my boss suggested I stay home once I have kids

A reader writes:

Recently my boss (just above my immediate supervisor) called me to “share his perspective” since he knows I am getting married soon. He wanted to tell me how much he appreciates his wife staying home to care for their children and wanted me to hear that perspective since it is counter to the predominant view of “careerism” today. He and I have connected about our shared Catholic beliefs before, he even sent me religious premarital counseling materials when I first got engaged, but we’ve never talked about religious values related to my employment.

What’s the best way to say that the conversation crossed a boundary and made me feel uncomfortable? In every other interaction, I think the boss has done a great job balancing being a deeply religious person in a professional environment, and he did engage the conversation about staying home as sharing his perspective rather than telling me what to do. That said, it was an unsolicited perspective that I know was not shared with my male colleague who is also getting married soon. Because this boss will have a say in any of my future promotions or raises, I worry that his perspective on working mothers might hinder my career growth.

I asked my immediate supervisor for advice and he suggested to leave it alone since the issue would not arise until I actually have a child.

Whoa, that’s inappropriate.

So were the religious premarital counseling materials. Although if you’d already connected over your shared religious beliefs, I can see where that felt less like inappropriate evangelizing and more like trying to share something he had reason to believe you’d appreciate. It’s still inappropriate for him to do as your boss, but it’s nowhere on the level of this phone call.

Calling you to “share his perspective” that your husband might appreciate you staying home with your children crosses so many lines that I don’t know where to begin. In the most generous reading, maybe he thought he was being supportive of leanings you might already have or believed he was letting you know it’s okay to make a choice you might fear being judged for. But in another reading, your shared religious background made him felt safe to inappropriately use his power to pressure you to leave the workforce once you have kids.

I’m guessing he thought it was the first, but in reality it’s the second.

And I’m sure he’s not calling his male employees to encourage them to resist “careerism.” This is about you being a woman, and his belief that women should stay home with their kids.

He’s entitled to have that belief — privately. It’s not okay to share it (explicitly or subtly) with people he has power over at work. And now that we know that he feels that way — and feels comfortable sharing it out loud — we have to wonder how it might affect you professionally while you work for him. Will you not get serious consideration for promotions because he’s hoping/assuming you won’t be around long? If you have kids, will you not get chosen for rigorous assignments or out-of-town projects because you have kids to care for? (He might even assume you’ll appreciate not getting those assignments.) If you continue to work after having kids, will you not get the same kind of mentoring or other opportunites a male employee in your shoes would get because you ignored his advice?

Maybe none of those things will happen. But because of what he’s said to you, now you’ll always have to worry about it.

As for what to do now, you have a few choices, depending on what you’re comfortable with and what your read of the situation says will get you the best outcome:

1. You could say something to him directly. For example: “I’ve been struggling with your call the other day. I know we’ve spoken in the past about our shared religious background, but hearing you encourage me to leave the workforce if I have kids rattled me. I appreciate how well you normally balance being a deeply religious person in a professional environment, but our conversation made me wonder about my career here long-term. You’re someone who will have a big impact on any future promotions or raises I get here, and I want to make sure you’ll keep being supportive of me no matter what choices I might make around kids.” (That overly-generous language is there to maintain the relationship.)

He’s likely to tell you that of course it won’t impact his treatment of you professionally, blah blah, whether or not it’s true. He may even believe that sincerely. It doesn’t really matter — this is about flagging what he said as a problem and letting him know that the idea of potential bias is on your radar (which might in turn put it more on his radar).

2. You could talk to HR. This is a legitimate thing to take to them. It’s not going to change any built-in bias he has, but there could be benefit in the future to having a record that he said this to you. It also could make things worse; he clearly thinks he has a warm relationship with you, and if you go to HR without first talking to him directly, that could chill the relationship. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t do it. But be aware of that possible repercussion.

3. As your direct supervisor suggested, you could do nothing for now. This might not come up as a problem until/unless you have kids. That could be a long way off. Who knows, by that point, either you or your boss could have changed jobs. You could end up spending a lot of energy on something that never becomes a problem. Honestly, if you were my friend, this is probably the one I’d advise for now, until/unless you see further problems. I feel gross about that, but it’s likely the most politically practical answer.

But one big problem with letting it go for now is that people opposed to working mothers often have lots of other biases against women, ones that could affect you without kids being in the picture. I don’t think either of the other options on their own will solve that. But I’d start keeping more of an eye out for other signs of bias in how he runs your team.

I’m sorry you’re in this situation.

{ 404 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    Oh my god, take it to HR. Because I think one of the things you need to be able to say to HR is “I want to make sure that there’s no retaliation or hindering of my career because I asked you to help me make this stop.”

      1. tazdevil*

        HR can’t guarantee that your boss won’t be an ass, however, an employment lawyer can guarantee that you will be compensated for him being an ass, and thus violating the laws against retaliation if you can prove that you spoke with HR regarding this matter. Take notes, send yourself emails, send HR an note summarizing your discussion and print out a copy and store it in a safe place at home. Takes notes on any retaliation that happens after the convo with HR. You will be on your way to getting a good settlement from your employer.

        1. yala*

          I mean, retaliation can be subtle sometimes. Subtle to the point where when experiencing it, it sure FEELS like retaliation, but you know you’d never get anyone to believe it’s more than being oversensitive.

          Still, yeah I think she should say something, because if he manages any other women who get married or are married or have kids…HR should be aware that he’s comfortable enough with his biases to say this outright.

        2. Natalie*

          an employment lawyer can guarantee that you will be compensated for him being an ass

          No, they can’t. No lawyer can guarantee anything, and plenty of people in more severe situations end up with nothing for their trouble. Winning these kinds of cases, or even bringing them, are an enormous amount of work and carry their own risks.

          1. Steveo*

            Not to mention the upfront costs and even if a lawyer does it on contingency it takes a LOT of your time and people in the industry will know and may not hire you. Should it be that way? No. Is that reality at many companies? Yes

    1. JayNay*

      I also think an HR person can be more direct with him about why this is completely inappropriate. OP would have to walk the tightrope of trying to maintain a good relationship with this person while pointing out this type of “career advice” is not welcome and not ok.
      HR might also be able to explain to OP’s direct boss that brushing this thing off is not great and make them seem dismissive of an employee’s legitimate concern and unaware of real workplace biases.
      That’s assume a competent HR person though. Fingers crossed for OP!

      1. designbot*

        yeah there’s some relationships where you can be more direct, but no guarantees. I used to have a project manager that used to ask me about when I planned to have kids, etc. He was a friendly guy and I got the sense based on his personality, religious leanings, and how he approached family himself, that this was him trying to be nice and take an interest in me rather than a management thing. So I was able to say ‘hey, the thing here is that you’re my PM. Your input counts towards my reviews, project opportunities, and promotion opportunities. So your interest in my reproductive plans is really coming off the wrong way.” and he stopped. But that’s not every situation, it’s just one option for when it feels like it could be taken the right way.

      2. charo*

        She opened the door when she talked about religion w/him.

        I wonder what he’d say if she said, “Your wife can afford to stay home but that’s a luxury we can’t afford.” Then show him how much you’d have left every month on one salary — no need to reveal what it is, just simple math.

        1. TechWorker*

          This is just… a terrible idea…
          Why would OP want him thinking that OF COURSE she’d rather be at home and money is the only thing stopping her? Hint: if your boss thinks that you’re probably also not too in line for promotion.

        2. Heather*

          That’s like saying because they discussed her impending wedding that he’s entitled to ask question and/or give his opinion about their bedroom activities.

        3. chaco*

          Discussing religion with your boss is not opening the door to sex-based discrimination (which is what already happened), nor is it an invitation to comment on your reproductive plans!

        4. IfLucid*

          Strongly disagree with this.

          By talking about religion with him she opened the door to…talking about religion. That can be walked back (ideally with a minimum of fuss) by saying that it’s started to feel like an inappropriate conversation for the professional setting.

          She did not open the door to input on her personal life or family planning decisions.

          Reframing this to make this about money would be really, really poorly advised. Employees should not share their personal budget with their Managers, and spinning this topic to be “It’s ok for you to have overstepped boundries, and I would like to live my personal life in the way you see fit if only I could afford to do so” is not a good impression to give.

          Ideally this would have been shut down in the moment with a gentle “I’m glad you and your wife had a family structure that worked for you both. My husband and I will decide what that looks like for us if and when that time comes. “

          1. Lauren Theo*

            But the wife staying home with children isn’t even a Catholic teaching. It’s a fundamentalist teaching that some Catholics have somehow taken on themselves as a belief. Opening the door to religion – at least this one referenced – did not open the door to this comment.

    2. PollyQ*

      Another reason to go to HR: he may have had issues/complaints on the subject in the past, and HR needs to know that the problem is ongoing. I’m sure OP isn’t trying to get her boss fired, but it’s possible that this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for him.

      1. hufflepuff hobbit*

        yes — this needs to go “on his record” — one could even bring it to HR that way, I suspect

    3. Anya Last Nerve*

      I strongly disagree with this advice, and think OP should just leave it alone. I say this as someone whose manager told her she would be happier if she stayed home after her baby was born – said to me while I was 6 months pregnant. I was really upset but it was definitely going to be a he said, she said situation if I went to HR and I knew I would end up being tainted in the industry if I picked this fight, so I did nothing and focused on having my baby. My manager changed within a month for completely unrelated reasons, and I’ve had a thriving career since that baby was born almost 14 years ago (joined by another one 11 years ago). Not making a big thing of it was the best move for my career. In this case, OP isn’t even pregnant yet, so I think she should make note of it (this guy has shown her who he is) but otherwise move on.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Anya Last Nerve wasn’t responding to Alison.
          She was responding to AdAgencyChick and others on that same thread.

      1. Autistic AF*

        I’m not sure that a 14-year-old perspective is still accurate in this instance. Much has not changed, sure, but not saying anything only perpetuates that stagnancy. This doesn’t mean that prioritizing your career over social change is inherently bad, but the world (especially Catholicism) is full of people who take advantage of that at the expense of marginalized groups.

      2. Yorick*

        A decent HR is not going to turn something into a he said, she said situation. You don’t typically have to have outside proof that someone said something that was inappropriate in this way, unless your HR sucks.

    4. EC*

      Yeah, this boss needs to be reported immediately. Someone with this clear lack of respect for women should not be managing people. I find it 100% impossible to believe that this attitude never carries over into how employees are treated and who is promoted or given better assignments.

        1. EC*

          This isn’t just affecting LW, I can’t believe someone this sexist isn’t consistently treating women worse than the men working for him. His attitudes need to be recorded. The next time he passes a woman over in favor of a man, or starts lecturing another woman about how she should quit and be a housewife, they’ll be able to show a pattern of behavior.

          1. chaco*

            Yeah, that’s all true, but it still doesn’t make reporting the best option for LW. She has to weigh what she knows of her workplace, her personal situation, and her finances. Losing her job or suddenly being in a toxic work environment during a pandemic right before her wedding may not be something she is willing or able to deal with.

  2. Even In an Emergency*

    I would go with choice 1. Mainly, because you don’t want him to feel that this was welcome enough that he will continue to cross boundaries like this. I agree this particular topic won’t be an issue until/if you have children, but I think he may now feel like he can comment on other areas of your life in a way that isn’t at all welcome to you.

    1. Quill*

      It’s still going to be a problem whether or not OP has children, in that there will probably be more “advice” occurring after a certain amount of time if there aren’t children…

        1. Even In an Emergency*

          Sure, but I can’t see how HR would be the best option here. I think he would take it very, very badly, which is of course entirely unfair, but I think she could make it clear that further conversation isn’t welcome here.

        2. Quill*

          Yeah, being passed over for promotion, unsolicited advice about family planning… seems like OP’s go to has been to see boss in a sympathetic light but some things are inappropriate no matter if someone means well, and there is such a thing as “benevolent” sexism, which does damage all the same.

          1. Mamunia*

            This. He might assume she’s going to stay home after baby, and set her up for that by not giving her promotions or letting her contribute to new things, etc. He might even think he’s doing her a favor by making it easier for her to leave!

        3. Alli525*

          I see people discouraging OP from going straight to HR without passing Go, and I understand that it’s a risk… but her boss doesn’t JUST think this way about her. I can guarantee that he feels that way about ALL career women, including the other women who work at the company, specifically the other women who work under his chain of command. Who knows how many women he has already directly or indirectly harmed with these beliefs?

          No, OP doesn’t HAVE to go to HR and risk her own job in defense of the other women in her office, but it would be a mitzvah if she did.

            1. Alli525*

              Oh I’m spoiling for a fight too. My best friend has been sexually harassed by her bosses (local government in a large Southern city) for years – they make the most vile comments about how the best way to solve arguments with her husband is by letting him f*ck her hard, how it’s good that she lost the baby weight from #1 before getting pregnant with #2, etc. … But her career will go up in flames if she goes to HR or the media, and she won’t let me interfere. I want to, so badly.

              OP – if you want help drafting a vicious “bless your heart” email to your boss, I’m here for you.

            2. Catholic Careerist*

              I’m a practicing Catholic and am gearing up to fight this guy. I’ve got a certification to teach religion to youth and adult converts, and there is nothing in my training that supports me saying that being Catholic means I support women giving up their careers to be stay and home mothers.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            And “going to HR” isn’t automatically causing a big stink. I know that I could go to someone in my HR department for help talking through what the next steps are. In my case, knowing the specific person I would be going to, and what the likely outcome would be, it would feel much less scary to talk to HR vs my big boss directly.

          2. hufflepuff hobbit*

            I agree — at least get this on his record; She doesn’t have to, of course, but it could protect her and other women down the road

      1. Mama Bear*

        I agree. If he is already thinking about her having children then her status as a married woman is already coloring his professional opinion of her. He doesn’t think women should aim for a career, and I all but guarantee this will affect her in the workplace. Why encourage her career if he thinks she should focus on her home life? I’d address it directly with him and if it persists, take it to HR. Let him know now that you think that was out of line, previous discussions or not.

        1. Legal Beagle*

          Agreed. Why would he wait for a baby to arrive to begin pushing OP out of the workplace? The off-ramping is already starting! You’re not going to invest in an employee that you expect (and want) to leave in the near future. As a devout Catholic, he probably expects a pregnancy to quickly follow the wedding, and it sounds like he wouldn’t hold back from giving “advice” on that topic, too.

          1. valentine*

            As a devout Catholic, he probably expects a pregnancy to quickly follow the wedding, and it sounds like he wouldn’t hold back from giving “advice” on that topic, too.
            This is a concern. What happens when he thinks the job is interfering with pregnancy? I wouldn’t use the word choice when referring to children, or refer to him supporting her personal decisions.

            Things to consider: Is OP the only woman and/or Catholic there? Does he own the company and does its healthcare pay for contraception? Is he able to find out how OP’s family uses the healthcare plan?

            (I’m unaware that Catholic traditions include staying home with the kids, if only because most Catholic women have to work, or a non-priest advising a woman.)

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          OP, if you do decide to talk to him directly, be sure to document the conversation in case you need to take it to HR later.

      2. EC*

        Also, having someone in management with this level of sexism isn’t just an OP problem, its an every woman this man deals with problem. Have this on file the next time he spouts sexist nonsense to a woman, passes a woman over for promotion, or favors the men.

    2. Ashley*

      If I went with option 1 I would be inclined to put it in writing in case there are issues down the line. I would fully expect post wedding to get way to many questions about pregnancy plans from this guy.

    3. Lynn*

      I actually disagree that this won’t be an issue until/unless there are children. He has already made it a huge issue. He gave his subordinate religious premarital counseling materials (that would be utterly inappropriate even absent the religious aspect). And then he told the OP that women shouldn’t have careers…at least not when they should be having/raising babies.

      If he believes that strongly that the OP will be (or should be) leaving the workforce to care for a child, there is little/no chance (IME) that OP will receive the same opportunities that are presented to her male coworkers. This is not a possible potential future issue, IMO. It is a huge “RIGHT NOW” issue.

      I think it should be reported to HR. Maybe he is only willing to say this out loud to OP because he assumes she agrees. But I’d bet dollars to donuts that he has acted on his biases, whether consciously or not, in other less obvious ways against other women who do choose “careerism.”

      1. Even In an Emergency*

        I just can’t see the HR route going well. I think he would take it really badly. I’m not sure there is a good solution besides job searching though.

      2. Lynn*

        Oops-hit enter too soon.

        All that said, I can understand why someone would want to stick with option 1 as, oftentimes, option 2 will blow up any chance of a working relationship. As some others have mentioned, if I was to choose option 1, I would definitely document, document, document every issue with him going forward. Because I doubt this will be the end of things, no matter what OP chooses to do.

        Sexism like that is too deeply ingrained to bury too deeply-especially when the person holding the beliefs is putting the full force of their religion behind them.

      3. Caroline Bowman*

        The trouble is, she’s apparently welcomed his thoughts before and shares his religious views. The Catholic Church is… pretty well-known for its views on this kind of stuff. She has somehow intimated that she is a devout Catholic. Unfortunately he has used this opportunity in an unfair way, but at least he’s open about his sexist, reactionary views.

          1. Legal Beagle*

            This. OP is on notice now to draw stricter boundaries with the boss going forward, but she didn’t do anything wrong, and she didn’t invite this completely inappropriate advice ambush.

          2. Amaranth*

            I would say, though, that LW probably needs to cut off all ‘connecting’ through religion at work, she doesn’t mention being offended by the premarital counseling information, which seems to have been taken as more evidence by her boss that they are of one mind. It took talking about reproduction to ‘cross the line.’ At this point I think she needs to tell her boss that she’s realized its inappropriate to bring religion into their professional relationship, and then follow Alison’s script about her concerns. However, I’d also want to go on record with HR.

            1. chaco*

              I agree that cutting off religion talk at work is a good move, but I do think that reproduction is a line distinct from religion. A boss and employee discussing their shared religious beliefs can be appropriate in some circumstances, but a boss offering unsolicited input on reproduction and working mothers is not.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            It is very well established the Catholic Church is homophobic, has sexist views, etc. Look at its public stance on gays, etc., look and see if women can actually move up through the ranks in the Catholic Churhc, and you will see a big fact no. It is very wrong to say the RCC has no views on this when the RCC is very clear on its teachings that women are subserviant.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              I am not here to defend the Catholic Church as an institution in any way. I said one specific thing which I stand by.

              1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                Last I checked, they forbade all contraception. Which means a married woman is going to get pregnant, probably a few times, and someone has to take care of those children… guess who.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  1) Despite the official stance, 70% of US Catholic women use birth control regularly, and most US clergy just wink at it. Up to 98% have used birth control at some point.
                  2) Even the official stance allows the rhythm method, which is about 76% effective. Not my choice, but it does have some effect.
                  3) Infertility in the US is about 15% (defined as couples with no contraception and no pregnancy after a year).

                  Someone may choose to have children, yes, and someone does have to take care of them. It can be parents, grandparents, or paid help. Does not have to be the mom.

                  My aunt and uncle were raised Catholic. They had 4 kids in the 80s. Uncle stayed home to raise them while aunt worked. It was fine.

                2. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  I’m sorry I didn’t make clear – I wasn’t saying I thought the mother always has to stay home. I was saying that’s the CC party line.

                3. Ann Perkins*

                  Catholic women are perfectly capable of being adherent to Church teaching on birth control and also working professionals.

                4. Observer*

                  As someone in a community that doesn’t favor contraception, this is a silly leap. Really. Orthodox women often have lots of kids AND work out of the home. Some have jobs and some have careers.

                  I have no idea what the official Catholic stance is on this issue. But claiming that they “must” expect women to not have careers and to stay home to take care of the kids because they forbid contraception requires ignoring reality.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              I don’t like the Catholic Church, but Lily Rowan is correct. The Catholic Church has no official stance on women working outside the home (ie, it’s not in the Catechism). Some of the popes have mentioned it, with the general consensus that women should not neglect their homes and families to work. By the 80s, the popes are basically just arguing that all parents should be able to have work-life balance:
              ” But it is fitting that they should be able to fulfill their tasks in accordance with their own nature, without being discriminated against and without being excluded from jobs for which they are capable, but also without lack of respect for their family aspirations and for their specific role in contributing, together with men, to the good of society.” (Pope Saint John Paul II, 1981)

              And JP does think that women are capable, that’s not double speak for ‘dumb little women can’t do any real jobs.’

              This boss’s attitude is not out of line with Catholic doctrine, but how he expressed it is inappropriate. Instead of saying ‘it’s ok to leave a job to just be a mom’, he should be working to make sure all his employees have the support they need for decent work-life balance.

              1. Chinook*

                It is great, as a Catholic, to see someone who doesn’t like the Catholic Church explain our beliefs about women working in a correct and respectful manner. And you are correct – the boss is spouting uncatholic beliefs and should be shut down. He will cause her problems in the future with her career by making assumptions without verifying with the OP about what she wants.

                As for the pre-marriage counselling, I can see how this came up organically and is completely different from assumptions about motherhood and work. The former is about something recommended before marriage (and required by the Catholic church – so it may have been an fyi for her) while the latter is all about him having different assumptions about her career path.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          I mean the Catholic Church also has a well known hard left wing that includes many activist nuns and priests. Telling someone you’re catholic in no way automatically communicates that you are a traditionalist.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            I disagree. COnsidering the Catholic Church’s official stance on marriage, divore, reproduction, etc., it is right wing traditionally. They may have a left wing but that is in defiance of Church teachings, not in line with Church teachings.

            1. Amaranth*

              I know a lot of raised Catholics, however, who still name themselves members of the Church but in practice cherry pick many of the Church’s teachings, so while it might be a hint that someone was raised to particular beliefs, not everyone follows them devoutly.

              1. Gymmie*

                Indeed, and in pockets of catholicism (LI until the past 10 years, NE PA), the majority of people VOTE left. Most people were either Jewish or Catholic where I grew up and I knew TWO families who had more than 3 kids.

            2. HoHumDrum*

              You disagree that someone saying they’re catholic doesn’t automatically mean it’s ok to project traditional gender role on them? Because that’s the comment I was responding to, that the LW asked for this to happen by mentioning that she’s catholic.

              Saying you’re catholic doesn’t necessarily equate to following the church’s official stances, it’s not like being evangelical or other types of Protestant christian. As Amaranth points out, a lot of people are culturally catholic more than religious. It’s a bit like Judaism that way- when someone says “I’m catholic” it really could mean a huge variety of beliefs and stances. I have a friend who is an atheist and also says she’s catholic because it’s so ingrained in her culture that she can’t imagine not being one despite the fact that she doesn’t believe in any of the rules or that god exists. I also know many pro-abortion Catholics, pro-LGBTQIA Catholics, etc. The Catholic Church as a whole deserves every bit of criticism it gets and has many retrograde stances, but what it means to be Catholic varies significantly person to person. If someone tells you they’re catholic then no, you shouldn’t just assume you know how they feel about any given issue after that.

              1. allathian*

                OP mentions their “shared Catholic beliefs”, so she’s at least somewhat devout. That doesn’t mean she would necessarily refuse to use birth control or would decide to stay at home if they have children. It’s not OK of her manager to make this sort of assumptions about her.

                Lots of people are culturally Protestant as well. I’m culturally Lutheran but non-religious.

        2. TL -*

          She could have said she was a devout Catholic by something as simple as, “That rain was crazy this weekend! I was in Mass when it hit and ended up staying at church for an extra hour waiting for it to pass.”

          The Catholic church might be a monolith, but Catholics are not. Plenty of Catholics pick and choose which of the official Church stances they believe in; someone saying they’re Catholic doesn’t give you significant information on much more than they’re a practicing or cultural Christian.

        3. chaco*

          “Mothers should stay home with their children” is not a Catholic belief, it’s a cultural one. She could be the most devout, by-the-book Catholic the world has ever seen and it would still not guarantee that she intended to scale down her career upon having children. Hell, it wouldn’t even guarantee she would have children while working there–infertility exists and even devout Catholics use fertility awareness birth control methods.

      4. AVP*

        yeah – I don’t know if HR is the optimal best choice, but it’s absolutely true that this can affect OP long before kids and might have already. Is the boss considering her male coworker for a promotion because he assumes OP will be out of the workforce in 5 years and doesn’t want to spend time training her up? Are there other opportunities OP isn’t getting because others are considered better long-term investments? Is she getting regular and comparable raises, or is her co-worker seen as a “breadwinner” who needs them more? Only OP can answer that but if it were me I would be looking at all of this very carefully.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I think she needs a combo of choice #1 and choice #2, although I would have an extremely hard time being as generous with the language as Alison did. I have no poker face and am very much against allowing people who push boundaries to continue to do so. But since this is her manager, she does need to soften the language a bit.

      I would also schedule something with HR immediately after speaking to her manager (in fact I’d schedule both at the same time so there’s not a whole lot of time between speaking to her manager and speaking to HR). I don’t think she needs to file an official report, but she needs to provide them with a heads up the discussion, so that there’s no retaliation and that there’s a record of this in case he does anything to mess with her career. He sounds like a “women need to stay barefoot and pregnant” kind of guy and that belief may manifest itself in other ways.

    5. Learnedthehardway*

      I agree. It’s diplomatic, but puts the grand boss on notice that the OP expects to be treated fairly – ie. paid fairly, promoted fairly, etc., regardless of her potential childbearing plans or not.

      I think it’s important to be clear about this in order to preempt any biased actions the grand boss might take in future, some of which he might not even realize are biased, unless the OP’s concerns are spelled out to him. Eg. A decision to “spare” the OP stretch assignments that would help her grow her career, because he thinks she’s planning to quit once she has children. Not as obvious as being denied a promotion or equal compensation, but something that could simply happen, if the grand boss thinks he’s actually doing what the OP wants.

      1. Learnedthehardway*

        ETA – I also strongly second the suggestions below to start low-key job hunting.

        That said, if grand boss doesn’t respond too negatively, you may want to consider whether this is a “devil you know” situation. At least he’s put his biases on display and you can figure out if you can overcome or evade them. Sometimes that’s useful.

  3. Ginger*

    OP I’m sorry to say but I don’t see a path forward working under this guy.

    The silver lining is that he is waving his bias flag high and proud so you know what you’re up against. Bias at this level bleeds into many areas, all of them are bad for you.

    I’m sorry, I’ve worked with this guy before. It doesn’t get better and no HR reprimand is going to change his mind.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. I would have conversation #1 and then start a low key job search. You don’t have to jump and these are difficult times to look for jobs BUT in the long run you don’t want to work for someone who will sandbag your career. Maybe by the time you are ready to have kids this guy will have moved on, but I’d still be thinking about what moves would be good for the career elsewhere and be open to exploring other options. And when you leave let him and HR know that is why. ‘I felt I had no future in the company since my boss told me he thought I should quit work when I had kids.’

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I agree with this. You do want to give as much pushback as you’re comfortable with when he’s being inappropriate, but you also don’t want to stay in this job long term when your boss has admitted to having a bias against women in the workplace and your supervisor doesn’t think that’s a big deal.

    2. Skulker*

      Yep. This ain’t gonna get better no matter what you say to him.
      I, too, have worked with this person and it did not work in my favor.
      Come time for layoffs, it came down to me, who had worked for the company for 6 years, had a relevant degree and more experience, and a male colleague who had zero experience, no degree and was hired years after me. But he had a family to support and I supported only myself. Guess who got the boot?
      I’m trying to say that yes, someone with attitudes like your supervisor will impact your professional life in some negative way, whether you have a child or not.

    3. Dust Bunny*


      I would not be inclined to let this go “unless and until you have kids”. His views might still impact your career path. You know he at least sorta thinks you shouldn’t work once you have kids, but you don’t know that he won’t have unwarranted opinions on other parts of your home life, as well. Is he going to have opinions if you don’t have kids at all? Women can never actually get it right with guys like this–they’ll have opinions on our lives no matter how we live them, and you don’t want your job affected by that.

      1. Student*

        Why the pro-boss waffling? “You know he at least sorta thinks you shouldn’t work once you have kids…”

        He flat out told her that he doesn’t think she should work after she has kids. How much more direct and clear-cut do you need him to be about his belief about her career?

        I get giving people the benefit of the doubt when it’s not clear what they think. I don’t get trying to ascribe them doubt when they’ve so clearly left none around to find.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      Yep. Try #1, but keep an eye open for ways to not work under this guy in the future. And speak up about getting assignments you want!

    5. Ominous Adversary*

      Second or thirded or whatever. It doesn’t matter how nice or kind this man has been in the past. He now sees the LW as someone whose career is less important than if she were a man. That’s going to impact every decision he makes about who gets assignments, who gets promotions, who gets recommended to the higher-ups, etc.

      Also – the way he’s framing this is super creepy. He’s assuming he knows what the LW wants and how she and her husband should make choices based on what HE likes.

      1. Dasein9*

        Right! He will see torpedoing her career as a favor, something he’s doing so she “gets to” stay home. There is nobody so hell-bent on doing damage as someone who’s convinced they’re doing it “for her own good.”

      2. Amaranth*

        I’d bet it doesn’t even occur to him that their beliefs wouldn’t line up across the board if they’ve bonded over religion previously, and she didn’t push back on what I’d find other inappropriate sharing (the premarital info – like her own church wouldn’t have it available if wanted?). Lack of awareness or malice on his part, though, doesn’t reduce the damage.

        1. allathian*

          If they had a Catholic wedding, premarital counseling would be mandatory. As I’m not Catholic myself, I don’t know exactly what this would entail. I’d be interested to know, though, if there’s a Catholic poster here who would feel comfortable sharing.

          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            I had a Catholic wedding in 2009 and did the pre marital counseling. I’m similar to the friend of a commenter above who considers themselves culturally Catholic even if I don’t believe anymore and my spouse went through first communion and that was good enough for my (rather lefty, liberal) church. I insisted on a Catholic wedding for my grandma, who was so devout she read her prayer book every day.

            The counseling was actually pretty damn good. You could either meet weekly with a priest or go to a weekend retreat and do it in a couple of days, which is what we did. Most of it was actually quite practical. There were sessions on communicating with each other, being a united team, what a Catholic wedding entails.

            There was a session on family planning that I was pleasantly surprised by. Yes, they were against artificial birth control methods, but the method they recommended is not “the rhythm method”. It’s essentially the exact same thing that people who are struggling to conceive do (just for the opposite purpose) — tracking your cycle, taking your temperature as soon as you wake, checking your vaginal discharge etc so you can identify when you are fertile and avoid sex during that period.

            The most useful session was about finances and money. They (accurately) said how money issues are second only to infidelity for relationship strife. They gave us discussion sheets and some time to run through the questions on the page with our fiance(e)s to see where we agreed and where we didn’t. I saw a lot of couples have moments of surprise and mini arguments… That they had help working through to see if they could get on the same page.

            Honestly, I think it was time decently spent, even if I’m not devout.

          2. Anonformercatholic*

            Posting late here. The pre Cana counciling I received remains the reason I left the Catholic Church. Mostly I say this to note it’s different for every parish.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was sadly having the same thought. He showed OP where he stands, and it is not going to change. Saying something back to him will just get him to double down to make sure he’s gotten his message across to OP. Going to HR will make him feel like a martyr and a “victim of political correctness”. It might get him to stop discriminating against working mothers in the open, but who knows what he can do in more subtle ways where he’s less likely to get caught? It boggles my mind that having people in management who honestly believe that a good portion of their subordinates should not be at work at all, is still an issue that is happening 20 years into the 21st century.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Adding to the above – but, if you do leave, I would definitely mention this at your exit interview as the main reason why. The people who work with him/manage him deserve to know.

    7. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is where I fall as well.

      And I would strongly advise OP against discussed shared religious beliefs in the workplace going forward. There are too many religions that advocate for the subjugation of women and while it’s possible to follow those religions without ascribing to all of their beliefs, I wouldn’t be willing to take the risk that other people practice their faith the same way you do.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh yes. It’s a minefield. I used to be pretty open about it at work, until one day (15-20 years ago, when I still belonged to a church… Atheist now) I brought a handful of really cute, but religious-themed, bookmarks to work, that I’d picked up at my church the night before. They had something like a print of an Orthodox icon on one side and the Lord’s prayer on the other. I gave one to the one woman that I definitely knew shared my faith, and asked her who else she thought might want one (because obviously, I didn’t want to give one to someone who did not want one). And out of the 5-6 names she gave me, she only got one person wrong. One. And that was enough. That poor coworker freaked the F out! “Why did you give me this? what do you want? what do you want me to do?” Uhhh never again.

    8. Elise*

      Yeah, I’d be planning to look for another job. And I would keep religious conversations off the table in the future at work. I’ve been asked at an old job, “What church do you go to?” And I am a Jew turned atheist who hates explaning myself. I just say, “Oh I prefer not to discuss my religion at work. Do you have any pets?”

    9. TL -*

      But OP should still keep a record talk to HR if at all possible – maybe not now, maybe when she leaves. Maybe boss does something else and she reports both.

      Don’t fall into the trap of “nothing will change so there’s no point in speaking up.” Speaking up is powerful and can cause ripple effects; even if nothing happens this time, changes happens when people speak up. The boss may never change his views, but HR might tighten policies, officially reprimand, and eventually let him go; new leadership may come in with a zero tolerance policy and having a written record may allow them to move faster (we’re dealing with this at our workplace; there’s no written record of old reports so our new leadership, who very much doesn’t put up with stuff, is having to start from zero.)

      Pick the time to report that is most advantageous/least harmful to you, but the reason we have laws and recourse and actual policies and social pushes away from this type of behavior is because people have spoken up, even if it didn’t end up benefiting them in the moment.

      1. Lizzo*

        Yes. If multiple people speak up over time and ask this kind of blatant bias to be documented, there’s a clear paper trail of a pattern of behavior if/when the time is necessary to take action.

    10. Beth*

      Yeah, OP, I’d love to be able to say that if someone (you or HR) calls him on this he’ll take it well and it’ll smooth your path going forward but…honestly, I think it’s time to get job hunting. I suppose it’s theoretically possible that he has these opinions without it impacting his management in practice. But realistically, my experience of men with expectations on how women should be is that they absolutely cannot keep their opinions from impacting their actions. If you stay and have kids, there will almost definitely be a point where you’re not offered an opportunity, taken out of consideration for a promotion, passed over for an exciting high-growth-potential project, or otherwise hindered in your career in favor of a male coworker, and you’ll be left wondering how much of a role your boss’ opinion on working mothers played in that decision.

      Heck, if you stay and don’t have kids, you’ll probably still get some of that until you age out of whatever he considers to be ‘childbearing years’. If he’s assuming you’ll have kids, and assuming that mothers shouldn’t work full-time, then why should he promote you when you’ll probably be leaving in a year or two and Coworker Bob is right there needing to support his family? (Yes, I’m pretty sure this is illegal, but it’s not usually this blatant; it’s not even necessarily thought out that clearly, he may just have a feeling that Bob’s a better fit for the role.) And your theoretical childbearing years are a huge chunk of your career. Do you want to spend that time wondering how much of a role his bias played in every decision? I know it’s hard to job hunt right now, but as soon as it feels feasible, I’d say get out of there.

  4. WellRed*

    Oh noooooo! I don’t see how this won’t become a further problem that harms your standing at this company. If you’re married, you should immediately be trying for kids and when you get pregnant I can’t imagine they have good leave benefits and once the kids are here they are definitely going to be pushing you out. get out get out get out!

    People: No religion at work.

    1. Flower*

      “If you’re married, you should immediately be trying for kids”

      Is this your belief or your impression of the boss’s beliefs? Because if the latter, I agree, that seems to be his perspective, but if it’s yours I want to push back on it. Partnered people are more likely to become parents, and maybe marriage makes someone more likely to become a parent than unmarried partnership, but marriage by no means indicates a desire for children (biokids or any), let alone immediately.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think she was unclearly noting that this was THEIR view which would then limit her promotability not that she was endorsing it.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I think it was the boss’s perceived view. And a good catch on their end if so! I bet the boss will start asking questions and being anxious about why there’s no baby yet, about six months into the marriage.

      3. Triumphant Fox*

        Yeah this seems like a list of “you can’t win” scenarios based on boss’ perspective. If you are married and don’t have kids, he will still be a problem because he’ll just think you’re going to leave soon anyway. Why give you the promotion when you’re almost out the door?

        Definitely don’t think they agree.

      4. Aquawoman*

        If they’re both devout Catholics, then Boss may easily assume that the LW follows the church’s advice about BC and having children.

    2. Claire*

      I’m not sure what you mean by saying, “If you’re married, you should immediately be trying for kids”? It doesn’t seem like the boss is saying this, though he may well be thinking it—is that your own perspective? Because it doesn’t seem that the OP has even said that she wants children, let alone that she wants them right away. Am I reading you wrong, or are you making an odd assumption?

      1. bunniferous*

        If the boss is deeply Catholic his assumption is no birth control so I imagine he would expect an immediate pregnancy-at least that is how I read it. It’s not an odd assumption to make as far as the boss’s views are concerned. I am aware that many Catholics have different views on this-at the very least they rely on natural family planning but many go further-but in any case it’s not weird to think the boss may have this expectation.

        I think this is an issue. I think this absolutely will affect any promotions etc this woman would get UNLESS she can trust that other bosses or HR would give major pushback. I would not wait to address this if there are promotions she wants to go for in the next year or so.

        1. feministbookworm*

          Yep this. Also there’s literally a part of (traditional) Catholic wedding vows about lovingly accepting children. It seems pretty likely given what we know about him that boss expects OP to be pregnant very shortly after the wedding.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Something like 95% of Catholics actually use birth control beyond natural family planning, so honestly, the “Catholics are constantly pregnant” is a view mostly held by clergy (who are celibate) and bigots who are stereotyping Catholics.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Well, thank goodness religious people are never hypocrites, preaching one thing and doing the opposite.

          2. Kanon*

            The number floated in the media was 98% but the Washington Post has an article that gives that number 2 Pinocchios.

          3. Washi*

            No one is saying “all Catholics are constantly pregnant.” People are pointing out that traditionally, the Catholic church believes that the purpose of marriage is procreation, and this guy seems pretty traditional. I would be very worried that as soon as I got married, my boss would be just waiting for me to get pregnant and leave.

            -former Catholic

            1. MatKnifeNinja*

              As a former Catholic, with tons of practicing relatives, you get married to have kids. The Catholics in my area have at least 3 kids.

              Diocese has people in a foam because the churches here have doubled down on no birth control, no use of reproductive medicine to become pregnant, and divorced and remarried Catholics can’t get sacraments or hold positions of leadership. That screed was dropped last week. I live in the midwest, and know the churches on the coasts have a different attitude regarding those issues.

              My cousin (divorced and remarried) was removed from teaching a catechism class.
              It’s because she had a Catholic wedding mass for her first wedding. Her second husband is not Catholic, but are raising their children Catholic. Upset is the understatement. I wonder who narked to the priest

              But the Catholic church has always shown what it is in plain sight, so when people get torqued at the church’s stance on birth control, and other issues they don’t agree with, it’s a shoulder shrug from me.

          4. Georgina Fredrika*

            the stat, which seems to be a different number for every reporting system, seems to be “has used a method other than natural family planning in their LIFE” because it’s more about showcasing, as you note, that Catholics are open to something other than the traditional “no birth control other than family planning”

            I think the stereotype of “catholics are constantly pregnant” isn’t a total lie, though, because you can use birth control *and then* opt to have a family quite quickly & have many kids at that. Birth control isn’t failing if you, you know. Wanted to have a kid.

            The original premise here was that being Catholic = push to have children after marriage – in my experience (raised Catholic) how strong this push is really depends on your local community expectations. Wouldn’t say it’s true of my family now, but at the same time – one generation ago – I have 13 (blood related – obviously many more if you count marriages) aunts and uncles

          5. Archaeopteryx*

            Actually plenty of Catholics use natural Family planning (taking bass body temperature in the morning, not the rhythm method which is not used anymore). We do not consider this the same as artificial birth control. So if you do see Catholics delaying or spacing out their children, please don’t assume they’re all big hypocrites.

          6. Black Horse Dancing*

            RCC teachings are against birth control except ‘natural’ family planning. This is official church stance.

          7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Anecdotal evidence, of course, but the only family in either of my son’s K-12 classes that ended up with a lot of children (nobody knew the exact number, the classmates lost count after kid #7 and were afraid to ask, because they didn’t want to sound rude) was a Catholic family. I have no trouble believing that 95% of Catholics don’t take it that far. But 95% of Catholics also probably do not preach at their subordinates, and tell them to quit their job and stay with their kids when the kids aren’t even born yet. This boss sounds like his faith is taking him to some pretty extreme places and this might be one of them.

          8. bunniferous*

            I understand what you are saying….but my son and his wife are Eastern Orthodox and under that tradition they also teach no birth control. The majority of folks in that religion do as the Catholic and work around that but my son and his wife do adhere to that part of the belief system along with the rest. I suspect they use natural planning since their children are spaced (but NOT MY BUSINESS) but I do know they say they will welcome as many children as come. It is not outside the realm of possibility to think this particular boss may hold to this part of practice and doctrine, and if I were OP I would absolutely take that into consideration. (Some people in my faith practice do similarly but I did not -I get not wanting to stereotype but in this case we have to look at the possibility because of the effects it may have on OP’s job prospects.)

        3. Chinook*

          AAM is right on about how to react.

          As for questioning your own beliefs when it comes to children, even the most devout Catholics also need to remember that the teachings also include no artificial insemination. Natural family planning is acceptable and promoted by conservative Catholic women’s groups.

          Basically, you are suppose to be OPEN to children and sometimes that means no children come your way. Even the priests are suppose to know this. Whether or not a couple has children is no one’s business and perfectly in line with church teachings. Asking you about if/when you will have children is the equivalent of asking about your physical health and sex life combined and none of his business.

          signed a childless, fully practicing conservative Catholic church lady who would be happy to point out the relevant church teaching to any meddling, religious boss.

      2. WellRed*

        It’s not my belief. I find it difficult to believe that this boss, with his stated perspective, won’t expect a married woman to wait when it comes to having children.

        1. Claire*

          Okay, understood! I think I was confused because you included what I assume is your own perspective in the same sentence (that you doubt the workplace has good leave benefits) without mentioning that you were switching points of view, so I read the entire sentence as being your opinion. This makes much more sense!

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If you’re married, you should immediately be trying for kids and

      *recordscratch* say what now?

      1. Leenie*

        I really think OP meant that would be the boss’s perspective, as it’s a traditional Catholic way of looking at things. I don’t think she was actually advocating it.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        If one is openly a devout Catholic, contraception is proscribed, thus pregnancies tend to come quite quickly. It’s hardly news. She has intimated she shares his religious views, he has (unwisely) taken it too far and overstepped. He is reactionary and sexist, though apparently quite well-meaning, but that surely can’t be that much of a surprise since she is herself a religious Catholic.

      3. Daffy Duck*

        The LW specifically said the boss was Catholic, and the traditional stance is not to use birth control. It is very common for traditionally religious Catholic families to be very large (I know several with six to ten children). Within these cultural groups it is often: no intercourse prior to marriage, have as many children “as god wills” due to no use of birth control, don’t worry if you can’t afford that many kids because “god will provide what you need” and preferably the husband works while the wife stays home and takes care of the kids. Saving to help the kids with higher education isn’t usually feasible for the ones I know.

        1. Daffy Duck*

          I want to mention that I also know many Catholic families that use birth control other than the rhythm method. It is pretty accepted among all but the most traditional groups and, of course, the political stance of the church.

          1. Gymmie*

            So Natural Family Planning is NOT the rhythm method. I’m not Catholic and used BC, but I used NFP to help GET pregnant. If used properly, it’s highly effective because it uses things like your temperature etc to track fertility and you are WAY intune with your body, unlike trying to think it will always happen at the same time of the month and just winging it. Just wanted to clarify as I think NFP has other uses and is a natural (duh) way of getting in touch with what’s happening with your hormones.

    1. nona*

      I mean.. that’s what most of the questions to AAM highlight, right? Bad or weird ideas people at work have?

      I don’t know why this is hitting any differently?

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*


    “But one big problem with letting it go for now is that people opposed to working mothers often have lots of other biases against women, ones that could affect you without kids being in the picture.”

    …is why you always, always have to say something. Always.

    It’s not a one off. It’s not something you can isolate. This belief is part of a larger sexist framework at play. It will absolutely affect how he treats and views women whether he knows it or not.

    It’s bigger than you, but it was aimed at you. That’s why you have to call it out.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      This. It may well be that kids are a way off yet for OP, but what if someone else does have kids in the nearer future? If OP raises it with HR now that could help save someone else this bull somewhere down the line.

    2. Ashley*

      I agree as much as possible it needs to be called out, but I can also understand why some people don’t call it out. When you call superiors on the carpet your work life can become miserable and you can be risking long term employment, promotions, etc. It shouldn’t’ be this way and in theory you should be able to sue but it isn’t always the case and trying to make ends meet while a lawsuit settles can be rough. Plus depending on the industry and region getting a new job can be difficult to impossible. Again, it shouldn’t be this way but there are calculations each individual has to make. Sometimes your survival is more important.

    3. Briefly anonymous*

      Agree. When I was a bit younger, my senior colleagues were all male and mostly Catholic. They had a problem with my not having kids and not having the same surname as my husband. They didn’t say it to me directly; I found out because another senior male colleague mentioned it. This played out in lots of ways, none of them good. Of course there was the direct sexism from the men with those beliefs, which affected how they evaluated me and spoke of me to others (if you’re a ‘bad non traditional’ woman, that colors their view of you very broadly, even on nonreproductive issues.) There was also a senior male colleague who wasn’t Catholic or conservative, but who disliked me for other reasons, and their religiously-grounded sexism gave him a lot of cover to treat me badly and undermine me.

      Option 1 in Alison’s list seems the best to me for the way it combines directness and preserving the relationship with someone you value. I wish you good luck in dealing with this.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        the thing is, the OP seems to, so far, mostly share these religious views, but not like them when they are applied to her specifically. I’d be outraged if someone took it upon themselves to give me unsolicited advice like this, religious or otherwise (tell a lie, as a hardline atheist, it would be worse if it was from a religious perspective), but the Catholic Church is quite openly conservative across a number of areas and shows very few signs of changing that.

        The boss has crossed a personal line for sure, but since they’ve chatted a lot about their shared faith, he must presume that she shares his faith completely (incorrectly, in this instance). If it were me, I’d leave it but if he raises it again, just figure out a couple of sentences summarising her position on the matter and that she hopes he will respect that.

        1. Ominous Adversary*

          Nothing in the OP’s letter suggests that she shares her boss’s views about the role of women in the workplace. The OP didn’t say that she’s fine with other women being pushed to stay at home, not her.

        2. chaco*

          Mothers staying home is not a religious view, it’s a cultural one and not one LW indicated that she followed or expects other people to.

        3. Cool and the Gang*

          “but not like them when they are applied to her specifically”?

          There is nothing that says women should not work in the Catholic Church, also the OP may be Catholic but there may be VERY many things she doesn’t agree with , so this comment comes off as kind of snarky.

        4. CircleBack*

          Not to excuse the Catholic Church – there’s a reason I’m no longer a part of it after growing up in it – but I never in all my years learned that women should stay home with their children as a Catholic belief. Just because you consider the church “openly conservative across a number of areas” does not mean it ascribes to every belief you consider conservative.
          And even in a top-down hierarchical church like Catholicism, there is room for people to interpret doctrine differently (survey “devout” Catholics on the death penalty, I dare you), so there’s no way for the OP to have known their boss believed in this cultural preference/bias simply based on the fact that he considers himself very Catholic.

    4. Alanna*

      “Calling out” is not an unqualified good in and of itself, and it’s reasonable for people who are affected by the bias they want to call out to think about the tradeoffs. It’s possible, but not guaranteed, that Allison’s generous script would make this guy reflect on how he’s treating the women who works for him and try to make some small changes. It’s also possible the conversation could go badly and OP would have gained nothing.

      If this were OP’s employee, not her boss, she absolutely would need to confront him about his comments and tell them they weren’t acceptable. But he’s her boss, and putting the onus on her to say something no matter what seems unfair to me.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        If anyone other than the OP confronts him, he’ll never believe she actually has a problem with what he said. He’ll blame it on the messenger.

        Yes, she’s taking a risk she shouldn’t have to take. But she’s got the law and policy behind her, especially if he retaliates. She’s not going rogue.

        1. chaco*

          Will the boss even care that OP has a problem with what he said? Or will he just become even more biased against her for flouting his personal beliefs?

    5. D'Euly*

      That’s why it *should be* called out, but that’s not a reason why the OP, or any woman who works for this guy, has the responsibility to call it out and take the chance of suffering for it. She should do her own personal risk calculation without feeling the weight of correcting others’ biases on her shoulders; it is not her fault that he is this way, nor will it be her fault if he continues this way.

    6. Quinalla*

      OP, you don’t HAVE to call it out, sometimes we have to prioritize our own job safety, don’t have the capacity to take on every battle, etc. but if you feel you can (I’d personally go with #1 myself) then please do call it out. The more this BS gets called out, the better for all of us. And document whatever you say so if you need to take it to HR later, you can.

  6. Former fallopianite*

    For instance, once you are married he may start questioning when you are going to put your uterus to work. I would’ve pushed back on the premarital materials. Ugh. Good luck and maybe consider a career/job switch anyway…to head this off, if he resists.

    1. Nessun*

      That’s exactly where my head went – it might be a non-issue if you don’t have kids and therefore there’s nothing for him to bring up as a further discussion on his points, but more realistically he’s going to ASSUME that of course you’ll be having kids and that’s where his conversation came from in the first place. Which of course is a) none of his business and b) a further intrusion to comments he shouldn’t have made to begin with.

  7. Sabine*

    *is it* okay for him to have this belief privately? It seems impossible that this attitude wouldn’t affect how he treats female employees.

    1. I edit everything*

      Of course, as long as he doesn’t impose it on his employees and assume they share his belief. It can be possible to believe one thing and allow room for others to have different beliefs and goals and treat them accordingly.

    2. Adrienne*

      I am so skeptical that this type of belief can be compartmentalized. And if someone holds this type of misogynist belief deeply and truly, why would they EVEN BOTHER to compartmentalize.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        In practice, this is how I’ve seen it work out. In theory, it’s possible to have the belief while not imposing it on others, but that will tend to lead one to re-examine the belief. It’s much more likely that they won’t actually compartmentalize it.

        1. Quill*

          It’s more often on the “you can’t force them to have a non-harmful opinion but you CAN force them to comply with the law / regulations about how they express it.”

          1. IrishMN*

            Unfortunately it can be extremely hard to prove. People in this kind of situation would do well to document everything. That in itself can become exhausting, though, so I can see why most might just find another job and leave quietly.

        2. Birdie*

          I’ve seen people do it, too, but even if he is one of the few who is able to compartmentalize this and accept OP’s plans without judgment regardless of whether they match his preference, I think OP would always have to wonder. If she gets passed over for a promotion, how will she ever know for sure that it was because the other person was more qualified and not because grandboss is waiting for her to leave or passive aggressively punishing her for not doing so? I think OP needs to say something, and I would also be looking to change jobs – either to another team not under his line of supervision, or to another organization entirely.

      2. Mel_05*

        I would guess that the reason it’s becoming an issue is that many (most?) religious people don’t expect people who don’t share their religion to act like they share it. I had a mennonite boss for a long time. He doesn’t believe in being a part of the military. It goes against his faith.

        But, he would never have expected that belief from someone else. Never spoke slightingly of people who were or had been a part of the military.

        But. If I’d had a coworker who was a Mennonite and was going to sign up for the reserves… my boss might have been tempted to say something to that person – because they would share that core belief.

        The kids thing is a part of Catholicism. I don’t know if it’s a definitive piece, like pacifism is for Mennonites. I’m not Catholic and I know way more Mennonites than I do Catholics. The boss still should not have brought it up – at all – but because he knew that the LW shared his faith… he thought this was fine.
        He might not think about it at all with someone who wasn’t Catholic.

        1. Clare*

          This is one reason I think OP should keep this conversation in mind going forward, even if it seems like her boss treats female employees fairly. I think there’s a slightly higher risk that her boss might feel *she* should be staying home with kids since they’re both Catholic, even if he doesn’t expect it (or gives no evidence of expecting it) of other female employees.

        2. LTL*

          This. It was completely inappropriate for the boss to share this and the fact that he believed it was okay is what has me wondering if he might be treating female employees badly in other ways. Maybe not and he was just trying to be a friendly fellow Catholic but it’s hard to say.

          But having beliefs in and of itself doesn’t mean you’ll impose them on others.

          There’s also selection bias. A lot of people will say “every time I’ve seen someone have a belief like this, it’s impacted how they treat their employees.” But if someone has a religious or conservative belief that doesn’t impact their behavior at work, in all likelihood, you don’t know they have the belief in the first place.

        3. KWu*

          Having kids and raising them in the faith is a pretty big part of Catholicism if you get married, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t anything religious about wanting the moms to stay home with them.

      1. ...*

        I mean, lots of very popular religions are based on the teaching that women should be housewives and mothers and not work. Some of the most popular religions in the USA in fact. So people are going to have these beliefs. Would it be nice if they didn’t? Sure! But I can’t change millions of people religious beliefs.

        1. Lauren Theo*

          It is – but the Catholic Church isn’t one of them. A line from a sainted pope’s encyclical is “Thank you women who work…” and there is no CC teaching prescribing that belief. This boss was wrong on many levels – and apparently doesn’t understand his own religion as well as he thinks he does.

    3. Temperance*

      Honestly, I can’t see how someone would treat women as equals in the workforce while also holding these beliefs, but theoretically, it’s fine.

    4. Clare*

      Yes, it’s okay to privately think that having a stay-at-home mother or stay-at-home parent can make it easier for the family as a whole. 2 working parents comes with a lot of logistical challenges, and some families opt not to deal with it. That doesn’t and shouldn’t mean the employed parent isn’t good enough to be in the workplace.

    5. TiffIf*

      There is no way to regulate or legislate a personal belief–you can believe whatever you want–however as soon as that belief prompts ACTION it can be regulated or legislated.

      There have been many questions that came up previously on AAM where multiple people emphasize it isn’t the belief or opinion that you can address or challenge in a work context–you have to address it on a behavioral or performance level.

      1. UKDancer*

        I would agree, it’s the action you can do something about not the belief.

        I worked with a chap once who believed men were superior to women and women should be barefoot and pregnant. He was entirely at liberty to believe that in his head. Once he started to tell me this, and took the approach that he was able to tell me what to do as a result, I did something about it

        It was the fact he was trying to tell me what to do despite us being the same level in the company that was the content of my complaint. His beliefs I did not complain about, his conduct I did.

        1. Sylvia*

          I agree with this.

          When it comes to belief versus action, there is the distinction of recognizing that your own beliefs do not govern the way everyone else works. So, for example, you may believe that women should not be in the workforce, but you also have to recognize that you don’t have any say in what women choose to do, whether you like it or not. It’s about separating your own beliefs from the reality that you have to accept.

          This is very difficult to do, and it’s why a lot of people have behaviors that spill out from their beliefs. Some people can do it though.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually didn’t say it’s okay — I said he’s entitled to have the belief privately because legally he is in fact entitled to that. (That might be quibbling over wording but to me there’s a difference.)

    7. Batgirl*

      He’s entitled to appreciate his wife’s choice, but asking other people whose livelihood he controls to follow suit is where it gets illegal and wrong.

      1. Ann Perkins*

        I don’t really see anywhere in the letter that he said OP should stay home? It’s in the title but the letter just says he wanted her to know that he appreciates his wife being with her kids. I’d be curious to know more about the conversation. It’d make me uncomfortable for a boss to approach me like this too (and I’m devout Catholic) and he sounds naive as to how this would come across.

        1. Batgirl*

          It’s true that he doesn’t tell her to, but he’s not simply sharing. Its against a backdrop where he sends her premarital advice and urges her to consider his wife’s path “since it is counter to the predominant view of “careerism” today”. You don’t have to stretch inference very far.

    8. mf*

      Legally? Yes, it’s legal. But in practice, I don’t think it’s possible for a boss to hold views this sexist while also managing female reports in a non-discriminatory way.

  8. I edit everything*

    Keep in mind the traditional Catholic view of family, and the pressure to have children fairly quickly (and expectation of large families). Given this guy’s lack of boundaries, I’m willing to bet that his expectation that you’ll soon be having kids will affect his decisions about promotions, etc., even before children enter the picture. He’s obviously already thinking about it and is surely taking it into account. I don’t think this can be let go. It’s already an issue.

    1. Just J.*

      Yes, then take a look around you at work. How many women work for your boss? How are their careers tracking? Then look at the company as a whole: How many women are there in senior roles? How often do women get promoted? Is this just a thing with your boss or is it an issue company-wide? If it’s “just” your boss, I’d start looking to switch to a different boss. If it is company-wide, I’d start job hunting.

    2. Artemesia*

      Seems weird today. Catholics use birth control at the same level as everyone else. My MIL had 8 kids and their peer families e.g. FIL’s partners in his profession, their friends and neighbors, had as many as a dozen. Of their 6 kids who grew to adulthood and can have children the number ranges from 1 to 3 and that is pretty typical of the now retirement age generation. The next generation now in their 30s and 40s didn’t start families till their 30s and no one has more than 2 and most have none yet. For a current boss to be pushing that is out of date by a generation or two even among those raised Catholic.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, none of my Catholic friends have more than 1-2 children. Their grandparents’ generations had large families but nowadays it’s a lot less common. Even my most devoutly Catholic friend in Ireland only has 2 children and her husband has now had a vasectomy.

        I think a lot of Catholics nowadays are moving away from the big families and no birth control idea although that’s an unscientific feeling-based estimate based on a small circle of people I know rather than an evidence based assessment.

      2. Reality Check*

        Yeah I’m not Catholic but my husband is. My MIL had only 3 kids. I have 2 and doctor advised no more. So this strikes me as unusually old school, too.

        1. Ashley*

          Given she said deeply religious he could be old school. Many parishes and priests and more progressive leading to more progressive parishioners, but there are still sections of the Church that think Vatican II was a mistake.

          1. Annony*

            While the majority of parishes I have been to have been on the progressive side, there are some regions in the US that defiantly skew old school. The Arlington diocese is infamous for how old school they are. They don’t even allow girls to be alter servers. There also tends to be a more conservative bent to the parishes in rural areas of the midwest. This attitude really isn’t as rare as you would think. Most of the Catholics I went to school with in the midwest are old school and while most the Catholics I know now (east coast city) definitely use birth control.

          2. Daffy Duck*

            This. There are certinaly more progressive parishioners and also many CaE (Christmas and Easter) members. My MIL said she was Catholic but also used BC, got divorced (not annulled), remarried, divorced again, and requested to be cremated.

      3. Quill*

        Yeah, there’s a wide swath of ideas within catholocism and a wide swath of actual practice. I grew up catholic and really none of my relatives have ever done the “marry early and have lots of kids” thing past my grandparents’ generation, which came of age during world war 2. Birth control is definitely used by some (most, probably, especially in the united states) catholic women.

        The only thing that was ever a family scandal was someone having a kid out of wedlock, and I had a great aunt who was a nun. There’s definitely some things that most catholics figure is none of their business these days, and family planning is one of them.

        (Regardless of what the pope says. This or any previous pope. Selectively listening to or not listening to the pope is the foundation of not just catholocism, but basically all chrisitanity after about 1000 ce.)

          1. Quill*

            I have an embarassment of cousins but that’s more because my parents are part of the baby boomer generation than because anyone is having very large families. My mom’s generation though? My mom has more than forty first cousins. And the number of great aunts and uncles I have who ever reproduced is about nine, iirc.

      4. Annony*

        Not deeply conservative catholics. I was raised Catholic and my cousins are very much the deeply conservative type that is anti birth control (other than natural family planning) and believes being a stay at home mom is the best choice if at all possible. They are all in their 20s and 30s and all the married ones already have multiple children. That thought process does still exist within the Catholic community.

      5. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, my Catholic grandparents had 8 kids, but none of their kids had more than 3. Large families are less popular nowadays for a lot of reasons, even amongst religious folks.

      6. Clisby*

        Agreed. My son played on a city rec league team sponsored by a local Catholic church, so most of the players were Catholic (no religious requirement, some of the players weren’t Catholic). I can think of exactly one family who had 4 kids, and that was unusual. 1-3 was typical.

      7. Washi*

        While yes, there’s a lot of diversity of views among Catholics, given this guy’s previous comments, it’s not a stretch to guess that he is particularly traditional. And at least in my Sunday School, we were literally told that getting married without the intent to have children was sinful. That it wasn’t your fault if you couldn’t, but you had better not try to prevent it. Given the interactions she has already had with him, I would absolutely expect that this guy would assume that as soon as she gets married, she will be trying to get pregnant.

      8. Batgirl*

        There’s a huge difference between ‘raised Catholic’ and being someone who is sending out Catholic materials on marriage at work. If they’re also holding up their family as an example … youre talking hardcore Catholic.

    3. Tisiphone*

      That viewpoint got heavily pushed in my Catholic high school. They even said that every act of sex required being open to pregnancy and married couples who didn’t have children were selfish.

      That boss, though! Ugh! I worry about if he’s got a say in deciding who gets laid off in the next round of staff reductions. This is why I recommend doing both Option 1 and Option 2. Have the conversation and report to HR about the conversation and his response to it.

  9. Adrienne*

    When someone says something like this it prompts me to review all past interactions with them, not only mine but any recalled conversations of others.
    Given this phone call, can you recall any other instances of bias?
    If you truly cannot, option 1.
    There’s a part of me, the deeply cynical part, that doesn’t believe it’s possible. Other parts of me are really hopeful.

  10. My Favorite Thing*

    Oh my God. Has he explained the Birds and the Bees to you yet? Maybe he’ll wait until it gets closer to the wedding. Oh my God.

  11. Rockin Takin*

    This reminds me of a post the other day in an evidence based feeding group for parents. A woman was asking for advice with increasing her supply for her baby and mentioned she can only pump 3x during a 12 hr shift. Several people told her she should quit her job, that there are other jobs, that she can get a job “anywhere”. Admins shut this crap down but I loved that the woman replied “I have a career, not a job”.

    If you feel comfortable, I would flag this with HR. You are not the only person he is going to be bias against. But I totally understand just not saying anything and job hunting. It’s tough when you’re put in this situation.

    1. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I’m in one of those types of groups too and I wonder how many people would lose their sh*t at the idea of formula feeding. When I lost my job at the start of COVID, I was upset at losing the income, maternity leave and health insurance and I had friends saying oh well you can stay home now. It’s remarkable how easily people can give advice on things they’re never willing to do personally.

      1. UKDancer*

        Hugely. Listening to my friends with children it’s remarkable how many people seem to want to tell others how to bear / give birth to / feed / raise their children. Personally I think everyone has to make the best decision they can in the circumstances they find themselves in.

      2. Rockin Takin*

        It’s really weird because this is an evidence based feeding group that supports formula feeding and breast feeding. To enter, you have to agree that formula and breast milk are equal. But somehow people like this still pop up, full of “advice”.

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          If it’s the same one I’m in (and I hope I’m not breaking the rules by mentioning this) then thats pretty surprising of someone to say that, although some do post about unsafe sleep methods. That group has been nothing but helpful and kind for me.

    2. mayfly*

      One of the things worth pointing out is that when social scientists study achievement in kids, they don’t have to account for feeding “status” as a baby, but they do have to account for socioeconomic status. This would suggest that keeping a career is more important in the long-term well-being of a child than is prioritizing breastfeeding.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I’ve read something along the lines: children who were exclusively breastfeed for any period tend to have mothers who are able to devote the time to pump/feed so someone else is working/earning and/or a generous maternity leave. not to mention if they’re breastfeeding, they’re likely to have access to better nutrition. [I haven’t done research, this is just what I’ve read on pro bf sites] so they’re already in a higher SEC

        Now, I’m not saying that those who are formula fed are worse off in any way, or that this suggests anything about formula feeding — spud is EFF. She’s better off being on formula because frankly I hated pumping and I needed my body back. Doesn’t mean Im a bad mom or love her less. I’m working now, and I’m earning money so we can one day move in to a home that’s not falling apart structurally and is in a safe and quiet neighborhood. Basically my career = better quality of life.

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          and I just want to clarify that by needing my body back, it has nothing to do with aesthetics.

          1. Rockin Takin*

            Bodily autonomy is important. OP’s boss likely doesn’t care about that though, since he thinks she’s just a walking vessel for children.

            1. Potatoes gonna potate*

              +1 to the bodily autonomy. Before delivery, I really wanted to have a vaginal birth and bf but I had a C-section and we EFF. I hated pumping. After the first dilation exam, I demanded a C-section. I was very pro-choice before this and while I still am, I haven’t found as much literature or discussion on bodily autonomy after having a baby. There’s a medical professional I follow on social media who writes articles about how the “natural movement” does a disservice to mothers and is misogynistic.

          2. mf*

            FWIW, even if it had to do with aesthetics, there’s nothing wrong that. Women are allowed to value their careers, their bodies, and their time after they become mothers! We should not shame them for being human. :)

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          All the studies basically show that by 1st grade there’s no difference between breastfed / formula fed, once you control for SEC. Spud will be fine. Good luck on the move!

  12. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    “Since the issue would not arise until I actually have a child.”
    This person is an ass.
    It’s affecting you now. He’s already thinking that you 1) are planning to have children
    2) should leave when you have children.
    If the person telling you to let it lie doesn’t think that manger will hold you back because either, you will leave when you have kids, or you should leave when you have kids…they are naive, at best. And fodder for Friday open thread at least:
    Look around at whose careers were hardest hit across all economic boards during COVID. Women left more jobs. “well, husband makes more money.” Hmm, yeah, because management isn’t investing in women.

    1. Flower*

      YES. It may not arise until you have a child, but he’s assuming you *will* have children, and he’s expecting that you leave when you have them. Why promote you when he believes you’ll be leaving soon?

    2. Annony*

      I agree. The belief that mother’s shouldn’t work is very closely linked to the belief that married women shouldn’t work and if they do their career should be secondary to their role as wife. He has basically told you that he hopes you quit. I would lean towards option one unless you think he will retaliate.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Also: The immediate supervisor who told her to let it lie is apparently also a man so he probably hasn’t been subjected to this bogusness, or if he has he doesn’t have to worry about it affecting his job.

  13. Student*

    When people tell you who they are, listen to them. You aren’t going to get treated the same as your male colleagues here.

    In addition to AAM’s advice, start looking for a new job if you want to have the same career opportunities as your male co-workers. Remember, applying for jobs doesn’t obligate you to take them – but it’ll give you a good view of your available alternatives. Treat it as a long-term search for a better fit instead of a short-term emergency, because you do have some time on your side.

    Look internally, too – is there a different division of this company that you could transfer into? Could you get out of his management chain into the employ of someone who hasn’t said openly to your face that he thinks women should not have careers?

    1. Ashley*

      I am curious if you go up a level on the management chain past creepy boss dude in this company if the beliefs match and if creepy boss dude’s boss would be horrified or not. That to me would dictate my response in many ways including if I should be job searching.

  14. cmcinnyc*

    Former Catholic here: Catholic premarital counseling materials include admonitions against using ANY form of birth control other than the infamous rhythm method. If OP isn’t pregnant within 6 months/a year, her boss is probably going to assume she’s using some kind of birth control or having infertility issues. Based on his poor boundaries so far, he’s going to say something about it. Don’t sit on this until that happens. Say something now. So the next time he says something inappropriate (he will), you will be going on record for a 2nd time, not the first. This is important because if you don’t speak up, HR may act as if it didn’t happen.

    1. Rockin Takin*

      My pre cana class got AWKWARD. Pretty sure the majority of the attendees were going to use BC and not have giant families based on the conversations. There was one gung-ho instructor that kept insisting to have children regardless of cost or whether you can even take care of them. She kept telling us about how she had like 5 kids and was living in a basement for a long time until she and her husband landed on their feet.
      She got so confrontational that another instructor interrupted her and stopped her.

      It is really inappropriate and weird for a boss to give pre-marital counseling materials. You’re right he’s going to continue to think it’s ok to do this.

      1. IsItOverYet?*

        Ours kept talking about how effective the rhythm method was…and then told us about their 9 children in 12 years

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        There was one gung-ho instructor that kept insisting to have children regardless of cost or whether you can even take care of them. She kept telling us about how she had like 5 kids and was living in a basement for a long time until she and her husband landed on their feet.

        Reminds me of my very conservative relatives who keep having children and are always struggling financially. Their only response is….”God will provide.” I have conflicting thoughts on this because on one hand, every family should do what’s best for them, and I’m a faithful person too, I believe in God and all. but on the other…..when it’s such a widespread cultural & religious belief, it’s like there is no other option to “stray” from that norm. Growing up I always heard bad things said about mothers who worked for a living. Thankfully the culture is changing but it still stings.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            To people who say fertility treatment is bad because God would give you a baby if He wanted you to have one, I always wanted to say “I suppose that’s why God created my reproductive endocrinologist.”

            1. Potatoes gonna potate*

              So, I was a total asshole and had that view in when I was 20 (basically if you need so much intervention, maybe it’s not meant to be). Karma/God got me because welp 3 losses & hundreds of injections & thousands of pills later I was finally able to have my miracle baby at 35.

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          remember the guy who climbed on his roof during the flood? He prayed to God to save him. Three boats went by but he let them pass, cuz God will save him.
          when he drowned and went to heaven, he asked God, “why didn’t you save me?”

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I used to lurk on a “tons of kids” board, and the question of “should I have another, even though I’m having trouble feeding the ones I have” was always answered YES, because God wouldn’t give you that baby if He wasn’t going to take care of it. I definitely had to sit on my hands to keep from replying.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            I’m sorry but that’s how cases like Andrea Yates happen. I know it’s super extreme but I was reading the details about it a while back and everything that happened could have been prevented IF birth control were an option and she had a better support network.

            1. Sylvia*

              Andrea Yates’ doctor explicitly told her to stop having kids because it was wrecking her mental health, but her husband would not allow her to stop.

        3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

          One of our neighbours was like that. They moved by the fifth kid, ten years ago. We still get legal and collectors notices addressed to him.

    2. SweetTooth*

      Ok, that’s not exactly true. I am Catholic, and calling it the rhythm method is somewhat misleading. There are natural family planning approaches that are 99% effective at preventing/delaying pregnancy. I have several friends who used one of these methods (Creighton, Marquette, Billings, sympto-thermal, etc) and didn’t conceive until several years after marriage, when they wanted to.

      Not saying it isn’t still wildly inappropriate for her boss to make these comments, but I am just saying it’s totally normal for by the book Catholic couples not to have a kid right away. OP should definitely say something, hopefully to her boss and then also to to HR, depending on how it goes.

      Is the boss older? Is there some generational element that makes him think this is within bounds? I just can’t understand this. My dad is a 65 year old Catholic man whose wife (my mother) decided to stay home and raise their kids, and I can’t IMAGINE him saying something like this to me or his other daughters, all of whom have kids and also work.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        Would you want your boss inquiring into what method you’re using? why you’re delaying kids? when you plan to quit? I’m thinking NO, you would not want to discuss your sex life in this detail with your boss. Terminology, whatever–this guy is an ass.

      2. Quilter33*

        Catholic here too. Yes, it is normal to not have kids for a few years/ space them as medically advised or as personally wanted using NFP. But, sadly, it’s also assumed by others that birth control was involved and there’s a lot of judgment. From a boss that is already giving Catholic pre marital advice I’d think he would probably fit in that judgmental category. (I saw an online conversation recently where someone was insisting that not having any kids is fine because you’re probably infertile, but having one or two but not more is horrible and you’re going to hell for birth control use. The guy had never heard of secondary infertility and didn’t think the age you were when you got married had any effect on family size. All around yikes.)

    3. Anon-for-this*

      I suspect this is regional. The Catholic premarital counselling I took in a large city in Canada in the early 90s did have a presentation on natural family planning, but there was acknowledgement that it was an unlikely choice for all us upper middle class couples where most of the women were university educated, in their late 20’s and on career paths. They weren’t going to explicitly say any other kind of birth control was ok, but the subtext was there. Clearly other people have had other experiences.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Yup on the regional thing. A lot of what we’re hearing in this thread doesn’t match up with my experience as a Catholic in Canada at all either, even as a member of a more conservative immigrant community.

  15. Anon-mama*

    Catholic working mom, and if I had the same congenial relationship with my boss, I totally would have “as friends” politely inquired whether he’d shared this with my male colleague and why not. Option 1 is your best bet to preserve a good working relationship, but if he says one more thing out of line, go to HR. The premarital counseling opinion (as if my theory is correct, he knew you’d have to do a program at some point as most churches require it, and casually offered one he liked) and now the kids thing (I mean, a specific phone call!?), is establishing a pattern of different treatment based on religion–even though you share the same creed, and now gender. Not ok, and HR should be aware of this.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      But the thing is, even if the boss talked to the male colleague, it would have been “Make sure your wife stays home with the kids” not the colleague. He’s a *male,* it’s *okay* for him to have a career in the boss’ eyes.

      I mean, I think that’s reprehensible too because the boss would be massively overstepping, but it’s not quite the same thing and I’m not sure it’s reportable like the evident gender bias the OP is experiencing.

    2. Temperance*

      He probably would share it with a male colleague, actually. He probably also would be more likely to promote and give opportunities to male Catholic colleagues, on the assumption that they’re traditional Catholics with tons of children and a wife who doesn’t work.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        I would like to know what he said to male colleague re future promotions, “well, now that OP is married, I met with her about her plans for the future. She (didn’t say no, therefore) is on the same page, and once she has kids…

    3. Batgirl*

      My instinct was to use the congenial relationship to probe a bit further:
      Him: “I really appreciate my wife staying home with the kids”.
      Her: “It’s such important work. Ever considered it yourself?”
      Him: “I really appreciate my wife staying home with the kids”.
      Her: “I know what you mean; we’ve definitely considered Hubby staying home, there’s good enough prospects here to be a provider”
      Just get a little bit more out of him for your instincts to go on. Is he a danger for later or already a danger now? He could just be the kind of thoughtless jackass who is lolloping around patting himself on the back for his awesome family and unthinkingly regurgitating everything from church. Could be, he’s all about options so long as he can brag on his own.
      More likely, he’s explicitly and judgingly sexist. So, make him say it. You might get a little nugget for HR. See if you can get a silly look in response at least. Don’t let him operate under the umbrella of nod, nod, wink, wink.

    4. JessicaTate*

      I appreciate you saying this. I was wondering if there would be a way, with option 1, to also comment/ask boss about the gender disparity: “I actually got to wondering whether you also talked with Bob [the other engaged guy] and told him that you would encourage HIM to leave his career to care for their kids if he and Sara have them?” In other words, gently call out the sexism of him saying this. For me, THAT is the part that most bothers me. If he made this call equally to all men and women, it’d be weird and inappropriate, but at least it’d be equally weird.

  16. Monty and Millie's Mom*

    Since you are soon to be married, I would actually think this would become an issue sooner than later. Will he automatically be expecting you to become pregnant soon after the wedding? It sure seems like it! And if you DON’T, will that lead to other issues? Will he call you to have a chat about your reproductive timeline? Will he just assume reproduction is imminent so he’ll just start leaving you off projects and out of consideration for promotions? I would typically agree with Alison, to just leave it until it becomes an issue, but I think it has the potential to become an issue insidiously, and a combination of options 1 and 2 is probably the best bet. Have a conversation with the boss and also mention it to HR, not flagging it as “a big thing”, but as a potential issue that should be on the radar. Specifics on how to do that – well, that I can’t help with. Best of luck to you, OP! I’m not sure there’s actually a good or right answer (which seemed to be Alison’s conclusion, too!)

  17. Nia*

    He needs to be reported to HR and then he needs to be permanently removed a management position. Someone with such views cannot be trusted to be able to compartmentalize them.
    Honestly I think he should just be fired outright but I have no time for sexists and don’t think anyone else should have any time for them either.

  18. Leenie*

    “I think the boss has done a great job balancing being a deeply religious person in a professional environment”
    I know the LW is specifically referring to her own interactions, so I’m sure this is true from her experience. But I wonder if non-Catholic employees would agree with that statement. He seems pretty boundary challenged. And something that he might say that would be inoffensive to LW because she essentially agrees with it might not land the same for someone from a different (or no) religion.

    1. Quill*

      Especially look for anyone else who he might have thought he was “helping” such as ex-catholics, non christian employees…

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I think the evidence is exactly the opposite. LW and boss clearly had previous discussions about religion while at work, which might have seemed okay to LW at the time because they happen to share that religion. As soon as the LW’s status changed to engaged, the boss sent unsolicited (religious) premarital counseling info and then followed up with this “just my opinion” phone call on staying home after children.

      This boss is not someone who is balancing his religious views with professionalism at any level.

  19. Solitary Daughter*

    Jeeze LOUISE. I’m really sorry — I can imagine how icky and upsetting that conversation was. That awful feeling that keeps washing over you when you realize somebody with power over you has problematic beliefs. If you feel comfortable, I really think addressing it directly is a good idea. You know your workplace best, though. All three ideas Alison laid out seem like good and thoughtful ones. I’m awful sorry you’re experiencing this.

  20. AnonEMoose*

    I think Alison’s advice is spot on. OP, I really think you need to find a way to shut this down if you can. Because if you don’t, this person is going to keep sticking his nose into really inappropriate stuff, and not just with you.

    What if…just what if…you really want to have kids, but it turns out there is a fertility issue? (If you do want kids, I hope this is not the case.) Or a difficult pregnancy or birth, or any of the other hundreds of things that can happen? Do you want to feel like you have to explain this stuff to him?

    Or if you decide that you don’t want kids, or that you want to delay childbearing for awhile? (Yes, I know this conflicts with strict Catholic practice, but I also know a number of Catholics don’t strictly go by the official Church teaching on this. Please know I’m not judging you regardless.)

    I could go on with the potential horror stories, but the basic point is that sometimes things happen, and if you don’t find a way to shut this down now, you may find yourself having some really uncomfortable conversations with this person, besides the actual workplace issues, which Alison has articulated.

    I’m sorry you are in this position, OP, and I want to reiterate that his poor judgment and boundary crossing are in no way your fault!

  21. [insert witty username here]*

    I’d call him and back and tell him that, after reflecting on your conversation, just how much of a raise would he be able to give you? When he doesn’t understand, clarify that if your husband gave up his job to take care of the kids (cuz he made it sound like such a great option), you’d be down to one income. So…. how much of a raise was he proposing to cover your husband’s income?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Or have the conversation as if he had proposed a permanently remote position, given the covid-19 situation?

  22. singularity*

    Yikes, I went through something like this when I first got married. Husband and I worked for the same, small organization, but in different departments where we had little day-to-day interaction. We did, however, have the same ‘grand-boss’ – the man who was over both of our direct supervisors. We had a cluster of pregnancies one year, where it seemed as though every other month, there was another announcement. My husband and I were newlyweds, 6 months into marriage. (We didn’t meet there, we met in college before this job.) We weren’t planning on having children right away, but grand-boss waited until a performance review to let me know that I “shouldn’t get pregnant now, it would be a huge inconvenience.” I was so shocked I didn’t respond. Grand-boss then proceeds to *make jokes* about it to husband’s supervisor, who tells my husband.

    This org had 1 HR person, and she was grand-boss’ MOTHER. So we both noped right out of that job. Lesson learned: small organizations that fill positions of authority with family/church members who aren’t qualified for the position is a red flag that we should not have ignored during the hiring process. (Granted, this was 2008 and we were fresh out of college and desperate for employment.)

  23. Potatoes gonna potate*

    This is making me scream internally in anger, especially because I feel like I’m constantly being shamed for working “so soon” after having baby potatoe. Inappropriate on so many level.. the audacity smh.

    The extent my boss and I discussed childcare was when he told me point blank that our company wasn’t family friendly at all and if I ever get pregnant (he knows I wanted to) find another company to work for. He had a small child and had had another one a year later, and both times wasn’t able to take paternity leave. There were a lot of other issues too but the gist was that it wasnt’ family friendly and looking back, I agree.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      (A username side comment… I thought of you & the baby potato when I picked up a bag of fingerlings. :) )

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        haha. She does look more like a fingerling, long and lean with croissant-like legs. nomnoms.

  24. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Run to HR. This is beyond inappropriate in my eyes. A boss commenting on your reproductive choices and life has not just stepped past the line, he’s accelerated past it at orbital escape velocity.

    (I wish Alison had been around when a boss told me that I should have babies after I got married, and that I was doing marriage wrong if I didn’t. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even tell the boss they were wrong, or complain.)

  25. cwhf*

    Ugh. If possible, I would seriously consider looking for another job/boss. He thought you would be receptive and I suspect grateful for his “maverick” views. Since he is so “deeply catholic” if you are not pregnant within a year of your wedding, will he also judge/have thoughts about that which could negative and detrimental to his perception of you? I find it hard to believe he would not bring this bias in, even just as a woman in the workplace (which he clearly doesn’t value women having careers based on this exchange, and that colors everything). Maybe he has other female employees who have been well supported in their careers and advanced and this is a one off but I tend to prescribe to believing people when they tell you who they are the first time. Good luck.

  26. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP. This is tricky. First, since I’m the one who’s always pushing the need for documentation, you really need to start a file (off site, and off the company server) and record this and any other transaction with this manager that could be regarded as dodgy in any way. It is always better to have documentation and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

    Given that you’ve both been sharing your religious culture up to now, I would recommend going with Alison’s first script. Tailor the language to your knowledge of this man’s personality and character, but you do need to put him on notice that he’s crossed a line. (Document this conversation, too.)

    While you don’t need to completely eliminate any reference to your shared religious backgrounds, you should probably scale back the amount of sharing you do. Stories about how your parish is managing things under pandemic conditions are probably OK, but keep it impersonal. No personal experiences or reflections. Given your manager’s boundary issues, you really DON’T want him to get the idea that he’s your spiritual director.

    Whether you talk with HR right now depends on your sense of how competent they are. It’s possible they will think they have to talk with your manager about this, whether you’re ready for that or not. But continue to document, and be prepared to call in HR if your manager’s behavior escalates.

    So of the three options given in this post, I think I’d recommend #1, backed up with plenty of record-keeping. If you believe that your manager is starting to treat you differently because of your gender and marital status, then you can call in HR, with detailed notes on what’s been happening.

    I’m a religious believer, myself, and I’m really, really sorry this is happening to you. Your boss is out of line.

  27. WantonSeedStitch*

    Oh boy. I feel like I understand why the OP is unsure how to proceed in this situation since she initially was willing to engage in conversations that would have better been left out of the workplace (though to be fair, I couldn’t really get a read on how much was active willingness and how much was uncertainty about shutting it down). But it’s never too late to say no to stuff like this. I agree with a lot of the commenters that this is something that could, and probably will, impact a lot of other people, not just the OP. I’m willing to bet that even if this boss is less likely to talk openly about these sorts of beliefs and attitudes with people who do not share his religion, he is likely to be INFLUENCED by them with any female employee, and at some point along the line, that’s going to harm a female employee’s career–if it hasn’t already. That’s why I’d be willing to bring this to HR.

  28. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    Without necessarily taking action, if it were me, I’d explore whether this meets the legal definition of sexual harassment. I understand that he didn’t make sexual advances, rather seems to see himself as a father-elder; but he’s still making some huge assumptions based on your sex; i.e., being a woman. Does he have this little chat with Catholic men in the workplace?

    It doesn’t have to go anywhere; you don’t need to even mention the words “sexual harassment” if you don’t want to. It’s a suggestion based on my own experience (totally different; had to do with disability discrimination) that being armed with a good understanding of the legal position is useful, even confidence-building.

  29. Important Moi*

    I am Catholic. I am curious to know how your boss even knows you’re Catholic. Is this a case using the wrong topic to establish a congenial relationship? This may well damage your relationship and your professional development at this company. Good luck

    1. Annony*

      I don’t think anyone should have to hide their religion at work. Would you give the same advice to someone who is jewish or muslim?

      1. Important Moi*

        Yes I would actually.

        I don’t see why I need to know who was Jewish or Muslim. Unless, you have the expectation that I would treat them differently because of it. What are you referring to? Religious holidays? Dietary restrictions? I don’t understand.

        1. Annony*

          Hiding religion can be hard if it is a major part of your life. Like you said there are dietary restrictions and religious holidays. There are also things as simple as wearing a crucifix or other religious symbol. While not doing or wearing anything religious while at work may not affect you much, there are many people who would find it to be a true hardship.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I’m Pagan, and I’m quiet about my religion in the workplace. Not that anyone has reacted negatively, but I don’t want to take the chance. When I was working from the office, I did not openly wear a pentacle, and I shared that information only with a few trusted coworkers and when relevant to the conversation.

            I did have small statuettes of Bast and Sekhmet at my desk, but I also had a small copy of the Rosetta Stone and some other general geeky stuff.

            So not exactly fully hiding it, but being discreet about it. No associated dietary restrictions, but I probably could have worked around them without sharing more than I wanted to if I had needed to. But it is a source of stress, at least at times.

          2. UKDancer*

            I think it’s a pretty normal part of conversation to cover things like this.

            I know that one of my team is Muslim because she observes Ramadan and I adjust her work pattern (at her request) to make it easier for her to deal with the fast. I know that a colleague is Jewish because he brings food in for Jewish festivals (and I absolutely love the Hamantaschen that he makes). My colleagues know that I like dancing and do ballet classes.

            I think talking about yourself can be pretty normal at work and people do share things about themselves that are important to them. I mean you don’t have to share things but it’s a common thing to share something of yourself.

        2. Potatoes gonna potate*

          Honestly, I don’t wear a headscarf and I don’t pray 5x a day but I don’t even know how I would begin to hide my Muslim identity at work.

          1. UKDancer*

            Also you shouldn’t have to. This may be idealistic but I would prefer to be in a world where people can be open about their identity than one where they have to hide it.

            Obviously I don’t expect people to tell their colleagues huge amounts of embarrassing personal details about their private lives or seek to proselytise but the broad strokes that are part of their identity shouldn’t need to be hidden. So I know in my team that Firouze is a Muslim, Jerzy comes originally from Poland and has three children and Davey and his husband support Brighton and always go to their home matches.

            1. Potatoes gonna potate*

              Exactly, I don’t find it so egregious that people should know someone’s religion. Plus I’m in NYC, where “Where are you from” is most commonly asked by other immigrants so it’s not as loaded a question so people freely volunteer where they come from/their parents are from. It’s not that deep to me. (Although if someone were being badgered and getting the “where are you REALLY from” then yeah, that’s totally valid to fight againdt that

              1. Paperwhite*

                I do miss that about NYC, that I could ask fellow immigrants where they’re from without coming off as a snide American forcibly othering people (I’m an immigrant but my accent is East Coast US). I loved sharing our stories.

    2. HR Bee*

      In my experience, it becomes rather obvious who is Catholic every Ash Wednesday each year. Though to be fair, I live in a predominantly Catholic area.

        1. MayLou*

          Every Ash Wednesday service I have ever attended (as an intermittent Anglican) has been in the evening. Whether that is coincidence, I do not know, but I assumed it was standard.

    3. Ana Gram*

      It becomes fairly clear that I’m Catholic at work when I don’t eat meat on Lenten Fridays, leave early for mass on holy days, wear a crucifix, make the sign of the cross after a benediction (common in public safety), etc. I don’t think it’s odd that the boss knows OP is Catholic and people shouldn’t feel like they need to hide their religion at work.

      1. Sylvia*

        No one needs to hide it, but I think Important Moi is pointing out that it’s better to maintain strict boundaries over more personal things in the workplace, and religion is personal. Maintaining a boundary about something is not the same thing as hiding it.

        1. Ana Gram*

          I’m not best friends with my coworkers but we certainly chat about personal things. I know coworker A had a baby this summer and is doing a woodland animal theme for the nursery and coworker B wants to go back to Germany to see his family but he only has a US passport and can’t go and coworker C volunteers at a food pantry on weekends. If they ask what I’m up to this weekend or why I’m skipping Bob’s Meatapalooza on a certain Friday or what’s up with the ash on my forehead, I could demur but why? I’d rather have a friendly, open relationship with my coworkers. Unlike OP, though, there are no professional consequences to me making that choices. If I knew my boss was like OP’s, yeah, I’d hide all evidence of my religion. But in a functional workplace? No need to be that secretive.

    4. Valancy Snaith*

      I don’t think it’s unusual for coworkers to know what religion one is. My coworkers know I’m Catholic because they see ashes on me on Ash Wednesday, and once because someone spotted the image of St. Peregrin I had as my phone background. I know another coworker was Muslim because they mentioned going out of their way to go to a halal market and needing to excuse themselves for prayer every so often. I knew another coworker was Lutheran because we had a conversation that went “oh it’s that new place on the same street as Good Shepherd church,” “oh right! I live right by there, that’s my church, actually. So is it any good?” “Oh it’s great, you should go!” All of which are extremely innocuous ways in which religion could come up.

      1. Ana Gram*

        Yeah exactly. It comes up. I could tell you what religion about half of my coworkers are because it’s come up in conversation. In a reasonable workplace, it’s not a taboo subject.

    5. Cedrus Libani*

      People talk at work. I once found out a boss shared my particular flavor of atheism because of lunch-table chat about a “weird science” paper…nothing to do with religion and totally SFW. Yeah, I read that paper yesterday… (It had been posted on a well-known blog in that corner of the Internet. Insert conspiratorial grin, returned by a couple of co-workers who knew exactly what I meant, including that boss.)

      Ideally, small talk about your life should be OK. Whether you’re organizing the summer Bible school with your church, or building an epic Comic-Con cosplay with your girlfriend and her wife, there’s something in your life that isn’t TPS reports and that may generate funny stories to tell over lunch. Life is more complicated, I know, but that’s the ideal. If one is OK but not the other, that’s an unfair burden to place on the person whose life isn’t deemed an acceptable topic of conversation.

  30. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Standing up against this will help others behind you! I recently had to give reason why I needed to turn down an opportunity with a large religious organization (my shared beliefs) when the interviewer told me the company was keen on making sure my husband came with me in the relocation. He made it seem the offer was contingent upon it as the company supported keeping families together. I diplomatically pointed out that another employee (male) lived in a separate town than his wife. HR replied to me that they were reviewing my comments and overhauling their hiring process in response. (Other things I pointed out included starting interviews off with political small talk, for example). You can keep your beliefs and also help create equality in the workforce!

    1. Oldbiddy*

      This. I regret not pushing back more earlier in my career, although I did face a lot of pushback when I did.
      I’m 51 and started my career in the 90’s, when there was a lot of pressure to not make waves regarding sexism in the workplace, especially in male dominated fields where there were few or no women in senior positions. My peers and I pushed back when we could and developed workarounds when we couldn’t. In retrospect I wish we had been louder and pushed more, because the old sexist attitudes haven’t gone away as much as you’d expect as the dinosaurs started retiring.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        A major THANK YOU to pioneers like you who helped make it easier for my generation to succeed with less pushback! I’m just nearing 30, and fortunately now live in Europe, where the attitudes are much more progressive for women. People like you help give me the confidence to not just go along with every suggestion, regardless of how desperate I felt for a position. I owe my current self respect to anyone who even troubled the waters, because big waves can start as tiny ripples. Thanks :) :)

  31. Camille McKenzie*

    Don’t pander to this guy with “I know that you meant well. . .” All it will do is validate him and spur him into continuing his incredibly sexist and inappropriate behavior. I had a creep of a graduate school professor relentlessly badger me about how important it was for me to marry a Caribbean man and settle in the Caribbean (where my family is from) and he was adamant on being justified in invading my privacy because he was doing it in the name of black unity.
    Tell him point blank that his comments were inappropriate and made you uncomfortable and it might just shake him up enough to make him back off or even apologize. If not warn him that you’ll go to HR and THEY can tell him to back off.

    1. JustKnope*

      While I definitely understand your point, I think OP gets to decide how aggressive she’s willing to be. Going straight to HR would be perceived as adversarial, as Alison points out, and that could impact OP’s future in her job (or at least make things really uncomfortable). And she gets to decide if she wants to take that on. In an ideal world she would be able to shut it down hard, she gets to decide how much she wants to fight and deal with any potential repercussions.

    2. LTL*

      “All it will do is validate him” Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes a gentler approach is the most effective approach. OP is the best judge.

    3. Batgirl*

      Mmm. I think youve called it. These guys are playing the role of church/community elder and getting the women lined up for breeding is a gross way of being pompous.

  32. Temperance*

    Okay so you and your org now both have information on how this guy’s brain works. He doesn’t respect women as equal contributors. He thinks that you’re temporarily working until you get pregnant and start popping out lots and lots of kids.

    He’s going to, or already has, denied you opportunities because of your gender. And not just you, but any woman who has had the misfortune of reporting to him.

  33. Cynical B*****

    I find myself wondering if there are any married women working for this jerk.

    I would start looking for a job because the door has been opened, and I can bet that this man will say he was just discussing something you had in common, which you’d done before, so why is this a problem.

    HR is not on your side.

    1. JustaTech*

      HR might not be on the OP’s side, but HR is very firmly on the side of the company not getting sued for sexual harassment or pregnancy discrimination.

      That said, the best and most supportive HR in the world is going to have a hard time changing the boss’ mind/outlook.

      1. Cynical B*****

        You’re absolutely right, it would have been better if I added that bit.

        I don’t see this man changing his mind. Considering he had the chutzpah to say this in the first place, I’d say he’s an entitled git.

  34. Essess*

    You absolutely need to talk to HR. Since HE already believes you should stay at home with kids after you get married, he will likely not give you as much consideration for promotions or career paths in the company since he will be expecting you to leave or may plan to push you into roles/job duties that are easier to leave. You won’t know if you were skipped for consideration ‘behind the scenes’ for more company-essential roles based on his bias. This needs to go to HR and have them ensure that you aren’t skipped over for potential advancements because of his expectations.

  35. Matilda Jefferies*

    I disagree that this won’t be a problem until you have kids. It’s a problem now, because you’re already thinking about it now. And will you be able to stop thinking about it in the meantime? I know I wouldn’t! Let’s say kids don’t happen for another five or ten years (or at all), for whatever reason – will you ever again be able to have an interaction with your boss where this isn’t at the back of your mind?

    Granted, I tend to be an overthinker. And there are probably people out there who are better at compartmentalizing than I am, and who would actually be able to put this out of their minds until the time comes. But honestly, I think my impression of the boss would be forever changed by something like this – I really don’t think I would be able to forget about it.

    Not to mention, there are likely other women of child-bearing age in your office – or if not now, there will be at some point. Will he be thinking the same about them? Almost certainly. Or what if someone is already pregnant, but he hasn’t had this same conversation with them? At least you know you’re about to be treated differently if/when you become pregnant – maybe the others don’t.

    I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe you talk to the boss, or maybe you talk to HR – or maybe you do neither, but just have a quiet word with others in the office who might be impacted by something like this. That’s always an option, if you don’t trust the formal networks to handle it appropriately. It’s awful, and there really are no good choices here. But for me personally, “leave it alone until it affects me personally” is just about the one option that would be entirely off the table. It would be like a sore tooth – there’s no way I would be able to stop myself from poking at it and worrying about it all the time.

    Good luck, with whatever you end up doing. I’d love to hear an update when you have one!

    1. Oldbiddy*

      I guarantee that this attitude is causing problems for all the women who report to this guy – the ones with kids who don’t stay home, the married ones who don’t have kids, the single ones, who might eventually become either women with kids who don’t stay home, or who might not ever have kids.
      As someone who never had kids, I have even noticed a distinct difference between working for men who have a spouse working full time vs on who has a stay at home spouse or one working part time, even if the latter is fairly liberal/woke.

  36. Clare*

    OP, has your boss given you any other reason to think he’d expect you to have kids right away (and mistreat you accordingly)? I know a lot of people are jumping right to “he’s Catholic and talked about his beliefs in the workplace, OMG he’s a misogynist who wants you to start popping out kids, leave,” but if that doesn’t line up with your impression of him, I’d suggest option 1 or 3 (I do think 1 is better, but 3 is also okay!). I don’t think your prospects at this company (or even with him as your boss) are necessarily over because he overstepped, and I think Alison’s wording in option 1 is perfect.

    In the meantime, maybe get one of those mugs with the JPII quote “Thank you women who work!” :)

    1. Ominous Adversary*

      The issue isn’t that he “overstepped”, the issue is that he thinks that one of his direct reports should quit her job and become a stay-at-home wife. I’m not sure where you’re missing that.

      1. Clare*

        Does he think she should quit her job to be a stay-at-home wife? Or does he appreciate that his wife stayed home with their kids? That’s why I encourage OP to consider this conversation in the context of what else she knows about him at work – is he generally fair? Has he done other things that make her fear she’ll be discriminated against? OP is the best judge of that. But regardless of whether other factors make her concerned about discrimination, he *did* overstep, which is why I think option 1 is good. I think this conversation is a red flag to 1) look deeper and 2) keep in mind for the future – but one red flag isn’t necessarily cause for panicking or leaving a job.

        1. Ominous Adversary*

          This wasn’t a stray comment where the boss mentioned how much he appreciated his wife’s contributions; he called the OP to tell her about this, apparently unsolicited, and disparaged “careerism” (not his, apparently). The context is pretty unpleasant.

    2. Sylvia*

      I agree with Clare. While her Boss was totally out of line with this, OP knows her boss better than anyone else. Has she ever felt like she wasn’t given fair treatment at work, and that her boss was using her gender against her? OP indicates this is the first time she has felt like her boss overstepped. I think it’s worth a frank conversation with him before insisting that he’s a terrible person.

    3. Batgirl*

      I think youve got a point. Lots of entitled people waffle about the wonder of their own lives and then when they get called for dictating something to those with less power, genuinely think they were just sharing an option, because they never have to think about isms.
      It’s not great though, however you slice it.

    4. Ann Perkins*

      All this. OP, you know him better than we do and how the whole conversation went. I really like the script in #1 if you’re comfortable with it.

      There’s a lot of leaps being made on this thread and so I want to provide some perspective as a devout Catholic: there’s definitely a little thrill when you find someone who believes the same things you do and isn’t going to scorn you for using the so-called “rhythm method” or perpetuate stereotypes like I see even on this thread. He might have thought he was being helpful, if you wanted to quit your job but thought you’d be looked down on for doing so. His comments were still completely inappropriate but I don’t assume that he would turn you down for rightful raises and promotions. The Catholic church is also a huge advocate of just wages, after all. But I like the script in #1 because it respectfully lets him know he crossed a line, and the effects of that.

    1. Quill*

      I think it will be edged out by all the public health and safety hazards, unless someone gets badgered for a kidney again.

  37. Alanna*

    “Calling out” is not an unqualified good in and of itself, and it’s reasonable for people who are affected by the bias they want to call out to think about the tradeoffs. It’s possible, but not guaranteed, that Allison’s generous script would make this guy reflect on how he’s treating the women who works for him and try to make some small changes. It’s also possible the conversation could go badly and OP would have gained nothing.

    If this were OP’s employee, not her boss, she absolutely would need to confront him about his comments and tell them they weren’t acceptable. But he’s her boss, and putting the onus on her to say something no matter what seems unfair to me.

  38. Observer*

    As a practical matter, it’s not clear to me what your best approach should be. But you should realize that your immediate supervisor is a bad source of advice. The idea that this is only going to be an issue when you have kids, and who knows when that will be is just waaaay out of touch with reality.

    To take the obvious question – this guy doesn’t approve of careerism. Is he going to judge you for putting your career before having kids? There are a lot of other potential issues here along those lines.

    So, whatever you do, do it with the understanding that this is actually a PRESENT issue. And the fact that your supervisor doesn’t see that tells you that he doesn’t get it – and that’s the kindest interpretation.

  39. beanie gee*

    I’m really disappointed in the OP’s immediate supervisor that they didn’t seem to take this more seriously.

    If the company has a good HR, they might want the OP to take this to them since it’s a potential future discrimination lawsuit. Preventing this guy from being a liability would be in their interest. Or should be, definitely not always how it plays out.

  40. animaniactoo*

    “I understand that you were trying to support me on a personal level. But on a professional level, what you said to me left me really concerned about how you view me as an employee and whether you’ll be as supportive if I have kids and choose not to stay home with them. Or even if I end up not having kids for whatever reason.”

    This is the statement I would make. I would stress the point that from your employer, your boss, you expect it to be fine either way and that is not the message that you came out of that conversation with. Maybe it’s not what he meant you to come away with – but because he only focused on that, it IS what you came away with.

    If he’s normally great about balancing the difference between his religious views and his behavior as a manager, I would expect him to retread and simply be more aware of where the boundary is and what he needs to say *as a manager* to give what he believes is personal support on a religious front – without making it explicitly about the religion beliefs. I’d expect him to get it right so that it felt like support of an employee, married or not, kids or not.

    If he goes off-track like this again, I would both reflect the same message back to him and escalate to HR.

    1. Captain Raymond Holt*

      I really like your opening phrase! It differentiates the personal/professional aspects of the conversation. He can save face (which is what Allison’s opening statement also allows) AND you’ve made the point very clearly.

    2. LTL*

      This is great phrasing. My only comment is that you can remove “for whatever reason” from the end. The reason is irrelevant to OP’s boss.

  41. AKchic*

    In a really weird way, this guy just did you a favor. He just told you that you (and every other woman of child-bearing/rearing age) will never succeed under his management. Because of his religious beliefs.

    There is absolutely no way that his personal biases will not color his decision-making. Past, present or future. Can’t send Barbara on that week-long business trip, it would deny her husband his homely comforts. And they really should be trying for children anyway. Can’t send Maria because she has a 7 year old and that just wouldn’t be fair to *her husband* to make him babysit for so long. Bill’s been here for 6 months. The “girls” can tell him what he needs to know and we can let him meet with the client man-to-man. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

    No matter what you do, this guy is going to stunt the professional growth of every woman he can because he thinks they should be at home caring for their families (or finding/making one). He’ll do what’s required to appease the “PC Patrol”, but when he thinks he can let his guard down (around supposedly like-minded friends or anyone “of the faith”), he will let his real feelings out.

    1. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

      This. He just showed OP his hand. When someone tells you what they are, believe ’em.

  42. Luke*

    Count me in the “find another job” camp.

    How long as the OPs boss been there? If it’s longer then 5 years, you’re probably not the first person this has happened to. If HR takes the OPs complaint and acts along the lines of “oh golly, that’s just his way!” – get out. The further out of “religious boundaries” the OPs lifestyle becomes, the worse their job evaluations will get.

  43. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

    ” I worry that his perspective on working mothers might hinder my career growth.”

    I mean, he’s pretty much flat out telling you that having children is going to hinder your career growth under him. I honestly don’t know if you have a path forward working under this guy. Best of luck.

  44. Someone Else*

    What’s the best way to say it?

    Just say it:

    “The conversation crossed a boundary and made me feel uncomfortable? It was an unsolicited perspective that I know was not shared with my male colleague who is also getting married soon.”

  45. Ominous Adversary*

    You could end up spending a lot of energy on something that never becomes a problem. Honestly, if you were my friend, this is probably the one I’d advise for now, until/unless you see further problems.

    I guess I should be more surprised to see this advice here, but I’m not.

  46. SJJ*

    Wow.. that’s.. a tough situation.

    Also – keep in mind not ALL Catholics think this way, but there are certainly a subset of more hardcore people that do (just like any other group, you will always have those types).

    In this case, I’d argue this could taint his longer term views of your career there. You may not get the same opportunities, because he’s expecting you to leave work within a few years (because hey.. Married Catholic Women have babies every year, right? *eyeroll*).

    1). I’d be open with my 1st line about my career goals and expectations, and express concerns on whether this is the right place for me if there’s an underlying expectation I will leave. I’d also hit on how this could be a legal concern for the company due to this type of thinking (even if it’s just a perception issue). Any Mgr worth their salt should be having discussions on how to deal with this with HR (If you have one).
    2). Depending on your relationship with this guy, you can gauge whether you can have a chat with him about your concerns, and possibly be blunt regarding the risk he is putting himself and the company in with such statements.
    3). Document. Document. Document.

  47. Jennifer Juniper*

    Option 4: Update your resume and look for another job before that manager finds an excuse to put you on a PIP and fire you. That can be done pretty easily in most jobs, AFAIK.

  48. soon to be former fed really*

    I’ve been in the post-college workforce for 43 years now, and I am astonished that so much backward-thinking if not downright illegal activity still happens, right out in the open.

    OP, I would (nicely) let boss know that you and your spouse will make whatever decisions are best for your particular family, when/if that time comes. Besides, there is no commandment to be a stay at home mom, some would argue that the Proverbs 31 woman, although fictional, was anything but! Boss has overstepped his bounds because you share a religious bond, but Catholics are hardly monolithic in their views on social issues. Politely but firmly let him know that it’s not a topic for discussion, or just ignore him and handle it if it comes up again.

  49. Heat's Kitchen*

    I had two kids while at one company. When I was getting ready for maternity leave with my second, there were some conversations about a promotion. My boss had been a stay at home mom for 10+ years before returning to the workforce. When I mentioned I was interested for a promotion, she told me I probably wouldn’t because of the travel required. Even though this was seriously not a concern for me because of my situation with my husband. I was livid. She’s the main reason I left that job. Personally, I’d probably at least alert HR. In hindsight, I wish I did so she doesn’t do this to others in the future.

  50. jen*

    I completely agree with Allison’s advice but was wondering something. The boss completely crossed a line, without a doubt. That stated, I’m wondering if there is some advantage that he put that out there. At least now you know the potential bias and can create a papertrail if needed. If he hadn’t said anything those biases could still work against you and you wouldn’t have any way to prove it or it would be harder to raise the question. In some ways it may be a blessing in disguise if the boss really has that bias.

  51. Firecat*

    One of the things that really burns my breeches about These Guys is that, while they love to couch it as “not about women just about parenting” is that when a man DOES stay home they rail against that too!

    My spouse has to deal with this all the time!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      “It’s very important that young children have A Parent at home. You don’t want your children to be raised by daycare.”

      “Awesome. My husband will be doing that.”


      1. AKchic*

        Yup. The near-constant complaints my family got because my husband stayed home. He got it worst from his father, second from his mother, and then a few of his high school “buddies”. He doesn’t talk to those “buddies” anymore, but his parents still rail about his “emasculation”. They sure liked our nice, fancy house, though. And our vehicles. But no mention of how we’d never have afforded them if I’d been the one to stay home with the kids and he’d worked a retail position (not even management, but standard minimum wage retail) with multiple kids.

        They really like to ignore all of that. His dad is very much a believer in the idea that I need to make less than the “man of the house”, without recognizing that if I stopped working the job I have, our insurance would be gone and we wouldn’t afford any of the things we have.

        1. allathian*

          Yikes on bikes. I’m sorry. I really have no Fs left to give to people like that, family or not. It’s a wonder he’s still in contact with them. Frankly, this sounds even worse than the OP’s boss. At least with a bad boss, you can change jobs even if it’s not always easy, but it’s a lot harder when it’s family.

          “This subject is not up for discussion. I gotta go.”

    2. Temperance*

      Honestly, many of them try and do the backhanded compliment that men and women are “equal but different”, but men should be able to work in regular jobs and women should stay home. It’s the complementarian bullshit.

      1. Sylvia*

        Reminds me a lot of “separate but equal.”

        You’re either equal or you’re not. No conjunctions needed.

    3. WS*

      I had a co-worker who came back to work when her twins were about 6 months old, and older people were horrified to see her, because where were the children? “With their dad” was not an acceptable answer!

  52. AthenaC*

    So, as a Catholic, let me translate a couple things –

    “Religious premarital counseling materials” = Pre-Cana stuff. Probably very standard and innocuous, since all Catholics have to go through pre-Cana and it’s basically the same everywhere.
    “Counter to the predominant view” = “You should do the thing I am telling you or else your soul and the souls of your family are in jeopardy and it will be YOUR fault.”

    Also, unless you work for a company that actively violates Catholic social justice teachings or Catholic biomedical ethics, there’s literally nothing to “balance” re: being religious and being a professional. In fact, if it’s his vocation to be the breadwinner for his family, he’s supposed to be the best professional he can be because that’s how he best takes care of his family.

    But it’s worth pointing out that your male boss should not fall into the predominant view of careerism today. Such careerism is often a diabolical stumbling block for men as it encourages men to prioritize their own selfish needs over the emotional and spiritual needs of their families. Just sayin’.

    Rant over.

  53. Sam*

    WOW no.

    For context: I’m a devout Catholic (I use Natural Family Planning, which is not the same thing as Rhythm Method) and work at an explicitly Catholic office led by a Catholic priest. Even in our workplace this would be wildly inappropriate.

    There’s nothing in Catholic teaching that says women belong in the home. There are extremist views that try to justify that thinking but it’s wildly outside of the mainstream. And it’s definitely not an employer’s place to impose that view on others.

    The closest to appropriate COULD be a gentle comment that he would be support you in adjusting/restructuring your role after you have a kid IF you’re interested. Our office provides flexibility to parents and carers (of all genders) without it impacting career opportunities like raises and advancements.

    I would suggest both speaking to him in person and getting it on file with HR, at minimum. He needs to know he’s crossed a major line here.

    1. Idril Celebrindal*

      Thank you for saying this. I also use NFP and have been getting increasingly frustrated in this thread with people calling it the Rhythm Method. The two are not the same and the Catholic Church explicitly discourages the use of Rhythm because it doesn’t work. NFP works as both a method of birth control and a way of maximizing the chance of pregnancy, because it focuses on tracking the cycle and being very attuned to how your body acts. I’m not Catholic, but I did not want to take birth control and I did not want kids, so this was the perfect fit for me. And what do you know, 13 years of marriage later and still no kids.

  54. Morning Flowers*

    Just dropping in to say, OP, as a devout Catholic myself, your boss is being an ass, and dear God in a fairer world you could just tell him so. As it is Alison’s script will have to do.

  55. Mr. Cajun2core*

    I am so glad that you stated this. I am also a devout Catholic (male) and this is way over the top. As you said, there is nothing in Catholic teaching which says that the woman must stay at home with the children.

  56. Mad mad me*

    As Alison mentions, this harassment started with the premarital counseling materials. If my boss had handed those to me, I would’ve shoved them down his throat (and not just because I was forced to endure that brainwashing exercise years ago just to get married in the Catholic Church). This is highly intrusive and that clown should know he is way out of line. That’s why I favor the HR option. Your silence now will embolden him to offer all kinds of unsolicited advice throughout your married life. Who cares if your relationship with him gets less “warm”. He’s a creep.

  57. Mannheim Steamroller*

    In other words, your boss expects you to resign upon having children.

    I agree with Alison’s first two suggestions (talking to the boss and going to HR), but…

    – Consult with an attorney first. Prepare for the possibility that your boss might summarily fire you for complaining and have you “perp-walked” out of the building before you ever get to HR.

    – Then talk to your boss using Alison’s script. If you don’t want to mention HR, then don’t — he’s a manager, so he already knows that what he said was inappropriate.

    – If the boss doesn’t fire you, then go to HR immediately after meeting with him.

  58. Happy Pineapple*

    For me personally, I would absolutely not wait in acting on this. There is a chance that once you’re married he will assume that you could get pregnant and leave the workforce at any moment, and therefore not want to invest any further in you. This could severely stunt your career growth for years to come. You deserve not to be treated as a ticking time bomb.

    1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      Yes. This. His is making far too many assumptions already. You may want to have children right away, or down the road, or not at all, but this boss has already deciding this is something that is happening imminently and that when it does you really shouldn’t continue working. It would take a lot of mental gymnastics to hold those beliefs and also treat you fairly and provide you with equal and earned opportunities at work. Say something, but also run as fast as you can as soon as you can.

      1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

        Please forgive the 4 million typos in this comment. I am so bothered by this situation, you deserve respect and privacy in your family planning decisions, whatever they may be.

  59. engineermommy*

    If you don’t want to call him out on it directly or go to HR right now, ask the other women who work for him or around him if they’ve had any similar conversations or issues with him. If they have, a group going to HR is less intimidating than just one person. If they haven’t, they will know to keep an eye out for it and not write behavior from him off.

    I had a similar situation at my previous job. I had my 4 year old at work with me late one afternoon picking something up. One of my boss’s peers stopped us by the elevator to tell my daughter how pretty she was, then proceeded to ask her how her mother could leave her every day to go to work. I was livid. Told my boss, who told his boss. I got a begrudging apology a couple of days later. He had made comments to several of the younger women that indicated he had a problem with women working (his wife stayed home with their 7 kids), but I was old enough to have reached the age where I had no more f*cks to give for crap like this. It took several more years, but they eventually let him go.

    1. soon to be former fed really*

      I was a single parent. I would have replied that I could leave her because I like to see her eat and have a roof over her head. The nerve.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      WOW. That is disgusting. Both sexist and cruel to your poor little daughter (implying Mommy doesn’t love her). I’m glad that guy finally got fired, even if I’m not pleased it took years, and I hope he never has any authority again.

    3. allathian*

      Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry.

      I would have been livid at pretty. Don’t compliment a child on their looks. Compliment them on their pretty dress, awesome t-shirt, or nice manners or whatever, but not their looks. Society places far too much value on women’s looks as it is, but there’s no need to perpetuate that as an individual if you’re aware of it. Judging by his words and actions, your boss’s peer definitely seems to be one of those guys who value women for their looks and little else, or at least for looks first and any other characteristic second.

  60. TiredMama*

    I have zero doubt that his views have already impacted your trajectory at your current job. People (men and women) have learned to not write it down on paper, but undoubtedly share their viewpoint in meetings with the higher ups with statements like, she is so great, too bad she is a young woman, of course she’ll be having kids when she meets the right guy and then we all know how it is for mothers. It is unfair and you can stay and fight it, but if you do not want to, get a new job.

  61. Jay*

    I wouldn’t go to HR yet, it seems like for the most part this was the first time he did something like this unwarranted and based off what seems like an open relationship he likely felt like he was trying to be helpful and honest with you. I don’t get the impression he did this with malicious intent. If it is brought up again, simply saying “We are focusing on the wedding for now and haven’t made any decisions further than that.”

    I even think it’s extreme as some posters have said to say he’s being an ass. I obviously wasn’t there but what you wrote really sounds like a decent guy, trying to be helpful but he was well, being a guy.

    What really bothers me the most is the assumption that you and your fiance are going to have children. This should be a lesson to everyone – Not all women want or can have children of their own. Men, women, superiors, direct reports, co-workers – this can be an extremely touchy subject for women and it is best to not ask about family planning within the workplace.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      I must disagree. She should go to HR immediately. One time is too many, and he needs to be called out now before he has a chance to say that again (to OP or anyone else).

  62. Emi.*

    I will pray to canonized Catholic working women St Gianna Molla, St Zelie Martin, and St Elizabeth Ann Seton that he become less of a wafflehead.

  63. Analyst Editor*

    I agree that it’s not really the place of your boss to bring that up, though it might be more appropriate if your relationship is closer to that of a mentor-mentee, in life in general, as opposed to just work-supervisory. I think it’s fair to tell your boss that what he said made you feel like he doesn’t want you to work. I get the power dynamics in this particular setup would make you uncomfortable, but if your boss didn’t give you reason to doubt his general good character before, this shouldn’t change that. If you think your boss is of good character, respond to it like you would about any personal choice that isn’t people’s business – cheerfully, that “yeah, I’ve thought about it, but I think this is what works for me. Thank you though!” and move on. Or address that you’d rather not discuss that in the future, thank you.

    I will also say: there is a heck of a lot of negative messaging around the choice of staying home; and a lot of women want that for themselves and are happy with that choice. And while there’s plenty of stigma for working moms in some circles, there’s just as much for non-working moms in others. So, OUTSIDE your specific supervisory relationship, it bothers me when people see the mere suggestion as some kind of weird sexist thing; it’s a normal thing to consider, and in my opinion should be a normal option women discuss when thinking about their futures and careers, because it’s an important one to them.

    1. Temperance*

      I think that if we also, as a society, asked men if they were going to be SAHDs, then that would be fine to assume women might also want the option.

      It is insulting when women who have worked hard in their career/in education are asked about quitting their jobs to stay home with children.

      1. LTL*

        This. I’m a woman who wants to be a SAHM some day but having others comment on whether I should or shouldn’t work would be upsetting for this very reason. Too many people have opinions on where women belong, on both ends of the spectrum.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes. It’s fine to be a SAHM (or other SAHP!) For some people, that suits their situation and that’s what they want.

      It’s a thousand miles from fine to heavily imply to your female subordinate that she *should* be one.

    3. roundround*

      I think some of the negative messaging comes from the consequences for women of staying home. That’s what can be offensive about a boss suggesting a woman should stay home. He’s basically saying – why don’t you gamble your future on your marriage working out?

      I had trouble nailing down the stats so feel free to correct me but something like 45% of marriages end in divorce. What happens to women all too often is she left the workforce or took a step down in her career for the kids. He keeps working at a higher paying job. They get divorced. She’s left hoping a divorce settlement will make up for a permanently altered career trajectory and quite often the settlement never compensates fully. His career continues on no problem and he’s fine.

      You’re taking a huge risk if you give up your career for kids. You’re basically betting 1. you don’t get divorced 2.. if you do there is money there for a big settlement and you win, to make up for a lifetime of lost earnings.

      Someone suggesting that gamble to women is not your friend.

    4. Paperwhite*

      Why shouldn’t men also discuss being a SAHD while thinking about their futures and careers? And why is everyone and his brother entitled to ‘suggest’ being a SAHM to every woman, no matter her vocation, as if the concept were unknown to anyone?

  64. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    If he sent the premarital counseling info by company email, well, he pretty dug his own grave. I hope HR has some sense.

    1. valentine*

      If he sent the premarital counseling info by company email, well, he pretty dug his own grave.
      No? “OP and I had discussed our shared faith. I wasn’t aware she didn’t welcome information on this necessary step.” It’s also something he could share with men.

  65. Uaim*

    There is another choice: rather than standing up for one’s right to make a choice that some may view as deeply immoral, one can hint at unfortunate medical issues that one prefers not to discuss. That’s not strictly honest but it can prevent someone with strong religious views about the matter from thinking, “There goes that immoral woman who gets a pass because of liberal laws and political correctness.” I’ve been there. When I mentioned unthinkingly in the office that I had no plans for children, my good relationship with the new boss chilled and he started in on micro-aggressions of the sort that make an alarming pattern in an employee’s eyes but would look like whining if brought to HR. Since then I hint at “something I don’t want to talk about” when asked why I don’t have kids.

    1. allathian*

      I deeply despise people who think they have the right to stand in moral judgement over others. Looks like you found a workaround in this case, but really, whether someone has plans for kids or not is not the employer’s business, except in the sense of how a pregnancy might affect benefits.

  66. MainsplainerHater*

    I had a male Catholic colleague tell me, when I was pregnant, that I should take 18 years off when the baby came. I didn’t tell anyone or bring it to HR. But once my daughter was born, the same colleague gave me a hard time for scheduling pumping breaks. He said something inappropriate about it to me, I don’t remember what exactly because I was sleep deprived and whatnot, but he said it in front of someone else. THAT woman went to HR about it, and I’m forever glad they did. Why? Because that jackass isn’t allowed to ever talk to me again, we’ll never be assigned to the same project again. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s delightful.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yay for THAT woman and yay for HR! So refreshing to hear good news on here, thanks for sharing.

  67. St Lucia*

    Oh! This happened to me too! Except it was 20 years ago, and it was my husband’s boss (not mine; we worked at the same medical school) who specifically met with me in order to persuade me to give up my career because I was pregnant. He was a high level Dean, I was an Assistant Professor. He was extremely insistent on his viewpoint, and he also insisted on prolonging our meeting for over an hour, while I struggled to keep my replies to him civil. I finally told him I had a lot of work to get done and ordered him to get out of my office. I did nothing about it afterwards – there was nothing to be done at the time that would not have blown negatively back on me. But I never forgot, and it definitely colored my view of that med school.

  68. Anonymous at a University*

    I’m so sorry, OP. This is one reason that I think even shared religious beliefs should stay out of (secular) workplaces. You never know when it’s going to change from someone chatting to you about shared beliefs to someone assuming that OF COURSE you believe the exact same things they do, and OF COURSE you’re going to make some huge change in your life to accommodate those things. (And if it’s particularly bad, even just making a different choice becomes this B.S. about “not respecting their beliefs.”) It’s such a hard thing to handle because people are so protective of their religion and often others don’t want to make a decision or say something they have a perfect right to make or say because it’s “not respectful.” The respect the other person should be paying them in return goes completely by the wayside.

    I think Alison’s suggestions are great, and I hope things work out for you.

    -an atheist who was told over and again I “wasn’t respectful” for deciding not to be a SAHM like religious colleagues, even when I had said nothing to these people about my beliefs.

    1. allathian*

      Yikes, that’s so out of line. I’m sorry that happened to you. “Respectful” of what, exactly, anyway?

  69. Luna*

    I feel like getting super blunt with him. “Wow, boss. That was… way not okay to say to me. And kinda smells sexist. Likely not what you intended, but thank you for sharing your perspective.” And then never bring this up again, unless he ends up starting in on questions about when you’ll have children or overall brings this topic up again. Because then you run so fast to HR, you will make the Roadrunner jealous.

  70. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    The risk of this guy taking action based on his own ideas about what your personal and family plans here is far too great not to say something and also start your job search. In your shoes, I would fear that this man will always be planning for me not to be a long term employee–because he doesn’t think I should be. I also find it really gross that your wedding plans are automatically sparking unsolicited opinions about your family plans and career plans. It sounds like children are something you are hoping/planning for in your future, but if they weren’t or your plans change (or you experience any delay or difficulty) you have ever reason to think this man will speculate about those things and impose his wholly manufactured beliefs about your plans onto you. It is no one’s business at work how/when you plan to have children, how many, or how that affects your goals and plans for your career. You have all the reason in the world to say something here to to treat this as the enormous boundary violation that it is. Don’t wait for him to cross that line again, and start looking for other roles — you probably don’t have a real future here through absolutely no fault of your own.

  71. FormerEmployee*

    “In every other interaction, I think the boss has done a great job balancing being a deeply religious person in a professional environment…”

    I suspect that the only reason the OP feels this way is because she basically shares the same beliefs as the boss. I would not be surprised if non Catholic, non religious, agnostic, and atheist employees have a very different view of this boss and how he balances/doesn’t balance his religious beliefs with his professional obligations.

    Why? Because things that he has done already that are way over the line are no problem for the OP.

    I probably would have started looking for another job after having one in depth conversation with this boss in which he expressed any of his views on women and work. I think it would have been impossible for him not to have made it clear that he thinks women should be married, have children, and stay home to raise them. For me, that would have been enough to make me say, “I’m out of here.”

  72. UrbanChic*

    So you have a female mentor or sponsor at this job that is senior? If so I’d ask her what she thinks you should do. She will know the politics of the company and this manager , and HR better than any of us can and can advise you better. But if you don’t, I would not sit on it. I’d do approach #1. His reaction to that convo will tell you a lot about your long term trajectory on his team, regardless of whether HR “talks” to him (unless they will terminate him, a talk from HR will not prevent bias). And in general, if you don’t see working mothers in senior management, it’s probably not going to be a women-friendly company.

  73. JSPA*

    I’d put it in an email, so there is a record.

    Dear ———–,

    “I’ve been thinking about your comments.

    I’m not sure how to take them.

    First, I was thinking that you were flagging that would give me stellar recommendations if, after a period as a stay-at-home-spouse, I had to make an intense push to re-enter the workforce at what normally would be a near-insurmountable disadvantage.

    Then, I wondered if you were hinting that work-from-home could be an ongoing option (though I believe it might be discriminatory under current law, if it were only offered to moms, or even only to stay-at-home parents of either sex).

    And then I wondered if you were considering the sort of extra pay and early promotions that would cushion the economic aspects of taking time off to focus on rearing an (at the moment, completely hypothetical) child.

    Those could be work-relevant, and worth discussing further, if there eventually is a non-hypothetical child to consider. (In fact, ongoing WFH could be relevant to a wide range of employees, if that’s open for further discussion.)

    On some level, I am glad that, human being to human being, you would not think less of me, if I were no longer your employee, or chose a different path in life–though I confess I’m surprised that this doesn’t go without saying (?).

    However, there is no way for you to speak to me, person to person, without also speaking to me as boss to report.

    Calling someone below you in your chain of command to suggest that it would be a good move for them to consider leaving their career… that is, by default, a deeply disturbing message for any employee to receive. Any message saying, “I would be happy to have you focus on your personal life, not work,” that only goes to women / married women, or only to people of a particular faith, or both, is even more problematic.

    I find myself needing some clarification that my job is not in danger, by virtue of marriage, or by virtue of hypothetical future offspring. And, furthermore, I need to hear that you don’t consider a married woman–or any woman, or a woman with children, or anyone married, or anyone with children–somehow less valuable as an employee, or less promotable.

    I hope you have women in your non-work life who can benefit from your pastoral-style counseling, without it creating a conflict of interest; however, in a workplace, these sorts of suggestions are problematic, and fraught, and to be avoided.”

    [note: I would not point out to him, in so many words, that it’d be illegal to discriminate on that basis; if he is totally determine to shoot himself in the foot, let him.]

  74. roundround*

    OP has to take some responsibility that they seem have opened up a discussion about what sounds like conservative religious beliefs then turned around and gone, ‘oh no, not that belief’ as it suits. Don’t open up religious discussions with your boss.

    1. Ann Perkins*

      Except wanting women to stay home is much more a cultural and socioeconomic practice than it is specifically tied to one religion. The Catholic Church does not teach that women should quit their jobs once they have kids. OP didn’t open the door to this kind of conversation, even if boss is too inappropriate or clueless to understand that

  75. Alex37*

    I would strongly recommend #1 but with modifications. I would add that your career is very important to you AND your husband and that you fully intend to work after you have kids. (It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure; that’s irrelevant. ). And then get to the part about his comments give you pause. “Would there not be a place for me here?.” And see his reaction.

    Some tradionalists are just innocent and clueless, and don’t realize they’ve crossed lines. Hopefully that’s the case here and he will apologize profusely and reassure you.

    If not, then you have info for yourself and possibly HR.

  76. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I wonder what the boss would say if she said oh we have that covered husband will stay home with the kids!

  77. The blind forest*

    Your best case scenario is that your boss massively overstepped but continues not to let his opinions impact your career. Regardless of what you decide to do, document the conversation with you boss and supervisor. Write the date and summary of what was said. Hopefully you never need it but if it all goes downhill, it is there.

  78. BusinessCat*

    Not sure if anyone else has brought this up yet, but from a Catholic perspective, this is probably more urgent than you’d expect. If he’s really that deeply religious (and signs suggest he is), he probably expects her to be “open to children” immediately upon marriage. It’s why he talked to her this early in the first place. From his perspective, she is likely to become pregnant very soon after marriage, so this could begin impacting her career immediately.

    Yes, I know most Catholics do use birth control, but everything about his actions so far suggests that he is in the deeply religious group who don’t, and assumes she won’t. It’s part of the pre-marriage counseling materials in any cases. I even wonder if it’s why he brought this up to her in the first place: he wanted to encourage pro-family behavior that modern working women often ignore. It’s so so gross, but I really feel like that’s what’s going on here.

  79. I Need That Pen*

    My brain starts on a train track when I read these kinds of things that I can’t stop it because… whenever I read someone’s whose boss – regardless of boss’ gender, say “It’s ok to stay home with your kids and blah,” it’s because they WANT you to, so they can get someone else in your place and are silently trying to hint that you should. It’s akin to “Oh, you’re coming back?” or the ever popular, “Are you going to be having any more,” as was asked to a dear friend of mine the DAY she returned from maternity leave. I had a friend whose boss gave her the book, “The care and feeding of husbands.” I told her to wipe her nose on it and put it in his mailbox in the mailroom.

  80. Ellie May*

    I threw up after sentence number 2. You’re getting married – why assume babies are next? (And his opinion has a voice???) RUN!

  81. Minerva*

    At a previous job, I mentioned to a coworker that I had to leave at X time to pick up my child. He proceeded to tell me how horrible the nanny candidates were when he had kids, in detail, and how of course his wife stayed home, and continued saying it was cheaper for her to stay home than pay for said nanny. Nevermind I used a daycare and wouldn’t be able to jump back into my career after 5-10 years at home….he didn’t drop it. I am still bothered by this 6 years later, and it made me nervous talking about child care during the pandemic at a new job.

    Tell everyone about this, so they can tell him to knock it off and keep his mouth shut. He can think what he wants, but all I see is him bypassing women and assuming men don’t need to balance child care.

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