my boss talks about her kids non-stop

A reader writes:

I love my boss, Lizzie; she’s creative, cheerful, smart and a good manager. She helps me develop (I’m one of two second-in-commands) and manages problem staff effectively. She’s also very self-aware and always open to feedback.

She has one tiny thing that I think holds her back: she talks about her children A LOT. Like, when she had to be out of the office, she sent an email to the whole group saying “I have to attend my child’s Playcenter today. It’s not like other child care. Parents have to be involved and commit to the Playcenter Way. We explore children’s abilities through play and teach how to uphold core values. I’ll be back in the office on Monday.” This got my eyebrows raised. I heard someone in another team joking about Lizzie’s email – about how earnest and self-important it sounded and how she might have been better to simply say “I’m out of the office and will be back on Monday.”

Another example: all three of her children are “gifted.” She manages to work it into conversation often enough that our team has a good-natured bingo about it. Like rather than saying “I need to leave by 2:30 to get the kids from school,” she will say “I need to leave by 2:30 to get the kids from Mind Plus. They love the extra extension it gives them beyond the normal curriculum.” BINGO!. She’s also a very doctrinaire parent — no screens ever, no sugar, only wooden toys, and her children have a full-time nanny. In Lizzie’s view, childcare centers are a distant second-best. But she and her husband are both on hefty salaries. Most of us can’t afford a nanny even if we preferred it.

At least one of our team is dealing with infertility. Those of us who have kids are a bit weary of having our parenting choices disapproved of.

About two months ago, her performance review came due. Her manager, Beatrice, asked our team for confidential feedback about Lizzie.

After talking with my colleague (the other second-in-command), I had a quick chat with Beatrice. I stressed how great Lizzie is as a manager and all her good points. I said there was one tiny thing she could change, and that I wouldn’t bother raising it with any other manager, but since I know Lizzie genuinely wants to improve her soft skills and really welcomes insights, I thought it is worth it. I said that we all love our own kids and think they are beautiful and talented — and that Lizzie mentioning her children so much can be a bit tough on staff managing infertility. I said that I’d love Lizzie to be aware that people choose different kinds of care for different reasons and it’s good to respect those choices. Beatrice “got” it. She said it’s no different than if you’re a senior manager with a car package, you don’t go complaining to junior staff about the size of your private carpark. Beatrice said she agreed this was worth mentioning at performance review. She said “I agree, Lizzie would want to know this.”

Fast forward to now, it’s been a month, and Lizzie is still bringing her children into every conversation. We had a team training and Lizzie talked about her kids’ growth as her “fun fact about me.” Then she jumped up to show the presenter photos of the children on her phone. It honestly felt quite awkward.

Given what I know about Lizzie (very diligent about self-improvement), I think if it had been mentioned, she would have made an effort to change. I know that Beatrice has a history of being rather shy, and shy of conflict. She’s extremely self-effacing. So I suspect that she chickened out of saying anything.

What do I do? Do I ask Beatrice if she managed to raise that issue? Do I approach Lizzie myself as though I never spoke to Beatrice, and raise it proactively (we have a high level of trust and a lot of respect for each other)? Do I walk away on the grounds that I tried my best through the proper channels?

This sounds … really off-putting. On top of the fact that it would be tiresome if she were talking about any topic this much, it also sounds like she’s coming across as sanctimonious even if she doesn’t mean to.

It would have been great if Beatrice had passed along the feedback, but since it sounds like she didn’t — and, importantly, like she’s so conflict-averse that she might water it down even if she did deliver the message — you might be better off raising it on your own.

To be clear, if you didn’t have a strong relationship with Lizzie, I wouldn’t suggest this.

You also have additional standing to mention it because you’re her second-in-command and are aware that this is frustrating your team and (based on the bingo thing) harming her credibility and the amount of respect she commands. Part of being second-in-command is that you have a higher level of obligation to flag things that are impacting your team in ways your boss might not spot on her own.

You could say something like this: “Can I talk to you about something interpersonal that I’ve been noticing on the team that I think you might not be aware of? I’ll warn you from the start, it’s a little awkward, but I know you well enough to know you’d want to hear it. I’ve been hearing lately that there’s some frustration about how often you bring up your kids and your parenting choices. The way it’s landing with people is making them feel like you’re implicitly criticizing their own parenting choices, some of which are dictated by what they can afford on their salaries. And this much kid talk can be especially tough for people who are dealing with infertility. I don’t think anyone wants you to stop mentioning your kids altogether — obviously they’re a big part of any parent’s life. I think people would just prefer you tone it down. I know you’re someone who tries to be really aware of how you’re affecting people and that you’d want to take this into consideration if you knew — and I figured it’s something other people might never feel comfortable bringing to you.”

Also — speaking of being second-in-command, you probably shouldn’t be part of that bingo joke, no matter how tempting the provocation. That’s the kind of thing that would sound tremendously undermining if Lizzie ever heard you were participating in it, and you’re in a position where it’s extra important to keep her trust.

That’s not to say that this behavior doesn’t warrant a bingo game. It’s obnoxious and tone-deaf and it’s inviting mockery —but given your position and your relationship with her, you’re better off speaking with her directly rather than privately mocking her.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 667 comments… read them below }

  1. Alldogsarepuppies*

    Are the coworkers literally playing Bingo? I thought OP was more just using the term as a colloquialism like “Eureka”

    1. JokeyJules*

      this reminds me of the episode of the office where they had a bet to see if they could get Phyllis to say all of her rainy day sayings…
      except literally every day is a rainy day in this scenario

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I was just watching the Boyle Bingo episode of B99 this morning while I was getting ready for work.

        I’m not sure if it matters if they are genuinely making cards and playing or just making jokes about it. Either way, it’s a big problem and it definitely needs to be addressed.

        1. Nicelutherangirl*

          At least they haven’t turned it into a “Hi, Bob!” style drinking game, where everyone takes a sip out of a flask hidden in the desk drawer when “Lizzie” brings up her kids!

          (Am I dating myself terribly? Other people know about how often friends and neighbors would walk into the office or apartment of psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley with a cheerful “Hi, Bob!” on The Bob Newhart Show, right? Did anyone else take a swig of something alcoholic when goofy Howard Borden would stop by unannounced?)

          1. Prickly Pear*

            I remember! Although I caught the show on Nick at Nite. They pointed it out in a bumper for the show .

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I had to re-read it twice when Alison mentioned that but the OP says “She manages to work it into conversation often enough that our team has a good-natured bingo about it.”

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think they’re literally playing bingo, like with a printed bingo card or anything. But it sounds like they’re regularly making bingo jokes about it amongst themselves. I’ll clarify my wording in the answer.

      1. Em*

        When I was in university, people made actual bingo cards of one professor’s sayings. To win, you had to actually say the word bingo in class (ie answer the professor’s question and work the word bingo into your answer).

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It sounds like they’re semi-joking, but I definitely worked on a team that played secret (real) bingo with one of our more sanctimonious bosses.

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        We played literal Bingo a couple of times at my old job because we had an extremely cliché-prone boss whose entire management style was quotes from dumb self-help books interspersed with random complaints about millennials. Her hygiene was pretty terrible, too, so we had lots of options for bingo squares. We stopped before we got caught.

      2. GlitsyGus*

        We had one boss that was so fond of weird sports metaphors that we would keep a tally every day of how many different sports he would reference and how many references for each sport. If he hit a new record we would do a little “touchdown dance”

        1. Meagain*

          My counterpart and I play faculty meeting bingo. We’re scientists at a liberal arts school and apparently, putting desks in a circle is a big thing. (That’s the center square).

    5. AKchic*

      It wouldn’t matter if they are doing it good-naturedly or not. Once you *start* looking for something, you will see/hear it more often, which means it will get on your nerves that much faster, and the good-natured part will wear off that much faster too.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        This. It sounds like having a bingo in-joke could maybe help people be less annoyed by the constant kid commentary by finding something amusing about it… but only for a while. It will definitely grate faster when it’s focused on.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Only if Lizzie was aware and encouraged them to play it, would I think it was a positive thing.

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        I’m actually wondering if the “bingo” element is actually making something relatively minor that most people wouldn’t notice or care about into a whole Thing that apparently needs to be addressed.

        1. AKchic*

          I think it will depend on context and the individual it’s being used against.

          If the person hears about the game is petty and vindictive, they could spin it to make it sound much more cruel than it already is and be very dramatic about the “game” and make it sound very hostile and out-in-the-open, when the reality is, it’s probably a silent, mental non-drinking game meant to help the person being spoken to from snapping. Those that play the mental game have commiserated and shared that they “play” it to keep from rolling their eyes or otherwise betray their annoyance and frustration.

          Is this “game” an issue? Probably not. However, it isn’t kind that others know that it is actively being “played” and someone within the office is literally the butt of a joke which can undermine their authority. Especially when a 2IC admits to playing the game as well (and that undermines her credibility and authority in the long run as well).

        2. Petunia*

          Really? I don’t think this bubblehead’s behavior needs any enhancement to make it any more annoying. In fact, I find this minor distraction of a faux Bingo game a harmless way for coworkers to not go off their rockers. Ugh, I can’t imagine having to listen to this drivel.

      3. OP*

        OP here: AK chic that’s a really good point! I can tell you it’s done affectionately (and just between one or two of us) but you are right it sets us up to notice that behaviour.

    6. seahorsesarecute*

      I’ve heard there’s an app for Conference Call Bingo and have a friend who fires up her phone for conference calls at her job.

    7. mcr-red*

      I worked in an open-plan office with a coworker, let’s call him Earl, who talked LOUD about his health problems and politics, to every single person they came into contact with – customers, other coworkers, etc. So literally multiple times a day, I’d hear, “Well let me tell you about my back pain” and “I just can’t believe Those People in That Party” over and over again. A coworker, Wakeen, knew it got on my nerves, so whenever Earl when start in, Wakeen would make eye contact with me, or call my extension and say, “BINGO!” We didn’t have actual Bingo, but it became an inside joke.

      1. TardyTardis*

        That reminds me that at old ExJob my cubicle, at one time, was next to someone with an extended family who had many medical problems (I secretly nicknamed her ‘General Hospital’ and wished her grandfather well). Then there was ‘off to the races’ nicknamed for her private ringtone…).

    1. JokeyJules*

      i don’t know if i’d job hunt. She appears to be an otherwise competent boss and this appears to be an otherwise functional workplace.

        1. JokeyJules*

          i WOULD start job hunting if she were pausing in the middle of my performance review to talk about her kids.
          i.e. “JokeyJules, your lateness, which is something my 6 year old son, Archemedius, struggled with upon first attending The Exemplary School for Absurdly Exemplary Children….”

          1. Clorinda*

            Surely you jest. Archemedius has never been late for anything in his life. Also, he taught himself to read before age two.

            1. JokeyJules*

              he was late because he was finishing his third dissertation on roman-greco loom instruction, actually.

              1. JokeyJules*

                i actually might’ve joked too far. I’m sure her children are truly great kids and don’t mean to make jokes of them and the actual achievements they will have.

            2. No Mas Pantalones*

              That’s nothing! My cat Toonces drove himself home from the vet right after getting neutered without anesthesia.

              1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

                Now I have this persistent mental image of an absurdly cool cat driving a SmartCar with one paw while the other holds a bag of frozen peas up against his business.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Oh lord that’s so funny, I’m trying hard not to be that weird giggling person in semi-public.

              2. Anonforthis*

                I love the name Toonces! My dog is named Toots (like, “What’ll it be, Toots?”) and I realize I am probably reaching Lizzie-like levels of annoyingness with mentioning my dog and retelling cute stories about her at work, but she really truly is the cutest and cuddliest little snootleboot.

              3. Umiel*

                Now I have the Toonces the Driving Cat song in my head.
                “Toonces the Driving Cat
                The Cat who could drive a car.
                He drives around
                all over the town
                Toonces the Driving Cat!”

                1. Rebecca in Dallas*

                  Toonces, nooooooo!

                  “I thought you said he could drive?”
                  “He can, just not very well.”

      1. Antilles*

        That’s kind of my thoughts too. I would certainly find it annoying and tune out (or mentally roll my eyes) every time she mentioned it, but for me, “talks about her kids endlessly” doesn’t even crack the Top 100 Traits to Avoid In A Boss.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah. This would only be job-hunting territory is one was struggling with infertility oneself and this was causing great mental anguish. In that case, ok – though of course, speaking up might be a first step even so.

          But for an otherwise good situation, and otherwise good boss? Nah.

          Admittedly I’ve had some creepers, but early on in my career I found myself carrying a flashlight and shining it in the bushes to check if my boss was hiding there. Sancti-mommy would irritate me, but it’s not a deal breaker. (Especially if it would likely be solved with a gentle word.)

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I would not job-hunt now, because my children are now in their 20s, my work is done, I am happy with the results, and so am in a position where it is easy for me to tune out any of her digs at daycare, video games, and non-wooden toys, as harmless background noise. But if they were same age as Lizzie’s, and I found myself coming into the office every day expecting to be second-guessed on my parenting choices by my own manager, then forget it, I’d be looking.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If she’s otherwise a good boss, I can’t see job hunting over this. Good managers are hard to find, and if you’re going to leave a job every time your boss has an annoying quirk, you’re never going to stay anywhere.

      1. JokeyJules*

        Yeah, after having some REALLY bad managers, I could definitely get over this if she’s an otherwise good manager.

        1. Anonymosity*

          I’d probably bring it up, however, if I were in OP’s position and Beatrice obviously didn’t. In fact, I might have done it before now, but I’m pretty blunt.

        2. Formerly Arlington.*

          Agree. If only my only issue with some of my previous managers was being a “sancti-mommy.” I would trade a narcissist bully for a mom who brags too much any day!

      2. Doug Judy*

        Years ago I had a manager that was obsessed with Clay Akien. She’d bring up him up in daily conversations, and this was long before social media was a thing. It was annoying but she was a very good manager. I did end up leaving but it had nothing to do with her.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I think this is called mentionitis. I’ve usually heard it in the context where someone with a crush will bring the crush up all the time because they are thinking about them all the time. But I think it works here too.

        2. Oh So Very Anon*

          Clay Aiken… NOOOOO!!!!!
          Matt Bomer…. YEAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
          (Now I’m wondering if my staffer is job hunting…)

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, this is sort of like having a manager who turns every conversation to baseball. It can be an annoying quirk, but not one that much impacts your work.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I would only get unhappy about baseball if they were a Yankees fan (yes, I am a Red Sox fan).

        2. Specialk9*

          Mmm, yeah, if one were a baseball manager and they were criticizing techniques one uses.

          Just bragging is one thing, but judging others’ choices out loud is pretty rough. Especially if their Right Choices come from money.

      4. Frosty Fancy*

        That’s going to depend on circumstances a bit though. I’m infertile and having a rough time with it. If this was my boss, I absolutely would be job hunting, because this would be painful to deal with.

      5. thestik*

        Dunno. For anyone who doesn’t have kids (especially by choice), this will lead to a point where the annoying quirk will override all of the other positive qualities. If I was in LW’s shoes, I’d get the perception of a hostile work environment and make the decision to bail before I can no longer effectively deal with the stress.

        1. Annoyed*

          I know it makes me a horrible human being, if I can even be called human, but I do not like kids.

          With the sole exception of the one I gave birth to I never liked them. Plus I didn’t really like the “kid” aspect of him so much as I liked him as a person. This shit would annoy me no end in pretty short order.

        2. saf*

          Amen. I am childfree by choice. I like some kids, but…. it’s really frustrating to be buried in kid talk non-stop. And generally, folks who do that also pressure on the “and when are you having children?” thing.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            How I shut those people up:

            Person: Do you have kids?
            Me: Yes, I have a daughter. Want to see her picture? (pulls up picture of cat on phone)
            Person: Oh, that reminds me of (insert pet story here)


            looks at me like “another crazy cat lady.”

            I didn’t mind the latter at all.

      6. The New Wanderer*

        The thing about annoying kid commentary + implicit judgment of others’ parenting choices is that it is emotionally loaded in a way (actually, in multiple ways) that obsession with a pop idol or a sport is not.

        She may be a good manager in other technical ways and maybe I personally would stick it out, but I would absolutely understand someone choosing to leave because of the near-constant barrage of comments as described in the OP. Someone making these kinds of comments with this little self-awareness is probably not a good manager for employees who struggle with anything related to fertility and child rearing – it’s not bullying but I can’t imagine it would be a healthy environment for them.

      7. OP*

        She’s otherwise lovely! Really! I’m so glad Alison pointed out what I can do differently. This is a work relationship I want to keep and improve.

    3. Bea*

      That’s extreme but your happiness is important so whatever makes life easier for you. I doubt many are that as annoyed by it but I’ve worked with “pirates” and “collectors”, so my tolerance is high.

      1. Persimmons*

        Need deets. Are we talking parrots and gold coins, or people who use illegally-obtained software, or what?

        1. Bea*

          I’m talking the dubloons and aye matey, on my way to swab the deck.

          If only he had a parrot. I would have built him a perch for my office.

            1. Bea*

              It’s a subculture. They have gatherings. They speak like pirates. He wasn’t insanely OTT but he would pull the pirate speak out frequently enough. Never if sht was serious though.

              I was basically working on the Island of Misfit Toys.

              1. Specialk9*

                I always worked on the depressing side of the Island of Misfit Toys. Your side at least sounds fun!

          1. TardyTardis*

            That reminds me, we had someone who secretly put up SCURVY DOGS and SAUCY WENCHES signs on the restrooms on Talk Like a Pirate Day–as long as they came down the very next day, the managers pretended not to notice.

    4. Snark*

      I dunno if this rises to that level, but she sure sounds like an awful lot. If I were a direct report, I’d be considering getting a group together to push back.

      1. Les G*

        This is not that kind of situation. Bad working conditions? Unreasonable policy? Yes, push back as a group. But this is an interpersonal issue and should be resolved as such.

        1. Snark*

          I’ve done it with a similar irritating personal behavior, so I don’t necessarily agree it’s not that kind of situation. The danger can be the person feels ganged up on. But if there’s a variety of people getting irritated or alienated by a behavior, it can help the person understand that it’s affecting more than one complainer, without resorting to the “we’ve been talking about you behind your back and I was sent as emissary” dynamic.

    5. get out...*

      I feel like this is the AAM commentariat’s solution to all things – and even though often times the answer is “get out of there” that’s WAY easier said that done most of the time. I have been in a dysfunctional place and trying to get out but I just can’t find a job to transition to. Its not always helpful to the situation, and way overkill in this situation (even tho i don’t have kids and would find this annoying)

      1. DecorativeCacti*

        I think it’s a pretty common advice column response. It’s a lot easier to be on the outside and say, “Dump him! Get a new job! Live someplace cheaper!” than it is to actually take the steps required to disentangle a decades long relationship, land the dream job, or uproot your life in various other ways. You don’t have the emotional attachment.

        1. serenity*


          And, importantly, what’s mentioned in this letter is a quirk. An annoying quirk, sure. But if this is the worst kind of boss behavior someone has seen (and you’re ready to walk away just because of it) I think it’s safe to say you’re not too experienced.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            This is going to be really situational, though. I don’t have kids, so this would be annoying but nothing that really bothers me if she’s otherwise a good manager.

            If I had kids and was getting condescension and side-eye commentary about how I’m not raising them properly (her way, of course) all the time? If I was struggling with infertility and Every Conversation Involves Her Children? If I didn’t *want* kids and she’s also one of those people who thinks every woman must have children or not be a Real Woman?

            It’s entirely understandable from any of those perspectives why OP and coworkers are bothered by this!

      2. Observer*

        I think you are WAY overstating the case. If you noticed, there are a number of other responses, and a number of responses to THIS comment saying “I don’t think I’d do that.”

    6. Nita*

      It doesn’t seem to be actually affecting her ability to manage, beyond causing the staff to feel annoyed and roll their eyes a lot. There are worse bosses out there! OP does bring up good points about staff who may be dealing with infertility or who may feel judged for different parenting styles, but still – this is more on the level of “someone has to talk to her so she dials down the irrelevant asides” than “she’s incompetent and I cannot work for her.” I’d feel differently if she was harassing people about why they don’t have kids/don’t put their kids in gifted classes/something like that, but there’s no indication that is happening.

    7. ChachkisGalore*

      I don’t know if I’d be job hunting over this alone (though I could definitely see it being a straw the breaks the camel’s back kind of situation).

      However, as a childless woman, I would be a bit concerned about how this boss might be perceiving me and how that might effect my treatment within the department. I’d worry that her strong opinions on childrearing might be seeping in and effecting work issues (PTO requests, raises, promotions, etc.) subconsciously. Again – not that I’d leave immediately and nothing in the letter indicates that this is currently going on. Just something that I would be lightly on the look out for if I were in the situation.

      1. Genny*

        I was thinking the same thing. I can put up with an annoying quirk to a point, but when your annoying quirk affects my life, I draw the line. It doesn’t sound like it’s gotten to that point, but definitely something I’d personally be keeping an eye, especially if I were a lower-level employee.

      2. OP*

        Luckily this is the up-side; she’s very keen to support others’ lives outside the office. Our team is half-half parents and child-free and I haven’t noticed any differences. But I can imagine others where it could – good point

  2. Dee*

    Yeah, that bingo thing, as good-natured as it may be, could be incredibly hurtful to her if she found out about it.

    1. pcake*

      Maybe so, but I think it’s their way of dealing with something constant that’s frustrating and annoying – if they didn’t vent about it, they’d start feeling very resentful.

      1. Dee*

        There’s a difference between venting among each other — which I would definitely be participating in if I was part of that situation — and literally making a game of it. It may not be that formalized, but I’m sensitive to feeling like I’m being mocked, so in that situation, I would be crushed.

        1. OP*

          It’s not formalised; Just leaving a meeting one of us might whisper ‘BINGO’. But I absolutely agree with Alison it’s something I shouldn’t engage in or encourage.

    2. Zip Silver*

      Back in high school, a couple of friends and I started keeping tally of every time this self-important girl (who ended up being salutorian funnily enough) spoke up in English class each day. The highest number was over 100. Thankfully she never found out.

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        Over 100?! That’s even worse than the guy in one of my college classes where the professor had to interrupt her lecture to point out that it was a class, not a conversation between the two of them.

      2. DCGirl*

        I was once in a coworkers cube and she had UBJ written on most, but not all, work days on her calendar, so I asked her what it stood for. We had a deeply annoying coworker who had two sport jackets that he alternated, one of which was a hideous, wide wale corduroy, brown jacket . UBJ stood for Ugly Brown Jacket.

      3. Specialk9*

        100 times in a single class?! Like in an hour or two?!

        100 times in a whole day would be a LOT, but the other would be mind boggling.

  3. Amber Rose*

    I mean, the joke is that crossfit/vegan/paleo/etc. are the things that people never shut up about, but in reality there’s just a certain kind of personality that latches onto one thing that they are really into and then just never stops talking about it.

    As someone who definitely has tendencies that way, I am not always aware when I’m overdoing it, though I’ve gotten better over time. If Lizzie doesn’t know, then it would be a great kindness to point it out.

    1. Friday*

      Definitely this. There’s just a type of person who can’t help but evangelize the Thing Most Important to Them. And unfortunately they can definitely be pretty tone-deaf as these types of people sometimes aren’t the best at understanding other people’s income level limitations, potentially different and challenging medical/dietary needs, differing philosophies on big life things, etc. etc.

    2. BRR*

      This is what I was thinking as well. My cousin recently purchased a rental property and she will almost exclusively talk about rental properties now. Someone who only talks about one topic can be pretty irritating.

      1. JustaTech*

        I have a friend who does this. He’ll have a singular topic for some period of time, and then something new will come along and then instead of talking about model airplanes he’ll talk about Fotrnite. After a three hour lecture on poker chips I finally learned you just have to say “I’m done talking about X. Can we talk about Y?” (You can’t say “something else” because it will inevitably come back to X.)

        But that’s a friend, not a boss.

    3. Cat Herder*

      Right. And she’s the boss, so most of the staff probably feels that they have to put up with it and have no standing to say anything.

    4. Lumen*


      This is great because it’s clear to me (and OP, and all of us I think) that the problem is not that Lizzie wants to talk about her kids. It’s how often she’s doing it, the intensity with which she’s doing it, and how it’s affecting those around her. But it’s obviously not clear to Lizzie. I think it’s a sign of respect to tell someone how they’re coming across (such as “sanctimonious”) when you know that’s not what they want to present.

    5. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

      Yup! I’m 100% this type of person. I know I’ve annoyed people with my talk of my kid, dog, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Crossfit… the list goes on. I try really hard to moderate myself, but it’s an annoying personality quirk. It would definitely be a kindness to me if someone gently told me to tone if the F down.

      1. I Love Thrawn*

        When The Hobbit came out, I fell so hard for Thorin Oakenshield and talked about him so much, my sister banned me from mentioning him for at least six months. To this day she still twitches if I mention him (not much anymore). It’s a thing some of us do. :)

      2. Amber Rose*

        My husband is definitely sick to death of hearing about my new favorite band. I’m trying so hard, but when I get excited about stuff my first instinct is to talk about it with other people.

        Social media has been a lifesaver with this kinda thing. Instead of harassing my friends and family, I can go online to other excited people.

      3. zaracat*

        Would you mind changing your username please. References to killing people are not funny, and especially so when you actually know someone whose 11 year old son was beaten to death with a cricket bat by his father. Thanks.

    6. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      For some reason, to me, it’s not annoying when coworkers talk about their kids – that is fine – I am here for all the funny stories about the amusing things kids do. It’s super annoying when it about how AMAZING their kids are and how they are the very best and super cool and so much better than all other children. That really gets to me and gets old super fast.

      1. Traveling Teacher*

        +1 Kids are so strange and funny!

        Every once in awhile, it’s truly necessary to share a kid story, like the time I reached into my handbag during a work meeting and pulled out several whole carrots–pretty much defies explanation, except for “Um…Kid did this, will report back why?” (Turns out, the Kid wanted to pack me a healthy snack but could only reach the crisper drawer. Adorable, right?) But, most of the time, I do my best to restrain myself.

        I also try to only share with other coworkers who have kids/grandkids and talk about them or coworkers who ask me about my kid.

    7. Rebecca in Dallas*

      As a vegetarian distance runner who has a rescue dog, I always struggle with which one to bring up first in conversation.

    8. Bunny Girl*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. And like everyone else who is like this, they tend to give the rest of the group a bad name. That’s where those jokes come from. I’m a vegetarian, and most people have no idea until they sit down to eat with me, and maybe not even then. But suddenly because of a small vocal group, I’m the “annoying plant eater”. And even though that way of thinking really bothers me, I sometimes think that about parents too, because I know A LOT of parents who exclusively talk about their children. I am a little biased because that topic has no interest to me; I don’t want children and I’m not particularly fond of being around them either. I do feel like Lizzie continuing this pattern of behavior might be looked down upon. If I was working for someone who constantly acted this way, I wouldn’t have a ton of respect for them.

  4. ExcelJedi*

    Oh goodness….I can just imagine how reports who choose not to have children feel, too. That must be super off-putting for anyone different from her!

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      As a child-free gal who chose tattoos and cats over a spouse and kids, it would get old real quick.

      Captain Cranky Pantalones would roll her eyes and say, “We get it Lizzie. You have kids. I know more about them than I know about my own bother. Cease and desist.”

      More subversive Pantalones would respond to any kid mention/story with an equally ridiculous one about my cats.

          1. AKchic*

            Psh. *Only* 7? The Diva Foxy Bigpaws can poop in 8 languages. Izeldir the Basement Soot Sprite of Doom chooses to ignore us in 13 languages.

            Hang on… I’m still trying to find a good way to one-up you with an imaginary cat.

          2. Clorinda*

            I’m impressed. Seven languages! Mine are fluent in Tabby and Siamese and can get along in Greyhound.

      1. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

        As a mother of two, it’d get old with me real quick too. I always have to remind myself that beyond the basics – “How’s your kids? They’re well, thank you!” NO.ONE.CARES. Unless someone asks me a specific question about them, I’m not volunteering anything.

      2. Persimmons*

        The detail and frequency of my litterbox stories was directly proportional to “mom of the year” colleague’s explicit diaper stories. She even asked how I knew who did what, and about lost her mind when I told her the crayon trick.

        (For those not in the know: figure out which cat is unwell by adding grated Crayola to their food, in different colors for each cat. Non-toxic and vet-approved.)

        1. Nancy*

          That is genius!!!! Is it OK for dogs too? I have got to ask my vet. They have separate bowls but obviously don’t have separate toilet facilities, and it is a pain to have to follow them around to see who pooped where to make sure to get the right sample for the vet.

          1. twig*

            My childhood dog, Buddy, ate his share of crayons in his youth. (you could tell, because he’d have multi-colored speckles in his black dog-beard).

            He lived to the ripe old age of 17.

            So I bet this works for dogs, too.

            Buddy ate a lot of weird stuff, though, so maybe he had special doggy super powers of digestion. One of his other favorites was bits of drywall that he’d find around the floor when we were remodeling

            1. Snickerdoodle*

              LOL, one of my cats occasionally eats small bits of lint or cardboard he finds on the floor. I try to tell him that they aren’t treats, but that detail is apparently irrelevant.

        2. Amber T*


          Now I gotta teach them to eat from one bowl of food and not each other’s… but baby steps!

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        I do that sometimes! I have been known to launch excitedly into a tedious story about how one of my animals did an adorable thing in the spirit of “yay we’re all sharing our kid stories!” Most of the time people give me weird looks but I don’t care because at least I’m not hearing about their stupid children anymore. One time though I actually diverted a woman into talking about her dog and we shared dog pictures. It was amazing.

        1. Youngster*

          At my old office people were dog obsessed and were constantly talking about their annoying dogs. As a dog free person who also strongly dislikes dogs it was extremely annoying and boring

      4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Hahaha… I do that too.

        CoworkerMom: Oh Sunny Jim did x, y, z at daycare yesterday
        Me: Oh that’s cute, did I show you the picture fluffy from doggy daycare? Look he was in the pool!

        CoworkerMom: I have to leave early to go to fauntleroy’s school program today.
        Me: Oh sorry can’t stay late to cover I’m pick up and drop off duty for Cujo this week. Last time I got the report that he was top dog in his group play. He won the shared tennis ball award.

        I’ve found there are two types of parents in this world, those who laugh when I tell doggy daycare stories/cat stories to their kid ones and those that get miffed by it.

        Generally speaking though it’s equally effective to counter both types. The first get the point that they’re telling kid stories that not everyone can relate to or care about and the latter get mad and don’t want you comparing your 4 legged beastie to their precious.

        1. Dankar*

          My girl’s doggy daycare actually does have playgroups, so I could probably spin a few conversations out of that.

          Her boarding facility, though? They do report cards. I’d be happy to share that she’s a proficient eater, a very regular pooper, and is the top cuddler in her class.

          I totally don’t share this at work, but I have some of the cuter reports stuck up on my fridge. I never knew I wanted report cards until we started getting them!

        2. Kelly*

          Both my sister and I refer to the dog as my dad’s favorite child. The dog’s a senior Weimaraner who’s aging fast. We know he’s the favorite child when my father who never took time off work to take us to doctor’s appointments as kids will take off work to take the hound to one of his multiple vets. Said dog also has a standing order on for prescription diet vegan dog food, both hard and soft, and treats. It took him years to accept that both of us have lactose sensitivities but was a quick convert to the dog’s special diet.

          He has more pictures of the dog and cats than he does of his adult kids in his office. That’s fine because they actually like getting their picture taken and are much more photogenic.

          1. Snickerdoodle*

            My cats are far more photogenic than I am. They’re cute and funny; I always just look bitchy and tired. Maybe that’s because I AM always bitchy and tired.

      5. giraffe*

        I’ve made a deal with my friends that every time they show me a photo of their baby, I will show them one of my cat. I don’t think I’d do that with my boss though :-P

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          I put a ludicrously huge collection of cat pictures outside my cube at work and refuse to remove them until everyone else gets rid of all the pictures of their kids.

          1. Clorinda*

            That sounds lovely, actually. All the pictures should stay up. If I worked near you I’d hang out at your cube just to ogle the kitty.

            1. Snickerdoodle*

              A lot of people do. :3 They’re mostly shelter cats rather than my own cats; I printed out screencaps of social media posts with their stories, cut out the pictures, and put them on pawprint scrapbook paper. A few of them are sad stories that nevertheless meant a lot to me, but mostly they’re happy cute pictures. I like them better than somebody’s tomato-y blob in a baby blanket.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                Hear hear! I think kittens and puppies are cuter than baby humans. Plus kittens come litter-box trained.

          2. Rebecca in Dallas*

            One of my coworkers put a framed picture of her cat on her desk and I love her for it.

          3. I Love Thrawn*

            I currently have 2,243 cat photos on my phone. I could put up a LOT of cat pictures if I had a cube wall. I love your strategy.

      6. Cornflower Blue*

        I once made a list of all the ‘jobs’ that my dog works. I would happily counter kid stories with dog stories!

        List, btw, was as follows:

        Kitchen vacuum (eats anything that drops)
        Diet Enforcer (by making you share food)
        Bathroom Guardian (by keeping you company whenever you go there)
        Exercise Coach (makes you run after him and go on walks)
        Computer Screen Cloth (his fur picks up all the dust very nicely)
        House Inspector (he will sniff everywhere and if there’s dust, it’ll stick to his nose)
        Human Warmer (small living hot water bottle with a fur cover)
        Doggy Doorbell (will bark and alert you if any visitors come)
        Territory Protector (frightens off squirrels and other small things – or so he thinks!)
        Interior Decorator (puts toys at carefully calculated places)
        Container Cleaner (will lick it all clean!)
        Exercise Weight (he’s about 10lbs, perfect for arm curls and leg lifts)
        Guest Greeter (brings them a toy and makes them feel welcome no matter who they are!)

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t have kids and sanctomommies drive me crazy. I feel bad for all the people there who have children and have made different choices in how to raise them.

      The only way it would be okay to mention your kids so much would be if you worked in education or some other kid-adjacent field and even then it sounds like Lizzie is super judgmental.

      1. Snark*

        Sanctomommies! I love it. I love it almost as much as the look my wife gave one who came over when we were exhaustedly inhaling pizza last week, on the first day of both of our new jobs, the evening a hailstorm totaled her car. “You know, you could talk to your child at dinner instead of giving him a tablet to play with. I bet he’s had a really interesting day.”


          1. Snark*

            And even if something had, he had told us very earnestly 5 minutes before “Mommy, Dada, I’m peopled out.” I honor that shit.

            1. Observer*

              Good for you for honoring what your kid tells you. And, you are lucky that your kid has the vocabulary and self-awareness to be able to actually tell you.

            2. Amber T*

              “I’m peopled out.” I didn’t learn that phrase until I was well into adulthood and I would have had a way more relaxed childhood if I could express that.

              1. Snark*

                I sat him down one day and was like, “Hey, boy. Do you sometimes feel super tired and annoyed when people want to talk to you?” And then I told him that “peopled out” was his code word for that, and that he could tell me anytime and we’d leave him alone to chill. I am not a phenomenal parent, but I felt like I rang the bell that day.

                1. Lumen*

                  You 100% did. I’ve known some very introverted children who just weren’t given the language (or permission) to express their actual needs or feelings. In lots of cultures, the pressure to feign extroversion at all times starts real early.

                2. Shoes on My Cat*

                  You SOOOO rang the Parent Bell! My nephew used to pull his blankie over his head first thing in the morning when people would talk to him. Brilliant kid!! I was so jealous I hadn’t come up with that. But at least he didn’t want chatter first thing in the morning EITHER, so we’d have our breakfasts and cuddle together without saying a word while the rest of the extended family ran amok. Some of my favorite Auntie Moments

                3. Annoyed*

                  Good job!

                  As my son got older “time out” morphed from a punishment to a way to just take a break.

                  Granted “Mommy is on time out for the next 15 minutes to recharge” probably aided in him figuring it out over time, but hey whatever works.

                4. Jill*

                  Oh I’ve got to pass that on to my introverted four year old., His current way of expressing it is, “I want you to go away right now” I get what he’s saying since I”m an introvert, too, but man, manners matter!

                5. Cactus*

                  That’s awesome. As a kid, I was not allowed to be “peopled out.” You are doing an EXCELLENT job.

                6. jojobeans*

                  Snark, you are the best parent. I didn’t figure out that that was even a thing until I was well into my 20s, and to this day my parents don’t accept the fact that sometimes I need my space and some alone time.

                  If I’m sitting in another room or even a short distance away with my head stuck in a book, my mother will repeatedly exhort me to “Come join the group,” until it eventually becomes a demand in THAT VOICE and I know I’d better do it or suffer the consequences (and yes, I am an adult entering my mid-30s, btw).

                  This is just one of the many reasons why I prefer to live on the other side of the world…

            3. General Ginger*

              Snark, from a person who desperately wished to be able to say that to adults as a kid — kudos.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                That sounds like an excellent way to cut down on tantrums and meltdowns! Forcing a tired kid, introverted or not, to interact with people is a surefire way to produce a scene.

            4. Emily*

              That’s great that you taught him how to express that (and that you actually honor his requests for space).

          2. Snickerdoodle*

            That reminds me of an episode of The Big Bang Theory where Leonard’s horrible mother is making the rounds and destroying everyone’s confidence and says “So, Penny, what’s new in your life?” Penny replies “Nothing. Not a damn thing.” That’s what I do with annoying people; I make myself boring so they have nothing to work with. They are still annoying, but less so.

        1. Persimmons*

          Given what you’ve said in the past about your wife, I’m surprised that person is still breathing.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I wouldn’t blame her if she had. That deserves, at the very least, a slow swivel to face them with a coldly incredulous look on your face and a “I’m sorry, did I somehow give you the impression that I was interested in your totally unsolicited and utterly irrelevant opinions on how I parent my child?”

              And then probably also a throat-punch. Just to make sure they got the message.

              1. Snark*

                It was more just the head-swivel and icy, calculating, “did I learn 27 or 28 ways to kill a person with a spork? The number escapes me.” glare. Unlike me, Ms. Snark feels no need to fill a perfectly good silence with words, however well chosen.

                It’s weird being married to a cool person.

                1. Snickerdoodle*

                  Captain Awkward tells people to let the awkward silence grow. I like it.

                  . . . but I still would have said “Okay, you’re leaving now.”

              2. Cactus*

                Seriously. There are many ways to raise children. Several of them are good. Not all of them will work for every child. While some kids thrive on constant interaction, others will need lots of iPad-chilling time. They’re humans, they have preferences, just like adults. Anyone who thinks their method is the one true way is laughable.

        2. Juli G.*

          “He did. He told me about his day three times on the car ride over. He also repeated two stories from yesterday and recapped our dinner on vacation nine months ago. He’s been heard.”

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Sanctomommies is a great term.

        Old Miss Manners’ advice was to let people be pleasantly surprised about your special accomplishments, rather than lead right in, and this goes triple for modesty in child-rearing–you sound so much more confident if your child’s real or virtual trophies pop up only under in-depth questioning, and you have a few self-deprecating reasoning with a toddler stories.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        Where how many hours do they sleep is an olympic event (as many as they need… no I don’t keep count, why…?)

        Seriously though – I am more than happy to throw the kids at the telly every so often when *I* need it, and there are days where I count “no-one died” as my defining achievement… especially when ” ’twas but a flesh wound” is thrown into the mix…

        I’d be pissed off if a coworker started building themselves up as a perfect parent, and would be a bit demoralised if my boss did it too much. Not quitting worthy over, but probably enough to start an internal bingo game purely as self defence so I don’t cry into my pillow with guilt over ruining my childrens’ futures.

        This is assuming it is as bad as OP’s telling suggests :) kid chats in general are fine!

        (Mine may involve more visits to A&E than others, but c’est la vie…)

      4. Lumen*

        Having worked in early childhood for many years, I can assure you: both teachers and other parents also can’t stand sanctimommies.

        Or daddies… especially the ones who are always humbly polishing their Saint Daddy martyrdom trophies for performing basic parenting tasks like picking up their kids or feeding them.

          1. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

            Whenever I hear a comment from a mom about how “dad is babysitting the kids”, I kind of want to scream. Parents don’t babysit their own kids. That’s not how that works.

            1. Daisy Avalin*

              We did use ‘Daddy is babysitting tonight’ when I went out with my friends while Child was a baby/toddler, but it was an in-joke amongst us friends, because I was the SAHM, so those times were when Child and Dad got concentrated time together without me in the house. Still carries on like that now, although we’ve pretty much dropped the ‘babysitting’ comment. It was never about him only parenting on those occasions, more that they have foods I don’t eat/watch tv shows I don’t like (but they both do)/play computer games together/etc, and I’m not involved.

        1. PSB*

          As a very involved dad, I get sick of that too. Don’t be impressed that I leave work for doctor’s appointments and school conferences. That’s the way it should be. I’m just lucky enough to have a career that lets me make those choices.

      5. LDSang*

        Sanctomommies — I love this! We all know someone who fits the term.
        If you don’t mind, I’d like to send this to Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year.

      6. soon 2be former fed*

        Competitive/braggy parenting is the worst, ugh. I say that as a parent. When mine was young, I would shut that shyte down with a simple “I don’t believe in comparing children or parenting choices.”

        1. Genny*

          It’s even worse when you’re bragging about something that the vast majority of children will end up doing. Your child talked at 9 months? Great, that means absolutely nothing about anything that matters, and by the time their cohort is three, they’ll all be talking more or less at the same level.

          Someone who has no children, but internally rolls her eyes every time she hears parents humble brag about things they have almost no control over (congrats, your child is gifted. You literally did nothing but provide half their genetic makeup to make that happen).

          1. Specialk9*

            Are you sure it’s bragging? Kids are insanely boring to talk about for months to years. I was always wracking my brain for an answer to that question. “Uh
            he holds my finger really tight — no that’s boring – uh, he rolled over so now we have to change him from a swaddle to a — nope, — oh! He threw up and soaked me to the skin ag – nope, no – uh he projectile shit so hard he hit the wall. Dammit I dunno.” Then when they become a real human and actually have real accomplishments, it feels like a big deal, and like we actually have something to say.

    3. Anonymosity*

      As someone who would love to have kids but has no partner and no sign of one, this would really grate on me. I’ve worked in offices where people wax poetic about their children all the time and it gets very tiresome pretending I give a shit as much as they do, or trying not to cry. The judgmental aspect is also an issue. I don’t see OP saying that Lizzie is outright judging the other parents, but humblebragging can come off that way because the whole point is to sound better than everyone else.

      At least she isn’t doing what they did in this one place I worked. We were passing around somebody’s baby one day and talking about first days of school, and I mentioned that I’d been nervous about my ex’s daughter liking her first day. They descended on me with,”Well that doesn’t count because it’s not really YOUR kid.” I left the conversation the moment it was feasible. Way to invalidate every stepparent / adoptive parent ever, jerks.

      1. Merci Dee*

        I am fortunate to know a lady who ran a daycare facility from her home for almost 40 years. She kept oodles of kids over those 40 years, and loved every single one of them just like she loved her own 2 kids. Many of the kids she kept over the years have grown up to have kids and grandkids of their own, and are still proud to have a close and loving relationship with the lady that cared for them so many years ago.

        As this wonderful woman frequently says, “Family is the one you make for yourself, and not only what you’re born into.” I am happy to follow in her wise footsteps, and have collected a number of friends who are so close that they have also become my family.

        It says only good things about you, Anonymosity, that you were concerned about that girl liking her first day, and that you cared enough to be nervous. And it spoke volumes about the others at work, that they were willing to exclude your experience because they didn’t think it counted as “real”.

      2. Snickerdoodle*

        Ew. “The moment it was feasible” was the moment those words left her mouth. How utterly awful. I’m sorry that happened to you.

      3. OP*

        I’d have been furious too! I don’t know when parenting became a competitive sport. I must have missed the memo.

    4. Youngster*

      I don’t think they would feel any different from the others – annoyed, that is. Now for those that want children but can’t have them – this must be hurtful on top of annoying.

  5. JokeyJules*

    i’m trying not to armchair here, and Alison please delete my comment if I am,
    But it seems like Lizzie is one of those parents who lives through their children and sees them as another way to measure or validate their own successes. Or perhaps she’s just trying REALLY hard to do the whole working-mom-executive-but-still-involved-and-present-parent thing…
    OP, is she able to have an in depth conversation about something other than her kids? Does she have other interests and passions?

    1. Nita*

      Good question! Maybe drawing her out about her other interests will help. It could also be she’s socially awkward and has somehow decided that this is the best topic for small talk. She may be struggling to latch onto another topic that she feels will interest others in the office, and helping her steer into a different lane would be a kindness.

      1. JokeyJules*

        good point! she likely thinks shes found the perfect topic to discuss since nobody is ever going to say they don’t want to hear about someone’s kids.

      2. Specialk9*

        The author of Bringing Up Bebe had an interesting take that the Sanctimommy / Mommy Wars thing mostly happens when there are too many parenting options and no common parenting culture, so everybody has to do their own research and decision, and so get really invested. Which I think of now, that that kind of parent is insecure and uncertain.

        1. Rana*

          I’ve noticed that, too. There’s a pretty direct correlation between parents who are insecure about their parenting choices on some level, and the degree to which they’re judgy about other people’s choices and/or preachy about their own.

          (Which is true of more than just parenting, of course.)

    2. AKchic*

      Regardless of why she is doing it, it doesn’t need to happen at the office.

      The office is not Lizzie’s personal group therapy session, nor does it need to be. If Lizzie is having issues with being a working mom, or is trying to live through her childrens’ successes, that is her issue/problem and she needs to work on that with professionals, not word vomit all over her coworkers and subordinates like a high-paid sanctimommy from a high rung on the corporate ladder.

      1. JokeyJules*

        i don’t thinks she’s seeking therapy from her coworkers. I think this just might be why she is how she is.

    3. OP*

      JokeyJules, the truth is she doesn’t have any hobbies outside work – believe me I’ve tried. But she’s engaged and passionate about work. Our job is complicated and fast-paced enough that I get lots of in-depth conversations about that. Which is why I definitely rate her as a boss, and want to improve how I manage up.

  6. Ben There*

    Sounds horrible, and as 2nd in command I agree that you have standing to talk to boss about your concerns. That said, I really stumbled over the term “good-natured bingo”. No. It’s not good-natured. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but to call it good-natured is to rationalize what is actually disrespectful GROUP behavior that would understandable upset the boss if she became aware of it, and as Alison pointed out could seriously undermine your position as 2nd in command. It’s not shocking, but if you and the participants can’t own your own unfortunate behavior, you’re on shaky ground expecting anyone else to own/change theirs.

    1. Snark*

      My guess is the response would be more embarrassed-verging-on-mortified than upset and insulted, but I suppose that doesn’t change much.

    2. aebhel*

      Eh. If the boss is bringing up that her children are Gifted often enough for there to be any kind of game about it (and it doesn’t sound like this is a formal and organized thing, which I agree would be wildly inappropriate), she’s already being kind of obnoxious and tone-deaf. Someone murmuring ‘bingo!’ when she mentions that BTW Junior is in the Gifted program because he’s So Smart for the fifth time that week is really a non-issue, imo. Especially since those people are her reports, not her supervisors.

      1. No Mas Pantalones*

        There was one gal in my group of friends who would always bring up the same stories, even though we’d all heard them a million times. We tried to tell her. She didn’t get it. We started saying “Drink!” every time she started up one of the stories. She STILL didn’t get it. I kinda doubt Lizzie would even get it. She’d probably say that her kids were so gifted they won at bingo every single time.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I think Alison’s own advice on this site is that sometimes you have to look at annoying workplace habits with a bit of humor, like you’re in a sit-com or you’re an anthropologist in a weird new planet. The distinction here I think is that the bingo game is presumably something people are discussing together, which kind of puts it over the edge. But a private mental bingo game could occasionally be an okay strategy as a way to stop being irked by a harmless but irritating quirk, IMO

          1. No Mas Pantalones*

            That makes more sense, actually. With the friend, we had all established our relationships and knew where the boundaries were and respected them.

            I have played mental bingo several times and later talked about it with someone not involved in the bingo game. Like Lizzie Bingo, but talking about it later with Doesn’tKnowLizzieOrWorkWithUs-Pam.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        “Good-natured bingo” is probably the best way people can come up with to put a positive–or at least tolerant–spin on it. She’s being both 1) repetitive and annoying, and 2) implicitly critical of other people’s parenting and lifestyles. That’s bad. And coming up with a way to tolerate it without snapping or generally being made miserable is making the best of a bad situation. I don’t blame them at all.

        1. Courageous cat*

          I agree. Sometimes I think commenters really expect everyone to be the Most Mature and Professional and Kind people 100% of the time, failing to recognize that we *all* have an ability to be a little petty when things annoy us. That’s just a part of being human, I feel like.

      2. OP*

        It’s not just internal, I admit. It’s been me, the other 2IC and one other. I will not be participating in future because as Alison suggests it’s fairer to talk to her directly. But it has been a coping strategy, and honesty turning it into a joke has helped diffuse frustration.

  7. Snark*

    And, for all potential or current future Lizzies out there: do not do the thing.

    Look, I’m a dad. I get it. Your life revolves around your kid. Even if you weren’t dealing with kid-related logistics and decisions all the time, you’d want them to be the center of your life, because he’s so smart and so cute and he pretends he’s a purple robot cat with a jetpack. D’aww.

    But aside from the occasional, contextually appropriate, genuinely amusing or interesting anecdote or story…just don’t talk about your kids much. Even other parents just don’t have the bandwith usually, unless it’s a conversation that directly benefits their own parenting. The childless will drop out of the conversation so rapidly they redshift. Just rein it in, find another topic, mix it up a bit.

    1. aebhel*

      Yep. I mean, I tend toward that approach because I’m the only person in my office with kids and my social circle skews child-free, so I just sort of… assume that anyone who doesn’t ask and doesn’t have a pre-existing relationship with my kids is probably not interested. I’m always a little surprised when one of my coworkers actually asks about them.

      1. Snark*

        Yup. And even those who are interested just kind of want, “Yeah, he’s starting his second year of preschool! Already so big. Super fun age. Anyhoo….” They do not want unprompted discussions of your parenting choices, style, or the requirements of Playtime.

        1. Trig*

          Yeah, I think mentioning “Gotta go pick up my kid!” or “Taking today off; kid thing!” wouldn’t be so bad. But the drawn out “my kid is gifted and I’ve made such good parenting choices” explanation every time is what puts it over the top.

          1. AKchic*

            I rarely mention my kids at work. At my last place, I’d been there 8 years and some people didn’t even know I had kids until they actually came into my office and paid attention to the pictures on my desk/wall and asked me who the kids were. By then, some were teenagers and they assumed they were cousins or much younger brothers (I was a teen mother).
            I had no reason to discuss my kids at work. If I’m out of the office, that’s all I say. “I’ll be out of the office until X date. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Y at [email address] or [phone number]”. People who knew me well enough to know I had kids were welcome to ask about them, or ask for advice, but no way was I going to offer unsolicited parenting advice while at work, nor to someone I only had a superficial relationship with.

          2. General Ginger*

            Yeah, if a coworker shares that Little Bobby did a hilarious thing last night, that’s fine. If coworker won’t stop talking about how Little Bobby is clearly headed for a brilliant comedy career thanks to coworker’s constant gentle nurturing of his incredible gift — nope.

          3. Madeleine Matilda*

            My boss mentions his kids in that sort of context – taking off for a school event for Bobby – because he wants to model good work-life balance for all of us, not because he wants us to know about Bobby’s event.

            1. PSB*

              This. I occasionally mention my son briefly in contexts like this in a quixotic attempt to normalize dads taking time away from the office not just for big things like school plays but also for routine, caretaking kind of stuff.

        2. Annoyed*

          But little Dakota, Breckenridge, and Fargo are so special that Mom/Dad just can’t contain their excitement!

    2. SoCalHR*

      That is really a true assessment of ANY non-universal topic. Whether I like cats, or keto, or Star Wars – any incessant talking about it is going to get old unless everyone is 100% like-minded in the office. But I also agree that the kid factor is more loaded of a topic.

      1. Mazzy*

        Agree with the first part but don’t agree kids are a “loaded” topic. Anything can be, such as my yoga obsessed coworker always inviting us to yoga

        1. SoCalHR*

          I don’t think even obsessively inviting someone yoga makes it a loaded topic. If the coworker very heavily implied that she is healthier or more spiritual because she does yoga and the rest of you are blobs of laziness, then that is more loaded. But the whole child-bearing issue, which has been discussed on various posts, is that it *is* a loaded topic, and the fact that the person with infertility is specifically mentioned gives weight to that. Because our society puts value in the ability to pop out children, gifted or otherwise (side note, while at the same time punishing women for it – fun times) or views it as a status to achieve and you’re empty if you don’t get there.

      1. Chocolate lover*

        Years ago when my grandmother passed away, I saw relatives that I hadn’t seen in 15 years. I didn’t even recognize one cousin. I asked her what she was up to these days, and she rolled her eyes and said something like “Well, I didn’t go to college and grad school like YOU did. So not much.” I was completely startled, because I didn’t say anything about those things. I genuinely wanted to know how and what she was up to.

        Turns out my mother had been bragging about me before I got there. I know she’s proud of me, but she apparently got carried away, and made some of my generational peers feel bad for making different choices. Awkward.

        1. Cat mom*

          OMG, yes. In many ways multiple degrees are a choice about what one did with one’s time and interests, not a coronation or sanctification. When someone else preceded me with this, I used to end up making apologies. (“It’s just what I enjoyed doing…I was getting paid for pursuing my interests….it was easier than real work…”)

          My father even asked me to send copies of my various diplomas so he could show people. I can’t even imagine that conversation.

        2. Kj*

          Ugh. I feel you though. I was the favorite grandchild of my grandfather, and he talked about me constantly. At my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary party, random strangers from their Church came up to me and asked which grandchild I was. When. I said, thye declared, loudly and in front of my cousins “oh, you’re the favorite!” It didn’t exactly allow me to be close to my cousins….. I adored my grandpa, but I wish he’d cooled it just a little.

        3. BottleBlonde*

          Oh boy, I can relate to this! I never mention the name of the university I attended unless specifically asked. It’s one of those schools that has an (IMO) unjustified and unwarranted reputation and personally it just feels like bragging to bring it up on my own. I’d guess that most of my coworkers don’t even know where I went to school. My mom is another story though. I’m almost positive every deli slicer in a 20 mile radius from my parents’ house knows I earned a graduate degree from X Fancy University!

        4. Nita*

          Ugh. This sort of thing has ruined my relationship with my cousin. Apparently his grandma made a lot of comments during his school years about how he should be more like me, blah, blah, blah… It only happened in front of me once, and I was too shocked to say anything. If I’d been able to find my words, I would have told the both of them that I wish so much I could be more like him!

      2. Genny*

        Amen. The amount of pressure a gifted child can feel to be spectacularly amazing in all things ever can reach insane levels. No matter how gifted your child is, they aren’t going to be good at everything. Learning how to deal with that, and even enjoy the thing because they like it, not because they’re good at it, is such a useful skill.

        I’m far from being considered gifted, but I was pretty much always the smartest person in my class in elementary school. Even that was enough to make me hesitant to try new things for fear I might not be the best, and every mistake I made felt 1000x more embarrassing because I was supposed to be “the smart one”. It was my entire identity, so when that went away in college, it was really hard to adjust and find other things I valued about myself.

      3. Kelly*

        I have my fair share of Lizzies in my family, mostly his sisters and some of their kids and older grandkids. My dad is the youngest of 7 who was a toddler when his oldest sister got married, and he’s not that much older than some of his nieces and nephews.

        One particular sister is the worst offender. Some of the highlights of her living through her grandkids include forcing guests at her Thanksgiving to watch her high school age granddaughter’s competitive cheer competitions on DVD. It’s less than 5 minutes of the kid performing in a video that’s over an hour long that we had to watch the entire thing so my aunt and cousin, the kid’s mother, could brag about how good the girl’s team is/was. The grandkid in question was also demonstrating some of the moves for us unwilling spectators.

        It’s telling that we don’t hear much detail about the former wonderkund grandkids’ accomplishments now that they are adults and out of high school. The only one we really hear about is the former cheerleader who turned out fairly decent actually. We only hear the vague details about her brother who has dropped out of two college programs and has difficulty holding a job longer than a year and her twin sister the budding animal rights activist. It’s not as much fun to brag about an aimless young man who really has no idea what he wants to do with his life and someone who’s likely to get arrested protesting live animal research. My aunt has now moved on to the two remaining grandkids, whom she’s convinced are going to get full ride scholarships, one because she’s so smart and the other who’s the best baseball player ever.

    3. Anonymosity*

      I’m not a parent, but I’ve been a stepparent of sorts, and This This This. Honestly, most of the parents of young children I know LOVE the chance to talk about anything BUT their kids. Especially the stay-at-home mums. Small people are adorable (though sticky), but gawd they’re horrible conversationalists.

        1. No Mas Pantalones*

          They are the stickiest cats. They are the BEST at sticky. Tremendous. Very, very sticky, believe me.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      And it’s not just TALKING about your kid. It’s BRAGGING about your kid. That gets annoying SO MUCH FASTER. I can listen to someone complain about diapers and daycare for X minutes before I’m done with it. I can listen to someone bragging about their enriched screen-free gifted kid for X/2 minutes before I’m ready to pop my own eardrums.

                1. AKchic*

                  I have recipes. They are yummy for the tummy.

                  Okay, I just giggled out loud at that. Then seriously tried to side-eye myself. I think I’m losing what’s left of my mind.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah the humblebrag is almost more annoying than the straight brag, to be honest. “Oh I have to go pick up little Archimedes, it’s so hard to shuttle him to his Gifted Classes after school but I’ll just have to cram it into my packed schedule!!”

    5. You're Not My Supervisor*

      I agree. I have to be really careful about it especially when my child’s special needs-related things are stressing me out… it’s all I want to talk about some days because it takes up a huge amount of space in my day-to-day thoughts and worries. But nobody at work signed up to be my shrink so I try to keep it to a minimum, unless someone specifically asks.

      1. J.B.*

        I know the feeling! On the other side of it, when you are dealing with a special needs kid the last thing you want is to hear someone bragging about their typically developing “gifted” child. (I mean, they could be gifted for all I know but hyper achieving parents always view their child as gifted.)

        1. Kiwi mum*

          Actually that’s a bit harsh – I thought this might have been about me – it’s clearly from nz and I fit some of the profile. Mindplus is a real group that isn’t about “special talented amazing children” it’s for kids that don’t fit into regular society. I’ve never bragged about my gifted kids, a lot of times it is really awkward, worrying and lonely. I don’t believe it is anywhere on the same scale as special needs but that doesn’t make it easy. There’s a really good chance that Lizzie talks to her work mates because she literally can’t talk to Playcentre or other parents about her kids without coming across as competitive. I talk about my kids at work, I know that as most of the mums have older kids they aren’t threatened by my kids quirks and the child free ones don’t care enough to worry.

      2. OyVey*

        J.B., YES!

        I have two kids with rather bright, more-inquisitive-than-typical-for-age kids who are also struggling with big learning disabilities (one has 3 different ones!). So when office Lizzie brags about how smart little eintein is, I’m thinking “I’m just thankful that this week, for once Thing 1 managed to get an 80% on their spelling test!” and, while office Lizzie is not responsible for my feelings, it is pretty annoying to have to put in the mental effort keeping her bragging separate from my work.

        (Thing 1/2 is a part of a sincere and genuine family joke all of my kids are in on and enjoy, to the extent that children are plotting a family themed Halloween involving Thing 1, Thing 2 the Fish, the Cat, and either Sally or Mother depending on ease of gathering costumes. . . . . . oops, kid story, Sorry!)

        1. Anon for this comment*

          As the mother of a few fairly smart kids with big emotional/neuropsych issues, the kid comparison used to sting to the core. Everyone was so happy to gush about the science fairs and report cards and gifted programs while I was relieved that we’d gone a whole week without one of my children trying to run away or having a panic attack in class (which manifested itself in some disruptive behavior) or whatever. My friends who were pregnant at the same time I was were talking about merit scholarships to place with outstanding engineering programs while I was helping my daughter apply for community college accommodations for the co-morbidity of anxiety with ASD.

    6. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

      Well said. I think mixing it up works well. I don’t have kids. I like hearing what my co-workers kids are up to in passing or once in a while more in-depth (parental dramatics around any sort of sporting team selection is better than most soap operas), but I don’t want it to dominate conversation.

      I have a colleague, that isn’t as extreme as Lizzie, but tends to provide extra context about her absences as they relate to their children, and it’s just not necessary. Give me the basics, not the details.

    7. Tara R.*

      Talking about your kids is like talking about any other subject that people may not care about. I’m 21 & childless and I love hearing about people’s kids! You can tell because I look genuinely engaged and ask a bunch of specific follow up questions if you mention your kids, and will ask about them unprompted. If you mention that your daughter started gymnastics to someone and they say a polite “Oh, is she enjoying it?” and then change the topic, then take that as a cue they’re not interested; but there’s nothing inherently wrong with chatting about your children. It’s the same as talking about books you’ve read or your dog or your roommate from hell, some people will be bored to tears and others will be interested, and if you’re bringing the conversation there it’s up to you to figure out your audience.

      1. Kj*

        I agree with this. I like hearing about people’s kids. And gardens. And home projects. And Star Wars. I’m not interested is sportsball and find conversations that revolve around sportsball to be frustrating to the extreme. Reading the room is an important skill.

        1. Tara R.*

          Yep. I *like* talking sports, and I get annoyed when men change the subject when I walk up because they just assume I won’t be interested. I think people shouldn’t try to steer conversational topics because of assumptions based on age, gender, parent/non-parent status, etc; just try to read people’s cues and you’ll develop a rhythm with that person and get to know what they care about and what they don’t.

        2. Star Nursery*

          Yes, this exactly! It’s a bore to hear too much on any one topic, especially when the boss is bragging/making judgey parenting comments. Which is worse that it’s always about kids or that she sounds a bit judgey?

          I don’t currently have kids yet and I don’t mind hearing some funny stories of course but like any topic I wouldn’t like hearing someone constantly brag and judgey parenting type comments.

  8. CatCat*

    Does Lizzie know about the “bingo” game? If not and it’s behind her back, then it’s not really good-natured.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      It’s better-natured than just complaining, or rolling your eyes behind her back. It doesn’t sound like not reacting at all would be possible, given how annoying and constant it is.

  9. Aphrodite*

    She’s not self-aware if she doesn’t realize how she comes across–as a bore (because who cares?) and a braggart. It sounds like that is not her intent, but unfortunately it is her appearance.

      1. OP*

        Yes, exactly. She’s said in team meetings she knows she can be a bit blunt or awkward. I think her life would be so much richer if she had another interest (I too have 3 kids, but I also dance and do ridiculous kitsch art!). Alison’s advice is spot on.

        1. MissGirl*

          Be careful about adding your judgments about her personal life. Maybe it would help, maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe she’s completely happy but needs a better filter.

  10. WellRed*

    Was putting it in the workers dealing with infertility your way of trying to soften it? If it annoys everyone, say so! Just reading it has me annoyed.

    1. Breda*

      Sometimes saying “this is not just irritating, but sometimes inadvertently cruel, and I know you don’t ever want to be cruel” can be more effective.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Thirding. e.g. “I think it’s a little irritating for me to have my childcare implicitly judged, but I can shrug it off. But Lucinda blanched at the last story and this seems to be tough on her.”

          1. Yvette*

            I would avoid naming names, unless that person has given permission to be named. It smacks of the letter from a while back where the LW was annoyed that a co-worker went to the boss with complaints on everyone’s behalf, but she had done so without their consent.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Definitely. I was trying to give the emotion, where you can opt to shrug off things that mildly bother you but go to bat when you realize they deeply bother someone else. Specifically, when the person is most likely to listen to you.

      1. MLB*

        While I agree it can drive home the point, I wouldn’t focus on it. Because if you do you’re basically blaming a specific person/group of people on being bothered by her child talk, when it really bothers everyone.

        1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

          I’d also add that Lizzie may want to talk to the person who is dealing with infertility directly and inadvertently cause more that person more discomfort.

          As someone who has dealt with primary infertility for years, while people talking about their kids and announcing their pregnancies was hard, it was even more difficult when I thought that other people were trying to protect me from normal life announcements and talk.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Yeah I was somewhat worried that Alison’s language may actually cause Lizzie to want to DELVE DEEPER into this topic, by like, having a discussion with the team about egalitarian parenting or something.

          2. Lora*

            …See, I was having visions of Lizzie wanting to give conception advice to infertile people, and that would just be nightmare fuel. I imagine such a thing to be like the one time I told my colleagues I had a cancer diagnosis: “did you try this herbal remedy?” “just think positive!” “get rid of your cell phone, they’re full of radioactive poison” etc etc. Except…worse. Much, much worse. “Did you try this position?” “say the magic baby prayer before you go to bed with your spouse!” “put the magic herbs where the sun don’t shine!”

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think it’s a very reasonable point to raise. We’ve had many conversations here before about how people can lack sensitivity in those areas.

    3. Rando*

      Agreed! It sounds like this is driving everyone nuts – those with kids and without. Although for your coworker with infertility it is dealing an especially hard blow, I wouldn’t lay it all on that person. Particularly if that persons infertility isn’t a known thing and it would cause your manager to start trying to figure out who it is.

      1. SoCalHR*

        Or particularly if the person’s infertility IS known because then it could sound like this issue is only with that person and you just said it annoys everyone as a cover. It could cause some unwarranted singling out.

  11. CupcakeCounter*

    Talk to her and, if possible, bring the other 2nd in command with you and talk as a team. Alison’s script is great because it really emphasizes perception by others as opposed to “you do this annoying thing”.

  12. Trouble*

    I feel really badly for Lizzie! What she’s doing is obnoxious, but it’s really sad and alienating, too. It’s like she feels that she has to justify all of her parenting decisions and crow about any of her kids’ acheivements because they’re not great unless everyone knows about them.

    I’ll bet it’s deeply frustrating to be her kids, too. The enmeshment is worrying, what is she going to do with her time when they grow up and move out? God forbid they have lives of only ordinary success and stability, what will she be left with to brag about?

    1. Bea*

      My parents still act like I’m outrageously amazing and my life is basic AF.

      But all my cousins (all of them) are reckless drains on their parents. So my aunties also talk about how I’m so fantastic…now that’s stressful and sad to me.

      I mean it’s not the worst feeling since my friends have over barring, meddlesome parents they can’t or won’t break away from. So really, I’m not too concerned her kids are being set up for disappointment of frustration.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        My grandpa had this problem with me, my sister, and my cousins vs his 2nd wife’s grandkids. The sun shown out of our butts according to him but they were lazy, no good, blah blah blah.
        My sister worked at the customer service desk at a grocery store and my youngest cousin kept getting (expensive) advanced degrees because she didn’t actually like jobs. The lazy grand kid who liked to play video games? He is a LEGIT rocket scientist who graduated debt free because of academic scholarships and working multiple jobs all through school.

    2. aebhel*

      Having known quite a few gifted kids, this kind of attitude of ‘Gifted children are Special and meant to do something Important!’ tends to get really, really psychologically destructive for the kids, too. So many of us burn out in epic fashion once we figure out that being really smart is not an automatic path to success, and it’s hard to relate appropriately to people when your whole childhood has been about being Smart!! and Special!! and you grow up–as most of us do–to be a totally ordinary adult.

      1. SoCalHR*

        totally agree… I was mildly in that situation. If I recall, there was an episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon laments about the difference between being a Child Prodigy or a true genius. Its easier to be a child prodigy than to have something special that lasts when you get out into the real world.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It sucks to be a prodigy. The whole point about your talent is that it’s impressive… for someone your age. Add a few years to the age and it becomes shrug-worthy. And there’s nothing the prodigy can do to avoid adding a few years to their age over time.

        1. Snark*

          Yeah. I’ve said it a few times before: I got here early and stayed here. It was lonely. Everyone else caught up. It was a relief.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        I went to a college full of gifted kids and a lot of them really hit a wall when they landed in an environment where their level of achievement was the average instead of a stand-out. I had a history of academic problems and I realize in retrospect that I’m very glad I learned to fail at stuff early in life instead of finding out at 20 that I wasn’t a genius after all. Realizing that I could more or less hold my own with all these smart kids despite being a screw-up for most of my school career was actually encouraging.

        1. Tau*

          I went to a very elite university for my Master’s and I remember that I was warned about exactly this phenomenon before I started – that a lot of people wind up struggling a lot because they couldn’t handle not being top of the class and they didn’t know how to deal with failure. I coped OK with that mostly (and actually on some level quite enjoyed being average among my peers) but I think that was because I had experience with failing lots in a non-academic context during undergrad. I originally wanted to go to said elite university for my Bachelor’s, but in retrospect I’m glad I didn’t get in – I think I’d have handled the whole thing a lot worse coming straight from high school.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          My university had a freshman orientation lecture on this subject–the prof had entered college as the valedictorian (of a high school class of 20) and mentioned that to the guy next to him in his first class.

          Every single person in the class had been valedictorian.

          (And I’m one who got As without studying in high school, meaning that I had zero study habits when I entered this university.)

      4. Nessun*

        +1000 Parents do their children no favours by pushing that “gifted” agenda from childhood. The burnout is real.

      5. Holly*

        Whoo boy. I can relate to this on a significant level and I wasn’t even in the so called “gifted” classes. I can say that the kids who were were… not smarter by the time they got to junior high school and discovered other things.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I helped out with reading, and the teachers were absolutely right about it being a K-2 process: In grade 3, you couldn’t tell the kids who entered school already reading from those for whom it had finally clicked 3 years later.

          I also discovered in 1st grade that the two kids who could effortlessly breeze through a new text when I asked them to read it to me were blank when I asked simple questions about what they’d just read. While kids who struggled to read a simple passage could launch into a complex analysis of what Mr. Fox was really thinking when he said that.

      6. nonymous*

        In my family, being earmarked as “gifted” really meant “you must achieve excellence in All Things and you won’t get any credit for hard work”, which is really not how giftedness really works.

        What I see more commonly is giftedness-language being used as a marketing tool to get parents to fork over $$. A good rule of thumb for whether a kid is truly gifted is if they are in the top 10% of norms, but that doesn’t take into account differences in training. For example, my nephew and cousin’s kid both understood basic algebra at (if x + 5 = 7 what is x?) at 5 years old. But the first was without introduction (he was bored with reciting math, so I was giving him word problems to occupy him) and the latter was with a significant amount of drilling and prompting in the moment. While clearly they are both bright, nephew simply had greater aptitude for math at 5 (which was squashed pretty soundly by his parents, so there’s that).

        There’s nothing terrible in the grand scheme of life if a kid is in the 75th or 80th percentile in any one area, or even all of them. But it’s meeting the parent’s needs to demand transition from 80th to 95th if kiddo isn’t ready. While most of the parents I come across aren’t that driven, I do see a lot who try to soften their description of how much pressure they are applying to little Suzy or Timmy’s life. Developing skills is all about mastering setbacks, but we’d rather tell a narrative that every moment of childhood is a stress-free experience of sunshine and unicorns.

        1. line*

          Where I live (New York City) the city says top 10% but to get into the best gifted programs the kid has to score in the top 1%. Our kid was 98th percentile on his gifted assessment – so sad.

          1. nonymous*

            Yeah, the 10% number comes from the National Assoc. for Gifted Children, but district level funding (regardless of state) is usually limited for all special ed programs and only the most extreme cases get additional support, at both ends of the performance spectrum.

            I grew up with parents that were fairly uninvolved with my formal education, and I thank my lucky stars for some teachers along the way who opened doors for me along with some timely mom-chatter I overheard. To this day my mom believes that parents should wholly defer all educational (and education-related discipline) decisions to the school system. Don’t be like my parents! On behalf of your kid, I thank you in advance.

            1. CMart*

              The school district I grew up in used the 5% mark for placement into the gifted program and a few years ago expanded it to the 10% (seemingly due to parental pressure from the kids who didn’t make the cutoff). It was extremely interesting speaking to my old teachers about what the change meant.

              It’s still an accelerated program with focus on more advanced concepts (analysis vs. summary for example), but the way the teachers have to structure their lessons and the pace of the curriculum has changed dramatically. With the 5% demarcation it was very likely that all of the kids in the program were in fact “gifted” (quick? clever? whatever it is that demonstrates giftedness), but with the 10% there were suddenly many kids who were instead very hard and diligent workers. Both qualities (aptitude vs. effort) can get you high marks on exams, but they mean very different things to students with the separate qualities when put into the same, faster-paced curriculum.

              (To this day I am “quick” but also not a hard worker which is why I am contentedly middlin’ in my medium-paced career which I think is a path many “gifted” kids follow. Many of my peers are both quick and hard workers and are rightfully rockstars in their various industries )

        2. aebhel*

          That’s also true, I think especially in more well-off communities. I skipped a couple of grades and scored consistently above the 95th percentile in standardized tests, but I went to a poor school that didn’t have a ‘gifted’ program, so what mostly happened was me reading in the back of classrooms and ignoring the lesson. At the time, my mom was kind of upset that they hadn’t challenged me more, but seeing the neuroses that some of my peers ended up with, I’m actually pretty okay with how it went down.

          1. pleaset*

            I had serious behavior problems in school until I got into a “gifted and talented” school in 7th grade. Before that I think I was bored.

      7. AKchic*

        Yep. We flame out. Sometimes we flicker into mediocrity. Sometimes we do an epic burn-out and shatter everyone’s hopes and dreams, like they were hoping to ride out coattails to not only fame and glory, but to a better zip code (looking at you, Mom).

        Parents need to stop putting such high (and frankly, unrealistic) expectations on their kids. Yes, give them every opportunity you can, but stop expecting lofty things with strings attached (a benefit to you).

      8. MissGirl*

        I think we’re veering into judging this woman’s parenting choices rather than focusing on the topic at hand. Which, ironically, is the whole point of OP’s letter.

      9. ragazza*

        YUP. It would have been so much better for me to learn about the importance of hard work, risk-taking, persistence, and resilience.

    3. KWu*

      I agree that the examples come across to me as justifying or seeking validation more than being sanctimonious about other people’s choices. There’s a lot of insecurity to deal with as a parent.

      1. MissGirl*

        I agree and I think the above comments are veering into judging this woman’s parenting choices rather than focusing on the topic at hand. Which, ironically, is the whole point of OP’s letter.

    4. Working Mom Having It All*

      Yep. My immediate reaction on reading this is that Lizzie is doing this either because she feels a lot of pressure to be a Good Mom despite the fact that she’s working full time and focused on a career, or that, yes, she feels like her family somehow isn’t legitimate unless they are ACHIEVING and EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT IT.

      Most of which makes me feel sad for her, not really any more annoyed than any of my other colleagues over the years who’ve clearly had anxieties that they needed to vent about at work due to lack of any other outlet.

      I also feel kind of lucky to be of more limited means, because it means my husband and I don’t get our heads turned quite so easily over a lot of the more bourgie elements of parenting (giftedness, the “proper” material for toys to be made from, which fancy parenting approach we’re treating as scripture this week, etc). It’s frankly kind of nice to be excused from this nonsense simply because we can’t afford a live-in nanny or special lessons or items only made from certain materials.

    5. Oranges*

      As someone who’s gifted but had underlying health issues affecting energy. I got the “you could do so much if you just tried!” I hated that crap but at least I didn’t feel like I “had” to be the best in class because I literally couldn’t be the best.

      The thing that bugged me was all the busy work. I understand the lesson. Can we please move on? No? I’ll be over here reading my book then (in the desk, behind other books, reading ahead in the text book, all were acceptable alternatives). You want me not to? That’s just… nope.

    6. FortyTwo*

      Former gifted child here, chiming in to say, “Oh God, YES, the pressure!” I’m pretty sure I’ve lived up to my hype (I got a PhD), but I’m still plagued with impostor syndrome—Did I really deserve the score I got, or was the professor basing it on my reputation? Did I really pass my comprehensive exams, or did they just pass me because they expected me to pass? Were people actually interested in my scholarship, or did I just write a decent abstract? Was my dissertation actually ready, or were they taking pity on me because I’d taken so long and had developed cancer? The cancer has kind of insulated me from career failure, as I’m not even expected to be on the job market now, ad anything I do becomes “inspirational” (which comes with its own issues!). But for most of my life, I’ve been struggling with my own halo.

  13. irritable vowel*

    I think there’s a gendered component here, too, that’s a bit problematic. Would this level of parent-talk be as concerning if it were coming from a man? Or would people be thinking, “wow, this guy is really involved in parenting – that’s great!” I work with a man who’s got two small children and he’s out frequently because one or the other of them is sick and can’t go to daycare, and he stays home with the sick kid instead of his wife. Yet he’s praised for being “actively involved,” while I think this behavior would be judged more critically if he were a woman (“seems like she’s having a hard time balancing work with family responsibilities,” etc.). Working mothers are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Yes, this person’s level of kid-talk is obnoxious, but honestly, the examples you gave sound defensive to me, as if she feels like she needs to justify her parental duties beyond just saying she needs to leave early to pick them up or whatever. Not sure a man would feel the same way, because he’d be praised just for doing it.

    1. Snark*

      Honestly, if a male boss sent me an email like “I have to attend my child’s Playcenter today. It’s not like other child care. Parents have to be involved and commit to the Playcenter Way. We explore children’s abilities through play and teach how to uphold core values. I’ll be back in the office on Monday,” I would roll my eyes so hard I’d check out my own ass. There can be a gendered component, but this shit would make me want to flip a table from any gender.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        Me too. I’ve had male colleagues talk a lot about their kids and it annoys me just as much as when female colleagues do it. Like, I don’t care. At all. I don’t ramble on endlessly about my animals even though they are my life and my camera roll is literally only pictures of them. Let’s get back to work, shall we?

      2. Antilles*

        Agreed about the email. “Playcenter Way”? “Explore abilities through play”? “Uphold core values”?
        If I was on the receiving end of that email, I’d just be glad she said it via email because there’s no way I could hear someone say that out loud without bursting out laughing.

          1. Snark*

            “Why are you posting on AAM instead of working?”

            “I’m exploring my abilities through play.”

            /mic drop, walk out, burn it all down

      3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        “I would roll my eyes so hard I’d check out my own ass” – I’m stealing this. It will make a nice change from “I rolled my eyes so hard I bumped my brain.”

    2. No Mas Pantalones*

      First, I adore your name.

      However, I work with a few men who also do this. One is all about his kids. (Gifted, genius, future Olympian, eventual ruler of the universe). Another, his car. Another is all about his beach house. Another is all about his college band days. It’s all just as irritating.

        1. No Mas Pantalones*

          My boss has a Porsche. He is not Porsche Guy, thankfully. I’ll listen to any story he has to tell; the dude is hilarious! (I finally hit the boss jackpot!)

          1. Snark*

            They’re not all bad! But this guy identified me as something of a car guy and got huffy when, in the middle of his third lecture on what a boxer engine is, I said “I know, Doug, I drive a Subaru.”

            1. Turquoisecow*

              A friend of my husband’s had a Porsche for a while and used to regularly ask him for a lift when the car was in the shop. He was not at all amused when the “s” on the sign went out and my husband pointed out he was now driving a Porch.

    3. Holly*

      It’s totally possible that a male manager would be getting points for being so open about devoting time to his kids. The real problem is how sanctimonious Lizzie’s comments are and really oversharing. I’d also be very irritated if a man was saying this.

    4. Antilles*

      Would this level of parent-talk be as concerning if it were coming from a man?
      For me, the answer is a clear and unquestioned Yes.
      Per OP, she’s bringing them into ‘every single conversation’ and even emails where it’s totally irrelevant.
      I don’t care if it’s your kids, movies, college football, or your underwater basketweaving hobby – this is way over the top and seriously, don’t you have anything anything a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g else to talk about, ugh.

      1. Holly*

        Yes, this very much reminds me of Andy from the Office reminding everyone he went to Cornell every two seconds. Not only is it just plain annoying, but it’s sanctimonious and self serving oversharing.

        1. Anon today*

          Yeah, I think it crossed the line when there is implied judgement of others parenting who are unable to afford a nanny or special daycare. That is going to be problematic coming from anyone.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            One of tricks to talking about your kids is the stories where you/they didn’t get it right.

            Like when smallBoy did “the flop” without checking the surface was actually soft first…

          2. Holly*

            Yes, or that her kids are just plain smarter than others! “Oh how much they enjoy the extra challenge!” Girl, please. Feel free to be proud of your kids but no need to impliedly put down other kids who are not doing the “extra challenge.”

    5. Dust Bunny*

      It’s not that she’s involved, it’s that she provides far more information than is necessary and apparently doesn’t talk about anything else.

      It’s one thing to say, “I’ll be out on Wednesday for a family event”. It’s quite another to say, “I’ll be out on Wednesday because Junior is taking his private kindergarten entrance exams . . . ” and launch into a paragraph. “I’ll be out on Wednesday” is all your coworkers need to know; the rest of it is filler. It’s not significant to anyone but her. (My department is small and we’re all on good terms with each other but, in general, I have no idea what they do with their time off. I mean, I might know the general idea because they mentioned it in normal conversation, but I don’t know the particulars. I know Eileen is staying home on her week off and “doing some stuff” but it would be weird for her to give us chapter and verse on her plans.)

    6. Eulerian*

      I think there can sometimes be a gendered component in that we often hold female bosses to higher standards than male bosses. Not that we should ignore everything from a female boss, just something to be aware of perhaps.

    7. aebhel*

      Nope, this is pretty obnoxious regardless. It’s not that she’s an involved parent, it’s that she keeps assuming that everyone else is as invested in her children as she is.

      (Also, this may be true on average, but it’s not true across the board; my spouse is the one who usually takes off of work to handle kid-related things, and he gets endless amounts of crap about it from his boss and coworkers, partly because it’s a toxic environment and partly because ‘why can’t your wife take care of this??’)

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      I think I recall a letter on here re a dad using a photo of his kids as his linked-in profile, and reacting to gentle criticism of the choice with the comeback that other dads might not be as proud of their kids as he is. This stuff is annoying regardless of the gender of the parent.

      I agree it sounds defensive, but it sounds defensive coming from a dad too. “I won! My kids is going to succeed!”

      Or, reminds me of the vegan dude who liked to comment on people’s lunches.

    9. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

      I think there’s a gendered component to a lot of parent-talk, too, and I think that it can really hurt women at work. I (as an older woman in a young, male-dominated industry) avoid talking about kids like it’s the plague.

      If I need to take an afternoon off, I just say “I’m on PTO this afternoon” — I *never* say that it’s to go see my kid’s school concert or whatever.

      It’s already so hard to fit in in my industry, the last thing I want is to be seen as a mom at work. I want to be seen as a professional. The boss in the OP makes me cringe a bit, honestly.

      1. serenity*

        That may be true in your case, but in this example the boss is bringing kids into every single conversation and also lacking self-awareness in passing judgment on the types of childcare arrangements made my members of the team with much smaller salaries. That’s not “gendered” – that’s problematic whether coming from a male or female boss.

      2. E. Jennings*

        I’ve noticed this from the other perspective — my office is filled with people with young kids, and my perception is that while both take advantage of a company that provides a good amount of flexibility and work-life balance, the men are WAY more open about the fact that they’re going to be out to do kid stuff. (Female coworker with kids: “I’ll be out for a few hours around lunch today.” Male coworker: “Hey, I’ll be out for a few hours at lunch — Millie has a doctor’s appointment!” Female coworker with kids: “I’m going to leave a little early on Thursday afternoon, I’ve got a thing.” Male coworker: “Jimmy has kickball practice and I’m the carpool driver, so I have to leave early Thursday afternoon.”)

        When I’m in ungenerous moods it can strike me, a woman without kids, as, at best, an example of yet another way it’s easier for men, or at worst, somewhat performative and a reminder that Kid Stuff is the ultimate trump card — there’s nothing in my personal life that gets the same amount of automatic deference as Millie’s doctor’s appointment, and even though it’s also true that I usually have a lot more control over when I do important personal stuff, sometimes that rankles.

    10. Miss Displaced*

      I’ve worked with some men who talk nonstop about their kids too. Like, everything they do revolves around the kids/family.

      Kids, pets, family, diets, workouts, religion etc., a little goes a long way!

    11. BlueWolf*

      It sounds to me like she’s unconsciously trying to prove that she can be both a successful career woman and a good mother. It’s like “Look how good I am at BOTH parenting and working! My children are the most gifted and special and I’m the most involved, while also doing awesome in my career!” I’m sure she isn’t doing it intentionally.

    12. AKchic*

      I’d still be irritated and telling the person to be less “informative”. This is all (not so) humblebrag and sanctimonious with a bit of martyrdom tossed in for seasoning.
      A simple “I’ll be out of the office until X date” would suffice. Nobody needs to know about the kid or the kid’s program. They aren’t advertising for the kiddie program. They aren’t getting their tuition price lowered if they successfully refer new customers.

      Tl;dr: an overshare is an overshare regardless of gender.

    13. Emi.*

      Agreed! It’s like the “my boss is having sex in the office” letter from yesterday — this woman needs to cut it out, but also we should be careful against coming down harder on her than we would on a man (a couple threads are veering into what a bad mother she actually is, come on guys), but also she needs to cut it out.

      1. Oranges*

        I think it’s more that a bunch of people said “yeah that gifted stuff kinda messed me up”. We found a common thing that we don’t get to talk about and it kinda… grew. Basically we derailed that thread, sorry. But it’s interesting to me as a formerly “gifted” child how many others have the same/similar experiences.

        1. Emi.*

          Oh, I was thinking more of the “ooh, I just HATE sanctimommies” (which is *very* gendered) and the spinoffs about screens and wooden toys.

    14. Observer*

      Could we please not turn everything into a gender issue. There is no reason to think that any man would be perceived any differently.

      Your examples are not remotely the same – the issue here is NOT that she’s going to pick her kids up, etc. or even that she is saying that she is going to pick her kids up etc. It’s level of additional information and bragging that’s an issue.

      1. Dwight*

        This would be equally annoying and tone deaf to infertile workers if it were a man. Not more or less.

  14. designbot*

    The comparison Beatrice made was spot-on. In my first month at my job my boss made a comment about how if he didn’t make $130k by the time he was 40 he’d kill himself. We’re the same age, not that far from 40, and at the time I made around half of his goal amount. My opinion of him has never recovered. I can only imagine what the parents dealing with infertility think of this, or even people who are more free-range in their parenting styles. God forbid somebody might have a kid with intellectual disabilities and have to spend every day hearing about how brilliant and precious Lizzie’s little darlings are.

      1. designbot*

        yeah he says a lot of things that I’d classify as jawdroppingly awful that other people are able to shrug off and go “oh, that’s just how Fergus is!”

    1. iglwif*


      I once couldn’t get out of Drinks With The Board Members at ExJob, where I was a Senior Manager with all the responsibilities but only about half the salary of VPs, and I can tell you my morale was not improved by hearing two VPs and a board member complaining about maintenance costs on their cottages and their boats.

      You don’t even need to have a kid with intellectual disabilities to get Very Very Tired of hearing other parents gush about how Extremely Gifted their kids are–having a pretty average kid who struggles with some subjects and probably spends too much time on Snapchat is enough ;)

      1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

        Not to mention, what I’ve found is that typically those parents who gush about how gifted their kid’s are, typically have a kid of above average intelligence, but not a truly gifted kid.

        One of my closest friends has a child who is profoundly gifted. I’m talking skipping multiple grades and going to high school at age 11 gifted, versus a kid who is taking a bunch of AP classes. And you know what? She rarely talks about how gifted her kid is. To me she talks about her struggles and fears as it relates to her kid being socially isolated and being surrounded by kids much older, but she’s not busy talking about how smart her kid is.

        1. Birch*

          TBH I’m uncomfortable with talking about some kids being “gifted” and others not. All kids are gifted at something. Some happen to be great at doing school, those kids get labeled “gifted” and it hurts everyone.

          1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

            The term gifted though is an educational definition (as the way I’m using it). Kids who are given the labeled exceptionally or profoundly gifted in an educational context have special needs and IEP’s. It’s not about if someone is good at academics or good at arts or sports. I agree that the term is thrown around too easily and used too broadly when it has a specific meaning, a meaning that is typically not understood very well.

            1. Traveling Teacher*


              This. All kids are special and wonderful in their own way. “Gifted” has a much narrower definition.

              It’s a service to dyslexic kids to have a name for their struggle and clearer paths to successfully learn and grow, for example, instead of being simply labeled as “slow” and told to be quiet and at least look like they’re paying attention. Why not the same for gifted and talented children?

              Being extraordinarily gifted can have extreme effects on a child’s eventual educational/career prospects, too. A high percentage of highly and exceptionally gifted children drop out of high school or university, for example. Identifying those children and giving them differentiated or different tasks that are suited to their individual needs is a key service that is underwhelmingly funded and sometimes not even known or thought of, as Anon Today so aptly points out.

      2. Persimmons*

        I once heard a VP complain that the waiters at a cocktail hour networking event were “too aggressive” and he couldn’t have a conversation without shrimp being “shoved in his face”. I made a very weird bird-like noise that was half sobbing and half cackling.

      3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        True. Of course, you can get extremely tired of hearing other parents gush about their Extremely Gifted Kids even if your own kids are G/T, too.
        It’s less the characteristics of the kids, and more the level of gush and the sanctimosity. That really feels less like it’s about the kids at all and more about how successful the parent is at parenting.
        Your example about the VPs is a great one, since this kind of parenting talk gets reinforced if you’re surrounded by similar parents. Which I bet she is, in places other than work.

    2. Couldn't agree more*

      This. As someone who has dealt with infertility I recall how difficult it was to hear constant talk of kids. Particularly if you want to be distracted from your personal situation at work. Most of the comments have focused on the annoyingness of the “gifted” part but for those really fighting infertility, it brings up a significant amount of pain.

  15. SigneL*

    Sooner or later, Lizzie will learn about the bingo game (one way or another) and probably be humiliated. Really, seriously, talk to her now.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I do wish there was a way OP could let her in on that because it would really drive home what the problem is and how she’s coming across in a single sentence – but I can think of NO WAY you could share this that wouldn’t make her super defensive and probably annoyed with you for presumably being a part of it.

    2. OP*

      It’s not formalised – just a murmured ‘BINGO’ between one or two of us leaving a meeting – but I agree it would be hurtful if overheard. I won’t be participating any more.

  16. NerdyKris*

    Am I the only one who finds “No screens” in 2018 to be a bit future blind? Obviously make sure they’re engaged in non electronic activities, but sheltering children from becoming familiar with tablets and computers at this point might as well be going full Amish. They’re going to need that experience just to take part in the world when they grow up. Nobody is going to have any patience for a young adult who fumbles with common technology like they’re your grandparents. It’s the opposite of helping your children succeed.

    1. teacher's kid*

      not necessarily, i think, if her kids are really young. my mother teaches preschool and has had problems in the past few years where some childrens’ motor skills are under-developed enough to the point where they had trouble grasping pencils/crayons/etc. because they were used to playing on tablets, etc. i don’t have kids and that is just one person’s observation but if i had kids, i’d definitely take that into consideration.

        1. teacher's kid*

          of course, i definitely see your point though! now & in the future it’ll be super important for children/young adults to understand technology given its huge & growing prevalence.

      1. aebhel*

        Huh. I guess maybe if the kids only play on tablets, but we’re pretty lax about screen time and my 4yo has no trouble grasping writing utensils (I mean, her handwriting is awful, but she’s a lefty. And also, you know, four).

          1. Observer*

            In theory, that may be true. But I know a number of lefty’s and I’ve yet to meet one with a decent handwriting.

            1. Elspeth*

              You haven’t met my hubby, then! He has exceptionally beautiful handwriting and he’s a lefty. And also was lucky that he wasn’t punished for writing left-handed.

              1. LiveAndLetDie*

                Yeah, I am a lefty and have been offered money to do some handwritten work before (someone watched me taking notes in class in college and thought my ‘I’m writing in cursive because it’s faster’ handwriting was pretty enough to want it on their wedding invitations).

          2. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

            In principle, no, but it appears to be a thing. I know I had to figure out for myself that I should be placing the paper at a different angle than what works for right-handers. It’s not simply a mirror image thing that we can pick up from watching right-handers (like some other tasks).

            That said, though, I have pretty neat handwriting, but I also hold the pen way too tight — I get wrist pain after handwritten exams and such. I hear that you’re “supposed” to write from your elbow rather than small hand movements, but I have no idea how that would leave my handwriting at all legible.

          1. Oranges*

            It actually is harder to write left handed because our language goes left to right. I’ve noticed that left-handers usually have to contort their hands to not smudge their writing/be able to see their writing(?). There is a story that DiVinci was left handed and he wrote back to front because he found that easier.

            1. LiveAndLetDie*

              LOL it’s not exactly like righties are on motorboats while lefties are swimming or anything. I’m a lefty, the hardest part about it is when people get weird about it.

        1. Indoor Cat*

          My handwriting was always atrocious (it is literally unreadable now). The only way I knew how to make it legible was to “draw” the letters. Like, as if they were font: kid-styled calligraphy or bubble letters or whatever. Which meant either my writing looked beautiful but took forever–I’d spend literally an hour on a paragraph– or I wrote at a reasonable pace and the end-result was a series of diagonal lines only decipherable to me.

          I still don’t know exactly why this is; I guess somehow other students wrote by hand using the language part of the brain and I wrote using the visual / drawing part of my brain? I could read just fine! Anyway, my 2nd grade teacher threw in the towel by, like, October and gave me one of those ‘AlphaSmart’ things. Like a digital typewriter, basically; they couldn’t connect to the internet, they were just for word processing. Solved the problem. Technology to the rescue!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        My first kid did arts and crafts happily. The second climbed things, which is when I learned that those arts and crafts develop the fine motor skills you then cross-apply to writing.

    2. bunniferous*

      Once they get a bit older they will have school exposure. When kids are really little it is not great for developing brains. But schools nowadays all seem to have ipads or the equivalent.

    3. Baby Fishmouth*

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to limit screen time to an extent, or to make sure that what kids are watching/doing is educational or at least appropriate, but the kids will have to encounter screens at school. I think all schools in North America at least have computers, and many are implementing iPads/Tablets into learning. When they get older, all assignments will have to be typed up. It’s advantageous to make sure your kids at least know the basics at some point.

      And for goodness sake, if the school’s not doing it, teach your kids to type!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        And for goodness sake, if the school’s not doing it, teach your kids to type!

        And to write in cursive, because someday they will be required to have a signature and they WILL NOT KNOW WHAT THAT IS.

          1. Nancy*

            Yeah, but it kind of harks back to the days of illiteracy when people just put an “X” on a document and it was witnessed and attested to by others who also had to sign.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            There is a story about a family member of mine who didn’t learn cursive, and just printed his name when a signature was required. Someone Official refused to accept it, telling him they needed a signature, not his printed name. He said “This is how I sign it. I can draw lines between the letters if that makes you happier.” Which he ended up doing.

            1. Anonymosity*

              Mine is very squiggled–my legal name, even with first name reduced to an initial, barely fits on any lines. It’s loooooooooong. I just try to make the squiggle the same way every time.

              1. Turquoisecow*

                I had a really legible signature for my name that looked like my name and also took about 2 seconds to write. I was rather proud, as it took me a while to develop. Then I got married, and my married name is longer than my maiden name, and my signature is my first name, the first letter of my last name, and some squiggles.

                We got some checks as wedding gifts that were written out to both of us, so I had to endorse them with my new name. It was then I wondered if those girls practicing their signatures with their crush’s name back in middle school were on to something.

          3. soon 2be former fed*

            I don’t get how a printed name is a signature. Just the other day, I completed a form with two lines, one said print name here, the other said sign name here.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Mine looks like a seismograph, but it started as a cursive rendition of my name and evolved (or regressed) from there.

          2. Isabel Kunkle*

            This. Also, I just make an X myself for signatures, or scribble–these days, anything where they used to care about handwriting matching or looking coherent, they also care enough to check ID in other ways. And digital signatures (“type in your name and check this box”) are super common too.

            Cursive is like knitting or making your own pasta from scratch: if you have the skill and like it, cool, but it’s got no relevance today, certainly not enough to be a required subject.

              1. Isabel Kunkle*

                Well, q.v. “if you have the skill and like it, cool.” (And I should have said “no relevance to the necessary parts of life”–like knitting/pasta making/D&D, naturally it has relevance to people who share the hobby.) But it’s absolutely possible to get by in life never using it, without any special accommodation.

            1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

              It’s actually really important for reading primary source historical documents rather than having them restated, maybe by another person or author with biases. So it’s at least important to read cursive! I plan on teaching my progeny.

        1. Chocolate lover*

          I work with college students, some of them don’t know what cursive is. So many things are done electronically, they don’t have to sign much. And as CBF mentioned, signatures aren’t always cursive anyway.

        2. Baby Fishmouth*

          Honestly, the most useful thing in learning how to write in cursive in this day and age is… learning how to read cursive. I don’t write in cursive myself but I can at least read it when necessary.

          1. pleaset*

            Yeah, that’s the only value in my life of knowing cursive. I don’t write it anymore.

            It’s like reading fraktur – not a bad skill if it comes up.

        3. pleaset*

          I’m over 50. I guess I can write cursive (I learned it), but haven’t done so for more than 3 decades. Including my signature – it’s been printed in a loose/informal style from my last year of high school.

          I make pretty good money, have three degrees (two from Ivy League schools), etc. Perhaps it’s my privilege that let’s me “get away” with not using cursive, but I think cursive is not important nowadays. At least for people of my class in society.

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            “People of my class”…what class would that be? I’m educated and “privileged”, I guess, and use cursive frequently. Not sure what the point of your comment is, but it is coming across as pretentious.

            1. pleaset*

              I’m saying that if not being able to not know cursive might signal that the person is illiterate (which other commenters have pointed out), thats’ something that wealthier/more overtly educated people can get away with, while poorer people might now.

              I’m not trying to be pretentious – I’m trying to point out my privilege.

              It’s like how a wealthy tech bro can get away with wearing a t-shirt to a meeting that a much lower level employee could not.

        4. Indoor Cat*

          My signature, I kid you not, is two bumps and a horizontal line. With a single dot somewhere near the end where the “i” might theoretically be.

    4. Book Badger*

      Lizzie’s kids sound very young/preschool age. Given that most childcare tips I’ve seen have been “no screens before a certain age” (usually something like 3 or 5) or “limit screen time to X hours per day” but never “no screens, period,” I don’t think she’s planning on limiting it forever.

      The wooden toys thing bugs me, though. What, do stuffed animals limit imagination?

      1. Holly*

        Yeah, the wooden toys sounds more like sanctimonious parenting blog pseudoscience. Maybe it was in Goop.

      2. PB*

        I’m thinking this means wood instead of plastic, which wouldn’t preclude stuffed animals. I’m not sure if I’m right about that, though.

        1. Savannnah*

          Yeah, it’s not no stuffed animals- it’s that wooden toys, in place of plastic ones, are way less likely to be passive toys, which use electronics to entertain kiddos, instead of active toys, which make the kids use their brains more.

          1. Observer*

            That’s nonsense. Some of the best active toys are plastic. Lego is GREAT. I don’t know the names of all the toys I’ve seen, but seriously, the idea that you need a rule like “wooden toys” to make sure that kids get toys that are not passive it just totally not reality based.

            1. Indoor Cat*

              LEGOS are the best toys! We had so, so many legos. It was great.

              We also had railroad tracks, hotwheels tracks, wooden blocks, jenga blocks, and “bricks” made out of cardboard. Oh, and a tiny tent and a tiny indoor trampoline. For a solid 2-3 years, playing with my brother and the neighbor kids meant building elaborate fantasy places for various-sized “citizens” (lego people, beanie babies, barbie dolls, Power Ranger action figures) and acting out some cinematic drama for all of them. Often we had recurring characters.

              Every single scene ended with monsters SMASHING the entire city TO THE DEATHHHH.

              Best game ever.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yeah, that’s what I got… now for environment, can see point, but well designed plastic toys are just as good for development (sometimes better).

          If it was “we try to be plastic free for green reasons” that’s one thing. “We only give (child) wooden toys” comes across as judgy as all hell.

        3. Ender*

          Yeah usually when people say wooden toys they mean instead of electronics, not as the only type of toy ever.

          1. Observer*

            Whenever I’ve heard “only wooden toys” it was instead of PLASTIC toys, not electronics. Given that she’s also specifying “no screen time” the electronics bit is pretty much already covered.

        4. Turquoisecow*

          A relative of my husband’s was insistent on no plastic toys for her daughter — I think it was an environmental concern more than anything.

          1. Anonymosity*

            That sounds way fun. We played outside–tons of mud pies, building forts out of whatever we could find, treehouses, playing in the woods and swimming in this little stream off the creek, etc. God, it was great.

    5. Bea*

      They’re used in school now. I saw them in a niece’s classroom years ago. So they’re not going to be stunted unless you’re also homeschooling with that kind of philosophy! They’re also playing at friend’s houses presumably. I had limited electronics but my friends had all the best stuff, my tech skills are on point!

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        My son has been using Chromebooks for the last three years of school, and was using iPads prior to that. All his homework is on Chromebook except for the occasional math sheet.

    6. Holly*

      It depends. I’d get a doctor’s recommendation. I worry that kids can become addicted to screens, and some parents may find the only way to prevent that is an outright ban. I would prefer to try some sort of middle ground if possible when a parent as sometimes you need to have your children enjoy a movie while you do other things.

    7. Ender*

      There’s plenty of evidence to show that kids do better with no screen time until age 2. After that it’s recommended you have a limited amount of controlled screen time.

      I personally, being less than perfect, didn’t make it to 2. But I do control my kids screen time and choose what they watch / which apps they use.

      I think it’s a perfectly valid parenting choice to decide on no screen time at all and I don’t think it’s like “going full Amish”. Even “going full Amish” is a valid parenting choice too. It really doesn’t take that long to pick up computer and tablet skills so I highly doubt it’s going to hold them back significantly.

      Basically so long as people are not actually abusing their kids, it’s best to let people decide how to raise them themselves and not criticise over relatively small things like how much if any screen time they have.

      1. Academic Addie*

        I agree with this. I spend a significant chunk of my day doing computer science, whether it’s programming or data management or whatever, and I routinely train students with really limited exposure to computers (we live in a poor area) to get used to programming within a semester. I’m pretty lax with my toddler’s screen time, so long as she’s getting plenty of outside time and time playing with other toys, books, crayons, etc. Critical and mathematical thinking is far harder to instill than “swipe left”.

      2. Genny*

        I also question how much a toddler is really learning about tech if they’re playing basic games on the computer. I mean, I enjoy mindless games too, but they don’t really teach me how a computer, tablet, or phone works. It just teaches me how to click through brightly-colored screens with moving graphics.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          Screens are a great way to get peace and quiet in public. Lots of parents hand their kids tablets. Kiddos stay quiet and in place. No screaming or running into things! Win-win for everyone.

    8. Friday*

      You’re not, in fact it’s usually a part of the curriculum in elementary school. My kinder was expected to know how to navigate some educational games on a school tablet during quiet focus time.

      1. pleaset*

        I wouldn’t like that at my kid’s elementary school.

        I think quiet time (in school and in general) is when it’s most important to off-screen, and learning to relax doing nothing other than thinking, or using only simple objects, would prevent a lot of the problems teens and adults have with smartphones.

    9. anon today and tomorrow*

      I don’t have kids, but I have family and friends who are teachers and they tend to see that kids who had mostly screen interaction from a very young age are behind those who didn’t have as much screen interaction or who had screen and non-screen interaction. They’re seeing these problems in a range from preschool to elementary school aged kids.

      I don’t think it’s particularly bad for kids who are not in school yet or in preschool to have no screens. I’m in love with technology, but I do think teaching a reliance on it at a young age prevents the development of non-tech skills which isn’t great.

    10. Bethany D*

      IMO it depends on the ages; six would be fine, but sixteen is unreasonable. There is a growing body of research suggesting that early screen time impacts neurological development (exactly how & how permanent the effects are, we’re still figuring out) and there are some truly frightening psychology-based addiction-designs hidden in common apps and games. So, choosing to drastically restrict a young child’s screen time can be a reasonable response to those concerns. Phasing more access in as they get older is important too since, as you say, being tech-savvy is a crucial skill to have in modern society – but I doubt my children will be materially harmed by waiting until they had a chance to develop some critical thinking skills and inner self-esteem first.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, the kids in question are clearly closer to 6 than 16, so the whole “poor deprived kids” thing is a bit of a red herring.

        If that’s the worst parenting choice this (or any) mom makes, the kids will be fine.

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      I recall decades ago the excuse “They need to know how to get information from a screen!!” and really, it’s not that hard to do. Maybe if they spent their formative years being home-schooled from paper books on a remote sheep farm, but even then I would expect someone to pick up the basics quickly, and then choose their point on the “Really, you can switch off the ring tone without going through a menu?” curve.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Interesting trivia–Looking at 2D pictures and rendering them into the 3D things they represent IS a brain skill that you develop with practice over time, in cultures where this skill is useful and valued. Thus picture books for tots. If you’re trying to do adult education (e.g. posters on how to prevent guinea worm) in an area where books are rare, then you have to think carefully about the illustrations you use and how to make them useful.

        One of my fellow PC volunteers described passing around photos of her home, and realizing that her host family could interpret anything with people, but without that clue they often wouldn’t turn the photo the right way. It’s a skill we develop through teaching and practice, not an inborn ability.

        1. Ender*

          I’ve heard of this before. I think I read it was discovered when someone gave a tribal chief a painting of himself. This tribe had no history of 2D paintings or pictures and they didn’t have a clue what it was. Apparently he pointed at his nose and said “is that a camel?”

          I’ve always wondered if it was a really bad picture though ;)

    12. Nita*

      Nah. I think it’s fine to go no-screens, or low-screens, until a certain age. I didn’t get anywhere near a computer until I was 14. Didn’t take long to catch up, and I don’t feel like I missed out. The social skills kids are learning when young, though… once you miss the window for learning those, it closes, and they’re not comfortable in social situations unless there’s a screen around. It’s also really hard for young kids to peel themselves away from
      a screen and do something active. I’d want them to develop some interests in the “real world” before diving into the digital one.

      I’ve also seen screen addiction with family enough times that I’m pretty freaked out. I have relatives who have trouble with basic life skills like conflict resolution, basic home cleaning and repair, etc., and all they want to do all day is play on their phone or push buttons. Mold on the ceiling? Who cares. The floor is covered in grime? Who cares. The kid is running with a bad crowd? Who cares. The computer is working, so it’s all good.

      Then again, it’s pretty individual. Maybe my family is prone to screen addiction, the way others can be prone to substance addiction. My son’s best friend gets a lot more screen time than my kid does, and it doesn’t seem to be turning him into a socially awkward couch potato.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Anecdatum: Someone my husband worked with in college had never touched a computer before he arrived and his roommate suggested that he apply for one of the computer room jobs. So he borrowed one to try out actually typing and looking at things before the interview, got the job, switched to a CS major, and became one of the supervisors and go-to trouble-shooters.

      2. Merci Dee*

        My ex-MIL had a spell where the time she spent on internet chat rooms caused some very serious problems for her family.

        My ex’s grandfather died and left his house and property to his son, my ex-FIL. The grandfather was described to me as a bit of a grumpy codger, and he didn’t believe that the government should be able to make him pay taxes on his own house in order to live there; consequently, he didn’t pay his property taxes for the last 10 or so years of his life. When the property passed to my ex-FIL, he got a bill for all of the outstanding property taxes owed, with a note saying that if the back taxes weren’t paid by a certain date, the property would be put up for public auction to cover the taxes. The ex-in-laws worked pretty hard to get the money together to pay what was owed, and finally had it together the last day that they could make a payment. Ex-MIL was off work that day, so she was going to take the money to the courthouse to make the payment . . . . except she decided to sit down for “five minutes” to see what was going on in her favorite chat room before she left . . . . . and spent the rest of the day lost in chat. Ex-FIL came home after he got off work, walked into the house, and asked if she had the receipt for the money she’d dropped at the courthouse. And that’s when she had to admit that she’d been chatting for 10+ hours, and hadn’t taken the money by. And the courthouse was closed. I suspect that’s the closest that my ex-FIL ever came to physical violence, though I know there was a pretty heavy shouting match that went on. Next day, ex-FIL tried to take the money to the courthouse to pay the back taxes, but they wouldn’t accept the payment because it was late. His very next stop was to the internet provider, where he closed their internet account. And then the stop after that was at the grocery store so pick up a load of boxes to take to the house, because they had to move out before the date set for the public auction.

    13. Cat Herder*

      We had a “no toys with a chip” rule for our kid for quite a few years. Mostly because we could not stand the noise. There was one talking Geoffrey the Giraffe that was just hysterical, so that toy was allowed to talk.
      I would say, NerdyKris, that there’s plenty of time for kids to learn about common technology and they get up to speed really quickly, they don’t need it at all while they are young. Our kid did not get a smart phone until middle school and we severely restricted its use; computer time also very restricted (= close to nonexistent, only for school work and then only out in the kitchen not in own room). I can assure you that the kid had no problem learning everything needed to be very comfortable with tech, and is now highly attached to phone, laptop, headphones, social media etc. (Going to college, can make own decisions about that sort of thing.) We’ve observed this with other kids who were undigital either by parent dictat or family’s lack of funds for such things.

      1. Ender*

        Oh those toys are soooo annoying. I brought in a rule a while ago that we’d only have two noisy toys in the playroom at any time (we rotate toys). Most of them do nothing for kids development either – they just press a button then sit back and watch instead of actually interacting with anything.

      2. Nita*

        I’m still trying to enforce that rule! We have a few electronic toys that are legit great and not irritating, but most of them are awful. There’s nothing like a toy car starting to sing at 2 AM, or a screaming contest at dinner once the kids discover that their new doll is activated by loud noises.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        I didn’t have a computer at home until high school, and used them only occasionally in school before then, just like almost everyone else born in the same year as me. I learned to use computers and smartphones and technology just fine. I don’t see why today’s kids would be any different.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Late 80s, my niece was a toddler, her grandparents bought her a rocking horse. Six adults admired the toy without noticing the button you could hit to make it play annoying electronic sounds. Niece found it in seconds.

        1. Daisy Avalin*

          After the age of about 3, I had a mostly* blanket rule of no noise making toys, because the shrill voices/music drove me mental. I have an extremely low tolerance for those sorts of noises though, and often require Child to wear headphones to watch/play computer videos/games for the same tinny noises.
          *Child did have a LeapPad reading toy which I was happy with, because she wasn’t that interested in it, she preferred real books!

          It’s amazing how there’s no batteries available for the toys, but always some for the tv remote that adults need, though!

    14. Akcipitrokulo*

      I think extremes in most areas aren’t great… practically every waking hour with square babysitter bad, no screens at all… meh, not my choice, but being evangelical about it isn’t great (and just turns it into forbidden fruit anyway).

    15. pleaset*

      “Am I the only one who finds “No screens” in 2018 to be a bit future blind?”

      Under age 3 it’s probably better to have zero screens.

      I don’t think missing screens even up to age 5 or 6 would hold kids back.

      But at some age above that, for sure the kids should be learning to use screens, as you suggest

      My boy is six BTW.

      1. pleaset*

        “So, choosing to drastically restrict a young child’s screen time can be a reasonable response to those concerns. Phasing more access in as they get older is important too since, as you say, being tech-savvy is a crucial skill to have in modern society – but I doubt my children will be materially harmed by waiting until they had a chance to develop some critical thinking skills and inner self-esteem first.”


    16. logicbutton*

      Well, hardly anyone here learned those skills before adolescence ourselves, and look at us now. Anyway, we’re talking about stuff like tablet navigation, right? And that kind of thing is designed to be as intuitive as possible.

    17. Turquoisecow*

      It depends on the age. I think it’s been said that for kids under two it’s wise to avoid television, because they literally can’t distinguish between reality and fantasy, and TV doesn’t help that. My sister-in-law has a three year old and a two year old, and they watch a single tv show (Daniel Tiger) and a couple of videos that are age appropriate, and nothing else, and I absolutely think that’s a great decision. It’s tempting to plop the kids in front of the TV because then they’re quiet and still and you can read an email without worrying about what happened in the .5 seconds you took your eyes off them, but that young, it’s not a great idea.

      However, a cousin of my husband’s was not allowed to watch tv or use the internet until he was 13, and his mom actively prevented his (news-obsessed) relatives from talking about current events around him. I think that’s a little over the line, but I don’t know where the line is. I think, like a lot of things, it’s very kid-dependent and some kids can handle things before other kids.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        The recommendation for no screen time for kids under 2 is highly controversial, and there’s no specific reasoning attached to it beyond “they don’t really need that so it’s probably best to minimize/skip it”.

        My husband and I both work in television, so we knew that there was simply no way our child was going to magically avoid exposure to “screen time”, or even that it would make real sense for us to limit it in an absolute across the board type of way. For one thing, we need to watch television for our work, and it’s virtually impossible to confine that to when our kid isn’t present, and for another thing… is the thing we spend almost every waking second of both of our lives working on truly so evil that its name must be spoken in whispers lest it corrupt our child forever?

        We do screen time in moderation. Our kid is fine, if perhaps a little prone to chewing on the remote. I have heard anecdotally that some kids given unlimited access to TV/videos get bratty about it, and if that starts to happen we’ll probably cut back.

        1. Anon Gamer*

          “…no screen time for kids under 2 is highly controversial, and there’s no specific reasoning attached to it beyond “they don’t really need that so it’s probably best to minimize/skip it”.

          Um, what? What about the fact that children under two (and sometimes older) cannot distinguish reality from fantasy? The fact that Skype and video chat is with a real, interactive person was a major factor in pediatricians lowering the “recommended” age threshold for screens. That’s just one example. For another, very young children need to look at and interact with real humans to understand the range of emotions and interactions that humans have. Their developing eyes can be harmed by screens at close range. And on and on.

          Look, I work in video games, an equally villified profession and hobby, but there are valid reasons we don’t have our children exposed to video games or screens in general when we can possibly help it. Screens certainly aren’t evil, but there’s so much more opportunity for children’s little brains to grow if they aren’t hampered by the antics of jumping animals in a box. They’ll never be hurt by no/very limited screen time, whereas they can definitely be harmed by too much. We work to make technological interfaces as easy to interact with as possible (literally, that is a major component of the work we do!) If they go in to programming, they can learn it just as well in high school as in elementary. Better they spend that time running around outside, reading paper books, and using their own imaginations rather than absorbing a premade story.

    18. CDM*

      “Am I the only one who finds “No screens” in 2018 to be a bit future blind? ”

      It’s also abelist against kids and adults who need technology for augmentative and alternative communication. Families with children who need tablets and software to communicate due to their disabilities (often invisible) get a lot of snarky comments from observers about their parenting “choices”.

      My brother and father had fine motor grip problems long before home computers. We used technology to mitigate the frustration of my son’s fine motor problems. If he already knows how to spell his spelling words, writing them three times each is a pointless exercise in frustration, not a teaching tool. It’s just as likely that some kids prefer technology because of their fine motor problems as it is that their fine motor problems are a result of using technology.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        It’s tough, because the American Academy of Pediatrics (a source a lot of parents trust in terms of general guidelines for good/safe/scientifically accurate parenting) recommends no screen time before age two.

        My read of their recommendations, as someone who takes an interest in this stuff (in general, not only because I have a kid under 2) is that the recommendation is more in response to a decade or so ago, when companies were falling over themselves to release supposedly “educational” videos that made wild claims about a their supposedly proven benefits in making kids more intelligent. The AAP issued a recommendation that no particular type of screen time is of special benefit to infants.

        Then zealous parents interpreted that to mean that exposing your child to a screen of any kind before 2 will ruin them forever. And thus my friend Seth cannot play Threes on his phone if his toddler is around.

        We, on the other hand, are earnest devotees of the Baby Shark youtube video at our house. Our kid is fine. Shrug.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Had my first child in the 90s, and the “Buy this video and it will make your child into a GENIUS! Don’t delay, because other parents are souping up their offspring even as you watch this!!!!” thing was very strong in marketing. And annoying. AAP was definitely responding to that.

        2. Observer*

          The AAP is not based on any evidence whatsoever, and they are beginning to back off. Also, a lot has changed which means that some potential concerns no longer exist, and others that no one would have thought of then probably do exist now.

          I have never seen anything that really supports that idea that a child’s development will be seriously hindered by the use of screens, but I have also never seen anything to indicate that the use of electronics is especially useful for very young children (assuming no developmental issues.)

    19. Lora*

      Um. Am an Old, who grew up before the internet was a thing. Well, as I understand it, the Internet existed but was in fact DARPANet and not available to the public. My dad had a computer at his job, which took up the whole basement of the building and eventually, when I was in grade school, they gave him a TRS-80. We did not have a computer at home because nobody really did. Got access to a very simple word processor in high school, and that was my first computer experience. There was a small teevee in my parents’ bedroom, on which my mother watched Masterpiece Theater through lots of static after I went to bed; in school they would turn on the teevee for news announcements, such as having us watch the State of the Union address as part of history /social studies class.

      Am now engineer who does a lot of scripting, data analytics and stats, as well as modeling. My grandfather, before he died at age 95, knew more about coding and the internet than most 25-year-olds. It’s not actually that hard to learn, if you want to learn it. The trick is you have to want to learn.

  17. Dr. Pepper*

    If you have the standing to kindly bring this up and suggest that she rein it in, go for it. But also be prepared for it not to work. She’s clearly heavily invested in her children and her idea of parenting, to the point where I’d say it’s akin to a religion for her. If you don’t share her beliefs/practices, I’d say ignore it completely. Mentally roll your eyes and disregard absolutely everything she says about her kids and parenting. People that invested in something ultimately don’t care that you don’t care or that they may be hurting someone else’s feelings. I’ve worked for/with people with other off-putting pet subjects and obsessions that I didn’t share or agree with, and I would just respond with a nod and vague non-committal noises, then change the subject as soon as possible.

    If her boss won’t shut it down, then there’s not much else you can do about it. Tell her about it nicely so she is definitely aware, but after that it’s up to her. She’s just really, really annoying in this particular way and that’s that. If she wants to undermine herself and annoy everyone, it’s not up to you to stop her. This is just how she is and this is a thing she does. Skim the stupid overly explanatory emails, give her a blank look when she goes on and on about her precious darlings, murmur a vague “mm, yes” and then go on with life.

    1. OP*

      Mmm, I’m wondering if I might hold on to Alison’s script and wait until there’s really clear example. I think Beatrice was the right person to have the conversation. At least there is no urgency in dealing with this!

  18. MissGirl*

    Maybe I’m conflict adverse but my knee jerk reaction was not to touch this with a ten-foot pole. She’s your boss and kids can bring out a strong defensive reaction. Whatever you choose, I wish you well.

    1. Holly*

      Yes, but as her manager it’s important feedback. And assuming she’s otherwise professional, she *should* be able to understand that it’s a critique about oversharing and not about changing her parenting style, which is her own decision.

    2. Hmmmmm*

      That was 100% my thought as well. I can’t imagine someone who’s constantly putting forth such strong opinions on any topic, particularly kids, responding to criticism about it well.

    3. BRR*

      At first, I thought ignoring it was a fine option. But it sounds like it’s drifted to impacting work and since the LW is second in command I think they have a responsibility of trying to broach the subject. I do agree that kids can bring out defensive reactions so I think the LW needs to use some judgement there.

      1. OP*

        Thanks, BRR. For the moment I’m going to (a) stop participating in anything undermining like the bingo, and (b) sit with Alison’s script and look for a relaxed opportunity to use it. There is no urgency after all.

  19. Holly*

    OY. I cannot roll my eyes enough. As someone who plans to have kids, adores kids, I would absolutely feel uncomfortable with her side brags – and I have plenty of thoughts about labeling some children as “gifted” early in age/overbearing parenting, but she certainly has the right to her own opinions. It’s the sharing that’s so tone deaf and so unnecessary.

    I totally agree with Allison’s comment, but maybe if you also wanted to talk about it with Beatrice again you can assume that she had told her so it’s not accusatory – like “I know we already discussed this, but it’s still happening and is creating issues with the team – what should we do about it, can you talk to her again?”

    1. PB*

      Yes. Also, is Beatrice aware of Lizzie interrupting a training to show the presenter pictures of her kids? I can’t imagine a manager being okay with that…

      1. JamieS*

        Since that was during an “about me” part of the training I don’t think it was that inappropriate unless the “about me” was supposed to be something about work and not an ice breaker or something similar.

  20. AnonAttorney*

    I struggle with this as an infertile person myself. My co-workers routinely devote tons of time talking about their kids. I don’t blame them since I kept my struggle with infertility private and they likely have no clue. But sitting through interminable baby talk in a staff meeting really really sucks. If they knew they’d probably keep the talk to a minimum. But 1) it’s the office culture and I’m still new enough not to want to make waves and 2) I’m still struggling to explain the situation to others without breaking down in tears – not great workplace behavior. They’re my coworkers, not my therapist!

    1. Ender*

      There are two women in my office who are struggling with infertility. It’s very common in my office to talk about kids. I want to be sensitive to their feelings but I’m struggling to find the line of what is acceptable to talk about with these coworkers. Should I just not mention kids at all ever? What if someone else brings up something like childcare costs etc (a common topic) – should I just not respond and change the subject?

      The nature of our work is that we don’t have a lot of conversations at our desks and we all usually eat in the canteen in a different building – so a group of us will walk over together, eat together and leave. So I can’t control the conversation entirely as it’s rarely a 1-1. Also we don’t tend to talk about work at lunch at all, so conversations tend to be about what else is going on in your life – which when you have kids is pretty much all-consuming kid stuff, so I’d find it hard to participate in “what’s happening this weekend” conversations without mentioning my kids.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        As someone who dealt with that, it’s not that we want you to never mention your kids (for most of us, on most days, though bad days are always going to be different). We just don’t want every conversation to center on them. There’s a big difference between “My son has a softball game this weekend” and a ten-minute monologue on little Fergus’s softball prowess, and how you’ve spent so much time working with him, because children are our future and family is everything, and that reminds me, Jane, how is little Cersei doing in gymnastics, because Bryttaneigh just loves the new coach, etc etc etc. And I know it’s difficult. I’ve tried to do it when I’m in a group where one or two women aren’t parents, and there’s always someone who insists on dragging the conversation back to talk about kids and parenting.

        And honestly, it’s not just parents/infertile people. It’s people who are coupled/people who are single. It’s people who have money/people who don’t. It’s people who have happy extended families/people who don’t. In any group, it’s important (IMHO) to think about people who might be left out of the conversation because they lack the same life experience, and who might not be happy about it.

        1. Scarlet*

          “And honestly, it’s not just parents/infertile people. It’s people who are coupled/people who are single. It’s people who have money/people who don’t. It’s people who have happy extended families/people who don’t. In any group, it’s important (IMHO) to think about people who might be left out of the conversation because they lack the same life experience, and who might not be happy about it.”

          This. It’s just sensitivity.

      2. Valancy Snaith*

        Well, as a Certified Infertile Woman, I’ve gotten up and left conversations when clearly no one else was interested in talking about anything other than their kids. It’s entirely possible to have a conversation about your weekend events without devolving into “we’re going to the water park, which will be exciting because Sophie’s been taking those swimming lessons and her instructor thinks that now that she’s gotten over her fear of water she’s going to be great and we’re thinking of putting her in Red Cross swim instruction” and then someone else says “oh yeah when Miles was two we had him in the water all the time and then we had to have tubes put in his ears and that was such an ordeal” and then it’s twenty minutes later and your infertile coworker hasn’t been able to put a word in edgewise because there’s no room for anything else. “We’re going to the water park this weekend and then I’m going to try to get the spare room organized at last” and then we’re onwards. It’s not a mention of kids. Kids are everywhere and we get that. It’s when people refuse to talk about anything other than kids.

        1. LaurenB*

          I am just a vaguely unhappily-childless woman and there are many times when I eat lunch with c0-workers that I can’t say a single word without drastically changing the subject because the parenting talk is relentless and so detailed. It’s not gross or braggy or anything – I just have nothing to say about the various day camp options in town or proper carseat cleaning techniques!

          1. LJay*

            This. I don’t resent people talking about their kids. I just generally have nothing to add because I don’t have kids and thus don’t share any of the same experiences or knowledge about kid stuff that they do.

      3. Scarlet*

        Mentioning kids is fine, it’s the endless conversations about kids (or any other subject really) that are a drag. Anyone endlessly talking about ONE subject turns into a bore pretty quickly, even if you’re interested in the subject to start with. Most people will be grateful if you just change the subject from time to time.

  21. lulu*

    Your options are to raise it directly with Lizzie, or drop it. You cannot ask Beatrice if she gave her the feedback because you don’t have the standing to ask your boss’s manager about that conversation unless it is on something that directly affects your work. Plus Beatrice has proven fairly useless, so there’s no point in going through her.

    1. OP*

      Yeah this is why it’s such an interesting problem (to me! Haha). I don’t want to undermine Beatrice. And I’m not sure how receptive Lizzie will be. And as to whether it directly affects my work, that’s kind of in the eye of the beholder.

  22. Observer*

    I would make one change to Allison’s script. It’s not just people dealing with infertility that could find her constant talk painful. People who have had to make what THEY consider non-optimal choices are going to find this difficult. And most people with serious parenting challenges (which you may not know anything about!) are also likely to find this level of talk and self-satisfaction difficult to deal with.

    1. AnotherBeth*

      This. I have some pretty severe medical issues going on now so all our ideal parenting plans went out the window when those cropped up. We have to keep reminding ourselves that this isn’t the best but it’s the best we can do now and it isn’t going to hurt our kids long term. Hearing stuff like this all the time would be incredibly tiring for me.

  23. Fantasma*

    I recently saw a post by a LinkedIn connection who said she’s explicit in communications like OOO messages, calendar holds, and some work-related emails about “mom stuff” because she’s trying to normalize work-life intersections. For example, she’ll say she’s pumping or that she’s taking a sick day because her child is sick or she’s coming in later because she’s going to a pre-school event. She’s not the only one I’ve heard of doing it; a few months ago, I read a piece about the CEO of PepsiCo and other executives being vocal and visible about taking time to do family things like leaving early to go to soccer games and modeling the behavior for more junior people so they don’t feel like they’ll be penalized.

    Is it possible Lizzie is doing something similar? Obviously some of her actions are problematic like interrupting training to show photos or making judgements about childcare but, assuming positive intent, she may think she’s helping model work-life behavior as a manager.

    1. Rando*

      It’s one thing to send an OOO email that says “I’m taking the day off because of a sick kid” or “I’ll be out this afternoon for a school event” but it’s a whole other thing to go into a useless, bragging tirade about how your Exceptional School for Exceptionally Bright Children is amazing.

      1. MuseumChick*

        That’s just it. I work at a place that is heavily male dominated. It’s not uncommon to recieve as “Not coming in today kid stuff.” text or email. That’s as much information as I need or want.

    2. KWu*

      Yeah, I was thinking that too. The level of detail is probably still a bit much, but neither do you necessarily have to stick to just “I’ll be out on Wednesday for a family event” for professionalism’s sake. Depends on the workplace culture and your audience, as always.

    3. Ender*

      It’s entirely possible that is her intent, but she doesn’t quite know where to draw the line between “I’m out for unspecified reasons” and “here is a huge amount of detail about the specific preschool I send my kids to”.

    4. Bea*

      I’m seeing it as being so detailed is the issue not mentioning kids in general.

      “Out with a sick child!” is a-ok. “Junior is sick. We’re going to our world class pediatrician, Dr Awesomepants. He’s no ordinary doctor!” is the kind of over the to WTFery Lizzie seems to be going for.

      1. Ender*

        This is hitting the nail on the head!

        OP you could present it to Boss not as she’s talking about her kids too much, but that she’s going into way too much detail when she does. That might be an easier pill for boss to swallow.

        1. Bea*

          It took me time to digest this letter and find that conclusion.

          I’m child free and have no problem with kids. I adore hearing stories of seeing family pics of a Disneyland trip. “This is Kiki meeting Minnie Mouse!”, yes please. So I was hard pressed at the issue until I read it again and waded through comments.

    5. Just a Thought*

      Yeah I think there is a difference between being matter-of-face about parenting and being annoying. I put pumping appointments on my calendar as pumping when I was still doing that. And when one super annoying male colleague would still knock on my door I’d shout “I’m pumping. I’ll be done in 10 minutes”.

      I do tell people if I’m taking a sick day for a sick kid vs. a sick me. or if I’m taking PTO to attend a kid thing. But yeah I don’t brag that my kids go to the “bestest most special pre-school ever”.

      I do sometimes complain about how much daycare costs which I’m wondering if I should stop now that I make more money than a lot of my colleagues (I got a promotion last fall…)

      1. Anonymosity*

        I think what you did is fine–you’re not going, “I’m pumping and I’m having issues with cracked nipples, it’s so annoying, you know bag balm works great but boy is it thick, thanks Fergus, you might want to give me a few minutes so I can lather it on after I’m done.”

    6. Madeleine Matilda*

      My boss will always tell us if he is attending something for his son because he wants to model good work-life balance. But he never brags while doing it. Usually he’ll send an email along the lines of “I’ll be out tomorrow morning until 11:30 to attend an event at Bobby’s school.” I can’t imagine him writing something as bragging as Lizzie does.

      1. pleaset*

        All this, and the OP, remind me of my mom taking one of the those family update holiday letters she got, crossing out the names with thick pen, and writing my and my sibling’s name over them, then re-sending it to handful of close friends.

    7. Observer*

      The problem here is that she’s going waaay beyond mentioning the basic reason for her absences, etc. Saying “I’m going to be out because my kid has his kindergarten graduation.” may be more information than many people want, but I do think it’s ok. But “I’m going to my kids kindergarten graduation, at a school that does blah blah blah, and bloo, bloo, bloo. And also they require a special, high level of commitment from parents because of bah, bah, bah.” Is not normalizing anything. And the stuff the OP described is the latter.

  24. KimberlyR*

    Ugh, I have 3 kids and sometimes I feel like I have no life outside of work and kid stuff, and I would HATE to have to hear about her kids. You know what? My oldest is in Gifted too and very few of my coworkers know that because it literally doesn’t matter to them. If they ask about her, I talk about her interests or how she is enjoying school, not what her IQ is or what we do to help her. When there is kid talk, it is sporadic and not daily. No one cares about your own kids’ interests as much as you do. Thats just a fact of life.

  25. Rusty Shackelford*

    Fast forward to now, it’s been a month, and Lizzie is still bringing her children into every conversation. We had a team training and Lizzie talked about her kids’ growth as her “fun fact about me.”

    Sadly, there are people (and in my personal experience, they tend to be women) who define themselves by their relationships to others. I had a coworker who had accomplished many things in her own right, but when you did one of those “let’s all introduce ourselves” things in a meeting, she’d say “I’m Jane, my husband is the Dean of the College of Impressiveness, and I have two kids.”

      1. Ender*

        It’s not obligatory! You can have a wonderful family and still choose not to define yourself solely by your relationship with them.

        1. Holly*

          True – I just feel like people fall into it without even realizing and that I’ll have to be conscious of it.

          1. Emi.*

            I think people also get pushed into it — since I got pregnant that’s the first and sometimes the only thing people talk to me about. No more “how was your weekend” for me; it’s all “how are you feeling? how many weeks? can you feel her kick yet?” and suddenly I’m interesting to people who didn’t pay attention to me before (or didn’t consider me a real adult? idk). The upside of this, I guess, is that it’s annoying as all hell, which makes me more conscious of not doing it to myself as well.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Ugh, the first time the nurse/teacher calls you “mommy” AS IF THAT’S YOUR NAME. “how’s mom doing today?” (said directly to you). “And how are we feeling, mommy?” in the hospital.

              1. NewWorkingMama*

                I once blew out a tire in college and instead of the tire guy talking to me (with my dad on the phone) and me relaying the message to my dad, I just gave the tire guy my phone. He opened with “Hi Dad.” I could basically hear my dad rolling his eyes and says my name is “Gary” not “dad”. He still brings it up. It’s been almost a decade.

              2. Emi.*

                Ugh, my husband’s AUNT called me “mom.” No. If I didn’t birth or adopt you, do not call me “mom.” The medical we drives me insane too (I once got “and are we sexually active?” which, no, *we* are not and that would be unethical on several levels so let’s not bring it up again).

              3. President Porpoise*

                At the same time, my husband hasn’t been calling me ‘mommy’ consistently in front of my daughter, and now she calls me ‘Mommy’ about 50% of the time and my first name the rest of the time. It’s weird.

        2. NewWorkingMama*

          This! I didn’t change my name when I got married for this reason. I’m still me. Yeah, I’m a mom and I talk about the child and my husband, but they are one part of what makes me, well, me. However, I still have other interests, and a job, and hobbies, and thoughts. Just being aware of not losing yourself will help!

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah I’ve noticed that many of my friends have changed their own facebook profile pictures to be their kids, or at least a picture in which the kid is clearly front and center while my friend is obscured in the background. It makes me kind of sad!

    2. KTB*

      I worked for a boss like that, who happened to also be the ED of our small nonprofit. I knew more about her kid than I did about several of my actual family members due to the amount of time she spent talking about said kid. The kid was fine, and was not the problem.

      The major problem with how she defined herself is that it manifested in her insistence on referring to all of our constituents/stakeholders as “families.” And would NOT tolerate other opinions, no matter how many times I substituted the word “households” for “families.” She just could not wrap her head around the fact that we weren’t always talking about FAAAAAAAMILIES. And for the record, we worked in renewable energy, which had pretty much nothing to do with families. Just roofs for solar, thanks.

    3. kc89*

      We had an introductory e-mail from one of our new doctor’s and it was like two paragraphs just about her kids and family, not even a single sentence about her

    4. WellRed*

      Ugh. Online dating where the answers to what are you proudest of and what can’t y ou live without? Are both, My kids. The only thing that tells me about you is…you have kids
      And, possibly no other interests or accomplishments.

  26. Episkey*

    Can you send her a link to A Field Guide to Spotting Sanctimommies on ScaryMommy?

    Just kidding, don’t do that.

    I have a 9 month old and I would roll my eyes internally SO HARD at this.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      No, sorry. Any threat to the superiority of Lizzie’s children is strictly forbidden.

  27. Justin*

    (Short story about how my parents were both Lizzie): My mother still tells stories about how everyone used to call her “the woman with the smart baby.” And my dad still sends out emails to everyone whenever I do something (though he usually inflates the accomplishment before I correct him).

    I am smart. I do have accomplishments that are impressive. It still didn’t exactly help me much for that to be MY DESTINY IN LIFE. So many years and decades of wanting to live up to specialness, and not feeling able to ask for help if something was a challenge. Sorry if this is too offtopic, but Lizzie is NOT helping her kids with this mess (though I can empathize with her, and my parents, because I’m sure it’s both exciting and scary in various ways). I hope she learns that eventually. (/end story, commence actual response/advice).

    But yeah, at your level, shut down/opt out of the bingo, and tell her, please. She doesn’t sound like a bad person, she might be a little upset but it’s not your job to make her not sad. She’ll turn red, maybe, and she might do some cringey apology stuff… but still, give it a shot. It will hurt less than not saying anything, and she could go from good to great if she ends this habit.

    1. Birch*

      Yep yep yep. Plus in my experience, these kinds of parents like to brag about the “on-paper” accomplishments without actually getting involved or asking how the kid feels about their life and activities.

      1. Justin*

        Or they keep throwing things at the wall to see what I’m great at without really asking what I like…

        I’m just glad I really was smart enough to excel anyway. I got lucky.

    2. Nita*

      Very true! At some point, being told “you’re so smart!” at every step stops being a compliment and becomes a burden. I mean… I kind of know? I’m not fishing for a compliment when I do my work well? Please stop saying this and making me stick out as different?

      Never mind that “book smart” doesn’t always translate into any kind of real-life accomplishment. There are so many jobs where it’s useless compared to, let’s say, people skills. I’m sure it would be useful if I were a doctor or a scientist, but it doesn’t go very far when trying to be a manager.

      1. Justin*

        Yeah. My book smarts helped me a lot (I got into some great schools and then learned even more!), but the bumbling around for more than half of my twenties led to piles of guilt and judgment. So, thanks for that!

        I figured it out once I started doing things of my own accord.

        As for this lady, I sure hope someone can tell her she can believe this without shoving it onto others.

        1. Justin*

          (I apologize for making this “Justin’s corner.” It’s just SO VERY MUCH MY LIFE, and I wanted to point out that she’s not even helping the people she cares so much about.)

      2. AKchic*

        And at some point… your intelligence is used as a weapon against you. I can’t begin to count how many times I heard “but you’re so smart, how could you do *this*?!” as an admonition for angering/disappointing or otherwise upsetting my mother because I didn’t live up to her unspoken expectations or “got in trouble” because I acted like an age-appropriate child instead of the tiny grown-up wearing outdated, hand-me-down children’s clothes just waiting to legally be an adult so I could be the nebulous success she expected of me so she could ride my coattails out of her financial heckhole.

        She still doesn’t understand that I don’t care about her feelings when I make decisions about *my* life; and that when my own kids make choices, it generally has no bearing on me, and she never came into consideration.
        (However, I also admit that my mom does have narcissistic tendencies and was raised by a narcissistic mother herself, so there are generational issues at play with our family dysfunctionality)

        1. Justin*

          If you had to guess, was I shown a. 3 b. 5 or c. more than I could count examples (in newspapers and magazines, etc, eventually websites) of prodigies/massive wunderkind successes as evidence of what I could (but they really meant “should”) do?

          I feel ya, friend.

          1. Nita*

            I once came across an article about a guy named Saul Lipshutz, later Saul Chandler. It really stayed with me. Such a huge gulf between what other people thought he’s “destined” to do, and what he really wanted… I think he might be one of the lucky ones, because he broke free of a very heavy load of expectations and lived to tell the story.

        2. Nita*

          That sounds awful! Yeah, been there too, though it took a slightly different shape. If you’re a tiny grown-up, you don’t need anyone worrying about you when you come home late, it never occurs to anyone you might struggle with the usual teenage stuff, and really, you’re always fine and don’t need to be given a second thought. I’m lucky I had a dog – at least one family member always knew when I was in trouble, and was there for me in his own doggy way :) I remember a very long stretch when he basically made sure I ate and slept – and no one else noticed I needed reminders for either.

  28. MuseumChick*

    I don’t necessarily disagree with Alison’s script but I do want to throw a giant caution flag. In my personal experience people who talk about their kids this much are extremely sensitive to any perceived slight to their child or parenting. Maybe you boss isn’t one of those people but I think if you do choose to speak with her you need to do so with the knowledge that no matter how sensitively you approach this it could be a landmine.

      1. Ender*

        It is a landline, definitely. But it sounds like it’s acrually affecting work to a big extent, so it needs to be addressed and it seems like OP is the only person who can address it since Beatrice may be unwilling to.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, so?

        Far too many people get to make their coworkers’ (fellow churchgoers’, neighbors’, etc.) daily lives onerous for far too long because people are unwilling to pull the pin. PULL THE PIN. She is annoying, and the rest of you have to work there, too. Either she’ll back off or she’ll escalate, and if she escalates you might have grounds to loop in her own boss and solve this once and for all.

        1. Hmmmmm*

          I’d rather deal with annoying than having my boss hate me and having to get a new job, honestly.

          1. OP*

            I think this could be a real risk! I mean, she’s not going to hate me, but she might consider me outspoken or look at me a little more critically.

    1. Bea*

      Also I’m kind of assuming Beatrice did mention it but Lizzie isn’t up for changing.

      Like pointing out anyone’s “flaws”, they may not flip out but they’re hardwired and not going to fight it.

      I had to almost lose my entire mind re-explaining how to address people via email to a staffer once. They “got it” but they next one I was forwarded had all the same issues.

    2. Nita*

      That is true. It might be possible to frame the question so that she doesn’t see it as questioning her parenting, though. Maybe the conversation will go more or less OK if OP avoids any mention of how sanctimonious Lizzie sounds, and just asks if she’s aware that she mentions the kids so often it’s starting to distract coworkers from her actual work.

      1. MuseumChick*

        I’ve just seen some many people like this where no matter how you word it, they take it extremely personally. Anyone who dare speak of their child/parenting in anything less than glowing admiration are seen as monstrous/anti-child/judgmental of working moms/etc.

      2. Sam.*

        This might be a good way to think about it. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic about how this conversation will go, but I think it’d be useful for OP to have specific examples to cite. Even if Lizzie is open to changing, it may be hard for her to know where to start if this is a blindspot for her. (Not going to lie, I’d be tempted to compare this to someone oversharing about their illness when they call out. Saying, “I’m not feeling well and am leaving early,” or even, “I’m really nauseated, so I’m headed home,” is fine; “I’ve had diarrhea for six hours so I’m not coming in,” is not. No one wants to know the details!)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not confronting her. It’s her second-in-command letting her know about how something is landing with her team, which is part of the job in that role.

    3. Pollygrammer*

      It would be easy to frame it as “you’re such a fantastic parent, and your kids are so lucky to have you and their opportunities, and their giftedness–but other parents here can’t help but compare themselves to you, and it’s kind of a bummer for them.”

  29. Yeah, no*

    OP, if its any comfort there’s a good chance this has been pointed out to her already in her personal life, either by family, friends, or an always entertaining online mom group. This shouldn’t be news to her. I certainly would ask what she meant when she made a comment about her kids’ care being different because “parents have to be involved”. Nothing makes my hair stand on end like someone implying parents of day care kids are less than parents of kids at home.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Especially in a work context from your boss, where the reason your kids are in daycare is so that you can come into work – presumably your boss likes that element of it – and the reason you can’t afford a fulltime nanny is because of the salary that your boss presumably sets!

      1. Persimmons*

        That’s actually a great response: “You already decided that my kids will go to daycare when you set this salary for me.”

        Okay, maybe not, but I can dream.

  30. Persimmons*

    I once had an all-day interview that segued into dinner with my spouse and the interviewer’s spouse and child (it would have required a move to another part of the country, and he wanted to show us around). His daughter was homeschooled, was not allowed television or radio, and spent most of the meal doing vocabulary exercises out of a book. I could find NOTHING to talk to the kid about, and I’m awkward with kids to begin with. She knew nothing about cartoons or Disney characters or any generic kid stuff I’d stumbled across in my kid-free life. We finally settled on the fact that she loved tigers, and chatted about that for a bit before her father sternly corrected her to get back to her work.

    TBH the way the interviewer was with her was a not-insignificant part of my decision to turn the job down. He seemed like a very difficult manager, and I already had major misgivings about the role. So, LW, not only do you need to worry about how your boss is coming across to your current colleagues, but also know that she could be scaring off potential colleagues as well.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      That is weird.

      I can see why you would have dinner with interviewer + spouse when you’re moving but bringing the child to the interview? No thank you.

      I’m awkward around kids at the best of times (my dad had no compunctions about yelling at me in front of people he worked with and so I don’t want to put another child in that position) so this is literally a nightmare for me.

  31. UtOh!*

    Yup, this is the reason why I stopped having lunch with the group, one of the managers (who used to be my manager, but is no longer) cannot help talking about either her kids (and this has been for 14 years!), or food (she’s a nutrition *expert*). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard embarrassing stories about her kids, or how great they are, what they are doing, if they got hurt doing something great, blah, blah, blah… The irony? BOTH of her kids moved 1000s of miles away from her!

  32. KFC*

    I’m confused about the issue here. Her emails are too detailed? This seems like a really easy issue to ignore. Why not just delete the oversharing emails and move on? Sometimes people you work with are annoying. They’re your coworkers, not your spouse. None of this mentions her judging other people’s parenting or offering unsolicited advice, so what’s the problem?

    1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

      It’s more than just emails though from the OP’s letter. It’s being inserted into conversation and meetings. There is a point where something moves from being annoying to being disruptive, and I’d argue that what is happening is now reached the point where it’s disruptive.

      Plus, even if there isn’t explicit judgment of others, when you go into the level of detail that Lizzie is, that it’s very easy to believe that there is implied judgment of others parenting choices. For example, the fact that the OP knows that Lizzie feels that daycare is bad and that a full-time nanny is necessary to be a good parent, tells me that at Lizzie is either on some level judging other parents parenting choices or completely thoughtless. And I think both of those qualities move beyond simply someone who is annoying.

      1. KFC*

        Ok. Still not seeing the issue. There’s a big leap from “op knows Lizzie’s childcare plans” to “Lizzie is judging everyone’s parenting”

        1. Pollygrammer*

          I think there’s a lot of superiority implicit in all her talk of her privileged childcare options. If your way is the best, you are basically saying that other choices are worse.

          1. KFC*

            I guess, without her explicitly passing this judgment, I struggle with expecting her to change her behavior when she’s not really doing anything wrong. It’s natural to talk about your personal life at work, and this is her personal life. I understand if she’s wasting people’s time with long rambling stories, but I don’t see why those moments can’t just be called out as they happen with a simple “ok didn’t ask!” or something similar instead of being treated as an overall personal and professional failure.

            1. Pollygrammer*

              I think “ok didn’t ask!” is–depending on tone, I guess–more rude and dismissive than someone explaining kindly that she might be making other parents feel judged, and and might be making someone who’s struggling to have kids feel sad.

              This isn’t a professional failure, but it is a professional and personal flaw. I don’t really agree that it’s natural to talk extensively about your personal life at work, and even more so when you’re talking about how it’s always amazingly perfect.

              1. KFC*

                Yeah, that makes sense. I didn’t really see where her judgment came in, but I agree with you that tone will be everything when it comes to addressing it. I also work in a very casual office where we are always talking about what we’re doing outside of work, so I can’t imagine expecting a coworker who’s a parent to stop talking about their kids. Maybe it’s a difference in office culture.

                1. Indie*

                  She isn’t talking about kids though. Kids are beloved individuals with flaws. She is talking about the One True Path to Parental Enlightenment.

            2. Hmmmmm*

              Because going on about how the childcare you have is soooo much better than normal childcare, while there is absolutely no way your employees could afford it, is really bad taste?

              1. KFC*

                I don’t know, to me the quotes don’t go on about how much better it is, they just describe it in excessive detail. But I can see how the cost barrier can make others read it that way.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I have kids, and I would view any commentary on how valuable the school program is for their giftedness and such as defensive and boasting. There’s information you provide in the context “Oh, I’m looking for a preschool–what do you know about the local ones?” that is just weird in the context “What time do you need to leave?”

          What OP describes lands to me as trying to constantly pass on parenting advice about the right way to do things, somewhat reminiscent of whether it’s good to shame people for not breastfeeding because then everyone will breastfeed.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            I would give those people the big ole stink-eye. I am not a parent, but I do know that some people can’t product enough milk or are taking meds that would pass into the breast milk. Not everyone can breastfeed.

            *glares at people who failed basic science*

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        I think the disruptive stuff, or things that everyone can agree don’t need to be shared, should be approached in that way. “Going forward, we don’t need to know the exact activity you’re leaving work to do.” “Lizzie, your kid is so cute, but could we get back to talking about quarterly sales figures?”

        There’s no reason to single someone out and tell them they can’t talk about x topic at work (assuming it’s otherwise an OK topic for a workplace, and kids are). It most likely won’t be received well, anyway.

    2. Valancy Snaith*

      If it’s reached the point where coworkers have a bingo about it, and the offender is interrupting meetings to show pictures of her kids, it’s no longer “easy to ignore,” it’s starting to affect the way the team works together. It’s not just emails. Nothing in a workplace happens in a vacuum.

      1. KFC*

        I think the unanimous tone of comments about how horrible it is to work with mothers who have the audacity to talk about their children is really putting me off. Nothing in the letter indicates Lizzie is judging, pressuring, or policing her coworkers’ parenting, but the assumption is all over the response. This woman has a passion and talks about it. If it’s annoying, ignore her.

          1. KFC*

            Ok. Making fun of someone and their children behind their back is also rude? If the issue were just rudeness then would all the comments be about how annoying and judgmental mothers are?

            1. Indigo lime*

              Do you think you may be taking this a tad personally? Been talking a lot about your kids, perhaps?

              1. KFC*

                I’m bothered that the response to this letter has been more about how annoying it is to work with mothers than about the OP’s situation. I was surprised no one came to Lizzie’s defense when the op made it clear she means well and that no one has any concrete complaints about her beyond annoyance. Working moms deal with a lot, and I think feeling like she can’t talk about her personal life at all, which is the risk that comes with talking to her, can be alienating.

                With all that said, I’m not a mom. I haven’t been talking about my kids a lot at work. Frankly, I doubt my hypothetical future parenting style would have much in common with Lizzie’s. I just think maybe Lizzie needs someone on her side, and that this can be handled without badmouthing mothers in general.

                1. shortbread*

                  You are not wrong, at all. I am a mom and I love it, but I am super resistant to talk about her because people can get extremely annoyed, and as a woman it can cast a certain light on you, your abilities and intelligence, and your position in the workplace. From the evidence of many of these comments, my assumptions are at least partially correct. At best people tolerate mentions of family, at worst, I am shoving my fertility and personal lives in other people’s faces. Parents can’t win, so I don’t even try.

                2. Youngster*

                  I think it’s fine to talk about your kids. I like hearing my my coworkers’ kids. But the bragging is off-putting. Let’s say that Lizzie was talking about her car in the same way for instance – “I’m taking my car to the car wash. It’s not an ordinary car wash, it’s hand car wash and hand car wash has been shown to be better for the car. The place I go to also offers vacuuming for free when you get an oil change because we all know that a car is only really clean if you regularly vacuum it”. This would sound just as ridiculous as an OOO message.

            2. Observer*

              Well, the comments actually are not about “mothers” but about THIS mother.

              She’s obnoxious and a caricature of the Mommy Wars.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          No, when a passion (any passion. Kids, Star Wars, cats, whatever) starts to make people dread interacting with you, an intervention is needed. Sure, sometimes people have strong interests and sometimes a few individuals won’t get along, but when a person over-talks about something to the point that her otherwise-reasonable team is collectively reluctant to talk to her, it’s entirely fair to ask her to rein it in.

          1. IEanon*

            Yeah, that’s kind of the key. My supervisor has a bit of this when she talks about her constant trips to a foreign country, and the amount of time she has to spend juggling her job and her partner’s work travel. I counted 12 conversations in a single meeting with different people where this came up…

            I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes now, esp. since I can’t afford to do the same kind of travel on a whim the way she does. I worry that some of our counterparts in other departments have a similar kind of bingo thing going on for her. She’s not the most popular person at our org.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*


            I know that I cannot endlessly discuss my fascination with cults and serial killers with anyone who happens to wander into my radius. For one thing, most people aren’t going to share those interests. For another, it could potentially make me look creepy.

            1. Dankar*

              I WISH I had someone who wanted to discuss that stuff with me all day. I can also settle in for a long chat about criminal justice reform, but no one ever wants to take me up on that!

          3. Working Mom Having It All*

            I somewhat agree with this sentiment, but in practice I don’t think it could possibly work. Especially if the intervention is with your boss. What are they going to do, quit en masse if she doesn’t stop rambling about Kindermusik?

        2. Observer*

          This is NOT about mothers who “have the audacity to talk about their children”, and framing it this way indicates that you haven’t really read what people are actually saying.

          What people ARE saying is that she is sharing waaaay more detail than is appropriate, even in circumstances where it’s objectively disruptive (eg the meeting that essentially got delayed because she needed to show pictures of her kid); boasting about her choices and child; and very clearly implying that both her offspring and her parenting choices are better than other people’s. And THAT is what is a problem.

  33. Neena*

    I think the LW can stop thinking of Lizzie as self-aware and a good manager – a self-aware good manager isn’t going to highjack every conversation and make it about herself (and her kids). She’s coming across as self-absorbed, which makes giving her feedback all the more difficult. I think a one-on-one discussion will be rebuffed by Lizzie; perhaps better to simply rein her back to topic as soon as she derails a conversation (rinse, repeat). Lizzie may or may not catch on.

  34. Bend & Snap*

    I’m a former infertile myrtle who HAS a kid, and I still don’t want to hear about other peoples’ kids. The only time I talk in depth about my child is with my mom group, and that’s because all our kids are in the same class.

    While I was going through fertility treatments, my male boss (who knew, and who had 2 kids during the time I’d been trying), told me maybe I wasn’t meant to have kids. And proceeded to talk about his in excruciating detail. THAT is a reason to leave. Cluelessness isn’t.

    Although I do think that letting Lizzie know that being sensitive to infertility is important would be a kindness to EVERYONE. Most people would be mortified to learn their pet topic was painful for someone else.

  35. Tabby Baltimore*

    If LW decides to approach on her own, she might want to consider “taking small bites of the apple” at the beginning by being selective about which of the behaviors she wants to encourage change in. So, for example, LW could select addressing Lizzie’s in- or out-of-office notifications (email or in person) and frame her feedback to Lizzie in terms of intention/impact, like: “I know your intent was to let us know you [were leaving early/would be out of the office on Tuesday], but your impact on staff of your message, given the level of detail about your children that you provided, served to [fill in the blank appropriately: make them feel like you’re implicitly criticizing their own parenting choices/prompt complaints about oversharing/rubbed those struggling with infertility the wrong way].”

    As a way to illustrate what you’re talking about, and ONLY if you were REALLY brave and confident enough your message would be received reasonably well, you could bring printed-out copies of some of her recent offending emails. Highlight the sentences or fragments in her text/email containing the basic information she needed to convey: “I need to leave by 2:30 to get the kids from [school]” and line out the rest. She may be the kind of person who needs a visual aid to really get to what degree you’re asking her to “tone it down.”

    Please let us know what you decided to do. I’d really like an update.

    1. OP*

      Thanks Tabby. I don’t think I will bring printed copies for a first conversation. I will definitely have mental examples ready though.

      1. Tabby Baltimore*

        I forgot the most important thing (assuming you decide to take this tack). After you’ve said what you think the impact was, you could say “I’m sure you didn’t mean to do that, though.” Depending on what her mood is at this point, you *could* try adding “Would you consider providing less information to staff about your reasons for having to do [X] and instead be more direct and succinct in about your plans to arrive late/depart early?”

        This is going to be a tough but delicate conversation to have. Sending positive thoughts your way.

  36. Hiring Mgr*

    It sounds like Beatrice didn’t mention it to Lizzie, but in the OPs wording, she kind of downplayed it to B (“it was one tiny thing”, normally woudn’t raise it, etc”).. So it could be that Beatrice doesn’t really get the severity of it and thinks it could be a mild quirk.

    Personally the whole thing would be just an eyeroll to me, but I can see how it’s annoying.

  37. The Ginger Ginger*

    So, if you’re not quite up to raising it yourself yet, another option is to go back to Beatrice and say something like – “I know we talked about for you to go over with Lizzie, and I just wanted to make you aware that it’s still happening. I still have the same concerns that the team is feeling very uncomfortable about this.” As if, OF COURSE, Beatrice gave the feedback to Lizzie, and now you’re just alerting her that it didn’t take.

    It may push Beatrice to ACTUALLY give the feedback (or admit that she didn’t). Maybe not allowing Beatrice to forget about it/making it harder or more uncomfortable for her to ignore will prompt the action you want from her. And if that doesn’t work, then you can still go to Lizzie yourself in a couple weeks.

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      just realized that the comment posting ate my brackets around “I know we talked about (earlier feedback) for you to go over with Lizzie…” so that was a fairly confusing sentence there.


      1. OP*

        Yes that’s a good approach. Given how self-effacing Beatrice is, and that she’s two levels above me, I might leave this until at least six months have gone by….in the interests of having given Lizzie enough time to change her style.

  38. Lurker*

    I apologize if this has been mentioned previously, but this constant bragging about “perfect” children and doctrinaire attitude about how children “should” be reared could be especially difficult for a parent of a child with special needs to be subjected to.

    Many of us prefer to keep our home life and our work life separate, to give ourselves a space where we can put aside our family concerns for a while. Some of your colleagues might have children (or siblings, cousins, etc.) with special needs, and you or your manager wouldn’t even know.

    Every day I am reminded of what my child cannot achieve now/perhaps will never be able to achieve. If I were subjected to an endless barrage of insensitive bragging about my manager’s “perfect” children at work–my respite from family concerns–this would be a very serious issue for me. I rejoice with my colleagues at announcements of their children’s milestones (first teeth, graduations, etc.), but your manager’s behavior sounds like it is just daily mommy-bragging, or even mommy-shaming.

    Would your well-paid manager with the well-paid spouse think it appropriate to constantly brag about their material good fortune in front of colleagues who might be struggling financially? (Actually, I got a whiff of that from OP’s question.) Would she brag about her family’s amazing good health in front of the colleagues who may be struggling with health issues in their family? This is no different.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      I actually think speaking up about one’s special needs kids — or even just more average kids! — might be the right antidote to this. What if, every time this woman brought up her highly gifted children and their very special Playcenter class, someone else contributed that their kid has a feeding tube and thus they can’t do classes like that? Or, hell, what if every time she mentioned something about how she doesn’t believe in daycare, another parent who has a kid in daycare (most of us plebs have to settle for “mere” daycare, after all) piped up and said “oh, my child goes to a daycare center and really loves it, it gives her x benefits that other kids often don’t have access to, etc.”

      I’ve never been a particularly sanctimonious parent, but I did buy into a lot of that “only wooden toys” nonsense before I had kids. I was easily disabused of all of that once I realized that kids do all kinds of stuff and turn out fine. And if there is a problem, it usually isn’t because they didn’t listen to enough Mozart as babies or whatever. What got me away from that was hearing the reality of how actual babies and children work.

      1. OP*

        I have mentioned how great my kids’ daycare was and that they got crafts and activities I would never have organised at home. But I’m afraid I could tell even in the conversation that it wasn’t ‘landing’ with Lizzie. Amusingly, one time she was telling me about visiting one of her tenants. The granddad was minding the 2 year old at home, curtains drawn, TV on. Lizzie was disapproving, so I piped up “Gosh, maybe daycare would be a better solution than at-home care, in some cases!”.

      2. Observer*

        but I did buy into a lot of that “only wooden toys” nonsense before I had kids

        LOL! Classic!

        So many of us were “PERFECT” parents who would NEVER do whatever and would ALWAYS do whatever – till we had kids and reality hit…

  39. Working Mom Having It All*

    I’m not surprised that Beatrice didn’t bring it up, since “she’s always talking about how gifted her kids are” isn’t really a workplace performance issue. I’d be mortified if I got feedback like that. For what it’s worth, while I am a working mom, I have no idea if my kid is gifted, we have TV and plastic toys at our house, and our kid goes to a regular parent and me music class on weekends which I have never mentioned at work.

    My guess is that the real solution here is that the “bingo!” needs to stop and everyone needs to not worry about this. I once had a coworker who was sort of like this about his kids. He was an obsessive sports parent who was always having loud phone calls with the other sports parents (or maybe some kind of coach?) about his kids’ stats, how he was working with them in their spare time and trying to get them to “have more hustle” or whatever it is sports people care about, etc. His kids were elementary school aged! Never a mention of whether they actually liked the sport in question or had a particular aptitude for it, just hours and hours of inane chatter either on the phone or to other coworkers about his kids’ athletic performance. It was completely inappropriate for work, and years later is something I very clearly remember about him.

    But you know what? Nobody took that guy aside and said “please never talk about peewee soccer at work”. He was just that guy who always talked about his kids’ stuff at work. He wasn’t hurting anyone. I’ve also had a number of colleagues over the years who had singular interests or ongoing personal dramas they talked about at work (a guy who had issues with a nearby restaurant venting food smells into his apartment, SO MUCH WEIGHT LOSS from probably dozens of people over the years, a woman who always kept me up to date about her slacker boyfriend’s job search). I think a lot of people are anxious about things, and they don’t have many people to talk to about it, and it sucks, but we don’t have free therapy in this country so that’s life.

    1. Dankar*

      I think it’s a bit different when the person doing this sort of thing is the supervisor. People will drag their feet coming to her about issues that they’re having or something that needs to be corrected because they can’t deal with another kid conversation or just don’t want to deal with all the extraneous details they’re getting from the boss.

      There’s also a bit of irritation when the boss can afford a full-time nanny/private tutoring/expensive educational opportunities and some coworkers might be struggling to find childcare that works or be caring for a family member or whatever. Sure, that’s not technically Lizzie’s problem, but if you’re going to manage an effective team with good morale, you do need excellent interpersonal skills. It sounds like she’s lacking in that area right now, and no one is giving her the feedback she needs to become a better manager.

      Btw, someone absolutely should have told that dude to knock it off with the peewee soccer. There’s not enough hours in the workday for me to do what needs to get done while ignoring constant chatter of any kind. That’s not even mentioning how annoyed I would be if someone were on the phone discussing non-work, personal crap multiple times a day.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        As a career admin, I can confirm that MANY of my supervisors, people who “outranked” me at work, and company execs from several jobs over the years (possibly every job I’ve ever had?) have annoying tics like this. I have had to suck it up and chat about their kid or the new meds they’re on or their sports team winning the pennant or whatever bug is up their ass on many, many occasions. I’m starting to consider it axiomatic that there will be at least one person like this in every workplace, and unless you yourself are the boss, there’s a strong chance they will be someone you either report to or have to behave as if you report to. That’s just life.

        I agree that the class elements of this suck, but that’s another thing that just seems to be an axiomatic fact of adult life in America. A LOT of people have complained to me over the years about some fantastic luxury that I could never hope to afford. Many of those people have set my pay rate. A number of them have been the owner of the company. They should all be first in front of the firing squad when the revolution comes, I agree, but until then…

        I agree that neither of these things are a great feature in a manager, but, like, there are a lot of mediocre managers in this world. I think the best approach is probably to either mentally roll your eyes and move on, or to combat it in a way that is likely to be more productive than the Bitch Eating Crackers approach that OP and colleagues are currently using.

        1. Dankar*

          I think the OP has the standing to push back in this case, though. And wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if people could just take the constructive criticism, work on the issue and be better? I don’t have standing to tell my supervisor to knock stuff off, so I, too, am practiced in rolling my eyes and moving on. But I do hold back on bringing stuff to them until I accrue the bandwidth necessary to have the 20-40 minute conversation that’s going to accompany my question.

          And it doesn’t sound like Lizzie is a mediocre manager. It sounds like she’s a really good one who will want to improve her relationship with her staff. I don’t think it’s at all egregious to expect a manager to be the epitome of professionalism on the team, or for her second-in-command to flag something that’s becoming a bigger issue than it needs to be.

          1. OP*

            Thanks Dankar. She really is a good manager who wants to improve her soft skills. I agree with you and Alison that I have standing. I just need to decide when and how!

    2. Isabel Kunkle*

      I wish we did have free therapy, but in its absence, nobody’s paying *me* to be anyone’s therapist, so I’m not interested in doing it. The job description does not include Caring About Your Kids, Your Boyfriend, Your Diet, or Your Sportsball Team, and thus, as Dankar says, someone should’ve told Peewee Soccer dude to tone it way down; there’s a certain amount of small talk about things that don’t interest you that’s unavoidable at any job, but when it starts being a “if you ask X a question, you will have to chew your own foot off to escape a fifteen-minute conversation about Y,” issue, that’s a problem in a workplace.

  40. Julia*

    The accusation that Millennials are thin-skinned and easily offended seems to apply to more than that age demographic. Do any of us think we don’t have annoying and off putting habits that people have to put up with in the work place? Talking about beloved kids in a conversation, even though she’s is admittedly a great boss, now that is a cause for offense and must change or you will be joked about behind your back? Does anyone act like more than a middle-schooler anymore? The real problem here appears to be toxic employees who simply cannot tolerate anything that doesn’t comport with their sense of what’s important. I have observed that women, not men, are usually the ones complaining. That line about women ruling the world (so much better) is a joke. Never met a more nasty co-worker than a fellow female, and this entire complaint and thread shows it.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      There are no behaviors exclusive to any one generation.

      The thread is about two related problems: Someone who goes on about any interest at great length, derailing unrelated work meetings to it. Sometimes this is their weird quirk, the answer to “Which one is Pat?” and sometimes it’s to a degree that in that particular office it needs to be reined in, because people have started avoiding Pat.

      The other is going on and on about things unrelated to work in a manner that isn’t just boring, but lands as judgmental about other people’s choices–if you shame them enough, they will do it your way and then All Will Be Good. Usually it’s food. (From “Your lunch doesn’t look vegan!” to “Come on, you have to have cake. I won’t leave until you take a piece.”) Other times it’s appearance, like the curly hair comment from this morning. Or doing the correct exercise routine. Here it’s choices in childrearing. And just as it’s bad for a a coworker to be going on and on, over and over, about the benefits of walking to someone with invisible limited mobility, it’s bad to be going on and on about the benefits of a nanny and expensive enrichment classes to people with less money.

      1. Dankar*

        I think Julia was suggesting that all generations are susceptible to being offended..? The last part about women being the nastier coworkers is also pretty judgmental and generalizing (not to mention gross), though.

        The real problem here, Julia, is that the boss can’t stay on task long enough to get through meetings or work conversations without getting into the minutiae of her children’s lives. That’s not a value judgement, it’s pointing out a distraction.

    2. OP*

      Julia you are right, it’s not a cause for offence, but it has raised eyebrows in other teams. I agree with Alison that there are better ways to address this issue than via the surreptitious ‘bingo’ and I will be pursuing those. I don’t think the ‘bingo’ makes my team members toxic or immature. Lizzie is by her own admission highly distractable and inclined to miss the ‘soft skills’. These things make her great in a crisis and a solid leader, but she can get derailed into the stuff about her children. That sometimes undermines the respect she would otherwise get from other teams.

    3. Jemima Bond*

      I think this is unfair. This boss sounds annoying, sanctimonious, time-wasting (talking about non-work stuff too much or even most of the time) and upsetting to some employees. I think her employees have a perfect right to be irritated and if she worked in my office there would have been complaints and she would have been taken aside and told not to be so bloody obnoxious.

  41. wem*

    I feel sorry for her kids. Wait until those they get out from under her thumb. She is in for a rude awakening.

  42. DoctorateStrange*

    I actually had an issue like this but with a friend, not a colleague. Now she, I, and other members in our friend group have known each since middle school. So, you’re talking friendship older than a decade. Well, my friend is the first in our group to get married and have kids. Unlike us, she does come from a wealthy family and was oblivious to how she started talking about having three maids to take care of her two kids and how “hard” it was, while the rest of us were stressed with school and worrying about ever being able to have steady jobs and not having time for relationships.

    I ended up letting her know how we felt and she was mortified that she came off that way. She has watched how she discusses things like that from then on and our friendship is still great.

    Honestly, the simplest solution is sometimes just having a private one-on-one.

  43. Lolli*

    My experience with people who brag about some part of their life is they are really insecure about some other part of their life. Maybe her marriage is in the toilet or her house is a disaster or she fears her kids like the nanny more than her. The thing she is talking about may be the only thing she wants to think about or show off in her personal life. I think Alison and OP are right, she needs to hear this information but with some compassion and understanding. I have come across self important too when I never meant to. I was just so excited to share something I was proud of, I didn’t realize how it was coming across.

  44. Indie*

    Disclaimer: don’t do this to your boss.

    I was once in the company of a former public school boy who was bragging about how amaaaazing his high school was. I waited for the exact moment when everyone’s eye glaze appeared ready to crack and went: “Ha! I went to one of the worst schools in the country”. Thunder stolen. Everyone wanted to hear funny stories of surviving the comp that startles inspectors.

    So for a sancti mommy I’d be tempted to say stuff like:

    “My kid waits till you’ve got the nappy off mid-change to bring the real thunder”
    “My child eats sand”
    “So Hannah’s friend’s birthday party was amazing! The parents took our phone number and said we could just..go. I probably should have at least said goodbye.”

  45. Jemima Bond*

    I’m just checking in to sympathise. My co worker is the same about her dogs. And they just don’t hang around being dogs, they are special dogs who have special training and she has now trained as an instructor in that training and is setting up a side gig training other dogs and oh god help me I am sick to death of hearing about it. This week she has talked about the designing of the business cards for the training every single day.
    All I can suggest is what I try which is an occasional jovial subject-changing – for example we were out in a group having after-work drinks and sitting outside the pub near us was a man with the most adorable tiny dachshund puppy. I adore dachshunds and co-worker and I went over briefly to admire and ask to pet the doggie, and the owner was more than happy. But after a bit when co-worker was banging on about puppy training I cheerily said, come on now Jane, this chap’s come out for a beer with this boyfriend and puppy, not to talk to us, ha ha, now is it my round, will you have another cider?
    Maybe when your co-worker starts banging on about kids you could try encouraging the conversation elsewhere? Like that work think you just realised you needed to ask her about?

  46. Dawn88*

    Being childless by choice, I’ve always heard people are VERY sensitive about their kids. I see a nuclear reaction coming from delivery of the slightest criticism.

    Offices have different personalities, and nobody is perfect. Yes, her bragging is annoying and boring, just like any other person obsessed with anything you aren’t interested in. Be glad it’s not you being the one being whispered “Bingo” about…which should stop before someone gets caught and the resulting fallout causes permanent damage to relationships.

    Having had truly horrible managers in my career, I would ignore her obsession with her kids, and be happy she’s not a Bully Boss, or having sex in the office, backstabbing the staff or getting them fired, or demanding you give your kidney to her sick relative! Bragging about her kids is not a seriously offensive, punishable behavior that negatively impacts the company, is it?

    If she is as wonderful and lovely as claimed, does she really deserve the “Bingo whispering” game behind her back? Being boring or entitled is not as unprofessional behavior as the Bingo game, is it? Something to think about.

    (PS-Toonces the driving cat with sack of frozen peas has made me laugh all day)

    1. OP*

      Hi Dawn, as I’ve acknowledged above, I appreciate commenters’ feedback that the ‘Bingo’ game is not warranted and would be very hurtful if she overheard it. You are right, she does not deserve it. Yes, bragging about her kids is not a ‘punishable offence’, which is why I’ve admitted I was wrong and stated that I will not continue. Let me know if there’s anything further I can do to reassure you that the message has been received.

  47. Fishing today*

    So she’s a really great understanding boss, she seems to mentor you, and is otherwise very competent? Yet you choose to mock her behind her back? That is disrespectful and not very loyal.

    1. OP*

      Hi Fishing Today, as I responded above, I have taken on Alison’s feedback and won’t be doing the ‘Bingo’ thing any more. I have got the memo that commenters consider it disloyal (although some acknowledged kindly that a way to diffuse office tensions). I’m not sure what more I can say.

  48. OP*

    OP here. Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments about my situation. I’m afraid that by trying to respond personally to commenters, my comments have ‘nested’. This has inadvertently given the impression that I haven’t taken Alison’s advice on board. Please let me state that I was happy to be corrected. I understand that the ‘Bingo’ game would be very hurtful if overheard. It was unprofessional of me, and while I do regard Lizzie very highly (which is ironically why I wrote in in the first place), it could give the impression that I was disloyal to her. I no longer engage in this.

    I have re-invested in trying to draw Lizzie out about other topics, which has paid off since she recently took up running. So that helps me and the team see more sides to her. I also particularly appreciated the point that if I’m focusing on her kid-chat I’m bound to see it more. That really helped me recogniseon my own complicity.

    Since writing in, Lizzie has had a couple of challenging things happen in her life outside of work that mean now is not a good time to sit down and try Alison’s script. I plan to keep a watching brief on how the team is responding to Lizzie, but for myself I have already found more compassion and am feeling less frustrated.

    If and when I do have a chat with Lizzie, I will provide an update.

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