updates: the awkward breastfeeding talk, the doubled commute, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My husband keeps contacting my coworkers about funding his nonprofit

It was really valuable to hear your advice and perspective, which is what I needed. As with so many work problems, this was less about work and more about relationship issues, and a much more complex problem than my husband writing to my boss. My husband was in a deep depression and making a lot of bad choices, and that was one of them.

After I read your advice, we did talk and I told him he couldn’t write to my boss again, explained why, and he told me he was going to drop the idea of the nonprofit altogether. He then spent several months trying to make something else work. He started two companies and was trying to get the equivalent of full time work. We were broke for most of this time, and have been racking up debt for basic things like groceries and car repairs. In September he confessed that he had been working on the nonprofit the whole time and that he had written to my boss AGAIN. I was mad, of course, but also felt totally powerless.

A couple weeks later my husband confided that he was extremely depressed and had been contemplating suicide every day for more than four months. It was an awful time and very hard for both of us.

-we ARE still married
-he’s on a new drug that is helping, in fact has turned him around 180 degrees. He is now “failing” the depression test, which is awesome.
-He has launched the nonprofit – he has a board, bylaws, and is incorporated. The program start date is for spring. He has committed to working with other agencies than mine. I support him. I know it’s what he feels he was meant to do, and I love him and want him to be happy.
-Throughout this, my boss has not said a word except “I saw your husband wrote and I hope to find time to talk to him” No negative feedback at all and totally characteristic of my boss, who never has time for anything.

It’s clear that husband feels deeply ashamed and regretful, though I am not sure he understands how horrible this experience was for me. I still have a lot of residual anger and distrust that I still need to work though. His being depressed during this time makes it harder, because he wasn’t himself. I don’t have 100% confidence that this is all going to turn out, and we’re not going to be right back where we started in six months. That’s deeply painful and scary, and I’m not sure what to do about it. I’m hoping at some point I’ll be able to afford a therapist. He’s only been “better” for a few weeks and I want to let him get grounded a little before engaging in this painful conversation.

2. How to shut down awkward breastfeeding talk from my boss (#2 at the link)

I ultimately didn’t say anything about my boss’s breastfeeding comments. They stopped fairly soon after that, and I was able to successfully navigate pumping at work for the next few months, with no further commentary from him nor others in my office. I still think my boss wasn’t trying to be creepy, but I’m SO glad it stopped. I struggled my first few weeks back at work, and feeling like people were focusing on me as a nursing mom only didn’t help things. If anyone would like tips on figuring out the logistics of pumping at work, I’d be happy to share my system in the comments.

I’m now happily done pumping at work, and am in the process of being promoted. Thanks for your support, and all the letters you publish, Alison!

3. How to announce a schedule change that people will be unhappy with (podcast episode)

Not terribly exciting–no one quit, (though as predicted there was quite a lot of drama in the team’s initial response). My direct report (the group’s manager) delivered the plan in as transparent a way as she could. A couple members of the team approached her afterward with an idea to keep some members on 4 10s, which actually improved coverage. So, while some folks definitely weren’t happy about it, the transition was made as smoothly as possible, and she even got some team engagement as they worked to find a ‘compromise’ kind of solution.

4. My new job is moving and doubling my commute (#2 at the link)

I took your advice, and discussed the compensation issue with my supervisor. He told me he wasn’t able to give me a raise based on the new commute, but that he’d let me work from home one day a week. I tried that for a few months, but the truth is that the four-day commute was still killing my personal life and my health. I wasn’t able to hang out with friends after work or go to the gym because I was so exhausted from driving nearly 3 hours every day. In November of 2016, I accepted a new job with a much shorter commute where I could take public transit. It also came with a significant raise! I’ve been there since, so now i have a longer stay on my resume, too. Thanks for the advice!

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Ninja*

    OP1: This may be something you’ve already looked into, but I just wanted to suggest looking to see if any counseling agencies offer free or income based therapy. When I was out of work I was able to seek out free counseling through one of the local colleges. I was able to sit down once a week with students working on their masters in psychology, therapy, counseling, etc. Each session was recorded, which I knew about ahead of time. The only reason why they would be watched again is if the counselor felt it necessary to go through some talking points with his/her professor. Our sessions were never showed to a class or anything. Even when I had found a job I was still able to meet but was able to pay based off of my salary. At most it was $20 a session.

    Just thought I’d throw that out there. Best of luck!

    1. animaniactoo*

      Agreed. I think that OP getting therapy themselves is fairly urgent in this situation, especially because I can’t emphasize enough how useful it is going to be to work through how damaging and upsetting all of this was for OP and their job/career; and figure out HOW to address that with their husband. That’s emotional work that would be really beneficial to unpack before saying anything more than “I know you’ve been struggling and all of this has been hard on me too and I need to put some work into handling that”.

      I mean, if you absolutely can’t afford it, can’t find free-to-practically-free programs (often decent to better than decent at universities that have training programs), then okay, you do what you can on your own, you wing it as best you can. But if you can at all afford it, this is the kind of situation where it can make a major difference in how well both of you come out of it – both in the short term, and the long-term.

    2. Fikly*

      Check out Open Path Collective (their name, plus DOT org)

      They have a huge list of therapists, nationwide, a ton do therapy via Skype so you have more options if no one is local, and it’s $30-$60 a session. It’s totally saved my financial butt, and honestly, the therapist I have through them is the best one I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a bunch.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I also agree with this. There are free/low-cost text-based and online options, too; I’d definitely recommend therapy in person if possible but they’re out there. Taking care of yourself is crucial to help avoid resentment, your own depression, and ongoing issues.

    4. Tzeitel*

      I would also check out hospital clinics in your area – if you have health insurance at all, OP, like even medicaid or one that a therapist wouldn’t normally take, hospital clinics will and it’s usually just a very small copay. I would urge further research into this – I would think of it as a long-term cost saving approach because you’ve been undergoing a lot of stress and that truly does affect our health. Wishing you all the best, OP!

    5. Natalyst*

      I agree! You can also look around for a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in your area https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/
      FQHCs are required to serve patients regardless of their ability to pay. They all have a “sliding fee scale” which is based on income. If they are not able to see you directly, they have partnerships with local providers who can.

      1. Mobius 1*

        I have heard many things from many people about that site, and I don’t think a single one was positive.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          It’s extremely… hit or miss. I had one listener who was good… and one who tried to scam money out of me.

    6. Quandong*

      Also, it’s worth looking into whether your workplace has an EAP you can access, OP1. Y0u deserve support and care as you navigate what’s going on in your life.

  2. Koala dreams*

    #1 I’m sorry to hear about all your problems. It must be very stressful for you. You can try to find a local group for family (and caretakers) for severely ill people. There you can get support from people who are going through similar things. Sometimes these groups are organised by interest groups for particular illnesses, sometimes by community centres, sometimes by individuals.

    #4 Congratulations on your new job!

  3. Lance*

    For OP#1, all I can say is: best of luck. Support your husband as much as you’re willing to do, but do make certain to take care of yourself just as well; depression or no, this whole scenario has been rough on you, and you need consideration too.

    1. Le Sigh*

      Want to echo this. I realize for now, your main focus will be getting your heads above water. But do look out for yourself, up to and including pushing back on behavior that harms you. It is okay to draw a line for yourself, or carve out time to care for yourself. Depression is a very real, very scary thing — it can leave family members and partners a bit traumatized in their own right, but also feeling like their needs or feelings are superseded by the person suffering from depression. The anger and distrust you’re feeling are understandable and it’s okay to tell your spouse you need some time to work through that.

      If you can find one (I know finances are tight), a counselor or support group could be really helpful to you–giving you space to work out your feelings, hearing from others and not feeling alone, and figuring out what to do or say. It’s really hard and I’m sending my good vibes your way.

      1. Chili*

        1000% agree with this. I would also encourage you to discuss and create some boundaries now. I know it might seem like you’re putting a damper on the good times, but discussing it now will help mitigate anything that comes up in the future.
        Also discuss what risks you are willing to take to help him with his non-profit. Going into debt for basic necessities isn’t sustainable. Being supportive of your partner’s ambitions is not synonymous with sacrificing your financial stability, your happiness, your relationship with your boss and coworkers, etc. I understand that you want your partner to be happy, especially now, but it is more than okay to set some limits.

        1. tangerineRose*

          “Being supportive of your partner’s ambitions is not synonymous with sacrificing your financial stability, your happiness, your relationship with your boss and coworkers, etc.” This!

        2. RC Rascal*

          Op #1–I am very concerned you are going in to debt for basic necessities. I have been in this position myself when I was dealing w a business failure in 2008-2009. It’s easy to think it’s only temporary & you will soon be back on your feet. Unfortunately that may not be the case. If you need credit cards to buy groceries your household isn’t in a position to start a new venture , even a non-profit.

          Your husband needs to be contributing income to your household, not deceiving you. Covering household necessities with credit will destroy you financially.I had to declare Chapter 7 to clean up my mess, and that was only after I came to terms that the business wasn’t viable. Then I had to get a job. It was painful. But please learn from the voice of experience.

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      +1 Yes, please consider your own needs as well. Caregiver fatigue/burnout is a thing that happens and can be really hard to deal with. I’m dealing with it a bit myself as my husband is going through an intense part of his therapy and managing the household has fallen almost entirely on me for months now. It’s so exhausting.

      1. sometimeswhy*

        Plus one-ing the plus one.

        I’ve experienced pretty severe caregiver fatigue. It was brutal not just to me and the caregivee (damaging our relationship in a way we came back from really only by the skin of our teeth; and it was a blood relation) but also my friends, their friends, and the rest of our family. I sought professional, mental health help for myself MUCH later than I should’ve but once I did, it made a huge difference. HUGE.

  4. Anon Accountant*

    Do you have a mental health organization near you? Our is called the Mental Health Association of (our county’s name) and can put you in touch with therapists who accept sliding scale payment options or even free services. Or a local college may offer graduate clinics with supervised graduate students who offer therapy.

  5. Anon-mama*

    OP2, I would love to hear more about your system! Returning to work in January. I get 2 15-minute breaks and 1 30-minute lunch. Thanks!

    1. OP2*

      Here’s more about my system. I typed this up when I was pumping, and had been back at work a couple of months.

      Breast pump- You may be able to get this from insurance. My insurance covered some models, but I was able to pay for an upgrade (from Spectra S2 to Spectra S1) through aeroflow.

      Backup pump parts. Have at least 1 set of backup parts, just in case something breaks. I have 3 for convenience because Spectra sells them per side– for a double pump, you’re pumping two breasts, so I have both a full set of replacement parts and a spare. This means that each week I’m using the parts that came with my pump, then washing them in the dishwasher at night. The next day I’m using my spare parts (so I don’t have to worry about getting the washed parts out of the dishwasher and drying them in time), and then the next I’m back to the original parts. I have an additional one side that’s spare at work, both in case something breaks, and in case I forget to bring my parts (it’s happened once! The spare parts meant I had to pump one side at a time, but I could at least still pump). They only sell Spectra parts by mail where I am, so it’s key! Even if they had them in stores, I’d still want a backup- the week is so crazy, that I don’t have time to go to Target for a replacement.

      Milk storage at work and at home. At work I pump, and then pour my pumped milk into a small Nalgene. I have two identical Nalgenes so when I’m washing one in the dishwasher at night, the other is already clean and dry for the next day. When I get home, I transfer my pumped milk into baby bottles for my kid to take to daycare the next day (and thaw some if I didn’t pump enough). Anything that’s leftover I freeze in a special milk freezer plastic bag. On Fridays I freeze everything instead of putting it into bottles (since I can breastfeed over the weekend). On Sundays, I thaw enough milk for Monday’s bottles. Any kind of water bottle would be fine, though I’d avoid insulated bottles since it might take awhile to cool down the milk with that. Some people also pump directly into milk bags, though I’m not sure how to do that.

      Backup milk storage for work. I keep a few milk freezer plastic bags in my pump bag so I have them just in case I forget my Nalgene, or in case I pump more than will fit in my Nalgene (both of which have happened).

      A bag to store your used pump parts at work. After you use the pump parts, they have little drops of milk on them. I don’t wash/dry them at work. Instead, I throw them in a zippered wet bag and store them in the fridge in between pumping sessions. My wet bag has 2 pockets, so I’m able to fit my small Nalgene in one of the pockets too. When I get home, I rinse my wet bag and let it dry. I have 2 wet bags, so there’s a dry one ready for me to use for the next day. I launder them both once a week. You could also use a ziploc bag instead, just something to keep the parts separated/keep your stuff dry.

      A pumping bra. This holds the pump to your chest. You could just use your hands, but since I’m typically pumping at least 15 minutes 3 times a day, it’s nicer to have something to make it hands free (though I do still move my pump around by hand to get more milk). The one I use isn’t an actual bra, but is a strap that goes over your bra while you pump.

      A place to keep milk cold. I have a fridge at work that I can use. If you don’t, I know many people use cooler bags and ice packs.

      A bag to transport everything to/from work. I have a small backpack. It’s technically a backpack intended to store pump supplies, but honestly, a regular backpack would be fine. I got this one because it looked somewhat professional, though the zipper is crappy. I keep all my pump stuff in this, and then I have a regular purse that I also carry.

      A rag or burp cloth to clean you up, post-pumping. I keep a burp cloth in my bag so I can wipe my chest after pumping, and wash it once a week.

      A way to wash pump parts. Some people wash these after every pump session. I just wash them at the end of the day, since I’m refrigerating everything. I have two of these dishwasher baskets that I use (one for bottle parts and one for pump parts, though I could get away with 1 if needed, it would just be tighter). Obviously not needed if you’re washing by hand. I like that this one has a silicone top so you can put stuff in without opening the basket.

      Bonus: nursing bras, and/or clothes that make it not too hard to access your breasts to pump. I like wrap dresses, button up shirts, and shirt dresses. You can use regular clothes (I’m wearing a regular shirt without buttons today!), you just may have to disrobe a little more. A nursing bra does make things more convenient, though if you’re OK taking off your bra each time, or shoving it aside, you could use a regular bra.

      If you have an FSA or HSA, you can use that to pay for a lot of these things (even things like pump parts and breastmilk storage bags). Insurance may also cover them. Or you can add them to your registry!

      I hope that helps! You’ll find a way that works for you, I just wanted to share my system, since I had a surprisingly difficult time visualizing this before I went to work.

      I’ll also reply with links to the various things I used.

      1. OP2*

        Here are links of things that I used when pumping:

        Backup Spectra parts: https://www.target.com/p/spectra-premium-accessory-kit-breast-shield-24mm-9-plus-s2-s1-m1/-/A-75558035
        Small Nalgenes: https://www.target.com/p/nalgene-water-bottle-wide-mouth-16-oz—slate/-/A-26392760
        Milk storage bags: https://www.target.com/p/lansinoh-milk-storage-bag-100ct/-/A-14009925
        Wet bags for storing used pump parts: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01C45QPCA?pf_rd_p=1cac67ce-697a-47be-b2f5-9ae91aab54f2&pf_rd_r=AH1DSVAQ2DGPW7PWTNM2&th=1
        Pump strap (pumping bra): https://www.target.com/p/pump-strap-hands-free-pumping-bra-strap-black/-/A-52471790
        Work bag: https://www.target.com/p/bananafish-breast-pump-backpack-grey-bone/-/A-52777933
        Dishwasher basket: https://www.amazon.com/BPA-Free-Quick-Load-Dishwasher-Basket/dp/B00BFIH0PE/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=dishwasher+basket&qid=1553089997&s=gateway&sr=8-6

        1. Shenandoah*

          You can also get knock off flanges/duckbills on Amazon – I really like the ones by MayMom – the NeNe baby ones didn’t work as well for me.

          Also, I don’t know which lactating parents need to hear this today but remember to change your duckbills! They wear out and it can affect your supply.

      2. OP2*

        I also found it helpful to watch videos of my baby while pumping. I’d always heard that, and it sounded weird, but it was helpful for me to get the milk flowing.

        1. Catsaber*

          That helped me too. It helped me relax and get my mind off work, because I would be 100% thinking about work if I wasn’t looking at baby videos.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Funnily for me I pumped more milk when I was working while pumping, maybe because of the distraction vs just focusing on the pump.
            People would tell me not to work while pumping and I was like “actually this works better for me.”

            1. Dawbs*

              I agree, distracted was amazing.
              Pump while driving = most milk ever = huge time saver.
              (I would be stopped to hook up/unhook and cover. The rest was, really, about like adjusting the radio…turn on, turn up/down, turn off)

              1. Catsaber*

                I wish I could have pumped and drove! That would have saved so much time. None of my stuff ever fit me quite snugly enough, so any small movements made the cups pull away from my boobs, and then it was milk everywhere.

        2. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

          Smell also helps, like a well-used (and maybe a little gross) blankie, that smells like the baby. I always did well with videos though. Especially HUNGRY noises.

      3. These Old Wings*

        If you don’t want to purchase a specific pumping bra, you can use the two hair tie trick: loop two hair ties together and one holds up the flange and the other hooks onto a regular nursing bra hook. This will also allow for hands-free pumping. I used this while pumping at work for 14 months and it worked great.

        1. Emily Spinach*

          The nurses who helped me post-delivery recommended cutting holes in an old sports bra instead of buying a “real” pumping bra, and it works great. Mine requires me to take my whole top off to get the sports bra on and off, but then I’m truly hands free so I feel it’s worth it.

      4. OP2*

        Also, it was my partner’s job each night to both prep bottles for daycare, put the pump parts in the dishwasher, and restock my pump bag with the washed parts.

        1. Shenandoah*

          YES, this. Feeding the baby is a two person job, especially when there’s a whole mess of pump parts that need washing.

      5. Catsaber*

        Seconding that having a back up of everything is extremely helpful. I pumped directly into the bottles the baby would drink from, and kept several back ups in my desk drawer, because there were many days that I was just too exhausted to clean anything, or I’d forget stuff.

        Some days I just totally forgot everything, so I had a manual single-breast pump I kept in my desk that was a lifesaver. I didn’t get as much milk, but it’s important to just pump consistently, even if you don’t get much. Also, I made note of which stores where nearby (like Target or Buy Buy Baby) that had compatible bottles in case I needed to run out and buy some bottles.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          I also pumped directly into the bottles my baby would drink from. I had 20 bottles. 6 would go to work with me (for three pumping sessions), 6 would go to daycare with baby, and 6 would be in the dishwasher. Plus two spares I would leave at work (along with a spare set of flanges, tubing, etc) in case of forgetting gear at home. They took a lot of space in the kitchen and $$ up front but reduced the mental load of dealing with pumping by *so* much.

        2. Ginger Baker*

          Adding on to this that learning how to manually express is a really handy trick to have in your back pocket. Not that you would normally do this for a full pumping session (though I have, in fact, done that – using a bowl while playing cards [with my mom and sister] with my other hand, of all things!) but moreso because sometimes you don’t have what you need/have time to pump fully and if you’re engorged well, that can get damn painful. (And I have used this trick in the bathroom stall, not trying to keep the milk, while out clubbing at least twice…your needs may vary lol!)

            1. Atalanta0jess*

              I mean, all talk of pumping is essentially talk about milking oneself like a cow, but I find generally folks don’t love that comparison. It’s not really “hilarious,” it’s just working mammalian life. Parents sometimes have boobs that fill with milk, and that milk needs to come out.

                1. Ginger Baker*

                  “Just going about our lives as mammals.” +1000

                  Bodies, y’all: we all have them and years of science and technology haven’t gotten us past such basics as needing to eat and hydrate and sleep and all sorts of things that, big brains and computers or not, we share in common with mammals everywhere…including feeding babies milk from our bodies, which unless you procreate by laying an egg or some other non-mammalian reproduction, is part of the whole “how our bodies generally function” package. MAMMALS Y’ALL, we be them. :-)

                2. wittyrepartee*

                  And bodies are occasionally silly. Like… what a weird design- to have one sex of the human race produce nourishment for kids out of their chest. I’m not sure if it’s preferable to the bird version of barfing up partially digested food, but I do know I prefer it to being like a spider and dying so that my children can eat my body.

            2. I heart Paul Buchman*

              I’m sorry? “Like a cow”. No, not like a cow. Like a breastfeeding woman. This is a completely normal thing to do. What a rude and unnecessary comment. Unless you are an 11 year old boy I don’t know how you could find a conversation about expressing milk amusing. I find this pretty offensive and it is attitudes like this that hold working mothers back.

            3. Ezera*

              Eh, it’s just reality sometimes if you don’t have a pump. Otherwise, it’s really uncomfortable (if you’re a dude, maybe an analogy is having blue balls?). It’s definitely not glamorous.

            4. LilySparrow*

              You should probably ask somebody where babies came from before there were test tubes.

              Prepare to have your mind blown!

      6. Chwie*

        Another recommendation – ensure that the flanges you are using are the right size. I pumped for 8 months before I figured this one out, and it made a huge difference in both my comfort and my milk production. I needed smaller than the standard size, so be sure to ask for help from a lactation consultant if you are not sure!

      7. Triumphant Fox*

        I would also highly recommend Freemies, depending on your setup. For me, it allowed me to work while pumping and pump in the car to and from work. I was able to cut down on the at-work pumping time and make my commute good for something. Freemies have the disadvantage of being expensive and having to clean them each time – storing them in the fridge can warp them over time (but if speed is more important than wearing them out, go for it ). I found it worth it. They are also a lot more discrete than other pumping parts – I was much more comfortable being able to use my normal bras and being covered while I pumped.
        15 minutes doesn’t seem realistic to me. Just taking everything out and putting it away takes time, but everyone is really different – some women are done in 6 minutes, others take a while.
        I ended up buying a pump for the car and having one for work that I got through insurance. I liked EdgePark over Aeroflow because it seemed like Aeroflow made it so I had to spend money. All of their pumps were combined with bags or other things so they could charge you. Edgepark had the spectra that I kept at the office all the time. I bought a portable spectra (S9) for home and car. I liked both – quiet and easy to use.
        Your silicone parts will break down more quickly than the durable ones. I would buy an extra pack of those parts before buying a whole new set. Pay attention to the recommended lifespan of each part – it’s shorter than you think and makes an enormous difference in the quality of each session.
        I used bags instead of a Nalgene. I ended up liking the target bags and the Nuk ones. I hated the Medela ones – you have to cut them with scissors to open them and they don’t stand well.
        For washing at work, I used one of those Boon lawn bottle dryers. The small one fit one set perfectly. I used the medela soap and washed everything in a colander in our sink to reduce the contact of my pump parts with the kitchen sink. I had some awkward experiences with my mostly male colleagues, but once I was like “Nothing to see here” with everyone, it was fine.
        For carrying to and from work, if you want to bring your big pump, I found that the popular diaper bag backpacks on Amazon are perfect. The zipper on the lower back is exactly the size you’d want to access the pump. Anything made for nursing is expensive, so I avoided it if I could.

        1. Catsaber*

          I thought the Target brand bags were waaay better than the Medela as well. And cheaper!

          I bought a cheap little basket to hold my pump parts at work, so I could transport them back and forth between my room, the kitchen, and my cube. No one batted an eye. They took their cues from me and just treated it like any other dish washing thing.

      8. molly*

        This is great and really comprehensive advice! My pumping routine was very similar. Having two sets of parts is essential!

        I’d also recommend the book Work, Pump, Repeat. I found it to be extremely useful when I was getting ready to go back to work from maternity leave.

    2. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Are you covered by the FLSA in the US? If so, you are entitled to breaks of a sufficient time to enable you to pump. Note that you do not have to be paid for those extended breaks (break time outside of what your non-pumping colleagues get).

      1. Tzeitel*

        Ditto to this- and check your state’s laws as well, they might be more protective or more expansive than FLSA.

      2. Dagny*

        The problem is that you have to stay later at work if you are taking pumping breaks. That means less time with your baby in the evening.

        Sure, some women choose this, but most want to spend time with their kids and not just pump milk for them.

    3. Ann Perkins*

      You’ve gotten a lot of great advice so far so I don’t have much to add, but wanted to say that there might be some trial and error as you figure out what works for you. I liked to pump into the normal storage containers and then divide into the 4 oz bottles, then go ahead and leave those at daycare when I picked the baby up. Any excess got frozen. My kids have both typically done 4 feedings through the day and I would do 2 of freshly pumped milk and 2 of thawed milk so that I was rotating through my freezer stash.

      Also – a haakaa is incredibly helpful. If you’re nursing while at home, you can attach it to the opposite side to collect letdown. Even if it’s just an ounce or so per feeding, it helps a lot.

      I’ve used two different pumps – a Hygeia and a Spectra S2 – and the Spectra was definitely my favorite.

      I used a hands free pumping bra during the day and would pump while I worked, and also have pumped in the car quite a bit because I do occasional day trips for work. If you have a long commute, that can be a good time saver. It’s not technically recommended because it could hurt your breasts if you got into a wreck though.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ll add just one thing. We had a very small kitchen with no room for a dishwasher, and we very quickly tired of washing bottles by hand. I gambled on a half-sized countertop dishwasher….and it helped a lot. (Many develop small mysterious leaks and mine was no exception. I put it up on risers and slid a waterproof tray undeneath to keep the water contained. Hey presto, it lasted until we moved.)

    5. Observer*

      As you can see from all the comments here, a lot of this is very individual – what works well for one won’t work as well for someone else for all sorts of reasons, including simple logistics.

      The one things I have CONSISTENTLY seen, though, is that a good electric pump makes an ENORMOUS difference. There is a reason why most insurances that provide pumps actually provide a reasonable allowance and make it very easy to upgrade without losing the subsidy.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        Lots of great stuff here! I’ll add that every woman is different and you never know what your experience will be. I did not get great volume via pumping. I tried many things to increase and nothing worked. I kept pumping at work to maintain supply so that on my days off I could still nurse. It was devastating to me to have to supplement with formula about a week into when I went back to work. I usually had enough pumped milk to send him with one or two bottles and daycare knew to use those first, then they supplemented with formula. Not what I wanted, but it kept him fed and he still got the antibodies and other benefits of breastmilk.

        Pumping bras helped me but I still needed my hands on the flanges most of the time for them to stay in place. I would typically do work related reading. I have never been as caught up on professional journals and book reviews (I’m a librarian) as I was during that time!

        1. Observer*

          It’s water under the bridge for you now, but it sounds like you may not have had the right size flanges. That’s always going to make it harder. If anyone who is reading this and is having a similar situation, please check on the sizing.

          It sounds like you handled it well.

    6. Data Diva*

      I recommend two things: One, a good double-electric pump (I used the Medela PISA and the Spectra and I definitely did better with the Spectra). Also, I got the Freemie cups (not the pump itself, but hte pumps and a kit that let it attach to the Spectra). These cups were magical- they fit inside any normal bra, I never had to take my shirt off at all. The only downside is insurance didn’t cover them, but they are FSA-eligible.


    7. J.B.*

      I would also add – try a couple of different pump settings. I used the medela and generally got a very fast letdown, so I switched off the early quick pumping thing and went to normal pumping. But that hurt more and the amount started to decline. So I switched back to letting the early letdown happen for its full setting and then pushing that button again a few minutes into the pump session. I also had vasospasm and using a heating pad over my chest for a few minutes before pumping helped.

      I also had my own fridge and left flanges attached to bottles. After the morning session I would pour the full milk into a separate bottle with a lid and leave empty bottles with flanges attached for the next session.

      If you’re open to this I highly recommend having dad give the first feeding of the night as a bottle of formula. It reduced the pressure and got me more and better sleep over all.

  6. Detective Amy Santiago*

    When I read updates like #2, I always wonder if the behavior stopped because the person it was about is an AAM fan and realized they were wrong, even if they didn’t recognize themselves in the letter.

    1. Ama*

      Rereading the letter now I wonder if he just mentioned to his wife what he was saying (since he seemed to be drawing on her experiences) and his wife had a reaction that made him stop.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think that may be a strong possibility. I know from time to time my hubby will bounce things off of me to get my thoughts (because I’m completely outside the situation, and because I read AAM).

      2. OP2*

        I think the issue was when I first came back to work, me having had a baby/becoming a mom was on his mind. He really loves parenthood, and I think he thought this was a kindred spirits/bonding sort of topic. But when I’d been back at work for a month or so, I think it became less at the forefront of his mind, and he started to view me as less of a “new mom” and more of a regular colleague.
        I really don’t think he meant to be creepy. It was just so unfortunate.

  7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    I don’t really have any suggestions that are concrete, but I just want to echo the others here who are saying to make sure you are also taking care of yourself OP1.

    As they say in the safety briefing at the start of a commercial flight “out on your own mask before assisting others around you.”

  8. WellRed*

    OP 4, your update makes me happy. The boss was unwilling to increase compensation or allow work from home so you left. Which costs him more in the long run. And you got a better deal!

    1. Pennalynn Lott*

      I’m in the same situation. I was told on Day Two of my new job, back on June 4, that I wouldn’t be officing in the place I’d interned but, instead, 25 miles further out. Which, thanks to traffic in my area, means I’m on the road three hours a day if I don’t take toll roads; two hours a day if I do (at a cost of $200/mo). My boss (a Director in a/the Fortune 1 company with deep pockets) refused to offer any additional compensation for the toll roads AND said no work from home. I managed to force one WFH day a week out of him by making a lot of noise up the chain of command, but now he tries to schedule a ton of calls with and for me on that day, as a bit of retribution. (“You wanna work from home? Fine. I’m going to make d@mn sure you’re actually working.)

      I’ll be starting a new job on Feb 3. It’s a block down the street from the place I interned at (i.e., I’ll have the commute I originally thought I’d have); I’ll be getting a $10K raise; and the new company is totally fine with WFH one or two days a week).

      1. Professor Space Cadet*

        Congrats on the new job! I think it would be worth mentioning the commuting issue in an exit interview or Glassdoor review. (Presumably, you would have weighed the offer differently if you had known before Day 2 that you were expected to work in a different location).

  9. AnonAcademic*

    OP1, you might want to google “financial infidelity.” By hiding his work on the nonprofit from you, repeatedly disrespecting your boundaries re: contacting your boss, and endangering both your welfare through loss of livelihood I believe your spouse’s behavior meets the definition. It would be understandable for you to feel betrayed, resentful, and worried. Individual or couple’s counseling would help a lot with the pain and doubt you are feeling.

    1. Aquawoman*

      Yeah, I’m a little curious about the depression angle on that. I’ve been depressed and while it might make me angry or act out in ways that I wouldn’t usually, it would not make me violate my partner’s boundaries and break a promise like that. It doesn’t seem consistent with what I know about depression.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s important to remember that depression just like other illnesses, will manifest differently in each person. It could be because they have a combination of different situations going on and simply just because brain chemistry varies.

        When I was in the worst spot in my depression, I had issues with controlling spending. Not to this level or backhanded behavior but it’s part of why my credit card debt spiraled before I was able to regain control of that behavior.

        He may have been experiencing mania with his depression [aka bi polar disorder], which will lead people towards these kind of risky behaviors. Severity will differ from patient to patient.

        1. Owlette*

          Thank you Becky Lynch. I suffer from depression and before I really had it under control, I would make bad spending decisions. Obviously that wasn’t good of me to do, and I had to take the responsibility to get help. Mental illness is just always different for different people. I can definitely see how her husband was spending too much and hiding it from her, but that still doesn’t change the fact that he still betrayed her.

        2. Pommette!*

          Thank you!
          Depression is a strange beast (or a strange family of beasts?). It manifests differently in different people. When I’m depressed, I don’t have the mental energy to make decisions about spending, and forego necessary expenses (which is also self-destructive, but in a different way). But I have a good friend who, for years, would make reckless and expensive purchases and investments when depressed, in an effort to alleviate the symptoms and fix what she saw as the underlying problem. She hid this spending from her family and, later, her spouse. Lying was an integral part of the behaviour. It’s taken her a lot of therapy to realize that: 1- this is one of the ways she responds to depression; 2- it is rooted in her upbringing; 3- it’s self-destructive and harms her relationships with others; and 4- it’s harmful and unfair to her, her spouse, her children. She’s basically had to do a ton of work to identify signs that she is going down that road, and to develop safety systems for stopping herself/getting timely help. She has also had to do a lot of work to rebuild trust with her spouse.
          Which is to say that it’s entirely possible that the husband’s actions were rooted in depression (or depression + mania)… but they were still a betrayal of the OP’s trust. Maybe they can rebuild that trust, maybe not. Now that he is seeking care for his depression (yay!) your husband needs to focus, among other things, on understanding how it affects his behaviour towards you, and how he can protect you from harm. You also deserve to have plans and systems in place to help protect your finances and professional reputation from further harm while you and your husband work through this. And you deserve help (therapy and/or other) that is focused on you, your plans, your feelings and your needs, as you work through this!

      2. Hope*

        Yeah, depression doesn’t make someone an asshole. You can be depressed AND be a boundary-violating asshole, but saying that “they weren’t themselves” because they were depressed…isn’t an excuse. They *were* themselves. Maybe not their optimal selves, and that’s to be expected; depression SUCKS. But every experience I’ve had with depression didn’t make me or someone else do things they’d specifically promised not to do, or lie to their partner about a personal project they were working on in secret.

        LW1, please take care of yourself. Depression should not be a “get out of jail free” card for your spouse. You are not a bad person if you take care of yourself or need to leave.

        1. Smithy*

          I have had direct and indirect experiences with depression that involved lying – particularly if I felt like someone wanted to hear X and not Y. That temporarily giving the desired answer was easier than dealing with the falsehood being discovered no matter how inevitable.

          That being said – whether that line is depression or asshole – I think all of this just doubles down on why the OP would benefit from individual counseling. Nonprofit fundraising mode when done via desperation can lead to reaching out or solicitations that can be wildly ineffective and/or inappropriate (professionally, personally, or both). Just look at “people don’t understand fundraising” lists that usually include a point of an Executive Director asking a fundraiser to “write a letter/email to Oprah/Bill Gates/Other Billionaire, and ask them for money despite having no existing relationship”.

          Even if this can all be tied up with neat and tidy mental health boxes – it doesn’t mean it has no impact on the OP, that the OP’s boundaries weren’t crossed and she wasn’t lied to. Even if the depression explains everything, the damage to the relationship remains.

          Maybe depression explains everything – but it doesn’t take away the hurt and pain that has happened. And it shouldn’t.

          1. Scarlet2*

            It doesn’t erase the betrayal, the hurt or the financial damage though. I’m a bit concerned that LW, like a lot of people, uses the guy’s depression as an excuse and thinks that the issues will go away now that he’s on antidepressants.

            1. bluephone*

              Same here. Mental illness can affect your behavior but you can control how you handle the ramifications of that behavior (apology, actual efforts to change whether it’s through medication, CBT, lifestyle changes, etc). So far, OP’s husband’s behavior has been not great and he’s followed it up with…still not-great actions. From one MH sufferer to another: your depression isn’t a “get out of jail free!” card, OP’s Husband. I really think everyone in this letter would be better off putting that nonprofit dream to rest, once and for all, and focusing on improving their financial, mental, and physical health

              1. Scarlet2*

                This. I think LW is focusing on one aspect only (his harrassing people at her job) at the expense of the bigger picture, which is the fact that if he keeps pursuing that dream, their financial situation won’t get better anytime soon and will probably get even worse.

            2. Delphine*

              It doesn’t seem like anyone is doing that. And I highly doubt that the LW, who has actually had to grapple with the real-life consequences of her husband being suicidally depressed (unlike any of us writing to her about how we think she should react to these circumstances), believes that the issues will magically go away.

              1. Scarlet2*

                FYI, I’m speaking as a person who is both suffering from depression and who had to be the caregiver of a mentally ill person, so my opinion is informed by my very direct and personal experience of both the disease and people’s misconceptions about it (“he’s being treated, everything’s going to be fine”).

                I don’t know why you assume that no commenter here has ever had to grapple with the same “real life consequences” since mental illness is not exactly rare.

        2. Delphine*

          This is incorrect and it’s unhelpful to make claims about mental illness having no signficant impact on a person’s personality and their actions. I understand that people have been doing a lot of work to destigmatize mental illness by saying that depression doesn’t make a person [insert bad behavior here, but it’s simply not true and it fails to address the complexity of mental illness.

          I agree that it isn’t a “get out of jail free” card, but it certainly can be an explanation.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I’ve seen some outlandish behavior attributed to depression by a few people in my life. Did I think they were full of it and making excuses? Sometimes, but what do I know. And then there were the people who had negative side affects from anti-depressants. I think we leave that to the OP, her husband, and their medical professionals to consider.

  10. OlympiasEpiriot*

    All purpose comment: I love seeing the updates, even better when they describe improvements.

  11. fellowpumpinmama*

    OP2- I had comments like that when I was nursing and pumping. It wasn’t at work (which would be strange). After the fact, I found that it seemed like it was the person’s awkward way of trying to relate. I usually changed the subject, fairly fast and they got the hint. I am sorry this happened at work! Very Awkward.

  12. Senor Montoya*

    I did exactly this when I was pumping 19 years ago!

    Adding: if you are pumping in your own office, put a “do not disturb” sign on your door, pull down the shades or otherwise cover the window (if there is one), and lock your door. I played music so that no one could hear the pump running.

    Be ready to speak up right away (and be ready to move up the food chain if need be) if you’re getting any sort of difficulty from colleagues. We had a department secretary who would NOT pay attention to my “do not disturb” sign — she’d knock and call through the door (needed me to sign papers or go over a project request, work-related stuff). I asked her repeatedly to not knock when the sign was up, finally I said, “I’m pumping breastmilk and I need you to stop interrupting me, it’s really thoughtless and it’s making me upset. If you don’t stop, I’m going to talk to Boss about it.” I only needed to talk to the Boss once [insert eyeroll emoji].

    1. WellRed*

      I can’t believe your warning wasn’t enough for her to knock it off. Glad your boss had your back.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Throwing this out there because this was the boundary-smashing reason I got in reply (so maybe crazy, mind meld bad behavior across decades) – “we’re both women, and it’s not like I don’t have the exact same equipment, so there’s no way you’re going to show me something I haven’t already seen.”

      No, our joint supervisor wasn’t amused, and yes they also had my back.

      1. molly*

        This is both shocking and not at all surprising at the same time! I found my older female colleagues to be way more intrusive/less accommodating than my male colleagues when I was pumping at work. Most of my male colleagues were either youngish dads who got it, or were so far removed from the idea of pumping that they just avoided it completely! I’ve encountered many women from a certain generation (not a blanket statement, as I’ve also found many who are very supportive) who seem to think that since they had it extra hard as working moms, that we should have to do the same/not expect things to be easier. It’s a baffling ideology.

  13. MK*

    OP1, it might help you have some peace of mind to consider that your boss may well have not registered your husband’s attempts to contact him as anything unusual, if he is used to getting a lot of there requests. It is nor really the same situation, but I myslef hold a position that means a great many people want to pick my brains for various issues; occasionally I am approached by friends or relatives apologising for their parent/spouce/whatever imposing upon me for free advice, and more often than not, I have trouble remembering it, because it happens constantly.

  14. Observer*

    #1 – I’m going to suggest that you have your own account where your pay (and other money that belongs to you) goes, and which cannot be accessed by your husband. Also, make sure that your computer / phone logins are protected, by (new) passwords or a fingerprint. Same for any and all accounts (bank, email, social media). Decide what’s going to get paid for from your money and stick to that.

    I know this sounds extreme but your distrust comes from a place of being betrayed. He lied to you, he went behind your back and took actions that could have easily gotten you fired. At this point you SHOULDN’T trust him. You can love him and support him, but understand that you also need to protect yourself.

    And, if you have any reason to believe that he’s racked up debts that you have not agreed to / don’t know about, please talk to a lawyer ASAP.

    1. Business Cat*

      Seconding this comment. During about 3 years of weird, uncharacteristic, and financially destructive behavior on my part, the only thing that kept our core bills paid and kept us out of bankruptcy was my husband creating a separate account (that I didn’t have access to) for his paycheck to be deposited into. The situation has only recently resolved, and turned out to be a rare side effect of the drug Abilify (which is often prescribed for mood disorders and drug-resistant depression), and now that I’m off of it I’ve done a complete 180 and no longer have intrusive thoughts that cause me to sneak around and spend extreme amounts of money or incur embarrassing amounts of debt.

      Echoing other comments to please take care of yourself. The stress and damage my husband endured by my hands is real, and even though I’m doing much better now, it doesn’t erase the repeated betrayals of his generosity and trust. I’m working diligently to repair the damage and rebuild our relationship, and your husband should be, too.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        From her letter it doesn’t seem that her husband has even acknowledged what he did or how it has affected her. She only says that, “It’s clear that husband feels deeply ashamed and regretful, though I am not sure he understands how horrible this experience was for me.” You actually had a reason for your behavior, and have acknowledged that AND despite having an excuse are still working diligently to repair the damage and rebuild the relationship. It is not at all clear that that is what is happening in this OP’s case.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          No. Just someone who has had similar experiences and have had friends and acquaintances in my long life who have had similar experiences. OP needs to respect her anger and mistrust and make sure her own finances and identity have not been breached. Her husband has lied to her while running their finances into the ground and by OP’s own admission still hasn’t acknowledged her feelings on the matter.
          An update in the next six months would be nice.

      1. tangerineRose*

        “divorce as much of your finances from him as you can and lock down everything else. Maybe hire a forensic accountant or see a domestic lawyer to see what your options are if he is doing other shady financial things or has otherwise used your identity.” Agreed.

        1. Pommette!*

          Sadly agreed.
          And honestly: the husband should get on board with this, and do whatever he can to facilitate it. He lied to her in ways that had a dire effect on their finances; now, it’s important to know exactly what happened, and how. It’s important for him to see and acknowledge the harm he caused the OP.
          Moving forward: he is learning to deal with a mental illness that affects his spending and ability to communicate with his spouse. Until they are both 100% confident that he has figured things out, it’s in both of their interests to limit the damage he can cause in general but especially to her finances. Get professional help, separate accounts, and contain his ability to cause damage.

          1. Maria Lopez*

            “he is learning to deal with a mental illness that affects his spending and ability to communicate with his spouse.” See, to me that is speculation and not fact. There is no reason to think that depression, if he indeed has it, would cause him to methodically deceive his spouse over months of dragging them into debt. What is not speculation is that he has lied to his spouse and spent them into financial instability, and that he has yet to acknowledge it or apologize for any of it. He only said he was depressed and suicidal, but no apology for what he did, or that even what he did was wrong. He has continued to proceed with the non-profit as if all the rest was just a blip on the road to doing what he wants.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      YES. Also, OP1, speaking as someone who has had recurrent episodes of depression myself and has sometimes contemplated suicide as well: his having depression does NOT mean you have any obligation to stay with him, or to avoid confronting him about his dishonest and irresponsible behavior. Do not wait for him to “get grounded” before you make absolutely certain he DOES understand what a horrible experience it was for you.

      I’m concerned that he is going to start using his depression diagnosis as a way to manipulate you into giving him everything he wants and never standing up for yourself, if he hasn’t already. Depression (or any other diagnosis) does not make someone such a precious and fragile treasure that they must be treated like a Faberge egg. It does not make someone’s behavior unconditionally OK. It does not make someone more valuable than anyone else, including you. Take care of yourself.

    3. v anon*

      Yes, this.

      My mom went through hell and took a huge financial hit before, during, and even since her divorce. My dad did all kinds of things, such as: not pay essential bills that she couldn’t easily access to pay herself, lock her out of her email account, rack up debt that she didn’t know about but that wrecked her credit score. This would have seemed like extremely uncharacteristic behavior before his untreated mental illness took over his life.

      I truly hope that OP1’s situation improves and these precautions don’t turn out to be necessary, but I strongly recommend protecting yourself.

  15. Clementine*

    I apologize for being blunt here, but I would be worried that this fledgling non-profit is really a scam. Maybe it shouldn’t reflect badly on a spouse to be married to a conman, but most of the time it does. Think seriously about whether you have a good reason to believe everything about this non-profit is on the up-and-up.

    1. Scarlet2*

      I wouldn’t go straight to “scam”, but I think LW needs, in her own interest, to make sure this is even financially viable. Since it’s a “non-profit”, it’s not supposed to actually be “profitable”, but I’m afraid it will just be a money pit. I’ve read so many stories about guys who just had this “dream project” and ended up sinking all the family’s money in it while their wives (and children) were left to deal with the inevitable fallout.

      I second what other commenters said above: LW, look out for yourself and your finances, most of all, make sure you have a separate account he doesn’t have access to and follow all of Observer’s great suggestions. If you’re racking debt for basic necessities, the situation is already bad.

      Besides, as someone who has struggled all my life with depression, you need to know that recovery is not a linear process. Just because he seems better now doesn’t mean he’ll just get better and better until he’s finally “grounded”. My last major depressive episode happened 5 years ago and I still wouldn’t consider myself “grounded”… Yes, depression can impair our judgement, but we still need to take responsibility for our actions and we cannot be treated with kid gloves until that mythical day when our brain is perfectly fine again. Those of us without long-suffering partners willing to sacrifice themselves have to do just that, anyway.

      He’s already deceived you and put you in a very precarious situation, he can do it again, especially since he doesn’t seem to fully take responsibility for what he’s done. You can love and support him and yet protect yourself.

      1. Pommette!*

        Yes to everything in your comment!

        “recovery is not a linear process”: the OP’s husband will probably get worse, as well as better. He may even live with varying degrees of depression and mental illness for the rest of his life. Lots of people do.
        She need to find a way of living (together or apart) that is safe for her, and can be sustained through the hard times as well as the good.

      2. Maria Lopez*

        I have not only read the stories, I’ve lived through it! I think OP has yet to truly understand the enormity of what is going on since she is still making excuses for him. As long as she supports his “dream”, both financially and emotionally, he never has to deal with reality.
        My two letters outlining this were removed for being speculative about OP’s situation, but what she HAS said is that he is still doing what he wants to do and she is still supporting him despite his not acknowledging her pain.

  16. wittyrepartee*

    Hey, OP1-
    I had something… hmm… not similar, but in the same realm of awfulness, happen about 6 months ago. Same combination of untreated and undiagnosed depression, work, financial stress, and untrustworthy behavior from my partner. It was horrible, the drugs helped immensely, and I’m still healing from it.

    Good lord, I’m sorry it happened to you, but I’m glad I’m not alone. So that’s what I wanted to tell you- you’re not alone.

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