my job is causing me physical pain, I want to keep wearing a mask, and more

It’s six answers to six questions. Here we go…

1. Babysitting job is aggravating my chronic pain

I work full-time as a reading specialist in a pre-school; we had remote learning due to the pandemic for the first half of the year, but recently began hybrid and fully in-person teaching. While I had a bit more flexibility and free time teaching from home, now I am busy from 8-4 every day. I’m also in grad school, taking night classes to earn a masters degree. Point being: I’m pretty busy!

I have a chronic illness that not only causes me pain, it can result me dislocating a hip or shoulder pretty easily, and I use a motorized wheelchair pretty much full-time when I need to get around. I try to sit whenever possible, but the school days wear me out and I often get home and find I can’t really function with my pain levels.

I have also been babysitting for a toddler on the weekends and in the evenings. She is very active, and their house is not handicap accessible at all, so I spend most of our time together without my chair, chasing after her and hurting afterwards. Although I agreed to watch her in the evenings while we taught remotely, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do a full day of teaching plus four hours of babysitting every night (they needed someone to fill in about 25 hours a week.) Once we knew the date of our reopening, I gave them plenty of notice (about a month) to find someone to cover the evenings when I couldn’t. I agreed to watch her until they hired someone new … and that has yet to happen, almost two months later.

They have another sitter, R, who watches her during the day. When she does double duty that’s a long day for her, which I understand, but they are long days for me too! I have been trying to get better at saying no, but I have always been a people pleaser. Whenever the parents ask me to sit, they always follow up with “…if you feel up for it,” which is technically an out, but I feel guilty for saying I don’t.

I can’t keep balancing chronic pain, a full-time job, a second job, and night school. I love my teaching job and have already been hired for another year, so this will continue to be my schedule for a long time. How do I ask the family I sit for to hire someone new, without making it seem like I don’t care? If anything, I care too much and am bad at saying no because I don’t like disappointing people (I am working on that in therapy, don’t worry).

Whether to continue in a job is a business decision based on what’s in your best interests, not a reflection of whether you care about the people you’re working for/with! I know the lines blur when you’re caring for a child, but accepting that this no longer works for you doesn’t reflect how much affection you have for her/the family.

So: “The schedule has become too much for me, so I’ll be fully unavailable starting on May 28.” That’s it! Or since you’re already past the full month you gave initially, change that to one week if you want. If they push for more or keep asking you to fill in after that, say this: “I wish I could, but my chronic pain has flared up so much that I really can’t.”

It’s also okay to stop immediately without the one- or two-week notice since it’s causing you pain and their house is not wheelchair-accessible. You already gave them notice two months ago! When a health issue is in play, it’s okay to stop working immediately if you need to.

But the biggest thing is that you need to believe this is okay to do! Please remind yourself that if the family cares about you in return, they would be horrified to know the work has been causing you pain and they wouldn’t want to contribute to that.

Read an update to this letter here

2. I’m new at work and want to keep wearing a mask

After a long search, I am finally starting a new job in about a week. It’s more than double my usual annual income and has benefits, PTO, and a salary! It’s great news, but today the other “great” news broke that fully vaccinated people in the U.S. won’t be required to wear masks in most situations anymore. I am fully vaccinated, but I don’t think I’m ready to ditch the masks yet. Given that the fully vaccinated rate in my state is just over 40%, it still seems too soon. I also have a child who is not old enough to get a vaccine yet. I know the risk of serious illness and transmission is low for fully vaccinated people, but I’d like to keep as many layers of protection in place for her and myself as I can until we’re well over the 50% mark and possibly until my daughter can receive the vaccine herself.

But since I’ll be new in the office, I don’t want to be the paranoid weirdo right off the bat. Should I email my new boss and ask what their office mask policy will be? Should I mention it before I start work? Should I just wear the mask and hope everyone leaves me alone about it? Should I have a few matter-of-fact answers at hand if people ask? I know this is new territory for you as it is for all of us, but any guidance would be much appreciated.

You can email your boss to inquire about their mask policy before you start if you want to. In fact, you can roll it into a question about Covid precautions in general if you want more general information too. That’s a normal thing to do and not weird or pushy.

But it’s also okay to skip that and just wear a mask because you want to keep wearing a mask! If anyone mentions it, you could say, “I have family members who can’t get vaccinated yet so I’m being really careful.” Reasonable people shouldn’t take issue with you trying to protect more vulnerable relatives.

3. Can I ask why someone took a mental health day?

I’m a manager at a large company and happy to encourage folks to take mental health days as they need them. Recently some of my employees have taken advantage of this, which is a good thing. But as a manager, is there ever a time where I follow up on what triggered the need for a day off? I hold regular one-on-one’s and ask about stress levels and would only inquire to see if there was something I could help with.

You shouldn’t. Asking why someone took a mental health day will feel intrusive to a lot of people (especially since the reason might have nothing to do with work), and it may make people feel less free to take them in the future. You can certainly use it as a flag to yourself to make sure you’re paying attention to their workload and likely stressors at work. But if you want people to feel to take mental health days, you can’t make them feel like they’re scrutinized when they do.

Note: Both the letter-writer and I are using the colloquial definition of “mental health day,” meaning a day that you take off to relieve stress/avoid burnout, not a day you take off to manage an actual mental health condition.

4. I’m switching to part-time and my workload is unreasonable

I am about to start graduate school, and as part of that process negotiated going part time at my current job (I’ll be doing less than half of my current hours). I had had some conversations with my supervisor about what this would look like while they got upper management to approve the change, and we seemed to agree that it would involve me sticking with the niche tasks only I am trained to do and leaving my general duties to be spread across the remaining department. We have multiple people in my same role, so there are other people who are trained already on how to do these tasks. However, now just two weeks before my hours are to change, my supervisor sent me an updated spreadsheet of expected job duties and … it’s my current job! They cut maybe 15% of what I do now, and only took the easiest tasks away from me. Our entire department is overstretched and I’m already vocal about not getting to everything, even though I’ve always gotten excellent feedback.

I don’t know what to do now – I was expecting to have to negotiate a bit over job duties, but this seems so far removed from reasonable that I don’t know where to start. HR has told me throughout this process that they will approve whatever my department leadership decides so I don’t see any point in bringing them in, and I’m afraid I’ll lose this job entirely if I point out how much I think I’ll need to let go of to do my job well. We’ve had multiple people fired for not meeting deadlines and I don’t want to mess up my reference from this company. How should I approach this?

Push back! Don’t assume this is a nefarious plan on your boss’s part to overload you with work in contradiction of your agreement. While that’s possible, it’s more likely that she simply doesn’t know how long each item takes or what a correctly aligned repackaging would look like. So start by telling her! For example: “My understanding was that to get me down to X hours a week, we would cut everything but the work only I can do. What’s here would take about Y hours a week. To get me to X hours, it would need to be (specific counter proposal).”

Be really assertive about this so that you don’t end up in a situation where you’re being paid for X hours but working X+10 hours.

Read an update to this letter here

5. Explaining unusual jobs

What do people do when they have unusual jobs that most people haven’t heard of and someone asks them what their job is? I’m an asbestos analyst, and when I tell people that they then have lots of follow up questions because most people don’t know what that is!

Are you trying to avoid the extended conversation about work or just hoping to give a more informative answer?

If you’re trying to avoid work talk, a vaguer answer will usually help the conversation move along faster (even just “construction” or “asbestos removal,” depending on how vague you want to be). I get far fewer follow-up questions when I say “management consulting” or “writing” (both of which are true) instead of “I write a workplace advice column” (even though I do that too), and in the past when I worked in advocacy, I would be similarly vague when I didn’t feel like discussing a stranger’s thoughts on the issues I worked on.

But if it’s more that you feel like your answer is confusing people, try including a one- or two-sentence explanation when you tell people what you do,  e.g. “I’m a llama spiritual guide, which means I oversee a group of llamas’ spiritual development through music and ancient rituals.”

6. Do minivans “mommy-track” you?

I work in a male-dominated field (emergency management) that requires 24/7 availability and quick response, and my husband is in the same field. I generally minimize kid photos in my office (I have one photo of each kid, facing me so guests don’t see) and other signs of motherhood since there is usually an assumption that a mother of small kids can’t be available all of the time.

I rented a minivan for a road trip a few months ago and — to my own surprise — it was HEAVEN! So much so that I’m considering getting one for my next car. However, we only have two kids and don’t tote around a lot of stuff, so it’s not like life is inconvenient without one. My husband says there is no way I can drive a minivan to a meeting or pull up to an emergency response in one and be taken seriously. Unfortunately, I think he might be right. I’d love to hear what you or fellow readers think on the subject.

Huh. I think it would be completely fine! But I say this as someone who’s relatively oblivious to cars’ social signaling, so let’s hear what readers think in the comment section.

{ 711 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Let’s put all the replies about minivans here so they don’t take over the thread.

    Updated to add: The LW is asking specifically about male-dominated fields. So if you’re commenting that this would/wouldn’t be okay in your field, please specify if it’s male-dominated or not (and realize that if you’re not, it may not be relevant to her).

    1. ggg*

      I am also not one who thinks too much about social signaling w/r/t vehicles. But I know people who do not have children, who find minivans useful to transport camping gear, bikes and pets.

      1. Tilly*

        I was genuinely confused by the question. Also, for about 2 decades, SUVs have been the “new mini van,” in my opinion, so I was surprised to learn that people still owned mini vans.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I drive an honest-to-god station wagon, complete with a flip-up rear-facing extra seat in the far back. It was built at the tail end of when such things were available, and I took it over when my father-in-law stopped driving. It is twenty years old, but still has a few more years in it.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Man, my childhood was defined by those rear-facing extra seats. Is it even legal for kids to sit in them anymore?

              1. Retired lurker*

                A properly installed rear facing infant car seat is totally different than a rear facing bench seat at the very back of a car. We had cars with such rear facing seats when I was growing up and I shudder to think of what would have happened to us kids if the car had ever been rear-ended while we were back there.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              No one has told me otherwise. My guess is that even if they aren’t legal in new cars, this wouldn’t apply to existing ones. The wife and I stopped after two kids, so after the initial novelty wore off we have rarely had occasion to use it.

              1. gingersnap*

                I don’t think they’re illegal per se but they aren’t put in new cars because they are in the crumple zone in an accident involving the rear of the car so if a child was sitting there the danger to their legs could be pretty severe. I rode in one of those backseats to school everyday for years in my neighbors station wagon and loved it. But can definitely see the safety concerns now. Yikes.

                1. WestOfTheRiver*

                  They actually are still legal! Mercedes-Benz puts them in their E-Class wagon, and Tesla (of all companies) sold one–and might still one–in one of its models.

                2. Self Employed*

                  How far the crumple zone goes into the cargo area (and therefore how close it is to the rear-facing seat leg zone) depends on the size of the car. A 1991 Honda Civic HB had a cargo area behind the back seat that was less than arm’s length if I recall correctly–if anyone tried to put a car seat there, when it was rear ended, the hatch would’ve been right up on the car seat. My 2000 VW Passat wagon had a much roomier cargo area, but it didn’t have a rear-facing seat option. (It also didn’t crush as much when I was rear-ended.)

                  However, my 1999 Audi A6 wagon (about the size of a Mercedes E-series) has a huge cargo area compared to the Passat and has a rear-facing third row seat option. I’ve seen them in junkyard cars, and with the size limitation for children using them, it’s entirely plausible that the crumple zone wouldn’t hit the child. (The removable third row seat sits on top of the cargo area floor so the seat has much less headroom and only a really small child will fit.)

                  Given my track record with rear-end collisions while stopped legally, I would never put kids back there, however. It would be terrifying for all of us. I might put big dolls in one to see if people would stop rear-ending me if someone is LOOKING THEM IN THE FACE from the car in front. Wish I’d thought of that when I didn’t get the rear-facing seat at the junkyard a couple of years ago–but I use the cargo area and the seat would just occupy space in my storage unit.

            2. Not actually a CPST*

              There’s legal and there’s safe – some, but not all, of those types of seats are safe, regardless of legality. The only one I know for sure on is Volvo ones after a certain date are definitely safe. Anything without shoulder belts or head support would be in the unsafe category.
              However, in a lot of states those seats would technically be illegal because they aren’t considered child restraints or booster seats and so there’d be only a narrow window where kids would both fit and could legally use them. How likely you are to actually get a ticket for it? Probably depends a bit on where and who you are.

          2. Violette*

            I have a modern, high-end, station — er, “sport” — wagon.

            My ex made tons of fun of me when I bought it but I absolutely love it. Not only do I get the cargo and leg room of a sport ute, but it’s low enough to the ground (and with a big enough engine) that I can still drive fast through curves and not worry about rolling over.

            And it’s hilarious to race small “farty” cars, the ones with glass packs whose drivers rev them at lights, and beat them in my station wagon. :-D

            1. Self Employed*

              Mine isn’t even modern but it was hot stuff by 1999 standards. It is still a wonderful car to drive over a winding mountain highway to my workshop with the back full of materials. Maybe not as fast as yours, but it has AWD and I specifically chose rain-traction tires–I can drive that road in the rain and barely notice a difference in steering or stopping. But I slow down so I won’t hit some hothead who drove “faster than conditions allow” in his BMW and ended up across the road or pointing the wrong way.

              (Yes, I know that having AWD just lets you get stuck further out in the mud than otherwise, but with 4.2″ of ground clearance, I avoid off-roading.)

        2. Feline*

          Oh, mini-vans are still out there, all right. From what I can tell, they aren’t as high from the ground as SUVs. My father, a 70-something, has had a procession of mini-vans, starting with the first Caravan in our town and going on from there. He was a pretty high-ranking state official at one time, and no one daddy-tracked him. I’m surprised that the car you drive could matter. Would driving a two-seater get you pigeonholed as impractical?

            1. Nesprin*

              Daddy-tracking isn’t a thing, or isn’t a thing in the way you’re implying. Men who are fathers tend to be paid more then men without children, whereas women who are mothers tend to be paid less than women without children.

              1. Artemesia*

                Married men with kids are ‘settled’ and ‘responsible’ (and back in the day ‘not gay’) whereas married women with kids are ‘distracted’, ‘not committed to the job’ etc and hence when I was young the difference in pay was quite open and acknowledged as was the fact that women ‘need not apply’ to management tracks and were openly discriminated against in professional schools. The open discrimination has disappeared, but not all of the actual discrimination.

              2. Bess Marvin*

                And women age 25-50 who DON’T have children are sometimes not offered growth opportunities because the expectation is they’ll be out for maternity leave at any moment. /heavy sigh/

          1. FridayFriyay*

            Daddy tracking is not a thing. In fact, men with children tend to be rewarded in the workplace while women are penalized.

            1. Koalafied*

              Yes, it’s seen as a sign of maturity for a man, while assuming that it won’t impact his work in any way because he’ll get childcare or his wife will look after the child, unless/until they’re specifically informed otherwise. Whereas with women, it’s assumed that the woman will be on the hook for childcare unless she explicitly says otherwise. And even then, she may be viewed with skepticism – will she *really* not need to take care of the kid *ever* during work hours, like if the babysitter falls through? Where again the assumption is that if something falls through, mom is the first back-up, and we all know things fall through so you have to assume that will happen…but dad is assumed to be the 4th or 5th back-up behind mom, grandparents, the neighbor’s nanny, etc. – basically that it’s unlikely that so many people are going to fall through or be unavailable that they’d actually make the dad take care of his kid.

            2. LW #6*

              Yes. Early in my career, a man had to leave a meeting early and loudly proclaimed it was to go get his kids off the schoolbus. An older man looked at me and said “man, you know what’s not fair? If you had said that, your career would be done before it started.” I knew the man well enough to know it was a genuine “wait a second.. maybe people aren’t always fair?” realization moment for him, but it was also true!

              1. JB*

                Anecdotally: I’m a man, and have received undeserved praise for, and have been easily accommodated in, ducking out for half an hour to pick up my kids from school during the workday (I make up the time later).

                I don’t have close female coworkers with kids who require pickup, so I don’t know if the double standard here is specific or general.

                1. JB*

                  Also: The part of my field (accounting/finance) I work in is fairly gender-balanced, but there are definitely subsets that are very much not, in both directions.

                2. Elle*

                  My dad was an academic for many years (although for various reasons he only moved into it once my sister and I were no longer small, and my mum went part time at the same time), and in the later part of his career, a standing 8.30 am meeting got moved back by 45 minutes when a man with primary school aged children joined the committee and told them that it wouldn’t work for him as he had to drop his kids at school. Everyone happily moved the meeting, and the woman with small children who had felt totally unable to make the same request heaved a massive sigh of relief that she could stop paying for before-school childcare once a week.

          2. Littorally*

            I’m not sure that “daddy-tracking” is a thing in the same way that mommy-tracking is.

          3. Temperance*

            You do know that, historically speaking, men being fathers was considered a plus in the workplace? Men with kids and a wife were often paid more than women, and are seen as more reliable because they have “a family to support”.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Nearly anyone in our very family-heavy area with more than one kid owns a minivan. (People with an only trend towards SUVs.) We’re on our second one – the sliding doors are far more convenient than the standard swing-out doors when you’re buckling kids into carseats, and they also prevent kids from opening the door too enthusiastically into the car next to you in parking lots. Our youngest is about to turn 12, and we are likely to replace the minivan with a vehicle of my spouse’s choice within the next few years (but it’s pushing 100K miles and about 10 years old).

          I prefer the way our particular minivan drives over large SUVs. It’s more like driving a car than a truck or large vehicle. Our other vehicle is a sedan, so it makes switching cars a little easier since they don’t drive that differently.

          1. EchoGirl*

            Now if we could just figure out how to keep those dang-blasted sliding doors from freezing shut in the winter. Or is that just a my-car problem? (Fortunately, I don’t have kids — my minivan is a hand-me-down from my in-laws — so I don’t use the side doors that often, but I imagine it would be a nightmare for someone who did.)

        4. Jules the 3rd*

          Minivans are still quite popular, especially since they get better gas mileage than SUVs (minivans are built on car chassis / are under car mileage regulations, SUVs on truck chassis / truck mileage regulations). The upper body form factors are getting close enough that most people wouldn’t notice the difference.

          If OP ‘tricks out’ the rear of her minivan with clever storage for emergency work, it will become a benefit, not a problem. If she can store some stuff in the van and reduce her response time, the men at work who notice vehicles will respect her more, not less.

          Gearheads are all about gadgets. (source: one husband, 3 ex boyfriends, 10+ current gearhead friends)

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Solar panels on the roof / battery in the back = a milkshake that will bring *all* the boys to her yard, to charge their phones.

          2. RussianInTexas*

            Only very few modern SUVs are built on the track chassis. Everything smaller than a Tahoe are built on the car chassis. They are not the kings of efficiency, but they aren’t as terrible as they used to be.
            But minivans normally beat them out in the people and cargo room, and more utilitarian, realistically. Just “uncool” for some.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Ah, thanks, I was using info from the last time I researched vehicles / mileage regulations, and that was a few years ago.

        5. Lobsterman*

          Minivans are like SUVs, except that they are cheaper, more reliable, have more cargo space, and get better gas mileage.

          That’s why Americans prefer SUVs. ;)

          1. Disco Janet*

            As someone car shopping right now, I’m not going either a minivan because it would cost more and have worse MPG than my current SUV. So this is generally not true (and not really all that helpful to OP’s question either way.)

            1. EchoGirl*

              I was wondering about that. I know SUVs tend to have low gas mileage compared to cars, but my van averages about 17 MPG, I can’t imagine that the average SUV is noticeably worse than that. Admittedly, mine is a few years old (and by “a few years old” I mean “if my van was a person it would be old enough to drive”), but minivans in general aren’t exactly known for getting great gas mileage.

        6. Katrinka*

          Having had both with kids, I can tell you that minivans are more comfortable and handle more smoothly than SUVs. And unless you get a monster SUV, minivans offer more seating/storage room. Oh, and more legroom for the rear seats (I somehow ended up with tall boys with tall friends).

      2. Sled dog mama*

        I have several friends who drive minivans and are childless. They all drive them because they can remove all the seats and put dog crates in the back for transporting large dogs. The minivan is a great choice for this because the floor is low and even older dogs can get in without assistance very easily.
        So I would not assume anything about a minivan driver.
        I work in a very male dominated field (about 80% male) and I have no idea what most of my coworkers drive. As I’m typing this I realized that I know what one coworker drives, and it’s a minivan, he’s my boss.

        1. Mimi Me*

          Was coming here to say something similar. I know two people (one woman, one man) who own mini-vans but have no children. And yes, it’s for animals. The man owns several large dogs. The woman does pet rescue in her free time.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          This is the sticking point for me. I work in a very male dominated field, but most of the companies I work for/with are so big you pretty much never see anyone getting out of or into a car unless you are close work buddies and go to lunch together. How often does someone actually see you getting out of a car? If these are small businesses where you think they will spend a lot of time scouting out the parking lot to watch you arrive that is one thing, but do people really do that, or do we just feel like they do when you are pulling up at a business and nervous about a meeting?

          1. Machiamellie*

            The OP works in emergency management, so my guess is she would pull up to sites of emergencies so she can, ya know, manage it. So yes, people would be seeing her getting out of a minivan.

            1. rachel in nyc*

              would a minivan though be more practical in emergency management? since with the new ones you don’t need to take the seats out but fold them all down so arguably the car is a work choice.

              but yeah I’m not a car person…at all. I don’t even like to drive.

              1. TootsNYC*

                Maybe LW#4 / OP should splash a little mud on her minivan, and put something bulky in the back that she has to get out of the hatch, to amp up “practical in emergency management situations” vibes?

                And if she gets one with seats that flip down (Pacifica and Caravan), and she’s worried, she can flip the seats down to make it look like cargo space.

                You know, a little set dressing.

        3. Justme, The OG*

          Minivans can haul a lot of stuff, not just people. They’re incredibly practical for that purpose.

          1. Run mad; don't faint*

            This is what I was thinking. Depending on how much and what kind of gear OP has to carry with them for emergency responses, it’s possible that a mini van would read a ‘practical and prepared’ and not ‘mommy track’.

            1. Mike S.*

              My wife is a chef, and her minivan was incredibly useful when she owned a catering company. It could hold a whole lot more stuff than the SUV she had later. If you’re hauling gear, then take the back seats out, and there’s plenty of room. People may judge you when you pull up, but they’ll understand when you pop the rear hatch.

          2. DataGirl*

            I got one for camping- to haul tents and all that gear even in an SUV wasn’t enough space. But there is definitely a mental association between mini-vans and moms so I can understand OPs hesitance with her specific job.

        4. PT*

          I worked in a safety-type job and drive a compact and I’m just baffled as to what sorts of emergencies our LW is handling that a minivan wouldn’t be an asset.

          It was a challenge to fit all of my CPR manikins and bag masks and practice AEDs and oxygen cylinders and traffic cones and duct tape and whistles and rolls of caution tape and all sorts of stuff into my car.

          If you’re handling bigger emergencies wouldn’t you have more stuff?

        5. ThePear8*

          I too, work in a male-dominated field and am oblivious to the social connotations of cars. I’m single and childless and drove a hand-me-down minivan my first couple years of college and it was great, I always had room to give my fellow students a ride if they needed one, which actually made me feel pretty cool.

        6. Iowa Teacher*

          Yep. I’m single in my mid-thirties and I’m considering a minivan for my next vehicle to cart around my dogs more easily.

      3. Lucy P*

        In our office, in a normal year men generally outnumber women 3-1. More men in the office have driven minivans than women.

      4. Dancing Otter*

        I’ve known several people who had minivans to accommodate disabilities. Those were modified to various degrees, much more easily than fitting a wheelchair hoist into a sedan, for instance.
        So minivans are not just for families with children.

      5. Momma Bear*

        Prior job the CEO had a minivan and it was useful for getting equipment and employees from A to B. Some of the guys might have teased him now and then, but when we needed that van it was very appreciated. I wouldn’t let my job dictate my car. How often do you really need to show someone your vehicle?

        1. Momma Bear*

          Addendum: Is your *spouse* worried about being a minivan family more than it truly being a problem at work?

    2. nnn*

      #5: I have never in my life been remotely aware of what cars other people are driving to a meeting. The cars are all out in the parking lot looking exactly like cars in a parking lot and I have no idea what belongs to who. I don’t even see the other people until we’re all inside at the meeting!

      I’ve never been to an emergency response, but I’d imagine people are paying more attention to the emergency than to what everyone else drove, what with it being an emergency and all?

      1. Tilly*

        This seems like a “just live your life” moment. In my opinion, people who pay attention to cars that others drive are not worth trying to impress.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I don’t think anyone here, OP included, is trying to ‘impress’ anyone. We’re talking more about the fallout of being a woman in a male-dominated environment, and how the most innocuous things can be interpreted.

        2. Rayray*

          I agree. Some people care way too much about cars. I’m genuinely surprised this would be an issue at all. I doubt if any more than 99% of people would even have a thought about someone driving a mini van. I could see it the other way that if she drove a nice modded sports car they might be interested to see it but no one cares if Jane or Joe drove a van

      2. John Smith*

        It’s the complete opposite for me. Everyone (mostly the males) in my place (not dominated by any of the sexes) seems to know (and have opinions on) the car you drive. Like the OP, I also need to respond to incidents in my own car (described as a luxury car) and people do pay an interest especially if I’m dressed scally style (think tracksuit bottoms tucked into socks, baseball cap, Nike TNs) which leads to a lot of incredulous looks (especially from the police who probably think I’ve stolen the car) which I just find hilarious inside.

        But what I do is move attention to the business at hand when at the scene. Go straight to business, show professionalism and focus on the matter at hand, and sod other peoples’ opinions on how you look or what vehicle you drive. If other staff/responders are more bothered about your vehicle or what they think it says about you, they have no business attending an emergency.

        1. Koalafied*

          This is a good point. People might have idle thoughts or opinions about your car if they’re idle and their mind isn’t engaged in any more focused activity, but if you briskly stride over and start asking question or giving directions, probably the most you’ll get is a raised eyebrow before they have to forget about the car because there’s more pressing business at hand. And because it was idle thinking during downtime, not focused/purposeful thinking, it’s not the kind of thing someone will usually mentally come back to later.

    3. Jack McKinney*

      I’m a dad who is primary chauffeur for two toddlers and is planning to get a minivan for his next car, so I’m very interested in responses to LW6! I would never have thought about it that way.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        You’re a dad though, so you don’t have to :-). I spent a ridiculous amount of client interaction time reminding myself not to mention the children.

      2. CoveredInBees*

        It might actually be a positive for you. It’s one of those horrible double standards. Men who show even minimal interest in their children are viewed as dependable and likely to be hard-working and other positive attributes. Women are expected to show more than minimal interest in their children but also having them means they will be undependable.

      3. 867-5309*

        My stepdad is a fireman and the other men ribbed him like mad when had a mini-van. There were four kids in our family (!) and this was before the large SUVs were as popular. It always broke my heart for him when they did that… Without going into the full details, he ended up in a bad place post-divorce and post-military before he met my mom and the ribbing on the minivan stung. This was the mid-90s so perhaps not an issue today…

        Unfortunately, I think there is more of a risk for a man who drives one than a woman. It’s marketed as a “soccer mom” car so somehow more acceptable for a woman to drive one. (I don’t agree with this; just pointing it out.)

    4. D3*

      I have no idea what kind of car any of my coworkers drive. I doubt in an emergency anyone’s thinking about anything more than “oh good you’re here!”

      1. KD*

        And then you open up the back and all the supplies needed are there, easily accessible and you look like a rock star. Because you are prepared and have all the tools to do your job. And if someone says ‘you drive a mini van’ you look them square in the eye and say Yes. And then ask if their task is done.

    5. revanche @ a gai shan life*

      I’d like to think that it doesn’t signal “don’t take me seriously” but I suspect you/your husband have a better feel for how it comes across in your specific field.

      I want a minivan more for my comfort than for kids so I’m biased towards liking them and if you were pulling up in one in your professional capacity my instinct would be to envy how much room you have for emergency prep stuff but I have no idea if that’d be a normal line of thought for whomever you see out in the field.

      1. Lilo*

        There’s this idea that women can tamp down the traits of femininity to be “taken seriously” but frankly it’s just playing into toxic stereotypes and will never work.

      2. scmill*

        That’s what I thought! She can carry tons of equipment, food etc or load up with coworkers.

    6. Lilo*

      For LW6 – get the minivan. And stop hiding photos of your kids. The type of person who would hold that against you is already holding it against you based on their mere existence.

      1. PinaColada*

        Yes, this! Let’s stop pandering to weirdos who think “existing as a female” is a drawback.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Sometimes the reality for women working in male-dominated fields is that it does have an impact on their work lives, and sometimes they do need to be aware of how things like that might affect how they’re perceived/how their careers will go. I fully support people in deciding not to care, but the reality is that sometimes that will come at a cost to them and it’s okay if they decide they’re not up for fighting that particular battle.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          Or that the costs are financial and they don’t want to bear them. There are several contracts that I know I wouldn’t have won if I had been perceived as a mother because people make judgements on your availability.

        2. Emotional Spock*

          It was a sad day last summer when my 15 YO Odyssey died.
          I’m a teacher, no one cares what you drive.
          As for the minivan, it was great:
          I could fit a full sheet of drywall in it.
          I’d fill it with brush to take to the dump.
          It was loaned to friends to deliver furniture.
          It carried loads of stuff to college and moved my elderly parent’s stuff.
          Your co-workers will likely end up in your car for lunches together, etc… because they are so comfortable.

          1. A*

            My first car was an Odyssey – which at the time was devastating, not exactly a 16 year old’s dream car – but it was GREAT! I was so sad when it kicked the bucket, and really miss it.

              1. Self Employed*

                The styling changes mean you may not be able to get a 4×8 sheet of material in them any more, though. I found that out when I borrowed a friend’s van to pick up materials and didn’t realize she’d given the old Odyssey to her daughter for college and the new one was rounded in the wrong places or something. That was probably a 2016 so I can’t swear that a 2021 hasn’t reverted back.

        3. Lilo*

          I understand but it’s also important to understand that those things are often self imposed, or, sadly most enforced by other women.

          But I’m also going to point out that there’s also simply no amount to which you can successfully play defense against sexism. There are stories of single women in their 40s who didn’t have kids getting mentally mommy tracked by colleagues.

          1. Foof*

            Not sure i entirely agree with your assessment of where the pressure cones from; that being said i tend to agree that unless lw has a reason to believe their workplace can’t be trusted (comments, things that have happened to colleagues, etc) it may be worth relaxing the restraints around appearances of parenting a bit (as much as is comfortable) and see what happens.

          2. elle*

            As someone who is working in a male-dominated field myself, STRONG disagree that these are mainly self-imposed. Enforced by other women a little bit, but definitely not the primary driving factor.

          3. Allypopx*

            If the husband is bringing it up this is almost certainly not a case of self-imposed pressure.

          4. Anonapots*

            That is not the case at all. It’s not self-imposed or “by other women” unless you’re acknowledging that patriarchy is all encompassing and that people raised in patriarchy become the tools of their own oppression because they are rewarded is some way for toeing the line.

            1. JB*

              That is exactly what happens. I can’t count the number of concern-trolling circular firing squads my wife has had to navigate as an office professional, then stay-at-home mom, then workforce returner in a caring profession. All of those have been 100% female, but driven by valid “what would patriarchal men think” concerns.

            2. Sadbuttrue*

              I see quite frequently, especially among women my age or older, how deeply they have been sucked into the misogynistic mindset of the patriarchy.

              I work in a female-dominated field and all of the obstacles I have encountered have been built by older women who obviously had fought battles by becoming part of the patriarchy. When I went PT after my child was born, it was as if I had thrown myself off a building from the POV of my older female colleagues. I was told over and over that I was wasting my education/experience and ruining my career. When I tried to re-enter the field full time, I was consistently told — always by older women — that I had failed to show “commitment to the profession” by going PT. So I guess they were right — I DID ruin my career because they never let me back in.

              I had to change careers. True story.

          5. Rach*

            Saying these are self imposed or enforced by women is inaccurate and lets men off entirely too easy for the majority role they play in the equation.

        4. AnOtherFed*

          It really depends on what type of male-dominated field you’re talking about. I work for the DoD and I cannot imagine anyone where I work caring. Which isn’t to say there aren’t “car people” it’s just that if you’re not interested, they aren’t going to judge or worry about what you drive. Ditto motorcycles. But I can imagine in other fields, like corporate jobs, where cars are status symbols, people would really care.

        5. LW #6*

          Thank you for adding this context. “That particular battle” is perfect phrasing, there are things I am willing to/already do take a stand on, but I’m just not sure I care enough about a minivan to add it to that list!

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I’m a mid-30s woman working in construction and I drive an SUV. One day I had a meeting on a job site and parked behind the building to leave room for our clients to park in the front. My coworker, who was driving his wife’s minivan for the day, parked on the street in front of the site because he didn’t think the MV would do well on the rough road into the site.

            Immediate everyone started to ask me if I had gotten a new car. All the middle-aged men on the site assumed it was my minivan…because I’m a woman I guess…and they didn’t see my usual vehicle.

            I can completely understand why you would think of this as a concern, because people do have biases that can sometimes negatively affect us women in male-dominated fields. It’s a fair question, so the commenters shouldn’t dismiss it as being a silly concern. It’s not good, but it’s definitely real.

        6. KayDeeAye*

          I work at a smallish company that has around 15 outside or field positions (they do leadership development stuff). Most of the outside staff is still male, and it’s been male-dominated for (literally) 100 years. Anyway, the company-provided cars are and have for many years been minivans. They’re just so dang useful for toting supplies and extra people around. I don’t think the guys even think about it, and these are guys for whom manliness is important.

          Of course, your male-dominated field could be completely different, OP. But my pretty traditional male coworkers don’t even blink an eye at the minivans.

        7. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’ve been in HR for almost 40 years, a traditionally woman-dominated function; I’ve also worked in telecom and defense, fairly male-dominated industries. During that time – late 80s to mid-2000s – I was childless, but drove my ex’s kids to a function on the rare occasion. When I did, it was in my 4 door import sedan.

          It’s worth noting that my car marked me as a ‘career girl’, or at least ‘not a mommy’ and I got jokes and jabs about working in a mostly male industry to land a husband. It’s also worth noting that mostly men made those comments, but so did some women. Some of them asked if I’d be okay giving up my ‘identity’ when my ex and I started our family and I needed a minivan. Both industries were very into a traditional hierarchy, so being a manager already set me apart; I wasn’t hired for my typing skills. My car didn’t hurt my career, at least I don’t think it did. But maybe it didn’t help.

          People will project images onto you by the car you drive, either because they know someone who drives one like it or they, personally, wouldn’t drive one like it.

    7. Car Conscious*

      #5 – I am in a field of work where people tend to be judgy based on vehicles (although I myself am not), and I could definitely see negative associations with the classic minivan.

      I’m wondering if it’s an either/or though? Perhaps Minivan Mom could spend some time test driving other vehicles to see if she gets the comfort she wants from something not as stereotypically minivan (in a class like the RAV4).

      1. D3*

        I was thinking the same thing. When we became empty nesters, I downsized to a CRV and it’s really comfortable. The only thing I miss is a place between the front seats for my purse. But I gained all wheel drive, so it worls just fine for me.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I have a vague impression that SUVs are replacing minivans as the mom vehicle of choice, just like minivans replaced station wagons. They look generally the same on the inside to me, just more modern on the outside.

        Of course, I am generally clueless about cars, so I might be totally wrong.

        1. Snow Globe*

          The biggest differences between a minivan and an SUV, are that the minivans have sliding side doors and are lower to the ground. Both of those features make them significantly better for managing with small children. An SUV can be very comfortable to ride in, but getting in and out is more challenging with kids, strollers, etc.

      3. Troutwaxer*

        “Perhaps Minivan Mom could spend some time test driving other vehicles to see if she gets the comfort she wants from something not as stereotypically minivan (in a class like the RAV4).”

        I think this is a good idea. Emergency management is something that has a fairly predictable culture. But there’s no reason you can’t look for physical comfort.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          I agree that this is a good place to start. Make sure that it’s a minivan specifically that you would want before even deciding whether it might be an issue. If it’s a lot bigger than your current car then there might be a number of other options that you like just as much but don’t have the same look to it.

          I will say I imagine it wouldn’t be an issue with most jobs, even male-dominated ones, but I could definitely believe that there are some fields or jobs where people are very judgy about your life choices including what car you drive. You probably have a better sense of your coworkers than your husband does but if you think there is a chance it might be an issue and you’re not *that* set on a mini-van yet, I think it makes sense to start with exploring other options.

        2. RC*

          Agree wholeheartedly. When researching my current crossover, I learned that it was built on the auto manufacturer’s higher end sedan base rather than a SUV base, which resulted in a smoother ride, which was important to me. LW might test a few–some may even be designed atop a minivan base, thus giving her a desirable driving experience without any stigma. That said, the absolute roominess a minivan offers is unparalleled in a SUV/crossover so if that was the appeal a SUV will be not quite right.

          1. Self Employed*

            I have a friend who is a “car guy” (track racing) and he absolutely adores his Honda Pilot for general family/camping/towing uses. They’re definitely manly looking and wouldn’t be confused for a mommy van.

            Another friend-couple got a Lexus SUV for their cross-country move because they needed something roomy enough for the stuff they didn’t trust with the movers but very comfortable. She has back problems and a “truck” ride would’ve been extremely painful. The Lexus had a very smooth ride and worked out very well for them (and the conure and the dog).

      4. Amaranth*

        Minivans stick out, especially if you are pulling up to a worksite full of heavy duty trucks. I’d split the difference with a comfy SUV or crossover that looks a bit more ‘work utility’ than ‘mom mobile’.

        1. Steph the Editor*

          Totally agree, Amaranth.

          I work in a male-dominated field (engineering) and in emergency response (flood) and a mini-van would stick out because everyone else drives a big truck. It shouldn’t matter, but it certainly could. And, yes, a man could drive a mini-van, and no one would care; if a woman drives a mini-van, it would get noticed and she might seem less focused. Ridiculous, but my experience.

          1. Smithy*

            Really early in my professional life, I had a job that wasn’t in a male-dominated field – but I happened to work in a very small office that was not only mostly male, but also men who were certainly car tuned in. Small office, small parking lot, the very old used Toyota station wagon that I was driving at the time (thanks Mom and Dad!) was more of a topic of conversation than I ever would have imagined.

            This was when I was young and certainly more of a job than a career – and for the vast majority of my career I’ve lived in cities where I didn’t need to own a car. But it was noticeable about how when it became a topic of conversation, it stuck as one.

        2. anonks*

          Yep, I’d second this. I live in a very rural area also (so even more trucks) and it would definitely be noticeable. Even on the more corporate side of our business, there’s maybe one or two mini vans in the lot with over 200 vehicles. I think it’s an unconscious bias, but when everyone else pulls up in a truck or other 4WD it does stick out.

        3. Here we go again*

          My husband works construction and drives an explorer. It’s good because he can fit a car seat and all his work tools in the back. It doesn’t read as a mom-mobile. It doesn’t make mini vans anymore so it would be something like a Ford Edge or an Escape. I drive an escape because it’s the nearest thing to a station wagon that I like the way it handles. My car reads more mom than my husbands. But his interior is closer to a minivan than the interior of my car. FYI I know a ton of construction guys who buy old minivans at auctions and convert them into work vans because they’re cheaper on gas than a traditional work van.

        4. nozenfordaddy*

          I pull onto job sites (engineering field, hydropower/dams) full of heavy duty trucks in my Prius V (the new station wagon) all the time. I caught/catch a reasonable amount of crap from the guys about my car but I get 40 mpg and gas was more than $4 a gallon (then and now) so.. they can bite me. Which is what I told them.

          But it was absolutely noticed and commented on and was/is a thing. It’s a stupid thing, but its a thing. Not so much in the office with the guys there but the crews on job sites yeah: I get a lot of I can’t believe the Prius made it out here, that thing got a hamster wheel in the engine etc. Luckily I see the same basic group of crew guys over and over so they’ve become immune to the oddity of my hybrid.

          1. Heather*

            Seconded. I park between all the giant white trucks on construction sites in my small Prius and get a lot of either side eye or ribbing, depending on the site. It doesn’t really matter for me or my job, but I think LW is smart to consider it.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              Man, I wish I could drive a Prius! I need a vehicle with clearance, so I’ve driven SUVs for my last 3 cars. I have to visit many job sites where a lower car just won’t cut it. Although, the “normal” engines these days are getting better and more fuel-efficient. Long ways to go, though…

      5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I currently drive a RAV 4, used to drive a Toyota minivan, and what I miss the most is being able to walk around inside the vehicle and have “floorspace”. This particularly is an issue with transporting large dogs. They could just hop in and hang out in the walk-around space between seats in the back of a minivan, but I end up folding down the back row of seats and just having a 2 seater if I’m taking large dogs somewhere in a RAV 4. The minivan was also far better for camping, as I had one where the middle seat would fold into a bed combined with the 3rd row seat.

        I don’t work in a field where anyone would notice what I drive, but I wanted to speak to the minivan versus SUV differences I’ve noticed.

        1. GarlicBreadAficianado*

          My spouse is an engineer at a defense contractor. He ended up renting a minivan for something and fell in love. Prior to the minivan he had a Rav 4. In his opinion the minivan is so much better- the kids each get their own row, plus the two dogs have space when we all go somewhere. He swears he will own a minivan til he dies.

          On the other hand, I’m in a very traditionally dominated female field. In the “Before Times” I drove a lot for work. I ended up with a fully electric vehicle and HOLY COW do I love it.

        2. LW #6*

          Yes, the floor space and being able to walk around was nice, and the captain seats were wonderful

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I currently drive a Forester, which I bought 10 years ago in anticipation of moving the kids to college and back. While it has indeed been helpful with the moves, and we were able to fit surprising amounts of furniture inside of it (and, on one occasion, a 5 ft tall rat cage, a carrier with two rats, and three people), it is much smaller than a minivan (which I admit I have never owned one of). Ex-husband bought a RAV4 when we were married and I got to drive it since I was always the designated driver, and it’s the same size as the Forester. Kind of enough for a mom with two kids and a medium-sized dog (which I was when I bought mine), probably not enough for anything more than that. Definitely no floorspace/walk space!

          I don’t work in a field where anyone would notice what I drive, either. I have only had a coworker express an opinion about a minivan once (he was actively dating at the time and said something like “if she comes to our date in a minivan, that’s a dead giveaway that she has several young kids at home), but that was many many years ago when stereotyping people was more widespread in general. I have a feeling that now is more of a “anything goes” time than it was 15-20 years ago. My next car will also be a crossover even though my kids are now living on their own and I don’t have pets, because I’m tall and cannot see the road when I sit straight in a sedan, and I had a minor back injury a few years ago that did not heal completely, and requires me to sit with my back straight. Hopefully no one will jump to conclusions!

          1. Wagon Mafioso*

            I have an Outback and I love it to pieces. I can lay down in the back because the rear seats fold flat and I can tote furniture if I need to. Great gas mileage, comfortable…just all around wonderful.

            Plus I have a “Wagon Mafia” sticker in the window. The only issue is people think I’m a lot more outdoorsy than I am.

          2. old biddy*

            I have a Forester and my husband has a RAV4. My brother bought a 2006 Oddessy to transport our elderly parents, and it is way different than the compact SUVs. It’s really comfortable and convenient for transporting people and stuff, and I can see why people buy them

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Yeah, while we’ve been able to fit surprising amounts of stuff into my Forester, I would not call it comfortable or convenient, lol. The minivans really do have a lot more room.

          3. 1234*

            I rented a Forester once and was so impressed by the trunk space before you even folded down the seats. There was so much room!

        4. H2*

          Yeah, the SUV substitute for a minivan is larger than a RAV-4, more like a Honda Pilot class. And they still don’t have the same functionality as a minivan. OP, I have a telluride that hits the balance for us—we need four wheel drive but also enough space to take our two kids and a few others skiing, with all of their gear. It’s for sure not as convenient inside, though, especially for small kids.

          I also think that some of the posters are missing the point. As a woman in stem, and as I understand this letter, it’s not about getting teased or seeming uncool as it is about not wanting to be as seen as less available. Driving a minivan, for a woman, does give people the impression that if they call you for an emergency, you might be at a soccer game or taking care of a sick kid or whatever. The concern is that it gives off the impression that you’re not as available and somehow not as dedicated therefore, like your priorities are more split just by dint of being a mother, and in a way that wouldn’t be true of a father. I would hope that your colleagues would know you and your work well enough to know that that’s not true, but I can definitely see that it could be an issue. I’m not saying it’s right! And I think that the vast majority of people don’t even pay attention. But it seems like the OP is avoiding the reminder to others that she has priorities outside of work (right or wrong, whatever, but she and her husband feel this pressure in their workplace), and a minivan will absolutely give that reminder.

      6. Brett*

        I have a more detailed response on this below, but don’t get a crossover SUV or compact SUV for emergency management. These vehicles are impractical for slippery conditions (heavy rain, ice, light to moderate snow) and co-workers will notice that you are driving a vehicle that will affect your ability to respond during severe weather.

        1. consultinerd*

          Genuinely curious about why you say this–in my non-expert experience this is totally untrue. Crossover/small SUVs like the RAV4, Crosstrek, Forester etc are stereotypically wildly popular in snowy/rainy regions like northern New England especially for outdoorsy people. If you have 4WD/AWD and snow tires you’ll be just fine in the conditions you mentioned.

      7. anonny*

        I drive a Honda Pilot which I’ve heard is the car for people who need a minivan but don’t want a minivan. I was surprised that my husband, who doesn’t typically care about car coolness, adamantly refused a minivan. I still think it would have been a little more convenient with the sliding doors and extra cargo storage, but the Pilot meets our needs well.

      8. A lawyer*

        Yes, I am also in such a field (even though it is no longer male-dominated, it was in the recent past), and I think a minivan would draw unwanted attention/comments. What the moms in my field seem to mostly drive are higher-end SUVs instead, like Range Rovers, but OP may be able to get a less expensive SUV if her field is less snobby.

        I will also add though, I drove a minivan during college and it was awesome. My brother drives a minivan because he has 3 kids and does not give an F. I wish there wasn’t such a stigma against them.

    8. Amethystmoon*

      I know people who are older, don’t have kids, and have a SUV. Part of their reasoning was in pre-Covid times, they liked to do road trips with other people for fun events we all wanted to go to. I myself wouldn’t get one because I’m single, but I also would not automatically assume kids.

      1. Hazel*

        My 80-something parents have a minivan, & they love it. In my opinion, it’s easy to get in and out of, and you’re sitting up high enough to see everything you need to see while you’re driving.

        1. CircleBack*

          Minivans are great for people with limited mobility! You can kind of walk in and out instead of crouching (sedan) or climbing (SUV/crossover). It’s such a shame that their practicality for the elderly & young children marks them as uncool.

      2. SuperCatz*

        One day I’ll be buying a minivan or SUV because I love camping and want to build a camping mod that can be used in a bigger car. I also love to plan trips with lots of people. I too wouldn’t assume kids.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – my uncle (retired SWAT team police officer) has driven a minivan for almost twenty years now. He’s actually on his second one now. He was just always the driver in the before times, and the minivan made it easier to get around and bring everybody along.

      4. Lacey*

        Yup, my mom downsized her car after all of us kids were well out of the house, but sometimes she really misses her mini-van! And, we ended up buying one even though we don’t have kids – in part because we couldn’t borrow hers to haul big stuff in anymore!

    9. JKateM*

      Minivans are awesome. Handicapped individuals often use them because they are most easily modified to accommodate a wheelchair user, especially when that individual is also the driver. I have seen them turned into work vehicles as well in two different towns I have lived in (over 500 miles apart). I think this one of those things that you have to be confident in and not apologize for, and people will accept it because it just. . . is. And if they don’t they are shallow l*sers whose opinions don’t matter anyway.

      1. Heidi*

        Minivans are awesome. I have lots of siblings, so my parents had one basically my whole childhood. Not sure what it was about the minivan, but our legendary motion sickness was under much better control in the minivan. And the seats are comfortable, which is great if you’re on a long roadtrip. That has nothing to do with the OP’s problem, I realize, but I hope judgmental colleagues don’t keep her from getting the transportation miracle that is the minivan.

        1. Botanist*

          Hehe, I’m getting a little far afield but I couldn’t resist. I had LOTS of siblings, and the end result was a minivan where my dad replaced the front passenger pilot seat with a bench seat from a junkyard (seats 3 in front) and added a seat belt to the middle and back rows. End result, a minivan that had seat belts for ten. We took one epic, three-week adventure from the Rocky Mountains to the east coast in that thing while all the kids were home, before my oldest sister went to college. There is no way you could fit all of us in ne minivan as adults!

    10. Four lights*

      #6. I have no special knowledge, but if you get one and anyone brings it up you can point out that it has more cubic feet of cargo space. Also the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica can both fit a sheet of plywood flat in the back. Two very non-mom answers. (Though really that shouldn’t matter.)

      1. Seal*

        The ability to fit an entire sheet of plywood flat in the back was exactly why my late father’s last vehicle was a minivan.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        This was what I was going to suggest; get the van but if anyone asks about it, have a non-parenting related reason – and there are many! Enclosed cargo space, floor space, and captain’s chair-style seating in the second row all have advantages for reasons other than kids.

        I don’t think anyone will probably notice (or at least I don’t know of any fields where people would notice/care in my area, even if male-dominated workplaces) but OP may feel better if she has a planned response of someone makes a comment about the van.

        1. TheMonkey*

          Even if no one comments, in some fields they would absolutely judge (even if it were unconscious) and could introduce bias, so while this could make her more comfortable with her decision, it wouldn’t necessarily ameliorate the concern.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        The things we’ve hauled in our minivan over the years borders on insane. We transported my oldest’s bedroom set (a craigslist purchase that included a captain’s bed, desk, chair, and nightstand) in the minivan with both kids in carseats.

      4. Toothless*

        YES on the plywood thing – I have a Honda CRV and the hatch is just barely too small to fit a 4′ plank of plywood even diagonally. It’s very frustrating!

        1. Self Employed*

          Same for my Audi A6 wagon. At least I can put a 4×8 on the roof, but it’s a lot of work tying it down and if it ever rained here, I’d have to worry about materials getting wet.

    11. AmandaB*

      Re: #6: I work in tech, and I refuse to drive our family minivan to the office for this very reason. Since the day I started this job, the minivan became my husband’s car. At least in my office, it would 100% be noticed and judged, at least by some — and they are the some that matter. (Not just for being a mom, but for being “uncool.”) Yes, that sucks, but it’s the reality of the people I work with.

      1. allathian*

        Ouch. You work with a bunch of crap people. I hate, hate, hate people who judge others for being “uncool”. Can’t stand them. At all. I also don’t respect them and would find it extremely hard to work for them.

      2. Ted Bundy's Evil Twin*

        Your colleagues suck.
        I work in a very testosterone driven field, and really, nobody cares if you drive a big manly truck or a mom wagon.

      3. Amaranth*

        I also kind of feel if LW is asking the question, they don’t feel they have the force of personality to just not care.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          OTOH, it could be that LW is already fighting enough battles and does not want yet another battle.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I think this is the case. They know the judgements can/will fly and are trying to head them off in advance. In some things, just because one office it’s fine in doesn’t mean it’s going to be fine in all offices.

        2. MissGirl*

          It’s not about not caring what people think; it’s about being sidelined in her job. Most people care about that.

        3. Archaeopteryx*

          This is a pretty harshly personal judgment – as a woman in a male-dominated field, she has constant “opportunities” to decide when to care or not about the double-standards, hurdles, and other BS she must have to put up with. Few people will have the bandwidth or financial impenetrability to decide not to care about *all* of them. Sometimes you have to pick your battles because otherwise all you ever have time to do is fight them.

      4. Colette*

        Interesting, because I work in tech and I don’t think anyone would think twice about it. It probably varies a lot by location and company.

        1. RC*

          Absolutely true–indeed what’s cared about at all will vary. I recall being very much judged for being a “bridge and tunneller” when I commuted to my tech industry job in Manhattan, but not a few years later when fate took me to Philadelphia’s suburbs.

      5. Lucious*

        For reference, I was active duty military and never witnessed ,experienced , or dispensed judgement on what cars my coworkers drove.

        If I’m picking up what you’re saying, it appears your company’s leadership are on Planet Macho. That’s unfortunate-if you drove your van to work, would the cultural blowback result in actionable consequences for your work- or would it go no further than snide comments at the executive watercooler?

      6. M. Albertine*

        This is actually a good suggestion: maybe LW’s spouse could get a minivan, and get something with gravitas for her daily driver.

    12. SuperCatz*

      #6 – If someone will not take you seriously for driving a minivan, they probably aren’t taking you seriously already as a woman. I am a heavily male dominated field where sexism can fly easily. Those who are judge-y are already that way to begin with.

      It’s up to you to consider how important your personal comfort is compared to the opinions of narrow minded people.

      1. Allonge*

        That’s more or less where I landed: I don’t see reasonable people going ‘I respected this colleague but now they have a minivan!’.

        1. Artemesia*

          This seems naive. Impressions are made up of many things. Yes just being a woman will draw a certain amount of contempt or dismissal from some men in the workplace and it is much worse some places than others. But bake cookies and do other ‘mom’ chores and this risk escalates because lots of sort of okay dudes have assumptions about women that are sexist that are not near the surface but shape how they perceive women who bake cookies, drive minivans, volunteer for the office party duty etc. You can’t minimize the fact of your existence, but you can avoid signaling the things that make people take women less seriously — it is not either/or. Some women do gain a lot more respect than others and it isn’t all based on job performance.

          I care not a whit about cars and in my career it meant nothing — but there are jobs where it might make a difference; since her husband works in this field, he may be right. Might make sense to look at an SUV that has the seating and haulage you want if you want to avoid this.

          1. Allonge*

            Of course, if there is an easy replacement (SUV or whatever) that works just as well, then it could be worth it to go for that.

            For me though, don’t bring in cookies is a different category, as it’s absolutely not essential to do even if one is a hobby baker, same with organising events. Having the type of car that suits you best is an issue of security, budget, family size, convenience and quite a lot of things in addition to the status symbol part.

            But sure, this could be naive (seriously). I would never work for a moment in a place where this matters – that’s the other side of it.

          2. allathian*

            I know nothing about cars, and I’m honestly confused about the difference between a minivan and an SUV. I drive a Citroen C4 Picasso (technically a minivan I suppose) and I love how easy it is to get into and out of.

            1. 2horseygirls*

              The big ones that comes to mind is the lower floor level in a minivan (translating to less ground clearance than an SUV if responding to flood zones or uneven terrain), and sliding doors (on a minivan) vs swing out doors (on an SUV).

                1. Two Dog Night*

                  They appear to be called “eight-seater cars” in the UK. Who knew? Googling that took me to a page on autoexpress dot co dot uk that has a bunch of photos of what I could call minivans.

                  We continue to be two nations divided by a common language….

                2. Forrest*

                  I had no idea a people carrier was something distinct from an SUV though, never mind that one is cool and one is not!

                3. My Brain Is Exploding*

                  When we moved to the UK 20 years ago, we shipped our minivan. Invariably when we were at a parking lot someone would come up and talk to us about it. There was one dealer who would work on our Chrysler – 2 hours away – there really weren’t minivans there except for Americans in the military who moved theirs with them.

          3. SuperCatz*

            This isn’t about baking cookies or office party duty though. I don’t think it’s fair to call someone naive because they see it differently than you either. I think most on here understand that sexism can stack up. It’s just some of us (including me) refuse to change just in case I won’t be taken seriously. I’m also great at handling these kind of judgements. OP has to consider if she wants to do that, and I understand that there are women who would rather blend in of course.

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              There’s a difference between unawareness/incredulity that something can send a signal to others (even if you don’t agree that it ought to) and saying that you aren’t going to change your behaviour based on that potential association. It’s the former that reads as naive, not the latter.

              You’re clearly expressing the latter; some other comments come across more like variations of the former even if that’s not quite what they meant. While one would hope that most here get sexism, there’s always people who seem to find it difficult to justify their choices while also acknowledging that said choices could have a cost, and I don’t know how that’s helpful to anyone.

            2. Lilo*

              I think the line I refuse to draw is letting my job dictate my personally life. Not baking cookies for the office is extremely different from letting my job dictate what car I drive.

              But I also think that accommodating sexism also sends a message that it’s okay to tear down women in these fields who aren’t conforming. It leads to things like your female professor bragging she was back at work 2 days after her kid was born and heavily implying that’s something you need to do too (which is something I experienced).

              1. Autistic AF*

                This comes off unkindly. Working with biased people does not further burden marginalized people to fix those biases. I have less and less patience for discrimination as I age (and I’m also female, to be clear), but I also know from experience that fighting everything will lead to burnout and likely won’t change minds. If LW’s choice of vehicle shouldn’t be construed as a detractor against her as working professional, then it shouldn’t be construed as a detractor against her as a women, either.

                1. PspspspspspsKitty*

                  I don’t think it’s unkindly. We’re talking about a type of car to drive. We aren’t talking about fixing all biases. Like, the route of car you drive shouldn’t even be a fight. If people are fighting over your car, then it’s a toxic work place.

                  There are a new generation of women rising up who will combat these things because many won’t let it dictate their personal life. If you don’t want to, that’s okay! But don’t say they are unkindly because they rather stand up than just take it.

                2. Autistic AF*

                  “But I also think that accommodating sexism also sends a message that it’s okay to tear down women in these fields who aren’t conforming. It leads to things like your female professor bragging she was back at work 2 days after her kid was born and heavily implying that’s something you need to do too (which is something I experienced).”

                  This certainly extrapolates beyond choice of vehicle, as do other comments I’ve read here from Lilo. LW#5 has commented that she took the full maternity leave she was entitled to – shockingly short as it seems outside of the US – so what’s kind about connecting something we agree is minor to something she’s already burned a lot of capital over?

      2. meyer lemon*

        Hmmm, I’m inclined to trust the LW and her husband’s knowledge of their field on this one. Particularly if (as it sounds like) this is the kind of job that requires her to drive up to a new location and immediately take on a position of authority.

        I have an engineer friend who used to have to drive to various construction sites to make sure they were complying with various standards (I’m hazy about the details). Since she was young and female, she really struggled to get these very traditionally manly guys to listen to her at the best of times. I can imagine not wanting to overcome any additional hurdles if you can avoid it. Particularly if the LW would be meeting new people all the time and the same reaction will keep coming up.

    13. Bob*

      Your husband thinks he won’t be taken seriously if either he drives it or people realize your his wife.
      He needs to keep up his macho street cred.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Not that I agree fully with Bob, but I, too, wonder how much this is in the head of the LW’s husband and how much it is in the heads of the LW’s colleagues.

        I’ve been in male-dominated fields for most of my career and have been, and am, attuned to the things we do to avoid offering a misogynist the opportunity for a cheap shot, but OTOH, it would never have occurred to me to compromise on my choice of vehicle. I drive what fits my lifestyle, is practical and within my budget, period – it’s too much asked to shrink back from something marked too girly (that’s different from choice of clothes colors or how many kid photos are on my desk – neither choice affects efficiency when transporting my family around). Sometimes the right tool to get them to back off is to flaunt it – “Yes, I am a woman, and I get to work on a f*cking pink Vespa, got a problem with that? Now what about the staffing for the flood warning area, and has the governor’s office shown any signs of moving on the emergency declaration?”

        Admittedly, being queer does help sometimes appearing “too girly” is rarely the most likely scenario.

        Ideally, it would be nice if the non-sexist male co-workers could take the lead introducing the concept that a kid-friendly car is a-ok to drive for a tough emergency manager. (Come to think of it, I hang out professionally with fire management people, and of course there are a lot of pickup trucks, but you really do see any kind of vehicle…) So what *is* the matter with the LW’s husband? Shouldn’t he lend a hand there and enthusiastically embrace the minivan lifestyle? (Except if this is supposed to be strictly the LW’s car.)

        In the end though only the LW can judge the precise type of misogyny she deals with at work. Maybe there’s a trusted co-worker who she can use to take the temperature?

        1. Bananagram*

          OP, this. Only you know your company culture, how much misogyny there is, and how much you feel like fighting it for what sounds like a real, if minor, benefit in your daily life. But it might be fun to take the pink Vespa attitude! Maybe try on the idea of the minivan as a (very practical, super comfortable) middle finger to the patriarchy that only you know about. See if that makes you feel tough.
          Anecdata: my dad, an engineer’s engineer, drove a Ford Aerostar minivan all through my childhood. It was for the utility purposes other commenters describe, and his colleagues scanned it as such as far as I know. If it would make you feel extra confident you could pick a model that has some outdoorsy/utility signifiers.
          But if you decide you’d rather not deal with it, that’s also totally legit.

          1. LW #6*

            Thank you! To your point, it’s such a minor benefit to my daily life. It was wonderful for a very long drive I had to take the kids on, but that happens no more than once a year, and I can always rent another for that!

            1. Bananagram*

              Yeah, reading through your comments below, it seems like it’s not worth it. It’ll be a special treat you can look forward to on roadtrips without having to expend any (more) energy managing the perceptions of jerks and their effect on your life.

        2. LW #6*

          Hello! I hit on this below, and maybe this is not the norm, but my husband and I don’t switch cars. I like to have mine stocked with certain things, and I’m sure he feels the same, but I think it’s actually my doing. I did ask for his opinion before it was given, but him having to drive the car isn’t a concern,

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Ah, my wife and I are similar (I haven’t driven her new pickup truck in the year she’s had it and she hasn’t driven my car, even though we’re on each other’s insurances).

            In the end, one or several of those might apply and no one here can figure out what they are other than you:
            a) Your husband has feelings about minivans (eg. that they’re cheesy, in a gendered way) and would prefer you not to choose one because of *his* image more than yours
            b) Your husband is enthusiastic about the things you like about the minivan but correctly judges the negative workplace attitudes about them
            c) Your co-workers might give you a mild ribbing if you showed up in a minivan but it would not get anywhere close to affecting your professional standing. (I am thinking of a situation like if I parked a large musical instrument in my office corner and people might say “whoa, ready to join the orchestra, Tamarack, are you?”.)
            d) Your workplace has a problem with appearances and pressure to demonstrate your coolness, and minivans are NOT COOL and signify qualities that are lowering your professional status by appearing to take away from a proper professional identity.

            If you’re leaning more towards b/d than a/c unfortunately the minivan won’t be the last time you’ll have to deal with similar crap.

      2. Here we go again*

        The only way I can see what kind of car you drive coming up in an interview is if you work in automotive. Ford HQ has a separate parking lot for non ford vehicles.
        Or if you showed up driving a fully restored classic car, and that would be more like a sidebar conversation to your interview.

    14. Tina*

      You know your industry best. At my tech job all my managers drive minivans. But a big law firm for example? Probably not.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Big law firms tend to be in larger cities where the “parking lot” (if there is one) is a paid underground garage with attendants who pull up the cars, and, at least in DC and NYC, public transit is a common way to get to work. I worked in BigLaw for years and honestly could not tell you what any of my coworkers drove. In DC, if you have to go to court, taking a cab or ridesharing service is the most common way to get there. No one’s taking their vehicle out of the garage for a trip across town.

    15. Unkempt Flatware*

      Another vote for No I Wouldn’t notice or judge. Also, get the stowaway seats and you can fit an air mattress in the back.

    16. Smishy*

      As one of the single, childless, party friends of my twenties used to say: mini vans, mucho fun! Mini vans are for everyone!

    17. Must-go-anon*

      I am afraid in my industry, the minivan is judged. Not a one of the mothers I work with, drives one. (tech/stem). It’s SUV and car seats. I could have gone lower mileage, more comfortable, and less money, but got a used SUV as well. My mom drives a minivan (easy to get in and out of). No one I work with.

      1. Not sure of what to call myself*

        I spent over 10 years in heavy engineering, and yes the company car park was discussed. But it was everyone that was judged not just the women. Cars were noticed, discussed and people were teased for their cars. I should note I live in a country where minivans are really rare but there definitely were cars (makes and models) that were looked down upon.

      2. TiffIf*

        This is wild to me. I work in a heavily male dominated field (software development) and the only time I remember anyone discussing people’s cars was one of my coworker’s very distinctive banana yellow SUV and the discussion was all about the color of the vehicle, not the type.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I work in software development too. The times I can remember people talking about cars, it was either oohing over pictures of cars or over a co-worker’s new sports car.

    18. Ellie*

      No one would judge a mini-van in our office carpark (IT/Defence), people have lives outside of the office. If you’re concerned about it though, how about dressing it up so that it looks like its for a purpose other than carting kids around? A camping sticker, or a band sticker on the window might redirect a few stereotypes. Or if you’re worried about appearances, then how about blinging it up a bit, and choosing one with nice paint, tinted windows, etc.? You could just look like a minivan enthusiast.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I was thinking camping/outdoorsy stickers, too, to neutralize the silly concept of a car sending messages about the owner’s life. I also have a sneaking suspicion the husband doesn’t want it, so he might be exaggerating peoples’ reactions. Maybe he wants a sports car.

        1. LW #6*

          I’m seeing this a lot and, maybe this is an oddity of our marriage, but we don’t share cars? We each have “our” car that we picked out because we liked it and it does the things we want it to do, and we don’t ever switch. That’s how my parents always were as well so maybe that’s a weird thing I’ve brought into the dynamic, because now that I think about it, I see other families on our street switching back and forth more often!

          1. Stephen!*

            I don’t think it’s weird at all! My ex and I picked out cars independently, and while we might use the other’s car on occasion, we each picked out models that made the most sense for our individual needs and preferences.

          2. Ruby*

            LW6, my husband and I also never switch cars, unless something is in the shop. I can’t stand the cars he drives and I’m sure he’s not a huge fan of mine either.

          3. Tammy Whynot*

            I don’t let my boyfriend drive my car at all. I am very into cars, he is very not (his thing is music), and we have very different opinions on what is important in a vehicle. I could NEVER share a car with him, at least if we wanted to stay a couple. I assume he would feel the same if I wanted to play his guitars.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This from someone who all too often has to park on the far side of a 300ft parking lot: bumper stickers are noticed among the guys I’ve coincidentally walked in with. Skip the “stick figure family” and anything about schools. Indulge in stickers about larger “tough” hobbies & history: big dogs, military service, motocross, or drumsets, etc.
        I’m a technical writer (stereotypically female here) in an otherwise male dominated engineering /manufacturing company.

      3. AndersonDarling*

        My first thought was to have a Rush paint job. Then the OP would be the coolest person at the office.

      4. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Or reflective decals (like stripes or rows of squares) in case you have to park in a less than perfect location near the emergency you are managing.

    19. talos*

      So in college (tech degree) I had multiple (male) friends who drove a minivan because that’s the car their parents handed down to them. Nobody ever thought it was weird, and it was nice to get rides from them.

      There’s a lot of weird ways like that to wind up with an unexpected kind of car, I wouldn’t probably think anything of it.

      Also worth considering where you live. Here in Colorado, very few cars are sedans or non-full-size pickups, because of outdoor activity transport and to be ready for snow. I notice way more when someone *does* drive a small car!

      So if it were me, I wouldn’t necessarily assume any kind of car is because you have kids.

    20. Language Lover*

      LW 6 Is there any chance you can test one out with a very short term lease to see how opinions impact your job?

      You don’t say what you currently drive but there is a difference between a minivan/huge SUV and some of the smaller SUVs. I don’t know if the smaller SUVs really signal “family” as much as the larger ones do. I know a lot of single/childless people who drive them. So would a smaller/compact/crossover SUV thread that needle for you?

      1. 1234*

        Some dealerships are also willing to “loan” you a car for a few days if you really want to test it out. When I purchased my smaller SUV, the dealership made me that offer but I declined since I didn’t want to be liable for a car that wasn’t mine/didn’t find it necessary.

      2. Self Employed*

        Or rent one for a week or so–the rental car companies all have SUVs and sometimes minivans.

    21. RadManCF*

      FWW, in the last ten years or so, small cargo vans have become commonplace, and some of these vans are available in passenger configurations, the Ford Transit Connect being the prime example. I’ve never been aware of these vehicles having the same associations as traditional minivans, and due to their more utilitarian nature, I can’t imagine those associations arising. The biggest downside of these vans compared to a traditional minivan is that they are mostly scaled up from compact cars. Again using the Transit Connect as an example, it is built on the same frame and power train as the Focus, which only includes an inline four cylinder engine.

      1. LW #6*

        This is so interesting, I’ve never seen one of these! And the marketing is definitely different, the stock photos are focused on people putting kayaks on top and unloading yardwork equipment.

    22. Ted Bundy's Evil Twin*

      I work in engineering, and most of our work is mining related. Definitely male-dominated.

      Nobody I know would care about what car you drive. If someone buys a new car, people are interested, and ask them about it, but I have never heard any judgy comments. There was one time when one of our female colleagues bought an “uncool” car and two guys had some things to say, but I don’t think it had anything to do with the car. I think it was just a personal attack against her. People didn’t like her for some reason.

      When one of my male colleagues bought a minivan some people made some lame jokes, but they weren’t serious. Just some friendly ribbing. Nobody cared what car he drove.

      If I see someone pulling up in a minivan I just think it’s a practical car for someone with kids. And I don’t know anybody who would think anything else.

      1. Ted Bundy's Evil Twin*

        I just realised my story about the guy with a minivan is kind of missing the point. I know women tend to be judged by different standards.
        There are women at my company who drive minivans. But luckily nobody seems to judge them for it. When I read some of the stories and comments on this site, I realise that my company is actually pretty awesome.

    23. Anon for this*

      I work in a male dominated environment. I would say a) a mini van signals (if anyone notices) parent, but not necessarily mom, and b) nobody cares if you are a parent because loads of adults of working age are, it’s not exactly unusual.

      I also spent many years working in an area that involved emergencies, a sense of authority, and if I’m honest did skew “masculine” if we are talking traditional attitude. I can tell you now, if what happens when you arrive on scene and get out of your minivan, is that people end up handcuffed, no longer holding a large package of suspicious powder and having a lot of explaining to do, you most definitely do not have any problems being taken seriously.

    24. Thepanda*

      I work in a male dominated field, and see cars as being status symbols (if I see them).

      But, perhaps a thought experiment for the LW might help?

      If she was buying a minivan to carry surfboards / snowboards / pole vaulting gear ,or she was competing at dog shows at the weekends, she would buy the minivan, right?

      Live your own life :)

    25. Anima*

      Okay, this pushed me over the edge. Alison, feel free to delete if it details too much.
      I have to ask: why do Americans seem so judgemental? Either I’m in some European bubble or the two workfields I was/am in are particularly laid-back, but why does the type of car one drives get any questioning, male-dominated field or not?*
      I would totally get the van, who cares what I drive and for emergency response this sounds like heaven?
      *Same goes for pantyhose, make-up and a lot of other things I’ve seen on this side.

      1. TechWorker*

        Comparing ‘America’ to ‘Europe’ seems like a fairly sweeping generalisation here! I don’t think anyone at my office particularly cares what car people drive, but then I also know people who are obsessed with cars & would 100% use them as a way to judge character. Ditto for things like make up – it just really really varies between office cultures.

      2. Bananagram*

        American resident in Europe here. I think it’s just different! And depends a lot on the specific location (Zurich vs Rome, New York vs Houston, etc etc). I live in Zurich now and I was shocked by the number of wasteful (to me) luxury vehicles. My upstairs neighbors, an otherwise sensible family of four, have three. I think you just see more of the car posturing in the US because the infrastructure requires comparatively more cars per capita. But people are weird all over in pretty much the same percentage. :)

        1. UKDancer*

          I think it definitely depends where in Europe you are. I’m in London, everyone takes the tube / bus or cycles so I don’t have a clue what any of my colleagues drive, or even if they drive anything. Our company doesn’t have any car parking so there’s no way you’d see it. Well except for the chap who uses his classic sports car as wallpaper on his computer. On the other hand I’ve a couple of colleagues who get judgmental about what handbag people have for reasons which completely escape me.

          I’ve a friend works in a small town, drives for business and has a really nice car. She says people do notice what you drive a lot more because they see them in the car park and comment and there’s a degree of expectation that more senior people should drive nicer cars.

          I think judgmental and weird people will be judgmental and weird, the only variable is what they’re going on about and that varies by location. I don’t think you can generalise that the US is like this and Europe is like that because both the US and Europe are big places with huge variety.

          1. mreasy*

            Yeah here in NYC nobody knows what car you drive (since you don’t take it to work), so I think it’s less US vs Europe and more different opportunities for judgment. I have worked for two British companies and definitely my UK colleagues were just as judgmental as anyone else!

            1. UKDancer*

              I’m sure they were. British people can be just as judgmental of their neighbours and colleagues as anyone else. It’s just I think less likely to be about the type of car, especially in cities like London where parking is difficult so you’d ideally want your car to be fairly small (if you have one at all). If you ask someone in a rural area you’d probably get a different answer from mine.

              My friends with children say there’s a lot of judgment about how you raise your children from other parents (how you feed them and what you do for childcare) and I’ve seen a fair bit about looking down on people for supporting particular football teams (especially those with a traditionally more working class support base). Also some people are weirdly judgmental about having the wrong sort of handbag / shoes.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Oh the handbag thing when I worked in London! Definitely stopped when I started hauling round a Cthulhu backpack.

          3. Amey*

            Yes, people absolutely judge based on cars in the UK! There’s whole stereotypes about what people drive what kind of cars (my husband judges both Audi and BMW drivers) and I’ve regularly heard people say they judge a street based on what kind of cars are parked there. We don’t have minivans but there are definitely cars that are more mom-ish that I’m sure would be judged in the very specific context the OP is in.

        2. Julia*

          I’m in Switzerland too, but we don’t drive. My husband takes the bus to work, and it’s very rare to see men in suits on public transport (whereas in Japan, during rush hour, men in suits are practically 99% of the passengers). We even had to negotiate to rent our apartment without a parking spot, and the cars we do see here are very nice, as much as I can tell.

          1. Myrin*

            Off-topic but I didn’t realise you’d moved back to Europe! I remember when you talked about wanting to move back to Berlin (?) and your husband wanting to muddle through language-wise but I completely missed that you’ve made the move by now. I hope you’re doing well!

            1. Julia*

              Thank you for remembering! (Especially since there is another Julia here, which is probably confusing.) I’m not too happy about our current city, as it’s French-speaking and I’m a language specialist who does not speak enough French, so I can’t really work here, but it’s a start, I guess?

          2. Bananagram*

            Ha, you know I never noticed the no suits on the bus thing and you are so right! I think I’d pegged it as the Swiss athleisure predilection without remembering that the bankers also have to get to and from work, ha. (Or did, pre Covid anyway.)
            People are weird about cars. I’m weird about them myself, in a reverse snob kind of way. That said, I do get envious of the summer weekend convertible parade… :)

      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Americans aren’t uniquely judgemental. There are ‘unspoken rules’ and arbitraty value judgement wherever you go.

        It’s often hard to notice these biases if they’re second nature to you, but they’re everywhere.

      4. Ana Gram*

        Well, you’re on a site where people write in about problems with their coworkers. No one writes AAM to say, “hey, my boss and coworkers are lovely and I enjoy them as people”…

        1. Dawbs*

          Sometimes its also awareness.

          My husband lived in blissful ignorance of the sexist bs that’s a million ongoing micro-agressions the same way that I, as a middle aged white woman am sometimes unaware of small racial biases that manifest around my coworkers who are people of color. And they’re sometimes unaware of the ableist stuff that leaks through at staff meetings.
          So I’m going to politely ask if its possible there’s silent sexism or racism or ableism or the like on things that surround your European community that you just might be privileged enough to be unaware of-thats as damaging and problematic as the car judgement discussed here.

          1. Dawbs*

            Well this is not where I intend this comment to nest. Sorry.

            But also yes! It’s like when people on reddit justNoMIL site lament about no good inlaw relationships existing…of course they exist. But telling the story “we got mani-pedis and then baked cookies “is NOT a riveting story and not one I’d go there to share, even if it was.

            The “my workplace is diverse and accepting but wants to counter unintentionally biased thinking, so we’re doing a mandatory week training on diversity” isn’t something that requires a AAM letter (but is my IRL thing at my pretty amazing workplace)

        2. Old and Don't Care*

          And people comment on things that they would not necessarily say in person, for a variety of reasons.

      5. Lucky*

        You think Americans are the only ones who are judgemental? lol. Have you ever met a European? They are plenty judgemental, just about different things.

      6. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Reply to anima,
        I lived in the UK and have friends across Europe and Asia. I don’t know if my take on this is accurate or not, but I find people everywhere to be equally judgy but about different things. And I think AAM readers and commenters are more perceptive about these things than many other people so we ask and talk about these things here.

      7. Kaiko*

        Americans, like everyone else, have a lot of class anxiety. Class can be signaled in overt and subtle ways, including choice of vehicle, makeup, clothing, food, etc. It’s also compounded because America is founded on white supremacy, which, by definition, is also misogynistic and racist.

        Do other places in the world have these problems? Absolutely! But America also has a bootstrap mentality that tells people that if they can’t rise above these systemic issues, it’s their fault, because unlike many places in Europe, the class system in play isn’t codified, so navigating it becomes a matter of being raised in it so you know all the nuances, rather than something that’s very easy to observe and enter into.

        1. pancakes*

          This is wildly, overly generalized. To say that class isn’t codified in countries that still have monarchies and where even tabloids still refer back to Nancy Mitford’s U and non-U glossary is a bit much.

          1. Lora*

            I think Kaiko means the opposite – *in the US*, the class system isn’t codified and is often very challenging for Europeans to understand precisely because it isn’t codified and is quite regional and in many ways subtle. Which I have also noticed, that Europeans often believe here in the Land Of Opportunity, anyone can do anything because of the lack of class systems keeping people in their place. Except, we most certainly do have a class system, it’s just not obvious or explicit, and is often quite regional in its signifiers.

          2. UKDancer*

            Class is definitely codified in the UK in a range of ways (although if you look at U and non U on wikipedia my vocabulary appears to be a weird mix of the two). It doesn’t always correlate in terms of what people drive in the same way it may in other countries. Most of the more aristocratic people of my acquaintance drive beat up old cars. There’s something about the upper class that decries spending a lot of money on a car or a visible status symbol. Ostentation isn’t considered a virtue, and if you’ve got it you don’t flaunt it. If you see someone driving a sports car in London, the odds are they’re either a footballer or someone from outside the UK.

            It tends to be “new money” who buys the best car as a status symbol. I mean, using Harry Potter as an example, I could see Vernon Dursley spending money on a luxury upmarket car (an Audi or BMW) to show off his wealth and position to the other employees of Grunnings and Petunia might drive something like a Mercedes A class or a small Jag. Hermione Granger’s parents are probably well off but being typical Guardian reading professionals would probably drive a Volvo having consulted the Which reports to get the safest car going rather than anything more showy. I’d bet that Justin Finch-Fletchley’s mother would show up in a beat up old range rover with 2 large dogs in the back.

            Personally I could afford a better car than I drive, but for my needs and use profile it would be a needless extravagance. I have the money but I don’t want to spend it on that as I am somewhat parsimonious by nature. If people judge me for driving a ten year old, second hand small car, that’s their problem.

            All of which is a way of saying we’re definitely class and status conscious and people do make judgments but the way they do it and the things they judge by can be different depending on where you are in the world but also where you are in the country.

            1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              Quite similar here (Germany) although there are quite a number of people with car obsessions. Anything too showy or loud is considered vulgar by many.
              My car is a 9 year old compact. I had it from new and spec’d it out with a lot of bells and whistles – for my own comfort, not for show. It’s a rather nondescript means of transportation. Not a Volvo, though.

        2. pancakes*

          Thank you, I think I stumbled over “unlike.”

          I do think class is often codified in the US as well, but isn’t often seen as such because even very wealthy and working class people tend to identify as being middle class. It is a complex issue that tends to be treated like a superficial one. Even prominent northeastern heirs who were Skull and Bones at Yale and summer in Maine can pass as middle class if they’re seen putting on a cowboy hat and clearing brush at a ranch.

      8. Guacamole Bob*

        American car culture is not exactly logical.

        Automakers here have spent a whole lot of money trying to make SUVs and pickups with aggressive, “masculine” styling seem cool and smaller sedans and minivans seem uncool and “feminine”. And it’s been to the detriment of the environment and pedestrian safety.

        1. iliketoknit*

          American Car marketing is definitely aggressive and weird. My Canadian husband tells the story of how one of the car companies (I forget which) used (uses?) the slogan, “the heartbeat of America” in its US advertising. When they did focus groups for “the heartbeat of Canada” in Canada, people just about fell over laughing – it didn’t land the same way at all.

          1. Lucky*

            Auto manufacturing has always been a significant part of the US economy. In the 1970s/80s when GM used the heartbeat of America slogan, they were the biggest auto employer in the US and that’s what the slogan refers to. Of course that slogan wouldn’t make sense in Canada. Canada doesn’t even manufacture their own cars.

          2. Jack Russell Terrier*

            That was Chevrolet – the soundtrack even had a ‘heartbeat’. The old ads on Youtube are hilarious.

        2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          For grins, look up the song “Dude Drives a Chick Car” on Sound Cloud. It’s a novelty song from a 90s indie band in Minneapolis, and it’s delightful.

        3. Archaeopteryx*

          Minivans in particular are a fraught item because “minivan mom” or “soccer mom” is such a stereotype. For a long time, referring to a minivan was shorthand for suburban, unadventurous, desexualized/parental, ‘lame’, etc. Even among non-car-culture people, if someone snarked about someone ‘buying a minivan’, it would be pretty clear what they were implying.

          Hopefully a lot of that is diminished now, especially since after the early 2000s the SUV became the vehicle of choice for middle and upper-middle-class moms, and also people are generally more environmentally conscious now so the lower gas mileage of the minivan and maybe nostalgia mean that younger people might not be so put off by them. (There’s also the fact that both large SUVs and minivans are somewhat impractical for city life, so owning one is part of the whole concept of having to move to the suburbs when you have kids.) I think I remember Mr Money Moustache had a column promoting that minivans should become the more “macho” and/or cool vehicle because they were way more practical for people who actually have work to get done, not just who want to pretend they do (SUVs being less useful for hauling lumber, etc and being gas-guzzlers).

          All this to say, a) Americans are not ‘more judgy’ than Europeans, the minivan in particular is just a fairly totemic vehicle even for people who pay no attention to car culture, and b) that stigma has lessened considerably in the past 15-20 years, in my opinion.

          I would lean toward “get the minivan”, unless it would make you so self-conscious as to take the fun out of it.

      9. LW #6*

        Unfortunately, I have probably used a lot of my capital as a working American woman with radiccal behavior like taking all 12 weeks of the (unpaid) leave I was entitled to when I had a baby, and my husband taking 10 weeks intermittently!

        Joking, sort of, but our country really REALLY does not support working mothers at a systemic level, which certainly filters down to individual attitudes.

        1. Suv mom*

          So agree. Unfortunately, in my male-dominated industry, I’d never drive a minivan mostly because it would be too exhausting for me to keep up the “I don’t care/I’m a badass anyway ” attitude. It’s easy to say just don’t care. It’s harder to consistently keep up the wall when you know you’re being judged.

          That said, I love the idea of you buying a minivan, throwing racks on top, and thinking of it as an enclosed truck. Good luck!

          1. Bananagram*

            Agree! OP 6, I also love the idea of you just not giving a s**t, but if you’re going to have to spend energy on the badass attitude that could be spent on… naps, or more naps… well maybe you should just buy a killer biker jacket with your next unremarkable sedan, and rent the minivan occasionally.

      10. RagingADHD*

        Please take a look at the post about the salary survey. Nothing on this site is representative of America in general, it’s representative of the user base.

        And yeah, youngish middle-class white women are pretty much the cultural / psychological peak for both judging others on trivial shit, and feeling constantly judged when nobody else is really looking at them or caring at all (except the other middle class white women).

        Source: used to be a youngish middle class white woman. Now I’m oldish enough to get it and laugh.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          And yet they’re not imagining the bias either- the same numbers showed men making significantly more money on average than women.

          Not to mention, being in a field where you’re seriously outnumbered by men does a number on your head.

          I work for the most progressive liberal inclusive company I’ve ever seen or heard of. But as one of two women in our tech department, I *still* overthought whether I should get the noise-cancelling headphones I wanted in pink or if that would be too girly and subconsciously influence my coworkers to take me less seriously. I eventually got the pink ones because they’re beautiful, but not without a bit of obsessing first. I do hope I’ll be more over it when I’m older, but I’m not entirely wrong to think about these things either. There have been incidents where even my great progressive coworkers treated me differently (which was acknowledged by them later as likely due to their own unconscious bias and they apologized).

      11. Anima*

        Hey all, I am replying to my own post to say: thank you all for your input! There was a lot of information I didn’t know, and there was a lot of things I didn’t consider! I learned a lot, gained some perspective, and would also like to say thanks that we kept it civil here and had a fruitful and interesting discussion!
        Going to feed on all the thought food you gave for a while.

        1. AnnoyedAnon*

          This really shouldn’t have needed pointing out. Good for you for listening, but it takes a special gall to say “oh, my culture and I would *never* be judgemental, I’m just judging this entire country on a stereotype instead”

    26. Sheryl*

      I’d get an SUV instead. Yes, a minivan conveys a lot without saying a word. I don’t think it would be worth it. Source: work in public safety.

      1. Yelm*

        Yes, or, if it’s in the budget, buy a reliable but inexpensive small used pickup and use it just for work? Depending on where you live, how much space you have, and insurance costs, you can own a second or even a third car in the U.S. relatively cheaply. My father was a car nut and we never had fewer than six, even though we were VERY middle class. A small pickup is also very handy.

    27. Malarkey01*

      Former male dominated job- borrowed a minivan for two weeks and half of the men I worked with commented on it. One specifically who I was close to said he’d never thought of me as “a dowdy mom and was shocked to see me in it”. When I pressed more, because we were close and I used him to shed light on weird gender signaling a lot I said that normally in my convertible I was seen as “fun” and “independent” but the minivan made him think of his mom and friends’ moms and staying home to watch soaps during the day and only focusing on getting the kids to school. (Which seriously? But I did appreciate knowing what others were thinking right or wrong).

    28. Wren*

      I’m an Australian nonbinary person (assigned female). Australia has “car culture” too, but for us 4WDs (SUVs, even though other cars have four wheel drive) are the family cars. When I think of vans the stereotype is students and men working in trades.

      I want to get a ute (truck? in USA I think) when I learn to drive because I’m interested in antique furniture and craft stuff that would be annoying to fit in a regular car. It’s still seen as odd for a femme presenting person to have.

      1. Anono-me*

        In the USA there is a world of difference between a minivan and a van.

        Minivans are a combination of the old family station wagon and a regular van. There a a wonderful vehicle designed specifically for families with small children.

      2. Koala dreams*

        I’ve heard of SUV being the stereotypical mommy car before (both in European and US context), I didn’t know minivans had the same association in the US.
        A truck is great for transporting things, but they have other downsides. Sorry to hear that you get weird reactions for your truck!

    29. Eem*

      Is it that you want to keep advancing in your career or that you don’t want your coworkers to think you’re incompetent? Consider: (1) Your coworkers already know you have kids. (2) You can make life heavenly for yourself every day. (3) Anyone who is going to be swayed that much by your vehicle already had a low opinion of you.
      Get the van!
      Source: work in tech, and my only coworker who drives a van does so because it fits his whole drum kit.

    30. Klio*

      I judge everyone who comes to work in a car without all seats filled. Extra judginess for the “look at my giant wallet” business manager cars.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        …because carpooling is practical or feasible in all circumstances?

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          And because people couldn’t have dropped off passengers en route?

      2. Harper the Other One*

        I’m going to join the pushback on this one. I have a minivan in part because I have elderly parents, one of whom can’t drive. A larger vehicle may also be necessary for people with family members who need mobility devices like wheelchairs and walkers. And most people can’t have one vehicle for when they’re driving the family member who needs it, plus a second smaller vehicle for driving to work.

        Judge the “look at my wallet” people for the look at my wallet part, not for the car that is a symptom.

      3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        It seems like it would be cheaper and more ecologically sound to own one vehicle, even if it’s larger than needed for your commute, rather than having one car that’s big enough to fit your family and an additional smaller one to drive to work in.

        “Enough seat belts for my whole family” is hardly a sign of extravagance.

        Plus, even a subcompact sedan like I drive fits 5 people.

      4. ThatGirl*

        Wait, you want me to make sure there are 4 other people in my small sedan (which technically seats 5) to drive to work? What?

    31. Lora*

      In STEM on the engineering side, extremely male dominated.

      I find car choice and whether you’ll be judged on it is location dependent: small startup == drive a small sports or otherwise “look at how well my stock options paid out” type car. The guys who live in the city (thus need a small car that fits in city parking spaces) but work for medium-large companies drive a Lexus or similar, some expensive sedan, unless they live in a city where public transportation is more common.

      In less urban areas: Massachusetts, the vehicle of choice is a Subaru for the AWD. In New Hampshire or Texas, everyone drives a pickup truck or something with towing capacity for their boat, and the “I need to tow my boat” is the status symbol. (Massachusetts boats are more often kept in a marina, so their owners can live downtown.) In the Midwest SUVs were more common. On the West coast I saw my colleagues drove many more small sports cars in California and more SUVs further north.

      How much people judge you on it is a bit like clothing: yes some people who are more STEM-adjacent than “actual STEM person”, like a finance person who focuses on investment in biotech, will definitely judge you on your clothes and car choice. On the other hand being able to look like you rolled out of bed and drive a used Kia is also a status symbol of sorts among actual scientists: my brain is so very valuable and I am so research focused that literally nothing else matters.

      It’s a status symbol like having a Patagonia vest or jacket with your startup name or project codename embroidered on it – I picked the right company, look at how valuable my intellectual property was. But the car choice was entirely location.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Scientists: Supposedly, Einstein had five identical outfits, one for each day of the week, so that he could dress each day with fresh clothing without having to give it any thought.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Didn’t President Obama use a similar strategy with a “work uniform”?

          1. Stephen!*

            I had a coworker who had a specific outfit for each day of the week. Bonus was that if she forgot what day it was, she could look down, see her Wednesday shirt and pants, and know the day. Kinda brilliant!

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          There’s a reason the majority of my wardrobe is black. Getting dressed in the dark is a lot easier.

      2. mreasy*

        Meanwhile in the city, I only get jealous of people with cars that might be smaller than mine (for parking in tiny spots)!

    32. Quinalla*

      I’m a woman engineer who works adjacent to construction. In my job, which is male dominated, no it doesn’t mommy track you. I have a minivan, so does a dude who works in my office with a lot of pets. I will say though that if you are a woman with a minivan, people do 100% assume you have kids and probably similar for men with one too. However, for my friends in construction I don’t know that it would mommy track you, but you would 100% get judged for having a minivan. Most folks in construction have trucks and there is (mostly) friendly poking fun at anyone who doesn’t and a minivan, yeah, that would be considered pretty bottom of the barrel. Honestly after this long time in COVID, everyone knows I have kids who didn’t before. There was no hiding personal life anymore which was a good/bad thing.

      This isn’t exactly your question, but I would say in my experience minivans are extremely codes in people’s minds as feminine/mommy. I remember being at a car rental place picking up a reserved rental for a business trip probably 15 years ago. All the business men in front of me went through the line and I could hear them all turning down some car they were offered to wait for returns of the standard midsized that nearly everyone rented for business. When it was my turn they offered me the car – a minivan – and I said sure I don’t care, I want to get going as fast as possible. The construction guys at the site I went to did poke fun at me (this was before I had kids), so if emergency response is anything like construction, I’d at least expect some ribbing. For me though, just showing up as a woman to a male dominated space already gets people making wild assumptions about me, so I’m having to prove those wrong regardless. For the lovely convenience of a minivan (they really are awesome!) it is well worth IMO the maybe extra ribbing over it when I know they will make assumptions about me regardless.

    33. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Heavily dominated by men field (IT in the railway industry. Blokes everywhere mate!) but also in the UK so things may not be the same but:

      Nobody here cares what car you drive as long as it doesn’t burp smoke/explode/leave tire marks all over the car park or has offensive stickers on it.

      Speaking as a disabled and very tall woman I freaking love vehicles that allow me to get in and out of them without pain/banging my knees and head – I just can’t afford a bigger motor. You pick me up in a minivan you gotta new friend!

      (Especially today. My rheumatoid arthritis did not like my vaccine shot)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Definitely me too! I know they put me off for a while because they weren’t entirely sure if my autoimmune disease could handle it (and no, it’s not pleasant and I’m off work now because even clothes are impossible) but very glad I got it.

          Added fun and off topic: I got the injection right above the tattoo I got to celebrate my virology degree :)

    34. Vehicle Obsessive*

      There is an easy way to tell if you will be viewed negatively and that is is to check your car-park out. Are there lots of big trucks with oversized exhausts and custom paintjobs, cars with big exhausts and “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” stickers, that sort of thing ?
      If so, they are the subset of men whose sad lives are dictated by what car they drive – they will have a negative opinion.
      I know many people at a male-dominated car factory – they live and breathe cars at work and home but wouldn’t see anything negative – they would see it for what it is – a reliable workhorse with l0ts of space.

    35. lizw*

      All of our [male] engineers happily(?) pile into the corporate mini-van when required. Several of them also have them as their daily driver.

    36. Duke Flapjack*

      Minivans are becoming VERY prevalent in my field of low-voltage technician (which is VERY male dominated to the point where seeing a female tech is considered highly memorable). I drive a Ram Promaster City which is simply a rebranded Fiat Doblo minivan.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        I suspect there’s a bit of a difference between what the OP means by minivan in a North American context versus what you’re describing, which we usually think of as cargo or panel vans. This is really about women driving MPVs – the sorts of vehicles you’re describing don’t have quite the same cultural baggage.

    37. Sleeping after sunrise*

      I used to work in emergency management. While I never responded in my personal car (only marked vehicles), I used my personal car for attending meetings etc.

      I worked with men and only men. My car was noticed and commented on (small city car vs large 4W).

      So, people will notice. People will comment. If that bothers you – don’t get the car.

      1. LW #6*

        Thank you for sharing your relevant experience! I agree, if I got a sedan I would hear “You’re not planning to drive that in the snow, are you?”

        1. anonks*

          Totally agree with you and Sleeping After Sunrise! I think (especially in this industry) mini vans might just read as not a practical or cultural fit, but not necessarily related to motherhood. People generally don’t think of them as AWD, poor ground clearance, marketed around creature comforts, etc. Obviously if you’re in an urban area it may be different, but in my area a mini van would be lumped in with other less-capable vehicles like a Mustang or any generic sedan, even unconsciously. Personally, I got a high trim level of an SUV and have the best of both worlds. No car/van discrimination, still a really nice driver experience.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          I’m in the snowy north (and for the record, I drive a Subaru Crosstrek – Subaru is of course an acceptable brand, marked politically more to the left than if I drove a US brand [which anyone who knows me knows anyway], Crosstrek a non-impressive small model) so that could happen …

          … but I think the key question is: Are you dealing with friendly car-related banter among people who are fully accepting of you professionally, or is there a mean streak to it (and from more than just the occasional office jerk)? Would a minivan-related joke be shut down if you said “Well, you can joke, but these things are just so incredibly practical if you have pets or kids, so no wonder they’re popular. I’ll just have to embrace the uncool factor!” or is it something deeper that sticks to you?

          I’m sure I’ve seen people get out of unusual / incongruous vehicles of all descriptions, and hey, there may be a remark if it’s unexpectedly old or small or large or brightly colored, or an EV … but as long as the car doesn’t scream “ostentatious luxury” or “massive nuisance for others” (like someone regularly towing a large trailer into a small parking lot and occupying 3 spaces, or an obviously excessively polluting car), and especially if the choice obviously comes down to the car’s convenience, a healthy workplace culture will stop well short of status repercussions.

    38. Eat My Squirrel*

      I used to volunteer on a K9 SAR team. We had one member (male) who always drove a minivan, and another member (female) who occasionally drove a minivan. To callouts, to meetings, to trainings, you name it, anywhere emergency response people went, the minivans went too. Nobody ever said anything. The thing is, in emergency response, typically we all have a TON of gear in our vehicles. Therefore anything that is spacious is acceptable. If anything, we made fun of the newbies who showed up in sedans.
      Trucks, vans, SUVs, and hatchbacks were all normal.

    39. Deirdre*

      A dear (female) friend who works in landscaping and painting drove a mini-van for ages. She did it for ease of hauling tools and supplies as well as driving her two dogs around. She isn’t married nor does she have children and to this day says it was the best car she’s ever had.

    40. IndustriousLabRat*

      Male-Dominated field here, over a hundred vehicles in the lot on first shift. Of them;, two are minivans, one is an antique VW bus (the minivan of its time, sorta) and 2 Transit Connect vans set up for the passenger option.

      Every single one of these is driven by a dude.

      If you really do come down on the side of legitimate concerns about gender stereotypes being made by folks looking askance at a minivan, the Transit Connect isn’t a bad option- It’s VERY business-y looking to the point of likely being assumed to be a company vehicle by clients at field sites. My company owns several of them, alongside the usual Sprinter vans. Not as comfy as a purpose-built minivan with all the extra squishy chairs and such, but it’s stealth as all get-out!

      I had an old $2000 minivan as a beater vehicle for a while and I miss it SO much for hauling sheets of plywood and bales of garden soil. I don’t have kids- I literally got it because it was super comfy and a great deal on something that I could put cargo in and expect it to stay dry!

    41. Paul S.*

      Data point for the minivan: I owned a Grand Caravan when I was a patrol cop. Married with no kids. It was wonderful. Plenty of room in the cabin on the way to and from work even with my armor and duty belt on, and I took out the middle seat to have room for a giant lockable project box which held a car trunk’s worth of police gear.

      My coworkers almost universally snickered until they saw how easy it made loading/unloading for shifts. I didn’t get much crap for it. Minivans are awesome.

    42. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think a minivan would be fine. My coworker who is not a parent and in her 20s just bought a van and she loves it.

      I’m not sure what your job entails but if you had a minivam wouldnt it just be assumed that you need it for the space?
      I think there are a lot of new vans that look sporty and do t look like the traditional mom van.
      I suppose if you really wanted the space, but didn’t want the look of a van, could you look at a SUV.

    43. Anon for this*

      My boss drives a minivan. He is an avid hunter and fisherman, but is physically short and wiry, so doesn’t look like the stereotypical outdoorsman. He has commented that when he pulls up to some of the better, lesser-known areas for fishing or hunting, the guys with the huge pick-up trucks wearing serious outdoorsman gear give him the side-eye and some make snide comments. Then, as he responds to questions and starts pulling out his gear, they realize he knows his stuff and the minivan is forgotten.

      To translate that to the work situation, if there is anything you can do to immediately signal competence, the minivan will be forgotten quickly. It’s just a vehicle, and many men drive them too.

    44. JSPA*

      I’d notice a minivan in a situation where the other vehicles have high clearance, 4WD, heavy – duty towing capacity. Or alternatively, low profile to deal with intense side-winds. Being the person who predictably bogged down and had to be extricated is obviously bad. Being the person who has everyone wondering when that’s going to happen is not good, either.

      Guys in hetero partnerships do hear, “driving the wife’s car? Yours in the shop?” when they drive a more “feminine” or female – marketed or family – focused car. But unless OP is in a profession and location where even the women have to engage in “performative masculinity,” this may apply to her less than it would to a guy (rather than more).

      I’d also consider that a minivan with kid seats, empty juice boxes and stick – figure – family on the rear window is going to read as family – focused. You can not do those things! You can slap professional decals on the side of a minivan, too, FWIW.

      But I’d guess that the spouse’s feelings are the bigger issue, that he’s not comfortable with being a minivan family (or borrowing the van), and that he’s filtering the reaction through an argument about what others will think.

      Rent one for a couple of weeks. Drive it to work sites. See if anything is said, and see how it handles in work conditions. If there’s blow-back, “It’s a rental / it’s what they had” covers it.

    45. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      IT/Tech, so I think that means male dominated.

      I did get treated a little differently when a sedan replaced a belovéd subcompact coupé that my life had just outgrown–though I don’t perceive myself as having changed, I do get the vibe that others perceive me as more conscientious and less self-oriented. At the very least, others are happy to ride in the car with me. (Side note; if I win the lottery, part of me would love to see if a Civic Type-R gets the same reaction; my guess is that it does not). So my vote is that the minivan impacting your track is at least plausible.

      If you’re really that worried about it, a cheap, used Civic/Accord/Corolla/Camry* sedan casts a pretty neutral profile and commuting in one of those will extend the life of the minivan (just be sure all the numbers make sense up front).

      *I know Honda & Toyota. If you prefer a different make, substitute accordingly.

      1. Self Employed*

        Those would be OK at many companies but seem off-key for emergency management. None of them really say “I will have no trouble driving through a blizzard/hurricane/flood/mudslide to get to work.”

    46. hbc*

      I would say this isn’t so much about “male dominated” as the specific way it’s male-dominated/competitive/what-have-you. I’ve worked in male-dominated fields forever, and if my first company was judgy, it was more about practicality. Minivans were fine, and significantly better than a luxury vehicle of any kind, even if you were management. Where I am now, the trucks outnumber the minivans, but the minivans outnumber the SUVs, and I’d say the auto “underclass” is actually compact cars.

      Realistically, OP, it sounds like you’ve got a mark against you being a woman, and you’ll have another one against you in a minivan. Whether that’s too many depends on a whole lot of factors, including how often you encounter new judgmental people, how long it takes you to come across as competent, and whether you’ve got some other factors that read as “soft” or “tough.” Either way, have a talk with your husband pointing out that he’s either saying you’re not worth taking seriously or that he’s using bad criteria to judge people.

    47. Bluebird*

      A true minivan, seats removed, has way more cargo space than an SUV, and it’s easier to load because it’s lower to the ground. I know 3 people who own them, all men, who use them for camping, hauling music equipment, and the other has twins in college and is doing a lot of moving over the next four years. I also see a lot of minivans in the handicap parking spaces – from what I understand they’re very easy to adapt for wheelchair users. So my point is, minivans are pretty adaptable vehicles compared to most, and I think people know that. I also think most people associate SUVs with parents these days.

    48. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      I’ve worked in two male-dominated fields, and I think minivans would read differently between them.

      The first one was jobsite based, outdoors in all weather, finish the day absolutely filthy, etc. Driving a minivan to the job site would have come off a little oddly – like showing up in sandals or heels rather than steeltoed boots. Driving a minivan to the office and riding to the site in the van with crew and equipment wouldn’t have been odd at all.

      There were certainly times in that field where we knew presentation was going to particularly matter, and then we’d roll up in the office “fancy” vehicle, which was a black SUV – so if minvans don’t fit the culture in your field, an SUV may be a good compromise.

      My current field is techy and office-based. A minivan is outside the norm here, but wouldn’t carry any negative connotations on its own with anyone who mattered. If you tended towards “office mom” in other ways, though, it might cement that reputation.

      1. anonks*

        Well said! LW will know better which side she falls into, but your first description is 100% what I’d be concerned with. Mini vans just wouldn’t read as particularly competent in more rugged industries.

    49. Smuckahs*

      I work in a field that’s a combination of construction and tech. So, ultra make dominated *and* hyper masculine. I would 100% never drive a minivan to a job site. My coworkers would tease me mercilessly. It sucks that people will take you less seriously for appearing more feminine, but it’s reality. I had a coworker who wore all hot pink PPE, so it can be done…. But you really need to lean into it. For me, it’s easier to leave all of my pink/feminine stuff at home.

      1. Smuckahs*

        I’ll add that the problem with a minivan isn’t that it’s associated with hauling kids around (I drive a wagon that’s got a booster seat and covered in goldfish dust) but that a minivan itself is considered more “girly.” I hate that I have to lean into my more masculine tendencies at work, but I definitely do.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          If I could still get a minivan with a clutch (R.I.P. Toyota Previa), I’d be driving one.

          I didn’t think of it this way at the time, but our minivan has RLV (RCA?) hookups for a gaming console and the video screen will do split-screen and play two videos (or a video and a game) side-by-side. I wonder if that’s to combat some of the imaginary femininity of the vehicle?

      2. LW #6*

        Thank you for acknowledging this reality.
        I do “lean-in” in other ways, but this may not be the one I care enough about! For me, I dress in business dress most days (feminine business dress, I guess?) for work, which is rare for our field, but I also think it ultimately contributed to some of my quick promotions. I care more about continuing to do that, wear makeup, etc. than have a mini van. (Of course, I always have 511s, boots, and a branded polo in the trunk of my non-minivan car!)

        1. Smuckahs*

          If someone hasn’t worked in a field like construction, it can be hard to understand just how hyper masculine it is. My husband has been working on a project car for a few years, and literally the only people who eye-roll at it are my coworkers… because they think the car itself is too “girlie.” I’ve literally heard them say he could never drive up to one of our job sites in it. Everyone else thinks it’s a cool car, or they’re impressed that he’s doing all the work himself, or both. I’d love to be a little more feminine at work, but I’m almost always the only woman on a job site with hundreds of men. It’s totally ok to just want an easy day at work and not have to be a trailblazer!

          1. tangerineRose*

            “It’s totally ok to just want an easy day at work and not have to be a trailblazer!” This!

    50. agnes*

      We had a mommy van for years–that my husband drove. He still says that was his favorite car!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. My husband is very tall, and the minivan is far more spacious than our other vehicle (a fuel-efficient sedan) and more comfortable for him to drive. We swap sometimes, but he’s been the primary driver of the minivan for the decade-plus we’ve had them.

    51. Perfectly Particular*

      I do work in a male-dominated field, and so does my husband. I work in an office – the only time my car is even in the conversation is if we are going to lunch & want to carpool (in the before-times). In that case, the mom-mobile (SUV) is appreciated, since it can seat 7. Just need to make sure it’s clean!

      For my husband, who goes to job sites, the car matters – even showing up in a sedan isn’t really ok. SUVs with ground clearance are fine, minivans would get a guy made fun of, and would keep a woman from being taken seriously. It might be alright if someone is new to the field and hasn’t had time to upgrade yet, but purchasing a new minivan might indicate that they don’t have a commitment to the job since they’re not really great for parking in the mud, etc. I’m thinking emergency management might be more similar to this second case.

      1. UKDancer*

        I think the terrain you’re driving on is hugely important. If you’re doing something where you need to drive and park in muddy terrain it makes a lot more sense to have a vehicle with all week drive and good suspension. My car (tiny Nissan) would probably get laughed at if I did that type of job because it would completely be unsuitable for the workplace and make me look out of touch with the needs of the job.

        If you’re in a big city with limited and difficult parking it makes a lot more sense to have a small car that you can get into a small space (which is why I drive a tiny Nissan) and go to work on the tube and bus. I am extremely unlikely to drive anywhere that needs all wheel drive for work so it’s a waste of money to have an SUV.

        I think it comes down to knowing your workplace and getting a vehicle accordingly.

    52. Not So NewReader*

      My best thought is to look around and see what others are doing. There have been times in my life where I checked what the popular person or boss was doing to kind of gauge what type of response I would get. Eh, some times we gotta do this stuff, even though we should not have to.

      I do think that in emergency response that a rugged vehicle would be the thing that is highly thought of/ admired.
      I am not sure what type of emergency response you do. If your setting is muck/rain/snow/and other forms of extremes I am not sure the mini-van would be a good choice. In the 90’s I had a mini-van and it was a nightmare. I needed it for hauling stuff. I bought it three times- the actual purchase, the repair after a big accident and maintenance costs. I had to get to work no matter what the weather and the mini-van just could not cut it for me. That was years ago, perhaps they are better now? I am not willing to find out first hand because I am still “getting over” all that happened there.

      You may want to consider the idea that any response you get is not “mom wagon” but rather “that vehicle won’t perform the way she needs it to perform.” If people- both men and women- know a person has the wrong equipment for the job then they WILL mutter and sputter. I have a friend who cuts down trees. If he hires someone to work with him and that person shows up with a dull chain saw my friend will mutter and sputter. And this is because my friend KNOWS that this person’s dull chain saw ruins their ability to work along. The heavy end of the work will fall to my friend by default. This is about being prepared for the day’s work and not about sexism. (Maybe other “ism’s” such as perfectionism, elitism and so on– but not sexism.)

      If you are in a tech field I think you know that there is that drive for each person to “out tech” the next person. It’s very competitive to be the one in-the-know about the latest and greatest.

      Again, I am not sure what your working conditions look like. My husband worked in a tech environment. He had a mini-van. He bought good tires and he made it where he needed to go no matter what the weather. No one could complain that he did not show up. Additionally, because he had equipment to keep the vehicle working- such as a tire inflator that worked off the van battery- he wowed even the boss. I think the boss ended up taking the tire inflator home with him so he (the boss) could get to the repair shop the next morning. My husband had done work on the road for three decades, he had a contingency plan for just about anything that could happen. Because of his ability to keep going no matter what the van was a non-issue. He could change a flat tire in less than 5 minutes. He knew his job thoroughly down to the littlest detail.

      This is not to say that sexism is not a problem– no, no, no. But my suggestion is to look around to see what other factors may be going on here. From my own life experience, please make sure you are keeping yourself safe no matter what you finally decide here.

    53. Lacey*

      I don’t think mini-vans signal anything. My husband drives one, we don’t have kids. It’s just the most convenient vehicle for us for a variety of reasons. It is fantastic on road trips, but also getting furniture, or home improvement stuff, camping is easier, it’s great for going places with friends – there are so many reasons to love a mini-van and many of them don’t have anything to do with kids.

      That said, neither of us works in a field where our cars mean anything. But, I just think there are so many reasons a mini van is convenient, that it’s not going to signal “mommy track” right away.

    54. LW #6*

      Thank you for publishing my very low-stakes question!
      I do want to clarify that I asked my husband his opinion before it was offered! At the end of the day, if I came to him and said I was set on getting a van and painting it like the scooby doo mystery machine, he’d be on board.

      As someone mentioned, the captain’s seats and the floor space to literally walk around inside the vehicle were amazing, and I haven’t found that in an SUV. However, it is truly not needed at all in our day-to-day lives, but it was heaven on a 15-hour drive! We have no pets, no hobbies that require large equipment, etc.

      People stand around in parking lots and talk after meetings, so we all recognize each other’s cars. I realize that is a bit weird!

      Ultimately, I asked because I would get a minivan if I truly needed/wanted one, but since it is something that would be wonderful to have for a long once-a-year trip, it isn’t necessarily worth spending capital on. There are things I don’t compromise on to stay true to myself that are more important to me. I’m also working to make my agency and the field a bit more flexible for everyone–not just parents–but I do worry those efforts can be easily undermined.

      Thank you all for the thoughtful responses and for sharing your experiences! It is always interesting to see how these small things vary between workplace cultures!

      1. katertot*

        I had a few friends who LOVED the captain seat aspect of their minivans but wanted to switch to SUVs and I think there’s a Kia SUV that has them now (I think the Sorento and Telluride)? And a few larger ones also have them now which gives you the floor space that you lose in a lot of SUVs.

        1. H2*

          I have the Telluride, and I LOVE it, and mine does have second row captains seats, but I will say that it does not have the same walk-through ability as a minivan. I think the third row is also not as big. If I had three kids I would probably not have it—I’m not sure it would be easy and comfortable on a regular basis/longer distances. It’s fine for carpooling, though!

          I do think it would be a great compromise in this particular situation!

        2. TiffIf*

          Back in the 90’s my parents paid extra to have the captain seats in the middle row of our minivan rather than the bench to avoid all the “[sibling] is touching me!”/”no I’m not, [sibling] is sitting in my space” fights :D

      2. acmx*

        Yes, minivans are great for road trips! If you don’t need it daily, I’d just spend the money and rent one for vacation.

      3. Ranon*

        Renting exactly the car you need for driving vacations is the best- and if you need something different for the next vacation, you can rent that! We’ve done the same since we’ve had a kid and it’s super handy.

      4. Here we go again*

        When I lived in flint,Michigan there used to be a car club called the Flint Van Enthusiasts. They were fun to watch. There was one with Thor painted on the side.

      5. Pyjamas*

        Then it might be more cost effective to rent a minivan once a year for trips.

        Also, if your regular car is in the shop, perhaps if you could get a minivan loaner (or rent one for the day) to see if you still like it as well as to gauge reactions at work.

      6. Irish girl*

        Subaru Ascent has the captains chairs if you want at least 1 of the min-van type options in a SUV.

      7. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I just bought a car specifically for the captains seats! FYI the Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent, Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Toyota Highlander all come with available 2nd row captain chairs. I went with the Pilot because it has the most cargo space – not as much as a minivan, but maybe a nice middle ground for what you need.

      8. ADHD Anon*

        I get it. And I know the parking lot meetings well. (EM, female and kids and minivan). Esp. If people are driving branded / equipped vehicles. I used to go to monthly EM meetings that changed locations around my County. I could always tell when I was in the right place based on the parking lot.

        Also, I’ve realized that my perspective is that of someone who had kids latish – mid-30s – so I was already pretty established. If you’re younger you may not be as comfortable?

        Two random pieces of advice:

        If you’re working strange hours and someone asks ‘who is watching baby’ – they’re either an ass or they want to tell you about their childcare baggage. So – a ‘oh my god, I forgot about them – they’re at home alone!” Can be fun. Or often just a ‘at home with dad’ and it’s over – less fun, not always true, but ends the inquiry.

        And, if you do public engagement – talking about your personal preparedness and your family makes a great connection. Diapers in the supply kit, having peanut butter and granola bars and milk boxes instead of MREs. That kind of stuff.

        1. ADHD Anon*

          Me again. What I’m trying to say in the second example is that if you’re feeling like people might think you’re less than available because of kids, you can turn that into LW is so well organized and capable.

          Conversation about midnight calls we’ve taken = ‘oh I’m lucky, I’ve never been called when husband is traveling for work, but if I were my awesome neighbor would come over.

        2. LW #6*

          Haha I have definitely gone with the “Oh I left them in the car out in the parking lot… is that a problem?” answer re: kids before!

    55. I should really pick a name*

      I only think of my coworker’s cars so far as to be able to look at the parking lot to know if someone’s in the office yet (male dominated field, I’m male)

      Does your husband work in your field? Would he actually have a sense of how people react to vehicles?

    56. Red5*

      I’m an emergency manager for the Federal government. Literally no one cares what you drive. All of the responses I’ve been involved in required car rentals (due to lack of proximity), and often there’s a shortage so we get whatever’s available. I’ve rolled up in mini vans, compact cars, SUVs. The only time anyone batted an eye was when I rolled up in a Mustang. I had to reassure folks that it was all they had left and that they gave me the government rate for it.

    57. CupcakeCounter*

      You and your husband know the industry and your workplace best so if you are on the fence, could you identify the top 3 things that you loved about the minivan and see if you could find those items in a SUV? I have a 7-passenger Toyota Highlander with middle seat captain chairs (Hybrid because going from a sedan to an SUV gas-mileage was rough!) and a friend has the 8-passenger with 2 rows of bench seats. Compared to my BFF’s Honda Odyssey they are still smaller and higher off the ground but a hell of a lot better than a smaller SUV/Crossover or sedan and don’t look super boxy – especially the 2020 and newer models that have some sharper curves and angles. A ton of people in my Midwest town also drive the Denali/Suburban – all have between 2-4 kids and do multiple sports so they need the space. Outside of the horrible gas mileage, they are big, tough, rugged looking and don’t read “mommy”. My former coworker likes her Suburban better than the minivan she had – partly because she was very tall so it was actually easier for her than bending over into a minivan and partly because her husband didn’t whine about driving it.
      As for my friend with the minivan mentioned above…she loves that thing and defends it with a fierceness that will keep anyone from making even a single comment so my guess is she heard a few things early on. She also plans on keeping it forever even though she only has 1 kid left in the house.

    58. Manon*

      My cousin (early 20s, woman) is stationed on a military base in the US. She found out recently that her fellow sailors all thought for months that she had kids because she drives a minivan.

      So it definitely does have a “mom” connotation to some people.

    59. Construction Safety*

      Construction, Heavy (think power plants, chemical plants, paper mills, etc. ) so yeah, heavily male & pickup truck oriented. I carry a lot of job stuff with me everywhere I go plus a bicycle & associated gear. Need to keep it dry and semi secure.

      So, I bought a van (about 1/3 cost of similarly aged/equipped pickup. I took off all the badging (“Dodge”, “Grand Caravan”, “SXT”, etc.) all the way around. I had the front windows tinted the max allowable in SC & the rear window to near limo. I ordered Jeep SRT knock-off rims from Ebay and tires from TireRack & had them all shipped to my local PepBoys where they mounted & installed them for like $100. The wheels filled out the wheel wells nicely, but didn’t look outrageous.

      Inside, I folded the 2nd & 3rd row seats down and they stayed there the next 3 years.

      At first glance, one saw “mini-van” , but they weren’t sure what they were looking at.

    60. Ranon*

      I’m a woman that works in construction, but I’m the architect, so I play on a different field with the contractors because I decide if they’re doing it right and they get paid. Most of the ones I work with also know they’re not supposed to say certain things even if they think them so I’d likely get nonsense about a minivan from, oh, 10-20% of the folks I work with on a job site max, so like every third job. I own a Subaru Impreza which is just enough on the functional side I never hear about it.

      If I were a peer also working in construction here I’d probably own a truck. This is Texas- other states I could probably go SUV. I’d need something with better ground clearance anyways.

    61. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I am a woman in a male-dominated field (heavy construction).

      I have some peripheral emergency response experience (HazWOPER).

      Meetings are irrelevant because, as has been mentioned in these responses, vehicles are in a parking lot. For using your personal car for emergency response, depending on the kind of emergency you are trained for and expected to respond to, I’d be worried about (1) using a family car in a situation where it might get damaged or contaminated, (2) whether the vehicle could get into the area needing the response (minivans notoriously have low road clearance, lower than lots of sedans), and (3) I don’t think any vehicle with lots of open interior space is safe for the driver as far as unsecured equipment goes and emergency response usually requires people to carry *some* equipment around.

      Not considering and solving those issues is what makes someone look unprofessional to me.

      Now, assuming those items are solved or irrelevant, depending on where you are and who you work with and how much you already are fine staking your boundaries around how you do your job, the minivan itself as a symbol? That’s for you to decide. I’ve turned up at a mine in a PT Loser because that’s an what the rental agency gave me. It was purple. My statement was “Hi, I’m OE and you won’t forget me OR this damn car, will ya??! By the way, it’s horrible and don’t buy one for your teen when they start turning up in the used car market.” Everything was fine.

    62. Old Mountain Lady*

      LW#6, if you think a minivan would be an issue, get a crossover SUV. I’ve driven both extensively, and prefer the SUV. A crossover is just as comfortable as the minivan in my experience, and generally not as high off the ground as a standard SUV. And if you really want to look tough, get a dark color with black trim instead of chrome.

    63. Construction Lady*

      I am a female construction/welding teacher at a high school. I used to drive a truck because I often have to haul lumber (don’t look at those prices these days!) and other materials to my job. I recently bought a mini van for personal reasons–much like the LW. I had one male colleague (who is the epitome of misogynistic jerk) make a joke about it and I just shut it down with “really? are you that concerned with my personal life choices?”

      I kept my truck and use it on the days I have to make supply runs, but I’m enjoying my minivan.

    64. Jennifer*

      I can’t imagine not taking someone seriously because of the vehicle they drive. That’s just a level of materialism I don’t relate to. I had no idea what anyone drove when I worked in the office.

      I know there are some people who do pay attention to these things because they mentioned when I got a different car, and I always found it weird. I never saw them in the parking lot. Were they watching out the window lol? But I never felt judged.

    65. Environmental Compliance*

      I work in HSE. Part of my job is crisis management. Our safety team does a lot of emergency management. One definitely has a minivan. No one would read this as strange.

      If I remember correctly, when I was health department, the actual response vehicle was a minivan. They just have a ton of space, which was incredibly useful when you need easily accessible equipment.

    66. Kids and Cars*

      I am a volunteer CPST (child passenger safety technician) in my spare time and I’ve spent a good deal of time teaching parents and installing car seats in a wide range of vehicles. Depending on the age of your kids, and whether you still have car seat years ahead, some vehicles are much more convenient. Generally speaking minivans are great for families, because of the space for passengers and cargo. Plus- sliding doors are a godsend for keeping kids from opening their door into other cars. A good alternative though is actually a full sized crew cab truck. You would want one with a full sized back seat, not a flip down or side facing seats. There’s a surprising amount of room, plus you get the whole bed, and it’s much more masculine reading. Small SUVs like the RAV4 are actually not that great for kids in car seats, generally speaking they don’t have much more passenger room than a sedan, and not as much cargo space as a minivan. Large SUVs tend to be a good balance, but gas mileage is pretty low unless you’re looking at a hybrid.

      I am a woman in a STEM field and I can’t say we’ve ever talked about cars in any way that is derogatory- but as always YMMV.

    67. iliketoknit*

      I can’t help but comment, although I’m not in a similar field (law is probably still male-dominated but it likely doesn’t have the culture of emergency management). People sometimes worry about what the kind of car they drive will signal to the partners at their firm when they roll up every day (whether that’s because they drive a beater, or because they want to splurge on something kind of fancy/expensive). I can’t say *no* individuals notice and judge what someone’s driving, but the response I’ve always seen to questions about this is, “No one will care.” This seems to me something where internalized stereotypes (both about what a group will think and what driving a particular vehicle means) don’t actually match reality, and where we worry about being judged for things that we personally would never judge others for. It also seems to me that some of the men who would see you driving up in a minivan might also have kids and own/drive minivans? (I get that it’s stereotyped as a “mommy” car but if you have kids and the whole family goes out on the weekend, “daddy” is riding in/driving it too.) Last comment, you might be able to find a SUV or SUV-type that serves the same kind of function as a minivan but looks slightly less like a kidmobile? (Apologies if I’m just repeating what everyone’s already said!)

    68. caseykay68*

      I’m not in emergency management full time, but part of my job responsibility involved being part of emergency response in a natural disaster – so have spent time in Emergency Operations Centers and with those types of folks. I would argue the alternative to your husband that a minivan could be an asset in a response situation as you could transport people or equipment quite easily as part of the response. I honestly don’t think it would be given a second thought by any of the responders (but your husband obviously has a thing about it.

    69. Dr. Doll*

      Thank god I work at a large university campus where you’d never know who owns what car, much less care. Except the science dean who parks in the same spot every day because she gets to work at zero dark thirty, and has a vanity plate with a science reference.

      It’s annoying that this even has to be a question. And all the people saying that their dads drove minivans to a badass job – the look is different on men, dammit, and that is the point.

    70. Ann Perkins*

      Woman in a very male-dominated industry here, one in which cars are very much seen as status symbols. I have two kids under 5 also. I don’t particularly try to hide my mom status; I’ve tried to normalize pumping, I have pictures of my kids in my office, if someone asks about my weekend I’ll say “oh the kids and I went to the zoo, wasn’t it such nice weather on Saturday?” or whatever. I don’t excessively talk about my kids, I don’t bring baked goods to the office or show pictures of my kids otherwise, I try not to be over the top. In a lot of ways I have been mommy-tracked at my job though, but what I drive hasn’t made a difference on that I think.

      I don’t think there’s a problem with getting a minivan. With emergency response, I would think you need to have some materials on hand, and it’d be helpful to be seen as highly practical – which a minivan is. IMO the main thing that will help is to keep the outside washed and not have stale goldfish spilling out when you pull up somewhere.

    71. roll-bringer*

      Is the minivan attractive for the sliding doors, separate seats in the second row, etc, or just for the space? If it’s just the space that’s nice, and you’re worried about being “mommy-tracked” (or as the kids get older feeling like what was great for littles now feels like you’re in a Walmart ad) maybe get an SUV, which has the space accommodations but is more… generic, I guess, is the word? You see a Pilot roll up and don’t assume that a soccer team is going to pile out of all doors the way you assume about a minivan.

    72. Jesse*

      Just from the vehicle-buying perspective, I’d look for something with a slightly higher ground clearance if you’re showing up at work/emergency sites. It might never come in handy, but if you’re driving a close-to-the-ground vehicle and the road is flooded, rutted, muddy, full of debris, etc. you can damage the underside of the car just by driving normally. It doesn’t sound like you need a 4×4 or anything, but a crossover on an SUV base, a compact SUV, or normal SUV might be an even better fit than a minivan.

    73. Gay Hamster in the Corporate Wheel*

      Business Continuity field, so related to emergency response. Also a gay man with no children, but a husband who deals antiques and two dogs we travel with constantly. We have not one, but TWO minivans – both Dodge Caravans because the seats fold into the floor for cargo and dog hauling. These are perfect for a Response role, as you can haul people or supplies – and far lower load-in height than an SUV for lifting said supplies. Its the perfect vehicle for someone in a Response role, image be damned! Go for it.

    74. PeanutButter*

      I work in a male-dominated field. The vast majority of mini-vans or mini-van-like cars my colleagues drive are basically adventure-mobiles. I know that on the east coast in some jobs what car you drive can reflect on you at work or something but honestly on the West Coast nobody cared, and the person parked next to you in the beat up Subaru was just as likely to be a C-suite exec or an intern.

    75. Liz Holden*

      I teach physics at a university, definitely a male-dominated field. I have a minivan, as do several of my male coworkers. No one seems to care or think about it in the least.

    76. kittybutton*

      I work in the male-dominated field of finance/banking and don’t agree with LW that people largely assume that being a mom makes you appear less available or dedicated. I think you could pull up in a minivan and be taken seriously. However, if you feel strongly about not signaling that you are a mom, you should know that driving a minivan absolutely advertises that fact. I would make this decision the same way you decide whether to display photos of your kids. (Although kid photos are LESS obvious than a minivan because they could be your nieces/nephews, god-children, etc.)

    77. ADHD Anon*

      I’m an emergency manager. I’m a woman. I drive a minivan, because I have kids. In fact, I’ve long maintained that a minivan would be the perfect city vehicle for my job.

      Sooo much better than the F250 that I had to drive at my last job. I’m doing a lot of not in an office right now with vaccination and when it would add an hour or more to take a work vehicle (going to office, getting truck, going to location) I just load up my minivan. Or for community outreach where I load it up on Friday and go to an event on a Saturday.

    78. Brett*

      I worked in emergency management for 8 years for a county of 1 million people. If you worked in FEMA region VII before 2015, there’s a good chance you heard me talk at some point (I was a popular keynoter for a couple years).

      First off, while emergency management is male-dominated, it has many strong women leaders in it, especially in the logistics tracks. My former agency now has a woman in the emergency manager role and she is fantastic and well respected. Everyone I worked with had kids (men and women). I drive a compact hatchback (it literally looks exactly like a tiny minivan) and no one blinked at this. I will add that we had a directive in our agency to take care of your family first then your job.

      That said, it is a field where people definitely notice what you drive. Not for a social reason, but for a practical reason. You have to get to work, regardless of the conditions. Hail storms, blizzards, severe thunderstorms. You might be called upon to use your personal vehicle to provide emergency transportation in deep snow. (My hatchback could do this in all but the deepest snow.)

      Because of this practical reason, there is a tendency towards 4-wheel drive trucks (not SUVs), especially with camper shells. People with kids had extended cabs too. Assuming you are in the US, you might consider a Toyota Sienna if you want a minivan because it is the only US minivan with an all-wheel drive option. (Don’t get a crossover SUV. They are horrible in icy conditions.)

      So, yeah, people are going to notice your car if it is not practical for the severe weather you get where you are. And this will effect you, because they will think, “OP doesn’t have a car that will get here in this weather. We are going to wait to call her in.” You want to be in that first response group if you are going to advance in your emergency management career.

      1. ADHD Anon*

        Posted upthread and then read something about snow in one of your replies. Female EM with kids and minivan here.

        I should add that I’m an urban/semi urban area that has zero snow that I need to drive in for work, and if I’m going out to do some sort of assessment I usually take a city 4×4. If you do live in a heavy snow area (I grew up in one) the sienna all wheel drive is great on snow for driving. BUT, the clearance isn’t so great. When we’re visiting snow I have to shovel more to get it out than I did a 4×4 Tacoma back in the day. And I balk at snowplow berms at driveway entrances more.

        Of course I also love being able to get into parking garages/ park in most spaces when my colleagues with big trucks can’t.

        1. Brett*

          Yeah, snow depth is important for EM in lots of areas. My hatchback had only 4.5″ of clearance and struggled when we had a record 12″ snowfall, but managed fine in 10″ or less. (Whereas many metros, 12″ would just be a typical winter day.) The Sienna AWD has 6.6″ so it is probably fine up to 1′ but going to struggle too beyond that. I did carry a pair of snow shovels in the back of my car just for those snowplow berms and similar issues :)

          My car was far better in severe thunderstorms than any 4×4 though, and we had a lot more of those. (Our agency ran the EOC and did not do assessments, so we used personal vehicles a lot more. We mostly used agency vehicles to drive to and from training.)

    79. Stackson*

      My dad worked for a long time in a woodworking-adjacent trade. When he started his business, he used the family minivan and just piled all of his equipment into the back. It worked well and we still had a family vehicle when we took road trips–but after a couple of years, he started getting the feeling that people didn’t take him seriously because he wasn’t in a truck, so he bought a pickup instead.

      I can’t comment on your field, or the fact that it was a man and not a woman in my dad’s situation. I will say, however, that I am another one of those people who doesn’t care about what vehicles signal socially. So my vote is for getting what works best for you and your family!

    80. KP*

      There’s a lot of people in the comments who I don’t think work with a lot of men.

      I’m a woman in STEM and I support pharmaceutical manufacturing. In the STEM roles, we’re about about 50/50 male and female. (There are a few non-binary folks, but not many). In the rest of the site, it’s about 80% male. It’s not uncommon for me to be the only woman in the meeting. As much as I have a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” even a “Leeeeeeeroy Jenkins!!!” mindset, it’s not smart if you want to thrive.

      Very few men are being rude or sexist on purpose. It’s an unconscious bias and if you go in hot, you’re going to hit that bias (why is she so angry/difficult??) and make it worse. You have to be confident, but not brash. It helps to be pretty, but not too feminine. You have to be careful how you phrase questions, because a lot of men think you’re challenging them.

      In other words, you can’t be Ned Stark. You’ll lose your head. You have to be Sansa Stark and play the long game.

      As much as I want to tell the letter writer to get the minivan, I’m leaning against it. They make just tease her about the van. They may think it’s a “mommy” vehicle and not take her seriously.

      I will say though, that if they tease you…give it back to them. Like, I dye my different colors – blues and greens mostly. When the have that “haha, what color is your hair going to be next” with the implication that it’s ridiculous, I look them dead in the eye and ask, “Why? Are you jealous?”.

      If the letter-writer gets the minivan, I’d treat it the same way. Be light, dismissive, and little funny. They’ll either move on, or tell her specifically what they think about it.

      1. LW #6*

        Such a great perspective!
        Yes, I have always dressed a bit more formal/feminine than was probably smart if I wanted to keep my head down, BUT I also credit that with how quickly I advanced. Right or wrong, people felt like I could be brought along to city manager meetings to weigh in if the convo got down into the weeds when I was first starting, I got invited to sit on a lot of interview panels (usually having a woman was required, but still!) which means I got to know even more people in the area in the field, I eventually was asked to speak a lot of places on the niche of the field I’m in, got promoted to management, etc. It was definitely a long-game strategy, but I don’t think the minivan helps at any level!

      2. Nesprin*

        Another woman in STEM here. Light and dismissive is always a good approach, though in engineering being proud of your tools is always understood. Having a minivan with all the exciting bells and whistles would fit with the ‘boys with their toys’ culture I live in. Showing off the power seats and the fact that you can carry like 4 bikes and the rest of the kit would work.

        And yes, the cultural pressure to be one of “one of the boys” is exhausting.

    81. Sparkles McFadden*

      I was generally the only woman anywhere I worked and many of the men had minivans. The guys who liked cars actually gave me chapter and verse on various engines when I was looking for an SUV, and they threw minivans into the evaluations. Many of them had minivans for exactly the reason the LW mentioned: They liked the room and found them to be comfortable.

      I get where the LW is coming from. I never mentioned anything about my private life. I once had to file a union grievance because my boss assigned overtime to the men because “They have families to support.” I replied “I could have fourteen adopted children at home, you don’t know.”

      Still, I don’t think the LW has to worry about the minivan.

    82. MinnieK*

      I (she/her) worked in emergency management for several years and I would not anticipate this as a problem – I drove a goofy two door Toyota Yaris and don’t remember anyone giving me shit for basically driving a go-cart. But for about 40% of my time I drove an organization-provided Tahoe, which I loved soooooo much. I am not convinced that your husband is right about the judgment. I don’t tend to think minivan automatically equals mother because I know people who have them for other reasons. Personally, I tend to be excited when a coworker has a minivan or big SUV cause that means they are the ones driving to lunch.
      You mentioned loving the captain’s seats in the second row – there are several SUVs/Crossovers that provide that option (Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorrento, Suburu Ascent, etc.) if you think SUVs/Crossovers are likely more acceptable to your coworkers. (I am currently shopping for a new car and know too much about cars I’ll never buy.) But if you love the minivan, go for it. Lean into the practicality – get bigger tires or 4×4 option. Throw some camping related or travel related stickers on it for more street cred. Don’t put those family stick figure stickers on it, of course. You are always going to have to work harder to prove yourself and I suspect what car you drive is not going to change that. So why not get what you want?

    83. HotSauce*

      I cannot imagine that the type of car that I drive would be of any significance to my coworkers outside of owning some flashy exotic sports car that some might drool over. I worked in a very male dominated field for many years and several of my male coworkers drove mini vans, no one cared.

    84. Kaisa (The Librarian)*

      I’d like to say no one would notice, but my sister watched my kid for a week a couple years ago and just drove our prius since the car seat was all set up and her coworkers called her out for having a mom car. Maybe it was just that they could see the car seat or that they knew she was watching my kid – I feel like I was not aware of prius-mom car associations – but it was commented on.
      (As a sister aside, she drives a corolla, not some sporty little two seater. Totally not salty about being called out for a mom car over here.)

    85. Ananda*

      I also work in a male dominated field (environmental consulting) and have done some emergency response stuff in the past. I think, it depends a lot on where you live, and your coworkers themselves. Many people I work with get to use company vehicles, or rented ones as well as personal vehicles. The focus has always been less on what kind of vehicle and more how it can fit the job (off road capacity, storage for gear, etc). So, in my experience it either world not matter or be a positive. However I do think that if you wanted to go the mini van route and were worried you could select a more sporty or van/SUV cross that no one would bat an eye at.

    86. Cinderella Sparklepants*

      #6 – I used to work in a heavily male-dominated field (construction) in Texas, where I was frequently judged for being a woman anyway, but nobody cared much about the minivan. If anything, the people that rode it in thought it was cool because it had lots of tech-y bells and whistles, and I had a number of men comment that they might look into getting a van like it (mostly for their wives, but still). I never felt like it made my life more difficult, unless it was with folks who were going to be a*******s either way.

    87. YA Author*

      I used to work in educational publishing, which is female-dominated, but the field sales force was more equally split than the office staff. And our field sales reps—male and female—preferred to drive minivans for the ease of loading things in and out. I regularly worked with a child-free, 50-year-old, conservative man who only drove minivans (for cargo purposes).

    88. Girl Who Plays Guitar*

      I work in a male-dominated field (music). Generally, when we see minivans we assume you’re either in a band, or work in a related job that requires you to transport lots of people / equipment. Parents where I am tend to opt for SUVs, which sparks a different type of judgement, due to these vehicles being viewed as environmentally unfriendly and overkill for our city (major capital city in a temperate zone where it rarely snows, and traffic is a huge problem here).

    89. BankingwithMinis*

      I work for a large regional bank in the midwest. I am female and my former female director would get hassled for driving a mini-van by her colleagues (all male). She had a strong personality and was able to convince them it was very practical. I think it was more that they expected you to signal your high status at the company with more of a luxury car or truck (higher salary = nicer car). She did eventually cave to the pressure and get a BMW. Unlike other commenters, I am very aware of what our executives drive. Car branding works because it signals something about what we value – so if you value that mini van life – GO FOR IT!

    90. Jack Straw*

      Many of the comments are focusing on practicality for an emergency response role but are forgetting that the OP is asking about the impact to her career. Yes, it is undoubtedly practical, but that doesn’t mean it will escape the stigma of her showing up in a “mom van.”

      1. Brett*

        It’s relevant though, because the practicality of your vehicle is something that gets noticed in emergency management and could impact your career, more so than the vehicle being a “mom” vehicle. As I mentioned, people with personal vehicles that cannot navigate the weather are not called in first, and being part of that first call-in wave can be important from a career perspective. Because minivans are so practical in a practicality focused industry, the “mom van” stigma is not as significant. Meanwhile, showing up in a muscle car or a crossover SUV would be a lot more damaging.

        1. ADHD Anon*

          That’s where I’m coming from too. Functionality matters. From my perspective, Emergency Management always appreciates a good system, whether it’s an RV platform as as command center or minivan with enough room for you, kids and your go bag.

          And I do want to say – I loooooove the minivan. Kids ahead of me getting to car- just pop that sliding door open for them. Being able to stand between the two front seats and then secure a toddler in a 5 pt harness with the door closed so the other one can’t escape? All awesome.

    91. DE*

      Where I work it seems most of the men drive pick up trucks, and I’m not about that life. That being said, nobody actually cares what car you drive as long as you can get to and from work on time (and even start times are usually flexible).

    92. Julie*

      I work in a male dominated field that involves mostly office work, with some trips to construction sites. As much as I’d love to say there’s no stigma, I think there would definitely be a reaction if someone started driving a minivan. I hope it changes soon, and I’m trying to do my part, but we’re not there yet

    93. Awesome Sauce*

      I have done emergency response (although it wasn’t my primary responsibility). I work in oil and gas and am a female engineer. So pretty male-dominated.

      I’ve seen minivans at emergencies and exercises, but as far as I could tell, they were pretty much always either rentals or work vehicles (i.e. provided by the company and already full of response-related equipment). It is almost always pickup trucks, sometimes large SUVs (usually the fire chief), and very occasionally a minivan. I’m also used to emergencies that can involve some off-road driving, so a pickup truck, or at least an SUV that’s capable of 4WD low, is preferred for practical reasons.

      It’s very unusual in my field to use your own car at a response, partly because of the liability and partly because the work trucks are generally better equipped. If the LW worked in the same industry as me, any “weird looks” or judgement would be more due to showing up in a private vehicle and less due to the type of vehicle. If people do routinely use their own vehicles at emergency responses in LW’s field, obviously she should ignore this paragraph :)

      As for arriving at meetings in a minivan, I feel like most people aren’t going to notice what anyone else is driving, unless literally everyone is getting there at the same time. So I don’t think that’s an issue. Even if the LW rolls up in a minivan with baby seats in it, I feel like “arriving at an office” is a very different context than “arriving at an emergency in progress.” For the first, evidence of a personal life is not likely to have much of a career effect, but for the second, you’d want to appear as if you’re already in work mode from the moment you arrive. Seats folded down or removed, kid-related stuff out, duffel bags/Pelican cases/whatever full of response-related equipment in.

      1. Brett*

        Emergency management is the people who sit in the ops center or at incident command, not the people who directly respond out in the field in emergency response. They have to get on site before any other equipment, including company vehicles get there. My response time from home to EOC was expect to be 15 minutes or less from the time the wave 1 call out came out. There was no time to go get an agency vehicle (especially since the agency vehicles were sitting at the EOC anyway).

        1. Nikara*

          Yeah, I suspect in this context the poster is worried about no-notice events when you have to respond to a command post, which is generally full of Fire/Police vehicles. Depending on the funding of your agency, there may not be any real agency vehicles available to you (I can get them if I plan far in advanced, but emergencies rarely allow that). I’ll admit, as a woman in emergency management, one of the things I thought about while selecting my last car was how it would look when I was talking my way through a security perimeter at a command post.

        2. LW #6*

          Hello, yes, exactly this. I don’t carry or transport any equipment. I will usually be in an operations or coordination center, but would pop by the site of the emergency to check in on the team before going to the center.

    94. Raincoaster*

      I judge people who have cars that are gas guzzlers and minivans fall into that category.

      The guy who write Dress for Success also analyzed the impression various cars gave. He said as long as it was clean it mostly didn’t matter UNLESS you were in high end sales where an expensive car, particularly a sportscar was an asset, OR you were a realtor, where a station wagon gave off “buy from this trustworthy neighbour” vibes. A minivan would fall into that category.

    95. fhqwhgads*

      People I know who drive mini-vans:
      People with more than 2 children.
      People with 2 or fewer children, at least one of whom plays a sport that involves toting equipment.
      Adults in a band.
      Adults who play sports that involve toting equipment (including surfing and kayaking).
      People who ride horses.
      People with serious fishtanks.
      Stand-up comedians touring together.

      I am in a male-dominated field, but my colleagues are also very non-judgey (and very sporty, and band-ey) so I certainly wouldn’t jump to “you drive a minivan therefore I shall only ever think of you as a mom”, and I don’t think they would either. I don’t know if I think this is as much of an “industry” thing as it is a “know your colleagues” kind of thing.

    96. Lobsterman*

      I work in a male-dominated engineering field, and the guys all drive Teslas where possible to show their Elon Musk fan status. Life is weird.

    97. Mebbe, Mebbe Not*

      Unpopular opinion here. I’m female and work in an almost exclusively male field. I also have a gender neutral name, think “Jamie” or “Pat”, so I have a ring-side seat experiencing the bias at my job when it becomes apparent I’m not male: from uncomfortable silence on the phone after my greeting to clients actually asking to speak to a man WHO KNOWS WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT. My co-workers and 95% of our customers would absolutely condescend to anyone arriving on-site with a mini-van. SUV, sure. Massive, gas-guzzling pick-up? Fist-bump bonding time (actually witnessed this, no sexism intended). Even an El Dorado would spark a retro conversation. My experience only, your mileage may vary.

    98. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      Male here, and yes this could have an effect. For the female centric veiw points, it most certainly signals that you have a ‘busload’ of kids to take care of and may not be fully invested. It’s crap but true.

      But this is true in other scenarios. An executive rolling up in a 20 year old Ford Taurus may be seen as stingy or that their success is a facade. An entry-level employee parking a $50k sports car could be seen as impulsive and unwise.

      For LW: I recommend getting a soft road SUV. Something like a Buick Envision or Cadillac XT4 offers many of the pluses as a minivan (lower and more comfortable ride, extra cargo space, family friendly features), while coming in a more attractive, gender/family neutral, package.

    99. Nikara*

      Hi LW 6: I’m a woman in emergency management too! The default car of a lot of EMs (of any gender) in my area are Subarus, which I think is pretty typical in EM since they feel rugged/disaster-y, but are also pretty good for folks with kids. For your specific question on if it would Mommy-Track you, I think that would depend greatly on the part of the Country you are in. I’m on the West Coast, where the percentage of female emergency managers is increasing pretty rapidly. Here, it wouldn’t be a problem at all to drive a mini-van. But when I go to conferences in other parts of the US, I get reminded that much of our field is still male-dominated and response focused (so many tactical pants!). There could be a bit of a skeptical response to a minivan in some places, unfortunately. I personally worry more about my outfit when I’m doing field responses (having jeans, a wind breaker, and hiking shoes/boots, to “play the role”), but if you often have to respond to incident command posts in your personal vehicle (as opposed to borrowing an Agency vehicle), it may become a bit of “a thing”. In my personal experience, dudes in emergency management and related fields like latching on to a stereotype about people and will say some snarky related comments. I’ve personally decided I’m fine with them knowing some specific things about me that may make me subject to that kind of stereotype, but it’s much more comfortable when you are in a 50/50 office than a 80/20 one, and you know you can push back if it goes too far. I honestly think it depends on your specific agency and part of the country. If you are getting comments you don’t like about the few pictures you have on your desk, I’d expect them to increase if you get a mini-van. But if you don’t mind the comments and are comfortable pushing back, I think you would be totally fine.

    100. LizM*

      A component of my job includes emergency response, and I’m a woman and a mother. That part of my job is male-dominated.

      I drive an SUV, but I have had to show up in a car with a car seat and a bunch of kid stuff in the trunk. The circle of people I have to interact with is pretty small, so once you’ve established a reputation for being reliable, people notice the kid stuff less. I try to be more vocal about the fact that I’m a mother since I moved up in the organization, because I want people to see that mothers are capable of succeeding in this field.

      That said, when I was newer in this field, I was quieter about my family status, so I definitely get OP’s concern. But honestly, if people are making assumptions about your availability based on what kind of car you drive, they’re making those assumptions based on your gender, period, so I would get the car that makes the most sense for your family.

      1. LizM*

        Another thing I’ll mention is that it’s pretty uncommon to have to drive my personal vehicle to an emergency. I typically have enough time to head to the office to get a fleet vehicle, but the employees who are on quicker response times have permission to keep fleet vehicles at home when they’re on call. Is that an option?

        Now that I think about it, some the local governments in my area actually have minivans because they’re so convenient. Unless you’re looking at the license plates, or a minvan is covered in car seats and crumbs, you wouldn’t necessarily know if a minivan is a personal vehicle or a part of an organization’s fleet.

    101. Anonymous Hippo*

      I work at a steel mill, that’s like 95% men. My brother got a minivan (he’s 22) because he wrecked his truck and he was trying to buy something cheap, and everybody else like it so much that like half his crew got one too. They are roomy, get decent gas mileage, and you can take the seats out and haul stuff. Granted, his looks more like a murder van (ex-police, white with bars) than a mom-mobile, but still. I think it is a very specific subset of people that diss minivans, and it seems to me to be one of those things that would be more of an issue with your friends rather than with coworkers. But then I’m in finance and I judge you on having an expensive car, not the other way around. :)

    102. Lizard Breath*

      I would really like to say “it doesn’t matter” but I am reminded of a story my brother told me from when he was in grad school (in the early 2000s). He worked in machine learning/artificial intelligence and one of the other labs in his section was working on a (very) early version of an autonomous vehicle (basically the kind of thing that became proximity alerts and automatic braking). He said they were having promising results but were having trouble getting funding. They had been working mostly with something like Honda Civics as a cheap, reliable car that was easy to mod and drive around the winding streets of their city. One of the senior and more politically savvy scientists in the group suggested that instead of two Honda Civics they buy one Hummer and use it for a while. At their next demo for DARPA they were basically firehosed with money.

    103. KMD*

      I am in a male dominated field (IT) inside a male dominated field (Oil & Gas). And our parking lot is a mix of vehicles. But there is definitely a row of huge trucks that are clearly scream “Real Men Work Here!” I do occasionally get ribbed for my Mommy Mobile, but who cares? I’ve driven it to work sites, and it hasn’t mattered a bit. Drive what you want to drive!

    104. FD*

      Hrm. I’m in a male-dominated field but in an operations role. I don’t think anyone would care if I owned a mini-van, but it would be a little unusual for the sales reps to do so. (With the sales reps being where the gender split is so heavy.) I don’t know if it’s the minivan itself, as SUVs are pretty common, or the fact that minivans aren’t ‘cool’ cars and sales reps tend to show off their success with a cool car.

    105. Lorax*

      OP 6, I definitely feel you. I previously worked in disaster response and emergency management, and as a woman, I never felt like I could forget my gender in such a heavily male-dominated space. How many times have I showed up to incident command only to find myself as the only woman in a room full of 20+ men! It can be a little surreal.

      To your question, I think it depends. If you’re on the nonprofit/VOAD side of things, I don’t think it matters at all. First because there are more women and working moms in that space (at least in my experience), and second because people tend to have more diverse backgrounds (and vehicles) in general on that side of the house. But it sounds like you’re on the government side of things, in either a local, state, or federal EM role. I’m still not sure it matters what car you drive, but I have a couple thoughts.

      First, in what context would people see you getting into/out of your vehicle? It may be that this is limited, and, if so, not something you need to worry about overly much. I’d ground your general fear by thinking through the actual likelihood of being seen with your minivan.

      Are you responding to incidents in your personal vehicle? If so, I doubt that if anyone did see your vehicle, they’d take it as a sign that you are unavailable to respond to incidents… since you’re currently responding to an incident… Though of course, you’d need to make sure your vehicle can actually handle the terrain and driving conditions you’d be expected to respond in. I live very far north currently, and a minivan simply wouldn’t cut it. You’d need something with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive for sure, and the higher the clearance, the better. If that’s your context, a Subaru or rugged SUV might be a good option.

      If you’re more worried about people seeing your vehicle in day-to-day work, meetings, or conferences, then, yeah, I feel your hesitancy. I’ve been straight-up told by fire chiefs, city managers, and emergency managers that they view me as their daughter. I don’t think they meant it in a bad way (more affectionately than anything), but it still put me on notice about how visible my gender is and how that impacts how these people I worked with saw me. Like you, I would also hesitate to bring anything into the equation that made my gender MORE visible in ways that are associated with negative stereotypes about femininity and/or family care taking.

      If this sounds similar to your work context and you think your vehicle will actually be visible to others, then I think you have two options. First option: lean into the badass boss lady/mama bear archetype. Own it aggressively. I found that doing this helped me, particularly when I was working in small towns and rural areas, and I needed to assume authority quickly with a group of entirely new people. It’s hard to undertake a principled fight for equal treatment while you’re standing in the middle of a tornado zone or in the middle of coordinating a response from incident command, but I’ve found that the adrenaline-junky/hero-type culture can respond well to a certain amount of intensity and firmness around who you are as a person. For me, it was cultivating the aura of “Yes, damn straight, I’m the spunky, tiny cowgirl riding in to manage your logistics issues after this devastating tornado, now where can I set up my laptop.” For you it might be cultivating the aura of “Yes, I’m the minivan-driving, cookie-baking mama here to take care of business, kick ass, and save this town from flooding. Moms get shit done.” (You know, in so many words.) To be clear, I wouldn’t recommend talking excessively about your kids or family, so much as embracing a more general mama bear vibe. The downside is this approach is that this doubles down on bringing your gender to the forefront, could reinforce stereotypes, could unintentionally perpetuate the idea that gender matters somehow, and can be uncomfortable if you’re a more naturally low-key individual.

      Second option: Get your minivan, go about business as usual, monitor for any negative impacts, and handle them on a case-by-case basis. If anyone makes a comment, you can give them a confused look or laugh it off, and say “oh, I don’t think what I drive makes any difference, as long as it gets me where I’m going!” or “But have you SEEN the storage capacity in back?” Make sure you’re monitoring your raises, professional development, and promotion opportunities against your male counterparts’, and if you think you’re being passed over, start asking questions and pushing for what you think is fair. This gives everyone else the benefit of the doubt and is much more lowkey, but might mean that you still worry about your image from time to time.

      Or, of course, you can always just get a different vehicle altogether if you’re really worried.

      And best of luck in all your future car-purchasing ventures!

    106. Rocky*

      I’m a woman in automotive, very male-dominated. We wouldn’t care about a minivan- we do make fun of each other’s cars, but entirely in the good-fun way instead of actual judgment. Minivans are awesome at people and stuff storage; mom had one that was perfect for driving my grandparents around, moving me in and out of places, and that’s what I learned to drive in. They’re very underappreciated these days, but an excellent choice, tons of space for emergency supplies and gear.

  2. scmill*

    OP #3: I always just said I had personal business to attend to (meaning none of theirs whether going to the dentist or just laying on the couch reading a good book). Never called it a mental health day!

    1. MassMatt*

      Yeah I always disliked the term, even when it was used informally by an employee taking PTO at short notice. The way the LW phrases it makes it seem as though this is a term they’re using when they request the time off, or even that they have a certain number of “ mental health days” they can take, separate from ordinary PTO.

      I would banish the term, and not pry about why people take PTO for any reason, whether it’s for doctor appointments or lying on the couch is no one else’s business.

      1. Sarahb*

        I think the colloquial use of “mental health day” is a good thing! It’s normalising taking care of your mental health and it’s important.

        1. MassMatt*

          Interesting take, but I still think it’s TMI and none of the employer’s business what PTO is used for. To me it’s a slippery slope where the employer or nosy boss is getting involved in the health decisions of their employees for no good reason. If we don’t have “arthritis days” or “migraine days” or “flu days” there’s no point to specifying a subset of PTO for mental health. Arguably, it’s not normalizing it, it’s calling its use into question.

          1. Autistic AF*

            I’ve been told that I wasn’t allowed to take sick leave for a diagnosed mental health condition that my workplace was exacerbating. I’ve also heard from people who weren’t allowed to take sick leave for communicable diseases pre-pandemic (and even in the midst of it). Now there’s often a subset of PTO for COVID, because it affects everyone – when H1N1 was at its worst there were “flu days” where I worked at the time, too.

            “Don’t ask, don’t tell” only perpetuates stigmas, and that slippery slope you refer to is a product of the same stigmas. If you can call in sick without giving any details that’s fantastic, but it’s also a privileged position.

            1. MassMatt*

              I’m sorry you were denied PTO but IMO the issue is the employer getting involved with judging the severity or validity of illness or for that matter what people want to do with vacation time. We’ve had letters here where supervisors have asked for test results, or questioned why they are doing x instead of y, have they considered herbal remedies, etc. And one supervisor denied vacation time because the employee wanted to go to a gaming competition. PTO is part of compensation, and a supervisor not be judging severity or worthiness of why you are using it.

              This is not at all comparable to “don’t ask, don’t tell”, which was a disastrous pentagon policy intended to allow LGBTQ personnel to serve but instead resulted in a drastic increase of their expulsion. Among the policy’s other ironies was being lectured on sexual conduct by Bill Clinton (thanks, by the way).

              1. Autistic AF*

                Having dealt with those issues for decades, I will reiterate that what you’re saying is another facet of the same systemic problem. People should not judge severity or worthiness, but the fact is that they do and those of us with chronic conditions need to make a living within those constraints.

                You’re right that this is different from the US military policy with the same name, but I’m not referring to that – the narrative you’re pushing is still that people should not ask or tell about crucial factors about themselves. That push to be hush-hush about mental health and neurodivergent conditions might not be entrenched in law, but it’s absolutely pervasive and it contributes to that judgment. Hiding only perpetuates stigmas.

                1. MassMatt*

                  I think we probably both want similar outcomes–someone to be able to take PTO for whatever reason without judgment or evaluation by a boss. Your ideal is people can be honest about their reasons and not face repercussions or judgment for it. My thought is it never has to even get to that point–why someone is taking PTO is none of anyone else’s business. I think the latter is probably more achievable in the near term. Having people with mental health issues (or neurodivergent, or atypical, or whatever is a good term) be visible is a good thing, but must it be part of a conversation about taking PTO?

                2. Autistic AF*

                  Yes, it must be part of the conversation – a healthy work environment is impossible for me, and many others, without that level of disclosure. The least judgmental manager I’ve had about PTO is also the one I can be most open with. The stigmas need to go in order for the judgment to go, and that happens with exposure and openness to diversity.

    2. doreen*

      I wouldn’t call it a “mental health day ” at the point where I’m actually arranging for the time off. I might mention to someone , informally and generally , that ” I need to take a mental health day soon” but I would never say ” I’m taking Tuesday off as a mental health day”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am wondering why OP wants to ask. Is there more to the story?
      One thing that tugged at my heart strings when I supervised was knowing people were having difficulties and there was nothing I could do. Where I landed (long story) was that I decided what I COULD do is just be a good and fair boss to them. The best I could do is help and support them at work, so they could keep their jobs and keep their income. Don’t underestimate how meaningful that is.

      1. CM*

        This is such a great point. Employees may need various types of support — but not from their boss! Trust them to find the support they need elsewhere. The kind of support they need from you is fair and respectful working conditions, money, and time off — none of which should be questioned.

      2. Yorick*

        If OP wants to know in order to be able to do something about work issues that are contributing to burnout and work stress, they can still do that! Let your employees know that they can come to you with any problems. But keep that totally separate from people taking time off.

    4. Lacey*

      My old office had “personal days” instead of sick days. They could be used for anything, so the only difference between them and vacation time was that vacation time had to be scheduled in advance. It was great to just say, “I need to take a personal day” and that was that!

    5. Cat Tree*

      I never give any explanation beyond “I’m taking a sick day”. How does OP even *know* these are mental health days, rather than sick days for migraines, IBS, or a million other reasons? If OP is asking for details she should stop doing that. And if the employees are volunteering this info, she should make it clear to them that it’s not necessary to do that.

      1. Allypopx*

        I’ve pled a migraine for mental health days before. I do get migraines, so I only feel a little guilty about it. But sometimes it’s just easier than grudging up the ~concern~ like this LW is projecting. I know it’s well intentioned most of the time but it’s draining.

        1. Cat Tree*

          My point is that you shouldn’t even have to specify a migraine. In an ideal work culture you would just say “sick day” and nothing else.

          1. Pickled Limes*

            This is my preference too. I’m not in charge of a staff now, but when I was I always made a point to tell them “if you need to take a sick day, all you have to tell me is that you need a sick day. You don’t have to tell me what it’s for, just that you’re not coming in.”

          2. Simply the best*

            Sure, but plenty of people are not nearly as private as this comment section is. Lots of people offer that information up without being asked.

            1. pancakes*

              Sure, but it doesn’t follow that their manager ought to ask, or hint that they want details.

            2. pancakes*

              Sorry, I didn’t realize until I’d already replied that you started with “Sure” as well. Mine comes off a bit snarky and that’s not intended.

          3. Lars the Real Girl*

            It can be useful to specify at least a bit though. (Especially in – ahem – a global pandemic.)

            “I’m taking a sick day.”
            “I’m taking a mental health day.”
            and “I’m not feeling well today.”

            all have different connotations. The “I’m not feeling well” would make me wonder if you’ll be better tomorrow, of if I should start planning on the possibility of you being our the rest of the week. If I know you’re taking the day to go to a dentist appointment, I’m not as concerned that you’ll be out the rest of the week.

            None of that obviously makes someone HAVE to share what’s happening – but it can be useful for you and your manager if you give a bit of context around the day off.

        2. MassMatt*

          Did you actually request a “mental health day” and are you allotted these separately from other sick time or PTO?

          To me, this is TMI. The last few jobs I’ve did not differentiate between sick time and vacation PTO, it was all in one pot, the only difference was sick time wasn’t scheduled in advance. But when taking sick time I never asked nor told anyone the specifics.

          1. Allypopx*

            In my office culture it would come off as weirdly guarded if I didn’t say something and they’d assume something bigger was wrong. Too much energy.

      2. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I keep it vague. Regardless of the need, I might say, “I’m not well this morning,” or “I need to take a sick day,” but that’s it (unless it’s a critical period one should not miss unless you are an active health hazard, but that’s only happened once!) I know my boss doesn’t have a problem with mental health days, but she doesn’t need to know if I’m taking a day for my mental or my physical wellness. If she started asking for details, I would be much more wary about taking them just because I don’t want to discuss that information with someone from work.

    6. Mockingjay*

      There was a letter a few months ago (still trying to find it) in which a supervisor asked employees to give a stress level number (1 – 5, I think). Rather than asking that, I suggested that the manager ask their employees what they need and listen to their response.

      Staff taking mental health days can simply mean that they just need a day off for personal reasons. Want to sleep in (who doesn’t?), finish taxes, go shopping early morning when stores aren’t crowded. I usually take 1 or 2 days myself. It’s very refreshing.

      It’s good that your company fosters an atmosphere such that employees feel comfortable actually taking a day off. Don’t spoil it by being inquisitive. If they really want you to know, they’ll tell you.

    7. Middle School Teacher*

      That can be problematic for a lot of reasons. For a lot of teachers if we take a personal day, we have to pay our own sub. If it’s a sick day (including mental health day), we get sick pay.

      OP 3 if you asked me why I took a mental health day I don’t think I’d want you as my manager any longer. MYOB.

    8. Selina Luna*

      I once took a personal day because my inlaws were coming the next weekend and I wanted to steam clean my carpets. I made my husband take the kiddo to daycare and had a day with just me, a vacuum, a steam cleaner, and Freddie Mercury. It was honestly amazing. I think I may need to take a similar mental health day again come July.

      1. JustaTech*

        I once scheduled a day like that to deep clean the house before my in-laws came up. Then a coworker did a really stupid thing and used up all of our very expensive material and my boss decided that because Coworker was utterly unreliable, that I would re-make the very expensive material, and I would do it on the day I had scheduled off to clean. There was no reason I had to do it that day and not the next week, and my day off was on the schedule, but no matter – I had to come in. “Just do it, it won’t take that long!” said my boss. “Not that long” was four hours of very finicky high-stress work.

        Coworker acted like nothing happened.

  3. WS*

    #1 yet another downside to an invisible disability is that people outside your household mentally minimise the amount of pain/disability/recovery time that they are causing you, and it’s on you to speak up. Not because they’re terrible people, just because they simply don’t know.

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I don’t think minimize is even the right term-they simply don’t know. From the outside ‘mild pain that I can totally ignore’, ‘totally fine’ and ‘horrible pain that I am trying to pretend doesn’t exist’ can all look pretty much the same. Especially to people who probably aren’t even there! Nor should the parents decide what OP is capable of handling. It would be extremely presumptuous if they tried.

      1. Amaranth*

        Additionally, if LW initially mentioned a health condition but *always shows up* when they ask if she’s up to it, and appears to be doing fine without her wheelchair or a walker, then the family probably has the impression there are very occasional flareups or that its more easily managed by popping an ibuprofen.

        1. KRM*

          True. They only know what they see. So if they see LW not using a wheelchair, chasing after the toddler, and also LW is not saying anything about it–they are going to assume everything is fine! You have to tell them, because default is them seeing LW doing the things and therefore LW must be OK with doing the things. It’s not malicious or ill-intentioned. They just know that it seems fine on the surface!!

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          Yes, I have a feeling they would feel so terrible if they knew how much pain and exhaustion OP was trying to push through to keep watching their kid!

          (And if they wouldn’t feel bad about it, then they probably aren’t worth all the effort).

          OP please tell them you can only do one more weekend and then you have to stop! Or even that you have to stop right away! They will figure something out, I promise!

        3. Sparrow*

          And they’re even saying, “If you feel up to it.” I don’t know them, obviously, but I’m going to take that at face value and assume they are trusting her to speak up when it’s too much. Only OP can know where her limits are – they can’t read her mind. And if OP has found them to be reasonable and kind people, I hope she can trust that they’re sincerely asking and would want her to say no if she doesn’t feel up to it, has other plans, doesn’t have time, really needs a mental break, etc.

          OP, this is going to sound really cheesy, but saying that you need X to be your last day isn’t saying no to them, it’s saying yes to your own needs. Besides, if you continue pushing like this, there’s a good chance it’ll get to the point (perhaps pretty soon) where you physically *can’t* watch the kid anymore and they’ll have to prioritize finding a new person anyway. If that’s the ultimate outcome either way, the better path to that ending is the one where you suffer less. Take care of yourself!

      2. StrikingFalcon*

        With chronic pain, and especially with conditions where the pain levels vary day to day, you have to be the one who sets the boundaries. Believe me that I speak from experience when I say this: this means that first and foremost, you have to learn to give YOURSELF permission to set boundaries. You are allowed to rest when you are in pain. You are allowed to say no to things you know will cause you too much pain to be worth it. You are allowed to carve time out to take care of yourself, to manage your condition, and to rest and recover. In fact, I would argue that you must learn to do this. Your health matters, and only you can prioritize it. You cannot wait until life “lets” you do this. You must learn to give yourself this gift. Sometimes you’ll miss out on things, and that sucks. Sometimes you’ll go do things even though they cause you pain, and that also sucks. But the choice must be yours and yours alone. Only you know how you feel today and where your limits are. Learning to respect those limits and to say no when you need to, or to plan in recovery time after doing something that pushes those limits, is a process but it’s worth it. Life gets so much easier once you learn to treat your body kindly. Sometimes it helps to think of your body as a friend – would you ask a friend you care about to do something that you know will cause them X amount of pain? If the answer is “no of course not”, that can be your answer too. If the answer is “but I WANT to do that” then you can build in the time you need to recover after. But right now, I think you don’t even want to be doing this babysitting job. You already gave notice! Now you just need to actually quit. You’re allowed! You’d be allowed to quit even if you weren’t in pain and just wanted some time to sit at home and watch TV in the evening. You’re definitely allowed to quit when the job is causing you literal pain!

    2. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      There’s a tension between people who think they’ll ask for something and expect someone to speak up if it doesn’t work, and those who believe just asking the question at all obligates a yes.
      Do them the favor of taking their request at face value and saying you’re not up to it next time they ask.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yes! Ask vs Guess. Seriously, folks, I’m not asking you a trick question, I’m saying “this is what would work best for me, is it an option for you?” and expecting that you will use your dang words and say NO if the answer is no. If you say YES, *and* somehow expect that I should just know you really mean the exact opposite, so you get upset when I can’t read your mind to know you just lied to me, I’m not the one being unreasonable.

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I’m the same! If I ask, I am really asking and a no answer is acceptable. I am more careful when asking a “higher stakes” question I know might feel harder to say no to.

          I have no idea how to manage other people’s feelings on the lower stakes questions. I apparently work with mostly people who feel just asking a question obligates them to say yes. And they see me as rude if I ask a simple question.

          I think it is helpful to the OP to know they can say no (even if the family is the kind that expects a yes). And does anyone have advice for people who don’t expect asking requires a yes; do we have to manage the feelings of people who do?

      2. Washi*

        Agreed! I was honestly a little confused by the letter, since they are asking, adding “if you’re up for it” and OP is saying yes, they probably have no idea there’s a problem. I’m assuming OP has a second job for the money and not for kicks and giggles, so they may also be sensitive to not withdrawing the opportunity for extra income.

        I guess OP has been waiting for them to explicitly say “ok, we are no longer going to ask you about babysitting.” But you don’t need to wait for that and that day may never come if you keep saying yes!

        1. BethDH*

          I’m a guess person and even I would assume that this was enough of an opening for another guess person.
          I wonder if part of this is OP feeling guilty in some way by assuming that someone without a chronic illness would be able to do this. First, that shouldn’t be the measure, of course, but also I am a reasonably young person without chronic illness and think this would be too much for me to do for long.

      3. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I am the first person to argue that, actually, sometimes it *does* hurt to ask, but I don’t think this is one of those situations. There are some situations where it is rude or pushy to ask for something, and you are doing harm by ‘just checking’. But from what is in the question, it looks like the parents are concerned about the OP and would be horrified if they knew they were asking her something that is causing pain. It is ok to have a polite spine and to say “I wish I could, but I cannot do this anymore”. I think the OP would benefit from some time spent over on Captain Awkward, who has a lot of really great advice about boundaries, living with chronic pain, and how to think about the ‘spoons’ you have and how you want to use them.

      4. Purlesque*

        In my experience there are people from both ways of asking who don’t respect what people have told them or their responses. The OP told them she was quitting and they keep pushing the date back. She knows she should say no. She’s said she’s working on that. But that doesn’t mean that the people aren’t being selfish and asking for something inappropriate and that the LW has already said that she wouldn’t do. This is along the lines of the bosses that think they can refuse to accept a resignation letter or who try to get a former employee to answer question or do small tasks once they are established in another job. Just because the LW hasn’t said no, doesn’t mean that her employers aren’t taking advantage. They could be doing the same thing as Guessers and pressing the LW without ever outright asking her to babysit, and that would be just as bad.

    3. Yelm*

      Oh, I disagree. For parents, a good babysitter is like gold, and from having nannied and babysat extensively throughout my teens and 20s while in college and graduate school and after, it’s been my experience that parents will very often push boundaries with a sitter or see how much they can get away with. I wouldn’t say it’s malicious, but it can be opportunistic and sometimes manipulative, as they know you are attached to the child, and the employer/employee dynamic in this situation is very specific and unique. Parents also often have an unconscious bias that their lives are simply more important—they are established professionals, they have families, and you are a young, single person still in school. Yes, it’s ironic that people would feel this way about the person doing the incomparably important job of caring for their children, but it’s been my experience that they sometimes do. These people don’t want to find a new sitter, they know OP’s personality, and they’re capitalizing on it, IMO. Furthermore, it’s ableist to suggest that they simply don’t know better. She’s watching their CHILD. They should have educated themselves about her disability, which they presumably know about—she uses a chair—and about how common it is for people with chronic pain to minimize their experience to make life more comfortable for conventionally abled people (and to be able to access opportunities).

      1. Saberise*

        Personally I think people are giving the parents way too much credit. It sounds to me they know she’s not really to it but are more than willing to continue having her do it until she puts a stop to it. It’s been two months and they still haven’t made other arrangements? They know that she never says no when they say “If you feel up to it” but it’s an out in their heads because they said it so they can feel better about it.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah. They had 2 months, and there’s no indication that they’re even trying to find someone else.

      2. Yvette*

        Glad too see I am not the only one thinking the parents are taking advantage of the LW.
        LW you gave them a month’s notice and it is almost two months later!! They know you like children, have an excellent work ethic, are caring and responsible. They seem to be using this to their advantage. You said you are working with a therapist because “I care too much and am bad at saying no because I don’t like disappointing people…” Have you discussed this specific topic with them? Please put your health, your primary job (which probably provides the health benefits you need) and your education first. It is OK to take care of yourself. Please let us know how you make out.

  4. KR*

    I’m happy Alison answered the way she did about mental health days. If I worked somewhere with established mental health days and my boss was asking what led to me needing to use one, I would take from the conversation that my boss is trying to prevent another one (aka the mental health day was inconvenient/bad somehow).

    1. LJ*

      I agree. I’m a manager and I don’t think it’s appropriate for someone in a leadership position to ask others why they took of the time. If they are performing well and they take days of here and there, no problem. If they are struggling with work AND they are taking time off, then I would inquire about their work, not why they took the time off.

      1. Smishy*

        I manage people and I cannot imagine asking people why they needed a mental health day. There’s already plenty of better ways to handle this! Just say “hey, I wanted to check in about how you’re feeling about your workload and if you think you’re getting enough down time to recharge.” You’re addressing basically the same thing without putting them on the spot about their mental health.

      2. Amaranth*

        I’ve always kind of hated PTO forms that have a field for a “reason for request.” Because I want time off.

        1. doreen*

          My forms have “reason for request” – and I just write “vacation” or “personal” or whatever kind of leave it is , essentially just saying ” I want time off” . The line on the form is for the many other types of leave- for example, if I don’t mind documenting it, everyone get 4 hours a year for breast cancer screening that doesn’t come out of our own leave balances..

          1. wendelenn*

            That is very cool about the breast cancer screening–I assume it doesn’t apply to women only.

        2. Liz*

          Really? I’ve never ever seen that. Wow. I wouldn’t like that either. I’m very lucky in that i don’t need “permission” or have my time off requests approved. As long as no one else in my small group is out, esp. my boss, its not a problem. I will run it by my immediate boss, as one of us always needs to be in, just to make sure it doesn’t conflict with anything he is planning, as he doesn’t plan too far ahead. Like today; i’m taking the thursday before memorial day off. before I realized it was that weekend, I thought about taking friday too. then realized it was a holiday, so i sent him an email asking if he had any plans to take that day off.

          But generally, no one asks WHY i’m taking time off. unless maybe its a week or more, then its just “oh, are you going somewhere fun?”

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yeah, our non-annual-leave forms have a space for ‘reason’ for leave and I’ve relied heavily on ‘personal’.

        4. Lucy P*

          Our forms have always had that line. Sometimes people just put “personal” but other times I see many people feeling the need to justify their time off.

        5. Sara without an H*

          My current employer uses an automated system (ADP) — it requires you to indicate the type of leave (sick, vacation, jury duty, etc.), but doesn’t ask for a “reason.” I don’t think I’ve seen a “reason for request” line on a leave form in years.

        6. tangerineRose*

          I would hate that too. Generally, I’ve just asked if I can take vacation days at x dates.

          It does make me want to try to think up odd reasons for the request. Need to take my dog parachuting, and the plane is all booked up except for X date. Taking my rhino to get his teeth checked. Planning to not care about anything that day so don’t want to be at work for that. Popcorn machine overflowed so badly that it’s going to take a couple of days before I can dig out enough popcorn to get to my car.

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

      I was a bit surprised by the answer. If someone misses work due to stress/burnout (that isn’t part of an “officially diagnosed” mental health condition) surely the manager should be “trying to prevent another one” if it’s being caused by something within control of the company? How can they find out that things need to change otherwise (a lot of people won’t be comfortable saying something off their own bat like Hey boss, can we discuss the workload on the TTP project etc).

      1. Allonge*

        I think the point is more, like Smishy says above, that you can have these conversations without specifically asking why on that particular day a day off was needed. It may not be meant like that, but a lot of people will read this as questioning the legitimacy of the day off, a hint that this should not happen etc.

        Whereas the manager can bring up the how are you in general, how are you handling [situation], how is your workload, what is causing stress questions in normal 1:1 talks.

        1. Scarlet2*

          This. Also, it really shouldn’t be related to time off at all, I think it’s generally a good idea to ask employees whether they feel the workload/stress is manageable, etc.

          A manager asking point blank why an employee took a mental health day will often come across as boundary-stomping (there’s a pretty high risk that someone would take a day off for very personal reasons) or even critical (if I was asked that question, I’d probably assume my manager wants to double-check that my reason for taking a day off is “good enough”).
          There’s really no reason to stick one’s nose in employees’ business.

          1. Liz*

            Right? I’ve been known to take PTO without much notice, although with my bosses’ approval simply to get my life in order, laundry, errands i haven’t had time to do, etc. While not a mental health day, it makes me less stressed!

          2. EPLawyer*

            Or the boss is judging whether your excuse is “good” enough. Then you start feeling guilty. So you wonder if you should take a day the next time you need some time off.

            Either way, asking WHY someone needs time off gets into assessments. We don’t want that. Trust your people to be adults. If they need time off, judge whether it will cause MASSIVE inconvenice (think accountant taking off during tax season levels of inconvenience, not oh that means I have to make sure the TSP reports are done this week levels, or I have 4 other people wanting that day off and we simply won’t have enough people to actually function if someone else takes off) not whether the reason fits with what you, the manager, thinks is acceptable for taking off.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’d be…quite offended if my boss asked about my mental health issues because he’s in no way shape or form qualified to help them/cure them. And the process of investigating whether it is caused by work or not goes into really personal information territory that’s not appropriate for work.

        Now, talking about workloads/performance issues? Yeah, that’s different – it’s perfectly possible to ask if someone is having issues with work and if anything can be done to help. That doesn’t touch on medical stuff/private brain stuff.

      3. hbc*

        If OP wants to know if the workload is too heavy, they can ask if the workload is too heavy. Or they can say, “Definitely take your mental health day, and let me know if there’s anything specific that I can do if this is due to work stress piling up.”

      4. Pickled Limes*

        In general, when I’ve felt myself in need of a mental health day, a lot of the tiny tasks that are adjacent to my job feel a whole lot bigger than they usually do. There are some little things I just skip over because they feel like too much work. So if I had a boss who wanted to ask me questions every time I needed a mental health day, I’d probably stop taking them. Going through all the rigamarole of explaining why I need the time off and reassuring my boss that I’m not taking time off AT them is going to make the process feel like way too much work that I really don’t have the bandwidth to deal with.

        Basically, if you want staff to use their time off for this specific purpose, make it as easy and hassle free for them as possible.

      5. Autistic AF*

        The problem with asking for details is that said details can easily be used against the employee. I’ve always thought it’s better for managers to be more open about their own struggles – there should be boundaries there, but normalizing those discussions without compelling people to open up against their comfort levels will always be better in the long run to me.

    3. Smithy*

      I do wonder if there is a benefit to having days officially called “mental health days” in the context of applying them to stress/burn out?

      Where I am now, we have a bucket of PTO, sick days, and personal days (PTO carries over, sick and personal days do not). My work isn’t super coverage based, so if I call in that morning and said I needed the day off be it for illness or the plumber or fatigue, I don’t see my boss being having strong input. However, I clearly see how in more coverage based work, that being very clear about planned days off vs last minute ones is critical.

      My main question is why perhaps it might not be more beneficial to clearly articulate what the “personal day” pool of days is for as opposed to having another category of mental health days? I do think there’s a strong point in pushing for people to be mindful of viewing Sick/Personal days for those urgent needs so that people aren’t coming in sick, exhausted or worried about a potentially flooding toilet at home in the hopes of saving those days for more vacation. But I do worry that naming more days off doesn’t necessarily help those reluctant to use or approve them.

      1. JustaTech*

        We have “personal days” as a separate category of PTO, but that is because they’re also “floating holidays” that are given out at the beginning of the calendar year (rather than accrued over time like sick and vacation leave), and don’t roll over into the next year.

        I think they were originally intended to be holidays for people who’s religious holidays are not already days off (ie, not Christmas).
        I don’t know if this is true for you, Smithy, but it might explain why those days are held separate.

  5. Artemesia*

    On the part time job. The usual drill is that when you take the pay cut, they don’t take the work off your plate — they just pay you less. You need to get very aggressive about this. I would lay it out starting with your agreement to cut back to X hours and do the job only you can do. Then say — this schedule basically crams all the other tasks I do full time into the new schedule. This is how long ABCD take. To work per our agreement, I propose to do the tasks that I specialize in and others don’t do and distribute the other more generic work.

    Then lay out a schedule that shows that. Perhaps add one other task if you think it might get done in your time frame.

    Letting them build the job description put you in this corner, so take charge of the job description in this round.

    Good luck — I had to really fight to keep boundaries when I took my job back to part time for a period.

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

      Not sure if it’s a typo, but I agree you need to be assertive (not aggressive) about your schedule change and what’s realistic within those hours right from the beginning. And once that’s agreed, you also need to follow through consistently and completely disengage from work when you’re not there.

      Hardest thing for me was learning not to care about what happens on my days off. I’ve permanently disabled all phone notifications from my work apps and I don’t allow myself to manually check email and messages “just in case” or “so I’m prepared for Monday”. Because if people know you’re still getting their messages, guess what they expect? And far out, the stuff some people think is *that* urgent… yeahhhhh, nope.

      I now put on an auto-responder and just leave it to them to figure it out. I’m not there, I don’t know about it, it’s not my problem till I’m back and being paid to deal.

      1. Massive Dynamic*

        Good idea re. the auto-responder; people will definitely forget your new hours. Also as the culture is overwork/understaff, this might not be tenable for you in the long run. All you can do is hold to your hours, make sure your work is still solid (don’t start rushing because you are on a time crunch), triage accordingly, and then anything you can’t get to is on them to figure out a solution for. They may decide to part ways with you to put a new FT person in your spot but it will be their loss. Just know that it is never a failing on your part when they decide to let things fall through the cracks because there’s no humanly way you can do it all on X hours a week.

    2. I Herd the Cats*

      This. OP says their department is already over-stretched, AND people have been fired for not meeting deadlines. Well, that sounds like a company problem, and this may be a tough place to switch to part-time if that’s not an established part of company culture. Come up with the plan YOU think works, lay it out in highly specific terms, in writing, and be prepared for the possibility that your supervisor or mgmt says, well, we can’t agree to THAT, even though that’s theoretically what they agreed to. It sounds like you’d really like to keep this job, and it could all work out fine, but depending on how the re-negotiating goes, consider whether you’re more worried about getting fired x months down the road because you can’t meet their (impossible) deadlines, or whether it’d be preferable to look for another job/be unemployed while you look. Our organization has people switching between FT/PT pretty regularly as they go to grad school, that’s a norm here and it seems to work pretty well for all. But this may not be the norm where YOU work.

      1. EPLawyer*

        THIS. Your company sure as heck probably cut your pay more than 15%. They must be DELIGHTED. They get the same work from you for less pay.

        I know you want this job for references later. But if the schedule doesn’t fit, you might need to agree to part ways. That preserves your reference while keeping you going nuts from stress trying to meet an impossible schedule while worrying about being fired for not meeting an impossible schedule.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, this place sounds so toxic. They don’t have enough people to get all the work done. So their solution is to … get rid of even more people?

        Unfortunately I don’t have high hopes for them being reasonable with OP.

  6. Bob*

    “I’m a llama spiritual guide, which means I oversee a group of llamas’ spiritual development through music and ancient rituals.”
    Is this attached to a particular religion, for example Flying Spaghetti Monsterism?

      1. Bob*

        I used to take a shot every time chocolate teapots were mentioned but my doctor told me i had to either quit or get a liver transplant!

      1. Bob*

        To quote Kent Brockman:
        “I don’t say “evasion,” I say “avoision. “” :D

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster call themselves Pastafarians, hence the name of their religion would be Pastafarianism.

      I can definitely see llamas fitting right in. 8-D

    2. linger*

      Yes, if this description was intended to avoid a barrage of follow-up questions, it ends up inviting them…
      E.g. how do you determine the spiritual development of a llama?
      How does it compare with attempting to measure the spiritual development of a lama?
      What make of spirit level do you recommend?

    3. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

      Are talking circles and offerings to the ancestors involved?

  7. The Babysitter Needs to be All Right*

    I received eight days notice that I would need to start going into the office full time. It left us scrambling for childcare. I never would be able to live with myself if it turned out I was causing physical pain in someone helping us with the kids.

  8. Allonge*

    LW1 – bluntly, it does not matter if they think you care or not. This is a job – as Alison says, it’s trickier as it’s about caring for a child – but it’s still a job, not a value judgment on you and your worth as a person.

    Your health matters more than the inconvenience caused to the parents, and even if it was not about health issues, you would still have the right to just leave, without any particular reason at all, as long as you give reasonable notice.

    This may or may not work the same way for you, but as someone who also has trouble saying no, I would get it over with as soon as possible – make the decision and tell them, so it’s final. Say it now or write an email: as discussed last month, from [tomorrow] I am not available to watch [child]. All the best for the whole family.

    1. LW2*

      Yes! I’m actually LW2 and the job I’m leaving is not babysitting, but does involve working closely with kids. The worst part about moving on is leaving the families. I gave all my clients two weeks’ notice and most have been gracious and understanding or even excited for me. But a couple have said something like, “boy, you’re really leaving us hanging here”. That doesn’t feel great, but I have to remember as much as I care about the kids and their families (and I do! I would have moved on much sooner in my career if I didn’t) ultimately I can’t hold my own health, family finances, and career hostage for the sake of their kids. My families and yours will recover and find someone else who meets their needs.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        A very dry voiced “Yeah, I love the job and hate to leave, but just couldn’t pass up a living salary, paid time off and health insurance,” would be totally appropriate.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        LW2 I’m sorry some of the families you work with said that to you! When one of our family’s therapists had to leave her job relatively suddenly, it was for much the same reason – she had an opportunity for full-time work on a 9 to 5 schedule with benefits, paid vacation, and a retirement plan. Of course in my head I had the “oh, no, what will we do?” but I totally understood her choice. Saying it out loud to her would have been so inappropriate.

      3. John Smith*

        “your really leaving us hanging here”. No you’re not! I can’t believe someone would have the cheek to say that. You’re not their slave, and anyone who thinks that way is, frankly, utterly selfish. It might cause them problems, but they are problems that you are not responsible for, and for them to deal with. You sound like a great example of a human being. Sadly, there are people who will take advantage of that. Good luck for the future.

        1. Liz*

          I can. Trying to guilt them into staying until its convenient for THEM. And definitely selfish. But hold your ground, move on, and they;ll figure it out.

          Its like people who are afraid to leave a job because they might leave the rest of their team, the company, etc. in the lurch. I’m a firm believe in you have to do what’s best for YOU and as long as you aren’t leaving without notice, or just stop showing up, then you’re fine.

        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          I’m giving folks the grace to think that it could be more an immediate, unfiltered thought that in normal times would’ve been filtered out. Heaven knows my filter is good and broken at this point after over a year of “NOW WhAt?!?!”. I was lucky to have the work-capital to push back when we were told we were being staged back into the office last summer to say I wasn’t coming in until my kids were done with school for the year because we had exactly zero other options. I acknowledge that not everyone has that ability.

          (I’d also hope that there’d be apologies involved by the parties who blurted out “you’re really leaving us hanging…” once they realized that it should’ve been filtered)

          1. LW2*

            I understand their frustration. My state has opened us up and shut us down again several times in the last year which means they had me as a service provider and then suddenly didn’t several times. We were just now getting in a good, probably permanent, groove. But the instability is part (among many reasons) of why I started job searching in earnest. I told them “there’s never going to be a ‘good time’ for me to leave. I have to go while I have the opportunity.”

      4. Sleeping after sunrise*

        It’s ok for people to be frustrated that services are disappearing. And you might be leaving them hanging.

        But that’s ok. The fact that your career impacts others is not a reason to not make changes.

        You can resign a job. Change your hours. Find a new employer. Move to a new location. Etc etc. all of these can be incredibly disruptive for previous clients. It might leave them hanging. It might leave them without an alternative. But it isn’t your responsibility to be their forever provider.

        You can also be sorry that changes in your job will negatively impact others. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make changes.

        I had a health professional retire and I was left for more than a year without proper treatment. I really was left hanging. I was definitely annoyed and frustrated and I did complain to friends about it. I never had any expectation that they not retire because I was their client or because I didn’t have alternatives.

        Both things can be true at once.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          But did you say to the HP that they were leaving you hanging? or guilt them in some way?
          I feel much the same about my doctor. She was really brilliant, sometimes I’d feel better just seeing her, or even just thinking about seeing her. She retired a few years ago and I’ve basically just been googling my symptoms and using natural remedies on my own. (She was very into natural remedies herself, and shocked my son telling him he could pee on the verucas on his feet because uric acid is a great treatment.)

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            No way would I ever have said anything other than I hoped she’d have a great retirement though!

      5. Sara without an H*

        Hi, LW2 — We’ve just seen ample evidence that Society At Large doesn’t set a high value on parenting or childcare. Please don’t feel you must take personal responsibility for fixing the defects in our dysfunctional social system.

        So give your clients as much notice as is feasible FOR YOU. Best of luck in your future career.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      I agree with most of what Allonge said here – except that I would discard the “as long as you give reasonable notice.”

      I think it is important that people think of and talk about notice as being a social nicety you are offering to an employer. It is not something you required to give, offer or extend.

      Otherwise you get a lot of employers doing things like this, where they say “can’t you stay on for a few months past retirement/resignation, just until we find a replacement” that they never really look for, or that they decide to be far too demanding/exacting in seeking someone to fill the role.

      1. Allonge*

        In this particular case, under reasonable notice I was thinking more like ‘tomorrow is my last day’ and definitely not weeks or months! It’s just that you would want to avoid, as much as possible, the case where you were supposed to pick up a kid from school and you decline 20 minutes before that.

    3. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. I would remind them about the end date and then stop babysitting after that date. If you gave notice at any
      other job, would you linger because they haven’t hired your replacement yet? I hope not!

      Your health is more important than this side gig, even if you may feel emotionally attached because of the child. Trust that they will figure it out. Know your limits and take care of yourself.

    4. Katrinka*

      But I do think there is an onus on those who work in childcare/household management (especially women) to put the needs/wants of the children above your own. It’s as if you’ve become the mommy stand-in and are expected to take on all of that guilt and lack of self-care that society expects of mothers. I can remember when I worked as a housekeeper for a family while in college and was guilted into giving up several weekends to watch the kids because the parents wanted to both go away somewhere (rarely to the same place together).

  9. virago*

    OP 1, you write: “Once we knew the date of our reopening, I gave them plenty of notice (about a month) to find someone to cover the evenings when I couldn’t. I agreed to watch her until they hired someone new … and that has yet to happen, almost two months later.”

    You are now well within your rights to use one of Alison’s scripts in order to give notice on *your* timetable.

    Nobody — least of all you — benefits from your completely running your batteries down. It is not selfish for you to free up some time in the evenings and on weekends to make sure that your body is ready for the next day and the next week.

    1. Venus*

      I wonder if the parents are taking advantage of OP1’s generosity on timeline. The OP saying that they will stay until someone else is found… has all the classic signs of an employer not looking for someone new because they don’t need to.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Exactly. She keep showing up when they ask. Why would they bother looking for someone new.

        OP you need to hold firm. This family will find someone once forced to. Or they will figure out another arrangement for childcare. It’s a job, you care for their kid in exchange for a paycheck. That’s it. It’s a business arrangement. One that no longer works for you. If something changed for them and you were no longer the right choice for them they would move on. You need to do the same.

      2. The Original K.*

        I had the same thought. They’re not motivated to look because OP is still there.

      3. meyer lemon*

        I’m not sure they’re being nefarious, but it sounds like they may not be treating it with the correct degree of urgency. The LW is kind of taking on the family’s scheduling issues for them–but the other babysitter is already stretched thin!–rather than just letting them sort it for themselves. You can’t care more about this family’s wellbeing than they do, and they have had plenty of time to work something out already.

    2. Pickled Limes*

      If OP1 is looking for a script, try something like this:

      “When I said I’d be willing to keep watching Kiddo until you found someone to take over for me, I didn’t expect that the process would take quite this long. But now that it’s been several weeks, I’m going to need to set a fixed end date.”

      1. insertusernamehere*

        Just give them an actual end date and say that will be your last day or that you will not longer be available after x day. Don’t explain your thought process or let them “help” set a last date.

  10. Mother of One Dragon*

    OP1: Please be kind to yourself. You’re doing so much and you did everything right to gracefully leave the babysitting job. It’s the parents’ responsibility to find a replacement in the ample notice time that you gave them. If they haven’t, that’s on them, not on you. If you can, give them whatever final-final notice you can (I’d say to just stop but I know I would feel worse and reckon you might too) and then politely refuse any additional requests. I know it will be hard, but you have to prioritize your own health here.

    1. CM*

      I think the parents here can get the benefit of the doubt — they probably don’t understand the burden they’re putting on OP#1. But OP#1, here’s what I would say in your situation: “I’ve realized that running after Sophia is making my chronic pain flare up, so I need to stop doing it. I’m sorry to leave you in the lurch, [optionally: and am willing to fill in once in a while / keep working 2 days a week for the next 2 weeks / whatever you’re willing to do, if anything]. I hope you can find someone soon.”

      1. gyrfalcon17*

        I wouldn’t advise offering any of those options. They’re a sure path to more physical pain for LW, and more struggles to say no to requests from the parents. Much better to say no to all of it now and be done with it.

      2. Yorick*

        The most OP should do is recommend a replacement, if she knows someone who’s looking for that kind of work. But even that’s not required!

      3. insertusernamehere*

        I wouldn’t apologize or say sorry to leave you in a lurch. You’re not. You gave way advance notice.

        I definitely would not suggest “stepping stone” type solutions like being able to fill in here and there or that you can keep working a day or two for further time…. it doesn’t give a sense of urgency to the parents to find a new child care solution and will just prolong this. Also if you give some people an inch, they take a mile and five years later, you’ll still be trying to take your last day.

  11. miyeritari*

    LW5: this isn’t exactly what you have, i worked at a Weird, Extremely Known Company that people often ask about but i don’t want to talk about because we did not split on amicable terms. so when often times when it comes up, like someone looked at my LinkedIn, i often steer the conversation as:

    Them: Oh, you worked at Weird Company? What was that like? I’ve never known anyone who worked there!
    Me: Yeah, it was weird in some ways. But you know, a job. Not very interesting. {change of subject}

    I’ve found “Not very interesting” to be helpful stand-in for “I don’t want to talk about it.”

    1. introverted af*

      Ooh that’s great! I like my job and outside of right now like sharing about it, but right now…I’m not a fan of our “post”-COVID re-entry plan. So yeah. Definitely gonna use it.

  12. Bilateralrope*

    For #2 remember that masks protect against more than just covid-19. I know of a lot of people who have decided that, now they are used to masks, they plan to use them during cold/flu seasons.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I had to fly this weekend and I was reminded what it’s like to be crammed in with other people. I’ll probably always have a mask for flying from now on. Can’t hurt!

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve not had a single respiratory infection for over a year, a new record! Also, my allergies aren’t quite as bad.

      1. Liz*

        Yes! my allergies and esp. my allergic asthma have been almost non-existent this year. i’m pretty sure its due to the mask.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I plan to wear a mask while cutting the grass going forward. Do what’s best for you, LW#2.

    4. Quinalla*

      I plan to wear my mask indoors until my children are vaccinated too. I think if you tell people who ask that you live with someone who isn’t vaccinated yet and are just being extra cautious, should be fine. (And still fine to wear a mask regardless if you want to for whatever reason, but I do think the CDC guideline makes sense and if I didn’t have unvaccinated people living with me, I’d not be wearing my mask anymore once my state lifts the mandate).

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Its only 9:00 a.m. on the first Monday after the change, and I’m done with people today.

        I coach two youth sports teams. Its an indoor sport. No, by the nature of the sport, it cannot be taken outside easily except in the winter. And the two youth teams I coach? Both are, by definition of the governing body of the sport, TOO young for vaccination. I’m surrounded by kids too young to receive the vaccination (plus have two of my own who fit this criteria) multiple days per week, and I’ve already been told by the resident john donkey at work that I’m a terrified sheep. ::eyeroll:: and “reminded” by several others that “you don’t have to wear that”. Oh, but I do.

    5. Seashells*

      OP#2- I’m fully vaccinated and they just lifted the mask requirement for our employer, but I plan on continuing to wear my mask as well. I don’t think it’s paranoid at all. When I received my second dose, the doctor said that even though I would be fully vaccinated in two weeks, I should still avoid being around unvaccinated people without a mask.

      I’m glad cases are down and that we can start enjoying more things without masks, but COVID is still here and people are still getting sick, so you have to judge what’s best for you.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        do also remember that masks mostly protect other people FROM you, in terms of covid

        Oh good lord, this was debunked ages ago. See the following:

      2. JJ*

        The cynic in me interprets “Reasonable people shouldn’t take issue with you trying to protect more vulnerable relatives” as wishful thinking. There are LOTS of areas in the country where people will take personal affront to a mask, no matter what. Considering OP’s 40% state vaccination level, I’d assume she’s going to have at least some of these in her office. This is a really tough one!

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          I’m in the Army Reserve. I fear “don’t have to” turning into “not allowed to” and getting in trouble for insisting on wearing one, despite living with an immunocompromised person (going through chemo for stage 3 breast cancer, surgery upcoming, then radiation). It’s going to be lit when it happens.

          1. JJ*

            Ugh I’m sorry you and your person are going through that! Maybe just start being REAL CHATTY about your situation now, like “wow cool mask news, unfortunately my person’s doc recommended we all keep masking until they’re done with treatment, since even a common cold could be an issue, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

            Might help if you pretend to be like “oh NO I sure would love to take this mask off and bro out with everyone, but I can’t because doctor says. Drat.”

    6. Momma Bear*

      The office should tell OP the policies before the first day. If not, ask.

      We had almost no flu this winter at work. It was fabulous. Right now is pollen season and I haven’t had to take as much medication because the mask filters it out. So many reasons to keep masking if you want to.

      I would keep any discussion about it simple – they don’t need to know your medical history or how many vulnerable family members you have. There are still teachers working remotely due to circumstances parents are not privy to know. IMO at this stage a mask is not that unusual. My office is still requiring masks indoors.

    7. Katrinka*

      *waves hand* Hi, my name is Katrinka and I plan to wear a mask during flu season, on planes, trains, and probably to sporting events. And luckily, my work hasn’t changed its mask policies even though our state has relaxed the requirements for fully vaccinated people. I don’t expect my department to ease up any time soon, as I know of at least co-worker who refuses to get the vaccine.

  13. Virginia Plain*

    OP1 you really don’t need me to tell you that with the health condition/consequences you describe, running round after a toddler is not the job for you! And someone to cover that “when you can’t” – well, that’s all the time!
    The family haven’t found your replacement because they haven’t needed to – you haven’t stuck to your notice so why would they bother getting someone new if you keep saying yes you’ll do it? I don’t mean to sound mean to either of you – it’s pretty natural of them, and understandable if you if they are nice employers not to want to leave them in the lurch. But unless and until you set an end date, they won’t get another sitter. Put your foot down!

  14. Virginia Plain*

    OP 5 – my job is definitely a bit weird. If I don’t want to have a massive discussion about it (and I sense one is looming) I like to employ a nice cliché or a rather banal comment.
    It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it! It keep a roof over my head/the wolf from the door! It’s definitely recession-proof! You can’t beat the civil service for job security although we don’t get much free stuff haha.

    1. Practicing VSW*

      I’ve figured out a 30-second script, similar to an elevator pitch, since the conversations always (ALWAYS) follow it when someone hears about what I do.

      Me: I’m a veterinary social worker.
      Them: Oh, I didn’t know that was a thing!
      Me: Yep, I help with difficult decision-making, answer questions about and shepherd owners through euthanasias, and care for the mental health of the veterinary staff.
      Them: Oh… huh, I really could have used someone like you when I lost my pet.

      If they’re interested, which they often are, we’ll get into further details, but at that point they know enough about it that it’s an actual conversation and not just a Recitation of Unusual Things.

      1. wendelenn*

        If that’s really what you do, that’s amazing and I’d love to see Alison interview you for one of her occasional “unusual job” posts.

        1. Again With Feeling*

          Seconded! I didn’t know this was a job, but it sounds so valuable. We had to put our beloved dog down a couple years ago, at an unexpectedly young age, and I could have used someone to talk it through with beyond the purely medical aspect.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same! My go-to is, “I solve problems.” (or, if somewhere that that would sound inappropriately sarcastic, I’d try a little harder and say I was in consulting related to X industry). My own mother could not wrap her head around my job for a very long time, and we agreed that if I was gainfully employed in a legal pursuit and had health insurance, she just wasn’t going to worry about the details.

    3. Generic Name*

      I have a job where inevitably when I tell people what I do, most people go “Oh coooool!” and pepper me with questions. I’ve come up with a quick “elevator speech” version of what I do that is satisfying for most people. It’s a brief, “this is what my job is” and I’ve also come up with stock answers for the most common follow up questions. I generally like my job, so I don’t mind talking about it.

  15. Kella*

    OP 1: Speaking as someone else with chronic pain that can take me from mobile to completely nonfunctional in a day, remember that caring about the needs of others goes both ways. If you care about the kid, surely the parents care about you being in pain (or would if they knew) and wouldn’t want you to be suffering so much! Especially since they *are* saying “if you feel up to it.” You’re the only one who knows whether you feel up to it or not and you’re the only one who can tell them that. It’s not fair to expect them to decide for you that you’re not up to it and stop asking, when you haven’t communicated that you’ve reached your limit. Yes, ideally they should’ve found someone new by now and they’ve leaned into your generosity on covering the transition quite a lot. But it’s also possible that they don’t know that you expected that time frame to be a few weeks (or however long) instead of a few months and they think you’re totally fine with the current time frame.

    Regardless of how you frame it mentally, I also wanted to give you explicit permission to *not* reference your pain as the reason you can’t do it, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that. I know how it can feel vulnerable and defensive sometimes to do this. It’s fine to say, “My schedule doesn’t allow for it anymore” is fine to say, even if what you mean is “my schedule requires me to be resting during those hours.” Pain management is a real commitment, as important if not more so than any other! You only have one body. It’s okay to prioritize it.

  16. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    OP2: please be kind enough to remove your mask if you need to communicate with someone who is Deaf or hearing impaired.

    1. Wow*

      Alison, I would delete this if I were you. I can see the horror show this thread will become.

        1. Myrin*

          It’s not about erasure but about the possibility to derail hugely – I personally don’t think that that’s gonna happen here and Alison often waits and sees first. But I do think that the original comment was somewhat random in the sense that it doesn’t really pertain to OP’s letter at all, especially since, like we can already see in this thread, there are different viewpoints held by the affected population so it doesn’t really make sense to make a blanket statement anyway and needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          This is not even remotely a new concept. People have been using workarounds for hearing impaired with masks for a year. Raising it as a new consideration now for someone who’ll still be masking when most won’t is disingenuous at best.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I understand if this needs deleting, but in case not and you see this, is there anywhere you would recommend getting such masks from? (from your username, we are in the same country) My one coworker is hearing impaired and I’m always conscious on the occasions when we’ve been in the office together (admittedly few at this point) that this is an issue.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I am not sure where they found them, but older child’s school had them because one of their teachers (middle school – so subject teachers now) is deaf. However, the school provided them – I as the parent didn’t have to.

        2. Antony J Crowley*

          Our work is providing them for operational staff so they definitely exist in the UK. I should try and get hold of some.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I got the clear front masks from a company called Rafi Nova. But I found the clear front piece fogged too much to be useful.

      3. Momma Bear*

        A friend has something like that for their child who receives speech therapy. One thing I would suggest if OP took the mask off would be to signal that they are going to keep 6ft of space during the conversation. OP might also work to utilize things like video or chat in lieu of face to face meetings (for everyone).

      4. Deaf temp anon*

        The pandemic has made me realize just how badly I hear and how much I rely on lipreading.
        The weekly grocery shop has often been absolute hell as checking out comes to a screeching halt as the bagger and checker ask what seems like 20 (to me–silent) questions.

        Clear masks are helpful, but the problem is not that they cannot hear ME, the issue is I cannot hear THEM. We hearing-impaired are just not numerous enough for the public at large to think of buying them. The only time I’ve encountered them was at a vaccination site, and even there the vaccinator had to make a special trip to get one.

    2. JM60*

      Or better yet, communicate in writing (email, Slack, etc.). Besides sneezing, when you’re talking is just about the worst time to remove your mask from an epidemiological perspective.

    3. Darcy*

      Do not remove your mask for this, I’ve seen several Deaf people saying they hate it that people do this because it’s putting them at higher risk. If you *need* to talk to someone who can’t hear you, try writing on a piece of paper.

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        And as a person with hearing loss I’m telling you I’d prefer you to remove your mask. Keep a distance, obviously. Different strokes, different folks…

        1. Lance*

          ‘Different strokes’ works better when it’s not a matter of public health and exposure. I get that it’s difficult, and that sucks, but we’re at this point because lots of people have taken unnecessary risks and lacks of precaution.

          Otherwise, I’m just gonna leave it at this, since this is already getting derailing and not very helpful to the OP.

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          In that case, the coworker in question can communicate their preferences to LW 2, and they can come up with a mutually-agreeable solution.

          1. Fran Fine*

            Also this. Your preference, NewHere, is not a blanket one shared by all so the OP should not take this advice unless asked to by a coworker with a hearing impairment.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Afraid not, I’ll use other means of communication. And I have a hearing impaired member of staff.

      Think of masks like safety equipment (which they are), if I had to wear a full Tyvek body suit with faceplate and a member of staff asked me to remove it because they can’t see my mouth clearly to lip read I wouldn’t be obligated to. What I would do (and had to a lot – the internal air systems on those beasts are LOUD) is communicate via portable white board/other means of writing or even hand gestures.

      Another of my staff wears clothing that only leaves her eyes visible due to beliefs, I can’t (and definitely won’t) ask her to remove her face covering to discuss matters with our hearing impaired staff.

      There’s ways and means around anything.

    5. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Please don’t cast this as my safety v deaf people being able to see my face.

      I got a mask with a clear front piece just in case we have deaf folks come in. I work at the front desk. But it fogs too much to be useful to them. We found a better option was a second computer screen that they can see, we use a word doc and type. So far, all the deaf folks who have come in can speak enough for me to help them.

      So yes, we need to find a solution so deaf and hard of hearing folks are not ignored, but if I feel safer, I’m keeping my mask.

    6. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

      As a former sign-language interpreter, I applaud your use of capital-D Deaf! But please don’t use “hearing impaired”. The correct term is “hard-of-hearing”. Thanks!

      1. Allypopx*

        They said they have hearing loss, let’s not police the words people use to self-identify.

    7. Generic Name*

      I would say only remove your mask if asked by a Deaf or hearing impaired person. I was in the grocery store near the beginning of the lockdown, and I asked an employee a question, and he said he read lips and asked if I would remove my mask. So I did and got my question answered. It was no big deal.

  17. AnonForThis*

    Ah, OP 5 – I’m the Director of a Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). I feel you lol

    1. Tiffany Hashish*

      I coordinate with your and colleagues’ offices for my job a fair amount and am so grateful for the work y’all do.

  18. Green great dragon*

    OP1 – as someone who’s hired childcare – we know nannies/babysitters get sick, or have family emergencies, or get other jobs. The parent(s) might be a little inconvenienced, but they will deal. You’ve been more than generous. As well as Alison’s suggestions for setting an end date, take some days off now if you need to, to help you get through the last couple of weeks.

  19. Helvetica*

    LW#5 – as someone who has a job which most people have heard of but often don’t really know what it entails, it depends on how much I am willing to engage with the specific person. If I want to be very vague, I usually say “I work for the Foreign Ministry” and then see how they respond. So I can go on to say “I’m a diplomat, which means I work to represent the government’s interests in country/organisation X, on topics like A, B, and C. I do that in a lot of meetings and networking, and I love it!” This does invite follow-ups sometimes, and if the other person expects me to explain or justify or critique the government’s actions on A, B, and C, then I can often very truthfully say “Sorry, that’s above my pay grade!”
    I think it comes down to how much exactly you want to invite follow-up.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’ve noticed a lot of people working in embassies and the foreign office have developed a special kind of wink, that looks kind of like they’re saying “if you know what I mean”, even though you don’t have a clue. This sets your imagination running riot like a James Bond screenplay, yet the wink somehow shuts down any more prying while at the same time making you feel like you’ve been privy to some hush-hush information.

      One woman had been telling me that she has to investigate whether a marriage licence application is genuine or not, mentioning that often the local girl doesn’t speak anything but a local dialect, meaning she can’t possibly have a meaningful relationship with the foreign national who wants to marry her and is highly unlikely to have learned the obscure local dialect, having arrived a few weeks previously. I asked her how she investigated this stuff and she promptly gave me that wink saying “we have our ways”.

      1. Helvetica*

        Haha, I can neither confirm nor deny whether I have done so :)
        I think if you genuinely don’t want to/can’t talk about it, you must make it seem boring but not so boring that it seems suspicious and becomes interesting on its own. A great example of what that means is if you look up on YT the video “When does being so unnoteworthy become noteworthy? | Would I Lie to You? – BBC” in which David Mitchell very brilliantly explains the difference.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          I used to work at a defense contractor. The knowledge of the general area we worked in wasn’t classified, but getting into details quickly led into areas that were. It tended to attract a lot of really annoying attention, people guessing 20 different scenarios to try to make you flinch or hesitate. If you worked there more than about 3 months, you developed a smooth elevator speech about “oh, I work in telecommunications”. 90% of good OPSEC is not letting on that there’s anything to know.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yes, I came here to suggest skipping your actual job title and naming either the whole workplace or the function of your office office (depending on which gives enough information), eg “at the Foreign Ministry” / “in asbestos inspection” / “at [Institution] in compliance” / etc.

      The specific job title introduces more nitty-gritty distinctions than is relevant to the person who just asked what you to do be polite. They probably don’t really care what an asbestos analyst vs asbestos coordinator does, just tell them that your job has to do with [inspecting/removing/whatever action] asbestos.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        The problem I’ve personally run into with this tact was that it would inevitably turn into people making assumptions about my job and then wanting free legal advice or playing 20 questions to try to figure it out. Yes, I worked for a law firm; no, I am not an attorney (nor a paralegal nor legal secretary and we have exhausted all the law firm jobs most people know about); no, I cannot advise you on your botch ingrown toenail surgery/divorce and alimony payments/chance of succeeding at suing your former employer; it’s totally fine if you have no idea what I do – probably a good thing if you don’t need my services.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Ah yeah I can see how that would be the case. And maybe the LW would get swamped with requests to remove asbestos when that’s not what they do.
          My case is more one where not everyone has heard of my “asbestos” so I have to go “I work in an asbestos office [quickly check reaction to see if they seem confused, if they do continue with] you know, when you have a wall, it sometimes has this thing called asbestos”

    3. Rebecca1*

      Hey! I didn’t know that about you. My dad and his lady friend are both retired diplomats.

  20. Ss*

    I have a similar job – Industrial Hygienist that no one knows anything about. I either say workplace health and safety or say the name of the field and then add another two sentences occupational heal and safety specializing in chemical, noise, radiation. Nowadays I add covid…

    1. WS*

      My aunt did that job for many, many years, so I do know what you’re talking about! But when she said it, people would assume she was maybe a dental hygienist or maybe a factory cleaner rather than a chemical engineer with a PhD…there weren’t many women in the field when she started.

    2. Tupac Coachella*

      Similar boat-my job sounds like something in healthcare, which it definitely is not, to people outside of my field (for people who are in my field it’s not necessarily a common title, but most of them can figure out the general gist). I have a two line spiel that gives some concrete examples of what I do without going into a level of detail beyond what’s useful for polite conversation, similar to what you did here, Ss. Most people don’t care that much about getting a clear idea of my day to day- I just need to explain well enough that they aren’t confused and they know not to show me their weird rash.

      Because I always love it when people give scripts for this type of thing, here’s kind of what my spiel is like, OP 5:
      “I’m the Llama Grooming Apprentice Coordinator at Llama Baths Inc. I handle the hiring, scheduling, and training for all of the new apprentices. Basically everything before they actually start touching the llamas falls into my sphere.”

  21. Meg*

    OP#3, what I’ve done in the past: I informed my direct reports in our 1-1s that if they had any issue they’d like to discuss or they needed help they can approach me. And I’ve left it there. Some of them did indeed share their issues that helped me reassign work for them.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Same here. Sometimes all it takes is the assurance that you’re not going to judge or penalize people.

  22. Parasaurolophus*

    LW1 – if I may, I’d like to try reframing things in a way that may support you saying no.

    It’s entirely possible that when the family says “if you feel up for it” they truly mean that they only want you to do it if you feel up for it, and would in fact be mortified to find out you’ve been coming in when you don’t! I certainly would – I try to make my employees feel safe enough to set boundaries with me, but I rely on them to let me know what those boundaries are. I *want* them to be honest with me about when things aren’t going well or they need to change something. Your employers may feel the same way.

  23. Ana Gram*

    I used to drive a Jeep and, when it was in the shop at one point, I had a loaner minivan for about a week. It was great! The ride was so smooth. I actually considered getting one but they’re pretty expensive. And no one ever rides with me…

    That said, I’m in law enforcement so definitely male dominated. I mostly don’t notice why people drive but I’ve seen minivans parked in our command staff row when they (all men, unfortunately) are doing the school pickups, etc. And quite a few of our undercover vehicles are minivans. Easy to load with people and gear and low key to drive around. Personally, I don’t think it’s an issue.

  24. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #3

    Please don’t ask your employees why they took a day off. Sure, it’s possible one of them might welcome an opening to talk about potential burnout or something similar, but most of them will probably feeling like they’re being put on the spot or you’re prying.

    As an employee, I’d hate it if my manager asked me why I took a day off and it’s likely to cause me to make up a fake reason next time. Thankfully my manager never asks. She just wants me to send a calendar invite so it’s on her calendar.

    As a manager, I never ask anyone why they’re taking a day off. It’s none of my business. Although, I still have one person who, after being told for several years now that he doesn’t need to share, will still explain why he’s taking a day off. He still asks, too. I keep telling him, “Just put it on my calendar. No need to ask or to give me details. I trust you to be an adult and get your work done.” But that’s just the way he is.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Unless there’s a schedule conflict, I don’t question a day off. When I request PTO myself, I use the memo option and keep it simple. “Appointment” covers a lot of things. If the company has a specific bucket for “mental health days” and someone uses it, that’s all you need to know – they decided they needed a day for whatever reason. Finding out if they are overwhelmed at work is a separate discussion to be had in the normal course of business. If I took a sudden day off because my dog died or my kid was up all night teething, does my boss really need to know? Not particularly.

  25. Bookworm*

    OP1: I think you have a case to quit ASAP. If the home is not accessible in the first place, it was already a burden on you. Of course, it might not be easy/cheap to make it accessible so you’ve already been doing them a favor, even on top of doing the babysitting at all. Your health and well-being comes first. Good luck!!

    OP3: It’s not appropriate to ask but so long as it’s about actually caring about your employee as your question seems to imply (look, in lots of places management doesn’t care…) it may be helpful to up/re-up in like a general email or during a meeting (meaning not directed to any employee in particular) any resources your organization is providing at this time: schedule flexibility, mental health resources, etc. So you’re not prying but are putting it out there that you do care.

  26. Angstrom*

    #6: You are a mom with two kids. Cargo space is good. Low liftover heights are good. Van camping is gaining in popularity. Emergency management folks usually value practicality and the ability to haul stuff.

    You could accessorize in a way that reads “outdoorsy” if it’s important.

    You could make sure you always have a couple of cases of bottled water, and other emergency supplies to drive home the point how practical it is.

    Heck, it could add to your reputation: “Don’t be fooled by the minivan. She’ll outwork any of these truck-driving yahoos.” ;-)

  27. Sleeping after sunrise*

    LW1 stop telling then you can do the job! They ask if you can do it, you say yes – it’s unsurprising that they assume that you can.

    It’s not on them to decide for you that working without your wheelchair is not ok. It’s not on them to decide for you that you can’t take on new shifts etc.

    You need to resign from this job and stick to that. Tell them that while you wish you could fill in until they found a replacement it is taking too long and you need to stop. Don’t worry about either other employee can or can’t take on extra work. That is for them to decide.

    It might leave them in a difficult position. They might be upset. They might be worried. But that is not your responsibility. You are an employee giving notice.

  28. CoveredInBees*

    OP1 This job is causing you pain. You need to leave. As the parent of two toddlers, I know how intensely physical caring for them is. It wears me out physically and mentally. I can sympathize with the parents being unable (or unwilling) to find someone new. In my area, it can be really hard to find good, consistent care at any pay and health concerns around the pandemic have made it even more difficult. That is still not your problem to solve, even more so when it is taking a physical toll on you.

  29. Kat*

    I completely understand LW #5
    I work as a customs broker. When I say that, people don’t know what it means. So I try saying “I get commercial trucks/semi trucks across the border and allow for good to be imported into Canada”
    I usually still get a few blank stares..
    So lately I just say I work with CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) and the blank stares decrease a lot.

    1. Lalla*

      Oh, my dad does the same job but in Europe! It’s the first time I heard someone else doing this job, I didn’t even know how to call it in English, thanks! Years of English classes as a kid saying my dad was a self-employed professional for simplicity, lol

      He used to work with certain countries that are now in the EU, so he lost some work during the years…but he enjoyed Brexit and the amount of work that has brought to him..!

      For me instead, I do a high tech job in the media, so people are always fascinated and ask follow up questions… I will leave soon and everybody is shocked I want to leave such a “fun” job, so I just say I work in software now and it’s quicker.

    2. Shan*

      Yes, my job gets blank stares even here in a city/province that is very dependent on the industry. When I try to explain it to people from other places… good luck. Now I just say something about leasing and contracts.

  30. agnes*

    We had a mommy van for years–that my husband drove. He still says that was his favorite car!

  31. Allypopx*

    OP1 I also have chronic pain and joint dislocation issues and I can’t imagine keeping up with kids for those hours every day – adjusting back to my work commute has been a nightmare. You gave PLENTY of notice, you aren’t leaving anyone hanging. And it sounds like you could really hurt yourself if you keep this up. Please draw the line.

  32. LW1*

    LW1 here! Thank you all for your kind words, it is nice to know I am not crazy for wanting to move on to something less taxing. I forgot to include it in my initial letter to Alison, but part of why this has been so complicated is that the family has asked me to sit for her full time every day starting in the summer. I have already agreed to this and feel bad backing out of it now, but I am really anxious about my pain levels going forward, and don’t really know how to approach this!

    1. Lucille B.*

      You need to let them know ASAP if you are backing out of full-time summer care. They are going to need time to find someone else, and that’s the only thing I could see causing hurt feelings or frustration – not giving them enough notice to make alternate plans.

      1. Colette*

        Agreed. It’s fine to decide you can’t do it, but you need to tell them today so they can make other plans. “I’m sorry, I know I agreed to care for child this summer, but I won’t be able to do it.”

      1. LW1*

        1. Although the money would certainly be helpful, it isn’t the driving factor, more the need to keep busy/have a schedule since I am the kind of person who thrives on routine. If I did end up leaving, I would probably find another job remotely/dedicate more of the free time I have to side projects that might end up making me some money!

        2. Not really? Her bedroom is up a flight of stairs, and there are stairs to get into the house at all entrances.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      As one with some pretty serious chronic pain issues, giving yourself permission to say ‘I know I agreed to this, but my situation has changed and I can’t do this anymore’ has been one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learnt in life.

      Because things do change! I’ve had an appointment booked for ages for a needed medical exam that I’ve had to ring and cancel today because I’m suffering post-vaccine. I didn’t go to a friend’s wedding because my spinal pain was so bad that morning that I couldn’t drive.

      Yeah, it feels bad and I hate doing it because it’s kinda admitting (again) that I’m not healthy, I’m not normal, I’m not predictable and I’m never going to be and that makes me feel….’lesser’ I guess?

      But, someone else’s temporary hurt feelings are never going to keep me awake for 3 days in screaming agony. That’s the equation I work on.

      1. Allypopx*

        “Yeah, it feels bad and I hate doing it because it’s kinda admitting (again) that I’m not healthy, I’m not normal, I’m not predictable and I’m never going to be and that makes me feel….’lesser’ I guess?”

        Solidarity. This is something I’m struggling a lot with right now.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Hugs over IP for you mate. It’s as much a battle as getting good pain medication!

          One thing I’ve reminded myself a lot over the last year is ‘I may be unhealthy, but I’ve got just as much right to exist as everyone else’.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Hi LW1, you need to stop saying yes when you don’t want to do something. I’m not sure of the timeframe between agreeing and now, but this is actually worse for them than saying no in the first place.

      I am not trying to make you feel bad nor am I suggesting you change your mind about not working for them. Instead trying to illustrate that in your efforts to be accommodating you may be making situations more difficult. This is something that you can work on for the future. The first step is to make sure you talk to them now, like today, so that they have as much time as possible to find an alternative.

      At this point the way to do this is to be blunt, “I’m sorry, I know I previously agreed to take this work during the summer, but I find it’s too much for me to be able to handle. I’ll only be able to watch them through X day.”

      Good luck !

      1. Allypopx*

        Yes this! People pleasing can backfire so quickly. I think it’s useful to reframe in your mind what will actually make people’s lives easier. Concrete, actionable, accurate information is usually your best bet.

      2. Colette*

        Exactly! It’s so much better to say no if you know it’s not something you can do while remaining mentally and physically healthy – and the sooner you say no, the better it is, because they have time to find another option.

    4. BubbleTea*

      Wait hold up, you gave them notice you needed to quit and they heard “sure, I can work even more hours”? Or have I misunderstood the timeline?

      If I’m correct about the order of operations, this shows you need to be absolutely explicit because they’re not understanding you so far.

      1. LW1*

        Sorry for the confusing timeline! When I told them I was switching to in person learning, I explained I wouldn’t be able to do evenings anymore, but I could continue to do Saturdays (I can handle the one day a week!) This then prompted them to ask what I was doing for the summer, and if I would be willing to sit for her all day once the school year ended. I had said yes, but am now regretting that decision. I hope that clears things up!

        1. SomebodyElse*

          I do think this information would have changed a lot of the advice here. It sounds like it’s less of “They aren’t hearing that I can’t do this” and more “I am saying yes, when I really mean no”

          Can I ask why you agreed to do summers when you are already struggling?

          Have you made plans to tell them today that you can’t do the summer?

          1. LW1*

            Honestly, because I felt bad saying no! They run a local business and are constantly running back and forth, and I felt bad adding “look for another babysitter” to their long list of demands, especially since they had to let one of the other nannies go a few months ago (for unrelated reasons)

            1. The Other Dawn*

              I realize you felt bad, but to be honest, though, this is worse that what was originally presented. They think they have childcare set up for the whole summer and they actually don’t. I’d be pretty upset if I were the parent in this situation. You need to tell them NOW. Summer isn’t far off and it will likely take time for them to find someone else.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Yes, this. I don’t want to pile on, but it’s very important that you own your own limits in a situation like this. It’s not a moral failing to say no to something, especially if you can’t honor the commitment you make by saying yes.

            2. Sara without an H*

              Oh, LW1, that is so much not your problem. If they run a business, they’re used to dealing with logistics, staffing, and scheduling. Use Keymaster’s phrase and tell them that your situation has changed and that you can’t work this summer.

              They may be a bit disgruntled, but it’s not your job to gruntle them. I say this as a people-pleaser-in-recovery, myself.

              Please take care of yourself and send us an update.

              1. Reba*

                Yes! LW1 is spending a lot of energy figuring out how she can be considerate of the needs or imagined needs of these parents. Do you think they are spending the same amount of effort on you?

                I don’t know how much of this is just you and the way your mind works, LW1 or how much they might be laying this on you (e.g. “I don’t know what we would do without you! It’s so hard to find good childcare!”) but either way, it can be very clarifying to just state your needs and not think about what people want or what would be nice. You are very caring and considerate! Yes, it would be nice if you could keep caring for the kid! Yes,iIt would be great for the parents if you did that, I’m sure they are fine and busy people!

                But *you* have needs. Don’t forget to tend them as you would anyone else you were in charge of caring for!

            3. AspiringGardener*

              Do you have a non-professional relationship with these people? Are they family or in your group of friends? I’m not sure why you feel such a responsibility to help them even when it is actively harming you.

            4. Momma Bear*

              Think of it this way – they had to make a business decision to let a nanny go. YOU need to make a business decision to drop this client. That they let another person go has no bearing on your obligations to them. It’s hard when you like someone but it’s not working out but this is really bottom line about a job. Don’t put a job above your own health and safety. Let them figure it out.

            5. Colette*

              I feel like you’re taking a lot of responsibility that’s not yours to take. I’ve done that myself, but I eventually learned that it’s harmful to me (I don’t get to spend my time/energy/money the way I want) and to them (they start expecting me to take care of it; they don’t develop other resources that will help them handle it on their own).

              You are allowed to put your needs first – and in fact you should, because no one else knows what your needs are. I’m not saying no one should ever do anything for someone else, just that you can’t always prioritize someone else’s needs.

              And this sounds like a bad job for you. Their house is not set up for you to move about safely. Even if the rest of the job is amazing and rewarding, that one thing is enough to make it the wrong fit. When I apply for jobs, I don’t apply for jobs on the other side of downtown because I don’t want to do that commute; this is the same sort of thing. The physical environment is not a good place for you to work.

            6. RagingADHD*

              One of the other nannies?

              How many nannies do these people have?

              Yeah, this is much worse than originally presented, in several ways. It doesn’t change what you need to do — which is speak up and take care of yourself — but it does change the way you need to do it. Instead of saying “I already gave you notice, and my last day is X” you need to say (ASAP, like today) “I’m sorry, but I actually won’t be able to work this summer after all. My health has gotten worse, and I can’t manage it physically.” And then work out an actual, factual last day and stick to it.

              This is not just taking good care of yourself, but it’s being realistic. You know you wouldn’t be able to keep this up all summer, and if you fall over and have to quit in the middle, they will be way more SOL than they will be if you tell them now.

              You are not the only babysitter in the world (obvs, since they apparently have multiples). They will figure it out, but you seriously need to work out why you say yes to things you don’t want and that are harmful to you. And whether shading the narrative to minimize what’s really going on is a pattern you have.

              (And maybe question where else in your life these things happen, because both saying yes to things you don’t want, and shading the narrative on situations, are going to seriously interfere in your ability to have any kind of healthy, constructive relationships. )

    5. Sylvan*

      The sooner you back out, the sooner they can find somebody else. Also, you don’t have to wait until the job becomes unworkable or you get hurt at work to back out of it. It’s completely reasonable for you to avoid something painful or risky, just like an able-bodied person would.

    6. Knope Knope Knope*

      Definitely tell them now!!!!! To borrow a phrase Alison uses often, you’re doing them a kindness. Give them time to find alternate care.

    7. Allonge*

      Please resign now. Today! Say this: I still have serious health concerns and I cannot do this job any more, my last day will have to be tomorrow. I know we discussed my working here over the summer but that will not be possible.

      Don’t say this but: worst case scenario, do you want to in the position where you would have to choose between the child being hurt or you being seriously injured? You are risking a lot for yourself, sure, but you are also not truthful about how much of this job you can reasonably do – the parents have a right to know that. And there is no way they would want you to be hurt(ing)!

      1. Allonge*

        Ok, last bit: if you want a good example of how to decline something you agreed to, read Captain Awkward’s post from May 6. Good luck!

    8. Momma Bear*

      I would tell them that unfortunately for your health you will have to rescind your offer to work for the summer. I had a freelance contractor quit when a family member’s health declined suddenly. Sometimes what you think you can do becomes something you really can’t do. Situations change. They don’t even have an accessible house for you, for starters. I would just have that conversation as soon as possible.

  33. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    OP #5: I was a sign-language interpreter for 10 years. I also taught ESL (I still do) at the same time, and I finally learned to just answer “ESL Teacher” for what I did at the time. Otherwise, I’d spend a whole party or dinner answering “How do you say ___?”

    When I had the bandwidth, I’d mention it, but I never figured out how to bow out of those conversations gracefully.

  34. Blackcat*

    “Reasonable people shouldn’t take issue with you trying to protect more vulnerable relatives.”

    I appreciate Alison’s optimism here, but what are scripts for less reasonable people? I’ve just encountered so many unreasonable people around masks, even in an area with high acceptance of masks. I have a toddler, and I’ve literally had strangers come up to me and accuse me of harming my child because he’s wearing a mask.

    1. Colette*

      Honestly, I’d ignore them if I could. If I needed to say something, I’d go with “That’s not true” – in other words, don’t argue with what they’re saying, just point out that it’s false. You don’t owe unreasonable people your time or energy.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      This is not polite or kind, but neither are they. I’d probably retort for them to go ahead and call CPS and walk away. These people are have an agenda, and it’s not one I am currently tolerating.

      1. pancakes*

        What’s the advantage to saying something antagonistic rather than ignoring them and walking away?

        1. Sick of People*

          I think it was a reference to some idiot on Faux News telling people to call the cops to report child abuse if they saw a child in a mask.

          1. pancakes*

            I’m aware of that particular guy and that particular thing he said and nonetheless don’t understand the advantage to saying something antagonistic rather than ignoring the person and walking away. What it’s in reference to is beside the point of whether it’s likely to defuse or escalate the encounter.

    3. Allypopx*

      I’m sorry you’ve dealt with that. I have a friend who is being bullied relentlessly at work for wearing a mask even though she’s made it clear her father is severely immunocompromised and not yet fully vaccinated. I do appreciate Alison always approaching these things as if everyone involved is behaving like a reasonable adult but, well, that’s not always the case…

      1. Blackcat*

        Yeah, this is the type of thing I’d worry about for the LW. In my personal life, I can ignore/walk away from people. But it’s much harder at work.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’ve still got a lot of very big, very heavy and impressively dense virology and epidemiology texts that I’m happy to lend out to anyone who needs to drop them on the feet of people giving them a hard time about masks/vaccines etc.

    4. Cat Tree*

      As a vaccinated person who is about to have a child (who will be unvaccinated until one is approved for infants), the change in mask guidance actually makes my life significantly more restricted, not less.

      I’m fine with vaccinated people I know and trust visiting me in my home without masks. I’m not fine with complete strangers at the grocery store. Our state still has a mask mandate (although probably not for long), and the grocery store policy is still to require masks for everyone. But it’s not enforced. People who blatantly ignore the store’s mask policy are the last people I trust to be honest about their vaccination status. I have no way of knowing who is vaccinated and who just doesn’t like masks.

      So that means I can just never go out in public until my baby can be vaccinated (or hypothetically if the pandemic ever gets under control). I will be a single parent which means my child is always with me unless I arrange a babysitter while I go to the grocery store.

      I definitely feel like people who don’t like masks are being prioritized over the safety of my child. But at least I’m lucky enough that my workplace and pediatrician are sensible about this kind of thing. I know masks will be enforced so at least I can get my child routine health care. I can also do grocery pickup as long as I plan ahead, and just generally avoid all stores and public places. But I have so much sympathy for people who don’t have the same options as me.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        All of your comment is precisely why I’m going to continue wearing a mask while I’m out even though I’m vaccinated. Other people have no way of knowing who is and is not vaccinated, and if I can ease a person’s fears about whether I’m a “safe” person to be near in a store then a piece of paper/cloth is a small price to pay for that.

        Best wishes for you and your little one!!

        1. Dust Bunny*


          I’m fully vaccinated but there’s no way for other people to tell that, right? So I’m gonna keep wearing the mask if for no other reason than I don’t want to look like a jerk who doesn’t care if she breathes on people.

      2. RadNurse*

        As an aside Cat Tree, 87% of vaccinated people who are pregnant have showed COVID antibodies passing to the fetus through the placenta, and those who chose to breast feed have the ability to pass antibodies through breast milk for at least 80 days after vaccination (likely longer!) (if you are choosing to breast feed of course). NONE of this is to influence your decision to mask/stay out of public places/make every decision that’s right for you and your little one – but I wanted to pass on some good news in case it hearted you. Best of luck to you!

    5. Masked man*

      My approach won’t work for everybody, but what I’ve been saying about continuing to wear my mask is: “I look better with it on.”

    6. Mental Lentil*

      I carry pepper spray with me. I’ve not had to use it yet, or even threaten to use it, but people can pretty easily see it hanging from my pocket.

      At this point in the pandemic, I have zero fucks left to give for these people and their agenda.

      1. Fran Fine*

        *standing ovation*

        I love this energy. If I went outside for any reason, I’d be the same way, lol.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          Thank you. I respect Professor X, but I am prepared to go full Magneto if necessary.

    7. Generic Name*

      As Captain Awkward says, “Reasons are for reasonable people”. You don’t owe unreasonable strangers an explanation. Maybe a breezy, “Thanks for the tip!” or whatever as you walk away from them.

    8. RagingADHD*

      The script for strangers is either a) complete ignoring, or b) “Excuse me, I don’t know you.” And you walk away. Or turn your back/put your headphones back on/ etc. The vast majority of people will be responsive to social signals like this, and not pursue it beyond glaring or grumbling, which you can merely ignore. If people don’t respond to/ respect social norms, then you are no longer in a social situation. If you are in a situation of physical confrontation or danger, you protect yourself and/or get help any way you need to.

      The script for people you know and need to maintain civil relations with is, “Thanks, we’re good.” Also followed by walking away.

  35. Cat Tree*

    LW5, I sort of have the same problem. I’m an engineer, which the vast majority of people think is interchangeable with scientist. It doesn’t help that in my type of engineering, Professional Engineer’s licenses aren’t required or common, and frequently people with engineering degrees have jobs as scientists (especially in research). Also just based on popular media, most people very familiar with the idea of a scientific laboratory but much less so with what an engineer actually does.

    But here’s the thing. I realized that the vast majority of people dint actually need to understand precisely what I do, just as I don’t need to really understand what they do. So I stopped trying to explain the details (except in rare cases when it comes up organically in conversation and the other person is interested). I have a friend who works in finance, and I know it’s a desk job but not much more than that. And ultimately it doesn’t matter for our friendship.

  36. singlemaltgirl*

    LW6 – you said your husband works in the field and being a dude, he’s going to be privy to convos you are not b/c you’re not a dude. i’d consider his advice strongly b/c of this. i’ve worked in male dominated fields at a higher end role. the men absolutely knew what each other was driving and it was like a penis measuring contest. it was a very competitive male dominated field and it mattered. i’m not one for caring about cars so much but it was a thing in that industry amongst the salespeople and executives.

    and women signalling they’re moms in that environment, needing flexibility for doc and dental appts for their kids were NOT given the same grace as men who wanted flexibility for honing their golf games for the coming season, or getting their cars detailed. i can’t tell you the number of men who could leave ‘early’ for personal golf tee times or errands but i had such a hard time being able to get the equivalent for anything kid related. mentioning your kids, as a woman, in a male dominated field often counts against you and yes, you can think they can’t discriminate on that basis and blah blah blah, but at the end of the day, the choices you make may work against you for the projects you get to work on, the clients you get, and the reputation you are able to cultivate in the industry – rightly or wrongly.

    1. Allypopx*

      Thank you. I feel like there’s been a lot of discussion about whether OP “should” care and sometimes it’s hard to acknowledge the reality vs. the ideal.

  37. Save the Hellbender*

    Only in childcare would someone feel that leaving a job that causes them unbearable physical pain one month after the agreed notice period was something to feel guilty about! Good luck, OP, remember that this is a job and you get to quit.

    1. LW1*

      Yes, while I have always loved working with kids it is extra complicated to leave a job when you are really attached to the kiddos! It is also hard to explain to a three year old why one of her favorite nannies isn’t there anymore, yknow?

      1. BubbleTea*

        Twice now I have very suddenly lost a childcare job with no chance to say goodbye to the kids because the parents have decided their needs changed. It is very hard! But it is far better to have a planned exit than to suddenly vanish because you got so badly injured/worn out that you wound up in hospital. Good luck!

      2. Knope Knope Knope*

        I don’t say this to be harsh, but just do it. I group up with full-time babysitters. The one I was closest with as a young toddler basically ghosted on us for decades after her mom died. We reconnected and I am still close to her today in my late 30s, as are my parents. Everyone else came and went. Some stayed for years. I hear about the ones I loved but only really remember the one I hated. Everyone will get over it. The kids I nannied for 4 years in college don’t remember me. It will be fine.

      3. Colette*

        I do volunteer work with kids, in groups with a 2-3 year program. Sometimes I decide to move on to a different group or take a break, and it’s always hard to move on. But I do, and life goes on. The kids might be briefly unhappy – but they get new experiences with the new person. And some relatively minor loss is good for kids, because someday they’re going to get hit with a more serious loss (parent or grandparent, for example). This child has lost babysitters before; they have multiple babysitters in their life now; they will be fine.

  38. anonforthis*

    OP1 – You are amazing to be doing all of this. I think you have a couple of friendly options at this point – let them know you will need to be done immediately, in a few days, or in two weeks. You of course can just advise them that you’ll be finishing up – you could also 1) refer a trusted friend to them that may be interested in babysitting, 2) refer them to local facebook groups/posting boards (assuming they exist) to find care, 3) refer them to an agency that handles drop-in care. If you want to end immediately and know someone who would be a good sitter, you could even offer to connect the parents immediately so they don’t have a break in care.As parents they should know about all these things. You may also think about whether you’re open to sitting for them at all in the future, they may ask if they can call you on an occasional basis. You are totally in friendly territory to say that with work and school full-time you don’t plan to take on any additional drop in sitting. I’m a parent to two young toddlers and we are constantly patching care together – I have five sitters on speed dial, a family member, and a drop in agency that we use regularly.

    For these last few days, I think it is totally fair to tell them that you won’t be able to be as active as you’d like to be due to your health – can you keep the toddler gated in one room? Not sure what the screens policy is, but ask for some time to be screens if it’s not already. Can the parents prepare dinner in advance so you are on your feet less? Good luck!

  39. HLK1219HLLK*

    LW#1 – think of yourself as the small child that you’re babysitting. If that child was being told to do something that hurt them but that they didn’t want to stop doing because it might disappoint their friends, what would you tell them or help them to do? You sound like a deeply empathetic person who genuinely cares for your young charge. However, in continuing to babysit long after the time the parents have had notice you need to stop, you’re just telling the parents it’s ok to sit around and not do anything, meaning that your small inner child is going to be greatly harmed.

    Whether intentional or not, the parents are putting their convenience over your health. You need to protect yourself, and it’s going to feel cruddy to tell them you’re finally done. They’ll say they don’t have enough time – not your problem. They had 2 months. They’ll say that if they find someone that person can’t start until X day/month. Not your problem. They’ll say that Child loves you and doesn’t bond with anyone else. Children are resilient, and you can come visit, so not your problem. Each time they come up with an excuse, FOCUS on your small child that’s being harmed and protect that child (yourself) by standing firm. Cheers!

    1. Lifelong student*

      Not only that- but it sounds like your pain may prevent you from being the kind of child care provider you and the parents really want. If it is causing so much pain, it must be affecting your performance and/or ability to provide the necessary supervision for an active child. When you leave, you are doing for the child as well as for yourself. Tell the parents that!

    2. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I have to wonder if they might, on some subconscious level, think you might be exaggerating your pain. I agree with HLK, you really need to care for yourself as well. Good luck.

  40. L&O: Dun Dun*

    #1 This seems like a good time to bring up the Askers Vs Guessers idea.


    I bring this up because you have that line of “Whenever the parents ask me to sit, they always follow up with “…if you feel up for it,” which is technically an out, but I feel guilty for saying I don’t.”

    It is an out. They are asking, and they will be fine with your “No” answer. Their asking is not a manipulation tactic to get you to do work that you cannot handle. You seem to be upset/annoyed/frustrated with them for asking you, but you really need to just say NO. They keep asking because you keep saying yes! Be honest about how you feel. And also, Alison’s script on moving on from that job is spot on.

    Feel free to allow questions to be questions, not secret WASPy demands.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Good point. A lot of commenters are acting like the parents are assuming LW will always say yes, when they are in fact just asking. It’s not their fault LW keeps saying yes. The fact that they acknowledge LW might not be up for it every time they ask is a very clear indicator that they haven’t forgotten and they understand.

    2. veronica*

      I used to be an Asker in all situations. Then I learned that some people are Guessers. Then for a few years I didn’t ask anyone for anything for fear of offending. Now I realize that I’m going to offend someone, so I try to ask and listen. Maybe someday I’ll figure it out….

    3. Cat Tree*

      I have a friend who is extremely agreeable, so when I ask him a favor I always include an “out” to make it easy if he wants to say no.

      However, my mom absolutely cannot say no even with an out, so I never ask her for anything. When others ask her for favors that she doesn’t want to do, she will stew about it for days or weeks, come up with a long list of reasons she can’t do it, then rehearse that script with me multiple times. I think she’s seeking my permission to say no to this other person. But no matter how many times I tell her that it’s OK to not do the favor even without that list of reasons, she doesn’t believe me. When she finally ends up apologetically turning down the request, the requestor is always perfectly fine with it and certainly didn’t put nearly as much mental energy into it as my mom did.

      At this point in her life I doubt she will ever change. But the OP still can! It’s OK to say no, especially when the requestor has a built-in out in the request. It’s hard to do if you’re not used to it, but I swear it gets easier with practice.

  41. RagingADHD*

    LW2: Dont make a big deal of it, and it won’t be one. Wear a mask if you want. The new guidance just says it is generally safe. It’s not a mask ban.

    You are making a parenting decision. If this is your first foray onto dealing with “peer pressure” and worrying what people will think, it’s time to just pull your socks up and deal with it.

    You can’t make parenting decisions based on what everyone else is doing, and you might as well get used to it now.

    As long as you aren’t actually acting wierd and paranoid — like spouting nonsense about not trusting the vaccine, or believing it will never be safe to unmask until we achieve some imaginary, arbitrary goal, then nobody reasonable will think you’re paranoid. The people who do are the ones you don’t want to be too friendly with anyhow.

    1. Allypopx*

      I think this really depends on where you live. I have friends who are dealing with a LOT of backlash for continuing to wear masks in areas that have decided they’re some form of government mind control.

      1. RagingADHD*

        You just proved my point.

        Unless you think people who talk about mind control are reasonable, and would like to be friendlier with them.

        1. Allypopx*

          But your point is that it’s not a big deal if you don’t make it one, and these things come up constantly and unprompted. It’s one thing to be politely chilly but if you are the outlier there can be professional consequences as well to being seen as difficult or hard to get along with. It’s not just about who you want to be friendly with, there are people we have to be around sometimes.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Again, with reasonsble people.

            Yes, folks who are surrounded by flat-earthers, busybodies, and assholes are going to have a harder time following their own principles. But that is a universal truth about everything. You have to make a decision about how you’re going to live.

            For example: it is perfectly possible to not care what other people say, while also being warm and collegial. You don’t have to be chilly. You just have to have a backbone. And if you’re parenting a child, you better learn how to be warm + have a backbone sooner rather than later. It’s a fundamental skill.

    2. Generic Name*

      This is where I stand. My state has ended the mask mandate, and so have most communities. The vaccine rollout has been great. Yet I still see 90% plus people out and about wearing masks. It’s no big deal for me to wear mine in the grocery store or wherever, but I appreciate knowing that the data shows that it’s safe for me to host my fully vaccinated parents in my home who I haven’t seen in a year. My boss is fully vaccinated but is very uncomfortable not wearing masks (and says it’s out of concern for potentially unvaccinated people). If she wants me to wear a mask while I am around her, I absolutely will wear one. I guess to me it’s not a big deal.

  42. Khatul Madame*

    Mental Health leave is like menstrual leave (a thing in some countries) – people should be able to take it without explanation if they are not comfortable sharing the reason for the day off.

    1. kittymommy*

      No, but they may ask for tax help (or so says my accountant friend, who SUCKS at taxes).

  43. Rebecca Stewart*

    I would never want people to ask what someone took a mental health day for.
    In the case of my boyfriend and girlfriend, the accurate answer would probably be, “Well, my PTSD from being beaten up by the police when I had a psychotic break gave me nightmares all night and after waking up screaming three times I just didn’t have the bandwidth for work today” or “Actually I had a manic episode this weekend and it finally let me sleep about four am, so I’m going to be asleep all day and most of tonight and haul myself into work on Tuesday.” And, you know, that’s really none of a manager’s/coworker’s business, so let’s just roll everything into “mental health day” and paper over the real mental health needs with fatigue and mild burnout. That works way better.

    1. Ramona Q*

      Just because people who take mental health days haven’t had YOUR trauma doesn’t mean their needs are not “real mental health needs.” I doubt you will ever have a boss who needs that amount of personal information about your partners, either.

    2. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Alison specifically defined the mental health day in this question as “a day that you take off to relieve stress/avoid burnout, not a day you take off to manage an actual mental health condition.”

  44. twocents*

    #5 — I suspect part of the problem is, even if someone is only asking to be polite, they don’t understand your answer, so then they feel obligated to either make a noncommittal response (“oh that must be interesting”) or ask you more about what you do. When I had a job title that was not apparent what I do, instead of saying, “I am job title,” I would say, “I do X.”

    1. JustaTech*

      I tried that at one point, saying “I’m in development”, because I was worried that people would think I was stuck up if I said I was a scientist. At a single single party I was asked “what kind of houses do you build?” “What kind of donors do you work with?” and “what language do you use?”. Uh, I’m not in real estate, I’m not in non-profit giving, and I don’t write software; I’m a scientist who takes the research and develops it into a thing we can use.

      So now I just say “I’m a scientist”, and no one cares.

  45. Asenath*

    My job wasn’t unusual, but if I answered the question with something like “I work at X”, people assumed I must hold one of the more interesting and usual jobs there, and wanted to talk about what they thought my job must be. That got tedious for me – I enjoyed my work, but it wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to chat about outside work, especially if I had to deal with assumptions that I must have Big Interesting Job. So I started saying “Oh, I work in an office” and changing the subject. Perfectly accurate, and it sounded so boring most people didn’t follow up.

  46. Another Lady EM*

    Regarding the OP’s specific issue, if she really wants the minivan, have her husband drive it to work for a few months, then once people get used to seeing it on-site, she takes over.
    I am a woman and work in Emergency Management. I have never thought about what a vehicle would say about me, although I have thought about how appropriate a vehicle would be should I need it in a disaster. Where I am, our disasters tend to be tornadoes, floods, icestorms, etc, so having a 4wd higher profile vehicle makes MUCH more sense than a minivan (unless one was able to get a 4wd/awd van that is higher off the ground- Toyota used to make such a creature).
    That my SUV also did double duty as a miniature human troop mover? Never thought about it.
    AS for the photos, get some of the kids helping in emergency management- show that this is a family business and that your kids are just as involved as you & your husband are. That would paint a story of commitment i my humble opinion. I had pictures of my twin 10 yr olds with saws and driving a tractor to help clear a road to an elderly person’s home after a major flood (rural road). We wanted to be sure an ambulance could get to our neighbor if there was a problem and knew the county was overwhelmed with all the other roads that were flooded/destroyed.

  47. SentientAmoeba*

    LW1: As long as you keep saying yes to baby sitting, they will keep asking you to do it.

  48. mockingbird2081*

    LW6: I don’t have an opinion on how it would be perceived BUT I would just like to put my opinion out there on the mini van. I am a single woman who rented one for road trip with friends IT WAS AMAZING!!!! I totally get the hype. BUT alas, though I don’t have the issue of being in a male dominated field, but it would feel very odd to be single with a mini van….I blame the mini van marketing for that :)

  49. RagingADHD*

    LW1, I am not saying this to be ugly, but as a person who didn’t recognize a problem and realize I needed counseling until it got way worse than it needed to:

    Please get counseling. You have already stayed a month longer than your notice period. You aren’t being “caring,” you’re being taken advantage of.

    The fact that you are emotionally conflicted over whether it’s okay to stop babysitting when you are in this much pain, is a big red flag that your personal boundaries are not as strong as they need to be. You are depending on other people to look out for your best interest, and they aren’t.

    Those aren’t your kids. And they aren’t going starve, be abandoned, or neglected when you stop showing up. The parents shillyshallied around and haven’t bothered finding your replacement, and now they need to suck it up and deal. Maybe they have to miss some work. Maybe they have to pay extra.

    None of that is your problem. You did everything aboveboard, and they put the burden on you for their own convenience.

    Why should you be in pain because they can’t be bothered?

    Please take care of yourself, and find someone you can talk to about why it’s so hard for you to say no. Your whole life will benefit from gaining that skill.

    1. Colette*

      I agree that the OP should quit, but I disagree that she is being taken advantage of. She agreed to stay on until they found someone else. She has been asked if she is OK to work and she says yes, even when she’s not. The employer is assuming that she will accurately tell them what she can do, and right now she’s not doing that.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I’d lean more toward your opinion if the employer had made any effort at all toward finding a replacement, which apparently they have not.

        I don’t think they are actively plotting to exploit LW, or anything. But they’re being lazy about it at her expense. She gave them an end date, they ignored it and blew right past it. They’re coasting on her good nature. If she keeps going along with this “until they find someone,” that will be forever, because they are never going to find someone as long as she’s around.

        1. Colette*

          It’s non-trivial to find child care, especially during a pandemic. If the OP started say no, they’d make other arrangements – maybe one of them would take time off, or they’d give more hours to their other caregiver, or a family member would help out. Right now she’s saying yes, so there is no need for them to do anything else. And there is no way for them to know she really doesn’t want to do it, because she is telling them she wants to.

    2. virago*

      The last line of LW 1’s letter:

      “If anything, I care too much and am bad at saying no because I don’t like disappointing people (I am working on that in therapy, don’t worry).”

  50. CJ*

    Re OP3 but for Allison’s comment:

    > Note: Both the letter-writer and I are using the colloquial definition of “mental health day,” meaning a day that you take off to relieve stress/avoid burnout, not a day you take off to manage an actual mental health condition.

    Anecdotal, but I’m not sure I’d ever be able to split that hair: my overall stress level directly afflicts my ADHD and anxiety compensations. For that, I do agree that OP can’t ask why, because they might think they’re just asking about an acute situation and instead force the employee into disclosing a chronic condition.

    1. BookishMiss*

      Swap PTSD for ADHD and I’m right there with you. Work stress has definitely been known to exacerbate symptoms and make it harder for me to function as a human.

      Jedi solidarity hugs if you want them

  51. Gina*

    I work for a construction company (in the office). We don’t supply vehicles for the workers they use their own. One of our site supers uses a mini-van. He hauls his tools around it. Uses it to bring lumber and other supplies to the job site.

    So I wouldn’t worry about it. If a union carpenter can use a mini-van for work you certainly can.

  52. Dust Bunny*

    OP6 I know what all my coworkers drive but it’s because I really like cars, and probably also because I’m on the autism spectrum and this kind of detail is one of my “things”. But I don’t care.

    I am personally a huge fan of boxy vehicles. I don’t quite need a minivan but I do have a crossover/large hatchback type car and cannot imagine ever owning a sedan. I’m single and will never have kids but I prefer to sit upright, sit up high, and occasionally need to haul things but want something more efficient than/do not need an actual truck.

  53. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

    I don’t know if anyone reads this far but I’ll add my experience about a similar problem as LW#5. I worked briefly in a job where the job title was gibberish to most people but at the same time we had a ridiculously strict NDA. This combination resulted in some really awkward small talk, because the allowed thing to say (the job title) always made people ask “what does that mean” and I really wasn’t comfortable going to much more detail. And then people often half-jokingly deduced that I must be a spy or something…

  54. idwtpaun*

    OP1, you already quit this job, now stop showing up to it! I know it’s a more personal relationship than most jobs, but it’s still a job. You don’t have to keep working a job after you quit, stop waiting for your employer to let you go, you just go.

    The family keeps calling you because you keep agreeing to come in. The moment you actually stop, they will find someone else. Next time they call say, “As we discussed X months ago, I will no longer be available for babysitting. [Kid] is great and I hope she has a good time with her next sitter.”

  55. Daniotra*

    Minivans are -awesome- when toting a lot of people. They are comfortable for those sitting in the rear (maybe not as comfy as a luxury 3-row SUV, but pretty nice!) If you manage to keep your van relatively free of kid-detritus, it’s a great vehicle for carpooling. I also love that I can use my minivan for almost anything I would use a light truck for. I don’t feel that my mini-van puts me on the “mommy-track” or my sporty car labels me as a risk taker.

    I’m in IT, in a very male-dominated sub-specialty. In my experience, my kids (one with special needs), haven’t “mommy-tracked” me. Most of my male coworkers have kids too. They also take time off for child-related things. Most of the time I get respect for handling both parenthood and a highly technical career.

  56. I Love Llamas*

    OP #6 – I was a commercial real estate broker (extremely male-dominated) for many years and drove a minivan for the bulk of it. It was great for hauling around groups of clients. If I felt like I needed something “fancy”, then I used my hubby’s car. We bought the minivan with the agreement that we would trade whenever I felt the need. My colleagues were extremely image-focused….until my boss got a minivan. He was an Alpha male, but fell in love with minivans. Go figure. He didn’t care what anybody said, nor did I. An interesting development was I usually ended up driving everyone to lunch…. Get the minivan. They are fabulous and it won’t be forever. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  57. LizM*

    OP3, giving you the benefit of the doubt, that you’re asking because you want to make sure your employees are okay…

    I still wouldn’t ask, and I wouldn’t create an environment where your employees feel like they need to reveal personal info. The best thing you can do to support your employees who are having a hard time is have a flexible leave policy, provide resources they can choose to take advantage of (like an EAP), and be open and flexible if they do come to you.

    I had undiagnosed depression for probably close to a year. Having people ask me what was wrong didn’t help. I couldn’t tell you what was wrong, I could only tell you that I didn’t feel motivated to do any work, and even getting out of bed was a struggle most days. If I was asked what triggered my need for a mental health day, I would have just said, “Life.” Or if it hit at a particularly low point, I may have snapped and said something really unprofessional.

    I am thankful that my employer provides good health insurance that covers mental health care and an EAP that let me get counseling, and when I asked for help managing my workload so that I could take the time I needed to address my depression, my supervisor was really flexible without asking too many prying questions.

    I know that “mental health day” isn’t really dealing with diagnosed mental illness, but if you had asked me before my diagnosis, that’s how I would have characterized the time I was taking off. (Not to my boss, I would just tell him I needed to take some sick leave. As long as it’s not exceeding 3 consecutive days, I’m not required to provide a reason and he doesn’t ask).

    And honestly, life is hard. A lot of people who are mentally healthy will want to take time off from time to time to recharge. There doesn’t need to specific reason that they can articulate.

  58. Limepink*

    I just want to say that I want to be a Llama Spiritual Advisor so bad… just me and llamas and alpacas, vibing to a tambourine and wooden pipe in a lush grass field…….

    What colleges offer this program??

  59. Antisocialite*

    Letter Writer #1 — I am not in a wheelchair, but that’s probably a “yet” situation. I have EDS so your mention of having frequent dislocations and chronic pain was very relatable. On top of this I’m immunocompromised and have some auto immune conditions. I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes you just need to say no for your own health and safety, regardless of how much you like the person or the job. It’s not an easy thing to learn, or come to terms with. You are doing a LOT already so kudos to you. Please be kind to yourself, and do whatever you need to do for your physical and emotional well-being.

    1. LW1*

      I do actually have EDS! (didn’t mention it originally for ease of explanation, lol). Sending zebra solidarity!

  60. pcake*

    OP1, you gave the parents a month notice but it’s been 2 months. Apparently they have no concern for your well-being nor even enough courtesy to come to you on week 3 after you gave notice and say “we’re really sorry – we’ve been looking for someone to take over babysitting, but haven’t found the right person yet. Can you stay a couple of extra weeks?”

    It’s time to point out clearly that you gave them notice 2 months ago as you have a full time job and will not be able to babysit in the future. If you want to be gracious, give them a week notice. After that, let it be their problem – they showed no concern about your problems.

  61. JessicaTate*

    OP2: I say just wear a mask and just be bland about it. Prepare a few stock, bland responses — NOT justifying its necessity. “I’ve gotten used to it.” “I just want to wear it still.” “Call me crazy, but I kinda like it.” If you get a “Why??” “I just want to.” Period. And if someone pushes, point out very politely, “Listen, it’s not hurting you for me to wear a mask, so please let it go.” If it was not a brand new job, I’d totally say: “If I were wearing a scarf because I felt chilly, even if you were comfortable in a t-shirt, that wouldn’t be a big deal, so neither is this.” But you’re brand new, so I get wanting to be more cautious.

    Someone may side-eye, infer something – make peace with that and let it go. Do your new job, be polite, be warm, be competent, speak loudly, enunciate, and use your face/hands to aid communication, and — unless your entire workplace is a little unhinged, at worst, they think it’s your quirk. (And you find out about any co-workers who can’t handle people who make different choices than they do.)

    I was talking with a friend this weekend, and she told me about using the, “It’s not hurting you,” line to someone, and it felt exactly right. The tone is: I’m not hurting you, I’m not judging you, I’m not making a statement, I’m just doing my thing, you do yours.

  62. Retired (but not really)*

    I would consider a mini van an ideal vehicle for a first responder. In fact in our area there are a number of municipalities that have them as the official vehicles for a number of departments including fire marshal, sheriff, constable, police, etc.

  63. CW*

    While my field is traditionally male dominated (conservation), our staff is 75% female & while we have access to a company truck we all find it super uncomfortable & during field season it’s dedicated to seasonals/interns, so as full time staff we take personal vehicles & are reimbursed for mileage for site visits. Do landowners look at my director differently when she shows up in a minivan vs. my coworker in a Yukon XL or me in a diesel truck? Yeah, they do. It may only be for the practical purposes of the minivan lacking clearance & four wheel drive, in our case it’s less about the parenthood implications & more about being able to handle working outdoors & navigating rough/sketchy roads comfortably.

    As for the EMS angle, I think the implications of showing up in a minivan depend on what kind of calls you’re responding to! Wrecks or fires in an urban area or someplace with paved or well maintained dirt roads? No problem. Remote search & rescue operations where your minivan’s low clearance can make you a liability? That’s going to be a problem.

  64. Citygal*

    Alison, What are your thoughts on this: when a staffer takes a mental health day, would you expect them to use a sick day for it? I did that once and my boss, who was already hostile towards me, demanded a doctor’s note (it was for one single day and I never abused sick leave). I ended up taking it but the experience with her has made me hesitant since.

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