my boss moved in with my boyfriend’s sister, working at home with a baby, and more

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

1. My boss moved in with my boyfriend’s sister and now things are awkward

A couple of years ago, my long-term boyfriend’s sister had just gotten out of an emotional abusive relationship and needed a roommate. Around the same time, my boss had also just gotten out of a relationship and needed a place to live. They are the same age, in the same stage of life, so I thought it was a perfect situation to pair them up. A couple of months later, my boss moved in with my boyfriend’s sister (which is across the street from my house).

Before all of this, my boss and I had a professional friendship. We were both hyperaware of the “line.” A few times, she had disclosed personal things, but she knew I would never bring stuff up at work. However, after she moved in with my boyfriend’s sister, our friendship ended abruptly. It got awkward when she started showing up at family dinners and then at Thanksgiving.

At this point, I am adjusting. But, I still find it hard to navigate this new dynamic. She is in my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding and I just get a feeling that I can’t escape work and must always stay composed. We ignore each other at social functions, only exchanging pleasantries, but I miss the friendship. I feel hurt and confused. Any advice?

Oof. If we had a time machine, I would put you in it and have you go back and not suggest your boss move in with your boyfriend’s sister. You couldn’t have foreseen they’d become as close as they apparently have, but it was a recipe for seriously blurring the lines.

I’m especially not a fan of how your boss has handled this. You did her a favor by helping her find housing, and she has returned it by making your personal life awkward. She should have been much more thoughtful about the impact on you and not shown up at family dinners and Thanksgiving. (Really, she should have found a different roommate, but it’s too late for that.)

That said, it does sound like she’s attempting to preserve some boundaries, which is a good thing! It’s not sufficient, but it’s something. I’d try to see it that way — that she’s not rejecting you personally, but trying to navigate a situation (of her own making!) that has put you both in an incredibly awkward spot. The current situation is bad enough, but it would be even worse if she were your boyfriend’s sister’s roommate/good friend plus still close with you. She just can’t do that and still be your manager, and that’s almost certainly why you’ve seen her shift the relationship.

2. My boss thinks I can work on days I’m home with my baby

I work in a biotech start-up, where the culture can be fast-paced and require a lot of hours. For the most part, I enjoy this, and my thankfully my boss has been vocal about supporting work-life balance as much as possible. However, every time I need to stay home to care for my infant son, including my initial paternity leave and days where he can’t go to daycare, my boss says that being home is a good time to get things like presentations or other writing done. I do allow time for dialing in to important meetings or time-sensitive activities if my wife can watch my son. This most recent time, I replied that I can’t consider this a work from home day because my son requires too much attention (he’s five months, just coming off a cold, and does not nap well on the best of days). Am I overreacting? Should I be more flexible? I’ve tried working from home when watching him but it’s stressful and not productive, and I’d rather there be a clear separation on these days.

No, you’re in the right. I suspect your boss hasn’t spent much time caring for infants (or maybe had a remarkably easy baby). Keep explaining your son isn’t yet old enough for you to be able to work on days when you’re with him. If she keeps pushing it repeatedly, it might be worth asking if she has concerns about your hours or productivity generally (because who knows, maybe that’s what she’s getting at — and if so, it’s usually better to get that out into the open).

3. Lengthy written questionnaires for references

I recently received a request from a hiring organization asking me to complete a two-page questionnaire about a former employee who had listed me as a reference. This is the second time I’ve received a questionnaire like this.

I run a small law firm and find this practice inconsiderate. It will take me considerable time to complete the form. I responded by forwarding a reference letter I wrote for the applicant when she left our firm and asking if that was sufficient, noting that it is time consuming to complete the questionnaire. I also offered a brief phone call. HR responded by saying they need the questionnaire, citing the number of applications they receive.

For reference, the potential job is a part-time casual clerical position, as was the applicant’s job at my firm. The previous time I was asked to complete a reference form like this was for some one applying to be a judge (we don’t have elections for judges in Canada), in which case it seemed more proportionate.

Am I in the wrong here? What are your thoughts on this practice? I don’t blame my former employee (she likely doesn’t even know about the form) and I don’t want to hurt her chances, but is there a way that references can push back on these asks without damaging an applicant’s chances?

Yeah, these are indeed a thing, and they are indeed a bad practice. For most reference-givers, writing narrative answers to questions takes much more time and thought than a phone call would — and plus, many references prefer not to put their feedback in writing. It’s also an enormous missed opportunity for the employer, because a lot of info in references gets conveyed from having a real conversation, where you can hear a person’s tone, how enthusiastic they are, where they hesitate, etc. And sometimes the most useful information comes from asking follow-up questions or for clarification on a particular point — things that don’t happen with questionnaires.

As for what to do … this is frustrating, because if you decline to fill it out, you do risk harming your former employee’s chances. You can certainly try what you did (offering a phone call instead), but if they refuse, you’re sort of stuck. If this is someone who you’re genuinely enthusiastic about, I’d push you to do the questionnaire — but you can also flag for the employer that it’s a significant request and you wouldn’t be doing it if you weren’t such a fan of the candidate’s.

4. Are personal business cards dorky?

Are personal business/networking cards dorky? I don’t have a business card at my job and I’m about to get laid off in any case so I couldn’t use it even if I had one.

I’ve been looking for a new job for a few years without any luck, so I’m trying to stretch myself some and attempt to network. Yesterday I asked someone to contact me if they heard about a new facility opening up (that would replace my current organization) and felt ridiculous writing my contact info on a Post-It.

I was just thinking of getting an inexpensive plain-ish set from one of those online printers. Just name, email, and phone, and a couple of job titles of jobs I’ve held/am looking for. Thoughts?

Do it! They’re useful, not dorky.

5. Should I tell my boss I’ll job search if I’m not promoted soon?

I’ve been with my company in a mid-level role for several years, and I get glowing performance reviews. I’ve applied and been rejected for a senior-level role several times, and each time they offer me other perks instead and tell me I’m next in line. The perks are nice, but I’m frustrated never having the promised promotion materialize. Would it be reasonable for me to tell my manager that I’ll start job-searching if I’m not promoted soon? I want to have an honest conversation about this process and my professional goals, but I don’t want to seem like I’m twisting their arm.

You don’t need to spell it out explicitly; managers with any sense know that when someone has been turned down for a promotion multiple times, it’s likely they’re at least thinking about looking around.

What you can do, though, is to say, “The last few times I applied for a more senior role, I was told I was next in line. I took that to mean I’d get a promotion the next time, but since that didn’t happen, I’m hoping to know more about what my path forward might look like here, and what a realistic timeline is to expect.” At some point in this conversation you could also say, “Moving to a more senior role important to me. I’m hoping I can do that here and don’t need to leave to achieve that, but if that’s not likely to happen soon, I’d be grateful to know that.”

But also, job search. If they literally told you’d be promoted next and it didn’t happen (more than once, no less), this is a company whose promises you can’t rely on.

{ 350 comments… read them below }

  1. Four lights*

    #2. Of course you can’t work while you’re taking care of the baby. (I’m at home with my 8 month old full-time now.) I believe in a child care situation they have to assign one person per baby because that’s how much work and attention they need.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      Yes! Very small humans need pretty constant attention, especially when ill, there is no way you will be able to focus long enough to write a presentation or paper of any quality. If the baby naps, you should take a nap also, ’cause heaven know that child will be up and down all night long.

    2. Observer*

      No, they don’t have to do that. And they don’t generally take that much care, unless there is a specific issue.

      That said, in most cases it is wildly unrealistic to expect someone who is staying home to care for an infant to get significant work that requires quiet or concentration done – unless the PARENT is realistically certain that this is possible. If a parent says any version of “my kid and WFH don’t mix” BELIEVE THEM. And even with an easy infant, if the baby is sick or recovering from something, even the easiest child is going to need a LOT of attention.

    3. HBJ*

      No, babies do not take that much work. Childcare providers are typically required to have no more than two non-walkers per worker, and that is >not< because of how much work they require. That is because in an emergency situation, all the children need to be gotten out at once. So a worker can theoretically scoop a non-walker up in each arm and herd the walkers out. I was told this by a friend who used to run a licensed and certified day care.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      I checked, and the US government guidelines for babies are at least 1 trained adult per 3-4 infants. So no, 1 on 1 is not required (and lots of parents are caring for more than 1 child at a time).

      I also have a fair number of friends and colleagues who get work done while caring for small children (academics), but it depends a lot on the temperament and age of the kid (toddlers tend to be harder than newborns), the number of kids, the circumstances (like sick vs content kid) and the type of work. It’s also not reliable – some times they’ll get a fair bit done, other days the kid will be extra cranky or active or fluid spewing and they won’t. And writing writing and presentations are some of the harder things to do, because they tends to require concentration and a train of thought.

  2. MK*

    #4, cards are fine, but don’t put a job title you don’t currently have or, worse, have never had but want. It could be confusing and might make you look bad. If you can put a general profession (like lawyer, graphic designer, plumber, etc) do that, if not, just have a name and contact information.

    1. Tipcat*

      Also, the cheapest cards are on stock with a slick surface. This makes it impossible to write notes on the back. If you can afford it, pay a little more for stock with a matte finish.

      1. mreasy*

        Choose uncoated stock, not matte – most matte finishes are also a coating, also tough to write on.

    2. Kiki*

      I also want to add to the advice about titles not to pick something like “thought leader” or “futurist” unless that is a real thing a reputable source has called you, and even then maybe hold off. If you have to pick between not including a title or including something a bit cheesey, I would err on the side of not including it. People don’t give out that many business cards anymore, so it’s unlikely someone will need the title to help identify you.

    3. Professional Merchandiser*

      I have gotten several jobs this way (personal business cards.) When I started doing merchandising, I had plain cards made with the title Professional Merchandiser. (Thus my name on here.)
      When I first started doing this type work, we still mailed in resumes, and I would paper clip a business card to it. I had at least four different companies tell me this tipped the balance for them. Of course, now everything is on-line and I’m not looking for new work, but if I was, I would hand a card to anyone I was discussing potential work with.
      As a side note, I also got some pretty personal cards made up to give out for times when someone says, “Give me your number, let’s have lunch!!” Looks much better than the post-it note!! Folks used to have calling cards back in the day, so why not now?

      1. hermit crab*

        I’m a big fan of personal cards! A lot of the folks I volunteer with are retired, and several have personal cards since they don’t have “real” business cards anymore. It’s so useful. I’m in my 30s and personally I think this is way easier than getting out your phone and being all “hang on, let me find my contacts… how do you spell your last name… no, sorry, can you say that one more time… “

      2. londonedit*

        I had personal business cards when I was freelancing. They just had my name, email address and ‘Freelance Editor’ on them, but I got some cute little square cards printed by a company called Moo, with a classy-but-fun pattern on one side, and people loved them. It was so useful when I’d meet people and they’d say ‘Oh, can you give me your email address?’ and I could give them a professional-looking card instead of scribbling on a piece of paper.

      3. TardyTardis*

        My husband has two kinds of cards–one is a personal card that has contact information and ‘Raconteur’ on it (‘have you raconteured today? Did you *try* to raconteur today?’). The second is the info about his science YouTube channel, which he handed to people with middle grade children because many of his demos are aimed at that age group.

    4. kittymommy*

      Good points. I’m also thinking their LinkedIn page (if applicable) might be useful as well.

    5. katelyn*

      I used personal cards when I was in between jobs, and agree they’re useful. As a title I went with “[field] specialist” because it doesn’t line up exactly with any title in the field (officer-associate-manager-VP-director) but it could at least help people zero in on my area of expertise. If your’e tech savvy or that’s a benefit in the field then you can put a QR code to your linkedin on the back with name, email and phone on the front.

      1. lemon*

        I put QR codes with a link to my LinkedIn on the back of my cards, and the response has been… mixed. Most people see it as quirky. A couple of people were eye-rolly about it. No one has ever actually used the QR code to connect with me on LinkedIn. :(

        (I’m in a tech-y field, FWIW).

    6. OtterB*

      My husband had personal cards made when he was between jobs. He included a tag line about his engineering specialty. It seemed to be helpful, certainly not weird.

    7. Be Positive*

      Please please please put a lot of thought in the card design. Someone gave me one with emojis all over it….for a corporate level suit type position….

      1. Antilles*

        Honestly, for most people, you’re usually fine just using one of the generic “off the shelf” default designs offered by the online ordering companies. No need for custom creating your own super-fancy design; as long as it’s readable and includes the necessary information, that’s what really matters here.
        (Obvious exceptions if you’re in an industry such as art, graphic design, etc where the card itself can serve as an indication of your skills)

        1. Veronica Mars*

          Yeah, honestly, I think the problem is usually too much effort.
          Business cards don’t need to be *unique* or *creative* they need to be user friendly.

            1. What was I doing SQUIRREL!*

              I have seen business cards printed two-sided with the back side black + logo. Completely worthless as business cards; no place to write a note about why this person is someone you want to stay in contact with.

              1. corporate engineering layoff woo*

                YES. I recently got some cards from people with an organization that put a big splash across the back of the cards. Kinda really wanted that space for a couple notes on each card.

    8. Still Trying To Adult*

      Yes, personal business cards are really the BOMB! I’ve just been thru several months of unemployment with attendance at several localjob networking events and classes. Almost universally, people are urged to have business cards with their name, contact info, very short description, or role ND industry, and LinkedIn link. Hand them out like a salesman!

    9. Emily K*

      Also, use a standard size card. Vertical or horizontal is fine either way, but non-standard sizes are really inconvenient for the receiver – they either don’t fit in a business card holder because they’re too big, or they get lost because they’re too small, and if you give it to someone who uses a business card scanner to automate the process of digitally recording their business cards most machines will not be able to process non-standard sizes.

      This is very much one of those things like a resume where it is not a good idea to try to “stand out” by throwing standard formatting convention out the window. While you may “stand out” it won’t be in a way that enhances your standing – hiring managers and other potential network contacts aren’t evaluating the creativity level of your resume/business cards, even if you’re in a creative profession. That’s what your portfolio is for – the resume/business cards should be standardized to normal business convention.

      1. A*

        THIS. I recently rec’d one that is shaped like an item that is common in our industry (think teapot-shaped card for someone looking for work making teapots). Cute idea, and no doubt was recommended by some well-intended but horribly off the mark source, but it ended up in the recycling bin. I’m in an industry where the subject matter of projects varies widely over time, so it’s not uncommon for me to meet someone and then circle back to them with opportunities several months – sometimes years – later. If your card doesn’t fit into the rolodex, you’re getting tossed.

        (I swear I’m not 100 years old and wasting paper all over the place – this is the one thing I’m oddly paper-based about. My co-workers make fun of my rolodex relentlessly – rightfully so!)

    10. V*

      Name, email and phone are all you need for a personal card and they are quite useful to have even when not job searching. Registering with a store, checking into a hotel, … all a lot faster if you can just hand over a card.

      Just keep in mind that you’ll get your card back almost every time so a hundred will last you a lifetime.

    11. zora*

      Yeah on my card I use more like areas I’m interested in focusing on or have specialized in.

      Office Management, Event Planning
      Food/Brand Marketing and Communications

      is the kind of thing I’d put on your personal card, rather than specific job titles.

    12. Blue Horizon*

      I once noticed that one of my clients had personal-business cards in addition to his business-business ones. They listed his title as ‘International Man of Leisure’ which I thought was a nice light-hearted framing. The reference would date you a bit these days though.

  3. HannahS*

    #2, So…your boss is both vocally supportive of your work-life balance, and then every time you have one, she wants you to do more work? When you’re taking advantage of your benefits–paternity leave, sick days, time off–you’re NOT AT WORK. That time away is a part of your remuneration. If it wasn’t offered as part of your benefits, hopefully you’d be paid more than you are. Use your benefits. No more backdoor, “But you can work when you’re on leave, right?” No, because if you’re working, then it’s not leave.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Agreed, especially about the paternity leave – if that leave was even partially covered by FMLA, I don’t believe the manager should have been allowed to contact OP for work matters anyway, but I could be wrong on that.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You’re mostly right. FMLA is not inviolate, but it is not ok to call about routine work matters when someone is taking FMLA-protected leave.

      2. Retired and Happy Now*

        If the leave is covered under FMLA and if the employee is physically able to respond, the boss can make brief contact for incidental reasons such as to provide the location of a file, etc. Requiring any work form the employee is a violation of FMLA.

      3. Daisy-dog*

        It is a start-up. They may not have enough employees to qualify for FMLA. Plus, they may not even have written sick time policies – just a general expectation of flexibility in scheduling.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yes!! Parental leave should be treated like FMLA. Your work should only contact you if it is something huge (e.g. death, bankruptcy, reorganization). Otherwise it is parental leave, it is working from home.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I have a team member with a pre-schooler and a baby. His wife stay’s at home, but sometimes he has to stay home with his kids if she’s out of town, sick, etc. Sometimes he will say he’s going to do XYZ at home, but then he does not. To the OP-make sure you aren’t doing that. Be firm that you can’t do the work on you day off! Worst thing to do is say you can do something and then not do it.

      Also, in Alison’s response, she says, “Keep explaining your son isn’t yet old enough for you to be able to work on days when you’re with him.” Had to chuckle at that. They are old enough basically. . .never. Once they are mobile, it is worse before it’s better. Eventually they may be able to entertain themselves, but you still have to check on them nonstop, and their attention span only lasts about the amount of time it takes to boot up your laptop and ask yourself where you left off. Even my 22 year old will come plop down in the office and talk to me if he’s home and I look busy.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Yeah, I assumed WFH with a kid was *only* possible when they were infants. Once they’re mobile, forget it!

        1. aebhel*

          Yeah, IME I got a lot more done at home when my kids were pre-mobile than I have since then, but even that was… not a lot.

      2. High Score!*

        If I WFH and husband is also WFH, he thinks I can concentrate just fine with him talking to me! Unsure why people think you can WFH with a baby! Unless the baby is napping, and not all babies take long naps, you’re going to be parenting.

      3. Zip Silver*

        Yeah, having had two myself, OP’s son is really at the perfect age to work from home. You need to feed them every 2-3 hours, change them on a similar schedule, and that’s mostly it, beyond laying them down for naps. Sometimes, babies cry just for the sake of crying, especially if they’re getting over a cold, once you’ve checked if they’re hungry or wet out have a stuffy nose, you don’t necessarily have to do anything else about it beyond tune it out.

        1. Jennifer*

          A lot of parents don’t like the cry it out method, or would find it really difficult to concentrate on work if an infant was screaming in the background.

        2. Meepmeep*

          Yeah, but then you’re neglecting the baby. If they’re just lying there alone for hours with no one talking to them or interacting with them or responding to their signals, it will not be good for them. Babies need interaction, they need to hear speech, they need stimulation. They’re not houseplants.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Ignoring a 5 month old for a few hours on one day that they are home sick is hardly neglect. This seems like unnecessary hyperbole.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I agree that it’s not legal neglect to ignore your baby (sick or healthy) for several hours and to let them cry it out. I mean, there are whole parenting-advice books written and classes being taught about how to do just that.

              I just think that it’s not great parenting and that it can have long-term consequences for the baby, but what do I know.

              1. B*

                I like that your last sentence is super nonchalant as if it wasn’t incredibly judgmental towards others. /s

              2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

                I’m trying to imagine a person who, without extreme necessity dictating it, would just shrug their shoulders and let their unhappy infant wail for hours on end while they futz around on the computer. It’s callous, at best.

                Actually I don’t have to imagine it because I’ve known people who’ve done that – they were soon divorced and despite custody agreements arranged by the courts, willingly choose to rarely see their kid(s).

                My first kid was colicky and a bad sleeper. We had to get used to the sound of her crying and once she was a little older did sleep training. But “meh, babies cry, let me knock out a report, suck it up kid” is really something else.

            2. MeepMeep*

              The parenting behavior described in the post I was responding to was “You need to feed them every 2-3 hours, change them on a similar schedule, and that’s mostly it, beyond laying them down for naps.” No talking, no interaction, no stimulation. Ignore any crying. Right? Just sit there working on your report and let the baby lie there alone.

              1. loudoffice*

                That’s perfectly normal in many parts of the world. And usually, the alternative is not having children at all.

          2. B*

            This… escalated quickly. It is not neglect to subscribe to the cry it out method. Nor does that align with the scenario you described. Letting a baby cry it out for 30 minutes before falling asleep for an hour is hardly the equivalent to leaving a child alone in the dark, unstimulated, and possibly dying (or whatever other extreme’s we are throwing out there) in a neglectful manner.

            Everyone has different approaches to parenting. Clearly your definition of neglect is above and beyond that of the legal threshold – which is fine, but you can’t reasonably project that onto others. Get over yourself.

            1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

              “Cry It Out” is a sleep training method. It is not “leave your kid to scream in the middle of the room while you work on an optional work report”.

        3. Botanist*

          My baby was very fussy and not a good napper and I would have had a nervous breakdown if I had just left him to cry and fuss all day. It would still be next to impossible to work with a toddler, but it would be a lot easier for me to give my now-cheerful toddler something to do and work in spurts than it would have been to work with my fussy baby, with post-partum anxiety.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Are you me??? Because I ALSO had a high needs baby who turned into a pretty happy (but feisty) toddler AND had PPA.

            I could probably do a bit of work here and there while caring for her now, but it would be difficult and likely around 40% of my usual productivity. Also there would be a ton of typos due to curious little hands pounding on the keyboard every few minutes.

      4. Quill*

        Yeah, I assumed work from home with a child was only possible with a content, non-mobile infant or late elementary schoolers that have plenty of things to do… and even then if you have only one, they’ll come in wanting attention, if you have more than one, you will spend some portion of your work day breaking up an argument.

          1. Quill*

            Oh, I’m sure that happens, but in my kid-supervising experience you can get solid hours of getting things done while the kids do their own thing at that age.

            Of course, most of my child supervision duties have been as designated “keep them from climbing anything / eating so many cookies they puke / hitting each other” person for family over the holidays.

        1. we're basically gods*

          My dad worked from home exclusively when I was little, and it was made very clear that when the door to his “office” was closed, he was not to be disturbed– if me and my brother *did* need something from him, we always used the knock-and-peek manouver to see if he was at a good stopping place. (He had a lot of self-imposed restrictions to maintain boundaries between work and home– he also had a rule that he couldn’t have lunch if he was still in his pajamas, so he had to get dressed at some point every day. But he was also 100% remote, so establishing those restrictions was more important.)

      5. Dragoning*

        Ah, that’s not totally fair. By the time I was 7 or so if someone had to stay home with me sick, I just watched movies on my own and it was my “treat” to keep me happy and away from my parents. I still remember the movies my Dad would get me from the library.

        And I slept a lot. Because I was sick.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Possibly. About the time you can do this, no one needs to stay home with you, unless you are dangerously sick. (Obv. 7 is a little too young.)

          And that only works if a 7 year old is sick. If school/childcare is just closed, a healthy kid that age can drive a parent nuts. Heck, my dog will drive me nuts and she stays home alone every day. If I’m there, she wants in and out 100 times a day, or wants to play rope, and she has started a new thing where she begs for treats now (she’s 5!?!?). She thinks I’m talking to her if I am on the phone and starts barking.

            1. ThatGirl*

              Just a point of clarification, because I was curious about this, here’s what it actually says:

              “Under current state law, parents can be charged with neglect for leaving children younger than 14 unsupervised “for an unreasonable period of time.” Parents can be charged with child abandonment if they leave children under the age of 13 alone for 24 hours or more without supervision by someone over the age of 14.”

              Emphasis mine – it’s intended to curb neglect, not a kid staying home for the evening or even during a school day.

      6. a heather*

        In my experience, it’s pretty impossible to get anything done that requires much concentration with a kid around until they’re about 4 or 5 years old. At that point you can usually point them at the TV or some other adult-hands-off activity every so often and handle occasional requests for food and drink and get something done. Certainly not (yet) a full day of work, but…

        In my current office, people generally say they’ll be offline most of the day except maybe catching up on email or whatever for nap time. That’s the extent of what’s possible most of the time.

      7. Elizabeth West*

        Exjob required you to have childcare if you worked from home for exactly this reason. You could not have the option to do so unless you could show you had it.

      8. Grump*

        Funny, my coworkers who have kids (toddlers to school age) all insist that they can work from home when their kids are home sick or school/daycare is closed. My company is actually super supportive of work/life balance for people with kids, so there’s never any beef with people working from home. But none of them does a full days’ worth of work when they’re home with kids — if they could, why would they all be paying $1000s on day care and preschool and after school care every year?

        1. R.D.*

          Because there is a difference between letting your kids watch 6 movies on a snow day which happens once or twice a year, vs letting them watch 6 movies every day.

          I do work from home when one of my kids are sick.

          Usually, I start work a little early and get a half an hour of uninterrupted work done before I have to get the other kid ready for school. Once the other kid is gone I turn on the TV and every hour I 5 minutes helping them with the TV for the first three hours. Then they get bored and bug me for 5-10 minutes so I tell them to color or read or do a puzzle. That lasts about an hour. We then have lunch, so I take an hour off and give them my full attention, plus food. It’s now 1 pm and despite the interuptions, I’ve worked a solid half day. I go back to work and it is either force them to go outside, which lasts about an hour, but my focus is not on work, or maybe a movie, which gives me 1.5 to 2 hrs of uninterrupted work. Now we are getting towards 2 or 3 pm. If I’m lucky, my husband takes a short day and comes home with the healthy kid and I am uninterrupted for the rest of the day. In that case I work from probably 7:30 to 5 and count it as an 8 hour day. If I’m not lucky, then it’s hopefully convincing a sick 5 or 7 year old to nap (ha) or back to the legos/puzzle/reading/coloring for an hour or two, then more TV until 5 pm when my husband is home. Then I work until 5:30 or 6. Either way, I get 8 hours of work done.

          It’s not my best parenting day, but when they are sick they need rest and it’s not a regular occurrence, so I’m ok with it a couple times a year.

          Snow days, when they aren’t sick, are a different thing. They have shorter attention spans and can’t watch tv for 6 hours a day without whining or fighting.

      9. Massive Dynamic*

        Time to call the boss/answer a call from the boss with your baby crying in the background! Only for 30 sec to a minute – make a good show of desperately trying to understand what the boss is saying and have her repeat herself a few times. Then apologize and hang up. End scene.

        Some people legit do not know how babies work, which is totally understandable if you haven’t had one yourself, but by the time you’re a grown adult responsible for managing other grown adults who DO have them, time to go to the University of Google and figure out some basic things about them.

        1. loudoffice*

          Or if your spouse did most of the baby work and you go around saying “it’s easy” or “no big deal” – I’ve known tons of these people. you’d think they have no experience with parenting, but they have several children.

      10. Third or Nothing!*

        I extended my maternity leave by working from home for two weeks before coming back into the office. My feisty daughter had just turned 2 months old and had finally figured out how to sleep longer than 90 minutes at a time at night and how to chill the heck out without being held all the time. My productivity wasn’t 100% but I was able to get the core job responsibilities taken care of so I had less to catch up on once I got back. I’m grateful to my boss who made that offer because it really helped transition gently back into the work routine and gave me a bit more time with my daughter without sacrificing more PTO.

        Would I be able to WFH effectively while caring for her now? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA NOPE. Not even Elsa and Anna can make that happen. I mean she’s a great kid, don’t get me wrong, she just has too much energy to be confined to the house all day.

    4. Yvette*

      That is the issue, if LW is on FMLA, or unpaid parental leave, or using a sick (there are some places that allow you to take a sick day to care for a sick child), vacation or personal day, the employer should not be expecting any work done. If LW is doing work, then they should not have to use FMLA, unpaid leave, sick, vacation, or personal days. But the letter writer is making it very clear that they don’t want to have to work on those days, that they want to be able to either care for their ill child, or enjoy the time home with them when they cannot go to daycare.

    5. ThatMarketingChick*

      I wonder – and I’m giving the manager the benefit of the doubt here – if LW#2 has explicitly said “I need to take today off.” Saying something like “I’ll be at home on this day to care for my son” is a little ambiguous and LW needs to be crystal clear about their availability. It’s not helping that they do make themselves available for certain things, but not others. I understand (because I’d be tempted to do the same) calling in for some things, but it’s creating a blurred line of being off and just working from home. As a manager, that would frustrate me.

      Paternity leave is a whole other story, but I’m talking about the days you call in.

      1. Sparrow*

        I was also wondering how up-front OP is about their availability, because it sounds like there’s often some gray area. Even if OP thinks they’re already being clear, I think I’d start making a point to explicitly say, “I will be on email in the afternoon,” or “I won’t be able to check in while I’m off tomorrow but will review everything first thing Thursday morning,” or whatever is appropriate. Basically, be very specific about what they can expect so they’re not making their own (possibly self-serving) assumptions that you then have to correct.

        1. valentine*

          It’s not helping that they do make themselves available for certain things, but not others.
          It’s really on the boss for being binary about it, but I do think they might not imagine how much work it takes just to make the calls happen, or, if OP2 has mentioned the wife being available sometimes, thinks the wife is always there (and possibly always on primary baby duty).

    6. Quill*

      Yeah, the paternity leave thing stuck out to me. If you’re working on your leave you are, essentially, working for free.

    7. Jennifer*

      Could be a case of not taking paternity leave seriously, or assuming the wife will do the lion’s share of the childcare. A lot of people still think that way.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That was my first thought, to be honest; that this might be the assumption. “Eh, he’s a man, it’s not like he’s going to be taking care of the baby anyway”.

        1. WS*

          +1. A co-worker had twins and came back part-time when they were three months old because her husband was self-employed and had very flexible working hours. People who knew her were horrified that her husband was “forced to baby-sit”!

          1. Massmatt*

            I think there was a good comment on this sort of thinking on another letter here from a dad wondering why he got strange praise for taking time with his newborn while his wife was basically judged for not taking enough. They split the time equally!

            And when his kids got a bit older and he would stay with them while sick or whatever he resented being called a babysitter—no, I’m a PARENT!

            Does anyone ever call a mom staying with her kids a babysitter?

    8. Mama Bear*

      I’ve been various versions of a working or non working parent and I 100% agree with you that working from home with an infant or young child is not as easy as many would like to think. It also depends on the kid. Some are happy to stare at their feet and some want to be held all day. You *could* stick the baby in a playpen or you *could* spend some actual quality time with your son. My guess is you’d rather get in the QT.

      If you are taking it as leave (PTO or otherwise) then you are off the clock unless maybe something is on fire and no one else can handle it. If a child is sick, that’s not the time to juggle a proposal or important writing project. Sure, daycare workers care for 3-4 infants (dep. on the state) but 1. they’re not trying to do anything else like writing or presentations and 2. it’s not the same as a parent focused on their kid. On my days off I like to do things with my kids – go for a bike ride, catch a movie, go to the park. Go figure.

      I had a boss where you couldn’t tell them many details because then they’d nitpick. So “I am requesting PTO on x day” vs “my kid’s daycare is closed and I need to be home.” We often inform each other here about days off but we put whether or not we’ll be available. I might say “PTO on Friday, NO cell phone or email access.” I don’t need to tell people why, just that whatever I’m doing that day is not conducive to work things.

      1. Anonapots*

        It would be great if we could stop making slightly pokey judgmental comments about how the OP *should* spend their time at home. The OP is asking specifically how to get their boss to stop expecting they are going to do a lot of work when they’re caring for their baby. Whether or not they would “rather” get quality time in with their sick kid is not really the point and making it a binary of either being a “bad parent” and ignoring the baby or being a “good parent” and spending all day with the baby is crappy.

  4. Nee Attitude*

    No. 1, I’m so sorry you had to learn the hard way that you really should never blur the boundaries between work and home like that. I had a very close (what I considered to be) friendship with someone I just so happened to work with. Our relationship went south very soon after we became roommates. My roommate became very overbearing, rude, demanding, and downright abusive at times. I never saw this coming and it has colored how I see my coworkers, unfortunately. Not to say that everyone is going to be rude and abusive (or even terrible at all), but I think it is much better to keep your distance with your coworkers (and especially your boss) if you want to maintain even a sliver of a friendship.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I had the opposite problem–I went to work with a friend and it didn’t go well. It nearly ended our friendship.

  5. voyager1*

    LW5: I like AAM’s first script, but I think you may want to add something about what you need to do or show that you are promotable. The second script is fine if you are willing to leave. It isn’t a bluff, which is okay just know that going in.

    Glowing reviews are good, but only in they say you are good at your current job.

    The being promised a promotion and are “next in line” to me is a little more harder to read. If you are “next in line” why you getting passed over?

    Depending on my relationship with my manager and depending on what traits the people who are getting promoted… I might just ask that directly “why am I being passed over.” There could be legitimate reasons you are getting passed over or your management could be stringing you along.

    1. Artemesia*

      I would not get confrontational. They aren’t promoting you. They probably don’t want to. It males sense to have the conversation once about ‘why’ but they are unlikely to be honest. Their actions speak. Don’t threaten to job search if they don’t promote you. They have already told you they don’t want to by their actions. Instead start that search in earnest so you can do it on your own time frame; don’t tip your hand.

      1. Eng*

        This is unfortunately exactly where I am now. All the nice reviews and pretty promises in the world mean nothing when others (specifically, men…) are promoted but I’m not. I’ve considered bringing it up point blank but at this point it’s like, why bother? So I’m just interviewing for the same higher positions elsewhere. I don’t want to work somewhere that needs to be strongarmed into valuing my contributions.

        1. Lora*


          And a non-trivial number of times I wasn’t promoted despite my projects getting accolades galore, it was often because someone else (not always my boss) taking credit for them. And this is a pattern I’ve seen repeat in other people’s careers when they’re women or POC – someone else either took the credit or was mistakenly credited and never bothered to correct the manager who mis-attributed the credit. When the manager was confronted with the evidence that the person they promoted six months ago actually stole credit for that project they thought was so great, all that happened was an uncomfortable silence followed by, “well we can’t just take the promotion away…I don’t know…look, we’ll investigate this and look at it again in the next promotion cycle.” And then nothing happens at all, Wrongly Promoted Dude continues racking up accolades he didn’t earn, and the woman or POC gets labeled as a whiner / not a team player.

          A slightly different version of this is when some Problem is a huge, insurmountable, impossible challenge only a true genius could figure out, right up until the moment when a woman or POC solves it – then it becomes a boring, trivial, obvious solution and it wasn’t really that big a deal anyway.

          Best job I ever had, used to fire people for stealing credit for others’ work no matter whose it was or how small the mis-attribution. Like, get your stuff off your desk and get out, you’re fired. Was a nice corporate culture until the takeover.

          1. Elenna*

            “well we can’t just take the promotion away” but… they can? they’re literally the boss??? firing people (or at least taking away promotions and stuff) is exactly what they’re supposed to do when they realize that employees did bad things???????

            *long sigh*

            1. Lora*

              But it’s embarrassing for the manager to have to admit publicly, to other managers, that they effed up.

              They don’t really think about long term “what happens when Wrongly Promoted Dude REALLY screws up in public” type scenarios. They don’t anticipate being in the same job themselves for more than another few years, so all they have to do is keep an eye on WPD and give him easy low-stakes stuff for the next few years, then forget it ever happened.

      2. Rebecca*

        A former manager in my department specifically said she didn’t want to promote her “good workers” because then she had to hire and train new people. This was very short sighted of her, because the “good workers” ended up leaving more often than not, so the company itself lost that person, and had to hire someone anyway, and sometimes two someones. I’m pointing this out because the OP said they are getting good reviews in their current job. It’s worth finding out if the manager doesn’t want to promote because the OP is doing great work for their department, and they don’t want to lose them to a new position.

        1. Kaaaaren*

          I have been in this situation before, too. I’m super conscientious about my work to the point where everyone wants me to die in my current role because I do it so well. It’s extremely frustrating.

        2. Important Moi*

          Just to further point out the obvious.

          It is NOT a compliment to you when someone is hindering your professional advancement for THEIR benefit. No matter how “nicely” the package is wrapped (i.e. glowing reveiws and/or perks).

          1. Anon for this one*

            What if the package was “nicely” wrapped monetarily? As in, getting paid a higher salary than industry standard?

            Hey, less responsibility and more $? Sign me up!

        3. Massmatt*

          It is really sad how many managers have this attitude, or worse, view their reports being promoted as competitors and threats. It’s a sign of a terribly short-sighted, self-centered, and/or deeply insecure manager. But there are tons of them, sadly.

      3. Kaaaaren*

        Ugh so I tried to comment this a moment ago, but I ended up not posting it as a reply. Anyway, this is written elsewhere in the comments, but it was meant to be a reply here:

        Absolutely! I agree completely — the company has passed over the OP numerous times and everyone knows that is often a major catalyst for job searching. They know it perfectly well and have decided (numerous times) that that is a risk they’re willing to take with OP and her job, rather than promote her. So, yeah, the OP should start job searching ASAP and not say anything to anyone about it. When she finds a new job, puts in her notice, and maybe has an exit interview, she can mention that being passed over for numerous promotions is the reason she decided to find a new job.

      4. AKchic*

        Yep. They aren’t promoting LW 5 because they don’t want to. It doesn’t matter why. They made their empty promises on more than one occasion to placate her (shut her up, keep her complacent and in her current position, take your pick of scenarios), and then didn’t follow through time and again. At this point, it is no longer a question of “when will I be promoted” but “when will I stop trusting them to promote me”. They aren’t. If they had any intention of doing so, they would have done it already.

        Don’t tip your hand, LW 5. By all means, ask them why they have continued to tell you that you were next in line for whatever promotions they’ve promised, and then failed to deliver on (to see what they say), but do not give them any indication that you are job searching. Just job search. This is the natural consequences of their (in)actions. If you tell them you’re job searching, you might get a promotion, sure; but they might try to attach strings (been there), or they might restrict you (“well, she’s planning on leaving us, so we really don’t need to send her to that professional development conference next month, or that networking meeting next week; and we might as well put Janet in charge of Project C because she hasn’t said anything about planning on leaving us”).

    2. Mary*

      I think it might be worth asking what “next in line” means practically. If it means, “we think you’re ready for a more senior role but every individual promotion is a competitive process”, that’s useful information!

    3. Paulina*

      “You’re next in line” is what decision-makers tell people who they think they can get to wait in line. And that can be fine, as long as they’re picking from the line. But in practice these words are how they string you along, and when you get passed over it’s for the people who aren’t content to wait in line, who have been doing something else instead of waiting, that they just have to promote or hire instead of you. Sorry but they’re just so good, you understand right? You’ll be next!

      The “line” is their backup plan, people who would do if there isn’t anyone they’re excited about. They probably mostly mean it at the time (that you’re next) which makes it difficult to call them on it, but it’s an easy thing to say if it doesn’t come with a plan attached. Asking to make the plan seems more productive than calling them on the repeated platitude, and can get them more excited about how they’d benefit by promoting you.

      1. Renee*

        I have danced this tune many times and similar to OP, can see the business has other people in mind for higher roles. I have made it my new temporary job to apply for one job a day. As I am a well-respected and well-liked employee I use this to my advantage. I trial new ideas that will suit roles I am looking for. Little does work know that I am only doing this to stockpile great examples to talk about when I interview for my new employer, which I’m certain is around the corner!

    4. LQ*

      “Next in line” can mean a lot of different things too and if it’s not clear then there can be a lot of disconnect. Boss could have meant, “next in line… for a promotion within this team for the skill you currently have” and that could still be absolutely true. OP could have heard “next in line… across the entire organization” which is pretty unlikely to be true at a large org just because your boss is unlikely to have that power. But that’s a radical disconnect and hundreds of roles could open and go to someone else while this is just a misunderstanding and boss is chugging along thinking “Sally’s going to retire in 2 years and I can promote OP then, I’ll just keep helping.” Meanwhile, OP is growing more and more resentful about being passed over.”

      Your boss likely has less power than you think to promote so you should definitely take what your boss says with a grain of salt if the person saying it is a level or two above and could actually promote you to say be a peer of your boss, or move you into another area then think about what that scope is and if that scope has been missed.

  6. LizardOfOdds*

    LW4, great idea to have your contact info at the ready. In some industries, a digital option may be more effective. I can’t remember the last time I received a physical business card (other than jokes). Instead, I have a digital business card saved as an image on my phone, and I can airdrop it to anyone who wants to stay in touch. Also, LinkedIn has a feature on their mobile app that lets you find people nearby – great for sending invites and checking out who’s around you at networking events.

      1. Nee Attitude*

        Wouldn’t you be able to create a digital business card on your own? Come to think of it, that’s a great idea!

        1. Leisel*

          It would be pretty easy to do from a computer, but a little tougher on the phone unless you had the right app. Word has templates for business cards, or you could choose a document size that’s small and has the same proportions as business cards (2 in x 3.5 in). Then you can save the document as a PDF or image and keep in the notes app on your phone to easily message, email, air drop, etc.

          It’s a great idea. I’m glad this topic has come up!

          1. seller of teapots*

            You could use to make a nice looking digital card and send is an am image to people.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Now mentally designing a business card with a QR code taking the place of a logo, thanks for this!

    2. High Score!*

      When someone shows me a business card, I take a pic with my phone and hand it back. I’d prefer it if they’d just text or email me the information.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Same – I don’t want a card, it’s just another piece of paper I have to keep track of.

      2. Tina*

        Whereas I find the physical piece of paper quite handy to keep around! I have a big ‘out of sight, out of mind’ problem, and plan my whole life on a) post-its on my desk and b) a wall planner and c) a calendar that is my phone’s lockscreen that I have to look at every time I use my phone.
        If I’m sent a digital card, I will never look at it again. If it’s a paper one, I can write relevant notes on it and pin it to the wall or tape it to the edge of my screen and remember to add them on LinkedIn/mention them to someone/email them a thing.
        Yes my desk looks chaotic. Do not touch my post-its.

    3. Mama Bear*

      I actually love this for various reasons. There are times when I don’t necessarily want to provide info as a business contact related to my employer, and a generic card allows me to give people info, be it for a school thing or a freelance thing.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s funny. I’m constantly still asked for business cards during meetings. Nobody has their phones with them. Not everyone has a company phone.

      Every sales rep still has them. They still hand me catalogs too though, go figure! Perhaps that’s because we’re not a complete tech company and work with tangible items in the end?

      1. corporate engineering layoff woo*

        Hardware technology perspective: physical cards, physical catalogs, physical samples. It’s easy, reliable, and isn’t contingent on getting the 5-minutes-to-start encrypted laptop to work. On the engineering side, we mostly only have personal phones.

  7. Observer*

    #2 – THANK YOU for being realistic about what you can accomplish when you are home with your baby. If your work directly affects anyone else in your organization, I am sure that they are very grateful that you are not factoring that time into your schedule for deliverables.

    1. sacados*

      Yeah I feel like usually you get bosses writing in about the flipside of that, ie my employee “works remote” but isn’t productive enough because they’re caring for a child too.
      OP here is being very responsible and their manager needs to stop trying to screw that up!

      1. Mama Bear*

        I have had a couple of jobs where this was allowed – one hired almost all work from home parents – but many companies require you to have childcare (sometimes offsite) if you are mostly remote.

    2. Lilo*

      Staying home with a sick, cranky baby is exhausting too. When my son is sick he just wants to be held all day.

    3. NLMC*

      Moms groups on Facebook are notorious for people asking for recommendations for jobs they can do from home, while caring for their small children, that makes a great wage, that you don’t have to be up all night doing, that isn’t sales or MLM, etc. I mean, I’ve never had a dream job, but yeah, I guess that would be a dream job, but it doesn’t exist.

      1. theelephantintheroom*

        Mine fits a lot of the criteria, but I have a degree, the proper training, and I started out as a freelancer making garbage before getting a salaried contract 3 years later. AND I haven’t taken 2+ years off for childcare. It’s impossible to go from SAHM to “dream job situation” and it’s very frustrating to be told by SAHM’s that I got lucky. There was some luck, as there always is, but I also made very conscious choices to not have kids and to work on getting my career off the ground (and to give my husband the chance to do the same). And I don’t fault people who made different choices, but it would be nice if they’d stop talking to me like they’re entitled to the same sort of work I do and the problem is that people won’t give them a chance.

        Back when I was running my own freelancing gig, I had someone email me with her “resume” (I was not hiring). It consisted entirely of, “I’m an army wife and stay-at-home mom to 3 kids, so I have lots to write about!” (It wasn’t a writing business, I just used a blog to promote my work.) It was riddled with spelling and grammar errors, to boot. She was very upset when I told her I wasn’t interested. Like???? I don’t know what to tell you, lady, having kids doesn’t qualify you to be a writer.

        1. theelephantintheroom*

          Sorry, that was a totally off-topic rant.

          Also, I don’t mean to imply SAHMs are like this, only the people NLMC is referring to in those Facebook groups.

  8. nonee*

    Haha my son is 5 months old and I am still on parental leave, thank goodness. It feels like this would be the worst time to try to get work done! He has longer wake times and needs constant stimulation/attention. Where before I could leave him with his toys for 15 or 20 minutes to complete a task, he now flops onto his belly every minute and starts crying because he can’t remember how to roll back. Typing this comment has taken 3 times as long as usual because he keeps whacking my phone screen, and he’s just vomited on me. I can’t wait to go back to work, but I will never, ever attempt to do in-depth work from home when I have to be here with a sick baby.

    1. londonedit*

      Seriously. My nephew is 1, and you cannot take your eyes off him. He’s into everything and is seemingly obsessed with finding the most potentially dangerous thing to do/play with. Add to that the fact that he’s just started toddling about, but isn’t very good at it yet and falls over approximately 857 times a day, and…well, I can’t see how anyone could get any work done! You can’t even have a full conversation with my sister at the moment because she’s watching him like a hawk.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        “Toddlers seek death at every opportunity.”

        Toddler: “My favourite toys are choking hazards.”

        1. Susie Q*

          You spend 90% of your time keeping a toddler from dying and 10% comforting an upset toddler who is mad at you for keeping the toddler from dying.

          1. londonedit*

            Yup, this is life with my nephew to a T. What do you mean, I can’t pull the TV down onto myself/grab that hot mug of tea/climb on the bookshelf/go headfirst downstairs/eat the buttons I have just painstakingly removed from the remote control? My life is over!!

            1. Quill*

              This is why I refuse to supervise children until they’re toilet trained.

              I’m not fast enough to stop this self-destruction seeking missile. I’ll put up with a lot of hair pulling and crying about legos just to be sure that I can pee without worrying that I’ll need to take the kid to the emergency room by the time I’ve washed my hands.

            2. Clisby*

              Why SHOULDN’T I carefully pry the babyproofing plug from the electrical outlet and then stuff it my mouth?

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            “They don’t know fear. They know stark terror, but they don’t have any fear to discourage them before they get to the stark terror phase.”
            -my husband re our toddler son

        2. A Non E. Mouse*

          A very wise friend told me the following when I was pregnant with my first:

          Two year olds are little terrorists.

          Three year olds are suicidal terrorists.

          She was not wrong. They little heathens have absolutely no fear of dying. NONE. They just fling themselves in front of, off of, onto and into the most dangerous things they can find. All day. Every day.

          I don’t even like working from home now, and my youngest is *8*.

          1. That would be a good band name*

            Don’t count 8 year olds out on the no-fear thing. My oldest pulled the refrigerator over when he was 8 by hanging on the freezer door. (Old, smaller fridge in our basement that was mostly empty). I have no idea how it didn’t land on him.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              When my nephew was 2, a tree fell on their house. He immediately ran to his mom and shouted “I didn’t do it!”

              Which was true, in this case. But so often not the case that he knew who suspect number 1 would be.

          2. Elenna*

            One of my earliest memories is from when I was maybe four years old and my sister was two, and we were playing around by walking around on top of the back/sides of the couches, and then circling around on the coffee table. Then my sister fell off the big board book we’d placed as a bridge between the coffee table and the couch, and my reaction was basically “Why are mom and dad calling the ambulance? She’s just bleeding a little?”
            In retrospect, 23-year-old me can understand better why they were alarmed when their 2-year-old fell off a platform that was basically as high as she was tall and started bleeding from the mouth… :P

            (She was fine, by the way, she just cut the inside of her mouth a bit with her teeth. It had already stopped bleeding by the time the ambulance arrived.)

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My oldest could be left on his own with minimal supervision for periods of time pretty much since he was born – granted, he turns 27 next month, so my memory could be fuzzy. (Though there was one incident when I had a client come in to discuss a freelance job I was doing for her, and while we were sitting and talking in the only room of my apartment, the toddler oldest managed to dump out the entire contents of my underwear drawer on the floor for my client to admire.) His younger brother had the colics 24×7 for the first 3-4 months of his life, then he came down with bronchitis, then started teething, then more bronchitis, and came down with every kind of cold in between those things. No way in heck could I have done any work with him around during that time.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Arrgh, colic…sleep is just a passing memory during that time–my husband and I would swap out nights so we could get good sleep every other night. (God bless you, Karo Syrup–a tablespoon per 8 oz of formula actually worked. We were terrified that first night, we both fell asleep and when we awoke we rushed to the crib to make sure the kid was still alive, which he was).

    3. Aiani*

      OMG this thread is reminding me that I watched my two year old nephew for a couple of days while my sister and her husband were at the hospital having their second kiddo. During that time my boss had to call me about something and my nephew just got increasingly upset that I was on the phone not paying attention to him. LOL that was just one phone call. I can’t imagine getting significant work done in that situation.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        When my then-husband stayed home with our oldest (2.5 yo) while I was in the hospital having the second kiddo, husband stepped out of the apartment for a second to dump some garbage down the garbage chute that was one flight of stairs up, and our oldest locked him out of the apartment. He was only gone a couple of seconds and bam! There wasn’t a handle, you had to turn an actual key in the lock to unlock the door. Somehow husband was able to walk the 2.5 yo through the unlocking process. (Probably not a typical outcome, because that kid now does all minor home repairs, plumbing, car maintenance and repairs, built his own desk once because he was bored and needed something to do on evenings and weekends…)

  9. Budgie Buddy*

    I use my business cards as a way to give a new contact my name attached to how they can reach me without looking around for a scrap of paper to write it down. I actually made mine while I was still in school so they aren’t even job related. There is a plain back I can write extra notes on though.

    1. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

      I did think in library school. Still have some (it’s been more than five years) and I still give a few out each year – though generally to other parents when arranging playdates, etc.

    2. Lexin*

      I have a small supply of personal ‘business’ cards for handing out when I meet someone and we ‘might’ meet for lunch or dinner.

      I also hand them out at family events like weddings and funerals, when I’m meeting members of my distant family possibly for the first time in many years and want to hand something so they have my contact details.

      1. Leisel*

        Calling cards! This just reminds me of the 1950s or some bygone era when all you had was a landline. It’s still a great idea to this day!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This used to be a HUGE thing back in Victorian times, with a whole set of social rules surrounding them. They even had a little dish for cards on the table in the foyer so you could drop yours off if the people were “not at home” to callers. The cards are big collectibles now, particularly if you can snag one that belonged to a now-famous person. They sometimes had little colored paper flaps on them with the name underneath–I have a couple in my ephemera collection.

          Of course, there was no phone number. For a fun read re the etiquette of making calls, you can look up ‘visiting cards’ on Wikipedia.

          1. wendelenn*

            I remember how excited teenage Laura Ingalls was in “Little Town on the Prairie”, when her parents allowed her to buy name cards. And Almanzo took one, swoon! (Though he WAS 25 to her 15, yikes!)

          2. Massmatt*

            And back then cards would have been pretty expensive, One great thing about the digital printing revolution is how easy, fast, and cheap it is to have a few hundred cards made.

            It’s different in different businesses but in mine business cards are very much a thing. I have a digital card but rarely use it, you need to get someone else’s email or at least phone # to send it and sometimes that’s just too much hassle, handing a card is easy and fast.

            If folks don’t like the paper clutter they can always take a picture or scan or input the info into whatever database they like.

          3. Alice's Rabbit*

            My parents still set out a dish for cards when they host events. Dad tosses a couple of his cards in there so people see what it’s for. If there’s a guest book, the dish is on the same table. They hosted a number of military and diplomatic events throughout their careers, and this is common practice in those circles.
            The dish stays on the table in their entryway between parties. It’s a lovely little silver rectangular plate.

  10. Historic Hamlet Dweller*

    #3 – I work in an industry where for any role, we’re required to have 2 written references, including one from the current employer. This is because we work with a vulnerable population and it’s what our funders require. It applies from admin to CEO.

    This means we use forms, because it’s easier for everyone, including referees. The alternative would be an email saying “please tell us what this person is like and if they’re suitable for X role”. Is it annoying, yes, but it’s also necessary.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I’m just a little confused by the prospective employer’s comment that they need the form “citing the number of applications they receive”.
      Presumably, when you request your written refereral you’ve narrowed down your prospective pool of applicants to just a few strong candidates? Unless the paperwork is then kept for every resume/CV and cover letter, regardless of whether they stand a chance of getting the job, I cannot otherwise follow the logic (of the prospective employer – you’ve explained your logic – although out of curiosity would OP3’s recommendation letter have been sufficient?)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        This was my question: where I live, you only seek formal references after a conditional offer has been accepted, so it would be unusual to collect references for more than one person per position.

        I can’t see why you would want detailed, formal references for every *applicant* in a large pool anyway. Maybe for your top two or three when you’re having trouble choosing.

        And YIKES from the applicant’s perspective: one might apply to a dozen places before wanting one’s current boss to know one was job hunting. Asking that boss to put in the equivalent of a working day to help you?!!

        1. Amy Sly*

          My theory: they use the ridiculous requirement as a way to cull the large pool, knowing that most references won’t fill them out and therefore they only have to deal with few applicants who have cooperative references. But I’m pretty darn cynical when it comes to these things.

          Of course, this could very well backfire because the reference most likely to jump through all these hoops is the boss desperate to get rid of an obnoxious employee they won’t just fire.

          1. Antilles*

            Nah, I think you’re giving them *way* too much credit for thoughtfulness and pre-planning.
            In my experience, when people ask for references upfront as part of the initial application, it’s typically the product of approximately eight seconds of thought: “We need references eventually, might as well put that on the initial application, so we’re ready ahead of time” (the fact this doesn’t actually save time will not cross anyone’s mind) OR “Hey, it’d be good to have references upfront so we can use them in our initial screening process” (this will not actually happen).

      2. Historic Hamlet Dweller*

        Academia here, and some parts of the public sector does referencing prior to final interview. It’s not normal, but also not unheard of. Noone has ever been able to explain why in a way that makes sense.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Even in academia, though, they don’t call references for everyone in the pool. The references come in when folks are considered for call backs and job talks.

          I’m still struggling to think of a field in which there are so many people in the finalist pool that it necessitates a questionnaire.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            The only thing I can come up with is if the industry has a history of discriminatory hiring practices, the people funding the work may want to be reassured that they are not paying for more of the same. But I am really stretching to get to that.

          2. Libervermis*

            Yeah, that’s been my experience in academic job searching as well. Except this one college who sends references a specialized questionnaire as soon as you turn in the application, and doesn’t include the job title or description anywhere on the questionnaire. Based on the incredibly short time between when I sent in an application (after work hours, though I guess it’s possible an HR person happened to be there to approve it) and when one of my references got the email, it might even be an automatic thing before the HR “does this person meet minimum requirements” screen.

            I was simultaneously annoyed and impressed – who knew there was a process more ridiculous than academia’s usual “3-5 generic letters of rec” system?

          3. College Career Counselor*

            I’m in academic administration. I can tell you that I’ve occasionally had my references checked before getting a phone screen or campus interview. Does it make sense? Not really. Has happened a couple of times in my career, so it’s not the norm. Faculty hiring requires letters of recommendation up front because they use that as part of the screening process (and also because faculty search protocols are possibly the most hidebound thing I’ve ever seen). I suspect that someone wanted a questionnaire because it’s “objective” and is in the recommender’s own words and can be easily referred to later.

          4. Elitist Semicolon*

            Committees don’t call references for large-pool candidates, but positions in my fields almost always require at least two letters of recommendation as part of the general application process. In the {mumble} years I was on the tenure-track market, both my references and I came to appreciate the positions that asked for names or specified that finalists would be asked to provide letters rather than just outright requiring them from the start. A faculty member with multiple students all applying for multiple jobs writes and/or tailors a LOT of letters, and it’s a massive time-sink given that of 200 applicants, maybe 10 will make the first cut and 3 will make the short list.

        2. Faculty spouse*

          My husband is faculty in a biological science (PhD not MD). Reference letters are required with faculty applications and for med & grad student applications and fellowships and grants.

          It is not unusual for him to provide 5 letters for an undergrad he taught applying to med or grad school. Or 10+ letters over the years for his grad students.
          Standard forms are not easier, he has to start over each time. With a letter he just tweaks it based on the purpose.

          If you need a form make it yes/no or scale of 1-10 kind of thing. Not long answer. Especially for a low level position.

          1. OP3*

            OP3 here- yes, it has to be proportionate and take the industry into consideration. I know it’s common to require written reference letters in academia, it’s even common for law students and junior lawyers in my industry, so I don’t mind writing my own letter if needed -and they can be tweaked easily. But the forms really DO require you to start from scratch!

            1. JSPA*

              Put one or two words; append the letter; append a note stating, “The candidate is excellent. My time, however, is billed at $500/hr. If you expect more than $100 worth of my time to complete a recommendation, I expect payment. Sincerely, Jane K Lawyer, Esq.”

              They may assume you’re foisting this off on an admin, and take seriously the fact that the actual lawyer is writing the recommendation.

        3. Oxford Comma*

          For most academic library jobs, they want a list of references up front. As someone who often supplies them as I supervise students, I am fine with this. I have been contacted before phone/skype interviews, before in-person interviews, and after in-person interviews.

          What I am not a fan of is when they want me to write an actual letter for the application or filling out a form for the application. It takes a ton of my time to do it. I assume it’s done to winnow down the pool, but it drives me bonkers especially since the likelihood of the applicant getting to that point is less likely.

      3. Massmatt*

        I was going to say this, the employer is basically saying “we have so many applicants we need even MORE time-consuming material to go through”. It makes no sense to have all applicants do this, burning the capital they have with their references, when the bulk of them aren’t going to even get an interview, much less a job.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Hmm – I can’t help thinking that an e-mail asking whether the referee thinks the person would be suitable for [specific role] and whether you were aware of anything which might make them unsuitable, would usually be much quicker and simpler than a long questionnaire,.

      It’s not a reasonable thing to ask of referees, in most cases.

      We had a questionnaire a little whole back – it was ridiculously log to expect someone to complete as referee, (and the one we had was pretty repetitive and very obviously ‘one size fits all’ so there were large parts which appeared not to relate to the job our former employee was applying for, and more which it was impossible for us to answer as they related to things which didn’t form any part of their role with us.

      In the end, we sent a letter simply stating that there had been no issues in her employment with us and we were not aware of any issues which would affect her suitability for the role, mentioned some of her strengths and conformed that her job with us had ended due to redundancy, not as a result of any fault, or issues with her work, and that we were happy to speak to them by phone if they wanted further information.

      It feels like lazy HR to me – it makes it easier for HR to collate and compare, but it isn’t necessarily an effective way to get the relevant information , and it is an unreasonable expectation for managers.

      1. Paulina*

        I’ve had a few requests recently to fill out a generic form from a reference checking company. It’s about a page, largely inapplicable (work-centric, but these are former students of mine), has to be filled in in its entirety, and a representative from the checking company harasses me until it’s completed. So yes, HR so lazy that they’ve outsourced it and don’t care much about relevancy.

      2. Antilles*

        It feels like lazy HR to me
        It’s 100% this – you want to improve the convenience of doing reference checks. Save the hassle of calling people, playing phone tag since nobody answers unknown phone numbers any more, spending 10 minutes on the phone per reference, etc. Instead, you can replace all that with a written form you can quick-skim in 2 minutes flat.
        Of course, the downside is that a written form is far less useful than a phone call…but anyone who is willing to use a generic form for convenience’s sake probably wasn’t exactly doing thorough and detailed phone calls in the first place.

      3. Aitch Arr*

        We have a reference form that is filled out by whoever is recruiting for the role while conducting a phone reference.

        The very few times I’ve asked references to fill it out instead of me doing a phone reference were the due to the difficulty of scheduling a phone call for extenuating circumstances (i.e., one reference was several time zones away and worked in an area with limited phone service – think a situation like an offshore oil rig; another time the company was about to shut down for a two week period at the holidays and I was trying to put out an offer).

      1. Historic Hamlet Dweller*

        Healthcare adjacent and focused on disability, so folks who are more at risk of abuse than the general population

    3. Anonapots*

      I’m not sure it is actually easier for everyone, including the people giving the references. I’m willing to bet your HR isn’t getting a lot of feedback on how the people filling out the forms feel about it because why would they offer it? I would argue it’s not actually necessary. I know a lot of organizations working with vulnerable populations that don’t do this.

  11. Maya Elena*

    For #2: agreed. Your time off is your time off. And given that I’ve seen people taken advantage of and people who asserted their boundaries and both were fine, I tend to believe that in most contexts asserting the boundary is fine.
    Also, your likely doesn’t have kids or he’d probably know that kids tend to damage productivity. In fact, because you are not your wife, you don’t even have the advantage of breast feeding and typing simultaneously (I’ve done it) which she might employ.

    That said, 5 months is a nice age, when they can amuse themselves with their toys in the gym for 20 minutes but can’t move significant distances yet (by rolling or crawling). BUT this blissful state will only last about three weeks.

    1. Lilo*

      I will note there is no way I could have both breastfed and typed on a computer. My son was very wiggly.

      1. Fikly*

        I knew a woman who (by child 4) could breastfeed him while vacuuming, with him in a front carrier. I remain incredibly impressed.

    2. Golden Oldie*

      In addition to what the child needs, and work productivity needs, what does MOM need? Take care.

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I’m opposed to babies in the office…but I think this guy needs to bring the baby to the office just once.

  12. Jamey*

    Being in the wedding is one thing – if they really ended up that close, the bf’s sister can ask who she wants in the wedding. And it’s a situation where friends, not just family, are naturally going to be there. But I’m pretty shocked that she’d think it’s appropriate to come to her friend’s family’s Thanksgiving knowing that it’s basically her employee’s family too. It feels like she’s invading her family.

    1. Impy*

      This. Let alone family meals. Before she mentioned the wedding, I thought the plot twist was going to be that she’d started dating the boyfriend’s sister.

        1. Jamey*

          Haha I did actually also think this, which would make “who should be allowed to come to family dinners” a much harder question!

          1. Quill*

            That might actually be easier to untangle professionally “my boss is on track to become my in-law, there’s probably a policy about that” than the actual situation.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yup, there was no doubt in my mind about boss and OP’s sister now being a couple, until I saw the reference to the wedding.

              1. valentine*

                I completely forgot it was the sister’s wedding and thought she was dating the boss/roomie (not that she’s not). OP1, does this mean this roomie/boss at family events deal has an expiration date?

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I guess I just skipped right over that one. My family will invite people to Thanksgiving if they have no immediate family within local driving distance. I’ve also benefitted from that. I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner by my flatmate and her parents — our landlords.
      (*Tangent: I am not British, but flatmate is such a useful concise word that I have adopted it as my own.)

      1. Jamey*

        Yeah I don’t think it’s weird that a friend would get invited to Thanksgiving, but boss should absolutely have recognized that it’s such a family themed holiday and coming to her employee’s family dinner is out of line. In fact, the fact that she’s setting boundaries in other ways (coming to these dinners and not talking to OP there) makes me suspect that she DOES recognize that it’s inappropriate but is letting what she wants to do with her friend override what she needs to do for the sake of her employee.

        1. Lindsay Gee*

          I think this is a really good point. And what does this do other than to make LW uncomfortable in her own family situation? I can’t even imagine how uncomfortable/weird it was that one person was being ignored at the dinner table.

      2. Quill*

        My extended family is serial adopters-of-people, which is how I have a Papa Peter as an extra grandpa / great uncle figure. No relation to me, but he’s my cousins’ granddad on their other side and they and their mom are his only family. When my aunt and uncle were doing foster care we consistently had extra tweens, and if you let my great aunt, who was a nun, catch wind of any event you’d have half a convent at your doorstep as soon as they could find a sister with a valid driver’s license.

        We’ve somehow never managed to get anyone’s boss involved, though as a child I was *deeply* confused about which of the old people who were in and out were actually related to me.

      3. Leisel*

        On your tangent – I say “housemate” a lot because my roommate and I do not literally share a room. In college my roommate and I did, but that was in the dorms… Anyway, “Apartmentmate” would just be a mouthful.

      4. A*

        Yup, there were many things that jumped out at me in that letter – this was not one of them. Nothing unusual aside from the boss actually accepting (in light of it being their employee’s family holiday).

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      100% agree, that’s the inappropriate part to me. Putting up professional boundaries is smart, and while moving in may not have been a good choice it’s already happened so if she became such good friends with the sister that she’s now in the wedding then that is what it is. But going to Thanksgiving and Christmas is *weird.* Does she really not have anywhere else to go? If she doesn’t then I do feel bad for her, but it still is just not okay.

  13. Fikly*

    If your boss gets you to work during leave or PTO, your company is stealing from you, because you are losing part of your compensation.

    1. Liane*

      And, as 1 or 2 others have mentioned, it might also be against the law in your area. E. g., if your paternity leave is under FMLA in the US.

    2. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Biotech start-ups are the kinds of places that might have “flexible” (i.e. no defined) PTO.

    1. Angelinha*

      This does not seem that weird to me. It would be weird if she were the boyfriend’s roommate…but the sister? Would it be just as weird if they found each other as roommates on Craigslist rather than by introduction?

      1. Threeve*

        I think it would be somewhat weird for a boss to move into a house across the street from an employee, no matter what roommate situation led her there.

        1. Quill*

          It would be sitcom-y for her to just move in on accident, but this one screams “string of questionable decisions”

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I’m strongly reminded of the post about the employee who went to say hey to his neighbors after moving in… and it was his boss. Only at least OPs boss isn’t hosting secret poker games and being a Bro.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It depends on the people. Personal relationships between manager and employee can work, but both parties have to be respectful and realistic. It’s rare but it can work. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

  14. Volunteer Enforcer*

    RE no. 3: I am part of HR and unfortunately we do issue those questionnaires for references. When the reference isn’t able to fill out the questionnaire in writing, we have been willing to talk them through the questions over the phone. Even though I’m just an admin, your question has made me determined to push back on this practice.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      What stage do you issue the questionnaires? Application, or offer? I don’t think they’re egregious to firm an offer, but they’re senseless as part of screening.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, the fact that the reason they gave for insisting on the questionnaire over a phone call was the number of applicants… kind of makes it sound like they are sending these to references way too early in the process.

      2. Massmatt*

        Yeah, the issue isn’t so much the questionnaire vs: phone call (though their insistence/inflexibility seems odd) as it is that they seems to be requiring this for every applicant, and for a pretty junior/entry level position at that.

    2. Op3*

      OP 3 here- I’m so happy to hear this! One workplace at a time! (Also relieved to hear I’m not alone in disliking this practice)

  15. Akcipitrokulo*

    Every place I’ve had has had the opposite idea about working from home with a baby – they don’t allow it. If you are looking after an infant, you can’t work. Some would allow for older children that could be entertained without you, but not always.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*


      I WFH most of the time, and having any of my children at home with me severely hampers that process. It’s manageable now they’re older if they are off school sick, but neither the work nor the parenting is well done in that time, so it’s inbox triage on the sofa with them under a blanket, and I make up the difference in the evening when Spouse is around. Age under about seven, they’re bored and lonely within ten minutes. Age under four, it’s actively dangerous to have them not directly supervised.

      WFH because of your children is so you can flex around them or reduce the time in childcare – e.g. dropping them off at 9 rather than 7.30 and picking them up at 5 rather than 6.30, which reduces childcare by almost three hours but the workday by nothing, and reduces your commuting cost completely.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ll add age 11-12… Leave them alone too long and they will browse the internet for age – inappropriate materials. ;)

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          They could do that at any time – WFH doesn’t make it different. You set boundaries with your kids – you don’t sit over their shoulders 24/7.

        2. Quill*

          Lol, the internet was too slow for that when I was 12… I do however remember getting in deep trouble for cracking my dad’s admin password so I could install winrar so I could download custom content for games.

          … which I did by setting the computer’s sleep timer to never, starting all the downloads, unplugging the screen and then going about my business.

          “No, I’m not using any of my alotted hour of computer time, look, the screen’s off, I’m in here reading a book!” (And chasing my brother out so he couldn’t interrupt my download.)

        3. A*

          I mean, yes, true. But… what’s the issue? I learned how to type before I learned how to write (back in the 80s during the era of BBS sites), and yes I poked my nose in all kinds of things I “shouldn’t” have… but I am forever grateful my parents gave me free reign in that regard. The vast majority of my hobbies and interests, as well as my professional skill sets, were developed online during that time. Some of which I never would have been able to pursue otherwise (like my interest in forensics and reading up about murder cases at age 7, which eventually evolved into an interest in law… and opportunities in contract management… and scholarships to college).

          I understand why parents would feel like they need to monitor internet use, but gosh it makes me feel bad for the kids. The friends I have that take that approach with their kids are the only ones in my social group that *didn’t* have a strong and independent relationship with the internet from a young age. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Going down a Wikipedia rabbit hole is glorious for an enquiring mind. If there are appropriate settings on the device or router, anything harmful (violent, pornographic, illegal) can’t even be stumbled upon.

            For younger children, “appropriate settings” might include website whitelisting.

          2. Quill*

            Back when I was first on the internet you hit sort of a hard cap on “child inappropriate subjects” that consisted of wikipedia rabbit holes and somebody’s art site where they’d painted nudes, but it took seven hours to load.

            These days I’d be more worried that a kid would, say, learn racial slurs from youtube thinking they were a “meme,” accidentally open us up to identity theft or bank fraud, or download a computer-destroying virus than I would be about what I got up to in the late 90’s.

      2. Free now (and forever)*

        Here are some incidents that took place around the house during my son’s first three years years: at age nine months, he tore one of the lower doors off our bedroom armoire; At 11 months, he fell off our bed and cracked his collar bone; the day before his first birthday, while I was ironing, he pulled on the cord of the iron (which I was not holding at the time) and pulled it down on himself, burning his arm; at aroundthat same time, he pulled over an end table in the living room, sending the lamp crashing to the floor; at about age three, he smeared Nestle’s Quick mix all over the cream and taupe striped furniture in the living room. I closed him in his room and cleaned up the furniture. When I opened his bedroom door, I discovered he had taken body lotion and smeared it all over his furniture. And yet, I let him live and he’s 26 now. But he sure wasn’t safe on his own.

    2. londonedit*

      Same. I don’t have children, but plenty of my friends do, and their working-from-home arrangements have always included specific instructions that they *must* have childcare on their WFH days and are not allowed to be taking care of their child while they’re working at home.

    3. Nessun*

      Agreed. If my coworker says she has to head home to take care of her daughter (daycare issue, sickness, whatever) and she brings her laptop, I know that she’s going to go home, take care of her daughter, and log back on when her partner comes home to trade off parenting duties. I have zero expectation she’ll work while alone with an infant, and I wouldn’t want her diverting attention to work when alone with a kid!! Also, I don’t want to wonder whether she’s truly around and available to the team, just because her status is ‘online’. WFH and being at home are two different things…if you’re parenting, you’re not working for your employer, and that’s as it should be.

    4. Lexin*

      Same here. All my employers have rules that say you can’t supervise children and work from home. Either one or the other – if you have a sick child that needs you, you must take it out of your annual leave allowance or apply for emergency leave.

  16. nonegiven*

    #2 don’t answer the phone when you are busy with kid or tired from dealing with kid.

    #3 bill the employer or tell them if you can’t deal with it in a call that you will have to bill them.

    1. WellRed*

      Please don’t do this. You’ll look wildly out of touch and harm the persons chances of getting the job.

      1. Lance*

        This. It’s needlessly adversarial (regardless of how annoying this practice is), and will absolutely see them move on to different applicants.

  17. Elaine Benes*

    LW #2: Hahahaha just tell your boss that’s a good point, and you’ll start bringing the baby into work with you and cut out that annoying daycare payment. What is wrong with people! No, you are definitely not doing it wrong. There’s a reason we pay people to care for our kids. Caretaking is a weirdly paced time where sometimes there’s too much to do and sometimes not enough- but that does not mean it’s just up for grabs time to multitask.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      $OldBoss suggested I bring the baby in and slide the bassinet on to an empty shelf, to reduce my maternity leave. Knowing him, I’m not entirely sure he was kidding.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Oooh boy. A Moses basket in a file cabinet drawer worked for my grandmother’s little poodle, but a bay?! The poodle was trained to tell her when he needed a bathroom break, and to go back into his den on command.

      2. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

        My former coworker recently retired. She was the controller of our small construction company and had worked for the owner for 30 years. She has three grown daughters and apparently all of them had come to work with her at one point or another when they were babies. It was the late 80s/early 90s, so I’m sure the owner never even offered maternity leave. She was pregnant with the first daughter when the owner of the company “stole her away” from another company. One of the reasons she jumped ship in such a situation is because the boss offered to set up a cradle in her office and she could bring the baby to work. That worked out pretty well until the baby was more mobile and she went to daycare. That was about the time she was expecting baby #2 (all the daughters are pretty close in age). She basically had a cradle in her office for 4 years straight!

    2. NoviceManagerGuy*

      And it’s not like you can schedule it. “OK, from 2-3 my 9-month-old is going to definitely nap, so I can be on the phone with a client.” As if!

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Even if your child is regular as clockwork, you can guarantee that on the one day you schedule a call for nap time, they won’t sleep.

        1. Quill*

          Heck, I couldn’t always get through a phone interview with guaranteed silence from an elderly dog, a baby is a no go.

  18. Amy*

    I have 3 very young children and I’d say, it depends how much time you’re taking off post-paternity leave. If it’s the occasional PTO day, enforce a clear no working policy. But if you find you often require more flexibility, it might make sense to be flexible in return.

    My children were sick most of last week. It was a real scramble with mid-day calls from daycare, a doctor visit and lots of time off for them. Instead of taking a 4 day PTO hit, I was very productive during nap schedules and after bedtime. I ended up only taking 2 days of PTO.

    With one baby, you may not need to do this. But for some, it can be necessary to train yourself to be able to work with small children if you don’t want to burn through all your PTO on their colds.

    You also may find it’s easier as they get a bit older and their nap schedules firm up. My slightly older babies take two predictable naps for 3.5 hours daily and it’s glorious.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      And again it’s a matter of trusting the parent. A friend could work 8 hours by splitting the day into 3: before her kid woke up, during his nap, and after her husband got home.
      My daughter? So random that her superhero name was “Unpredicta-Baby”. No adult could be productive with her in the room until she learned to read.

      1. Amy*

        For me, it has nothing to do with the temperament of my actual children. My first was a very unpredictable napper.

        But I have a finite amount of PTO. And I could easily use 25 days a year on sick days, daycare closings, teacher PD days etc. Nevermind all the 11am winter performances and 2pm early dismissals.

        I simply cannot take a principled stance on not working at all. So that can mean nap time, after bed or weekends. It’s not fun but it’s just reality if I want vacation days.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I think it just depends on everyone’s unique situation. For me, things just worked out where I never had to take PTO except for when a kid was actually sick (fever, vomiting exclusion rule sick), and they weren’t sick much. My youngest’s daycare lady had a paid assistant and would hire a sub (her retired mom) when she went on vacation. When they were in school, they had childcare at the school that was open on conference days, spring break, etc. Also for part of the time when my oldest was in the early elementary grades, my husband had a schedule where he was home by 3 pm.

          I think we all have to be careful to make assumptions about what everyone else is doing. If you think everyone is productive and watching 3 kids, you’re going to stress yourself out doing too much. If you think no one ever answers an email when home with a kid, your boss might be peeved because your colleagues are doing that. We have to find the real balance with our own managers and home situations.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            So much this – some kids are easy to work from home with – others it’s just never going to happen, with still others somewhere on the continuum. It comes down to believing the parent about how much they know they are able to get done with their child at home.

            (And also involves accepting that your personal experience is not universal, the experiences of others are equally valid and potentially different.)

            1. Meepmeep*

              Yeah. I was the kind of kid that was the ideal for a parent wishing to work from home – I was quiet, sedentary, and content to play by myself. My mother did actually work from home while taking care of me, and I was no trouble at all.

              My own kid, though? Forget it. She’s so active and wiggly that there’s no way she will just sit there quietly while I work. And she’s never quiet. There’s always talking, singing, and other assorted noises that break my concentration. I work part time and we’ve always had nannies and other childcare to cover that time. There’s just no other way it could happen.

      2. Quill*

        Lol, I maintain that my mom taught me to read in self-defense so she could get a commission done ever. (she was an at-home watercolor artist when I was young.)

        If you can drop the baby on the playmat in your studio and instruct the three year old to read him “green eggs and ham” you’re guaranteed like 15 minutes of sounding out words to get a full wash in before the baby worms off towards trouble or the three year old wants a book from a higher shelf.

        (Yes, I read at three and so did my brother. Best way to keep us stationary and be able to keep tabs on us by ear at the time. :)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I taught myself to read at three, too. I am super envious of my parents. I just sat in a corner and read. I did not have that luxury myself as a parent. Even when the kids started reading at 5, they could not sit still.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      This depends on your job though. If you have meetings to attend, you can’t count on a baby to cooperate and not need you during that time. And if your job requires you to be able to concentrate with no distractions for a period of time, that’s a no go with a baby as well (or even a small child). Until your child is old enough to entertain themselves AND stay out of trouble if left alone, WFH isn’t really feasible for most.

  19. Ruthless Bunny*

    Maybe I’m reading too much Reddit, but if sister just got out of a bad relationship, who the heck is she marrying????

    1. Daisy-dog*

      A few years have passed, so hopefully she met someone else. And maybe this problem will solve itself if she doesn’t hang out with her (assuming) soon-to-be-former roommate as much after she’s married.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Huh, yeah that’s a good point. What is the living situation going to be after the wedding? Is she moving out and the boss remains in the house across the street? Or will the boss move out so her husband can move in? Or maybe they both leave their current place? And it’s definitely possible that the friendship lessens during her honeymoon phase–hopefully at least enough for the boss to stop joining their family for the holidays!

    2. fhqwhgads*

      The letter begins “a couple of years ago”. So the sister had plenty of time to date someone new and now be engaged. The boss cohabitation has been going on a LONG time.

  20. TooCloseToHome*

    Wow, 2 and 5 are like the bizarro world of my situation. I’ve also been told I’m next in line for a promotion. Fortunately/unfortunately, my hapless boss told me the reason why it hasn’t happened yet – they needed to promote a soon to be mom instead since FMLA doesn’t pay full salary. Mom is now “back” from leave but we rarely see her. She hasn’t been checking voicemail at all and emails rarely, projects are few and far between – it’s evident to everyone except the boss that she’s not really working much as the baby needs her.
    I’d love to print out both questions and leave them for my boss.

    1. WellRed*

      That’s a pretty weird BS reason not to promote. If you are worthy of promotion, why does any of that which has nothing to do with you, matter?

      1. Callie*

        Headcount issue perhaps? It’s not unusual to be able to promote only a certain number of people per promotion cycle, and it absolutely makes sense not to skip over a new mom if she’s next in line.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This. I worked at a company where you could only have X number of people per department, per division, per pay grade/job title, so if you wanted to be promoted but they already had X number of people in the role you would be promoted up to, you were SOL until one of them left or was promoted themselves.

          1. TooCloseToHome*

            Callie and Diahann, thank you for that insight. That may be the case and perhaps you’re better at conveying it than my boss. Essentially saying “she’s pregnant, you’re not” was a huge blow to my ego – I wish my boss conveyed the message in your wo

            1. TooCloseToHome*

              oops, hit submit accidentally!
              Wish the message was conveyed in your words instead – it would be easier to accept.

      2. TooCloseToHome*

        The rationale was that it wasn’t budgeted for 2 promotions. I agree that it’s a BS reason and pretty much told my boss that – promotions should be based on competence, not outside factors. I submitted my accomplishments with a raise request and am seriously contemplating a job search.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I mean I guess this is some progress over the old days of “Bob gets paid more because he is a man and men have to support their families,” but it’s still basically the same thing just without the gender piece. Your coworker’s family situation should not impact your own promotion! And I’m really shocked that they straight up *told* you that was the reason. I mean transparency is nice I guess, but dang.

  21. Jaybeetee*

    LW3: Some depts of the Canadian government have taken to these sorts of reference questionnaires. I think if your references are also public sector, they don’t mind so much, but when I was temping in the private sector and three of my references were emailed this long-ass form for a govt job for which I had passed the interviews, I was mortified. (Especially since, as a temp, my references had already been hit up quite a bit recently. Insert rant about temp agencies calling my references when adding me to their database, then never finding me anything…) Thankfully, they all did it, but yes, it’s irritating and demanding on the reference’s time.

    I feel like some govt departments (especially for entry-level or clerical jobs) have gotten so used to candidates being willing to jump through hoops, and so used to their own byzantine hiring processes, that they forget other sectors don’t work that way. I’m happy with my career, but it’s always left a sour taste in my mouth that that first govt job seemed to expect even my references to jump when they said so.

    1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Oh, yeah. The government job process is Byzantine and it takes months. It was so much work; and being in Ottawa, they have so many candidates to weed out. I’m not even sure I ever progressed to the stage where they would have called my references.

      I’m so happy I’m not applying for government jobs anymore.

    2. OP3*

      OP3 here! having applied to government jobs in the past, you’re right. This is a public sector-ish job, but not one where I’d expect these hoops.

    3. old curmudgeon*

      In fairness, sometimes those ridiculous hoops you have to jump through for a government job can be the result of legislative decisions rather than someone in the HR department going on an efficiency kick. Our state legislature is continually meddling with the hiring process in state agencies, and never in a way that results in an improved workforce.

  22. Reference caller*

    Re: OP 3: I am in the last stages of a hiring process where we use a script for over-the-phone references. Two references (out of about 10 contacted) actually requested we send the script instead of interviewing them over the phone. In some ways it’s easier for everyone: we don’t have to coordinate schedules, they don’t have to worry about making themselves understood over the phone, they have time to consider questions without being put on the spot, and I don’t have to scramble to take notes while they talk. I will say, though, that the answers for both people who requested this turned out to be very short, so I wouldn’t say it turned out to be the most useful practice. I’d rather use the reference’s preferred format, though, than pressure them. It’s kind of you to provide longer narratives in your answers, because that’s much more helpful.

  23. Susie Q*

    I have an easy baby (almost 7 month old baby…it goes so quickly). And I have a hard time working while watching her.

    But that could be because I’m obsessed with her and rather be home with her instead of working so that could be a me problem.

  24. Callie*

    #2, my concern with Alison’s script is this wording: “not yet old enough for you to be able to work.” I could see your boss thinking, “Ok, maybe in month or two then!” It’s likely to get harder to work as your child gets older, not easier, because nap times shorten (or disappear) and baby gets mobile. So I’d be careful not to create an unrealistic expectation that you’ll soon be able to work more easily when you’re home with your child.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      At a previous employer, the rule for parents was the child had to be in a school grade (i.e not kindergarten, young fives, or preschool) in order to WFH while caring for the child in the case of sick, bad weather, or other non-school days. If the child was below 1st grade, another caretaker had to be available in the home during core business hours (usually 10-3). They were pretty lenient about who the other caretaker was so if you had another child over age 11 (or whatever the state law as on allowing children to be home alone for short periods of time) they would count as the other caretaker.

  25. Kaaaaren*

    Absolutely! I agree completely — the company has passed over the OP numerous times and everyone knows that is often a major catalyst for job searching. They know it perfectly well and have decided (numerous times) that that is a risk they’re willing to take with OP and her job, rather than promote her. So, yeah, the OP should start job searching ASAP and not say anything to anyone about it. When she finds a new job, puts in her notice, and maybe has an exit interview, she can mention that being passed over for numerous promotions is the reason she decided to find a new job.

  26. Hello It’s Me*

    #3 If you feel comfortable and it’s not too personal of a form, you could give it to the applicant to fill out herself on your behalf and then just sign it.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I feel like this is the logical result of what seems to be the increasing practice of written questionnaires. Some people (managers of large teams) will be hit up so often, that eventually they will either ask the candidates to fill out their own forms or they will simply decline to fill them out for all but their absolute favorite candidates.

  27. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #3 – this is totally a thing for grad school. I’ve gone through this with 3 different interns.

    Fortunately, a lot of universities are using the same online system, so I’ve only had to go through registration once. The multiple-choice questions take a few minutes, and I’ve basically copy-pasted paragraphs from their letters of recommendation into the ‘essay’ sections.

    1. Link*

      That’s a bit different though. It really isn’t feasible for universities to do phone references for every student that they accept, so written references do make sense. Employers usually only check references for one or two final candidates for each position, so phone references should be relatively easy for them to manage.

  28. Elizabeth Proctor*

    #4, if you’re explicitly networking to look for job prospects it’s best not to use your work information anyway, since a) it’s considered bad practice to use work phone and email to communicate with potential new employers and b) as you mentioned, once you get laid off they don’t have your contact information anyway.

  29. CupcakeCounter*

    My current employer does this but also offers the option of a phone call if preferred – when I provided references all were contacted via email and informed that I had put them down as a reference (just in case they didn’t know) and asked to confirm if they were willing to act as a reference for me. If they responded yes, they were asked their preference of a phone call or the questionnaire. All of mine chose the emailed questionnaire.
    The reasoning is that people are busy and taking a 20-30 minute call during business hours isn’t always possible within the time frame required but an emailed questionnaire can be done at the references convenience. The questionnaire is fairly short, a few questions about how they know me and my work, would they want to work with me again, and then a couple more in depth questions. One reference did say they received a follow-up call but the HR team were incredibly respectful of their time and kept it quite short.

    1. MizShrew*

      I’ve filled these out for a friend/former boss more than once and I can tell you that some of them are LONG. I was not given the opportunity to do a phone call instead. And then I had a different organization require the a phone call as a reference when they gave me times that were convenient for THEM. It’s a really good thing I like this person a lot because it was such a hassle. It’s not my friend’s fault, and I did the questionnaire and the call, and will continue to do so, because I don’t want to hurt his chances at a new gig, but damn, I wish companies would stop doing that and respect the time of the references. I’m sure that some people are losing out on opportunities because over a long job search the same references can get asked to do these questionnaires multiple times and I’m sure some people just start ignoring the requests.

  30. Fabulous*

    Before having a baby, I definitely underestimated my abilities to work from home with a baby. Thankfully we set him up at daycare, but there have been a few afternoons I’ve had to pick him up early while I was still on the clock. He can’t just play in my office or watch TV, he’s got to be on my lap slapping at the keyboard and pushing things off my desk every chance he gets and cries if I put him down. He’s worse than a cat! LOL

  31. joe schmoe*

    I’m a little saddened by the answers to #1. How lovely that these two people have become close friends! It is unfortunate that the OP feels badly that they can no longer be close with their boss, but that seems like it was a much more inappropriate friendship in the first place. The boss and the “in-law” have become close and that is lovely! Maintaining a professional distance at family events where the boss is present should be fine, rather than regretting the course of events that got everyone to this place. What if the BF-sister and the boss had been close friends before OP got the job? Surely people wouldn’t say “that’s far too close to be OK”. In a small town especially, that degree of separation can happen all the time.

    1. Jamey*

      Sorry, I totally disagree. Its fine that they are friends, but coming to her family events and not speaking to her there is making it awkward for OP at events she should be allowed to be comfortable at, which is a completely unfair situation for her boss to be putting her in. She should be able to attend family dinners without feeling like she has to be “on” for work.

      1. Threeve*

        Yeah, even setting aside the boss issue–whatever the context, an in-law’s friend doesn’t need to be invited to family gatherings if she makes an actual family member uncomfortable.

        1. Potsie*

          Yep. Even if friends tend to be invited to these events, the boss should decline. It is probably for the best that the boss is putting up firmer boundaries, but it is on her to step back from social events the OP is attending.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I agree with both of you. It is great that boss and BF’s sister have developed such a good relationship with both were in low points of their lives and boss and OP should not have been close friends due to their working relationship. However, boss should have the sense to bow out of the more intimate family events. The wedding is one thing since boss and sister are so close, but for Thanksgiving and family dinners boss should step back.
      OP should be looking for another job but I know things aren’t always that easy.

    3. Focal Point*

      In that situation, the OP would not be missing the friendship (there wouldn’t be a prior friendship to miss) and would not be feeling confused and hurt. Hence they probably would have had no need to write to AAM!

      However, since none of that is what actually happened, it is entirely irrelevant to the OP. What matters is how the OP feels about the situation that actually exists, and what they can do to manage that.

    4. Paulina*

      From the description, it doesn’t sound like a completely inappropriate friendship in the first place; it’s described as a professional friendship, where her boss disclosed a few personal things but they both knew these wouldn’t be brought up at work. It’s a not-uncommon blurring of personal/professional. My interpretation is that the freezing of the professional friendship by the boss, only exchanging limited pleasantries at social events, while being at the same family dinners (which would usually be less formal, not more) has left the OP without that previous sense that she knows this person and that they both would observe the “line” between professional and personal. The boss sensed the inappropriateness of the situation, but unilaterally opted for showing up and largely ignoring the OP rather than bowing out or actually having a discussion about how to interact now (potentially still quite difficult due to the power differential).

      Making a new close friend is good! That doesn’t mean you have to go to their family dinners regularly, though, especially if it means you’re treating the person who helped you find that friend poorly. I’m not sure what the OP can do, though, other than reframe it mentally as Alison suggests and see if the sister’s marriage eventually changes who comes along with her to family gatherings. Job hunting is a somewhat usual option, but it has the potential to make the family gathering interactions still quite problematic, even without the “in front of my boss” aspect.

    5. Close Bracket*

      Yes, given enough emotional maturity on both sides, this did not need to be an awkward situation. Given enough emotional maturity on both sides, it can be rescued from the awkward situation that it currently is. The brief glimpse we have doesn’t really tell me whether both sides have that emotional maturity, though.

  32. Buttons*

    Reference forms: I have done several of them over the years, but I always get a call too, where they want to ask me the same questions. It is really frustrating to have spent 40-60 minutes completing a form and then to have someone call me for 30 minutes to ask the exact same questions. Pick one or the other!

    1. Anon just Once.*

      My husband had the form go out once (government job, the form was part of the background check section of reference checking), but he knew it was going to happen so could warn the people involved that the form was coming. One person did get a phone call as well, but it was follow up questions based upon some answers – not just the same questions all over again.

      I think the long forms can serve a purpose, but just using as a weed out is a total waste of everyone’s time.

  33. CupcakeCounter*

    My boss didn’t take the hint and I left, although my reasons were slightly different than a promotion. Our parent company and several departments in our company began allowing WFH. There was no reason that the majority of my department couldn’t do that as well. Because the working of the “policy” wasn’t very clear, my boss decided that no one could work from home except in special circumstances and that the company would not provide any assistance with equipment. We all had desktops so if a situation arose that required us to WFH or offsite, we had to use our personal computers. I work in Finance and that is a HUGE no-no.
    Well…corporate finally made an official WFH policy that “outlawed” the use of personal equipment and I qualified to get upgraded to a laptop and be able to WFH when needed. Boss decided that my upgrade to a laptop would wait until my machine was having issues and needed to be replaced. My machine was less than a year old so that would take a long time. A coworker, whose role was not conducive to WFH, started having problems with her machine. Logic dictates you give her my excellent machine and I get a laptop right? Nope…my machine was “too good” for that role and it would be cheaper to get coworker a new cheapy machine. That was the end for me. When I turned in my notice and cited this, as well as several other reasons, boss was shocked that the option to WFH was that important to me. We had discussed it at every one on one for over 2 years.

    1. Lauren*

      Your boss was clueless.

      Seriously, since when does mentioning something every meeting – become – OMG, I had no idea?? I’m sick of this excuse when you know its just – see how long the company can get away with saying no, but at that point the employee is beyond done and no amount of sudden reversal or begging will work even if you take a counter, its branded on their brains (this company doesn’t care until you are forced to quit).

      My company refused for years to promote women as the deault was always no with some BS reasoning about no money then they’d announce – our best profit year ever the same week. Well they are now promoting women to directors, but only the new ones – so all those who stuck it out for 5-6 years are still being told no.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Nobody in the history of ever has taken a hint.I don’t know why anyone still relies on “a reasonable person would know.” Either there are no reasonable people, or no, a reasonable person would still need to hear it in words.

  34. anonNY*

    #3, I do consulting for a large international organization (perhaps *the* largest international organization, if that gives a clue) and they have stuff like this too. It’s incredibly annoying because as a consultant you sometimes have to “reapply” for the job you are already doing, and at one point it looked like they were going to have me get references AGAIN, which would mean asking the very same people who had already filled out this cumbersome form to fill it out again. I pointed out to someone that my references would literally just cut and paste the same text in–because, why wouldn’t they? It’s all part of a process that’s supposed to make everything fair and transparent and avoid favoritism, but in my opinion it’s just cumbersome and inspires many, if not most people, to try to devise any work-around possible to get out of having to do this much paperwork. (For example, giving someone a contract for $9,800 if the cumbersome paperwork rules kick in at $10K, and then renewing again for $9,800.) Anyway, my references did understand that this giant bureaucracy requires this kind of thing, and hopefully yours will too.

  35. Blue*

    Anyone else wonder if the boyfriend’s sister trash talked OP to the boss? Purely speculative but idk! Pulling back seems one thing, icing the OP out at the OP’s own family events seems tacky and unnecessary unless there is more to the story. Obviously people behave in tacky and unnecessary ways all the time with little prompting, but it makes me wonder!

    1. Quill*

      Doesn’t need to be trash talk. Could just be that boyfriend’s sister and OP aren’t close and now boss has to deal with the knowledge of her roommate’s post-breakup isolation and loooooonelinesss while thinking about how it could have been avoided if OP had done more.

      1. Delphine*

        If OP had done more to…protect BF’s sister from her abusive partner? Are we just making up stories at this point?

        1. Quill*

          No, just that a feeling of resentment can easily develop when you have great sympathy for someone and you see other people in their life not being as supportive or close to them as you think they should be. Also the false equivalence that you can develop that if *I* know how much my friend suffered surely their actual family does too. (When, in fact, they don’t.)

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I don’t think she’s getting iced out of family events, just that OP and boss try not to interact with them and OP is annoyed at feeling like she has to act professionally at family get-togethers because her boss is there.

  36. Jennifer*

    #1 I wish we had a time machine too so we could advise you on other ways of helping your boss get out of a bad situation besides moving in across the street. OTOH, I do think it’s nice that these two people coming out of terrible situations managed to form a great friendship. Maybe they could have been introduced without having to become roommates.

    Is it possible to ask the boss to refrain from attending family events, not necessarily weddings, but any event where only family would be in attendance? That’s really your turf, not hers, and she could still continue the friendship with the sister. I’m sure it sucks to feel that you always have to be “on” even in situations where you just want to relax.

    1. Clisby*

      I’d say a big no to the LW asking the boss not to attend family events. The LW isn’t a family member, so it isn’t her “turf.”

      1. Jennifer*

        It’s more her turf than the boss’s. It’s her partner’s family. The boss is just a friend.

      2. valentine*

        The LW isn’t a family member, so it isn’t her “turf.”
        OP1 may be considered family, and it may physically be her turf.

        1. Clisby*

          If she really is considered family, and this bothers her, then the person who needs to deal with this is the “boyfriend.” From the LW’s post, we have no idea whether she and the BF are even living together.

  37. BenefitsBroad*

    Personally, I think a calling card (as they were referred to in the 1800s) is a unique and tangible information source which makes it memorable for both business and social purposes. It looks better than writing it on a crinkled receipt from the bottom of my purse (hoping it doesn’t show any questionable or embarrassing purchases) and doesn’t require the recipient to give out their cell number for a vcard. I think calling cards are a great option.

  38. Banana Bum*

    #1 – I disagree a bit with AMA’s commentary. You should have never suggested that your boss move in with your boyfriend’s sister – what did you expect would happen? Roommates generally become friends unless you just hate that person (then why would you live with them..) and being invited to family stuff as roommates is not weird. Sure, your boss can say no, but really that boundary line is long gone when you made that suggestion for them to live together.

    If anything, perhaps you can have a chat with your boss and mention how you’re feeling a little off about her joining family events and want to make sure that your working relationship/how she views you professionally will not change. You could also talk to your boyfriend’s sister about not inviting her to things.

    1. Ginger*

      BF’s sister has asked her to be a bridesmaid…unfortunately I think that shipped as sailed in terms of level of friendship they have.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      I know plenty of people whose friendships have been ruined by being roommates, so I think it’s best to be roommates with someone similar to you that you’re a bit ambivalent about. When I had a roommate, I would usually just hang out in my room alone (or in the case of dorms, with my headphones in). My last roommate and I got along very well, but we weren’t the type of friends that would go to each other’s family dinners or Thanksgiving.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      On your second paragraph…I wonder if the OP inserting herself — ie “You could also talk to your boyfriend’s sister about not inviting her to things,” — is exactly what led to the friendship ending abruptly and is causing awkwardness. It’s not really OP’s place to ask a member of the family to not invite a guest to family events — be they a roommate, date, random hitchhiker, church acquaintance… that’s all up to the host. It’s also not the OP’s place to ask the sister’s roommate (even if the roommate is the OP’s boss) not to attend — the sister and boss LIVE together, their roommate relationship supersedes the OP’s needs on that one. OP needs to stop trying to take ownership of other people — she doesn’t control the boss’ personal connections, she doesn’t control the boyfriend’s sister, she doesn’t control the guest list, this is not her territory. If she’s having a hard time of it, she can stay home.

      1. Clisby*


        This happens to be a boss/employee relationship, but it could just as well be some different relationship the LW isn’t comfortable with. It’s not her business to try to control who gets invited to family parties, especially when she’s not a member of this family. (I’d cut her some slack if this were happening within her own family, but it’s not.) She can go, or not. If she stops attending these parties and the family asks why, she can tell them. If the family doesn’t ask why, I guess they don’t care.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Even as a member of the family, which I think she can claim to be as she’s in a long-term relationship…but even if it was her own DNA family…she doesn’t control who other family members invite or bring as guests or who they are allowed to be close to. It would be an appalling overreach to tell my own parents who their allowed to have over for Thanksgiving in their home, or who my brother is allowed to bring to their house. I’m sure the family cares, in the sense that they’re not trying to be malicious or hurt the OP, but they can still decide to invite the roommate simply because this is their boundary and they hope the OP can learn to respect that and not trample over it.

  39. Ginger*

    #2 – I wonder if your boss is doing a classic move we see on AAM too often: not communicating clearly and hoping you can read her mind (spoiler alert: never works out).

    There are lots of comments already about work/life balance and using your time off to be, you know, actually off and how you can’t watch a child and work. As a mom of 2 under 3 – never can I ever put in real, productive, high quality work day while watching my kids. At any age (so far).

    But I’m wondering if your boss feels like you’re taking off too much time or you’re not getting as much done on the days you are working than she expects. Like somehow she thinks you can cram in a bit more when you’re off because it’s not getting done.

    I’m just exploring another angle to consider here.

    1. valentine*

      not communicating clearly and hoping you can read her mind
      Yes. It could be like the manager who was saying WFH was fine, but finally admitted it absolutely wasn’t, with added weirdness.

  40. animaniactoo*

    OP#3 – If this is a part-time clerical position, AND you would be willing to fill it out for this particular applicant if really necessary, I would suggest forwarding the questionnaire to your former employee and giving her the head’s up that this is what’s being requested. Let her know that you’re willing to fill it out but that it’s excessive and you want her to know that so she can decide what that says about the company’s HR process/culture, etc. and if she wants to proceed with the application.

    If I were in her position, I would not want to waste your time unless I was really invested in trying to move forward with them. If she’s not invested, she can also be a point of pushback when dropping out of the process “Cannot burn my references by asking them to fill out an extensive questionnaire for such a low-level job”. If she is invested, you have more info about how important doing this one is, and can handle accordingly.

  41. Forrest Rhodes*

    #1 Just curious: If BF’s sister is getting married, won’t that change her living situation? That is, post-wedding, won’t Boss be finding a different living situation (which might solve the too-close problem)? Or will new husband simply be added to the Boss/BF’s sister household (which won’t)?

    1. a heather*

      I assume even if the living situation changes, they will remain good friends (since she’s in the wedding!) and the boss will still be at social/family events (with sister & new spouse.)

      1. Clisby*

        I wouldn’t assume that – if I assumed anything, it would be that if the boss & BF’s sister no longer live together, they will inevitably become less close.

        At any rate, the LW has zero standing to ask the BF’s sister to change anything. LW is not part of the family.

        1. Close Bracket*

          That’s an interesting take. There is such an interesting divide between people who think long term partners are part of the family and people who think nothing short of a piece of paper makes someone part of a family.

          1. Clisby*

            Those are not the only two options. The LW refers to her “boyfriend,” which to me is a solid indicator of temporary status.

            1. Delphine*

              She calls him a “long-term boyfriend.” But either way, LW doesn’t need to ask the BF’s sister to change anything. Involving the sister is not part of any possible solution to this problem.

              1. Clisby*

                She shouldn’t be asking anyone to change anything. If she feels uncomfortable going to family parties where the boss will be present, she should stay away. If it registers with the family that she’s staying away and they ask about it, she can tell them why.

                It sounds to me like the family is just inviting people they’d like to attend. They don’t need to get dragged into some drama over their guest list. Go, or don’t go.

            2. Close Bracket*

              See, “no piece of paper = temporary” is just such an interesting take on a long term relationship. LW and her boyfriend have been together for longer than some people who have that piece of paper, but she’s still not family. Fascinating.

              1. joe schmoe*

                I’m perplexed that you believe so strongly in the importance and strength of non-marriage romantic relationships but have apparently overlooked the importance and strength of friendships. Both the romantic and non-romantic connections that the “characters” in this story have developed are important to them and their quality of life. Just as paper doesn’t necessarily make marriage more important than other romantic relationships, the presence of romantic/physical intimacy doesn’t necessarily make those relationships more important than true and lasting friendships.

                1. Close Bracket*

                  “but have apparently overlooked the importance and strength of friendships.”

                  I beg your pardon?

                2. joe schmoe*

                  This conversation centers around emphasizing that the letter writer is a member of the family by virtue of their non-marital relationship with the BF, but ignores the fact that the boss may, by this point, be a significant/chosen-family kind of figure in the BF’s sister’s life. So neither of them (boss or letter writer) should necessarily be deemed temporary or unimportant by those of us chiming in on their circumstances. Claiming permanence or superiority isn’t the point, improving the channel of communication so that no one feels unwelcome at family gatherings should be.

              2. Clisby*

                I didn’t see anyone saying “no piece of paper = temporary”. That wouldn’t make any kind of sense, since plenty of times “piece of paper” ends up being temporary as well.

                However, just from what LW has written, I see exactly zero indication that she is considered family. If she thinks she is, I’d suggest she boycott family gatherings. If they ask why she doesn’t attend, she can tell them. If they don’t, then they don’t care (and she’s not family.)

                1. Close Bracket*

                  I didn’t see anyone saying “no piece of paper = temporary”.

                  I summarized:

                  “The LW refers to her “boyfriend,” which to me is a solid indicator of temporary status.”

  42. OP#4/LW#4*

    I’m OP#4/LW#4. Thanks for posting my question and thank you to everyone who weighed in! I actually asked in an open thread in December after sending my question in (sorry Alison). I *thought* cards would be okay so I ordered 100. They aren’t too flashy I don’t think, just a decorative border (no emojis!) for a little color, name & contact info, and industry/certification/job title. Our facility was indeed closed and my coworkers and I were all laid off. Several of us were working on leaving anyway so it’s just the timing that is bad for most of us. I’m waiting to hear back on a couple of jobs so fingers crossed! Thanks again.

    1. CircleBack*

      The first time I got personal business cards just out of college I got *way* too into personalizing them (“oh, they should reflect my taste/aesthetic!”). The simpler the better, so good call on your part!

  43. Close Bracket*

    OP5: You need to spell it out. Any reasonable manager might realize that a person who is repeatedly denied a promotion will leave, but that just means the majority of managers are not reasonable. Just page through the comments sections and read people’s stories about how their managers were surprised when they left. Spell it out. Use your words.

  44. Delphine*

    LW1, you miss the professional friendship you had with your boss. Both you and your boss were mature individuals, aware of the importance of boundaries. If I were you, I would try to renew that professional friendship by, step 1, no longer ignoring each other at functions.

    Everything else is moot. You can’t demand that your boss and the sister “unfriend.” You can only work to make it more bearable for you to attend your boyfriend’s family gatherings. And part of that is going to be to stop overcorrecting. That doesn’t mean you become BFFs, but you need to be less “strangers who have never met,” and more, “comfortable acquaintances.”

      1. valentine*

        I would try to renew that professional friendship by, step 1, no longer ignoring each other at functions.
        The boss chose this, possibly to give OP1 space. Changing it necessitates a conversation before the next event (especially if the boss won’t be moving and/or will continue to attend family events).

  45. Marny*

    LW1: If your boyfriend’s sister is getting married, isn’t it likely that boss will no longer be her roommate post-wedding (since sister will likely move in with her spouse)? So, this problem at your family events will likely take care of itself once the roommate is no longer automatically invited along to Thanksgiving since she won’t be the roommate anymore. I’m sorry you miss your friendship with your boss, but it’s probably better to maintain the professional-only relationship anyway.

  46. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    For Letter#2, there are a lot of commenters giving their opinions and experiences about how much work you can get done while caring for a 5 month old infant. But they are all irrelevant. The OP, knowing both his baby and his work, is the one saying he is not capable of doing both! The issue is how does he communicate that to his boss, or as others mentioned, perhaps his boss is unhappy with his work output.

  47. CC*

    OP# 2: My boss always tells me to “just WFH” and I can tell she’s trying to be nice and not make me use personal days, but I always insist on taking the day off if I really think I can’t get anything done (like when a kid is sick and I’m shuttling them to appointments and I can’t rely on a long nap to work during and my spouse can’t get off work). I’d rather define the boundary myself than accept the WFH day only to be found lacking if there’s crying in the background of a call or something!

  48. OP2*

    LW2 here. Most of the responses are spot on – it was all about setting boundaries. Shortly after I sent in the question, I went back to my boss and said that I can’t have the expectation of multitasking on those days. He responded well and it hasn’t been an issue since. In fact I was home with the sick infant again (winter + daycare is great) today and didn’t have any feelings of obligation. Of course, when he was passed out on me for hours at a time I was checking and responding to some emails, but that’s par for the course in this field. The real problem was the expectation of more intensive work, but I’m glad that’s resolved.

    Some of you guessed some of the aspects of the job correctly. We have an “unlimited vacation policy,” which works about as well as you’d expect. It’s nice for flexibility but it’s hard to really own days that way. In addition, we have no paternity leave policy so all that was handled sort of ad hoc. Overall though the experience has been great and while my boss has high expectations, he does try to meet people where he can.

    I don’t think there are any overall productivity concerns – it’s just an environment where slowing down isn’t an option most of the time. Not all biotech start-ups are like this, but I’m sure that will sound familiar to some of you.

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