end?”

      This kind of conversation is incredibly grating when it gets repetitive, even if it wasn’t grating to begin with.

    6. mcr-red*

      Agree 1000%!

      I get tired of people continuously complaining about The Thing/Person/Situation I hate! Yeah, I know it/they suck, can we PLEASE talk about anything else?!

  2. Snark*

    I feel like we’re in the middle of a bit of a cultural backlash: as being child-free became a more mainstream choice, it caught a lot of flak from reactionaries who were threatened and aghast that people might be happy and contented without children, but as it’s becoming more accepted and visible, there’s now a reaction from the child-free, who have a chip on their shoulders about being judged and condescended to.

    1. Emily S.*

      Ok, but please don’t generalize all us folks who are child-free by choice, as having “a chip on [our] shoulders.”
      I am happily child-free, but I love kids (including my nieces/nephews), and would never disparage parents’ life choices, as I would expect them to respect my choices.

      1. Jen*

        My oldest sister is in her 40s and happy dog mom and has no plans to have kids. But she also loves our nephews and her goddaughter. Childfree does not mean child hater.

        1. Sarah*

          And even when it does (I honestly very rarely like children, especially children in the wild) it doesn’t mean you have to be nasty! I don’t like kids at all, but it’s in my best interest that they be polite, well-behaved, and kind because that’s the kind of society I’d like to see. So I’m polite to them, I treat them with kindness, and if they’re on my plane I make an effort to be pleasant if they’re in my line of sight because nobody likes an upset baby on a plane (and, frankly, as somebody who hates flying, I would love to be able to throw a tantrum on a plane, so sometimes I’m like, “You go, baby. This sucks and you didn’t choose it.”). Sure, I might vent for a second about a particularly loud child or a poorly-behaved one, but it’s not the kid’s fault they haven’t been taught to behave properly.
          All that to say, even if you can’t stand them, this is totally unnecessary and only feeds into your own negativity and doesn’t help your life at all.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            “You go, baby. This sucks and you didn’t choose it.”
            I love this right now.

            1. There All Is Aching*

              Me too. I will keep this in my back pocket next time I want to complain about a screaming baby on a plane.

              1. PersonalJeebus*

                It’s tempting but ultimately not reasonable to complain about distressed screaming babies on planes, because they can’t really help it, so yeah. Agreed!

                However! I still hold a monumental grudge against the plane mothers who berated teenaged me almost 2 decades ago when I timidly asked one of them to please not let her toddler stand facing backwards on his seat, which was directly in front of mine, while he made loud, happy vocalizations directly at my face. I was a sleep-deprived adolescent with a headache, and I didn’t think it was too much to ask not to have this kid shrieking with delight–DIRECTLY AT ME–TWO FEET FROM MY FACE–but apparently I was the WORST PERSON EVER even for asking this. The kid’s mother was chatting with two other toddler moms on her row, and they all turned around as a body and treated me like I was the representative of entitled, rude teenagers the world over. I cried. They did not notice.

                Those are the kind of people I’d complain about 8-12 times a day with my coworkers. Not the toddler himself. Good on him for enjoying the flight.

                1. Snarkastic*

                  UGH. They only felt they could speak to you that way because you were a teenager. Sounds like they took advantage of having the upper hand instead of dealing with this situation gracefully. This is not to say they would not have been rude to another adult, but I’ve had this experience in my life where it seems the “offended” party takes great pleasure in taking a minor to task for a simple request or complete misunderstanding.

                2. Sarah*

                  I just want to Stephanie Tanner “HOW RUDE” this up one side and down the other. Poor little teenage you.

                3. Julia*

                  I’m so sorry.
                  I have had people judge me for asking them to keep their toddler away from my crotch (!) or from climbing on me – there’s a difference between liking children or not and volunteering to be an unpaid babysitter for the parents around you on public transport.

            2. Snark*

              One time, I had someone make a real snarky comment at me when my newborn was screaming on a plane. I said, “Well, his great-grandmother is 92, and she appreciates you coping with it so she can meet him once or twice.”

              Nobody wants to travel with a baby or toddler. Sometimes we have to. Nobody likes it. We can all deal.

              1. Jesca*

                Exactly. And it is like A Big Deal when you do. Actually, even a lot of airports have days where young children and children with spectrum disorders can come in and do trial runs.

                With that said, anyone anywhere who uses dehumanizing language in regards to any sect of the human population is a huge issue. Using terms like “in the wild” and “little brats” and calling their parents’ “breeders” is actually quite disturbing when you see through the lens it is, dehumanization. Aren’t children dehumanized enough? Holy crap!

                And News flash, no one was “behaved” as children – that’s how you “knew what was coming to ya” and how you learned *later* what was appropriate …

                1. Sarah*

                  Well, sorry that the little jokes I tell myself to deal with people I generally find unpleasant is upsetting enough for me to be a “huge issue”. Pretty sure I acknowledged that we have to learn how to “behave” and that that’s part of what parents teach?


                2. Lara*

                  Well, plenty of kids *do* learn how to behave. That’s how we don’t live in the Purge.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  Ironically, the coworkers have become the very adults they themselves detested as kids. Most of us probably remember an adult in our lives who disliked us simply because we were very short.
                  It’s not a good plan to rag on the little ones. They won’t come visit us in the nursing home if we do that.

                4. Specialk9*

                  Yeah. These days we all have to pay really close attention to the steps to genocide, and dehumanizing people is a big part of that. One would think that loathing kids and parents wouldn’t lead to that kind of extreme, but I would have said that about guys not getting laid too, so what do I know? In 2018, nothing.

              2. Sarah*

                I get really mad at people who get snarky about kids on planes (and speak my mind when they do). It’s not like the parents are pinching the kids, you know? People aren’t having kids AT you, nor are they visiting their grandparents solely to annoy you. God forbid they be traveling because something terrible happened – one of my last flights a mom was flying solo with her baby because HER mother had been in a car accident that morning. So help me if anybody had tried to start anything…Flying is just generally unpleasant and the fact that the kids have to suffer too is lost on these people.

                (I clearly have a lot of feelings about flying, haha.)

                1. willow*

                  On Southwest flights with open seating, I will sit next to someone with a baby or toddler. The kid does not bother me, and if it did, it’s two hours out of my life, I can survive that. And the adult doesn’t have to worry about glares and disparaging remarks from me.

                2. Anonymosity*

                  I’m with willow. No, I’d rather not sit next to a non-stop screaming child, as endless tantrums are irritating. But I can mitigate it by 1) wearing headphones that mute it a little, and 2) not picking a bulkhead seat, which is where parents tend to book because there’s a little more room there.

                  But also, crying babies eventually fall asleep. And I expect small children to possibly cry during takeoff and landing–pressure changes can mess with their ears. I know all this, it’s a few hours (on domestic flights), and I’m the adult, so I can cope.

              3. JamieS*

                The only time you HAVE to take a child on a plane is if the child is being flown somewhere for that child to receive medical treatment for something that is life threatening. Every other time is a choice not a necessity.

                1. Sarah*

                  True, but I don’t know many people who would drive cross-country to visit elderly relatives and allow them to meet a new baby. Maybe they’d choose it if their country has really great laws allowing people a good amount of time away from work, but I think we can all understand that sometimes “have to” is not used to imply that it’s life threatening if it doesn’t happen, but because it is the least terrible option.

                2. Dee*

                  So people should just not visit family members who live in other far-away places? Let alone go on vacations outside of driving distance?
                  Come on.

                3. Snark*

                  You know, I believe the parents are the judge of what’s necessary for them and their families, not you. Like I said: you can deal.

                4. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

                  Exactly. Heaven knows how most people thinking these children HAVE to go on planes would have made it before airlines were around. Plenty of people never travel on planes and yes, they survive and do fine.

                5. OhBehave*

                  There must be some magical place in each city where you can leave your kids for a week while you travel across the country on vacation, visit grandma, attend a wedding, or heaven forbid, a funeral. I’ll bet it’s super cheap too.

                  and then I woke up.

                6. B*

                  I was moving across country. The choices are to hop on the plane for a 4 hour flight, or strap the kid in a car for many hours for several days. Which do you think is better for the kid, for me, etc? That’s not even getting in to the fact that I was finishing an ICU rotation and moving directly to start the next level of training and only had a day or two in between.
                  And yes, that was the flight that I went to change my child, and saw someone had scrawled a hateful message on the baby changing table (only visible if you pulled the table down) reaming out anyone for daring to fly with a baby for being cruel and heartless.
                  I had been up for nearly 24 hrs between the ICU, packing up all our stuff, moving. I was so upset I forgot to pull my girl’s pants up when I came out. (I did tell the staff there was some mean graffiti on the table). But I really want to know who the hell thinks driving babies in cars is better than flying them. It’s higher risk, more time stuck in a car seat, the works. I guess maybe one just stops living life at all when you have kids? I tried it for a few months when I had my first baby, worried they would make noise in public or I’d need to breastfeed or something, and it was pretty miserable. I was actually relieved to go back to work after 6 weeks.

                7. NorthernSoutherner*

                  And? I can’t take my baby with me to Europe, if that’s my choice?

                  We all have to put up with stuff on planes, as someone said. We’re all packed in there like sardines. Trust me, parents are stressed at the thought their baby may cry. And they probably will cry. You can pop your ears on descent. A baby can’t. And that s*** hurts.

                  So parents are stressed, baby picks up on that, cries more. What I used to do is start a bottle as soon as the pilot announced we were descending. It always did the trick, for us at least.

                  Your homework is, next time a baby cries on a plane and you’re close by, smile at the kid, do a puppet hand, try to distract him/her. I’ve done it, and it’s worked.

                8. Sarah*

                  Ugggh I feel so sorry for babies and their poor ears. On the last flight where I had a baby in front of me I realized I didn’t know at what age the yawning reflex becomes contagious, but on the off chance it was earlier than I realized, I started yawning. Figure do what I can to give the kid a chance.

                  Ultimately, they didn’t choose it, their parents decided it was best, and nobody is entitled to a baby-free existence. They are out there, in the wild, much like teachers after school hours, coworkers, and your therapist. You can’t guarantee there won’t be somebody unpleasant on your flight, and at least you know babies aren’t choosing to be jerks. Being nice is the easiest thing in the world, and when it’s hard and you don’t want to and you do it anyways, it makes life better for you, too.

                9. Anon For This*

                  100% not true. There are single parents or situations where a single care-giver has to travel to another place, and has no one to keep the child for them when they leave, so they have to go along. Where the caregiver goes, the baby or toddler or child goes. If we all lived in a wonderful world where people all had supportive families and friends and had childcare available at any given time in an emergency or otherwise, sure, but we do not. We one million percent do not.

                  I don’t really even know how your comment is constructive to the discussion, since what you said isn’t reality, either. What is the point?

                10. Lily*

                  Erm, I live in the UK but am from America. My kids should just never meet their entire extended family because you don’t feel like being on a flight with them? Okay then.

          2. Dankar*

            I think modelling respect and politeness is so important, even if (especially if?) you’re not a parent yourself. Wouldn’t we all like to live in a world where people treat each other with empathy and kindness? Seeing strangers act that way is very important for impressionable little minds.

            I had inner-ear problems for most of my childhood, and I was always fighting the urge to cry on flights. When I hear the babies wailing, I think, “I get it, little dude. Cry it out.”

            It’s understandable that the coworkers want to complain to like-minded people, but not at work. And I personally think it’s inappropriate to use the word “breeder” or to be so vitriolic. But the offensiveness isn’t really what OP should tackle. These coworkers are being rude, disruptive and are likely slacking on what needs to get done. That’s a very uncontroversial issue to tackle if she goes to her manager or wants to complain to the powers that be.

            (In the interest of total honesty, I do complain about some parents to my partner and my friends in my off hours. Many of them work in the service industry and see the all-time worsts in parent behavior.)

              1. Specialk9*

                There is a long list about how horrific that term is, and what awful terrible human beings those people are for using it in any serious way, especially in public. Really terrible people.

            1. Vicky Austin*

              In childfree circles, the term “breeder” is typically not used for all parents, but rather parents such as the one described in this letter:

              The idea behind the term is that these so-called “breeders” seem to act like their sole purpose as parents is to procreate rather than to parent. They gave birth and then their work was done, and then let the kids run wild everywhere instead of disciplining them. In childfree circles, they are also referred to as Breeder, Not Parent (BNP). Responsible parents are referred to as Parent, Not Breeder (PNB).
              But from the sounds of this letter, V seems to think that everyone with kids are BNP’s.

              1. Dankar*

                I’m familiar with the terms. My friend is vehemently childfree. I don’t think “breeder” is an appropriate descriptor of anyone while you’re at work. Save that for the childfree subreddit in off hours!

              2. Jesca*

                But you not see how dehumanizing that term is – especially to the children? Children aren’t just nameless barely-existing creatures; they are human beings!!!

                1. Lara*

                  I think strong words like ‘dehumanisation’ should be saved for, say, entire ethnic groups being called cockroaches, rather than people making jokes about bad parenting.

                2. Vicky Austin*

                  While the second statement is factually correct, I fail to see how that makes using the term “dehumanizing.” I’m with Lara on this one

                3. Amy the Rev*

                  I think it’s being seen as dehumanizing because the term breeding, is only ever used to refer to animals/animal husbandry. So to call certain humans ‘breeders’, is dehumanizing because it’s comparing them directly to animals/animal husbandry.

                4. TreePeople*

                  Any term that takes narrows down who a person is to just one aspect of their life or health or character, and especially refers to that aspect by a word with a negative connotation, is dehumanizing and inappropriate. This is why we don’t refer to people with disabilities as “cripples” or people with mental illness as “crazy”, and it’s why we don’t describe our neighbors as “the black guy” or “the gay one.” In a civilized society, we recognize that people are complex and deserving of dignity, whether they are different from us or not.

                  So, no, the word “dehumanizing” need not be reserved for blatant racism. And no, “breeders” is not okay if it’s only aimed at people whose kids are running wild. This is just another kind of bias.

              3. Lucy*

                It’s also a term that has been overly applied to mothers and also reflects a snap judgement; a kid is acting up, rather than feeling compassionate for the parent (mother), they are disnissed as a breeder. It’s a horrible term that reduces the individual to an act of reproduction and is, by definition, dehumanizing.

          3. I Love Thrawn*

            I’m in the don’t like kids camp but I would never call anyone a “breeder”! Mostly it’s just the bad behavior, and high pitched screams that I hate, not the small fry themselves. And I blame most of that on non-attentive, non-caring parents. I’m also in the camp that has no problems paying taxes for schools, etc, recognizing their importance.

              1. Lara*

                Yes, and there is a world of difference between a child crying despite their parent’s best efforts, and parents ignoring their children while said children scream the neighbourhood down for attention.

            1. Specialk9*

              I can deal with that balance.

              And we are glad to do that horribly rigorous expensive never-ending service for you, in order to benefit all of society. We appreciate you chipping in a few bucks toward the communal future.

          4. LCL*

            Yes! I have the same attitude as you towards children. And behavior. This reminds me of a quote from someone in the British Royal family, my google skills are failing and I have to get back to work so here’s the paraphrase without attribution:
            One doesn’t have to like children to believe they deserve the best possible start in life.

          5. Vicky Austin*

            I think the sound of a crying baby is the most unpleasant sound in the world (which is why it’s a good thing that I’m childfree!) but at the same time, a baby isn’t old enough to understand that it’s not okay to scream loudly on a plane or other public places, so I can’t really get mad at the baby or the parents.
            However, if you deliberately bring a baby to a place like a concert that isn’t advertised as “children’s concert” or “family show,” a movie that isn’t rated G, a restaurant that isn’t Chuck E. Cheese or McDonald’s, or a house of worship; and you don’t remove them as soon as they start screaming their little lungs out, I WILL judge you. Ditto if you bring children old enough to understand what “Honey, we need to use our inside voices here,” to any of the above places, and you don’t discipline them appropriately.

            1. BF50*

              I have found that most people who are not elementary school teachers or parents of children at least as old, as the ones in question are not always the best at judging when I child is old enough to understand something. Really, mostly teachers are good at this. Plenty of parents still suck at it. I say that as a parent who pre-children made tons of probably unfair judgements about both friends and strangers.

              1. Beth Jacobs*

                Yep! And also, not even perfect parenting produces perfect behaviour 100% of the time. And kids are not always healthy or neurotypical and you have no idea what’s going on in their lives… it’s easy to write off a child screaming for ice cream in a grocery store as spoiled, but it could be anything and you can’t really know if they’re seriously ill or just lost a family member.

                1. Jesca*

                  Agreed. And in actually, we are becoming a society where again children are to be seen and heard. The reason why people have such reactions to children is because they are simply not used to having them around. Once children are around, it is suddenly like “OMG how can parents allow that” when it is really just a part of the human condition – being a child.

                  The fact alone that people feel that they can get away with using completely dehumanizing language against an entire population of people just illustrates where we are right now as a society. You can’t even get away with saying half of these things about animals! But humans? Fair game? what?

              2. Specialk9*

                Ha, once a couple filled into the movie theatre with their whole family of 4 kids under 12ish, including a baby – for an R rated violent gore and explicit sex movie. Then didn’t take the kids out when they were terrified and shrieking.

                I judged them hard. The parents, not the kids of course.

            2. Susana*

              I don’t have children and don’t particularly enjoy hearing a kid cry – but please, remember that for kids who don’t speak yet, this is quite literally their only way of communicating. I always feel bad – they’re so frustrated and can’t say what they want!

              1. TootsNYC*

                Or as I used to say, “They can’t speak English.”

                (since that’s the language we speak in our particular household)

                (wouldn’t it be great, though, if they were born speaking Sanskrit or something?)

            3. RainbowGrunge*

              Oh my gosh…someone brought their kid, probably 2 or 3 years old, to a Quiet Place matinee. Like I get it, they probably wanted to see the movie, couldn’t find a sitter, and thought no one else would be seeing it 2 weeks after its release at 2 pm on a Tuesday….but no, I was there and had the extreme displeasure of hearing a screaming baby, scuttle of footsteps as they take him out to the hall…scuttle of footsteps as they take him back into the theater…loud noise happens in movie, kid starts screaming again, repeat process…Ughhhhh. I wait to see horror movie until about 2-3 weeks after they are released because I love seeing them on the big screen, but dislike the audience commentary. Found out the only thing worse than obnoxious audience commentary is a screaming baby.

              But yeah, while I don’t want kids, I don’t hate them. I just hate when parents(people) make crap decisions.

              1. Anonymosity*

                I remember when Jurassic Park came out–I went to see it with a friend. In front of us, a couple had brought their small child, maybe three years old. During the scene with the T-rex, that kid was so scared you could see him shaking in the dark. He was practically climbing over the seats at that point. Hell, that part even freaked ME out a little bit!

                They did nothing. Didn’t move, didn’t do a thing. My friend and I (childless twenty-somethings) ripped them up one side and down the other behind their backs later. That poor kid.

            4. kb*

              Yeah, I dislike when parents are judged for bringing children places children need and are allowed to be. At the same time, I think it’s natural not to be thrilled by the sound of a crying baby on a redeye without ascribing blame to the baby or the parent– it’s just unpleasant.

              I do wish there were some agreement on what’s considered an adults-only space, though. I once went to an extremely fancy restaurant on what was supposed to be a romantic date, but the vibe was killed by a loudly shrieking baby. It definitely seemed like an adults-only sort of place to me (dim lighting, upscale food, soft French music in the background), but my then-boyfriend and I didn’t say anything. The couple next to us, though, was very angry because they had kids at home they were trying to get away from for an evening. I guess I don’t think it’s anti-baby, anti-child, or anti-parent to think there should be spaces for just adults besides bars, but I know that’s not always received well.

              1. OhBehave*

                That really is not acceptable in any eating establishment. Many will disagree with that, saying fast food restaurants have lower expectations. Wrong. We had expectations of our children and they knew proper behavior in public. Did they get upset? A few times – we removed them every.single.time. We followed through when we told them beforehand that if they threw a fit, they would be out in the car with mom or dad. KB – the manager should have been asked to do something about the issue.

                1. TL -*

                  But fast food places are trial places for more grown up places. Mickey D’s is where my mom felt okay taking us when we were learning how to behave (and putting us in the playplace on days where it just wasn’t going to happen).

                  The fancy restaurant was reserved for after we had successfully navigated fast food places in appropriate ways.

                2. Rana*

                  It depends on the child, though. Our daughter is lovely in regular restaurants and fancy restaurants (we usually go around 5 or 5:30 to avoid crowds, which helps). But “kid-friendly” restaurants? Oh hell no. Not only is the food usually terrible and the restaurant inevitably noisy, but when she was a toddler our kiddo would see the other kids screaming and running around, and thought that was what _she_should be doing too.

            5. Kathryn T.*

              I did plenty of grocery shopping while my daughter was throwing a purple-faced tantrum in the seat of the shopping cart. The alternative was teaching her that if she didn’t like something that was going on, all she had to do was throw a fit and I would instantly cave to her whims and abandon the task, no matter how vital it might be. And … sorry, but no. I get that you don’t want to be here, kiddo, but you’re wearing our last diaper and we’re out of milk. Scream all you want? But this is happening.

            6. Jane Alex Marie*

              Having “place of worship” on the list made me laugh out loud. I grew up Mormon so the idea of going to church without the background churn of crying babies and restless toddlers probably wouldn’t even feel like church.

              1. Anon For This*

                Former Catholic here, and I agree! I still attend church but it’s very … age-segregated a lot now. It still feels weird to me, and it’s been 18 years since I started attending similar-types of churches. Growing up, the priest would pause his homily for a particularly loud shriek, but no one minded and the parents would leave and come back if the needed to. Totally normal to me, now it’s like … too quiet. :)

          6. Security SemiPro*

            On a crowded subway with a mom and a little person (toddler? preschooler? verbal, but not very old) who had obviously been pushed past their limits, the child captured what everyone was feeling at rush hour by wailing, “Too many people, mommy, too many people!”

            Kid was not wrong. Loud and miserable, but clearly articulated the problem. None of us could do anything about it, but there was a lot of solidarity in that train car for a bit.

            1. Sarah*

              Yes, kid, YES. So often it’s like, “Man, you are giving voice to my feelings WAY too loudly, but I can’t tell you you’re wrong.” I try to remind myself they’ve got basically more feeling than they can fit in their bodies (former Sunday school teacher here, had pleeeeeenty more experience with the feelings > bodies scenarios than I ever really thought I’d get) and that’s uncomfortable and challenging. It’s also part of why I choose to be child-free, because man…I really just don’t want to deal with that too often.

              1. Red 5*

                Yeah, this is one of the things I remind myself of to bring more patience when kids are louder than my brain wants at that moment.

                That and I try to remember that in their lives, they’ve only experienced so much so what they’re dealing with is relatively worse because they just don’t have decades of context like adults do. That’s also how I remind myself not to lost my patience with teenagers and their hyperbolic language. Kids (of all ages) are often dealing with emotions that are actually some of the strongest emotional reactions they’ve ever had.

      2. Nita*

        Agreed. I hope this doesn’t become how people who are child-free are viewed. There are many valid reasons for one to have no children, and most of them don’t involve hating kids. It’s sad that a very vocal and very poisonous majority is trying to become the face of being child-free… they’re really not the face of anything but themselves.

        1. many bells down*

          My daughter likes kids just fine, but pregnancy and infants terrify her. So she’s not planning to have any children of her own, but may adopt an older child at some point. And she’s only 21 so there’s no rush!

          1. Grapey*

            I’m not into having a child take over my night times (so no fostering/adopting) but I LOVE volunteering with kids and doing the whole Big Brother Big Sister thing.

        2. Sometimes yes, sometimes no*

          There is a difference between being child-free and being Child-Free. The latter is stereotypically represented by people like V and M with a disdainful, toxic vocabulary all their own. V and M aren’t an isolated case, but they’re also not representative of all people who choose not to have children.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            Not dissimilar to vegetarians, vegans, and atheists. Most people only bring these things up when directly asked or it matters somehow; it’s the relatively rare ones who proclaim it to the world at every opportunity and (try to) browbeat everyone else into being equally [whatever] that give rise to the stereotypes that make the rest of us hesitate to even mention where we stand.

            1. Lara*

              Sure, plus in a click bait world the extreme examples are easier to generate outrage with.

        3. The Original K.*

          Yep. I love kids. I’m great with kids, always have been (my babysitting business was BOOMING in my teens and early 20s. I was the kind of babysitter who would be outside making up games and forts and all kinds of fun things to do). I just don’t happen to have any. One of my best friends has never ever ever wanted kids but she’s a teacher, and a great one at that. Students love her. Just because folks aren’t parents doesn’t mean they hate kids.

          1. Jesca*

            My aunt never had kids. She was an amazing kindergarten teach from what I hear (and the overwhelming amount of past students who showed up to her funeral), and always enjoyed us. They weren’t seen as a burden to society that should not be seen or heard. I think that is the difference in the mindset, really. And I absolutely know many people who are childless and love children. Unfortunately there are many more I know who are more vocal about how much they *hate* (and literally, it is hate) children.

            1. Emily S.*

              That strikes me as rather sad (that there are so many people who *hate* kids).

              Makes me wonder what may be behind that, psychologically. So many people have had difficult or unhappy childhoods, and a lot of people don’t talk about that stuff with a therapist, which can be so helpful.

              1. Lara*

                On the other hand, some people interpret “please stop your children from trespassing on and vandalising my property” as ‘child hate’.

          2. Geillis D*

            Some of my kids’ favourite teachers came home every night to a quiet house where they had peace and quiet to rest after an exhausting day and plenty of spare time to read, work out and otherwise recharge. I’m a parent and don’t really manage kids well other than my own, who are now thankfully grown. Being an amazing teacher =/= being a parent.

      3. Quickbeam*

        Thank you! I spent a nursing career of 30 years covering hundreds of maternity leaves with no extra help. No thanks either. I now have to sit in an open office listening all day, every day about spit up, poop, soccer games and having baby pictures shoved in my face. I just smile and put ear buds in. It’s easier.

        I’ve adopted an “I’m happy if you are happy” about people who chose a lifestyle other than my CF one. My experience with CF support groups is that people can’t believe they have found others like themselves and do tend to vent it at first. OP’s coworkers need to move on to another topic.

        1. The Rat-Catcher*

          Ehh….I had people cover my maternity leave too, but I’ve also covered for those people when they have illnesses or their loved ones had illnesses, or during their vacations. Covering for other people, if it’s handled correctly, is just part of working. And if it’s not handled correctly, it’s generally not the absent coworker’s fault.

          1. medium of ballpoint*

            But why shouldn’t she be thanked? Especially if she’s not going to have kids and likely won’t need her coworkers to cover for her for months at a stretch? Yes, social contract, it takes a village, I can get behind all that. But it’s also incredibly frustrating to continually go out of your way to help others when you know it’ll likely be one-sided. A thank you isn’t a lot to ask for.

            1. Forking great username*

              How does anyone know whether or not they will ever need to take medical leave or FMLA to care for a dying parent or anything along those lines?

              1. medium of ballpoint*

                They don’t, you’re right, but I think for most people things are highly unlikely to balance out in the larger context. For one, I’ve consistently had a harder time making arrangements to care for an ill and dying parent than I would have for a spouse or child. For two, it’s been rare that when I’ve covered for my parent co-workers for small things (leaving early to pick up their child, ducking out to attend a performance) that they’ve been willing to return the favor, and certainly not as frequently. For three, I’ve covered multiple maternity leaves over the course of my career thus far and I’ve been lucky enough to only be out for less than a month for medical emergencies. I figure I’ve got about two years in the bank given the maternity leaves I’ve helped cover, and that distance will continue growing over time. Folks who aren’t married and/or don’t have kids don’t just cover for individual coworkers, but end up covering for an entire department over time. For four, I don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of dollars I’ve spent on baby shower gifts over the years that I’ll also not get back in kind. And not everything has to be perfectly equal, but it’s not difficult to feel like even a simple thank you might be appreciated.

                1. Snark*

                  There’s a difference between equal and equitable. You seem to be very invested in score-keeping, and that’s just not a healthy mindset. If you feel your management has not compensated you adequately for additional duties, that’s something you need to take up with them, not with the parents.

                2. NotMyMonkeys*


                  It still wouldn’t kill a parent to offer a quick thanks – it’s a little thing that would mean a lot to some people.

                3. Jesca*

                  Why do people need to be thanked for doing their job? That is part of your job living in a society that values the rights of other people. It is like expecting a handicapped person to come and personally thank me for their medicaid. I think the problem here is that, again, children are seen as burdens and “other people’s problems” when they are human-effing-beings literally being born to pay into your retirement one day!

                4. medium of ballpoint*

                  Snark, usually your comments are interesting and helpful, but I don’t appreciate you commenting on the health of my mindset. You don’t know anything about me, or my work, or my mental health and I don’t appreciate that kind of judgement.

                  And while I agree that the blame ultimately rests with management, but the honest truth is that in most places management is far more concerned with their bottom line that with fairness/equity/whatever term you prefer for their employees and it’s nearly impossible for one person to have those policies changed. A simple thank you doesn’t seem like too much, even if you feel like you’re thanking someone for something they should have done anyway. I can’t believe this entire conversation started from the idea that a simple, verbal “thank you” might be appreciated.

                5. NotMyMonkeys*


                  Now YOU sound anti-child, saying they’re being born to pay for my retirement rather than to bring their parents joy and love. And do you thank the grocery store clerk when they hand you your receipt? Because they’re just doing their job too, but I’m sure they appreciate a genuine thanks every once in a while. Saying thank you costs you nothing.

                6. Specialk9*

                  But you’re expecting people to thank you for solving THEIR problem, instead of you expecting management to thank you for solving the ORGANIZATION’S problem. It’s literally not the parent-on-leave’s problem how the org keeps on keeping on. It’s totally and Completely not their problem. It’s entirely the ORGANIZATION’S job to plan staffing for predictable absences.

                  If the organization did not do a good job with that, and your irritation indicates it did not, then direct your irritation and score-keeping at it and at management decisions. It’s dreadfully misplaced aimed at parents.

                7. Specialk9*

                  @NotMyMonkeys, you think the purpose of having kid is for the kids to bring parents joy and love?! Eep! That’s a breathtakingly selfish motivation, I sincerely hope parents aren’t going into parenthood hoping for that!

                8. Mike C.*

                  Uh, what in the heck is going on here? If someone covers for me, I thank them. If I cover for them, they thank me. It doesn’t matter why or for what reason, you acknowledge when people help you out.

                  Most children, incidentally, would agree.

                9. NotMyMonkeys*

                  @SpecialK9 I think I’ve seen on past posts that you have kids – what was your reasoning then? Not trying to be facetious, I’m really just curious.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  Actually, BIRTH CONTROL is the choice.

                  If you are having sex, the default setting is “pregnancy eventually” (assuming normal health).

                  You have to choose to go purchase things, see a doctor, etc., in order to NOT have children.

            2. aebhel*

              Because if she’s being put out and overworked to cover maternity leave, that’s on the management, not on the people taking maternity leave.

              1. Lara*

                Being a new parent doesn’t except you from the rules of basic courtesy. If I were out for six months due to illness I would thank my coworkers and expect management to compensate them. Why is parental leave any different?

                1. Specialk9*

                  Because it’s an arrangement that doesn’t involve them – it’s not the absent employee’s business how the org chooses to handle the absolutely predictable absences. It’s not a favor the org is doing for the employee.

                  At the heart of it, women don’t have to apologise for being women.

                  That’s really where this expectation comes from. As more dads take parental leave (both straight and gay), countries have found that expectations of parental leave change. When an activity is female coded, the person exercising their legal rights is expected to apologise and thank people anyway. When it stops being gendered, why would anyone expect something so ridiculous?

                2. Lara*

                  This isn’t about gender or women having to ‘apologise for being women’. It’s about thanking co-workers for putting themselves out for you, which they *are doing*. I’m not suggesting women should have to grovel or abase themselves, I’m talking about the social contract.

                3. Specialk9*

                  There’s the thing though. “It’s about thanking co-workers for putting themselves out for you” – no, really, no. Coworkers are NOT doing a favor for the absent parent.

                  It’s not “for you” (the parent). It’s for the manager. The parent has NO OBLIGATION at all in the arrangement between manager and other employees.

                  But I do agree that social graces should be followed. The MANAGER damn well better thank the person covering for her (the manager’s) need!

          2. Cat Herder*

            Really? People don’t say thank you when others cover while they’re on leave, for whatever reason? Maybe I have just worked with nice people…even in dysfunctional workplaces I’ve always been thanked, and have thanked, others for covering.
            Of course, it would be better if someone were hired to cover for a long leave instead of parceling out the work, but thank you’s help.

            1. pope suburban*

              My thoughts exactly. I admit I do feel a little weird when someone thanks me for doing my job, because it’s my job, but I understand they’re just trying to acknowledge my work. Nothing wrong with being prosocial.

            2. Snark*

              It’s nice to be acknowledged, of course. But covering maternity leave is not a thing one does for the parent, is my real point. The child-free are not being asked to do personal favors for the child-bearing, they are responding to the normal ebb and flow of resource availability in a business.

              1. Zoe*

                To me, saying thank you in these cases is not saying “thank you for doing your job” it’s “I know you took on some of my work and thank you for helping to enable me to be able to take the leave I needed”.

                We thank people for holding a door for us because it’s a polite gesture to offer in exchange for another polite gesture that is admittedly very small. It’s also practically ingrained behavior that we really don’t even think before doing either side of it. Would it really kill us to thank others for the much larger effort of covering for us?

                I think the big thing is that some parents are acting like the effort others make on their behalf doesn’t need to be reciprocated. Many seem to feel like they are more entitled to occasionally impose on others because their reason is their kids rather than non-child related reasons. And that’s a frustrating mindset to work with.

                1. MsTruth*

                  Exactly. Im child free, and it infufiates me that I am never the one to be let off work early when the weather gets bad or things are slow. Because you know, my life and safety is worth less than a human that hasn’t even contributed anything to society. The child worship attitude in the US is disgusting. Its not really kids I hate, its parents putting them on a pedestal and having a superiority complex because they had sex. Parenthood today is all about selfishness. The very act of allowing yourself to even become pregnant is selfish, given that the world is overpopulated and orphanages overcrowded. But you put having your OWN kid above the good of everyone else and that pattern continues the rest of your life.
                  I dont care what hate I get. Kids and adults…I think theyre all crap.

            3. B*

              I’m trying to figure out if it was even clear to the moms they were being granted a favor? For my maternity leave I did a great deal of shuffling stuff around to minimally inconvenience others (like, I did a crapton of call to get it all done before I had the baby, so I did the same number of shifts as everyone else, just front loaded a bit) – if the managers arranged it it might not be clear someone else was doing extra work.

              1. Specialk9*

                Thank you for saying it this way because it’s exactly what everyone thinks.

                Giving one a legal right is NOT “granting a favor”. It’s a RIGHT and a business arrangement, between management and their other workers.

                But people think it is generously granting a favor, for which a parent owes something!

                And I think it’s silly to pretend it’s not gendered. It’s usually women.

              2. GlitsyGus*

                I’m thinking that there are two different factors. There is maternity leave, for which, you’re right, it isn’t exactly a favor. At the same time, when someone covered my tasks during a recovery from surgery when I was on disability, I say thanks because that person did help me out, even if it wasn’t my obligation to make sure it happened. It’s polite and part of being on a team.

                Then there are the actual favors. “Can you cover the last hour so I can make it to carpool pick up?” “Billy has a cold so I’m not coming in. Can you greet XYZ vendor when they arrive at 2?” Those are favors that parents often ask and they should thank their coworkers for doing it. yeah, non-parents need these favours too, because we’re all human, but parents do need help more often. Which most of the time is fine, being a parent is tough and most people sympathize, but you should thank the people helping you be able to be a good parent.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          I feel you on the maternity leave thing. Not too long ago, I had a bunch more work dumped on me with no notice, at my busiest time, because of a maternity leave. I was PISSED. But you know who I blamed? Not my coworker. I blamed management for not planning properly.

          1. BF50*

            yeah, generally maternity leave is not a last minute thing. Most people know that’s coming at least a few months in advance. That’s poor planning.

            1. Issa*

              Or you know, it could be like my coworker who hid her pregnancy from all of us until a month before she was due causing a huge dump of work and multiple people getting previously approved vacations no longer approved to cover her maternity leave.

              1. Specialk9*

                It’s fascinating that you clearly blame her for inconveniencing you, rather than thinking about why she thought she had to go to such extremes. Again you’re blaming the woman rather than management. It’s a really common thing to do, when women do things.

                1. Forgot Name*

                  It’s fascinating that you clearly are so rudely invested in this topic about rude people.

          2. Sam.*

            Yeah, my office finally decided to fire someone for incompetency (the first time in my five years there!) and they do it two weeks before a major deadline when we already had two people out on maternity leave. I was Not Pleased with management for their timing on that one.

        3. CoveredInBees*

          That really sucks. In countries where maternity leave in a national right, and tends to last a long time, there is a whole infrastructure around getting real coverage instead of just making existing employees do more. Many of my friends got their first job doing maternity leave coverage. Other people might have shifted around the more senior work, but they’d pick up lower level stuff. They were either offered a full-time position or it was a way to get genuine experience with less long-term risk for the company. It also means opportunities for people leaving senior positions to eventually reenter when their kids were older. Another reason to have a national parental leave scheme.

          1. Valprehension*

            ^ my thoughts exactly! People taking maternity leaves in my place of work = opportunities for the rest of us to take on one-year(+) contracts at higher pay/more hours. It’s a long enough gig that you can put it on your resume, and you have time to make an impact in the role. Great for everyone involved.

          2. medium of ballpoint*

            Yeah, I really wish we had much better infrastructure for childcare in this country. It sucks to see the annual scramble for parents of younger kids when their school/activity schedule and their parents’ work schedules don’t match up, and we do an abysmal job of providing parent education/resources in the early childhood years. There are so many ways we can improve things that would be better for everyone, and I definitely wish my tax money were going toward some useful efforts instead some of the other things we’re paying for.

            1. Emily S.*

              So many lessons we could learn from Scandinavian countries, Europe etc., regarding health benefits, paid leave, etc. These things have been researched and studied extensively.

          3. GlitsyGus*

            That is one of the huge drawbacks of our super short maternity leave. A lot if the time 8 weeks or whatever isn’t long enough for it to be work bringing in a temp and training them up. As soon as they get their footing they leave. So the work just gets past out to the remaining people because that is the most efficient way to handle it.

        4. media monkey*

          i took a year of maternity leave (UK here) and it would never have occurred to me to thank my colleagues for “covering” for me. that’s not really something they chose – my boss chose not to hire maternity cover (as our workloads can be very variable). i suspect this could be a difference in the attitude towards maternity leave in the UK vs US here though.

          1. Specialk9*

            Exactly. Whether managers chooses to cheap out or hire coverage is up to them, but really not relevant to the person on medical leave.

      4. RoadsLady*

        I have two kids, would love to have more.

        I also recall thinking very deeply about the subject and realize I would probably be just as happy and fulfilled without kids.

        No, not all happy child-free folk are anti-child. They’re just happy and child-free.

        1. Specialk9*

          Right and they’re not who this letter was about. Nobody has a problem with people who are child-free and happy about that. Awesome, you do you!

          We’re appalled by the ones who are vicious in their hatred of children and parents. Just like we’re appalled by those who are vicious to other humans and animals. (Though Dog knows that’s a too-generous assumption of humanity these days. )

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I think a very vocal minority has gotten some attention, and in general, the shoulder chip is fading fast. I’ve got about 30 child-free friends. One was vocally disparaging about people who choose to have kids about 4 – 5 years ago, but other CF friends told them to knock it off if they truly believe that people’s reproductive choices are not up for social judgement, and they have.

      It is in a liberal bubble, though, other areas that are still arguing about people’s reproductive choices may have more chips.

      1. LSP*

        Most of my friends don’t have kids and don’t plan to. It’s actually great to be one of the few parents in our social group, because my friends LOVE my son and treat him like family. They play with him and talk with him, and they get to thoroughly enjoy the fact that they get to go home to their quiet homes.

        I have not actually met people who didn’t want kids who spewed this level of vitriol about “breeders” or “kids”. Everyone gets annoyed at misbehaving children in public (I once spent an entire coast to coast flight having my seat kicked by a girl whose father was checked out), but what OP is describing seems to be quite rare.

        OP – I don’t think you need to justify asking them to stop coming down on kids and people with kids. I would just say, “I don’t mind you guys chatting, but could you limit the griping about other people’s life choices? It’s not great work conversation. Thanks”

      2. Snarkastic*


        Everyone I know seems to be keen on the idea of procreating ad infinitum. I am only resentful, because they push the whole, “How is your amazing life full of sleep? My life is awful and kids are a drain!” What is with this trend towards this line of thinking? You made your bed, now lie in it, folks. Also: my life is what it is, because of the choices I have made thus far. If I choose to have children, I will not shame people for getting more sleep or having more freedom, generally.

        Rant over. Now where are you and how can I join your group of friends?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I will admit that when I hear, “My kids are a drain” my heart sinks a little bit. I would say that around 75% of the parents I talk to say, “If I had known then… I never would have done this.” It’s kind of jarring to me how many people share this and share it unprompted. Doesn’t the kid overhear that at some point? I mean if they’d say it to me in a passing conversation, they must be saying it all the time.
          Anyway, OP, one thing you could try telling yourself is that at least these two did not have kids.

          There is one time I do speak up, it’s when the parent tells me that they are going to make sure they are a burden to their child in old age. That is when I say, “The kid can’t lay in the hospital bed FOR you.” Kids can’t take care of themselves and that is not their fault. But adults CAN take care of themselves and work to prevent being overly dependent on their families.

          1. media monkey*

            wow – that is so sad for those kids. i really hope your friends are joking, or else you caught them on a very bad day. I mean everyone has those night when they are up all night with a tiny baby or a sick kid and then have to function the next day and they think “what have i done?”. Also with a tiny baby that can be a sign of PND. my kid has bad days/ nights/ can be a madam like any other, however i can’t imagine hoping to be a burden on her ever,

          2. General Ginger*

            Yeah. Children definitely, definitely overhear them. And it leaves lasting damage. Though, my mother also said these things directly to me from a young age, so ymmv.

      3. Specialk9*

        I had to stop reading Fark . Com because of this kind of bitter vicious child-hating curmudgeons, and egging each other on. Too bad, otherwise a nice community, but eventually it was just too much.

        They did give my husband and me our favorite (muttered only in private) nickname for our kiddo: crotchfruit. :D

    3. Observer*

      I don’t buy it. If it stopped with the comments about “breeders” and the like, it would be an understandable explanation. But the vitriol about kids is another whole level and is not explained by “backlash against unreasonable.”

      1. Mike C.*

        What vitriol? This whole thing seems so overblown. I can’t even imagine someone being able to rant about the same thing 8-12 times a day, every day. How do you not run out of material?

        1. Let's Find Another Way To Have Fun, Friends!*

          OP here. I need to clarify: They average 8-12 conversations a day; they’re not all about hating kids, but hating kids has been coming up more and more.

        2. Autumnheart*

          Probably the same way parents can talk about car seats and diaper brands until the sun goes supernova. But in truth that’s really no different from any other kind of “shop talk”. My friends and I are all in related industries and we can talk shop until people’s brains melt out their ears.

          1. Specialk9*

            Dehumanizing hate-filled venom really is not the same as nattering on. It’s just not.

            I’m really surprised, and saddened, that you think hate speech and boring conversations are the same thing.

        3. Kat in VA*

          Two words: horse people.


          (I freely admit I was a horse people person back in the day.)

      2. Sara without an H*

        Yes, this goes way beyond snark. And btw, I’d draw the line at the term “breeders.” I’ve never heard it used neutrally, always as an insult.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          Same here. That stopped my reading cold. That’s not two people talking about an unpleasant time at work or socially that was ruined by an oblivious parent or an obnoxious child. That is is also not two coworkers discussing specific work situations or policies that benefit parents and hurt non-parents.
          That is two people with active dislike for a very large part of society.
          This “us against them” pet people v. breeders, that is pathological.
          I’d be concerned about confronting them about their “cause.” I would really try to frame it as a distraction and ask if V could chat at coworker’s desk some of the time.

        2. pope suburban*

          Yeah, that was a line for me. It’s a slur, and generally, I don’t think it’s appropriate to use slurs in the workplace. I understand the second-class feeling that can come from being the odd one out on the kids thing (I am that one, always have been and always will be), but if it’s a genuine workplace issue- and it can be, and I’ve experienced it personally- then the appropriate response is to talk to management or maybe HR about better coverage policies or more equitable leave/flex time. Coming up with so much to be so angry about 8-12 times daily sounds exhausting and unhealthy, and frankly tedious. I wouldn’t want to listen to it, no matter what the subject, and I couldn’t fault anyone else for feeling the same.

        3. neverjaunty*

          It’s also an insult (some) gay people use for straights. It’s amazing how many of the V’s of the world suddenly become less interested in But Free Speech when you point that out.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Oh, I know. I’m just observing that “lol breeders” turns into “WHAT THAT IS SO OFFENSIVE” rather quickly when you point this out.

              1. Susan Calvin*

                Yeah, I figured. Sorry for kind of derailing your comment! It’s a bit of a kneejerk reaction. Chips on shoulders, and so on.

          1. Just Jess*

            I’ve heard breeders used lovingly in the LGBTQ+ community, but not all straight people have kids so it probably is best to go on and retire that one.

            Still love The Breeders though.

            1. Amy the Rev*

              I’ve heard it used that way, too…though interestingly in this context it feels heteronormative to call parents ‘breeders’.

              Also love the pointed bisexual coughing- coughing right along with ya!

        4. Shirley Keeldar*

          Absolutely. That’s not a bit of grumbling about sitting next to a crying baby on an airplane, that’s a really nasty label to slap on a big group of people. Imagine if they were gathering near OP’s desk daily to complain about elderly people? Or immigrants? Or Republicrats? And using slurs to label them? Management should slam down hard on that—and this too. I hope Allison’s gentle script works, but I’m skeptical, and I think OP might need to involve management. Slurs and insults are really not a acceptable work conversation.

        5. aebhel*

          Yeah, the minute someone said that in front of me, I’d have a (probably very loud) problem with it. It’s such a misogynistic, dehumanizing term. People who use it are, IMO, pretty much invariably a**holes with no social filter (and I have a pretty low bar when it comes to social filters).

        6. Iden Versio*

          I am child-free by choice and circumstance. Misbehaving children in the wild burn my biscuits (who brings a screaming two-year-old to see Deadpool?!). But I would never, ever call people who choose to have children “breeders.” It’s needlessly nasty.

          1. General Ginger*

            That poor two-year-old must have been miserable (and quite probably scared!) at Deadpool. Yikes.

        7. Observer*

          Of course it’s an insult. What I mean is that when you go from insulting (and dehumanizing) the people who are doing the thing you are being pressured to do, to insulting people who are essentially bystanders that’s a different issue. The *kids* are NOT doing anything.

          Of course, even if this were really about backlash, it still wouldn’t be ok. Rude and dehumanizing comments are not ok.

      3. matcha123*

        Some kids are brats. Why excuse their behavior? I was a kid myself, I remember being a kid. And when I was a kid, I hated that some kids got away with terrible behavior, or their terrible behavior was encouraged by other adults. I highly doubt the two women hate every single child. But when you have people saying, “But how can you hate kids???!111” I am guessing they have a knee-jerk reaction and just say they hate all kids because people keep pushing it.

          1. Specialk9*

            “Exactly?” You think ‘some kids act like brats’ makes hate speech about all children, and misogynistic slurs ok? WTF?!

            1. NotMyMonkeys*

              You…. just admitted upthread to calling your kids crotchfruits though? Isn’t that a slur?

        1. LSP*

          I understand what you’re saying, but a big part of being an adult in the workplace is not letting your knee-jerk reactions spill out all over the people around you. I have many, many child-free friends, and they have told me how frustrating it is when people start pushing the issue of having kids, and I sympathize. It sucks having your life choices questioned, but that’s not an excuse for the level of nastiness coming from these two. Especially, because what they are doing is EXACTLY what they are frustrated by from other people. They are questioning the choices of others, and on top of that, they are criticizing children!

          1. pope suburban*

            You’re dead to rights on the emotional management one needs to do at work. I’m not over the moon about children before middle-school-age, but no one I work with knows that because it’s not something that needs to be shared on the clock. They also don’t know that because whenever kids are in our office, or I am working an event with/for kids, I am polite. It costs me nothing and anyway, I don’t figure that my personal neuroses are anyone else’s cross to bear. The conversations these people are having, MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY OMG, are beyond me.

          2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

            But they are chatting to each other, not to OP. I’ve heard people in my office say racial things–not slurs but racial things–and one is my supervisor. She isn’t talking to me. She’s talking to my co worker. OP could simply ask them to lower the volume. Me, I loathe most children as well. So I get why the co workers are venting. Way too many children get away with way too much and parents have a hissy when you complain.

            1. Log Lady*

              Okay, but that’s kind of a questionable rule to follow. If I hear coworkers discussing something like this, so frequently, including disgusting insults like “breeder”… it doesn’t matter if they aren’t talking to *me* specifically. If I can hear it, it becomes my problem anyway.

              Also, it’s important to remember that children are children. I understand they can be annoying and do bothersome things and get away with murder, but that’s on the parents not on the child. It’s concerning to hear people say they loathe children – it’s such a crazy generalization of strong dislike against an extremely vulnerable group of the world’s population.

            2. Specialk9*

              You have to be joking me. I can’t even. “Well, just IGNORE the hate speech and misogynistic slurs. They’re not talking to you, just taking loudly to each other in your immediate vicinity. I mean, isn’t the problem really that you’re EAVESDROPPING, and not the venom filled dehumanizing hate speech about 2/3 of the population?”

        2. Observer*

          The OP certainly doesn’t show any indication of a “knee jerk reaction” to a mention of a particular kid being a brat. The OP (and I think that we should take her at her word) says that they refer to children IN GENERAL as “brats.” And they refer to women who have children as “breeders”. That tells me that “brats” has nothing to do with actually bratty behavior on the part of individual children, but is a general insult.

      4. The Other Geyn*

        The term “breeder” really sets my teeth on edge. It really borderlines on making judgments towards other women’s reproductive choices.

        1. Crooked Bird*

          Oh, I’d say it steps right over the line. And then farts in its general direction.

      5. Vicky Austin*

        In childfree circles, the term “breeder” is generally reserved for people who have kids but don’t bother to parent or discipline them. The idea is that such people gave birth but then didn’t take on the responsibility of teaching their children to become responsible adults. In other words, their parenting job ended with giving birth; hence, they are merely breeders.
        They are also referred to as Breeders, Not Parents (BNP); while responsible parents are Parents, Not Breeders (PNB). However, it seems as though V from this letter calls all parents breeders, which is downright offensive.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Disagree. If someone has kids but then doesn’t bother to discipline them appropriately, then they deserve to be called out on it.

            1. Dankar*

              Why not just “asshole”? All the connotation, none of the vague whiff of misogyny.

              1. Autumnheart*

                Because “asshole” doesn’t have all the connotation, any more than “condescending” stands in for “mansplaining”. “Breeder” refers to a very specific type of behavior from a specific personality type. And it’s not limited to women, either.

                I personally don’t care if people find the word “breeder” offensive. Nobody is preventing people from parenting as they wish (unfortunately!) and certainly nobody is putting limits on their terrible parenting. Only rarely does one ever see a parent justifiably removed from, say, the fancy restaurant or the midnight showing of the blockbuster movie, because they decided to disrupt the occasion for everyone with the inappropriate presence and/or behavior of their children. There is literally no negative here for the parent except the knowledge that people have a name for that kind of behavior. Sorry, but nobody is entitled to have everyone think nice things about them all the time.

                1. Amy the Rev*

                  Does Breeders only refer to people who have biological children within a heterosexual relationship, or does it apply to people who adopt or foster as well? Aside from just being plain old dehumanizing, it also feels realllly heteronormative.

          2. Bart on Film*

            “Breeder” is no different from any slur – ethnic/racial, gender-related, or otherwise. Those who use it deserve the same level of respect as anyone who’d use the other types of terms that would get you fired from any decent workplace – no matter in what subculture-created made-up context it’s being used.

            Stop trying to normalize “breeder”.

        1. Specialk9*

          This matter-of-fact explanation was deeply chilling.

          It rings so many bells with the way “Incels” talk about women.

        2. Mad Baggins*

          I… see why it might be helpful to have a shorthand for a thing that you complain about all the time with a certain group of people.
          But a) maybe you (general you, and people like V) should keep this shorthand strictly to that group of people and not say it at work.
          b) I really don’t like the idea of reducing strangers with loud or troublesome children that you see in public to a term we use for animals. It’s super judgmental and the term “breeder” suggests things like parenthood=giving birth; gives it a nice whiff of misogyny with a dash of alienating adoption/blended families. Plus as annoying as it is to be near a crying child, we are just seeing a slice in time and it’s pretty selfish to, as a non-parent, pass judgment on parents as Good or Bad based on the inconvenience caused to us.

          If you are the kind of person who would object to terms like “white trash” and “spinster” maybe you should consider retiring this word as well.

        3. GlitsyGus*

          In my experience it’s pretty much always a hateful term used for anyone with kids, good parent or not. I’m child free and part of the LGBTQ community and for the last 20 years I’ve heard it thrown around against all kinds of people who have kids, or just straight people, whether they have kids or not.

          Long and short of it, it’s crude and mean and it should not be used in the workplace.

    4. Bunny Girl*

      I’ll be honest, I really kind of feel that. I grew up somewhere that was very, very family friendly and very pro-child. I’ve always known that I wasn’t going to have children and I have honestly had some really nasty things said to me because of my choices (I’m also voluntarily sterile). Sometimes I tend to react when I get any sort of “oh you’ll change your mind” comment because I’m just so tired of it. And because I live in such a pro-family community, it’s really nice to meet someone else who isn’t having kids. And every once in a while I like to rant about other people’s kids because I am one of those people that doesn’t enjoy being around children. (To be fair I also don’t enjoy being around loud disruptive adults either). Because there are so many people who don’t share those feelings, it is just nice to meet someone who does.

      However, I don’t talk like that at work. I don’t discuss my personal reproductive choices in my office because it’s my place of business. And I don’t want to hear anyone else beat a dead horse about something they dislike. There’s a time and a place for venting and ranting, and I don’t really think your office is one of them, and that especially goes towards ranting and venting when you share a space where other people can overhear you. If I were OP, even though I tend to agree towards the type of thinking that these people have (even though I have no hatred towards kids, they just aren’t who I like to be around), I wouldn’t want to hear this constantly either. I definitely think she should maybe start by trying to steer the topic in another direction.

    5. Plague of frogs*

      Eh, I don’t know. I think these people are just assholes. If it wasn’t this, it would probably be something else. They should either STFU or be fired. Their conversation offends me, and I am happily childless.

    6. child-free forever*

      I’m one of those child-free, absolutely cant stand kids, would love to move to a place where everyone is 18+ people. I have felt this way my entire life, and if I am forced to be around a child for more than an hour or so I get incredibly agitated and irritated – it’s almost unbearable. Living so many years of my life being told I would “change my mind some day” and that it’s “different when theyre yours” has led to a lot of built up resentment. i was probably told all this because im a woman, and i hate it with a passion. Honestly, i dont blame the child-free community for being a little over-the-top now that theres some degree of acceptance. We had to listen to people go on and on and on about how much they love kids and cant wait to have them and how they dont get how anyone could not want to breed for a long time – so, what’s the difference?

      1. Amy the Rev*

        Do you consider adopting/fostering the same as “breeding”? Or is that different in the eyes of the fundamentalist CF community (I’d consider myself progressive CF, fwiw)?

      2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

        Me too. Heck, I didn’t like other kids as a kid.

  3. Murphy*

    Do they think they sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus?

    I almost spit out my water.

    I’m with you, OP, I hate when people are aggressively anti-kid. Don’t have them if you don’t want them, but don’t be overly judgey of other people’s choices.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Plus, kids can’t help being kids! It’s not like they’re choosing to be noisy or disruptive or what-have-you…. unlike many adults I’m sure we can all think of.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I would much rather sit by a small child on an airplane than a horrible adult. Even if that kid screams the entire flight, they’re a kid. The adult manspreading or not moving when I have to pee is a major annoyance becasue they should know better.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Too true. I just remind myself that there’s a reason that babies come designed with a hard-to-ignore “I don’t feel good” alarm.

        2. BF50*

          I was on a trans-atlantic flight to Europe with my 2.5 year old a few years ago. He kicked the seat in front of him once. I immediately told him to stop, but it was too late. The woman in front of him was enraged. We moved him. The rest of the flight he sat on laps or shared a seat with his sister, so that the seat behind her was empty, but she continued to glare at me and yell at him for “kicking her seat” even when he was asleep and the seat behind her was empty. It was almost funny watching her get angry at these phantom kicks to turn around and see an empty seat and a sleeping child in the seat behind the person next to her, yet 15 minutes later, she’d be yelling again about being kicked.

          Meanwhile the man behind me clearly had some health issues and got up every 15 minutes. Each time he got up, he first kicked my seat, then grabbed the top of it to pull himself up, yanking me backwards and frequently pulling my hair in the process. I know he was more disruptive than my son, but you know, empathy. I know he wasn’t trying to ruin my already horrible flight.

        3. Kat in VA*

          Or fighting you for the arm rest when you’re in the middle. Or taking off their shoes AND their socks as soon as the plane levels out. Full on manicure starting with clipping/filing nails, base coat, three coats of color, top coat. Digging around in ears with Q-tips then dropping them on the floor.

          The farting. So much farting.

          Falling asleep and drooling on your shoulder, then getting offended when you move them away from you (“GOSH SORRY I TOUCHED YOU, LADY”).

          See also: the couple that brought their own snacks on the plane (good for you!) which included kippered herrings (not so good for anyone else!)

          I’ve…seen things, man.

            1. Kat in VA*

              I rather like herring. But I’m pretty sure the passengers around me were mad. Oh, and she got a big smear of the oil on the tray table, and just looked around furtively and closed it up. Smooth one, lady passenger.

          1. Specialk9*

            They PAINTED THEIR NAILS and SWABBED THEIR EARS, then just dropped the orange Q-tips on the floor for your to step on?! That’s monstrous.

            1. Kat in VA*

              I’m telling you…I’ve seen THINGS. On different flights, mind you – someone who performed that many egregious offenses in one shot would likely have resulted in me either changing my seat or…saying something. Loudly. Possibly peppered with expletives.

              Bare foot of the passenger behind me, shoved up against my elbow when I’m in the window seat.

              Girl with her, uh, hands down her male seatmate’s pants.

              Grabbing my seatback to get up and pulling my hair – never once have I gotten an apology. I don’t wear ponytails on planes any more for precisely this reason. Tight ballerina bun, all the way.

              Manspreading. So.much.manspreading. (I say manspreading because I’ve never had a woman do this to me, not once.). I’ve made it a game to push back with my leg now, and it becomes an exercise in isometric pressure. See those metal bars on the floor? That’s MY space. I don’t care if you have jubbleberries the size of watermelons, you don’t get to put your feet/knees/whatever in my space. Exceptions are made for folks who are the approximate dimensions of a man-shaped cricket. I completely understand those legs have to go SOMEWHERE when you have a 38″ inseam.

              Someone asking me to share my earbuds because they wanted to watch the YouTube video I was watching on my iPad. *Hard no, that time*

              A guy who blew his nose approximately every .2457 seconds and then inspected the contents of the tissue at great length…then stuffed the used, full tissues down the seatback pocket.

              I have horrendous RBF but for some reason, almost every person I sit by wants to share their life story. I’ve had a few unusual people, but for the most part…no, your life isn’t all that interesting to me, a complete stranger, whom you will never see again. I finally forestalled this completely by putting in earbuds (with my hair up so they can’t be missed), donning sunglasses, and pretending to snooze. Boring, but effective.

              And there’s always the one woman who insists on changing a poopy diaper in the seat. Now, I have four kids, and I’ve flown with all of them in various stages of infancy and toddlerhood. All diaper changing is done in the bathroom – which, to be fair, you really have to have some contortionist genes to manage.

              See also: people of size. My heart goes out to larger people, because I can see them desperately trying to fold into their seat because they think I’ll cause a fuss if they’re hanging over a bit into mine, or folding the arm rest down that’s cutting into their side. Nope. If they seem receptive, I’ll tell them to spread out and relax, and “It’s always cold on planes, so maybe you can keep me warm” or something silly (it’s in the moment, not everyone is receptive or appreciates this, so I gauge by reaction). Basically telling them yeah, it’s totally ok to occupy this space and if you need more of it, that’s cool too.

              I’m telling you…I don’t even fly that much, but I have stories for DAYS.

              1. Anonymosity*

                I am laughing so much at “jubbleberries.”

                With you on the larger people. I don’t mind that much either. If I can take having people literally in my armpit on the tube, I can handle a little overlap for a few hours.

      2. VioletEMT*

        Most of the things I dislike about many/most kids can be blamed on their parents.

        It’s the human variant of “there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.”

        Also, I was able to chill out more about kids overall when I realized that often, if it were socially acceptable to throw a tantrum or cry in public, I’d totally do it. Now I’m kind of jealous of kids for having a social pass to have a meltdown when they just can’t take it anymore.

        1. Murphy*

          Right? Some days I wish I could just lay down on the ground and wail instead of having to keep my shit together.

        2. Fiennes*

          Exactly! Whenever a baby cries on a plane, I remember that the nature of air travel is so miserable that, if it were socially acceptable, fully 1/3 of the adults on the plane would be bawling too.

          1. pleaset*

            “I remember that the nature of air travel is so miserable that, if it were socially acceptable, fully 1/3 of the adults on the plane would be bawling too.”

            You just won the internet. Best thing I’ve read in years.

          2. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

            When I was 12 I took a flight home from vacation with my family and experienced such ear pain during that flight that I was crying and wailing. I have only a vague memory of it as the pain was that bad. I do remember a man offering me $50 to shut up but I literally could not. (Turns out it was a raging ear infection coupled with a ball of ear wax as big as a pea). Now when I fly I keep that memory in mind when I hear kids crying. I was 12 and fully able to communicate with words and still I was in so much pain that I couldn’t do even that in the moment. It’s got to be worse for the poor kids who don’t have the verbal skills but experience the pain and irritation that goes along with travel.

          3. swingbattabatta*

            I’m flying with my 2.5 year old next week, and all of these plane comments have me so nervous…. She’s a pretty well behaved child (and we are really on top of keeping her quiet and not in other people’s spaces), but she has a ton of energy and… she’s 2. gahhhhh

            1. BF50*

              You hear about the awful stuff more than the nice stuff.

              My kids are 4 & 5 now. I’ve done 8 flights with one or both of them. I’ve had 3 flights that were actually kind of lovely, traveling with one toddler who was well behaved and the other passengers were very nice to and charmed by my kid, 2 that were basically not at all memorable and probably people didn’t notice there were kids in the area, 2 that was hard on my kids, but the adults around were lovely, sympathetic, and supportive, and then 1 that was an absolute nightmare which made me question humanity and also the need to ever visit my in laws again.

              1. Anonymosity*

                This; I’ve seen many kids on flights and many parents and the vast, vast majority of them are not a pain in the ass at all.

            2. I'm actually a squid*

              My one tip, as someone who hasn’t flown with a child (so take this with a large grain of salt) but who has flown out of Orlando frequently, always on cheap flights and so has had a lot of chances to observe the flying toddler in the wild, is to make sure said child is comfortable wearing headphones (preferably the sort made for kids that won’t get too loud and fit well). Because that pop-the-balloon app might be the one thing that keeps said toddler happy in that moment but I assure you, after 40 straight minutes of hearing ‘pop pop poppopop …. pop’ at top volume, the nearby passengers are seriously wondering just how soundproof the overhead compartments are.

              But seriously, out of all my flights that was probably the one time a child annoyed me and, even then, I wasn’t really peeved at the child so much as at the mother whose parenting strategy consisted solely of scolding her maybe 5-yo daughter for not keeping the 2 or 3-yo quiet.

            3. willow*

              Sit next to me, and you won’t have to worry. We are out there. Maybe we should wear signs? Or have a ribbon? Or instead of a regular safety pin, a big diaper pin to signal a safe zone!

            4. Crooked Bird*

              When my husband and I flew with our almost two year old (and kept him from melting down through continual wrangling and letting him crawl from one lap to the other endlessly), the only comment we got was a warm compliment on our parenting. So, you know. There’s all kinds out there, and really there’s probably more good than bad, it’s just the good doesn’t make the best clickbait.

          4. Susana*

            Oh, I’ve done that, on planes. I was sitting next to a (nice!) little girl who cred when there was turbulence (and I *hate* turbulence, myself). She later felt embarrassed at her crying. I told her, eh, half the people on this plane would be crying if thy thought they could get away with it. Got a laugh from the adults.
            The thing is – there are parents who try so, so hard to make sure their kids aren’t disruptive, even when kids are doing normal things! One couple had a baggie of earplugs in case their baby started to cry on a (one-hour!) flight. I said, well, if she cries, we’ll just have to ask her to leave (fortunately they knew I was kidding). But I felt bad that they were so concerned about a totally normal baby thing. Meanwhile, there’s another category of parent that is not only oblivious to a kid kicking a chair/running – literally running – around a restaurant or shouting on a plane, but who gets irritated that anyone has the temerity to ask that the child be controlled in some way.

            1. Plague of frogs*

              Agreed. I’ve been on a lot of flights with crying babies or disruptive toddlers, and it hasn’t bothered me even slightly because it was so obvious that the parents were doing their best and the kids were just being kids.

              But I was on a flight where a seven year old whined and screamed for the 3 hours that we were stuck on the runway, as her parents tried to placate her (and I do mean placate–it was clear who the boss was). When we *finally* got to take off, she wouldn’t put her seat belt on, threatening to hold up the flight even more, and her mother asked the flight attendant if we couldn’t just take off without her having her seat belt on? I wanted to kill the mother.

              And then there was my favorite flight ever, when a 2-year old crawled across a row of strangers and decided she liked the looks of me, and parked herself on my lap for the next few hours. Very flattering! (And the parents seemed to like the break).

              1. Jesca*

                You do know that *atypical* is a thing, and that a lot of those random 7 year olds you occasionally see flipping out in public are actually atypical kids having a panic attack? No? Didn’t think so.

                1. Socks*

                  That comes back down to the parents, though, doesn’t it? I mean even outside of the fact that a screaming person is unpleasant to everyone around them, as a parent, you shouldn’t just be okay with your kid being so upset they have a meltdown or panic attack for 3+ hours. Just, from the kid’s perspective especially, that sounds really terrible.

                  You should have strategies to calm them down (not just keep them quiet, I mean actually reduce their level of anxiety or overstimulation), and if they’re all failing, maybe don’t continue to torture your kid by putting or keeping them in that situation in the first place? It’s not like letting them scream is somehow good for them, and a sign that you’re an excellent parent who is doing everything correctly and is thus beyond reproach. Parents of neuroatypical kids can also, like, do a bad job. If their kid is screaming on a plane for three hours and then holding up takeoff by refusing to buckle their seatbelt, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the parents could be handling it better.

                2. EditorInChief*

                  So what? Not my problem, not random strangers’ problem. Your kid is your problem. If you know he has the potential to flip out in public then figure out strategies to deal with it.

                3. SciDiver*

                  My mom witnessed an event like this where a kid on a flight wouldn’t sit in his seat or stop yelling, and the parent traveling with him and his sister couldn’t get him to stop. The pilot came out and explained to the parent that he couldn’t hear air traffic control over the screaming and takeoff couldn’t happen until the kid stopped. When the child continued to scream, the plane went back to the gate and the family was escorted off the flight.

                  If there is a situation the child can’t handle and the parent can’t fix or control, like a kid having a panic attack on the tarmac, they need to get out of that situation. If a kid is holding up a flight to that degree because of poor behavior that will not stop (whatever the root cause), they need to get off the plane.

                4. ZucchiniBikini*

                  Yeah Jesca I agree. When we flew to Japan in April (from Australia – 10 hr flight), there was a boy, maybe 8-9 years old, who started having a total screaming meltdown when we boarded and didn’t stop til the plane had been in the air almost an hour ( he conked out rather suddenly – my best guess is that some kind of sedative kicked in). The absolute terror was awful to hear. The flight attendants did their best, his parents were working with him constantly, but he was in a blind panic. I ended up chatting to his mum while in the toilet queue and the mum told me that the little guy is autistic, terrified of flying, and they were only on the plane to visit his dying grandmother in Kyoto. I’m so glad no one on that plane was a judgemental arsehole to that family.

                5. Plague of frogs*

                  Two of the children that I love most in the world are what you call “atypical.” You do know that that doesn’t give their families a pass to be assholes, right? No?

        3. SoCalHR*

          I was thinking the same thing re: analogy to dogs

          BUT – I do have to say, I’ve witnessed many an adult-tantrum in public, it just manifests in a different way.

          1. Specialk9*

            I mean, isn’t that what this letter is about? Two grownass adults tantruming multiple times every single day?

        4. Jen*

          My oldest nephew is an amazingly well behaved kid (my younger nephew is still under a year so behavior doesn’t really come into it yet). That is because of the terrific work done by his parents.

          1. Specialk9*

            That’s meant to be nice, I think, but it’s also hurtful.

            Lots of incredible people have very difficult kids, and it’s not a reflection on their worth as parents. I have two siblings who had kids who struggled, badly, and it was their brain chemistry that was capsizing them, and amazing parenting that barely helped keep them afloat. (One is doing awesome as an adult, the other likely won’t make it.)

            Myself, I have an easy kid, and I sometimes get smug too, until I remember what my sibs dealt with. It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t my sibs’ fault, but people judged them anyway.

        5. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Right!? I’m envious of kids because they can just become too bored to stand up. There are so many times when I’m out shopping and am tired of people that I’ve just wanted to sit down in the aisle and give up for a few minutes.

          1. Asleep or maybe dead*

            That’s me asian-squatting in the middle of an Walmart, pretending I’m checking out the products on the lower shelves.

          2. Teapot librarian*

            Or just burst out crying for what seems like no reason but it’s just that you’re tired or hungry or both?

          3. AnonEMoose*

            You’re reminding me of something that happened on public transit a few years ago. So…picture a light rail car full – very full – of grumpy, not-yet-caffeinated commuters. A mother got on with her little girl.

            Now, this train was PACKED. Even if someone were willing to give her a seat, she might not have been able to get through the crowd to get to it. The little girl really wanted to sit down. And started wailing about it. Loudly.

            Yours truly was feeling a bit grumpy about it, but thinking “well, at least it’s not that long a ride.”

            At which point, the mother said, “Oh, stop it. We ALL want to be 3 and scream.” And I was suddenly trying to stifle giggles into the sleeve of my coat. Because it was SO TRUE.

          4. Anonymity*

            This is me in overly general work meetings, really. Like the kids in church who slide off the pew and onto the floor out of sheer boredom.

        6. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I get jealous when I see barefoot babies/little kids out in public. I hate shoes.

        7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is how I feel—when I find children’s behavior annoying, almost always my ire is directed toward their parents (although I am sympathetic to harried parents of very small children, because sometimes kids are pure Id, and they gotta get their emoting on).

          I just find it really odd and toxic that M & V are so avowedly anti-child that they’re spending hours of their lives complaining about children when they could be doing any number of more enjoyable things, like hanging out with their dogs.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Actually this could be more about how they were treated as kids than it seems.

        8. sfigato*

          I was super judgy of the parents of kids having tantrums until I had a kid and realized that when your kid is melting down, there is often not a lot you can do about it. You can remove them from a restuarant/store, but you can’t shush or coo them into not freaking out. They are out of control and it takes them a while to get control of themselves, and the more you try to force it, the more out of control they get.

          1. BF50*

            Plus it’s not something they can actually be taught not to do until they are a certain age. It’s also not something that can be avoided or prevented 100% of the time. Yeah, don’t take a hungry child to the store if you can avoid it, but sometimes you just can predict or or sometimes you can, but you still have to buy the groceries because starving children is bad.

          2. Specialk9*

            Prefrontal cortexes are still developing until startlingly late in age, like 20s. And yet we expect someone without a fully human brain to fully human.

          3. media monkey*

            also the way to stop a tantruming child most reliably is to give in to them and let them have what they want. which works in the moment but isn’t a long term behaviour management strategy, as we all know from some of the spoiled kids we have come into contact with!

      3. LSP*

        Right, and it is up to parents to discipline if they are out of control, and some parents are just not good at that. Some dog owners are also terrible at training their dogs, but that’s not the fault of the dog.

        1. Lastre*

          Can we stop comparing human beings to animals and comparing raising a child to training a dog?

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

            Humans are animals and training a dog (and most animals) is very much similar to training a person. Positive feedback, constant vigilance at first, and trying to show the correct way while ignoring the bad. The animals, however, pick up faster than most children–different species, totally alien language and body languages and yet dogs, cats, horses, etc. understand and communicate with people far better than people do with animals. You read how people here want good manager who correct them kindly, show them the correct way, and allow them to learn. That’s animal training–allow the animal to pick, model correct behavior, and reward good, correct behavior.

          2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

            Humans are animals and training a dog (and most animals) is very much similar to training a person. Positive feedback, constant vigilance at first, and trying to show the correct way while ignoring the bad. The animals, however, pick up faster than most children–different species, totally alien language and body languages and yet dogs, cats, horses, etc. understand and communicate with people far better than people do with animals. You read how people here want good managers who correct them kindly, show them the correct way, and allow them to learn. That’s animal training–allow the animal to pick, model correct behavior, and reward good behavior.

            1. Dankar*

              I want to follow up your vary eloquent point with a related story:

              When I first got my dog, I was trying to teach her to fetch and drop it. My 2yo nephew was watching on the couch. After about an hour of practice, my nephew got off the couch, ran after the ball I had thrown, dropped it at my feet and put his hand out for a (human) treat. Those techniques work, even when you don’t want them to.

              1. Specialk9*

                Hahaha awesome.

                My sister, in a post breakup funk, was given a book about how to train a man as if it were a dog training book, and was kinda like ‘uh thanks?’. It was a pretty crass concept and she tossed it, but I flipped through out of curiosity, and I actually thought some of the points were true about humans in general. Like, yeah, that would totally work on me, and heyyyy wait a second!

            2. Jesca*

              omg no, please stop. There is a reason why humans stay with parents well into their teens. The more cognitive ability an animal has, the longer gestation and then raising period is. Therefore, it takes a lot longer to teach a child than it does animals. And you train animals because their cognitive abilities are such that is in fact straight forced conditioning. Human beings have thought. You may not know that as an avowed child hater, but children do have their own thoughts. When we train animals, we train their own thoughts out. We cannot do this with humans.

              Stop Comparing Human Children to Animals.

              1. Dankar*

                Look, I’ve never raised kids, but I have trained dogs, and this line of thinking is ridiculous. Conditioning isn’t that straight forward, because we don’t actually understand how dogs “think.” What we have proven is that dogs have cognitive abilities on par with young toddler-aged children, and can feel complex emotions like jealousy, joy and disappointment.

                You don’t “train their own thoughts out.” You associate positive feelings and outcomes with behaviors you want to reward. Which is not that different from how most people discipline and reward children (ice cream for good behavior, sit in the corner for tantrums). Yes, there are other facets to child-rearing that have no analogue in dog training (encouraging creativity, development of critical thought, etc.), but that doesn’t mean the BEHAVIORAL processes are dissimilar. It simply means there are more complicated aspects of raising a child that aren’t addressed with dogs.

                People who completely reject all similarity are doing the field of behavioral science a disservice. If there are analogs to be studied in nature like chimp parenting behavior and the “teaching” processes used by the most cognitively-advanced bird species, that helps us to better understand ourselves. Human beings are animals; it should not be controversial to say that we share behavioral traits with our fellow animals.

                1. Lastre*

                  Of course that dogs and other mammals have some similarities with humans because we all share a common ancestor after all. But raising a child is a lot more complex than training a dog and much more important, too!

                2. Caro*

                  While positive and negative conditioning are effective in changing behavior in the short term, they both have long term detriments. Alford Kohn’s Punished By Rewards describes in detail how Rewards and punishment change people’s relationship with a task.

              2. SciDiver*

                If the parallel between dogs and children bothers you, it might help to re-frame it as “members of a family that need to be taught how to behave”. Parents (of both children and canines alike!) need to invest time and energy into reinforcing good behavior and discouraging poor behavior–doesn’t really matter if the behavior is eating your vegetables at the dinner table or not barking at the mailman. Without structure and reinforcement, young children will do as they please…and so will pets. It’s up to parents to properly train them how to behave at home and out in public. Not all of it is identical, but the behavioral training is really pretty analogous.

                Overall cognitive ability also doesn’t have too much to do with it–gestation and rearing varies in some really cool ways across animals with all similarly high cognitive abilities (elephants, dolphins, etc.). As a society we’ve decided that you’re a child until at least 18 and many people continue to live with their parents beyond that, but *hopefully* by the time a child is a teen, they’ve got the basics of good behavior down and can conduct themselves in public unsupervised. We still impart life-lessons at the point, but that’s not the same as managing public temper tantrums from a 3 year old.

              3. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

                You don’t know much about animals then. They show empathy, reason out problems, communicate, etc. They are not straight conditioned. They also have their own thoughts, choices, and personalities.

      4. Vicky Austin*

        Well, babies and toddlers can’t help it because they’re too young to know any better. School-aged kids (ages 5 and up) are old enough to understand the difference between “inside voices” and “outside voices;” and it is incumbent on the parents to teach them and correct them when they use an “outside voice” inside.

        1. Kj*

          Presuming they don’t have disabilities. And some disabilities are invisible. Not meaning to nitpick, as much as point out this is complex! And parenting is hard and being in public spaces with kids who can’t or won’t behave is hard! But living in a society, we have to learn. Hopefully kids learn with time and adults around them tolerate them as they learn.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Yes, that is absolutely true, and I know it all too well because I have invisible disabilities myself (ADHD and learning disabilities).

      1. Midge*

        Dionysus: *also hesitantly raises hand* Does springing from his thigh count? No? Ok, then. *lowers hand*

        1. Catalin*

          Aphrodite: *stops checking out everyone in the room* Don’t look at me, I popped out of the sea fully formed and ready for marriage.

          Athena; *rolls eyes* Ugh, you marrying gods all disgust me. What’s next, reproduction? NOT wise, just saying.

    2. Positive Reframer*

      Yes, even if they don’t want to have kids surely they realize that someone has to if we want the human race to continue. Even if you are in favor a decrease in population they seem to be calling for extinction or some sort of weird keep the kids underground and out of sight and then expect them to be able to move through the adult world with poise and grace.

      Also the way social security and things like that are set up if they ever want the option of retirement they are going to need those kids to take their place and have a large enough population earning enough money.

      I get is some people don’t want anything to do with children (or dogs, or cats) that’s whatever but how can you in any way justify being against them in principle?

      1. Clare*

        I mean I’m not sure why we really need the human race to continue, seeing as humans are pretty terrible and are actively destroying the planet (and now trying to finds ways to colonize other planets so we can destroy them too!) and every other living thing on it. So I don’t think it’s that crazy to be against kids in principle. But It’s never going to happen so no point in constantly complaining about it.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I doubt many people who are against kids in principle have really thought about their own interdependence on other human beings.

        2. Socks*

          I also don’t think there’s ever going to be any real danger of the entire human race just up and ceasing to reproduce, so I never found the argument that “you shouldn’t complain about kids because society needs them!” very compelling. Like, you’re not going to convince me that my complaining about them is somehow going to alter the course of all of human history, so… whatever? And that certainly doesn’t make me enjoy being around kids any more than I normally would. I acknowledge the vital necessity of dental work, too, but it’s not, like, fun.

          The very real danger of “everyone around me thinking I’m an asshole because I’m behaving like one” was always more of a deterrent for me. But I do really think a lot of anti-aggressive-CF arguments wind up missing the point pretty heavily. Like, we know we were kids once and that society needs kids to keep existing, but what does that have to do with our instinctual reaction to crying sounds? Or, like, not wanting to talk about poop? The two points don’t really intersect.

          1. I'm actually a squid*

            I’ve always been amazed that those who pull out the “if everyone thought like you” like about my choices thinks I’m that influential. But I also tend to be wary of the “we need to continue human culture” line because, in my experience, those spouting it have very definite ideas of WHICH culture (and skin tone) needs to be continued.

            1. NotMyMonkeys*

              I mean obviously a squid wouldn’t want to continue human culture, what with all the calamari we eat

            2. Socks*

              Yeah I kind of want to tell those people, like, hey, guess what, if I DID change my mind and have kids, I GUARANTEE you would not like the way I’d choose to raise them. You don’t want me to be molding the minds of the next generation, I promise.

              I mean joke’s on them because I work with young people anyway, so it’s really a two-for-one whammy of poisoning young minds AND failing to produce more racially-superior babies. Take that, “human culture” and/or the people concerned with its continuation.

              1. Positive Reframer*

                I think everyone here can see that there is a vast difference between making the personal choice not to have children and having the position that all children are bad/undesirable and people who have children are inferior.

        3. Leslie knope*

          I think it’s a little disingenuous to claim that the kind of vitriol in the OP’s letter stems from the environmental impact of having children.

          Also, what?

        4. StellaBella*

          Clare +1 on the human impact issue. I am child-free by choice, and it’s mainly due to the ecology issue. Imagine, instead of 7billion people …. what if there were 7billion elephants. 7billion wolves. 7billion orcas. 7billion lions/tigers/bears…. Oh my. Kidding aside, (haha), I am pleased to see in conservation conversations in big meetings that the issues of population control are coming up regularly.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        Exactly this, and it’s one reason why I think we need more parent-free policies like better paid parental leave and cheap childcare. Someone needs to pay taxes and farm and take care of me when I’m old. I don’t want kids and don’t really like spending a lot of time around them (love my nieces and nephews and spending time with them, knowing I can turn them back over to their parents when I’m tired), but I get why other people want kids and I would like them to keep having them.

        1. Angeldrac*

          That is always my point when this discussion happens.
          One day even the child free will be old and need someone to help with their finances, provide them with appropriate medication and wipe their bottoms. Cultivating a culture that supports parents to raise children that will do that and not just steal their TV will benefit EVERYONE.

    3. Erin*

      My roommate is so anti-child that she claims to have hated children when she was one. She and I are friends and I genuinely like her, but that makes me want to roll my eyes so hard. (She also thinks children don’t belong on the subway but animals do.)

      1. Lemon Sherbet*

        I actively did not like other kids when I was a kid because they were awful to me. I much preferred the company of adults or being by myself. Once I got some friends around 13, there were some I liked, but I still didn’t care for the under-10 set.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          Me too. I was picked on quite badly as a child and it made me very wary of other kids, because who was to say that they wouldn’t pretend to be my friend and then turn on me? And then as a teenager all my ‘friends’ wanted to be sitting in the park drinking cider and kissing unsuitable boys, and I couldn’t think of anything more boring (whilst they felt exactly the same way about the stuff I wanted to do, like go to the pictures). There’s a big age gap between me and my sisters as well, so I was pretty solitary until I went to university.

      2. Temperance*

        I always hated how other kids were goofy and silly when I was a kid. I much preferred a book and watching 20/20 to imaginary play. I will fully admit that I was a weirdo.

        There are few things that make me angrier than a parent bringing their kid on the quiet car of my train, but I find the idea that kids shouldn’t be on public transit to be odd.

        1. many bells down*

          Yeah I didn’t really understand my peers for most of my childhood. Socially awkward is probably the nicest way to put it. They all seemed to know and care about things I’d mostly never heard of. And I was NOT a sheltered child so I think I was just oblivious.

          I love kids NOW, though.

        2. Scarlet*

          Yes, that’s why I roll my eyes so hard at the “but you were a kid once” argument. I hated being a kid and didn’t like the company of other kids either at the time (fellow weirdo here).

          1. Socks*

            If anything, I like kids now more than I did at the time. I mean, now I have some understanding of why they act like they do and to what degree they can control it, the whole topic was a huge awful mystery when I was also a kid. I hung out with the recess monitors a lot. And that’s not to say I didn’t ALSO act like a kid, of course I did, I just also wasn’t very self aware.

          2. Jadelyn*

            I’m with you. “You were a kid once, too!” Yes, and I was honestly kind of an asshole, and the other kids I knew were mostly even worse. I can look back as an adult and realize, wow, the adults around us probably had a rough time dealing with our BS. Having been a child once doesn’t mean I inherently must like them as an adult.

            1. Specialk9*

              Donald Glover is a standup comedian with a bit about how kids are “little Hitlers”, based on growing up and then working in a home based daycare. I think of that line a lot at the playground.

          3. Alienor*

            Well, yeah, but even if you didn’t like kids when you were a kid, I’m guessing you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed being abused and reviled by kid-hating adults. I didn’t especially enjoy being a child either, but I didn’t like it when adults automatically disliked me because I was one, and I *always* knew when that was the case.

            1. Scarlet*

              But coworkers are not “abusing” kids. They’re ranting about kids among adults. I’m not saying it’s appropriate behaviour in an office and I agree it’s obnoxious when it happens all the time, but let’s not equate it to child abuse, please.

            2. Autumnheart*

              I *was* abused and reviled by kid-hating adults. Unfortunately for me, I was their child.

              Child abuse is almost invariably perpetrated and enabled by parents. Not the child-free.

              1. Specialk9*

                I’m not sure that’s a universal maxim. The three instances with my brother and me were both by someone child free.

                But I’m so sorry that you had to go through that. It’s such a betrayal and mindfork, and you deserved so much better.

                1. Reading Comprehension Matters*

                  Hence the use of the word almost, which ensures the statement is not phrased as a universal maxim.

            3. Socks*

              I think I got way, way more abuse as a kid by well-meaning adults who loved children than I ever did from the adults who mostly didn’t want anything to do with me. I mean I’m pretty sure the ones who didn’t like kids mostly just didn’t interact with me at all, any more than necessary? The adults around me who LOVED kids, meanwhile, really messed me up in their attempts to get me to stop being so weird because they loved and cared for me and wanted me to succeed (by not being so weird). And also I think they took it more personally when I was a huge ass to them. The people who didn’t like kids were not nearly that invested in me one way or the other.

              I think it’s a huge leap and very unfair to connect ‘dislikes children’ or even ‘hates children’ with ‘abuses children’, is mostly what I’m trying to say.

              1. Scarlet*

                Exactly. I (and all the CF people I know) just don’t want to be around children. I certainly don’t want to hurt them. I’m really tired that in 2018, someone who doesn’t like kids is still equated to a child abuser.

        3. Nita*

          Ha, me too! Kids still drive me up the wall sometimes (including my own) but… I’m definitely becoming more and more comfortable with dealing with kid craziness, and certainly don’t hate them. Just as long as they go to bed at some point and let me decompress a little :)

        4. Vicky Austin*

          I was just like you as a kid!
          And I am SO with you about parents bringing kids on the quiet car of the train. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting to use their commute to read/pray/meditate/sleep/work/whatever and wanting a quiet car to do so. Apparently, the people who run the trains agree, otherwise there wouldn’t be a quiet car. But if you have a kid with you, don’t ride on the quiet car. The non-quiet cars exist for a reason, too!
          The exception, of course, would be if there isn’t any room on the non-quiet car.

          But if you deliberately get on the quiet car when there’s room on the other cars and you bring a child too young to know better or make noise in any other way; you are in the wrong and deserve to be kicked off the quiet car. There’s no two ways about it.

          1. Temperance*

            It drives me bonkers because there is only one quiet car and every other car is a talking car. (Can you tell that this happened on my AM commute?)

            1. Vicky Austin*

              Some people think that trains should have one talking car and have the rest be quiet cars.
              Of course, the problem there is when the one talking car is full and you’re travelling with a child, you have no choice but to get on one of the quiet cars and risk disturbing the quiet.

      3. iglwif*

        My 16yo daughter enjoys babysitting small kids but doesn’t want to be a counsellor at her camp because “teenagers are horrible, mom.” The first time she said this, my reply was something like “But *you’re* a teenager???” And then she said “EXACTLY.” and I cracked up.

        1. Specialk9*

          It’s those tiny windows of lucidity and humor that keep teenagers from an early demise.

      4. TheVet*

        I hated kids as a kid. When I was forced to play with them and the “games” eventually turned to playing house, I’d volunteer to be the dad so I could go to “work” to get away from them. Work consisted of me going to another part of the house and reading.

        1. Socks*

          I was the cat, so I could go off and do my own thing, pretending to be a cat, doing cat things, outside. Climbing stuff, you know, ignoring any nearby humans. I don’t think I really “got” playing house.

      5. Plague of frogs*

        I am pretty grossed out by babies, and apparently always was–my parents tell me that as a baby I gagged when my diaper was changed.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I do think you should add to your list of choices: “As a former kid myself, I find these comments hard to hear. Could you take this topic somewhere else?”

    5. child-free forever*

      you say “dont be overly judgy of other people’s choices”, but child-free people have been judged and told that we’re wrong and will change our minds (tell me more you psychic) for our entire lives. people go on and on and on about how much they love kids and we have to listen to it and be around it all the time. im pretty sick of it and will always voice my opinion when the situation calls for it – JUST LIKE parents and people who like kids do.

      1. Jen*

        Being treated badly by others is not a justification for passing on ill treatment to a third party.

      2. Specialk9*

        I have never understood people who turn callous from having been wounded, rather than empathetic.

        I also don’t understand justifying appalling bigotry, misogyny, ageism, and just plain hate. Much less “but some people were mean to me so I hates them ALL”.

      3. Incantanto*

        Thats a justification for being annoyed with nagging adults not small children though.

  4. Dust Bunny*

    I’m a devoted cat mom who is now over the idea of ever having kids, mostly be default of rapidly becoming too old without ever having found an appropriate co-parent (I would not describe myself as child-free because I’m not super happy about this, but it didn’t ruin my life, either. It’s just the way things shook out) . . .

    . . . these people are jerks.

    I was never into other peoples’ kids, never babysat, never fussed over acquaintances’ children, etc., but, geez, kids are people, and the whole societal-expectations mess is not their fault. Get some perspective.

    I would actually not bring up that you want to have kids. You don’t have to want kids to not want to listen to this, and I’d worry that it would make you a target for them. I would, though, ask them to move the distracting kvetch-fest to another location so you can get some work done.

    1. JokeyJules*

      I agree with Dust Bunny. don’t tell then you want to have kids because 1. It’s not their business. 2. they aren’t going to be nice or supportive about it so why bother putting yourself through that, and 3. if they don’t stop it’ll feel more personal towards you.

      ask them (nicely) to can it or move the conversation somewhere else.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I would actually not bring up that you want to have kids. You don’t have to want kids to not want to listen to this, and I’d worry that it would make you a target for them.

      I agree–in fact, I prefer your “As a former kid, I find this to be pretty hostile!”

    3. Sara without an H*

      Same here. I refuse to use the expression “child-free.” Childlessness is not part of my identity. It’s just how life worked out.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Same. Just because it’s a current fact of my life doesn’t mean it’s my identity.

        1. KMB213*

          Being childfree isn’t childfree people’s entire identity, either. It’s just a part of their life, and using a self-explanatory term is easier than having to explain that, no, you don’t have children, and, yes, it was by choice. I’ve encountered judgment of childfree people even in socially liberal cities, like DC and NYC, so it’s easy to have a term that can shut the conversation down – it doesn’t mean it’s someone’s entire identity.

          1. Specialk9*

            You do know that both DC and NYC have gigantic swathes of social conservatives, right? I mean, DC is literally the center of government for the entire nation. In fact, I’d guess that far more of my coworkers were conservative than liberal — but good lord off the Hill nobody talked about politics at work so who knows?

            And every New Yorker I’ve dated or married has been conservative. So your argument is really weird.

            Also, people on both sides of any spectrum ever invented can be jerks. That’s kind of how humans work.

      2. KMB213*

        The majority of people who call themselves childfree are childfree by choice, whereas childless people mostly, like you, just happened to end up that way, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t use or identify with the term.

  5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Uf, that sounds exhausting to be around! I think Alison has given good advice on how to approach this; I have to admit that I’d probably lose my patience and get snarkier with them at some point, but I’m not sure that “Yes, I get it, everyone under the age of eighteen is a raving goblin,” would really result in a productive conversation.

    1. Roja*

      I don’t know, I’m snarky enough that I might just say that. With some people and in some environments, if your delivery was spot on it might even go over better than a straight conversation. Humor can defuse a lot.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        yeah, I could see starting with a “Everyone under 18 is a goblin, can y’all find something new to chew on?”, aiming at the *repetitiveness* instead of the sentiment.

  6. Kyubey*

    Maybe you could frame it by comparing what they say about kids to if somebody said things like that to any different demographic- I’m not huge about kids but imagine if they were insulting literally any other group- hopefully they would not think it’s acceptable.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      There are a lot of people who think that way about dogs – my MIL had a bad experience with a dog as a kid and really doesn’t want them around. She also has OCD and can’t stand pet hair so gets really weird at people’s houses who have dogs (not so much with cats just because she is more familiar with them but still hates the hair and regularly gets to my house before I get off work and vacuums EVERYTHING before I get home even though I schedule the cleaning lady the day before or day of her arrival).
      If these coworkers are doggie-mommas try applying it to dogs and see what they say.

      1. RainbowGrunge*

        This was what I was thinking, ha. There’s a dogfree subreddit that is loaded with content to give these people a taste of their own medicine….

        But at the same time, it’s work….venting should be done outside of work and OP shouldn’t have to stoop to their level.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Dogs. What if someone came in their office once an hour to talk about how dogs in general are all terrible?

      1. CMart*

        This is honestly something I could do. My revulsion when it comes to dogs is unparalleled by anything else in my life. I 100% keep it to myself and just quietly go around not engaging with dogs on the daily but I will happily lend this service to the OP. I might have to look up some creative derogatory terms for dogs, but if she wants me to come to her office and natter on about having to see dogs in public and being pressured to think my friends’ dogs are cute and sit on fur-covered couches, I’m the gal for the job.

    3. President Porpoise*

      Seriously – for instance, the elderly. That’s also an age based demographic that people don’t really have a choice about when they get lumped into it, and there are a lot of people who are not particularly comfortable around the elderly for a lot of reasons. But you can bet that if V and M started loudly complaining about how the elderly are (AND THIS IS NOT MY ACTUAL OPINION) a waste of space, smelly, destroying politics, leeching of the younger workers, etc. etc. and decent people should all just die before they hit 70 – I think the entire office would be rightfully up in arms over it.

      1. Sara without an H*

        +1. I’m puzzled at why anti-child bigotry — and what M and V are saying rises to the level of bigoted speech — gets a pass, when other bigoted expressions get shut down fast?

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I would like to weigh on this, with no basis in research or facts. Just because this is an awesome point. I think people can say they hate kids because children are seen as an extension of adults. Look at a lot of the comments here, people write, “I don’t hate kids. I hate their bad behavior and that is the parents’ fault.”
          I think, when someone says they hate kids, the listener infers this statement, and even tends to sympathize, thereby nullifying the ageism. “Oh, I know, loud kids on a plane, in a restaurant, running around. I hate that, too.”
          Even OP was sympathetic to a point, not having kids and seeing how parents have perks in the workplace regarding flexibility. “Yeah, kids run the show around here. People with kids have more flexibility.”
          Nobody imagines that the speaker hates children for existing and hates the people who have created them. These people do. They are not nice. They are bigots and they have issues.

          1. Kyubey*

            “I think, when someone says they hate kids, the listener infers this statement, and even tends to sympathize, thereby nullifying the ageism. “Oh, I know, loud kids on a plane, in a restaurant, running around. I hate that, too.””

            That makes sense, kids are really just people like any other human, and act in various ways; some are pleasant others not as much. That applies to any age group though, but some people group all kids together as inherently worse than adults which just isn’t true.

            1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

              That is how I see it, too. Any group, teenagers in a group at a restaurant, twenty somethings at the movies, seniors at the grocery store can evoke a response in someone of “omg, why are THEY here? They are so loud, so hooked on their phones, so slow!”
              And then you get on with your life, you don’t spend half your work day complaining about abstract groups of people.

      2. EddieSherbert*


        Not sure if there’s a way to incorporate these observations into the conversation (…which will hopefully be “knock it off”, “OK”, and done) but hopefully this makes you feel less weird bringing it up, OP!

    4. neverjaunty*

      This will just invite them to justify their choices and talk MORE. Who cares about enlightening people this obnoxious?

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Agreed. I think it’s a great comparison and will hopefully make OP feel less weird about bringing this up, but I don’t think it matters if the coworkers make the connection or “get it.” Just that they stop!

  7. MLB*

    This is really less about their feelings about kids and more about the fact that they vent CONSTANTLY. Regardless of the time each individual bitch session lasts, if one of them is coming over 8-12 times a day, that’s excessive. I would focus more on the venting and negativity than what they’re venting about, but you definitely need to say something.

    1. Roscoe*

      Exactly. I think OP would be better coming at it from that POV. Like, it just seems excessive, but it doesn’t matter the topic. And since OP is stuck there, I think it would be easier to say something about the distraction or something, as opposed to attacking their opinions.

    2. Future Homesteader*

      I think this might be the best tack – as others have said above, that much sheer negativity would be tiresome, regardless of topic. OP is sweet for thinking of this as their need to vent, but they’re definitely over-venting here, and it’s clearly in feedback-loop-of-negativity territory, not healthy and productive letting off of steam.

    3. Enough*

      This much time could add up to an hour or 2. And as this is a shared space with office equipment and mailboxes everyone should be thoughtful about the interruptions. Even if I found I could work through the interruptions it would get to be too much after awhile.

    4. Mockingjay*

      I agree with MLB. I would address the conversations as being disruptive to your work, and not bring up the content of the chats. The outcome you want is less interruption.

      Your coworkers are asses and aren’t going to change. Your best bet is to change their behavior, not their minds.

    5. Anonymeece*

      I agree. I’m child-free by choice (and quite frankly, I don’t like kids, sorry!*), but I don’t vent about them *constantly* (or often at all, because not liking kids is still not a popular choice). If they’ve encountered a lot of, “But kids are wonderful! Don’t you want them? They’ll change your life! You have no purpose without them!”, then specifically aiming at the, “I want kids” argument can validate their point.

      Focusing on the excessive venting in general seems to me to be a good strategy.

      * For clarification: I’m polite to them, and I would save one if it were going to be hit by a car, I just don’t particularly have any desire to spend time with them by choice.

      1. Anonymeece*

        Adding: This also seems a good strategy, because really, would it be any better if they switched to a new topic of venting for that long? I’m guessing probably not. By attacking the venting/negativity in general, it might help stem off Round 2 in the future on a new topic.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Too true. I don’t know them at all but I already feel like they’re going to find SOMETHING to be negative about if you give them that opening…

    6. medium of ballpoint*

      This is solid advice. I’m also someone who doesn’t like kids and trying to engage in conversations about that with parents or people who enjoy children often devolves quickly for all of us. We’re all left feeling defensive and doing the math on times we needed someone to cover for us, or times someone said something offensive or asked an inappropriate question, or when we had a reasonable request and weren’t accommodated in favor of someone else. We both walk away feeling like we got the short end of the stick. And if what you want is for the complaining to cease, that’s the important bit to focus on. Giving people feedback on their behavior can be less value laden than giving them feedback on a topic that’s important to them.

    7. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I agree – I worked with a couple of guys that talked about the stock market and finance ALL DAY LONG. It was a never ending stream of stocks/finance. Though the content was pretty boring to me, it was the fact that it never ended and distracted me throughout the day. I don’t think the topic of the conversation is relevant here – it’s the fact that it happens so often.

  8. Clare*

    I can see why you don’t like/are annoyed by this constant topic of conversation. But do you think you might be taking this a little too seriously? Plenty of people find kids annoying and like to complain about them, but that doesn’t mean they HATE kids. It’s just how some people talk. I’m not sure it’s a reason to be all “cold and shaky” as you say. I agree with Alison’s advice to ask them to stop next time, but just make sure you aren’t saying it in an overly dramatic way or it might come across as a bit much.

      1. Positive Reframer*

        Yes! That kind of language is dismissive and I’m pretty sure moves into the realm of bigotry.

    1. Roscoe*

      It did seem a bit much to me. Like she is taking something very personal that isn’t personal. I think its fine to have an issue with the amount of complaining going on in her shared workspace, but it seems that she is taking the topic of the complaint to heart

      1. inlovewithwords*

        Except it *is* personal. This is her life and what she wants from it, and they’re spewing vitriol about it constantly next to her. Just because they aren’t complaining specifically about Her Choice doesn’t make it not about her choice.

        She wants to bring a child into the world and love it and raise it to be a good person and someone’s ranting multiple times a day about how this is The Worst Thing? Add it to just how much society on all sides–having kids at all, having no kids, having too few or too many–likes to tell people with a uterus what to do with it… yeah, that’s pretty dang personal.

    2. Aleta*

      OP specifically mentions “breeders,” which is something used by people who are REALLY aggressively anti-kid. People who just find kids mildly annoying and like to vent about it usually don’t refer to parents as breeders.

      1. matcha123*

        People who use “breeder” are speaking about a very specific type of parent, not all parents. I honestly do not see their way of speaking as bigoted or discriminatory.
        If you are Asian, you can’t wait a few years and become white. Being a child is a temporary state, not a permanent one.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          1. The OP let us know they call all kids and parents those terms.

          2. How does only applying a slur to some parents make it better? It’s still rude to call anyone that! I have five siblings. Are you going to start comparing my parents to cattle?

        2. Genny*

          I’ve seen breeder used on anyone who has any amount of kids, not just people who have more than whatever the person using the term deems socially acceptable. And even if it was used to refer only to certain types of parents, does that make it any more okay? What gives anyone the right to call someone else that?

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ooohhh, so I might not be a breeder after all! I might be one of the good ones! Nope, still unacceptable.

        4. pope suburban*

          But when the core issues is someone’s rudeness or antisocial behavior, why pin it to their children? I’ve known crappy people who had kids, sure. But the problem is that they were crappy people overall: self-centered, inconsiderate, entitled, prejudiced, and so on. The kids might have allowed that to manifest in new and terrible ways, but at the end of the day it was just a failing of character. I think this comment thread shows the potential for “splash damage” very well; someone commenting on bad behavior could well cause a polite person a lot of hurt or anxiety because of how they sorted that particular rudeness. Is that really something one would want?

        5. aebhel*

          People who use ‘breeder’ are talking about mothers they disapprove of in dehumanizing terms that reduce them to their reproductive organs. It’s gross and misogynistic, and it’s really disingenuous to pretend that it’s just ‘a specific type of parent’.

        6. genevieve*

          Hmm, I wonder if that specific kind of parent who gets called “breeder” tends to be of a certain race that, in America, until recently, very often literally did not have a choice in having or not having children, and, nowadays, tend to be stereotyped as having too many kids and not taking care of them. I cannot imagine that being the case, as there certainly hasn’t been dehumanizing livestock language used to refer to that group.

          1. Dankar*

            I’m not a big fan of the term (it’s gross), but based on the childfree communities I’ve seen, “breeder” is typically attached to 20- or 30-something white couples in middle class areas. That’s the primary demographic for childfree couples, so the spaces they occupy tend to be the same.

        7. Database Developer Dude*

          matcha123, I reject that reasoning, for the same reason I will verbally flay anyone who uses the n-word around me, even if they’re only talking about a black person who’s acting all ignorant in public. The term refers to the person by an immutable characteristic. You can’t tell a black person “oh no, you’re one of the good ones” after using that word, and not be considered racist…and you can’t tell a parent “oh no, you’re one of the good ones” after using the b-word without being considered judgemental and biased against parents….

          1. Lara*

            I agree with the theme, but choosing to have a child is not an ‘immutable characteristic’. It’s a choice. And choosing to parent badly is not a protected class, it’s a set of actions and behaviours. These people are being very rude, but putting this in the same ballpark as racism is way off base.

            1. Crooked Bird*

              Once it’s done, it’s more immutable than you apparently think. Or how often have you seen someone just one day decide parenting wasn’t for them and… Well, geez, I don’t think I’d better finish that sentence.

              1. Lara*

                More bluntly? Parenting is a choice. Bad parenting is a choice. People getting upset with a badly behaved child is not remotely the same as the prejudice minorities face. A company asking you to take a child outside because they are crying, or excluding children from a fine dining restaurant, is so far from Jim Crow laws and LGBT folk being refused service for basic amenities that they’re not on the same planet.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  Parenting is a choice.

                  BIRTH CONTROL is the choice.

                  To use birth control, you have to leave the house, spend money to purchase products, apply those products…

                  The biological default for penis-in-vagina sex is pregnancy eventually.

                2. General Ginger*

                  @Toots NYC – I think Lara means actual parenting, not having/not having a child. Unfortunately, some parents choose not to parent.

        8. GlitsyGus*

          Breeder is thrown around as an insult to anyone with kids, not just “bad parents” (which, you shouldn’t be judging someone’s parenting based on one-off situations anyway, but whatever). It’s a slur that came to popularity in the 80s and 90s (I know, I was there) that referred to straight people in general and parents of any kind in particular.

          It may have taken on a more nuanced meaning to your friend group, but the origin and usage in many places is the same as the original. It’s mean and crude and shouldn’t be used at work.

    3. Snark*

      “Brat” and “breeders” are hateful, offensive slurs. Let’s not minimize this too much.

      1. Dino*

        Those terms are rude and dismissive but not slurs. Let’s not pretend that “brat” is on par with the N-word or C-word.

        1. Snark*

          It doesn’t have to be an N-word or a C-word to be a slur, and please don’t nitpick language.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            Having had ethnic and gendered slurs used against me, comparing them to the word “brat” absolutely minimizes how horrible they are.

            1. Snark*

              No, not really. The word “slur” does not automatically connote bias against a protected class or identity.

                1. Snark*

                  A slur is ” an insulting or disparaging remark or innuendo,” per Merriam-Webster. What’s that about being ridiculous?

                2. General Ginger*

                  @Snark — I wouldn’t use the word “breeder” (and think it’s a horrible term), but the way I think about the word “brat” specifically — it is something I could use affectionately with a friend or s/o, which is not something I could/would do with a slur.

              1. Jadelyn*

                “Brat” and “breeder” are insults, certainly – but I feel like you’re misapplying the term by calling them slurs. “Slur” carries specific connotations relating to structural oppression and historical usage, pretty much anywhere I’ve ever seen or heard the term used to describe a word. Taking any rude word and labeling it a “slur” I think does minimize the impact of calling actual slurs like the n-word for what they are.

                1. Snark*

                  Objection noted, and thanks for at least being respectful about it. Let’s agree to disagree and move on.

            2. Observer*

              Having also had gendered and ethnic slurs used against me, I have to disagree. As for “breeders”? While it’s not C level, it’s quite close. It’s deliberately and mindfully dehumanizing.

              1. pope suburban*

                There are also class and ethnic implications there. There’s that charming saying, “Can’t feed ’em, don’t breed ’em,” which tends to be leveled only at people perceived as poor who have larger than whatever the socially-acceptable number of kids is, or people who are currently going through hard times while raising children. I’ve also seen a lot of griping in my white-bread, middle-class life about “certain kinds of people” having “too many” children. There are literally people right now who fear that non-white people will “outbreed” white people, which is a veritable layer cake of wrong, cruel, and shameful things. So yeah, it’s a bit more than overall life choices, at least in my experience.

                1. BF50*

                  There are also gender implications. While technically, the fathers are “breeders”, too, when I have heard the term used, it’s usually directed at women, by women. I’ve never heard a man use the term or be the subject of it out side of being the generic husband of a woman.

                2. Lara*

                  The word is mostly used against white, affluent middle class couples. It does not have racial connotations.

                3. pope suburban*

                  I’m reasonably sure I haven’t hallucinated every instance I’ve read or heard of people complaining about certain demographics having “too many kids,” especially in the recent news about alt-right types, so the incorrect “correction” is unwarranted and unnecessary. It was, however, fairly rude. I suppose that’s something.

                4. Lara*

                  I didn’t say you hallucinated anything and I was not rude in any way. The term breeder in childfree communities is used in that way. Using it against minority groups will get you banned.

                  You were incorrect in your assumption and I thought you might appreciate being told otherwise. Several other people on this thread have also pointed out that this interpretation is incorrect.

                5. Lara*

                  It is a rude word I do not use but it is not racially coded. IMO it’s a lot ruder to accuse an entire subculture (one you know nothing about) of racism than it is to gently correct a misapprehension.

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Snark: I don’t mean to be, well, snarky, but it’s you that’s nitpicking language here.

            Dino and others are making a good point that (in their opinion, and mine, and I’m guessing most people) “brat” and “breeders” are not “slurs” in the manner in which that word is commonly used.

            1. Snark*

              No, I’m being nitpicked. You may agree, but it’s still a nitpick. And it is not appreciated.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                … I just don’t see it. I see people disagreeing with you and you doubling down on the definition of the word.

              1. TootsNYC*

                it villifies and dehumanizes a child. It takes behavior and turns it into a labeling of the entire person. And to do it to a still-being-formed child.

                1. Socks*

                  In use, though, I’ve almost exclusively heard it used as a mild-to-moderate insult, on the level of ‘jerk’ or ‘idiot’, two other terms which label a person based on a behavior that they are actually (ostensibly) displaying. It’s not NICE, but I have never heard it expressed with the same sort of vitriol as a slur based on race, gender, or sexuality, nor do I think it comes close to perpetrating that same kind of social harm.

                  I actually believe that, in many ways, children truly are an oppressed class- but acting spoiled or rude are not among the traits for which they are unfairly targeted, and insults regarding them are not hate speech. Rude, maybe, but not an institutionalized form of oppression. Not even really close, to be honest.

        2. Clare*

          Yes, exactly. If the OP starts throwing around words like “slurs” and “bigotry” she’s going to look overdramatic IMO.

          1. Yorick*

            I agree. I see why people feel that these words are slurs and offensive, but it would sound a bit precious to bring that up with the coworkers in this context.

        3. Seriously?*

          According to Merriam-Webster, a slur is a disparaging or insulting remark. It does not have to be a racial slur to be a slur. In this context, “brat” and “breeder” are being used as slurs.

          1. Dino*

            That’s why I also included the C-word, a slur against women. Additionally, the dictionary doesn’t have an accurate definition of racism that is generally accepted by academics who study racism. The dictionary isn’t a good reference for terms surrounding bigotry. A slur is a very specific thing when talking about bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination and “brat” does not fit the bill.

            1. Yorick*

              I don’t think every insult can be considered a slur in the way that it is commonly understood. Is “idiot” a slur?

              1. Kella*

                Actually, the disability community considers “idiot” and similar words (like crazy, mad, stupid, bonkers, moron etc) to be slurs against people with physical and cognitive abilities. But it’s rare that anyone follows their wishes.

          2. Jadelyn*

            The dictionary is not a sufficient or reliable source for defining complex sociolinguistic concepts like “what is a slur?”, any more than it’s a sufficient or reliable source for defining complex sociological concepts like “what is racism?”, and pulling out “but the dictionary says!” in a conversation like this will not win you any points with people who are used to conducting deeper analyses of culture and behavior.

            1. Snark*

              I’ve seen the word used both in the way you’re insisting is the only sense it can be understood in and in more general sense of being pejorative. But let’s roll with it. What makes referring generally to children as “brats” [i]not[/i] a slur, as defined not just as an insulting comment or innuendo but one which carries connotations of bias, prejudice, and disempowerment? It conveys contempt and dislike of a historically vulnerable and disempowered group, it diminishes their identity and that of the category to a single negative characteristic, it’s inherently pejorative, it reflects bias. Either way, it works.

        4. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

          Brat is not on the par with the n word or c word. Or f word for gays.

      2. Roscoe*

        I’d maybe give you breeders, but brats? Nah, thats just a term for kids acting a certain way

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                I’m not trying to be difficult, but I don’t see where you’re getting that. (Is the OP in the comments?)

                In the letter, the only mentions of “brats” are “Hearing them speak so scathingly of “breeders” and “brats” makes me quite uncomfortable…” and “Is there a way to ask them not to say these horrible things without making them hate me, either as a future producer of “brats”…”. And while that sucks, it’s not at all clear that the complainers are using those words to describe all parents or children, or specific parents or children, or categories of parents or children, or whatever.

        1. TootsNYC*

          except it doesn’t describe the action.

          it describes the entire person–it takes a reaction to bad behavior and pressure-forces it into the child’s very soul and personality.

    4. Baby Fishmouth*

      I would think that, but if they actually call parents ‘breeders’ and children ‘brats’, that’s definitely taking it (a step or twelve) too far.

      I joke all the time at work about disliking children, but that’s mostly in response to my many coworkers who love to ask why I haven’t had kids yet (um, because I’m 25?). But most people can tell the difference between jokes/regular venting and actual hatred.

    5. Bea*

      No. These are highly offensive words used with vitriol by a subculture. She has every right to feel the way she does.

      They’re being hostile and vicious in shared space. That’s a power play because they think everyone is in their clique and if they aren’t, whatever, they’re the queen bees. No.

    6. Abe Froman*

      Replace “children” with people of a different ethnicity. It would be gross and offensive. So is this.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I don’t necessarily fully agree, but I’ve heard people use the logic that children will eventually be adults. It’s a temporary life stage, not a permanent characteristic.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                I was referring to the comments about the kids, not the parents. I will admit to having occasionally thought something like “Odd that they’re called ‘parents’ when clearly, they’re not doing any parenting right now.” But that’s an individual at a specific time/place, not parents as a whole.

            1. Observer*

              So? It’s ok to treat a class of people poorly because they will eventually be old enough to fight back? That’s pretty much what this boils down to. While childhood is not an immutable characteristic, it IS an inherent one and something that the child has zero control over.

              Anyone who tries to use this argument is simply looking for a way to excuse the inexcusable.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Disliking children is not at the same level as people who are racist or sexist because it doesn’t have the same *structural* power as racism or sexism, but it is still gross and offensive:
              – It can be very powerful on a personal level
              – These coworkers are using disparaging terms for the outcome of people’s reproductive choices
              – The whole issue has ties to sexism and assuming that society has some right to judge women’s bodily autonomy.

              It would not be hard to frame it as a sexist issue, in that moms absolutely face more scorn from CF people and forums (been there, done that), and women always face more challenges to bodily autonomy. I mostly shrugged it off because CF women face more scrutiny and scorn for their choice, so I figured they were dumping where it was safer for them to dump, and I have enough privilege to handle it. But my tolerance doesn’t make it not gross, and not part of our sexist society.

              1. Dragoning*

                It actually kind of does have the same structural power. Kids are prevented from doing a lot because of their age and their parents are basically treated like their owners (at least in America).

              2. Nita*

                Oh, it has structural power! It contributes to the societal feeling that parents do not need any support and are leeches and a blight on society. Breeding was their choice, they can deal with the fallout (in fact, why not get out the popcorn and watch?) This mindset is very useful for politicians. So, we end up being somewhere close to dead-last on the list of developed countries when it comes to a social safety net for families, not to mention other repercussions that are harder to see. A society whose next generation is not valued is not going to be healthy in the long run, whether mentally, physically or socially.

            2. AKchic*

              It kind of is. A child cannot help being a child anymore than a woman can help being a woman, or a person who was born a certain color or ethnicity can help being born their color/ethnicity.

              Yes, a child will grow into adulthood (not necessarily mental/emotional maturity, but I digress), but again, an adult does not (borrowing from the LW and Greek mythos) spring fully formed from Zeus’ head.
              These coworkers (and all child-“haters) are not disliking (with vehemence) certain children, they are actively hating *all* children until they become functioning adults. That is an entire subset of the population simply because of age, which one cannot control.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Do you believe in reverse racism too? Children are not an oppressed group like a minority is. Honestly I’m surprised this needs explaining.

        1. Jen*

          There is also an element of being anti parent that ends up being anti-female. Women are the ones who have to come into work visibly pregnant and tend to be primary caretakers. Hostility to parents has seen shown to disparately impact the careers and pay of women.

          1. Luna*

            I’m not sure it’s fair to say it’s anti-female. Women are the ones who face the most pressure to become parents, so it’s not unreasonable that some women (who either don’t or can’t have kids) push back more strongly against it.

            1. Jen*

              But remember even women who do not have children suffer from discrination based on anti-parent policies based on employers who are worried about “you’ll take maternity leave and quit”. You get grouped in anyway, there are countless stories of women being told this.

              1. Jen*

                I should note that I work on an organization where every single person in my direct supervising line, up to and including the head of my organization (about four levels), is female (although actually not one is a parent themselves). My workplace is extremely parent friendly, and has promoted pregnant women and soon to be Dads, even knowing they will need coverage soon, and accommodated parental leave for both moms and dads. I have worked at less friendly places and have experienced the stigma of “we think you are less dedicated because you are a young married woman and may have babies” well before kids were even kind of on my radar. I would never ever go back.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              Women always face more scrutiny and pressure over their bodily autonomy and reproductive choices than men, whether those choices are to be child-free or to have children. This is true in CF circles too.

              Pretty much any negative social judgement on individual’s reproductive choices ends up being anti-female, because society feels it has a right to judge women’s choices in a way that it doesn’t feel towards men.

              1. Chameleon*

                I have one kid. I have been judged for:
                1) Having a child at all because overpopulation and environmental impact and children just waiting to be adopted
                2) Only having one child because doesn’t she deserve a brother or sister and you’ll change your mind
                3) Having a child at 36 because I’m so old now
                4) Having a child at 36 instead of waiting until I was more established in my career
                5) Not caring enough about her appearance because she is going outside with tangled hair
                6) Caring too much about her appearance because she likes wearing fancy dresses
                7) “Letting” her have a tantrum in public
                8) Letting her watch TV to avoid her having a tantrum in public
                9) Breastfeeding in public
                10) Giving her food instead of breastfeeding in public
                11) Letting her talk to strangers
                12) Being overly controlling by not letting her talk to strangers
                13) Going to work part-time because how can I let someone else raise my kid
                14) Going to work part-time because how can I give up my career for a kid
                15) Talking about what I enjoy about being a mom
                16) Talking about what I don’t enjoy about being a mom
                17) Taking time away from her to take care of myself
                18) Not taking enough time away from her to take care of myself
                19) Being too lax at discipline
                20) Being too strict at discipline

                It is exhausting. Seriously, can we just let women live their damn lives, and have or not have as many or as few children as they choose?

                1. Mad Baggins*

                  +1 This! This is what everyone can agree on, and I think aggressively “child free” people don’t realize they’re still part of the system. They’re doing the thing where atheists pick on religious people for being dumb, instead of just letting everyone believe whatever they want to believe, which is what they say they want.

          2. TootsNYC*

            And when people say, “their parents aren’t raising them right,” they are most often judging mothers the most harshly

      1. Kyubey*

        Or even old people… if someone ranted that they hated old people (or disabled people, etc) I think it would be shocking. I suppose discrimination based on these factors isn’t as common/historically significant as racism or sexism but it’s still wrong.

      2. whew please desist from this one*

        Disclaimer that you’re not the only one I see trying to make this reach, but:

        This is my least favorite kind of comparison, because hating children and hating people of a marginalized race/ethnicity are not comparable and in fact, do not have to be for the other to be not good! Not everything needs to be on par with racism! It just makes it sound like you don’t understand the problem with racism past “it’s a mean thing to say to someone.” Also, children do face racism too so were you just imagining white children? Children are not actually a separate group in that way? Basically the comparison doesn’t make sense and you’re not helping anyone by making it.

        Imagine me saying I hate bugs, or I hate Mondays, or I hate customers who come in and ask me stupid questions all day. “But if you replace that with Mexicans it sounds SO BAD!” Yeah…… sure. But I didn’t say that and they’re not the same. You can’t just word replace and be like “now this is exactly the same.”

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Okay, but the difference between Mondays/bugs and children/Mexicans is that the first set are not sentient beings with thoughts and feelings and the second are.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I think the disconnect is that Please Desist is including the structural inequalities that people face from racism / sexism but that children do not. Comparing the two discounts those structural inequalities.

            On a person-to-person level, hateful comments towards sentient beings suck, and should not be discounted. But structural discrimination adds another level of suck that isn’t actually comparable.

            Please Desist, though, I think you’re ignoring the sexist structure behind judging people for their reproductive choices, which is visible in both the CF movement and in the backlash against it. To ask people not to make that comparison is, I think, over simplifying the social background behind this.

            1. Seriously?*

              I think this is making the issue more complicated than it has to be. The degree to which hating a group of people is harmful is not really relevant to the OP’s problem. The problem is that vocally hating an entire group of people at work is alienating and inappropriate. If talked to my friend everyday about how much I hate people who belong to a certain political party it could interfere with productivity and make my coworkers (who may belong to that political party) very uncomfortable around me. It doesn’t matter that belonging to a political party is optional and does not result in structural inequality. I shouldn’t vent about it at the workplace.

            2. Thlayli*

              You all are mixing up bigotry and oppression. Two people insulting a particular group of people based on their membership of a group they didn’t choose to be in is bigotry, whether that group be defined by colour, age or ability.

              Nationwide and societal power disparities that negatively impact on the lives of members of that group is oppression.

              You don’t have to be a victim of oppression to be a victim of bigotry. Bigotry is wrong regardless of whether the person you are being bigoted towards is oppressed or not.

              1. Thlayli*

                And in case it’s not clear – calling someone an insulting term like “brat” based on their membership of an age-defined group, or calling all members of such a group “brats” IS bigotry. Bigotry is not as bad as oppression, but it is still 100% wrong.

            3. whew please desist from this one*

              Even sexism in the general is not directly comparable to racism in its applications or effects and frankly does not have to be in order to be bad. Specific forms of sexism that sound like sort of a reach here in my opinion, since we’ve now gone from saying “children” to “people who have children” to “women,” which okay might be present in the broader situation of speaking of reproductive rights but certainly was not present in the person’s comment–those in particular don’t have to be comparable to racism. Not every form of discrimination needs to be identical or talked about in terms of direct comparison.

              My specific point here is people don’t actually need to compare things to being “just like racism” in order to say it’s not work appropriate. It’s a bad comparison (because again, hating a sentient being–which I did cover with my customers who ask stupid questions example but could also just say truck drivers or something–is not actually the reason why racism is a problem, it’s not about one person’s hatred or hurting someone’s feelings, it’s about people dying and being systemically refused human rights), and it’s an unnecessary one to the question of “can I ask them to quiet down/stop?”.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                And yet, racism is a *useful* comparison in a bigger picture conversation.

                You run a risk of minimizing the impact of racism, and of eliding the structural aspect, but people understand ‘racism = bad’ in a visceral way, that helps support ‘bigotry and oppression are bad, whomever they’re focused on.’

                I’m from NC, and the best thing to come out of our messed up 2010 elections is the NAACP’s Moral Mondays, which focus on ‘Forward, Together’, bringing together a big-tent coalition with intersectional goals. Like, for instance, freedom of reproductive choices, which has both gender and race implications. Right now, whatever the national outrage, we’re using it to remind people of *all* the issues; BLM was a large contingent in the local ‘Families Together’ march.

                I think, in this case, the comparison between CF bigotry and racial oppression is giving us an opportunity to highlight the questionable sexist and racist assumptions behind criticizing anyone’s reproductive choices, and as such, is helpful not harmful.

            4. Indie*

              Structural and historical issues like adults being empowered to beat children at school? I was on Not Always Right recently and amazed at how many children are refused service in shops by adults who think it’s beneath them or waiting children are told to let adults go first.

        2. Dankar*

          This is an excellent articulation of what I was feeling about that comparison. Thanks for putting it into words!

        3. Observer*

          Also, children do face racism too so were you just imagining white children? Children are not actually a separate group in that way?

          Why is this different than any other group? Women are not just women – many are POC, others are disabled, some fall into both categories, etc.

          In fact this is what the concept of intersectionality is all about – many people fall into multiple groups.

          But that’s not really relevant here. These people hate ALL kids. And that’s a problem just like hating ALL >choose your group< is a problem, even when that group also overlaps other groups.

          1. whew please desist from this one*

            See, your last point is where I feel like you don’t actually understand why racism is a problem. It’s not because of people feeling hatred. Are children being killed, imprisoned, stripped of human rights, stripped of homes and food and drinkable water and disproportionate rates purely because of them being children? Because that’s the problem with racism as a structural thing right now. Things can be bad without being just like racism. Forcing the comparison doesn’t help the OP, doesn’t help children, and doesn’t help racism, so why exactly are we pushing it here?

            1. Thursday Next*

              (With apologies to the OP, as WPDFTO is correct in saying that this line of discussion doesn’t help the OP. Still, it’s an important point.)

              I wrote in response in another thread that the intersection of child status with another marginalized status creates double disenfranchisement. I think there are ways in which they *are* targeted because they’re children, and even more powerless than their adult counterparts.

              It’s (Latinx/migrant) children who were being thrown into cages at the U.S. border, not their parents.

              It’s (poor) children who disproportionately suffer through cuts to programs like SNAP and school lunch funding, which hit growing bodies and minds harder than adults.

              It’s (disabled) children who disproportionately suffer through cuts to Medicaid, which helps fund education for children with disabilities.

              With the last two examples, given that the relationships of race with poverty and poverty with disability, children may be triply or even quadruply structurally disadvantaged.

            2. Indie*

              Er yes they are? Children are killed, raped, starved every day. The word ‘brat’ is often employed in child abuse cases too.

            3. Observer*

              You’re missing my point. Believe me, I am perfectly well aware of the dangers of racism. But, the idea that “children” can’t be the target of bigotry or discrimination because some children as POC, disabled, etc. is simply silly.

              And as dangerous as any *ism is to adults, the danger to children is far greater – not just doubly in most case, but exponentially.

      3. Jadelyn*

        Funnily enough, when you change a core word in a sentence, it changes the meaning of the sentence. Who would have guessed??

    7. The Ginger Ginger*

      Given that the OP doesn’t give direct quotes, there’s really no reason to say that they are exaggerating this. I assume that the physical response is included to show that the coworkers’ conversation is going beyond the typical venting and snarking about kids into truly uncomfortable territory. And if that’s the case, this SHOULDN’T be “just the way some people talk”. The OP is allowed to be alarmed and uncomfortable about this, and there’s no reason to assume that they way they respond to the coworkers is going to be anything but professional.

      Basically, believe the OP. If they say it’s beyond the norm and veering into really uncomfortable territory, it is.

    8. hamstergirl*

      Agree with this.
      And to that point, lots of people can dislike kids while acknowledging that they too were once a child and probably annoying as hell to a lot of people.
      I was precocious and cute and respectful around authority figures (not including my parents) as a child but the minute I went to tantrum town I was an absolute terror. I’m sure more than one person walked by my meltdowns and thought “dear lord I’m never having one of THOSE gremlins”

      But ALSO if this new form of venting has been brought on by baby showers invites, there’s probably a part of it stemming from Big Life Change – entering a phase in life when everyone around you is starting to get married and have kids is weird for a lot of people, particularly if they’re not ready to settle down, so it might be about more than just “I hate kids” and more “this stage of life is freaking me out and so I’m going to aggressively reject it”

      1. Luna*

        Yes, agreed. As someone who is in that phase now (and have both friends/family with kids and without) I can see this. I don’t go around complaining about kids constantly like these coworkers are because that is annoying, but it is a weird life phase!

      2. Kramerica Industries*

        This is why I’m thinking a simple “I get that you don’t like kids, but can you cool it on the hate?” might be sufficient.

        My bet is that the extreme hate is a coping reaction. Personally, I find that when I say I don’t want kids, the response I get most often is someone trying to change my mind by implying that my life will be empty otherwise. So, it feels like it’s easiest to shut down those responses with an extreme response of my own. I would like to think that personally, I’m mindful in making sure that I’m not offensive with anyone else’s choice to have kids, but I understand where the hateful rhetoric can come from.

        They’ve surrounded each other with like-minds that make this kinda talk okay. You need to remind them about what’s appropriate.

    9. Myrin*

      You know, I would even agree with you that that’s “just how some people talk” and that their conversations don’t mean that they really, literally hate kids if the letter were any shorter and we didn’t get an insight into OP’s personality or the frequency and duration of what she’s telling us. However.

      1. OP is actually there and actually hears (and sees!) her coworkers’ talking about this topic. I think this falls under “take letter writers at their word”, actually. Throughout her letter, OP speaks like a reasonable person who has balanced thoughts, sees both sides of the proverbial coin, and isn’t naturally overly sensitive in either direction; I think we should believe her when she says that it really does come across like V and M loathe and detest children.

      2. This happens 8 to 12 times a day! That’s once an hour at least! For several minutes! “Fairly often lately”, so not something that happened once and then was over and done with! That’s some really strong feelings and many thoughts for someone who “just talks like that”. Nah, I don’t buy it.

      1. Seriously?*

        It also doesn’t really matter if that is “just how they talk”. Some people drop f-bombs every sentence and it is “just the way they talk”. Many employers can and do require them to reign it in at work.

      2. EddieSherbert*

        +100 for #2. Out of context getting “shaky” over their comments sounds weird, but when you think about something *somewhat* offensive happening to you AT LEAST once an hour ALL DAY EVERY DAY, yeah, I’d be shaking too.

      3. Clare*

        I disagree that the LW comes across as reasonable in her letter, which was the whole point behind my original comment. Yes, she should ask them to stop, and yes they come across as jerks. But saying she is “cold and shaky” because someone calls kids brats? Wanting to scream at the coworkers? Specifically wanting to scream at them about how they and the LW are all “former kids” and when they say they dislike kids they are talking about her, the LW? NONE of this is reasonable. The LW is clearly taking this way, way too personally. I think it would be better if she can take a step back and try to remove her own personal feelings from this situation before saying anything to the coworkers.

        1. Myrin*

          We will have to agree to disagree, then. Everything you’re pointing out happens in one paragraph of an eight paragraphs long letter, with the other seven seeming entirely level-headed to me, so I feel confident in saying that overall, the OP seems reasonable, thoughtful, and not overly sensitive to me; we may well have different thresholds for our feelings here.

    10. Observer*

      IF “breeders” and “brats” are the typical language that they are using, then I’m going to say that she’s not taking them too seriously at all. That’s just gross and dehumanizing.

      1. Les G*

        Please stop using the word “gaslighting,” which exists to define a particularly insidious form of abuse, to describe any behavior you don’t like.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I have a rich vocabulary for describing behavior I don’t like, but thank you. Here we have someone asking the OP to question their own judgement, ignoring specific things OP has described, and trying to shut then down with warnings about being “dramatic”.

    11. Nita*

      I’m not sure OP is being dramatic. Not enough info to go on, but her exclamation that “children are people too!” to me suggests that there is more than garden-variety complaining here. I’ve run into this mindset a few times too many lately so it’s not hard to imagine that M and V are the kind of people who can only talk about children as Not People – just Things that are Vile and Disgusting. That level of vitriol is toxic and hard to listen to no matter who it is directed at, and I can only hope that the children in their life are not subjected to it. And I’m sure that despite them being child-free, there are children in their life – relatives, neighbors, etc.

    12. BF50*

      Since when do we not take letter writers at their word? She says they hate kids, so let’s assume she’s not making that up.

  9. Abe Froman*

    OP is being very generous to her co-workers. You say you are concerned about not ruining what they experience as a safe space to vent. But this behavior is toxic, and I find it baffling that they would have this conversation in front of someone else. While no one should feel pressured to have kids, hatred of children is a decidedly fringe (and horrific) opinion. They need to knock this off in the workplace.

    1. TootsNYC*

      also, they are ruining YOUR safe space to work, free of hostility.

      Even when hostility is not directed at you, it’s hard to be around!

      Maybe just saying, “That seems like such a hostile statement!” and getting up to leave the room (even if you’re working; just leave, get a drink and come back–point being to remove yourself so there can’t be any back-and-forth that turns your observation into an argument or discussion).

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +100!!!! for “also, they are ruining YOUR safe space to work, free of hostility.”

    2. Courageous cat*

      A horrific opinion? The dramatic level of comments in here lately are really getting up there. Children are not oppressed minorities, and no one is suggesting *actually* horrific things – just talking about not liking them.

      I just don’t understand why this would be shocking or particularly upsetting to anyone.

      1. Abe Froman*

        The language OP’s coworkers are using are not descriptions of dislike. It is hateful language. Yes, I find the hatred of children horrific.

        1. Courageous cat*

          Sorry but I think that’s both excessive and an overly emotional way of looking at it, especially considering how much hyperbole people tend to use in this situation. It’d be another thing if children were systematically oppressed, but in our society, they are already more revered than anything else.

          1. Abe Froman*

            I disagree, and I find it very problematic to tell someone to take emotion out of an inherently emotional issue.

            1. Courageous cat*

              I don’t think it’s an inherently emotional issue is the thing. It’s venting about a group of humans who can, indeed, be quite ill-mannered and annoying at times. It’s just not overwhelmingly serious, and I personally don’t think problematic is the right word for something this tame. I usually see that reserved for instances of actual oppression or oppressive tactics.

          2. jenkins*

            Well, yes, in some ways they’re revered. They’re also near-uniquely vulnerable and powerless, and as a result experience high rates of abuse and violence. I don’t think it’s helpful to compare them to oppressed minorities at all, whether you think they’re similar or dissimilar. They’re very different. Hatred of them can still be problematic.

          3. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

            Yes. There’s a reason the phrase ‘the cult of the child’ came into being.

  10. Jen*

    I get this is frustrating, but I worry that speaking up is going to just get their scorn turned on you. People who are willing to spew over the top vitriol (“breeders”, really? That language is almost dehumanizing) May turn it on you. I would see if there isn’t another way to tune them out, like headphones.

    1. President Porpoise*

      Not almost dehumanizing – breeders is straight up dehumanizing. You breed livestock.

      1. Jen*

        There is also a nasty, nasty history of when people were advertised and sold as “breeders”.

    2. DCompliance*

      This depends how comfortable someone is speaking up for themselves and how your company handles these things. I am at a place where I can speak up and my HR/bosses would back me.

    3. Argh!*

      I came very late to the party and suggested below that the request be not to have negativity within earshot without specifying which topic inspired the request. If they switch from baby-hating to grandma-hating it would still be a downer to have to overhear it several times a day.

  11. Bea*

    I’d quietly be decorating my space with pictures of my nieces and nephews…

    No but what an exhausting couple of miserable jerks. I agree with telling them both mid-bitchfest that they’re toxins are leaking all over you.

    I don’t plan on kids and have a cat, I’ll tell anti-cat people where to sit too. So they need to chill out and keep it to dedicated CF boards or club meetings or whatever they do these days. It’s not appropriate to be that utterly negative in a shared space.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I’d be filling my workspace with pictures of any and all children I could find on the web, never mind any I actually knew!

      Not really but I can picture it!

      1. irene adler*

        Me too! Every week I’d add in a new pic, carefully placed so that V will see it.
        These would be kid+ pet pictures so that if there’s an objection, I’d explain that it’s the pet image I like. Kid just comes with the photo. Each and every photo.

        1. General Ginger*

          “Dear Friend With Child, I will gladly babysit for you this weekend, if Child can please pose with my cat in at least ten different locations of my home, preferably in different outfits, and facial expressions. It’s for work.”

    2. EddieSherbert*

      ………………I really want to tell someone their toxins are leaking all over me.

  12. Aleta*

    Oooooooof, this is a tough topic where both sides can be extremely unreasonable and aggressive. I get dragged by both ends by both being stridently childfree but also good with kids (because I just treat them like normal people and they generally respond VERY well to that – people can be really shitty to kids!), and honestly I’ve never found a script that actually works. I’d definitely at least try, but in my experience once you get to “breeders” there’s not a lot of sympathy for any pushback.

    1. RainbowGrunge*

      Yeah comments on things like this are always interesting. I find myself browsing the childfree subreddit…as well as the dogfree one (which I just discovered last week)…because a sick part of me loves to see the world burn.

      I have no interest in having children, but I still don’t really like the label “child-free,” I don’t really know why.

      Alison’s script is great. I think when coworkers are talking about anything that makes someone uncomfortable, whether it be regarding children, politics, marriage, current events, a simple “That topic makes me uncomfortable, would you mind not discussing it around me?” can go a long way. I try not to jump to negative conclusions about people (and it sound like OP tries not to as well), V & M may simply just not realize what they are doing is upsetting. Give them a change to correct the behavior…whether or not they are bigots, using slurs, or whatever…that’s not the thing to argue right now.

      Though the term “breeder” used to describe anything but a person who breeds dogs or livestock is pretty gross…

      1. a1*

        … I have no interest in having children, but I still don’t really like the label “child-free,” I don’t really know why. …

        Maybe becase it still sums us up and categorizes us based on procreation rather than just seeing us as human beings.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        For me it’s because “child free” implies that “child” is an undesirable thing… like “cruelty free” or “gluten free” and I don’t like to think of being “free from child.”

        I get that people who choose not to have children want/ed an alternative to “childless” which implies that to be without children is a bad thing, but… I wouldn’t like “pet free” or “parent free” or “teenager free” either.

        1. Vicky Austin*

          Some people prefer the term “childless by choice.”
          As an aside, are you Bruce? If not, no worries, I used to know someone who went by the screen name Mad Baggins on a different forum.

      3. General Ginger*

        I occasionally poke at the CF subreddit, but I’ve decided I wouldn’t describe myself as childfree. I don’t want children, and don’t have them. It’s not something I feel defines me as a person, nor am I somehow free of some kind of grotesque fate of being, oh, the horror, a parent. I just don’t want, and don’t have children. I do get really aggressive with the “oh, but you’ll change your mind” people, but even then, I don’t like the childfree label. It feels weird, and kind of unpleasant.

  13. Cait*

    Hating on anyone else’s life choices is pretty crappy to do in an office, especially a shared space and on a frequent basis regardless of what that life choice is – kids, pets, vegan, whatever. It’s rude, cruel and creates an “us vs them” toxic environment that is completely unnecessary. I would have a hard time working with someone who was so openly “against” other coworkers choices that have no impact on them.

    I’m not sure I agree with Alison in that I would tell that you’re planning on becoming a parent someday unless (and a big unless), they try to bring you into their hate-fest. But if it’s just the two of them talking, I’m not sure I would subject myself to their attention but instead turn it into “do you guys mind taking your convo elsewhere, I’m trying to concentrate” line.

    1. Jessica*

      YES. There’s some discussion here about if terms like breeders and brats are inherently offensive, but I think your point is the more important one: it’s crappy (& pointless) to hate on someone else’s life choices. And it’s particularly obnoxious to do in an office where a person’s life choices are really not relevant.
      I don’t know if the OP can frame it in this way to her negative co-workers; it probably wouldn’t lead to a productive conversation. But at least it’s something to keep in mind herself as a reminder that she’s not crazy to be bothered by this.

  14. youworkwithjerks*

    You work with assholes. If they weren’t being horrible in their chatter about kids, it would be something else.

    1. EPLawyer*

      This started because of a bunch of invites to baby showers. Instead of just politely declining them (clearly THEIR parents failed), it’s turned into a major complain fest. It was probably wedding invitations before. Next time it will be stores that put out Christmas decorations in August. With them it will always be something.

      Make it clear that you are not interested in hearing their constant complaints about any subject.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        We don’t know that the baby shower invites started it, because LW just started this job. It could have always been anti-child bigotry, we don’t know.

        But I agree with you that it will always be *something*, with co-workers who apparently bond by venting. And continually venting about something that bothers you is the best way ever to make it really really bother you a lot.

    2. Let's Find Another Way To Have Fun, Friends!*

      This is the LW. Thanks for all your comments! I can’t honestly say I read every single one, because I am at work and there are a lot.
      Thanks especially to the commenters who defended me to the couple of people who said I was taking things too personally. I am perfectly aware that my emotional response to this topic is heightened, which is why I sought advice on how to respond rather than simply acting out on impulse. In general, it’s pretty unhelpful to tell someone that their emotional response is the “wrong” one, especially if they’ve already separated “how I feel” from “what should I do?”
      I want to clarify one or two things that I didn’t explain well in my letter: My coworkers have 8-12 conversations a day, but not all of them are about this particular topic. Many of the other ones are pretty unpleasant too (bragging about being horrible to a customer service person, etc), but this topic is particularly difficult for me to just tune out, and it seemed at the time I wrote this letter to be escalating rapidly. Also, I cannot get up from my desk and leave the room: I am basically the receptionist as well as some other duties, so I have to stay at the desk unless someone is covering for me. V could go talk to M in his office, theoretically, but I have to stay where I am.
      I wrote this letter a few weeks before it was published, so there have been some developments since then:
      1) I started dropping funny stories about the kids I know into my own conversations V every once in a while, just to remind her that I enjoy kids
      2) If things got too negative, on this or another topic, I would “join” the conversation with a tangentially related trivia fact or a question like “It sucks that the plumber took so long to call you back, and I totally don’t know how to fix a toilet either. Hey: if your pet was a person, do you think he’d know how to fix a toilet?”
      3) Possibly as a result of this, but more likely just because the spate of shower invites slowed, they have largely moved on to other topics
      4)Possibly as a result of my cheerfully inserting myself into his “private” convos with his “coworker slash friend” in our shared workspace, M seems to have gotten annoyed with me enough that he a) tends to give me the stink eye and answer my emails with monosyllables but also b) stays to chat with V less frequently, and keeps his voice down more when he does so. Frankly I don’t mind if he wants to be annoyed with me; we don’t really need to work together, and I’m confident that everyone knows what he’s like well enough not to take him seriously if he tried to talk me down to other coworkers. I’ll deal with that if it actually becomes disruptive; for now, I don’t need him to like me, just be civil which he is doing, and V, the one I actually share space with, is still perfectly pleasant to me.
      5) Also, my boss approved requisition of some on-ear headphones that will allow me to watch training videos at my desk while still hearing the phone (earbuds hurt my ears, but my own headphones block out the phone too much), with the fun side benefit that I can now put them on if I need extra help tuning out my coworkers.
      With these developments, it’s pretty much solidified that many of you are correct: they are just snarky people (I actually think M is a snarky person, and V is a snark-susceptible person who gets pulled into his orbit) and when it’s not this it’ll be something else. I really appreciated Allison’s advice that if they’re going to react nastily to being asked to tone it down, I was going to make them angry about something eventually. Luckily, I do feel that my boss has my back enough that when that happens I won’t be the one in trouble.
      I’m heading down to get my new headphones from the mailroom now! Stay kind and smart, friends, I really appreciate your insights.

      1. Jen*

        Sounds like you diffused this beautifully, like a topic avoidance ninja. Congrats, you are awesome.

  15. Anon4This*

    I really don’t see why OP is taking this so personally. This is a private conversation that she happens to be overhearing and she should see her way out of it. Believe it or not, lots of people you encounter are going to have opinions which you disagree with, you may even have to listen to them express these opinions on a regular basis. This is part of life, you’ll be happier if you get over it and move on.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      How is the OP supposed to “see her way out of it” when it’s a conversation that’s taking place in her workspace on what sounds like an hourly or more basis? Believe it or not, a lot of people find this kind of thing very distracting from what they’re actually at work to do — ie, work!

    2. Abe Froman*

      When you are in a shared office, in no way is it a private conversation. And we’re not talking about a difference of opinion (I like football! Ew, I don’t!), we’re talking about multiple daily conversations that are toxic.

    3. Future Homesteader*

      But she shares an office. Personal or not, this has to be annoying (regardless of topic). Her co-workers are being rude by doing this *8-12* times a day. If they were talking about how much they loved Josh Groban 8-12 times a day, that would also get annoying (despite his rich, dulcet tones).

    4. Jen*

      “Private convesations” can be harrasment. Imagine if this had sexual content or homophobic or racist content. This would be a clear example of harassment.

      Parenthood isn’t a protected class, so this is obviously an exaggerated example, but the idea that a “private” conversation anyone can hear does not excuse this. Imagine if this was your boss making these comments, would you feel comfortable asking for parental leave?

    5. Seriously?*

      She can’t leave, she works there. Hearing that her coworkers despise a life choice she wants to make is going to feel extremely alienating. If they were bonding over their shared distain for coffee it would be different.

    6. Liane*

      A private conversation at work takes place in an office or conference room with the door shut and no uninvolved people present, NOT in an open or shared workspace or breakroom or in front of clients/patrons.

    7. DCompliance*

      I don’t agree. Some people feel better when then stand up for themselves as compared to siting quietly and trying to move on. And I don’t think listen to people complain about the same thing endlessly is super annoying- I don’t care what the topic is- no wants to hear anything negative continuously. Even if the LW wasn’t taking it personally, this is such a pain to listen.

    8. neverjaunty*

      Here is something that’s another part of life: if you spend a ton of time saying dumb stuff in a shared workspace, people may tel you to knock it off.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Reminds me of the xkcd comic about free speech–sure, you have the right to free speech. But other people have the right to use their own free speech to tell you they don’t want to hear it.

    9. Jennifer Thneed*

      How is it private when it’s not only a shared cube but ALSO where the printer and mailboxes are?

    10. aebhel*

      Conversations that happen in her office are not something that she can avoid, though. That’s why civilized people rein in the constant complaining and vitriol at work, where their coworkers often can’t just walk away if they don’t want to listen to it.

    11. nonymous*

      I think this falls under the “keep it professional and nonoffensive” part of workplace sensitivity. There are definitely jokes/topics that do not fly well in a workplace setting that are completely fine in some private conversations.

      The workplace training I remember is a very klutzy phrasing of “you never know who might be listening”. Which is not to say go running to HR excessively, just that when one expresses such an extreme dislike regarding a particular group the natural question is whether their dislike leads to bias that affects professional decision-making.

      1. Lara*

        Yes. Talk about your pets or painting your house or that game at the weekend. Not an extremely sensitive topic bound to rile multiple people.

  16. Justin*

    I mean. Especially for women, who surely get a lot of “oh you’ll have kids someday” pushed at them, I get the bitterness and frustration. Same with people of any gender who choose not to marry.

    But, nope, nope, nope, once you start with the “breeders” and such you’ve lost all moral high ground and indeed have lost everything.

    I mean, I get annoyed if there’s a kid crying on an airplane (it’s just an unpleasant sound!), but there’s a gap between situational annoyance and what these two are doing.

    I am sure it’s sort of an overreaction to being shamed for their choices. But it’s waaay over the line.

    Please speak up, even if only for your own sake. If they are indeed reasonable, they’ll listen (and just do it somewhere else, probably, at which point it becomes not your circus)

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Oh, yes. One of the perks of getting a bit older is that I don’t have people asking me about it anymore. I mean, some people I’m just meeting ask if I have kids, and I can cheerfully say, “Nope. I have cats, not kids. How about you?” And most people just move on from there.

      But after I first got married, there were a few friends, coworkers, and such who just assumed, and a couple who were pretty obnoxious about it. Luckily, my parents were supportive from the start, and never pressed the issue. But for some women, the pressure can be unbelievable. And it’s a crappy thing to do to someone. So I can understand the anger and frustration they may be feeling…but really, rein it in when you’re at work.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It can help to remind yourself that the cry literally evolved to be impossible to shrug off and ignore. Like people who long ago reasoned “In the wake of the supervolcano prospects for the next few generations seem awful, so I’m not sure it logically makes sense… Oh wow you’re hot” and so the species continues.

      See also cheesecake.

    3. TootsNYC*

      “Same with people of any gender who choose not to marry.”

      This always makes me roll my eyes. I have SEVERAL friends who did NOT choose “not to marry.”

      It’s not like you can just go buy a spouse off the shelf. You might choose to not own a car, and if someone proposes, you can choose “not to marry.”

      But if YOU propose and they say no, you are not choosing not to marry; someone else is choosing. And if no one enters your life who would be attractive to you as a mate, or if those who do aren’t interested in you, then you are not choosing not to marry.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        …….but there are plenty of people who have the person they want to marry, and the two people involved *choose* not to get married.

        Just like there’s people who’d love to have kids but cannot conceive. There are people who want X but cannot have X because of A, B, and/or C reasons, and then there are people who do not want X and therefore do not have X.

      2. Justin*

        Okay. I guess I should have said “unmarried people.” I was just trying to say everyone’s choices should be respected, but I suppose “life circumstances” would have been more broadly applicable.

        1. AliceBG*

          No worries IMO — I have indeed chosen not to marry or be in a romantic relationship, and it’s unbelievable the amount of consternation and agitation this evokes in people when this comes up in conversation (usually with nosy family members).

        2. Susana*

          Totally. For years (decades!) I would tell my friends I had little or no interest in marriage and kids. Now I’m with an incredibly wonderful man I don’t deserve (really – I’ve come back to my place after work to find him preparing me a gourmet meal for no reason than he thought I would enjoy it). We plan to spend our lives together but we are not getting married. And now, my friends needle me about that – insisting I will change my mind. So, what – all that time they were nodding understandably when I said I didn’t want to marry, down deep they figured I was the tragic Single Gal in a defensive posture? Yes, I do also have friends who would like to find someone to marry but have not yet. So not “choice,” I guess. But it is annoying when people think there’s something wrong or unnatural about you if you are not married (and worse – that you don’t hate yourself for it!) and don’t have children. Yes, “breeder” is rude and judgmental – but I tend to think it’s a reaction to the judgment of their own lives.

  17. Important Moi*

    I’m curious to see how the comments will flow. I think this is a discussion about boundaries. People have a right to have conversations. To the extent they aren’t speaking to you ( it appears they aren’t), your attempt to reign in their conversation makes me uncomfortable. You could ask them to lower the volume. I don’t think you can ask them to not speak on a subject.

    1. Justin*

      “a subject” is one thing, disparaging entire groups is another. In a shared workspace. If they want to call parents “breeders,” they can go do it somewhere truly private.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Would you say the same thing if they were speaking derogatorily towards black people or gay people or some other marginalized group?

            1. neverjaunty*

              But your arguments (people have a right to conversations, they aren’t taking about you) apply exactly the same regardless of what group V and R is disparaging.

            2. bonkerballs*

              Take protected classes out of the conversation. Would you say the same if they were graphically talking about sex? Positions, toys, noises, etc. It’s inappropriate for the workplace, and OP would have the right to tell them to cut it out. That’s true in this situation as well.

          1. keep that pelvis far from me*

            Nothing in the OP’s letter indicates that they are singling out mothers. Stop overreaching.

            1. President Porpoise*

              As VintageLydia is responding to Important Moi about a specific question as to whether parents are a marginalized group (and yes, pregnant women and mothers certainly are), this isn’t overreach.

              1. Jen*

                There is straight up research that shows that hostility to parents in the workplace means less participation by women and policies like paid parental leave lead to increased participation by women in the workplace. A non-parent woman benefits from increased participation of all women. My spouse is in a field that is considered a but if an “old boys’ club” and is part of a program to fight that. Part of how they are doing is encouraging parental leave for both men and women.

            2. VintageLydia*

              Follow the thread, my friend. You cannot deny that vitriol in certain sectors of the CF movement is very very sexist and hypocritical. In the end, it’s just harsh judgement of what women choose to do with their own bodies. Whether or not someone has kids really should not have a bearing on what other people should do and the judgement it attracts–whether CF or not–is almost always and universally aimed at women.

            3. bonkerballs*

              Using the word “breeders” absolutely is singling mothers out and is sexist and dehumanizing.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Mothers face discrimination regularly. Women are actually a marginalized group.

          oo, and I just thought about it more – there’s often a strong racial component to it too, given the stereotypes and history (NC was forcibly sterilizing WoC through the 60s; can you imagine if one of the survivors of *that* heard all this disdain?).

          Reproductive choices are deeply entwined with racism and sexism in US society. I think you very much have the right to ask people not to speak derogatorily towards others’ reproductive choices, because those choices have *absolutely* been used as weapons against marginalized people.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Dude, I hear the point you’re trying to make but speaking about someone’s kid != speaking about someone’s reproductive choice. They are not the same thing. If they were, you shouldn’t be able to speak about anyone at all, as everyone is someone’s child.

        2. Thursday Next*

          But children, at least in the U.S., are. Their power, politically speaking, inheres in that of their parents, and therefore, I would argue, to be a poor child, or a black child, is to be doubly disenfranchised.

          Think about the mechanisms for funding services for children, and how those services are so often and successfully threatened. Social Security is nigh sacred, but school lunches, healthcare for kids just above the poverty line, Medicaid funding to schools (a major source of funding for education for kids with disabilities)—all of these are quick to wind up on the chopping block.

          To engage in vitriol against children is, to me, a verbal kick against someone lower in the hierarchy than those doing the kicking. It is tatsteless and crass at best.

          1. Observer*

            And let’s not forget “status crimes”, ie things that are only illegal because of the age of the child. And the things that schools etc. can get away with that could never be done to an adult (eg how low the bar is for children at school to be searched.) Sometimes that can’t be helped, but really kids face a lot of stuff that’s just not fair.

            Which is to say that not only is it gross to hate any group, even if they are not strictly marginalized, kids actually do face some fairly rough stuff which adults tend to forget about.

        3. Lastre*

          Whites are not a marginalized group either but I wouldn’t be with listening to conversations disparaging them.

        1. President Porpoise*

          Sure they are. There’s a reason that there are laws preventing employers from taking actions against a woman for being pregnant. There’s a reason why there are federal laws preventing rental discrimination against people with children. Parents are frequently blamed for having to adjust their schedules to accommodate real issues with schools and childcare. Parents are charged an obscene amount for healthcare – much more than the single or even married and childless folks. And heaven help you if you have more than the standard one or two. As a child number seven out of nine, you’d better believe that my family got some incredibly rude comments. My brother, when he had his second child in grad school, was almost pushed out of his doctoral program because his advisor, a militantly child-free woman, felt that because he had an interest in a family, he couldn’t possibly be committed to the science. In addition to my anecdotal evidence, there’s been a number of studies about how the perception that women will become mothers leads to poorer treatment and compensation of all women, child-free or otherwise.

          1. Clare*

            Come on. Parents are not an oppressed group. Yes there are lots of inconveniences that come along with having kids, but that is a trade-off that people make. Inconvenience is not the same thing as oppression.

            1. President Porpoise*

              Oh, yeah, like being denied career opportunities, housing, access to restaurants and other venues is just inconvenience. It’s straight up oppression, and pretending it’s not just means that you personally haven’t seen or experienced it, and are glossing over the experiences of those who have.

            2. Courageous cat*

              Yeah, I’m sorry – this is not what oppression is and it’s kind of offensive to imply otherwise, as though parents have it as rough as many actual minorities do in this country.

              1. President Porpoise*

                So what, precisely, is the bar for discrimination and bad actions to become oppression?

                Because this is clearly where the sticking point is for me. I readily acknowledge that parental oppression and animus doesn’t rise to the level of oppression that many minorities have had – despite some clear overlaps and related causes. No one is going around murdering parents.

                But – immigrant parents are specifically being targeted by the administration. People on this thread at sharing instances of themselves or people they know being denied career opportunities or fair wages because they reproduced. Scorn,mockery and open animus towards parents and their children is common and present on this thread. So, tell me – why can’t we parents feel oppressed?

                1. Anonymeece*

                  Because while there are instances where being a parent can work against you, it’s (a) a choice, not something you can’t help, and (b) society generally encourages being a parent, instead of the other way around.

                  There are several fields where a man having kids is considered a route for promotion, because it demonstrates he’s a good old family man; there are child tax breaks; parents in many workplaces get preferential shifts or receive promotions because they have a “family to consider”; people routinely expect young married couples to have kids. Scorn, mockery, and open animus toward those who don’t have children is also likely, as I’m sure many people in this thread could tell you; also, by and large, most of the child-free or childless people commenting have been of the, “Eh, not for me” category rather than hateful.

                  Certainly, there are laws against pregnant women being discriminated against, and women are disproportionately targeted for being mothers more than men being fathers, but to open that up to all parents is expanding too far.

                2. President Porpoise*

                  Anonymeece, thank you for the reply. I agree that in many cases parents are given preference and parenting is actively encouraged. BUT, I disagree that it’s always a choice, and I still think that many parents, particularly mothers (and most particularly single mothers and pregnant women) can rightfully claim oppression. While cultural oppression of most parents is rare, I think there are abundant cases of individuals being oppressed for their choice to reproduce – male, female, straight, gay, married and single.

                  I certainly don’t approve of those who are judgmental about others’ child bearing decisions or situations. I want nothing to do with anyone else’s reproductive choices. And most commenters have been polite in their dislike of children (hey, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea). But the few who have been less than polite on such a generally welcoming a socially acceptable forum – their presence says a lot.

                3. Jules the 3rd*

                  Actually, Anonymeese: since female parents are ‘disproportionately targeted’, ignoring that intersection (female + parent) is inappropriately dismissive.

                4. Anonymeece*

                  @Jules the 3rd

                  I do get the intersection, just as WoC who are parents are disproportionately targeted. They are an oppressed class, and in no way am I denying that, nor did I mean to sound dismissive, but I think that calling parents an oppressed class is overreaching and, quite frankly, a little offensive to those who are members of an oppressed class.

                  However, I still don’t think that you can extend that to *all parents*. Racism, and other -isms, are institutionalized, and I just don’t see that with parents, because it is the default in our society. One of the examples given was housing – I am a queer woman, and there are no legal protections in my state if a landlord decides that he doesn’t want a queer woman as a tenant. While there are “child-free” apartment complexes, they are the exception to the rule, and it isn’t systemic in society like homophobia, sexism, and racism are.

                  I think in this case, there is a divide to be made.

                  I’m going to have to bow out of here and agree to disagree, as I really don’t want to argue this. Thank you both for being respectful in your replies.

          2. Genny*

            It’s possible to experience crappy treatment without being oppressed. When you keep expanding the definition of oppressed (or any other word), you eventually make it meaningless.

          3. Susana*

            No, on the healthcare – the man in my office with a wife and three kids does not pay 5 times what I pay for health insurance. Single insureds subsidize family plans. Parents should not be “blamed” for having to adjust their schedules for kids, I agree. but those without kids should be given the same flexibility for events in their own private lives. Workplaces ideally should respect that employees – parents and not – have lives outside the office. I’m fortunate to work in such a place.
            I find your “militantly child-free woman” a bit judgmental. Would you describe your parents as “militant serial parents?”

            1. President Porpoise*

              Oh, absolutely on my parents. My dad just cannot shut up about how I should have as many children as I possibly can and not impede them in any way. He is similarly vocal to everyone else. It’s an embarrassment – but he has never tried to end someone’s career over it like this lady did. She was genuinely militantly anti-child.

              Agree on scheduling – child free people have lives too. But, at least with the healthcare I’m paying for, it’s about four times that of a single person, which is nuts.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Your comments on this post seem very purposely obtuse (while they’re normally well-thought out). This is ignoring the power balance and systemic oppression in these groups that you simply do not see in parents vs nonparents or children vs adults. What are your thoughts on reverse racism, do you think it’s wrong for people of color to speak derogatorily towards white people too? It’s a rhetorical question and I’m not trying to start another conversation on it but it demonstrates my point.

        1. Chameleon*

          “do you think it’s wrong for people of color to speak derogatorily towards white people too?”

          This comparison is inane, as childfree people are likewise not an oppressed group.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Right, and no one’s sitting in here fervently insisting that childfree people are treated horribly, at least not in the same way it’s being said about children.

    3. fposte*

      If they’re audible in the workplace their conversation has to be appropriate for the workplace. There is no right to talk about whatever you want in the workplace.

      1. Lance*

        Simply speaking, this. Work isn’t a good space for a constant barrage of negativity, especially if anyone wants to get anything productive done.

      2. SciDiver*

        The conversation needs to be appropriate, and if it’s happening 8-12 times a day (!!!) that kind of venting shouldn’t be happening in the shared space at all. If they want to discuss things that aren’t appropriate for work, they can go to lunch together or meet up after work to do it.

    4. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

      It’s a shared work space. The work space itself is also a place where the company keeps equipment and items to be accessed by all employees. I think the OP definitely has the standing to request this topic cease while in this space.

    5. Elspeth*

      Nope. They are talking multiple times a day, for longer than normal, in a SHARED work space. They don’t have a right to monopolize that space for as long as they do and subject a coworker to their vitriol. V and M are calling parents “breeders” and children “brats” – that’s not just moaning about people with children – that’s using very derogatory terms for people who have had kids. They need to stop or take it elsewhere.

    6. Seriously?*

      You actually don’t have the right to have non-work related conversations on company time. There are topics that are inappropriate for the office. Topics that include a tremendous amount of vitriol aimed at groups that include some of your coworkers should be saved for another venue.

    7. Positive Reframer*

      And if someone was expressing bigotry toward a racial class? or sexual orientation? or gender? or nationality? or religion? Do you really think that you have to tolerate overhearing slurs that dehumanize other people in the workplace? Do you think that you can’t reign in the expression around people who they are disparaging, the OP is a wannabe “breeder”. How is that any better than it would be to belittle immigrants in the hearing of an immigrant? Or to belittle gays when your coworker is or might be? No one is suggesting that they be jailed or fired (that I’ve seen) but being asked to stop being so negative and bigoted in the hearing of others. That seems pretty reasonable.

    8. Holly*

      It’s a controversial topic being discussed multiple times a day in a shared workspace. A one-off conversation about how they hate kids is one thing, but the vitriol needed to use the term “breeders” + the fact that it is SO OFTEN is quite different. Controversial topics being discussed that frequently is not appropriate in the workplace. What if it was a conversation about how much they love kids and don’t understand women who wouldn’t have kids, and there are women happily child free in the shared workplace that take offense? It’s controversial – don’t subject other people to it.

    9. Gingerblue*

      Some things are appropriate for the workplace. Other things are adversarial, uncomfortable, or unpleasant enough that they are not. I mean, try these replacements:

      “I think this is a discussion about boundaries. People have a right to watch videos. To the extent they aren’t making you watch them ( it appears they aren’t), your attempt to reign in their porn makes me uncomfortable. You could ask them to lower the volume. I don’t think you can ask them to not to watch a video on a subject.”

      You’re trying to shift the goalposts to make this any kind of generic conversation at work. But aggressively nasty conversations about “breeders” aren’t the same as talking about the latest tv show, just like watching porn on your work computer isn’t the same as watching a news segment. Trying to pretend these are equivalent is transparently disingenuous.

    10. BF50*

      Even if they were just constantly complaining about their jobs, or the weather, or the obsession with the local sports team, I think the LW would have standing to ask them to cut it out, but this conversation is significantly more toxic. Asking someone to stop toxic conversations in shares space, especially when they are happening more than once an hour, is completely legitimate.

      Even if they were having lovely conversations about how wonderful the world is “8-12 times a day and usually stays several minutes”, the letter writer still has plenty of standing to ask them to shut it so that she can work.

    11. nonymous*

      If LW wanted to sidestep the content controversy (which may be a totally legit position to take given her office politics), she could just ask them to refrain from non-work related conversations. I think limiting it to volume is softening the message too far.

      In my workplace, we have signs in some common areas to remind staff to take personal convos elsewhere because there are desks nearby.

  18. Snark*

    Also, OP’s coworkers: as a father whose son has, at times, been that “brat” in a restaurant: he’s not having a tantrum at you. We’re doing as best we can to manage a rampaging id stuffed into a squishy little body. If we’re visibly being indifferent, judge away, but if a child is having a tough time, he’s probably tired and hungry and doesn’t know what to do with himself or what the rules are or how to please the people he desperately wants to please. Give him, and us, a goddamn break. The world is full of small irritations, and part of not being a child yourself is understanding that in general, it’s not about you.

    1. Roscoe*

      So I in general like kids. However, I also think some parents take their kids places that they shouldn’t. So in the restaurant example you mention, how much I judge would depend on the place. If its like Chili’s or something like that, I don’t care. If its a nicer place where I’m paying for ambience and a nice meal, and your kid is screaming, yes, I’ll probably have an issue, because its not the type of place to bring kids. I’ve experienced screaming kids at a variety of places that are catered to adults, including breweries. That drives me crazy

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        There is a time and place for everything.

        However, I feel like this is getting pretty far afield from what would be helpful to the letter writer.

      2. You're Not My Supervisor*

        Oh absolutely. There’s a reason I mostly take my 2 year old to Red Robin… and that reason is that if you came to Red Robin and you’re upset that a kid is crying, that’s kinda on you buddy, you’re at Red Robin.

        1. Thursday Next*

          Red Robin is my kids’ favorite restaurant, followed by Olive Garden. They are regarded as “treats” by my kids, since we only go to them on road trips. (We live in NYC, and kid #1 has been to some rather fine establishments, but I guess that’s less exciting because it’s regular life vs. vacation? Somewhat baffling to me.)

          They are great places to eat out because kid #2’s restlessness doesn’t merit a second glance there.

      3. poolgirl*

        +1000. I’ve noticed this becoming more and more frequent. You never saw children in restaurants when I was growing up, except maybe McDonald’s or Chuck-E-Cheese.

    2. Al who is that Al*

      It is me or is it an English-Speaking thing ? As I said in another post. My twin boys got nothing but wonderful treatment on the Continent especially round the Mediterranean. I remember one Greek holiday where the Taverna owner seeing how bored the boys were getting (they were 6) motioned them into the back where his own son and daughter were watching cartoons and left us to enjoy the sunset and beer outside. But the UK, US etc it’s all this “be seen and not heard” stuff. Damn Victorians have got a lot to answer for !

      1. Snark*

        Depends on the restaurant. There were places we used to go in San Antonio that had whole play rooms and playgrounds in the outside seating area. And kids are generally less accepted in higher-end restaurants. It’s never the staff, just fellow patrons. In general, kids and kid noise are less acceptable in high-end restaurants, but I once caught some flak in a Chipotle, of all places.

      2. media monkey*

        never had an issue in the UK with taking my kid to a restaurant. admittedly she wouldn’t be going to a fine dining place, but most restaurants are fine with well behaved/ occupied with something to do kids. my kid has been going to restaurants with us since she was a baby though which is how she knows how to behave in them. how are kids supposed to know how to behave in a restaurant if they are not allowed to go?

    3. JamieS*

      Go in pairs, kid acts up have 1 person remove him from the restaurant (or wherever), while the other pays the bill. Nobody cares who your kid is having a tantrum “at”. People care they can hear your kid screaming and the inconsideration you’re showing by not removing him.

      If I did that I’d be kicked out but for some reason some parents think they should get a pass when their kids act like that.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I’m a single parent. Am I not allowed to go out in public with my kid unless I bring another adult with me?

        1. JamieS*

          If your kid doesn’t behave. Your personal situation no more entitles you or your kids to cause a disturbance than anyone else. Also single parents don’t have friends?

      2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        That’s what we did when our kid was young. He never had a full-on tantrum in a restaurant, but if he was getting fussy, one of us would take him out to the car while the other paid the bill. Servers seemed to appreciate it, and now the kid is in his teens and very good at restaurants, very polite to the servers.

      3. Snark*

        Yes, we manage acting up in precisely this fashion. But acting up happens, and I get stinkeye sometimes the moment his voice raises above typical conversational level.

    4. Jen*

      I used to work at a theme park. Tantrumming kids were were way easier to deal with than tantrumming adults.

    5. Temperance*

      Eh, if I’m trying to enjoy a nice meal out (or to read a book on my quiet car), I don’t care why someone’s kid is throwing a fit. I just need the screeching to stop, and I’m going to judge anyone who doesn’t deal with the problem by removing the kid.

      Part of my frustration is that it seems like places which were traditionally geared towards adults, like breweries, are now full of children. I got the stink-eye from a mother at an MLS game for cursing at a ref in the fan section, where such things are both allowed and commonplace. (And she was breaking the rules by sitting and not wearing our team’s colors, and making her kids sit, because she was an asshole.)

      1. Scarlet*

        Yes, as long as we’re being civil, I think we’re at least *allowed* to be irritated. High-pitched screams are actually painful to me.

        1. Anonymeece*

          Yes! I saved up and paid a lot of money for a popular symphony in town, and ended up sitting next to two children who spent the entire time snacking on food loudly during the music, kicking the seats, and trying to run up and down the aisles. Their parents were trying their best, but I do have to say, it is rational to be peeved off at kids sometimes. (I would also be peeved off at adults who answered their cell phones in the hall, so.)

          That said, discussing it to the extent and the level of vitriol that the LW describes, and at work, no. I complained once to some friends at work who asked how the concert was, but it didn’t devolve into a rant.

        2. Snark*

          Sure, if we’re operating under a definition of “civil” that doesn’t include frosty glares the moment the kid starts crying or gets loud or whatever.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            If you are in a place such as a restaurant (that isn’t Chuck E. Cheese or Mickey D’s or someplace else that caters to kids) or a concert (that isn’t advertised as “children’s concert”) or any other place where you are expected to keep your volume at a reasonable level; then yes, as soon as the child starts crying or talking in an “outside voice”, you should either remove the child or tell them to shush or to talk in an “inside voice” or whatever is appropriate to their age and/or level of development.
            If you continue to let the child talk in an “outside” voice when they are inside, particularly inside a venue where one is expected to keep their volume low, then I reserve my right to turn around and glare at you. I will also do the same if you are an adult talking loudly in a similar venue.

    6. TootsNYC*

      and also remember, Onlooker: You are seeing one moment in a child’s life, and one moment in a parent’s “work.” Parents aren’t perfect, everyone has a learning curve, and some kids are tough.
      And YOU weren’t perfect as a child, even if you think you were.

      1. CanCan*

        Exactly. The parents may have observed model behaviour 50 times in similar situations and reasonably concluded that the child would be able to behave well this time, but something unexpected happened. Children are not machines, and parenting is not a science. When you think you know the kid, s/he changes. When you think you’ve figured out a parenting strategy, it stops working.

    7. Thursday Next*

      Sometimes the Received Parental Wisdom is to *ignore* a tantrum, in an attempt to have it extinguish due to lack of attention. Depends on the tantrum of course, but there is definitely expert advice advocating not catering to a tantrum.

      Also, children learn proper behavior for different settings through practice. Sometimes the practice is not successful, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. It would be like learning to drive by reading a manual in your comfy chair in a quiet room, and never getting on the road.

      I am a bit annoyed when I’m stuck behind a student driver, but I recognize that’s part of the journey to becoming an independent one.

      1. Observer*

        Well, the “Received Parental Wisdom ” is flat out wrong in these types of places. There IS a good argument to be made for ignoring a tantrum in some contexts. But NOT in a context like this, where the child is effectively actively harming other people.

        1. Thursday Next*

          I think “effectively actively harming other people” is a bit of an overstatement.

          Especially as those other people inflict more harm by their judgment (how dare I take my disabled child out in public?) than my child ever has by being, say, overwhelmed by airport security processes that strip her of her wheelchair and her comfort objects.

          Thanks for your compassion.

          1. Susana*

            OK – I don’t think anyone was referring to children with disabilities, for heaven’s sake. I think the point was, tantrum-it-out works at home, but not the best option if you’re in, say, a restaurant. Kids will be kids (I’m a former kid myself!) and some things are developmentally tough for them (like sitting still for long periods,. which is why they should not be brought, very young, to quiet restaurants). And it’s also true that they have to learn *somehow* – so bringing them to appropriate restaurants when they are young helps them learn how to behave.
            Apropos of nothing, my incredibly (still!) tidy younger sister was out with the extended family at a restaurant before a wedding. It had been a long day. She accidentally knocked over a glass of milk. No one made a big deal of it – just cleaned it up. She was so upset and said, “here I am, four years old. And I can’t even eat in a restaurant!” We still tease her about it (she’s 50).

            1. Thursday Next*

              Of course, a three-star Michelin restaurant at 8 p.m. is not the place to “road-test” toddler manners! Ya gotta work up to that…be six or seven at least. :-)

              In all seriousness, I remember going out to brunch at a casual restaurant with my husband’s grandmother years ago, and another diner rebuked a mother for her two-year-old’s…laughter. My husband’s grandmother marched up to that diner and rebuked *him.* She was delightful.

              And your milk story made me laugh–many years ago, my parents lived next door a a very gregarious preschooler who (with her parents’ permission) would come visit my parents on her own. I was there one afternoon with my brother, both of us in our twenties, when this girl came over, hung out with us, and accidentally spilled a cup of juice. She promptly scooted off her chair, said, “bye,” and left.

              My brother and I looked at each other and laughed. Knowing our mother as we did, leaving the scene of the crime was definitely the right call, though our little neighbor had no way of knowing that! Just a preschooler’s instinct for plausible deniability.

              1. Susana*

                Oh, that’s hilarious!
                And yes – of course adults can be the bad behaving people at restaurants! I was at a Phillips Seafood once with my sibling/spouse and young niece. A man at a nearby table was really berating the waiter – totally without any cause (not that it’s OK to berate, I mean any cause to be even upset). The waiter was trying so, so hard to be accommodating to the customer (I would have been tempted to dump the food on his head, which is why it’s good I’m not waiting tables). So waiter comes to our table, we try extra hard to be nice. Then-3-year-old niece asks for more french fries. He brings them, along with crayons. My sister said, how nice! Debbie, what do you say? And she looked at him and said: “I love you.” He said, I can’t tell you how much I need to hear that!

          2. Observer*

            That’s quite a jump.

            It doesn’t matter why your kid is having a melt down. If Child is throwing things, they are DEFINITELY harming someone. If they are screaming and crying, then that is a problem for others to a greater or lesser extent. *Ignoring it* and doing nothing to mitigate the problem is not appropriate.

            And, if your child gets easily overwhelmed to the point that they have melt downs, there are some places it’s better not to take them if you can avoid it. For their sake, because clearly it’s too much for them.

            1. Thursday Next*

              I actually think it’s on the continuum of “children should be seen and not heard,” and as the parent of a disabled child, I will push back on that, because many children/adults with disabilities are going to have a harder time managing certain aspects of some experiences, and are going to be more likely to be “heard” as a result. That doesn’t mean that they should avoid all such experiences. (I’m not talking about late-night screenings of horror movies, or gourmet tasting-course dinners, or four-hour operas).

              My point is that children (everyone, really) learn through exposure. There are some experiences, however, like flying, that don’t lend themselves to easy, frequent exposure, and if they were avoided altogether, people would never learn to cope with them–or enjoy the desirable goal/have the necessary experience at the end.

              I have been astonished at the places where people have responded negatively to disabled children. I’m not talking about physically harmful behaviors, but rocking with covered ears, or crying. The airport, the subway–these are public spaces that exist for everyone’s transport, not merely that of able-bodied adults. I’ve also seen some really cruel responses at Disney World and Sesame Place. Honestly, if people can’t deal with difference in these spaces, they’re the ones who need to avoid them.

              1. Observer*

                I actually think it’s on the continuum of “children should be seen and not heard,”

                You can think what you want, but it’s totally not true. There really are some situations where kids don’t belong. There are some situations where the behavior of a child really is a problem and the parents absolutely have an obligation to mitigate the behavior if possible.

                I get that sometimes there are no good solutions, but that is NOT what’s under discussion. And the idea that because SOMETIMES there is nothing you can do, it’s ok to not do what CAN be done is simply not reasonable.

                It’s also unfair and unreasonable to equate unreasonable responses (eg the story about someone admonishing a child for laughing too loud or getting in a parent’s face because a kid is crying) to the expectation that when a child is having a full on melt down (eg the things I mentioned, such as throwing things, screaming – not crying but screaming, etc.) that a parent do what they can to mitigate it.

      2. medium of ballpoint*

        And that’s fine. That’s absolutely a decision you can make for yourself about your parenting style. But it’s not a decision you can make for all the people around you without at least trying to mitigate the effect on bystanders.

        1. Thursday Next*

          See my comment to Observer, above. Restaurants are not the only public places children go to, and they’re not the only places where meltdowns occur. Some meltdowns call for parental compassion, some call for calm indifference, some call for removal from the environment, but some actually call for greater patience from the non-related adults around.

          1. medium of ballpoint*

            Well, we have a strong difference of opinion here. If you want to let your child melt down in public *without trying to mitigate the effect on others,* you can hope for patience from others but we’re not obligated to give it to you.

            1. Thursday Next*

              The only meltdown of my own child’s I have cited was the incident at airport security, where her wheelchair was taken away from her to be put through the X-ray machine, over my protests. I was not allowed to carry her through the personal x-ray machine. She is physically and intellectually disabled. I think that treatment warrants a meltdown.

              If you don’t, then yeah, we have a difference of opinion. But I’m under no obligation to give yours–the opinion that a disabled child deserves to be stripped of her necessary medical supports, and that my job as her parent is to make bystanders more comfortable–any weight.

              1. medium of ballpoint*

                I wasn’t talking about your child at all. You were discussing generalities (children melt down in different places for different reasons) and that’s what I responded to. If a parent is letting a child melt down without doing anything about it and with no explanation or apology to the people around them, then yes, I think that’s rude and I’m not inclined to be understanding and compassionate. A child with a disability is going to be a very different situation, as that’s clearly a mitigating factor. I don’t know anything about you or your children and never said your child should be treated poorly.

                1. Thursday Next*

                  I was discussing generalities in my first comment, without referencing my children in particularly; you used the terms “you” and, in contradistinction, “we.” Those words signaled something of a more personal nature directed at me. If it was not your intent, I’m glad (no snark, just sincerity).

                  But I think this exchange definitely illustrates how heated and person things can become in a discussion about children, and also how, IME, attitudes toward children can translate into poor treatment of them when more than childhood is on the line. Like, none of the adults in wheelchairs were asked to get out of them or put them through the X-ray; the only reason I can figure why my child was singled out was because of her age, and because her wheelchair was smaller. It still doesn’t make sense to me, but it has meant that we haven’t travelled by plane for three years because it was so traumatic.

                2. Observer*

                  Thursday Next, I do think that you may have a point about your child being singled out because of her age. And that’s just terrible.

              2. Observer*

                Except that no one was talking about that kind of situation.

                I’d also say that you DID try to mitigate the problem, you just weren’t allowed to. That’s not on you, that’s on the security people.

      3. poolgirl*

        But obviously you don’t ignore the tantrum when it’s in a place where you’ll ruin it for other people. That’s what parents do nowadays, and don’t seem to care about ruining anyone elses time.

      4. Vicky Austin*

        “Sometimes the Received Parental Wisdom is to *ignore* a tantrum, in an attempt to have it extinguish due to lack of attention. Depends on the tantrum of course, but there is definitely expert advice advocating not catering to a tantrum.”
        At home, certainly. Not at Macy’s.

    1. Mockingjay*

      My very wise grandmother told me: “Hate is a very strong word. Be careful how you use it.”

    2. Pollygrammer*

      I hate lots of things. Complaining about them at length 8 times a day would make me miserable.

      1. fposte*

        Seriously. At that point, the problem isn’t the irritant, it’s you poking yourself on the red spot eight times a day. Hating kids is a bigger thing in their lives than kids are.

      2. Amber Rose*

        You hit the nail on the head with that one. And there’s even a difference between complaining about something, and the kind of vicious hatred that these women seem to feel towards parents. That’s pure poison right there. Nobody wins when people indulge in hateful words like “breeders.”

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        Geez! There have been times I was going thru hard times (job hunting, health issues, whatever) and *I* didn’t want to keep talking about it, because I couldn’t do it dispassionately and getting all caught up in the emotions was exhausting. (That’s when I tell people “x topic is happening, but I’m so tired of talking about it, let’s talk about guinea pigs instead”.)

      4. aebhel*

        Yep. As it happens, I kind of hate dogs, but if I sat in someone’s office and complained about them for an hour a day, people would probably think I’m off my rocker.

    3. Anon for this*

      Same. My coworkers don’t know it – I ask after their weekends and their families politely because I know that they’re important to them, and I don’t have to like everything others like in order to have friendly relationships with them. The only time it’s been an issue has been when they bring kids into the office and get pushy about how I’m not cooing over or asking to hold their children. Because I can be an adult and get over myself in order to not alienate the people around me.

      I also don’t go on about how much I hate football during the playoffs, wine and beer at company happy hours, or anything else that the people around me may love or enjoy, for the same reason.

  19. Delta Delta*

    I’m picking up on another thread here – it’s exhausting to be around so much negativity. I suppose it would still be annoying if M and V spent their 8-12/day chat sessions talking about other topics (because goodness, that’s a lot of chitchat). But add the extra layer of negativity and it’s a total drag.

    1. TootsNYC*


      All that hostility and venom is really hard to be around. Even if it’s not directed at you!

      Our OP seems pretty sensible and balanced, and yet she wrote this:
      what really makes me go all cold and shaky is their scorn of children themselves. They really say some nasty things,

      If she’s getting cold and shaky, and thinks they’re saying “nasty” things, then all her other writing makes me trust her judgment here–that the things they’re saying are really over the top and hard to hear.

      1. Rae*

        Why? If we replace children with any other group of people or with dogs or cats, the level of hatred would make many people sick to their stomach…perhaps even enough to call a community tip line or go to HR.

  20. Amber Rose*

    I do remember being a kid, which is part of why I hate kids. I was pretty much as intolerable as I view basically every other child and I would prefer to forget myself before the age of 12 or so. That said, I don’t talk about it unless people start bugging me about having my own, otherwise that’s just obnoxious as hell. It’s so hypocritical to complain about people talking relentlessly about having kids when you won’t stop talking relentlessly about hating kids.

    1. Fiennes*


      It’s the coworkers who are obsessed with children and centering dozens of conversations a week about them!

      1. Baby Fishmouth*

        My coworkers seem obsessed with swapping childbirth stories.

        Our work meetings are reeeeaaallll fun.

        1. ExcelJedi*

          Ick. I had to tell a coworker that I was losing my appetite yesterday because she needed to give a play-by-play of her grandson’s potty training this weekend in the lunch room.

          I don’t care how you feel about children, some things are just not appropriate in polite company.

    2. Ellen Fremedon*

      I do remember being a kid, which is part of why I hate kids.

      This. Childhood is inherently miserable. You have just enough discernment to understand your utter powerlessness, ignorance, and lack of perspective, but no ability to change any of that except by waiting and enduring–and in the meantime, every hurt and every setback is, quite literally, the worst thing of its kind that you have ever experienced.

      I’m glad there are people in the world who are willing to vicariously relive those horrors. I certainly couldn’t do it.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Yeah, and that’s a big thing to note there. I dislike children very much and always have (hate might be a little strong, honestly), but I have nothing against most parents. For those who want kids and have the ability to raise them, great! All power to them. To call them “breeders” is pure, uncalled for vitriol.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        But why would that make you hate kids rather than have empathy for them? I don’t want to have kids either, but I don’t dislike them as a group and actively enjoy getting to interact with them for more limited periods of time. I partly don’t want to have kids *because* I remember how hard childhood was and don’t want to have that kind of responsibility for another human’s life.

        1. Ellen Fremedon*

          It’s the empathy that’s the problem. When I was a child, I thought other children were terrifying, alien, and cruel. When I’m around children, I flash right back into that headspace and fear and resent them as if I were six years old again.

  21. Detective Amy Santiago*

    As someone who is childless by choice, I have no patience for people like this. It is entirely possible to both really like kids and make the choice not to have any of your own for a variety of reasons.

    Sometimes I like to be a passive-aggressive bitch, so I’d be really tempted to bring in a bunch of pictures of my friends’ and cousins’ kids and decorate my space with them. I also sometimes like to be a snarky bitch, so my other temptation would be to interrupt sometime when they are going on about this yet again and say something like “wow, do you guys realize you talk more about hating kids than most people talk about their own kids?”

    All that being said, I’d probably suggest using Alison’s scripts and I’m very sorry you’re dealing with this.

    1. Fiennes*

      Seriously, that’s how I would go about it. “I’m sick of hearing about children all the time. You guys don’t talk about anything but children.” That level of contempt/self-righteousness is difficult to crack, but they might be embarrassed into silence by realizing how child-centric they are.

      Because defining yourself as the opposite of a thing is STILL defining yourself by that thing.

    2. VintageLydia*

      Kinda reminds me of certain religious sects and sex. Sex is bad and evil and horrible until you get married and you must have all the sex and we’ll talk about sex every week at our meetings/sermons/whatever and sex sex sex fire and brimstone and sex!
      Meanwhile, me and most other people who may or may not have sex…. don’t really talk about sex except with their partners and occasionally *maybe* our closest friends.

    3. Gingerblue*

      Seriously. I don’t have or want kids, but I’d take kids any day over being someone this miserably vitriolic and obsessed with other people’s reproductive choices.

    4. 42*

      >>“wow, do you guys realize you talk more about hating kids than most people talk about their own kids?”<<

      That's the thing. And it makes me wonder if something deeper isn't going on with them.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Well, I like the analysis above, that maybe there’s some life stage transitioning that is making them blue and frustrated. They may also be facing a ton of pressure to ‘Have Kids! Before It Is TOO LATE.’ Because that is totally something society does, and it’s not ok. (My friends’ stories about trying to get long-term birth control or sterilization are appalling, not least for the difference between the men’s stories [3 visits and done! Did you know there’s a March Madness Special?] and the women’s [10 years!])

        I wouldn’t take it any farther than that.

    5. Tangerina*

      It’s also possible to not like kids, and be respectful to kids and to those who have them. They are furthering the species after all.

      Some people (the ladies in the letter) get so wrapped up in their own hateful little opinions.

  22. Roscoe*

    This one is really tough for me. Because on one hand, I get why OP is annoyed. They do sound a bit much. On the other hand, its a private conversation, even if its in a shared space. They aren’t talking about you. You also seem to be taking this very personally. I don’t know if I’m ok with saying “I’m fine with you venting, but only about things I think you should vent about”

    Is there a way you can frame this as not about what they are talking about/venting about, and more the amount of distraction that it causes to have to hear 8-10 of these conversations daily? Because honestly, it sounds more like its a topic that you don’t like them discussing. This way you can frame it as something harming your productivity without you judging their opinions.

    1. Scarlet*

      Yes, I think it’s definitely better to focus on the disruption caused by the constant complaining/talking than on the subject matter. If OP complains about the fact that they hate kids, I can’t see it going down too well. It’s way easier to say something like “I can’t concentrate when you’re having discussions next to me, can you keep it down/do it in the break room/whatever?”.

    2. Elspeth*

      Well, V and M are going on at length about parents and kids multiple times a day. It’s a shared work space, so no one should be subject to that much negativity in a day. It’s nothing to do with the topic, it’s everything to do with showing some courtesy to a fellow work space user and also getting some work done – because, seriously, how much work can they do if they’re constantly bonding over derogatory, negative conversation?

    3. JHunz*

      It’s not possible to have a conversation with a real expectation of privacy in a well-traveled area of a shared workspace. If you’re talking in a shared space, you need to take into account the other people that are present. If you’re sitting on one side of an open office space and a bunch of coworkers go stand on the other side and tell sex jokes to each other, it’s valid grounds to talk about harassment (whether or not you were actually intended to be targeted).

      And honestly, anyone who’d use the word “breeder” outside of an internet echo chamber needs a reality check. It’s like saying Twitch emotes out loud, only more derogatory.

    4. Holly*

      Agree with your suggestion on how to handle it, but not the premise. Controversial discussions do not belong in a shared workspace. Use of the term “breeder” indicates this is more than a mild conversation about dislike of children.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Hm, I think it’s pretty reasonable to ask people to lay off with any trash-talking that is directed toward human beings. There’s an extra dimension of “wtf is wrong with you?” when you’re talking about a group of people who don’t get to choose that they’re in the group and really aren’t doing it deliberately, but I think it would get nearly as tiresome to listen to “The Pats* are a terrible team and anyone who likes them should be ashamed of it!” 1-2 times an hour, day in and day out.

      *Team chosen at random, no opinion on the value of any sports team over any other team is to be imputed from this statement.

    6. Ann O. Nymous*

      I think the key issue here is that this venting crosses a line by using “breeders,” which is an offensive and derogatory term (“brats” can also be offensive in certain contexts). I think there’s a difference between venting about society’s pressure to have children (which most women of a certain age have probably experienced and can be EXTREMELY grating and toxic) and the odd bratty kid/shitty parent you come across at a restaurant or on a plane or something, and this kind of repetitive vitriol. When it gets to the level that OP describes here I think it’s fine to ask them to please stop talking about this particular subject because they’re doing it in such an offensive, incessant manner.

    7. TootsNYC*

      Our OP seems pretty even-tempered and logical. If these women’s comment make her “cold and shaky,” and she terms their comments “really nasty,” I’m willing to trust her reaction.

      Being around hostility is really hard! Witnessing physical violence is emotionally very disturbing–I think we can all agree on that. We don’t say to people, “why are you upset? he didn’t punch YOU!”

      Some comments can rise to the level of verbal violence, others perhaps only to verbal hostility. Those will still be upsetting to witness, even if they’re not directed at you.

    8. Nita*

      That sounds like a good way to start the discussion. I’m torn on whether, in OP’s shoes, I’d just try to cut the chatter and say nothing about the content of the discussion, take the matter to HR, or start an all-out flame war with the two of them. On the one hand, they sound like no amount of talking to them will change their mind, but on the other hand I’d have a hard time staying quiet while someone was spouting all that venom in my cubicle every day (I don’t care if it was about children, men, women, minorities…)

    9. Jennifer Thneed*

      Roscoe, you say:
      > its a private conversation, even if its in a shared space

      And LW says:
      > I share a work-space with a coworker, V, which also houses the printer and the mailboxes for the department. Thus, many other employees pass through our space

      This isn’t a shared space, it’s a public space. It’s like it’s happening in the breakroom — only worse, because someone’s at a desk, so really it’s like it’s happening on a very very long elevator ride.

      I have a feelign that if it were only 8-12 visits a day, our LW would have been irritated but dealing with it. But it’s not just the visits, it’s that she’s listening to vitriol in her workspace and she’s trapped there.

  23. Al who is that Al*

    The UK is very negative about kids, a lot coming from the Victorian “children should be seen and not heard” rubbish. Some people get very uptight about kids in restaurants etc which is very sad compared to how kids are treated on the Continent. My twin boys were treated with delight in every restaurant in Germany, Spain and France and only with contempt in the UK.
    It’s also sad to see how people treat their pets too, the first time I heard the word “fur-baby” I nearly choked. When people anthropomorphise their pets it can be a real issue, where they expect them to be treated as humans with fur. This does them a great disservice too.

      1. Al who is that Al*

        Depended on which restaurant, what time of day, how hungry they were, how tired they were, what there was to eat, what we had for them to do. It’s very difficult to tell until you are there

        1. JamieS*

          I’ll rephrase. Were they acting up in “met with contempt” in UK restaurants or behaving well??

    1. Jen*

      Pets who are treated like children are often miserable. Your cat does not want to go shopping with you. It wants to stay at home in its sanctum sanctorum.

      1. Al who is that Al*

        And go to sleep on top of your favourite jumper and shed hair on it just so you know you should actually not have gone out and instead stayed in and been pandering to it’s every whim

      2. Bea*

        I saw a cat in a carrier that looked like a backpack with an astronaut helmet like…thing for the cat to look out of? I was freaking out on the inside. Cats aren’t travelers, WTF.

        1. Dankar*

          Depends on the cat, I think. I had one that would protest-pee on everything if he even saw a cat carrier. My mother’s cat was joyfully riding in the car and traveling her entire life.

          There’s another cat in our family who makes multiple country-wide treks each year, and walks wonderfully in a harness. Pet personalities are so varied!

          1. Tardigrade*

            My male cat loves riding in the car and going on leashed walks. I realize he’s in the minority of cats, but that’s part of why I love him.

      3. I'm actually a squid*

        I have one cat who has let us know, quite definitively, that he will never spend more than 5 minutes in the car. Fortunately our vet is only 4 minutes away.

      4. Susana*

        Actually, your cat wants *you* to go shopping alone (preferably for cat toys) so it can have the house to itself.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Japan was pretty negative about kids too, actually. We gave up our seats on the train to a woman with a baby and she was shocked. Our guide said that normally people wouldn’t do that, because small children are not well tolerated in public spaces.

      That said, I found the kids were generally more well behaved there, so I wonder if there isn’t something to that.

      1. matcha123*

        I live in Japan and that’s not really true. On a packed subway in Tokyo, a parent with a small child probably won’t get a seat because they are so far away from them. Just the other day I saw an elderly man give up his seat in the priority section for a pregnant woman. And I’ve seen many passengers on less crowded cars give up their seats for parents with young children. The woman was probably trying to show gratitude to the foreigners who singled her out for a seat. I hold the door here and sometimes people act like I’ve done them some extraordinary kindness.
        One thing I won’t do is give up my seat so a parent and child can sit next to each other. I rode the bus when I was little and sat on my parent’s lap as more people crowded on. Parents can have a kid up to 4 or 5 sit on their lap.

    3. Bea*

      Ah…we allow dogs and babies in our breweries here. It’s nice to just all coexist instead of us vs them mentality. You don’t have to choose.

      My mom is the worlds best mom. We also had many pets that were just as well cared for. Now she has her pets because we went and grew up like the assholes we are.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*


        Thank you, Bea. I got some crappy news yesterday and I really needed that laugh. Actual out-loud laugh, too.

    4. Dankar*

      I have weird feelings about the fur-baby thing, because I always tell people my dog is my baby. No ifs, ands or buts about that. She goes to daycare, she sleeps in our bed, she comes with us to outdoor restaurants and wineries if they’re dog-friendly. She even has an “after-school sport” in the form of competitive flyball.

      She is a dog, though, and we do dog-like things with her that we would never do with a child. We hike and run for miles on the weekend; we’ve done a lot of training to make sure that she’s under control at all times.

      I’ve found that when other people use the word “fur-baby,” they usually mean a poorly-socialized animal that is expected to act like a tiny human, not a dog or cat or whatever. The number of people who stop us to say that we’re treating our girl badly because she hikes with a backpack is honestly shocking. They think we’re abusing her because she has a job that she’s expected to do, and you would NEVER expect a child to do that in the mountains, right?

      That being said, I was shocked by how badly behaved the kids were in Italy and Spain when we traveled there (by my American standards). I think there is something to be said about the French style of parenting, which is notoriously strict on the young’uns.

      1. smoke tree*

        “Fur-baby” does have some truth to it, since dogs have basically domesticated themselves into eternal childhood. But I still find these kind of terms irritating because I also find a correlation between people who use them and people who don’t really understand dogs or appreciate the ways in which it’s healthier to treat dogs as dogs, not as children. I feel like it’s an overcorrection from the old “master/servant” dynamic, which is a good thing, but I think there is a happy medium to be found where we can appreciate our relationships with animals without likening them to human relationships.

    5. poolgirl*

      The reason for that is simple. In general children from the continent are raised differently and taught adult manners and how to behave in public at a young age, as opposed to American children. Also European culture is not so child-centric.

    6. Yet another Kat*

      I think that some of this comes down to cultural/historical context.
      In cultures that traditionally value individualism very highly, and where the nuclear family is emphasized, it can come off as terribly entitled to expect others (e.g., patrons or staff in a restaurant) to participate in the “parenting” (e.g. entertaining them, putting up with their misbehavior) of your children.
      In cultures that traditionally value community, and large extended families are common, strangers are happier to participate in these minor acts of “parenting.”
      These are pretty big generalizations, and I’m aware that a plethora of other cultural and socioeconomic factors are actually involved, including what the expected behavior is of adults in a given society (i.e., if adults are expected to be very quiet and polite, so are kids) but overall I have found this to hold true.

    7. Lastre*

      Yeah, and the term “dog mom” is just ridiculous unless it’s meant as a joke. Nope. You’re a dog owner. Some people are very attached to their cars for example, what’s next “car dad”, “bicycle mom”, “gaming computer dad”??

      1. Dankar*

        Why do you care what other people call themselves? If I wanted to call myself Robocop, would you feel the need to weigh in on that?

        Not to mention how disingenuous it is to compare pet-ownership with car-ownership. My car doesn’t greet me in the parking lot crying because it’s so excited to see me.

      2. Yet another Kat*

        I am a “dog mom”. I don’t like the term “owner” when it comes to the living creature for whom I am completely responsible and who is my companion. I fully recognize (as do most people I know) that taking care of a pet is not the same as raising a human person, but “pet parent” is *closer* to how I view that relationship than *pet owner* because my dog is not an object.

      3. Anonymeece*

        You’re comparing a living creature with an inanimate object. My car didn’t comfort me when I was in the depths of a depression, or routinely greet me at the door to say hi after work, or even just provide a purring lap warmer when I needed it, but my cats do.

        I don’t call myself a “cat mom” except jokingly, but I do consider my cats – and now my dog – to be my friend, but cat-friend or dog-friend sounds kinda weird. I agree with Dankar: why do you care what someone calls themselves? Everyone is aware of the difference between babies and pets. No one is honestly getting confused by the moniker. So who cares?

        1. Lastre*

          I don’t know, plants are also living things but I’m yet to hear someone calling themselves a “rose mom”

    8. media monkey*

      weird. just said above but we eat out almost every weekend (in the UK!) and my daughter has never been met with contempt. and we don’t eat in fine dining places, but not fast food either!

  24. JamieS*

    Are they complaining about specific things some kids do, such as throwing tantrums in public, or saying they hate kids in general? IMO there’s a big difference between “Kids are incredibly aggravating when they scream in restaurants while I’m trying to enjoy my meal.” and “Kids suck.” which should impact how this is approached.

  25. Persimmons*

    I’m happily CF, I don’t like kids, and I don’t feel the need to frantically reassure people that I DO like them.

    I also don’t endlessly bitch about either of those things to my colleagues.

    1. Scarlet*

      This. Coworkers are being obnoxious about it (some people just have to be obnoxious about their lifestyle choices, whether it is being CF, vegan, a cyclist, whatever), but I don’t like the idea that me being CF means I have to swear up and down that I just *love* children. I don’t. I don’t hate them either, I’m just not a kid person in general.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yeah, I’ve been working so hard not to make the vegan comparison, because the vegans I know have become so much more laid back about it…

        1. Scarlet*

          I have a bunch of vegan friends and none of them is the proselytizing type but like in every movement, the arsehole vegans are also the most vocal ones unfortunately.

  26. Red Reader*

    Things what baffle me: when people who don’t like kids apparently have nothing to talk about but kids. I mean, I am not a kid person. I don’t have them, I don’t want them, I don’t spend time around them. So I don’t have any reason to talk about them. Especially not 8-12 times a day, good grief.

    1. irene adler*

      Good observation. You’d think that a topic they so revile would be the last thing M and V would be interested in talking about.

      “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”

    2. TootsNYC*

      that might be a comment the OP could make:
      “it’s so funny–you guys say you don’t like kids, but you talk about them all the time! I think you spend more time talking about how much you hate them, than you spend around any actual kids!”

    3. Genny*

      Yeah, after you’ve complained about the first three baby shower invites, what do you even complain about for the next 4+? The most I think I could muster would be an eyeroll about yet another baby shower invitation.

      1. nonymous*

        my coworker complained about wedding invites for a few years. In hindsight, I realize her “complaining” was really a humble brag about how much she was spending in order to attend the weddings (or her popularity at being extended so many invites, idk which).

        It wasn’t until she was complaining about her “broken” stove and I naively commented “oh you have a quick boil burner? ” and another coworker commented that was a feature she had discarded in favor of double ovens when shopping that I saw the infuriated look on first coworker’s face.

  27. AnonEMoose*

    Adamantly childfree here. And I think they’re going too far, for sure. If you must do that kind of venting, save it for a when you’re having a few glasses of wine (or maybe a few bottles – who am I to judge?) with a like-minded friend in private.

    There are some individual kids in my life who I love very much (I joke that the awesome thing about having a sibling with kids is that I get to spend time with the kids – and then give them back). I’m very much a “small doses” person when it comes to kids, generally speaking. I do pretty well with babies (most babies fall asleep when handed to me), less well with toddlers, and with older kids and teens, it really depends on them, much like it does with adults. Of course, being an introvert, I find people in general exhausting. It’s just that, with kids, their energy level and the amount of engagement they can need/want is a bit more so.

    Most of the time, if I’m annoyed by a child in public, it’s at least as much to do with the parent as with the child. I find the really high-pitched shrieking some small children do to be actually physically painful. It’s hard to explain, but it really does hurt my ears. I do try to recognize that sometimes there’s only so much a parent can do, but yeah, sometimes I will shoot a brief glare the parent’s way if the child is being loud/shrieky and the parent isn’t doing anything about it.

    See also: kids running around unwatched in restaurants (because this in combination with servers with heavy trays of hot food is a Bad Idea), or kids running around while being ignored by their parents in other busy/crowded locations, kids behaving inappropriately for the location they’re in and not being removed or corrected by the parents. And don’t get me started on the “shopper in training” carts at the grocery store. Some kids are great with them, but others run around like they’re in a demolition derby, and I really do worry about some older or mobility challenged person not being able to dodge and getting hurt.

    I think you can and should tell them that you find some of this distressing, and ask them to tone it down. If they react unreasonably, then they’re unreasonable and you can respond accordingly. But yes, sometimes people do kind of get caught up in the echo chamber. And they may see it as “blowing off steam,” but you shouldn’t have to listen to it.

    But I would say, don’t use the “you were a child once” argument. Because I can say that there are few points that would make me, personally, roll my eyes harder than that one. And my reply would probably be “And if I’d behaved the way that kid was, I’d STILL be grounded. If I was lucky.” No, I wasn’t perfect (I’m still not), but my parents were VERY clear about how I was expected to behave, and they were very firm when I acted up.

    1. Vicky Austin*

      “Most of the time, if I’m annoyed by a child in public, it’s at least as much to do with the parent as with the child. I find the really high-pitched shrieking some small children do to be actually physically painful. It’s hard to explain, but it really does hurt my ears.”

      I am SO with you on this one. Once my nieces and nephews were old enough to understand spoken language, whenever they made that high pitched screaming sound, I said, “Please don’t shriek like that because Auntie Vicky doesn’t like it.” They stopped.
      With me, it’s purely a sensory thing rather than anything else. I also don’t like the sounds of loud motorcycles or the sound a car makes when driving on that grooved pavement. I can’t explain it any other way, and one of my pet peeves is when people accuse me of being a “baby hater” or “having no heart” because I’d prefer not to hear a baby crying for an extended period of time.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      “Of course, being an introvert, I find people in general exhausting. It’s just that, with kids, their energy level and the amount of engagement they can need/want is a bit more so.”

      Well said, from someone who’s the same, and this is part of why I don’t have them. But I enjoy them “in small doses,” often find them adorable, care greatly about their welfare, and cruelty toward them enrages me.

  28. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

    As a person who doesn’t have children, likely never will, and has a horde of dogs at home, I find this sort of language about children and people who have them, and the complaining to be way over the top. Whether a person chooses to have children or not to have children is fine–but villainizing everyone single person who you get a baby shower invitation from and dehumanizing them and/or their children is not. Not to mention that nobody wants to hear a person complain about the same thing every day, all the time. If they do treat you like a pariah after saying something to them, or having children yourself, I say good riddance. They sound like jerks who I wouldn’t want to be around anyway.

    1. Tangerina*


      I am a childfree cat person who is very bad with children. I don’t tolerate them well and I never know what to say with them. I grow more comfortable around my friends’ children as they mature into teenagers. I’ve said more than once, “if I end up with a child, you know something went wrong in my life.”

      Despite all that: I know children are valuable and I wish nothing but good things for them. It sickens me to see them abused or neglected. I will gladly pay taxes that go to schools to educate our next generation. Our children are incredibly important little creatures, and I want to leave a better world for them. I celebrate when my friends and coworkers announce they are pregnant.

      I’m adding nothing of value, just ranting because these type of childfree people are giving the rest of us a bad name. I cannot abide childfree people who believe children don’t have a place in the world.

  29. Asleep or maybe dead*

    Oof. That seems tough. My sympathies, op.
    Just to shed some light on how can some adults aggressively hate on children even though they were the same once… Oftentimes they don’t think they were.
    They think they were the “right” type of kid, who’s quiet and well-behaved, and if they don’t behave, they are punished or don’t get to go out at all, which is quite common in dysfunctional parenting.
    They see a stranger’s child crying in a restaurant and remember that if they did that, their parents would whoop their ass. Yet, the crying child is not being punished. They can solve this conflict easily by placing their frustration on the stranger family. It is much easier than having to face the fact that their own family may have done them wrong.

    1. TootsNYC*

      also, few of us remember the unpleasant parts. I think a lot of people are completely wrong when they say “I never cried in a restaurant” or “if I’d acted like that, my parents would have whooped my ass.”

      They just don’t remember.

    2. TootsNYC*

      also, they are actually remembering that they DID act like that! And they remember that their parents whooped their ass, but they also don’t remember all the details–like, how long did they cry, and how often did they do it.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Also, most of us don’t have clear memories before ages 5-7, so if we’re comparing ourselves at 4 to current children at 4, we’re full of BS.

      2. Lara*

        My parents didn’t beat me. They took me outside. It’s common courtesy to other patrons.

  30. Master Bean Counter*

    I’d keep it simple and avoid the discussion topic entirely.
    Ahead of time I’d ask this: “Hey V, I notice M stops by a lot and your chats are getting to be a bit of a distraction for me. Can you take the longer talks over to the break room/conference room?”
    In the moment, “Hey guys I’m trying to concentrate on the orange peach report here.”

    Do it enough they’ll get the hint.

    1. Brownie*

      This. It’s the only way to avoid backlash and becoming their enemy in regards to their conversation topics.

  31. Silicon Valley Girl*

    One thing people who aren’t childfree don’t realize is that children / parents / parenting topics are literally everywhere in society (esp. America). So these snarky coworkers probably feel like they lucked out to have found like-minded people they can vent with in-person on a regular basis. It’s like an incredibly rare office perk for them. Could they temper it? Sure. But as the OP is the newer employee, she’s should realize that she’s modifying something they may have seen as an exclusive privilege, that’s all.

    (Oh, & just bec. we were all kids once, doesn’t mean we had to have enjoyed the experience or appreciate kids themselves. Some people had terrible childhoods or parents! Myself, I have lovely parents, but I was always treated like a small adult & preferred hanging out with adults from a very young age, not kids.)

    1. fposte*

      I don’t have kids and I have plenty of time and space where I don’t encounter parenting topics. More to the point, though, if they want more space without being exposed to parenting then *that’s* what they should create, rather than a space where they talk about children to be obnoxious about them.

      Yes, obviously they enjoy this and probably won’t want to give it up. But giving up things that aren’t appropriate for work is the lot of working life.

      1. tangerineRose*

        At least they could do their venting away from the OP (and preferably on their own time).

    2. Mayberry Woman*

      It’s not an “exclusive privilege” to cast slurs on people with children, and on children. Hanging about calling people “breeders” is not at all on the same level as being able to bring your dog into work.

      (Ethos: I say this as someone without kids, who likely will never have kids, and who generally prefers not spending lots of time around kids.)