my coworker wants “pawternity” leave

A reader writes:

I’m a middle-aged woman who works in an office with other women in the same age range as myself. Half of our office are parents, the other half are not. One of my coworkers is fairly open about being and remaining child-free. She’s spoken about donating to abortion access funds, and in her personal life has counseled younger women who are on the fence about children to delay or remain child-free. I didn’t feel she was obnoxious about her child-free preference until this past Mother’s Day when she grew upset over no one wishing her a “happy Mother’s Day” because she’s a dog-mom and lashed out at another parent who tried tried to explain the difference.

Lately she’s been vocal about wanting “pawternity” leave for her new puppy. I smiled, nodded and reminded her that new parents in our company need to use our vacation and sick banks to have any substantial time at home with our newborns. I encouraged her to use vacation time and stay home for a few days.

That was the wrong thing to say. Members of her clique have admonished me, saying that I hurt her feelings and her desire to spend time with a loved one is as valid as my desire to spend time with my kid. I agree! I only asked that she not use the term “pawternity.” Even though the term is playful, I feel that it undermines the maternity/paternity leave argument, similar to the argument “teachers get summers off.”

On the whole, our office divides work fairly. No one works overtime except in project-specific instances. Managers rotate who covers responsibilities of individuals who are out, but even then it’s usually to check that the workload is manageable. When staff have competing out-of-office needs, managers work with other departments to bring in coverage rather than tell the individuals “No.”

I feel cowed by her and her clique now, to the point that I don’t even want to interact with them. Was I wrong to ask her not use the phrase “pawternity”? Moreover, how can I convey my hurt over her continual cavalier attitude toward parenthood without jeopardizing our working relationship?

She is being silly, but you are getting too invested in setting her straight.

She’s allowed to have a cavalier attitude toward parenthood. You don’t need to convey your hurt about that; you can privately think she’s being obnoxious about it, but there’s no need to hash it out with her.

If she had a track record of respectful dialogue, perhaps that could be an interesting conversation, but given what you already know about her, there’s no point. And really, she’s just a coworker. This isn’t your mom or your spouse or someone whose opinions you need to care much about at all.

And if she wants to talk about “pawternity” leave, let her. It’s not going to undermine maternity or paternity leave. Most people are clear on the differing needs of human and canine dependents. The only thing she’s going to undermine is her own professional reputation if she tries to argue they’re the same.

You have a weird coworker! She lashes out at people who don’t wish her a Happy Mother’s Day because she has a dog! Let her be your weird coworker and don’t get invested.

{ 831 comments… read them below }

  1. Captain S*

    Yep, she’s a weirdo. I have a dog. I love my dog. I would rather… I dunno, have violent food poisoning than publicly talk about pawternity leave with a straight face. Nobody is going to take this seriously, they’re just going to think she’s a weirdo.

    Also! OP if you have any decision-making power in your company, I hope you’re able to use it to push for actual parental leave.

    1. TiredMama*

      No one has ever made this argument in front of me, but boy the eye roll I would respond with would be epic. I don’t think I could leave it unaddressed but would probably go for the question method. … Are you implying that having and caring for a new baby are the same as caring for a puppy? Yes? Interesting. And walk away.

      1. Health Insurance Nerd*

        Same. Until you can put your newborn (human) baby in crate for a couple of hours and leave them alone in the house while you run to Target for diapers, please do not compare caring for a puppy to caring for a baby.

        (and I say this as both a human mom and a dog mom!)

        1. Czhorat*

          THe average newborn is like 20″ long. The largest size dog crates can be from 42″ to 60″.

          You can easily fit up to a one year old in a large crate, rather comfortably if you include a soft blanket.

              1. DM*

                Ha! I always make this argument about why I prefer dogs to kids for myself — the ability to put them in a cage when I’ve had enough of them or to leave them home alone (or in a crate/kennel) when I need to go to the store, etc. I don’t need to find child care. I won’t end up with CPS knocking at my door because I left my dog home alone. Putting my dog in a kennel won’t get me on the news. That being said, I have playfully advocated for safe “plexiglass” play pens for babies wherein parents could leave them inside and go to the store. Ha! Why now? Or a wall harness that attaches about two feet off the ground (just in case of equipment failure) :) Playfully, of course. I don’t want to end up on the news. Though, being childless, I will admit to being perplexed about the whole (you can’t leave a newborn alone for any length of time). Like, where are they going to go? If they can’t suffocate (no blanket, etc.) — is it really dangerous? My sister is a new mom, and I say the same thing. But, alas, I’m sure laws are there for a reason! :) Good thing I don’t have kids LOL

                1. whingedrinking*

                  I’m not a parent either, but from what I understand, the issue with the plexiglass playpen isn’t whether the kid would hurt themself, since at that age they’re effectively cute squidgy lumps. It’s more that they need absolutely incredible amounts of milk put into them at regular intervals. (They also need help to spew most of it right back up, apparently.) Even a kind of hamster bottle thing wouldn’t work since when they’re that new, they can’t even hold their own heads up, let alone crawl over to the thing.
                  I am also reliably informed that once they do start crawling, nothing is safe. They *will* find a way to stick something in their mouth, even if you could swear there was nothing there a second ago.

                2. AnnaBananna*

                  To be fair on that last point, my dog does the same thing…and she’s 7. I have to watch her like a hawk when we go for walks because she will literally put anything in her mouth. Or roll around in it.

                  Thank buddha she’s cute!

                3. Crooked Bird*

                  Right?? Also, you can rehome your dog and nobody thinks you’re a monster. (Or, you don’t have to be in dire poverty as the only justification for ever rehoming your dog…)
                  BTW there are two reasons you can’t leave newborns alone for any length of time–one, they have *incredibly* small stomachs (size of a cherry!) and can get dehydrated so darn fast. (My newborn’s max “awake but not hungry yet” was 1 hour. He *might* go 2 if he was asleep.) The bigger reason is that they have instincts from like the dawn of time when the only way for a little human slug with stubby arms & legs to truly be safe from predators was, you guessed it, to be right near a parent or guardian. So being alone for tends to terrify them. There’s a big difference between the “I’m hungry” crying and “I’m totally alone and I’ve started to believe no-one’s going to come for me” crying–the latter is scary.

                4. Crooked Bird*

                  Hm. Meant to say the *other* reason, not the bigger reason. I was fumbling around with the fact that their psychological alarm will go off even before their physical one (so I guess it’s more like the shorter reason), but I didn’t get there coherently.

                  Geez I hope this nests correctly or it’ll make *no* sense.

                5. Pennalynn Lott*

                  @Crooked Bird – It nested properly! And your explanation makes perfect sense. I didn’t know that about a newborn’s stomach. But I suspected the part about the “I’ve been abandoned” crying.

                  So, basically, you can’t put your kids in a kennel until they’re, what, one year old? ;-)

                6. Helena*

                  Unfortunately 1yr old is peak separation anxiety time (when they start to care about which adult is with them – as newborns they just want “an adult”).

                  So really you need to be older than 3yrs old for the crate. I imagine that’s why Kindergarten starts at 4.

                7. Actually*

                  I was sent to pre-school at age 2 and hidden from the inspectors until I was legal age. I’m also reliably informed that my favorite uncle used to rescue me from the child cage my grandmother would put the me in because she was scared I’d run away. I’m assuming this was the start of the reason he became my favorite uncle.

          1. Health Insurance Nerd*

            When my niece was 2 she was a huge fan of the dog crate at my house, and she fit in there with plenty of room to spare. I mean, babies have sleep training and potty training, maybe crate training isn’t a terrible idea, LOL!

            1. Dahlia*

              I keep saying that cribs and playpens are just socially acceptable human crates but no one wants to hear it!

              1. Milli*

                I can fit over twenty guinea pigs in my dog’s crate but nobody ever wants to talk about the Smaller Fluff Babies. *tear*

                1. Smol Book Wizard*

                  I had a guinea pig when I was younger. Wonderful little fluffbeast, could brush him like a toy and put scarves on him, and he purred like a happy tribble when you rubbed him. Woot woot (pun intended) for guineas!

            2. MeepMeep*

              My 4 year old kid is apparently crate-trained; every time we visit our friends who have dogs, she runs straight for the dog crate and spends a lot of time there. I’ve so far resisted temptation to get a dog crate for our house.

            3. Lissa*

              I’ve heard it said that this makes sense – most baby animals are much more equivalent to toddlers/young kids than newborns because of the way human gestation works – we have our kids earlier in the development process for various reasons, and there’s a longer period of total dependency.

              So toddler in the dog crate could be age appropriate!

            4. Clisby*

              When my daughter was almost 1, she loved to hang out in the wardrobe box we had saved for her from our move. She wasn’t confined, but she could crawl in and out of it.

          2. Anon Y. Mouse*

            *cue images of the janitor in Scrubs talking about the new Baby Cage he picked up to give as a baby shower gift*

            1. TexasRose*

              Ummm – look up B. F. Skinner’s “air crib.” It was actually marketed for a while, but it wasn’t a lock-your-kid-in-and leave device.

              Reading various biographies from the pioneer days, though, when Mom would shut the young ‘un in a dresser drawer while she milked the cows… Not ideal, but better than having them crawl into the open fire, I suppose.

          3. TootsNYC*

            when we went to a wedding about 3 weeks after our first kid was born, all these relatives came up to us and asked in shocked tones, “Who’s watching the baby?”

            My husband started saying, “We left her home on her own. She’s in the crib, she’s got a bottle–what could happen?”

            1. Tequila Mockingbird*

              Same here! My go-to reply was “We left him in the car. Don’t worry, we cracked the window open!”

              1. DrRat*

                Um…I know everyone is being cute by saying we left her at home alone, we left him in the car with the window cracked, but please remember that the reason we have to have CPS is because some people actually do this awful stuff. A colleague of mine told me about a horrifying case of child abuse that was discovered. A guy was at Home Depot and the clerk asked what he was building, and the guy replied, “I need to build a new box for my son.” The clerk followed him out and got a license plate number and very sadly, the customer had been keeping his kid in a box by himself for years. The kid was 8 years old and could not walk or talk. So, again, I get the joking, but maybe be a little more sensitive to the whole child abuse aspect? Many thanks!

                1. ES*

                  Agreed, I once had a child in my care who was left in a dog crate for days… the jokes hit differently after you see the effects of something like that.

          4. AKchic*

            Considering the fact that my kids (not infants any longer, but I digress on that point) routinely climb into the dog crate and will sleep there at night while the dog ends up in their beds, I do have to wonder about my home situation… until other parents openly laugh about the same problem.

            But no, as much as we love our pets, they are not the same as children. Children are not the same as pets (no matter how often some will treat their children as accessories rather than individual, actualized beings *looking at you, mom*).

            1. whingedrinking*

              Yeee-up. I say this as someone who doesn’t want children and loves animals – it’s frankly embarrassing when pet owners try to compare the two.
              “But I love my dog as much as people love their kids!” I’m not disputing that (how would you even measure it?) It’s just not the point.

              1. Lissa*

                Yeah. I don’t want kids, only cats and think people like this are ridiculous. The point isn’t about how much you love something – if someone loves the Ottawa Senators hockey team with 100% of their heart they still aren’t going to be able to get leave if they ever make the Stanley Cup finals.

                1. Lissa*

                  Sure, they took time off, like she can take time off to spend with her dog, but there’s no equivalent to parental leave for hockey.

                  Relentlessly Socratic, sad but true!

              2. Mel 2*

                My aunts wish me a happy mothers day because they say I’m a mom to my cat. I really hate that they do that. They’re trying to be sweet, but being a fur-parent is definitely different than being a parent to a human. (My aunts both have kids as well as pets, so it’s not a child-free thing. They’re trying to be sweet and inclusive, but I get second-hand embarrassment from it.)

                1. Crooked Bird*

                  Ooh, I’m with you, I would hate that! It sort of feels condescending, like when someone’s being so overly nice to you it seems like they must think you have low self-esteem… y’know??

            1. AKchic*

              The pets or the kids? Not that I’m necessarily asking for myself… okay, maybe I am. I mean, they do make animal-safe wine/beer for some reason. And there are animal-specific games for tablets.

              1. Jennifer*

                The kid. But my dog did almost have some wine the other day accidentally. I spilled a little on the floor and she made a beeline.

        2. GooseTracks*

          Also…you didn’t give birth to the dog. People conveniently forget that family leave is also for the mom’s physical recovery. It takes time!

          1. Shenandoah*

            And frequently more time than the “standard” three months! I’m having a particularly hard recovery – but in the month since I’ve been back at work, I’ve had two minor but painful surgical procedures to correct issues from birth and I have to do pelvic floor PT. It sure would be nice not to have to juggle work with all this.

            1. Grr*

              Yeah. Tell this woman if she wants Pawternity leave, she can have some elective surgery to justify it.

              (I had a crappy time with birth, can you tell?)

          2. Allypopx*

            Which is why (patriarchal BS aside) it’s easier to argue for maternity leave than paternity or adoption leave (which are also important but less common). There’s a real medical need.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              I’m pretty sure that if giving birth didn’t require anything physical and a recovery period, we wouldn’t even have laws like FMLA requiring it for most workplaces.

          3. fposte*

            But it’s usually not shorter for adoption (of a human, to be specific), so she’s got precedent on her side there.

            1. Cat*

              Actually, I think it often is – not always, but a lot of policies I’m familiar with give 6-8 weeks for maternal disability and then separate “parental” leave for bonding, that could also apply to adoptive parents or fathers. (Sometimes they require certification that the parent taking the leave is the primary caregiver.)

              1. CoffeeforLife*

                Hmm, if it’s a two parent household and both parents work then there shouldn’t be a primary caregiver (disproportionate division of labor and gender rolls aside).

                1. kismet*

                  Primary caregiver *during the leave*. This is to avoid a situation where someone takes (possibly paid) parental leave and uses to work on a book / finish their dissertation / whatever while their stay-at-home spouse cares for the infant. I’ve heard it most commonly as a problem in academia, where there’s a clock of several years for producing whatever output and publications you can before going up for a tenure vote; being on maternity or paternity leave stops that clock, and if you use that time to continue writing articles and working, you’ve basically given yourself a leg up on your peers who are also trying for tenure or who used their leaves to recover from childbirth and care for the child, like the policy intended.

                  My husband’s company isn’t academic but has a similar paternity-leave policy that gives a certain number of weeks paid for all new fathers, and additional paid weeks only for fathers that state/promise they plan to be the primary caregiver during that time. That policy is what allowed the two of us to take equal-length, staggered leaves (12 weeks each) that played a huge role in having a relatively equal caregiver load after we were both back at work.

                2. Artemesia*

                  couldn’t reply to Kismet below — but yeah there is actual evidence that stopping the tenure clock for paternity leave helps men get tenure but not women — because women who do it ‘waste the time’ recovering from birth and caring for the baby — and men don’t — they use it like a sabbatical to get work done. Obviously ‘not all men’ — but the effect is that it helps men but not women although originally conceived as something to help women academics disadvantaged by having babies during the tenure run period.

            2. Miss Muffet*

              It is only recently changing in some workplaces to be anything close to parity for adoption. Many, many very large corporate employers still offer 1 week (ONE!) paid adoption leave, and the rest you take unpaid as FMLA & cash out whatever PTO you might have. Since “Maternity Leave” is actually short term disability — it doesn’t apply if you didn’t give birth.
              This is why the movement toward an equal parental leave – applicable to men & women, and parents via different methods – is such a welcome move.
              If you work at a place where adoption leave is the same as maternity leave, you are in a very small minority.

              1. fposte*

                Wow, thanks, all, for the info. it sounds like I am blessedly out of step on this. I’m glad FMLA doesn’t differentiate.

            3. SuperBB*

              In California, it’s 4 weeks of pregnancy disability before giving birth, 6 weeks of pregnancy disability after (8 for a c-section), and then 6 weeks of paid family leave (which can be taken to provide care for a sick human relative, or bonding with a new child). I believe adoptive parents only get the 6 weeks of paid family leave because the adoptive mother wouldn’t qualify for disability, the birth mother would.

          4. Jay*

            That shouldn’t be the reason, because then adoptive parents don’t get parental leave and neither do non-birthing parents. It is the argument used for tying mat leave to STD and it’s a big part of the problem with mat leave (or the lack thereof) in the US.

            1. Emily K*

              Yes, and historically we’ve only tended to classify pregnancy/childbirth as de facto disabilities for well-off, usually white, women. Working poor, and going back a bit further to slavery, those women were expected to continue working even in physically demanding roles throughout their pregnancy and go right back to work after giving birth – it’s only relatively recently that FMLA, by classifying pregnancy as a disability, has extended to poor women the kind of “you delicate flower who must not lift anything that weighs more than 3 lbs” treatment that well-off women were always awarded.

              Certainly there are plenty of pregnancies that are complicated enough to be disabling, but many aren’t, and historically we’ve never actually based the disability classification on a medical opinion specific to the woman/pregnancy in question.

              1. Artemesia*

                Recovering physically from birth is a major issue for most women. It took me a good 3 mos with my first difficult birth — the second I did a work thing three days later before starting leave. But it is a medical event that leaves most women in need of physical recover. They were wrong to make slave women work right after giving birth; that is not excuse for not recognize that giving birth requires physical recovery and is distinct from parental leave which of course should be available to adoptive parents and fathers. My SIL both times got more paternal leave at his workplace than my daughter did maternity leave at hers.

          5. TiredMama*

            It’s crazy to me that I was in such a physically vulnerable state after having a baby and my baby (god willing) was at her peak neediness stage (hello cluster feeds) at the same time. I needed my husband here to help me take care of her while I recovered myself.

          6. PollyQ*

            True that childbirth can be hard on the body, but fathers & adoptive parents are equally entitled to parental leave.

            1. Grr*

              ‘Entitled’ is probably not the right concept here. People who gave birth have a greater physical need. Beyond that, caregiver leave is really about the needs of the baby for time establishing bonds with their family, which applies to birth-givers, sperm-givers and adoptive parents equally. One of these things is not like the others, but long parental leave for everybody is the most humane option.

              1. Avasarala*

                That’s what PollyQ said, and what “entitled” actually means, though it’s often used to mean the opposite (wanting something you don’t deserve).

          7. Dwight S.*

            You can get maternity and paternity leave if you adopt a child. So while I understand the sentiment of your comment, be careful how you word things.

          8. Alice's Rabbit*

            So true! You either pushed a watermelon out of a hole the size of a pingpong ball, or you got sliced open from hip-to-hip and had your uterus forcibly emptied.
            Either way, you have an internal wound the size of a dinner plate from where the placenta was attached. You need time to heal.

        3. TootsNYC*

          actually, I think that in Denmark, parents might well leave their napping baby home in the crib while they leave their house for an hour or so.

          1. Kelly*

            In Iceland folks leave their (sleeping usually) babies in their strollers outside of stores and restaurants.

            1. Tequila Mockingbird*

              That is common all over Scandinavia. In the 90s there was a rather famous incident in which a Danish tourist was arrested for leaving her baby in a stroller outside of an East Village restuarant.

              1. Ellen N.*

                I believe that the reason it’s a common practice in Scandinavia is the lack of sunlight. Everyone needs to soak up as much as they can whenever they get the chance.

            2. A bit of a saga*

              Yes this is the tradition in Denmark too – with a baby alarm these days. And only when they are sleeping. Of course I can’t speak for all Danes but I’ve never heard of anyone leaving their infant at home, alone in their crib, as TootsNYC says.

          2. AninoDane*

            I’ve never heard about anybody do that. They do leave the baby in a stroller outside to sleep (along with a baby alarm), but they don’t leave the house completely.

        4. Sara_H*

          I had a short argument with an ex-colleague (short because I couldn’t keep a straight face for very long) about whether caring for an adult dog was as difficult as caring for a baby. (Neither of us had children, but only one of us appeared to have experience/contact with other humans.) She explained to me that having dogs was more challenging, as she could only leave them at home alone in crates for at most four hours at a time. I tried to convince her that you can’t leave kids at home alone in a crate, for any length of time. She was unconvinced. I hope she still doesn’t have kids.

          1. Shadowbelle*

            OK, speaking as someone who did animal rescue for 20 years (and I don’t mean “adopting a rescued animal”), here’s where animal care is harder than child care:

            Most children grow up to the point where they can take care of themselves. Pets don’t. They need your care for their entire lives, and odds are they need your help to die peacefully and with a minimum of suffering.

            Other than that, I would recommend your ex-colleague to get a grip.

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              I agree with this. At least after a certain age, your kids can feed, water, and use the bathroom for themselves while you’re gone. Sure, you can’t leave them home in a crate, but you can leave them home. My parents started just leaving us at home every day in summertime when we were about 12 and 10. Pets (dogs particularly) tie you down to certain constraints forever…although it must be said that most dogs can last more than four hours in a create.

              Not that I’m in any way comparing the difficult of child-rearing to the difficulty of dog-rearing, but when it comes to convenience, there’s a certain trade-off.

            2. Hoist with his own petard*

              Pets need care their entire lives but when they get older, they don’t need constant care. You can leave them alone a few hours at a time. Kids also need a lot of care until they are adults (18 years!) which is longer than most pets live.

              And dont get me started about the cost differences. I dont know anyone who is saving to put their dog through college.

              This is a silly comparison.

              1. Avasarala*

                Yes, I still disagree. From age 0-15, a child needs much more care and attention and money than a dog. A baby needs lots of care before age 5, pets you can put out food/water for and leave them outside after age 2. Also pets have actual parents that can raise them too…

                1. TL -*

                  From age 0-18 is the legally mandated minimum of your child needing more time, attention and money than your pet. Most parents continue to support and provide guidance long after that (which – you don’t have to teach pets how to be an adult, manage finances, and navigate complex moral and social situations. That’s a large part of parenting older teens and even into early adulthood.)

            3. MeepMeep*

              Yeah, baby care is more intense than dog care, but it only lasts a year or so. A dog is like a toddler that never grows up.

              I have a four year old kid and we just spent 2 weeks dogsitting a (very sweet and easygoing) 12-year-old dog. My kid is much lower-maintenance.

            4. Nic*

              Yeah, I like to joke that my cat is somewhere close to a toddler on some parts of the emotional/psychological spectrum (“What do you mean the world doesn’t revolve around me/other people have feelings too?”), somewhere close to a teenager on other parts (“You’re not my mum – you can’t tell me what to do!”), definitely and recognisably an adult in much of her attitude – and just completely alien and outside of the human POV on most of the rest.

              And she’s utterly fascinating and perfect as she is – my little Alien-PirateQueen-Housemate – but God, do I sometimes wish that she could carry on developing to the point where she and I actually shared a language instead of being limited to a general emotional impression of each other. At least enough that I could explain why it’s necessary to go to the vets, or why she needs to let me give her antibiotics for a full week and not just the two days that she was feeling ill enough to let me, or why I’m a meanie who won’t let her walk on the mantelpiece (for the record: heavy mirror + cat who likes climbing = not a great combo!).

            5. TooTiredToThink*

              Shadowbelle, that’s the argument I’ve made with people. I have perpetual toddlers. Otherwise; its way easier to care for animals.

            6. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

              You described pretty well why I’m much more sure about not wanting pets than not wanting kids. After all, most kids will at some point learn to take care of their own basic needs and you get to enjoy the interesting conversations. With pets you are in the caregiver role forever.

              1. Crooked Bird*

                You sound like you might make a good parent! Or at least my style of parent. It sucks to not be the “I love caregiving” type when you have a newborn, but that’s short (if you only have one like I did) and I really think it helps a lot with the essential letting-go process as they grow up.

                I mean, that’s my random observation, I don’t know if you should have kids or not. :) Good luck whatever you do!

            7. That Would be a Good Band Name*

              I, as a parent of 2 toddlers, made that exact statement to my (now) ex-sister-in-law. She wouldn’t stop going on and on about how horrible it would be to have kids and I snapped that I thought her dog was worse because my kids would grow and eventually not be toddlers.

        5. Joielle*

          I will say that adopting a puppy solidified my desire to remain child-free, in an “oh my god, if having a baby is harder than this, then I do not want it” kind of way.

          A few years later, the puppy has become a reasonably well-behaved dog who does not pee everywhere twelve times a day and is actually fun to hang out with, and I imagine having a kid takes sort of the same general trajectory, but yeah… the day to day is certainly not remotely similar. And the consequences for screwing up are, uh, different.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            I have 3 kittens. I have been reminding myself that the current “60 mph whirlwind of doom and destruction” stage is the investment I’m making into having some really excellent cats in a couple of years. (Until recently, I had only older cats. Nice placid cats that I could even knit around…)

            1. Media Circus*

              I missed the “c”, and so read that you had “nice plaid cats”, which made the rest of the sentence even more interesting.

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Calico cats, plaid cats, chintz cats, velour cats… (Actually, one of my new boys is probably made of silk velvet. SO plushy!)

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  One of my cats is definitely a silk velvet tortoiseshell. Very very soft and silky.

                  Not a baby, and I’m glad of that.

            2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

              Haha “knit around” – I am picturing you knitting a little cat sweater on the sleeping cat while it tolerates its “fitting.”

            3. Soft Gray*

              I adopted my first kitten this summer, too! I’m told they grow out of a kitten-play attitude within two years…. luckily, my older cat really enjoys playing with her.

              I decided to get a kitten rather than an older cat like usual because my current workplace was completely fine with me working from home for a week, then half days for two, then just lunches at home (we usually eat together). I’m still incredibly grateful they were so flexible that I could do this. I can’t imagine demanding a pawternity leave equal to parental leave time!

            4. NotAnotherManager!*

              This is exactly why we have adopted all our cats as 1-year-olds. Kittens are so incredibly cute but also psychotic. I have a hard enough time keeping the part-Siamese from being killed by his own curiosity and the part-goat idiot-cat from eating any scrap of plastic he finds in the floor (and chewing on things – I thought it was teething and he’d grow out of it, but, nope, five years old and he chewed the plastic knobs off something in the house yesterday).

            5. Joielle*

              I initially had one kitten, who wanted to play 100% of his waking hours and wouldn’t take no for an answer… so I got another kitten, for my kitten. A live-in playmate. It worked out great!

              Now both of them are getting older and I’m trying to convince my husband that we should get another pair of kittens…

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Actually, this would be hugely helpful in housetraining a puppy/rescue dog.

        But the coworker is still being obnoxious about it and the LW is way too hung up on having the last word.

        1. Captain S*

          Yes! Puppies need a lot attention and care. But in most cases, this can probably be handled by using vacation, personal leave (if they are lucky enough to have such a thing, which considering the miserable state of parental leave at OPs job is unlikely), dog walkers/sitters or remote work. And “pawternity” makes me want to barf.

        2. Mel_05*

          Sure, but that’s what vacation time is for.

          I don’t have kids. I do have a dog. My husband and I took turns using our vacation time in order to house train him as a puppy. An effort which failed miserably. It definitely took a couple months and my husband would have to to run home from work on breaks to take care of the dog.

          Now that the dog is fully grown, there’s no comparison between a dog and a baby. I mean. He acts like a lot of my friends toddlers, but, I can leave him home alone for significantly longer and he’s much less of a hassle to feed.

        3. Just Elle*

          It would, and it also wouldn’t. I just went through adopting a new puppy and my mom told me about how some places offer ‘pawternity’ leave and at first I got super jealous I didn’t have it….

          But then I realized that puppies can’t ‘hold it’ for 8 hours until they’re 8 months to a year old, and come home to live with you at 2 months. So unless I’m getting a full 6-8 MONTHS off work, I still need to work out a letting-the-dog-out option. Coming home at lunch, puppy daycare, dog walker, indoor pee pad, whatever. Its going to need to happen regardless. So what’s the real benefit in leave?

          I ended up taking a long weekend for extra bonding and vet visit time. Then I tried a week to WFH just so I could let her out every few hours, and it was a nightmare. She didn’t really care if I was home or not, but me being home trying to work with a puppy who’s mad she’s in the playpen and can see me but not touch me is not a good solution. So I set up a puppy cam and some pee pads and went back to work. By 1 hour into day 1 she was sleeping peacefully. And I just genuinely don’t feel that I would have gained anything by being home for more time. I play with her and take her on walks in the morning and devote significant time to her after work and shes happy as a clam / needs to sleep most of the day anyway,

        4. Not a Dr*

          My work actually gave me pawternity leave. I got 1 extra paid vacation day.
          Parental leave on my country is 12-18 months, Divided between the parents, and our company offers a little extra leave on top of this.

          I was really thankful for my one day to get the dog settled. And took advantage of work from home for a few days after.

          But I would never expect the same leave time as parents get.

          Offering something is one thing, but new parents should get more.

    2. Doug Judy*

      Pawternity leave came up recently at my work. We have a site where employees can suggest things. Most are client related improvements but some are employee benefit suggestions and quite a few have been implemented. But someone suggested pawternity leave (and used that term) and we are also not a company that offers paid paternal leave. You can use PTO and if you give birth you can get short term disability to cover some of it, but that’s all that is offered. PTO here is good and a week or two leave to care for a pet would be approved. And I get the reluctance to add it, it’s a slippery slope. Because not everyone will have kids, not everyone will want pets. What kind of pet qualifies for leave?
      But yeah we all said no and let it go. Coworker who suggested it might stew about it but OP needs to just let it go.

      1. Amber T*

        I would love to see the look on the faces of our upper management if someone suggested pawternity leave.

      2. Blue Anne*

        I’ve got to hope that if any company without paid parental leave institutes paid pawternity leave, all the new parents will make a pit stop to buy a hamster on the way home from the hospital.

        1. Lehigh*

          “I’m pleased to announce our baby is home and healthy…oh, also, I will be on pawternity leave for the next twelve weeks to care for my new aloe plant.”

          1. Milli*

            Can I institute Pigternity leave for my guineas? This whole idea is very dog-centric and I am deeply offended!

      3. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        I would hope the slippery slope would add elder care, an increasing source of absenteeism / PTO requests / schedule juggling. I have teenagers and soon my parents will be living in the same town as us and I wonder how I’m going to handle both once they start to decline.

        My husband’s parents are always calling – it’s a good thing he works from home because the level of neediness that built over time that completely takes advantage of the fact that he’s at home.

        1. Alexandra Lynch*

          My boys offered to move in with my mom after my dad died to take care of the things she couldn’t handle after she hurt her back. They’re both over 18, and working, and it works well for them. And they needed to get away from their dad. When I divorced him they were utterly unsurprised.

    3. Mama Bear*

      Agreed re: actual leave. I would also remind people (if it is available to a company your size) that FMLA isn’t just for new babies. It can be used for cancer treatment, caring for a parent or spouse….

      Re her and her clique, I would simply reiterate that she can request PTO when her puppy arrives and leave it at that. She’s being ridiculous to be that upset. I adore my pets. When our cat died I took a day of PTO. But no way is my cat the equivalent to my child (or my mom, or my spouse) and to insist otherwise is a bit much. If she is actually harassing people who don’t share her POV and causing problems with her coworkers, then that is a different matter.

      1. Anon Y. Mouse*

        If she’s not her supervisor/manager, I probably wouldn’t even reiterate anything, and doing so would likely just reflare up up whatever emotions the coworker is having about this towards the OP.

    4. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, same here. I actually took two half-days when we adopted our (adult, fully house trained) dog to make sure he wasn’t home too long alone (and by coincidence we had a friend coming the next week so my husband was off then) but it would never occur to me to call it “pawternity” leave. It was my choice and training a new puppy is in no way the same as recovering from childbirth or bonding with an infant.

      1. lost academic*

        Yeah, I’ve got cats and now an 11 month old. A few years ago one of the cats got lung cancer and it spiraled out of control in what was the last ~10 days of her life where I spent an enormous amount of time taking her to emergency vet and then nearly daily to regular vet, monitoring her breathing and blood sugar, force feeding her recovery food with a bottle every 2 hours, cleaning up after her because she could barely move. When my infant was born it was a straightforward labor and delivery and a healthy, pretty easy infant. And it in NO WAY compares to the cat – the energy and work let alone stress associated with an infant were just orders of magnitude higher. If you haven’t been through both you really cannot understand the difference except intellectually and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is just NOT the same.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely agreed, as a dog owner who really really loves her dog. This woman is a bit of a crank. I think OP’s best bet is to adopt an anthropological lens and view the woman and her clique as a fascinating group for study.

    6. Rainy*

      Same. Love my pupper, we’re planning on getting another one at some point, and at that point I’m likely going to take a week or so off to get us over the crate training hump, but I wouldn’t call it “pawternity leave”, I’d just call it “time for me to be up four times a night with a smol pup, thank god I have decent paid leave”.

    7. Witchy Human*

      I suspect that this isn’t so much about wanting “pawternity leave” as sneering at actual paternity/maternity leave.

      Like, she realizes that her proposal is stupid, but so is the idea of people taking time to spend with a new baby. It’s not “I deserve” but “you don’t deserve.”

      Similarly, her irritation about not getting recognized on Mother’s Day isn’t truly about her wanting recognition as a dog-mom, but thinking that human-moms don’t deserve recognition either.

      1. Captain S*

        Ick if that’s the case. But idk, people genuinely make the argument that dogs and babies are the same in Eccentric Dog People circles. I find it likely she’s one of those who really believes she’s made an equivalent choice.

        1. Grr*

          Getting pissy about Mother’s Day, though, to the point of being mad that people didn’t read her mind and treat her like a dog is equivalent to a baby? Yeah, to me that smacks of the I-hate-parents end of the Eccentric Childfree People circles.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Ooohh, I used to work from someone in the Eccentric Childfree Dog-People world, and she absolutely though she should get the same leave for her puppy that we “breeders” got for our (not my words, folks!) “crotch droppings”. Ironically, when she had a baby a few years later, she became a Natural Childbirth & Breastfeeder or You’re Doing It Wrong Parent, so I think she just really liked looking down on other people’s choices. (Hilariously, her husband – never pregnant, never spent a minute in labor – pronounced at a work dinner party that labor pains were “all in a woman’s mind” and he was “proud that [his] wife was mentally strong enough” for natural childbirth. He also called women who didn’t breastfeed “lazy” and “uninterested in their children’s health”.)

            I was… not disappointed when they relocated and we lost touch.

      2. Lyssa*

        Yeah, I think that’s what’s irritating the LW so much. Luckily, it’s so obnoxious it’s hard to imagine anyone taking her seriously (though maybe her “clique” is obnoxious, too).

      3. Alice's Rabbit*

        That has definitely been the case with the few nutjobs like this that I know. They’re angry that they aren’t getting the same recognition and perks that moms do… without wanting to put in the hard work and personal sacrifices that are a necessary part of motherhood.

    8. Valprehension*

      Wow, I didn’t read Captain S’s comment this way at all! I believe they were just pointing out the sad state of affairs that at OP’s work, *there is no parental leave for actual new parents*, and that should be changed, not that OP should be pushing for this employee to get parental leave for her puppy! (Can you imagine, though, if the first person in a company to get actual parental leave was a pet-parent? There’d be riots!)

  2. Fikly*

    This feels like another person who is angry because they are unable to use every single benefit a company offers, and that they deserve some kind of compensation for the ones they cannot.

    1. Washi*

      Except parental leave isn’t even offered as a benefit! It’s definitely pretty weird that despite her coworkers not getting leave to recover from the birth/spend time with their human children, this woman thinks she should get special leave for her puppy.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This. A lot of people who don’t have kids or aren’t friends with many people who have kids assume that parental leave is extra paid leave time that nobody else gets, but in the US all you’re actually guaranteed is that your job can’t fire you for taking three months of medical leave. In most businesses I’m aware of, if you want to be paid for that medical leave, you have to use up all the sick leave and vacation time you’ve accrued, and not everybody who takes a three month maternity leave is actually being paid for the whole stretch of time.

        1. CMart*

          Well, even at places that do offer genuine paid parental leave benefits it’s still very off and myopic for people who don’t want kids to be pissed off that they don’t get “X weeks extra paid vacation” or whatever.

          You want X weeks paid leave to recover from birth/help a partner recover from birth/acclimate to a new child in your family? Then do that. It’s not random paid vacation, after all.

          1. Mimi Me*

            LOL…The company I worked for paid for the maternity leave when I had my first child. Not one moment of that time off is something I could classify as vacation. It was hard work. I was more tired than I’d ever been before in my life. My body hurt. I felt gross. Yes, the baby was cute and cuddly but she was also colicky. My daughter cried every day from 3pm to 7pm. Non-stop. I would have gladly gone back to work and traded places with any coworker who thought I might be getting a paid vacation. My gifts to pregnant people got a lot better after I had a baby. Yeah…I’ll get you something off the registry but I’m also giving you a few gift cards for local places that deliver. A coworker once showed up to visit the baby and she brought me a sub. I might have cried a little (a lot!) that day. :)

            1. CMart*

              I had exactly the same experience (minus the paid leave) with my first, down to food delivery being my go-to baby shower gift ever after.

            2. Not a Blossom*

              I don’t have kids, but when friends do, I either cook them loads of individually sized meals they can freeze or bring over food that can be made super, super easily. I’ve haven’t lived it, but I’ve seen how exhausting maternity leave can be.

          2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            I always feel that those people are begging for a graphic description of childbirth recovery. Nobody talks about it, because it’s gross and involves adult diapers and nobody wants to freak out pregnant ladies – but maybe we should.

            1. Just Elle*

              My mom often says that her greatest anger around labor/delivery in the US is that no one warned her about what came after.
              I believe the exact quote is “Everyone prepared me for the lack of sleep but the surprise horror show down there was downright traumatic.”

              1. Mimi Me*

                A friend of mine got pregnant right after I gave birth to my 2nd kid. She asked for advice on what she should prepare for. I told her to take as many of those hospital mesh underpants and the “good” pads as she could fit in her bag home. LOL! I still remember the confused, slightly horrified expression on her face. She did tell me she remembered to do as I told her. :) Those mesh underpants have to be the best thing ever post childbirth.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  @Campfire Raccoon: I encourage you to go see a pelvic floor therapist if you haven’t already. There are things a good PT can do to help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

              2. Alexandra Lynch*

                My youngest is 20. It was an explosive delivery.

                I deal with the physical aftereffects on a daily basis. I am very careful about leaving the house due to them. So yeah. Things they don’t tell you.

            2. Rainy*

              If you know any honest pregnant women at all and you were on the fence about having kids, my experience indicates that you will go all in on doing literally anything else as a hobby instead. ;)

            3. workerbee2*

              Yes!! NO ONE warned me that labor/delivery isn’t the hard part. My mother probably would have, except she had C-sections, so she had no idea what recovery from vaginal delivery is like (not that recovering from a C-section isn’t difficult, it’s just difficult in a different way).

              1. Milli*

                My mom had a C-section too. It’s interesting when you hear people talk about it, because it seems like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I don’t know how we ever survived learning how to walk upright.

              2. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

                Having done both, I can say that childbirth recovery is just hard all around. I took six weeks for my first child, and it was hard. I took eight weeks for my second (c-section due to breech presentation). I took eight weeks, but only got paid short-term disability for the last kid, also a c-section (insurance company said that my uncomplicated surgery didn’t require the additional two weeks, despite doctor not clearing me to come back until the two-month mark). I took two vacation days after having a long weekend when I adopted my dogs- my pet loving boss had no problem approving my request. The dogs are hard in a way that is different from my kids being hard.

          3. Third or Nothing!*

            100% NOT a vacation. I got 6 weeks paid leave, used 2 vacation weeks, and worked from home for another 2 weeks to transition back. Most of that time was spent desperately trying to calm a screaming banshee or plopped on the couch nursing said banshee. It was so bad that I actually got sent to the psych ER by my midwife for an emergency eval (don’t worry guys I’m fine now). Some vacation. 0 stars.

          4. whingedrinking*

            I recently had to explain to someone why, even in countries where you get a full year of fully-paid parental leave, it is not feasible to “pop out a kid once a year” and stay on leave for the rest of your life. (Short form: even if you could get pregnant that reliably, even if that many pregnancies and births weren’t incredibly physically taxing, who in God’s name thinks that raising a couple *dozen* children is easier than just getting a damn job?!)
            He downvoted me and never responded.

        2. Fikly*

          Guaranteed by law, maybe. I work in the US and my company offers maternity leave that doesn’t require touching your sick or vacation time. It’s out there.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Sure, it exists, but it’s by no means a guarantee and I don’t think it’s the most common setup.

          2. GooseTracks*

            Of course it’s offered *voluntarily* by some companies. But the majority of US workers don’t have paid leave, and ~40% aren’t even covered by FMLA.

            1. Fikly*

              Ok, but how does that change the premise of people who are annoyed at not being able to utilize all of their company’s benefits being ridiculous?

            2. Nilla*

              What? That isn’t accurate at all….
              According to CEPR, 25% of workers in the US do not have paid time off.

        3. Mama Bear*

          Right. I used short term disability and PTO for 8 weeks and went unpaid for 4, during which I had to pay extra for my health insurance. The disability pay wasn’t 100%, either.

        4. Annie Porter*

          I’m childfree by choice, but I never considered parental leave any type of vacation. That said, what would be REALLY neat is if there was some type of paid leave that covered serious, documentable family situations including childbirth (adopting a dog is serious and a lifelong commitment, but I’d exclude that here). My old employer offered an extra two weeks of parental leave for new parents, which was great. But, when my dad got sick and I was his primary caretaker, I had to use vacation time and call-ins. It would’ve been nice to have that extra two-week bank to draw from. The parental leave policy was fairly new, so many parents never got to take advantage, and then found themselves in tight situations with sick parents/etc. This way, it covers anyone with a (again, documentable) family situation that requires a lot of time off.

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            My employer has this! We have up to six weeks of full-pay annual medical or caregiving leave (on top of combined sick/vacation PTO). It can be used for giving birth, adopting, or fostering a child; providing acute caregiving to other family members (with a broad definition of family); or your own extended medical leave — essentially, things that are covered under FMLA (but with a more generous/culturally responsive definition of “family”).

            It’s both pathetic that this is rare, and something I’m really proud of my organization for doing.

          2. Miss Muffet*

            You’re describing something that is like a paid version of FMLA, which would be super nice. You could use it for adoptions, and parents, major illnesses, and the other myriad things that come up that “vacation time” doesn’t really cover.
            This is what caring about family values would actually look like, but state and fed legislatures refuse to pass laws that will do this.

            1. Annie Porter*

              Yeah, and most employers (in my experience) just like to SAY they’re family-friendly, but then stick you between a rock and a hard place when you actually need that family-friendliness/flexibility to kick in (unless, of course, you are family members of company leadership, but that’s a whole different bitter road to travel down).

          3. anon for this one*

            My employer has this. It’s called “family care leave” and available for up to 4 weeks for a primary family member. It’s really nice to know it’s there. It’s separate from our parental leaves, though, which are longer. People can have babies and also have sick family members, so it’s not always an either/or situation.

          4. Avasarala*

            My company (not US) has this and it’s standard in my country. I think it’s more common to have some kind of caretaker leave in cultures where children are expected to care for their aging parents.

      2. Antilles*

        Yeah, that’s the part that strikes me as straight up bonkers.
        new parents in our company need to use our vacation and sick banks to have any substantial time at home with our newborns.
        Any company that doesn’t even provide paid paternity leave for human newborns isn’t even going to *consider* the idea of doing so for pets. That’s laugh-in-your-face level of “you’re kidding right?”.

    2. Minocho*

      Meh, or they’re sensitive about defending the fact that they’re child-free for other reasons. Motivation doesn’t really matter in this case. It’s one of those things where it’s probably going to better to let someone be weird about their thing without comment, because they have too much emotion invested in it.

      I have my weird things – but I purposely keep any mention or discussion of them lighthearted and jokey to minimize the chance it’ll be an issue.And it’ll still sometimes be an issue – and then I back off and note that my weird is a thing for the particular coworker in question.

      We’re thrown together in a mix due to compatible skillsets, not because we’re all going to be best friends. Minimizing exposure to unnecessary stressors is just a survival skill in the workplace.

      1. Jennifer*

        This. They need to defend their childfreeness to anyone who will listen, even those who don’t care. As bad as people who just started Crossfit.

          1. Minocho*

            Maaaaaan, dietary preference discussions almost ALWAYS turn into this for me. I just “nope” out of those conversations. They always rub me the wrong way.

            1. Quill*

              *insert nopetopus gif here*

              You’re not my doctor and the person who told you to do keto isn’t a doctor so… please exhale your major nutritional change over THERE.

          1. CMart*

            My husband started long distance running while doing Americorps. He was medium insufferable in conversation for a couple years there.

        1. I was never given a name*

          I agree with you (and other commenters) that aggressive defensiveness about all sorts of personal choices can be annoying. But it’s important to note there’s another side here–there’s strong pressure in a lot of families, communities, and cultures to procreate, and the badgering of people who don’t can get annoying. So while not ideal, it’s at least understandable to me that someone could end up so defensive about their choice not to have children that it comes out in this way.

          1. Blueberry*

            There is so much pressure from all sides to have children. I can’t, and people have told me some obnoxious things about how I’ve failed as a woman because of that.

            But what this coworker is doing, being obnoxious in the other direction, isn’t helping. Childfree obnoxiousness doesn’t cancel out child-enforcing obnoxiousness, but instead the obnoxiousness just multiplies.

        2. BeckySuz*

          Nothing is as bad as people that do CrossFit. Although CrossFit is keeping my nephew who is a physical therapy Doctor in business so there’s that.

        3. VeryAnon*

          I mean, OP is equally ridiculous. They describe their co-worker’s pro choice beliefs as part of the ‘cavalier toward parenthood’ package.

          1. Kiwiii*

            I’d been hoping someone would point this out because I had an immediate “no, no, no that’s not the same thing” reaction upon reading.

          2. Elena vasquez*

            I got the impression that the coworker would prefer that women have abortions than children. Some childfree people really do hate children and think women are better off without any. At least in my experience.

            1. VeryAnon*

              In my experience it’s far more likely for people to *think* that that is what childfree people believe. It is also a common (and false) charge often levelled at pro choice people.

              1. Helena*

                OP has updated further down thread that she is pro-choice herself, but Coworker has made it clear it is part of her anti-child position and not about bodily autonomy.

              2. Kate2*

                Strongly agree. I’ve been accused of the same thing. I’ve also been told I will never be a real adult unless I have kids, that I’ll never know real love, only parents are really responsible people, and many more horribly offensive hateful things.

                I have mentioned being peo-choice in the office in response to conversations others were having. Some of my colleagues were saying awful untrue things about abortions and people who have them, based on “facts” from a Facebook article they saw. I had to speak up and I’m sure what I said was spread around the office.

            2. Nilla*

              That is how I read it too. Sharing in an office setting that you donate to abortion access funds (on top of the childfree identity thing) to me is a little over the top and asking for controversy/debate.

              I dont see why anyone would talk about abortion (for or against) in an office environment… so to share it (though we dont have context) to me paints a picture of someone over the top on the issue.

              1. Maeve*

                I donate to abortion funds through my work’s United Way campaign…haven’t talked about it a ton but people see the forms.

              2. Pants*

                I have to wonder if she specifically said “abortion” or if it was Planned Parenthood that was mentioned. I live in the south. “Planned Parenthood” here is equated with “baby killing abortion factories.”

                1. Nilla*

                  That is certainly possible. But I think it is fair to take the LW at her word, considering we don’t have any other information.

              3. VeryAnon*

                While I agree it shouldn’t be discussed in an office, I find it interesting that “supporting the right to bodily autonomy” is still considered ‘over the top’ in 2019.

                1. VeryAnon*

                  Nilla: “Sharing in an office setting that you donate to abortion access funds (on top of the childfree identity thing) to me is a little over the top”

                  You said that ^

                2. Nilla*

                  Yes. Sharing that kind of political information in the workplace is over the top. Same would be true if it were to an anti-abortion groups. And you skipped the part of my quote where there is a larger picture being painted of the coworker.

      2. Shoes On My Cat*

        This! This is GOLD!!! “and then I back off and note that my weird is a thing for the particular coworker in question.—We’re thrown together in a mix due to compatible skillsets, not because we’re all going to be best friends. Minimizing exposure to unnecessary stressors is just a survival skill in the workplace.” This is a huge piece of AAM in a nutshell —well said!

      3. Robin*

        “We’re thrown together in a mix due to compatible skillsets, not because we’re all going to be best friends. Minimizing exposure to unnecessary stressors is just a survival skill in the workplace.”

        I love this…especially in my “we’re all family/best friends/etc.” workplace, where my coworker and manager seemed a bit put out when I moved into this department and ended up opting out of after hours & weekend texting ( which they do a lot!) after a couple of months.

    3. Martha*

      This reminds me of a colleague who was extremely angry that our large employer started providing reserved parking spaces for pregnant women. (To use the space, the pregnant woman must provide medical documentation that she is in her 3rd trimester. A space is then created. She is allowed to park only in that space, which disappears when her baby is born.) The colleague was angry because why didn’t he get a reserved space–he is overweight and finds it difficult to walk long distances.

      We have pregnancy parking because women demonstrated that there was a need. I don’t understand why people think they “deserve” every possible accommodation that someone else qualifies for. If you need an accommodation that isn’t currently provided, make your case.

      1. Natalia*

        We had an issue like that at my overweight employee wanted to be able to park right in front of the entrance because the designated employee lot was too far away and it’s to hard for him to walk that far. To be honest, the employee parking lot is not that far away. The employee lot is maybe 15 more steps further then the entrance then the places for customers right in front of the entrance….god, people!

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        If he finds it hard to walk long distances, then he *should* be able to get a closer parking spot! I don’t see why both can’t be legitimate needs (though obviously there are only so many optimally-close parking spots).

        1. Nilla*

          I am imagining an office where the parking spots are reserved by peoples weight…
          Newman gained another 5 pounds, which means he got to steal Jerry’s spot!

          But seriously. The pregnancy spot required essentially a doctors note. A doctors note will also get you a handicapped spot. This system already exists!

      3. Faith*

        My employer provides parking to all pregnant women regardless of how far along they are. In fact, I started using this parking long before I announced my pregnancy. It was actually very convenient in the first trimester when I was super fatigued and nauseous. The parking that pregnant women get to use is the same parking that people with certain amount of seniority get to use. So, I ran into one of my coworkers using THE SAME parking as me, who got upset that I got to use it even though he was already using THE SAME parking, just for a different reason.

  3. Daisy D*

    Good grief! I’m the most happily child-free person you could imagine, and I love my pets, but this woman is ridiculous and you should not waste any more time or energy thinking about or caring what she says or does. She’s a loon!

    Ignore her, tune her out every time she starts up with this nonsense, and feel free to laugh quietly to yourself at how weird she is being.

    1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

      As a confirmed middle age child-free-by-choice dedicated pet lover I can honestly say that Ms Pawternity is being ridiculous. Please DO NOT let this woman cow you. She has a chip on her shoulder and feels the need to spout off righteous indignation. What-the-hell-ever.

  4. Rachel*

    Just feel a need to point out that donating to abortion funds has literally nothing to do with this person’s weird aggression about pet-parenting! Or being child-free! Donating to abortion funds is about ensuring that people who want abortions are able to access abortions, and that’s it. Abortion fund donors have kids, or don’t have kids, or have pets that they obsess over, or don’t have pets. As an abortion fund volunteer, the LW connecting abortion funds with their coworker’s child-free status concerns me.

      1. Stormfeather*

        I dunno, if it was just put in there by the LW I would agree… but the fact that she knows this factoid in the first place about the coworker’s donations in the first place kind of implies to me that it may be the coworker herself that is flying her flag that she donates to abortion services because she believes in being child free, which yes, is creepy and hurtful in various ways.

        1. Krakatoa*

          Yeah, I can understand believing that access to abortions is important for society, but I took it as her adding context that this person is more militantly anti-children for some reason.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Same. In a different context, like someone being obnoxiously vocal about supporting abortion to keep the world child-free (which is gross), it’s a different story. But simply mentioning it… I know some of the organizations my co-workers support. Sometimes it comes up because we have a community support initiative.

          2. Washi*

            Yeah, I’m super pro-choice, but I read the letter the same way. I’m assuming that this is kind of part of her schtick, based on the OP also knowing that this coworker has advised people in her personal life not to have kids. I mean, I agree with Alison that she shouldn’t get sidetracked by this and just ignore all this woman’s hijinks, but I can see why the OP left that detail in there.

          3. 'Tis Me*

            Yep, there’s a difference between funding organisations that help people access abortion or unbiased options counselling, and strongly advocating for abortion when people need to work out what is best for themselves and are having an eek.

            I strongly believe women should have access to safe legal abortion services, free of judgement. I also strongly believe that the decision should not be taken lightly and women should not be pressurised either way.

            I know some pro-lifers conflate the terms but pro-choice and pro-abortion are hugely different concepts.

            “I don’t like children. I don’t want children. I don’t really think other people should have kids although I guess at the end of the day, it’s their lives and they don’t *have* to listen to me on that one… But I’m really upset people aren’t wishing me a happy mother’s day because I have a dog, and also think I should get equal access to leave for adopting a puppy as I would for having a baby.”

            1. Avasarala*

              I agree. If you’re at the point where you’re anti-child, you shouldn’t be coaching women about abortion decisions.

        2. Leslie Knope*

          That’s how I interpreted that as well. It’s one thing to support a cause and donate money or time, but another thing to constantly remind your coworkers (!) about it. It’s not the same as having a conversation with a friend outside of a work.

          Sounds like the OP included that tidbit to put into context that the coworker has strong opinions and makes them known often. That would start to rub me the wrong way as well, no matter what subject the coworker was talking about at the time.

          1. Gigi*

            The OP doesn’t says she constantly reminded her coworkers. She stated: “I didn’t feel she was obnoxious about her child-free preference until this past Mother’s Day..”

        3. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I am not sure I understand what is creepy and hurtful?

          While I don’t think I would really make a point to announce what organizations I support with donations, I would not hide it and certain causes I support have come up in conversation.

          But I don’t think it is creepy or hurtful that a person who is child free by choice, wants to donate to abortion services/causes to allow other people to have an actual meaningful access to the choice of an abortion.

          It is one thing to have a legal right to abortion, it is another thing to be able to financially afford to exercise that right. Even in states that have clinics somewhat close by, it still costs money to get to the clinic and to perform the procedure. Even clinics that provide services on a free or sliding scale still need donations to make up that difference between what a client pays and actual costs of the procedure.

          1. Elena vasquez*

            Announcing your donations to abortion services while promoting your childfree status IS very creepy in that it gives the impression that you think no woman should have children and you’ll spend money toward that goal.

            1. Oryx*

              That’s a really disingenuous reading of it.

              My husband and I are childfree. We don’t hide this fact. We are also both pro-choice (and have had that discussion as a couple if something happened) and I have been donating to planned parenthood since I was about 16 and am also very vocal about my support of abortion clinics.

              But in no way do I believe that nobody should have children and I love our nieces and nephews and my friends’ kids.

              1. Jennifer*

                This co-worker isn’t just childfree. She’s giving the impression that she is anti child. That’s very different from your situation.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  Maybe our definitions of anit-child are different; but I think if coworker said “I hate kids and no one should every have any children” or “Everyone should be forced to have an abortion.” that would be anti-child. But the coworker choosing not to have children, donating to abortion providers and counseling women to be childfree is not anti-children.

                  I am currently childfree, but I want kids in the very near future, and even I think that society as a whole does heavily push/promote children. So someone counseling people on being childfree is not anti-children but rather just showcasing different life choices that are possible.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Being childfree by choice is not the same is being anti children or against all children. Counseling people who are on the fence about having children not to have them is also not the same as being anti children. Donating to abortion services is also not anti children or thinking that everyone should get an abortion but just that people that do want one should be able to have one.

              I am currently childfree, but I am pro-choice, I think people who want an abortion should be able to get one and people who don’t want one should not have one. I want kids eventually and will continue to be pro-choice. I do think that generally people who want kids should be the one to have them, people who don’t should not have them, and people who are on the fence should have the option of talking to someone about it who is childfree if they choose to.

              Sometimes you might think you are on the fence about something, but when you are confronted with discussion about different points you realize you really already know what you want.

              For example sometimes when I go out to eat initially I think I can’t decide between option A and option B. I will usually ask the server what they recommend. Sometimes the server recommends A, I realize A is really what I wanted all along and order A; when the server recommends B, I realized A is actually what I was really wanting and order A; sometimes I really don’t know what I want and order what the server recommends.

              TO BE CLEAR I AM NOT EQUATING ORDERING FOOD TO THE DECISION OF HAVING AN ABORTION: just that discussing something with someone can help clarify your own thoughts/feelings on the subject.

              1. anon for this one*

                Strongly agree with all of this, but I can’t figure out how the coworker counseling people on whether to have kids even comes up in the first place in a workplace setting. I’m somewhat on the fence about kids and have discussed that with close friends at the office, but not in a “tell me whether or not to have kids!” way, that would be ridiculous.

                1. Kesnit*

                  The LW says the lady talks to women about having children in her personal time. The way the letter reads, she isn’t taking time from her work day to tell female co-workers they should hot have children.

                2. Helena*

                  Oh you’d be surprised. When I was visibly pregnant (about 6 months), I had a patient strongly imply so should have an abortion because the world was already overpopulated.

                  People who are vehemently anti-child often don’t have any qualms about upsetting pregnant women. In fact, the ones I’ve met seem to be anti-child as a way of being anti-pregnant woman/anti-mother. It’s often just a subset of misogyny/internalised misogyny. Hence the objections to paid parental leave, refusal to give up your seat to pregnant women on public transport, etc etc – it’s just another way of lashing out at women.

                3. Not a walking uterus*

                  When I first got married, coworkers would ask when I was going to have kids so often that one day I snapped and said, “I’m not a walking uterus!” This is just as inappropriate in my opinion, but much more common, and just as misogynistic. The vehemence and lack of qualms about upsetting women goes both ways – someone struggling with infertility is vulnerable too!

          2. Stormfeather*

            Yeah, pretty much what Elena Vazquez said. It seems creepy and hurtful to me to broadcast to your workplace that you are supporting abortion as part of your militant childfree stance, with the implications that everyone should have abortions, feeding into the “abortion is for disposing of children” dialogue rather than equating it with a woman’s health/autonomy thing, and so on.

            And yes, I may be misreading the OP’s coworker’s actual stance/how the whole donations to abortion services thing came up in the conversation. But the “creepy and hurtful” comment was still about that sort of militant stance and attitude about abortion, whether it’s the coworker’s actual stance or not.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I agree that the coworker is being weird on the issue of “Pawterntity” and mothers day. Maybe the coworker is “militantly childfree” as you say based on other things OP did not mention. But the coworkers choice to be childfree and to support abortion is not that same as implying that everyone should have abortions, I think it just means that the coworker believes/supports that everyone who wants an abortion should be able to have meaningful access to one not just “legal” access.

              1. anon for this one*

                Yeah, it really seems to me like this is what the LW is reading into her coworker’s actions. It’s hard for me to imagine being childfree by choice and NOT supporting abortion access, tbh.

                All of this is weird to talk about at work though. I work at an office with a lot of progressive women where we’re pretty open about our personal lives, and I can’t imagine advising coworkers not to have children or talking about my abortion fund donations!

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  The OP gave some useful updates (letterwriter*) while I already thought the coworker was being weird/over the top, OP’s comments shed more light and pushed me further in that direction. As is often the case this was more about the coworker and the cliques general behavior than about this particular issue.

                2. Fund Abortion Build Power!*

                  I have children! I donate to abortion funds! I have a lot of abortion fund themed office supplies that I use at work.

          3. hamstergirl7*

            There is actually a very vocal contingent of Child-free folk (Anti-natalists) who believe that having children is immoral and you are a terrible person if you choose to have children and actively advocate abortion in the same way that Pro-lifers are anti-abortion. My reading of this letter implied that the child-free woman was teetering on anti-natalism with her abortion comments (and her zeal about counseling women surrounding the issue of being CF).

            1. Blerpborp*

              I was coming her to mention anti-natalism! Of course, out of context, being pro-choice and childfree are unrelated but if this coworker is conflating the two in a anti-natalist way then it is kind of relevant. I’ve also seen it less as “you’re a terrible person” if you have kids but that they believe that it is a selfish choice in regards to the environment and for the child you create because life is hard and full of pain. It’s an interesting philosophy and I don’t even think there’s anything wrong with holding that belief but being so vocal about it all the time around people who do have kids or people who don’t care one way or the other is just rude because it is a pretty radical, unpopular thought.

            2. Vicky Austin*

              What, do they want the human species to die out? Very strange.
              (For the record, I am childfree myself.)

        4. Dust Bunny*

          . . . it still has nothing to do with the fact that the coworker is annoying and wants parental benefits for her dog.

          It’s also creepy and hurtful to be aggressively pro-parenthood. The problem is being pushy and oversharing about a viewpoint, any viewpoint, that is emotionally charged.

        5. Dagny*


          Frankly, we’re all better off if we don’t much know where our co-workers stand on those issues, except in the most vague sense.

        6. Letter Writer*

          In my attempt to be vague about my coworker’s personality, I softened her viewpoint.

          My coworker has mentioned “saving” women from unwanted pregnancies and children that would come from those pregnancies. If you take forced-birth rhetoric and overlay it with what my coworker has said, they’re not that dissimilar. I donate to abortion related services as well, but I don’t talk about it at length at work.

          1. StlBlues*

            By definition, if the pregnancies are UNWANTED – then yes, I think you’d be saving the woman from something she didn’t want. I profoundly hope that abortions are only taking place in unwanted situations. (I know of course that there are also medical reasons for terminating a very wanted pregnancy. I just don’t wish that on anyone). This, to me, doesn’t read as any more ‘militant’ than being pro-choice.

              1. Star*

                Oh please. StlBlues didn’t say anything that would warrant a response like this, not at all.

                But your response suggests you think women shouldn’t be allowed an abortion for an unwanted pregnancy, which is pretty nasty.

            1. Blueberry*

              You would be surprised. For example, one friend of mine found out that her then-unborn child would be disabled, and when she asked her friends for support a now former friend of ours promptly, emphatically, and repeatedly told her she should abort; in the climactic fight they said they wished they could force her to abort. I relate this story as someone strongly pro-choice: there’s no idea so good that someone can’t find a way to be an utter jerk about it.

              1. Helena*

                I’d argue that’s less about being pro-choice (because it’s pretty anti-choice, just in the opposite way to pro-lifers) and more about being pro-eugenics/disablist.

                But I’m splitting hairs, it’s horrendous either way.

          2. Treats for Shelby*

            Thank you for clarifying. Your co-worker has taken a majorly disturbing stance and I fear what more lies behind it.

      1. Shenandoah*

        This! Having a kid has made me even more profoundly pro-choice. I found pregnancy to be tough and the early postpartum days to be even harder. I cannot imagine having to endure all of it without *wanting* a baby.

        1. Re'lar Fela*

          THIS. Exactly. I’ve always been pro-choice, but after going through a high risk pregnancy + a NICU stay + being a single parent/the sole provider for my kid for three years, I cannot ever imagine being forced to endure any or all of that. I wouldn’t ever have an abortion myself, but I will fight tooth and nail for others to be able to make the choice that is best for them.

          1. blackcat*

            Seriously. I had a very difficult pregnancy, and every time I think of mandatory waiting periods before abortions, I think about being 5 weeks pregnant and being unable to move without vomiting, getting extremely dehydrated and ultimately landing in an ER. Forcing someone to suffer that for an extra 48 or 72 hours because you don’t trust their decision is SO terrible to me.
            I was always pro-choice, but I’m now militantly so. No one should have to suffer like I did, certainly not for a child they don’t want.

            1. Amy Sly*

              I realize this may be an unpopular sentiment here, but I feel like someone should note that there’s no such things as an unwanted baby in this country. A woman may not want her fetus, but there are dozens of couples trying to adopt for every adoptable infant. One of the placement agencies in my city even goes so far as to charge a mandatory $300 publicist’s fee for crafting a promo book to help sell the mother on their couples’ family life — that’s how far the demand for “unwanted” children outstrips the supply.

              Of course, the issue is that even if this “doggy mommy” really the worst kind of baby-hating Extinction Rebellion “kill the humans to save the planet” nut one can imagine (wait … is she also washing the communal dishes without hot water or soap to further her plan?!), that doesn’t change OP’s problem. Just give a “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt and I won’t discuss this with you again” non-apology and do your best to avoid the inevitable pictures coming of her poor puppy dressed in ridiculous clothes and riding in a stroller.

              1. Re'lar Fela*

                “…there’s no such thing as an unwanted in this country.”
                “…there are dozens of couples trying to adopt for every adoptable .”

                You just illustrated the problem perfectly. Unfortunately, many babies are born to families who do not want them and lack the resources/motivation/whatever to properly care for them. Then those babies turn into kids (often with some pretty significant behavioral problems or trauma or attachment issues or whatever) who end up in the foster system waiting for placement and/or adoption which never happens, and then they age out without the proper resources and support to be fully functional contributing members of society. So they muddle their way through and eventually perhaps become a parent without the resources/motivation/whatever to successfully raise their own children…wash, rinse, repeat.

                Obviously that’s not the case for every child and every family, but I’ve spent my career in youth services and it’s certainly a pervasive problem.

                That’s not to say that your comments on adoption are incorrect–I’m sure you’re right–but everyone wants the tiny, new baby. Not too many people want the eight year old who is getting into fights daily and running away at every opportunity.

                1. Re'lar Fela*

                  Well, shoot. I tried to bold “baby” and “infant” and apparently my efforts failed to the point where those words disappeared. Oops!

                2. Amy Sly*

                  Agreed, the mismatches of too few adoptable infants/too many couples waiting for infants and too many foster kids with problems/ too few foster parents willing to adopt kids with those problems are a severe dilemma. It would be less of one if the people who don’t feel able to raise their children were more socially supported in letting the people who are desperate to raise children do so before the children get neglected, abused, and taken away from the incompetent parents. As a barren woman however, the pro-choice cheerleading here reminds me an awful lot like the situation in Hunger Games where the elites in the Capitol induce vomiting to continue their gluttony while the peasants starve. Yes, it’s your choice. I don’t have to like it though.

                  Anyway, we’re going far afield. Whether DoggyMom’s pro-choice charity is part of a general “humans are a plague on the earth” mentality or just a BEC detail doesn’t really matter.

                3. Flavia de Luce*

                  @Amy Sly That analogy is not relevant. One woman choosing abortion because it fits her situation is not an insult to others who are unable to be pregnant.

                4. blackcat*

                  Woah, being pro-choice isn’t the same as watching people starve.
                  Infertility sucks and is hard, but people’s choices to have or not have children *have nothing to do with you.* For almost people, an abortion means something has gone wrong for them. It could be not that bad–ripped condom and sure of a decision to not have a kid–or something really tragic. To liken people who have abortions or those who strongly defend that right to gluttonous autocrats is… not in the spirit of being kind, which is a rule here.

                  LW’s choice to have kids should have nothing to do with her coworker. Coworker’s choice to have a dog should have nothing to do LW. I’m on LW’s side here in being pretty appalled by the coworker, but a lot of us are here saying that being pro-choice isn’t a sign that someone is being a jerk.

                5. Helena*

                  As somebody who struggled with recurrent miscarriages, and found being around pregnant women difficult at times: I know it can feel terrible to see somebody have something you so desperately want, and for them not to value it and to throw it away. But people are not being pregnant *at* you.

                  Somebody else having an abortion does not have any impact on the likelihood of you getting pregnant – there are not a finite number of pregnancies in the world, and somebody having an abortion does not lead to one fewer pregnancy available to you. I’m not trying to be patronising – I had to tell myself this on a regular basis at some particularly low points.

              2. anon for this one*

                You’re talking about two different things here. There might be no such thing as an unwanted baby but there sure is such a thing as an unwanted pregnancy.

              3. MeepMeep*

                In my child-advocacy days, I had a client whose mother routinely told her “You were the product of rape and I never wanted you!” amazingly enough, she was not “adoptable” – or maybe the sweet adoptive couples just didn’t want her.

              4. Mia*

                There are actually lots and lots of kids who will never be adopted for a great variety of reasons. Adoption is not the answer to every unplanned pregnancy. Like, what about people who, beyond not wanting to be a parent, do not want to be or medically cannot handle being pregnant? I don’t mean to digress so much, but you’re perpetuating some deeply flawed misconceptions here.

              5. Helena*

                The trouble is, women die from complications relating to childbirth every day in the US. So it’s not like being an unwilling human incubator is without risk, whether the resulting child is “adoptable” or not.

        2. MeepMeep*

          YES. I volunteered at abortion clinics before I had my kid, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I wanted my kid, I love my kid, and I want every kid who is born to be loved, wanted, and cherished. No one should ever be born unwanted, and pregnancy and childbirth should not be a punishment.

      2. Natalie*

        For that matter, most the people who *use* abortion access are parents themselves – ~60% of have given birth at least once before.

      3. Gene Parmesan*

        Agreed! I am a mom of three and I love being a mom, but abortion access is a very important cause to me and one of the areas of my charitable giving.

    1. Namelesscommentator*

      This so much. I’d be really concerned if my coworkers conflated those things about my personal activities.

    2. YarnOwl*

      Thank you, I also wanted to say that. You can support abortion access whether you have no kids or a dozen kids.

    3. GooseTracks*

      Agreed. I’ve worked in reproductive rights and volunteered as a clinic escort. I’m also a proud and happy mom! The two are very compatible. Choice means having the right and ability to freely make whatever reproductive choices you want – including remaining childfree.

    4. CMart*

      I do wonder, given all the other context, in what way the coworker promoted the abortion donations. It’s possible it was in the tone of “I don’t like kids, I will never have them, other people need to have less of them too” which just adds flavor to an aggressive style of being Childfree TM.

      But you’re correct that of course on the face of it supporting access to abortion is not a direct link to overbearing, child free pet parents who yell at their coworkers on holidays. There are plenty of great reasons to support that access.

      1. Avasarala*

        That’s how I read it too. She sounds like the kind of person who complains about children being in public.

    5. GingerGamerCat*

      I agree and wanted to add that counseling women who are on the fence about kids to delay or to not have them at all is responsible advise. No one should be advising a person to have kids if the person doesn’t 100% want them.

      However, she sounds obnoxious on the ‘pawternity’ and the ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ thing.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, exactly! That seemed like an odd thing to include. Parenting is hard and is an enormous life change–no one should go into that half-heartedly! If someone is on the fence, telling them to wait is just… good advice.

    6. The Bimmer Guy*

      Yeap. Donating to abortion clinics does not mean that the coworker is anti-children. There’s a strange and judgmental subtext here, on part of the LW, that I think is part of the problem.

      1. Krakatoa*

        On it’s own, I agree. I think the context with the mother’s day anger, counseling women not to have children, and demanding the same pseudo-benefit for pets as for actual children all works to paint a fuller picture though.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I agree with this. I think it it relevant to show two things. 1) that this coworker is has very strong feelings about, well, not sure exactly, about being childfree? zero population? 2) this coworker has zero workplace conversation boundaries.
          I think the LW needs to look at facts:
          “I have a coworker who is militant about a subject. I accept her right to an opinion. I agree with her to a point. I particularly don’t like one term she uses. I think that I should convince her not to use this term.”
          OP, you got sucked into the rabbit hole. When something is not normal, you don’t try to normalize it. You give it a wide berth.

        1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

          That was my interpretation. At the very least, the child-free coworker has clearly been quite vocal about her child-free by choice stance, because otherwise, how would the OP even know about the donations and all that?

          1. Mama Bear*

            The way I read it was it’s part of the whole persona with being child-free and encouraging others to be child-free as well. Not that her donation is bad, but that she’s just so over the top. People who do good for good’s sake don’t need to advertise it.

            1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

              Yep. And the fact that she actually got mad when nobody wished her a happy Mother’s Day doesn’t, you know, help her case any.

            2. blackcat*

              Yeah, that’s true. People I work with don’t know I direct charitable giving to orgs supporting abortion access… because why would they? It’s kinda weird thing to bring up at work unless you’re in a healthcare-related field.

    7. Le Sigh*

      And also, a good majority of those who have abortions are currently or later become parents!

      I think this letter really could have been boiled down to “my coworker is pretty vocal and open about being child-free; at the same time, she’s being obnoxious about comparing pawternity leave and parental leave. it’s irritating.” I realize LW was trying to give context, but given how invested she was in setting her coworker right, it felt more like her providing more evidence that her weird coworker just really doesn’t “get” what it means to be a parent. Except it’s not evidence of anything, except that said coworker wants to help support other people’s choices.

    8. Ali*

      In fact, the majority of people who get abortions are already the parent of a child! Abortion funds are not primarily used by the child-free.

    9. Jennifer*

      I disagree. That’s a pretty contentious topic to being up at work unprompted. I think it adds relevant context.

      1. CMart*

        This was my feeling. If I know this much about a colleague’s reproductive plans and content of their charitable donations and volunteer activities that means they are talking about it at the office and likely trying to make some sort of point.

        Same would go for any topic. If I know my coworker owns 3 motorcycles, is thinking of buying a Harley, tells me about how they try to convince people on the fence about getting a bike to get a Harley, moderates a mechanic forum, and donates their money to motorcycle clubs… I’m going to think they very much want to be known as “the motorcycle lady”.

        1. Wondercootie*

          Unfortunately, it’s not always the same as “the motorcycle lady” analogy. People get weirdly invested in whether other people have children or not. I’ve run across more than a few that have taken it personally that I am child-free (for many reasons that are no one’s business but mine and my husband’s). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained the confidence to simply say something like “it’s not for me” and move on to another topic. But when I was younger and newer in the workplace, I felt like I had to explain myself in detail when people (especially higher ranking/older) questioned why I didn’t have kids. It’s kind of a defense mechanism after SO.MANY.QUESTIONS to act super militant.

          1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

            I’m child-free, too, and though I’ve never experienced a great deal of pressure, I have heard other people being pressured. But the pressure can definitely go two ways. I’ve read conversations (online, not in person, thank goodness) in which a few child-free-by-choice folks are not only vocal and militant but downright obnoxious, e.g., equating bearing children with destroying Mother Earth or something. And I have one former friend (long story – doesn’t have much to do with this topic) who has definitely said this sort of thing in general, though not directed at any one person.

            1. Mel_05*

              Yeah. I don’t have kids and while I’d like some, I’ve never been vocal about that, so people could easily assume that I don’t want them at all, but no one has ever pressed me on the issue except for my mom (and not in a horrible way).

              On the other hand, some of my intentionally child-free friends have been pretty rude when I indicated that I want kids some day. Not even because of the planet, just because none of their friends can like a thing they don’t like!

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Yes, agreed. I deliberately don’t use the term “childfree” because the discussions back in the LJ days were so disgusting (and often racist, classist, and misogynist) that making sure I wasn’t associated with the movement became nearly as urgent to me as not having children!

          2. BeckySuz*

            I just can’t imagine what someone is thinking to ask invasive questions about someone not having kids. It could be you just don’t like kids, it could be you’re concerned about overpopulation. Hell it could be you like vacations, sleeping in and peeing without an audience! I miss all those things as a parent and I think it’s ok to not want to give them up. It could also be that you desperately wanted a child, and could not have one. And someone asking about it is a knife to the heart every time. I just think something like that is so personal that unless the info is volunteered, no one should be questioning it. But some people get weird about others choices like it’s gonna effect their life.

            1. Scarlet2*

              “I just can’t imagine what someone is thinking to ask invasive questions about someone not having kids.”

              Oh trust me, they do. It seems that some people see making different life choices as a personal insult of some kind.

              1. Natalia*

                I worked with a woman who had a kid in high school and another soon after. She married the baby’s father, but it hasn’t been a good marriage. They had major financial problems, her kids always seemed to be throwing fits. The grandparents pretty much raised the kids. And she and her husband always seemed to be fighting. And she would always complain about her husband at work too. Yet, this person always badgered me about when I would have kids and would say to me “you don’t know love until you get married and have a child.” or “you don’t know responsibility until you have kids.” Responsibility?! I thought being responsible was waiting until you’re out of high school to have kids and not fighting in front of your kids….

                I had another co worker who kept pestering me on having kids..he’d ask why I didn’t want to create a legacy or have someone carry on my family name or why wouldn’t I want to contribute to society by having a kid who can do big things…yadda yadda yadda. This guy’s kid got a DUI and had to do community service. He also was known as a trouble maker and party animal. Great legacy! Geez!

                I wonder if these people seem to think that because they suffered through the bumpy ride that is parenting, everyone should suffer too?! Maybe I’d feel differently if a parent who had an easy time with their kid bothered me about having children…you know? Why can’t the mom of the straight A nice kid ask me when I’m having children?

                1. 'Tis Me*

                  Probably because that parent has a nice kid because they practice and teach being a respectful, considerate member of society, so they wouldn’t dream of asking unless it came up organically and was clear they weren’t crossing a line.

                  Also, my big girl is a delightful, caring, loving 5 year old who is usually a pretty good kid. She has thrown ONE tantrum for me in public. On the other hand, she didn’t routinely sleep through until she was 3.5, 4 years old. When she’s tired, she gets really whingy. She has accidentally sprained my wrists about 5 times hurtling herself off things necessitating me catching her/throwing herself into me for a cuddle unexpectedly and knocking me off-balance. She also gave me a concussion style headache accidentally snapping my head back flinging herself at me for a cuddle when I was pregnant with the toddler. And my back went before I gave up on her sleeping in the cot and coslept with her…

                  The toddler is an adorable, terrifyingly strong source of mayhem and chaos who frequently proudly shows off her drawings on the walls. She loves helping people, she’ll give us enthusiastic rounds of applause for getting ourselves dressed, finding shoes, etc. She’s my good sleeper. She frequently expresses her love for her sister by pulling her hair, trying to steal her toys, etc.

                  “Good kid” doesn’t mean “perfect angel who instinctively knows better than to dream of putting a toe out of line” – it still means “small person with many emotional and physical needs, who doesn’t understand how the world works or about cause and effect or consequences without being taught about them, and who will at times drive you absolutely batty even though you adore them.”

                  Having kids is rewarding – the love is amazing, and they’re often really entertaining! But it’s also never-ending hard work.

            2. Wondercootie*

              Yeah, it was really rough for a while for me in my twenties. Back then, people around here assumed that women only would work until they had kids (and that was in the late 90’s!). I even had a boss who pulled me into a closed door meeting to ask why I hadn’t had any children yet, and when I would “finally get around to it”. Being young and naive, I had no idea how bad those questions were legally, but it really made me kind of militant for a while. Think cornered wild honey badger. I have to admit that for a while, I was the person that talked about overpopulation killing the earth anytime anyone suggested I needed to go ahead and have kids.

              1. Natalia*

                Tis Me,
                Oh I know that kids aren’t perfect. I just think it’s ironic how the person with the troublemaker kid keeps going on about creating a legacy so on…
                Or the irresponsible person says you don’t know responsibility until you have kids. Just funny what people will say…

              2. Natalia*

                Sometimes I feel like the only person who was raised being told: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” and “Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.” and finally, “use a filter!’

                I get that some people can be too thin-skinned…but asking when people will have kids is instrusive

            3. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

              It could be that while you like the idea of children, and don’t mind hanging out with children and even babysit your boyfriend’s niece with him, your own delicate, carefully medicated and curated mental health state that is necessary to successfully work and be an adult – and it’s going good so far! – would crumble during the newborn/toddler/preschool years and the anxiety that would surely come during pregnancy will nearly do you in. I love my friend, but a child would not be good for *her.* She knows it, too.

              So many people in this world desperately love their children and desperately have no idea how to properly raise them because they can barely function themselves.

          3. Shay*

            Oh Wondercootie, you and me both. I am childfree. Can you imagine if someone announced a pregnancy at work and I questioned why? “Why are you pregnant?” “Why do you want kids?” “No one wants kids!” But somehow, my younger self was badgered and berated (by bare acquaintances and strangers!) for not wanting kids.

            It took 30 years for me to learn to answer inappropriate questions with, “Why do you ask?”

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I think it adds context but I think it says more about the LW’s prejudice than it does about the coworker being somehow deviant, which seems to be how the LW sees it/assumes we will see it.

    10. Ditto*

      Thank you for saying this! Came here to say the same thing. I found it really concerning and disturbing to roll that in with the desire to remain child free.

    11. kittymommy*

      Yeah, I didn’t really understand the point of that being in there either; and then following it with the employee counseling younger women either to delay or decline having kids (which if one is on the fence about it, isn’t necessarily a bad thing) just seems…weird to me.

    12. Shan*

      Yeah, I’m not going to lie, that kind of altered the way I read the whole letter. I also got a weird feeling from the bit about ‘counseling younger women’.

    13. Secret Identity*

      I had a little bit of a different read. I read it as OP mentioning that because this person had, herself, linked the two. I read it that way because OP also mentioned that this person actually counsels younger women on the fence to either wait to have children or choose to be child-free. Like maybe she advocates for others to be child-free and donating to abortion funds is part of that for her. So I could easily picture this coworker being very vocal about wanting others to be child-free and donating to abortion funds to further that ideal.
      I could be wrong, of course, but this person is being so weirdly aggressive about the pawternity leave, I thought she might be weirdly aggressive in that area too.

      1. Dagny*


        If it’s hard to see this, then flip the situations – imagine someone who is vocally pro-life, wants at least 8 kids, counsels people to have kids, donates to pro-life activities, and also brings it up in the workplace in really weird ways (like, gets mad when people don’t wish him a Happy Father’s Day, or wants a special Father’s Day event for all of the fathers of human children). You would put the political stuff in as context, as in, “Really, this person is sort of all-consumed by this issue.”

        When I talk to younger women, I don’t advise them to have kids or not have kids, or have them early or have them late – I just talk to them about the people I know who have had each situation work, and each situation not work, and tell them to make the decisions that work best with where they are in their own lives and their own values.

      2. Frankie*

        That’s what I thought, too. If someone who was very LOOK AT ME, CHILD-FREE also brought up donating to abortion clinics in the workplace, I’d see that as at least a little targeted/judgmental toward parents. It’s such a polarizing topic, seems ill-advised to bring it up in the first place.

    14. CupcakeCounter*

      I read that line a little differently I guess. I inferred that the OP included it because it sounds like this coworker is not simply happy to be child free and open about it but is actively counseling younger female coworkers not to have kids in some cases.
      Although since the rest of the letter was more about the pet thing than the child free thing that entire section wasn’t necessary. A simple line about being firm in her decision not to have children would have sufficed, but I can see adding in the detail about being sort of pushy about it.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Yeah — I see what some folks are saying re: your point. At the same time, LW is so invested in correcting her coworker, that it feels like she is also taking this all pretty personally. So part of it, to me, felt like she was a little over-invested in proving that point and used the abortion fund thing as more evidence that she doesn’t “get” parenthood. I think the same point could have simply been made with “My coworker is vocally childfree and is being weird about pawternity leave, which is annoying to me.”

        At the end of the day, your coworker sounds weird and a bit annoying. I don’t know that there’s really more to do about it!

      2. Natalia*

        Counseling younger co workers to not have kids, is very inappropriate and unprofessional. It’s not her place to do that.
        The Pawternity leave is just stupid and annoying.

    15. Jessica Fletcher*

      This this this!! OP should separate this in their mind immediately. Supporting other people’s right to bodily autonomy and freedom from government interference with their body is not about not wanting or not liking kids. It’s weird that OP thinks it is.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        Up thread, she notes the coworker is specifically pro-abortion/anti-children rather than pro-choice (LW is pro-choice!).

    16. VeryAnon*

      Yep. It makes me think OP is connecting this person’s pro choice advocacy to a theoretical ‘cavalier about parenthood’ stance. Made me wonder if coworker and her mates are winding OP up because she’s an insufferable bore.

    17. Marny*

      Thank you! I came here to say this too. Being pro-choice and supporting abortion access does not mean being anti-parenthood and this comment automatically made me not want to side with the OP (even though her co-worker is being ridiculous).

    18. prochoice*

      yes came here to say the same. All types of people, parents or not, can support access to abortions. Plus, I know people who have both had an abortion AND had a child.

    19. Ryan Howard’s White Suit*

      Thank you! I donate to abortion funds monthly, volunteer for one, and research abortion as my job at a university. I also have two kids. That’s why we call it a choice.

      1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

        I could of course be wrong, but I think the chances are at least decent that it’s the coworker (rather than the OP) who made the link between pro-choice and childless-by-choice. We don’t really have any way of knowing, based on what’s written here, but that’s certainly possible. I’ve known a few people – not many, thank goodness – who might do that sort of thing. (And one of them, now that I think about it, probably wants pawternity leave, too – I’m not kidding.)

        Clearly the coworker has brought up her contributions and conversations, because otherwise, how would the OP know about them?

    20. Qwerty*

      If the LW had left out the donations and counseling, there would likely be a ton of comments about how the coworker may be unable to have kids and which is why she reacts strongly to the Mother’s day celebration. It serves as context for the situation. Us commentators like to dig deeper and come up with alternate theories especially when details are left out.

      I don’t know any of the charities that my coworkers are involved in, so if one was talking about it at work often enough for me to remember it, it would likely become part of the bigger picture of how I saw that coworker. For instance, if the details were swapped out so the donations were to pet shelters and the counseling was related to pet training – this would have sounded more like a coworker who is just really obsessed with dogs and we’d have different discussions and comments going on.

      There’s a lot of time spent telling letter writers they should have added more context to their letters if they wanted to avoid the judgement of commenters and a lot of time spent telling them the included details are unnecessary / criticizing them for what they do include.

      1. Marny*

        Describing the coworker as “child-free by choice” would be enough without associating her pro-choice/abortion-access support with her attitudes about parenthood. I’m child-free by choice. I financially support abortion access, volunteer as a clinic escort, and am a pro-choice activist. I volunteer alongside plenty of mothers. One has nothing to do with the other and my volunteer work shouldn’t be seen as evidence of my views on parenthood.

        1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

          But…what if it wasn’t the OP who made the connection between child-free by choice and pro-choice? What if it was the childless co-worker? It might not be, of course, but I don’t think we have enough information here to tell who it was that made that connection.

        2. Avasarala*

          I think it’s pretty clear from the letter that the coworker does not have a reasonable stance on this, like you do. This is a person that is anti-child and respects parents and their choices so little she thinks she is a victim for her pet not being recognized.

          1. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

            Yeah, a person who gets mad over there not being a Doggy Mother’s Day is not a person whose intentions I find very reasonable. She just kind of lost all credibility with me there.

    21. Nilla*

      We dont really have the context for this, but I think it doesnt have to be unrelated. If you talk about being “child-free” as a lifestyle, identity, whatever.. and also openly talk about donating to abortion access and counseling teenagers in a pro abortion setting IN AN OFFICE ENVIRONMENT I assume it isnt information that the LW dug up on this person. It sounds to me like it is part of the “identity” and seems relevant. It paints a picture of someone that is heavily invested in this lifestlye (or however you want to view it) and obviously sensitive about it based on the reaction to pawternity.

    22. Mia*

      Thank you for pointing this out. Plenty of parents are pro-choice. I really want kids at some point in the future, but I donate to abortion funds and related organizations when I can. The two things are wholly unrelated.

      1. Nilla*

        Wholly unrelated unless you have a reputation in an office setting for being a child-free activist, talk openly about your support of those organizations and your counseling services to teens seeking abortion, and getting upset when people don’t wish you happy mothers day for your identity as a dog mother.

        Then it all kinda ties right together. Many Many Many people are pro choice, but most and I would wager nearly all people don’t tick all of those boxes *openly in an office setting*

        1. Natalia*

          I don’t see anything wrong with people choosing to be child free and choosing to be pro choice. I know many parents who are pro choice and donate accordingly. I also know many child free people who are NOT pro choice.
          I think the problem is she’s bringing this up at work which is very unprofessional.

    23. Katherine*

      THANK YOU. Just came here to say this. I am an educator, I have a kid, I throw as much money as possible at abortion funds *because* I want women to have choices about what happens to them. Uuughhhh it is a really weird leap and also harmful to connect those two things.

    24. Pants*

      Thank you. The mention of it in the letter basically knocked OPs reliability as a narrator down at least one flight of stairs.

    25. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m late to this party, but want to comment that this jumped out at me too. Not sure what “abortion access funds” OP is referring to – personally, I have donated to PP in the past and plan to continue to do so in the future – I have also donated to ACLU during the times when they worked on blocking the anti-abortion state laws. I have also used PP multiple times as a patient. I am a parent of two children who have both been (more or less) planned and who I am very happy to have in my life, I am as far from being childfree by choice as it gets (though I respect other people’s decisions to remain CF). Thanks to happy circumstances and winning the genetic lottery, I have never had to have an abortion in my life – although I’ve been using what is now being called “abortifacient” birth control methods for almost the entirety of my adult life. I donate towards and support these causes because I believe it is the right thing to do to ensure that all women have a choice where it comes to having or not having children – not because I am secretly childfree or obnoxious about it or whatever. What a weird and, tbh, harmful assumption, OP.

      1. theguvnah*

        She probably donates to a local abortion fund, a usually all-volunteer fund that helps women pay for their abortions directly. You can check for a full list of local funds.

  5. Ms. Mad Scientist*

    Oh dear.

    I’ve heard of a few companies offering “pawternity leave.” I think it’s a lovely idea. I’d imagine a lot of pets are scared their first few days in a new home, and having their new person around can help that transition.

    Signed, a mother of a toddler and servant of two cats.

    1. The IT Plebe*

      I don’t disagree, but I think there should still be some pretty clear parameters and differences between the two should this office ever decide to implement it.

      1. Robbie*

        Definitely. We got a cat a month ago, and the ability to work from home has helped immensely in making sure she is comfortable and safe, and we have her ready for those days she is on her own.
        Parental leave, specifically leave for those who gave birth, is as much about physical recovery as much as it is bonding. And I am guaranteeing my cat is a fraction of the work of any human baby.

        Any leave for a pet is a great idea, but simply not the same as leave for a human.

    2. GooseTracks*

      I agree that this would a nice benefit, and I don’t think most people would argue against it. But maternity leave and “puppy leave” are not equal needs. The reason that people get defensive about these comparisons is often that maternity leave is vastly inadequate for what a new mom and baby actually need. So it feels like a slap in the face for people to be critical of the measly leave you get, or act like it was a fun vacation, or demand that they receive an equal benefit to bring home a new pet. Pawtnerity leave coworker is weird and needs a dose of perspective. The company doesn’t even have parental leave! I’d be pissed off by her, too.

    3. Lissa*

      If those companies don’t also offer paid parental leave (ie not just disability and FMLA) then actually, I’d be offended as a childless and petless employee.

    4. LawBee*

      It is a lovely idea but until that company has real paid parental leave, the coworker can take PTO just like everyone else.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yep. PTO is there to use as you choose! Whether it’s taking a vacation, spending some extra time with a new pet, celebrating your kid’s birthday, being with your spouse the day they get their wisdom teeth out, or binge-watching the latest drop of your favorite Netflix show.

        Now I wish Netflix Floating Holiday paid time off was a thing.

      2. Nilla*

        Yes I dont see the need to have any special PTO assignments. I also see more and more companies moving towards a single bank of time instead of sick/vacation for that reason. It just makes it too complicated when you start qualifying each use, doctors notes or proof required, whatever. Just give people enough time off to manage their lives, and people need to not burn it all on real “vacation” and save some for their lives outside of work. Everyone needs some time off without leaving town or being sick too.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Our last dog was adopted as a 3-ish-year-old with zero training. That is, an adult dog that had seemingly never lived indoors and was not at all housebroken and could not be left unsupervised in the yard for long stretches (she was an escape artist when she got bored).

      My mother was a housewife so we had it covered, but if not for her, pawternity leave would have been immensely helpful.

      1. Jamie*

        I love that you adopted an older dog. Three isn’t old, but for adoption it is…well out of puppyhood and it’s hard for them to find homes.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          She was the best dog. Turned out to be smart as heck despite coming to us with literally no home experience.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          Really? I’ve only ever adopted adult dogs. I like them to come housebroken because I’m lazy. :) I thought that wasn’t too uncommon!

    6. Someone On-Line*

      You can usually schedule when a pet arrives, though, for a long weekend or to coincide with vacation. Babies kinda happen when they happen. And I say this as someone who has had pets dumped on my door on a Sunday evening before work. But usually it’s a conscious decision to bring them home.

    7. Snark*

      If you need a few days to help a new pet settle into their new home, I believe that’s called “annual leave” or “PTO” or “vacation time.”

    8. Daisy-dog*

      I’m generally against labeling leave (outside of medical leave) provided by companies because it can leave out many different situations that have a severe impact on employees lives. I think it is nice if a company wants to give a discretionary week to use once during employment – for bringing home a new pet, moving to a new home, having insane home repairs, needing add-on time to bereavement leave, etc.

    9. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I have to disagree on the fact of “pawternity” being a lovely idea. I might agree if the US actually offered decent maternity/paternity leave for parents (and I say this as someone who has never and will never bring forth a human from my loins), but it’s a hard no from me.

  6. Chaotic Neutral*

    I cannot imagine a grown woman saying she deserves “paternity” with a straight face. Alison is right- You can sit this one out. Let her look like an idiot by herself.

    1. I was never given a name*

      The first image that popped into my mind was Angela from The Office: “This company *still* doesn’t recognize cat maternity!”

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is exactly where I am. This woman goes around demanding “pawternity” leave, she looks like a loon. OP goes around trying to “correct” her and convince her of the error of her ways, then OP looks like a loon for not just, “Sure, Jan”-ing her. Don’t engage crazy.

  7. Librarian of SHIELD*

    This coworker seems like…a lot.

    OP, you said you don’t want to interact with her or her friends anymore, and I think that’s probably the right choice. Be calm and professional if you have to interact for work purposes, but you fully have permission to steer clear of this group for all other purposes.

    1. Radio Girl*

      Uh, yeah. This. I worked with a single woman who gave her dog a boy name, let’s say Tom, and had a vanity plate reading Tom’s Mom. She talked about him as though he were a person. Creepy.

  8. The IT Plebe*

    I’m child-free by choice and have two cats that I adore and dote on, but I can’t stand when people equate pets with children. They are really not the same at all, regardless of the amount of care given to the pet, and I feel like that should be fairly obvious to everyone. So I feel for OP.

    That said, OP, Alison is right and you are really much too invested in this. Sometimes being the silent minority to keep the peace is a worthwhile endeavor and this seems to be one of those times. I’m sorry.

    1. AndThenISaid*

      Yeah, I make jokes that my cats are like perpetually toddlers who don’t speak human but… it’s just a joke, not a firmly held belief.

      1. blackcat*

        It took my son until maybe 16 months or so before he reliably understood and responded to English more than my cat. I don’t think my cat is particularly linguistically gifted, nor was kid particularly behind…

        1. 'Tis Me*

          I used to joke my first had kitty babysitters and it showed – one of her first words (and most frequently used) was miaow. My parents thought it was hysterical when they took us on holiday and she woke up crying “miaow miaow miaow” but it’s just what she did when she was a tiny!

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            OMG this is the most adorable thing I’ve read in a while. I am now good to start my workday. Thank you.

    2. BadWolf*

      Same (I love my pets, but they’re what I can handle, they’re not children). I give some mental leeway to people who do want children and are unable and pets are semi-filling that space. But otherwise…it weirds me out to go far into the “parent/child” realm for pets.

      I mean, a kind workspace would happily grant your vacation request and maybe some work from home/longer lunches as you are working through new pet times (especially when they’re young).

      I agree with Alison, keep firm on the company benefits, but keep cool and neutral on the weirdness in pet parental equivalencies.

      Side question…how much Happy Mothers day action is going on at your job? Do you also have the same Happy Fathers Day culture? Does your company work on Sundays so it naturally overlaps with Mothers/Fathers day?

    3. Casual Librarian*

      I have really strong opinions about this. I spent most of my pregnancy dodging comments from coworkers about how they prepared for their new dog. Once I had my child, I had to (and still do a year later) hear all about how their puppy was when they came home or how they dealt with teething or training to sit. Other random anecdotes about their dog’s moods, sleeping habits, or whatever are all compared to my child.

      This all goes to say…it is not obvious to a lot of people that there is a difference. I try to remind myself that these people are trying to relate and invest in my life in the only way they know how. When that doesn’t work, I nab a chocolate out of their candy bowl and carry on my merry way.

      OP, I know it can be infuriating to hear this kind of stuff, but I think that you need to choose your battles and maybe try and view these comments as peculiar and out-of-touch rather than “needing to be changed.”

      1. Ella Bee Bee*

        I have a family member who told me recently that before he had a baby he thought it wouldn’t be that different from raising his puppy. After the baby was born he thought that “I have a dog, so I can manage a child no problem” was basically the same as “I can jump over a shoebox, so I can jump to the moon no problem.”

        I am child free by choice and love my pets so much, but I have watched my friends and siblings raise babies and I don’t think it’s the same at all.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      . . . however, I don’t think that the fact that pets =/= children completely negates that they are both living creatures that do, in fact, require some adjustment and maintenance. Pets might not be 100% children but they’re not 0% children, either, since you can’t just turn them off and put them in the closet when you don’t have the time to deal with their needs.

      So I’m not asking that they be given equal status, but, realistically, they can’t have zero status, either. There was a letter awhile back from an OP who was suddenly being asked to travel a lot more and the cost of care for her dogs was becoming an issue, not because dogs =/= babies but because, well, dogs need care and care costs money! (And care is also stressful for at least some pets.)

      1. The IT Plebe*

        Yes, absolutely! It’s not a zero-sum game. I mentioned in another comment in a different thread that “pawternity” leave isn’t a bad idea at all but there should be distinct differences between that and parental leave.

        1. Nilla*

          I would argue that it is in fact a bad idea. Why would a company pay someone to be at home an extra week or two in a year because they are a “cat person?” Pets can come and go on the reg at many households. Everyone has an equal opportunity at regular PTO and can prioritize it however they choose. There are many high maintenance events in peoples lives beyond new pets….

    5. Hope*

      This. My pets are part of my family and I will do whatever is in my power to make sure they are living their best kitty lives, but they are not my children. They had their own moms, and it weirds me out when people say I have fur-children. I have NO children! That’s, like, kind of the definition of child-free? Are puppies and kittens exhausting? Absolutely. But choosing to get a new pet is nowhere near as demanding (physically or financially, let alone mentally) as having a baby. That’s WHY I have pets, not children.

      I mean, I put up with the fur-kids stuff for the sake of my parents and my in-laws, because if that framing makes it easier for them to accept they’re not getting grandchildren, I’m fine with that, and I don’t care what other people call their pets. But someone seriously asking for “pawternity” leave and expecting it to be on-par with maternity/paternity leave is insane.

      Your coworker is weird. But your work life will be easier if you just don’t engage her on this topic.

      1. MistOrMister*

        It’s interesting because when people refer to me as my cats’ mom, I’m like what, no, that is just weird!!! But if they want to call me the family dog’s sister, I’m fine with that. I dont know why I make that distinction unless it’s that, as loving as my cats are, they don’t treat me with that over the top affection that. The dog does. I don’t love them any less, I just feel more like a can opener, warm lap provider that they are fond of than a relative. Haha.

        I also quite appreciate my pets for the fact that they are NOT children. They’re still expensive and time consuming but much less so than a baby human.

      2. Avasarala*

        I agree. I think it is weird and kinda gross to refer to pet owners as parents. The pet has actual parents, you didn’t give birth to a dog… Do you put your child on a leash? Neuter/spay it? Microchip it? Consider it legal property? Euthanize it when it’s old/sick/the pound is full? They are not the same thing.

    6. hbc*

      I have kids and pets, and I don’t really understand why some other parents get all worked up that others consider their relationship with their pets equal to the one I have with my kids. Maybe you *do* love them as much or more than I love my kids, how would I know?

      There are a few objective things that Invested Pet Parents can’t really argue about, like the fact that a healthy 12 week old puppy can be left alone for the day with some kibble and pee pads while a 12 week old human cannot. But if they think they should get the two week bonding time for adoptive parents for their new parrot, or that they need time off to bottle feed their orphan kittens, there’s nothing objective to dispute. It certainly doesn’t devalue my kids.

      1. knead me seymour*

        For some reason, I totally understand someone considering an animal part of their family, or having a really close emotional connection with an animal, but I really bristle at the “dog mom” type of language. I think it’s because it kind of implies that a dog is functionally the same as a human child, which just bugs me on a deep level. A dog is a dog! I like dogs because they are dogs, and I think they’re better off if we understand and respect their specific needs as dogs. They don’t need to be children for me to care about them.

    7. Rusty Shackelford*

      My mother, who has children (duh), said after my sister’s dog died that we needed to treat her exactly as we would treat her if she’d lost a child. Some of us pointed out that no matter how much you love your pets, you expect to outlive them. She grudgingly accepted that.

  9. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    You don’t have a dog in this fight. Be polite to Dog Mommy and her clique. Let them argue that owning a dog is like being a parent. Unless you have the authority to approve leave, let sleeping dogs lie.

  10. Re'lar Fela*

    I have a casual acquaintance/Facebook friend who does similar things. She is child free by choice, but calls her dogs her kids, sends them to doggy daycare and calls it “school,” quit her job to be a “stay-at-home dog mom,” etc. Before I had my daughter, I was mildly amused, but just let it go. Once I became a parent, I found myself getting irritated and defensive (privately–I never mentioned it to her). After a while, I realized just how much time and energy I was wasting being irritated over something that doesn’t really matter. If your co-worker wants to take vacation time to use as “Pawternity leave,” whatever. Just smile and wish her well. It’s really no different than a colleague taking a vacation day to get a pedicure. It’s something that makes her happy and doesn’t negatively impact you. If she tries to make it a constant topic of conversation, Alison’s previous advice about putting off chatty co-workers will come in handy. On the topic of being cowed by her, just be pleasant and professional. Avoiding her is likely to make the situation worse.

      1. Re'lar Fela*

        It is in her world! She does doggy daycare “first day of school” pictures and generally acts as though she is parenting human children. It’s a bit eccentric for me, but she seems happy about it. The stay-at-home dog mom thing was really the icing on the cake, but she and her husband can apparently afford it, so good for them!

          1. Oof*

            If I was a stay at home person (and since I don;t have kids but ever got to do this I would gleefully be a stay at home dog mom! hahahaah) I would finally be able to take mine to a local dog daycare. There is one I would love to put mine in, as it would really help with the one’s socialization, and the other would just have a great time. But the one I trust is quite a drive, so I would need to work remotely from a library or whatnot, and it has not worked out. (I did consider doing this twice a month, but couldn’t swing it)

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Some dogs enjoy/need the socializing. Mine hated other dogs so it wasn’t an issue, but some dogs need the play time.

              1. Avasarala*

                …because SAH* means “stay at home to care for *” and you don’t need to stay at home to take care of a dog… especially if someone else is caring for your dog… At that point you’re just a homemaker/housewife.

            1. Avasarala*

              You’re not a SAHP if your kids are adults though. At that point you’re just unemployed/a homemaker.

              1. Perbie*

                Meh, you could send your kids to daycare part time and still be a full time sahp – just gives you a few hrs out of 24 hrs without the kids to catch up on other things

        1. Ali G*

          This is like one of the House Hunter memes:
          Him: I am beekeeper
          Her: I am a stay at home dog mom
          And our budget is $1.5 million dollars!

          1. Jubilance*

            I was just going to post this – House Hunters is the only person I’ve seen “stay at home pet mom” as an occupation and said with a straight face.

          1. Re'lar Fela*

            Nilla, you’re actually right! They have multiple dogs, but they do run an instagram account for them.

      2. Tegan*

        Haha, before we had our (human) child, my husband and I used to joke about him becoming a “stay-at-home kitty daddy” with our three cats whenever he was getting fed up with work. For us it was just blowing off steam with a funny joke, but it amuses me to know that there are people for whom this is not a joke. More power to them, I suppose, if they can afford it and it makes them happy. But I also very much can see how this would be less amusing and much more grating to me if it were someone I knew personally and were seeing posts from all the time – I would most likely end up un-friending or un-following them.

        1. Re'lar Fela*

          It truly doesn’t bother me anymore (I’ve gone through a lot of shifting of mental priorities this year, which has helped), but for a while there it was a daily aggravation. It didn’t help that I’m a single parent who would have dearly loved to be a SAHM for my daughter’s baby and early toddler years. So there was a fair amount of jealousy at play as well. These days, I mostly feel light amusement and then let it go. It also helps that I’ve now found a job that I truly love and no longer feel that resentment about missing time with my kid.

          1. Tegan*

            I’m really glad to hear you’ve been able to mentally get in a better place! Making the choice between continuing to work and staying at home is hard enough, I can imagine it’s that much more disheartening when you don’t even really have a choice. Even though I was certain about my decision to go back to work, I still had (and have, sometimes) a lot of angst about missing time with my daughter. It really does make all the difference to have a job that you love, and I’m happy you have that now!

          2. Susie Q*

            Same, I much rather wish I was home with my five month old now. It sucks being away when you are your child’s primary food supply for the first year of their life.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          I’ve joked about it too! What makes it funny for us is that our dog does literally nothing the entire day. For a while my husband would leave before and get home first, so I would text him where the dog was sleeping when I left that morning for him to check where she ended up that afternoon. Usually it was the same place.

          1. Ali G*

            We always joke that the dog is so much more tired at the end of the day when one of us works from home because instead of sleeping all day, he is following us around and generally laser focused on us.

      3. Helena*

        Oh I know somebody like that. Literally says she “can’t” work because she’s “a full-time mom to two doggies”. It’s definitely a real thing (admittedly a batshit/workshy real thing).

        I mean, people manage to work with two children, so why two dogs would prevent you from working is beyond me. Hire a dog walker like everyone else does.

      4. Coco*

        I tell my spouse all the time that if we ever win the lottery I’m going to be a stay at home dog mom. It is def a thing of you make it a thing. Heck anything can be a thing.

      5. Alton*

        Yeah, that seems like a stretch, especially since most adult pets don’t need all-day “parenting.” I’ve known one or two people who didn’t need to work and who did make a full-time job out of caring for foster kittens or puppies in their home. And I don’t think I would have been able to care for my elderly, ailing cat for as long as I did if there hadn’t been another adult human in the household who was home during the day and willing to help with him. But those sorts of things are the exception, not the rule. My current cat is fine on her own and just sleeps all day, so I’m definitely not “parenting” her when I’m home.

      6. Meepmeep*

        That dog had better learn some fancy tricks from that “stay at home mom” – if you’re staying home all day with that dog, that’s plenty of time to teach it to talk, read, and do advanced calculus.

      1. Re'lar Fela*

        Thank you!! I used to comment here under the name AdminAnon many moons ago, but I’m no longer an administrative assistant and NotW is the best.

    1. BethRA*

      I will admit to having said I’d love to retire and be a “stay at home dog mom” and referred to our pets as kids – but I’m kidding!

    2. Goliath Corp.*

      So, I would LOVE to be a stay-at-home dog mom. And I’ve jokingly considered it, mostly when I realize just how much of my income goes into paying someone else to walk my dog while I’m at work, at a job where I’m grossly underpaid and increasingly unhappy. But that’s not happening unless I win the lottery.

      I’ve also joked about “pawternity leave” because I can’t really imagine having an adorable new puppy and leaving it at home or with someone else.

      But the thing is, I realize that I’m an eccentric weirdo. And I try not to antagonize other people about it.

      1. knead me seymour*

        Stay at home dog parent is truly the dream. The difficult part is finding a partner who will support you in this. I’m just imagining sitting at work all day getting photos of my partner frolicking with a puppy.

  11. Justin*

    I got a puppy last year. I took time off. We needed to, he was 9 weeks old and was just… he was just the embodiment of Cannot. It was very cute (and frustrating).

    I absolutely would never have expected it to be some entitlement. It’s not the same thing (and since my wife is pregnant now, I will be able to say that definitively soon).

    I very much respect anyone who wants not to have children if that is their preference and they should not be seen as lesser than parents. But… if you want to take care of a pet, as much as I dearly love my fuzzball, it’s gonna be accrued time.

    1. Sam.*

      Especially since they’re also required to use their PTO for parental leave. Like, if you want to take PTO to get a new (furry) family member adjusted to your house instead of using it for a vacation, ok. I don’t even see why this is even a conversation she’s having with people unless she’s trying to be out for an extended period of time and wanting people to be cool with that.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t waste any energy on this woman, because it’s clear she has no intention of changing her ways. Just be civil and remove yourself from conversations that annoy you. For me, I have no poker face, so I would probably unintentionally add an eye roll, but I don’t recommend that.

    3. Pants*

      “The embodiment of Cannot.” Truer words were never spoke. From what I understand, toddlers also fit that description.* Congrats on your impending human and all its Cannot Cuteness (because there really WILL be cuteness, I’m sure).

      * I can’t say for sure re: babies and cannots. I chose tattoos and cats over kiddos of my own.

  12. Jennifer*

    She’s nuts but it’s not worth the fight. I am not a parent either but some of my childless brothers and sisters seem oblivious to the fact that they can be every bit as obnoxious as the most delusional helicopter parent.

    Roll your eyes internally and go home and can’t to your partner or a friend. Pay her silly self no mind.

      1. Swordspoint*

        From the original comment, I was picturing someone going home to their partner and embarking on a prolonged “I Cannot Even” rant.

  13. CMart*

    Yeah, “pawternity” leave is goofy and will elicit eye rolls from me forever if someone is using it in earnest, but I don’t think it’s necessarily undermining the concept of parental leave the same way that people calling maternity leave “momcations” or snidely telling new parents how “it must be nice to get out of work” does. Things I have personally heard about parental leave.

    Some things should be discouraged and shut down. If DogMom was vocally disparaging people’s need to take time to be with their newborns that would be something of concern, but trying to elevate her own desire to stay home with a puppy doesn’t rise to that level IMO.

    I suspect OP just needs to lie low and try really hard to let their irritation with their coworker dissipate a bit. Time will heal this, I think. Keep minimal contact but still be friendly. Hopefully it’ll reset the relationship.

    DogMom Coworker behaved really badly, I think. If OP is feeling “cowed” and scared of this person and their office friends after this interaction, not to mention the coworker’s antics last Mother’s Day, then I think it’s pretty certain they are not a good actor here. But we can’t control or advise them, OP only has control over their own actions. And if they want to get back to a less fraught atmosphere I unfortunately think they need to just let it go and try to move on.

  14. Bluebell*

    Several years ago when I was working at a place where I had quite a lot of PTO bank, I took a week off when we brought home a new puppy. I referred to it as my “puppymoon.” Luckily no recently married colleagues were offended. I did take maternity leave many years ago, and have vociferously advocated for parenting leave when I was in a position to as senior management.

    1. Lehigh*

      I don’t think that rings the same annoying bells, because a honeymoon *really is* just a special vacation,, and because there aren’t the same discussions and resistances about supporting or not supporting the needs of marriage in our society. I’m very happily married and adored my honeymoon, but “puppymoon” wouldn’t bother me in the slightest.

      To be honest, “pawternity” leave as a cutesy saying doesn’t bother me either…but combined with this coworker’s apparent level of obnoxiousness, I can see why it bugged the LW.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        The complaint about the words the coworker is using aren’t valid. Saying “pawternity” doesn’t undermine anything; they are just words, and people will have varied reactions (some will roll their eyes, others will think it’s cute, most folks won’t care one way or another).

        1. Alton*

          Yeah, I really don’t see a problem with the language outside of the context of the coworker being annoying about it. I could easily see someone referring to “pawternity leave” in a lighthearted, joking way and I wouldn’t see that as a problem, personally. It’s how seriously this woman takes it and how aggressive she seems to be about having people recognize her as her pets’ mom that’s strange.

    2. Nilla*

      I didn’t get the impression that the wording was the issue. It was the opinion that it ought to be a benefit in addition to accrued PTO (like maternity leave can be).

      So you are probably safe! But all of the dog/parent play on words are a little weird. When did everyone need to start calling their dog their furbaby?

  15. Sophie Hatter*

    So she is asking for parental leave but the company doesn’t offer that for new parents? They just use their vacation time? Do I have a correct read?
    Also, lashing out at parents who try to explain that human babies and puppies are different? That is super off-putting. I am apparently way more weirded out by this than Alison is!

    1. Hanna*

      I was also very weirded out and thought that Alison was underreacting, but it makes a bit more sense to me if I consider that the LW and the dog mom are only co-workers. The LW doesn’t really have much standing to do anything to change the co-worker’s attitude. If the co-worker and her buddies are freezing out the LW, that’s a bummer, but there’s not much to be done until it starts affecting work.

      Now, if the LW were at a management level, that would be an immediate “Not going to happen, stop talking about this, and knock off the petty behavior” discussion.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I wouldn’t say Alison wasn’t weirded out by it, I think it’s more that OP has no authority over their co-worker to do much about it. And it’s similar to having a co-worker with an annoying habit that isn’t really hurting anyone but their own reputation. If co-worker was treating OP poorly, or ignoring any job duties that were directly affecting OP then that would be different. But OP is wasting way too much energy trying to change this person. I’d just roll my eyes internally and remove myself from conversations.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      People keep saying that OP’s company doesn’t offer parental leave, but I think that’s not correct. OP says: “new parents in our company need to use our vacation and sick banks to have any substantial time at home with our newborns”. To me, that reads like how most people at most companies do things?

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Agreed, although I wouldn’t really call that parental leave. I know it’s pretty common in the US, but it’s really no different than the typical PTO/short-term disability/FMLA combination that others can take for medical reasons/family care other than having a baby. Seems like OP’s co-worker wants special treatment to take care of her pet when people having babies aren’t getting it.

      2. Nilla*

        When I hear “parental leave” I am thinking of a separate benefit. If that is not the case, then there really isn’t any meaning in the term “parental leave” when it is all just PTO.

    4. Koala dreams*

      I’m weirded out by the parents that are trying to explain that babies and puppies are different, even though they know this woman already knows that. So condescending and unnecessary!

  16. Apocalypse How*

    This reminds me of an old Dear Prudence letter from a LW who considered her dogs to be her babies. When her friend’s 15-year-old daughter died in a car accident, she told the friend that she knew how she felt because her dog had died recently. She didn’t understand why her friend’s response was to scream at her and stop speaking with her.

    1. Quill*

      No, no and NO.

      You go into a pet ownership expecting to outlive them. You do NOT expect to outlive your child. Especially not in such a sudden and traumatic way.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        “Simbelmÿne. Ever has it grown on the tombs of my forebears. Now it shall cover the grave of my son. Alas, that these evil days should be mine. The young perish and the old linger. That I should live to see that last days of my house….No parent should have to bury their child.”

        Side note: Can’t watch that scene in The Two Towers without bawling my eyes out now that I have a daughter.

        1. Susie Q*

          Same. Ever since having a child, I cry so hard at any mention of a parent losing a child no matter the age.

          Prior to having a child, I felt sad but now it feels unbearable.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            It’s bad. I never cried at movies or books and now I get weepy at any sort of emotional parent-child plot line. No more Call the Midwife for me.

            Actually, any super emotional plot line can get the waterworks started. I got so mad at my husband when he insisted we watch War Horse and that it wouldn’t be bad. Yeah, sure, the HORSE doesn’t die… -_-

            1. Valprehension*

              OMG! I unthinkingly started watching call the midwife *while I was on parental leave with a newborn*. I regretted my decision very quickly.

      2. Koala dreams*

        What a cruel thing of you to say! Do you say the same thing to people who have lost their parents? :( :( :(

    2. Allypopx*

      My husband’s family lost a 15 year old in a car accident and I am absolutely sick to my stomach over the thought of someone saying that to the girl’s mother. That is just cruel.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      You mean ex-friend right? I can’t even imagine having the audacity of saying something like that.

    4. Joanne’s Daughter*

      Fortunately no one said that to me when I lost a child. In all honesty I have no idea how I would have responded. That’s just awful!

    5. Database Developer Dude*

      I don’t even have any kids, and I want to punch that LW in the throat for saying that.

    6. Paige*

      That’s so unbelievably awful! Do you have a link to the Dear Prudence letter? It does sound familiar…

  17. Two Yips and a Woof*

    Your advice on leave was reasonable but maybe your opinions on her child-free status, thoughts on abortion, and preference for pets may be coming through more strongly than you thought. (Particularly if you feel the need to make sure everyone views parenthood with the proper amount of seriousness. Most childfree people see the responsibilities and sacrifices as pretty serious already and that’s why they’ve opted out). Anyways, I think many of your colleagues would already privately judge her for using the phrase uninronically, even without your efforts to get them to do so. Why associate yourself with silliness any further?

    1. hbc*

      Yeah, I think that she’s way, way too far on the militant Pet Mom, Anti Kid side, but I kind of get the feeling that a lot of people in the office are a little too far on the Real Parenthood Is The Best side. Like, who does it hurt to call it Pawternity? (No more or less grating to me than parents who call their 10 year old their “baby” or self-label as “Mommy” when the kids aren’t around, honestly.) Why does someone have to try to talk her out of her firmly-held belief that pets are equal to children? Why is OP personally hurt by the fact that a few people in the office don’t rank parenthood higher than pet ownership?

      Being all “No, parents are superior” is not the way to approach this situation. It should be matter-of-fact: “I don’t have a category for ‘Pawternity’, but of course you can use your leave according to our normal guidelines.”

      1. Pants*

        Agree agree agree. I have to also wonder if OP utters things like “You will never know true love until you have a child” or “You think you’re tired?! Try having a baby!” We get it Karen. You are the most put out person ever to exist. Here’s your ribbon.

      2. Nilla*

        Missing the point. The LW was miffed because the dog lover wanted “pawternity leave” as in, additional time off equivalent to a maternity leave program. Like… not vacation time.
        The LW didn’t write because her coworker used the term pawternity. She wrote because her coworker was advocating for special time off benefits for employees with pets, while at the same time their organization doesn’t have maternity leave.

        1. Starbuck*

          Then it would seem the real issue LW has would be with the company, not Dog Mom. Would the LW even care about such a silly request if maternity/parental leave was already a thing there? I doubt it. Which is not Dog Mom’s fault.

          1. Nilla*

            The letter doesn’t even center around the pawternity leave issue. It is about DogMom’s behavior (and her clique)as a whole, and treating the LW poorly. The LW has a problem with DogMom because DogMom is rude and bizarre. One of those bizarre actions was advocating for Pawternity leave, but I think her treatment of the LW was the real rub. Like lashing out about lack of recognition as a dog mom on mothers day… who does that?

            I didnt get any vibes from the letter that this was the companies fault…

  18. IT Department Relationship Manager*

    Yeah, not a fan of using being pro-choice as evidence that someone doesn’t like children, LW. It wasn’t needed here.

    So, she’s a bit of a weirdo. She probably gets enough flak in her personal life about her “pet parent” status. I personally have no children, but I do have a dog I spend my time with and I personally don’t like it when I’m called a pet parent. Because I’m not. Other people want to label their emotional labor to what it feels similar to: parenthood.

    Getting upset that no one wished her “Happy Mother’s day” is odd. Do y’all wish parents in your office happy mother’s/father’s day? Because that’s weird in the first place. Seems like that it should be mostly their families doing that.

    LW, you need to really let this go. You did the right thing suggesting that she take a few vacation days. That was actually very nice because most people who would want a few days to settle in a new puppy/animal probably would feel bad about asking. As for the term “pawternity”, it is very cringeworthy. Probably should have just let it go. I can understand that it’s annoying but getting into an argument about the definition of caretaking and responsibility for dependents is sticky at best.

    1. Jamie*

      I also think it’s weird to wish people in the office happy Mother’s/Father’s Day. I worked somewhere where a guy would give all the women who had kids roses for Mother’s Day and it still strikes me as so weird.

      1. MistOrMister*

        Yeah, I would fibd that odd too. And it’s the kind of thing that, while it likely comes from a good place, can really hurt people. People estranged from their children or who’ve lost children might not want to be wished happy Mother’s day. And then people who want kids but can’t/don’t have them might feel really upset at having it brought up some prominently. Even if none of that happens, it is still an odd thing to do in an office. MAYBE it would be ok if you worked in a Hallmark card factory….maybe.

      2. anon for this one*

        Wishing parents who aren’t YOUR parents a happy mother’s / father’s day is a trend I’ve noticed more in the past couple of years in my social circles and at work. It seems weird to me, but it is happening!

  19. Zephy*

    I mean, she can call her vacation whatever she wants, and if her manager doesn’t approve her “pawternity leave” for whatever reason, she can certainly try to apply for FMLA – it’ll give HR a laugh, at least. Like, does she not realize that pregnant people who give birth and go on parental leave are recovering from an intense and serious medical, possibly surgical, procedure? I’m also childfree, but at least I know where babies come from…

    1. Seifer*

      Have you ever seen Ali Wong’s Netflix specials? She says it best, “women don’t need maternity leave to stay at home and bond with the baby–fuck the baby! We need it so that we can hide away and heal our demolished-ass bodies!”

      My coworker got a new dog and she used a few vacation days to stay at home the first few days so that the dog could get acclimated. She did not demand “pawternity leave” and I’m sure if I sent her this article, she would probably bust a rib laughing.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      And that is also why many companies offer maternity leave but not paternity leave since the party giving birth does need the physical recovery time and 6/8 weeks is what the AMA recommends.
      Although I do find it interesting that my company does not offer paternity leave (there are some options though-husbands/wives of a pregnant woman are allowed to take up to 2 weeks unpaid and go up to 1 week negative in their PTO accrual for bonding time) if a couple chooses to adopt both genders are covered under adoption leave for the “standard” 6-week STD and 12-weeks FMLA protection.

      1. Quill*

        Problem is that the non-birthing partner is going to need to be on hand to take care of the birthgiver, who may or may not be able to even deal with things around the house, and the baby, for way longer than those 2 weeks.

        1. Botanist*

          Yeah, being home alone all day in a sleep-deprived state with a fussy infant did a real number on my mental health. Having my husband home for a few more weeks to help share the burden would have been amazing.

    3. Overeducated*

      True! I am on “maternity leave” right now, by which I mean I am using my own accrued sick leave for a few weeks of birth recovery, and then I will invoke FML and use my accrued vacation time for “bonding and care of a newborn.” My employer offers no paid parental leave benefits, only the unpaid 12 weeks required by the FMLA, and that does include recognizing recovery and bonding as two different reasons to take the leave. The things you keanr when you don’t trust HR and read rhe manuals yourself!

      I guess maybe the coworker could try asking for FMLA for fur baby bonding and see how far it gets her….

    4. Vicky Austin*

      And even if you adopt a human baby and therefore don’t need to recover from the birth, a newborn baby is A LOT more work than a puppy.

  20. CmdrShepard4ever*

    Yes I agree this is one of those situations where you will come off even weirder if you push your coworker and try to correct her on all the differences between humans/animals and how human motherhood is different. Just write her off in your head as weird and move on from it. The only time I would bring it up is if her actions cause some kind of work related issue. Feeling like calling herself a mother downplays/trivializes what it means to be a mother to human children is not enough to make it worth saying something.

    I would try to be overly nice to her now, to show no hard feelings, and to try to repair your relationship with her.

    Side note I do not think having animals is the same as having children, but next time I get a new animal I am totally going to jokingly take “pawternity” leave.

    1. anonymous to scream*

      This is a situation where the LW is called upon to be tolerant of her coworker at work, and regale their loved ones with tales of their out-of-touch coworker.

  21. Leslie Knope*

    Not work-related, but related to the subject – my brother and his wife got a puppy before they had any kids. My sister-in-law has always referred to the dog as her “child.” I didn’t think much of it since a lot of people refer to pets as fur babies or kids or whatever. They’re a part of your family, so that doesn’t really bother me. However, what does rub me the wrong way is that since they’ve had human children, they still call the dogs their children as well. My sister-in-law will post videos on social media of my 5-yr-old nephew hanging out with his “brother.” She’ll be in the background of the video saying, “Tell us how much you love hanging out with your brother! Give him a hug!” It’s cute and all, but the language bugs me. I know my nephew understands that the dog isn’t really his biological brother, so I just have to look at it as a weird quirk of my SIL and let it be.

    1. Zephy*

      My grandparents are also “dogs are people too” people. So I have an aunt who’s a real bitch (by which I mean, she is a literal female dog).

    2. Manchmal*

      That’s fascinating, and from my experience kind of unusual. The vast majority of parents I know who had pets before their kids arrived basically lost interest in the animal afterwards. It happened to me! That dog used to be my absolute baby, but once I had a real baby to contend with, I just had zero extra energy or emotional bandwidth.
      The dog became one more needy being when I (felt that I) could barely account for the human baby’s needs. And what made it worse is that the dog didn’t really take to the baby, and the baby has not gotten particularly interested in the dog. Luckily my husband still likes the dog, and baby #2 is showing a lot more interest in him.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        I think what helped in this situation was that the dog was small (about 20lbs) and not super active inside the house. He liked to run around outside, but when he was indoors you could usually find him curled up on the couch. When my nephew was born and my SIL was nursing, the dog would curl up in the rocker on the side and sleep. I think he’s always been a source of comfort for her while she’s worn out, stressed out, strung out with the kids (2 now, who are 23 months apart)…and he’s content being near and being fed. A more active dog might not have done well in that situation.

      2. Quill*

        This is how my parents’ dog, which they had before I was born, ended up living with my uncle. She was not tolerant of the second baby (my brother) but she was best buds with my uncle’s dog… so one day we went to visit and left her there. From her perspective for the next few years she was being dogsat, and kept trying to leave with us in the car.

        She didn’t acknowledge my existence until I was about 9.

        /My/ dog, on the other hand, was obnoxiously good with babies. In that he would guard random babies who happened to be in the area, and kick up a fuss if a stroller was empty, and allowed my baby cousin to learn to pull up on items by clinging to his neck.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      Haha. I do that with my dog and daughter (as in, I’ll pick her up and say, “oh, we gotta go walk your brother!”)

      My partner thinks it’s weird, which I totally get, but I think it’s partially just to remind myself that – even though we have a baby now – we were guardians to this little dog first and I can’t let his needs slip onto the backburner. (The baby can be so demanding that I think it’s sometimes easy to get sidetracked.)

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I once asked a neighbor kid about his dog: “How old is Zoe?” “She’s 8.” “And how old are you?” “I’m 5.” “Is she a good big sister?” “Uh, NO, she’s a DOG, she can’t be my SISTER!” Well, I got served, didn’t I? :)

        I call my parents’ dog my sister. It’s just silly, I don’t take it seriously. It never occurred to me that someone would!

        1. Shad*

          So I would never call my mom’s dog my sister, but in that almost baby-talk way people talk to dogs, we definitely talk to the dog about mom as her mom and me as her sister. Pets and relationships are weird.

    4. Quill*

      We got my dog when my mom had a midlife crisis, but the references to the dog as the baby brother were always an in-joke.

      That said, we gave the dog a people name and it wasn’t uncommon for my mom to command the /dog/ to “take his brother for a walk”, especially when my (human!) brother was being a particularly teenagery teen.

    5. Q*

      Here’s a possibly more level-headed take on that. My parents got a dog after they had kids and referred to him as me and my sibling’s “brother.” But it was meant to be funny and loving! They would never have dreamed of demanding “peternity” leave. Although he was a beloved member of the family, he was not me or my sister’s equal.

      Now I have pets of my own, and while I don’t call myself their parent I can understand why some pet owners like to think of their relationship that way. Taking care of pets is similar in some ways to taking care of toddlers, and they probably feel that “owning” a pet doesn’t really capture the essence of the bond/relationship. Calling myself a pet owner feels less weird to me than calling myself a pet parent, but there is no truly appropriate term.

    6. Witchy Human*

      Pushing a sincere “sibling” relationship between a child and a pet seems so unhealthy. Chances are that “brother” is going to pass on while kid is still a kid, and “our dog died” is a lot less loaded than “my brother died.”

      If you’re just using it to be cutesy, then you do you. (I do hate it, but I hate all performative cutesiness).

    7. Me*

      Eh. I tell my only child daughter that the dog is my favorite child. It’s a joke. I don’t legitimately think the dog is equivalent to my human child.

      People have their quirks. Life is so much easier when you let them exist without getting invested in them.

      I’ll also say the dog never talks back so….. : )

      1. Alton*

        Yeah, a lot of times it’s a joke made in good fun.

        My parents had a cat when I was born, and I’ll joke that she was my mean, spoiled older sister because she’d get me to push her around the house in a wagon and would try to steal my food.

    8. Mia*

      My mom referred to my childhood dogs as my siblings my whole life. Now that I think about it, I know a ton of people who do that. It’s meant to be a lighthearted way of showing that they’re part of the family; it’s not super serious.

    9. Morning reader*

      I call my daughter’s pets my granddogs. I don’t seriously think they are her children. She has goats too; I do enjoy mentioning my grandkids.

  22. AKM*

    I say this as a pawrent who is childless by choice: your coworker needs to get over herself and use PTO. And she needs to stfu up about Mother’s Day.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      This is pretty much where I land. I mean, if we were bringing home a new cat or dog, I’d probably talk with my boss about working from home for a few days to help the new addition get settled in. I have worked from home in the past when one of our cats was seeming a bit “off,” and I wanted to keep an eye on her (and I did end up taking her to the vet later that afternoon).

      I’m adamantly childfree, and pro-choice, but I don’t publicize my charitable donations, or feel the need to express my views unless asked, and sometimes not even then.

      OP’s coworker is obnoxious. She needs to back off, and really…being upset at not being wished a Happy Mother’s Day? I get slightly annoyed when someone does wish me one (because I don’t like the assumption that woman = mother), but the most I ever say is something like “Thanks…do cats count?”

      Just live and let live, people…it sounds like the OP’s workplace doesn’t dump on the workers without children, as seems to happen too often, so there’s not that source of friction.

  23. jiminy_cricket*

    I am voluntarily child-free and have two pets I love more than basically anything else. Your co-worker strikes me as having a case of “thou doth protest too much” syndrome, i.e. they may be responding to societal pressures and/or perceived pressures inside the workplace by becoming a SUPER child-free person. The MOST child-free. The HAPPIEST about it. Maybe they have some reservations, maybe they don’t. But there’s a sensitivity there. That could be where they’re at on their journey with it, in which case, nothing you can say or do will be perceived with the intended intent. The advice here is spot-on; I offer this perspective only to possibly help further remove yourself from it emotionally, perhaps have some empathy for someone whose obviously got a soft spot (don’t we all), and move on to repair the relationship(s) as you see fit.

  24. joriley*

    I think this woman has to be the same person whose mom wrote to Dear Prudence because she (the daughter) was having a tantrum about the dog being excluded from mom’s will, unlike the “human cousins.” You just have to nod politely and decline to engage as much as possible.

    1. Helena*

      Hey, I know somebody who got in a snit because her parents spent more on their human grandchildren at Christmas than they spent on her fur-baby.

      I mean, how much can you actually spend on dog chew toys? They aren’t exactly expensive.

  25. Quill*

    Reasonable to take a day or two off to puppy proof? absolutely. Reasonable to call it “pawternity leave”? No. Nope. Nada.

  26. Susana*

    Good lord. I am middle-aged and determinedly child-free, and *I* think she’s being ridiculous comparing raising a child to caring for a puppy (especially if she didn’t give birth to said puppy). I don’t resent people for taking paternity/maternity leave any more than I resent someone for taking time off for chemo or to get married or go to a funeral. And no – I’m not saying parenthood is an unhappy occasion at all. I’m saying we all have different needs for leave depending on our circumstances. So even if you don’t *want* a certain circumstance (like parenthood), you don’t get to deny it to people who do want that circumstance.

    1. alldogsarepuppies*

      Where does it say the coworker is taking away parenthood from people? That is a weird jump. Coworker is allowed to take vacation time for what she wants, and its so so easy to ignore her cutsy name.

      Also, not all parents give birth to their kids. That is not the standard we should be using for when leave is justified.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        As far as the birth thing, actually giving birth does matter where leave is concerned. A woman that gives birth needs leave so her body has some time to recover. That’s often a separate consideration than actually taking care of a baby. For instance, my state has FMLA but also has parental bonding time (both unpaid) as separate periods required by law.

  27. Wing Leader*

    I have a child-free friend that, when asked if she has kids, will respond with, “Yes, I have four.” Four cats is what she has, and she’s totally serious. Of course the person thinks she has four human kids, so if they ask further questions, she will clarify and say, “Oh, I have four furry children.” Cue the strange looks. It’s always a spectacle to behold. By the way, I myself am a child-free woman with 2 cats and 1 dog, but I don’t tell people I have 3 kids lol.

    1. Czhorat*

      If you have human children and pets, perhaps make it into a math puzzle: “My kids have a total of 16 legs but only 10 eyes”.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        LMAO. I love this. I currently have under my roof three teenagers, a dog, three cats, a fish and 23 mice (long story). I will totally lump all of them together as my kids and make it a math puzzle :)))))

    2. Oof*

      Back when I was asked if I was pregnant, I have responded with no, she’s about 4 months old, I just still haven’t gotten my figure back. Those four legs and all! LOL It was a much more delightful response than no I am just overweight. Nothing better than when people share smiles and giggles.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have two dogs. One was born the same year as my husband’s niece, so he always asks me how old the dog is when he’s trying to remember how old the niece is.

      The other is five years old and blonde in color, and shares a name with our friend’s five year old blonde (human) daughter, which has led to some very entertaining confusions among mutual friends.

    4. Ali G*

      I will admit, depending on who is asking, I will answer “only the 4-legged kind.” But I think people get that. I wouldn’t say “yes a boy” because that would be odd.

    5. cat socks*

      I respond to that with “Nope! No kids, but we have five cats that keep us busy.”

      On a related topic, I never ask anyone outright if they have kids because I never know what they are going through with regard to infertility, miscarriage, etc.

    6. Decima Dewey*

      Sometimes I ask my cat, Chaucer, if he loves his mama. Then I imagine him giving me side-eye and saying “Lady, I was a full grown cat when we met. I don’t think you’ve ever given birth to anything!” And he’s right, of course.

    7. Pants*

      Child-free here. I can’t get behind the whole “fur-children” or “furry kids” thing. It makes me think of Furries, which sends my visual brain into all sorts of directions and then I can’t stop giggling.

      I say: “No kids. I chose tattoos and cats instead. But I really enjoy being the bad-influence auntie.”

  28. Czhorat*

    Remember yesterday when I said we should respect eachother’s quirks and they add pleasure?

    Yeah. This is not really one of those times. If there’s no leave for actual newborns then it’s really, REALLY a stretch to expect it for new dogs, as cute a phrase as “pawternity leave” may be.

    Having a pet is not the same thing as having a child either culturally or, in any reasonable objective sense, as foundational a part of ones life and identity. Yes, it’s a commitment. Yes, pets are – in a sense – family. It’s still just not the same.

    ALl that said, she’s a coworker, not a report. Roll your eyes, excuse yourself from the conversation and, as Jennifer suggested above, go home and regale your family (two or four-legged) with tales of how crazy your co-workers are.

    No excuse me, it’s time to serenade my open-office co-workers with amateur ukulele music.

    1. Sophie Hatter*

      Yeah that’s what I’m wondering, does this company not offer parental leave other than “take your vacation time”?

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s my interpretation, which makes “pawternity leave” really bizarre. Dog-mom can take vacation just like everyone else.

        TBH, the lack of actual parental leave is the bigger issue here by a good margin.

        1. CMart*

          The way the letter was written regarding the interaction between OP and the coworker has me a little confused about DogMom CW’s outrage. I think DogMom is ultimately outraged over OP telling them not to say “pawternity”, which occurred in the same conversation as OP reminding them that they just need to use PTO since that’s what actual parents have to do at this company.

          So potentially their upset is less about the lack of “pawternity leave” in general (or at all) or the OP’s statement that they need to use vacation time, and likely all about being lectured about their use of this goofy term.

          But also very much agreed – no maternity leave is really grim.

  29. Jamie*

    I expected this to be about someone who wanted FMLA for her new pet…but this is just her using silly verbiage so I don’t see what the issue is.

    Now lashing out for any reason has no place at work, but for the rest of it if she’s doing this in earnest her weirdness speaks for itself.

    That said, if she was being whimsical ‘pawternity’ is adorable and pretty funny.

  30. aebhel*

    Yeah, OP, she’s being incredibly weird and I’d be put-off too (being mad that nobody wished her a happy Mother’s Day when she doesn’t have kids? Whut?), but it’s not worth getting this invested. Just roll your eyes and move on.

  31. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

    Your coworker is utterly ridiculous and super obnoxious, but there’s nothing you can do except laugh about her at home. I’m sorry.

  32. Moose*

    Does anyone work at a place where “pawternity leave” is an official part of their benefits package? My partner interviewed with a company that is very involved in animal rights (although it’s an unrelated industry) and gives employees pawternity leave (actually called that!)–paid days for employees to stay home with a newly adopted cat or dog. It’s only, like, 2-3 days, which I think is reasonable. And they have good paid leave for human children. That’s the first I’d heard of it, though! Is this more common now? They are a medium-sized company, not really a start-up or anything.

    1. ACDC*

      Someone below commented that Netflix offers a pet leave in their benefits package. However, I had never heard of that being a thing (outside of just using your accrued PTO for pet purposes) until this thread.

    2. Helena*

      My husbanded to work somewhere with pawternity leave. No idea how long it was, presumably just a few days. Also had lots of dogs in the office. This was a Toronto IT company, most of the staff were 20-30yrs olds with dogs but no children (he and the owner were literally the only members of staff with children). But Toronto itself has surprisingly few children and surprisingly many dogs compared to other places we’ve lived.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        +1 for more dogs than children in Toronto, especially in any of those newer condo-centric areas.

        See, for me this feels really weird in a Canadian context because we already do maternity/parental leave as an entirely different protected bucket of PTO, so there isn’t usually a sense that mat leave competes with other kinds of leave (at least in my experience). I kind of get it when we’re talking about the US just because so many people have to use vacation/sick/unpaid leave for maternity leave, though.

        1. Helena*

          Oh yeah, they had parental leave too. Pet leave was just an extra perk, like some IT companies have a pool table or on-site barista.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I think it’s cute in that case. It’s reinforcing the company’s mission! Also, it’s only 2-3 days. I was interpreting from the letter that OP’s coworker is wanting a maternity-leave length of time…paid. The term isn’t really that bad when there is maternity/paternity leave and this is a proportionate amount of time.

      1. anon for this one*

        Yeah, it seems more appropriate at an animal-specific company. My company just has a generous PTO policy that you can use for having a new dog, taking a vacation, getting your house remodeled, etc. (And separate family care and parental leave policies as well for humans in your immediate family.) I think that’s generally a better approach.

  33. Lux*

    In my experience people always have a problem the minute you say you don’t want to have children. It has always happened to me wherever I have worked & to other friends elsewhere. Only once in my whole working life has someone just accepted that I’m happily childfree so I am defensive about it myself. I am expected to work Christmas every year “because you don’t have kids” and have often experienced parents getting extra time off that is not logged in any way (like you get so many holiday/unpaid/domestic or emergency leave days but a day off for a school play is just given & paid) & I’ve seen this happen a lot- just extra paid days off. This wasn’t unique to one place/industry either.
    Society favors parents. It can be extremely frustrating so I can understand someone being sensitive or frustrated by it. That said I do think the coworker is being OTT about it but really so is the LW to an extent.

    1. pope suburban*

      This. I get the impression that the workplace in this letter is fairly austere toward all employees in terms of PTO/leave, but that’s not the case in every workplace. I also wonder if there is a culture there that is in fact alienating to people who cannot/don’t want to have children, irrespective of formal benefits structures. Where I am now is fairly evenhanded, but my previous workplace favored parents to the point that I nearly worked myself into the hospital (There were, as you might imagine, many other issues, but having to constantly cover for multiple people definitely contributed to my fatigue) on several occasions. Meanwhile, any of my emergencies had to be handled at lunch or when I clocked out, because the boss simply didn’t recognize them as things that might need fairly immediate dealing-with. I agree that the coworker here is being ridiculous but I have some sympathy for her.

    2. Chris*

      Yes. I admit that I hate the term Pawternity. I also am not a fan of “furbabies” and I don’t need anyone to wish me Happy Mother’s Day because I have pets. And, yet, I’ve seen time and time again that it is so easy to dismiss the concerns of those that are childless and how women without children can be treated as “other”.

      I am also taking the LW at her word that work load is fairly distributed at her workplace. However, that has not been my personal experience. As a childless person, I often am doing extra work during someone’s maternity leave (sometimes without additional compensation), covering extra during the holidays, covering a meeting because someone got called out for their kids, or simply not given an accommodation that wouldn’t be questioned for a parent. I tend to not let it bother me, but I recognize that it is a reality. I can both recognize the hard work of parenting and be frustrated by the way society favors parents.

      1. Susie Q*

        That’s not society. That’s your company’s structure. Your management should have brought on a temp or something to cover for your coworker’s maternity leave.

        1. Ellen N.*

          No place I’ve worked has brought on a temp to cover for maternity leave. In the places I’ve worked, everyone with the same job has been expected to work extra hours to cover for the employee who is on maternity leave.

      2. Avasarala*

        Of course society is going to favor parents, in the sense that it takes a village and while you cover for them now, they are raising the next generation that will become the young people you hire and the young workers who support you in retirement with their tax dollars. Individually in your company that sounds like room for improvement though.

    3. Pants*

      Cosign. And also, while it’s not a work policy at any office that I’m aware of, I got really sick of people asking for money for people’s wedding and baby showers. How about the Pay The Single Girl’s Rent shower?

  34. Delta Delta*

    Yeah, this is exceptionally weird.

    I am pretty pro-pet. Pets are great. I were a manager and an employee came to me asking to shift some time around to be home with a puppy, I’d work it out if possible. You generally don’t have to do this as much with cats, but I’d be willing to flex some time to help someone integrate a cat if needed.

    Neither of these is the same as rearing a brand new human being. If someone called it ‘pawternity’ leave I’d probably chuckle and say “good pun” and that’s it. If it persisted I’d think they were being weird.

  35. Betsy Bobbins*

    The whole getting crotchety over not being wished a happy Mother’s Day thing is weird. But for the record, I really dislike being wished a happy Mother’s Day by anyone but my kid and my husband, it’s especially weird to me at work. Becoming a mom doesn’t take a lot of skill, but being a great mom does, and the only people that really know and are in a place to recognize me for that are the two aforementioned people.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      One place I worked there was a guy that wished all the women, “Happy Mother’s Day”, regardless of whether or not they had kids. If you mentioned not having kids, he’d call you a future mother. It was ridiculously gross and I was so glad when he was fired

      1. pope suburban*

        Oh my god, my internal scream at that almost became external screaming. Who DOES that? Who could possibly find that appropriate?! I, too, find myself glad that he was fired.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        So since I’m not a father, it’s okay to feel bristly at being included in Fathers’ Day stuff??

    2. Filosofickle*

      My father, ever the literal engineer, has never given my mother Mother’s Day things…because she’s not his mother! He only sent his own mother a card/greeting. That always cracked me up. Not sure how Mom feels about?

      1. Helena*

        Same with my husband. He does help my son make things for me though, which is the important thing for me. I mean, I’m not his mom! I don’t particularly need or want a mother’s day card from him! I do the same on Father’s Day for him.

      2. Zombeyonce*

        My husband doesn’t give me a Mother’s Day gift, but he does make sure the kids are handled the whole day so I can go off and do whatever I want. (He gets the same from me for Father’s Day.) I don’t need more presents, I need to go have lunch and sit in a movie theater by myself for a few hours.

        We both love this arrangement.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Nice! My Dad did that too. I kinda don’t get everyone doing Mother’s Day Brunch or Big Mothers Day Out With Mom. In our house it was Go Away With Dad and Leave Mom Alone. She’s a homebody and basically just wanted a day of peace and quiet at home :D

    3. Mimi Me*

      I dislike it too! I don’t make a big deal about the day and it’s a bit strange to me when others do. I know people who expect big gifts and celebrations for Mother’s Day from people who are not their child / spouse. Weird. I expect hugs, a breakfast that is both partly burned and partly under cooked, and my husband to either cook or order in a decent dinner all while I sit on the couch with a library book, the remote control, and the power to watch whatever I want without anyone asking me “Isn’t there something else on?”

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I highly recommend seeing a movie by yourself on Mother’s Day. The theaters are basically empty!

    4. Perbie*

      I feel like i can’t win with mothers day – i am a mom and i think it’s origins are dubious, i don’t know why or if i should wish anyone other than my own moms happy mothers day, and i’m terrible about remembering pretty much any holiday except perhaps the big 4 (Halloween/thanksgiving/giftmas/4th of july) – are these even holidays idk the only two i really like are Halloween and foodday. And fireworks are fun. I have begrudgingly come to accept giftmas for the sake of family.

  36. Bunny Girl*

    I’d say just let it go. There is nothing wrong with people calling their pets their children. It doesn’t dismiss anything about people who chose to be parents. Her wanting a couple of days off to get her new puppy adjusted isn’t that big of a stretch either, and it doesn’t undermine anyone’s maternity/paternity leave. It’s reasonable to take a few days to get your new puppy settled. I just brought home an 8 week old puppy and I took some time off because it is a huge adjustment. I even jokingly called it “pawternity leave” to my boss. I’m sure that’s how she meant it. Just ignore her comments about Mother’s Day. It’s not worth getting invested over.

  37. Shocked Pikachu*

    I want to write something helpful but I am in the midst of horrible insomnia spell and all my brain is coming up with is “pawternity leave and dick days for everyone”


  38. Amanda*

    I don’t necessarily feel the urge to defend Coworker’s actions here – I do think “pawternity” is an odd request/concept/word and a pet’s needs does not equate to those of a newborn child – but I do empathize, to some degree, needing to take time off. I’m currently child-free and have two cats I adore. Recently, one of them (2yo) broke his hip. It required me to take a couple days of vacation time and a couple more WFHs because he needed to be crated, closely monitored, and eventually recover from surgery (not to mention the poor thing was in utter misery). I did these things willingly! I wouldn’t ever be compelled to ask for some sort of pet-related leave. Owning a pet is a choice and big responsibility, knowing in good faith you need to care for them for the rest of their lives – that will sometimes mean altering your work schedule. Your employer’s responsible for that.

    However, it struck me as super odd that OP mentioned Coworker donating to abortion access funds – what does that have to do with anything? And to echo other commenters: just leave Coworker be. She’s a bit nutty, but that’s not affecting you.

    1. Amanda*

      UGH, I definitely meant “Your employer’s ***not*** responsible for that.” Where’s the edit function when you need it! Pardon my typo.

  39. Anna*

    I agree your coworker is weird, but I disagree with Alison in the sense that she isn’t alone. When I went on maternity leave, SEVERAL coworkers made snide comments about how their animals are their “kids” too and how they didnt’ get leave. It is totally obnoxious and deluded, but it isn’t uncommon. I’ve had several other mom friends experience similar, not to mention the many, many comments about how parental leave is “vacation.” This country has a serious problem with contempt for children, pregnant women and parents, and offices aren’t immune to it. I’m sorry, OP.

    1. Chris*

      Our society also has contempt for people who chose not to have to children. Either we need to have more empathy for one another generally or society has contempt for women. Period. Probably a little bit of both.

      1. Perbie*

        More contempt and snarking is not helpful. It’s like “real women have curves” “eat a sandwich” etc comments in response to problematic society views on obesity; the answer is not to shame people who are thin or whatever. It’s to stop the fat shaming and media distortion of women’s bodies

    2. The New Wanderer*

      We had a female employee at my company complain on a company wide forum about the company giving new parents 12 weeks paid mat/pat leave, because “most moms” could work during that time and would probably want to since they’d get bored, so why not let them and not waste company money?

      It did not go over well.

      I don’t really care if pet owners call their pets kids or use cutesy terms like pawternity. Not my thing, but smile and nod and move on. Complaining that they don’t get exactly all the same benefits as new parents is just too much, but still doesn’t require any response from a coworker.

  40. Veryanon*

    I once had an employee who was missing a lot of work time due to her pet rat being ill. (She had other performance issues, to be clear.) She worked in a customer-facing position, so every time she called out, someone had to cover for her.
    I pointed out to her that she was missing a lot of unplanned time and it was negatively impacting the team, our ability to support our customers, etc., and while I was sympathetic to her situation, she needed to figure something out in order to be at work. Her answer? She asked me if she could apply for FMLA leave to care for her pet. I kept a straight face and explained that FMLA leave was only for children, parents, or spouses. She argued that her pet rat was like a child to her and she should have the same rights as a parent of a human child. I gave her an A for effort, but ultimately did not grant her request for FMLA leave.
    I’m pretty sure the people who drafted the FMLA never thought they’d have to specify that the law only applied to *human* children.

  41. K*

    I think Netflix offers puppy leave, which I’ve always thought is awesome…BUT they also offer up to a year off for parents within the first year of birth or adoption (if I recall correctly) so I feel like they’re in a pretty good place to offer that up as a perk.

  42. Batgirl*

    She sounds hysterical; I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from encouraging her to tell me more about the correct raising of dog children.
    The mother’s day one is GOLD, because people only wish their own mums a happy Mother’s Day surely? Is she annoyed that Patch and Paws didn’t learn to speak in honour of the day?
    There’s potential for her to really offend someone sure if she’s snapping at people and counselling them on sensitive subjects, but I would just let whoever that person is handle it if it does ever go there.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Actually, people often wish all moms they know a Happy Mothers Day. They celebrate motherhood in general, not only their own mother. That’s not how it worked in my family, but I see it all the time here in the US especially on social media.

  43. Leslie Knope 2020*

    To me this reads like a pot calling a kettle black. Yes, the co-worker is weird and is hung up on people respecting her as a dog mom, but the OP is just as hung up on demanding “the respect maternity/paternity leave” deserves (?!) and seems to be taking the co-worker’s life choices personally. Live and let live, people! There’s no reason for either person to be upset and it just seems funny to me that the OP doesn’t see the irony here.

    They’re doing EXACTLY the same thing as the co-worker: getting up in arms about how their way is the only RIGHT way to live. OP values having kids and traditional maternity/paternity leave. They’re offended that the co-worker disagrees and seems to want to make the co-worker agree with her or else (insert hurt feelings). The co-worker doesn’t give a rip about kids and values dogs and wants the same rights as “other parents.” Not likely to happen, but she wants her life choices validated in the same way that parents take for granted. Honestly, though she’s a bit silly, I take the co-worker’s side in this.

    1. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

      I had the same thought. The LW is actually playing into her coworker’s hand here.

    2. CMart*

      Oof. I think you’re a little on to something with regards to each person in this letter being a bit defensive about their own worldviews. But you’re really reaching there with the OP’s motivations.

      May people who do not have kids, especially those who have made the active choice not to, feel like their lives and choices get belittled and disrespected by society. Usually because they are actively disrespected by people in their lives. And therefore they can get defensive about it, and perhaps a little too much so when the topic comes up.

      But maternity leave and paternity leave, especially in the US, is also really disrespected by society at large. “Having kids” less so (though also yes, in various ways) but specifically when it comes to the workplace and taking time off. People refer to the leave as “vacation”, they don’t give promotions to the people who take the leave because they aren’t seen as team players, coworkers resent people out on leave for “forcing” them to take on extra work. It’s… bad. It’s a really bad landscape, and parental leave is not given the due respect it deserves. I don’t think that’s an egregious thing to say in general.

      I don’t think someone asking for “pawternity leave” is belittling parental leave more so that they’re attempting to elevate their own thing and that OP’s feelings here are a bit misguided. But coming at them hard for feeling that parental leave has a pattern of being devalued (see: their company not actually offering it, at all) is a bit much.

      1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

        Yes, Dog Mommie Dearest presumably wants to elevate pet-having to the level of child-rearing, but I think the effect of the overall cultural jumping-up of of pets has actually been to bolster the “children are just a totally optional lifestyle choice/hobby and no one should accommodate them” line of thinking that plagues our society.

  44. Jennifer*

    I have no idea if the people I work are pro choice. It literally never comes up. Her mentioning this, plus the counseling that she shouldn’t be doing, paints a vivid picture.

    1. Jamie*

      We don’t know how far the counselling thing goes though. I’m a mom and wouldn’t trade my kids for the world, but if someone was on the fence about having kids and asked my advice it would be along the lines of wait and don’t have kids unless you really want them. I’m definitely pro-parenting for those who want kids but just as supportive of people’s choices to be child free.

        1. Scarlet2*

          Honestly, no-one gives advice from a neutral place, except perhaps professional counselors (and I would argue that even they are not totally neutral since they’re human beings). Whatever advice you give, people will still make their own decisions so I don’t see what the issue is. And honestly, if anyone is on the fence about having kids, “don’t have them now” is probably better blanket advice than “just go ahead, it’s gonna be fine”.

          1. Shan*

            So many people said that to me when I was debating having them with my (ex)husband, and I’m so glad I didn’t listen!

            1. Scarlet2*

              That’s up to the people who are asking her for advice and no one else.
              You seem oddly hung up about someone giving private and solicited advice. Should people be accredited before giving advice to friends now? Or is it just for the child free?

              1. Jennifer*

                If you read the LW’s update above, she has mentioned “saving” women from unwanted pregnancies. She’s a zealot. I don’t like the idea of a person like that counseling young women at a vulnerable time. That’s my opinion.

                1. VeryAnon*

                  Can you explain why that person is any more offensive than the usual pro pregnancy at any cost counsellors?

              2. Avasarala*

                Do you think it’s ok for someone who is zealously pro-life, who thinks all abortions are murder, to counsel people about the same decisions?

                If you’ve already made up your mind about what is right and wrong for everyone in all cases, you shouldn’t be advising others on the fence. Because that’s not advising, that’s lecturing.

                1. Jennifer*

                  BOTH are wrong. That’s my point. If you don’t agree with forced birth, you shouldn’t agree with this. Two sides of the same coin.

      1. alldogsarepuppies*

        yeah, it sounds like she is giving that exact same advice to people openly ambivalent to having kids.

    2. hbc*

      I think everyone who’s on the fence about children should be counseled out of it, and I sure as heck hear a ton more arm-twisting the other direction. And someone looking for advice from random people on their reproductive decisions shouldn’t really be expecting to find only balanced, neutral opinions.

      1. Jennifer*

        It sounds like she counsels young women in some sort of official capacity like through a volunteer org. That’s not random. I could be wrong. Either way, she sounds like a weirdo and I wouldn’t ask her for advice on what to have for dinner tonight.

          1. Jennifer*

            That was the impression I got from the letter. I wouldn’t refer to giving advice to someone informally as “counseling” but I guess others have a different take. Again, I could be wrong.

        1. Jennifer*

          Also there are people who were on the fence about having kids who decided to have them after a lot of careful thought. Being on the fence initially does not necessarily mean they will be bad parents. It just means they take it seriously.

    3. Shan*

      “Paints a vivid picture”… of what, exactly? Casually mentioning you donate to Planned Parenthood (or wherever) is not necessarily oversharing. I keep pictures of the service dog I sponsor pinned to my bulletin board, and people frequently ask about donating themselves. Casually mentioning you donate to Planned Parenthood (or wherever) is not necessarily oversharing.

      As far as counseling, I don’t think it’s fair to say “she shouldn’t be doing”. OP specifies this is “in her personal life,” so I’m not sure what capacity she’s doing it in, but I know that if I’m chatting with someone who is hemming and hawing about having kids, I will absolutely say that I think kids something you need to really want, and if you’re having serious doubts, there’s nothing wrong with waiting or deciding it’s not for you full stop.

      1. Jennifer*

        Seriously? Comparing an issue that nearly everyone agrees on – that rescue dogs are adorable – to one of the most polarizing issues out there is a HUGE false equivalency. And it doesn’t sound like she’s “casually” mentioning it. She doesn’t seem to casually mention anything.

  45. irene adler*

    I’ll be happy to wish this lady a Happy Mutter’s Day any time.
    But it’s Happy Mother’s Day for the mom’s I know.

    /rim shot

    Thank you, thank you…I’ll be here all week…

  46. Environmental Compliance*

    “Lately she’s been vocal about wanting “pawternity” leave for her new puppy. I smiled, nodded and reminded her that new parents in our company need to use our vacation and sick banks to have any substantial time at home with our newborns. I encouraged her to use vacation time and stay home for a few days.”

    I’m flabbergasted at this part in particular. My read of this is that the company requires the use of vacation/sick days to extend? use prior to ? maternity leave…. and she wants to have more than that for a puppy?

    I’m an animal lover and have 100% taken leave to assist with my pets’ health. However, I’m really bemused on what this coworker intends to accomplish by requesting pawternity leave prior to the company offering actual paternity/maternity leave.

    1. fposte*

      I have to say I’m not that bothered by that; we’re likelier to be advocates for our own causes, and she doesn’t have to assume that priority just because other people have it. (But I think she’s foolish on a strategic plane.)

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I’m not sure that I’m bothered by her asking as much as bothered by insisting on it, if that makes sense. I think she’d be better served by advocating for better leave in general for paternity/adoption/new pet/etc rather than narrowly focusing on pawternity. It feels really tone deaf in how it’s coming across in the letter.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t disagree there. Of course, it’s also hard to know how Dog Mom was couching this to HR and management, rather than just to a co-worker.

    2. lost academic*

      When you take FMLA / STD, companies can and usually do require that you exhaust your banked PTO (sick/vacation) in the process of the leave. So if you had two weeks banked, you would get paid for them, conveniently for some people, but then the rest of the protected leave period would be paid or not paid as STD/FMLA dictate. I think this sucks, quite frankly, because you can’t have them run sequentially. I conveniently had an end of year baby and went out of my way to zero out my PTO balance and go on leave before the first of the year so that none of my 2019 PTO could be taken away.

      FMLA and STD are appallingly short though. 12 weeks is insane. I could still barely function at the end of that and I didn’t have any complications or a difficult newborn. I simply took an extra month, secure in my position in that I knew my company could not object and they couldn’t replace me. It was nice to still be on leave when my baby learned to smile at me. My sister, 10 years prior, had to go back to work after 6 weeks. I can’t even fathom it.

  47. ElizabethJane*

    I agree that the woman in question is being ridiculous but also I find the LW equally ridiculous. It doesn’t undermine a single person if someone says their pet is their kid or asks for “pawternity” leave. I have a daughter – I tried very hard to conceive, it took a long time, and we had a lot of complications getting there. I have never once found myself at all hurt by someone saying their pet is their “kid”. How someone else sees their family doesn’t invalidate (or validate – it has no impact at all really) mine.

    LW needs to calm down.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I think the point about the “undermining” was that the company doesn’t offer specific parental leave at all? It sounds like if parents want paid leave they take PTO. They’d potentially be covered for unpaid leave with FMLA. So asking for paid “pawternity” leave when there is not paid “parental” leave is a bit out of touch.
      If the coworker did not mean to ask for additional, specific “pawternity” leave and always intended to use PTO like anybody else, and was just insisting on CALLING it “pawternity” and wouldn’t let the term go – if it’s just about the wording that OP was grumping about, that’s different and something they should probably quietly think is ridiculous but otherwise ignore.

      1. ElizabethJane*

        yeah, there is that but the letter writer strikes me as one of those parents that has to make sure you *know* parenting is hard.

        I had a coworker once who would talk only about how exhausting it was with a new baby. And one day I tried to say “OMG I know that feeling – when we got our puppy he cried for 4 nights straight and I barely coped. No sleep is the worst”. And she lost. her. shit. Because a puppy is not a baby and I couldn’t possibly know how tired she was and blah blah blah.

        Yes Karen, I’m aware that a puppy is not a human infant. However I’m just trying to empathize. I’m not saying “A puppy is a human” I’m saying “All you talk about is how tired you are so I’m expressing that I, too, understand the feeling of wanting to consume caffeine via IV”. Calm down.

        I dunno, I’m having a hard time with the LW as a reliable narrator. Anyone who is “hurt” by the use of “pawternity” needs a serious moment of self reflection. It’s just not a hurtful phrase. Grating and twee? Sure. But someone else thinking of their pet as a child doesn’t at all undermine the experience of blessing the earth with the fruit of your womb (/s). And why is the LW hurt over the coworker’s “cavalier attitude towards parenthood”? I just don’t understand why that impacts her at all. So when I read that it makes me think that the rest of it, such as the coworker “lashing out” over the Mother’s Day thing wasn’t actually that dramatic. It was probably something like “Why didn’t anyone wish me Mother’s Day? I’m mother to Spot!” (which is, again, twee and not at all clever and definitely annoying” and someone responded with “OMG Judy dogs aren’t humans, here’s a chart showing the differences” and Judy said “Yes, you idiots, I’m aware that dogs aren’t humans, it was an (unfunny) joke” and now Judy is the one who is lashing out because she didn’t fall all over herself to apologize.

        1. Susie Q*

          “And one day I tried to say “OMG I know that feeling – when we got our puppy he cried for 4 nights straight and I barely coped. No sleep is the worst”. And she lost. her. shit. Because a puppy is not a baby and I couldn’t possibly know how tired she was and blah blah blah.”

          Try replacing that four days with four plus months for a newborn. I get that you were trying to empathize but it comes off really out of touch with reality. I always thought parents exaggerated about being exhausted with a newborn and then I had a newborn.

          1. ElizabethJane*

            I have had a newborn. I tried for 2 years to have her and I was in labor for 62 hours. And then we went through the joys of figuring out what she (and I, by extension because breastfeeding) could eat because she’s allergic to everything under the sun. Trust me when I say I understand exhaustion.

            But when someone *DOESN’T* have that experience and they say that their puppy kept them up, or the construction down the road woke them at 4 in the morning they aren’t competing or otherwise trying to invalidate your experience. They are attempting to empathize the only way they know how with the experience that made them the most tired as well. I mean, when all a new parent talks about is how tired they are what else can someone say? “You’re right, you’re the most tired in the history of tired”. It’s not a contest and new parents don’t have a monopoly on exhaustion.

            Seriously, that’s why people get defensive and weird whenever anyone tells them their experience isn’t the same as parenting. We all know it’s different. We’re literally just trying to relate to a conversation that is entirely one sided.

            1. Susie Q*

              Or maybe they just want someone to say “I’m so sorry you’re so exhausted. I hope it gets better soon”.

              Really not that hard.

        2. Kelly*

          I also got the sense that the LW has a mom martyrdom complex. I don’t have or want kids, so it’s not a mindset I can relate to personally. It’s a mindset I’ve seen with family and friends, both in person and on social media. Their dual identities as their own person and as a parent have become too hard to entangle. I often feel left out of conversations because I can’t relate to their child-centric conversations. I’d like to hear about how you are doing and what is going on with you rather than about how mean your child’s teacher is for expecting them to have some manners and be kind to people.

          Some parents today do overshare on social media pictures and anecdotes of their kids. There’s a big difference between sharing pictures of your kid(s) in their Halloween costumes and pictures of your kid(s) in circumstances that may embarrass them later, like showing them on the toilet. I’m in my mid 30s and am grateful that some of the more embarrassing pictures from my childhood have either disappeared in multiple movies or are not well organized. They aren’t living on a hard drive or a server somewhere, and I am appreciative of that.

          Pushback from kids of mommy bloggers who have overshared about their kids is starting to happen with the kids now in their teens. They are old enough to know that their parents overshared without their consent and are pushing back. Some of them probably don’t want some “funny” story from when they were younger to hurt them when it comes to getting into college or getting a job.

          1. Grr*

            If you can’t relate to it personally, maybe you’re not the best person to diagnose a total stranger?

            1. Star*

              I don’t believe she was trying to diagnose her at all (pretty sure “mom martyrdom complex” isn’t an actual diagnosis, though it did bring up some interesting articles when I googled it), just sharing her thoughts and opinions. I’m pretty sure that’s the point of the comment section here.

          2. Susie Q*

            Having kids changes you. It comes a part of your personality and your life.

            How do you not understand that a “mean teacher” impacts the parent too? Do you want people to just ignore a huge part of their life to placate your ideas of good conversation? How your kids are doing directly impacts how most parents are feeling.

            If you ask someone how their morning was and they respond “shitty, the trains were delayed and I missed my connections.” Do you then think well I can’t relate to that at all because I drive to work.

            I also don’t understand why you felt the need to discuss kids and social media. That has nothing to do with this letter. And frankly your opinion really doesn’t matter because they aren’t your kids (and I say this as someone who keeps my kid off social media).

        3. Avasarala*

          That’s pretty tone deaf as a response though. “I had cancer and it was so tough” “Yeah I had the flu once and it was so bad” level. You say you know the feeling, then bring up a much less example that suggests you DON’T. Just empathize “Yeah no sleep is the worst, I hope it gets better soon, etc.” THAT is why she lost her sh*t. Because in the moment you actually were minimizing her experience.

          Clearly the coworker is not joking or being playful, this is part of their whole persona of “I hate children, no one should have them, parents are more respected than child-free, nobody respects my fur babies and they’re just as important.” LW gives many details to show this. If you want to take the coworker’s side that’s on you, but I think you’re projecting your own experience onto your reading of the situation.

        4. Koala dreams*

          Yes, some people get weirdly upset that they are not alone in experiencing a feeling (exhaustion, anger, whatever). Weird, but I wouldn’t take it personally if I were you. There are million