my boss expects me to babysit her rambunctious kid

A reader writes:

Thanks to your great advice, I landed an awesome job last year! I work as an event planner who runs trainings and conferences and supports two facilitators, one of whom is my direct supervisor (Anne). I work with another woman (Barbara) in my same role. We together support my supervisor.

Anne is a single mom to a 10-year-old son with specific medical needs, “Jake.” Anne has issues finding reliable childcare for Jake when he is out of school and on weekends. Unfortunately, this means that she has brought him to trainings and conferences. She expects him to entertain himself, but he’s only 10 so he will get bored and find me or my coworker to entertain him. Furthermore, she will ask for support in helping him remember to take care of his medical needs and go to the bathroom.

At the last training, Jake got bored and began to shove things into the elevator to get the door stuck open, karate-chop me in the chest and stomach, and try to steal my phone to drop it in a sewer. I told him to stop and ignored some of the behavior. He also climbed onto a table where I was setting up lunch for conference attendees. When Anne came back, Jake hit her. I told her that he had hit me as well, and she laughed it off.

When I told another colleague about this, she told me that the department chair had wanted to fire Barbara for poor performance a couple years ago when Anne first started. However, Anne intervened after Barbara provided childcare for her son at a weekend conference. Being new to the organization, I had thought providing childcare was a coincidence when it happened twice, but given this new information, I believe that Anne has a pattern of using us for childcare.

How do I tell Anne that a) I’m not comfortable taking care of her child, especially when b) he has medical needs and c) he hits people? I would ask Barbara to push back along with me since she gets saddled with this too, but she enjoys taking care of the kid. For what it’s worth, I do have downtime during the training and experience with childcare, but we do not work with children.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 141 comments… read them below }

  1. Kes*

    Uh, I’m getting page not found for the article.

    As far as the letter, it’s not cool that Anne expects her employees to take care of the kid. The fact that she laughed off her son hitting OP suggests she won’t be open to feedback on this, and the fact that she intervened for Barbara after she helped with the kid indicates that she may even see this as part of their performance and/or that she might penalize OP for pushing back on it. The best bet might eventually involve going to the department chair, since they seem willing to do some performance management, although the fact that they backed off based on Anne’s intervention may not bode well.

    1. The Avett Sister*

      It seems like Anne’s input is definitely valued since they chose to keep Barbara on her say-so. Making sure to let DH know that not only does OP not feel comfortable taking time away from her job/responsibilities to care for a child with significant needs, but that she is legitimately worried about retaliation for pushing back. I could see Anne taking it as, well it was always fine for Jake to be here until OP showed up and ruined it, and holding an unfair grudge, rather than seeing that it was never okay and no one felt like they could speak up.

      1. valentine*

        she intervened for Barbara after she helped with the kid
        If Barbara’s poor performance didn’t predate Anne, maybe it was related to the childcare.

  2. Artemesia*

    I’d have more sympathy if Anne was disciplining and taking responsibility for her son’s behavior; she is not even trying. If the kid were less trouble and less aggressive it might work but not in this situation. This is one to go to HR with around liability issues, danger to staff, danger to the kid, liability issues. (companies don’t care about worker comfort or need but they do care about liability) It needs to be dealt with aggressively by those above Anne.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      Yes, I agree that a difficult, aggressive child makes this unworkable (and probably why Anne has such a hard time finding childcare). I suggest informing HR and then immediately start looking for another job. Anne is sure to push back/be punitive and I would be extremely surprised that the powers that be don’t know he is around (although they may not know the extent of his behavior).

    2. Batgirl*

      Yeah his behaviour and the boss’s dismissiveness add a whole other level. OP is being made responsible for a child who’s violent and who won’t follow instructions; she can’t possibly keep him or anyone else safe.
      I’d feel apprehensive about essentially telling a boss their childcare solution sucks, but I’d have to before a worse situation blew up in my face.
      I’d go with Alison’s “I don’t feel comfortable disciplining someone’s child” and I’d add in that without trust and discipline, he won’t be safe.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        And what about when Anne says “oh go ahead, discipline him…it’s fiiinnneee..?”

        OP did not take a job in child care. She needs to report it to HR and look for a different job. While Anne certainly needs support, I get it, I’m a mom, it isn’t the responsibility of her coworkers, particularly her subordinates to be her stop-gap when she can’t make other arrangements.

    3. PollyQ*

      I’d have sympathy with Anne’s general situation, but still none for her actions. Asking her reports (who aren’t childcare workers or personal assistants) to babysit can’t be a solution to problems finding daycare.

      I also suspect that part of the reason she’s having trouble with daycare is that her son is so poorly disciplined.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        Yeah. Imagine if LW finally gets sick of it and puts the kid in time out or something… and Anne responds horribly defensively / yells at her for being mean / etc. Talk about ruining a work relationship.

        Defensive parents who let their kids get to age 10 without putting an end to violence (assuming violence isn’t tied to his medical needs) kind of have dug their own grave here.

        1. gsa*

          Personally, I don’t care if the violence is tied to his medical needs or not. It might change the approach, but it is not change the fact that the way he behaves is unacceptable. It might also change the type of child care he needs.

          1. Veronica Mars*

            Its definitely never ok to subject people to the violence if its not in their job description. Its categorically not ok to be leaving him without proper childcare.
            But if its medical, I’ll at least reserve judgement of the parent for not having yet taught the kid that violence isn’t acceptable.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              And yet a parent who knows their child can’t understand that violence is unacceptable shouldn’t be dumping said child on her staff. So yeah, I’m full of judgment.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Yeah I’m with you here. Plus it’s not like Anne hasn’t had ten years to teach the kid.

              2. Works in IT*

                Agreed. If you know your child is a danger to others because of a medical condition, you don’t even have the luxury of being a parent who can say they have no idea where the child’s violent tendencies come from. You know exactly why, and you should be ensuring your child is treated, or contained, if their condition is not treatable. Not unleashing them on your employees!

                1. Pretzelgirl*

                  There are many places that can take kid’s with special needs and manage their behaviors. Of course this maybe area dependent, but they are becoming more and more popular.

          2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Yes, I worked in youth programming. We had many special needs children in our programs, and in some cases, ran programs specifically for special needs youths and adults. But because our programs were running in shared space/facilities, and were using the same staff as other programs, we had base participation requirements for these programs. Occasionally, we’d have to say that a particular person’s disability was beyond the scope of our programming. Sometimes it was something simple, like a kid who was in a large-group program but needed 1:1 attention. Sometimes it was an adult who threw physical tantrums or acted out sexually.

            It’s fair to know your limits with regards to the sort of care vs. medical care you are capable of providing.

        2. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

          Or smacks him back, as I’m likely to do if someone hits me, even if that person is a child this kid’s age. That’s unacceptable, period. Not gonna lie, I’d smack him back, take him to his mother, and tell her to keep her feral child away from me, period. There’s limits to my sympathy, and a child who hits me, destroys things, and is basically using the workplace as a jungle gym is not a welcome part of my day, no matter whose child it is, or what their medical issues are. No, ma’am, that child is YOUR problem, Anne, keep him with you at all times.

    4. Koala dreams*

      Discipline is one thing, but at the very least she should be in the same room as the child and intervene before things get violent. I’m imagining it’s very stressful for the child to spend the days with strangers, only occasionally with the parent available, and with no space to run around and play. It wouldn’t be right to do that to a calm child either.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This; I feel bad for the kid. He clearly needs a committed caregiver, but that is not the OP’s problem. It’s Anne’s problem.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes, the real issue to me is the level of care this child needs. It’s not his fault, he has special needs, he needs specific and extra care. His mom is in charge of making sure that happens and it doesn’t include dumping kiddo off on a report.

      I’ve “watched” kids my entire career and they’re all easily put to work or the most they do is come to me to say “Can I have a soda/snack?” since they’re taught not to just grab and go from someone elses [aka the office in this case] stock. Even if it’s a doodle pad, they say “can I have a notepad, I wanna draw.” Or they know their “drawers” and what’s in them is their domain kind of thing. But none of this “stealing cell phones and hitting others.” stuff. Yikes.

      1. TootsNYC*

        he has specific MEDICAL needs that involve taking medication–maybe he needs insulin or something. We often use “special needs” to indicate a mental or psychological condition, but that’s not what seems to be going on.

        1. StuckWFH*

          Sounds like he needs help with the bathroom too? It might be a few different issues going on.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah, former early childhood teacher here. Having to remind a 10yo to use the bathroom was a massive red flag to me. And it’s a red flag because if at ten he need assistance from others in the bathroom in this litigious age it needs to be a parent/guardian or a trained adult. Making OP or her coworker help him opens so many potential liabilities.

            OP, please don’t force yourself to watch a kid that you don’t feel comfortable supervising. It’s not this child’s fault that he has extra challenges, but it doesn’t need to be on you as his mom’s employee (and not a child care employee) to make this work.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Medical needs are special needs. Many medications control these temperamental side effects of certain disorders, even if it’s because his blood sugar isn’t being adjusted correctly, it can create outbursts and violence in some people, most notably children. Irritable and not able to control your emotions because you’re 10 years old is a real thing.

          It’s still all under the special needs umbrella. Special needs is not a “bad” thing, it’s a category people are put in that are indeed they need special attention. He needs someone to be making sure he’s taking his medications, eating regularly and taking required naps or avoiding specific things that may trigger issues.

          1. Veronica Mars*

            Yeah, when adults have an actual term (hangry) to describe the emotional outbursts tied to a drop in blood sugar, imagine how bad that feels for a kid whose mom’s inattention is causing medical-level blood sugar problems. I know we’re way down the armchair diagnose path at this point, sorry.

            But the point is, even “normal” kids shouldn’t be dumped off on employees. Anything “special/medical needs” above and beyond that is just an extra layer of nope from me.

        3. TardyTardis*

          Or the kid could be an undiagnosed schizophrenic who needs to be on different meds. I have a son like that, and we had a ton of fun playing Pharmacology Roulette, especially while younger. Find childcare is a total nightmare under those circumstances.

    6. aebhel*

      Yeah, I’d be more sympathetic if she wasn’t basically blowing off the LW’s concerns about him breaking her stuff and hitting (!!!). This is outrageous.

    7. Jennifer*

      Yes, if he actually just sat down with a snack and read or watched something on a tablet for a couple hours, I’d be fine keeping an eye on him. He needs more care than an average person can give.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        And I wouldn’t be ok with it. Many people wouldn’t because even if it’s just a quiet kid watching videos on (his own) a phone, drawing, reading a book, etc. they are still the responsibility of the adult(s) in the room and so the adult(s) kind of need to make sure to keep an eye on them/check n periodically. It would still take even minimal attention away from he work I was there to actually do and stress me out remembering to not forget to check on the kid.

    1. TootsNYC*

      and how good of a job is she truly doing if even a part of her brain is dealing with this kid?

  3. MatKnifeNinja*

    I had to go through a near body cavity search to work a $14/after school child care job. Finger printed. Felony check. Sex Offender list. I can’t remember all the other stuff.

    So it slays me when parents dump their kids with any rando with a pulse.

    I get mother has a rough time finding child care for a special needs kid, especially if the care taker has to wrangle pull ups or do toileting care . That jumps to $20+/hr in my area.

    It’s all fun and games until that kid gets hurt. Hard pass from me, unless a parent is also in the room, and the kid is the ONLY thing I have to worry about.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Oh gurl. Parents still get rando’s numbers off bulletin board postings to drop their kids off at! My mother confirmed she found sitters that way when we were little and I just sat there looking at her LOL

      1. Quill*

        I got several tutor or sitter jobs as a teen by posting up my cell number but obviously people are a little less suspicious when a child tries to make money by watching other children.

      2. Candi*

        They’ve got apps for that now. The downside is they prefer over-18s.

        My daughter’s been job-hunting. I strongly suspect her being a minor is part of the reason she isn’t getting nibbles.

    2. Wing Leader*

      Yep. If something happens to the kid, I have no doubt that Anne will blame OP and will try to fire her, or at least get her in trouble. Nope. If I wanted to be a babysitter then I would work in a daycare, not an office.

      1. EPLawyer*

        which is exactly why it is a bad idea. Anne has shown she will go to bat for people if it benefits her. Let any harm come to her precious angel and it will not be pretty. Also what if the kid actually hurts OP with the hitting? Is the company going to pay out workmen’s comp? I doubt it.

        Just because the child has special needs does not mean he should not be taught how to behave to the extent possible. The mother is doing her son no favors by laughing off the hitting. I can just imagine what the clients are thinking if they witness any of this behavior. It cannot reflect well on the company.

        Time to go to HR with this one. Sympathy for a bad situation finding adequate daycare does not trump your safety.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Not to mention physical damage to an elevator — that equipment is EXPENSIVE.

          1. Quill*

            We had an elevator that stuck a lot before I accidentally dropped a company ID and a pen cap down the shaft…

            I guess they had to go in and dig that out because we stopped having elevator problems after that!

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            And OP’s phone. What if the kid had succeeded in dropping it in the sewer? Who was going to replace it? I can see Anne just laughing it off “aww isn’t he cute?”

  4. Clorinda*

    If Jake is out of school and OP’s workplace isn’t shut down, this is just about to get a thousand times worse.
    On the other hand, maybe there’s someone among all the people who are suddenly without work who would babysit for a reasonable cost. Definitely suggest this to Anne. She needs help; someone out there needs a job.

    1. Clorinda*

      P.S.–I just re-read this, and OP is an event planner. This probably won’t be a problem for much longer, unfortunately.

  5. Clementine*

    Was this post written before everyone started having to work with their kids around them? Would the response change if that is considered?

    1. Ingray*

      I mean even in an emergency situation you still can’t let your kid hit your employees or try and throw their phones in sewers…

      1. Veronica Mars*

        The way you said this cracked me up. Sentences you never thought you’d have to type out for 1000, Alex.

    2. PollyQ*

      Not really, IMO. It’s still the parent’s responsibility to look after the child, not any employee who happens to be their report.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      It is never appropriate for any parent to dump child care on their coworkers, much less their subordinates.

      1. Annony*

        Yep. It would actually be worse to do that now because having kids in the office increases the chance of spreading the virus. If she were working from home and her kid kept interrupting, I would hope everyone would be understanding. Bringing her kid into the office and not trying to keep him from interrupting and even hitting her coworkers is not ever ok.

        1. valentine*

          having kids in the office increases the chance of spreading the virus.
          In addition to protecting Jake, it’s important to keep him away from events because he climbed onto a food table.

    4. sacados*

      Yeah I think the response would change in the sense that we might encourage a good company to be supportive of the fact that Anne has to bring her son with her to work on a more regular/long-term basis due to all this craziness.
      But that said, it is still Anne’s responsibility to keep an eye on her son and not pawn him off on unsuspecting subordinates, so all the rest of the issues in the letter still stand.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We let parents bring in kids on occasion, especially this kind of one. But the rule is “you watch your kid, kid starts acting up, looks like you’re going to leave for the day and the kid is not welcome back.”

      Just like any other “perk” or whatever we want to call it, it’s removed if you don’t follow the rules and regs set out by the policy makers.

      1. tangerineRose*

        At a previous job, a co-worker occasionally brought her daughter in, but the kid was quiet and well behaved, so no one worried about it.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I used to go to work with my mom from time to time. I was a quiet kid who stayed out of the way and entertained myself. I had actual conversations with her coworkers ( I was adorably precocious /s) and over the years many of those people became family friends. They saw me go from young girl to adult woman and AFAIK the majority of them didn’t cringe whenever I was there. The thing is had I acted out, even once, that would have been a forever and ever, no second chance end to it, full stop…and I knew it. Of course I wasn’t an “acting out” kid anyway, but so yeah…

          1. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

            Same, RUKidding. I went to college with my mom on a few occasions (Spring Break for my school, for instance) and people usually forgot I was there within a few minutes, because I was super quiet, and read my books, and said nothing unless I really needed to go to the bathroom, or something. I distinctly remember getting ‘assignments’ from the English Lit professor a time or two, and finding it really fun — no chance I was gonna mess up a chance to read stuff given me by a whole COLLEGE PROFESSOR when I was 10. He told my mom in my hearing that I was welcome anytime, and that I paid more attention than the adults. I was pretty smug about that. And the good ‘grades’ I got from him for my little essays. lol

    6. IEanon*

      I do wonder how the quarantines and closures are going to impact WfH policies going forward. The consensus here has always been that you need to have additional childcare arranged while working at home, so you can actually be productive.

      Obviously, in the age of covid-19, that’s not going to be feasible for most everyone who’s now either forced to telework or whose child’s school/daycare/whatever has been shut down. Will this change people’s perception of how teleworking should look? Will we get new systems of childcare developing in response to the realization that more jobs can be worked remotely?

      Now that I’ve typed this all out, I realize it’s not very on-topic or relevant to OP, since I agree with Ingray that this behavior is unacceptable, either way.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        With WFH, it has to be more relaxed. Oh no, you hear a baby crying in the background or a dog barking, shuddup about it. We’re not equip for everyone to have WFH setups, so we make those exceptions about the “optics” nonsense.

        But at the same time, I personally already didn’t care if someone was noticeably working from home. I have heard kids, dogs and parrots in the background for as long as I’ve worked. It never has bothered me, unless someone is completely ignoring me…then you gotta take a message and call back when the personal fire is put out. [I had that for years because my clients were all micro sized business owners, they didn’t have offices for the most part and often split all their time between their stores/projects and you know, their personal life, so it’s all mingled together.]

    7. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      It sounds like the issue, at least, has existed since before the current situation, given the history of Anne saving Barbara’s job in exchange for childcare.

      Fundamentally, no, it doesn’t change anything for the OP. While it does make Anne’s situation more difficult, the fact of the matter remains that the OP is not an appropriate person to be providing childcare, especially for a child with special needs, and the kid’s behavior makes him a bad candidate for accompanying his mom to the office. It’d be one thing if the scenario was bringing a kid to the office with a backpack full of books or maybe a portable gaming device (with headphones!) and he could be trusted to self-entertain, but that’s not what they’re facing here.

    8. aebhel*

      I’m having to scramble for childcare while my kids’ school is closed and I’m still at work, and I still wouldn’t dream of pulling this nonsense. Bringing my older kid to sit quietly in my office with a tablet, *maybe*, but if the kid can’t entertain themselves, they need to not be in the office–and they definitely don’t need to be dumped on junior reports, especially since the latter are presumably not able to bring in their own kids.

    9. Observer*

      Wouldn’t change in the least bit. This is not reasonable “child behavior”. That’s a kid whining, needing a bit of entertaining. This is a whole different level.

      Ann is being utterly irresponsible. There is simply no excuse for what is happening. The kid is destructive and violent – putting people at risk under any circumstances.

    10. Turtle Candle*

      In this situation right now, I have a lot of coworkers who are having to juggle childcare and work while day cares, schools, etc., are closed–and many people had grandparents watching kids and right now that is a Bad Idea because kids are often asymptomatic carriers and people over 60 are high risk.

      Many of them can work from home, and HR is waiving the “you need to have full-time chilcare if you work from home” thing because it’s simply not feasible. Some can’t, and we have allowed them to bring a child into the office (since we have so many WFH people right now, it’s not hard to find them an empty conference room where they can sequester themselves).

      Things that, because of The Situation, we overlook, as they are quite frankly unavoidable:
      – Background noise from kids over the phone (whether a crying baby, a cranky toddler, or a child shrieking or laughing while playing)
      – Kids (who are too young to know better) interrupting their parents in meetings
      – Parents having lowered productivity because they need to watch the kid and work at the same time
      – Increased PTO needs
      – Parents sequestering themselves in conference rooms with the kids, which are not necessarily soundproof
      – People having to sometimes (briefly and/or occasionally) interact with children in the office, who may not be on their 100% best behavior (bored, with cabin fever, and potentially whiny or cranky)
      – People having to take occasional breaks to get their kid a meal/snack, set them up with an activity or coloring book, and otherwise ensure that they’re occupied and taken care of
      Once in while, not frequently, having someone say “Hey, I need to run to the bathroom/the car/the cafeteria really quick, can you watch Little Timmy for five minutes?”

      This stuff falls under “pulling together in a crisis.”

      Things that we would not tolerate:
      – Hitting people
      – Breaking equipment
      – Destroying or attempting to destroy employee property

      Now, if the kid was in a situation to not know any better and the parent immediately intervened, apologized, and did something to ensure it didn’t happen again, that would be one thing. If they were having persistent challenges and trying to deal with them themselves, we’d probably be understanding/forgiving. But if they laughed it off, and then kept foisting the kid on other people? Nooooo.

      And adding to that… since this predated The Situation, it’s clearly not a case of “everything is upheaval because of coronavirus and all of my normal childcare has fallen through.” It’s long-term. It’s much easier to make exceptions that are actually exceptional, than ones that turn out to be status quo.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        Are you ok with lower productivity from everyone? Because no way should Jane and John be given a pass on working productively if Sally is being held to her normal high standards.

        1. Marmaduke*

          I don’t know what things are like at your workplace, but at mine we’re all trying to do the best we can while giving one another some grace. Some people’s best is close to their usual, while others are a bit behind, but right now everything is exceptional.

        2. I woke up like this*

          Wait, what? Yes our expectations for work productivity change depending on external circumstances. If someone is going through chemo treatment or lost a parent, compassionate managers alter expectations for a bit. Right now, everyone should have relaxed standards. But there are people who this pandemic are gonna hit harder… parents stuck in the house with young children, high-risk folks, people who have anxiety disorders. What’s wrong with having changing expectations during extraordinary circumstances?

        3. Turtle Candle*

          Well, if the pandemic is causing it, yes. If they’re caring for someone, dealing with their own health issues, or otherwise affected, yes.

          If it’s just a bizarre beancounting of “you got this because LITERAL PANDEMIC required it so I should get it too despite having no need for it,” then… no?

    11. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I don’t think so. Bringing your child to work should be the exception, not the rule. And this situation is made worse by Anne expecting her employees to watch her kid. That’s never okay.

  6. OhBehave*

    OP, keep in mind that if Jake were to get hurt you would get the blame. Speak up now! I feel bad for boss because finding care is hard but compounded by the fact that Jake needs specialized care. The liability issues alone make me mad for you.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My mind went to “if Jake hurts the OP or another colleague, workers comp is going to be pissed off AF about that claim…”, explain that? An unauthorized tiny individual came up and chopped someone right in a vulnerable area and caused medical damages. Or tiny unauthorized visitor broke the elevator. Good luck with that insurance claim!

      1. Candi*

        Liability is a lot stickier in our area for authorized, hired, teenaged workers who are under 18 then for adults. I can only imagine the fits they’d have over an unauthorized 10-year-old kid-of-employee who’s deliberately trying to break things.

  7. Bite Me*

    This has “liability” written all over it! I would push back hard against watching Anne’s son on the principal that if Jake has a medical emergency, who will Anne blame/fire/sue.

    There is a reason why daycares have liability insurance. This is a hill to die on

  8. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Oh, hell NO.

    If you are at an event with insurance, very likely this child is not covered.

    Taking someone’s phone without their permission is theft. Plus possible damages.

    Hitting someone is assault. Would it be acceptable had it been an adult who tried to karate chop her? (And boys are constantly doing this, daring themselves to get as close as possible without hitting. It’s alarming and I always tried to curb it when I was a Scout leader because one day, one day, you’ll misjudge, you’ll hit and there will be tears and very hurt feelings).

    You are not a child care provider. And you are most certainly not paid enough to put up with an aggressive child who knows full well you have no authority over him while on the job. Downtime while at an event is not a reason to provide child care. Say no. And then, when you’re ready, look for another job.

    I was asked at work once recently. I said No, coworker said yes and director when he found out sent the child and parent home (child was sick on top of things).

    1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Yes to all of this. Unless you are a professional turd-spawn wrestler, this is 100% not your job.

      Get on the Nope bus, express service, straight to HR.

      HE’S HITTING YOU.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        “professional turd-spawn wrestler”

        That’s hilarious! Please tell me that you are a comedian or a comedy writer, because if not, you should be. Call Stephen Colbert and ask him if he has any job openings for writers!

    2. Candi*

      Pfft to letting boys hit because “that’s what boys do.”

      I taught my son to never hit people -first. If they hit him and he had to fight back, that’s a different matter. But never, ever, ever start the fight.

      It’s just amazing how well you can teach things to kids when you start when they’re little.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I even tell my girls this (as do their karate teachers). Never be the one to start the fight. NEVER.

        Their karate teachers also stress blocking maneuvers as a first step. But don’t let them hurt YOU in an effort to protect them from the consequences of picking a fight with somebody who has taken self defense classes.

  9. Vicky Austin*

    What a nightmare! LW, you have my sympathy. I would start looking for a new job ASAP.

    On another note, it’s only a matter of time before someone comments, “Wow, I can’t believe all the child-haters here! Shame on you! Children are adorable, and so is everything they do!”

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      Children *can be* adorable. Jake sounds like a *brat* and his mum is a) not helping and b) making things worse.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Actually Jake doesn’t sound like a brat. He sounds like a kid who’s mother doesn’t pay attention to him, so he does anything to get attention – good or bad.

        1. Dove*

          Jake *absolutely* sounds like a brat. He’s stealing people’s personal belongings, trying to break things, and hitting people. It doesn’t matter *why* he does it, it makes him unpleasant and difficult to deal with.

      1. Candi*

        +1

        And the sooner you start, the sooner and longer it sticks.

        We can train cats, fer pete’s sake, and they’re more ornery then most kids.

      2. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

        As a dog handler, I salute you. I say this all the time! No, dogs and children are not the same, but they have developmental similarities (including biting and jumping on things they shouldn’t) and need to be trained on what is acceptable behavior. Puppies are usually easier to teach (unless they’re bulldogs. Those are definitely more persistent little gremlins. lol), but you simply MUST do it — even when it takes eleventy-seven years per day to make the lesson stick.

  10. SallyForth*

    This echoes my story that got 7th place in last year’s competition on fabulous ways people walked out on their job. Our temp was forced into cleaning tables where our manager’s daughter was doing crafts and eating lunch or training her to do “volunteer” jobs. I think it’s fine when kids get their volunteer hours at their parents’ workplace, but not an 8 hour workday.
    The OP has a job in events, and that takes total concentration. What if the kid got lost while she was attending to actual work tasks?

  11. BTDT*

    I’ve had 30+ years of experience in a profession that has become female dominated. Entitled moms are the most dangerous co-workers on the planet. Calm rational discussions never work. My personal recommendation is to quit the job. Alternatively, I would not say anything, just stop watching the child. Walk away, ignore, let him bother someone else.

    1. Insert Brain*

      Removed. Please don’t talk about other humans that way here. You are welcome to repost this with different language. – Alison

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Good luck ignoring a kid who’s hurting others and doing things that could possibly damage office equipment/property or hurt himself. Something needs to be said, whether it’s said to the mom or to HR.

  12. Free Meercats*

    Anne leaves Jake with you.

    You take Jake by the hand, go find Anne, and say, “Here, you left Jake.”

    Walk away.

    PRN.

        1. Candi*

          Go to HR and tell them you were trying to protect the company from liability.

          Chances of restored job: low.

          Chnaces of reference secured: high.

          1. valentine*

            Not necessarily. This isn’t a good time for OP to job search and speaking to HR should precede insubordination.

  13. TootsNYC*

    The one aspect that Alison didn’t touch on is this:

    The employer may really not like the effect on its business that Jake is having. The company looks lame and stupid if one of their reps brings their kid to the conference or training. And if that kid is badly behaved, in an obvious way, the company looks even MORE lame and stupid.

    It will absolutely harm their reputation. And their not getting the full attention of any of their workers, so things have to be running far less smoothly than they should.

    Take this to HR or even to Anne’s boss.

    1. Sales Geek*

      One thing I have not seen mentioned but goes to the effect on business is the stupidly large insurance risk this creates. If the child injures a coworker, damages the building or is injured themselves at the workplace it’s a “zero to bankruptcy civil suit” situation.

      I’m not without sympathy; raising a child with medical issues takes an enormous amount of effort and patience (and sadly, money). But it’s hard to pay for child care if your business gets hammered with a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

    2. Senor Montoya*

      I hope this does not fall under nitpicking but:

      Please, don’t use “lame” to mean inappropriate or incompetent or bad. It’s really offensive.

      Thanks.

  14. Shocked Pikachu*

    I have three kids, well teenagers now. Two boys and a girl. Both boys are on the spectrum. They have been in different social group therapies with other children with various medical challenges. The “no hitting/ no hurting others” rule is one of the most fundamental, non negotiable rules they have ever had. And yes, it’s difficult for some since they process things differently and when upset/mad the most straightforward reaction is to hit. But it was never, never excused or tolerated. Because even when you understand the struggle, hurting others is not OK. I don’t care what the background is, laughing off your child hitting you and hitting your report is wrong on so many levels. This kid is 10, he is at the age when it’s crucial he gets proper support. It sounds like in his case the hitting is form of rambunctious social interaction. If his mom keeps laughing it out… It becomes a whole another level when 16 year old hits people in that manner.

    OP, you shouldn’t should be asked to watch him and you definitely shouldn’t be asked to tolerate being hit. And as other commenters pointed out, this is also huge liability concerning the child’s welfare. I hope it gets sorted out.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      You have to teach children not to hit before they’re strong enough to put someone in hospital. My 11yo is taller and probably stronger than I am, so I’d say age 10 is too old for the parent to laugh off violence even if that child has additional needs that mean the lesson is more slowly learned.

      If someone cannot learn not to use violence before they’re big and strong enough to do harm, they need specialised care, which your average report at work cannot provide!

      1. 'Tis Me*

        My 5 year old accidentally sent me flying off a chair launching herself at me unexpectedly forcefully when she wanted a hug. She is tall and strong for her age, but I’m not light!

        My 2 year old has bruised me playing with things and accidentally swinging them into my face. And made my lip bleed headbutting me “playfully”.

        You start working on “gentle hands” as early as possible; you hope they understand and internalise it before they can do you serious damage. (You appreciate that when a 2 year old is in a rage she may forget that throwing things/hitting isn’t OK; you also make it clear that those factors don’t excuse the behaviour. And actually my one generally snaps out of it and starts patting me “better” or burst into tears when I make it clear that she has actually hurt me…)

        1. Hey Nonny Anon*

          My son, in the days before we’d fully diagnosed and medicated his mood disorder, inflicted a lot of bruises and scratches and such. The fact that he’d manage to (mostly) keep his physical outbursts limited to me was the first step in getting it under control. The only person to whom I laughed about how I was being beaten up by a second grader was a colleague whose son had similar issues. We laughed so we didn’t cry, and only to each other.

          Anne is out of line in so many ways. Go to HR, document why you cannot do this anymore.

  15. Employment Lawyer*

    Yeah, I’d hate that. So:

    How much do you want the job? How big is your employer? And how skilled is your boss?

    For sure, childcare sucks at work. So does “get everyone coffee” or “help clean the breakroom” or anything similar. Those are pretty much the opposite of a perk: They’re non job related and they (not at ALL incidentally) often get dumped on women.

    Nonetheless: If it’s a small company then they can pretty much hire as they want, and assign the jobs they want. It is generally legal for a boss to demand that someone walk your dog, or do personal errands, or watch a child, so if you push back too hard you may get fired.

    It mostly depends on whether or not they are committed to keeping you and your boss; only you; or only your boss. But if you’re a new hire then the answer to an ultimatum is more likely to be “only your boss.”

    Sorry, but it is how it is.

    1. Observer*

      Not if they have any brains. See, the issue here is not just that this stinks for the OP. What this kid is doing actually presents some very real and immediate risks to the business. So, the higher ups should put an IMMEDIATE stop to this – for themselves, if not for common decency to the OP.

      1. Not a cat*

        I agree with you 100%. However I’ve worked for family-owned firms that would most certainly side with the parent.

    2. Daffy Duck*

      Caring for the bosses kid is in not equal to “get everyone coffee” although I will agree it often gets dumped on women. Childcare (especially with a special needs child) is way more fraught with the potential for injury (crawling on food tables at 10!) and emotional drama.
      She needs to get out of there.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Sorry but no. Just because it is a small business does not give them the right to force any employee in the company to provide child care the bosses’ kid(s). Employees are NOT trained child care providers! They are professionals in other fields that have absolutely nothing to do with child care. I would refuse to “provide” any type of child care at my workplace because… I know nothing about kids, let alone a special needs child!

      If they want child care, hire a ‘freakin nanny! Don’t ask the graphic designer, marketing person or office admin to do it. That’s NOT their job!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The point of the comment though is that you can still be fired for refusing to deal with the bosses kid in the end.

        Even if it’s not your job. And most unemployment claims will be denied and be all “That’s unfortunate…but yeah not within our scope” if you bother to bring up the liabilities. Liabilities are something many places will accept and deal with the risks, it’s not illegal practices, they’re just being unwise and extending their risk.

        So again, if you don’t want to, don’t do it but be prepared for the consequences of being terminated is what EL is saying here.

        1. Candi*

          “Liabilities are something many places will accept and deal with the risks”

          Until the insurance rates go up due to this kid being around and getting into actionable trouble. Then the business will have fits. No business likes needless expense. (Their definition of such often varies, but they don’t like it.)

          But sometimes higher-ups won’t see that there’s a potential for their insurance bill to go up because of X until it’s laid out for them. Sometimes with pie charts and graphs. (Story of a friend of mine.)

  16. OP*

    Hi all! Thanks for your validation that this isn’t ok!! and hope it provides an interesting distraction from all the COVID hecticness ;)

    a couple points:
    1) You are correct that my events have been canceled until the summer at least, so this thankfully won’t be a problem until then!

    2) Unfortunately with this sudden recession, I’m not particularly eager to leave my job! Down the line if it continues to be an issue and the economy shapes up, I’d be open to leaving the role. I’m a unionized employee so I don’t think that she could fire me over this since it wouldn’t be a contract violation (or maybe she could, but my union rep is keyed into the situation and could contest it).

    3) Anne is a benevolent but MIA boss – so I think I will try to frame the convo as you’ve suggested around Jake’s safety and the liability for the company and see if she is receptive before escalating to the department head (her boss). Previously she’s been supportive around other issues I’ve had (such as being underpaid, which is being corrected) but it is different when it’s her child.

    4) Going to HR to report the rumor (and flag the issue) is interesting advice that I hadn’t considered so I may try that too when all of this COVID calms down!

    1. emmelemm*

      As other people have said, you definitely need to key your HR into the fact that this is a HUGE liability issue. What if Jake gets hurt/doesn’t take his medication/gets lost? What if Jake hurts you? What if, heaven forbid! – something happens with one of the guests at an event? Suppose Jake manages to throw one of their phones on the ground and break it?

      Bottom line, this just can’t be happening.

      1. OP*

        thank you! being in a dysfunctional workplace like this can screw your perspective on what is “normal” so I appreciate this framing in how serious it actually is.

        1. Clorinda*

          Well, you get a break from it for a while. I wonder if, as your part of the business comes back online, you might be able to bring it up with Anne gently but proactively before she next shows up with Jake in tow? “Anne, I’m not sure if you remember everything that went on last time Jake was here [reminders of the most egregious acts]. Since we’re in catch-up mode right now, I really won’t be able to keep an eye on him even minimally going forward, and I wanted to let you know ahead of time, so we can avoid anything bad happening, like Jake accidentally getting hurt [yes, really the concern is what he’ll do to others, but he’s her precious cub].”

          1. valentine*

            You might plant the seed with HR now. It would be good to know, given the Barbara story, whether they’re prepared to support you when Anne responds poorly to your pushback. And who knows? Maybe they could sort it before your next event.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          Liability is a good way to frame this. “We could be sued into bankruptcy if something happens to a guest.” “We could lose our insurance if an unauthorized child damaged something or injured someone.” Companies that DGAF about people will often change their tune when money, specifically specter of loss of, is involved.

    2. Batgirl*

      It’s great to hear that she’s been receptive to thorny issues in the past. Given that, she’s likely going to respond to “It’s not safe, he doesn’t respond to me, so it’s a nope before someone gets hurt.”
      Even if she has a massive blind spot about her son and her own parenting (likely), it’s fine for her to think a) you cant manage him or b) he doesn’t respond to your authority because yeah; he’s not your job and you don’t have any valid authority over him!

    3. Observer*

      If this continues you HAVE to go to HR. And, while it’s useful to key them into the rumor, you really need to emphasize the liability to the company.

      This is NOT a theoretical issue. They are lucky that nothing has happened yet (that they know of!) Look at the things he’s already done:

      Tried to break the elevator. He could succeed next time.

      Hit you. Ann might be able to intimidate YOU into not complaining and raising the roof. What happens when it’s an outside vendor or CUSTOMER?

      Tried to grab and destroy your phone. Same.

      Got up on a table you were setting up for an event. What happens when (not if) that results in something spreading?

      What are the chances that no one gets hurt? Not high, if this keeps up.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Dude, you are way too nice.
      I would be like “Your kit HIT me and so no I will not watch him.”

    5. Vicky Austin*

      Good luck!
      Also, I want to personally thank you for saying that the boy has “specific medical needs.” I really, really, dislike the term “special needs.”

  17. AnonEMoose*

    Even if I had (quietly seething) agreed to watch Jake in the first place, I’d have taken him back to Mom the moment he hit – or even swung – at me. A 10 year old could be large enough to do serious damage, especially if he hit someone in the face or another delicate spot.

    Another thing that occurred to me is, if Jake had actually damaged the elevator (and they can be more delicate than people think), would the company have been landed with a spendy repair bill? I can’t imagine they’d be happy about that.

    I’d definitely talk with HR if available, OP, and use words like “liability,” and “assault” and “he tried to steal my phone, what if he did that to a conference attendee, or worse, hit someone?” Or if Jake was messing around, and got injured?

    I understand that Anne’s situation is difficult and frustrating, but what she is doing isn’t remotely acceptable and needs to stop yesterday.

  18. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    So, so so, many issues here.

    I didn’t see anyone mention this explicitly – but OP is not doing her job properly and Anne is benefiting from “free” childcare courtesy of the company. Because OP certainly can’t be managing the event AND looking after a high maintenance child. This is another risk for OP, in addition to what has been mentioned already.

    Also, Anne definitely *doesn’t* think her child is going to entertain himself – a kid who needs help remembering to go to the bathroom won’t be capable of entertaining himself for more than a short time (and shouldn’t be expected to). That’s a convenient fiction so that she doesn’t have to be up-front about the fact that she’s expecting you and Barbara to do it.

    Something that might make this difficult is if you feel some kind of obligation, or discomfort saying “no” to her (really unreasonable) expectations.

    Instead of trying to fix the situation / agreeing to help, maybe disengage / direct the problem to Anne.

    “Anne, please get Jake off the table.”
    “No Anne, I didn’t notice Jake emptying the fruit juice into the filing cabinet.”
    “Sorry, I won’t be able to take Jake to the bathroom.”
    “I’m not sure where Jake is, I was setting up the tables.”
    “I can’t watch Jake, I have to (do my job).”

    And consider making yourself scarce during your downtime, if that’s possible / reasonable.

    I am not sure how unions work in the US but maybe you should discuss this with your union representative as well?

    I feel for Anne – parenting is hard, and being a single parent with a special needs kid (and what looks like a limited support system) must be really challenging, but it’s not okay for her to make this your problem.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      To clarify, when I said “OP is not doing her job properly”, I meant “OP is being hindered from doing her job properly”.

    2. Imaginary Number*

      If I were OP, I would make it clear every single time Anne tries to leave her child with them. And, if Anne refuses to listen, immediately remove myself before Anne can walk away.

      Anne, with child in tow: “I’m going to a meeting.”
      OP: “I’m not watching Jake.”
      Anne: “Oh, he’ll be fine.”
      OP: *walks away*

  19. MissDisplaced*

    I don’t have kids. I am not good with kids. I cannot imagine what I would do if someone’s kid hit me while being told to babysit them while at work.
    Sorry I don’t have much to say regarding this, but to say NO and firmly resist any time it comes up. I would have no problem whatsoever saying “Sorry but no, I am not a babysitter because I am not good with kids.” I guess it depends on how bad you need this job right now, but for me it would be a deal-breaker.

  20. MassMatt*

    I get that child care is difficult, and expensive, but people manage to handle it without foisting it off on their reports at work.

    If I wanted to take care of kids, I’d have kids. Even if I had kids, that doesn’t mean I want to take care of someone ELSE’S kids.

    As a guy I don’t get forced into this but this reeks of an abuse of power by the boss. That would be true even if the kids DIDN’T have special needs and weren’t aggressive. Put all that together and she is treating her reports like crap.

    Laughing after being told her son hit them is telling, this is undoubtedly why she can’t find child care and is relying on underlings who basically can’t say no without endangering their jobs.

  21. Casper Lives*

    Wow, no way should you put up with that. One basic expectation of most jobs is that you won’t be hit in the workplace. Kudos for having the patience not to yell at Jake when he hit you. Is yelling an ideal reaction? No. Would I do it anyway if someone hit me or tried to destroy my phone? Probably.

    There’s a reason that I don’t have a career in chikdcare!

  22. GreyjoyGardens*

    I know childcare is horrendously expensive and is often difficult to find. This is compounded when the child has special needs, or is older and still needs to be toileted or have diapers changed.

    But Anne is going about this all the wrong way. It’s bad for the company, bad for the employees and bad for her kid. I remember when I got an office job at a school – just an office job in the admin center where I’d see few if any kids! – I still had to have 1) all my current booster vaxes, 2) fingerprints, 3) police/background checking. Most employers check references but nothing like this stringently. Anne has no idea what her impromptu child minders are really like.

    Jake isn’t in the ideal child care situation either, especially for a special needs kid. I know Anne is probably desperate, but…why wouldn’t she want her child looked after by professionals?

    And finally, this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. If LW got injured because they were looking after “Jake” or Jake kicked them, or if Jake ruins office equipment, or gets injured himself…LW might take it to the big bosses with this in mind, that worker’s comp won’t like it and the company insurance for sure won’t like it. It’s a liability. Say “money” and “lawsuits” and that will probably make the head honchos perk up and do something.

  23. Sebastian*

    I don’t have anything to add in terms of advice, but I am appalled – APPALLED – that Anne just laughed off her son hitting OP?! What??
    My son is 5, has complex needs, and sometimes hits me when things line up badly.

    One time while a friend was visiting, bedtime went badly and my son hit me in front of her. The fact that she’d had to witness that happening to me was mortifying, to put it extremely mildly. I cannot understand Anne’s reaction here at all.

  24. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    I’m sorry, a three year old shouldn’t be hitting, much less a ten year old, special needs or no. I’d actually be getting redy to file a police complaint and report to your director.

  25. JobHopper*

    Two main issues here. The child is unsafe and this would make it mandatory reporting for me (licensed teacher– even if I work in a ditch digging facility). Boss is a parent with no support network. If child is not in crisis already, he/she may have a full blown explosion that will not go down well. It wasn’t that long ago when a child was under 14 but tried as an adult for a crime…can’t find the case.

    I feel for boss, I hope boss can find a support network and respite care. In WI look up Family Ties. Or google “wrap around care (and the name of your state)”. Why? Because if the basic need is taken care of, everyone will be able to do their jobs properly. I’d be about mailing something or faxing something anonymously so boss can check it out before anything is reported, but only you know if it is going to escalate.

    Some states are closing the daycare centers but many are closing because the schools are. I hope this does not mean that boss’s child is at work FT in the near future.

    report it toHR or report to Child Services. The latter have an obligation to set up the supports that may not be there.

    1. JobHopper*

      Clarification: Most daycares have NOT been ordered to close in this state, but many choose to do so if schools are closed.

  26. La Triviata*

    OP, this is definitely not a good thing. In my office, they used to allow people to bring in their young children when childcare arrangements fell through. It became a problem when we ended up having kids in the office all day going around, asking people for paper, crayons/pens, other office supplies and taking them away from their jobs. In the end, our CEO banned children in the office except under extreme circumstances and with permission.

    In regard to the liability issue, I had something along the same lines at home. I live in a large apartment building and one couple who lived next door had two young children (a boy, I’d guess about five, and an older girl, seven or so). When they wanted some “alone time” they’d put the kids out in the hallway with some toys and leave them there for extended periods. This was annoying, because the kids would run up and down the hall, slam into doors, yell, generally being kids with limited options. I’d complained and been brushed off … until I pointed out to the manager that if anything happened to them – if they fell down the fire stairs or some such, the building would be liable. The free-range play time ended immediately.

  27. A Kate*

    “I got a great job thanks to your advice!” [Proceeds to describe a very Not Great job].

  28. Pomona Sprout*

    Everything else aside, parents who react the way Anne did to their child’s misbehavior make me feel like banging my head against the wall. My daughter (fully grown now) has adhd. She was the type of kid who never wanted to walk if she could run and would rather climb all over a chair than sit in it. She sometimes misbehaved in public when we got into a situation that taxed her (rather limted) patience, and any time she acred out in the presence of others, I was absolutely mortified and would do whatever I could to calm things down, remove her and me from the situation, or whatever. A mother who would laugh off (?!) her child actually hitting somebody, especially an adult is beyond my comprehension. Anne is the kind of parent who gives parents a bad name. Ugh.

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