how can we make sure flexibility for parents isn’t unfair to everyone else?

A reader writes:

I recently read your great advice to an employer who was asking what they could expect of an employee with a young toddler who was having to work from home during the pandemic. I have a related question that I haven’t seen getting much attention that I hope you’ll be able to answer: how should employers handle accommodating both parents and non-parents in workplaces that have shifted to working from home during the pandemic?

I am a project manager for a small tech company. About half of my coworkers have kids under five right now. A handful have older kids, and the rest (including myself) are childless. My employer has been great about accommodating employees who have been juggling work and child care (even for those who have partners who are usually full-time stay-at-home parents). This is definitely the right thing to do, but it has meant those of us without kids are having to pick up some slack and also work around several different child care schedules. Since all three people who are product owners in the company are also parents of young children, it’s been increasingly difficult to nail them down to make important decisions and provide information that’s needed for other employees to do their work.

I seriously doubt any of this is intentional. I think it’s much more likely that these folks are stressed and overwhelmed and operating under less-than-ideal and unusual conditions, and it’s causing them to operate in a much more fast-and-loose way. However, it makes things harder for the rest of us, and in my role, I’m hearing grumbled complaints from other employees about standards not being upheld. Again, I totally think accommodating parents is the right thing to do, but I don’t feel good about that accommodation causing problems for childless employees, who are expected to function as usual when half the company is at reduced capacity.

How do I, as a childless person, bring up this issue before it becomes more serious, and what kind of accommodations are reasonable to request for childless employees? Right now, things are tolerable, but I can see folks getting more and more upset as the stay at home order drags on and as the situation continues. I’d like to keep things as pleasant as possible for everyone under difficult circumstances.

First and foremost, everyone is entitled to accommodations for hardships right now — not just for kids, but for other things too, like an aging parent who lives with you, a disabled spouse, a medical condition, a studio apartment surrounded by tuba players, etc. Not everyone needs the same accommodations, but employers should make a good faith effort to accommodate and be flexible with everyone who needs it. (Frankly, even people who don’t have specific difficulties to point to still probably need some amount of accommodation right now, simply because this is a highly stressful time.) The more flexible employers can be across the board, the better.

But the reality is that when you’re trying to be as flexible as possible during something like this, parents of young kids will often be the ones who need the most flexibility. Not always, but often. That’s just the reality of having young kids (and it’s why in normal times, companies generally don’t let parents of young children telework if they don’t have separate child care). So yes, in general, parents of young kids are going to need way more accommodations on scheduling and workload right now.

That means that people without young kids may indeed end up carrying more of the workload for now, just like they might if a coworker were on medical leave or having another crisis in their life.

At a company that manages this badly — especially if they’re less flexible with non-parents, and if they don’t dramatically reprioritize workloads (thus leaving non-parents not just with more work than parents but with an unreasonable amount of work) — people will rightly resent it and think it’s unfair. At a company that manages this well — including being flexible for non-parents too — people are more likely to see it as everyone pitching in and being flexible where they can. So if you’re seeing a lot of resentment at your company, it’s probably not just “some of us have more capacity than others right now”; there’s probably something being mismanaged that’s driving it.

But none of that means that you should just suck it up when a colleague isn’t getting you what you need to do your own job. Instead, you should talk to them (and if necessary, your and/or their boss) about the problem and how to manage the situation. In fact, that’s true whether or not someone seems to have a good reason for it. Of course, if they didn’t have a good reason — if you knew for sure they were joyfully playing video games all day instead of working — the tenor of the conversation would be more “I’m not getting this, I need it, and I need you to make that happen.” But when it seems likely to be stemming from child care issues, the approach is, “I know you have lots of demands on your time right now and I want to be as flexible as possible, but I’m not getting X by the time I need it, and that’s causing (specific problems). Given our current circumstances, what’s the best way to handle this?”

And then you talk about it. Maybe the answer is that they need to empower someone else to handle some of it. Maybe the answer is that delays that ordinarily wouldn’t be okay will have to be okay now. Maybe they didn’t realize how it was impacting you and now that they do they’ll make changes to their accessibility. Maybe it’s that things need to be reprioritized right now. Who knows! But assuming these are conscientious people, step one is to raise the issue, talk about it, and figure out what makes sense for everyone involved.

Also! If you’re hearing complaints from coworkers about standards not being upheld, that’s a flag to have the conversation above and to share its results with everyone involved with the project. People need to know what they’re seeing has been acknowledged and discussed, and that trade-offs on quality or timeliness are being made deliberately and with the organization’s assent — so it doesn’t feel like chaos, or that their colleagues are being inconsiderate or flighty or “getting away” with something they shouldn’t be.

It’s also smart to talk to everyone more generally about what being flexible means for everyone’s work, and about the reality that standards need to be different now … and that that’s not your colleagues slacking on the job, but just the reality we’re working in now. If the company doesn’t spell that out, people may not be seeing things through that framework.

Last, your company needs to make sure it has reassessed projects in light of this new reality. You can’t just give lip service to all of the above; none of it works if workloads stay the same. Projects and timelines need to be pushed back (in some cases canceled, and possibly even pared down to only business-critical functions), and expectations need to radically change. If they don’t, then yes, an unreasonable burden will fall on some of your employees, and it’s likely they’ll be disproportionately non-parents, and then everything above will go out the window and lots of resentment will appear in its place.

As for how you can raise all this, it depends on your role in your company. If you have a leadership position, you should forthrightly spell all of this out to your leadership team and push for workload reassessments, more flexibility for more people, and decisions about how to manage projects if you can’t get the same contributions from people you’re used to getting. If you’re more junior, your influence will be more limited, but you can raise these issues within your team, flag morale issues for your boss if you’re seeing them (if she’s a decently skilled manager), press for realistic conversations about how to manage projects when you have less access to people, and set boundaries on your own availability.

{ 615 comments… read them below }

  1. EPLawyer*

    Remember the letter from earlier this week about the freelancer who just wasn’t feeling work right now? Everyone needs flexibility and could face burnout.

    Companies need to accept this new reality and stop expecting everything to be done exactly as before. Do the TPS reports REALLY need to be filed every Friday by 3 p.m.? If they absolutely need to be done, can it just be “get them in by Monday at 9 a.m.?” Things like that.

    I would have stopped working long ago but our state deemed lawyers essential (I mean all of them, not just Criminal laywers to get people out on bail). Our judiciary said no across the board extension of any deadlines except SOL and timely trials. So I have to still meet my deadlines and that is the ONLY reason I am still pushing things out. But if the other side misses a deadline, I am more likely to gently inquire rather than file something.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This is so true.
      Work-from-home flexibility isn’t just for parents
      –High risk employees? Encourage them to start their X-hour day after they do a morning grocery run, taking advantage of the “just sterilized” 90 minute morning shopping period only for people over 60 and people with compromised immune systems.
      –Employees with health issues? Encourage them to work an oddj, split schedule if they need to meet (or call) with a doctor, therapist, dentist, audiologist, etc. Come in early, stay late, just track your time & make your goals.
      –Stressed employees? Maybe they’d benefit from two half-hour “lunch breaks” instead of one long one — and the second one they go outside for a brisk walk.
      –Employees with loud neighbors? Let them schedule their shifts around the recording session that the musician next door has warned them about.
      –Employees having trouble reaching co-workers & clients overseas? Why not have them skew their hours to match those subject matter experts for a few days? Working early mornings and/or late nights makes inter-continental calls possible. (And it’s really great for people with a natural “split sleep cycle.)

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        These are all really excellent suggestions! Thank you!

        It’s not that everybody needs the same thing; they need something that makes sense for them in whatever situation they are in.

        For me, it means not working a straight eight hours a day, but intermittently from when I get up to when I go to bed. It helps to fill the day. Being able to sit on the sofa and just do stuff on paper every once in a while, while going for a walk in the middle of the day, has been a godsend to my sanity.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I’ve been doing something kind of similar. I get up and start at my normal time, check email, etc. Get anything urgent dealt with. That usually puts me at 11:30 or so. Then I take a break, make food, maybe clean up the kitchen a bit. After an hour or so, I jump back on the computer, do some stuff, then around 2:30 take another break. This is when I’ll head out for any errands I may need to do, store, laundromat, etc. I’ve found doing them at 2:30 is a good time, there aren’t as many folks out as in the early morning or after 5, so I’m doing my wee part to spread out the population density at the places I go. If I don’t need to go anywhere, I’ll take a walk, do a yoga video, spend some time on the patio if it’s nice, that kind of thing. Then, back online until I’m ready to make dinner or I’m finished with what I need to do that day, whichever comes first. It has really helped my sanity to do it this way, rather than trying to stick with “normal” schedules. I’m around enough that folks can get a hold of me, but I’m not getting bogged down in the “weirdness.”

      2. rainmaker under duress*

        I feel like flexibility at my company has turned into the workday expanding to fill all daylight hours. People are sending messages on slack at 4:45 that they’re taking a break and will be back online later. It’s basically 5 at that point! If you want to catch up on work in the evening that’s whatever/your choice, but all this “I’ll be back online later” is starting to create the impression that they think other people will also be online later. Nobody ever said that at 4:45 when they were leaving the office 15 minutes early.

        Sadly, my department IS the mission-critical functions of my employer and I’m one of the childfree ones picking up the slack. If I propose doing less it means a significant amount of money stops coming in, and if I couldn’t get them to hire someone before the crisis and the current hiring freeze, they’re definitely not going to do it if our revenue suddenly plummets. I feel stuck with no good options and I’m really afraid this is going to go down like 2008 did, where all those people get laid off but their work just got piled on the people who didn’t, and even as the economy recovered that workload just became normal and when companies hired new people it was to expand work, not to finally relieve the people who had been under so much strain for so many years by reshuffling work. And the number of unemployed is likely to be a LOT more this time.

        I’m privileged that it’s very unlikely I’ll lose my job but I want to cry daily at the prospect of even more than I already can’t manage being put on me. I’ve talked to my boss and he’s sympathetic and supportive but ultimately powerless to do anything about it – he answers to people above him and he’s tried to get more staff or reduce our workload and they haven’t allowed it. And it’s not like now is a great time for job-searching.

        1. LizM*

          Just speaking for myself, when I say I’ll be back on later, it’s not because I expect others to be, but just to let people know that if they need anything, to send it to me, because I’ll be able to take a look before tomorrow morning.

          But I don’t necessarily announce my breaks if I’m close enough to my computer to occasionally glance at it and jump back on if needed. So there’s a good chance I took a break in the middle of the day to sit on my kid until he finally napped.

        2. caps22*

          I commiserate, rainmaker, particularly with the fear that this is 2008 all over again. I was already exhausted coming into this, and my work has increased even as my health has decreased (either mild covid or something else that comes and goes). And yeah, staffing levels will only get leaner going forward, so the light at the end of the tunnel is not necessarily daylight :/

        3. TardyTardis*

          I’m so glad I’m retired now (even though age puts me in a fun position vis-a-vis covid-19). I did go through 2008 taking on extra work and the workload never slacking except for part of winter, because our place discovered they could run leaner (especially in a smallish rural town where we were aristocracy because *we had health insurance*!). I hate seeing it happening again.

      3. JM60*

        Those are some fine suggestions, but an issue I see is that just about everyone falls under at least one of those categories. The only ones who don’t are employees who:

        Aren’t high risk (they’re young enough, don’t smoke, aren’t diabetic)
        Don’t have health issues
        Aren’t stressed (most people are stressed right now)
        Don’t have loud neighbors

        That’s maybe 5% of employees.

        1. Mary*

          I think that’s the point–everyone is dealing with something right now, so consideration and adjustments should be the norm, not the minority.

      4. DeeBee*

        These suggestions are great, but if they are implemented without any overall reduction in work and deadlines, they end up turning into “work all the time”. Employees with young kids who normally work 10-12 hour days are now staying up all night trying to make up the work they couldn’t do during the day while tending toddlers. People with easier family situations are working from early in the morning until late at night and all weekend trying to pick up the things their coworkers can’t do, or meet with people when they are available. Flexibility is good but right now it has to be more than that – it has to be a reduction in the overall amount of work the organization expects to accomplish. This is where my company, normally one that treats its employees well, is falling down right now. The highest levels of leadership don’t acknowledge this reality, and I’m seeing my team start to crack under the pressure (and frankly, I am too. Not sleeping isn’t a sustainable plan). Of course, staying in business and not having to lay off employees is good, so I’m torn, but something has to give.

    2. Feline*

      It’s really unfortunate that some employers expect not just the TPS reports to be filled every Friday by 3pm, but they are also adding new customer-facing deadlines and heaping more workload on the employees who are all working remote, many in less-than-optimum circumstances. They may recognize the error of their ways when their ambitious projects don’t make their deadlines. I have told myself repeatedly, “Do what you can.” It’s exhausting to know our employers think we’re superhuman.

      1. eshrai*

        My job is making us submit daily record keeping of every minute of the day. it is stressful, especially because none of our work is mission critical and is extremely collaborative in nature. I am new and trying to revamp old training materials…of training I have never attended or provided, on topics I know nothing about! I have a kid to home school and two other kids in the house with constant fighting and yelling and interruptions. But the expectation is to be just as productive as at work.

        1. Pommette!*

          This is something that I’ve seen a lot of workplaces demand. Let’s add work (tracking your work) to your work! Because you didn’t have enough (life and work) work yet!
          Which seems… punitive and counterproductive.
          Good luck.

      2. I'm not faster on my couch*

        It’s not just employers, it’s clients, too. My law office is fully WFH, but everything is taking longer for a variety of reasons. I’m slower because I’m on my couch on a laptop instead of at my desk with two big screens. The lawyers no longer have a long hallway of fellow lawyers to casually drop in on to ask questions or debate strategies. Now they have to make phone calls or wait for emails to be returned. Most of our clients are in similar situations and have been very understanding, but one client just dumped a project on us that normally takes a week and is due tomorrow. See, they got behind due to WFH issues, and now we have to work 7x as fast.

        So, yeah.

      3. Coverage Associate*

        Solidarity again for everyone with extra record keeping and other process inflexibility at this time. Work is hard enough in good circumstances, with all the tools (printers, notebooks, large monitors, quiet offices, etc.) to make it better. Adding things in these circumstances where we have minimal tools makes it so hard.

      4. Lauren*

        This is where I’m at right now, and it’s extremely frustrating. My company will encourage us to take a moment to step back and relax in one breath, and then add on “high priority, timely” projects in the next. I’m one of the few people on my team with a young child, and nobody seems to quite understand how demanding that can be. I know the childless folks at the company are stressed too; I’m not trying to diminish that. But there is absolutely no leeway for parents at my company right now.

        My boss said this is a great time to do extra projects, so that goes to show how this comes from the top-down…

    3. SusanB*

      Exactly. My VP is harping on all of us about a project. Half the people working on this project have small kids, the other half have no kids. But 100% of us do not need this right now. Plus, the project is a brochure that is mailed out to offices where no one is currently working! It’s honestly madness that we’re still being held to April deadlines on something so pointless. In cases like these, moving the deadlines to June will hurt nothing and give everyone (parents and childfree) the time and flexibility they need to concentrate on larger priorities and also their mental health.

      1. rainmaker under duress*

        There’s something just so infuriating about the lip service. We should be allowing for work-life balance and encouraging people to slow down and not burn out and take care of themselves, but if you’re not going to actually do those things, then don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

        1. rainmaker under duress*

          Whoops, I had intended to post that as a reply to Lauren’s one above yours.

          1. Lauren*

            I saw! :) And that’s exactly it – they pay lip service and pat themselves on the back while completely ignoring everything they just said. I’m in an industry that hasn’t been horribly impacted (yet) and I am very curious if there will be a mass exodus once we are back at the office. People are watching how companies treat their employees right now.

    4. Quill*

      This! So much of my work is in limbo right now but I’m getting exponentially better at spanish as my stressed colleagues revert to their first languages.

      Exponentially worse at a lot of other things, such as walking up on time and regularly wearing a bra, but I’m glad my boss told me to send the message that if we don’t take care of something regularly, now is NOT the time to ask us for it, you’ll either get it when the world stops ending or you won’t.

    5. Anon Nonprofit*

      I’m a lawyer that represents victims of domestic violence in civil cases, so I consider myself essential even though I’m not a criminal defense lawyer..

      I get your point though.

      1. allathian*

        Ouch. You’ll have your work cut out I’m afraid. DV is increasing when people are cooped up in small apartments with nowhere to go…

  2. Forwhy*

    I also think it’s really important to make sure you’re recognizing the work of those who don’t have kids in the context of everyone helping out. As someone who doesn’t have kids I have no problem helping out when I can for my colleagues that do have kids but I find it very frustrating when it becomes a default “oh it shouldn’t be a problem for forwhy to handle this because she doesn’t have kids”

    I also think that while we’re all in uncharted waters here a big issue in this situation is the long term and high frequency impact. I’m willing to stay late every now and then so that a coworker can make their kids band concert, but I’m not willing to put in 40 hours while my coworker puts in 25 for months. I don’t want to punish parents here and it’s a dangerous tightrope to walk, but I also feel like it’s not fair to not recognize the work others are putting in.

    1. Kittymommy*

      This is a great point. Sometimes, in the wrong hands and with the wrong language, “we need to be accomadating and flexible with our coworkers who are parents” can come across as “you’re single and don’t have kids so of course you have nothing better to do and can work 13 hour days with no lunch”.

      1. Not a Blossom*

        Yeah, that was almost the exact wording used at my old job. I was told that because I was single and didn’t have kids, I was expected to do more. And when I needed flexibility (either to care for other family members or for my own health), it was not available. SHOCKING that I left.

      2. boo bot*

        Yeah – I understand things are harder for people who are parents (or caretakers in general) but when this is a pattern it really comes across as, “Your life doesn’t matter anyway, so get back to work.”

    2. CTT*

      Yeah, I think the messaging is important. I’m involved with leadership of the women’s group at my law firm, and their communications have been 100% “how do we support female lawyers with school-age children,” which, as Alison pointed out, is fair, but there hasn’t even been one mention of people outside that category. Meanwhile, I was really happy when our firm’s CEO said they know this is a hard situation for everyone and included not just parents but people caring for older relatives or worried about a spouse or people by themselves. As small as it was, it felt good to be seen. I think little things like that + acknowledging the people who are having to dramatically change their workload will help.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Meanwhile, I was really happy when our firm’s CEO said they know this is a hard situation for everyone and included not just parents but people caring for older relatives or worried about a spouse or people by themselves.

        Yeah, I’m single with no kids. That means that I have no one to go grocery shopping for me, so I rely on grocery delivery services that are currently overwhelmed due to increased demand, which means I have to practically sit on the apps all day long refreshing every 10 minutes or so to try to land a delivery window. If I get sick with this virus and can’t work while trying to recover, no one else can pick up the slack by paying my bills and rent – everything is solely my responsibility. I’m glad that I work for people who understand this and haven’t asked me to do anymore than I can right now and work around my grocery delivery schedule as best they can.

        1. The Original K.*

          Yep. Being single (which I am) can be great in terms of freedom, but it also means that there’s no one to pick up the slack. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. If I get sick, I’m on my own; if I can’t work, there’s nobody else’s income to cover me. That’s its own set of challenges that are equally valid as parents’ challenges.

          1. Liz*

            Yes. this 100%. I’m also single, so grocery shopping for me, and my elderly mom, falls on me. Thankfully my bosses and my company are very good about making sure EVERYONE is doing ok. no matter what each person’s situation is. I’ve started walking at lunch; i just let my boss know in case he needs something quickly, that i’ll be gone about 30 mins. and won’t go if i’m in the middle of something important. and so on.

          2. AntOnMyTable*

            I one time was talking to my coworker about the levels we set our a/c. I usually let my house be pretty hot because a/c is expensive. She said “you don’t have to live like you are homeless.” I explained how I have no backup if something happens to me or my job. I could easily become homeless without another adult to rely on. So yes, I do my best to keep my expenses down so that way I not only put a decent amount of money aside but so I am use to living on a drastically smaller income. It is scary being on your own. Right now my shifts are getting cancelled so I am only working 2/3 of what I normally do. If it wasn’t for the fact that I keep a decent bank of PTO (for this very reason) I would be struggling now.

        2. Kittymommy*

          Yup. Between coming in early, staying late, and not having any breaks, I couldn’t get to the grocery store because they were at limited hours. It took a week for me to be able to go get cat food.

        3. Re'lar Fela*

          Agreed! I’m single with a toddler and pets, so if I get sick again (I already had COVID-19 and it was miserable, but I was finally feeling better…until I woke up this morning with a sore throat and a cough again), it’s going to be awful. I was able to work while sick last time, but if I go out to shop and bring home a different bug or another round of COVID, there’s no one to pick up the slack. Grocery delivery is an incredible service and I’m insanely grateful to those who are putting their health on the line for people like me, but sheesh. It’s nearly impossible to get a delivery slot!

          1. eshrai*

            Oh man, that is rough! I hope you feel better soon. I was sick for two weeks but couldn’t get tested for covid because my fever didn’t break 100 and I hadn’t been around anyone who tested positive. It was hard working while coughing and not being able to breath. Managed to take a couple days off to recuperate but I am sooo thankful for roommates who were able to watch my kid and do the shopping during that time. I hope you get better soon!

        4. Quill*

          Yeah. I’m relatively low risk but as it stands taking care of myself is a more intensive task than it is for most people. I live alone (and some ABSOLUTE FOOL tried to schedule a house tour last week) so if I had to be on call at all hours now, I’d be freaking out.

          Not to mention the mental health aspect, which I don’t expect to improve as we finish out month two of isolation.

    3. Threeve*

      Recognition is really important. A boss can express gratitude on behalf of the whole team and to the whole team.

      If you’re on a Zoom or conference call, it’s totally fine for a manager to say to everybody: “[A] and [B] are the only team members who can do [X], and everyone is definitely aware of how much you’re carrying us right now. We all really appreciate how much you’ve been willing to take on.” (IS everyone aware? Well, they are now.)

      It’s not “some people are less productive” but “some people are going above and beyond.”

      1. vampire physicist*

        I’d be cautious here. Recognition without action can be really frustrating – even though it’s typically meant in good faith it can also shed a light on the fact that people are aware of your workload, but aren’t actually helping reduce it. One of my first big scary conversations early in my career was when I had to tell my boss “yes, the thanks I’m getting on this project are very nice but I’m burning out and I can’t sustain this workload, no matter how much people recognize me for it”.
        If I can make an (ex-tech worker) analogy, it’s a little like when the company has ping pong tables or free pizza but also expects you to work 60-70 hour weeks. I’d rather have my time back.

        1. Sharikacat*

          I agree. If the message is just a general round of applause for the single workers who pulled the extra workload, that’s only lip-service. Don’t tell me you’re glad I covered for the workers with children- show me. The tightrope is in what can you do for the single workers afterwards that then doesn’t appear to be unfair to those who had reduced capabilities?

        2. Rachel Greep*

          I have the same thought every time I see that Walmart commercial where the CEO is thanking his essential employees. Lip service

    4. sb51*

      I don’t have a problem still putting in my 40 when my colleagues with kids and no childcare are doing 25; that’s the reality of the situation right now. People can bleat about kids being a “lifestyle choice” but I think it’s perfectly reasonable that no-one considered “what if we have a global pandemic that closes all childcare options for months on end” when making their long-term child-rearing plans that included daycare so both parents could work.

      But asking me to put in 55 — my 40 + 15 on behalf of a colleague with kids isn’t sustainable. Thankfully, my employer isn’t doing that, but from what I hear a lot are.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        That was exactly my thought too. I don’t mind if my coworkers with young children aren’t glued to their desks from 8-5 Monday through Friday and I get that they have other things going on. But I’m not putting in extra hours on their behalf. Sorry but the company needs to shift their priorities instead of punishing people who don’t have kids. We have other things going on too, and this happens way too much during Normal Times too.

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          Yes, yes, and yes. This has happened throughout my work life as a child-free professional. I have and do pick up the slack for parenting colleagues. Heck, I even gave up a long term job for a co-worker who was a parent but also had a spouse as I was single and expected to although that job was my only source of income. But when I needed some flexibility it just wasn’t there. Sad.

        2. Not Enough Spoons*

          During Normal Times in years past, back in my 20’s and early 30’s, I was expected to pick up the slack for my co-worker who had children, on an everyday basis. The twist was that most of those co-workers, across several jobs, were slightly *senior* to me and made mch more money. But… “children”, so they got to work less hours for more money than I did.

          It still boils my blood.

          I used to fantasize about making up an imaginary passel of children whenever I took a new job, just so I wouldn’t be expected to be constantly covering for the parents.

          I am still childfree but my elderly mother now lives with me so I can point to her as the reason I can’t work 50-60 hours a week just so the parents can work 30.

          #NotAllJobs #NotAllParents

      2. Forwhy*

        So just to clarify this is not a current issue at my company, so I’m just working in the hypothetical. I don’t have a problem putting in the time, but I do take issue with the idea that the potential exists for a colleague and I to be putting in vastly different hours and having a disparity in our deliverables and at the end of the day we’re making the same paycheck. I just know myself and that would make me incredibly bitter and resentful over time, which I definitely don’t want.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Exactly. As many have said, most of us are more than happy to step up for a week or two, but if this is going to be how it is for months, that is not acceptable. Being single comes with it’s own issues, ans many here have mentioned. I’m the only one who can go to the store, go to the laundromat, get any medicines I need, etc.

          Plus, being alone (or, as in my case, living in close quarters with one roommate who is an essential worker who is still in pretty close contact with the public) comes with it’s own stressors. This has been hard! I’m not going to send myself into a nervous breakdown just because you think not having kids means I’m sitting around eating cookies all day. Fortunately, my current workplace has been pretty good about this overall. That said, I have worked at other places where, “Oh, Gus can cover it, it’s not like she has kids or anything.” was a common thing heard through the department.

          1. AntOnMyTable*

            If I worked a job like this I think I would be okay with it if I felt it would be reciprocated once things settle down. Will all those parents, essentially working reduced hours now, be willing to take on the extra work and maybe miss some family dinners or pick up a few weekends for a couple months afterward so that all the child free people don’t have to? If that is the case than yes, I would be probably be okay with it. But I feel as if that wouldn’t often be the case.

            I think it is weird that people think “it isn’t your business” as if moral isn’t a real issue. I don’t think anyone is blaming parents but it is human nature to get upset at doing more for the same pay.

        2. LitJess*

          As long as you’re not putting in overtime, it’s frankly none of your business if you’re working 40 hours and your colleague is working 25 hours.

          I think where you can reasonably draw the line is if you are being asked to work overtime to make up for the parent who is unable to do their full 40 as mentioned by sb51.

          1. Yorick*

            I disagree. If you know your coworker with kids is working 25 hours but getting paid for 40, while your boss is harassing you if time you’re away from your desk for 10 minutes, that is definitely a problem and not “none of your business.” It is not that uncommon (now or before all this) for managers to be flexible to parents and strict about time and deliverables to those without children.

            1. LitJess*

              Then your problem is still with your boss and your company, and not your coworker. Your coworker’s arrangements in this situation is still none of your business.

              1. Forwhy*

                I half agree with you. My problem in that situation is definitely with my employer, it’s not my coworkers issue at all and I would take it up with a surfer visor not my coworker.

                That being said, it is my business and my prerogative to talk to my employer and say “hey Jane isn’t putting in the same effort as me at this point and it’s been going on for a while and I’m beginning to get frustrated. What can we do to make this situation more equitable?” It also becomes my business if Jane brings up her children as a reason work isn’t done on time. Again my issue is with my boss, but it’s not out of line to say “hey I know we’re in a crazy situation, but right now the burden of this work is falling on me and when I reach out to Jane she says it’s due to childcare issues, what can we do to resolve this”

                1. tetris replay*

                  I guess my question is whether the supervisor should be telling you whether Jane has taken a pay cut to take fewer hours or not. If you’ve already been told that Jane is putting in fewer hours at work, are the payment details of that arrangement really something you should know?

                2. Forwhy*

                  I don’t need details but in this particular situation where everyone is being affected I think they need to be somewhat open about these kinds of things. A blanket statement could work “during these uncertain times we understand that your families take precedence, therefore we are making the following available to everyone” and then say use of PTO, or voluntary hours/pay reduction, or if the company is in a place where they can do this saying hey we’re going to pay everyone their regular check, but if you are able to meet your hours and take on more of this burden now we’ll give you x amount in your PTO bank.

    5. KaliAZ*

      I so completely agree with this. I don’t have kids and most people just assume I can work late nights and weekends (even before this but especially now) to fit around childcare schedules etc. Which I usually can but I also have a part time job as a dance teacher and that’s my passion. The studio I work at was able to transition to zoom, but it’s definitely been a bit more work. My manager is supportive and I’ve been working regular work hours, but others seem to want me available 24/7 to help out parents working more flexible hours. It’s like all the sudden it’s cool to schedule a meeting at 6am or 7pm due to childcare. I get it I do, but it’s so super draining.

      1. Dust Bunny*


        One, in some cases we’re now working more. Two, we may not have partners to help with the everyday stuff. Three, I, for one, am holed up with my parents and, yeah, tempers are getting a little threadbare around here, and I can’t blow off and take a day trip to give us all some space.

        Plus, my social life got shut down so boyfriend and friends to whom I’d usually turn for support and an alternate physical space (visiting them at their homes or going out for dinner) are a lot less available.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*


          I’m childfree, married, and have disabled roommates too. I’m tired, stressed because of conflicts between my wife and the newest roomie, stressed because my roomie always needs to shop for fresh food putting us all at risk, etc, etc.

          But *of course*, I don’t have it as bad as *parents*. I’m just the main breadwinner for a household of five people. If I get sick we’re all screwed. But since I don’t have kids, I should be doing better, doing more, blah, blah.

          Guess what? I’m not. I’m dealing with my own, stress-related health issues, my roommates worse health issues (two full on diabetics), plus the fact that raises, usually barely meeting national inflation, are going to be *zero* for this year. I get it, they’re trying not to do layoffs, but it still sucks. My retirement savings that are stuck in the Wall Street casino have been annihilated *again* (every ten years I lose over half of what I’ve saved – 2000-2001, 2009, 2020). I can’t get grocery delivery windows, plus stuff I need is out of stock anyway.

          But I’m still expected to do more than people with kids. How about no?

    6. Christine*

      With all due respect, none of this is fair. Schools closing is not fair. Daycares closing is not fair. Nobody asked for this and everyone has some burden. Picking up work slack for coworkers is a burden I would GLADLY take right now over having my two children at home with me. And frankly, we’re all fortunate to have jobs at all.

      I’m just having a really hard time thinking that everything should be “fair” for the childless while the rest of us deal with the shltty hand we’ve been given.

      1. Yorick*

        The point is that things are shltty for childless and single people too, but sometimes only parents get any understanding. There’s this idea that childless people are having a blast and getting a restful vacation. That’s not true. This is super bad for all of us. And having your boss and others think that you’re whiny because you don’t want to work the equivalent of 2 full-time jobs to help out your coworkers with kids is super bad too.

        1. Nananan*

          I’m certainly not having a blast but I’m glad I don’t have to take care of tiny humans and I can just do a workout in my bedroom during lunch break. I’m a little bored and I miss my old life but it’s nothing like having to work with children at home.

      2. AntOnMyTable*

        I mean you say that but maybe if you were in the situation of doing substantially more work you might feel differently. Grass is always greener and all that. Child free people are impacted by this too but somehow they are suppose to continue with their work as if there is no change.

      3. JamieS*

        You can’t expect coworkers to help you out by picking your slack because you happen to have kids (which your coworkers had nothing to do with unless one of them is the other parent) and then turn around and show zero consideration for them. I assume you wouldn’t like it if the rhetoric from others was “Sucks to be you. Not my problem. Do your job like we are or buh bye.”

      4. Kate 2*

        Like childless people don’t have to deal with a shitty hand right now too? Real nice attitude, not biased against childless people at all!

      5. A*

        You’re right in that none of this is fair – but we do need to consider EVERYONE. I’m single and childless, and I asked my boss this week if I could take over some projects for my co-worker who is a single parent of two toddlers because I know she is struggling and I felt I had the space in my workload and mental energy to take one more. That being said, I think if it had been the other way around and my boss had approached me about it – I would have still helped, but I’d be resentful. How do you know what I have to deal with in my life and household? Are kids the only thing that take up time/energy/etc?

        It’s the entitlement that I respond negatively to – that just because you have kids at home, you are entitled to more flexibility than XYZ. We all deserve the flexibility we need. In my case, I had more to give – so I did. Had I not, I shouldn’t be expected to do so.

        Please, just try and think about it from the other perspective. I know I certainly have.

        1. Forwhy*

          Exactly! I have taken on more work or inconvenient travel in the past because I do have that flexibility. But when the assumption gets made that I can/will jump all over it because I don’t have kids it’s a problem. I’ve made it clear to everyone I’m working with that I will do my best to make myself available whenever right now because I can and they may not have that flexibility. Most of the parents at my job are bending over backwards to make everything work and I want to remove as much stress as I can from them.

      6. Nassan*

        I think we should stop looking at being equal and look at being fair (though I agree, the world isn’t fair right now, but we can be fair to each other). As an example, I always allowed my employee to leave early if she had to because of her children (she always did her work, it’s just the matter of leaving early for the day). My boss also allowed me to leave early to go to an event. Is it equal? No, she would leave early much more often than me. Is it fair? Yes, we were both able to adjust our work schedules occasionally when there was something important.
        And this is what Alison is saying, everyone should be able to have flexibility. Parents will probably need *more* of it, but let’s not forget that non-parents also need *some*.

        1. Avasarala*

          Yes. This isn’t the time to look at what is equal for everyone, we need to consider what is fair. What do people actually need, not just want because someone else has?

        2. allathian*

          And the whole discussion could be avoided completely if only deliverables mattered and not butts in seats at any time.

  3. Mannheim Steamroller*

    I seriously doubt any of this is intentional. . . . However, it makes things harder for the rest of us, and in my role, I’m hearing grumbled complaints from other employees about standards not being upheld.”

    That is exactly why I think it IS intentional. The company is providing a “reasonable accommodation” for one group by imposing a special burden on another group (i.e. setting them up for failure).

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Like Alison says, the burden for accommodating an employee’s needs should be carried by the company, not shoved directly on to coworkers.

    2. Bear Necessities*

      It doesn’t sound as though it’s the company bigwigs who are saying standards aren’t being upheld. Expecting Patty to still get her reports in on time when she’s waiting on Janet to provide her information is one thing, but Patty wanting to get her reports in on the pre-COVID deadline even when that’s no longer the expectation is something different.

      1. feministbookworm*

        Well, yes, but does Patty *know* that’s no longer the expectation? Because that’s something the bigwigs need to communicate explicitly. If they’re not actively communicating how standards are changing, of course employees are still going to feel pressured to meet pre-COVID expectations.

        1. Bear Necessities*

          Yep, and that’s what Alison is talking about here:

          Also! If you’re hearing complaints from coworkers about standards not being upheld, that’s a flag to have the conversation above and to share its results with everyone involved with the project. People need to know what they’re seeing has been acknowledged and discussed, and that trade-offs on quality or timeliness are being made deliberately and with the organization’s assent — so it doesn’t feel like chaos, or that their colleagues are being inconsiderate or flighty or “getting away” with something they shouldn’t be.

      2. Sharikacat*

        Actually, I’d argue that expecting Patty to turn in the same reports on time while Janet can send it in a day or two later just because Janet has kids is unfair. If the reports can actually wait, why does Patty have to be on a tighter deadline?

        Delegation of the work might be better off based on priority. Those who can work more right now get the projects that are due sooner, but the trade-off is that workers with children get more projects on their plate that have much longer deadlines.

        1. Not a Blossom*

          And if Patty does have to be on a tighter deadline, explain why (reports to X are more time sensitive than reports to Y or something) and give her more flexibility somewhere else.

  4. Governmint Condtion*

    As Alison said “Last, your company needs to make sure it has reassessed projects in light of this new reality. You can’t just give lip service to all of the above; none of it works if workloads stay the same.”

    Unfortunately, I am working in a government agency where all of our projects have been deemed “essential” by our elected executive-in-chief. (Most people would look at the list of projects and only say about 25% if them are.) Therefore, all workloads have remained the same. Except for those who have to make up the work for those who can’t. Which is everybody else.

    In government, there is no “company” to push back to. And with the emergency declaration, our union contract has effectively been suspended, so the union can’t push back either.

    1. eshrai*

      Yes, same here. We are deemed essential because our agency is…but our workload is honestly non-essential to the functioning of the department. I would say we function to make the job better for employees, but without us, everything would still be fine. I am grateful to still have a job though. Our workloads have not changed.

    2. Stressed gov worker*

      Same here. I’m doing the work of four people right now while everyone else in my department is either taking care of their kids and getting unlimited paid time off to do so (not even try to work while taking care of kids – COMPLETE time off), or don’t have work laptops, thus CANNOT work, thus get unlimited paid time off until teleworking arrangements can be put into place.

      It’s really morale-crushing. And on top of that, whenever the bosses email us, they’re always like, “Thank you everyone for helping in these stressful times! I know a lot of you wish you could telework right now and it’s difficult not to have the ability to.” Like, EXCUSE ME WHAT?!?!?!?! I don’t want to be petty, but c’mon. Maybe if you’re going to highlight people, highlight the ones who are picking up all the slack of the people who are having a grand ol time NOT working?! The hellllll!

  5. GrumbleBunny*

    OP, as someone who wanted kids but couldn’t have them*, thank you for asking this question. One of the most painful parts of my career has been always having to work holidays or being sent on the terrible travel assignments so the parents wouldn’t have to… all because my ovaries didn’t work.

    I remember one boss saying “Well, I know you requested it first but I’m giving Brian Christmas week off because he has a family and you don’t.” I have a family, they just live four states away instead of in the next bedroom like Brian’s. Thanks to that policy, I spent Christmas alone because I couldn’t travel to celebrate with loved ones.

    *I do realize it’s just as unfair to people who chose not to have kids or who are not to that stage of their life yet. I just wanted to let the letter writer know how personally touched I am by their thoughtfulness.

      1. GrumbleBunny*

        That whole job, and the company, were the biggest crapshow I have ever seen but I just felt lucky to have found a job after 18 months of unemployment during the recession of ’08. I’m so happy to be out of there lol

    1. Kim D.*

      I am very sorry, both for your unwanted childless state and for the f*cking shitty reasoning from your manager(s).

    2. Important Moi*

      It can be difficult. Unfortunately, THOSE bosses exist. For example the boss who said

      “Before you worked for me, I didn’t know single, childless people had familial obligations.”

      1. Xerxes*

        OMG did he think you came up from a patch of seafoam, ala Venus, and as such had no family?? As someone with no kids, by choice, but heavily involved in a large family I would have been tempted to say only words with four letters.

      2. The Original K.*

        That says a lot about him – did he just ignore his own family of origin when he was single and childless?

        1. university minion*

          I’m amazed at how many people have never been single and childless – they move directly from under their parents’ roof to married life, and if divorced, have another partner lined up immediately.
          I’m making no judgement of it being right or wrong, just that it’s foreign to me, but quite common for others.

          1. A*

            This still blows my mind. No judgement, I just was raised in an area where financial independence (not the “from your parents” definition, but in it’s truest sense) was praised as the ultimate goal. I literally had NO IDEA how regional this mindset was until I moved away from metropolitan cities and was suddenly in the minority.

            Honestly I feel almost a bit jipped, like jeez – I could have spent my 20s not climbing the corporate ladder in pursuit of an income that could sustain a small family if needed? Would have saved me a lot of hassle!

            1. Lurker*

              I know we’re not really supposed to police others’ words but I think it’s important to point out that “jipped” [sic] is a derogatory term. It’s “gypped” and it refers to the stereotype that gypsies (Roma people) are swindlers.

        2. Bluesboy*

          Might be a bit harsh, depending on what he meant by ‘obligations’. I have a big, close, birth family, but when I became a manager (at age 26) I don’t think I knew any member of my staff with family obligations. I mean, sure, we all wanted to see family at Christmas, but with parents still relatively young and healthy and no children I think the majority of us didn’t have ‘obligations’. Doesn’t mean I/we ignored our families.

          A good manager would try to be aware that we aren’t all in the same situation, so if you want to criticise him as a manager for not realising that, fair play to you. But to suggest he ignored his birth family seems a bit much.

    3. Third or Nothing!*

      “Because he has a family and you don’t” – my jaw literally dropped. Like spouses and kids don’t count? Parents? Siblings? Aunts and Uncles? Cousins? Or only people with kids have a REAL family?!?!?

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        You have no idea how many times someone has said to me, “well, when you have a REAL family (or your OWN family, or some variation) you’ll understand…” When I talk about my parents and sister and nephews as “my family.”

    4. ynotlot*

      OMG, I have strong feelings about this with holiday time. It’s not the people who ‘have families’ who need the most time (EVERYONE HAS A FAMILY! and also this is wrong and unfair even if someone doesn’t have a family) but people who need to TRAVEL OUT OF STATE. The fact that I’m single and childless makes it even MORE important to me to travel to be with my family, and if I only have Christmas day off and have to work the day before and after, I literally can’t do that. I have TRIUMPHANTLY quit 2 jobs on exactly December 10 because they wouldn’t give me a firm answer on whether I could have Christmas Eve off. Any job that tries to do it to me in the future, I will walk away, no questions asked. I don’t care how bad the economy is, this is absolutely the hill I will die on, every time. No job is worth spending Christmas alone. It’s really just the principal of the thing at this point – I could get through a Christmas or two alone, but I could never stomach working for someone who thinks it’s okay to ask me to make that tradeoff. I actually ask about Christmas time off in interviews as like “FYI, everyone has that one weird dealbreaker; here is mine, so you know before you make an offer.”

      1. Sue*

        Yes. My single, childless daughter lives 3,000 miles from her family. The rest of her colleagues are all more local. Getting her employer to sign-off on holiday vacation days has been a trial. We’ve had to buy tickets and cross our fingers more than once.

      2. A*

        Same! Luckily it hasn’t come to quitting, but I actually bring this up in interviews now to make sure we are on the same page. It’s an especially sensitive topic for me because I very much want to have children, I just haven’t met the right person yet. I’ve always made it clear during the interview process that my closest family is several states away, and as such I need to travel for the end of year holidays. I’m always open to teleworking during that time, but make it clear that it is a requirement for me. Otherwise I would be alone (well, with friends more realistically), but that is not a reasonable request by my employer in my mind (obviously depends on the line of work, I am not saving lives). I figure if an employer views that as just a “me” problem, it wouldn’t work out anyways.

        At my current employer I had push hard to make the week between Xmas and NYE telework-optional because we are in a remote area and usually have to recruit from out of the area (myself included) because our work is highly specialized and requires a certain amount of higher education rarely found locally. Finally had to explain to senior management that requiring higher ed degrees = most likely out of area / will relocate = family most likely not local = strong chance they will need to travel for family holidays.

      3. Super Admin*

        THIS. (And I am proud of you quitting over it)

        You know what, I don’t have kids of my own, and I don’t even have nephews or nieces, because my only sibling died in a car crash at the age of 21. So my family is tiny, but hell if any one is going to tell me being with my parents at Christmas isn’t as important as someone with a big family. My Mum needs me to get through a tough time of year, I am there, job be damned.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Yes – I usedto work as part of a small team there were three of us, me (single, childless) and two others, both of who had spouses/partners and a child. It was assumed that OF COURSE they would get to book time off around holidays because they needed them for the children, and the one year when (over a year in advance) I booked some time off which fell during a school break I was put under pressure to cancel it so that they could both be off that week, and the one who was denied the time off because I did not back down called me selfish for not giving in. (the time off was to attend a family party, which was planned more than a year in advance, to celebrate the 80th birthday of my last remaining grandparent, and involved coordinating nearly 100 people, and was taking place near her home which was a 5 hour journey from where I lived at the time)
      It was the first and only occasion in 5 years working in that job that I had not worked round when the parents wanted time off. Fortunately senior management were more reasonable, and did back me up when I raised the issue, but it wasn’t the first or last time that my immediate manager had that attitude.
      She wanted to run a drop in advice session, which was absolutely fine. She wanted it to run weekly, and to be available for an hour after our normal clocking time, to accommodate people working office hours. OK, I’m not wild about working the extra time for no extra pay, but there are 3 of us. once every three weeks I can live with that. Except – she then decided she wouldn’t be helping, as she needed to leave on time because she has a child. And of course she couldn’t expect other co-worker to stay late, as other co worker also has a child.. Yeah, not happening.

      All of which is a little bit different to the current situation which is of course unprecedented, but I think it is important for managers and indeed people who are getting extra accommodations due to child care obligations to be aware that, for an awful lot of their child-free coworkers/employees, this is the background. It’s not “please help out for this one unprecedented situation” it’s “Hey, once again we’d like you to do more work for no recognition or additional pay because of your family circumstances”

      I think that if you are asking people to pick up the extra work, it’s important to recognise that, and to try to come up with ways that you can tangibly reward those people – whether it’s by petitioning senior management to look at some form of bonus scheme (even if it can’t be paid out until things return to normal), additional PTO (again, perhaps able to be taken once the lock down ends) and making sure that recognition includes recognising both that people can’t take on the extra work indefinitely, and that people without children have other, differing demands on them which may be less immediately obvious.
      As others have mentioned, being single, for instance, creates huge pressures – if you are the only wage earner in your household (even if you are also the only person in your household) that adds huge strain, and other things being equal, being single is a lot more expensive than being part of a couple, as well, so the single person may well be under more financial strain to begin with.

  6. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯*

    Last, your company needs to make sure it has reassessed projects in light of this new reality. You can’t just give lip service to all of the above; none of it works if workloads stay the same.

    YES! This is what my company is struggling with right now. They can’t tell us to “take all the time we need” but also say we need to complete a brand new project in a week. Expectations need to be reduced across the board where possible.

    1. Generic Name*

      Agreed. The grumbling about “standards not being upheld” kind of got to me. Maybe it’s time to re-assess those standards? Does the company want their employees to remember that they “upheld standards” on the backs of employees who happen to not have kids? Not cool.

      1. Sara without an H*

        That one leaped out at me, too. Too often, I think the word “standards” is code for “we’ve always done it this way.”

    2. Senor Montoya*

      Or like my grandboss who says, and truly believes, that we need to be kind to ourselves and take time as needed, flex our schedules if that will help…except that, this time of year, we can’t do that, we have many appts with students that are top priority under normal circumstances, and right now are even more important. So no, I can’t flex. I can find 10 minutes here and there to eat lunch and read AAM, but I really do have to have my ass in front of the computer from 8 to 5, M to F, and do some work in the evenings and on the weekends too to keep up just a little bit with the other parts of my job.

      So, thanks, grandboss, for the nice thoughts. (And yes, I personally let GB know why this is a “thoughts and prayers” response.)

    3. Cannibal Queen*

      I have a small win to report here.
      In my agency, we’re accustomed to hearing management preach about how we have to ‘rigorously prioritise our work in light of resource constraints’, while at the same time pushing an ever growing list of demands. But just last week, we received a message from HQ saying ‘In light of current circumstances, we will not be asking branches to produce (regular biannual report X) at this time’. First time in 25 years I have seen our agency walk the talk on prioritisation!

  7. Kiwi*

    I think that it’s also important to note that if you have young kids and you’re dealing with keeping them at home, you shouldn’t just…not do things. Projects shouldn’t get pushed on the back burner, totally undone, or “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it” with the hope that no one notices.

    I don’t know if the OP is a manger or not but I would remind everyone how important communication is at this time and I would also put more of the onus on the parents to actually communicate what their needs are. As peer, I would feel way less resentful of someone who said “I can’t do X project by Y date but I can do it by Z date” or “Can I get this to you over the weekend instead of Friday?” than I would of someone who was essentially using their child as a shield and saying things like “I won’t be able to get to it because of the baby” and throwing their hands up while leaving the rest of us to sort it out. An accommodation isn’t a hall pass to go radio silent or refuse to do work, or to expect that everyone else automatically factors in your particular child’s schedule when making decisions. Not that every parent treats it this way, but I have personally had that experience.

    1. Ms. Pessimistic*

      As a parent with a young child who is working from home with the same workload I had before COVID-19 flexibility and accommodations to me aren’t “Oh I’m not gonna do this because watching my kid and working is hard (which it is!)” but more, ” I’m not going to be available from 8:30-4:30 every day like when I was in the office” . I usually still work 40 hours, not always but am still getting all my work done. My husband and I switch days we’re watching our toddler but we both always work during nap and then often after he goes to bed, and on the weekends to get things done. It is incredibly stressful because I literally have no time to myself, I’m always watching my toddler or working – nothing else! I worked until 2am last night because yesterday was my day with the baby.

      Anyway, I don’t think any of are using our kids as shields. And if you have people that are they sound shitty and also like people who would pretend to have COVID, or take advantage in other ways.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Oh there are absolutely people using their kids as reasons to not do their work – I’m dealing with one right now and her kid is 13. We all have a bunch of emails stating that she has to homeschool and care for her kid right now so expect delays. Still waiting on an answer from mid-March.
        And while I don’t think she would lie about having COVID, I can see her finding and exploiting every service and loophole she can find. I do know she put in a request for a new WFH chair and threw a fit when it was denied since the company provided one for her about 2 years ago when she had to do an extended WFH stint while caring for her husband who was battling cancer. Apparently she sold it when she went back to the office full time since it was a really nice chair.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          She sold company property and got mad they wouldn’t pay for something else she could sell out from under them when this is over?! Lol, she’s a trip.

        2. nm*

          Sounds like people who were honest before the crisis, are honest during it, and people who were dishonest before are dishonest during too!

          1. Avasarala*

            Yep. This isn’t actually about parents or childless people during the pandemic at all.

          1. Kat in VA*

            She sold a company-provided chair and presumably pocketed the cash; now she wants another.

            This deserves compassion why?

      2. Kiwi*

        Tons of people use their kids as shields, whether intentionally or not, pre-COVID and during. I have seen it in every job I have ever had. It’s great that you don’t. It’s great that you find ways to work around your kids rather than expecting everyone else to work around your lack of work.

        But you don’t have to be especially shitty of a person to need reminding that communication is key and that being solutions-oriented is an important trait, or to need reminding that “I have a child” isn’t a specific-enough request for an accommodation.

        1. Cat*

          “I have a child” during a crisis where all childcare is closed kind of is a specific enough reason for an accommodation right now.

          1. Kiwi*

            “Hey, can you do the TPS reports?”

            “I have a child.”

            That wouldn’t go over well in my company.

            I said the *request* wasn’t specific enough, not that the *reason* wasn’t specific enough.

            1. Cat*

              I mean yes, obviously that is not the way one has a conversation. Like we don’t need to bring complete straw men into this.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              All kids are going to need some kind of supervision and help, though. Just because your kid is 16 doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have to help them with homework, now that they don’t have the extra folks at school to ask; or that you aren’t going to have to spend at least some time making sure they are getting their work done and not just playing video games all day, or investigating what that giant CRASH was, or whatever. Sure, it won’t be as much hands-on time in big blocks, but it’s not non-existent.

              1. allathian*

                True. But a 16-year-old is old enough to realize that their needs don’t always come first. Most of them should be smart enough not to interrupt you in the middle of a meeting or client call or whatever. I’m not talking about kids with special needs who need constant supervision like toddlers do, obviously. Also, you’re not working every hour of the day you’re awake, surely homework can wait until you’re off the clock?

      3. Anonon*

        THIS. I try to get work done during normal hours, but utilize the time while my 20 month old naps, and then after she goes to bed, often working until 10 or 11pm. Some days i feel like I’m working even more than i would be when I’m in the office because i feel like i have to prove to folks (that in reality they may or may not think) I’m working just as hard as a normally would be despite the incredible challenge of trying to work from home with a 20 month old. I also have to balance my meetings and work with my husbands meetings and work so that once of us are watching my daughter at all times other than naps. We have had a few times where we have had meetings scheduled at the same time, both tried to move it with no flexibility from other attendees, and then my daughter has to sit on my lap during the meeting because we have no other option. Please know that 99.9% of parents are putting in as much effort as they possibly can.

        1. Lynn*

          Where as a couple that both work for my company are, essentially, refusing to do work because they have neurotypical pre-teen kids at home. I don’t understand how they can’t take turns doing child care or why a 12 year old can’t occupy themselves for an hour or two.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Ugh. When I was a teen I sure wouldn’t have needed my parents watching me all day long. Even with ADD, I still could read or whatever for an hour or four.

        2. Kiwi*

          I find the idea that 99.9% of parents are putting in as much effort as they possibly to be unhelpful as a sentiment.

          From an employer perspective, it’s not a solution. The statement by itself is essentially a request for a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Didn’t turn in your timesheet on time? She has a kid, she’s putting in as much effort as she can. Didn’t submit a report when you said you would, and didn’t say anything to anybody about it? He has a kid, he’s putting in as much effort as he possibly can.

          We’re all human, and we all need different things at different times because we’re all individuals with different lives. You shouldn’t burn your coworkers at the stake because their life circumstances and COVID-19 are presenting them with additional challenges, or even expect them to be at 100% of the productivity that they had before. But accommodation requests are supposed to be a dialog about reasonable solutions and workloads, not a blanket assumption by the employer that a parent is doing their best solely because they have a child, and that nothing more or different can be asked of them.

          1. Professional Straphanger*

            Thank you!
            I have to phrase this very carefully. This is something that has annoyed me for a lot of my working life because I’ve always gotten the shitty end of the stick. I’m sure taking care of kids isn’t a vacation, but this is 12 weeks of getting paid for not doing your job or doing it at reduced capacity.

            It’s good that the benefit is available and I’m not upset about it – kids have to be taken care of and sometimes parents need to be accommodated. What I AM upset about is that when things get back to normal, those of us who don’t have kids but would like the same consideration to, for example, take an extended training course or other personal or professional development will get laughed out of our supervisor’s office before finishing our request.

            There is a sort of social equation where people – more specifically, women – are indirectly told, “You pick up the slack for these people now, and when it’s your turn others will pick up the slack for you.” Those of us who opted out of that contract are expected to just suck it up and continue to give over the course of our careers. I don’t mind pitching in for the common good, and I think most people feel that way, but it’s demoralizing when the company gives a hollow “Thanks for holding the line” while dropping extra work on my desk. And when the emergency is over everything just goes back to the way it was and the extra work doesn’t get factored into raises or promotions.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have also had this experience, and I agree with you. Communication is so key! “This is going to take me a lot longer than usual because the kids are stuck inside today” goes over pretty well with me. “I can’t do this, it’s too much work” lands like an anvil. I will say, though, that these patterns are often well established before a crisis hits.

      1. Tortillas*

        Yes! Communication! Establishing priorities! I have kiddos and a partner who works FT and whose work is more time-sensitive than mine. I am a PM and a contributor to other projects, as well as a bunch of other grab-bag items including user support on software platforms. I have a daily to-do list that prioritizes time-sensitive material and other work that depends on my contributions. My day is done when I finish that list. I do not add to that list unless there’s an emergency.

        When I receive requests, I ask about priority and deadlines (if it’s not already clear). I am also transparent about my situation, as I do have a few folks who tend to circle back overly frequently* or for whom EVERYTHING is needed ASAP.** I attempt to figure out where on the prioritization matrix a request is, and then go from there. I don’t ever say I can’t do it, just that it won’t get done soon and is it okay to talk about it in X days/weeks/months.

        *Like- every 2-4 days circle back. In all cases so far, these requests require a high effort with low impact and aren’t an institutional priority.
        **Nothing they’ve asked for is actually ASAP.

        1. allathian*

          I have a couple of internal clients whose ASAP requests always get dropped to the bottom of the pile (with my supervisor’s approval).

    3. Annony*

      It may make sense to look into whether projects can be redistributed so that people with young children are mostly working on projects that are not time sensitive and/or do not require them to give input before someone else can move forward.

    4. SweetestCin*

      Every bit of this.

      An accommodation isn’t a hall pass. It simply means we all need to work together.

      I’m struggling to not be frustrated with a small number of coworkers, who when I randomly WFH on a snow day would accuse me of just blowing off work when they found out after the fact, who are now essentially trying to use WFH and “homeschooling” and “distractions” as a hall pass. That’s not really on me to deal with though, I’ll let the managers, who know I never used it as such, deal with it.

        1. SweetestCin*

          Pretty much. Its been interesting/telling. I’m trusting that my managers are dealing accordingly, and I have good reason to believe they will as I’ve seen them already handle something similar quite well before this (waves hand at all of this chaos) hit.

    5. Murphy*

      Speaking as a parent, we sometimes don’t have that kind of specificity to give. Yeah, I think I could get it done on Friday but if my partner has a sudden big meeting and I am on extra child care duty one day and then the next day my child refuses to nap, maybe I can’t meet the deadline I said I would. There’s a lot of last minute, unpredictable things that pop up.

      1. Kiwi*

        It’s not about perfect specificity. It’s about not going radio silent when you do miss a deadline, and not throwing up your hands and saying “I can’t do it, I’m going to preemptively tell you I can’t do it, and I’m not going to propose any other solutions.”

      2. Cat*

        Yeah, and not everyone has a partner or can work all weekend or all night. Sometimes you actually can’t put in 40 hours during this crisis.

        1. Cat*

          (And I’ll add, I have been working after the baby goes to bed and on weekends. But I can’t actually work all weekend because the baby still needs care or all night because I will die.)

          1. LitJess*

            I’ve been working after bedtime and on weekends too. But I’m trying to cut back on the weekend time I’m putting in (or do something really fun like buying new ebooks for the library) because I can feel the burnout creep coming on.

            Take care of yourself too!

      3. Genny*

        This is where communication becomes key. If the pre-COVID deadline was 3pm on Wednesday and you know that’s not realistic for your current situation, tell your team what you think you can realistically do (COB Friday). If something comes up that makes the adjusted deadline unrealistic, then communicate that with your team (because of X and Y, it’s now COB Monday). That allows your team to re-prioritize their work accordingly and/or your manager to reassess your priorities or make alternate plans if it turns out that your input really was needed by COB Friday.

  8. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    “Standards not being upheld” could mean a HUGE range of things here – from “sending medical products that don’t meet safety standards out to customers” (BAD) to “sometimes communications have a typo” or “the reports went out on the fourth day of the month instead of the third” (totally fine). My director was very clear from the beginning of this that no one was expected to be doing their work exactly as well as they had beforehand and that was okay. If that message hasn’t come down from leadership, it’s a failure on their part. Ii it *has* but coworkers have taken on some kind of martyr complex where they “pick up the slack” in order to meet unnecessary pre-COVID standards… well, that’s still technically leadership’s problem, but as a coworker you could say things like “oh, I thought what Jane produced was just fine and I’m sure Boss did too, no need for you to work late and re-do her message in the preferred font.”

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I wondered if it meant that people were getting blamed for slower response times, etc., because they couldn’t move forward until the employees who were parents had contributed, because management was clueless. That’s a problem. I’ll help out but if you blame me for stuff I can’t control, yeah, I’m gonna be resentful.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, I would take a very serious look at the people who are grumbling about “standards.” I have a few old-school guys who don’t understand that it’s not a virtue to be there at 8:00:00 every day, and that it’s perfectly fine if you worked extra on Wednesday to go home a little early on Friday, and those reports are due at noon even if you were evacuated due to a bomb threat. They *are* given the same flexibility as everyone else, they just pride themselves on meeting their own standards and grouse when others don’t meet them.

      If there are unfair standards being maintained, with all flexibility given to parents of little ones, that stinks and needs to change. But the grumblers might just need to be told, “Hey, extraordinary times, standards are different, use what flexibility you need and be clear when your work is impacted by your own situation or others.”

  9. Jedi Squirrel*

    Equal treatment is not necessarily equitable treatment.

    It is really easy to know who has kids (generally), but yeah, other people may have other situations that require a lot of their attention that aren’t as visible. But nobody will ever know if this information is not brought out into the open. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations never prepared for this particular risk, and are doing a lot of post hoc risk management. Hopefully, we will all be better prepared next time.

    Patience, communication, empathy.

    1. Jennifer*

      “Equal treatment is not necessarily equitable treatment.” This. If one of the childless employees has a disability or cares for an elderly parent the OP may not know because it’s not mentioned in the letter.

      I got the impression that the childless employees are making this into a parent vs. non-parents thing. “She got to turn in her report late but I didn’t. It’s not fair!” Sure, it could be that the company handled this poorly, but I think it’s also possible that it’s resentment from the childless employees for things beyond the parents’ contorl.

      1. Temperance*

        I think this is incredibly dismissive of childless employees, and it seems to be an issue of parents v. non-parents at this particular org.

        From the OP’s letter, it looks like the employees with children aren’t meeting necessary deliverables, which is delaying others (including childless employees) from being able to complete their work. That’s not throwing a tantrum, that’s a reasonable issue.

        1. Jennifer*

          Of course it’s a reasonable issue, but it sounds like it’s something that’s beyond their control.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            That is why it’s management’s job to step in. Management needs to address the issue, but talking to and working with the parents will be part of that solution.

            It isn’t on the parents to fix it by themselves, obviously. Though the first step management needs to take is go the the parent and let them know what’s happening. Bob can’t finish X until you do Y. Y has been coming in late, what is your situation here? It may be that the parent has been prioritizing Z because it has a shorter deadline, and with Kiddo’s online school they aren’t having time to get to Y. But Z isn’t required by anyone else, so let’s change the deadline on that one so you can do Y instead. Or if that isn’t an option, maybe Fergus needs to take Y for now, and parent can take project A, which is more long-term and therefor not as time critical, so only being able to put half-time in on it right now is no big deal.

            This isn’t about blaming parents at all, this is a really tough thing to deal with, and most folks do understand that. It’s about realizing that one person’s issue can’t always be allowed to domino into everyone’s problem. Just because it’s not necessarily in their control doesn’t mean they can’t be transparent about where their own log-jams are happening or be willing to be flexible along with the childless workers to keep things running as smoothly as possible in this time.

        2. AndersonDarling*

          This is the voice I got from reading the letter, that the parents have been accommodated, but it was just expected that the non-parents could pick up all the slack and they would have to navigate delays on their own because they can’t bring up the problems because parenting became the elephant in the room.
          It’s not an Us vs Them situation, it’s an “How am I supposed to get all this work done on my own when my co-workers are only able to put in half days of work?”

        3. Show Me the Money*

          Not all parents are slackers using their children for an excuse not to work, and not all childfree folks work themselves to the bone every day. There are lazy childfree folks, and childfree folks who miss deadlines too. Geesh, the tone of this thread disturbs me. If there was ever a time for compassion and kindness, it is now.

          1. The Rat-Catcher*

            I think people speak to their own experience, but as a parent it can be hard to read. Certainly people have covered for me so that I can make a soccer game, and certainly someone did my tasks while I was on maternity leave, and they were not compensated extra – these things are all true. It is also true that I have covered for chiropractor appointments and extended anniversary trips as well.

      2. Roscoe*

        Eh, maybe. I think most childless people like myself can point out a number of times that their time wasn’t considered as valuable. Its not about resentment necessarily, but it is about that I’m not responsible for picking up your slack. Yes, I’m single and living alone now with no kids. But to be honest, that makes me less likely to want to do extra. When my shift is over, I’m done. Its not like I can go out and do anything during the day, so I dont want more work. If I’m stuck, I want to do what I want to do, not Jan’s work because she was watching her kid all day. Sure, there may be a little bit of resentment, but I think for many, this is just making an existing problem worse.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I find your comment, “But to be honest, that makes me less likely to want to do extra.” I see this from a lot of childless people, and to be fair, from plenty of people with children, too. There are a set of people in my company who want to work from 7:00-3:30 with a 30 minute lunch and even if they’re salaried, they are pencils down and in their cars by 3:32. I don’t think it’s really a kids/no kids thing–it’s people who want a job with defined responsibilities and hours and people who are more interested in being company men/women and want to put in more time. I might not want to do “Jan’s” work specifically, but I’ll make myself available for extra work because I’m a nerd who wants the good assignments and will do more to be able to do more later. I don’t think being either type is right or wrong, but it’s going to cause some problems in times like the present when personal preferences can’t take priority. For all the frustrated OT’ers, a lot of the people who have to cut their work hours are frustrated, too. (Sorry, rambling some here.)

          1. Roscoe*

            So, to be clear, I actually don’t typically mind working extra, especially when working from home. Mainly because if I’m at home, I’ll usually do some unrelated stuff during work time, like going to the gym or running errands. So because of that, if I work past 5, I’m fine with it. But not being able to do those personal things during the day just makes me want to be done when I’m done. And I’m not going to complain about doing my job, but I definitely will complain about doing mine plus half of someone else’s

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I actually thought the letter presented a balanced view of the situation and made it about work impacts, not general fairness. I think the way the OP presented it here would go along way in making the case to management that while they understand the need to accommodate people, there are these downstream problems now and we need a way to fix those.

  10. MsMaryMary*

    Particularly given the roles it sounds like OP’s working parents hold, I’d treat the situation like you would for any other coworker who is over capacity. It’s not that different from someone covering multiple roles (I mean, that is literally what parents are doing), someone snowed under by a crazy project, or someone with a ton of travel. In addition to what Alison suggests, I’d try setting up a short meeting once a week to discuss any time sensitive decisions. If your team communicates a lot through email, clarifying which emails are time sensitive in either the subject line or first sentence could be useful. It may also help to have the team be as concise and direct in email as possible. OldJob was big on BLOT: Bottom Line on Top in email to quickly summarize a situation and then include the details below. Using bullets or bolding key points can work well too.

    I would definitely discuss with the whole team first! Getting an email with the subject MARY: MUST READ and then an email full of bolded sentences would rub a lot of people the wrong way if they weren’t prepared.

    1. Crop Tiger*

      I don’t mind covering extra projects. I do mind covering 17 years of extra projects and holidays. I didn’t choose to have kids. You did.

  11. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    “Last, your company needs to make sure it has reassessed projects in light of this new reality. You can’t just give lip service to all of the above; none of it works if workloads stay the same. ”

    A thousand times this.

    Regardless of the reason, if some people’s schedules and obligations are slipping with regards to the original plan, then the plan needs to be looked at again!

  12. Legal Beagle*

    This is a great answer. I think Alison is dead-on that the complaints need to be directed at company leadership, and solutions have to flow from the top, as well. Employees stewing with resentment and framing it as “parents vs. childfree” doesn’t help the situation. We’re all stressed, we all need flexibility – it’s the employer’s responsibility to fairly allocate accommodations and reprioritize as needed. If they won’t do that, that’s the company’s failure, not the fault of individual employees who are struggling just to get through each day.

  13. Analyst Editor*

    Excellent and even-handed advice!
    I like that you both acknowledge that perhaps parents – who may have BOTH the elderly parent AND the children to take care of – might need more accommodation than the childless, but ALSO not cutting them slack and recognizing that you still have to be fair — because when people feel like they’ve been treated fairly, they’re willing to “take one for the team” and take on more; if they feel like they’re being taken advantage of, they get resentful and that’s not great for anyone.

  14. Shocked Pikachu*

    “Standards are not being upheld”

    This is a new, different, situation and one of the most important thing is to realize standards and goals have to be adjusted to reflect that. It’s naive to think a company can suddenly shift to solely telecommuting/ remote operation and function just like before. That’s unrealistic. Unfortunately what I am seeing with my friends is that not every leadership gets that. You have a group of people for whom it’s impossible to work at full capacity right now. That shouldn’t mean the other group of people has to work at full blast plus some more. And to have the added responsibility to “chase” the other group around to get whatever is necessary to complete their work.That’s not sustainable. Burn out is a real thing and it can happen faster than people realize. I hope you can find a way to bring this up and your company will come up with a plan to streamline and re- organize the structure so the work can be done without helping some while putting more stress on others. Yes, parents with young kids generally need more accommodation but it can be done in ways that don’t drain the rest.

  15. AnitaJ*

    This is such a difficult situation for everyone. I’m interested in this topic particularly because I feel like I don’t have a good answer either. I have a small child (under 1 yr) and my spouse and I are working full-time from home. The quality/speed of my work has dropped–not significantly, but enough for me to feel bad that I’m not doing my best. As a result of not being able to give my full attention 9-5, I am working early mornings and late nights to ensure that no balls get dropped (as is spouse since we both parent during the day). I’m exhausted, but that’s my problem to deal with.

    But the only alternative for me right now would be…taking PTO. Which means that instead of getting 80% of me, my company would be getting 0% of me and all of my coworkers would HAVE to take on my responsibilities instead of getting one-off “hey, I’m not at my computer, can you send this email for me” requests. Neither of these options seem great! And I don’t know what the answer is, since at some point I’m going to burn out.

    I dunno. I just hope everyone can remain as safe and healthy as possible and we will work to get through this as best we can, with teamwork and understanding.

    1. Ms. Pessimistic*

      I feel you! I’m exhausted, Worked until 2am last night and then up with the toddler this morning because it’s my husband’s morning to work. I work weekends too and feel I’m either with the toddler or working. Literally nothing else!!

      Solidarity! I know you’re doing the best you can!

    2. Rocinante*

      My spouse and I work full-time but have two kids that would be in daycare if not for coronavirus closing several and overburdening the rest. Both of our bosses told us they’d rather have us working less than 100% when caring for our two kids than taking the new federal 12 weeks paid leave we’re entitled to if our kids’ daycare is closed.

    3. NW Mossy*

      Yeah, just about every day I waffle on whether or not I should just quit and allow my company to hire someone who can give 100% right now. I pretty much short-change absolutely everyone in my life right now, so the idea of having fewer people to disappoint seems awfully appealing!

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      One of my coworkers just made the call to quit because he was having too much trouble juggling childcare. His wife is an ER doctor and they have 5 kids ages 8 mos – 9 yrs, so he had been working from home full time and watching all 5 alone. Needless to say he was only about 40-50% productive and stressed as all hell. They decided that with the money they were saving from not having daycare costs, it made sense for him to quit for his mental health. For the rest of us, that means we are picking up his entire workload, rather than 50-60%. It sucks for us, but I can’t help but think he made the right decision. In his shoes I would have burned out 2 weeks ago.

      1. blackcat*

        “They decided that with the money they were saving from not having daycare costs, it made sense for him to quit for his mental health.”

        I, along with lots of other folks, are still paying for childcare we’re not getting :/

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Now that really sucks. That’s money down a rathole. Yeah, the childcare worketrs need income too, but there’s probably still some profit-taking there.

        2. Name Required*

          I think this needs to be shouted from the rooftops. My daycare provider is not charging us during this time (which means her staff is going without pay, which is a whole other issue), but I wish childless people would understand: We’re working full-time. We’re working another job full-time to care for kids. Most of the parents I know are also still paying 100% for their childcare, which can be $800-1200/mo PER CHILD.We also have all the other additional stressors that you do: caregivers for other family members, chronic illnesses, some of us are disabled, etc. Those other issues that you’re working around don’t pass over us because we have kids. It isn’t a contest, but it rubs me the wrong way how some frame the issue like, “Well, we have equal stressors because I’m childless and have X to deal with” as if children some how cancel out additional responsibilities. Everyone needs flexibility, but not everyone needs the same flexibility.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            But we are discussing workload here. Company workload. You chose to have a child. Non parents should not be responsible for your work–because it’s yours. Nor should they be responsible for your parenting. If you want flexibility, sure! Flexibility for all and push for your co-workers who are covering you to get extra money, PTO, raises, promotions, etc. They didn’t sign up to do your job as well as theirs.

            1. AnitaJ*

              I suppose I don’t understand the lack of compassion that your comments exude. Yes, people chose to be parents. And other people make other choices. Everyone needs kindness in the world. If someone decided to go mountain climbing, fell off a cliff, broke their back, and needed to take FMLA to recover, I wouldn’t be saying “well, you CHOSE to go mountain climbing. I don’t want to help you because it doesn’t directly benefit me”. I would show the person compassion for having a difficult thing happen to them, and help out. Because I’m a human being, and you’re a human being, and we are all living in this world together trying to do the best we can. Why is it that you fail to see that this situation (parenting full-time and working full-time) is a situation that requires kindness, compassion, and assistance? Your posts come off as callous and lacking empathy.

              Additionally, what is your solution to this problem? All the parents quit? That means you’re de facto taking on ALL of their work for an indeterminate amount of time (because recruiting and hiring at the moment is difficult if not impossible) instead of pitching in some of the time. I truly don’t understand your thinking here.

            2. Name Required*

              No where did I suggest that non-parents should be responsible for my workload. There are other solutions to this problem than make non-parents do the work of parents. PS, none of my coworkers are covering my work or parenting my kid, thank you very much.

              I didn’t sign up for a parenting an infant during a global pandemic while working full-time with a husband who is an essential employee working an hour away. No one signed up for this.

          2. blackcat*

            I would like to know where you are that daycare is only $800-1200/month! It’s more than twice that where I am!

            1. Name Required*

              My daycare is about $720/mo, but it’s on the lower end of cost in my area — I live in northeast GA. The $1200/mo figure comes from friends in Atlanta.

          3. Lynn*

            It’s easy to get emotional about this topic because we are talking about people – children. But if I buy a small condo/townhome with an HOA so I can minimize expenses and not handle the external maintenance, that doesn’t make me responsible for helping a coworker who bought a house with a massive mortgage that requires a lot of upkeep.

            1. Name Required*

              This analogy doesn’t make any sense. A large house with a massive mortgage wouldn’t keep your coworker from doing their job. You can leave a room messy. You can’t leave a baby unfed. There are certain things that can “slide” during a pandemic, but taking care of small human beings isn’t one of them.

              1. I can’t hear you..*

                But why are either the mortgage or the infant the problem of the employer? If either of those things prevent any employee fulfilling their employment contract, how would HR or payroll deal with either of those things? Does one deserve special consideration?

          4. Epsilon Delta*

            Yes this. All things equal, it is harder to have a young kid right now than to not have one. That’s not to say that “young kid” is a trump card and means you have it the absolute worst, but it’s not like all other concerns melt away. Caring for a young kid and teleworking is extra-special layer of crap piled on top of everything else that came with the coronavirus.

            I say this as someone who does not have a young child.

          1. Sarah Palin in a bear suit*

            Why still paying for daycare when it’s closed? My daughter’s daycare is closed and these were our options:

            1) Continue paying and have a guaranteed spot when they re-open (whenever that is)
            2) Un-enroll and don’t pay. You can attempt to re-enroll when they re-open, but with no guarantee.

            It’s hard to get a daycare spot around here. We were on multiple waitlists for 9 months until our spot opened up. And a few daycares have closed permanently due to COVID-19, so all the children that used to go there will be scrambling for spots at remaining daycares, and I’m sure many won’t get a spot.

            Given the options, we decided to continue paying for our spot so that our daughter would have a guaranteed spot when this is all over.

  16. hmmmm*

    OP you are being given some great advice. I think it’s amazing with how you are trying to take everyone’s needs into consideration. One thing you need to remember is that you are looking at this as chaos right now, today. When we “go back to normal” is not going to happen overnight. Can you redistribute work to be fair over a time period?

    I’m not explaining this properly, but perhaps an example from my own point of view. I am a parent to an elementary school child. Yes my life, like everyone else, has become topsy turby over night. Right now I need some flexability at work. I have an arrangement with a coworker where I work the bulk of the mornings (5-11am) and she takes the bulk of things in the afternoon (12-6pm). Another set of coworkers is doing something similar but one is taking on the bulk of things now in April and May, while the other coworker will take project leads in June and July. For some reason this is working for us. We’re all communicating our needs outside the office and looking at things long term and on a day to day basis.

    OP I guess what I’m asking is there a way to distribute the work that those who need accommodations now, can pick up some slack later to prevent burnout all around.

  17. nnn*

    In combination with everything else, if some employees do, for whatever reason, end up doing more work during the pandemic, you could make sure they get priority for some time off after the pandemic. (For thinking about: is it possible to give extra vacation time as a reward for going above and beyond during the pandemic?)

    I live alone and have no caregiving responsibilities and my work has become more urgent during the pandemic (I’m not a frontline worker, but my clients are) so I’m happy to give it my all, but OMG am I ever going to need some time off when this is done!

    1. hbc*

      That’s a great point. It also help a lot if you already have a history of being accommodating in ways that don’t just help parents, and being appreciative of those who go above and beyond. If you’ve done the whole “See you first thing Monday!” after people pull an 80 hour week to hit a deadline, they’re not going to believe that there’s a reward for them at the end.

  18. NextTimeGadget*

    I’m finding this increasingly frustrating at my organization. My husband and I have chosen not to have children because we’re not interested in the additional chaos they’d bring to our lives regardless of the perceived reward. My company announced last week that parents will get an additional TWELVE WEEKS of paid leave due to unforeseen childcare burden. Twelve weeks. Three MONTHS of additional paid time off (in addition to our already-generous benefits package) for childcare purposes. Even being childfree, I’m an advocate for parental leave (in fact, I was the obnoxious spur in the side of my last company’s CHRO to expand maternal leave to men and new parents of adopted children) and flexible work for all. It’s hard to say after the fact, but I feel like I’d feel neutral-to-positive about the added benefit if it’d been a few extra weeks. But twelve? It’s really hard not to feel resentful of this.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Seriously??? I would be so pissed. Twelve weeks? I do not have children, I am the first person to say this situation is putting a huge, stressful burden on parents, but… twelve weeks sounds like madness. Are they also offering a few days extra paid leave for non-parents, for mental health purposes? Completely with you. That is insane.

      1. NextTimeGadget*

        They haven’t shared anything about leave for non-parents. The official message is that it’s solely to accommodate for extended school closures, so I doubt they’ll extend that.

    2. Marny*

      Is there a way you can approach management to see if this new paid leave can also apply to people besides just parents who also have caretaking burdens (elderly relatives, sick spouses or siblings, etc.)?

      1. Roscoe*

        I mean, that isn’t really fair either. Does the fact that I have no kids and my mom is lucky enough to be healthy mean that I don’t deserve time off too?

        1. Marny*

          Yes and no. If the leave can only be used for caretaking purposes (it’s hard to tell from the description above), it’s really not that different from things like maternity and paternity leave or sick leave where the leave can only be used for a specific reason. If it’s general paid leave that can be used to go on a vacation or whatever, then yes, it’s unfair.

            1. Dumpster Fire*

              True – if it’s actually that (full-time caregiving). But this is just begging for fraudulent and inappropriate claims of caregiving. (It makes me think of Klinger from M*A*S*H who had SO many relatives who died/were on their deathbeds/needed him to come home.)

    3. Jedi Squirrel*

      Wow, that is insane! And the exact opposite of nnn’s suggestion, a couple of comments up.

    4. Roscoe*

      That would infuriate me. This is too far in the other direction. That really should be an everyone or no one thing. If everyone can’t have 12 weeks, maybe everyone can get 1.

      1. flexibility!*

        So, if you’re sick one week, is it unfair if I don’t get a week off too even though I’m healthy?

        1. Temperance*

          Yes, if it means that you also don’t have the week to use when *you* need it. Giving parents a three-month vacation and non-parents jack squat (except for an increased workload) is friggen garbage.

          1. JS*

            Again – not a vacation. Not even remotely.

            As a parent of two young kids right now, I have two full-time jobs right now. The first requires 40 hours a week. The second is 8am-9pm every day, without breaks. Both jobs require focus, so it’s very hard to do both simultaneously. The second job is now harder than its ever been, because we can’t leave the house, the kids are stressed so they’re acting out, and I need to figure out how to homeschool them.

            Because I have a spouse in the house, I can trade off and cover some of my 40 hours during the 8am-9pm shift, but spouse also works full time, so we have to balance our schedules. As a result, a lot of my second job gets done before 8am or after 9pm.

            With leave like this, I could be doing just one job at a time. Or I could sleep more than 4 hours a night. Both of which will make me a better employee. Neither of which is a vacation.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              But your coworkers–who are also working 2 jobs–yours and theirs–get no such leave. How is it right that they don’t get leave and you do?

              1. JS*

                No — *I’m* working my job. Both of them. Picking up slack is not the same thing as doing my job for me — not remotely. Believe me, if you’re picking up slack for me, that doesn’t mean I get to kick back. It means I’m sleeping more than 4 hours a night, or that, perhaps, I might get to take 10 minutes and walk around the block by myself every couple of days.

            2. Coffee Bean*

              This sounds like a really tough situation. I really hope you get relief soon. Working on four hours of sleep is not sustainable.

            3. AntOnMyTable*

              I feel like there is a reason you chose to have two children. The benefits, I am assuming, greatly outweighed the cons. You get something from it. Right now the cons are probably more prevalent but in the end you are getting something from having these kids. So you aren’t working “two full-time jobs right now” without remuneration. Because being a parent has payment even if it is intangible. The people picking up your slack aren’t getting payment for it.

              That is what always frustrates me in the past when I see on social media people posting about their full-time, unpaid, job of taking care of their kids. Usually at least 1/2 of what they list is what all adults have to do to take care of themselves. But you are paid in that love, or kisses, or having created something from your DNA, or a personality you can shape or whatever the heck you get out of it.

              So yah, I think maybe it is fair for those who are taking up the slack to get some benefit after even though we all know parents are working crazy hard with childcare and their job.

              1. RAM*

                This was extremely well said and 100% agree. Personally, I want kids and wish I had them, but unfortunately wasn’t so lucky. I have to make do without kids and finding meaning in life some other way. That doesn’t mean I want to work extra hours. That’s double punishment for me. I get it’s difficult having to work from home with kids right now, and I’m willing to help out a bit more, but if I’m going to be putting in extra hours now when you need me to, I want you to put in extra hours later for me, for whatever activity I find important to me (even if it’s more of a typical vacation like traveling the world)

        2. Roscoe*

          If I get a week of sick leave, then yes, you should also get a week of sick leave to use. I know its a big debate on this site, but I’m of the mind that you can use your sick leave how you like. So if I get a week, and I have to take it for the flu, you also have a week. If you use it for the flu, or mental health days, or to wait for the repairman, or to go to the beach, I really don’t care. Because theoretically we all had the option to use that.

          1. JS*

            Ok, fine – you can have childcare leave too. Or elder care. How about: you can also have 3 months of leave during this pandemic to use during the hours when you absolutely need to be caring for someone else, when your child/relative-care options are gone because of the pandemic. Win-win!

    5. Mediamaven*

      So, I’m assuming that you work for the really big company that announced this benefit in the news. I’m the same as you in the child department, I’m a big advocate of supporting parents and giving them leeway right now, parental leave and all that, but I read that and I was like, what? That sounds like, really unfair! Like, I would feel very slighted if I worked for that company. That’s four months! What if we return to semi-normal before then and childcare is an option again? I don’t know. This seems overboard.

      1. Lala*

        “That’s four months! What if we return to semi-normal before then and childcare is an option again?”

        That is not going to happen.

            1. Name Required*

              Yup. Schools around here are already advising people to be prepared to start school online again in the fall. There won’t be childcare again for a long time.

    6. Temperance*

      Okay that would make me absolutely livid; so your colleagues get a three month vacation while you cover them? That’s absolutely unfair.

      1. Arielle*

        I’m happy to switch jobs with you if you think caring for small children 24 hours a day without being allowed to leave the house is a vacation.

        1. Temperance*

          You can leave the house. You just can’t go to crowded places, but you can absolutely go for a walk, get fresh air, etc.

          Under this system, people without kids or with older kids are going to have to work even harder than they already are, with no reward for their diligence. That sucks.

          1. Arielle*

            I’ll say it again: emergency leave for childcare when all normal forms of assistance (including grandparents or other family) disappeared literally overnight is not a reward or a vacation.

          2. Frankie*

            Parents at home with young children are also working hard, 24/7. It’s just not work that’s typically viewed as work deserving of compensation.

            No one is choosing this right now.

        1. Leah K.*

          The number of people who think that full-time childcare is some sort of vacation is astounding.

          1. Marny*

            I feel like a lot of these people are the same ones who get mad when their coworkers go on maternity leave.

            1. Anon for this*

              Marny, currently my manager is on a 6 month maternity leave, so I already have her workload in addition to my own. Now with the crisis, other co-workers with kids are getting flexibility and leave, and all I get is more workload.

              This is a top-down problem – my company should have hired more people so that workload was better managed & spread out to begin with. But now someone childless like me is just being slammed, against my will, and with absolutely no benefit to me.

              So am I a little frustrated with all my parent co-workers? Yes. But mostly VERY frustrated with management who understaffed us in the first place.

        2. Roscoe*

          But it can be. Maybe I’m interpreting this wrong, and if so, feel free to tell me. But you are giving 12 weeks to use basically whenever you want, so it MAY be for child care, or it may be months down the line for extra time off at the holidays. Maybe its in the wording, but if it is PTO vs. FMLA equivalent, that is definitely a different thing. I read it as PTO, but I could be wrong. That said, this is tough on everyone. I don’t know that giving my coworker 3 months off paid while I still have to work, when everyone is suffering in different ways is really fair. Everyone’s circumstance is different. I live alone in an apartment. This is taking a huge mental toll on me. I’d argue a person living in a big house, with a yard and a family has it very different. Its hard to reconcile that their “suffering” is worth 3 months off, whereas mine is just “suck it up”

          1. Cat*

            Oh come on, they’re not giving people 12 weeks to use when everything is normal. Obviously.

            1. Roscoe*

              Ok, so its 12 weeks to use now, for 3 months. So who does the extra work? Oh, the childless people. So they do extra work and get no benefit from it. yeah, sounds super fair

              1. Leah K.*

                Childless people also get to pay property taxes that pay for public schools even though they have no children that would attend those schools. Why? Because we as a society decided that having educated children is a benefit that everyone will eventually enjoy (when those children become gainfully employed taxpayers).

          2. Frankie*

            Because the alternative is child neglect or even abuse, which is something that society in general wants to prevent.

            The paid leave is not for “suffering.” It’s so that dependents will not starve or injure or kill themselves without supervision.

        3. Tsp*

          No. It’s not. But if all of the people on my team with children decided they’re going to be out on PTO for the next twelve weeks, it’s not going to make things easier for the childless left to pick up the slack. Our company workload doesn’t decrease, work isn’t going to disappear, it’s going to have to be done by someone, and it sounds like under this plan it’s those without kids at home. And it sounds like they’ll be expected to do it with nothing more than a shrug and a “them’s the breaks.”

          1. Cat*

            Does it not decrease? Some people are certainly in jobs where that’s the case. But most people are seeing a slow down in business and are also letting some things slide.

          2. JS*

            Raise the issue with your employer. You should be compensated if you’re doing extra work. I’ll happily write an email in support.

    7. hbc*

      Is that in addition to the emergency FMLA law that was passed? Because my company *legally* has to offer 2/3 pay for 12 weeks (emergency sick leave plus FMLA) to those taking care of their kids. Even if they’re not covered by the law, they might be trying to mimic it since “the government said some companies must do this” is a pretty good signpost.

    8. SweetestCin*

      I’m flabbergasted, in that this hasn’t blown up in their faces yet.

      Even as a parent, I’m not sure I’d be taking such a thing. It seems…just…wrong.

    9. JS*

      I get that it sounds inequitable, but that leave — if it’s restricted to hours when employees need to provide child care — is NOT a vacation. It allows parents to only work one full-time job at a time. In other words, when they’re taking that leave, they’re still working.

      1. Temperance*

        It’s definitely inequitable at best.

        They’re paying employees to not work, while their colleagues without children or with older children need to pick up their slack. Presumably, most of these employees have partners at home who should be sharing in childcare duties.

        1. JS*

          YUP. Sometimes, they pay you to be sick, too. Because stuff happens, and this is the very definition of stuff happening.

          I do have a spouse to share in the childcare duties. My spouse also works full time.

          It is in employers’ interest not to have their employees fully break down. I am telling you, that’s where parents of young kids are.

          1. Temperance*

            From your last paragraph, I would like to point out that there are many people who are struggling for one reason or another right now, not JUST the parents of young kids. I think the attitude that only the parents of young children deserve perks and a break is what most of us childless folks are reacting to. I know it’s what is making me so upset at the comments suggesting that we should be grateful not to have kids and get three months off of work with pay.

            Sick leave is there for all who need it. I’m cool with that. I would also be cool if there were flexible working arrangements for anyone who needed them, for whatever reason. I know many people who are struggling with mental health issues and isolation exacerbated by the pandemic, and I can very much see how piling extra work on them when they’re struggling to keep it together could cause someone to snap.

            1. JS*

              No one is saying that ONLY parents of young kids need help. Or, if they are, then I would disagree with them too. But the reality is that parents of young kids DO need help, and the reality is that people who don’t have dependents (kids or other relatives) are more likely to be in a better position to help. You can’t get blood from a stone.

              I’d be the first to support the flexibility to use sick leave for mental health support, or an additional amount of sick leave during the pandemic for those who are suffering from the mental toll that this is causing. But please do not minimize what parents of young kids are going through (and again, we’re not the only ones going through something) by saying *pfft, not my problem* unless you’re prepared to say the same thing to employees who are sick and taking leave as a result.

              1. Lucy*

                Sure, parents of young kids might need help. But they don’t need help from their coworkers and they shouldn’t be okay with their childless coworkers picking up their slack. Ideally, the company would figure out a way to “pick up the slack” without burdening other employees. In reality, that doesn’t happen.

                Also, taking care of another person (whether that person is a child or an elder) really isn’t the only viable way to need some leeway during a time like this. It’s just the easiest one to explain to employers. “I have to take care of my kid or my grandma” sounds a lot better than “I’m losing my damn mind right now.” Sure, in an ideal world, people would be more understanding of such things, but the reality is employers see dollars and results for the most part and having a breakdown right now looks really bad.

                Yes, parents need help. But so does everyone else. Parents made the choice to have children. Yes, they didn’t know a global pandemic was coming and they would end up in this situation, but no one else knew that either. Yes, parents are in a rough spot. But so is everyone else. Parents don’t have a unique claim on “gee, things are rough right now.”

                1. JS*

                  I did just write exactly that in the comment you replied to – that parents aren’t the only ones who need help.

                  And unfortunately, we do need help from our coworkers because we can’t do two things at once, and one the things we have to do involves keeping kids alive and no one else can do it. So, that means coworkers picking up the slack is necessary.

                  Again, I think you should be compensated if you end up doing more than your share of the workload. But not everyone is in the same “rough spot.”

      2. Mediamaven*

        It’s definitely not a vacation. But….it’s being paid to not work while others are being paid to work. I don’t understand saying they are still working? Parenting is a lot of work, but it’s not a job.

        1. I can’t hear you*

          Exactly. Under this logic I should be able to pick up a side gig bagging groceries and be able to take paid time off from my main job. I mean, we could certainly use the money right now.

          1. JS*

            Only if you’re legally required to be bagging those groceries. And people will die if you don’t.

        2. JS*

          If that were true, child care would be free, and teachers wouldn’t even get the tiny salaries they currently get.

          1. Temperance*

            No, we pay for education as a societal benefit. Teachers are more than taxpayer-funded childcare.

            1. JS*

              Completely agree. And right now, the “parenting” job description includes providing education and most of the other benefits teachers provide to society apart from child care. I already believed that teachers should make six figure salaries, and now I want them to be billionaires. Good lord.

        3. Disco Janet*

          Typically, no, it’s not a job. But right now it absolutely is. Schools and childcare for nonessential employees have shut down. We have literally no other options. Some of us (myself included) have neurodivergent children who need constant supervision. That is most certainly a job, yet for the moment his teachers and caretakers have been deemed nonessential, so I am his 24/7 caretaker. Absolutely a job.

        4. Name Required*

          Parenting is 100% a job. It’s much harder than my job, actually. I was OVER THE MOON to return to work. Some folks may not have that experience with parenting, but it isn’t a given that parenting isn’t as much work as a job.

          1. I can’t hear you..*

            Okay, but is it a job your company is required to compensate you for? Because that’s what would happen over these twelve weeks.

            1. Name Required*

              Required? No. But a company can make a business decision that attracts the best workers. And the reality is that by age 30 (in the US at least), 70% of the working force are parents. By age 4o, 85% of the working force are parents. You can burn out 85% of your workforce if you want by ignoring that they have another full-time job that they are absolutely required to do during a global pandemic, but that seems like a dumb business move.

              1. I can’t hear you..*

                But why is the “parenting is a full time job” a compelling reason for a company to provide %100 of your wages if you take 12 weeks leave? Why discriminate against the other members of your workforce? What about an employee who provides financial support for a parent or sibling? Are there no other things besides parenting that deserve sympathy in this difficult scenario? The unpopular opinion: the non parents are providing all the productivity right now despite this 85%-business you cite.

                You are making the assertion (rightly or wrongly, I have no idea where your percentages are coming from) that parents make up the majority of the workforce. I’m inclined to believe your stats. But based on what a lot of commenters are saying here, it sounds like most companies are relying on non-parents right now to pick up the slack of non-parents. This is not the first time this has happened for these employees.

                So you get the leave and flexibility, but what do they get? More hours? Tighter deadlines to make up for their colleagues? They definitely don’t get more compensation. And from what I’ve seen from commentators here, they don’t get a “ hey, thanks for helping out”

    10. Hopefully Reasonable Parent*

      If you’re in the US, it may be that they’re simply offering the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which offers 12 weeks of leave at 2/3 pay for families who’s regular childcare or school is closed or unavailable.

      I have two children under 3. I do not qualify for it, as my daycare is technically open (although they’ve requested most people keep their children home, they are still “available”). I’m still happy my colleagues with school-age children qualify for it, even if I don’t. It definitely doesn’t seem egregious to me.

    11. Governmint Condtion*

      How do you feel about companies that provide a full 9 months of maternity/paternity leave at full pay, for every pregnancy, no matter how many or closely spaced? They can do this. It may make the company less attractive to non-parent potential employees if they know they’ll always be picking up the slack, but they can.

      That said, there is a difference between allowing affected employees to work fewer hours or do less work, and just simply saying that they don’t have to work at all. (I’m betting that this organization will extend the 12 weeks if the situation is unchanged by then.)

      1. Roscoe*

        Not who you asked, but I’ll answer. This is a fair question. My companies offers 6 months paid maternity and paternity leave. I have 0 problem with that even if I never have kids. This for me is different in a way I have a hard time expressing. I think its because I’m suffering too. I live in a modest apartment alone. I’m also a huge extrovert. This is really hard for me. I guess it just seems that a company doing this is saying “the hardship parents are going through is worth us trying to alleviate, but the hardships I am going through isn’t worht it to them”.

        1. JS*

          I think it’s that companies are saying that, like with maternity and paternity leave, parenthood comes with certain non-optional demands (physical, mental and emotional) that are incompatible with work, and it’s in society’s interest to give employees the ability to (or at least some modest assistance with) fulfilling those demands without financial penalty. Like giving people the ability to heal when they get sick without financial penalty.

          Keep in mind that a lot of parents are experiencing the same kind of suffering you are AND they have to deal with this massive, additional, all-consuming burden. There are, of course, other kinds of additional burdens that require some slack – elder care, for example. But if we’re trying to reach for understanding, seeing this as akin to maternity leave seems like a good way. People don’t use that time as vacation time either.

          1. Cat’s tongue*

            I hear what you are saying, but there are a lot of scenarios that create non-optional demands such as homelessness, cancer, or other chronic illness, that can make work incredibly difficult right now. Three months paid leave could go a long way for those folks. In fact, I would wager it’s in “society’s best interest” to expand the umbrella beyond simply parents.

            1. JS*

              Fine with me (although we do have sick leave for cancer and other chronic illnesses, albeit not enough. And no one seems to be upset at people for using their sick leave).

            2. Cat*

              I doubt any of us would say people with cancer and chronic illness shouldn’t get paid leave. Or that homelessness people shouldn’t have resources. I would hope companies offering this paid leave are paying everyone enough to avoid homelessness, wtf.

            3. Avasarala*

              I totally agree, but I don’t see why “other people are suffering too” means we shouldn’t give benefits to one group who is suffering. This is like crabs in a bucket here.

        2. Elsajeni*

          The thing is, though, plenty of parents are ALSO going through what you or I or other non-parents are going through — there are parents who are extroverts who are desperate for social interaction, parents with anxiety disorders that are exacerbated by this situation, parents with chronic illnesses who are extra limited in what they can safely do right now, etc. — AND SIMULTANEOUSLY have to provide 24/7 care for their children without any of the outside help they can normally rely on. The leave is to alleviate the childcare part of the burden, not the entire burden of being quarantined.

        3. Cat*

          I mean, time off work won’t solve the problem of you being alone while being an extrovert or living in a modest apartment. It can help parents without childcare.

      2. Lynn*

        I’m not the person you were responding to, but it really bothered me when my company gave me a hard time for taking three days off post emergency surgery (when my doctor recommended at least a week) because I had two days off planned for the following week to see family across the country. And yet people get parental leave, no questions asked, as many times as they want.

      3. Temperance*

        I think there should be some sort of benefit or acknowledgement for people who cover maternity or disability leaves rather than just expecting people to pick up the slack without any reciprocation.

        One of my coworkers, for example, covered her boss’s three maternity leaves of six months each, and was happy to do so. When my coworker was planning her wedding, she negotiated a month of leave to prepare for the wedding and take a long honeymoon, and her boss made sure to recognize all the effort she put in to covering.

    12. Genny*

      I would high-key be job searching if my company did that. It’s not so much that parents got extra paid time off, it’s that the company apparently completely ignored everyone else. We’re all stressed. We all have responsibilities. We’re living and working under less than ideal conditions. We’re all trying to figure out what this new normal looks like given our individual circumstances. Yet only parents need extra time off?

      1. AnonAtm*

        Ok. I don’t understand this mindset. Full time childcare is A JOB. Management of stress, mental health, at-risk relatives, etc… are things everyone has to deal with. They are really rough and many, many companies don’t seem to be handling/addressing them well. But childcare is A LITERAL JOB. This is relief offered to people who are being asked to be in two places at once, all day, every day, until September at the soonest. It may be a benefit you don’t get to use so therefore no one should? Please reflect on your previous statement. I promise you all the parents who are working with kids at home right now would desperately love to just work like normal. I get that there is work to be done and it may be unfair if poorly handled by your company, but the vitriol in your reaction doesn’t paint you a very flattering light.

        1. I can’t hear you..*

          Like I said above, I fully believe parenting feels like a “LITERAL JOB” but is it a job your company should compensate you for? That’s what those 12 weeks would be.

          I don’t think Genny is exuding any vitriol by saying they wouldn’t want to work for a company that did that.

          1. JS*

            Yes, it is, because it’s a non-optional, inflexible literal job. And it’s one that benefits society as a whole — society benefits when kids are cared for and educated. It’s more akin to maternity leave than PTO.

            I don’t think that child care is the only reason employees should be given this type of benefit. But it’s definitely A reason.

            1. pamplemousse*

              As a person without kids, most of this thread makes me feel like I am living on another planet. There are no other options for kids right now other than their parents taking care of them! In the absolute best-case scenario (two parents who can work from home), you’ve got two people putting in half-time while being constantly interrupted and distracted. I genuinely don’t know how a single parent, or a parent whose spouse has an essential job and has to work, could handle doing more than an hour or two of work here or there. I cannot imagine being angry that parents in this impossible situation get to take paid time off and you don’t. It’s not like they’re going to pack up the kids, go to Disney, and have a blast for a month.

              Of course a company should also provide leave as needed for people who are caring for sick parents or immunocompromised roommates or disabled siblings or anyone else whose upkeep requires your full attention during the workday, and general flexibility for things like “the grocery store restocks at 10 am so I’m going to go at 10:30” if they can. And of course they should have a plan that isn’t just “dump all the work on employees who don’t have kids” — every company should be trying to pare down to the essentials.

              But giving non-parents 12 weeks of vacation when the pandemic is over because parents had to spend 12 weeks being the only caregiver for their kids 24/7 is one of the most hilarious ideas I’ve ever read.

              1. Name Required*

                Bless you, stranger. Thank you for understanding. As a parent, I really *don’t* want to let my coworkers and boss down.

            2. I can’t hear you..*

              JS, I think I understand what you are saying. But it sounds like you want me to say to Google, Amazon, the local hospital, or whomever is employing me: “hey, I get that profits are lower than they have been since 2008. But Im having trouble with childcare right now. I’m only going to be able to do about 75% of the work we originally agreed upon when you hired me. But remember, parenting benefits society! So please cut me some slack right now, I didn’t ask for this. So how about you pay me the full 100%. And by the way, I can’t imagine Jane has the same burden I have because she told me she doesn’t have kids. Her burden definitely doesn’t help society like raising children does. She must be able to pick up the slack! So ask hereabout the other 25%.”

              Under this plan you are are demanding your company pay you NOT to do any work that benefits the mission of the company for 12 weeks.

        2. Genny*

          First of all, there was no vitriol in my comment and there’s no need to make things personal like that. My point isn’t that the assistance shouldn’t exist; my point is the assistance should be given to everyone. Even if those without dependents were given 4 weeks to parents’ 12 weeks, that would still demonstrate the company is conscientious of the unique burdens we’re all facing. To completely ignore any challenges outside those parents face is short-sighted and leads to people feeling unappreciated and less valued.

    13. Anon for this*

      Thank you for bringing this up. I’m married and childless by choice. I’m feeling the extra burden of having to cook/clean/laundry WAY more often during quarantine. It’s not caretaking, but household duties are 50-100% higher than they were before (due to office perks that are gone now).

      I’d like to get one day a week off of work during quarantine. That would be a reasonable accommodation, in line with what they’re giving parents. Instead I have higher workload than ever.

      Why do they assume only parents need time off? This is a global stressful situation and everything needs to just SLOW down.

      1. Leah K.*

        Parents also have the extra burden of cooking/cleaning/laundry way more during quarantine. AND they have childcare on top of that.

        1. Genny*

          This isn’t a competition about who has it worse. It’s safe to say that no one has it good right now. No one’s “winning”. Whether you’re worried about your finances, your health, your sanity, your loved ones, your future, or something else entirely, everyone is handling extra challenges right now. It’s not okay to dismiss one person’s challenges because they aren’t deemed sufficiently challenging by some arbitrary metric.

        2. mayfly*

          I have exponentially more laundry/cleaning/cooking with small kids than I did as a DINK. They will make messes that they can’t clean up. They eat so much and so frequently. There’s more clothes and less help with them (depending on the age) And then there’s the supervision needed to get them to stop boredom snacking, clean up after themselves, complete chores/assignments, etc. It’s so much work

    14. nnn*

      A way to be fair and equitable here would be to give everyone, parents or not, 12 weeks of leave that they can use either during the pandemic or after the pandemic. Make it bankable, so they don’t even have to use it this year.

      That way, people with immediate caregiving responsibilities can use it now, and others will be more likely to want to save it for later – wouldn’t you rather take your vacation when travel and entertainment and socializing are available? – so it can be a reward/respite to those who kept things going during the pandemic.

      1. Forwhy*

        Assuming this is not the federal government policy that just came out…

        If my company were to say “We’re giving parents 12 weeks off, but if you don’t have kids you have to come in and cover their work” I’d be pissed

        If my company were to say “we’re giving everyone 12 weeks off during this pandemic, but we are asking that those who are not caretakers or at risk during this time continue to work their normal hours and use this PTO time later” I’d be fine with it. I don’t want 12 weeks off right now, there’s nothing to do anyway. Heck, even if they said “we’re giving you this 12 weeks to be used over the next 5 years and we ask that if possible you not take it all at once so as to not overwhelm your colleagues ” I’d be good with it.

        1. cam*

          So the caregivers would have to use all of their time now to cover childcare (with, as you said, nothing to do except stay in the house), and the rest would get to save it and use it for an actual relaxing vacation whenever this is over….

      2. RAM*

        Yes! Let the employees decide when they want to take it. Those with kids (or other hardships) will want to take it now, those without kids will want to take it later when they can actually go somewhere that’s not to another room in their house. The policy of just giving parents the 12 weeks off definitely has me furious.

  19. AdAgencyChick*

    I’ve been struggling with this lately. I supervise a team of four, two who have young children and two who don’t. I also don’t have kids. Normally I HATE asking people who don’t have kids to pick up slack for parents.

    In some ways we’re very fortunate in that our clients’ needs are still high — it means none of us has to worry about job security in a time when it seems like everyone has to worry about job security. On the other hand, it means that I can’t allow someone to put in less than their required 40 hours a week* without shifting that work to someone else. I’m trying to manage expectations with TPTB for what we can expect in terms of the overall productivity of my team, but I haven’t gotten a ton of traction there.

    I’ve talked to each of my employees individually about it — to the ones with kids, to say that I can give them a lot of flexibility in terms of when they have to work, but less flexibility in how much overall output I need from them, and to the ones with no kids to say that they (and I also, as a child-free person) are sometimes going to be asked to take work from their coworkers who are parents, because there’s simply no way for me to ask the parents to find alternate arrangements. I hope nobody resents me personally about it, and I hope they can also see that I’m both spending time in the trenches and doing my best to ask TPTB to push back on client requests that aren’t time sensitive. But I wish there were a better answer.

    *Yeah, I know. Being exempt SHOULD mean that sometimes you work less than 40, and sometimes more. Pretty much every ad agency I know interprets it as “you must bill at least 40 hours a week, every week.”

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      I know I would be resentful of having to cover for/do more work because of the children. I hope you are preparing to generously reward your employees who are covering. Extra PO, extra bonus, raise.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          Then don’t expect more from X than Y if you’re not rewarding them somehow. Promote them, give them extra PTO, etc.

    2. Shocked Pikachu*

      The smaller your team the harder it is to reshuffle things in meaningful way. But is sounds like you are trying to handle it as best as possible. You talked to each of your report individually and you sound like the kinda manager people won’t be afraid to come to when they feel it’s too much or if any other problem arises. You are also finding ways to extend flexibility when it comes to your clients – trying to push back deadlines that are not time sensitive. Honestly. Sound you are exploring all the resources you have no matter how limited. I hope everything goes well for you and your team and the best I have to offer is to say , hang in there, you got this.

    3. Snark no more!*

      Billing 40 hours a week is a lot different than working 40 hours a week, if it’s anything like being a lawyer. Is that what you mean?

    4. Voice of experience*

      Being exempt, in almost all cases, means you work at least forty hours a week. It’s really unusual to find a salaried employee who can get away with working less.

    5. Koala dreams*

      You already know this, but I want to say it anyway: it’s unreasonable to demand the same productivity from employees in the current situation. Many people have extra responsibilities, not just parents, and worse working conditions than usual. I hope your leaders get better about this!

    6. Forwhy*

      If by asking your childless employees to take on work from your employees with kids, you mean asking them to cover time sensitive issues that parents can’t necessarily do right now, and shifting some of their less time sensitive tasks to the parents that’s totally reasonable. If you’re asking them to just take more on it’s less so.

      That being said you also have to be really careful about making sure you don’t overload any of your employees with time sensitive tasks. I’m guilty of doing this myself (it wasn’t a parenting thing it was an entirely different circumstance) and it wasn’t until I laid out a calendar for my whole team that I realized I’d stuck one person with all the tasks due in a two week period. The volume of tasks assigned was the same but he had way less time to work and was getting burnt out.

    7. Professional Straphanger*

      Just please don’t let TPTB forget who did the heavy lifting when it comes time for raises, bonuses, or promotions. A throwaway “Thanks for going above and beyond” smacks of insincerity after you hear it a few times.

  20. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    As Alison stated, in these times, everyone is under a great deal of stress and dealing with non ideal WFH situations, so bosses need to be flexible for EVERYONE. But at the same time, employees need to be willing to pick up some slack when they’re able. That doesn’t mean everyone without children should do all the work, but that everyone needs to work together to get things completed. Conversations need to happen, and expectations need to be established. I could be reading it wrong, but based on the letter, it seems some childless people are just complaining that they have more work to do. If it’s getting to be too much and overwhelming, that’s different. But if they’re just complaining to complain that things aren’t fair, that’s more of a suck it up buttercup situation.

    1. Roscoe*

      I understand your overall sentiment, but this just doesn’t sit right with me. I understand everyone needs to pitch in. But the problem is if everyone isn’t being equally asked to pitch in. Even if those childless people are complaining, if they are doing 25% more work (just throwing that number out) to make up for someone doing 25% less since they have a kid, I don’t think its fair to just say “suck it up”. Because here is the thing, in my experience, those childless people (me being one of them) never get reciprocated. They will work more now, but will they be given extra vacation or raises later? Probably not. So it won’t be like “I do more here, and I’ll get rewarded for it later”, often for childless people they are just always expected to do more, becasue their time isn’t seen as equally valuable. I agree that conversations need to happen and expectations need to be established, but it kind of reads like you are fine with those people with no children to just accept making up for other people

      1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        The thing is, this flexibility is not just for the parents, it’s for the kids. Because really, the person who directly suffers from inadequate child-minding is the child, not their parents. Sure the parent will suffer emotionally when the child needs stitches, but it’s the kid who bleeds. And we will not all have kids, but we all have been kids. We all needed our booboos kissed, we all needed someone to watch us to make sure we didn’t kill ourselves, we all inconvenienced the people who loved us in a thousand ways.

        We aren’t buying into a system that we will never benefit from. We are paying it forward.

        1. Roscoe*

          Sure. But by that logic, people with no kids should automatically make more money than parents, because you are expecting them to work more to “pay it forward”. But I feel like, people wouldn’t be ok with that, even if they are ok shifting more work to non parents.

          Again, if there was any reward for working more to cover for parents, it wouldn’t be an issue. But there rarely is no reward.

          I don’t have a problem working late on occasion to cover a parent. I mind the expectation that I have to do it, because “we have all been kids”

        1. Anonymous Canadian*

          Nesting fail – this comment should have been to Roscoe’s post. EVEYONE needs to do some sucking it up including those with kids.

          1. JS*

            Parent of young kids working full-time here: this IS me sucking it up. I am barely keeping my head above water.

            1. Roscoe*

              But its not JUST parents who are barely keeping their head above water, that is the thing. But parents are often the ones allowed to hand off some of their work because of it.

              I’m not trying to get into who has it worse. I’m sure its a grass is greener thing. I’d love to have a spouse and kid to spend my days with, and a yard to hang out in, but I don’t, and it sucks for me. I’m sure some parents would love to just be alone for a while in solitude. But it seems we are accommodating the parents suffering, but not the suffering of others.

              1. Temperance*

                Thanks for saying this. I am a non-parent with an anxiety disorder. I’m struggling to keep myself together because this is kind of my worst case scenario nightmare come to life.

                1. papertiger*

                  As a therapist who works with parents, I REALLY don’t understand the subliminal assumption of many childfree commenters that somehow parents definitely don’t have anxiety disorders.

              2. JS*

                If there are other people who are barely functioning, they should get help too. For example, if they are caring for sick relatives, or are having a mental health crisis.

                I’m not asking for help because I feel terrified, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed and like I’m drowning. I do, but I’m not asking for a Queen for a Day prize. It’s not to make me feel better. It’s so I can actually be effective at my paid job. Under this strain, without sleep or any time to recharge, I am losing the ability to focus and concentrate. I will be a better paid employee with assistance. THAT’S why employers should help me out. I’m not asking for an edible arrangement here.

                1. JS*

                  “A better paid employee” as in “a better employee at the job for which I get paid.” Not “an employee who makes more money.”

                2. Black Horse Dancing*

                  ANd non parents would be better employees without extra work given to them to cover another co worker’s slack. So why should parents get it?

                3. JS*

                  Because I’m not talking about getting from “good employee” to “stellar employee.” I’m talking about “barely functional employee” to “consistently functional employee.” It’s in the employer’s interest to have two functional employees over 1 good employee and one semi-functional employee.

                  (Only talking about the reason it’s in the employer’s interest to do this, not saying this is the only reason to give someone slack during the pandemic, etc., etc., etc.)

      2. JS*

        I think that people with more flexibility and fewer unavoidable obligations need to suck it up. Absolutely.

        Not all childless employees have more flexibility and fewer unavoidable obligations. Some are caring for other relatives, some are ill, some are required to shelter somewhere where they can’t access the tools they need to be 100% productive.

        Not all employees with children lack flexibility or have this level of unavoidable obligations. Some have older kids who require less supervision.

        It doesn’t need to be a parents/non-parents thing. But lots of things aren’t fair about what’s happening. Its not fair that people are losing their jobs. It’s not fair that people are losing their lives. It’s not fair that people with more flexibility are asked to do more, and it’s not fair that people with less flexibility are in situations where they have absolutely no time to recharge.

        So, yeah. Suck it up. I’d switch places with you in a heartbeat.

        1. ...*

          Wow this is pretty cold. You chose to have children and it’s pretty messed up to let a personal choice dictate how much others have to work. You signed up for this “job,” which is actually called parenting. As plenty of commenters have noted there may be people who are childfree even though they wanted children but couldn’t have them….how do you think this makes them feel?

          1. JS*

            I didn’t sign up for this “job.” No one signed up for parenting in a pandemic, because no one could’ve seen it coming. Parenting during a pandemic is an entirely different animal than just parenting.

            But like I said above, it’s really not a parent/non-parent thing.

            And speaking of how comments make people feel, you might want to consider that you’re telling people who are drowning that you don’t care, that it’s their own problem based on their own choices, and that you don’t think anyone else should have to help them. That doesn’t make them feel great either.

          2. EnglishisLit*

            I’m so mad reading these comments I can barely type. NO ONE signed up to parent and work full time with every daycare, every school, every child’s play center, every art and dance studio, every gym, every FREAKING PLAYGROUND being closed. There are no babysitters. They’re are no grandparents coming over to help out. There’s no sending the kids over to the neighbors. Do you understand what that means? Like, literally I don’t think you even understand that.

            Please imagine having two humans who need EVERYTHING AT ALL TIMES attached to you all day, every literal day, while you try to do your work. Add in the fact that managing their fragile emotions and trying to stop them from crying over missing their lives every day — plus trying to manage your own emotions and fears — plus cleaning and shopping and checking in with family —is also a heavy burden that you didn’t have before.

            The absolute lack of empathy from many of these commenters is egregious. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Roscoe, acting as though being an extrovert is somehow the same as being a parent?

            No wonder we have an empathy gap in this country. Y’all need to re-examine your lives and get some perspective.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        So a mom has a toddler and a husband who’s an essential employee, has a full time job and the toddler is home because day care is closed. You’re saying she should just suck it up, sit at the computer and work her 8 hours, letting the toddler have free range of the house? Yeah that’ll work. And that’s just one of the many situations people are dealing with right now.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          The childless/childfree shouldn’t have to suck it up because the parents have it ‘harder’ right now. Which is what you said–they should suck it up. What are they getting out of it (the people doing the work)? Roscoe is correct–rarely is there a reward for those childfree people breaking their backs. So the companies that want extra work should be willing to give raises, career boosts, bonuses to those who are doing this. If lay offs come, they can retain those who did extra. You may not like that–no one does–but those doing the work now, who are now being rock stars because their co workers won’t or can’t–deserve something for shouldering the extra weight.

            1. anonymous 5*

              I wouldn’t say that sparing people from a punishment that was never fair to begin with qualifies as a “reward.”

              1. Cat*

                In a just world that would be the case. But in the world we live in, the idea that you’re disadvantaged by not having children because those lazy moms are just milking jobs for everything they can get while not putting in the hours is ludicrous. They’re not. They’re getting paid less for the same work.

                (And yes, that is on a societal level. I udnerstand that some individuals somewhewre are getting away with stuff. That is true of everything.)

          1. Tsp*

            Exactly. As the childless person I’m used to having to pick up the occasional slack or work the odd holiday so “folks with families” (don’t get me started) can have a more flexible schedule. It may come as a shock, but I’m happy to do it most times.

            But now it means instead of getting paid X amount for Y hours, I’m being told that for the foreseeable future I’ll be expected to work X+10 for the same Y while others can work X-10 and still receive Y.

            And I’ll be very blunt. The response “but it’s not like parents are ENJOYING that time” is cold comfort when I’m rounding hour 10 of my supposed 8 hour day. I don’t work for the fun of it, I work for money to pay for those fun things. Being asked to work more with no benefit? What’s my incentive? Especially when that request for free labor is being presented to me as “ just suck it up.”

            1. JS*

              If people end up taking on more work during this crisis, then they should be rewarded with bonuses by their employers. I have no problem with that at all. But that’s also not within my control.

              But please remember that this sucks for everyone. Everyone has to do more. And when I’m rounding hour 13 of my 15-hour workday, it’s cold comfort to know that at least I’m not making anyone else do a single additional task.

              1. Kay Bee*

                But that’s not realistic. No one is handing out bonuses right now and likely not any time soon.

                Parenting children is not a work day. It’s a lifestyle choice. Sure, it’s work, but it’s obviously very different than working for an employer.

                1. JS*

                  Ok, but that’s not really relevant to whether or not parents of young kids/people caring for relatives/people trapped somewhere they can’t access resources should be given help by the employer. Employees getting compensated for extra work (through leave bonuses or whatever) is a separate issue. Saying you can’t have one because I can’t have the other pits employees against each other, when the issue is with management.

                  Parenting during a pandemic is not a lifestyle choice. I…really don’t have the bandwidth to elaborate without screaming.

                2. Hannah O.*

                  … So we pay day care providers and nannies for… a “lifestyle choice”? Right…

                  Paid parental leave in a situation like this is akin to maternity leave. Society has an interest in supporting families. Any adult has benefited from society’s interest or lack of in supporting families. This is an important social safety net. It’s not “unfair” or “a vacation.”

        2. Anonymous Canadian*

          No but depending on your job you could be flexing your hours in a way that allows you to do some of the work at non-standard times like nap time or after bedtime. You could also be taking on some of the more tedious work that no one wants to do but isn’t as time sensitive in exchange for/acknowledgement of the extra work your child free colleagues are taking on that is more time sensitive.

          Having kids is not a free pass to just dump work on others without offering anything in return. Working together means that all sides are doing what they can to help each other.

          1. Cat*

            I don’t know anyone who isn’t working when their kids are sleeping at this point. The issue is that that looks like slacking off if you’re used to someone being fully available.

            1. Anonymous Canadian*

              I get what you’re saying and I believe that most parents are however that is not what the person above was talking about. She was talking like the ONLY option is to be at the desk 8-5 and let her child be left unattended. It came across like she should be given a free pass and not have to make any attempt to work or assist others who are picking up some of her workload because she has a child. That’s the part I was reacting to by pointing that there are ways for parents to be helping distribute the workload even if that means taking on less “fun” tasks because those are the ones that aren’t time sensitive.

      2. AnonAtm*

        It’s like talking to a brick wall. I’m disappointed but not surprised to see the comments section has devolved into this. Explain what “suck it up” means when reversed please.

      3. Autumn Lights*

        I think both parents and non-parents need to exercise compassion towards each other. No one choose this; and many residential facilities and daycares are closed. These are extraordinary times. Most people are “sucking it up”, parents and the childfree, and anyone who is resentful of not getting 100% productivity out of their employees, or helping out a co-worker who needs a little flexibility (for whatever reason), needs to re-adjusts their thinking.

  21. NW Mossy*

    I’m on the flip side of this, as the parent who’s trying to be 100% available to my direct reports, boss, and colleagues as well as my spouse and kids. It’s basically impossible, which means that at any given moment at least 50% of those people are actively disappointed in my effort and I’m 100% disappointed in me all the time.

    One thing that’s helping me a lot in still being effective for my work colleagues is engaging more over email and chat vs. phone calls and virtual meetings. I’m much more able to give a quick decision or opinion that way, which reduces the delays other people experience from me. I know it’s not the same as being able to get a dedicated, interruption-free hour of my time, but hopefully it’s better than the alternative.

    1. goducks*

      Yep, this times 100. And I’m lucky enough that my kids are old enough to (mostly) self-navigate their days AND I have a spouse also WFH. I cannot even imagine what it would be like if my kids were smaller.

      Actually, if my kids were smaller, I’d likely just take the 12 weeks EFMLA that Congress passed and get paid 2/3 salary not to work, which would mean co-workers would have to pick up my work, instead of just having to be patient sometimes.

      1. NW Mossy*

        EFMLA isn’t an option for me because my employer’s not covered, so my choices are a) continue to work at less than 100% and earn the everlasting resentment of colleagues without caregiving responsibilities or b) quit and hope that the company can replace me quickly with someone who can work 100%.

        I will say that in reading the comments here, quitting looks more and more like the path I should pursue – the only thing that’s still holding me back is fear that I won’t be able to find a job again after this ends. As much as I like my job, it feels selfish to occupy it and make other people suffer more than they have to because I’m inadequate to the task.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Do not quit your job just because of internet comments or feelings of inadequacy. This is a difficult time for everybody – people are venting out of stress and possibly fear. Just continue to do your best at your job and with your kids – that’s all you can do right now.

        2. Koala dreams*

          I would say the logical choice would be to work part time and take a pay cut, so that your company can hire a part-time worker to fill in for you. Many people have had their hours cut or been laid off, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find someone qualified. Maybe there are even some former employees who would be glad to return part time for some extra income, for a limited period of time?

          If that’s somehow not possible, you need to forgive yourself and accept that neither you, nor anybody else, can be at full productivity, right now.

  22. Storie*

    In our situation, both my husband and I are working from home with two small kids. Unfortunately his boss has been all over the place. First, she suggested that I “move all my meetings to one or two days” so he can work. Then, she said just do what you can. Then, she indicated the board would be looking at their goal/deadline while deciding what to do with the department after the stay at home is lifted. So now he feels like his job could be on the line if he doesn’t deliver. Meanwhile, he’s one of only 2 people with kids—the other is a single mom of a toddler (who understandably can’t really do anything during the day) , and he’s been asked to pick up some of her projects as well.

    So where does this leave me? Scrambling to do my own work in between homeschooling two kids because we really need my husband’s job/insurance.

    Every workplace situation is complicated and everyone deserves understanding. But there is an underlying fear of losing your job for many people that is making this truly scary!

  23. Delta Delta*

    It’s not as if we all had an on-ramp to prepare for The Plague. We all sort of knew there was a virus in other parts of the world, and then suddenly BAM we’re shut down. I say this because this isn’t the sort of thing most companies can probably plan for, and everyone’s sort of making it up as they go along. this isn’t business as usual because it can’t be. And also, the reality is that people who are 3 need a lot of attention. It’s just how that works.

    That said, it seems like a discussion about how best to keep the boat going with creative ideas about how everyone continues to stay on top of their own work will be beneficial. I suspect the principals of the company are just doing their best to keep the business running while also keeping LEGOs out of their kids’ noses. They may not realize how much work is falling to the others or how it’s hard to keep things going.

  24. Stressed to the max*

    My husband and I are both expected to keep our normal workloads, but we’re home with our infant. She can’t walk, feed herself, or use the toilet. She’s also still breastfeeding. Though she can crawl and get into trouble easily. She’s a full time job on her own.

    This means we’re up by 5 am to start work and often don’t go to bed until around 2 am because we’re up working while the baby’s asleep. If we’re lucky we get a 2 hour chunk during the day while she naps, but she’s been napping less and less.

    We understand our coworkers are frustrated that it takes us a day to respond to simple emails or get them a report that would take 10 minutes at the office. But we’re run ragged and doing the best we can.

    1. Susie Q*

      This is me. Except my husband has to go into the office. So I’m holed up in the master bedroom with a crawling, breastfed baby.

    2. Black Horse Dancing*

      Do realize, in many companies, people may be hassled/yelled at/disciplined because they depend on a report from someone else and they can’t complete their work without it. It’s unfair to them that A isn’t getting that report to them and they get punished for it. Sure, they can explain “A isn’t getting their work done and to me” but then people complain about excuses, tattling, etc.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This, exactly. I’m pretty sure that some of this is going on in the LW’s situation and addressing that–by which I mean cutting it out–would go a long way toward quelling complaints.

      2. Ada Doom*

        Do realize: crap workplaces are going to be crappy? If one gets hassled/yelled at/disciplined because they’re not getting something to someone because “A” didn’t get them needed materials while we’re in a literal global crisis and stay-at-home lockdown orders then one works for a crappy company/manager. Blaming it on “A” who’s not getting their stuff done on time because of the aforementioned GLOBAL PANDEMIC is missing the point.

      3. hbc*

        …Okay? Do you have a solution to offer? Because realization doesn’t put hours on the clock or make a baby not need a feeding. Sometimes there’s just not enough time to get all the work done, and guilt or consequences or an actual literal gun to the head doesn’t make it possible.

        If people choose not to “tattle” on their coworker and instead take the hit for late projects, that’s really on them.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          It’s not that people don’t explain bu I’ve met any number of bosses who simply don’t care/see it as ‘tattling/excuse making.
          Boss: Why isn’t your work done?
          Worker: Because I need the report from A who hasn’t gotten it to me.
          Boss: This isn’t about A, this is you. Don’t make excuses, this is your job. Why isn’t it done?
          Worker: I need the report.
          Boss: Then get it.
          Worker: A has to do it as it is their data and work. A needs to give me the report.
          Boss:Then get it.
          Worker: A hasn’t done it.
          Boss: This isn’t about A. We need this. Get it done.
          “Worker: But I need A’s report.
          Boss: stop making excuses.

          1. Hello*

            So shouldn’t you direct your frustration and anger at your boss vs parents? What more possibly could the parents do?! Have some empathy, and direct your vitriol to those who control your situation, not others in the trenches with you.

          2. New Jack Karyn*

            Then those are crappy bosses, and would be no matter the circumstance. That’s not the fault of JS or hbc or Stressed or anyone else.

          3. Elsajeni*

            But you see that the problem in this scenario is clearly the boss, not A, right? The solution is for the boss to either adjust their expectations of when the project will get done, or redistribute work so that A’s report gets assigned to someone who does have enough time to do it, or reprioritize A’s work so they can focus on the report, or something like that. If the boss just stands there going “stop making excuses,” obviously that sucks for the person waiting for that report! And there may not be much they can do about it! But them getting pissed off at A because their boss is a jerk is the opposite of solving the problem.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              Usually the worker is pissed at both. Because that’s human nature. And the “It’s not A’s fault” is cold comfort when the boss is chewing on and discipling the worker. Maybe A couldn’t help it. A isn’t being chewed out. Blame boss? Sure. But absolutely some rage will fall on A because that is human nature. And because it could have been avoided if A had done the report–A may not have been able to do the report but again, results often are all that matters to higher ups and all they see is unfinished work and someone ‘making excuses’.

              1. Avasarala*

                OK, you can be frustrated with A if you want, but the real issue is the unrealistic expectations of the boss. Your rage is misdirected and the reason is “that is human nature”… Lots of things are human nature, but this is a time we should be extra patient and forgiving of each other, not pissed at the wrong people over situations they can’t control and are just as frustrated with. Might as well get mad at healthcare workers for not wearing masks they don’t have.

                1. Black Horse Dancing*

                  I am simply explaining how many people feel. Logically , they know it’s not A’s fault, that it is the boss. Unfortunately, the boss won’t fire themselves–they will go for the worker who is front of them. Emotions aren’t logical.

            2. Temperance*

              It’s also A, who knows that she has a report that B needs for a project and isn’t prioritizing it.

              1. Sarah Palin in a bear suit*

                Then A’s boss and B’s boss (if they’re not the same person) need to communicate. Because if A’s boss is telling them to de-prioritize the report that B is waiting on then that’s what A is gonna do. But A’s boss should make B’s boss aware of that.

          4. Wow.*

            I understand what you mean. People are being so quick to defend “the parent” and bash the boss (who deserves it!), but what are you supposed to do about it? Yes, they’re a bad boss! And? A is still the one being yelled at. Is A supposed to quit and find a new job right now in the midst of this mess? But apparently the sympathy only goes one way.

      4. Someone On-Line*

        That’s not the parents’ fault. That is the company’s fault. I like how bosses have neatly turned this conversation in to parents vs non-parents, and the people who have the actual power to make decisions and changes are largely left alone.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          This is how the whole world works. We turn on those closest to us in rank or lower because it’s safer.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              I am hugely for unions and what they can accomplish. That doesn’t mean human nature doesn’t change.

                1. Black Horse Dancing*

                  What defense? I was pointing on that many bosses will blame the person who didn’t ‘do their job’ even though they couldn’t do their job because of another person who didn’t do their job for whatever reason. Is it the company’s fault? Absolutely! But the lowly workers have little chance of changing the company. Redirected aggression is common among many animals, including human animals. Not fair but perfectly understandable.

                2. JS*

                  Understandable is not the same as acceptable. And just because you feel aggression doesn’t mean you can’t then choose to reach for empathy.

    3. Pretend Scientist*

      If that’s the situation, then be honest about it. Maybe take FMLA? Or at least talk about how normal productivity is not possible. If people need things from you and they aren’t getting them because “baby”, then a conversation needs to be had.

  25. AnotherAshley*

    (I’m still pretty new to the workforce so ignore this if it isn’t helpful, but) It might be useful to track those people who are putting in extra work because they don’t have complex life situations & find a way to reward them once life returns to “normal”. I know that I’m the only one in my group that isn’t balancing a full home life (I live alone, no aging family in the area, healthy enough to make my own grocery runs) & have taken on a chunk of work that other people would normally be doing. I would feel resentful BUT my boss has let me know that once all of this is over, she’ll be transferring a few of the duties I dislike away from me (for a time) & giving me some extra money for conferences/training (that wouldn’t normally be available to me). That “reward” at the end of this makes the chaos & extra work worth it. If there’s some way to balance things out at a later date & people would go for it, it may be enough to help smooth out some tensions now.

  26. Project Problem Solver*

    OP, this is kind of sideways to your original question, but it sounds like you’re working in a scrum environment. It’s probably unlikely the POs can share responsibility, but you (or your scrum master, if not you) may need to communicate that “standards” are going to need to change. Your velocity is going to go down, and your team may be blocked by not having the PO available as much as before. I don’t know if it’s possible to see if your POs can commit to a set time everyday to answer dev team questions in a batch, or if you need to set some other kind of expectations, but the reality is that scrum -like a lot of frameworks!- was never meant to deal with something like this.

  27. Ocean*

    I generally agree with Alison’s advice, but I think it’s overlooking some basic economics. I work in engineering consulting. Our overhead margins are very thin. The company is allowing us great flexibility in terms of when we work, provide technology support for working from home and allowing us to charge PTO even if we haven’t accrued it yet. However, there is only so much flexibility in terms of our projects. We don’t get paid if we don’t bill our clients. If we aren’t working on projects per the contract we can’t bill the clients. If we don’t work efficiently we will overrun the project budget and won’t get paid extra by the client for that. So for some caregivers this means, giving up some project responsibilities, having to work fewer hours and take a pay cut. A junior employee suggested that we should all just get two extra weeks of vacation time in addition to the 4 to 6 weeks we currently get. However, that money needs to come from somewhere. I think part of communicating to employees is the expectations of what the new flexibility and approaches are costing and what the trade-offs are. For example, I am spending some of the overhead time I would have spent to go to conferences to have a regular formal check-in with my boss each week. Some weeks I end up charging PTO when it gets to be too much. If I run out of PTO, I will eventually need to start working a reduced work schedule with fewer hours per week.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I was going to make a similar comment. I think a lot of small businesses across industries face a similar conundrum. We’re all on super-thin margins, which is why so many businesses are shuttering after just 3 or 4 weeks of lost revenue. It’s fine to say projects and deadlines have to be pushed back in order to make accommodations, but in my industry, pushing back a project means there is a 100% chance a revenue target gets missed. A few of those and suddenly a job is on the line.

    2. Mindovermoneychick*

      This! 1000 times, this. It’s not my industry now, but that’s how my old industry worked. I used to say “there isn’t a box on money in box in accounting’s office” when people didn’t understand why the company wouldn’t just pay for this or that. The money has to come from clients and clients pay for output. Margins where very slim-we really didn’t have the cash flow to carry people at a reduced output for more than a month. No output, no money to pay employees, and which ultimately meant furloughs or layoffs.

      Which solves exactly no one’s problems in this scenario, it just means in some industries where these problems are happening management really can‘t do anything to ease the burden. It’s a math issue. It just sucks all around.

  28. Dust Bunny*

    1) Accept/recognize that “business as usual” is not going to work out.

    2) Make it clear to your employees–especially the childless ones who are picking up the slack–that this is OK.

    3) Make it actually OK. If they’re getting ridden because they aren’t performing as before, because they have to wait for the employees who are parents to contribute . . . that is emphatically not-OK. Recognize where the actual holdup is and don’t hold people responsible for things they can’t control.

  29. Jenn*

    I think an open communication (hopefully led by a good or great manager) is a good way to handle this.

    To be fair to the struggling parent, they may not have been prepared for how this would actually shake down, so now they are not able to be reliable. But over the long term, everyone needs to know what can and can’t be done on what timeframe. When my kids were little, I’d had the experience of an emergency situation and so I would sometimes trade off time with my husband over a weekend to make sure that my work was organized as far ahead as possible and my notes were clear, just in case. When one of my kids ended up in hospital, I’d laid a base.

    But that wasn’t a skillset I natively had, and it would have been hard to develop *during* the emergency. But I think a great boss would talk to your coworkers about what’s reasonable and what they can do. A lot will depend on their partners’ ability to help as well.

    Some concepts that have helped me are:
    – prioritization tools that make priorities and where things are slipping obvious to everyone. If your coworkers who are parents are trading sleep for work time, prioritization can be one of the first things to blow out (plus anxiety, which can be true for everyone during this time.) I’ve worked on teams where we could see other people slipping and sometimes the “guy in the back” would jump in to take something on or with a great solution.
    – decision deadline meetings – “I’ll call you at 2:15 to get your decision” – with follow up in writing
    – setting your own priorities and booking that time for yourself, too – “I need to be offline for 3 hours today for personal stuff, can you tell me when you’re unavailable so I can coordinate”

    And to add to the sense of pitching in, I had a colleague who really helped me out, gracefully and kindly. A few years later her husband was diagnosed with a very serious, often terminal condition, and I was able to pay back that favour directly by taking on her work, which was /crazy/ but weirdly a real career growth time for me…but I’ve also tried to pass it on to others in general. If you haven’t been at the receiving end, I can totally get why it would rub on you and you would be concerned. For me I try to take the long view – over my working life, I want to add to the compassion in the workplace, not detract from it. Occasionally I think people have taken advantage of it but mostly I think this has served me well in working in a way I can feel good about.

  30. LarsTheRealGirl*

    Our company has been handling this as beautifully and compassionately as possible in this time and I think the key to their support has been the communication around these issues (and practicing what you preach).

    1) They made it clear that everyone is entitled to flexibility and leeway during this time. Core working hours, deadlines (when possible), time off, sick leave, etc have all been flexed as much as possible.

    2) They *specifically* spelled out that while some work may not be done by employees with children, or others to care for “that does not mean additional work should/will fall to those without specific home responsibilities”.

    3) They’ve directed all managers to have proactive discussions with their team members about what is possible, what is reasonable, and how to accommodate everyone as best as possible.

    4) Managers are actually taking this to heart. We’ve pushed non-essential projects, we’ve shifted work when possible, we’ve pushed deadlines, etc. Managers have stepped in with other departments and clients to manage expectations and really support employees when they say “I just can’t get to this right now.”

    5) There is constant reinforcement of this messaging by leadership from the CEO down.

  31. JamieS*

    First if some employees are doing more than their equitable share, which is equal for everyone in a given position, than they should be compensated for that whether it be with a bonus, comp time, or whatever you decide.

    Second no this isn’t the same as a coworker falling ill and the rest taking up the slack. This isn’t one or two coworkers being out and the rest of the team pitching in. This is a large amount of employees not putting in their full capacity (regardless of whether or not they’re at fault) and a specific subset of employees being expected to pick up the slack. Meanwhile both those working more and those working less are being compensated the same adjusted for experience, skill, etc.

    Third recognize that while this is a relatively unprecedented circumstance, nonparents (and also sometimes parents with older kids) being expected to work more for the same compensation isn’t unprecedented. There’s only so many times and so much slack someone should be expected to pick up as a result of their child bearing choices. At some point parents need to be expected to figure out a way to take back more of the workload especially as this drags on and/or expectations across the board will need to change. If the company can make do with Sarah with 3 kids putting in 50% of normal productivity than they can make do with Laura with no kids having the same productivity.

  32. Dumpster Fire*

    I agree that it’s important for those of us who are childless to push back a bit when too much is being imposed on us. I also – even more – think that it’s important for those who DO have child-care situations to be the ones to push back FIRST.
    The default should NOT be for Fergus to say, “Oh, Dumpster, can you do this because I’m so bogged down with work-at-home and child-care and online school?” and then leave it to me to say to our manager that deadlines need to be moved or priorities rearranged because Fergus has so much on his plate. Instead, Fergus needs to tell our manager that HIS situation is causing the need for adjustments to deadlines or priorities – that shouldn’t be yet another thing put onto my already-full plate.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I was going to make a similar comment. I think a lot of small businesses across industries face a similar conundrum. We’re all on super-thin margins, which is why so many businesses are shuttering after just 3 or 4 weeks of lost revenue. It’s fine to say projects and deadlines have to be pushed back in order to make accommodations, but in my industry, pushing back a project means there is a 100% chance a revenue target gets missed. A few of those and suddenly a job is on the line.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        This comment was NOT supposed to go here. It was meant to go on to Ocean’s comment from 12:00. Apologies!

  33. Cordoba*

    I have no kids or current care-taking responsibilities.

    If my employer wants me to do extra to cover for those people who do, no problem.

    Just pay me overtime for the additional time I work and I’ll do 60-80 hour weeks with a smile on my face.

    Sure, boss, I know I’m salary. But in these extraordinary circumstances I’m sure we can figure out the paperwork to make this OT happen.

    What’s that, boss? You’re not sufficiently motivated to pay me that overtime, or figure out how to do so? Well, then, I guess that work isn’t important enough to justify me doing extra to make sure it gets finished. I’ll just keep doing what I was doing before the shutdown hit, thanks.

      1. Cordoba*

        I’m sure that if management offered a remote OT option that boiled down to “make fat $tack$ while stuck at home without anything else to do” they would get a lot of enthusiastic takers.

        When the option is “work extra time for free in order to make some shareholder richer because your colleague has a kid” they should expect to not get a lot of excitement around that.

        I’ll treat this un-done work as a serious priority when I see the decision-makers put their money where their mouths are.

    1. Susie Q*

      Honestly, this is one time that I am glad that everyone in my company is paid by the hour.

  34. blackcat*

    A few weeks ago, this piece was shared among friends of mine. I’ll link it in a reply.

    “Our kids are losing out — on peace of mind, education, engagement, the socialization for which they are built.
    Our employers are losing out, too. Whether the office policy is to expect full-time work or whether, like in my experience, we are offered a lot of flexibility — work is less good, there is less of it, and returns will be diminishing the longer this juggle goes on.
    To be honest, I’m not sure what the solution is. But unless we step back and redefine where the burden of responsibility lies in providing care for our most vulnerable and reprioritize what work matters, we are going to emerge from this pandemic with some of our most powerful forces — parents and young people — not up for the task of rebuilding a better future.
    And in the meantime, remember this: Parents are not okay.”

    As someone with a toddler at home, trying to work full time with a husband also trying to work full time, I am actually breaking under the strain of all of this. I think a lot of parents feel the same way.
    We lost 45 hours weekly of childcare from our lives. That is new work that has to be done. Assuming it’s split evenly, that’s still like an extra 22 hours of labor a week per person.
    But it’s also more than that–my child is acting out because his entire world has been disrupted. He misses his friends. He misses his caregiver terribly. We can’t take him to his favorite places.

    All of the resources that we utilized to be productive workers AND good parents are GONE. Like 100%, totally gone. My child is too young to be parked in front of a TV.

    I just… can’t. I’m in tears daily from the strain of feeling like I’m failing my child, my marriage, and my job. And every parent I talk to of a child between 12 mo and about 6 years old feels the same way.

    1. anon today*

      Thank you. I am next level exhausted trying to homeschool and work full time. Not to mention all the people dying around me. This whole letter made me want to scream “DO YOU WANT TO TRADE? I’LL TRADE YOU!”

      1. blackcat*

        I know.

        I finished my PhD when my kid was an infant. I defended my dissertation during a month when he had surgery and was in and out of the hospital.

        This time, right now, is nearly as hard as that time was. I just don’t know how to describe it to people. My kid is too young to understand what is happening, but plenty old enough to be upset at losing his ability to socialize with other children. My neighbor has a really sweet dog that she walks off leash, and the look on the toddler and dogs faces when be prevent my toddler from petting her is so, so sad and somehow captures this pandemic perfectly. The simple joys in life, like petting and playing with a friendly dog, are gone. That hurts everyone, but as parents, we have to not only manage our feelings with it, but also those of our children.

        1. Arielle*

          I’m so sorry. My kid is thankfully only six months old so he has no idea what’s going on or that anything is different. I am genuinely starting to worry we’re missing out on key socialization windows, but I guess since there’s literally nothing we can do about it, there’s no point worrying.

          1. blackcat*

            Yeah, not to play misery poker, but I keep thinking back to “Oh, man, this would be so much easier when he was a newborn.”
            Don’t get me wrong, the disrupted sleep was terrible. But I could strap in to my chest in a carrier, sit on a yoga ball, and bounce away while working and he’d just sleep there.

            Today, my kid literally tried to run onto train tracks when I glanced at a work email for 30 seconds. (I had his hand, so he didn’t get far!)

      2. papertiger*

        This times infinite. I had to get off the phone with a childfree friend the other day after she said, in an incredulous tone of voice: “Wow, I realized this is so different for you than me! I’m feeling really relaxed actually, it sounds like you’re super stressed.” I wanted to cry.

    2. EBennett*

      I just wanted to write that I deeply sympathize. Remember to be kind to yourself. Focus on being “okay” rather than “good”. You are in a very difficult situation.
      Sending positive thoughts and internet hugs.

    3. JS*

      YES THIS.

      Every day. Breaking down somewhere my kids can’t see. I’m doing my best and failing on all fronts and there’s nothing I can do about it.

    4. Susie Q*

      Ughhh, I am so sorry :( My coworkers who are in similar situations take turns working like partner a works from 7-12 then partner b works from 12-5. I have a 10 month old who still only army crawl so she can’t move fast. But my husband is at work (essential) and I’m trying to work and keep my baby entertained. She’s watched way more screen time than I would have ever imagined but we gotta do what we can to survive. It’s a nightmare situation.

    5. KaliAZ*

      As someone who is childless, single, and lives alone I completely understand the additional burden being added to those of us who don’t have small kids. I also completely understand that those working from home with small kids are not able to put in their normal work hours right now and I may have to pick up some of the slack. That’s natural in any work place at anytime, for example Bob has to leave early to go to a kids drs appointment can you help out? But I think the issue is the reciprocity is no longer there and it shouldn’t be right now. In my normal work world if I picked up the slack because Bob had to leave early, Bob could cover something when I took PTO or had to leave early myself. Bob can no longer do that cause his kids are home 100% of the time and he has to do most of the childcare. I get that, and I think most childless people get that as well.

      However, I think what is getting to a lot of people, me included, is the assumption that if you are like me childless and single that you should be available though out your normal work day the same way you were in the office AND accommodate all the parents work from home schedules as well. So if the only time Bob can do a meeting is 6am or 8 pm it’s why can’t you accommodate that, you don’t have kids and there’s nothing else you can do right now? (And yes I know this is my crappy workplace, not everyone’s but I get the sense it’s becoming more common).

      I think that what we really need right now is just flexibility for everyone. I described myself to my manager yesterday as a game of jenga that’s about to topple. I’m trying to pick up the slack for coworkers, be online my normal 40-50 hours, accommodate calls outside that time, and in my part time world continue to teach and get some of my students ready for dance programs in the fall or summer courses that they may not be going to due to all of this, keep myself semi in shape so I can continue to teach and dance (cause I do that very part time as well), and deal with the fact that I’m originally from one of the hardest hit areas in the country and every day hear about someone else who is in the hospital or has passed away. And to be clear I don’t expect my full time job to deal with all my outside of them problems. However, I do expect that if I work my 40 hours during normal work hours that my time off should be respected as well.

      I know a ton of parents would switch with me right now, and I get that. But I just think compassion for everyone is what’s needed right now.

      1. KaliAZ*

        Sorry didn’t mean for this to be on this chain, I’m on my phone and I commented in the wrong spot :

    6. DriverB*

      100% this. We don’t have a choice in this. We’re not slacking, we’re being FORCED to lean out right now – and even though I have a fairly generous boss and company, the people whose work is going to be remembered months from now are the ones who were able to ‘step up and come together’ to serve our clients during this difficult time. We know that we already pay a price to have kids that affects our careers. This situation is going to damage them further, and there’s literally nothing we can do about it. It hurts.

      1. blackcat*

        “we’re being FORCED to lean out right now”

        YUP. Every GD day is a reminder that I am 100% not cut out to be a stay at home parent. I knew that going into the whole parenting thing. I had a kid under the assumption that I would not be doing full-time care! We pay out the nose for excellent childcare and it is worth every f-ing penny

  35. Imaginary Number*

    Normally I would say that employees shouldn’t get special treatment just because they have kids. But this is not a normal situation. It’s reasonable to expect that people would have a care plan that would allow them to do their job, but those care plans aren’t possible right now. People aren’t normally forced by a global pandemic to homeschool their children.

    Everyone has to work together to get through this pandemic and support each other. For those of us without kids, that might mean taking on less favorable work schedules or deal with coworkers who can’t work from home as easily.

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      Then those taking on extra duties need to be amply rewarded–as in promotions, generous PTO, bonuses, etc. Companies should put it in writing, pay OT, tell them they will get a bonus monthly of $X and when it will come, etc.

      1. Mediamaven*

        Super easy to do during a recession – great idea. Right now is a good time to be thankful if you are still employed. I would not be making those types of demands right now because you will come across as super tone deaf.

        1. Genny*

          If the work needs to be done, then the person doing the work needs to be appropriately paid for the time they’re putting in to do the work. If that means someone is putting in more time/effort for a sustained period of time than what they initially agreed to upon accepting the job, then that person should be getting additional compensation. If a company can’t afford that, they need to rethink whether that work is actually so important and re-prioritize accordingly. Companies shouldn’t be demanding free labor, recession or not.

        2. Blueberry*

          Right now is a good time to be thankful if you are still employed.

          This fact should not be used by employers as an excuse to treat employees as badly as possible.

        3. I can’t hear you...*

          Well I would argue the reverse is true and that during a recession a person shouldn’t tell their empower “ due to my family situation I’ll be working 25% less, but expect to be compensated the same amount.”

          That feels pretty tone deaf too

          1. Someone On-Line*

            Trust me – parents are exquisitely aware that they may be first on the chopping block for low productivity. And women have always known about the motherhood tax.

      2. Someone On-Line*

        I think you would have to look at the overall health of your company before making demands like that. Would it be nice? Yeah. But if your company just lost 30% of its value, I don’t think the term “generous” is going to appear anywhere.

    2. Koala dreams*

      People aren’t normally expected to shop for vulnerable neighbours and family members, sacrifice their mental health to keep in isolation, take care of parents and other family with no outside respite, work from home with slow internet and lack of space, grieving without even a funeral to go too… It’s too simple to just make this into a parents Vs non parents issue. In many families, childless people end up with many of the other caretaking responsibilities, and that’s before we get to the strictly personal problems.

  36. Lala*

    It’s really amazing the privilge that spews from this comment section. In an economy where 20% of the workforce may be out of work. When parents have suddenly found themselves with two full-time jobs as their daycares close. As grocery store workers are facing life and death just to go into work everyday, which is something THEY certainly never signed up for. People here are complaining about having to do slightly more and other people getting more leave than them.

    Great answer. This comment section offers no value and should be shut down.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Entitlement is thinking that because you’re a parent SURELY your childless coworkers have no other responsibilities and should be so grateful to be employed that they’ll happily do your work for you.

      As far as high unemployment: Last time I checked, that can affect parents, as well. I’m not sure how that makes childless people “entitled” since it’s not limited to them (since you called out people for complaining about higher workloads and it’s the childless people in this instance who are getting stuck with them).

        1. Temperance*

          You’re right – many people aren’t being “asked” to do more, they’re just inheriting extra work.

                1. Black Horse Dancing*

                  Not for the company, they’re not. If you choose to have a child, yes, extra work. But that isn’t company work. That’s a choice. If the company needs work done, parent needs to pull their weight, just like the childfree person. If childfree is doing more, they deserve more reward. And if extra work must be done, all do it. If that means parent must work 2sm -10 am, then that’s on the company. It absolutely is not the childless coworker’s responsibility.

              1. Anon today.*

                They are working more. Most just got a second job as a teacher, one they aren’t trained or prepared for. I’m still working full time and my 6-year-old has a full seven-hour a day curriculum that’s still required. Every single week day. And, three people we knee well died of COVID-19 last week. A co-worker or boss would catch the wrong end of me on this one.

                1. Black Horse Dancing*

                  I’m sorry for your loss. Again, however, this isn’t the responsibility of the childless/childfree. The parents aren’t working a second job for the company. It’s for themselves (their family). The childfree shouldn’t be pulling all the weight. Either they should be rewarded very well by the company or the company gets flexible with everyone, You want an 8 pm meeting but Pam wants 3 pm? You do 4:30. Or 3 pm this time, 8 PM the second, etc.

                2. blackcat*

                  @Black Horse Dancing
                  I am of the opinion that the government should be paying us.
                  The paid leave if you lost childcare is actually really restrictive to access and does not apply to large employers. Neither my husband nor myself are eligible.

                  You said that having children was a choice upthread. It is, but none of us signed on to parent under these circumstances. It’s downright cold to say that we don’t deserve compassion because we chose to have kids.

                3. Black Horse Dancing*

                  @blackcat, no one said you don’t deserve compassion. Everyone does. You didn’t sign up for this kind of parenting–non parents didn’t sign on to cover their job and jobs of the parent co worker. The flexibility parents want needs to be given to all and those who are working extra deserve compensation for that extra work.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      So, the argument is other people have it worse, so my problem is fake? OP can’t do her job without input from others. It’s not about being asked to support the working parents. It’s about the flexibility allowed to the working parents preventing her from accomplishing her work. That she’s expected to do. It’s a work blog, and she wants to address it.

      She can’t take on the full-time job of a parent without daycare (while that parent is presumably getting paid). She can’t help the grocery store worker. She can’t help the unemployed. . .other than continuing to stay employed so that the unemployment stays as low as it can, or perhaps making donations. . .which are both things that require her being able to actually DO her job.

      Please. We’re all sooo privileged here, but I bet a large percent of people are a couple weeks’ pay or a case of COVID away from being completely screwed themselves. People just want to manage their own situations well. No one is denying others don’t have it worse. Even the unemployed or those in jobs where their health is at risk don’t have it as bad as someone else. Where do problems meet the threshold of worthiness?

      1. Lala*

        No, your problem is petty.

        I have no problem with the OP or the answer. I definitely have a problem with the commenters who think having to refresh grocery websites is the same burden. Or who casually respond to a parent who is overworked that other people will get in trouble because of them. Or who claim they won’t do a bit more work without OT even if they are salary.

        You CAN help. You can pick up a little bit of slack. You can have some compassion. You can stop the endless “what about meeeee” that is always being howled in this comment section but comes off particularly tone deaf now. You can have the same compassion you’d have for someone who can’t eat sandwiches or has misophonia.

        1. The bad guy*

          Why should you choosing to have a child affect my quality of life? Sure maybe that’s petty but I don’t have a child because I don’t want the inconvenience of doing two jobs, nor do I want the 1.5 jobs that comes out of my parent coworkers only being able to work 20-25 hours per week. You had the child, I didn’t, you should just expect that because your life is more inconvenient mine should be too. Sure, if I like you I’ll pick up some slack but this is not my responsibility or duty as someone who made an active choice not to have a child.

          1. Lala*

            I don’t have children. I would never have a child. It affects your quality of life because you live in a society and when there is a crisis we all have to go through it together, Ayn Rand.

            It IS your responsibility.

            1. The bad guy*

              Except it literally is not, this was a problem long before the pandemic. Nowhere in my job description does it say “pick up the slack for parents who have child care responsibilities.” I’m not going to work more out of some deranged sense of jingoistic duty, if anything I do it as a favor. But doing it for a month or more is beyond what anyone would consider a favor.

              1. Lala*

                Your comments make it very obvious why you don’t see regular “career benefits.” It has nothing to do with parents.

                1. The bad guy*

                  Not that it’s any of your business but I have received the highest possible rating every performance evaluation of my career and every promotion for which I’ve applied.

              2. JS*

                And the teachers are supposed to be teaching my kids without me. But they can’t. Because there’s a pandemic. It is what it is.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              In a hierarchical management structure, this actual problem should be handled by the identification of a problem and that problem being raised to management, and management implementing a solution. If the parent or coworkers want accommodations or do/do not want to pick up slack is irrelevant. It’s not a societal structure philosophy question here. If the coworkers are being asked to pick up slack, and extra hours are work, they need paid if they’re hourly and they just need to do it if they’re salary. If the employees who can’t do all their work need to be paid anyway and the company can’t afford both, then the company needs to decide how to scale back on work that is produced. These are business decisions to be made by leaders, not by some cooperative arrangement among the workers.

              Whether commenters on here have petty complaints or do or do not want to work extra now, or have their own kids climbing the walls is ultimately irrelevant.

              I actually have kids and I don’t need you to take me on as a cause.

              1. Blueberry*

                Well said. The “parents vs childfree” fight benefits only the employers who benefit from having employees fighting each other rather than pushing back for everyone’s benefit.

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  YES. Most of this thread is a trash fire, but this comment is glorious. Everyone needs to recognize that they’re falling for a classic divide-and-conquer ploy.

            3. Analyst Editor*

              It’s funny, because Ayn Rand didn’t have her own kids and as such children are a huge gap in her construct, heh heh.
              And I say this as someone who doesn’t have a visceral hatred at her very name. :p

          2. Arielle*

            Because I guarantee you that in weighing the pros and cons of having children, not one single person planned for “what if there is a global pandemic that causes all schools, daycares, nannies, grandparents, friends, and neighbors to be closed or unavailable with absolutely no warning?” Maybe we should have, but we didn’t. And so what’s the other option, given that we can’t grow four hands or create more hours in the day? If your coworkers who are parents quit their jobs because they have no childcare, you’ll complain that now you have to do 100% of their work. What solution do you propose?

            1. Susie Q*

              “If your coworkers who are parents quit their jobs because they have no childcare, you’ll complain that now you have to do 100% of their work.”


            2. Cordoba*

              My solution is that employers offer to pay OT for *any* employees who are willing to work extra throughout the coronavirus disruption.

              At time-and-a-half they’ll find out real quick who has free time in their schedule for more work, and the people who are doing that work will be fairly compensated for the efforts they’re putting in.

            3. The bad guy*

              The solution is that after this is over, those who stepped up at work get financial recognition for the hours they put in.

              1. Arielle*

                I mean, that seems fair to me but you know your coworkers with kids have no control over that, right? And yet you seem really angry with them.

                1. Black Horse Dancing*

                  Parents can actually push for this, though. Those who have the capital can absolutely push for bonuses/raises for those going way above and beyond/doing the work.

                2. JS*

                  Seriously? We’re already on the chopping block because we simply cannot be as productive as before, employers are ideally (not in my case, but ideally) already extending us benefits to help, and you think we’re the best messengers for this? I have no capital left to spend – as you and others have repeatedly pointed out, I am a drag on the office.

                  I’ll support you wholeheartedly, but this push cannot come from us if you want it to be effective.

            4. Jennifer*

              Amen. Getting 80% of their work done is better than 0%. People just aren’t getting that there is no good answer here. Sometimes life is just unfair and you have to be thankful for what you DO have. I’ve been laid off and it looks like my husband may be soon and people are asking for higher pay and promotions in a recession just for doing their effing jobs! It pisses me off.

              1. Oh No She Di'int*

                I agree that there aren’t good answers here. Nobody planned to have kids during a pandemic. Nobody planned to be working extra for their coworkers during a pandemic. No manager planned to have to allocate work during a pandemic. I am quite sure that not one single budget that was drafted last year had accounted for discretionary OT and other wage increases due to a global pandemic. We’re all stuck. We’re ALL stuck.

            5. Wow.*

              Lol. Pandemic, no. But not being able to afford a nanny/daycare, having literally no family at all to pick up any slack? 100% I thought of it. Looks like many people haven’t, and now realize they bit off more than they can chew. I guess I have never felt entitled enough to demand help for anything. But I should do 150% of the work, they can do 50% and we can both be paid the same at the same company where the work is required. Sure, ok.

              1. Arielle*

                Are you kidding? I can afford daycare. I can afford my nanny. There IS NO daycare right now. They are CLOSED. My six month old does not cease to exist so I can do my job for eight hours. That’s why we hired a nanny to take care of him so my husband and I can both work our full time jobs. She cannot come to our house anymore because there is, I don’t know if you’ve heard, a global pandemic. Please tell me what your suggestion is for when a conference call and a screaming baby are happening at the exact same time. Please tell me what you would like me to do.

              2. EnglishisLit*

                …you know there’s no daycares or nannies right now, right? And that family can’t come visit? Because I don’t think you actually GET that.

          3. Susie Q*

            Whelp I should stop paying my taxes. Why should I help pay for a road that I will never use? I made the choice not to drive on that road.

            1. The bad guy*

              There’s a reason fuel taxes go toward road repair. Most economists actually argue for a mileage tax specifically to ensure that those using the road the most are financially responsible for its upkeep. Trucking companies get slammed with taxes and I pay more for my milk at the store. Seems fair to me.

              1. The bad guy*

                I addressed that in my reply. Those taxes should be paid at the point of sale, not in a payroll tax.

              2. Black Horse Dancing*

                We pay taxes on the goods we get. And if there is a way of getting out of fuel taxes, I’d love it. (I know, I know, a Tesla. But I can’t afford one).

        2. Black Horse Dancing*

          But aren’t you yelling the “what about me?” for the parents? Compassion flows more than one way. Plenty of non parents have other issues. And being compassionate doesn’t mean being the workhorse while getting nothing in return. Companies want extra work? Pay for it! Reward those going above and beyond. If Jane is now doing 60 hours because Jan can only do 20, then Jane gets something in return. Bonus, extra PTO, promotion, etc.

          1. Lala*

            How am I yelling what about me? I don’t have kids. I have no skin in the game except for being a member of society and disgusted by the comments here.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              The bad guy put it correctly–the duty of parenting belongs to the parents. I am not responsible for their lives nor they mine. Will I help out a colleague? Sure. Constantly with no reward or reciprocity? Hell no.

              1. blackcat*

                The duty of educating normally falls to the schools, but that is now being demanded of parents as well.

                1. Black Horse Dancing*

                  Yes, Because they’re parents. This is a choice they make. It is not my responsibility to take on their work without getting something in return. If Bob has to teach his kids, that doesn’t mean I should be expected to do Bob’s work and mine.

                2. AnotherAlison*

                  I think this is the one area that the government could have made a decision that really eased the burden on many people. . .but did not. There are 74M school age kids in the US.

                  Some kids are still being required to do online school as if it is business as usual. I don’t want to derail on this topic, but missing 2 months out of 12 years of schooling wouldn’t harm anyone long term, and it sure could have provided a lot of flexibility for everyone. It would ease the burden on parents by allowing them to structure the day themselves and also open up options for long-term childcare by extended family for some. This would ease the trickle down of work to those without kids.

                3. blackcat*

                  @Black Horse Dancing

                  You seem to be implying that parents should have thought through the possibility that all of the things they rely on for their children–help of grandparents, government services like schools, etc–would suddenly vanish.

                  Even in a world where having a child is a choice for all–and that world is NOT the US, where birth control and abortion are inaccessible to many–people chose to parent under the information they currently have.

                  None of us parents chose this.

                  I don’t think it’s fair for you to have to do two jobs for the pay of one, but framing this all as about parents individual choice to have children 2, 8, or 17 years ago is really insulting and callous.

                  @AnotherAllison, I definitely agree re: schools. Expecting parents to homeschool their children is bananas. At least I have a toddler for whom keeping him fed and alive seems reasonable. I used to be a high school teacher, and even I would have no idea where to begin home schooling an elementary aged child.

                4. Black Horse Dancing*

                  @blackcat, I agree parents didn’t know of this. I am not casting the blame–if any–at parents. I am simply saying that flexibility must be for all and that if companies want non parents to cover for parents, those non parents deserve extra pay for extra responsibilities. Non parents should not carry the load for parents. That doesn’t mean parents are all at fault. At some point, however, it needs to be “We need X by this time because this deadline is it. This work needs to be done.” And child at home or not, the workers need to do it. And just because Jane has no kids doesn’t meant she should carry 75% more work.

        3. Cordoba*

          I don’t know about you, but I work for money. I don’t think this is all that atypical or petty.

          It’s not unreasonable to expect my employer to pay me more if they want me to significantly increase my work output for some indefinite period of time. We’re a for-profit company, not a charity or a fire department.

          If they’re *not* willing to pay me for the extra time worked, then doesn’t that indicate that they don’t place a whole lot of value on the work they’re asking me to do? If they don’t value it highly, then why should I?

          1. Blueberry*

            Yes, but “pay me more for more work” is a very different statement than “you should have seen the pandemic coming 2, 4, 5, 10 years ago when you decided to have children.” Personally, I totally agree with you on the former (and have disagreed with the employer who has said they should not have to and will not pay employees more for more work) but I don’t at all think the latter is reasonable.

            1. Cordoba*

              Right, I suggest that the people who are being asked to take up the slack here switch the object of their aggravation from their colleagues who opted to have children, and place it on the bosses who aren’t willing to actually pay for the Very Serious Work They Need Done Right Now.

              I do think it’s reasonable to respond to “Your colleague can’t do as much work because they’re also caring for a child” with “That’s a Boss problem, not a Cordoba problem. I’m willing to work more if you pay me more. Otherwise I’m doing my normal job, and if I end up waiting around on that unfortunate busy colleague then you’re going to pay me to wait around.”

              1. blackcat*

                Yeah, I think this is why some of us have bristled so hard at Black Horse Dancing’s comments.
                Keep bringing up to parents that we chose to have children–when that might not be the case for all of the parents you’re talking to–puts the blame on us.

                Really, this is a problem for managers! Blame them! Not the parents! If Sally can’t meet a deadline because she’s got kid’s at home, Bob shouldn’t do all the extra work just because he doesn’t. Boss needs to move the deadline, deal with the upset client, offer to pay Bob extra, etc.

          2. Hannah O.*

            The charities, fire departments, local governments (which do not have much wiggle room in budgets), are all dealing with this as well, along with other businesses/organizations with narrow or no profit margins.

        4. Diahann Carroll*

          I definitely have a problem with the commenters who think having to refresh grocery websites is the same burden.

          Who said anything about this being the “same” burden? First of all, you have no clue what people’s situation is. For starters, I’m in a high risk category with multiple chronic illnesses that made in-person grocery shopping not ideal in the best of times, and now with people panic buying all over the place during an effing pandemic and clogging up delivery slots I used to have no problem getting, it’s almost virtually impossible. And there are many people like me, or those with illnesses and EBT cards that aren’t accepted on delivery apps, going through this. This shit ain’t a walk through the park, beloved.

          The point is, everybody is going through it right now and employers need to be mindful of this and flexible for everyone regardless of child status.

  37. Sal*

    Alison, I just want to reiterate how much I appreciate that you understand that parents of young kids have simply had another job put on top of them with no real alternatives. There aren’t enough hours in the week to do our full-time jobs, provide full-time childcare to our two young kids, and sleep. (That’s why we have to pay people to provide childcare in Normal Times.)

    I am lucky that I have a very understanding boss. My friends who are not as lucky have by and large decamped to their parents/in-laws’ places—possibly putting them at increased risk—expressly for the purpose of being able to get their work done (or closer to done).

    I also want to remind people that the parents of young kids often still have many/most of the extra responsibilities of the non-parents: we too have to spend three hours at the grocery store (or spend all day refreshing apps for delivery windows), help out or take care of elderly relatives or neighbors—there’s no child-free monopoly on those other, time-consuming, stressful tasks. We just get to be daycare teachers on top of all that.

    1. jenkins*

      Yes. This. Parents of young children are not free from any of the other things that non-parents have to deal with. I have two young children, a high-risk parent to worry about, and mental health issues of my own. I have to spend half a day trying to get hold of groceries too. I am profoundly lucky that I work part time. If I had to try and fit in a full time work load I think I would be suicidal at this point. And I don’t want anyone else to be put under pressure by my lack of capacity! I hate it! But there is physically nothing. else. I. can. do. Not a thing. I would love it if people doing extra got paid freaking double their normal salary during this period. But I don’t personally have the power to make that happen either.

      1. Tsp*

        I can’t speak for your colleagues. But if you were in my office I would bend over backwards for you just for a simple “thanks.” An acknowledgment that I’m going above and beyond. I have a lot of stress right now, but it’s possible my stress is “90%” to your “100%.” Be patient if I can’t pick up your extra 10%, but I’ll try. This isn’t easy on single people. I don’t think parents realize this.

        1. jenkins*

          I can’t speak for your colleagues either, but if a ‘thank you’ from an internet stranger means anything, thank you for being that person trying to pick up the slack. I expect some parents don’t realise it, just as some non-parents genuinely don’t appreciate what childcare entails, but I can 100% picture this being hard on single people. I have near constant demands on my time all day every day and generally at some point in the night as well, BUT I have human contact (so. much. contact – but that’s not a worse problem than none at all) and I have a partner to back me up, so if one of us gets sick the other one can jump in and get household essentials covered. I have more tasks than time and my head is just about to burst, but some worries/risks do weigh less heavily on me than on some other people. (Looking back at my previous comment I should have been clearer about that actually.)

  38. The bad guy*

    I think this is really frustrating to accept right now because those of use who are picking up the slack will not see any career benefit out of this. We are putting in so much more than our fair share and will not get any career benefit out of it. I understand that these are not normal times and patents could never have planned for something like this but me putting in 60 hours while my parent coworkers are doing 20 feels like it should have some sort of long term impact, especially since there is no realistic end in sight.

    1. Anonymous Canadian*

      And for a lot of us it’s not just because of the epidemic. The epidemic is exacerbating a problem that always existed. And because of that there is no end in sight even when the pandemic ends.

      1. The bad guy*

        This is a good point, “you’re a dink household, you don’t need the promotion as much as xyz who just had their first kid.” xyz is always a man.
        I think more immediately, this is a year of my career where I’m picking up slack for someone and it’s okay for them to not lose professional standing relative to me because somehow parenting is seen as a public service?

        1. Cat*

          I mean, you acknowledge that XYZ is always a man. Yes, that’s a problem, but it’s also a problem what women have children are discriminated against in the workplace endemically. This idea that having kids is always an advantage in the workplace and nobody suffers for it, they just slack off with no repercussions, is ludicrous.

          1. Koala dreams*

            It’s true that women in general (on a society level) are discriminated against both in their personal life, and professionally. Women do a majority of caretaking duty, make up a big part of employees in (paid) caring work, and are often getting less professional opportunities because people expect women to prioritize taking care of children, parents, nieces, neighbours, husbands or anything else over their paid jobs, even when it’s not true. I think one of the reasons people don’t like the suggestion to take up slack for their parent co-workers is seeing this is just another caretaking duty that is going to be put on women on top of all the others.

      2. Pommette!*

        Exactly. Problems that already existed are getting massively exacerbated, yes… but they aren’t springing up whole-cloth out of thin air.
        From what I’m seeing through my friends and family, the non-parents who were already treated as second-class employees, and the parents who were given no consideration or support by their employers, are all getting the same treatment as always, only (much) more so. And feeling all the more angry/anxious/terrified/frustrated by it.

    2. J.B.*

      I think the long term problem is that professional jobs in the US are structured to ignore the rest of anyone’s life. So those without kids should have more free time, instead some employers give parents more flexibility without spreading it around.

      At the same time, I think we are just at the beginning of the economic repercussions. I have kids and do not expect to have a job when this is over.

    3. Susie Q*

      Last year I took off my 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. I missed out on two opportunities to apply for promotions. And there won’t be any open positions for a long time. We get bonuses deposited in our 401K every year, it’s calculated as a percent of our earnings. Because I didn’t get paid for 3 months, I lost a couple thousand dollars on top of the salary that I missed.

      I’m currently working early in the morning and late at night. While also caring for a teething baby with an ear infection and an essential husband who has to go to work every day.

      You’re not the only person making sacrifices whose career and salary is being impacted by this pandemic.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        But the bad guy is expected to make sacrifices for something they didn’t choose. They aren’t a parent and their extra work that they must cover will not be rewarded. They are being forced to carry the load for the parents when they are not parents. You choose to have a child. The people carrying the slack for parents now did not choose that life. They are sacrificing with no reward.

        1. Susie Q*

          Parents didn’t chose to lose childcare during a pandemic either.

          Lots of things happen in life without our choosing. That’s life.

          And the people who “are sacrificing with no reward” shouldn’t blame parents. It’s not our fault that your boss and management are shitty and don’t provide reward for your work. You’re looking for a scapegoat and it’s not us. Take your anger elsewhere. Bitching about parents doesn’t solve anything nor does it solve your problem.

      2. Secret Squirrel*

        Why would you expect to be promoted when you’re off of work for 3 months and other people were there to do your work?

        1. Susie Q*

          Where in my comment did I say that I expected to be promoted? I merely stated that I missed an opportunity to apply for a promotion.

    4. Mediamaven*

      I think you need to not look at it like that if possible. Honestly, not all businesses are the same but I have several employees who have stepped up and really shined during this situation. They will absolutely benefit professionally. As soon as I can promote and give raises, I will do so for those employees. Your boss will not forget your contributions.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        You are a good boss. Unfortunately, many bosses won’t remember come promotion time.

        1. Cat*

          They shouldn’t. They should promote people on their ability, not the fact that they happened to be available at a particular time. They shouldn’t work people to death either, and they should be rewarding extra hours spent in bonuses and/or overtime. But putting in hours doesn’t make you a good boss.

          1. Mediamaven*

            But ability plays into that. If someone is going the extra mile to help save the company, they are an excellent performer. BTW I don’t have any employees with kids so that doesn’t play into it for me. But I have some employee who have not produced much and have taken advantage and some who have really done an amazing job. Who would you give the raise too?

            1. Cat*

              Yes that’s an easy choice because you’re talking about a deliberate choice to take advantage. But a top performer who is temporarily less available than normal because of this pandemic for reasons beyond their control should still be in line for a promotion later It’s in the company’s best interest to choose the best person since this situation isn’t likely to be replicated.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Yes, agree, overall performance is what needs to be considered. If someone is picking up extra work and hours right now, and the company can pay OT now or a small hardship bonus later, great.

                If that same person is an “A” player year-round, works hard, and has above-average ability, then they should get strong consideration for raises and money. If that same person is a “C” player the rest of the year, then compensate them for their current efforts, but it shouldn’t be a career advantage long term. One-time heroics don’t replace years of mediocre work and sometimes those employees who need slack now earned the right to get that slack because they are normally the person picking up slack for others. I really don’t consider parental status in this–that’s one variable affecting who’s able to pitch in more now and who is not. It’s not the full picture or a way to automatically categorize people’s efforts.

                I’m sorry “the bad guy’s” working parent colleagues are dumping on them, and from the comments, they sound like someone who is always working hard anyway, so I’m not meaning them or anyone else when I refer to a C-player with one-time heroics.

                I’m not seeing that type of black-and-white division between parents and non-parents at my job. A lot of our jobs aren’t interchangeable. I can’t pick up a few hours of someone’s work.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  (And if there is a major division at a particular workplace where parents have been giving the lion’s share of the work to others long before this happened, that’s a bigger performance management issue than this discussion.)

    5. goducks*

      And you know what? Many parents have the added fear that their inability to perform during this time will put them first on the lay-off list. Will be used against them for future promotions. Will be considered evidence as to why parents don’t make good employees.

      The employees who do extra (whether parents or not) will almost certainly come out of this as the favored employees. The ones who can’t (for any of a number of reasons) will be seen as weak, disloyal, and expendable.

    6. AnonAtm*

      The bad guy, SecretSquirrel, Black Horse Dancing: we get it. You don’t have kids and are deeply resentful that there is any acknowledgment that those who do may get something you don’t. It must have taken years to build up that enlightened attitude. Keep up that foot stomping, don’t want to lose your momentum. Ugh.

      1. Secret Squirrel*

        Not resentful at all. I’d much rather have my life than any parents. I don’t like when you try to make your problems my problems. I have my own challenges to deal with and I frankly don’t care that you’re exhausted because I’m exhausted too.

      2. I can’t hear you..*

        People are stressed and venting. I don’t think it’s helpful to call people out and shame them. I think both sides just want the other to acknowledge that things are hard right now.

    7. Hannah O.*

      Ideally anyone picking up slack should be getting lots of recognition in ways that will pay off for them later in their careers, if not in additional financial compensation right now. I’m sure there are companies and bosses that won’t give that recognition, which sucks.

  39. Brett*

    Since it just so happens that all of your product owners are also parents of young kids, it is also possible that the real problem here is that you are expecting your product owners to operate normally under the new circumstances.

    Working in a similar scaled agile environment, product owners are definitely badly hindered by everyone working at home. They are a role that needs meetings, meetings with the ability to use post-its, whiteboards, and other physical tools that are harder to use purely online. Face to face meetings make their jobs easier. No face-to-face meetings at all makes their job a lot harder.

    As project manager, I could see some options that you could suggest here:
    A) Add a new role above the product owners. This would be a group product owner who could take some of the workload off the product owners as well as helping with the new reality of online coordination. You could outsource this role, promote from within, or have someone above them take on the role. But… you need someone with extensive product owner experience to do this.
    B) Add an agile coach. If your product owners are also taking on some of the tasks of an agile coach (which can be pretty common), add an agile coach to take that workload off of them. This is the easiest option to do via outsourcing. You can contract with an IT group that provides agile coaching services and have an agile coach join the team for as long as you are working from home.
    C) Add another product owner. This will take some ramping up time, but this would enable your product owners to cut down on the number of products they are managing. This is another role with some flexibility as to how to add it. You could promote from your engineering teams and backfill an engineer (if you have someone ready to do that) or you could contract out the role. Or you could even hire a new full time product owner from outside.
    D) Empower your engineers. Allow your engineers to take on a broader role and handle tasks like requirements gathering, business alignment etc to reduce the load on your product owners. This one might not be popular though, since it is basically putting even more work on your engineers to make your product owners more productive. If you do this, consider that you might need to advocate for engineer promotions with pay raises to do this. (Although, maybe your duty split between product owners and engineers is already out of balance and that’s why your product owners are falling behind.)

    One other thing to look at here, which relates to option D. I am finding engineers to be much _more_ productive with everyone working from home. Since this has slowed the cadence of meetings, and eliminated in-person conversations, this has given them longer blocks to do nothing but software development. So it could be that your engineers are speeding up while your product owners are slowing down (again, without regard to caring for young children at all). This is a good reason to look at the balance of work between engineering teams and product owners and make sure that the product owners are not taking on tasks and conversations that could or should be handled by the engineering teams.

    1. Blueberry*

      Well said. Not that I ever expect to be a manager, but I’m taking notes on this comment in case that unlikely event comes to pass.

  40. MissDisplaced*

    I feel this is often an issue with companies who have very good parental and child flexibility policies and benefits. And while I certainly DO support having great benefits for working parents I’ll never personally use, that doesn’t mean that Jane/Joe Childfree should have to work until 8pm weeknights to finish work when their coworkers leave to pickup their kids at 4pm, or find their vacation time-off requests on holidays thrown-over in favor the ones with children. And don’t get me started on the shift work. No, you shouldn’t have to be stuck on the night/graveyard shift For-Ev-Er because you don’t have kids (that still angers me some 25 years later).

    So, yeah, it’s no surprise this is rearing it’s head now in the age of constant WFH, and especially given schools have closed with no backup in place. I sympathize, I do, but you do still have to do your job (or arrange for something else like temporary furlough or half-time if you really can’t continue).

    Companies should be flexible for ALL as much as they can be.
    And if you do have kids, be fair to your coworkers who don’t–and likewise vice-versa. People without kids have lives too you know.

    1. Anon for this*

      +100, totally agree with you on this. Flexibility and paid time off should be available to ALL, not just parents. Having children is a voluntary choice, and shouldn’t be rewarded at the expense of higher workload for others.

    2. blackcat*

      “or arrange for something else like temporary furlough or half-time if you really can’t continue”

      My husband broached this with his manager. Apparently his choices are 40 billable hours per week or to be fired permanently. :/ One of his colleagues just chose getting fired, because they have 3 kids at home and his wife is a specialty nurse who is working OT each week.

      If he could just drop down to 30, it would be HUGE and we’d be able to function so much better… It’s really hard when companies won’t budge on UNPAID time off for parents.

  41. CaliCali*

    Everyone — employers and workers — need to stop operating under the collective delusion that we’re experiencing something akin to a big snowfall, where you hunker down, stock up on supplies, and wait it out. It’s more like a hurricane — you can do those things, but there’s a destructive and chaotic element to it, the proverbial power outages and flooding and death. Everyone’s suffering, but some people have more people they have to carry in their lifeboat right now. I’m a single parent with shared custody — so I can inhabit both of these realms, to an extent — and yeah, a bit of grace on the days I have my son is very very beneficial. And I try to do more on the days I don’t. I’m my own stop-gap. There is no good solution, because the best solution is to slow down this whole damned machine, and that’s not happening.

  42. Carlie*

    Along with everything else, if specific people are being constantly depended on to take up the slack, the system is not robust and is at high risk of failure. If Jane is being asked to do her work +20% to make up for Liz who has kids, and that’s the extent of the company’s “plan” at the moment, what happens when Jane gets sick? There’s not just her workload to make up, it’s hers plus Liz’s. Does that all fall to Betty, who was already doing her work +20% of Lily’s work (who has elder care), so now she has 240% to do? How much redundancy and overlap is there? Because sickness will happen, given that this is, you know, a plague. The company needs to figure out how to reduce their requirements, set up rotations so the same people aren’t doing the majority of the work, or both.

  43. Heat's Kitchen*

    This was a really good thread. Overall, I’d keep on with the point of EVERYONE deserves grace and flexibility, especially in today’s climate. I’m fortunate to work for a company doing things well. Management is transparent that they understand everyone will likely have decreased productivity. Do what you can, adjust your schedule as necessary. Many parents are doing split shifts and it’s more apparent on that front, but everyone can do it.

    Our CHRO has made it clear that everyone should work with their managers. If reduced schedules are necessary, it can be done. As can leave of absences.

    1. James*

      I disagree about this being a good thread. This thread has made me lose a LOT of respect for the commenters on this blog. Many people have fallen hard into the “Us vs Them” scapegoat mentality, painting this as a Parents vs Non-Parents issue, rather than what it really is: a giant ball of suck that we all have to take a portion of.

      You are correct. EVERYONE deserves grace and flexibility. This means taking a hard look–as both managers and employees–at what we are actually capable of handling right now and figuring out how to mitigate shortfalls in a way that minimizes burnout all around. The “Us vs Them” mentality, however, prevents us from having that discussion.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        I’ll bite: typically grace and flexibility means things like if someone has to be out of office due to a medical situation, PTO, etc, other people will cover on the understanding that it’s a mutual arrangement where others then take their own PTO and are covered for, etc.

        The problem with parents vs non-parents is that it’s a one-way thing with no reciprocation down the line (because the non-parent won’t be taking parental leave etc). As well as the ongoing assumptions about commitments and flexibility etc.

        1. James*

          Thank you for proving my point. This is an Us vs Them, Zer0-Sum mentality that views parents as the enemy. At best it’s non-productive; at worst it’s counter-productive. We should strive to be better than this, especially in a crisis.

          1. Roscoe*

            I don’t think that person is saying parents are the enemy, more that management is making bad decisions. If my company is super flexible and letting jane do less work for the same pay, great. I’m not mad at Jane. I am mad at my manager though for expecting my work load to stay the same (or often more to make up for others) and not compensating me. The problem is, people who need jobs can’t say exactly what they want to their boss, so often its the other people who get blamed. It would be like if you found out a coworker was making significantly more than you, even though you do the same amount of work. Of course its not their fault. Who wouldn’t take more money. But that doesn’t mean that, even if its unfair, you won’t resent that person.

      2. Kim*

        I agree. This is an ugly thread and some commenters really go out of their way to show how much they hate children. My god, what a mess. I am sorry Alison has to deal with this.

        1. I can’t hear you..*

          Where are people saying they hate children? I see people suggesting they be compensated if they are asked to do more work. That applies to people with and without children.

          1. Kim*

            It’s in the frankly venomous way they speak about the ‘parenting lifestyle’ and their overal tone. You don’t have to say a thing verbatim to get your point across.

            1. Roscoe*

              I think you can think a situation sucks without it meaning you hate children. If I’m expected to work every holiday so people with kids can have it off, its fair for me to be upset about that, while still hoping the kids have a great holiday. I think some parents have a hard time not differentiating between disliking a policy that adversely affects childless people, and disliking children.

              1. Black Horse Dancing*

                Yes. Notice people complaining about venomous speaking yet have no problem calling non parents nasty, resentful, child hating or say it’s perfectly OK that childless people pick up the slack for parents yet bristle hen it’s asked what do they get in return.

                1. Roscoe*

                  There is being mad at someone, and there is resenting them for things that aren’t their fault. They are different.

                  Here is an example. You find out one of your colleagues is making more money for doing the same job for roughly the same amount of time as you have been. Of course this isn’t that person’s fault. if they negotiated better, or they were just offered more more, or whatever the reason, none of it is on the coworker. That doesn’t mean that you won’t grow to resent that person and judge them harshly when you see them coming in late or not working as hard. Its not fair, but it happens. Of course the person to be mad at is management, but its hard to completely take the person out of it

        2. Kate 2*

          Talk about bigotry and biases, many childfree people are devoted and loving siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. I know this might blow your mind but many childfree people work in child care, are teachers, work in NICU and pediatrics.

        3. Temperance*

          Literally no one has said or hinted about hating children. No one. Childless people, yes, but not children.

          1. Blueberry*

            I’ve actually been reading this discussion with a careful eye towards the “childless people are lazy/selfish” and “good people have children” sorts of rhetoric and haven’t seen that. I have seen quite a few repetitions of how “children are a choice” (life is often… complicated on that subject) and therefore people should not have to pay for or deal with others’ choices.

  44. Ben*

    One thing I haven’t heard a lot about is how to address this when clients and customers enter the picture.

    My own employer is being generous and understanding and flexible, and bending over backwards in structuring policies to allow parents of young children to work flexible hours, offload their responsibilities temporarily to others, etc.

    At the same time, our revenue is 100% dependent on doing work that clients pay for by the hour. We’ve already had clients express frustration with delays in work being done as it’s slipping past original timelines and goals, or a hand-off from one person to another that the client didn’t want (ie, overburdened project manager handing off to a childless one who has more time). We’ve seen exactly zero sympathy from any of our clients – most of whom are themselves seriously impacted and not probably at their best – and the company seems totally at a loss for how to handle this. Fewer hours at “normal” quality of effort means fewer dollars coming in means layoffs, and there’s no way around it, and all the sympathetic flexible policies in the world aren’t changing that basic dynamic.

    1. Mediamaven*

      I also work in a client facing business and I do have to remind my staff that we can’t just stop working, or else we’ll be far worse off. Not really pertinent to this conversation but it’s a very real thing that I hope is addressed.

  45. ArtK*

    Lesson from childhood: “Fair” doesn’t mean “the same”. People often confuse the two.

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      Ok. So parents shouldn’t be upset if their childfree colleagues get more money for their additional workload or get retained if they’re is a layoff?

      1. Roscoe*

        Exactly. I bet at that point the “fair doesn’t mean equal” thing would go right out the window.

        Hell, I think most child free people would be totally fine picking up parents’ slack if they got a raise to go along with it. But in most situations, they don’t get that

        1. Cat*

          You’re already getting paid more than the women with children in your workplace, statistically. s

            1. Pommette!*

              Lots of employers who discriminate against women with children view all women of childbearing age as potential mothers, and discriminate accordingly.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            Ah, that all depends where you work. I know many mothers with children who get paid very well. That’s not a problem. In the USA, a living wage and workers’ bill of rights would go far. The issue here is, again, everyone needs flexibility and compassion. And no one should be expected to pick up the load without being compensated fairly. Many non parents have pointed out how they are expected to give yet get nothing in return. This is not the ndemic–this is what has been there for a long time, Can it be fixed? Sure! But the companies have to do it and the big bosses won’t do that.

      2. Analyst Editor*

        As a parent, I think this is completely fair. This leads into the unrelated questions of pay equality in other spheres, but I think trading off flexibility and lower workload for less money is totally fair.

      3. Blueberry*

        parents shouldn’t be upset if their childfree colleagues get more money for their additional workload

        I wouldn’t be upset. I’ll check back on this thread in a bit to see if any parents actually say they would be.

        (Leaving layoffs aside due to my personal opinions about layoffs in general.)

        1. James*

          Father of 3 here. I would take it as entirely in line with normal business practices. I’m exempt, but paid based on hours worked; if I work 70 hours in a week I get paid for 70 hours. This is the norm (legally required if you work on federal projects) in my industry. It’d be rather silly to be upset about it!

      4. Cat*

        Additional money, yes. Long-term salary disadvantages for parents, no. Laying off only parents is not ok, especially since in most two-income het families, women are the ones shouldering the majority of the childcare/homeschooling burden and thus you’re going to be laying off mostly women with children. That is not ok.

        1. Anonish*

          The women with young children in my department were the first to go. 90% of the first round of layoffs were women, many of whom had taken maternity leave in the last year.

          Not the men with children, obviously, since they have wives to do the childcare. /s

      5. VintageLydia*

        Generally childfree people DO earn more money (and kcan keep more of it) and progress further in their careers, even in normal times.

  46. SuperBB*

    Even if you’re childless, low-risk, and don’t have older or sick relatives to care for, everyone needs flexibility. Grocery shopping takes 2.5-3 hours a week now, half of it spent waiting in line to get in the store. We can’t all do it on the weekend like we used to.

  47. Demoralized*

    Thank you for posting this question. As someone who is single, childless, and living alone, I cannot tell you how far a simple thank you would go. I am proud that my organization is committed to supporting people with children. However, those of us without kids are shouldering a huge burden.

    For the most part the staff with kids are older and more senior. Two of us in particular have been carrying most of the weight, and both of us were passed up for promotions recently because our managers wouldn’t advocate for us. And now there is a freeze on all raises and promotions. I was in the process of looking for a new job when things locked down, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my coworker was too. Despite all of this, we have been turning in amazing work, to the point where people outside of our organization have been signaling us out for praise.

    But within our organization, nothing. And now some of those senior staff who have been absent are trying to micromanage tasks when they aren’t available and have been out of the loop for the past month. And in doing so they are implying that we the childless staff aren’t qualified. I think this comes from a place of fear that they are not relevant in this new normal, and I sympathize, but it is hugely demoralizing. Just having someone acknowledge us would go a long way to helping me get out of bed and login each morning. Which isn’t easy in the current climate.

    1. Call Me Al*

      Wow, I could have written this myself. I work in an office of 6 people and everyone got a raise except for one of my coworkers (the admin position) and myself. We are also the two that are putting in the most hours/picking up the slack because we are the only ones without children, spouse, or other people dependent on us. Unfortunately, limiting the amount of work doesn’t really work right now since we are a trade association that represents healthcare facilities so we are the ones shouldering the lions share of responsibility.

  48. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    This question doesn’t seem to acknowledge the allowances that have no doubt been made to ‘parents’ already, assuming it is just a new thing due to the current pandemic.

    Flexibility for parents (carers etc) isn’t a new thing right now, and is an ongoing management issue.

    I can’t even count the number of times in previous emergencies people had to leave at 9-10pm due to caring responsibilities they had, or to leave at 7pm and come back at 9pm to have dinner (?!) and felt “so guilty” leaving the rest of us to carry the workload. Is it really so mandatory to go home and eat a meal while your 2 colleagues are staying at work to handle things? (And in that situation actually my other colleague only started at 2pm and had presumably had breakfast and lunch beforehand. I started at 6am, worked through until 2am or so, without even a break or having to eat anything.. because I recognize the difference between the law and what actually gets the deadline met.)

    If grocery shopping takes 2 hours why does that become the burden of the employer? It’s a personal activity. Your employer doesn’t care if you have eggs or not.

    I am really wary of people making their own problems … their employer’s problems.

    1. J.B.*

      Kids require some flexibility. In my opinion employers who give flexibility only to parents are making too many demands in their employees in normal times. There is no way I could work full time right now. I know that. But I think that employers regularly making such demands as you describe (other than once in a blue moon) are not allowing their employees to have real lives.

    2. Beth*

      So your employer should actually care if you have groceries, because you will not be a productive employee if you’re not getting enough to eat.

      They should actually care if you need to care for kids (or a parent, or a sick friend, or whoever), because if they try to force you to juggle that with a full load without any flexibility, some of that work is going to get done sloppily.

      And they should actually care that you’re getting enough rest and taking breaks and eating meals, because workers are human beings and not robots, and without those things productivity drops dramatically. Even if you’re working as hard as you can, at some point you won’t be able to focus as well, you’ll become more likely to make mistakes, you won’t be thinking as clearly, and your work will drop in both quantity and quality. Breaks aren’t just legally mandated; they’re also a practical necessity for good work.

      It’s true that employers giving flexibility to parents and not others who need it is a longstanding problem. But it also sounds like your sense of work norms is really skewed. 20 hour days with no breaks and no meals is so far from normal, even in crunch times.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Your employer seems to be making their problems, for example lack of staffing, employees problems. You are doing yourself and your employer a disservice when you skip your breaks and not eat food. Eating and resting are necessities, and working 20 hour days are the extras, not the other way around.

  49. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    I already responded re: the specifics of this question, but I also want to say: nothing any company does in this situation is going to make things “fair” to anyone. Nothing about this situation is fair. It’s not fair that people are sick or fearing for their lives, that caregivers have to do two full-time jobs at once, that people are being put in danger for minimum wage, that hospital staff are watching people die day after day. I can’t imagine anyone reading this post did anything to cause this pandemic, and yet we’re all suffering in different ways. In the course of normal operations, companies have many options to be fair and equitable (and yes some of them don’t do it, but that’s beside the point). Many companies and managers could be doing more than they are right now, but none of them can do anything to make living under a pandemic “fair”. They can just try to make it less sh*tty.

  50. Anon for this*

    Alison, it would be great to compile some of the different viewpoints in this comment section into a follow up article. This is contentious and bringing to light a lot of feelings that already existed pre crisis, but are exacerbated by the situation. It’s culturally significant and could inform future policies in workplaces.

  51. Beth*

    The part of your letter that rings alarm bells for me isn’t that employees with young children are getting extra flexibility. It’s that “childless employees…are expected to function as usual when half the company is at reduced capacity”.

    This is a fundamentally unreasonable expectation, and it’s probably the true root of a lot of the discontent. Everyone needs flexibility right now, and your employer should be expecting that everyone will be less productive than usual. Employees without small children may still end up covering for those with them to an extent, but this should be in the place of some of their usual work, not in addition to it…and there should be some degree of exchange, even if it’s not fully equal (e.g. a parent might hand off running a meeting that needs to happen at a scheduled time and instead take on running a report where they can flex the deadline a little bit if they need to be on duty for childcare). Across the board, non-urgent things should be getting pushed back or put on hold, in acknowledgement that no one has bandwidth to go above the basics right now. There shouldn’t be an expectation of normal functioning in the middle of a global pandemic.

    1. Koala dreams*

      I agree with you, it’s unreasonable to expect normal productivity from employees right now. It seems really stingy to only offer flexibility to parents of small children. Especially as many businesses have lost customers and aren’t as busy as before.

      1. blackcat*

        My colleague best positioned to pick up my slack just had a parent die of COVID. Out of the US, where she can’t get to. She can’t even be with her siblings (two of whom are in the US, but different states).

        When she fretted about work not getting done, I sent a note to the effect of “What doesn’t get done will not get done and the world will keep turning.”

  52. Arielle*

    Reading this comment section has been incredibly depressing. I’m usually someone who believes in the basic tendency of people to be good at heart. But it seems like a significant percentage of folks think that people who chose to have children anywhere from 9 months to 17 years ago should have anticipated an unprecedented global pandemic and planned ahead accordingly.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      If you really look at the comments, it’s really the same handful of people commenting repeatedly and in different threads saying variations of the same thing – in no way does a large percentage of the commentariat here believe this.

        1. Cheese Cheese Cheese CHEESE*

          3 people, none of whom you’ve called on their behaviour or warned in any way.

      1. Avasarala*

        Yes, this realization made me feel much better.

        Employers, bosses, and companies that were crap before are crap now.
        Everyone is having a tough time in ways that feel insurmountable to them.
        Everyone needs to pitch in and do their best, and offer flexibility and forgiveness.
        Parents of young children have burdens that are physically impossible to complete time-wise thrust upon them.

        This isn’t parents vs non parents here.
        There are a few commenters with extra bad situations who are clearly stressed and venting. I think they will change their minds in 10-20 years when the children raised in COVID are joining their companies as new employees, paying taxes to support them, and serving them in various jobs and capacities throughout the community.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          If you mean social security in the USA, no one is paying for most people’s social security save a spouse. People receiving normal social security are withdrawing what they paid into the system. It’s not like they are taking it from anyone. It’s their money.

          1. blackcat*

            No, that is factually incorrect.

            The funds going into social security now, from current workers, is what is presently going out to pay retired folks. This is part of why your survivors don’t get back excess funds if you die just after eligibility, and why it keeps paying if you live to like 100 or so, well past when you would have depleted any funds you paid in.

            The entire system is only solvent if younger workers keep paying in. Sure, you pay into the system on the assumption it’ll pay you back. But Social Security is a public welfare program, not set up like individual savings accounts.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              That is how the system is set up–like banks making loans using deposited funds. My point is that money in SSA accounts belongs the person who put it in–they are not taking away from anyone else and the younger worker is not ‘paying’ for the older. The person withdrawing has already paid/invested their portion.

    2. Anon for this*

      I don’t think that parents should have anticipated this, by any means. Parents are under a ton of pressure right now, and don’t have time for everything.

      But it is reasonable for non-parents to say, “No, I can’t take on loads of extra work, just because my co-workers have kids.” Right?

      Its a stressful time for everyone, with more home duties and worries for everyone, not just parents. Policies that allow plentiful PTO for only parents are a massive difficulty placed on non-parents during a terrible time. Someone who is “good at heart” still can’t do the work of multiple people right now.

      It’s a management and leadership issue – they need to offer flexibility to all employees at this time. Not just parents.

      1. blackcat*

        “But it is reasonable for non-parents to say, “No, I can’t take on loads of extra work, just because my co-workers have kids.””

        100%. Yes. Totally.

        I also think it is totally fine for non-parents in different situations to say “I am bored out of my mind in lockdown. I can easily do more work, but only if you pay me more.”

        Personally, I’m having the struggle of being home with a kid, and supervising a 22 year old who is SO BORED and is doing ALL THE WORK (I’m guessing like 60, when a bit under is the expectation). It’s really hard to keep up with her! I keep telling her to find a hobby! Any hobby she can do from home! But she’s bored and really likes the work and is incredibly eager to learn. I made her an incredibly long and very optional reading list which she is powering through but I don’t have the time I would like to answer her questions.

        It really seems like there are two extremes:
        1) people totally overwhelmed and stressed and struggling to work (including parents, but also lots of other non-parent folks)
        2) people who are bored AF and are like “I’ll just work more”

        Really, both 1) and 2) are putting more strain on people who do not have caregiving responsibilities but are totally cool with their current workload. The folks at extreme 2 sort of encouraging the expecting non-parents to pick up the slack….

        1. Important Moi*

          May I suggest you and she find free online classes/seminars focusing on job specific or transferable skills as part of her work duties? (It’s late, hopefully you’ll see this)

  53. Deep underground*

    I work in an admin capacity at an educational setting.

    We’ve been opening for students to come in as per the uk government advice.

    As there are so many teachers/teaching assistants, they are each only having to come in for roughly half a day per fortnight.

    As the admin team comprises so few people, we are each coming in for two days per week (four days per fortnight).

    When your co-workers are all sending messages about how they’re loving having so much time off, but we’re run off our feet and struggling to keep up with our workload, you’d better believe it causes resentment!

    We understand we’re doing different jobs and aren’t able to work as few hours as the other staff, but working as many hours as the management team with no acknowledgement or extra words of thanks really sucks.

    It’s not the same situation as the OP as this isn’t split down parent/non parent lines, but I can attest that being expected to work a lot of extra hours than one’s colleagues with no acknowledgement from management is a recipe for disengagement and resentment (towards management I hasten to add, not my colleagues!).

  54. Sara*

    You also won’t always know who has good reasons for needing flexibility that you don’t know about. A disability they haven’t disclosed, life circumstances, inability to access normal coping tools, etc.

  55. EmmaC*

    Also, I think a huge thing is to avoid any kind of jokes and flippant comments about the single/childless people having “free time” or all the fun, creative new hobbies they are taking on, getting jacked abs, or making new cocktail recipes. This is a global health pandemic crisis, not an extended vacation. I would also like to point out that not everyone is childless by choice, and just to have a frame of reference that all the “cute” little child coworker introductions or interruptions may unintentionally also be causing pangs of grief, envy, or sadness. And then topping it off with the feeling of sorry you don’t have a family of your own, but here’s all the extra work you can take on! Even better when you then see the social media pics of your coworker’s family out riding bikes and making smores at night around the fire pit while you’re taking the brunt of their workload while they have (through no fault of their own) become home school teachers during the day. Just having a little sensitivity and awareness that this is not a fun, leisurely, carefree period of isolation for all your single and childless colleagues. Like maybe don’t share those insensitive memes on your Facebook that are all, “People without kids, talk dirty to me… are there snacks? Can you nap whenever you want?” then go dark when it comes time to following through on your (paid) work.

    1. Lucy*

      This is confusing a few things – insensitive memes are maybe something you can ask your friends to avoid, certainly if they send them directly to you, but your colleagues Facebook timelines are irrelevant here.
      Alo , many parents are not delegating the workload to someone else. I simply can’t do that in my job. I’m just asking for understanding if I’m late on something you ask for or if you hear background noise in a meeting.

      1. EmmaC*

        I’m simply saying it’s frustrating to see a colleague posting on their personal Facebook page a meme about someone who is childless having free time. While I am their coworker who is working hard, doing my job, and a little bit of their job too, because they are home with their kids. I actually don’t mind doing what I need to do for the company. I just can’t help but feel a bit miffed that they think I have all this free time when I’m doing a whole lot of work all day.

        I think the main thing is that I DO feel empathy and appreciation for their situation, which they did not choose, and that is truly very hard. Yet they don’t seem to show the same empathy or courtesy that this is not always an easy situation for others either. Our manager goes on and on about how much she appreciates the parents and all the new challenges they are dealing with and makes jokes about all the quiet I’m enjoying at my house. Every Zoom call starts with a daily check in with everyone’s toddlers. It’s not easy to keep a smile plastered on when you don’t have that and wanted that. And then add in the “hahahahaha, you’ve got it made!” manager and colleague banter and I’m mentally checking out before the day has even started. I do whatever work is needed. There just isn’t much support or empathy for this side of it. It is what it is. I honestly don’t care about background noise or late deadlines. We are all doing the best we can. I would just suggest that managers and colleagues avoid acting like this is a fun, extended staycation for the childless and show a bit of empathy that there are challenges in this situation as well. That’s where kind of the resentment comes from, more than the actual extra work if that makes sense.

        1. pamplemousse*

          I have wondered about people who are childless but not by choice, and how tough it must be to see people venting about being at home with their kids all day. It doesn’t make parents’ complaints any less valid, but I can imagine how hard that must be to see.

        2. Lucy*

          I’m genuinely sorry you haven’t got more empathy/support for the challenges you’re facing compared to your colleagues. Sometimes the more visible challenges are the ones that get attention. I agree that this isn’t a fun, extended staycation if you’re childless – some of my loved ones who I’m most concerned about don’t have children, and in some cases don’t have much work either, which creates its own problems.

  56. Lucy*

    This is confusing a few things – insensitive memes are maybe something you can ask your friends to avoid, certainly if they send them directly to you, but your colleagues Facebook timelines are irrelevant here.
    Alo , many parents are not delegating the workload to someone else. I simply can’t do that in my job. I’m just asking for understanding if I’m late on something you ask for or if you hear background noise in a meeting.

  57. WorkingParent*

    I haven’t read through all the comments but just for some additional/ alternative perspective: for most of the working parents I know, especially working mothers, this is beyond stressful. It’s not just having kids at home that we’re expected to teach as well as do our work remotely, it goes much deeper than that. It is KNOWING that we are not pulling out weight, knowing we can’t produce at the same level, and having some employers and colleagues holdIng pre-pandemic expectations. A lot of us, again especially working women with children, have had to overcome a lot of adversity and additional challenges to get to the points we are at. We had to come off of short maternity leaves (in the US) and prove that we are just as functional and valuable as we were without kids. We’ve had to deal with constant questions or statements about who is “watching” or “raising” our kids while we work. We’ve had to skip out on after work get together due to childcare but still find a way to fit in some FaceTime and show we are committed. And we see a lot of that going down the tubes right now. The general consensus is, among the groups of working mothers that I am in, that this is going to hugely disproportionally impact working parents but particularly working women in terms of our careers. And it is devastating.

    Personally, I had to go out on FMLA because my employer wouldn’t allow me to work from home (“it would be inappropriate”) and my husband is a healthcare provider in a hospital so he’s still working and I had nobody to watch my kids who were suddenly out of school and daycare. I have huge concerns that this is going to completely tank my career at my current place of employment. All because our executive director wouldn’t be accommodating to those with kids, or even those without who needed more flexibility, and decided we were all essential and had to keep showing up every day.

    I agree that the workload shouldn’t be placed on those without kids. I think employers and employees in general need to reset their expectations. We cannot be held to pre-pandemic levels of productivity. But know that our inability to carry our weight right now doesn’t come willingly, and is shadowed by much deeper concerns about what is going to be left of our careers and how far this has set us back when it is all over.

    1. Lucy*

      Great comment. It is so tough. I finally felt that I’d overcome the challenges of parenting & working and developed a healthy balance between the two. Now I feel I’ve gone three steps back.

    2. Rationally Neurotic*

      Agree with this so much. I’d love if you read my comment below about some of the challenges parents are facing, @WorkingParent, because I feel like you would understand. I cry on mute on a conference call at least once a week because it’s just so, so hard. My work offers flex hours, but in order to truly hit my 8 hours I would have to cut back the 3-6 hours a sleep a night I’m getting even further. My son is too young to understand and wants to be on me constantly, melts down 10x a day (worse on conference calls when I can’t calm him down). I started a new position 2 weeks before this began on a temporary contract, and there’s no way I’ll be able to prove my value before it ends even though I’ve always been a really high performer (thankfully I have a substantive position if they will take me back). And there’s so much guilt as a parent…. at daycare, I never felt bad, because I knew they were stimulated, learning, socializing, having fun. Now they are playing by themselves, watching videos, occasionally doing a worksheet. Mostly they are being sent away to play on their own so I can attempt to get anything done. I try not to think about the damage it might be doing. I mean, at least in previous generations, mother’s could send their kids off, but they would go to the park, play with the neighbour kids, interact with other people in their lives…. pet a dog walking by! Now every moment I’m working they are either playing alone or watching tv.

  58. not neurotypical*

    Probably unpopular opinion: Discrimination based on parental status is discrimination based on parental status, period. Just as it is not OK to penalize people for being parents, it is not OK to penalize people for not being parents. If those who are parents are only expected to work 4 hours per day while being paid for a full day, asking those who are not parents to work more than 8 hours per day for the same pay penalizes them for not having had children by reducing their comparative true wage. Ergo, if parents are allowed to work only 4 hours per day while collecting full pay, then everyone must be allowed to work only 4 hours per day while collecting full pay.

    1. Rationally Neurotic*

      Parents are being penalized by being asked (required, really) to provide full-time child care while working their full-time jobs. Discrimination is not accommodating this circumstance. Based on your comment, just because some people need wheelchairs, no one anywhere should have to stand up at work. No one is being penalized for not being a parent. Parents are being accommodated based on their family status to allow them to accomplish what they reasonably can under the circumstances. They aren’t getting a better deal than the non-parents (not even close), they are being given accommodations to make what’s being asked of them less of a burden (but still more of a burden than non-parents in similar circumstances without other hardships, don’t you worry!)

    2. Blueberry*

      This comment pretty much exemplifies how “equal” is not necessarily the same as “equitable”.

  59. Rationally Neurotic*

    Oh my gosh… I’m generally pretty laid back, and OP has been relatively diplomatic in the framing of their question, but I find myself just incensed at this entire line of thought (and the comments, I’m sure, though I’ve refrained from reading them so far).

    None of us chose this. NONE OF US CHOSE THIS. Not you, not me, not anyone. But guess what? You have the privilege of working all day without also providing full-time child care (or caring for family members, or dealing with other hardships that make demands on your time, all of which I consider equal as far as accommodation goes under these circumstances). Do you know what I would give to have what you have right now? You’re confusing fair, and equitable. Fair is “everybody works 8 hours”. Equitable is “everybody who can works 8 hours, and everyone suffering hardship does the best they can to manage their workload and put in full days”.

    Sorry you’re inconvenienced by all the parents. I’m sure they would love to help if they could. Unfortunately, they are probably too busy becoming full-time teachers, daycare providers, and so much more overnight to offer a whole lot of help right now. Kids are people, too. Some of them are scared. Some of them are melting down more than usual. Some of them desperately miss their routines, their friends, and any sort of attention as the adults in their lives attempt to put in full workdays while balancing their basic needs. Most of them are getting less physical activity than usual. I’m certain there are more behavioural issues at home due to all of these things as well as all the increased stress from the adults in the home and lack of structure.

    FWIW, I empathize with the frustration of not getting decisions you need from your managers. But I promise they are very aware that they are the bottle neck and are not holding it against you; what they need from you now as an employee is your patience, and to offer to take the lead on things (where they might be okay with you approving certain things for awhile in some cases; in others, you’ll have to wait). You are not being penalized for this. But they very much are, and that’s something you need to keep in mind.

    1. pamplemousse*

      If it helps, I’m a non-parent and I’m also incensed by most of these comments. The selfishness on display is just breathtaking. And I’m someone who’s grumbled in better times about always being the one who covers for coworkers with kids in the evening!

  60. Ocean*

    I feel like good management will be clear and upfront about what the business can sustain. And it might mean difficult conversations with parents and others who are having trouble about what the options are, whether it’s being furloughed, reduced hours or other decisions. At this point I am working on the assumption that school is done for the year and summer camps are not happening. It just sucks.

  61. Unfettered scientist*

    Honestly, I find myself having more free time than usual (childless grad student). I wish I could be utilized *more* for projects that are falling by the wayside because people in my lab need to take care of their kids. I’m at the point where I can’t push things forward with my own project (manuscript written but I’ve been waiting on my advisor’s feedback for 3 months now…). I understand my pay will not change, but I would *totally* work on someone else’s project/analysis as long as I was credited with authorship. But in general, in my lab, people are kind of islands and mostly resist collaborations if they could technically do the task themselves (even if it’s inefficient). And with no top-down oversight because my PI is basically not available to anyone, I don’t expect that to change.


    My goodness! The anger in this thread. Its like we have all been penned up for at least a month or something.

    OP, what your company is doing is awesome for parents, but yes, it is coming across as favoritism for a specific group of people, which is going to create animosity in the excluded group. My husband is a director and he did the same thing. My husband and I are breeders. He was trying to be supportive of his direct reports but he was stuck in the mental construct of what OUR challenges are. It is hard to see other peoples’ hardships when you are not familiar with their vantage points. I told him he needed to ask if anyone needed accommodations, not just parents.
    I read AAM daily…which opens my eyes to struggles others are experiencing.

    I saw something on Facebook recently that I thought articulated the current crazy state well. It said we are all in the same boat, but the storm is different. Some people are experiencing a small shower – being able to pull back from certain commitments and spending time with family is just the rejuvenation that they needed. Some people are experiencing a down pour. They are OK some of the time, but the water is rising. They might feel overwhelmed and scared. Other people are trying to survive a hurricane. They are in firefighter mode and are barely hanging on.

    OP, I think your company needs to assume everyone is navigating a hurricane regardless of children. The posts on AAM earlier this week from people struggling have been non-child related: one person in a tiny apartment is having trouble getting into “work mode” in their living room and one person with self diagnosed ADHD is struggling without their coping mechanisms built around being in the office. People are struggling. It might not be the group we are assuming is struggling and some people might not want to directly talk about their struggles.

    Take us for example. We have four kids (ages 1 to 10). I would say we are somewhere between “Small shower” and “Down Pour”…depending on the day. We have accommodations in place with our working hours, but our biggest struggle isn’t the kids….it is internet bandwidth. We live in the country and are trying to have four people connected to our speedy 6 Mbps internet at once. It isn’t pretty, we are navigating the best we can, but we probably look like slackers. There really are a lot of uncontrolables right now for many people.

  63. Everybody Has Reasons*

    I’m definitely late to the party here. I may go back and answer individual posts that kind of needed an answer from someone, but I wanted to get all of my thoughts together and express them in one post. I wrote my masters thesis on the treatment of single people in the workplace. This subject is very near and dear to my heart. I didn’t dig it up to pull out all of my talking points, but I will address much of what was expressed here, so buckle up ’cause it will be a bumpy ride!

    Sure – this is really a management problem, not a parent/childless problem. Except that benefits and employment policy are generally made by parents, and they can’t seem to view the world through any other lens. There is an old Dilbert cartoon that sums it up: “‘Family friendly’ equals ‘singles hostile’.” (I know some single people have kids and some married people don’t have kids. But the issues with unmarried and childless employees are very similar. If I conflate them a little here, apologies.) Employee benefits are by and large made to favor employees with the familiar societal meaning of “families”. While some benefits help all employees, many other benefits leave the single/childless out in the cold. In particular, it’s important to recognize that long-term leave programs are additional compensation, and as such have real monetary value. Any kind of leave is being paid to not work. Is it discriminatory to offer long term leave to one group of employees and not another based on family status? Darn tootin’ it is. Especially when it is months of leave. This is very close to the sixties notion that most people recognize is wrong, that “men should be paid more because they have families to support”.

    Part of the divide here, I think, is the societal norm that being a parent is special and deserves additional consideration. This feeds into “my reason for wanting leave is more deserving than your reason.” My workplace has an internal anonymous message board. Whenever the subject is long term leave for everyone/sabbaticals, you can count on comments like “I literally pushed a child out of my body, and you just want a vacation.” To which my reply would be: Yes. I’ve seen similar arguments on this thread. “Taking care of kids is NOT A VACATION!” To which I would also say: Yes. You’re right! But it’s also irrelevant. Given that long term leave is a benefit with monetary value, companies (again, this is an issue of mismanagement) or the government should provide it agnostic of the reason, and equally over your career. Let’s say everyone gets 18 months total leave during their career. (This is hypothetical of course, and realizing most people don’t work for the same company their entire career, so for now I’ll pretend it’s kind of like really long FMLA.) Whatever the period is, you can use it for parental leave, taking care of your own parents, to go to grad school, springtime in Europe – whatever. But when it’s gone, it’s gone. I think people would be very mindful about using it. But the point is that it would be for all employees, equally. Regarding the current situation, I think that would probably be administered as additional leave added on to the lifetime limit, in my hypothetical world. But everyone would get it.

    I think it’s important to note that I don’t think anyone is arguing to NOT provide leave or flexibility to parents. Of course it should be provided! No one is taking it away. But it’s management’s responsibility to see that it happens without being on the backs of those holding down the fort; or if it must be, then there are clear future career benefits or additional compensation (more pay or equivalent leave). That this hardly ever happens, is what I think has driven most of the back and forth in this posting section. I am almost 60, never married and no kids. (I dearly wanted them.) In a working career that’s been close to 40 years, I’ve seen and experienced a lot. Like most of society, and especially in my early working years in the eighties, I accepted a lot of the different treatment of singles/nonparents as normal. In the past 15 years or so, it has dawned on me that this is BS. I think a lot of the frustration expressed here is that, as others have noted, we are expected to have empathy and make concessions for the problems of those with children; but the compassion always seems to go one way and is rarely reciprocated. After years and years of that nonreciprocation – you can get very fed up. It’s not just at work, it’s society at large that makes single/childless people take it on the chin over and over and over. Higher income taxes/lower allowable deductions, “family plans” for six people that are almost the same price as for one person… it is a lifelong and cumulative outflow of money and energy from us to everyone else. We’re in a constant state of suck-it-up. All day every day. At some point we get tired of subsidizing the world.

    Regarding some comments above about time off work for child-related duties being detrimental to your career: I view it from the other side. To the extent that working parents (women AND men – I totally get the gender imbalance of parenting and household duties, and that needs to change like right now) get time off and other accommodations, that is your career benefit. You can believe that it results in “mommy tracking”; the other side of that is if those without kids do have the time to work the long hours and fill in for the parents and take the business trips, why should they NOT be able to reap the career benefits of that? If that is my competitive advantage, I see no reason why that advantage should be taken away in the name of “lifting women up”. I wish the best to all women, but making sure they are lifted up when I am held down ain’t my thing. I heard someone say once that there is no true work-life balance, only work-life choices. No one can truly “have it all”. At least not without some kind of societal subsidization, on the backs of those who take up the slack at work and the women of less privilege who clean houses and provide child care.

    1. Blue Roses*

      I have never commented on anything on the internet in my life. But this post was by far the BEST written thing I have ever seen on this topic that captures EXACTLY how I have felt as a woman who has been in the workplace for almost 20 years and who does not (& will not in the future) have children. I REALLY want to read your thesis.

    2. Cheese Cheese Cheese CHEESE*

      Ah, the old ‘maternity leave is a holiday’ argument. Societies which provide paid maternity leave don’t do it because they think parents deserve a holiday, they do it as a social good – generally because it encourages people to have the children who will grow up to keep society running by, you know, working and paying taxes. It’s a very American sentiment to take this view that the existence, health and education of the next generation is of no benefit to you whatsoever.

  64. Anna Cable*

    I’m honestly really frustrated by the tenor of a lot of the comments here. Being parents of young kids doesn’t mean that we don’t feel stressed by the pandemic, have aging parents, or suffer from chronic health conditions. Shit, it doesn’t even mean we are not home alone (ie, with only a baby and no other adults). We Are handling our ordinary life stresses while ALSO responding to imminent threats to someone else’s physical and emotional well-being. If I ignore my own stress for 10 minutes … I’m fine. Not happy, but fine. If I ignore a 2 year old for 10 minutes while they mess with the gas on the stove? Yeah. No.

    This is not about who’s stress is more important. This is about triaging. There is no negotiating or strategizing or self care or planning that will allow anyone with a child under 5 to guarantee ANYTHING about work performance when they can’t get childcare. So no, commenters who say they should get special compensation or recognition for doing more right now. We are ALL doing more. It just looks different for some of us than others.

    1. Anna Cable*

      Oh and also? I would LOVE TO BE ABLE TO WORK MORE. I’m definitely not relaxing over here.

    2. I can’t hear you..*

      I understand why you might be frustrated with these comments. But please understand that from the childfree person’s perspective, when you say that parents deserve special consideration and help from their colleagues to the point where those colleagues have to put in extra hours for zero compensation regardless of their circumstances, you better offer a hearty thank you and the offer to do them a favor later,

      I’ll be honest, for everyone’s talk of “me taking care of my child and you working extra hours for free during this exceptionally difficult time will actually be balanced out because my child is a benefit to society while you’re just, well, you…” Well, I would argue that me, my single friends, and the elderly people I’m taking are of can offer just as much as your children to “society” right now.

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