can you be spontaneous when you have a full-time job?

A reader writes:

Can you still have a spontaneous personal life when you work full-time?

My husband and I have conflicting schedules: he works nights and weekends part-time, and I work a traditional full-time job 9-5 weekdays, so we often don’t get to do much together socially. My husband is off work for the next few days and was invited to a last-minute event with friends (it’s pandemic friendly: outdoors and small). He asked me last-minute halfway through my workday Friday to ditch work and join him. I told him I couldn’t, and I feel guilty for not being able to be spontaneous with him. He asked me to just tell my manager I wasn’t feeling well, but I told him I have more integrity than that. I’m still bummed though that I didn’t go with him—we never get to go to things like this together. Should I have gone with him?

I just recently got a new job (I’m about six weeks into it) and so far it’s been great! I really want to establish myself as a reliable employee by demonstrating a good work ethic, especially as we are all working from home amid the pandemic. New job also means no PTO will be available to me until the end of the year. My new manager was very kind, though, and she gave me three days off (paid) when I was ill with Covid and too sick to work. My husband thinks she would have understood a mental health day, but that would be three and a half days off in my first six weeks without technically being able to take them … It just doesn’t feel right. Especially a mental health day when I don’t need one at this point. (As an aside, I do believe my manager would not frown upon mental health days in general.) Arguably, I don’t have any major projects with deadlines yet, so I wouldn’t have gotten behind on anything, and I imagine I’ll start getting busy soon.

My ultimate question: once I do accrue PTO with my new job, how often could I be spontaneous and take off work last-minute without damaging my reputation? Would I need to work for a year and then I can do it once a year? Twice a year? Should I never go? Or would it have totally been fine to abandon my laptop early for this weekend to go to a last-minute event?

You made the right choice in this situation. You don’t just take off from a brand-new job where you don’t yet have any accrued PTO just because someone extends a casual, last-minute social invitation, even if that person is your husband. If you did that, there’s a high risk you would have looked flaky/unreliable/like you weren’t prioritizing work in the way you’d agreed to prioritize it. It’s possible that your particular manager wouldn’t have cared at all — but enough would (and not unreasonably so) that it’s not worth the risk.

The backdrop here is that you’ve already missed 10% of your time in your new job (three days out of 30 work days). You were sick, so that’s not a big deal. No reasonable manager would hold that against you. But that’s not a backdrop against which it makes sense to take more time off that you don’t yet have simply because someone invited you to something.

There’s more leeway once you’re a more established employee — and once you have the PTO to take. At that point, how often you can take off at the last minute depends very much on your job, your workload, and your manager. In many jobs, it’s fine to look at your workload, see there’s nothing there that can’t wait, and use up some of your PTO on a last-minute half day (or full day, for that matter). In some jobs, especially ones where other people aren’t depending on you for coverage, you could do that every month or two. In other jobs you could do it a few times a year. It really depends on the type of work you do, how much autonomy your job gives you, and what your team culture is like. (In general, though, the more independently you work and the more senior your role, the easier it is to do. In some jobs, no one but you knows the details of your workload, and if you have a good track record your boss will trust you to manage your time as you see fit. In other jobs, that’s not the case.)

I’m curious what your husband meant when he suggested you take a “mental health day.” The way that term is usually used, it means “I’m stressed out / I can’t face going into work today” (not “I am having a flare-up of a genuine mental health issue”). It’s not something you’d normally say to your boss, and it’s definitely not something anyone would expect you to need when you’d only been on the job a few weeks. (If I had an employee feeling they couldn’t face work by week six, I’d be concerned!)

Anyway, it’s tough/impossible to give you a precise answer to “how often is okay?” without knowing your job, your team culture, etc. But at a minimum, wait until you have the actual time off to take!

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 220 comments… read them below }

  1. avocadotacos*

    I think the harder issue is the conflicting schedules between you and your husband, and how y’all will work out spending quality time together when you work opposite hours. I have no advice for that, but hopefully someone will have an idea that you can do without taking off of work. Congrats on the new job!

    1. AnNina*

      Yes, I think this is an issue you have to deal in a bigger scale. And this is a great opportunity to talk it through with your husband! As in: “I noticed this happened. How should we plan ahead on how we are going to have quality time in the future? And how we are going to deal with spontainious invitations or add spontainiouty into our lifes without harming our careers?”

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Yeah, working does remove a lot of spontaneity. It’s just the reality of life. You have obligations that require you to be in a particular place (work) at a particular time (your scheduled hours). It’s hard when your husband’s hours don’t line up with yours, but that happens sometimes. Mine didn’t line up with my husband’s for the first 18 months we were married. We worked around it, though. It just requires more planning ahead and scheduling.
        If being spontaneous is important to your marriage, LW, then you’ll have to find ways to be spontaneous within the bounds set by your work hours. Surprise each other for lunch sometimes. Plan to have a date, but let the actual activities be a surprise. Plan some time off to spend together, and just do random fun things you haven’t done in a while.
        But yes, working does curtail your social life at times. That’s just how it is, and it’s that way with any job, no matter what your schedule is. Your husband needs to accept that and support you in building your reputation as a reliable professional.

    2. Not A Girl Boss*

      I agree – as someone who lived like this for 5 years I definitely sympathize, but the solution is not to cut out of a new job early with no warning and lie about the reason. That said, there’s probably room for you to build in time together that don’t require spontaneity. Both of our bosses have been very accommodating and understanding when we talked to them about it.

      -For example, I had a job where I was able to arrange with my boss flexing one week a month so I could work 9 hours Monday-Thursday and take a half day Friday.
      -At another point, I was the one with the strict schedule but my husband would keep an eye out for a slow day and request an unpaid hour off (he was hourly) so we could meet for pizza (slices, so it was quick) before I went into work for the night.
      -On weekends I brought him lunch and we sat in the parking lot of his job to eat.
      -We tried to use up most of our PTO on 3-day weekends with a 1-night hotel stay in a nearby fun city. Waiting months and months for a one week vacation was just… too long.

      1. coldbrewraktajino*

        When I was a kid, my dad worked second shift–like 3 pm-11 pm–as well as a lot of overtime, and so I rarely saw him. My parents made sure to carve out some time by bringing him lunch (our dinner) and having parking lot picnics. On Fridays he would wake me up when he got home and we’d watch a movie. When I was a teenager, he worked first shift–super early–and would be awake in the afternoons just long enough to pick me up from school.

        In both situations I recognized the effort he was making and really cherish those memories. I agree that more scheduling is key, and it doesn’t make the time any less meaningful.

        1. EZ Like Sunday Morning*

          I had a very similar situation- My dad worked 3rd shift my entire life, but he always made sure to come to my school/sports events for as long as he could before he had to go to work in the evening, and he somehow was able to have a normal weekend after coming home from work Saturday morning. I don’t know how he did it.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        When I worked varying shifts at factories, both as an assembler and for the company that managed the facility cafeterias, I knew a lot of people who did stuff like this. They often worked opposite shifts from their spouses and had to be creative in order to spend time together. It can be done.

    3. Me*

      A woman I used to work with started earlier and left before the rest of us so she could see her husband before his evening shift. Having not negotiated that prior to hire, it’s not something I would bring up now if I were the OP. But perhaps it’s something she can request in the future after building up her reputation as a good employee.

    4. Alex*

      My partner & I work that kind of schedule right now and what’s worked for us is actually MORE planning, rather than spontaneity. We religiously block out some post work evenings for me, during the workweek. We do stuff in the morning on weekends when he’s coming off a night shift. You have to set it up, spontaneous stuff usually means I can’t make it.

      1. Toaster_strudel*

        I agree with that sentiment. I work a regular 9-5 and he works nights with a rotating schedule. If we want time off for something to do together it has to be planned. At least 2 weeks out. Especially when he first started the job and didn’t have any seniority and rarely got weekends off. Now that he’s been there a few years he can take most weekends off and it helps. But if there’s something we want to do during the week, it must be well planned.

      2. KateM*

        This kind of spontaneous that OP describes I would call being a weathercock. It’s normal to make plans once you are an adult with responsibilities.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yes! Scheduling and planning are part of adulthood. Spontaneity, while fun, has to take a back seat to practicality.
          One can still be spontaneous. Just not in the same ways. Unscheduled social events aren’t really an option anymore. But little surprises are still a fun way to spice things up.

      3. CowWhisperer*

        Yes! There are times and places in life where spontaneous works – and other times where it fails miserably.

        My husband and I used to be able to pull of spontaneity when we were kid-free and working jobs with lots of flexibility. Now we have a kid and each work separate shifts – so planning is key.

    5. PersistentCat*

      I worked 5pm-5am for 8 years & my husband worked 9am-5pm during that time. Depending on if your husband is working nights (generally starting after 9pm) or evenings (that afternoon/still polite to make evening calls to a stranger period), I offer the following strategies:
      Evenings: wake up way earlier, enjoying your breakfast as he eats dinner & spend morning quality time together. Yes, my husband was up at 4 so we could spend 2 hours together (phones down, TV off) before I went to bed at 7/8. This also resolved bathroom conflicts between me needing to get ready for bed & him needing to get ready for work. Try breakfast joints on occasion, or morning workout classes together!
      Nights: prioritize spending dinner together instead of breakfast! Sane quality time rules! You said he’s working part time; if his start time is occasionally later, have evening outings then!
      Hope this helps.

      1. Maria*

        Seconding this! My fiance and I have worked a variety of shifts – we both worked second when we met, but we’ve both worked first, second, and third since then – almost never with us both on the same one. OP – I don’t know if working opposite shifts is new to you, but it does take planning and a willingness to change your sleep schedule a bit on the weekends in order to spend time together.

        The biggest bonus of working truly opposite shifts: when I was on first shift and my fiance was on third (overnight), he’d sometimes make breakfast to wake me up. (I returned the favor when I’d come home and wake him up with coffee and food.) Embrace eating food at weird times. (casserole for breakfast? Cereal for dinner? Sure!)

        Working different shifts is hard and it really does cut into spontaneity. I hope you and your husband are able to carve out some time for yourself without impacting your careers.

    6. Third or Nothing!*

      Yes, I agree that is the main issue here. I have a traditional work schedule of 8-5, and my husband is a welder. In past jobs he worked 2nd or 3rd shift (so 2 PM – 11 PM for 2nd shift or 11 PM – 7 AM for 3rd shift). It was tough. We had about the same amount of time together available no matter the schedule, but the quality of that time differed greatly. No matter how you cut it, you just can’t enjoy the same sorts of activities from 2 PM – midnight on a random Saturday as you could if you started at 10 AM and stopped at 8 PM.

    7. GammaGirl1908*

      It sounds like the unspoken piece of this is that the husband has a job where being a little flaky is often not a big deal (like maybe call-center or restaurant or nightclub work) and LW does not. That is, blowing off work is A Done Thing at Hubs’ job, and is that is not the case at LW’s job and Hubs may not yet quite get it.

      This reminds me of the letter a while back where LW expected her significant other to prepare for his interview, whereas he thought that was ridiculous because he had gotten every job he’d ever interviewed for with no preparation. Meanwhile, Sig Oth had mostly worked retail and fast food, and then he got shocked that interviewing for professional jobs was completely different.

    8. Beth*

      Yeah, this feels more like a relationship problem to me than a work problem. OP, you sound like your sense of work norms is perfectly fine. The real challenge is 1. you’re on a different schedule than your husband, so it’s hard to spend leisure time together, and 2) you and your husband aren’t aligned on how you will handle work; he thinks it’s no big deal to call out whenever you want, you (I think more accurately) think that can be a problem if you don’t time it right.

      The reality is, for most adults, spontaneity is a relatively small scale thing, fit in around the margins of the parts of our lives that aren’t flexible. A “screw it, let’s skip cooking and go out tonight” day? Sure. A “last minute meeting at the local bar for happy hour after work” friend hangout? Absolutely. A “drop everything and skip out on responsibilities” last-minute outing? Not so much; we can have days off, of course, but we need to either plan them in advance or fit them into our existing schedules. You and your husband need to decide if that typical model is enough for you; if it’s not, you may need to discuss actively building your careers around flexibility to get the level of spontaneity you want.

      1. micklethwaite*

        Yeah, I can’t remember the last time I got to spontaneously blow off a whole afternoon’s worth of adulting and go do something fun with my husband. (I have small kids so there really is no leeway for this, but even before that, spontaneous was ‘let’s eat out after work’, not ‘let’s fake illness and leave work early’!) Until the unlikely day when we’re both senior enough to have serious flexibility with our hours, spontaneous is for outside work time. It just is. We’re not students any more.

    9. EngineerMom*

      This sounds like a symptom of a bigger problem – how to resolve the differences between your and your husband’s work schedules.

      That said, there’s a relatively easy solution to this – get better at planning! You don’t have to be spontaneous to have fun.

      You can plan to take a day or two off, and just not plan the day, and make that the spontaneous part.

      He can surprise you with an evening event when you thought he’d be working by planning to take a Friday or Saturday night off.

      He shouldn’t expect you to be flaking out on your job just because he’s bored.

  2. Diahann Carroll*

    Agreed, Alison – OP doesn’t have the track record with this company to get away with something like this yet. I don’t typically take spontaneous time off until I’m in a role for close to a year, and I’m usually in roles that don’t require coverage.

    1. Amaranth*

      Also, OP’s husband was suggesting OP actually lie to their boss and claim illness, which is a frankly terrible idea. Not that taking a sick day isn’t sometimes the only way to get a mental break from an exhausting or toxic workplace but OP appears positive about her job and boss.

      On the practical side, I can’t count the number of times I’ve run across someone at a ‘small’ gathering who turned out to be somehow linked to my workplace through boss or a client or coworker. Even without that risk, OP would have to be completely certain nobody is going to be posting photos or naming names and also carry through with dishonesty when back at work if anyone asks how they are feeling.

      1. anon manager*

        Especially right now — I’ve been known to take the occasional vague “I’m not feeling great” day off but I haven’t done it since March because I don’t want anyone to think I might have Covid.

        1. Shhhh*

          I have an anxiety disorder and have, in the past, done the “I’m not feeling great” thing to get a day off when I didn’t feel like I could explain the real reason, but I also haven’t done it since COVID even though I’m 100% remote because I don’t want anyone to worry. It doesn’t feel like the time to do that.

          1. Sleepy anon*

            Ha, I had a moment where I was like, “did I write this?”

            I eventually went with “not feeling well due to a pre-existing medical condition,” and sometimes a migraine (which is often true but usually secondary to the mental health issues – I get them when overstimulated and anxiety usually contributed to that).

            I tried to just push through but it didn’t go well. It’s infuriating, though, when you see people like the LW’s boyfriend who think that mental health days are just fun days. What I would give to have a mental health day that wasn’t actually for my mental health.

      2. Massmatt*

        Right, major side-eye to the husband both for suggesting his wife lie to her boss but also suggest she “ditch work” for a last minute party 6 weeks into a new job, after already taking sick time.

        Your first several months on the job are crucial for how your peers as well as managers perceive you. You only get 1 chance to make a good first impression.

        I would make very sure not to be late or take off other time for any reason.

        1. Middle Aged Lady*

          Lying is hardly ever a good idea. If this is a habit he brought to the marriage, one of the best things you can do for him and yourself is assist him to become a person with more integrity. You don’t just blow off work. You don’t tell lies. You especially don’t encourage others to do the same. This may sound harsh, but my advice comes from painful experience. Good luck to you.

          1. Ponytail*

            Yeah, the fact that the husband would suggest this to someone in only their first couple of months of a job… I’m from the UK where we earn PTO from day 1, and where sick leave is a completely different ‘bank’ of PTO, and even then, I think someone taking off that much time in the first few weeks would be noticed. I might be blowing this up, but I’d be having a serious talk with my other half if he suggested this – it’s totally irresponsible and does point to a lack of integrity with regards how you treat work and other people. Am also not keen on bandying about the term ‘mental health day’ when there was no indication the OP actually needed one – the husband seemed to just want social company.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah. The husband needs a reality check here, I think. At best it comes across as thoughtlessness, at worst,it’s a lack of respect for his wife’s job and its demands on her time. And let’s face it, he’s working part-time evenings and weekends and she’s got a 9-5 office job. I expect her to be making more money at this point, although obviously I could be wrong. I wonder how he’d react if she’d tell him to blow off the job for an evening so they could spend time together?

        2. Sleepy anon*

          This!! I was actually thinking that none of this looks good on the boyfriend – to be so willing to lie to suit his own wants, and to fully expect you to do the same. It might be a stretch but it seems like the kind of guy that would cheat and blame it on his spouse.

  3. AdAgencyChick*

    OP, show this post to your husband so he knows it’s not cool to do this the next time *he* starts a new job!

    1. boop the first*

      Yeah, it’s also very not cool to do this to another person. My parent used to complain to my other parent for not ditching work to spontaneously hang out, even though that job was what paid all the bills, and, well, they’re split now.

  4. CatsOnAKeyboard*

    Definitely six weeks is too soon – even if you had PTO from day 1, I’d think it was too soon. I think six months at a minimum for something that last minute – with the caveat that if you have a job with ebbs and flows, you may be able to do it sooner.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I agree because OP has already taken some time (completely understandably). I try to work without taking any time off for the first six weeks to three months, before I start feeling ready to take leave, and particularly unscheduled leave. Of course it’s often unavoidable, I’m just stating my best practices.

      If you had been there for a year already I’d say go ahead and take an early Friday, live your life! Work will ALWAYS be there.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yeah, I’ve been here a long (LONG) time and my job doesn’t require coverage, so I’d have no problem saying “Hey, I’ve got nothing going on this afternoon, I’m going to take annual.” But I would *not* have done it under these circumstances.

    2. Not A Girl Boss*

      To provide a different perspective, I have been at my new job less than 6 months and probably flex my time every other week. We are talking an hour max for an appointment or something, and I work early/late to make it up. Its just truly no big deal at my job where everyone is on ever-changing COVID WFH schedules and coverage isn’t required.

      But I do feel like there’s a huge difference between sending my boss a quick email “Hey tomorrow I’m shifting my work schedule to 7-3:30” and “Hey can I skip X meeting with no warning to go to a party with my husband… and can you pay me for it?”

    3. Emma*

      I think part of it is also that 6 weeks is really too soon to know whether or not this will fly at a new job. At my job you can only take last minute time off for something unavoidable. Four years ago a manager left 2 hours early to watch the football and he still hasn’t been forgiven for it, despite leaving the company.

      But at 6 weeks, you usually just don’t know – it takes longer to have a chance to see how other people handle leave, and what reaction they get for it.

      1. LQ*

        I think you can get a good enough feeling. If you constantly see folks shifting schedules and taking off time you’d likely see that by 6 weeks. On the other hand if after 6 weeks you haven’t see anyone do this I’d be very hesitant. It could be a fluke still at 6 weeks, but I think you can get a feel for it. But it would be worth looking a little more closely if it wasn’t one of those edge cases. If it’s only one group (either folks who have been around a long long time, or only one department, or only upper management, or only salaried/hourly) then I’d be much more likely to hesitate.

  5. ThatGirl*

    I’ve been at my company for 3 1/2 years and in my current role for about 17 months, and even now I’m getting used to the idea of spontaneously taking a day off – illness notwithstanding. My current manager, for all her flaws, is actually fine with last-minute PTO as long as things are covered. But it’s not in my DNA, I’m a planner.

    Anyway — the point is there are jobs and managers where a last-minute day off is no big deal, but I agree with Alison, I would never advise doing it 6 weeks into a new job where you’re still getting the lay of the land.

    1. Dr of Laboratoria*


      I’ve been at my job for 4 years… and the other week was the first time I have ever asked my boss to take the next off. I was just… feeling a bit burnt out.

      He said he didn’t care, as long as there’s coverage.

      But that’s the difference with being in your job for years vs. a few weeks.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I’ve been at mine for *15* years and I still wouldn’t take a day off if I couldn’t give some advance notice! And my job is pretty forgiving about last-minute time off. But my department is small and even though they can function without me on short notice, of course, I don’t want them to have to unless it’s unavoidable, so I wouldn’t do this unless I were sick/some other actual emergency.

    3. Birdie*

      Yes, I work very independently and coverage is not an issue, so my boss really doesn’t care about my schedule or last minute PTO. I literally told her this morning that I was going to take all of next week off, and she didn’t even blink. But even in this kind of position, I didn’t spontaneously duck out early (by which I mean leave ~30 minutes early on rare occasions) until at least 3-4 months in. Definitely better to play it safe until you get the lay of the land and feel confident about how your boss is going to react.

  6. Duckles*

    Important to distinguish too between “spontaneous”— what Alison described (I’m slow this Friday afternoon, have lots of capital, and control my schedule, so I’m leaving early) and flaky (calling in sick when you’re not sick— that is definitely not something professionals do).

  7. D3*

    I get so tired of people calling it a “mental health day” when they’re not actually struggling with mental health but just want to do something fun. Makes it sound frivolous, and makes managers less likely to be okay with *actual* mental health days.

    1. Washi*

      I was also a little confused by that. Is the idea that if you are having a mental illness flare up, that that’s a sick day, not a mental health day? And therefore mental health day = “I’m feeling stressed and don’t want to go in?”

      I don’t think of that as a universal distinction, and I don’t think the line between those is always that clear.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I’ve always heard “mental health days” used when there’s nothing really wrong you just feel tired or burnt out and just need a day last minute to relax, and burn some sick leave- sort of used as a playing hooky from school. If someone was having an actual mental health situation that wouldn’t fall under mental health day but an actual medical need just like the flu.

        I’ve also found the casual use of mental health day not great for this reason.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right, if you’re struggling with actual mental health, that’s a sick day. You don’t call in and say “I’m taking a mental health day” any more than you’d say “I’m taking a diarrhea day.” It’s just a sick day.

        Colloquially, people have used “mental health day” to mean you really just need a day off but there’s no medical reason in play.

        1. Susana*

          I’m glad I’ve never had to say, “I’m taking a diarrhea day!” Fortunately that level of detail never demanded of me…

          1. Miss Muffet*

            I had an employee who volunteered that level of detail (it was usually menstruation-related) even when not asked. Because I would never ask. You need a sick day? Great. Tell me if there’s anything urgent that needs covering, and nothing more. I couldn’t get her to stop “proving” it though.

            1. allathian*

              Ouch. I wonder if there’s a micromanager somewhere in her work history who would demand details, even when they’re not really any of their business?

              1. LQ*

                Some people are just sharers like that. Some people want to share that information. It doesn’t always have to be a bad boss or traumatic past, sometimes people are different and don’t have the exact same values as you.

        2. Garlicky*

          Where I’m from, we have “taking a duvet day”. Is that the same thing? You never tell your boss that, of course.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Yeah, same thing. It’s taking a day off to recharge and relax, rather than because you have specific plans or you’re actually sick.
            Some folks recognize the warning signs that they’re approaching burnout, and will schedule a day off in advance to do this. Others (especially newer employees in the work force) haven’t figured that out yet, and end up calling in sick.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I think “actual mental health days” are people who want to take a day off to do something fun. I think the term originated as a jokey, *wink* wink* for someone taking a day off to play.

      There’s rarely such a thing as a mental health day. Are you struggling with your mental health and need a day off? Sounds like a a plain old sick day to me. Rarely will you encounter a designation of a mental health day as a specific type of time off like PTO, vacation, or a sick day.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I agree that people who are having a flare-up of an actual mental health issue qualify for a sick day, and that I’ve never heard of a company who classified that sort of thing differently.

        That said, there’s also the idea that sometimes you are bordering on burnt out, exhausted, etc and just need a day off because you Can’t Even. And that might not fall under the umbrella of clinical mental illness, but it can still be good for your mental and emotional health to take a day off.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yes, this. But I would never call it a “mental health day” to my boss. Either I don’t feel well (I’m taking sick leave and staying home) or I need a day off (I’m taking vacation time and I’ll do whatever I want).

            1. Bibliovore*

              I had report say this to me and I was shocked . Later I realized she actually did mean it in reference to her mental health. I let it go thinking I was the one who misunderstood the phrase.

        2. Quill*

          I’ve seen it used for various things, ranging from “I feel generally bad due to stress / poor sleep / whatever” to “I cannot juggle item X and work at all today” to things that aren’t easy to explain (migraines, fatigue, various mental health flares) without getting pushback.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        Exactly. The purpose behind a “mental health day” in quotes ::wink::wink:: is not to denigrate actual mental illness. It’s just a way of saying, “I just need a break today, and I’m caught up at work, so it’s OK to just take it.”

        If you need a day off for genuine mental health reasons, just call it a “sick day.” Sick days are for when you are under the weather, and it doesn’t matter if the reasons for that are physical or mental.

        1. Sasha*

          Exactly – it’s for the good of your mental health, not because you have a mental illness. Like you might have an “employee wellness” day at work that consists of massage chairs and yoga sessions, not first aid.

      3. Random Commenter*

        Interesting, when I run into people using the term Mental Health Day (or use it myself) they’re describing days when they feel burned out.
        For me, it usually means that if I take today off, I’ll be in far better shape tomorrow than if I didn’t.

      4. Corey*

        I am not finding any references to it starting as a joke that means “a day off to do something fun or to play”. Everything I see uses its modern definition. When do you think the transition happened?

        1. Random Commenter*

          I don’t think it ever actually meant that. I think some people who are skeptical about how much burnout can affect others THINK that’s what it means.

          Also, I imagine doing something fun is how some people recover from burnout.

      5. Gray Lady*

        Yes, the idea is not that you’ve having a mental health issue, it’s that you’re taking a day to “preserve my mental health”, IOW, have some fun. I agree with Alison that “mental health day” is taken for something frivolous, not for serious mental health issues.

        1. DataSci*

          I don’t think “preserving mental health” is frivolous. I’ve taken mental health days after major deadlines when I’ve been pulling 12-hour days for a week. No medical issue, physical or mental, but much needed to be able to come back to work refreshed and ready.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            He’s not saying that the preservation itself is frivolous. Just that many of the activities people undertake to blow off steam, and thereby preserve their mental health, are frivolous.
            And frivolity is not automatically a bad thing. We all need some fun in our lives. We’re not robots.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      I understand where you are coming from but I think we need to use the phrase mental health day. I work in a counseling center and our clinicians and staff are always saying use PTO for mental health days, i.e you are stressed and need extra time to decompress to work better. I think most places would understand I need a mental health day as I just need an extra break.
      Now if you truly do have mental health issues than I think it would be more of a sick day and you should say your out sick.

    4. Girl on the Shelf*

      I had a friend who worked for a small publishing company. They actually were allowed to take “Mental Health Days” when they were stressed or just needed a breather. I think they were allowed six of them per year. This was in the ’90s. I’m not sure the term “Mental Health Day” would fly today.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      I’ve been protecting my overall mental health by taking an occasional preventative rest day and am okay calling it a mental health day (rather than generic sick day) with my manager. I’ve taken one per month on average since the pandemic started, in order to stave off burnout from all the various pressures.

      But I agree that I definitely wouldn’t call it a mental health day when what I really mean is spontaneous last-minute vacation day, like the OP’s husband suggested. Part of that is the first is paid sick leave and the second is paid vacation time, which are accrued and tracked separately at my company. And part is, especially in the OP’s situation, her manager has clearly demonstrated that she would approve un-earned sick time for a good reason and this would be exploiting her managerial discretion.

      1. Corey*

        Yeah, my team and I use it freely between each other and our managers. It’s not a big deal with us, which speaks to the broader culture. I don’t expect it to be true in most places or industries.

    6. mediamaven*

      Yes, the way it’s presented in this letter is just unethical. It really delegitimizes it for people who may really need it.

    7. Mockingdragon*

      I think it’s a really interesting discussion. I have depression and anxiety, and I still think that a self-care day (“I’m exhausted, I’m burning out, I just want to watch TV and bake sourdough tomorrow”) is mental health related for people who don’t. It’s good for all of our mental health to take breaks that aren’t full-on vacations. So I don’t have a problem with calling something like that a mental health day. It’s what I called it when I planned ahead – I’d let my manager know on Thursday that I’m taking the next Monday off unless there’s a good reason not to. I’ve never done a spontaneous mental health day but…I can’t say I’m against the term if it’s the same deal.

      1. Sleepy anon*

        I agree that those kinds of days are important. I also think they’d be better off being called “self-care days” instead of “mental health days”. And with all that said, I don’t think what the OP was considering doing would fit into either category. It would have just been straight-up ditching work for something more fun.

    8. Jennifer*

      I don’t think you need to have a diagnosed mental illness in order to care about taking care of your mental health.

      1. Sylvan*


        Everyone’s going to need to do one thing or another to take care of their mental health sooner or later. Maybe they go to therapy, maybe they do something fun, who cares. I’m mentally ill and I’m pretty happy to see anyone taking care of themselves, whether they have a mental health condition or not.

    9. OP*

      I agree with you, and I apologize for the poor use of mental health day in this situation. For what it’s worth, I was completely burned out at my previous employer, and my husband and I agreed that I would take days off, in the terms of a mental health day, to recharge and take a step away from work in this new position should I need to. We of course mean no offense to actually mental health, and I would consider it a traditional sick day for anyone needing to address anxiety, depression, etc.
      My husband, I believe, was trying to point out to me “hey, I want to take you outdoors and away from screens to this nature preserve for you to recharge your batteries. Let’s go,” except my batteries are still fully charged at this new job! He may just be nervous I’ll fall down that slippery slope of “I must exhaust myself for this job so they know I’m a good employee” instead of “I’m going to take a day so I don’t exhaust myself so I can continue to be a good employee”
      Thank you for pointing this out.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Thank you OP for the clarification. I think your husband’s heart is in the right spot, since he wants to make sure you don’t get burnt out. But he needs to consider that 6 weeks at a new job shouldn’t cause you burn out. now 6 months in and maybe you should take a half day.

    10. Ray Gillette*

      I get where you’re coming from with this, but it’s not always safe to disclose actual mental health diagnoses in the workplace. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. If my depression and anxiety flare up so badly that the thought of going into work makes me want to [suicidal ideation redacted], you think I’m actually going to tell my boss that? No way. I’m going to lie about food poisoning or something.

      Plus, the colloquial use of mental health days can also be seen as a form of preventive care so that I don’t get to the point where I’m one work day away from being in crisis.

      1. JJ*

        Yuuuuup. I would NEVER tell an employer I was “too depressed to get out of bed” because of the stigma that would follow me back to the office. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is, and I consider telling them I’m some form of physically sick instead to be an acceptable office lie.

        1. TiffIf*

          If I were too depressed to get out of bed, telling my boss that would still be “I’m not feeling well and won’t be able to work today.”

    11. Esmeralda*

      I dunno — sometimes I need time off to recharge and take a break, which might mean doing something fun — which is genuinely to maintain my mental health. I’m not currently struggling with mental health now, but I know that if I don’t take some time off to de-stress, I will be.

      But I just label that “personal” when I submit it as annual (= vacation) leave.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        When I was working a high-stress job with a good boss, he’d encourage a day off here and there when project schedules permitted so we could avoid burning out or getting sick. We’d call it “calling in well” because the point was to stay well when we were working so many long days.

    12. Bostonian*

      My reading of the letter was a bit different. I don’t think the letter writer was actually suggesting that “mental health day” is when you want to go out in do something fun. Husband wanted OP to LIE and say it was a mental health day as a ruse to go out and do something fun.

    13. Absurda*

      My company just has vacation or sick time. If I plan it ahead of time it’s a vacation day, if I call in day of it’s a sick day.

      Whether I’m calling in because I have a massive sinus infection, I’m burned out and don’t feel like working or I’m having a day where my depression gets the better of me, no one really needs the details. All my boss really needs to know is I won’t be at work. Anything else is a distinction without a difference in my opinion.

    14. nonegiven*

      DH and one of his coworkers used to call it attitude readjustment day. They’d both call in sick and go around to put in applications at other places. This was way back before it was done on the internet.

    15. ErinWV*

      What if we came up with a new expression? I think the common usage of the term is more like what we today call “wellness” or “self-care.” It’s not an indicator that the person is suffering severe depression or having a legitimate breakdown, just a time when an otherwise functional and healthy adult needs to prioritize comfort over responsibility. Personally, my mental health/wellness/self-care days are usually spent watching Netflix in bed, not having an adventure.

      Another vocab option: the university where I work has offered students scattered Respite Days, a day when classes are not in session, to give them time to decompress from school work and pandemic stress.

  8. HS Teacher*

    Alison’s advice is spot on. You’ve been there six weeks and have had three days off, understandably, for Covid. Now your husband wants you to take a day off for an illness you don’t have so you can socialize. We shouldn’t socializing anyway, during the pandemic.

    You want to get a reputation as a reliable employee, not one as an employee who frequently takes time off. Work on getting some credit there, and then you can take PTO after you’ve accrued it. Your husband should be more supportive of your professional obligations.

  9. Person from the Resume*

    Can you still have a spontaneous personal life when you work full-time?

    Of course you can, but it generally has to be in the hours where you’re not working. Last minute dinner out or movie after work is fine and spontaneous. You also have all weekend to accept short notice invites.

    The problem here is you and your husband’s conflicting schedule which means you have little overlapping time off. That may mean you can’t be spontaneous with your husband very often. Do you have a circle of friends who have a similar schedule as your husband which is why you’re seeing the 9-5 “normal” schedule as the problem because it’s usually not the person with the normal 40 hour a week schedule who’s availability is the problem. I have a friend who is a baker who starts work at 4am and works 6 days a week. It’s much harder get together with her, much less have a spontaneous activity with her, but it’s a lot easier with my friends who work a similar schedule to me.

    And of course you should not fake an illness to get off of work when you’re too new to have accrued PTO and you were already allowed days off for for a serious illness within 6 weeks of starting a new job,

    1. Portabella*

      Your response sums it up well. When my husband and I first got married, we had the same situation – he was working the weekend night shift, and I worked M-F 8-5. Most of our friends worked my schedule, so my husband was the odd one out. We didn’t get to do much spontaneous stuff with friends because it either meant he’d give up sleep time, or he’d have to take off work. And missing sleep before a few days of 12-hour shifts was just not an option.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Same. My husband worked 9-5, but I didn’t get off until 10 pm.
        I brought him lunch several times. He brought me dinner sometimes, too.. I carpooled in to work, but he’d often be there to pick me up at the end of the day.
        Spontaneity has to look different when you’re a working professional. And yes, that often means not spending as much time with friends.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I would argue you could even be spontaneous during work, once you’ve been there longer. Asking last minute if you could take a longer lunch to meet up with Husband or leaving early because friends or family unexpectedly came to town. But you need to weigh that against 1. your workplace culture, 2. your schedule and workload, 3. your teammates and what they may need from you if you’re gone.

    3. Quinalla*

      Yes, sometimes you can swing spontaneous things during work hours if work is slow and so on, but generally no, you do that outside of work. This can be tough for people who like to be more spontaneous – I’m a planner so I’m not one, but my husband is so I get it. He too will sometimes have a slow day and go home early and ask me if I can too and I nearly always say no because how often will my slow days and his match up LOL. My job is also deadline driven, where his isn’t, so that requires much more planning for me too.

      If your husband wants more time to hang out, he should take time off from his work since he has (presumably) been their longer. You can then both do so once you have PTO. That sucks you don’t get ANY your first year, ouch :( Most US companies (I’m assuming you are OP) give at least a measly week your first year.

  10. Reba*

    Feeling disappointed that you missed hanging out with spouse and friends, sure. Feeling “guilty for not being able to be spontaneous with him” — I don’t get this! You have a job, which you were doing! Nothing to feel guilty about!

    Do you often feel pressured by your spouse to do things, or to prioritize him over other responsibilities? Or do you think this is a one time thing, maybe combination of your newish position, his rare days off, last hurrah before winter… i don’t know. Just wondering if there is a pattern to address here.

    1. hbc*

      My first thought was: “How many times has he blown off work to do something spontaneous with her?” I cannot abide people who think something is easy for everyone else to do but them.

      1. OP*

        Well he’s actually blown off work… often… to do things he’s invited to last minute, including things with me. I’d say about once every month or two. The people he works with do it more often, too. It’s expected that the employees at his job will miss shifts to where they have a point system. Miss a day? 1 point. After 10 points they let you go, but points “fall off” every 6 months. So 10 missed shifts is the limit.
        I do not agree with this type of environment, but they designed it for what it is. My husband has actually consistently received good reviews at his job, so it’s evident that attendance is not a large priority to them.
        My husband has agreed with me though that he needs to transition out of there and is actively looking to do so.

        1. hbc*

          Ah, okay, that makes sense. There are definitely environments where it’s basically expected that there’s a low level of reliability, so blowing off an afternoon makes sense. (Though still, in my experience, you can call out last minute but actually leaving work once you’re there gets you a lot of side eye.) He might not get that the most reliable employee at his place would get booted in some other workplaces (or even the front office of his current job.)

          I think it’s okay for you both to feel sad that you can’t blow off work and join him, but you probably would also both rather have the paycheck versus unlimited flexibility while unemployed.

        2. Sparkles McFadden*

          Wow. That environment would make me crazy.

          I can see why he might not get where you’re coming from. Whenever I’d start a new position, even if it was with the same company, I wouldn’t take time off for six months (unless I had something scheduled and then it would be part of the hiring negotiations). I’d usually try to stretch it beyond that because I’d want to be sure I knew about the new job and environment before I took any time off. I’m not the “let’s drop everything and run off to Paris” type, though. I’d schedule time off to get it on the calendar and then decide what to do at that time, which is about as spontaneous as I get.

        3. Zahra*

          Ah, yes, my favorite thing about incentive/punitive programs: the program you design will drive the behavior of your employees. Get a point system for missing shifts? Many people will miss shifts.

          Get your commission right after the sale instead of X months after if the client hasn’t cancelled? People will blithely lie to sell as many contracts as they can to get the biggest bonus. Or give a bonus if your cancellation rate is lower than X? People will hang up as soon as they hear “I want to cancel my cell phone plan.” Never mind your company’s reputation.

          Can vouch for the last two as I have seen them at work in previous jobs. And both companies have awful reputations as far as customer service goes.

        4. micklethwaite*

          I think your husband doesn’t realise how much that just wouldn’t fly in a lot of workplaces. I can’t think of anywhere I’ve worked where that would have been OK for people at my level to do. He may get an unpleasant shock in his next job if he assumes he can do the same thing!

        5. Alice's Rabbit*

          He’s picked up some bad habits working there, then. He will have to be careful not to take those habits with him when he moves on, because that won’t fly at most companies.

  11. Colette*

    I think it depends on a lot of things: do you have the time to take? Do you have any meetings, deadlines, or work commitments? How much notice are you giving?

    If you’re leaving mid-day (for a fun, social thing), the bar is higher than if you decide you want to take next Friday off. (i.e. if you give me a week+ notice, I’m OK with rescheduling our meeting; I’m less OK with it if you do it at 1 because you feel like leaving early.)

    1. Colette*

      I also wonder whether you can plan your spontaneity – i.e. decide a few weeks in advance to take a day off together, and then decide the day of what you’re going to do.

      1. OP*

        I have actually specifically requested this, but these last minute events tend to be things his friends have thrown together last second that we’re extended an invite to a few days/hours in advance. His friends are not planners!
        But I like this idea of planned spontaneity! Although it’d likely turn into a “spontaneous” Lord of the Rings marathon from my couch!

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, you’d still miss last minute stuff – but you’d be able to be somewhat spontaneous with your partner. Even if that means a Lord of the Rings marathon. :)

        2. Zahra*

          Hey, there’s nothing preventing you from planning something with your or his friends! BTW, I haven’t seen you mention your own friends. Maybe they’re more considerate of your need to plan things, but if you don’t have many and don’t see them often, please make the effort to keep in touch. I didn’t and I regret it. Caveat: my very few friends are good friends, accept me for who I am and we have a pretty balanced relationship with regards to give and take. If they’re not good friends to you, forget what I just said.

          1. OP*

            I have a standing virtual workout with a few girlfriends every Tuesday/Thursday evening and do a virtual brunch book club with other friends every other Saturday morning:)
            I still see my friends for sure! We’re just all mostly virtual. That may have been why I was jonesing to go to the nature preserve so badly—I wanted to get some fresh air and feel the breeze and socialize and be with my husband! Which I know I still can, I’ll just need to schedule something is all

  12. AguyinVa*

    On the other hand, has anyone on their deathbed ever said I should’ve spent more time at work? The time you get to spend with your friends and family is limited on this earth. An afternoon off wouldn’t hurt anyone.

    1. Colette*

      If you lose you job, it can definitely hurt you. Yes, people should spend time with friends and family – but having a place to live and food to eat are also important.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      “has anyone on their deathbed ever said I should’ve spent more time at work?”

      Yes. It was the guy who could never hold down a job and properly support his family.

    3. SK*

      It could have hurt the letter writer’s reputation with her manager, potentially up to losing their job at a time when very few people are hiring. If this event were so important, it could’ve been planned further in advance.

    4. BRR*

      This seems so out of touch with the situation though for all of the reasons mentioned in the answer. It’s not “never take time off” but there are certain scenarios where it’s not great.

    5. Spencer Hastings*

      I was kind of expecting that someone would say this here…the sentiment is valid, but people do sometimes use it as a sort of “checkmate!” button, as though it proved that you should always choose a personal thing over a work thing. Which, as people have said above, can lead to negative consequences.

      Plus, even people who generally prioritize their personal lives above work do sacrifice *some* personal things for work, *sometimes*.

    6. MK*

      In fact, despite what feel-good Hollywood films tell you*, plenty of people regret not achieving as much as they could have professionally, especially if the reason is that they got distracted a lot by yolo-type activities that ultimately weren’t all that meaningful. Maybe missing an afternoon at work wouldn’t have been a big deal, though lying to your boss would be, but is a random get-together so important either? Even assuming the weather didn’t turn bad and two of your friends didn’t get into a screaming argument and you weren’t stung by a bee. One should have overall work-life balance in their life, not see their life as a series of choices between slaving away at work and magical personal quality time.

      Ironically, as far as I know, these films are made by super career-oriented people.

      1. Colette*

        Yes, it’s the balance that’s important over the long term. Work pays you to show up because it’s probably not your first choice of activity, even if you generally like your job.

    7. Random Commenter*

      That’s really context-sensitive.
      In the context of a random afternoon activity (it doesn’t sound like a special event) a month into a new job, it really doesn’t seem worth it to me.

    8. Susana*

      If I gave a new employee 3 paid sick days before PTO kicked in – and then she took a non-sick afternoon off to party with her husband and his friends – I’d be looking at the resumes of the runners-up for her job.

    9. Nanani*

      It would absolutely hurt a new employee with no PTO accrued. Especially if it then becomes a pattern… “But you took last minute time off last time”

  13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    She wasn’t simply being nice giving you paid time off for your Covid diagnosis. There’s new legislature for businesses under 500 employees that require up to 2 weeks paid time off if you have it or are quarantined for it. You don’t have to be employed for any special amount of time.

    If they’re over 500 employees, they may have enacted a policy. Many companies have because it’s beneficial to not punish employees during a pandemic, where you’re trying to keep people from keeping them from getting tested in the event they may be quarantined and thus not bringing in money to support themselves.

    Just something to keep in mind in case your husband wanted to say “But they were nice and let you have paid time for Covid. They are probably nice enough to let you have half a day off at random!”

    1. ThatGirl*

      You’re not wrong, but there are also plenty of managers/companies that are understanding enough to give PTO for an illness that they wouldn’t give for other things.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah but we don’t really know that is the case here is the problem since they had Covid itself. There’s just as many managers who don’t have that leeway allowed to them. I wouldn’t suggest that it’s a common occurrence by any means. Surely not 6 weeks in. Six months, most likely.

      1. introverted af*

        If they’re WFH, those 3 days might have been the worst that OP wasn’t able to work, but she was still able to work other days.

    2. ten four*

      It really is jarring that American conventions around leave and PTO have us all thinking that a manager giving sick time is *nice.* COVID is widely understood to knock people flat and giving 3 days off feels like bare minimum decency, even though she is remote! I’m not bagging on the LW here at all – it’s just a crummy system.

      1. OP*

        I experienced some symptoms on a Monday, was tested the next day and informed my manager, who told me to take any time I would need to feel better—there was no time limit of “well, you better recover in 3 days!” I didn’t expect I’d need time off because experience was initially mild. My symptoms then become more severe that I was unable to fully function at my job by that Wednesday, even remotely. I took off the next 3 days (Wednesday-Friday), and felt well enough to perform my job (again, still remote over here) the next Monday.
        I suppose my framing it as “nice” is because I was encouraged by my manager to take the time off and also was not bothered by my manager or anyone else in those three days, where as at my old employer, I received phone calls and requests almost daily when I was out with the flu the previous year.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          What you described at your previous employer is bad practice and should not be taken as normal. If you are out of work you are out of work; whether you’re sick or on vacation. There might be occasional emergencies, depending on your profession, but daily calls when you have the flu? That is not standard.

  14. Momma Bear*

    You shouldn’t feel guilty for having a schedule. If he continues to make you feel guilty (vs you just feeling sad about missing out) then you really need to talk with him about priorities and how to support one another. Many days I cannot just jet off for an afternoon, and I’m not a new employee. I think you and your husband need to talk about expectations re: work and responsibilities. Like Reba said, look at the pattern. If you often feel like you need to cater to his schedule/whims, then that’s a whole different conversation than taking time off on an afternoon.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Yes, that;s worth thinking about. I am WFH and my husband is home on sick leave. Which is great, I can flex a bit to help care for him (already discussed that with my supervisor), but I can’t be infinitely flexible to help him, and it’s unhealthy for me when flexing = I’m working evenings and weekends to make up for missed work. We have had this discussion…

  15. Richard Hershberger*

    The letter seems to present “spontaneous” and “reliable” as incompatible alternatives. I’ve known people like that. You often are good company, but you can’t count on them for anything, including plans for them to be good company, cancelling out their main virtue.

    It is a matter of priorities. Fulfill your commitments. Do what needs to be done. Then go off and do something spontaneous. The alternative is self-indulgent and flakey.

  16. CD*

    My fiancé is a first responder who also doesn’t work a traditional 9-5, so I feel your pain, OP! I also find myself feeling guilty when I can’t spontaneously join him for activities when he’s home and I’m working. This was made worse by COVID and now that I’m WFH. My best advice is to try and alleviate yourself of the guilt. One day the spontaneity may be possible, but for now you have to face the responsibilities of the new job. I sometimes have to remind mine that our workplace cultures are WILDLY different, and to trust my expertise when it comes to mine.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      High Five… another first responder spouse.

      The guilt is real (and on both sides). You feel like you are ruining something by having to work, in reality it is one of those things that just is. Anyone working different shifts from their spouse routinely faces this.

      No advice but to say most get used to it with a combination of; altering times, trading sacrifices, and in other cases doing without the other. The sooner both parties accept the way of things and stop feeling guilty or at least recognize the guilt as something other than blame, the better. ( I phrased that awkwardly so hopefully it makes sense).

  17. Ronny*

    If my employee had COVID and then now was “not feeling well,” I’d be very concerned that they were still sick, or sick again, and that I should be worried for them. I think your husband was being awfully cavalier with how “not feeling well” sounds in the midst of a pandemic, and in your situation in particular.

  18. Magdalena*

    I wouldn’t request the time off for one more reason – what if something comes up in the next few weeks like – waking up with a terrible headache, your water heater breaks, your husband needs to be driven to the dentist? By NOT requesting this half-day off right now and instead buckling down to work you might feel MUCH better down the road if something minor happens again and you really need to ask for accommodations.

  19. Daffy Duck*

    What Allison said.
    But also, if you told your employer you weren’t feeling well and wanted to go home then she or a coworker saw a photo on social media of your fun time with friends….it really isn’t a good look. The first three months is REALLY not the time to pull that as many places would let you go as untrustworthy and start over with someone new.
    It is amazing the connections that pop up in life, one of your friends will be a coworker’s brother or go running with the manager. Definitely worth telling the truth, even if you don’t go into details than appear to lie.

  20. OP*

    Thank you for all the advice and comments so far!
    To clarify, I work as a senior analyst, so I do have some independence and I tend to manage my own time. I’m not quite sure what the culture is like here yet… I haven’t met anyone face-to-face yet and I’ve only had the occasional phone call with my coworkers to discuss projects, though they all were sympathetic to when I was sick with
    Covid. One of them said, “ Our work is like the post office: there’s always something new coming in, so take the time when you can!”
    I believe at my previous job, where I had a similar role but not the senior title, I wouldn’t have felt bad leaving early on a Friday because A) my manager and his manager never tracked PTO, and B) I was worked to the bone (I’m talking 8pm emails on Sunday evenings with tasks to be completed by Monday morning. I’m so glad for this new job!!)
    Also, my husband is truly terrific and he supports me in so much of what I do. I think he had just seen me suffer at my last job so much, where I was crying in front of my laptop until 2am nearly every single night for a month straight, that he really wants to make sure I’m taking care of myself. I will also acknowledge that my husband does not have a great work ethic (he works in a service industry based job where people call out/don’t show frequently). I’ll make sure to communicate with him though that while I want our marriage and social life with each other to keep spontaneity in it, it needs to be within the realistic realms of my workload and reputation.
    I’ll try to respond directly to other comments, but feel free to ask me any questions by responding to this comment.
    Thanks again!

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Sounds like you’ll figure it out between your husband, spontaneity, and work. You have a great attitude and it’s good to hear that you aren’t getting the 8pm Sunday emails anymore.

      With the comment from the coworker, it sounds like there’s a decent balance at your new job and you’ll be able to find a sweet spot after a few months.

    2. JJ*

      YIKES to that old job! Why do employers continue to do this to people?? I’m so glad you’re out of there.

      I think your diligence in this early time in your job was correct in this case, but once you’re more established, DO figure out what work/life balance changes you can make to tip that scale a little closer to life (and watch out for toxic, ingrained “work is top priority always” impulses leftover from your old job).

      I like to stalk my partner’s shared calendar and call dibs on together time in the coming week, it works for us!

    3. generic_username*

      My guess is that you’ll be able to occasionally have a few spontaneous afternoons off then (and maybe not even have to use PTO – you might be able to just keep your phone on in case you need to be reached and make up the time over the weekend). Might be for the best to wait until you’ve been there at least 6 months though – that’ll give you a chance to establish your reputation/ethic and also see how your coworkers handle this sort of thing. One huge thing though, that Allison and many other commenters mentioned – don’t say you aren’t well if you’re actually fine. If you get caught in that lie, your reputation will suffer and people will second guess every sick day you take.

    4. DataQueen*

      Congrats on the new job! You’re right that seniority is a big part of it – but it’s a trade off. I have more spontaneity with my schedule because I’m on the executive team and don’t have the deliverables that an individual contributor does, but I am On 24/7. So I have no problem going to get my nails done in the middle of the day, but I’m also catching up on emails right now, at 11:40 pm. And if I’m last-minute playing hooky for the day – I block my calendar, I tell people I’m unavailable, and I go do what I want. I did that a few weeks ago and we literally sat in pajamas watching true crime documentaries all day. But I can do that because my work is just a big part of my life. If it wasn’t, I’d have to weigh the use of PTO.

      Also, i don’t know if this is common for everyone, but in my experience as I’ve gotten more senior, I also don’t even take PTO – I technically have 6 weeks, and probably am off close to that anyway, but I haven’t put a day of sick time or vacation into the payroll system in… 6 years? It’s just not something I do anymore. Even if I did, the EAs would approve it, so my boss doesn’t even know or care where I am. If I’m truly OOO, I block it on my team’s and my boss’ calendar.

      It’s also so dependent on your culture and your boss – As a manager I am such a strong advocate of people managing their own time. I tell everyone who joins my team that they are adults and I don’t care what they are doing as long as they get the work done. So no one has to put in PTO – or even tell me, really – to go to the doctor, to leave early on Friday, to come in at 10, whatever. Just don’t miss deadlines or board meetings and I’m happy. So it’s so dependent on your manager too.

  21. Artemesia*

    Lots of people use ‘mental health day’ as a euphemism for any goof off day. I can’t recall the last time I heard someone use it for an actual stress crisis. I was a public school teacher in the 60s and literally never took a day off unless I was too ill to possibly teach — because you throw a whole day of education away for in my case 160 kids if you do that. It always bugs me today that teachers casually take personal days and that that is even a thing given that their schedule allows for scheduling non urgent appointments and so forth during the main school breaks. Obviously urgent needs are different. And I realize this is part of my protestant ethic uptightness about ‘responsibility’ and times change. But one time to be up tight about this is when new on a job and you are establishing your reputation – and doubly so if you have already taken 3 days off early on.

    1. Starbuck*

      Yes, times certainly do change, thank goodness. People needn’t feel guilty for taking an afternoon off here or there. Especially teachers! They get screwed over plenty. Like this BS about the minimum exempt salary threshold not including them…. ridiculous.

  22. Aurora Leigh*

    Hugs OP! I know well the strain of working opposite schedules and never having the same days off as my husband. What we try to do (in normal times at least) is alternate who takes off one day a month (on the other person’s “weekend”) so that we have guaranteed one 24 hour day a month for the two of us to hang out together.

    It is frustrating that he can pretty much never do something together with friends or family on a Saturday.

  23. BadWolf*

    I think 6 weeks into a job, you also can’t risk the optics/perception of “not feeling well” and then someone spotting you at the event (or a social media post).

    Are there any times you guys can lock in some together time? Is he able to meet you for lunch at work or an afternoon coffee break? Weekend breakfast? Eat dinner/breakfast together if that time overlaps? (I realize that sleep schedules and distance is a huge impact here).

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think 6 weeks into a job, you also can’t risk the optics/perception of “not feeling well” and then someone spotting you at the event (or a social media post).

      My personal rule is that if I stay home from work “sick,” I stay HOME.

  24. pleaset cheap rolls*

    ” was very kind, though, and she gave me three days off (paid) when I was ill with Covid and too sick to work. ”

    JFC the US is so f’cked up that paid time off for being too sick to work is considered very kind.

    (I’m not commenting on the other time off questions, which are more nuanced)

      1. Frageelie*

        I don’t understand you not having any PTO when you start a job. How does that work? I guess technically our time is “earned” but in reality no one pays attention to that, you just assume a number of days a year. I feel like that is normal and reasonable.

        1. Sylvan*

          Okay. At some jobs here, you accumulate PTO over time and you don’t use it until you’ve earned it. You also might start the job with a probationary period that might not include PTO or some other benefits.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yup, this. And some companies will allow you to go into the negative on your sick/vacation time when you just start a job depending on the circumstances, but again, those requests should be made sparingly.

          2. Frageelie*

            This is how ours works too, but in actual reality, you don’t make them “earn” it first. So in January, if I want to take the first week off, I can take the first week off. Technically that’s negative, but it just seems reasonable.
            Also doesn’t make sense if you can’t roll over time. How do you earn that last PTO day because now you have to get to the end of the year to earn it. I understand this is how some companies operate, but I find it incredibly unreasonable.

        2. londonedit*

          Yes, technically in the UK you accrue your holiday allowance at a certain number of days per month, but in practice you’re given your allowance when you start a job (pro-rated if you join the company after the holiday year has kicked in; so the full allowance may be 25 days but if you join in May you’ll get 15 to use for the rest of the year, or whatever). Occasionally there may be caveats about not taking holiday during the first month of employment (but if you’ve already got something booked, then most employers will honour that) but probation periods are usually three months and it would be very rare for a company to ban someone from taking holiday for three months! Other than that, as long as you’ve got approval from your manager, your holiday allowance is yours to do what you want with. Sick leave is totally different and nothing to do with your holiday allowance – some companies have limits on the number of paid sick days you can take per year, but others do it on a case-by-case basis and there’s no set limit (but obviously someone who’s taking a lot of sick time would probably need to have a meeting with their manager/HR to figure out what’s going on). Sick time isn’t seen as ‘real’ leave – we don’t have a culture of ‘you get 10 paid sick days a year so you’d better use them’. It’s there for when you’re literally ill, it’s not seen as a benefit to be maxed out every year.

          1. allathian*

            The same thing applies in Finland. But I guess we’re even more extreme, if you have arranged to take time off work and happen to get sick just before you’re due to go on vacation, you can postpone your vacation with a doctor’s note. The idea is that vacation is earned time off, if you’re sick, it’s on company time.

            1. allathian*

              This only applies if you’re just due to go on vacation. If you get sick in the middle of your vacation, you’re sick on vacation.

  25. Jennifer*

    I think in this instance you made the right choice. Your boss has already gone above and beyond to get you paid time off when you were ill, and you’re a new employee. If someone else at the event posted photos online and you were in the background, you could have lost your job.

    If you had been there for a while and hadn’t taken time off recently, I would have told you to go ahead and play hooky, but this is a very different situation.

    As someone else said above, this is more about you and your husband figuring out ways to stay connected despite having opposite work schedules.

  26. NW Mossy*

    A big part of adult life, and especially adult friendships, is realizing that you can’t seat-of-pants schedule yourself the same way you did in your newbie-voter years.

    As we age, spontaneous “let’s go out tonight, woooooooo!” events become less and less fun because it requires the invitees to kick off a complex logistics exercise to make sure the accumulated responsibilities of adult life are covered. Who will walk the dog, feed the kids, check in on an ailing parent, etc., etc.? A lot of people have stuff like that in their lives, and it will absolutely both tax their patience and reduce their desire to hang out with those who act as if time and calendars are for dweebs.

    While losing the freewheeling attitude of early adulthood is hard, it comes with compensations. You have more certainty that those who remain in your life really value you, because they’ll plan ahead to make sure you can have time together.

    1. WellRed*

      Heartily agree with all of this. Reading the letter, I even (rightly or wrongly) got the impression husband and OP are on the younger side ( say under 35) or that husband has a job traditionally skews younger. Either way, I remember those days of spontaneous fun. They do come back around if we’re lucky.

      1. Tiny Kong*

        Agreed. It’s much harder to be spontaneous when you have dependents and a regular, full-time job. I would say most jobs don’t like when you frequently, suddenly take off work. People who value spontaneity tend to find jobs that allow for that (see “wandering artist” trope).

        Some jobs like OP’s husband’s seem to have the expectation of sudden call-offs built into the system, but I would think that even in those jobs, a reputation of reliability will get you raises and promotions, whereas frequent call-offs may get you fired.

    2. allathian*

      Hard agree. That said, I wasn’t all that spontaneous even in my early twenties. I was either working part-time while studying full-time, or else I was studying full-time without a job and not much money to spend on fun stuff.

  27. E*

    OP, my partner and I also have conflicting schedules. We miss a lot of quality time together. The way I make it work (with an established 2-year history at my job) is, yes, the occasional last-minute PTO but more importantly, being fiercely protective of the time you do have together. I can work late on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, but Thursday and Wednesday are my time with my fiance.

  28. animaniactoo*

    LW, you didn’t ask for this, but I have serious concerns that your husband is working part-time at what I suspect is the type of job where you can easily quit one place and get hired somewhere else, and is NEVER going to understand the demands of a white-collar office and inability to switch jobs so easily and how that plays into the different things to weigh when making decisions like the one you had in front of you.

    Even more, I suspect that this is in play because you told him that you “had more integrity than that” when he wanted you to lie and you were unwilling to do that.

    I think you need to discuss with him the idea that there are several different kinds of work worlds and the two of you don’t work in the same ones. And you will not try to tell him how to navigate his, but you’re asking for the same from him as you learn what the rules of it truly ARE through time spent in it. Because the rules are different and it would be dangerous for both of you to assume that what flies in one work world is going to fly in the other.

    And note – when we’re talking about different work worlds, we’re not just talking about blue collar/white collar. There’s also differences for retail/service industries/academia/government work/non-profits/accounting/creative. Each of those are their own work worlds and there’s some overlap but it’s overlap not an exact overlay.

    I think you need to do this now before it becomes several other fights and resentment throughout your married life.

    1. Reba*

      This teases the issues out so well. Both workplace norms and individual attitudes are in play. And you may not ever totally align with your spouse, but it’s well worth understanding how the other one approaches these questions.

    2. Lora*

      Hard agree. Especially about DO THIS NOW before it becomes an issue.

      Ex-husband is in a service industry, working weird hours and late shifts. I have only rarely had a second shift type of schedule, and even then it was 12-15 hour shifts when I had to spend a couple of days per week just…recovering. Not doing anything spontaneous. Mostly I have had regular 9-5 (or 8-6, whatever) jobs. We saw each other about one full weekend day and one weekday evening per week, and as you can imagine, a solid 4+ hours of that time off was spent on household chores; when he decided that chores were Someone Else’s (read: my) Problem, that meant the whole entire day off we had together consisted of me doing all the chores while he played video games and watched TV – he wasn’t in the mood to do dishes, poor dear – and he was quite resentful that during the little time off we did have together, I was always doing boring chores instead of watching him play video games and telling him how marvelous he was. He also complained that I didn’t clean ENOUGH and we lived in a sty…but didn’t pitch in with chores to reduce the time I had to spend scrubbing, nor would he hire a cleaning service, so…

      Fair warning: it’s not going to get more spontaneous the older you get – it gets a LOT more structured. Your friends will have kids and then organizing any outings involves coordinating multiple babysitters and work schedules. As the kids get older, it’s not just babysitters but their after-school sports and music lessons, older parents that need help, your own yoga class / hair appointments / medical issues that pop up. You have to plan things out a couple of weeks ahead or more. Even if you don’t have kids, a lot of your friends will. And many of your childless / childfree friends will still have their own family obligations, and their own late nights at work and business travel to plan around – I’m an Old and most of my friends’ kids are far too old to need a sitter and can drive to their own sports, but I still have to plan out a solid couple of weeks or so to have dinner with my friends even pre-Covid. A standing board game night planned months in advance will still invariably result in someone in the group unable to attend for some reason; they’ll have something come up, some higher priority than poker night. It happens.

      My friends who get to be spontaneous, have retired. I wish I was joking about this, but my friends who get to decide that they’re going to take off for Cuba, or go to a week-long hobby convention, or take a few days to do some home improvement project without months of forethought – they’re all retired. They were able to retire only through decades of careful planning ahead, too: that’s the payoff.

    3. WellRed*

      Agreed! If he’s part time he’s always going to have more time to be spontaneous. That may work today but I suspect it will get old tomorrow

    4. agnes*

      I like animaniactoo’s read on this issue. These are different workplace environments.

      This letter reminds me of the issues I had with my father. He was a tenured professor who taught 2 classes a semester and did research and graduate student supervision the rest of the time. He could never understand why I “only” got three paid days off at Christmas, or why I couldn’t just go for a hike at 3 pm on a Thursday or take a 3 week trip with him to Europe. . He still doesn’t understand. He also doesn’t understand that I LIKE my job and that I don’t feel deprived. He chose his career primarily for the lifestyle and I respect that. I wish he could understand that I chose my career for the challenge and impact I can have and I am happy with that choice.

  29. LH in SD*

    I think that some of the same rules that allow a night owl to live with a morning rooster applies here.
    You both know each other schedules.
    Make plans to schedule spontaneous stuff when you are both conscious unless it is a once in a lifetime thing.
    Remember that you both have regular gigs now but that isn’t going to stop people who are used to seeing you as part of the C-squad from thinking you are free all the time.
    C-squad meaning?
    A-squad are the people who were originally in on the planning of the event, so knew about it months, weeks, days ago.
    B-squad are folks who found out a couple of days or weeks ago and are add-ons or replacements for A-squad no-shows.
    C-squad are usually asked the day of or the night before. This means someone on the A or B squad cancelled at the very last minute.
    C-squad is usually made to feel guilty for refusing and are sometimes told “this is why you don’t get invited to stuff.”
    C-squad folks are usually the last minute dinner party invite for an un-even table, last minute theater tickets because someone got sick, etc. On the one hand it’s great to get free tickets to places but people act like you’re evil if your dream plans for tonight were to eat ice-cream and binge watch old Star Trek while folding laundry.
    Back to the matter at hand.
    Get a Calendar. Block out in Orange when you are booked. Block out in Purple when your partner is booked. Whatever is left is yours to be spontaneous with.
    Good luck!

    1. Annony*

      To be fair, there are people who do make last minute group plans. My husband will frequently call people to see if they want to do something that night. He didn’t have other plans fall through, he just tends to act immediately when he decides he wants to see someone. Or he decides that there is an activity he wants to do and sees if anyone else wants to join in. Of course he never holds it against anyone if they are too busy for last minute plans, but his last minute invites go to the A-squad (the people he wants to see the most) not the C-squad.

    2. Frageelie*

      Hmmm, I just have friends and like to make plans at the last minute. Or hear about something. What you have outlined is kind of an elaborate, very organized way of doing things. Are people really like this, lol!/

      1. allathian*

        My gripe is with the people who won’t commit to a plan and who send the message of “oh, I’ll come if nothing better turns up.” One of my husband’s friends is notorious for this. I mean, if we’re doing a barbecue night, we want to know if 3 or 8 guests are coming before we do the shopping. With this particular friend, who’s otherwise a decent guy, my husband’s learned to plan only things that can either be easily postponed or his presence/absence at the last minute can be easily accommodated.

        I went through a tough period in my mid-20s following breakup from a dysfunctional relationship. I was also underemployed at the time and didn’t have a lot of money. I had only myself to please, but I needed routine to keep going. So I’d almost always turn down an invitation to meet a friend on Saturday if I got the invitation on Wednesday or later. The more advance notice I had, the better I liked it. I was also “socially paralyzed” to the point that I had a hard time planning any events myself. I was diagnosed with depression while I was in the bad relationship, but I recovered from that fairly soon when the relationship ended. I don’t think I’ve ever completely grown out of this need for advance notice and my intense dislike of even happy surprises, although I admit that being a parent has made it easier for me to accept that things don’t always go according to plan…

  30. TootsNYC*

    am I the only person who would never say to a boss, “I’m going to take a mental health day”? To my boss, I’d just say I was sick.

    I’d be too worried that my boss would be disapproving.
    Mostly because I don’t use “mental health day” to mean medical. It’s just, “I need a break,” to me.

    I would only use that term with my friends.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      With a lot of previous bosses, no, I would not have said that – I would have simply called in sick. And I did, at the job where I legitimately woke up feeling incredibly nauseated at the thought of having to face another day there. There was no way I would be that open with those bosses.

      However, where I’m at now, mental health days are actively encouraged.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I think that’s fine, but is certainly in the “know thy boss” realm. My boss is very supportive of our team and has encouraged us to take time when we need it “whether it’s for kid stuff, to paint your kitchen, or because you need a mental break” and then *actually supports us* when we do those things — so when I just couldn’t anymore two weeks ago and sent her a head’s up that I was taking a mental health break for the afternoon her response was “understand completely!” The boss she replaced? He would have gotten “I don’t feel well.”

    3. anon manager*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t either, and my boss is fantastic. It’s totally fine for me to occasionally say on Tuesday “hey, I’m exhausted and burned out and need a day off, is it OK if I take Thursday?” or “I’m planning to duck out at 4 pm Friday, we have an early dinner reservation.”

      But saying in the moment “Nah, don’t feel like going to work today” feel super unprofessional to me. If I wake up and suddenly Cannot Even I just say that I’m not feeling well, which is literally true if it reaches that point. (I don’t have a coverage-based job but we do have lots of tasks on a short timeline, so it does make my boss’s life marginally more difficult if I’m out with no notice.)

  31. CrochetQueen*

    OP, my husband and I have a similar issue except he has a full time job. His days off are weekdays when mine’s the normal schedule.

    We have agreed, overtime, that we can’t just drop everything if someone else has plans. I invite him to events but if he can’t make it, it’s all good. This is an issue of setting procedures in your relationship.

    You can have a normal life. I usually do dates with my husband on right after he comes home from work (weekends) or the same reversed on weekdays. You plan date ideas and dates ahead of times. The time of spontaneous dates are more rare and won’t be unique, like going out for dinner or a quick trip to a local shop. You just have to find the fun in small doses and then use PTO for the big stuff and the full day dates.

  32. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I’m curious what your husband meant when he suggested you take a “mental health day.”

    Where I’ve worked, a “mental health day” is any unscheduled day off that’s not directly related to a physical illness. It’s not just “I can’t face going in today;” it’s also “I just don’t feel like going in today.”


  33. Ellen N.*

    If you call in sick your coworkers who know that you had Covid-19 will be worried about you. If any of them follow you on social media they will be disappointed in you for saying you were sick then going to socialize with friends. Also, if they believe that you are still sick with Covid-19, they may conclude that you are exposing others to it.

  34. Sled dog mama*

    The closest I’ve come to taking a spontaneous day off (when not sick) was a when my boss and I miss planned coverage for a third person. Third person was taking off Tuesday to Monday and we planned for Monday to Monday. (When this coworker is out I cover his work at his location and boss covers mine at my location). When we realized that we had over planned coverage I asked “hey could I take this day off?” That was still 5 days notice.

  35. tyrannosaurus vex*

    OP, I used to have a very similar situation – I worked a 9-5 and my husband was a bartender so our schedules were almost completely opposite. What worked for us was to make Sunday mornings sacrosanct. We would go out to brunch, take out the dogs, go to the farmer’s market, whatever it was that we could do to spend quality time relaxing together.
    Also, not to be too harsh, but if your husband is in the service industry he 100% does not understand the norms about working in an office environment. He should get no say in how you conduct your work life.

  36. Frageelie*

    Alison covered it all, but yes, this particular situation is pretty different than many other situations where you may find the opportunity to jump on something. I’ve done it maybe once a year? But was established and didn’t leave anyone in the lurch. Also, sometimes a big opportunity comes your way. My sister got to replace someone on a trip (fully expensed paid) to hawaii with 3 days notice. Her boss was absolutely like “go! go! we will deal”

  37. Amethystmoon*

    It definitely depends on the employer. The company I work for recently started to crack down on PTO, saying we needed to request time off at least 2 days in advance. If people start showing patterns of taking PTO with less lead time than that, HR will flag it and then, presumably, the employee involved will get a stern talking-to and maybe written up. Yes, this means (apparently) that we can’t get sick and have to work from home even if we have the flu. However, they don’t want people coming in and spreading it, so people are strongly being encouraged to work from home.

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      Agreed with this. Employer and team, really. I wouldn’t hesitate to take a half day on a Friday, assuming there were no outstanding obligations, and it’s not at all uncommon in my department or the ones we work with.

      We’re not customer-facing, so there aren’t issues of coverage, and even if you’re fairly new it wouldn’t be a big deal. Other departments in my company have different rules, which is totally fine and expected.

      But the LW knows the culture of her org way better than her hubby, and particularly with having to take time off for COVID, it definitely sounds like not taking the time was 100% the right call, and her hubby dismissing it is…really crappy.

  38. Emma*

    I could be totally off, but I read this as your husband not taking your career seriously. If this is just a one-off from him, then I’m completely wrong, but if this is a pattern… I would be worried.

    1. Zona the Great*

      Yep. I HAD a boyfriend just like this. I finally got him to stop when I started repeating, “that’s not the way I do business”. Hopefully he understands that such a commitment also translates to commitment to the romantic relationship as well. Sounds like OP wouldn’t ditch husband for a last minute invite from someone else either.

  39. RagingADHD*

    The concerning thing here to me is that LW and her husband appear to have quite different ideas / values about lying and honoring obligations, not about spontaneity or PTO.

    “I have more integrity than that” is not something you should have to say in a marriage.

    LW, if you often have seemingly minor conflicts over this sort of thing it might behoove you to keep an eye on where else your husband’s values conflict with your own, or where he might be less than honest with you.

    1. anon manager*

      Eh, it also could be just different work cultures or norms. My partner has a job where they mostly care that he gets the work done, and if that means sometimes not working during work hours or working during non-work hours it’s fine. If he wants to sleep in until 11 am or take an afternoon off, and his work can still get done on time, it’s not really a big deal. My job is much more reactive, so I’m expected to be generally available and responsive during normal business hours (though I have plenty of flexibility as long as I let people know in advance). Working from home has really amplified the divide, but it’s not really about values or integrity — it’s just different cultures.

      I do think the fact that LW immediately jumped to “I have more integrity than that” and not “My job doesn’t work that way” suggests something more serious could be in play here, though.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Well, and that he didn’t just ask her to bail. He asked her to lie, which is obviously something she’s not comfortable with.

        Bailing / short-notice is a work culture thing. Lying to your boss is a personal thing.

  40. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    I think the issue is that OP’s husband is making her feel like her situation is the less common one. The husband’s work schedule and attitude toward work overall are not that common in adults as we get older. He shouldn’t make her feel guilty about anything when he’s the one who’s behavior isn’t true norm.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      This too. LW May be fairly young, such that many of her peers are still students or baristas or working temp jobs or gig jobs, not professional 9-5s. It was no big deal if I didn’t show up for my college job or summer job, but once I was a full-time employee, things changed sharply. My peers joined me in that as they all began their careers as well.

      I passed by a similar letter to an advice column a couple of years ago, where the letter writer’s friends did not understand when she did not have the energy to go out raging at 11 pm on a Tuesday. LW thought she was just being lazy and something was wrong with her that she never had time to socialize with her friends. That wasn’t the problem; the problem was that she had shifted her schedule and energy output to prioritize her day job, and the friends hadn’t. All of the comments assured her that in a couple of years, most of the friends would have shifted the partying to the weekend as well.

  41. Jennifer Juniper*

    Congrats on the new job, OP!

    I understand your husband wants to spend time together. However, you may need to remind him how badly the job market sucks right now and tell him you have not accrued any PTO yet. If he doesn’t understand that, you’ve got a big problem.

  42. Kate H*

    I want to emphasize that this depends very heavily on your workplace. I have a job that doesn’t require coverage and if I so much as ask my boss if I can take my *lunch hour* late for an appointment, he complains that I didn’t give him two weeks’ notice. Fair and reasonable practice go out the window when you’re working somewhere toxic.

  43. agnes*

    IMO, A “mental health” day is different from a “mental wellness” day. Ii think people should take PTO or vacation time for a mental wellness day, which I define as just being tired or a little burned out, or unmotivated, or “meh.” A mental health day, on the other hand, is to deal with a flare up of a diagnosed condition, such as depression, OCD, etc. In that instance, that does seem to me to be a reasonable use of sick time.

  44. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    Agree with Alison, you did the right thing.
    I’m more concerned with your husband’s attitude: would he have done what he was telling you to do if the circumstances were flipped? If he did, that would show a poor work ethic. If he didn’t, that would show a lack of respect for your job. Personally, I have noticed that my partner never values what I’m doing and has expected me to drop it for him on many occasions. Partly it’s because he earns plenty for both of us, my earnings are quite pitiful in comparison. For me, it’s my independence and pride that are at stake. I have managed to din into him that I take my work seriously and he no longer does it, but it took some time.

  45. teapot product analyzer*

    Does your husband have a habit of sabotaging you? Because this certainly seems like sabotage to me.

  46. Cendol*

    Late to this, but wow, it is timely! My partner is an academic, meaning they set their own schedule and also have week- or month-long teaching breaks; I work 9-5 and have the usual “generous” amount of American PTO. They have never worked a 9-5 office job and have no understanding of how rigid it can be. It’s definitely a (small) point of friction in our relationship. When I explain how things are, their response is that “it shouldn’t be that way.” Well, I agree, but this is the system I work in! Lol.

    OP, congrats on your new job, and I hope you and your husband can figure something out!

  47. kibb*

    if you were sick with covid you should understand even a “small outdoors” gathering isn’t the best thing to even be doing right now.

  48. MCMonkeyBean*

    You definitely did the right think in this instance, but with regards to your question about whether people in regular office jobs can *ever* be spontaneous there are definitely lots of times/places where that’s doable.

    As Alison said, it depends so much on your job, your workload and your manager. Also the amount of time you are asking for makes a big difference–at my office it’s honestly not that rare for someone to be like “I have to leave at 3 today” or something. In general, more time is probably going to need more notice.

    I will add something that I don’t know if it would be something that you would be interested in asking about in future job searches. At my office, we have “busy seasons” that sometimes require overtime and they try to make up for that by being really flexible the rest of the year. One thing is that during slower seasons we have the option to work 10-hour days for four days and then take Friday off. I have never taken advantage of that specifically because I thought “well what’s the point of taking all those Fridays if my husband is working anyway” but I had a coworker who did that every week during the summer.

    Obviously that setup is only workable in places that don’t require coverage!

  49. L*

    Sorry, I’m kind of stuck on:

    “I had COVID and took three days off in the last six weeks” (shall I assume LW is working from home in general?) and “my husband wanted me to go hang out with friends outdoors in a ‘pandemic-friendly’ environment” which to my knowledge is basically nothing right now, especially with the recent news that smaller gatherings are responsible for more spikes lately. Or maybe I feel like someone who’s a little irresponsible to say “just lie about your health in a new job so you can get the afternoon off to play” may not be responsible with his own public health. Or maybe I’m just paranoid and exhausted.

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