my coworker keeps pressuring me to get pregnant

A reader writes:

I started a new job this year. Jobs in my field are notoriously difficult to come by even during non-coronavirus times, but I’ve found myself sure that I’ve made a mistake in taking this position because of two coworkers, who I’ll call Anna and Lauren. Both Anna and Lauren are pregnant and overshare continuously. Bodily functions, digestive problems, pregnancy facts, and even their previous birth control choices are all are on the table, and they assume I want to hear about it. I could deal with that part of it, but Anna has been targeting me with questions about my reproductive choices that I feel are extremely inappropriate. Like both of them, I am in my mid-thirties, but I am currently single and do not have children. This isn’t where I planned to be, but it’s where I am and I have a fulfilling life (and I haven’t completely ruled out children at this point).

Anna has told me that I need to hurry up and find a partner and get pregnant because I’m “practically middle-aged” (for what it’s worth, I’m a year older than her). She’s pried into my dating life and my desires to have children, and has even asked several times if I want to know what it’s like to be pregnant. It’s infuriating and inappropriate, and bursting into tears in front of her slowed her down but didn’t stop her.

After the middle-aged comment, I did say to her, “I don’t want to talk about this with you” (and that’s when I started crying; it’s a sensitive issue for me for a number of reasons). She just stood there and stared at me until I asked her to leave my desk. It didn’t seem to slow down the baby talk or asking if I want to know what it’s like to be pregnant, and she still bombards everyone with baby and body talk on the work Slack channel (along with my other coworker), so I’m not sure my comment sank in beyond that moment. But at least she hasn’t asked me about dating since then!

How do I deal with this? Because I’m new and we’re a small department, I’m hesitant to be as firm as I’d like to be, but the assumptions that I’ve never been pregnant before and that I’m missing out on a life without children or that I’m some lonely miserable spinster are starting to get to me. Plus there’s the constant talk about bodily functions. I’m happy to have a workplace where we discuss things that aren’t strictly work-related, but I feel that these two are egging each other on to become more and more boundary-violating.

I did finally say something to my supervisor, and she told me to say something to Anna if I’m uncomfortable – but I feel like it’s gone past that and I dread working with her.

Agggh. Why do people do this? Prying into other people’s reproductive plans and pressuring them to get pregnant is incredibly obnoxious and boundary-violating. This kind of invasiveness is endemic in our culture, but it’s particularly bad when it happens at work, both because you’re a captive audience and because it can be harder to shut it down when you’re worried about needing to preserve professional relationships.

But you can shut this down if you’re determined to. The next time Anna says anything about your age, your fertility, your baby plans, your dating life — any of it — say this: “I should have said this earlier, but I need you to stop talking about my reproductive plans — it’s not something I ever want to discuss at work.”

You said you’re worried about being firm with her because you’re new. It’s true that when you’re new, you don’t have much political or social capital accrued yet and might need to tread more delicately around people who are still forming impressions of you. But this isn’t in that category. No reasonable person would expect you to tolerate Anna’s prying; you’re allowed to set boundaries, new or not. And to whatever extent you felt like a softer approach was in your best interests at first, you’ve already given her that, and she’s blown right by it. When someone hammers away at your boundaries like this, you’re allowed to get firmer. In fact, she’s forcing your hand in that regard: She’s so over the line, and ignoring gentler signals, that you don’t really have a choice but to be extremely direct.

Please realize, too, that you’re putting a lot of energy and worry into how to keep things harmonious with Anna — but how much thought and energy is she investing in being considerate of you or preserving a good relationship? (None, it seems.)

You get to speak up. And any awkwardness that results from that is on Anna, not you. In fact, right now you’re stuck carrying the burden of all the awkwardness she’s creating. Put it back where it belongs: on her.

So, from this point forward, your refrain is: “Stop asking me about this. It’s not something I discuss at work.”

If you repeat that a time or two without watering it down, it’s pretty likely that she’ll back off. But if she doesn’t, at that point you can go back to your manager to explain that you’ve told Anna multiple times to stop harassing you about pregnancy, and it’s still continuing. Your manager has an interest in not having this happen on her team, and saying that you’ve repeatedly told Anna to stop, without success, should nudge her to act. (To be clear, it wasn’t wrong for your manager to ask you to try handling it yourself first — that’s a reasonable approach with interpersonal conflicts — but if you try that and the problem continues, a good manager will step in.)

The oversharing is harder to deal with. In some ways, that part is like having a co-worker who talks incessantly about sports or dieting or anything else that gets old for anyone who doesn’t share the obsession. When the topic is pregnancy, it can be more emotionally fraught (especially if anyone in your office is struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss), but it can be tough to shut down a topic others are interested in just because you don’t want to hear it. To the extent you can, I’d try to block that out. But you should feel free to proclaim “TMI!” when something is clearly over a line (something I bet some of your other co-workers would appreciate), or even privately say, “This is a difficult topic for me. Would you mind reining it in when I’m around?”

But mostly I’d focus on shutting down the inappropriate questions to you. I suspect when you feel comfortable doing that, you won’t feel as beleaguered by the rest of it.

Read an update to this letter

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 490 comments… read them below }

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Yep. If others are making the same choices I am, then my choices were right, I must be doing life right, I’m in the lead, I’m winning, I’m the expert, I’m validated, and everyone must be looking up to me.

        If I did X, and then others promptly decide to do X too, then I somehow win. If someone else doesn’t do X, then I must be wrong and failing and a loser. If I did X and a few people did it too, we must need to get all the others on board, or else they’ll be wrong, and they don’t want that, do they?

        Gaaaahhhhh. Shut up, Anna.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          This resonates with me a lot. I am childfree by choice, but there are so many people out there who assume that you cannot be happy unless you check off some sort of “happiness list,” and they get particularly annoying about it when they are not happy at that moment. Because I don’t have the things on the list, so I have no right to be happier than they are!

          I try not to take it personally, because it is more about them than about me, but I cannot help being irritated about it at times!

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*

            Personally I’m 99% convinced that a lot of people who badger childfree by choice people are salty because they never realised not having kids was an option (or, in some cases, it may literally not have been an option for them).

            As for Anna…I already feel sorry for the kid, because she sounds like she’ll probably badger her kid about when she’s getting grandkids.

            1. TomorrowTheWorld*

              For a significantly large proportion of the population, a woman isn’t a ~real~ woman until she’s had children.

              1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                I actually had a p.e. teacher who told the class, “Until you have a child, you are an unfulfilled woman!” Bluhhhh.

            2. Diahann Carroll*

              All of this. Misery loves company. If Anna and Lauren were so sure and so happy with their choices, they wouldn’t feel the need to badger someone else into making the same one.

              1. Lavender Menace*

                I don’t know that I’d go to that extreme. There’s another argument that people who are deliriously happy with their lives try to badger/convince other people into doing what they did so they can also be deliriously happy. I’ve encountered this form of forceful encouragement (not this extreme, but alike in kind) from people who were happy being parents.

                1. Greta*

                  As someone who is childfree by choice, I find that the people who badger me about having children fall into one of two categories:

                  1. The mothers (and sometimes grandmothers) who found that having and raising children is the greatest joy of their life, and they want everyone else to be as happy as them; not realizing that what makes one person happy might not be the same for another person.

                  2. The mothers who didn’t fully think through their decision to have kids, or who got pregnant accidentally and decided to keep the baby. They envy their childfree friends and colleagues who can still sleep late on Saturday morning, display blown glass and other breakable items in their living room, and watch TV shows with adult language and themes. They secretly regret having kids, but they don’t want to admit it because it would imply that they don’t love their children, when of course they do. So instead they take it out on people who chose not to have kids, in a misery-loves-company way.

            3. Not A Girl Boss*

              I don’t know that they’re all salty. I think a lot genuinely feel that I’m missing out on something that has given them so much happiness – and therefor I would obviously also be soooo much happier if I did the same thing as them. Even though, in reality, its like trying to convince a chocolate-lover that vanilla ice cream is the One True Flavor Choice.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Agreed. I think a lot of people genuinely can’t imagine that someone would opt out. Which somewhat helps temper my annoyance, I guess.

                1. Susana*

                  Right, but then… would it be OK to the same people if I expressed disbelief that they could be happy *with* children, simply because I am happy without? There is definitely a bias in for of you-don’t-kn0w-what-you-are-missing-not-having-children. You’re right, I don’t. And you don’t know what you’re missing being able to pop off to hike in Peru because you don’t have to worry about taking care of children. Both good choices for different people, but it’s like no one BELIEVES you if you are female and say you’re perfectly happy child-free.

                2. Artemesia*

                  But then they should realize that people without kids might not be able to have them and that it is their personal sorrow, or that worse yet, they may have had a child and lost that child. I will never forget asking a colleague early in my career if she had kids and hearing that her husband and both sons were killed in a traffic accident. It was just small talk but it reminded me that some innocuous questions are incredibly painful for other people. Certainly shutting up after driving someone to tears is obvious.

                3. Former Conservative*


                  I agree with you, but that also goes for a lot of other choices. People don’t understand how a man could be happy as a nurse, or a woman could be happy as a programmer, and so on. They ridicule your happiness, not because they don’t believe you have it, but because they believe you have achieved it in the wrong way.

              2. Parenthetically*

                Yeah absolutely. I got this a lot in my very marriage-focused subculture when I was single — there were the people who clearly just saw adulthood and marriage as basically synonymous, couldn’t make sense of the fact that I seemed mature and responsible but wasn’t married, and so were pushing me to resolve that cognitive dissonance for them, sure; but there were also a lot of folks who wanted me to get married because they were truly happy in their marriages (and either hadn’t been happy when single or had gotten married so young they simply didn’t have a frame of reference for anything else). People do exactly this with kids.

              3. Rusty Shackelford*

                Yeah, I don’t think they’re miserable. I just think they feel they’ve discovered the way to happiness, and they want the LW to join the club. And they’re cruel/clueless enough not to see that she might not want to or not be able to join that particular club.

              4. Cathie from Canada*

                While the pregnancy will end in a few months, I’m sorry to tell you that this type of behaviour may well continue as long as you work with this person – expect future discussions about bottle or breast, toilet training, vaccinations, sleeping through the night, day care, pre-school, grade school, etc etc etc., and every one will be framed around her “my way or the highway” mindset.

                1. Lavender Menace*

                  Yup. I have a colleague who I otherwise like; this colleague’s kids are preteenage and they still manage to shoehorn them into every other conversation. In their case, it’s clear that it’s because this person loves parenting and loves their children a lot (it’s not saltiness at all), but it is annoying.

                2. jenkins*

                  Yuuuup. If she goes on about her pregnancy symptoms to this extent, you know you’ll be hearing about nappy contents and spit-up all day when the baby comes.

            4. Gymmie*

              I would just think they are rude and inappropriate and need to understand not everyone wants the same lives as them, and are not unhappy.

              I would never ever say anything like this to anyone, but when you are a parent, sometimes you are just so happy and it’s something you never realized when you didn’t have kids what it’s like. So I’m sure some of it is like “this is so amazing and great!” But…..ick, these women.

              1. Former Conservative*

                That goes for a lot of things. When I was a conservative, I never realized how happy I would be once I left the movement. When I was a Christian, I never realized how happy I would be as an atheist. When I was fertile, I never realized how happy I would be once I was sterilized. The list goes on. That doesn’t mean you talk about it with captive audiences. I agree when you said I would never ever say anything like this to anyone.

            5. 'Tis Me*

              I sometimes jokingly say things to a friend who is child free by choice “are you sure you don’t want to do this? Being handed something then proudly told by the toddler she found it in her nose could be your life too! Baby vom in the hair *might* be good for it, sort of like a yoghurt mask? Go on, you know you want to!” but wouldn’t if I didn’t know she knew I was teasing and respect her choices. I might laugh about the same gross instances with a friend who is child free because that’s how life panned out but because of the bit where I know she would gladly take those incidents along with the cuddles and love and joy dren bring, I wouldn’t do it in the same way because that would be taunting and unkind.

              While talking about my 9 months morning sickness and debilitating PGP pregnancies with youngling newer coworkers whose thoughts on children I don’t know I might add something like “apparently some people don’t get these side effects. If you want to have children down the line, try to do it that way – it sounds more fun! But if having children is something you want to do, it’s worth it even with the blargh” – not asking, because it’s none of my business, but reassuring them if my experiences are off-putting.

              1. OG OP*

                Don’t take this the wrong way, but you might not want to have that conversation with your younger coworkers at all – you don’t know what their situation is, and you might be inadvertently poking a soft spot with conversations you think are harmless. If might also be TMI to talk about your debilitating nausea…

                1. Former Conservative*

                  I agree with this. Younger coworkers may already know they’re infertile for a variety of reasons, and this could easily be a sore spot. Younger coworkers could have experienced pregnancy loss already. Younger coworkers may not even be younger. I’m nearly 40 but I’m frequently mistaken for 27-28.

                2. 'Tis Me*

                  This was more if I was limping/unable to stand upright/on crutches (I actually ended up buying a wheelchair last time but don’t think I needed to take it to work at all) or couldn’t vomit discretely (incidentally, being sick at work is one of my least favourite things to do in the office). It was more of an “ending the conversation on a slightly more upbeat note” thing, because “Yeah, I’m fine. This is just what my fine looks like when I’m pregnant. Yep, the whole way through – well, the mobility issues get worse over time” seems a bit bleak and potentially terse, or possibly melodramatic, without acknowledging that some people sail through without any discomfort. And I know the people I said it to would have been in the 21-24 year age range (we’d chatted enough that I knew they were recent graduates, single, at least one living away from her family for the first time). While some people are aware of fertility issues by that sort of age I have to say it didn’t occur to me at the time *blush* Even though I was vaguely-in-the-background concerned at that age that I’d discover that I was infertile due to the volume of X-rays I had we a teen!

              2. Marti*

                Also don’t take this the wrong way but I don’t want to hear or know a thing about relative stranger’s bodily functioning or excretions. At. All.

            6. MayLou*

              My mum asked me when she would get grandchildren when I came home for Christmas my first year of uni. I was 18! I had just started my degree! She would have been horrified if I’d got pregnant and dropped out! It was so weird. Of course now I’m 29 and still no kids, she’s started saying that I’m too far away (from her, but I have plenty of support locally) and shouldn’t have a baby yet. Parents get weird about their offspring reproducing, but Anna isn’t even LW’s parent. She should cut it out immediately.

            7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yes. Childfree by choice people get told they are selfish. At which I butt in with “no it’s having children that’s selfish. You literally bring another human being into the world, who never asked to be born. Then as a parent all you can do is make sure they have as great a life as possible and must expect literally nothing in return, and that can maybe make up in part for your selfishness. It’s not like anyone has to reproduce to maintain the human race, we really ought all stop reproducing.”
              And I have kids, so nobody can then counter with “but you don’t know what you’re missing out on”.

          2. Not A Girl Boss*

            I am also CFBC and I swear it’s like every time I finally admit it (usually to get people to stop asking me when I’m getting pregnant) they react like I’ve physically harmed their child. It’s not like I go on a rant about how much I don’t want kids – I just shrug and say “motherhood is just not for me” or “this bloodline dies with me,” and yet they are clearly incredibly offended and immediately filled with the insatiable need to convince me I’m wrong.

            I just don’t get why they take *my* choices about *my* life as such a personal attack on *their* life choices. Heaven forbid there could be more than one path to true happiness!

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              It’s so weird. You’d think parents, of all people, would understand how difficult and unrewarding parenting would be for someone who doesn’t want to do it. And you’d think people who love children wouldn’t want them to be raised by someone who doesn’t want to do that. And yet I’m proven wrong, regularly.

              1. Lavender Menace*

                Not all parents, of course, but I’ve talked to a fair amount of people who just feel like the misery and difficulty are just part and parcel with the process and that people *should* suffer through them to get to the good parts. I’ve given up bringing up why I don’t want children because 1) it’s really none of their business but 2) it never works because they have a ready-made argument for every.single.point, and when they don’t, the argument is “yeah that sucks but you just deal with it and then they smile or giggle or do something cute and everything is OKAAAAY AGAIN!”

                1. 'Tis Me*

                  Nah, the pain and suffering is a side effect of having kids. If you don’t think the pros will outweigh the cons for you as an individual/couple then don’t have kids! If you aren’t prepared to commit to meeting their needs 24/7 for decades, don’t have kids. If you aren’t willing to love them and nurture them, encourage them and discipline them, and give them all the tools and help they need to grow into amazing, kind, thoughtful adults who make your hearts burst with pride, don’t have kids. Some things you can’t half-arse.

                  We have 3 (oldest nearly 6 years, youngest virtually 6 months). They are wonderful, funny, loving, smart, beautiful, perfect precious beans and we love them – but there are times that they are bloody hard work.

                  There are some people who aren’t fans of other people’s kids or children in general but who love their own. There are people who change their minds and decide down the line actually they do want to be parents after all. But having a child is such a huge undertaking, if you aren’t able to commit to it 100% you shouldn’t do it. And if all it would take to convince you that children are what’s missing from your life would be me telling you that you should change your mind – would somebody else saying “bwahahaha you fool!” be all it would take to convince you that it had been a bad idea? What if they did this after you already had kids by then?

                  (But then, my understanding of whether or not my decisions were good ones for me isn’t based on whether or not other people made the same ones… Other people aren’t me! We like different things!)

              2. jenkins*

                I’m a parent and this confuses me too. It has been the most ridiculously life-altering, career-limiting, brain-melting, sleep-destroying learning curve of my adult life. I wouldn’t change a single thing but that’s because I wanted my children and love them more than anything. Doing all of this without really wanting to would be *horrendous*. For the kid, too.

              3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yes, exactly. I’m firmly in the camp of “only those who really love and want children should have them”. There are already far too many people in this world who didn’t get the love they deserved as a child, and they’re the ones who turn out to be jerks (45 being a prime example if I can say so without causing a ruckus)

            2. Lizzo*

              I recall my mother-in-law going on and on about how “oh, children are such a gift” in that tone of voice whose purpose is to be persuasive, and surely if she talked about children enough in this manner I could be convinced to become pregnant ASAP to deliver her the grandchildren she was dreaming about?

              When I point-blank said that becoming a mother was 1) not something I had been dreaming about my entire life and 2) not really one of my must-do life goals, you’d think I’d punched her in the face. Like, my desire to make use of my life in a different way was somehow an insult to the investment she’d made in raising her son(s). :shrug:

          3. AnonEMoose*

            All of this. I heard the term LifeScript from a friend, and have adopted it because I think it’s a good description. According to the LifeScript, you’re “supposed” to do X, Y, and Z and boom, perfect life and happiness.

            And I think a lot of people don’t stop to think or ever realize that there are other options that might be better for them, and when they meet someone who is living some of those other options and is happy for it, it’s a shock. They might even feel cheated and like they somehow have to get that person back in line because that’s how it’s “supposed to be.”

            I’m childfree. I don’t practice Christianity. I’m heavily involved in local science fiction and fantasy fandom. My husband is older than I am, and I like my life the way it is. I have a job I like, but I do my work and I log out and I’m done for the day.

            And I’ve met a few people whose minds are just blown by one of more of the above (especially the “childfree” part). Some of them act like I somehow cheated at life; they actually seem offended that I’m doing things not the way I “should,” according to them. And really the only way I’ve found to deal with that is to keep interaction as relevant to whatever task or occasion is needed or happening, minimize personal chitchat, and not take the bait or be drawn into a discussion.

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              My parents refer to this as “what you’re supposed to do.”

              “We did everything you are SUPPOSED TO DO” as if, say, getting married, having kids, and moving to the suburbs is the same as, say, building up your emergency savings fund, changing the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year, and getting the oil in your car changed at the recommended interval.

              They get very grumpy with people who chose differently, because that is not what you are “supposed to do.”

              1. Not A Girl Boss*

                I’m so lucky I had the opposite in parents.

                My mom had a cartoon hanging in her office. Its a herd of buffalo stampeding, and one buffalo is looking up ‘at the camera’ and has a thought bubble “as if we all know where we’re going.”

                She has used that cartoon many times over the years to encourage me to do what was right for me even if it isn’t “what you’re supposed to do.” When she let me drop out of high school on my 16th birthday (to go to college early), she had it printed as my birthday card.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  I had two aunts who never married or had kids, but who had fulfilling lives. So I grew up knowing that there were options, and I’ve been grateful for that since I got old enough to understand it.

                2. Liz*

                  My parents, and now my mom are the same. THANKFULLY. I was never pressured to get married or have kids. my mom just always says she wants me to be happy. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that she and my dad got married later in life, for the time, and had me later in life, again, for the time. Most of their friends got married right out of HS, in college, or righ after, and started having kids soon after. My mom was 26 when she got married and almost 31 when she had me.

                  But i’ve been told by others that I MUST get married and i MUST have kids, blah blah blah, as if i would be a complete failure if I didn’t. I’m 50ish, never married, and never had kids, and guess what! I’m pretty darn happy with my life as it is!

            2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              I’ve also experienced people being offended in that way, but also I experience people who act like they are pitying me, even though I am not unhappy with my life. It’s very odd to feel pitied about something I am content with.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                I’ve had that, too (though rarely). At that point, I kind of figure it says more about them than about me, and as long as they’re not being obnoxious about it, I just get on with life.

              2. Not A Girl Boss*

                I think that’s the part that really grates on me – that they just assume that they know best for me, the person who doesn’t even have enough room in her cold Grinch heart to realize she’s missing something.
                I once had a hair stylist spend an entire appointment telling me that the “problem” must be that I don’t love my husband enough (or maybe he’s not loving enough), because once I find a man who makes me feel truly loved and supported, I’ll feel “free” to chase my deep dark desire of motherhood.

                Worse, the pity often comes with a side of wondering how they could even be friends with such a selfish cold humanoid. Like, apparently you can’t possibly be a decent human being unless you’re willing to give up the life you want “for the children.”

              3. Susana*

                Yeah, the pity – or the utter disbelief. I’ve had the backhanded “compliment” given to me of, oh you’re so smart, attractive, yadayada. Why aren’t you married? As if it’s something all women desperately want and it’s baffling to them no one’s picked me in the field and put me in a vase (I don’t want to be in a vase!).

                So I just say, eh – I really don’t want to have to stop sleeping around. Shuts them up.

              4. allathian*

                Yeah, and this doesn’t even stop with one kid. Ideally you should have a girl and a boy, and if you don’t, people start pitying you. Or if you have more than two kids. If you have four or more, people will think you’re a member of a religion that bans birth control or something.

                My son’s an only child, mainly because I was 37 when he was born and I decided that I didn’t want to deal with another pregnancy and babyhood at that age. I love being a parent, but parenthood is definitely not always a bed of roses. Children have the right to be born into loving homes, so I have nothing but respect for people who decide that parenthood is not for them and live accordingly. My heart out goes to the kids who are born into families where the parents didn’t really want kids in the first place but had them because that’s what you’re expected to do.

                My sister’s CFBC and she said that hitting 40 was the best thing that happened to her in her adult life, because people finally stopped pestering her about kids.

              5. Liz*

                I’ve also experienced the “pity”. At one of my college reunions, a classmate, who had a career but also has kids and absolutely loves being a mom, asked how many kids I had. When I said none she said “ohhhh” in kind of a sad voice, like it was a HORRIBLE thing. Um yeah no. not really.

              6. Librarian1*

                lol, when I was 23 a coworker at a job I had somewhat recently started asked if I was in a relationship and when I said no he said “i’m sorry.” and I was like WTF?? The last thing I wanted at that age was to be tied down in a relationship, so I didn’t even feel sorry for myself. And even if I did, him pitying me would have made me feel awful.
                AND he was around my age, maybe 2 years older?, so it was even weirder, since so many people that age aren’t in serious relationships.

            3. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

              are you me? We encounter the “mind blown” thing somewhat often because my husband has a two-seat convertible and people are always like “where are you going to put the kids?” or “will you be sad when you have to trade that for a minivan” and we’re like – no, because no kids means convertible all the time.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                We drive a thoroughly boring compact sedan, because that’s what we like (my dad’s a mechanic, so reliability is big for me when choosing a vehicle). But I will admit that the “mind blown” thing can be kind of entertaining. (Also described as “the sound of a paradigm attempting to shift without a clutch.”) I consider it a bit of a public service, really…getting people to think about things in a different way, even a small way, is something I consider to be a good thing.

              2. Aerin*

                And then they try to make me feel like I’m selfish for wanting to have an enjoyable life. As if most of the reasons people give for having children (companionship, someone to love and/or who will love you, someone to take care of you when you’re older, someone to carry on a legacy, etc.) aren’t equally selfish. And I mean, those are all perfectly fine things to want! But they aren’t somehow better or purer than the reasons not to have a kid.

                1. miss chevious*

                  I had a very nosy work busybody ask me when I was having kids and, when I told her I was CFBC, asked “aren’t you afraid of dying alone!?” I responded back in my most somber voice “…we all die alone…” and walked away. She never asked me about kids again. :)

                  (Also, seriously, when my mother was in hospice care, I saw plenty of older people who had kids who only came to see them on Mother’s Day and Christmas. Having kids is no guarantee that you won’t die alone.)

                2. Lavender Menace*

                  When people call me selfish for not wanting kids I usually point this out to them directly after. They are never pleased with it, but they don’t have an answer to it and their annoyance amuses me.

                3. allathian*

                  Run out of nesting so this is @miss chievous:
                  People who are CFBC are often more content in their old age. Seniors in elder care facilities who have kids who according to them don’t visit often enough (whether visits happen literally never or once a week), are the least happy.

                4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  It’s the parents who are selfish! After all you chose to have kids.
                  Giving stuff up for your kids is not selfless, it’s normal, because it’s then your duty to give them the best possible life.
                  People who wipe the bottoms of senior citizens for a pittance get far more of my respect than parents in terms of selflessness. (I’m a parent myself so I get to say this and not get any flak)

            4. Amethystmoon*

              This is why I don’t talk to people who aren’t close friends about my life choices. 45, haven’t met the right person, and probably am not going to. But I am also not going to have kids without a spouse to help.

            5. Moo*

              I have found the line “oh I like children, but I couldn’t eat a whole one!” to be quite effective. the nonsense joke seems to disrupt the line of enquiry, with the subtext that I am not going to take your interrogating me on children seriously. Also hahahaha we’re all laughing *subject change*

              In a more casual setting, I generally just tell them how late I slept in on at the weekend!

        2. Batty Twerp*

          I dont think I’ve ever seen this put so well and so accurately.

          To elaborate, this doesn’t just apply to children, but to EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE.
          Are you married, or not?
          Do you have children, or not?
          Do you own a house, or rent a flat (or insert option C)
          Do you have a job in one of the many “conventional” industries?

          It’s the next level of thinking beyond establishing that you are part of My Tribe. Since you ARE part of My Tribe, I need to make sure you are conforming properly.
          We humans are a complex and messed up species.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            It’s not just are you “supposed to” do something, but HOW you do it. I once worked in an office where our boss had a baby and then a coworker got pregnant, and another coworker’s daughter had a child. It was baby, baby, baby, constantly. At the time, I didn’t mind so much since I was still hoping to meet someone and have a family, until one day.

            The coworker brought her baby in and was passing her around (as you do). I held the baby and then hung around for the discussion, which shifted to a mom’s reaction to her child’s first day of school. I said that when my ex’s little girl had her first day of kindergarten, I was hoping she’d love it so she wouldn’t end up with a hatred of school, and that I was nervous all day until we heard from her mom about how her day went.

            Those women turned on me in a flash. “That doesn’t count because she wasn’t YOUR kid. You can’t POSSIBLY unless she’s YOURS.” Because I didn’t shoot that kid out of my vagina, it made no difference that I cared about her. Inside of a minute, they invalidated every adoptive parent and every stepparent or guardian.

            That f*cking hurt. I stopped talking, and as soon as their attention shifted, I got up and went back to my cube. To this day, I avoid lengthy discussions about kids in the office. I just don’t want to hear that again. But if I ever do, you’d better believe I won’t stay silent this time.

            1. juneybug*

              Whooo, that sucks!! I mean they all suck!! Sorry that you had to go through that nastiness.

            2. tangerineRose*

              Those women should have said something like what an empathetic person you are, but it sounds like they have no empathy at all.

            3. Batty Twerp*

              Oof. I guess you weren’t “conforming” to the tribe properly.
              I’m sorry you were put through that. Those are horrible people.

            4. Akcipitrokulo*


              That’s horrible. I’ve got 3 kids. One of them has two mums, me, and my partner’s ex. Anyone tries to tell me she’s not my kid because mum no 1 gave birth to her would get the sharp edge of my tongue.

              (We all also are on same team… not so relevant now that she’s an adult, but that helped a lot.)

            5. Greta*

              By that logic, women should never be teachers, child psychiatrists, child therapists, or child social workers; because all of those jobs require caring about children who aren’t their own.

            6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I have my own kids who I love, and a good half-dozen others that I’m an earth mother to, who I also love and care for and would do anything for within my capabilities. I don’t love them the same as my own, but even my own I don’t love exactly the same, because they are all different.

              I run parenting workshops, and a grandmother present once said that you’re not a “real woman” if you don’t have the experience of birthing breastfeeding mothering. As I gulped and wondered if anyone present might be hurt by such a statement and what to say, another mother (who was training to run these workshops) very calmly said “you’re going to have to retract that statement, because I was adopted. My mother did not birth me or breastfeed me, I’m not letting you say that she is not a real woman”. Phew!

              Mothering is a very intense experience, and it changes you forever. While I would have been intensely disappointed not to have had that experience, I think it’s very important to have made the deliberate choice to go through with it.
              So, all those here who are child free by choice, please stick to your guns! There are far too many people in this world who were deprived of parental love as children, and they’re the ones who turn into jerks in later life. Only those who truly want and love kids should ever have them.

          2. Former Conservative*

            I completely agree that this applies to things outside of children and marriage. You mentioned buying a home vs renting. Then there is also the type of house you bought (size, # of bedrooms) vs a condo/townhome. At a previous job, a coworker with a 5 BR house was getting on another coworker who bought a 3BR house in the same month. How much land does the house have? Where is it located? And so on, the interrogatino continues. It also extends to vehicles in a similar fashion–I used to work for an automaker and it was ok only as long as you drove a vehicle manufactured by that automaker.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Ooohh, if that’s the case, then Anna’s just getting started. Soon she’ll start carrying on about the perfect delivery, then it’ll be breastfeeding vs not, then the early-development classes, the proper number of siblings to have and at what age differences, the school district to live in, the after-school programs, the honors classes, the sports… She will not shut up until her kids are teenagers who share nothing with her ever, and so she’ll finally have nothing to talk about. I guess this all means that Anna’s behavior towards OP has to be nipped in the bud right now. Kill it before it lays eggs, OP (it, of course, being the behavior). Best of luck!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I guarantee she will be fanatically pro-breastfeeding, unless it turns out she can’t, in which case she will be fanatically anti-.

        2. AKchic*

          Depending on the “type” she is, once the teen/young adult offspring stop sharing with her, she will either make things up, extrapolate from what she can find on social media, or blithely assure everyone that kid is doing “fantastic” because she hasn’t heard otherwise (and continue to harass other family members for details).
          I give you my grandmother, my MIL and my mother; respectively.

        3. Ant*

          I agree. I would actually approach it in a kind and thoughtful way even though the other two haven’t. I would have the three of you go out for coffee or lunch and sit down and you calmly say that you understand they are going through a really exciting phase but you are not fully interested and while this is their life it is not yours. You might have kids in the future but for now the baby talk is a bit much and it would be great if all of you could focus on common ground sometimes, but you appreciate this is huge in their life but you have other focuses.
          After that if they still carry in I’d request a change to work somewhere else or just wait until they leave on maternity leave then you will get some peace and quiet.

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I don’t like the implication that parents are all miserable. I think some of the comments amount to doing exactly what you are accusing others of – running down other people to make yourself feel better.

        I believe people when they tell me they don’t want kids. They are them, and I am me. Some of my best friends just – never wanted kids. It wasn’t for them. They knew that from a very young age. Fair enough. They have amazing, rich, happy lives, and I know that they are not missing anything.

        But if you are a person who thinks kids are a joy (well, mostly), you have to use your empathy to understand that they are happy too. It’s like people who *love* chocolate – they will hopefully believe you if you say you can’t stand it, but there is a part of them that will be sad that you are missing out forever on molten lava cake. Somebody who is the only baseball fan at work might chew your ear about the World Series, because it’s interesting to them, and they want to share a big part of their lives.

        I think it’s incorrect and unkind to say that most parents hate their kids and hate their lives and want you to be miserable too to disguise the fact that they are sad, gross, old breeders. Sometimes, people just want to share what they like.

        1. Kella*

          All of the criticism I’ve seen thus far on the thread you commented on is not of parents in general, but specifically parents who are critical, defensive, or hostile in response to hearing someone say they don’t want kids.

          Of course if something is a huge part of your life, it requires some empathy to imagine someone not wanting that, but that doesn’t mean your default reaction is to attack, criticize, and scrutinize them or violate their stated boundaries about not wanting to discuss their reproductive plans, which are the patterns people are talking about here. It sounds like you’re assuming that this is just parents who are kinda pushy and feel sorry for child free people, as opposed to people who are actively hostile toward someone else’s decision about their own life.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Obviously what you are saying is correct – and I probably was not clear enough that I think it is awful to run people down about their choices about their family. Regardless of what those choices are.

            But I’ve noticed that whenever this comes up – and not just in this forum – there are a lot of people who use it as an excuse to vent some pretty gross misogyny about mothers. It very quickly degenerates from “this behavior that some women engage in is hurtful and awful” to a more polite gloss on “they do it because they are squishy, brainless cows who only know how to squeeze out babies.” There is often no distinction made between “my coworker asks all the time when I’m going to have kids” (awful) and “my coworker talks about her kids all the time” (normal).

            It just sucks to always, always see these pile-ons on the internet. I’ve read so many of them over the years. Any discussion of downsides of child-rearing or parents behaving badly, and the lid comes off. And it’s hard to see how many people think that any mother is some kind of used-up, bitter, moronic old brood sow who needs to be stoned to death in the town square.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              Here’s how this childfree person sees it.

              Things I’m delighted to hear about regarding your kids:

              Milestones like learning to walk, talk, and so on.
              Concerns about whether to get him/her/them tested for various learning difficulties and so on.
              Cute things they do or say (that don’t involve body fluids).
              Show me pictures of that cute outfit Grandma/Aunt Whoever got them for Christmas/Easter, or with your pets.
              Ask me about things I got for my nephews.

              Things I do not want to hear about:

              Anything involving body fluids in any detail beyond “poor little Sally was so sick last night.” Including the contents of anyone’s diaper.

              And please let’s talk about something other than your kids sometimes!

              As long as you don’t try to shame me for being childfree, I’m happy to hear some about your kids, because they’re important to you and I don’t mind kids in general (I just want them to belong to someone else).

              1. Arvolin*

                I have a relative who would talk about gross things, possibly to annoy me. All it took was one mention of diapers and things that can go wrong, and relative never talked to me about gross stuff again.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  LOL! I don’t talk about stuff I know people find gross, unless I know it’s ok with the other person or it’s something like a medical situation.

            2. Ominous Adversary*

              You understand these are the same people? It’s the same lack of empathy, the same need to believe that my choices are not merely preferences but are objectively correct – and, of course, superior. It’s the same gross misogyny about what women ‘should’ want and what a choice about parenthood says about them.

              1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

                That is a very fair point. I will add, though, that my personal experience was that the misogyny, general condescension, and boundary violations I experienced as a mother were different than those I experienced as a working adult woman without children. (Yeah, many of us have been both and can compare. We did not pop out of the womb already pregnant.) From what I understand, I will get to enjoy whole new flavors of misogyny and condescension once I’ve passed menopause. It’s a **** rainbow. Hooray.

                I would like people just to check themselves and ask if their mean-spirited criticisms of “parents” are just thinly veiled criticisms of women. Some people seem to think that discussing parents in the workplace is a no-rules zone where misogyny is acceptable, and they can run riot with their disgust about women’s bodies/brains/sexuality/choices/economic value/overall worth.

                1. Ominous Adversary*

                  It’s a safe way for women who are frustrated with sexism to safely vent that by attacking other women. I can’t do anything about my boss being a sexist, but I can criticize Debbie in Accounting for taking maternity leave, and blame her for fueling my boss’s views that women are not reliable employees; that’s a lot easier than trying to take my boss to task.

                  And it’s also a safe way to step on other women and be the Chill Girl who can work hard and play hard just like the guys.

            3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              Well, as for my comment, first I want to say that I do not find this attitude of women pushing parenthood on other women to be some constant thing. It happens enough to be frustrating, but I am not accosted by mothers regularly implying that I am unhappy. And I am not suggesting that those who do it are unhappy in their lives and with their decisions overall. But I know a couple people who tend to roll out the behavior at times when they are experiencing difficulties and stress (something that happens in every life, with or without children). That said, I have never assumed women who choose to have children are mindless or that they regret their choices. My parent friends adore their children, and I love their kids as well!

              You are absolutely right to call out that it is no more acceptable to judge women for wanting children and assume they are all miserable and jealous than it is to do so to childfree women. I have more friends who are mothers than I have single childless friends. I just get frustrated when there is an attitude that either I am pitiable for being single and childless, or that I don’t deserve to have my time, comfort, priorities respected because I am single and childless.

              1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

                Yeah – it’s an overall rotten attitude. It’s like, if you don’t have kids, you’re an unnatural woman and not being used for your intended purpose. If you have kids, you’re used up and have nothing else to offer. The focus is always on reproduction.

                Be patient, though, with your nice friends who don’t have as much time right now. They currently come with additional humans who they love and value as much as they love and value you, but who, unlike you, will literally die if left by themselves. Before you know it, the kids will be old enough to be dropped off at the mall for the afternoon, and you’ll have your friends back. It goes by really quickly!

              2. pandop*

                It’s not a constant thing in the sense you could expect it from any mother, however if you have the misfortune to encounter one (or in this case two), then they do seem to be able to keep it up constantly

            4. Black Horse Dancing*

              If your co worker talks about her kids all the time, that is wrong and shouldn’t be accepted any more than CHris who talks excessantly about football. I adore my pets and my spouse and would talk animals, fantasy novels, and DnD and other RPGs forever but I don’t.

            5. Lavender Menace*

              …I would actually say it is not normal for coworkers to talk about their kids “all the time.”

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            All of the criticism I’ve seen thus far on the thread you commented on is not of parents in general, but specifically parents who are critical, defensive, or hostile in response to hearing someone say they don’t want kids.

            Yes, this distinction matters.

          3. Susana*

            Right. Also, if people with kids get to feel sorry for me, good-intentionedly, why don’t I get to feel sorry for them for being saddled with kids – with the same good intentions?

            It’s like – all the people who ask me why I wasn’t married, had I met anyone recently, etc. And would say, “I just want you to be happy.” No they don’t – they want me to validate their life choices. I want them to be happy, too, but I’m nit expecting them to get divorced and give away their kids to get happy.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          My best friend is like this. She is happily married and childless. She loves playing the cool aunt, and is my older kid’s godmother. (She also was my best person in my wedding, but that is another story.) I would never occur to me to doubt that she knows her own mind.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Haha – I love this. I have some childless friends who are THE COOL AUNT and THE COOL UNCLE. The “who wants ice cream!?” friends. They think the kids are rollicking good fun, in small doses.

            I have other good friends who are real nervous and awkward around the kids. It’s really funny – like they are trapped in a room with a nippy chihuahua, and they are scared it’s going to jump on them. :) I’m told that once the kids are teens, that kind of person becomes the favorite aunt/uncle. Nobody’s good with every age, but most people are good with some.

            1. Autumnheart*

              I’m CFBC and THE COOL AUNT to the kids of some good friends of mine. Of course these kids are exceptional and hilarious, and behave much better for me than they do for their own parents, so it works out nicely. I fully acknowledge and like to rub in the fact that I don’t have to deal with it when they’re not behaving. (As part of a running joke between all of us.)

        3. Lizzo*

          It’s not incorrect or unkind to point out that there are social expectations–especially for women–that define motherhood as “the ultimate goal” and “the most rewarding job ever” and “a thing you have to do”. And it is also not incorrect or unkind to point out that there are many women who focus on these expectations because they’re “THE path to happiness and success”, only to find out that they aren’t happy being a parent.

          Also, the situation here isn’t simply a coworker being excited about something that others don’t give a hoot about. Anna is actively harassing the OP about OP’s very personal and private choices that have nothing to do with work.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            This. Anna is being incredibly rude and harassing to the OP. I’m not seeing anyone saying that “parents, or mothers, always do this.” More “Yes, this is as bad as you think it is, OP, and here are some of my experiences.” Instead of thinking about people “piling on” mothers, which I don’t see happening here, maybe spend a little time considering why this is so common and so frustrating and sometimes painful for those of us who aren’t?

            Not that misogyny directed at mothers isn’t bad, because it absolutely is. But it does feel a little derailing when it hasn’t been happening.

            1. Delila*

              I think it’s the assumption as stated above that 99% of the people they hear from regret their own choices to be parents because they never knew there was an alternative. That’s kind of a dig like, well if they even KNEW that being childfree was better, they wouldn’t have been parents in the first place.

              That rubs people the wrong way so I can see where this commentator is coming from.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                I think it’s worth noting, though, that this is the people from whom we hear the pressure and the condescending comments. Which is definitely not every parent, probably not even most. It’s just that the ones who do this can be pretty obnoxious about it.

                I know quite a few parents who, on hearing of my childfree stance, have responded with things like “cool – it’s not for everyone,” or similar. They respect my choice, I respect theirs, and it’s fine.

                But the people who seem to take my being childfree as some kind of personal attack…I think it’s natural to wonder why. And I don’t think it’s so strange to wonder how happy they are with their own choices if they’re so invested in pressuring me about mine.

                That said, I’m well aware of a bunch of different things parents, especially mothers, get attacked for (probably by the same type of busybody). Breast vs. bottle, work outside the home vs. stay at home, what kind of daycare, what kind of food, how to discipline, the list is endless and yes, a lot of it is misogyny. And it sucks.

              2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                Oh, I don’t think most people with kids or even most of those who push parenting on others do so because they are unhappy with their choice to be parents. The reaction I described above about a “happiness list” is not my experience with most adults who are parents. Just enough to be frustrating on occasion. And my experience is usually not one of hostility, more one where they seem to pity me. It’s just uncomfortable because I do not pity me! I am happy with my life and choices. And I do not pity them! Why would I?

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  And just enough to give me a moment of “oh, boy, what’s the reaction going to be?” when someone asks and I say that I don’t have kids. There is that moment of tensing up when I wonder if I’m about to have a conversation I would really rather not have…again.

        4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I see your point, but I think the implication was more that the ones who feel the need to bug others about it are the unhappy ones. The happy ones are content to let you be content. I have someone close to me who gets on this type of behavior when she is stressed and unhappy, but when her stress reduces, she is more accepting.

        5. Susana*

          I don’t think people here are saying married-with-kids hate their lives. But I also don’t think the MWKs are expected to *defend* their voices, like unmarried, childless people are.

          I will say one thing that annoys me to no end – and which is why some of my friendships have waned – are the married-with-kids women I hang out with at dinner parties, and they sit in the kitchen together (and with me), complaining about how ungrateful their kids are, how their husbands don’t do any housework even though they (the wives) work outside the home, how they never have sex anymore. Etc. And when they’re done, they turn their attention to poor, unmarried me and ask pityingly if I’m seeing someone, if I’m sorry I didn’t marry so-and-so I broke up with so at least I’d have kids. Even now, I have a life partner who’s kinder to me than I deserve (really!) they act like I’ve been cheated since we have no plans to marry.. since of course, it could only be that I wan to, and he doesn’t! (actually, neither of us does…)

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Okay- not my place – but I’m sorry your friends said that to you. I don’t know everything about your relationship or the circumstances, but that’s not okay, and you are not wrong to be hurt by it.

            For the rest – trust me, parents are always expected to defend their choices. It is vicious and unrelenting. Why are you working/not working? Why are the kids sent to private school/public school/home school? Why are you breastfeeding/bottle feeding? Why did you get an epidural/not get an epidural/have a c-section/go to the hospital/go to the birthing center/have a home-birth/get a doula/not get a doula? Why do you ignore the kids/helicopter the kids? Why did you wait so long/have them so young? Why did you have kids when you can’t afford to be a stay-at-home parent/when you are single/when you are gay?

            And parents are allowed to complain! There is a difference between a life well lived and the life of a psychotically, permanently grinning cultist – which is kind of the accusation leveled against us anyhow.

            You know what else? You are allowed to complain too! And I promise I won’t say your life is a failure if you do. It’s rough out there. People need to be a lot nicer to each other.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              So true. I’ve even seen women who had c-sections recounting being told they weren’t “really” mothers because they hadn’t delivered the baby vaginally. Honestly, as long as you came by the kid legally, and are raising him/her, to me you’re a parent. I really don’t understand the drive some people have to be “better” than other parents.

              I can only assume part of it is fear driven, that they think that if they make the “perfect” choices in everything, their child won’t turn out badly.

              1. 'Tis Me*

                Kiddy number 3 decided to wriggle out of a head down position and try to come out sideways, elbow first. Extended emergency C section… He is just as much my child as the one pulled out of me with salad tongs and the one who slithered out on the picotine drip are. And if a C section weren’t an option we’d be dead now so, while I would have preferred to avoid emergency abdominal surgery and had in fact spent 4 or 5 hours labouring in the birthing pool before that, and my stomach is still tender almost 6 months on, I am pretty confident that it was the right choice.

            2. Former Conservative*

              >For the rest – trust me, parents are always expected to defend their choices. It is vicious and unrelenting. Why are you working/not working? Why are the kids sent to private school/public school/home school? Why are you breastfeeding/bottle feeding? Why did you get an epidural/not get an epidural/have a c-section/go to the hospital/go to the birthing center/have a home-birth/get a doula/not get a doula? Why do you ignore the kids/helicopter the kids? Why did you wait so long/have them so young? Why did you have kids when you can’t afford to be a stay-at-home parent/when you are single/when you are gay?

              You don’t have to defend the choice to have children. Which was Susana’s point.

            3. Former Conservative*

              >For the rest – trust me, parents are always expected to defend their choices. It is vicious and unrelenting. Why are you working/not working? Why are the kids sent to private school/public school/home school? Why are you breastfeeding/bottle feeding? Why did you get an epidural/not get an epidural/have a c-section/go to the hospital/go to the birthing center/have a home-birth/get a doula/not get a doula? Why do you ignore the kids/helicopter the kids? Why did you wait so long/have them so young? Why did you have kids when you can’t afford to be a stay-at-home parent/when you are single/when you are gay?

              You don’t have to defend the choice to have children. Which was Susana’s point.

              You have to defend parenting choices to other parents. You do not have to defend the choice to have children to childfree people. That’s the difference.

          2. allathian*

            Ouch! In your situation, I would probably burn all of my bridges by saying something like “I have absolutely zero interest in joining you in your miserable lives”.

        6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I had children by choice and congratulate people when they say they’ve chosen not to have any.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Or their own for that matter.

      Seriously though… I feel for the OP and others in the same situation because this is so common. The best way to shut this down is to be blunt… “I’m happy you are obviously happy with your future sprout. You are very excited and that’s great. But I’m so not discussing the will I or won’t I question of children at the office or with coworkers, next topic please”

      Most people get it the first time… others it will take a few times to get the point across.

      1. itsame*

        If they don’t get it the first time you can follow up with “I said I didn’t want to talk about this subject. You’re being rude and intrusive, and you need to stop.”

        1. Dittany*

          Failing that:

          “It’s fascinating how you believe that this is a debate.”

          Then stare at her unblinkingly with your flattest expression. People tend to go away VERY quickly after that.

          1. Eukomos*

            Sarcasm is enjoyable while you say it, but it’s not wildly professional, and gives people who behave inappropriately like Anna an excuse to say you’re the one acting out of stop. “I’ve asked you to stop this, please respect that” is going to set you up way better for any future encounters than snarky Hot Topic t-shirt lines.

            1. Alexander Graham Yell*

              Exactly. And just a minor wording change to “I’m really not certain why you think this is up for debate,” can make your point without leaning so heavily on sarcasm that you can be cast as the bad guy.

          2. Greta*

            Or just say, “I don’t want kids because I’m afraid they’d turn out like you!”

            (Don’t really say this.)

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Repeat as necessary, using the exact same words and intonation. Eventually even the slowest figure out this is all they are going to get.

    2. charo*

      This sounds really stressful and it’s tempting to suggest going to HR, w/evidence. If she’s standing at your desk doing this, you could video her secretly.

      But remember that they both have a “deadline” they’ll be meeting in a few months and then maybe they’ll be on leave. It’ll be “baby” talk after that, of course, if they’re coming back, but maybe they’ll be more low-energy after no sleep.

      1. ValaMalDoran*

        Do not secretly video anyone without being sure of your state surveillance/wiretapping laws. This would be illegal in my state.

        1. Colette*

          And I’m not sure why you’d go to HR without speaking up and clearly asking her to stop first, but if you did, a video isn’t going to help.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Yeah, the HR already said “you need to put on your big girl pants and at least try to handle this yourself,” so they’re not gonna be interested in hearing more on the subject.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Ha! I should have scrolled down for your comment to agree before posting this exact thing above. That’s exactly what it is.

        I had a manager who was always questioning my choice to not have kids (and honestly, I’d only have them if I was married to someone wealthy who could afford to hire me a full time nanny because I have no desire to change diapers, listen to endless crying, and all the other unpleasant mess that comes with dealing with actual babies). That same manager would try to tell me that she was exactly like me when she was my age (mid 20s) and look at her now – she’s married (which she said she’d never do) with three kids, and everything is GREAT!

        Then she’d turn around and complain about how those same kids kept tearing up her house, not listening to anything she said, and how her husband never helped her do a single thing with their children. I would just reiterate that she and I are not the same while simultaneously thinking, “Yeah, I don’t think this is the endorsement you think it is. Your life sounds dreadful.”

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          Honestly, Anna asking OP if she wants to know what it is like to be pregnant after all the TMI body talk feels like that manager – you’re not exactly making it sound appealing, you know.

        2. allathian*

          I would have been so tempted to say that out loud, boss or no boss. Just because she’s your boss doesn’t give her the right to trample all over your boundaries.

        3. Former Conservative*

          >That same manager would try to tell me that she was exactly like me when she was my age (mid 20s) and look at her now – she’s married (which she said she’d never do) with three kids, and everything is GREAT!

          I especially like hearing this when I’m almost 40 and people think I’m 27.

      2. LunaLena*

        This reminds me of Jim Gaffigan’s comparison of parenting to cults (as defined by the American Family Foundation). He wrote a whole list of things, but in particular:
        “- Group members (parents) are preoccupied with bringing in new members (more babies).”

      3. Anonymous at a University*

        Yep. I have relatives who have badgered and badgered me to have kids, and aside from the fact that one of their justifications doesn’t apply to me at all (I’m not Christian, I don’t care if your God will be “angry” that I am not continuously pregnant), there’s only two relatives with small children who don’t complain endlessly about them and talk about how being a parent is hard and they wish they could just take a nap or go on vacation by themselves or something. Not coincidentally, those two relatives are the only ones with small kids I’m really close to.

    3. charo*

      The fact that you’re SINGLE and she still goes on and on about this is the craziest part.
      It’s crazy talk to stand at your desk and lecture you about going out and meeting someone to be with and have a baby with!
      That for sure makes it an HR issue to me — it’s harassment of a single person.
      Just as if you were single and pregnant and someone harassed you that you SHOULDN’T be pregnant and single would be inappropriate.
      Collect all the evidence you can, she’s sloppy so there is some. If she gets some pressure from HR it might encourage her to not come back from her baby leave. It happens.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I was wondering if badgering a coworker to date and get pregnant, and speculating about their fertility, falls into the sexual harassment category. I would think it would, but don’t know for certain.

        1. Ellen N.*

          That’s exactly what I was thinking while reading this post. I would assume that talking about intimate bodily functions and prying into coworker’s dating lives is legally considered sexual harassment?

        2. Alli525*

          I think so too, and this was my first thought when reading the query. I was surprised that Alison didn’t mention that – it’s sex-based discrimination.

          1. Ellen N.*

            I agree. I was surprised by much of Alison’s answer

            I was surprised that Alison supported the poster’s manager in telling the poster to sort it out with the offenders herself. I don’t think that people who are being harassed should have to “handle it yourself first”.

            I was surprised that Alison told the poster that she would have to tolerate the discussion of bodily functions, comparing it to coworkers who talk endlessly about diet or sports. I believe that people discussing their intimate bodily functions can be viewed as sexual harassment.

            1. Anon for this*

              Of course the first step is to tell the co-worker to cut it out. The O.P. hasn’t done that yet. Alison said to do that first and then go back to the manager if it doesn’t work. Someone talking about her pregnancy is not sexual harassment.

      2. Gymmie*

        And if the OP was trying to find a partner, it’s not like she can snap her fingers and voila! perfect guy and they can get married right away and start having babies which no one in the world has ever had trouble with as long as they relax and want it enough.

        1. tabby cat troubles*

          This is what always drives me nuts. In my early 20s several family members told me I needed to “get married and have children” when I was still extremely single. I remember thinking like – “oh, do I go to the husband store and pick one out? do I visit the Boyfriend Tree?” Like there’s an element of relationships that are truly out of one’s control and I felt like some people treat getting married as just this chore to do ASAP, completely not acknowledging that you have to first meet someone you like, hope they like you back, hope you can make a relationship work, hope they want to commit. Like there’s more to getting married than just saying “okay I will get married today.”

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. I never wanted to be a parent until I met my husband. I was single for most of my twenties and early thirties, and if I had met my husband at a younger age, we probably would have more than one child. Until I met him, I was basically indifferent about having children of my own, the one thing I did know was that I didn’t want to be a single mom. But, you know, life is as it is. Luckily I didn’t get much grief about being single, definitely not at work. With nosy relatives, I was able to shut it down quite quickly and because most of my contacts with my relatives went through my mom, who is the oldest sibling is the family matriarch, I just quit engaging with the most annoying relatives. I could deal with seeing them once a year or less. Now that I’m older and it’s up to me to keep in touch with them or not, we just don’t. With most of my aunts, uncles and cousins, we exchange Christmas cards if that.

            1. Greta*

              I had the opposite experience. I always assumed that I would have kids if I ever got married, and would even spend time thinking about what I would name them, etc. But as soon as I started dating my husband, I realized that I was okay with not having kids. It turned out that what I thought was a desire for children was really just a desire not to be alone, and my husband fulfilled that desire for me.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I was always meh about young kids in general and having my own. Then I met my husband and was like “I adore this man! I want to have kids that are like him! I want him to raise those kids with me!” So we had two 2.5 years apart and wanted to go for a third soon after. Not having any experience or any extended family nearby to ask for advice, we were both pretty awful at parenting at the beginning. Then I got way way better and started really enjoying parenting and learning more as I went, and he… kind of checked out of the whole being a parent thing? My intentions were good, I promise. I probably kind of rushed him into the two kids, for which I feel bad. At least we had the common sense to abandon the idea of a third.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Whaaat? They didn’t try to set you up? I started dating my future (ex-)husband a few months short of my 21st birthday, and married him at 24, but in my home country, the pressure goes on when you turn 20, so I got an offer or two from well-meaning relatives. Even my late great-aunt, who was, for too many reasons to list here, the coolest person in my family by far, and whose approach to wanting kids when she was 35 and single was to book a vacation at a resort, meet a good-looking executive there, have a fling, get pregnant, have a son who went on to be a talented and successful musician, and never contact the exec again (like I said, coolest person in my family), came to the 20-year-old me with an offer to set me up with a “nice Jewish boy, 35, lives with his mom”. (The 20-year-old me was properly horrified.)

            And I am pretty certain that some people do get married and have kids to hit a milestone before the deadline, not because they met the person they want to marry and have kids with more than anything in the world. Probably a lot more people did this back in my (X) and my parents’ generations than they do now.

    4. kittymommy*

      Seriously. I’m in my 40’s and happily child-free and the amount of people who have deemed it necessary to talk about my reproductive choices (…are you sure…motherhood is the greatest joy you’ll ever have…you’ll regret it…you’ll never know real love…) is insane. I used to work with firefighters a lot and they all were astonished I didn’t want kids; after quite a few of these conversations I finally just told them that they were absolutely right, it is a tragedy my uterus is going unused so if they could find me a good buyer on the black market I’ll just pop this sucker out and send it to them.

      1. LunaLena*

        Haha, great response! I’ll have to remember that for the next time someone says something like that to me. I’ve heard all the same things as you, but the most memorable one was when an online friend, whom I’ve never met in real life, argued that “having a child is the most selfless thing a woman can do.” So what, I’m supposed to have a kid to prove to some rando on the Internet that I’m selfless?

          1. LunaLena*

            Oh, it was a hypothetical conversation. I used to be part of a small but close-knit online community and the subject of kids came up, and I and two other women mentioned how we don’t want kids for [reasons]. For some reason this other person was hellbent on changing our minds, and came up with this and many other preposterous arguments to try and do so.

          1. LunaLena*

            Funny thing, that was that person’s response after I said one reason I don’t want kids is because I’m selfish and I know it, and I’m perfectly fine with it.

            1. LunaLena*

              To clarify: I said I’m selfish and therefore I don’t want kids, and they responded with having kids being a selfless thing to do.

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                Having kids to be selfless is too high a risk of kids knowing they were/are a burden. Even without any more obvious abuse.

              2. Autumnheart*

                Having kids is entirely selfish. Kids consume an incredible amount of resources, but even besides that, how many people have kids because they always wanted kids? Tons? So they’re doing exactly what they wanted to do? That’s not selfless by any definition. If people feel like they’re having kids FOR me, they can stop doing that, thanks.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Having children should be a selfish thing!

          I had kids because I wanted them. Not to be selfless, not to fulfil a role, not because I was expected to, but because I wanted them. My partner felt the same.

          Possibly the most selfish thing we ever did together.

          And that is GOOD.

          If someone wants kids – awesome. If they don’t – also awesome.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Right? I’m 50 and have no regrets about not having kids. But even if I did, occasionally, I’d way rather regret not having them than regret having them!

      2. Blackcat*

        I love my child fiercely, but sometimes motherhood sucks, and honestly the greatest time of joy in my life were the months I spent somewhat aimlessly traveling alone in South America. Which… one cannot do with a child.
        I do not regret having a kid, but the “greatest joy you’ll never have” is just… not true! Even for many parents!

      3. Anon4Pregnancy*

        So I posted in the open thread a week and half ago about not wanting to tell my boss about my pregnancy loss (she did not know I was pregnant) and needing scripts to shut down concern about my health. I had to have a D&E, which is a two day procedure, and so I was navigating time off and all that. She knew I was having surgery.

        I kid you not, on this past Friday, she said, “I really hope your health issues don’t mean you can’t have another kid.”

        Commenting on reproductive choices is a terrible, terrible thing to do. Maybe someone is childfree by choice and has had enough of people pushing childbearing. Maybe someone desperately wants a child and can’t have one for whatever reason. Maybe someone just lost a wanted pregnancy.

        I really truly can’t understand why people do these things. There are so many ways in which the comments can be unwanted, and only a very few in which they would be well-received.

        1. OG OP*

          Oh my god. I’m so sorry, I read your letter and felt for you deeply. I’m sorry you have to deal with an insensitive boss on top of everything else.

        2. allathian*

          Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry. When one of my aunts by marriage kept badgering my sister, and by extension her fiance, about their baby plans, one day my sister had enough and burst into tears. She was angry rather than sad, but just asked “how do you know we haven’t been trying”. Our aunt never got another opportunity to bring it up, because my sister was so annoyed that she went completely no-contact with her. My sister’s CFBC and in the end she and her fiance broke up over it, because he very much wanted kids and thought he could change her mind.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Her fiance was a giant jerk. I wish I could say this was the only similar story I’ve heard, but it isn’t. Honestly, it would save so much time and pain if people would just believe other people when they say they don’t want kids. It’s so condescending…”Oh, she says she doesn’t want them, but I’ll change her mind…all women want kids, right?”

            1. Former Conservative*

              That’s because MOST women who say they don’t want kids…change their minds. Just in this thread alone, several people said they were indifferent to motherhood until they met their current spouse. I tend to think no one really wants kids until they have them. That’s the reason.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                It’s still rude and condescending to assume that someone WILL change their mind. Acknowledging privately to yourself that MAYBE they might is different, as long as you keep it to yourself. And it’s still not a good risk to proceed with a serious relationship with someone who explicitly says “I don’t want kids” on the assumption that they will. It causes entirely not necessary pain to everyone when that doesn’t happen.

                For me it comes under the category of “when someone shows/tells you who they are, believe them.”

              2. AnonEMoose*

                I also have to wonder how many of those women who “changed their minds” did so for reasons like getting pregnant and deciding to go with it, or because of thinking that “well, having kids is just what you’re supposed to do.”

      4. Buni*

        My standard response to ‘Are you going to have / do you want kids?’ is a smell-the-fart face and “Oh HELL no”, as if they’ve just asked if I want to remove my own gallbladder with a blunt spoon. The vehemence of the answer tends to stall follow-up questions long enough for me to get away…

      5. Tisiphone*

        I had a male coworker say to me that all women want kids, like I was some kind of freak or not really a woman. I said, “Apparently you have been misinformed.” He never mentioned it again and we still had a good relationship.

      6. delicate&lustrous*

        This is so weird to me. I have kids, I love having kids, it was a great decision. But I also have lots of child-free friends and why on earth would I try to convince them to have a kid? It’s difficult when you love it; I can’t even imagine doing it if you didn’t want to in the first place. Also, it’s really nice to have people to talk about non-kid things with.

      7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I feel *real* love for my partner, cat and dog as well as for my kids, and quite a few other people who I have encountered in my life. It’s a different love for each one, because they are all different.
        The love I feel for my kids is more intense, sure. I would kill for them, I’m not sure I would for anyone else.

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP, I would suggest tweaking Alison’s advised script a tiny bit and say something like “I should have said this before, but I am not interested in discussing my personal life with you. The topics of dating and children are off limits.”

    For the work slack, is it possible to suggest two channels? One for strictly work-related discussions and one for general chit-chat that is optional?

      1. Gymmie*

        And what if the OP wanted to date a woman, or was dating someone but didn’t advertise it because…who wants to share with these people., or was involved with a married man, or or or..

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          Only problem is, for these types, if reproduction and marital status are both off the table, they won’t be able to figure out what to talk to you about and they’ll find you even more unrelatable than they do now.

            1. Rose*

              Lmaoooooo I have never heard this phrase before (well, used in this way) and I am dying at this perfect deployment. Totally agree. Let them think you’re a weird antisocial person. They’re huge jerks.

    1. Willis*

      Yes – I think a suggestion to move non-work stuff to a different Slack channel, or private Slack convo between Anna and Laura if they’re the only two involve in it, makes sense. It’s legitimately distracting to have non-work stuff pop up in a channel you’re supposed to be monitoring and I think you could say that without really getting too far into the pregnancy-related aspects of it.

    2. Granger*

      I agree @Detective! I was thinking the same thing – that it’s useful advice to replace “reproductive plans” with literally anything you don’t want to talk about with basically anyone – especially having already let it go on for some time. I LOVE AAM’s use of language / quotes to use in her responses – it makes it much easier to change or break my typical approach and patterns – it’s the HOW that advice is often lacking from other resources.

      “I should have said this earlier, but I need you to stop talking about XYZ — it’s not something I ever want to discuss at work.” ./ / “Stop asking me about this. It’s not something I discuss at work.”

    3. OG OP*

      I think maybe I wasn’t clear in my letter, but we have the main all-team slack channel, and then a more casual one another woman in my department started. These things are happening in the “casual” channel, which I guess makes it easier for me to just not respond or mute the channel…I’m having a ‘duh’ moment here, but as it’s not on the main channel I can probably just ignore. I haven’t wanted to seem unfriendly, but I might just need to do it.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        You don’t have an obligation to be ‘friendly’ at the expense of your mental health.

      2. animaniactoo*

        If it ever comes up, you can easily say “That channel seems to focus on pregnancy and kids most of the time, and I don’t have much to contribute. Maybe we should make another one for books/movies/other hobbies?”

        If people are offended that you’re not into their pregnancy and kids talk, that’s the moment to a) say “It’s not that I don’t care at all, it’s that I am not up for the level of it in that channel. Please do not single me out for being in a different place than you are, work with me to figure out where our interests naturally meet up.” and b) kick it up to your manager if that’s not enough to get them to back down.

      3. Lizzo*

        “Mute channel” is the way to go! Then you can check the channel for anything interesting that is non-pregnancy related when you have the patience to scan the comments.

        1. Willis*

          Yes – mute and scan occasionally for stuff that may interest you or drop in now and then with a non-pregnancy comment if you want to maintain a presence in the casual chat. I’ve unfollowed a lot of people on FB once I realized that seeing all their political, religious, weight loss, etc. posts annoyed me and it makes a world of difference. I think you can feel free to set up the non-work channel so it works for you and not feel guilty about ignoring much of what’s posted there.

      4. Legal Beagle*

        No one can see which channels you have muted, so that’s an easy way to shut off the spigot off Anna’s virtual commentary without seeming unfriendly.

      5. Glitsy Gus*

        Yeah, absolutely mute the channel. It’s extra, and you have work to do. If you’re worried about putting off the non-pregnant coworkers in there, be a bit more outgoing on your private messages. Ask how they’re doing there, rather than the group chat. But really, I wouldn’t worry too much about it, overall. Work should come first, most folks are going to get that. If anyone asks you can just say the you muted anything not strictly work related. You check in occasionally when you can, but you were finding notifications too distracting. It’s not a lie!

      6. Coffee*

        I think it’s okay to be unfriendly to someone who made you cry and didn’t apologize, and who keeps doing the thing that made you cry.

        I also think it wouldn’t come off as unfriendly tbh.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      I have not had a job that used Slack, or an equivalent, so I am a bit unclear on the logistics. Do I understand it correctly that this is a stream of messages that go out to the entire company, and everyone is supposed to read, filled with personal chit-chat? Seriously?

      1. Lizzo*

        Many companies have a “water cooler” Slack channel. You can manage whether you’re a member, whether you receive alerts, etc. There is @here that you can attach to posts, which notifies everybody who is in the channel about the post, but those can be ignored.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I’ve never used Slack, but my understanding is that it’s like a Discord channel. Or, if we’re going old school, an AIM chatroom or an IRQ channel.

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        Not really. It has a bunch of channels, and you subscribe to the ones that are relevant to you, or you are interested in. Unless your company is really small, most channels would be limited to a subset of people. There might be one “announcements” channel or something for company-wide news. But most of them will be things like “llama-project”, “Boston-office”, “sales-onboarding”, etc.

        Some companies have some social non-work-chat channels, which it sounds like is what the LW is running into. Apparently they have one “social” channel, and she would like to be social, but would prefer baby chat be off somewhere else besides the general social channel.

  2. WellRed*

    She made you cry and still does it? WTF? Great parent she’ll make /s. Does she not have a manager? Why hasn’t this been shut down (even without her bodily harrassment of you. And it is harassment (not legally)).

    1. KHB*

      Assuming that OP and Anna have the same manager, she’s mentioned in the last paragraph, and it sounds like she tends toward conflict avoidance. Which is perhaps not the greatest quality in a manager, but that isn’t unusual. Managers have all the same human foibles as the rest of us, and there’s nothing about being a manager that endows you with magic telekinetic powers to make people do what you want.

      And Anna seems oblivious enough that I suspect that even if the manager did step in, it probably wouldn’t solve the problem right away.

      I like Alison’s point about how Anna isn’t worried about being polite or considerate, so why should OP? I’d probably opt for something like “Anna, I’ve told you several times that I don’t want to discuss my sex life with you, so I need you to stop asking me about it.” Framing it as your sex life – because that’s what it is – might help highlight the work-inappropriateness of it all.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “I like Alison’s point about how Anna isn’t worried about being polite or considerate, so why should OP?”

        Similarly with marketing calls. Getting off the phone became much easier once I figured out that the marketer is abusing the conventions of polite society, thereby absolving me of any obligation to follow them.

    2. PleaseVoteInLocalElections*

      I have to wonder if it doesn’t qualify as gendered harassment. It sure reads that way to me.
      OP omg, what an absolute nightmare, as someone who’s suffered multiple miscarriages and am child-free not by choice, this would be TORTURE and I’m so sorry. Hugs if you want them.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I’d shut her down as soon as anything about her pregnancy or your body comes out of her mouth. “I have already clearly stated that I do not want to talk about this. You already made me cry, and this is inappropriate at work. Do you have something work-related to tell or ask me? If not, I need to get back to work.” I would NEVER wax poetic about my pregnancy with a coworker, especially if I made her cry! Anna sounds very clueless, at best. Made OP cry and still needed to be asked to leave? It is one thing to talk about ones’ own body, but something else to hound a coworker or insult them.

      I also think that after this, OP should go to the manager to say what they tried. These coworkers will just shift to baby things in a few months. Form the boundaries now.

    4. Akcipitrokulo*

      Not US… but from what I’ve read here it could be legally harassment because sex is a protected category, and this could count as sex-based harassment?

      (Definitely sexual harassment in UK with the questioning.)

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          And as cis men wouldn’t get the “when are you getting pregnant” then it’s sex discrimination.

  3. Sabina*

    OMG, shut this down with extreme prejudice. You have tried to be low-key and reasonable and it’s not worked. I would escalate to something like “Really? You are talking about by personal reproductive choices again? After I’ve asked you to stop? Why? What is wrong with you?” (Maybe I would leave the last line out, at least at first.)

    1. Lynca*

      This. If she’s not responding to reason this is the point where you point out this is a Anna problem. I would be blunt and ask “why are you being so rude?” instead of “what’s wrong with you?”

      Also I would revisit my conversation with my supervisor. I would point out that I have told her to stop but she refuses and then stared at me while at my desk until I told her to leave. Because that is /not/ normal behavior. Does your supervisor know that she did this and still told you to just tell her to knock it off?

    2. Quinalla*

      Yes in case it helps for one more stranger on the internet to say it, DO NOT feel bad about shutting this down directly and what will probably feel like rudely to her. She is WAY over the line, holy crap!

      I get being excited and wanting to talk about pregnancy, I did when I was pregnant, but you find people who WANT to talk about it, you don’t bombard every single person with it. An occasional comment/complaint is one thing, but holy crap. She needs to start a blog or something! I do NOT get the trying to convince you to find a partner and have a baby ASAP, WTF? Asking once about it is pretty normal in our society (even if it really shouldn’t be), but to keep badgering you, I don’t even know what the heck is up with that. Yikes x 100000!

    3. Lizzo*

      Yep! OP, remember that Anna is the one who is being rude here. Clearly and forcefully setting a boundary with her is not being rude to her–it is being kind to yourself. That may feel unnatural, but with practice it gets easier.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      I think I would have blurted out something like this already, but I think it’s perfectly okay to do so in any case. I would guess the OP’s hesitation in speaking up more bluntly is that she doesn’t want to come across as too sensitive or not a good culture fit, but that doesn’t mean anyone should tolerate this kind of intrusive behavior.

      Anna is way over the line. Honestly, other people are probably sick of the one-topic conversations too, especially when they veer into gross personal territory. I don’t think anyone will hold it against OP even if she sounds harsh in the moment, it’s definitely gone on long enough.

  4. Sylvia*

    In regards to Alison’s advice, I yelled out “TMI!” once when a coworker was talking about her sex life, and she got so mad at me that she refused to talk to me for the next week or so. I was quite embarrassed by the end of it all.

      1. Sylvia*

        Yeah. I think I was embarrassed at the time because I was very junior and she was very senior (not my boss, but she had been there much longer than me). I felt like I could have said something in a more respectful way. I was also embarrassed because she was the Queen Bee (the one coworker that everyone else could barely stand, but she had seniority) and no one had dared to take her down a notch before. My coworkers thought it was hilarious, but I hated the attention because I really wasn’t trying to knock her down a peg or anything. I just didn’t want to hear about her sex life!

        1. Just J.*


          Seriously though, yelling “TMI” has worked for me to shutdown (or at least slowdown) multiple inappropriate work place conversations.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          As she should be – people who do this are clearly looking for attention, and they need to go find it outside of work where it belongs.

  5. Sylvia*

    I can be a tad abrasive and too blunt, but it would be hilarious to say something to her like, “You seem awfully interested in what’s going on with my body! Truth be told, my uterus is pretty boring, but my kidney has been acting up all week. Let me tell you what that little stinker did!”

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Oooh OR

      OP could get really graphic talking about her periods and be like “well, you seemed really invested in what was happening with my uterus”

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I’ve really, really been close before of oversharing right back at someone really pushing the BUT THE CHILDRENS topic at me.

      Oh, sorry, you didn’t want to hear gory details of my endometriosis symptoms and the ensuing surgery & aftermath? You seemed *really* laser focused on my reproductive system after several blunt requests/tells to quit with that topic, so it seemed that you’d appreciate this discussion. (Neener neener neener.)

      1. Jaid*

        I can lend pictures of my laparoscopic surgery…

        One of these days, I’ll get an Imgur account for that, or something.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Mine refused. :( In his defense, he thought it would be a 1 hour surgery, which turned into 4, and he was absolutely flabbergasted at the end of how much growth and scar tissue I had. So I think he thought there’d be nothing exciting to look at.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I never have been outright refused, but they just never get back to me with the pictures (and I’m bad at pestering, so after I poke three times I’m done). I know the first endo surgery had pictures, because I had to fill out the consent form for them to be used in a medical textbook (apparently my endometriosis is the most photogenic part of me. oof.).

              Also, yay long ablation surgery buddies.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      And then go into a lengthy description of the color and frequency of your pee.

      No, do not do this. *evil laugh*

  6. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Both Anna and Lauren are absolutely wrong for everything they’re doing to and in front of the OP, and this sounds a little like ‘misery loves company.’ I vividly remember a staff meeting where pregnant teammates were comparing the size and, um, characteristics of their hemmorhoids…

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, and Alison is right: you need to push back on this, and remind yourself that you are not in the wrong here. Anna is especially obnoxious for asking about your plans, as if she has a right to know because you’re both in The Sisterhood or something. Push back on this, please.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I normally do, but this particular clique was especially close. Maybe they didn’t realize we could hear them, or maybe overestimated our curiosity, but it was awkward.

    1. Artemesia*

      I will never understand this. I have had two kids and while I have compared labor/delivery stories with OTHER MOTHERS, even then we never discussed things that intimate and it is not a topic we went on and on about in the office around other people.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        And some people never drop the birthing talk. Like my ex-boss, who told us all multiple times about her (very graphic) awful birth of her last kid….nearly 28 years ago. When you manage to gross out the *nurses*, you’ve definitely, fully, overtly gone way too far.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I have heard the birth stories of my coworkers SO MANY TIMES. Some of these people had kids last year, some 3-5 years ago, some of their dang kids are in college! Holy cow. I feel like there should be a social rule, if your kid is old enough to drive, you have to stop talking about their birth experience.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        Call me a cynic, but unless OP or Anna moves on, why am I seeing Anna trying to dump all kinds of work stuff on OP “because I have to pick up Sprout on time, and you don’t have kids, so….”?

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

        … and then both mums will compete for which kid does the most extracurricular activities and attends the coolest summer camps. And better grades.

    1. OG OP*

      LW here! Unfortunately, she is on maternity leave now and it has continued virtually, although I’ve gotten into the habit of not responding over Slack when the topic comes up. I was definitely hoping it was time limited…

      1. BeenThere*

        She is doing it in writing?! That much easier to document, start taking screenshots and have your shutdown phrases on hand. Apply the shutdown phrase to any of the topics you do not wish to hear about, screenshot the response. Repeat and rinse. Keep a copy for yourself somewhere not on work storage before sending to HR. There’s no guarantee that IT are keeping and storing all the messages on slack so the screen shots are important.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Yikes. And yes, keep responding to Anna in a polite yet firm way – and document everything. Take screenshots, export your conversations with Anna (if you can), print messages, forward messages to yourself just to sure, etc. Ask IT if they can or do store this data; if they don’t, ask if they can. You get the idea, you want a record of everything.

          OP, I hope you don’t get to the point where you need to build a case, if only for HR, but it’s best to behave as if you will. Consider your record of Anna’s outrageous behavior ‘Exhibits A through Z.’ If she denies or challenges your account of her behavior, or claims you never asked her to stop, you’ll be ready.

      2. It's mce w*

        If she is still talking to you about this through Slack, it’s harassment. Take screen shots and send them to HR.

        1. Ashley*

          The dating thing should be harassment based on martial status which I know is housing is a protected class. I am not positive about employment in all states. It is all seriously gross but the more you can shut this down before they return from maternity leave and start it all over again the better. Best of luck in dealing with all of this. It is bad enough when the family gives you this level of annoyance (which can actually be easier to shut down because you can hang up or just walk away from family differently then coworkers), but I can’t imagine this level at the office.

  7. Rainy*

    I’m in my mid-40s and have been pretty firm about my preference not to have children since I was a child myself, and I still occasionally get comments. An older woman at work, in the run-up to my second marriage a few years ago, asked when we would be starting our family, and I said “Never, we aren’t going to have kids”, and she, I shit you not, corrected me. “You mean you don’t intend to have kids but you’re open to it.”

    I’m sure my face was a picture, because she’s never said a peep to me about it since, which has not typically been my experience with people who get all up in my uter-business.

    1. Sylvia*

      Oh. OH! ANGRY FACE!

      As a childfree person myself, I’m used to the questions and comments. Generally, I led it slide because most of the time it’s just innocent curiosity. But a person actually correcting what I said like that would make me want to say some WORDS.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        As another childfree person, when someone corrects me I get pretty damn irritated.

        No, I won’t have kids. No, I won’t change my mind. Why, you didn’t ask? Because I can’t physically have any, so unless you have an extra uterus on hand you can loan, no, there will not be kids. Amazingly, the person really pushing it that day was visibly horrified by my very deadpan answer and never brought the topic up again, other than telling a coworker next to them that they felt bad.

        It’s bad enough to constantly field questions about it, but good lord, ya don’t get to *correct someone else’s statement about themselves*. I detest the “oh but you’ll change your mind! *gigglegiggle*” crap. People like that make me growly.

        1. bleh*

          My spouse once told his older brother, who had children already at the time, that if he (spouse) was definitely going to change his mind, then it made sense that he (brother) would change his mind about having his kids too. That shut him down.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I like this. Though, to be honest, if the person is the type to harp on someone else about their lack of children, I have always assumed it’s a misery loves company situation.

            1. allathian*

              It often is, but not always. Some people just love being parents so much that they really can’t understand that other people feel differently about it. They may be happy but they definitely lack empathy.

              I compare those to people who are new converts to a religion and just can’t stop talking about it and try to convert everyone they meet.

        2. KateM*

          Ooh. This resonances with me even though I do have children. But I was pretty pissed when I in pregnancy forums on topic of “hello, I’m Mary and I’m expecting my first child” went “I’m Kate and expecting my last child”, some idiot absolutely had to come in “hey, never say never, surely you will have more children in the future, yabbayabbayabba!”. And my reply that I was 40+ and this was my fourth child did NOT shut them up the least. Yes, I’m absolutely sure you know better than myself. /s

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Ah, yes, Rando Internet Stranger, of *course* you know my future better than myself! Tell me, who wins the Super Bowl in 2035? I want to get my bets all laid out.

            Since they’re all-knowing and whatnot. I will never understand why people get so invested & pushy about other people’s reproductive plans, when there’s so many other topics absolutely taboo? Ain’t nobody pushing mammograms or cervical cancer checks like the people pushing for other people to have children.

          2. jenkins*

            Urrrrrrgh. I remember staggering around on crutches immediately after my first birth (yay PGP) and being told – not asked, but told – that I’d be back on the maternity unit for another in two years’ time. It took four before I could face it again, and that was DEFINITELY my last. Doesn’t stop people going ‘awwww, you’re only in your thirties, you still could, never say never’ and so on. Not even though we hit the apparent jackpot of having one boy and one girl, which everyone seems to think is the ideal (the joy on people’s faces when I told them what flavour second child was going to be… as if I’d have been disappointed otherwise?? Sent them back for a refund maybe?).

        3. Elise*

          And having a kid doesn’t even stop the “oh you’ll change your mind.” I insisted I only wanted one, and now that we have one we are still in the “only one” camp. I got so many comments about how I would change my mind. Well, 8 years later and we’re still on the single kid train, people.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I distinctly remember my mother once getting the comment of “but when will you have your real third?”. I’m technically a stepchild.

            Momma Bear was very, very angry and made them very aware. Having a rambunctious 12 year old, a fussy toddler, and a I’m-putting-everything-I-can-reach baby probably didn’t help the amount of nerves she had left, to be fair.

              1. allathian*

                Don’t they all? At least mine did, but luckily that phase didn’t last for more than a few months.

                1. Environmental Compliance*

                  One in particular was really really awful. Earrings, buttons, dust, dog hair, anything. The other one at least focused on vaguely food like items.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I’m in my early 40s, never met the right partner, and can’t afford to have a kid on my own. I’m mostly OK with that because what other choice do I have? But it doesn’t feel like a decision I was free to make.

      I apparently seem younger than I am so I still get a lot of, “You might meet someone and have kids yet!” No. No, the odds of that happening are remote and I’m not going to waste my life sitting by the phone hoping it happens. But I’m still kind of white-knucking through my feelings about this, which isn’t anyone else’s fault, but also makes being pestered about it a level beyond simply being obnoxious.

      1. Rainy*

        I look about ten years younger than I am (thanks, skin care!) and I think that probably at least contributes, but I’ve also had friends who looked completely age appropriate and got hassled into their late 40s and even early 50s (“You can still adopt!!”) so I think at base some people just suck and are always going to be shitty to others about their choices, alas.

        It’s also just so inconsiderate to push at people about this stuff, because you never know what people are going through. I’ve certainly had friends who only told me when it was all over about their fertility struggles or other things, and it is in general I think better to try to comport yourself conversationally in such a way that if you heard tomorrow that someone you know had something going on, you would have a minimum of conversations to smack yourself in the forehead over.

        1. allathian*

          The “you can still adopt” thing is particularly cruel, because it’s not necessarily true. The requirements adoptive parents face are very strict. Age is definitely one of them, in some places the age difference between a parent and a child can’t be more than 40 years, so that a 45-year-old could adopt a 5-year-old, but not a baby. In some places you can’t adopt if you have any history of mental health issues, so if you got a diagnosis of depression because you couldn’t have a biological child, a very common reaction, you wouldn’t be able to adopt, either. Having biological children can be expensive, but adoption is also expensive.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Same here; look younger, never found the right person, and now it seems to be too late without expensive intervention that’s out of my reach even if I wanted to do it on my own (which I don’t). :( Someone who harasses a person about this is not just annoying but cruel.

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        I am very much in the same boat and I feel everything you’re feeling here. I think most folks in my life have figured out the score, because I don’t get asked much any more, but yeah. It’s tough when the decision is made for you.

        Like you said, I’m pretty much OK with it, but I do still have things to work through there. Folks being dismissive or pushy (‘if it’s important to you, you should get on that!!” like I just have put off submitting the marriage and baby application or something) or “*giggle* You never know!!” are really not helpful.

      4. Akcipitrokulo*

        Agreed. It’s obnoxious to harass someone about it regardless of the reason they don’t have kids. And if at the other end of never wants, the person desperately wants/has lost a child, then it’s an additional layer of cruelty.

      1. Rainy*

        Humans gonna hume, I guess.

        I got married the second time at 43, about ten years after my first husband died, and the number of people who assumed I was only getting married so I could have kids was…not zero. Which I know, because suddenly there were a ton of comments about how I’d better hurry up before my uterus withered and fell out.

        1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

          OH MY GOD.
          Really? I mean, I know how much people can suck, but really??
          No one could understand that you married a person because you wanted to spend the rest of your life with them, as in, you know, the whole POINT of marriage?
          Lord, I’m sorry.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’m seeing red over this, because I also got the same kind of patronizing attitude at work from men and women alike. What is it with people correcting you on family planning decisions, thinking they know better than you do?

      1. Ashley*

        My “favorite” is when a male coworker told me I need to experience pregnancy and child birth. Why someone outside of my partner or doctor gets to tell me anything about my reproductive choices is beyond me.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          That’s terrible, and yet not surprising. A male co-worker told me I couldn’t and shouldn’t fight biology. I was built with the ability to have children so, ipso facto whatevero, I should have them.

          1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

            You were also built with the ability to punch him in the face, but you manage to hold THAT back soo…..

            1. BeenThere*

              I would say a swift kick to the wedding vegetables would be in order in that case, at least that’s what my biology is telling me to do…

        2. londonedit*

          I love the one where they say ‘Oh, but you should have a baby! You’ll love it once it’s here!’ Great, so I should put myself through something I have never wanted, end up with a child I have never wanted, just on the offchance I might not mind so much once the baby arrives? What a brilliant reason to bring an actual human life into the world. The mind boggles. I was once at the hairdresser’s when the woman sitting next to me started holding forth about how every woman over 30 should just get herself pregnant because too many women were waiting too long and they’d all discover the joy of motherhood if they just got on with it.

          1. allathian*

            Yikes. I’m sorry.

            I respect you for knowing your own mind on this issue, every child deserves to be born into a home where they’re wanted. Too many aren’t so lucky.

    4. AnonInTheCity*

      Oddly enough, even having children doesn’t seem to make you exempt from weird busybody comments about your reproductive plans. I have one child and no one seems to believe that anyone might actually plan to have an only child. There’s a lot of “Welllll, you never knoooowwww…” I’m happy to go into detail about my 10-year IUD to anyone who won’t leave me alone about having a second kid.

      1. Rainy*

        The “well you never knowww” stuff always puzzles me because, uh, yeah, we do know. We know what causes that now!

      2. SarahN*

        And if you have two daughters, you get a slew of “Don’t you want to try for a boy?” comments. Which is not only intrusive, but implicitly devalues my daughters’ worth as not being as good as a boy. I literally got those comments up until my youngest started college.

        1. AKchic*

          I have four boys… the continual comments of “still trying for that girl, eh?”. My youngest is 11. My 2nd is in college (yeah, two adult children). I *never* “tried” for a girl and it’s gross to try to say that one gender or another is better, or that a family isn’t complete unless they somehow “collect” every gender like dishware or Funko Pops!.

          1. Artemesia*

            MY former SIL was the second of 4 girls born to a career military officer. She remembers people telling him ‘bet you’re hoping for that boy’ every time her mother was pregnant with her younger sisters. And she remembers how happy it made her feel when her father (who probably would have liked a son) said ‘oh we’d be thrilled with another girl — we adore our girls.’ It is so cruel to the older kids especially the second, third etc son or daughter to imply that they were failed attempts to ‘finally’ have the highly desired other gender of child. You don’t get to choose, so being welcoming is the only way to be.

          2. Autumnheart*

            Ha! For some reason, that reminded me of the Taco Bell ad campaign for one of their specialty tacos. “Collect all two!”

          3. Greta*

            Facebook has 58 genders listed, so if you really want to have one of every gender, you’ve got your work cut out for you!

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          People keep doing this to my brother because he has two girls (and, admittedly, he did talk about wanting boys for years), but he shuts them down and says he’s proud to be a #girldad – though he wishes my oldest niece, who’s six, cared about sports the way he does so they could watch games together. He tells people that just about everything he could do with a boy child he can do with this girls.

        3. allathian*

          The ideal is one of each. Any more or any less and you get endless comments. I’m so sorry.
          A friend of mine had a boy, then a girl, and when she got pregnant again someone asked her if it was an accidental pregnancy. Definitely not accidental, their third kid was a boy and they went on to have another girl.

      3. Arya Parya*

        I never got many comments about having children until I had one two years ago. Now a lot of people ask when we’ll be having a second. Due to some mental health issues on my side we probably won’t. But I don’t want to discuss that with anyone.

        People keep asking though. It’s really annoying, because it’s none of their business.

      4. KaciHall*

        I had that conversation with my mother in law when she started bugging me about giving her another grandbaby. I phrased it as we had a pregnancy scare and that would be BAD with an IUD and she hasn’t said a word about it in two years. (Seriously, two of her grandbabies are having kids like bunnies, she doesn’t need another grandbaby and I am not providing one anyway!)

        Now I just have to find a new OB to get another one put in. I kind of didn’t realize that my kid would be five so quickly…

    5. I Need That Pen*

      Been there too. Had a coworker MANY years ago tell me, “You’re missing out,” when I said I was not intending to have children. It was a day I was wearing a white pair of slacks and she mentioned something about when I have kids I won’t be able to wear that anymore. Fast forward about six months later I was wearing same white pants and she turned around, saw them, and in that third-grader-playground voice whined, “Lucky.”

      People used to try this on me at work, and I would brush them off, until they started looking at my midsection every time we stood up at the end of a staff meeting. “No more of this,” I told one of them, “or people above my paygrade can tell you to stop, if you’d prefer.”

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I am very capable of ruining my own white pants, thanks, and if I don’t spill something on them myself I guarantee you my cats can take over.

        1. allathian*

          Me too. I do have a kid but he’s not the reason I’m not wearing white pants. Besides, at 11 he’s long since grown out of hanging onto my pant leg… I keep wiping my hands on my pants, a bad habit I can’t seem to get rid of no matter how hard I try. Right now I don’t have the mental energy to try and do anything about a habit that doesn’t show as long as I stick to black or dark blue jeans.

    6. Grapey*

      Ha, I got the “when we would be starting our family” line after our wedding and I just replied with a confused look of “Well, we moved in together 7 years ago, so I consider that starting our family. OH, you mean children. Never, hopefully.”

      1. Susana*

        Which reminds me of one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons. Guy standing behind a desk, on phone, looking at a notebook, and saying, “No, Tuesday’s out. How about never? Is never good for you?”

    7. Eva Luna*

      The single most inappropriate set of interactions I have ever had in the workplace was at my second-to-last job, during which I got married (I worked there for more than a decade). A coworker who was bonkers on a number of subjects asked me whether we intended to have kids (I got married 3 weeks shy of 41). I told her no, which clearly baffled her, even after I explained my belief that people should only have babies if they are absolutely dying to, and possibly not even then, and I was not in that category.

      A couple of years later, she asked me again. I told her no, I hadn’t changed my mind, and in any case having babies in my mid-40s was not the best idea medically. Her response? “But if you got pregnant, you wouldn’t KILL IT, would you?”

      My jaw hit the floor, and I managed to stammer something about how that was why I took every reasonable precaution in order not to end up in that situation. I should have reported her to HR many, many times over again, but that one definitely took the cake. After that I avoided conversation with her as much as possible, or stuck to gardening.

        1. Eva Luna*

          Luckily I didn’t have to work with her directly. But it was a small office, and so for example, it was difficult to avoid her insanity in, say, the break room.

      1. Rainy*

        I have literally never understood why people get so excited about the prospect that other people’s birth control might fail. It’s just weird.

  8. Super Admin*

    Wow. I’d have straight-up lost it in your position, OP. Her behaviour is disgusting and you shouldn’t be bearing the brunt of it.
    As the child-free friend in a group of mid-30s women, I know that I am unable to escape all of the pregnancy and baby talk. I accept that. And with two of them in the office, they are of course oversharing, my friends were the same. But a) it’s at work and they should know some levels of TMI are just not OK and b) the prying into YOUR uterus is way worse and nothing a sane person should do.

    Honestly, if crying in front of her didn’t stop her, I don’t think there’s hope for her stopping if you use Alison’s script. But use it, then go back to your manager when it continues, because her behaviour is unacceptable.

    And as much as I hate saying it, if the topic brings up bad memories or traumas for you, sometimes the way to get someone to STFU is to shock them. You don’t have to give details, but saying ‘this is a triggering subject for me’ or ‘I have bad associations with this topic’ can sometimes make people back off. Though, again, this is someone who watched you cry and still carries on, so I think she’s pretty oblivious to social norms.

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      The thing is, no one has to overshare. Maybe I’m the odd one out, but when I was pregnant, it never occurred to me to talk about my bodily functions any more than I would when I wasn’t pregnant. Who wants to hear about that sh!t, literally? I’m sure I probably mentioned being uncomfortable once or twice near the birth date, but my God. WHY would anyone bring it up in conversation at work? Yuck.

      1. OG OP*

        I think that’s partially what shocked me – I have friends with children and have worked with colleagues who were pregnant, but this situation hadn’t occurred before. And I’ve definitely never had someone (pregnant or not) question my fertility choices.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, I have plenty of friends and coworkers who have had kids and none of them took it to this level. And DEFINITELY none of them harassed me about having kids myself.

        2. Legal Beagle*

          Yeah, this is weird and inappropriate on every level. The TMI, the prying, all of it. I rarely discussed my pregnancy at work, and that was at a 10-person company where all the employees were women! I can’t even imagine sharing details in a public Slack channel. So deeply not ok. The manager needs to shut this down very firmly.

      2. Mel_05*

        Yeah, my friends told me a little that would be TMI at work, but even they didn’t talk about it to this extent!

        I fully accept comments about being uncomfortable, tired, whatever, but bodily functions are a whole other category.

      3. Quinalla*

        I mean, some of us enjoy a good overshare, but it has to be in the RIGHT context with the RIGHT people. Not a work, not with people who you aren’t close to and who aren’t interested. It’s not that hard people!

      4. CatLadyInTraining*

        I have a friends who have kids and none of them act like this or acted like this when they were pregnant. I think some women have nothing better to talk about or can’t talk about anything else…or thinks this topic is super intersting

  9. TiaTeapot*

    Oh. My god.
    I suppose loudly saying “wtf is wrong with you how is anything about my personal life any of your business” is workplace inappropriate, but.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      “You are absolutely not welcome to ask me such personal questions. Ever.” Totally workplace appropriate.

  10. CommanderBanana*


    OP, if you feel you need permission to shut this down, consider it given.

    Anytime someone asks me about children, I whip out my phone and show them pictures of my 5 and 9 year old (dogs).

  11. computer10*

    There’s two choices really. Grin and bear it for the peace or be direct and live with the consequences – but have the issue maybe go away. It’s up to OP to decide which of those two is more palatable.

    As a woman in her 30’s who chooses to be single and childless yep it’s annoying. It’s best to shut down these questions completely because there is no good answer. If you want kids but can’t find someone or you have health issues you’ll just get a tonne of unsolicited advice. If you don’t have kids because you don’t want them or (whisper) don’t like kids, you wind up offending parents. Can’t win so just shut it down with no info.

    1. Teapot Tía*

      I’ve dealt with (less obnoxious & more, um, relationship-ly? appropriate) queries by just saying “no babies for me” . People who are just reasonably asking all the “new person! tell me all about your life!” questions will IME mostly get the hint AND spread the gossip to leave the subject alone.

      1. Teapot Tía*

        semi-edit because apparently there’s html issues here: that “no babies for me” is accompanied by a wistful smile & hand over my belly. That’s what sells it.

  12. Ailsa McNonagon*

    I’m really sorry OP 6going through this. I’m in my forties now and happily childfree- but not by choice. Had past pregnancies worked out I’d have three kids, and I’ve worked very hard on being okay with where my life took me. Occasionally people push past my clear ‘this topic is not open to discussion’ signs and try to dig a little deeper; the clueless but well meaning get a firm restatement of the boundaries, and the utterly obnoxious get a potted version of my gynaecological history. They don’t push it twice :)

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      that is… horrendous. WTF is wrong with people? I happen to have 3 kids myself. I love them, I’m happy I had them, I was fortunate and so on. I hope, sincerely, that even at my most baby-on-the-brain level, I NEVER was so hurtful or offensive towards people who had different lives / choices / situations from mine.


      1. Sylvia*

        I think you were fine because you’re aware that people make different choices than you. And seriously, that’s all it takes. People like Anna don’t even fathom that someone else may actually make a different choice than them. It doesn’t even cross their mind.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, and they don’t seem to get the point that sometimes it’s not a choice. Multiple miscarriages are tough both physically and mentally. I love my son, but I was 37 when I had him and when I was ready to try for another kid, I had at least two first trimester miscarriages and possibly another pregnancy that didn’t catch (a 6-week cycle with a very heavy period). That said, in retrospect I’m rather happy to have just one healthy kid, because the baby and toddler years are quite tough even when everything goes well, and the older you get, the higher the risk of having a kid with special needs. I’m honestly not sure I could handle one of those without a lot of support…

    2. Sylvia*

      You’re a good example of why these discussions are Always A Bad Idea. You never know what someone is going through or why they made the choice they made.

    3. Roz*

      I’m in the same situation – though I’m not past it. I’m right in the middle of my 30s with all my friends at various stages of baby-making and it’s brutal as is and I have lovely caring boundary-respecting friends. With those that don’t respect the boundaries, I’m not shy anymore in shutting them down. It’s very liberating because the pain of my miscarriages was so deep that the discomfort I used to feel when I asserted a boundary don’t matter anymore. I’d rather a bit of discomfort now that I know what real pain is.
      My favourite is the assumption that if you don’t have kids it’s because you don’t want them. My new boss mentioned that “if I choose to have kids” and my CEO has asked if I’m thinking about it when I ask about my coworkers kids. Each time I get to remind these smart women that I work with that it’s not always a choice or that just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I don’t know what pregnancy feels like, or what labour pains feel like, or what hot flashes feel like.

    4. ursula*

      This is OP’s responsibility AT ALL, but it would be a huge public service to include this idea in their script to Anna. Eg. “Pregnancy is an incredibly personal (and sometimes painful) topic for lots of people and you don’t know what’s going on in people’s health and private lives. I want you to stop talking to me about it completely, and you should really think about how much you are forcing this conversation onto people who aren’t your close friends or family.”

      Mostly though I just came here to comment how much this made me want to SCREAM

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, I say something like this to people these days who push it (thankfully, it rarely comes up for me anymore mainly because I’m constantly gushing about my niece, so people realize that she’s it for me – well, her and her new baby sister).

  13. The Original K.*

    Yeah, I went through this at a previous employer. You have to be blunt. There was a busybody woman there (late 40s, a few kids and a grandkid) who wanted to be the office mom and was bad with boundaries. I worked on a team that was 80% women of childbearing age, including me – at one point three of my teammates were pregnant at the same time. (Busybody was on a different team.) Busybody was like “You’re next, right? RIGHT?! When? Soon?!” and I shut her down hard, pretty early. “I’m not going to talk about my reproductive plans with you. Don’t ask again.” And she didn’t. We actually got along reasonably well, but I made it clear where my line was when she made it clear that no topic was off-limits to her. (She was also really loud – people would come out of their offices to tell her to be quiet – so anything she said to you, she said to the entire office.)

  14. MsClaw*

    Ugh, everyone stop asking people about their reproductive plans. And also, I know I’m a broken record on this, but all people of all ages and gender identities should not be volunteering information on their reproductive plans. Whether you plan on having 0 children or 8, it’s none of their business. Of course, if you’re friendly with someone and want to talk about your personal life, that’s different. But if some jerk brings it up, ‘Oh, I won’t be discussing this at work’ is the right way to go — regardless of what your reproductive plans are.

  15. Nora*

    I worked with one of these people. Joke’s on them, I turned out to be infertile. :/

    I did get to a point of asking why they were so interested in my sex life, and it stopped after that thankfully.

  16. Sleepy*

    I’m trying to get pregnant, and one of my fears about pregnancy is people trying to discuss my bodily functions with me all the time. I don’t want to share with coworkers, acquaintances, or strangers anything about my birth or breastfeeding plans, or anything about my physical state. I’m really sorry anyone has to experience this, and even though I’m sort of there in my life stage, it wouldn’t sit well with me either.

    1. Sylvia*

      Be prepared to shut it down as often as needed. “Oh, I don’t want to discuss my reproductive choices, thanks.” Rinse and repeat as necessary.

    2. old curmudgeon*

      Be prepared for random strangers to walk up to you and stroke your belly without asking, too. It’ll help if you can practice a wicked right hook before you start showing – usually that’s only needed once per person to shut down the uninvited touching.

      Why, no, of COURSE I don’t speak from personal experience, she added innocently.

      1. CV*

        I may or may not have rubbed a random stranger’s belly back and snapped “yeah, it’s weird as hell when a stranger rubs your belly, isn’t it!”

      2. AnonInTheCity*

        No one ever did this to me while I was pregnant – not once – and I mentioned it to my husband at one point thinking it was funny that so many people had warned me about it and it never came up. His response, as I recall, was something along the lines of “You don’t walk through the world with a facial expression that looks as if you’d be open to strangers touching you.” Not that anyone DOES want strangers to touch them, of course, but apparently my RBF is so strong that it frightened people off.

        1. Quinalla*

          Yeah, no one ever did to me either. I don’t have RBF, but I’m quite tall and that actually scares people off a lot more than I realized until I was pregnant. I had a few close friends/family ask if they could touch the belly, but yeah, no touching without me offering or them asking and getting consent.

      3. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        I fortunately have not had experience of this, but I’ve always liked the response of “I did not give you permission/consent to put your hands on my body!” Preferably said quite loudly if in public. I think sometimes these people stop thinking of a pregnant woman as an actual person who retains bodily autonomy of their own, and they need to be forcefully reminded.

  17. Ivy*

    Putting a voice of sanity from the other side: I remember being pregnant at work and damn people were all about the inappropriate and uncomfortable questions! I don’t want to talk about my pregnancy with you work people! I don’t want to talk about body stuff or child care or my family’s choices or what I’m eating (or how much). And no you don’t get to touch my stomach! I literally once jumped back when a male coworker tried to touch me (what am I a lucky Buddah!?) and blurted out: “No! I don’t walk up to you and grab your package, do I?” He was massively offended and I gave zero fucks.

    Seems a woman’s body is never her own, no matter what decisions they make, and women buy into this as much as men.

    1. Sylvia*

      Why do people do this? I will never understand. And women are a huge part of the problem too. There’s definitely a mindset of, “We’re all women here, we can share and ask each other anything we want!” Uh, no, we can’t. And if you don’t want to share, then you’re not part of The Sisterhood..or something. I’m childfree, but I would never think of asking a pregnant woman what her body is doing or what her breastfeeding plans are. And I NEVER ask to touch bellies. Just because there’s a fetus there doesn’t make it okay.

    2. Ellie May*

      Women are definitely a huge part of the problem! The smug smiles and whispers of ‘you’ll change your mind’ or ‘you’ll regret it’ were never-ending in my 30s. In my head I wanted to say to these Moms ‘you’ll change your mind’ or ‘you’ll regret it’ but I wasn’t that rude or intrusive.

    3. mdv*

      I don’t even do this to my closest and best friend, let alone coworkers! And even then, it was only one time, when she was hugely pregnant because baby was actively doing somersaults, and SHE *invited* me to feel the crazy. (Kid is almost 5 now, and he is an insane, risk-taking, smarter than his really smart brothers, and generally awesome person.)

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      It’s amazing how offended people get when they know they’re in the wrong but somehow can’t seem to admit it. They can’t even fake-apologize!

    5. Perks of the Pandemic*

      Yeesh, another thing to add to the list of why I’m happy to be home these days. I’m very obviously pregnant right now, but I still haven’t told anyone at the office or anyone outside of my immediate family and my best friend. (I have a history of losses, so I’d rather wait as long as I feasibly can before saying anything.) Bonus is I don’t have to hear ANY of those kinds of comments, or have anyone trying to grab my belly, or any of the rest of it. It’s great!

    6. Pomona Sprout*

      I know what you mean. I worked with a couple of nosy ladies when I was pregnant with my daughter. They weren’t too bad most of the time, but they blew my mind during the last month of my pregnancy, by asking (every time I came back to work after a doctor’s appointment) if my cervix was dilated yet. *facepalm*

      Sorry, nosy ladies, the condition of my cervix is not a subject I care to discuss with anyone but my doctor! I was too shy and awkward back then to shut it down, but the answer was always “No,” and the subject would be dropped at that point, thank goodness.

      35 years later, it still boggles my mind that anyone would think that was an okay question to ask a casual acquaintance/coworker.

  18. Justin*

    Ah, the managers who say “deal with it yourself” when people are genuinely harassing you. These things (as you note) take a genuine toll.

    Escalate as much as you could possibly think to need to, and sadly, they might not do anything either, but at least for the sake of documentation.

    1. Colette*

      I guess it depends whether her goal is to make it stop or to sue the company. If she wants to make it stop, speaking up as Alison has suggested is the way to go. If Anna doesn’t stop, then she should go back to her manager – but escalating to anyone else without first asking Anna to stop isn’t likely to give her the best outcome.

        1. Colette*

          She asked her to stop talking about one thing, one time – she needs to take the whole topic off the table. And then if Anna doesn’t comply, she can escalate and be able to honestly say she asked her to stop.

  19. Batgirl*

    “Bursting into tears in front of her slowed her down but didn’t stop her”.
    Yeah, the Mother Superior of the Holy Womb Coven has already handed in her benefit to the doubt now. Before the tears? Sure, be nice. Now it’s not at all in doubt that Anna is a true born jerk. The middle aged comment alone is straight out of the Mean Girls Handbook.
    You can still be professional while being steely eyed and short, but honestly boredom is probably your best play. Some women see pregnancy as a laurel leaf framed passport to higher female status, rather than a personal happiness (pitiful) and the most unrewarding reaction you could give her is probably an “eh, so what?”. Yawn while they’re talking. When you’re questioned about your plans say you have no idea,you get bored when you think about (this conversation continuing) anything that far ahead. No matter what your own hopes and dreams are, what they are proposing to you IS boring! Treating yourself as some kind of spare womb, choosing to raise a child only as an accessory just to get into some kind of “I’m ordinary” club is just such a sad little way to live.
    Some scripts:
    “But you have to get a move on and get pregnant”
    ” I’m not against it but I have no idea if I’ll ever do it or if I would just find it a bit boring, personally.”
    (Yes, this is a tad mean).
    “Oh my god you’re practically middle aged”
    *silence* *amused look*, (internally thanking her for being obviously beyond help). “Really, I had no idea? All I know is that I love being this age. You’re more likely to be a sheep when you’re very young and just follow everyone else.”
    “You should get pregnant!”
    “Yes I’m sure you’ll love bring a mother. For me, it might be more travel in my future though. I get really excited about the idea of (subject change).”
    It’s definitely ok to just go straight to “No, I won’t talk about this and quit being rude” if you sense it’s what she needs; but if I’ve read her type well, boredom could help take the shine off the preening quicker than you would believe and hasten the day when you are the least fun person to show off too.
    I have plenty of women who failed to turn me into the envious friend. I don’t envy their approach one bit.

    1. Ivy*

      The response to anything about being middle aged is “I’m sorry you’re going to die at 60! I plan on living a lot longer than that.”

      1. Batgirl*

        I love this! My approach is just instant amusement because the high school students I teach might say this but not a proper grown up.

    2. Batgirl*

      Oh I forgot the ‘I don’t know’ line which for some reason leaves them without a follow up.
      “Do you want kids?”
      “Huh. I don’t know!”
      “Shouldn’t you know?”
      “Clock is ticking!”
      “It is?”
      “don’t you like kids?”
      “I’m not sure. Which kid?”

        1. Artemesia*

          Reminds me of a great line from a play in the theater of the absurd — elderly couple and whiny middle aged son in garbage can at edge of stage whining and complaining who finally says ‘why did you have me, I wish I had never been born’ and the father calmly said ‘well, we didn’t know it was going to be YOU.’

          I may or may not have saved this line up for just the right moment with my teenage son.

    3. LCH*

      more scripts: Why are we still talking about this? / I don’t understand why you keep trying to talk to me about this.

    4. Greta*

      The next time someone asks you why you don’t want kids, say “Because I am afraid they will turn out like you!”

      (Don’t really do this.)

  20. Just Me*

    The first time you use Alison’s script and tell her to stop, it’s going to feel uncomfortable and possibly a little rude to you, but the next time(s) it will get easier. (And from the sound of her, there will probably be a next time because it sounds like she’s pretty comfortable with crossing all the boundries.) No need to explain, be firm, keep it brief and to the point, and go back to what you were doing after you’ve said it.

  21. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    I’ve been very open & upfront about my decision to not have children since I made it at 15. You can imagine the responses I’ve had in the intervening 16 years. My (currently pregnant) BFF sent me a copy of a book earlier this spring because she saw the title and it made her laugh. When I opened the surprise present I spent 15 minutes gasping with laughter. The title of the book? “What I was doing while you were breeding: A Memoir” by Kristin Newman.
    I’m tempted to purchase copies of it in bulk so I can just hand them out whenever someone starts bugging me about my lack of progeny.

  22. SusanIvanova*

    “if I want to know what it’s like to be pregnant.”

    “Oh, I’ve seen all the Alien movies, I think I know.”

    Once you’ve crossed the rudeness event horizon, anything’s fair.

    1. Hare under the moon with silver spoon*


      Or gift your colleague a copy of Rosemary’s Baby – to help her prep for childbirth.

  23. league**

    One of the many, many frustrating things about this is the implication that you, the OP, are not clever enough to have noticed your own age before, or to be aware that procreation is more difficult as you get older. It’s on the level of, “Did you know you’re supposed to brush your teeth every single day?!”

    I wonder if that could be a remark back to her if you don’t want to go the direct way. “Yes, Anna, I did in fact manage to count all my birthday candles this year.”

    1. Batgirl*

      This is what I don’t buy. They know. What you’re supposed to do is get all wistful and say you wish you were as lucky as them.

  24. Coco*

    I empathize about being new and not wanting to ruffle feathers if TMI is part of the team/ office culture. After telling Anna your body is not up for discussion, Is it possible to change the topic?

    If Anna starts talking about your reproductive issues, say something like ‘not sure how this is related to the TPS reports. Is the new cover sheet not working for you?’ Or ‘if you’re worried about work transitions for when people are out of the office, you may want to talk to manager about that’. But anytime they start in on reproductive stuff or asking anything too personal, bring up work?

  25. Jellyfish*

    Ugh, OP, I’m so sorry.

    I once had a man (!) get all up in my business about this. He asked conversationally if I had kids, and I said no. That part was fine. Then he wanted to know why, and did I want kids, and was I trying, etc. I was caught off guard, but I told him those were rather personal questions. He decided it was a big joke after that, and he would not leave it alone.

    It took me several days to work up to it, and some crowd sourcing on the phrasing, but I ultimately told him that my reproductive choices were not his business, it wasn’t funny, I didn’t want to discuss it at all, he needed to stop immediately, and I’d go straight to HR if he ever breathed another word about my body or my choices.

    The next day, he came in and said he’d told his wife about “our exchange,” and she was appalled. I suspect he was all offended and expected her to take his side, and then she very much did not. He quietly apologized, and then he never brought up the subject again. For what it’s worth, he’d been working there for decades, and I hadn’t been there quite a year yet when this all happened.

    Unfortunately, it sounds like your coworkers may be even more difficult, but these stories can sometimes have reasonable endings. Best of luck!

    1. Jude*

      Kudos to his wife, and to him for having the decency to apologise (although better if he hadn’t needed to in the first place)

    2. Old Woman in Purple*

      Kudos to the wife for setting the guy straight! I’m glad he had the sense to listen to her, apologize to you, and show he learned something by never revisiting the topic (presumably to any coworker ever).

      1. George*

        Honestly, remembering how I totally missed many social cues when pregnant, I think the best luck might be had by doing something weird and unexpected…
        Her: your clock is ticking, when are you having kids?
        OP: oh I LOVE kids, they make the BEST pie! Gosh, now I’m hungry. I think I’m going to run to Starbucks/the deli/whatever and get some X at lunch.

        Bonus points if you can say something about babies’ “delicious chubby legs/cheeks” before the pie part.

        Yes, I just suggested to imply you enjoy eating children (my kid is an excellent baker though and does make good pie). I guarantee you won’t be asked to babysit if you do this!

  26. Aggretsuko*

    This kind of thing is already infuriating, but uh….does she know how super easy it is to find a baby daddy in a pandemic when you can’t even get near someone? That’s even WORSE.

    I can’t believe making you cry didn’t stop her. WTF.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I know quite a few people who are still online dating and going out with potential partners, and I’m like, “How?!” Most everything that I would possibly be interested in doing is still closed down, and the restaurants that are open are limited for capacity (not that I’d be sitting indoors and breathing in other people’s recirculated air anyway).

  27. RS*

    Le sigh. I once had an obnoxiously self-involved coworker say something similar to me. Soon enough these mamas-to-be will bewail their lack of sleep, and moan about how difficult it is to be a new parent while working – especially during a pandemic. I imagine that the OP will be far too polite to indulge in any smugly self-satisfied remarks about how good it is to be well-rested and able to focus on work without incessant distractions.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      And OP may have to make sure Anna doesn’t badger her into covering her shifts/doing her work for her, because she’s a parent and OP is childfree and has no life outside work.

  28. Ellie May*

    Oh, Anna … just because you’ve chosen to become pregnant doesn’t mean we all want to hear every detail and no, we’re not here to validate your choices by joining.

    In addition to flat out telling her, ‘This isn’t a topic I am discussing at work’ (note, this is not a question but a statement) try answering any invasive questions with ‘Why do you ask?’ before then reverting to ‘This isn’t a topic I am discussing at work.’

    Part of the problem may be that you’ve engaged in some degrees of conversation (like explaining that you’re currently single) rather than not engaging at ALL on the inappropriate topic. At some point, she will get bored that you’re not engaging.

    OP, you’re in a difficult position and trying to maintain professional relationships but please try to remember that you are not obligated to explain yourself to Anna in any way. Being childfree by choice, it took my way too long to figure out that I did not need to justify or explain my decision to those around me.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I’m childfree by choice. If anyone asked me about my reproductive choices at work, I’d say, “I have a daughter. Wanna see pics?”

      Then I’d pull out pics of…my cat.

      People would either get distracted and launch into their own pet stories or write me off as a crazy cat lady. I didn’t mind either outcome.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        One of my OldJobs used to have reunions every other year or so. I was the youngest there by about ten years, so most of my ex-coworkers from that place have adult children in their 30s and late 20s. At the last reunion a year ago, after a few drinks, everyone’s phones came out and I witnessed half the people proudly showing everyone pictures of their grandkids, and the other half (me included) equally as proudly showing people the photos of our grandcats and granddogs. We are a pretty easygoing bunch, so there was no shaming happening in either direction, and no questions asked about when our children would get around to having human kids instead of just the furry ones (in mine’s case, the answer might very well be “never”). We just all oohed and aahed over photos of pets and babies equally.

    2. virago*

      Ellie May: Part of the problem may be that you’ve engaged in some degrees of conversation (like explaining that you’re currently single)rather than not engaging at ALL on the inappropriate topic.

      This advice is sound theoretically, but it overlooks the fact that some baseline “getting to know you” questions (married/single? pets/no pets? house/apartment?) are hard to avoid answering without seeming as if you’re part of the Witness Security Program.

      1. Ellie May*

        Hello Virago, you make a good point however I sense that this is an ongoing and repeated area of conversation that OP has signaled (with tears) she is uncomfortable with and yet Anna continues to press her point and OP tries to politely deflect. Time to shut it down HARD and cease explanation and any degree of engagement.

  29. Just Don't*

    I once had a coworker who:
    – fat shamed a new mom
    – told another colleague (who I knew had failed IVF but the bad colleague did not know) that her husband would leave her if she didn’t produce a son
    – told me my husband would leave my because I was skinny and not pregnant

    When I went to report it to HR after she made another new mom colleague cry, my male manager tried to shame me to stay quiet as if it were frivolous/petty “girl stuff.”

    You never know what someone is going through. Don’t comment on people’s bodies/choices/lifestyles!

    1. Batgirl*

      my male manager tried to shame me to stay quiet as if it were frivolous/petty “girl stuff.”
      Ugh WHAT. Find some standards which are higher than the skirting board for your staff, dude.

    2. Sylvia*

      Are you time travelling to visit us from the 17th century, where your coworker is from? Just curious.

      1. AKchic*

        What’s the mileage expense report look like on the commute for that kind of travel to meet with a manager like that?

  30. CDel*

    As someone who is child-free by choice, whenever someone badgers me about if/when my partner and I are having kids, I usually pull out the old stand by “It’s really strange that you’re so invested in my reproductive choices. Is there a reason you keep asking these really weird questions?”. 9 times out of 10 they feel too embarrassed to continue pestering.

    1. Pennyworth*

      I wish more people would do this, though I prefer ‘reproductive circumstances’, because it covers the situation where someone is child-free but not by choice.

  31. Jennifer Juniper*

    If I were Anna’s boss, Anna would be slapped with a PIP for her harassment of the OP. And ANY mention of bodily functions from ANYONE on a work channel (EEEEWWW!!) would be slapped down with a TMI every. single. time.

  32. Rebecca*

    Lol can you just literally pretend as though she isn’t there when she does this? Just kidding, I know that’s unprofessional and childish. But this is like the last appropriate form of bullying in the modern workplace. If you bursting into tears didn’t stop her then sorry! She’s a monster and I’m not sure what will.
    If it were me I’d very flatly tell her “I’m not interested in discussing this with you.” If she can’t understand plain language like that…yikes.

  33. Workfromhome*

    Im sorry to hear this. This is not something someone should have to deal with. too many times people like Anna get given a pass “she’s just like that, she’s just a busybody, she’s been here forever and is bosses favorite) but the fact of the matter is its way over the line and there’s a high probability that long time managers have been letting this go for years to avoid confrontation and its empowered her to keep doing it.

    The next time she does it I’d shut it down whether you are new or not. I prefer to do it in earshot of other people. “Anna I’ve told you before and I want to be clear I d not want to discuss anything to do with child bearing again. I’m telling you to stop. (loud enough for everyone to hear) I find this harassing and I want to stop is…that clear…? ” If she says yes move on. If she says anything else cut her off and repeat is that clear until she says yes or walks away. Yes its may make a bit of a “scene” but doing it one is worth it. If after this she does it again then go straight to HR tell them you are being harassed, that you confronted Anna in front of witnesses and that you want them to stop the harassment.

  34. Minarch*

    Alongside the issue of inappropriate questions/commentary is this: if the conversation is not one that she would feel is appropriate to have with male colleagues, then why should she have it with you? As an architect and a female, I have dealt with this throughout a 30 yr career. I don’t care to discuss makeup and nail salons during work, never mind personal health and reproductive choices. She needs to just stop.

  35. Nicotene*

    I enjoy the contrast between this POV (“why don’t you have kids, that is the ONLY ACCEPTABLE THING TO DO WITH YOURSELF?”) and the POV where the raving children were obviously a source of stress and misery for everyone when there is no support or childcare available and yet work still needs to happen. This pandemic has not made having children seem more appetizing to those of us who don’t have any.

  36. Adecisionmaker*

    Mid 30s, single and I hope to have a child one day and I do stress over the inability to do so.

    But what a time to be childless. As I see family and friends stressed about childcare, school choices and the joke that is virtual school. I am overjoyed that I don’t have to deal with that.

    HOWEVER, I can’t IMAGINE a coworker crying about a topic I brought up and then for me to continue to bring it up. I would be mortified and I can’t imagine a reason that interaction did not deter her. A true WTF.

    At this point, I would start being blunt and if it continues – couldn’t this be considered sexual harassment? Talking about my reproductive plans when I have repeated asked the coworker to stop seems invasive.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      It’s definitely gendered harassment. She’s a bully who seems to feed off of the OP’s discomfort. Someone else said this somewhere above, but it’s worth repeating – what kind of parent is she going to be?!? Geez!

    2. Jaybeetee*

      I’m in this boat, rapidly approaching my mid-30s, single, dating is, um, challenging right now, and trying not to be too neurotic about the whole biological clock thing.

      Luckily I also seem to be surrounded by… normal, decent people who don’t press me on the subject? I feel like if I encountered an “Anna” IRL I’d have trouble restraining myself. She’s so far over the line, the line is now a dot.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      But what a time to be childless. As I see family and friends stressed about childcare, school choices and the joke that is virtual school. I am overjoyed that I don’t have to deal with that.

      Same here, though I’m also grateful that my brother and sister-in-law have the ability to do virtual learning with my niece. I was freaking out when they decided to open schools in my city because I know that six year olds have trouble with social distancing (my niece is great about keeping her masks on, though), and their hand hygiene is extremely questionable. Now I know for certain my niece won’t catch this virus, at least as long as her parents stay vigilant (my brother goes into an office every other week) and don’t get ill themselves.

  37. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I had a manager at a previous place berate me regularly for not having kids. According to them I was ‘afraid of responsibility’ and even put that drafted phrase in my performance review!

    I don’t want kids though so I’m different to you, but I also have a number of health issues that would make pregnancy incredibly dangerous if not fatal. They knew I didn’t want to discuss the matter but continued to push it because ‘I’m only trying to help’

    (Same boss who’d hassle me about my weight constantly, again it was ‘out of concern’)

    What I will say is do NOT go down the route I did. Don’t yell at the harasser(s) and tell them to do something anatomically impossible with a cactus. I wish I’d just completely blanked them after telling them once to shut the …. up. No response at all, no eye contact, nothing until they talk about work. Think a regular here calls it ‘grey stone’ or something where you refuse to give your tormentors any response.

    But also, report it to higher ups/HR if it doesn’t stop. It’s inexcusable that a person’s uterus should be a topic of conversation in the office. Your body, your business.

    Sincere internet hugs and I wish I could lend you my cane so you could poke these people out of earshot. Think a game of snooker but using rude coworkers as balls.

    1. Batgirl*

      Oh good grief that sounds deeply effed up. For what it’s worth I don’t think grey rocking a manager such as yours was really an option and you did all you could; grey rocking tends to be done from a position of power somewhat.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Thanks :) I really appreciate it. Often wondered what I could have done to get them to stop, but perhaps there wasn’t anything…

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Don’t yell at the harasser(s) and tell them to do something anatomically impossible with a cactus.

      This literally made me laugh out loud. Your manager had that one coming, especially when you got dinged on your review for being childless! (Afraid of responsibility – what?!)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I really did tell them that! Not my most professional moment.

        Left that company in the end (resignation and walked out without another job to go to) because I realised having screaming fights with your boss and HR regularly was toxic and I wasn’t going to change anything.

  38. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    I’m picturing a red air horn and OP blasting Anna with it every time she brings this up.

  39. Green Door*

    Next time she comes up to you, I would calmly but firmly ask her , “I have told you numerous times that I don’t care to discuss this with you. Please explain to me why you continue to bring it up.” Then say nothing. Sometimes forcing people to publicly explain their shameful behavior is enough to get them to stop. Failing that, I’d go back to your manager and explain to her that this barrage of personal, boundary violating questions, is affecting your ability to work productively. She needs to help you stop it.

  40. WantonSeedStitch*

    UGH, this is awful. I’m sorry, OP. I am currently pregnant myself and am REALLY not wanting to be that person who only talks about pregnancy–ESPECIALLY in the workplace. See, I’m 40, and this is my first pregnancy. I got married at 33, bought a house at 38, and got pregnant shortly after I turned 40. I would have *loved* for that timeline to happen a lot faster, but for multiple reasons, life got in the way, and every time someone asked me, “when are you going to get married/buy a house/have a baby?” I wanted to cry. Especially on the last, as I knew it would only get harder for me as time went on. No one knows what another person is going through. Pressuring them to do stuff they don’t want to do is terrible. Pressuring them to do stuff they would like to do but can’t (either yet or ever) is MUCH worse. It’s torture.

    1. Lizzo*

      I’m sorry that people were jerks, but in happier news, congrats on the pregnancy! Wishing you smooth sailing.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Thank you! Mostly, people weren’t jerks, but I had to snap at my (well-meaning, very loving, but sometimes thoughtless) mother a lot!

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I hit all the milestones at, or maybe a couple of years later than, my home country’s (really aggressive compared to the US) schedule, and I still got hit with “OK when are you going to get married?” “OK now that you’re married, when are you two having a baby?” “OK when’s the second baby?” and then, right on cue, immediately after the second baby came “I can’t believe she had two kids in a row, I thought she liked to work, but okay I guess”. You can never be good enough for the Annas of the world. Now that I’m in my 50s and my kids are grown, I can honestly say I don’t give a rat’s arse, but when I was younger? I agree, it hurt. Even if I only had to put up with it for a short period of time.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah, I don’t care so much about not meeting people’s expectations, but when you’re really wanting to do something and people are implying you’re CHOOSING to put it off…it’s frustrating!

      2. Aquawoman*

        I have a mild fantasy of being a vigilante crone who swoops in and yells at men on the street for telling women to smile and backhands people annoying women about their life choices.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’ll join you. I’ll be wearing a babushka and holding an orange tabby cat, like that Eastern European old woman in a meme. It was my life goal anyway, getting to yell at people who harass women is just an added bonus.

  41. Elizabeth West*

    If Anna and Lauren step up the pregnancy talk, especially on the work Slack channel, after OP tells Anna to cut out the questioning, that could also be an attempt to harass OP about it. I can see her doing this and then claiming “Well, I wasn’t talking to HER!” if she’s called out on it.

    Example: a coworker is talking about something sensitive to you but then when you ask them to stop, they shift the conversation to someone else but make sure to always have those conversations within earshot of you. It’s the verbal equivalent of a child holding a finger out and saying, “I’m not touching you!”— juvenile, annoying, and potentially actionable, given the subject matter. A hostile work environment, should this qualify as one (or grow into it), does not have to be directed at the OP for it to cause harm.

    Ideally, the manager would put a stop to the constant TMI and also enact a moratorium on it in official work channels like the company Slack. I’ve no doubt the OP has other coworkers who are thoroughly sick of hearing about Anna and Lauren’s reproductive capabilities and the daily reports on them.

  42. I'm Not Phyllis*

    As someone who is childless and has just hit the big 4-0, I get these questions a LOT, and I am having some major feelings about it lately. (Not about having kids, more about the implication that I’m not actually a woman or actually fulfilled as a human being or will never know what love is because I don’t.)

    I like Alison’s script. Say it, and then don’t budge on it. Refuse to get into a conversation about why you don’t want to discuss it. Refuse to answer any questions on any part of it. Don’t leave the door open even an inch. I know it can be hard when you’re new but you are not the one being rude in this situation. You are not obligated to discuss any aspect of your personal life with your co-workers, and you are especially not obligated to discuss something that is hurtful or upsetting for you.

  43. Stefanie*

    I have to say I don’t fully agree with Alison’s assessment. This overflows into bullying. This isn’t cluelessness. The writer has cried in front of them over their questions which are just insults – comments over her age stood out. The writer needs to position it as such as if it’s just her that’s the target then it’s Mean Girls – The Office.

    1. Former Conservative*

      I have to say, I’m a little baffled by the number of comments (a minority, to be sure) insinuating that Anna is just clueless, or just joyful/overjoyed/excited and wants to share her good news. Look, I have a lovely coworker who had her first child last year. She was completely OVERJOYED when she announced her pregnancy one morning to me and a couple of other coworkers who were in (it was early morning–she really couldn’t contain herself, she was that excited). From my perspective, her genuine excitement was beautiful and it made me so happy for her. But Anna isn’t excitedly announcing her pregnancy to OP, she’s asking OP questions about why she doesn’t have kids and so on.

  44. Jaybeetee*

    I suspect Anna isn’t quite as happy with her situation as she wants people to believe.

    Look, I’m in my 30s and kidless bc single. A friend of mine is in her 30s and kidless bc marital problems, another friend is in her 30s and kidless bc fertility problems, two separate relatives of mine are first-time mothers in their 40s due to life circumstances. I also know a number.ber of people who are childfree by choice. How anyone can make it to their 30s and either not know, or not care, that there are many different reasons people might not have kids, some of them painful… yeah, I don’t know. What kind of bubble do people like Anna live in?

    LW, Anna is so very, very wrong here, and you’re allowed to act like she’s very, very wrong. That can be a shocked look, a deadpan glare, utter pity at how limited and closed her life must be that you’re something shocking for her, or… telling her very plainly to drop it or you’ll go to the manager. Anna’s already had slack, and she’s hung herself with it.

  45. Jessie*

    OMG I’m so sorry about this. I was in a similar situation. Nearing my mid 30s, single and with no kids and I was constantly being harassed about it. One time a guy at work was making fun of my age as usual. I told him, “what’s the big deal, I’m the same age as Lisa.” Lisa is a colleague. He responded, “yes, but Lisa is married with kids.” As if I failed in life because I hadn’t done these things yet and she had. It’s horrible. I think you should end any further discussions about this. Do not even engage.

  46. 867-5309*

    I have no words, OP… I would be angry if someone I knew well – a close friend or family member – did this so I cannot image the frustration with a coworker who thinks it’s her place.

    Here is the thing about rude people: They will keep being rude until you tell them firmly and without question to stop. Of course, she will probably think you are rude but being firm and setting up boundaries is never rude or wrong. Full stop.

    Sorry you are dealing with this. As someone who is 40 and also always expected to have children by now (and who is single so my prospects now are firming in the “do it myself” category), I understand the frustration and pain when people pry too much and too hard into a space they have no business being. Hang in there.

  47. Blarg*

    This topic is so ubiquitous it is absurd. I had my tubes tied without ever being pregnant or having kids. Obviously, the best part is that I got to choose not to be a parent. The second best part is being able to make these invasive aholes shut it.

    “Oh you’ll want kids when you meet the right man.”

    “Well, I had my tubes tied a few years ago and every time I think about it I’m relieved.”


    I’m sorry that language won’t work for you. But I hope you’re able to find something to say that can shut this down without making you feel sad or vulnerable. This is their problem. Not yours.

  48. Aquawoman*

    I don’t know enough about the area to know if this is sexual harassment but if they don’t do it to men, it should be. (And actually, asking intrusive questions might be anyway if it’s pervasive enough). They’re creating a hostile work environment based on her reproductive choices (probably) because she’s a woman.

  49. RB*

    I would be so tempted to start making comments along the lines of how you are SO GLAD to be single and childless (even if not true), talk about how much freedom you have to do what you want, and say things like how you “dodged that bullet” when the child and pregnancy talk comes up. Talk about all the things you do that you wouldn’t be able to do if you had kids, even if you have to embellish. Maybe mention how much fun you have staying out late with all your single friends. Again, this doesn’t have to be 100% true, you get the idea.

  50. The blind forest*

    OP, you need to be more direct with Anna and stop hoping she notices you are uncomfortable. It seems obvious to you that discussing dating and kids upsets you but it actually seems like Anna thought you were upset about discussing dating with her and hasn’t made the next connection about kids. She stopped bringing up dating after you got upset. Tell her clearly that you are happy for her but the pregnancy discussions are painful for you and you would appreciate her avoiding the topic with you. If she continues, then just shut her down immediately if she brings it up after that.

    I actually agree with the manager that you need to speak with Anna first. This essentially boils down to an insensitive coworker won’t stop talking about a topic they are obsessed with and wanting you to feel the same way. You don’t need to justify or explain why you don’t want to talk about it but you do need to clearly tell her to stop first before asking your manager to step in.

  51. Dagny*

    “Anna, what do you expect me to do with this opinion you just shared?”

    “So… should I get knocked up by some hottie with good genes or should I go to a sperm bank?”

    “When you tell me I should settle, are you speaking about your personal experience in settling for a man when you personally think you can do better, or are you saying that your marriage is great but I don’t deserve that?”

    “This topic made me burst into tears, but at this point, I want you to tell me more about why you think I need to get knocked up. Now, in great detail, explain yourself. And I do mean in great detail.”

  52. pcake*

    “I have told you repeatedly that I do not want to discuss my personal reproductive choices at work, but you will not stop telling me to get pregnant. Please do not discuss this with me again.”

    And I’d also say this in an email cc’ed to the boss and HR.

  53. Essess*

    You need to speak to the boss or to HR and tell them that at this point Anna is violating EEOC laws about harassing you about your pregnancy status and it has elevated to the point of the legally defined ‘hostile workplace’. You have already told her multiple times to stop and your boss needs to step in and stop the illegal behavior. Your supervisor has a legal requirement to get involved, not to push it back to you to speak to Anna. Use those words. I would also tell Anna that she’s breaking the law by harassing you about this after you’ve told her to stop and that if she continues then you will be making a report to HR for the harassment.
    If it doesn’t stop after going to HR, go ahead and complain to the EEOC.

  54. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    Some people just look at women as incubators/breeders/parents. True story from my toxic old job:

    Co-worker: “So when are you having kids?”
    Me: “I’m not having kids. I don’t like kids. I don’t want to get pregnant. I don’t want to be pregnant. I don’t want to give birth. I don’t want to raise a child.”
    Co-worker: “Oh. So are you going to adopt?”
    Me: *screaming into the soothing nothingness of the infinite void*

    At least this one knew when to stop, but… I just…

    1. 1234*

      I’m sorry your coworker was so infuriating. “I don’t want to raise kids.” should have been very very clear…

  55. 1234*

    I am an early-mid 30s female who does not want nor have any children by choice. I decided this a long time ago. I once told a date something like “I think it’s great that you want kids. I’m all for that if that’s what you want. But raising tiny humans is not a part of my life plans.”

    Response from date? “I think by your next birthday you will change your mind. Not this one, but next year.” (At the time of the conversation, my birthday was coming up in a month or so) I think he not so subtly called me selfish since I don’t want kids nor do I own pets (also a personal choice)

    My response to Anna would be a modified version of that such as “my life plans right now don’t involve tiny humans and this is the last time I will be discussing this topic. Do not bring up this topic to me ever again.”

    1. Sc@rlettNZ*

      OMG, the man who thinks he knows your own mind better than you do. I once had a boyfriend who insisted that I really did secretly want children because I had a cat. At the time I was in my mid 30’s. I’ve never, ever wanted children (I couldn’t think of anything worse). I knew this from a very young age.

      Dumped. Next :-)

  56. Aerin*

    When I used to post on a wedding planning forum and people asked for advice on dealing with difficult family who wouldn’t drop a subject, we would recommend something we called “bean-dipping.” It looked something like this:

    Annoying future-mother-in-law: You just have to have this cousin who hates you in your wedding party.
    Beleaguered bride: Have you tried the bean dip? It’s really good.
    AFMIL: I really want you to ask her to be a bridesmaid.
    BB: I don’t normally like it with tomatoes but I think it really works here.

    The idea is that it takes two people to have a conversation, and if this other person wants to single-mindedly pursue a subject regardless of what response they get, well, you can do that too. (One time someone reported back that she had employed this technique quite literally, and instead of using “bean dip” to stand in for any innocuous small talk subject, talked about actual bean dip despite none being present. AFMIL was reportedly bewildered into silence and didn’t bring up the subject again.)

    So yeah, I feel like it’s time for OP to start pretending that any questions about pregnancy are actually questions about her latest hobby or what she’s been binge watching, and respond accordingly. This is really just a variant on the school of thought where you become a blank wall of bland non-answers (“haven’t really thought about it,” “not really sure,” “maybe someday, I don’t know”) but I prefer this route because I am a chaos muppet.

    1. No Name Yet*

      A) This is great advice
      B) I am trying hard not to laugh so loud I wake up my household at the idea of focusing a conversation on bean dip when there was none around. 10 points to her! Go chaos muppets!

  57. OG OP*

    Thank you to everyone who has commented, I’ve really felt bolstered by everyone’s (and Alison’s!) advice and experience – it’s given me the courage to be extremely firm with Anna when I next encounter her inappropriate behavior. And I’m sure I won’t long to wait before I get to try it out!

    1. RB*

      How are you at subtly-snide comments and sarcasm? I am so uncomfortable being direct with people that I would do almost anything to avoid that conversation. Have you tried saying things that you obviously don’t mean and are meant to dead-end the conversation, like “I’ll have to get right on that” when they start with the pressuring.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        I would recommend against sarcastic comments like that mostly because if she starts being snide it can become an issue of “oh, she’s being rude/dismissive to someone who’s just politely asking after her life.” Since she’s new, her boss and coworkers don’t have the same background of levelheadedness they might otherwise have and could label her argumentative or difficult to work with. I’m not sure what the office culture is like, but from the letter it sounds as though these questions might not be considered overstepping (which is a bit horrifying).

        I don’t thing that’s right, to be clear it is absolutely the coworker who’s being rude; I just want to acknowledge that people can be more willing to excuse rudeness from a known entity, particularly if that rudeness isn’t something that personally bothers them.

    2. Shira*

      Please keep us posted! And I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Hoping it eases up one way or another.

  58. Workerbee*

    I find myself wanting to ask the Annas of the world: What, if anything, are you thinking while you’re behaving this way? Can you honestly say it’s out of 100% altruism? And if you say you can, what happens to that altruism when people ask or tell you to stop, and you persist? ‘Cause from here, your motives seem to range from moronic to actively malicious.

    One of my favorite lines from the Southern Charm franchise is Cameron’s mom telling her that it doesn’t take intelligence to get pregnant and have a baby. “MICE have babies,” she said.

    Annas of the world, save what brain cells you have for after the kid is born. Learn about empathy while you’re at it.

    1. Former Conservative*

      >what happens to that altruism when people ask or tell you to stop, and you persist?

      That’s precisely how we know it’s not altruism. This is not about “spreading the joy” or “sharing the excitement” as so many comments here have insinuated.

  59. Mother Trucker*

    I’ve never wanted kids – I asked for a hysterectomy for my 12th birthday. I’ve also never been shy about letting people know this. There are a number of reasons – none of which are anyone’s business. With my family, I always say ‘I prefer dogs, I see what kind of assholes this family produces ‘. At work I’ve always said ‘that’s an incredibly personal, unprofessional, invasive question – do you really think that’s appropriate to ask in a professional environment? I don’t think HR would really care to discuss my uterus with them.’ That usually shuts them up, and keeps them on edge.

  60. ev*

    At this point my answer would be “Anna I want to talk to you about work matters and work only. My personal life is none of your business and I have no interest in your personal life either. Anything other than work, especially subjects of a personal nature like family planning or children will be ignored, and if continues will be reported to HR as harassment.”

    And I would report to HR every single incident regarding that. And put the above in writing including the boss and HR.

  61. Robin Ellacott*

    I’m reeling from the fact that OP was actually CRYING and Anna still didn’t get the message. I think that absolves Anna’s victim of any possible hesitation about being blunt – clearly bluntness is required since Anna apparently has the hide of a rhinoceros and zero empathy.

    OP, if I were you I’d practice the script you want – “I will not be discussing my private health matters at work. Please don’t ever ask me about this again” or similar – until you can say it without any “I’m sorry, but…” or appeasing smile. This is hard as we’ve all been trained to be polite, except apparently Anna, but practice helps even if it feels silly.

  62. Office Cat*

    A guy I used to work with would make a joke when someone overshared, just a fake football call: “TMI, 10 yard penalty, still first down.” It was mildly amusing, but also let the person know that they’d overstepped.

  63. DJ*

    Terrible situation. My heart goes out to you. How dare they pressure you like that and the manager you told wasn’t more proactive!! It’s not acceptable to go beyond asking someone if they plan to have kids one day. And only if you accept the indication they don’t want to go there. Discraceful. So sorry you ar heaving to go through this!

  64. Steve*

    The answer to that moronic question is “are you going to pay for the child’s upkeep then? No?? Then get lost and drink bleach”.

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