can my company make me have child care when I work from home, wedding officiants, and more

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

1. Can my company require me to have child care while I’m working from home?

I work for a very small, fully remote (as in, remote even not during a pandemic) startup. There are maybe three dozen employees, tops. Today we had a company meeting and the HR director told everyone that our company requires childcare (she cited the company handbook, but these rules seemed to be flexible/non-existent during most of the pandemic). She said, “Just because we’re a remote organization doesn’t mean it’s not a workplace.”

Which, okay, fine. I do not have childcare, nor have I ever used it—it would bankrupt me. For most of my career, I was a full-time freelancer and able to make my own hours work for me around my kids’ schedule. I moved to this company for the pay, benefits, and stability. My productivity level remains the same, and I’ve even been promoted while working here.

I’m just wondering if a company can legally require childcare without subsidizing it? I feel like they can’t tell employees how to spend their money and raise their children, period, but especially not when it doesn’t affect our job performance and they’re not offering a financial contribution to childcare.

Yes, a company can require remote employees to have child care during their work hours. In fact, before the pandemic, that was bog standard — most companies with remote workers had policies requiring that employees have separate child care if they had young kids because they didn’t want people trying to do both (as so many parents saw last year, it’s incredibly hard/impossible to do both). That fell by the wayside last year because it had to — with schools and daycares closed, there was literally no way for most people to have separate child care, so companies had to be flexible on it or they wouldn’t have been able to employ parents at all.

Employers have been slowly moving back toward pre-pandemic policies on this. It’s not yet back to where it used to be because child care availability is still very low in many areas, but we’ll almost certainly return to those policies once conditions allow for it. If you’re not able to find child care right now because of closures and shortages, that’s something you should talk to your employer about. But if you’re saying you wouldn’t have child care regardless (even in pre-pandemic conditions and with no availability issues in your area) and you want to supervise/care for little kids during work hours, most employers will rightly object to that (it’s similar to how they also wouldn’t okay you working a second job during your hours for them). If your job is one where you have a ton of flexibility with your hours, you might be able to make it work. But it’s a really, really normal policy for employers to have … or at least it was before Covid blew everything up.

Caveat: if your kids are old enough that simply having an adult on the premises is all that’s needed, none of the above applies. These policies are generally about young kids who require more supervision.

2. My manager is upset when I don’t answer her calls, even when I’m in the bathroom

I’m a full-time graduate student and took on a fellowship through my school doing administrative data work for a local organization for 20 hours a week. The position is mostly remote, and the understanding is that I work part-time while I’m taking a full-time class load. I work a few hours a day, and I’m having trouble deciding if my supervisor is being unfair or if I need an attitude adjustment.

My supervisor and I get along well and the work is going fine, but she calls me once or twice a day while I’m on the clock. I’ve picked up most times, but have missed her call twice (and called her back; she calls two or three times in a row when I miss her call) over the past two weeks. This annoys her, and she says she expects me to be by my phone or computer at all times when I’m on the clock. Though I privately thought it was unreasonable, I agreed, and now find myself anxious about using the bathroom or answering the door, and resent feeling surveilled. I don’t think this is sustainable and it doesn’t help me complete my work, but also wonder if I’m being unreasonable — I am on the clock for only a few hours a day, after all.

I want to let her know something to the effect of “I’ll do my best to answer your calls when I’m on the clock, but would appreciate your giving me a few minutes to call back in case I’m in the bathroom or answering the door.” I feel silly even having to say that, but wanted your thoughts on whether my grievance is fair, and how you would approach this with a new manager.

You’re not being unreasonable at all! Of course you will occasionally miss a call because you’re in the bathroom or dealing with an emergency or any of the other things that come up in life.

Related story: I once worked with someone who told her remote employees exactly what your boss told you after one of them missed her call due to being in the bathroom — and it was widely considered a hallmark of how warped her expectations were. In her defense, she backed off as soon as it was pointed out to her; her own boss was an incredible tyrant and that pressure tends to trickle down.

Anyway, I’d say this to your manager: “I thought more about our conversation the other day and can’t realistically say I will never miss a call. I focus exclusively on work during my hours for you but occasionally I will need to use the bathroom. If you call and don’t reach me, please assume that’s the case and I’ll call you back within a few minutes.” My hunch is that she’s worried, unreasonably, that you’re not really in fully attentive work mode during the hours they expect you to be working and she isn’t thinking about things like the bathroom; you might just need to spell it out. But if that doesn’t work, asking, “How would you like me to handle bathroom breaks then?” likely will.

3. I don’t want my new hire working extra hours

I manage a fully remote team. It can be difficult to draw a line between work and life when you work from home. So I try to promote and emphasize the importance of work-life balance within my group. For example, I don’t send emails outside of traditional work hours, I’m flexible about appointments, and I encourage my team to use all their vacation time before year-end.

I have a new employee, Jolene. Day 3 of her first week, Jolene said she would work on something “later tonight, after dinner.” I reminded her then that I don’t expect her to work on this project at night – if she ever needs more time on something, she can let me know.

Today is Monday of her second week, and she just told me how much time she spent reviewing her notes over the weekend. How can I make it clear that Jolene is not responsible for working on these (not-high-priority) projects outside of traditional work hours? (And working nights and weekends does not impress me.)

I’m worried that she will start telling other individuals on my team about her late hours, and they’ll think the expectation is changing for them. I also don’t want her to get burned out, right as she’s getting up to speed.

For context, Jolene has freelanced for a while, and this is her first full-time job in about five years. I wonder if she is still suffering from the old “Cult of Busy.”

Saying that you don’t expect her to work those hours isn’t the same as telling her she shouldn’t.

So: “I’m sorry for not being clearer. I feel strongly that I don’t want you or anyone else on our team working evenings or weekends —  in part because once one person is doing that, the rest of the team starts feeling pressure to do it too. If you’re ever finding you need to work extra hours to keep up with your workload, come talk to me and we’ll figure out how to reprioritize things.” (If she might occasionally need to work extra hours, add “except in unusual circumstances which will only come up a few times a year” or otherwise adjust accordingly.)

4. How do I respond to an apology for misgendering me?

I recently had a situation where someone misgendered me in a meeting, and they followed up with an apology email. It made me realize that I don’t really know how to appropriately respond to an apology like this (or even apologies in general). My conditioning tells me to tell the apologizer that it’s okay, but that isn’t true. I appreciate the apology and forgive them for it, but I don’t know how to express that in a way that’s both professional and not cold.

This is definitely not specific either to misgendering or to emailed apologies for me, but both of those factors make navigating this more difficult for me.

“Thank you, I appreciate it.”

That accepts the apology without implying that whatever happened was okay.

5. I don’t think my daughter’s stepmother should officiate at her wedding

My daughter is getting married in March 2022 and the stepmom has barged her way in to being the officiant. I’m the mother of the bride and this offends me, as the stepmom has never been a part of my daughter’s life and in fact has tried to separate us.

I write a work advice column but what the hell, I’ll answer this.

This isn’t your wedding. It’s your daughter’s. She gets to decide who will officiate, and she’s decided her stepmom will. Whatever you think of the decision, it’s hers and her fiancé’s to make, not yours.

If you choose to make this a point of contention and stress for her during an already stressful time, you’re likely to weaken your relationship with your daughter rather than strengthening it. The most loving and smartest thing you can do is to support whatever she decides and stay out of the rest of it. Showing grace will make you much more likely to be someone she’s glad to have nearby on her wedding day, instead of another problem she needs to solve.

{ 694 comments… read them below }

  1. awesome3*

    “I write a work advice column but what the hell, I’ll answer this.“ Alison takes great care of all of us

    1. anone*

      Dollars to donuts that person wrote the same message into several columns and I hope she’s seething about getting this exact same response from any of them that bother replying.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Yes this cracked me up imagining the LW just blasting her complaint out into the advicecolumnverse desperate for validation. I’m 100000% sure the bride’s version of this letter would be DRAMATICALLY different.

          1. CmdrShepard*

            Maybe this is the next trillion dollar website/idea. A service that automatically submits your letter to every single advice column at once….. and keeps track of responses

            Dear: ask a mechanic, ask a waitress, my daughter is having her stepmom officiate the wedding?

            1. AMT*

              I miss “Here’s That Bad Advice You Were Hoping For” so much, just for situations like this.

              *Googles it*

              Oh, my God. It’s back as of earlier this month. I so hope to see more Ask a Manager letters in there. (For the uninitiated, “Here’s That Bad Advice You Were Hoping For” is a Tumblr blog in which the writer answers various bad-faith questions posed to different advice columns in the way that the letter-writer seems to be hoping for — in other words, objectively terrible, but very funny, advice. The writer went on hiatus a few years ago, but has apparently returned.)

        1. Amaranth*

          It also could be the tradeoff to getting dad to pay for the wedding or just general peace from that side of the family. LW is seeing this through a pretty narrow – and petty – lens.

          1. generic_username*

            Another possibility is that the bride wanted to include her stepmother but rightfully guessed that her mother would object to letting step-mom have any normal mother-of-the-bride roles.

      2. COHikerGirl*

        As an avid reader of advice columns…this is the advice pretty much everyone would give! Prudence, Amy, Hax, even Miss Manners. Lots of questions can have different answers…most of the time, the MOB or MOG trying to dictate weddings gets the same answer…butt out.

    2. JustAThought*

      I’m just envisioning this as Alison, on last night of vacation, margarita in hand, just checking in on emails and, lingering vacation vibes…why not?!!

      1. Phoenix Wright*

        Yep, she recently said that she saves the weirdest stuff for her post-vacation days. Hope she’s having as good a time writing these responses as we do reading them.

    3. Phil*

      It reminded me of Troy McClure doing the Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular:

      Over the six years The Simpsons has been on the air, we’ve received dozens of letters from fans wanting to know more about the show. Tonight, we’ll answer some of your questions. Professor Lawrence Pierce of the University of Chicago writes: “I think Homer gets stupider every year.” That’s not a question, professor. But we’ll let the viewers judge for themselves.

      1. BethDH*

        My favorite part of that is that it’s a professor and every academic recognizes that guy at the conference who says “this is more of a comment than a question” after a paper.

        1. A Library Person*

          And it’s always about his (almost always a “he” in my experience) own research, however tenuously connected to the topic at hand.

        2. JustaTech*

          The *best* thing about doing virtual conferences this year is that all the questions are asked in the chat box and all the “this is more of a comment” are just ignored by the speaker. We can all read them, but they’re not taking up the presenter (or other actual question askers) time.

        3. ArtsNerd*

          Not a conference but I once worked an author talk where the long-suffering bookstore events person made an exhausted PLEA to the attendees to make sure their question was actually a question as he opened up the Q&A.

          I’ll let you guess how successful that was.

    4. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Well…Its called “Ask a Manager”… Doesn’t say what you can and can not ask about. Alison must be looking to expand her brand territory. Just her first steps towards world domination! bwaahaaaahaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…..

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Well…Its called “Ask a Manager”… Doesn’t say what you can and can not ask about. Alison must be looking to expand her brand territory. Just her first steps towards world domination! bwaahaaaahaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…..

        Ladies, Gentlemen, and Friends; we have found our rules lawyer!

        1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          Do not invite to D&D campaign. Repeat, do not invite to D&D campaign!
          (I am sure you are an awesome candidate for many other games, though, Speaks to Dragonflies! )

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I thought you meant me. My party killed my character in the first 15 minutes of my only D&D session.

          2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

            Well, Im nothing close to a lawyer and I have never played D&D, so I think everyone would be safe.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Loved the response! I suppose you could argue that the Step-mother is working so it’s kind of work related…

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        lol I was imagining Captain Awkward answering this letter and I’m pretty sure the message would be the same but the language would include a lot more “you suck.” This was like the ultra professional version of what CA would be thinking. Lol.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          For this letter, we need to bring out the heavy artillery though. Have the Bad Advisor come out of retirement.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        CA might throw in an outlier case of what to do if the daughter herself is complaining. I suspect it would boil down to reminding the daughter that the choice belongs to her AND spouse-to-be, then asking her if there is anything they need you to do.

        1. myswtghst*

          Exactly. My first thought was that even if we take the LW at her word that stepmom forced her way in, the most she can do is make it clear she will support her daughter however she chooses to proceed, then back way tf off.

      3. Liane*

        Invite Miss Manners (the First) along! She once wrote to a MoB who wanted to snub the stepmom, roughly: If you treat Stepmom rudely, she will feel smug, knowing she has gotten to you. If you treat her charmingly, you will make her uncomfortable. Which do you want to do?
        Miss Manners may have thrown in something about how MoB would appear to others as well.

    6. Gubby*

      There’s nothing to answer. There’s not even a question. I think it sucks that Alison is “answering” this when there are surely hundreds of actual, relevant, work-related questions that go unanswered every week.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I answer hundreds of questions a month for free, and many more of them privately, also for free. I am not obligated to fill some sort of quota. What an odd comment.

        1. AY*

          Alison, I really enjoy seeing you apply your advice in the comments. “What an odd comment” is a perfect choice here, and I’ve seen you recommend it many times. I hope I have the presence of mind to use it the next time the opportunity arises.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Yes. Wanted to comment that Alison using “what an odd comment” in a real situation is the most glorious meta comment I’ve ever read.

            1. Empress Matilda*

              Yes! I personally think it sucks that Alison doesn’t allow gifs, because I would absolutely drop in the one of Meryl Streep standing up and applauding for “what an odd comment.”

              However, it’s Alison’s site, so I figure she gets to run it the way she wants. :)

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Sometimes Alison also provides multiple answers, so her answer-to-question ratio is still healthily above 1.0.

            An odd comment, indeed.

        2. mlem*

          Gubby must have been praying that you answer all the questions but if you HAD to let a question go unanswered, let it be this one ….

          1. Phoenix Wright*

            But that would cause drama! According to Alison, you have to leave more than one question unanswered or answer all of them.

        3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          Alison, please accept the thanks of a grateful commentariat. I would like to send you margaritas and kittens and whatever else you like best, but that would be creepy so I won’t.

        4. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          Darn you for not providing free advice the way Gubby wants you to, Alison! Darn you to heck! How very dare! Don’t you know Gubby has STANDARDS for the free content that Gubby consumes???

        5. ecnaseener*

          Made me think of that Clickhole headline, Selfish: This Man Found Time To Build A Birdhouse While JonBenét Ramsey’s Murder Is Still Unsolved

        6. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

          This is, as always, the perfect comment. You answer hundreds of questions for free! You pick which ones you want to answer-it’s your site, after all.

        7. school of hard knowcs*

          Alison, you answered a minor question, privately years ago and I want to thank you again. And not the my opinion counts, I like all the variety of questions you do answer.

        8. Lauren*

          Can confirm Alison has provided useful advice that did not make the column but helped me with professional norms! And I am very grateful to her for that.

        9. DataQueen*

          I loveee seeing Alison use her own catchphrases. I use the “what an odd thing to say to a coworker” line alll the timeeee and it’s my absolutely favorite.

        10. Fact & Fiction*

          That is CERTAINLY an odd comment. Alison is entitled to answer or not answer any question she darn well pleases. And to be honest, I was totally tickled by the fact you answered this one. It was a nice change of pace and made me laugh.

      2. Baron*

        Alison knows what she’s doing. Nobody has sentenced her to answering at least five questions every morning. It’s a great idea to occasionally throw in something fun like this, to switch things up.

      3. Someone On-Line*

        Alison isn’t obligated to answer any questions. She does so of her own free-will and hopefully earns a decent wage. We’re not entitled to her time or effort.

      4. Dark Macadamia*

        When I’m not interested in a question here I just keep scrolling. Like all the content Alison provides, it’s free!

      5. Turtle*

        Are you unhappy that you don’t feel you are getting your money’s worth based on how much you pay for this “service?” What do you think would be a better membership fee amount?

    7. Snow Globe*

      Completely in-bounds: many (most) relationship advice columnists answer work-related questions quite frequently.

    8. I edit everything*

      “Showing grace will make people happy to have you around,” is the very best life advice ever.

    9. Coast East*

      I laughed so hard at that, I had to stop reading the rest of the response to check out the comments! Now that I’m done giggling, I might finish the article lol

    10. Gracely*

      Allison, we love you. Never change.

      (And I would totally read a non-work advice column from you if you ever decided to write one)

    11. ArtsyGirl*

      I am still puzzling through how the stepmom can both not be in bride’s life but at the same time actively trying to seperate OP from her daughter. Thats some mad skills there.

  2. Viki*

    I will say upfront, I do not have children, I don’t have any way to imagine how parents doing WFH durning the pandemic survived with schooling etc. however, as someone who does not have children and for the past 18 months have taken a lot of the work from parents on the team because of flexibility for them during the pandemic, I cannot wait for the normal WFH policies towards childcare to be put back into place.

    My company, like all, has that childcare expectation with WFH/remote work. Obviously, we didn’t enforce it when everything was closed. It was like how standards etc. were not enforced heavily, but things are opening up, my area has daycare/child care/school in person; norms and expectations are slowly being put back into place. My company has set expectations that Q1 2022, all the norms and policies etc we had pre-pandemic towards standards, working hours etc, will be back in place. This has give a lot of people a lot of time to make their decisions, and to plan accordingly.

    LW # 1 you can make a decision if this very common, very sensible policy works for you and your family. What you can’t do is tell your boss you have childcare, and then don’t.

    1. PollyQ*

      The challenge for parents in some locations at this point in the pandemic is likely to be the uncertainty. Yes, schools are supposed to be open, but then they shut down for 2 weeks because all the teachers tested positive, or because there aren’t enough bus drivers, or even if the school is open, there was a positive test in their kid’s class and now there’s a 2-week quarantine for the whole class. There’s not much parents can do to plan for that. I really hope things have settled down by Q1-22, and maybe vaccine mandates, both private & public will do the trick. But the problem isn’t going to go away just because we want it to.

      1. Xenia*

        Even in the before times, there were days where Little Timmy got sent home with pink eye and not allowed back in the daycare until it cleared up. It’s not fun and the disruptions will probably be more common until late 22 or 23 but I don’t know that it’s the same level of disruption as all the parents simultaneously being out of luck re: childcare.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That sort of sort term thing is more manageable – a day or two of working from home with a sick child, or a snow day, is very different from the pandemic situation, where a non-trivial fraction of employee had no childcare for months on end. Two week quarantines are more disruptive, but it’s hopefully not all the employees.

          1. Caroline Bowman*

            It’s also more of a temporary thing. If someone in the Before Times had a child who, say, suddenly got appendicitis and then needed surgery / to be home for a week or even longer, I feel like most reasonable companies would be accommodating of that. It’s unforeseeable, after all. Anyone can get sick and if you have dependents and responsibilities for others in your life, it’s inevitable that this will happen.

            But as a standard, normal thing, a requirement for childcare is totally normal and reasonable. It’s why I have not worked as anything but freelance while my children were young enough to require a lot of parental supervision. It simply wouldn’t be worth the childcare costs (and yes, that is deeply unfair and wrong and all that, but this is a fact nonetheless), and as the substantially lower-earner, the maths just does not work.

            If I were ever to return to formal employment, I’d fully expect that my children would form no part of their considerations, any more than someone’s elderly relative, anxious pet or any other dependent should. The question is, are you fully available during the normal hours expected of you at this company, barring emergencies?

          2. Cranky lady*

            In the before times, a kid with a sniffle might be out for a day or two. Now that same sniffle keeps them out of school for a week or more because no one with any symptoms can go back to school in some places. School/childcare is a lot less reliable than before and workplaces need to be flexible. However, that doesn’t mean you can plan on no childcare for a little one all the time. There’s a difference.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              Yes, this. The cycle of testing and quarantining that can get kicked off because one kid has a cough is definitely unlike anything from before covid. Backup options are less helpful when there’s a potential covid exposure to worry about passing along. And certainly one kid coming down with the flu in 2018 would not have caused other parents to have to stay home from work to supervise remote learning for a week the way a positive covid test does now. It should get somewhat better once the under-12 set can be vaccinated, since that reduces quarantine requirements, but for now parents are still scrambling.

              But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have child care as a general rule, just that it’s more likely to be disrupted.

            2. Lizzy May*

              Exactly. If I had a teammate who was at home with their kid for two weeks because of a covid outbreak at their school, I would be very understanding and do my part to help out. That situation has an end date and is beyond my coworker’s control. If I had a teammate who was also watching their kids fulltime, I would feel different because that would be something in their control.

            3. mh_ccl*

              Truth. One of my kids coughed a few times at school. The nurse read her temperature at 99.3, so she was sent home. I got 2 negative covid tests on her, and she was still required to stay home for 14 days. I’m lucky that a: my job is flexible; b: it was my easy-going child.

          3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            In the before days, schools could be closed for 1-2 weeks because of foot-hand-and-mouth disease, norovirus, scabies, etc. outbreaks but in general, I am guessing (I don’t have kids so really just a guess), the in-home, short term babysitting options were probably more available to those who could afford it. I remember coworkers having kids home with FHMD, but being able to find someone to come into the house for childcare during those times

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              In the before times and when my kids were young, we got a lot of the “I need to WFH today because my kid is sick” situations, that were always approved by managers – however, like others said, these situations have an end date.

        2. quill*

          Pinkeye is at least an outlier situation for an individual family, rather than being an ongoing risk for all families…

      2. Viki*

        Of course things aren’t going to go away just because we hope it will, everything is fluid but there’s a point when fluidity and flexibility become too much to accommodate and still be practical towards the business needs.

        Speaking for my own work place, and my own team, the workload has not changed. I still have enough/more work than headcount for the employees I have. Giving as much leniency as I can possibly give to the parents I supervise, there’s still the fact that the job is a full work week, with deadlines etc. and having a team of eight, where only four are working the full 40 hours, and the other are working between 15-30, still means there is work not getting done, and we’re still employing eight people full time. That is unsustainable, and is at the end point, which is where a lot of companies are at.

        My company and what LW1 company seems to be doing, is making sure all employees are aware that policies are going to be upheld soon. Which, IMO, is important, necessary and kind to give people as much lead time as possible before it’s enforced.

        1. JustAThought*

          I appreciate you looking out for all of your staff. Extraordinary accommodations have been made by many in this extraordinary period. It is not fair to expect those who have been taking up the ongoing business burden (including management) to feel as though that is the new norm. This is not said to dismiss the burden of working parents, just meant to say it may be time for them to take back some of the burden.
          While exceptions may come up from time to time, continued burden-shifting needs to not continue to be the norm.
          I’m sure I’ve not said this artfully.

          1. Storm in a teacup*

            @justathought I think you have articulated this perfectly. For those of us lucky enough not to have to deal with the childcare issues during the pandemic, we have often been the ones shouldering an increased burden at work to support our colleagues. In some cases people will still have other caring responsibilities outside of work eg elderly or sick parents so it’s been a double whammy.
            This cannot become the new / next normal and I think it is reasonable to set expectations ahead of time.
            To LW1, it is business norms to expect you to not being actively caring for children whilst working. If you have previously flexed your working hours to pick up kids from school and put them to bed etc then this maybe something your current employer could accommodate with flexi time or similar, but you need to have a conversation and not make assumptions.

          2. Ding ding*

            I don’t think that the working parents need to pick up more of the burden, I think our societal structures do.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Sincere question: How do you think that would look in real life? I think about this stuff between kids and old people who is left to do caregiving? No one (except paid professionals accessible only to those who can afford it.)
              I was trying to take care of my dying father and work full time. I almost ended up hospitalized myself as the physical and mental/emotional endurance needed is incredible.
              One solution I have seen is to move to 32 hour work weeks. It’s a start?
              But, sincerely, what do you (or anyone here) think would be a structural change that would be a positive step forward?

                1. Pool Lounger*

                  Yes, I’m surprised, given the number of parents in the USA, this isn’t a larger issue. If everyone called/emailed their representatives about it maybe it’d at least get airplay. Instead, nothing.

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  Universal Pre-K available at 1yo and a year of parental leave covers it too, like in Norway. Sweden’s running into problems due to underfunding their child care system – too many kids relative to care givers – but I can’t find anything bad in the news about Norway’s system.

                  Ideally, I’d like companies to become more flexible with job-sharing and similar solutions, because I think women having the option to continue in their careers and earnings is important for their long-term economic health, but in reality companies are only going to do what govt requires them to do, and what govt supports financially. Govt puts its money on what society values…

                3. Anonymoose*

                  Canada has a similar system to parental leave that applies to caring for someone in the end-stages of their life. The details are harder to sort out because the timing isn’t obvious (birth is more predictable than death), yet if any close family member meets a defined medical diagnosis then people can get an income supplement for up to 6 months.

                  Link in reply.

              1. anne of mean gables*

                Childcare subsidized to the point of affordability, paid family leave (not limited to new parents) as a mandated federal employment benefit, Eldercare subsidized to the point of affordability, health care not tied to employment.

                I am sure there is more but all of that would be a start.

              2. MeepMeep*

                An even shorter workweek and more tolerance for part time jobs (and a higher wage so that part time jobs are livable).

                Alternately, a greater recognition of the role extended family should play in a normal life. In most normal countries, grandparents help watch their grandchildren.

                1. KateM*

                  It must be a place where where grandparents are old or rich enough to be retired by the time the grandchildren are born.

                2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  I grew up in a normal country like this. Me! What happened was, women would have their own children in their late teens or early 20s, then have grandchildren in their 40s, and, for families that still lived close to each other in the same geographical location (we didn’t, nor would I have wanted to), it was assumed that grandparents would take on the bulk of the work in caring for the grandchildren. Home Country also had a retirement age of 55 for women (who pretty much had to retire, whether they wanted to or not) and they then took on pretty much all of the childcare.

                  Then they died early and no one could understand why.

                  Amy is right on point with her comment.

                3. Bagpuss*

                  Agree with Amy. That makes an awful lot of assumptions. And as well as assuming that (mostly women) should be doing a lot of unpaid labour it also leaves out huge numbers of people – those who are not in contact with their families of origin, those who have lost their parents, those whose parents are not able (whether for health reasons, or divisions over how children should be cared for) to help out.

                  Not to mention it’s only really practical if everyone has their children fairly young and stays in good health afterwards.

                  Adequate, affordable child care and flexible working practices that allow parents to work part time / job share / have decent levels of parental leave are all more equitable.

                4. Geography*

                  Most “normal” countries are significantly smaller than the US. The possibility of living close enough to your parents that they can help raise your children is much higher when your whole country can fit inside one US state.

              3. pancakes*

                It could look a lot like it looks in other wealthy countries. Healthcare for all and subsidized childcare, for example. I’ll link to a couple articles in separate comment, including one explaining that “The United States ranks 30th out of 33 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in public spending on families and children, which includes policies such as child payments and allowances, parental leave benefits, and childcare support.” It’s a choice to have our society arranged this way, and many other choices are available.

              4. DataSci*

                Universally available, free or heavily subsidized childcare. Once my kid was old enough to start public school, our budget changed dramatically – childcare in some states, including my own, costs more than in-state tuition at the state university. (I know more than one family whose decision about how many kids to have was influenced in large part by childcare costs.) As a society we have agreed that educating children is a public good that should not be dependent on the parents’ ability to pay, or to educate the children themselves, so we have public schools, available to all at no direct cost to the parents. (Like everyone else, they help pay for the cost through taxes.) However, as a society we have not yet decided that caring for younger children is a public good in the same way – we could, though, and I think we should.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  We live in an area where childcare waiting lists are long (a year plus in more desirable options), and it’s expensive. When my kids were in childcare more than a decade ago, it was $12K/kid/year, and it’s only gotten worse in our urban area.

                2. pancakes*

                  akjiomakl, this is getting a bit off-topic, but there is no shortage of information on how US spending compares to other wealthy countries. One thing you will notice, for example, if you start to read up on this issue, is that our $778 billion per year for the defense industry is way, way, way higher than what any other comparable country spends on that. Those of you who have genuine questions about this stuff would probably benefit from making a genuine effort to seek out some information about it.

              5. Librarian1*

                subsidize childcare, elder care, care for disabled adults, etc! Government could pick up a lot of the cost burden.

            2. Anononon*

              But what happens in the meantime? I mean, many people agree with you, including myself, but that’s not currently the world we live in (in the USA). We can say “should” all we want, and work towards that “should,” economically and politically, but we still have to acknowledge the “is”.

              1. The Original K.*

                Exactly. I agree as well, but those structures don’t exist right now, today, and everything still needs to get done.

              2. pancakes*

                We keep educating people about alternatives in the meantime, for a start? It’s clear every time the topic comes up here that there are a lot of people who’ve only just begun thinking about alternatives. I don’t know how or why you’re reading an implied refusal to acknowledge the present in what people are saying. I haven’t seen a single person suggest that restructuring US healthcare or childcare can or will be accomplished overnight. If I did I’d ignore them because that would be very silly.

        2. Soon to be She-Cessed*

          If fluidity goes away while schools and daycares are still having to shut down for 2 weeks due to outbreaks, I think we will see a lot more mothers with younger children leaving the workplace. It may be that businesses can’t be fluid anymore anyways, but it’s not without consequences.

          1. The Original K.*

            We’re already seeing that – there have been lots of articles about parents, primary women, leaving the work force because there’s no other way for their kids to be cared for. I think I’ve seen the number 1.5 million thrown around, and like you, I think it’ll go up.

            1. quill*

              About half those articles turn out to be “parents’ jobs were unsustainable already based on time worked, etc,” or “woman quits workforce because husband not pulling his weight on childcare.”

              I mean, not that it’s not stressful or difficult to keep small humans alive in a pandemic and be employed, but I’d imagine that most people who can afford to lose that income have already gone with that option.

                1. quill*

                  In that case though – strictly speaking about the articles on “women drop out of workforce” that’s not dropping out to do childcare, that’s being fired / laid off / loosing a job etc.

        3. Non-Prophet*

          I can definitely understand the frustration from an employer’s/manager’s standpoint. My daughter was home as an active/curious 10-month old at the start of the pandemic and it was very hard to be productive. But I don’t think any of my work was pushed off to my coworkers. I still worked 40+ hours to get everything done, just at odd hours of the day/night/weekends.

          We re-enrolled our daughter in daycare as soon as it reopened. That said, our childcare arrangement can still be frustratingly unreliable. Our daycare has to close unexpectedly on random days due to staffing shortages. All other daycares around us have the same issues so it’s not just a matter of making a different arrangement. Their COVID protocols are very strict (understandably), which often means that our daughter has to stay home for 2-3 days for the sniffles. Backup childcare options are not really available any longer. So, when childcare falls through, it’s definitely a scramble to figure it out. Most times, my husband and I just work 12-16 hour days to try to get done the same amount that we could usually get done in ~8 hours. It’s exhausting, but we don’t want to push the work off to our colleagues either.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Right? My oldest kid missed four days of school for a cold. They wouldn’t take her with a cough, even though she didn’t have COVID. Nothing to be done for it. My youngest’s preschool is closed today and tomorrow for staffing issues.

            I can scramble around all day trying to get care for them, but I can’t get blood from a stone. I will always do the very best that I can to get everyone everything they need, its just that–well, I’m not a magician.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Back when my kids were in daycare, it had policies like, if your child throws up, spikes a fever etc (my youngest was that toddler that would throw up when nervous), they had to call the parents to come get the kid, and the kid would not be allowed back until 24 hours later and with a note from a doctor. My mom was able to come over and watch him most of the time even on late notice. I’d pick him up, drop him off at my place with mom, and go back to work. I don’t know what I would’ve done otherwise, this was before WFH, I probably would’ve lost my job to be honest. I can imagine that these policies have gotten way stricter in the Covid times. Like I am not in the least surprised that they send a kid with a cough home. Again, what’s a parent to do? this is always on last-minute notice “come get your kid and don’t bring them back till their cough is gone”.

              1. MissBaudelaire*

                Ugh, the nervous pukes. My daycare was usually pretty chill about it. If a kid just randomly vomited with no fever or no other symptoms, they could stay. But if they puked again or acted funny or anything, they had to go and couldn’t come back for 24 hours after the last vomiting episode.

                Once they fed my kid a banana, which make her projectile vomit, told me to come get her, and then she couldn’t come back the next day. You guys ignored my notes and gave her a banana! And then they had to tighten everything due to COVID. One vomit and your outta there, cough/sniffles? Get out until you can show me it’s allergies and not COVID. Because we all wanted to drag out kids to the doctor and get a note when the doctors are slammed and full of actually sick people. My kids are out of daycare now, it was a real nightmare at times.

                Not to mention them closing for COVID randomly. Or when they demanded a schedule and got mad when we booked for full time when we were paying for fun time.

                There just isn’t a great answer. I don’t think my coworkers should pick up my slack, I don’t think I should just get to shrug and skip into the sunset. But I can’t just conjure up an answer.

                1. PT*

                  They fed your child something she was allergic to, and then had the audacity to complain that she threw up?

                  They should be glad you didn’t sue them.

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Wonder if the best answer to all of this is companies hiring slightly more employees than the work needs so there is always a 10-15 hr “flex” in case of childcare, elder care, health, etc. crises that take 1-2 employees out of the mix for a long-ish period of time. Easier said than done, of course, but it would solve many of the over-work issues we see brought up in AAM

        5. Black Horse Dancing*

          Give those carrying the load a huge bonus and extra PTO. They deserve it. For those only putting in 15 hours and expecting others to carry their load, they have plenty of heads up. It’s time they started carrying their workload again. Perhaps you can adjust their pay if they can’t perform as needed.

        6. ArtsNerd*

          This isn’t directed at you Viki, but I am frustrated by this, societally:

          >practical towards the business needs.

          So very very few business needs are actually human needs. I used to think there was some point in which we, collectively, stop all non-essential work and march in the streets. That instead of spending our energy on “pivoting” to make sure our business revenue continues to come in, we spend our energy on taking care of each other and ourselves and feel confident that the cash flow doesn’t actually matter because the crisis we’re in is more important.

          Something that’s become clear to me in the past two years is that point doesn’t exist. You get a week’s extension on that deadline, maybe two. Never mind that we’re 2 years into the crisis, it’s back to business as usual!

          To be clear: it shouldn’t be on the employers to cover their costs and turn a profit right now. There should be a collective agreement in our society that we’re going to take care of ourselves and each other, from mutual aid to government aid. But near-total collapse still isn’t enough to let us truly step away from our BS jobs and do that much much more urgent work and still be secure in our ability to meet our basic needs. Because handouts something something.

        7. MrsFillmore*

          I’m glad to see this question and response published, and I think Alison’s answer is a good one.

          For anyone thinking about how to create or reinforce this type of policy, please consider if possible a distinction between occasional emergency needs and regular care. This is likely to benefit both the employer and the employee.

          To take my situation as an example, I am a parent of young children in a senior role at work. I typically have regular care for my children, but when they are sick I often work at home while they are here. This happens more often during Covid. In my case, I also have a generous amount of sick leave that I’ve never come close to using in full in a year. My employer’s policy is that this sick time can be used to care for sick dependents, but instead of using it I typically work so that I keep up with deadlines and don’t put work onto others (exceptions for doctor appointments and when kids are very sick). This is much less disruptive for my employer and my teams than it would be to force me to use the sick leave, miss meetings and delay work assignments.

      3. EPLawyer*

        IF something comes up, sure a company should be reasonable. But IN GENERAL, requiring childcare during working hours is not wrong. The company is paying you to work, not fit your job in around your kids. Now as I said, a good company will make TEMPORARY exceptions on a case by case basis. Oh your kid’s school shut down because too many teachers tested positive, okay, try to make up the hours somehow and make sure you have a quiet place for meetings. On the other hand if someone is all I will never have childcare and I get my work done, then the company should be less accomodating.

        1. A*

          Given that OP apparently equates an employer expecting their undivided attention to be ‘telling them how to raise their kids’… I think they have some SERIOUS misconceptions about the foundational definition of a job and the requirements that go along with it.


        2. Zombeyonce*

          “Oh your kid’s school shut down because too many teachers tested positive, okay, try to make up the hours somehow and make sure you have a quiet place for meetings.”

          This doesn’t work for a lot of people. If my child is at home, there is no way I can attend meetings in any meaningful way where I can actually participate. Have you ever tried attending a meeting with a small child in the room? (And no, you can’t just put them in another room and ignore them while you work.) And that’s if you even have enough space in your home to have a “quiet place for meetings” in the first place, and are lucky enough to have meetings during nap time, if your child is still taking naps.

          I’m not sure who you think is watching the child while I’m attending my remote meetings in this mythical quiet place, but it’s not the partner I’m lucky to have, who is at an office and unable to be home with them while they’re quarantined for a cold because they ran out of PTO during the last 2 quarantines. And trying to make up those hours means working through the night. This pandemic has been a hellscape for working parents for a year and a half, and we’re not nearly done. We’re exhausted.

          1. A*

            We are all exhausted – parents and non parents alike. It’s been a hellscape for a lot of people. No need to play the pain Olympics game.

      4. Massive Dynamic*

        Came here to say this too – it’s definitely better now than it was when All Schools Were Closed, but we’ve already had some last-minute yo-yo-ing about who gets to go to school and who’s home in quarantine, forcing WFH juggling with the spouse. It’s easy to put in a full day with our grade school distance learner but not with our toddler. Flexibility is still needed.

        But having said that, it’s still perfectly reasonable at this point to stipulate that employees need a regular childcare arrangement that gets shut down from time to time for quarantines, as opposed to no arrangement at all.

      5. fhqwhgads*

        Sure but the LW seemed to be saying “I don’t have childcare and don’t want to get it” which is a totally different situation. If the question is: are my employer’s expectations that I have childcare unreasonable? The answer is “no”. All the caveats about ongoing pandemic related things do still apply and make it trickier to navigate in reality because there may be on and off medium-length situations where childcare becomes not available again. So yes, exceptions will be made, things will happen. But the starting point is not and should not be “no childcare necessary at all”.

      6. J*

        Yep. My kids are home for the rest of the week because the first grader has (what we’re pretty sure is) a cold. He needs a negative Covid test before either of them can go back to school, which is very reasonable, but it’s not like there are secret alternate day cares that will take kids who are pending Covid test results.

        (And we tried our best to find him a rapid test–no dice. So we’re isolating for the 3 days it will take to get the results back.)

      7. Artemesia*

        For school age kids, it isn’t a big issue as they require less constant supervision. Kids below age 6 are not compatible with working and of course it is required that they be in day care or a nanny be with them. Day cares in our area have been up and running for quite some time and with rules in place which have meant fairly few disruptions. Everyone understand we live in difficult times but that is different from expecting to work from home while supervising small kids in perpetuity.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, and as a parent, I really appreciate your understanding. To be fair, I only had to supervise my son in remote school for two months, but that was enough to show how tough it is. I’m very lucky in that elementary schools were open for most of the pandemic (kids and teachers masked, with good compliance), whereas junior high and high schools have been remote until this fall. I’m also very lucky to be in an area where childcare is affordable for the vast majority of employees, we’re talking hundreds a month rather than thousands. We do pay for it in higher taxes, admittedly.

      Fingers crossed for no more covid waves, and a return to the new normal, however that will look.

    3. RM*

      I have wfh for years pre pandemic and it is absolutely an expectation that you would have childcare. I would hate to think other members of the team were picking up my slack as you had to do. During the pandemic my so and I worked opposite hours across 7 days so we had solid time to focus on work and the other looked after our 1 year old . It was so difficult but you cannot work remotely effectively while simultaneously looking after small children. Exceptional circumstances are just that. You wouldn’t bring a toddler into the office unless you were seriously in a bind (although it would be entertaining) so you should consider remote working the same. However if childcare is not open or inaccessible post pandemic then I would talk to HR.
      I say all this with a similar caveat whether you are remote or office based there are days where you get a call ‘kid1 has a cough, he needs to get tested’ and that is you all stuck in for 2 day’s. Or chickenpox/ norivirus. In those circumstances employers and employees have the ability to be flexible. I would have my team support where needed and give option (Unpaid/ holiday/ sick leave/ flexible hours) and would happily expect a sickly child in meetings that someone could not attend on their behalf.

    4. Lost academic*

      It’s not sensible anymore. Since you don’t have children you don’t likely realize how little has actually returned to normal and how uncertain any improvement will be. Daycares have permanently closed, putting huge strain on the access to regular care during work hours. Regular young child illnesses often require longer periods out of care facilities to prevent potential covid outbreaks as well as additional testing which for small children is still logistically challenging to acquire. The sitter population in my city has practically evaporated so I don’t have any way to get help for planned or unplanned time out of care. School age children are still dealing with classes switching to remote instruction at times and there are fewer options for after school programming.

      These are just a few of the constant problems still facing me as a working parent with 2 in full time daycare these days and there’s no end in sight. So, Viki, while you’re looking forward to the policies being back in place, your parenting colleagues have no real control over the same problems that haven’t actually gone away. This is a good time to check your attitude and assumptions because if they all quit you’re going to be much worse off.

      1. MK*

        Your response to someone who has been overworked for the past year and a half to compensate for their coworkers’ decreased productivity due to lack of child care is “check your attitude”. Huh.

        1. Lost academic*

          Parents are also putting in that extra time and productivity. Many of us just have to do it at 3am.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            We are not here to play misery poker, none of us can really appreciate the bad hands another person has had to play with during this. It’s not limited to parents, or non-parents.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              Agreed. This isn’t the Pain Olympics. It hasn’t been simple, fun, or easy for any of this. With kids or childfree. We can just muddle through it as best we can.

          2. ecnaseener*

            The fact that you are doing that doesn’t erase the fact that some of Viki’s team are only putting in 15 (!) hours of a 40-hour week and that’s negatively affecting Viki.

            1. Anon for this*

              Very this. In my work, part of our responsibility is handling things that can be done at any time. Part of our responsibility is handling things that come in on the fly. It doesn’t happen often, but if more than seven things come in simultaneously, I can’t handle them all. It’s just too much for one person. If I coupdn’t offload any of them onto one of my other coworkers because they’re busy with their kids and will be making up for it later, I would get very unhappy, even though they are technically making up the hours and doing work later. Because them doing any of the greater than seven things I’m forced to drop because I can’t deal with that now, later, will do nothing for me being chewed out for not doing it now.

            2. Andy*

              If they are doing only 15 hours a week of work, then the issue is 100% of supervision. Because while some drop is to be expected, especially in those with very small children, but overall half the team doing that is too much. It is super unlikely that all parents have small children. More likely is that the people are demotivated and will do least amount of effort they can get away with.

              1. Black Horse Dancing*

                This. Honestly, it’s time to start having conversations and rewarding your hard workers with raises and extra PTO. Those putting in less than full time get no raises.

                1. pope suburban*

                  Agreed. I don’t inherently *mind* all the covering I have been doing, but between my abysmal PTO situation (leading to a multi-year stretch without breaks other than federal holidays) and the absolute lack of recognition from work, I am fried to a crisp. Some tangible acknowledgement like a bonus or PTO would do wonders. Just something to offset the tremendous amount my colleagues and I have poured into work while other colleagues have had to pour a tremendous amount into other things. Doing it all for nothing is slowly killing us all.

          3. Detective Amy Santiago*

            The difference is I chose not to have children for a reason.

            The past year and a half has been extremely difficult for everyone in different ways. Don’t try to play oppression olympics.

            1. BoopNash*

              It’s great that you made a personal choice that works for you, however parents and non-parents are both part of the workplace and always will be so it’s not a super helpful comment. I agree that the pandemic has been difficult for everyone. It’s not about an olympics, it’s just acknowledging that these different challenges do exist. Employees will always have various, different, sometimes inequitable challenges in their personal lives that have the potential to affect their working lives. It is a good manager’s job to navigate and balance the struggles that their staff are experiencing, without judgment, and to accommodate/manage accordingly.

            2. Cringing 24/7*

              Absolutely this. Taking over nearly 40% of my coworker’s work indefinitely while they worked from home and cared for two children while schools and daycares were closed was rough both for the coworker (a parent) and myself (a non-parent). Neither of us were in a situation we *wanted* to be in and comparing the two is impossible.

          4. Rose*

            There are jobs where everyone is doing more, and there are also many, many jobs where parents are given extra leeway, rightly or wrongly, and others have to pick up the slack. You’re mentioning the former because the latter is upsetting to you but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real thing that can be frustrating.

        2. Bamcheeks*

          Well, as ever, it’s management’s responsibility to make sure people aren’t overworked. It’s both counter-productive and magical thinking to think parents and carers can just “get back to normal” when both formal and informal infrastructure has been impacted enormously.

          1. MK*

            It’s equally counterproductive and magical thinking to think people can take up part of their coworkers’ workload indefinitely and should do so with a better attitude.

              1. Starbuck*

                Well sure, and their solution seems to be ‘people who were hired to work 40 hrs will once again be expected to work that much as their regular schedule’. It would be cool if they could let people be actually part time if they wanted, and then hire more people to balance the workload again, though I doubt those people would be cool with the pay cut involved…

                1. Soon to be She-Cessed*

                  Which is a solution, but many areas of the US have not returned to pre-pandemic childcare levels. Parents of young children will then be much less likely to be able to meet the 40 hour expectation consistently, and the mothers will probably be more likely to leave the labor force than the fathers when push comes to shove. So there are trade offs to that approach.

                2. Chantel*

                  But it isn’t employees’ fault that management chooses what you describe.

                  The piling on of coworkers on this thread is rather chilling.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            It’s also counterproductive and magical thinking to assume that non-parents somehow were exempted from pandemic stress.

            1. Bamcheeks*

              And I don’t think anyone’s doing that? But if you are looking forward to “things getting back to normal”, don’t you need to know that a lot of the infrastructure that made “normal” possible isn’t there?

      2. Hannah*

        Viki appropriately acknowledged that her perspective is shaped by the fact that she doesn’t have children. No need to throw that back in her face.

      3. Rose*

        Viki has no attitude. OP was fairly clear she’s never had childcare and has no interest in getting it because she can’t afford it, not because she’s in an area with availability issues.

        Viki very factually stated that things are going back to normal where she is and she’s excited for that because the non-parents on her team have been picking up a lot of extra work.

        The world doesn’t revolve around you, or your kids. People are allowed to be happy that they’ll no longer have to work extra hours for other people.

      4. JB*

        I think perhaps you need to check some of your own assumptions.

        Maybe you have done your due dilligence to try and get childcare. My coworker in my previous job had been doing perhaps 25% of her work since the pandemic started and was full-time WFH (requiring me to put myself – and my two immediate family members who are currently in chemo – at greater risk by coming in full-time, since she’s the only other person on my team and we absolutely need someone in the office every day).

        She told me directly back in May that there were several childcare options available to her, ‘but what am I supposed to do, wake my kids up early to bring them to daycare?’

        I got a new job. Some people are stuck with coworkers like this and can’t get a new job.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          As a parent, my answer to your (ex-)coworker is “YES. You DO get your kids up early and take them to daycare. Like all the other parents in that situation.” And her manager should definitely have said so, or nudged her to be more productive.”

          I think a lot of managers were overly scared to be seen as a hell boss for actually asking people to, well, work, during the Pandemic. And yes, it definitely was a time to give people *some* slack. This seems to have resulted far too often though in giving one person a lot of slack without noticing it stranded another with almost nil.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            No kidding, I have two kids and my response would have been “Yeah, do that. Get them out of bed, like every other parent has to do.”

            I’m all about employers working with employees. I am firmly against skeleton crews and over scheduling and overworking. I also believe if an employee just can’t do the job then, well, maybe it’s time to part ways. No hard feelings.

        2. Rainbow Brite*

          When I was a teacher, I once taught a kid with really low attendance. In a meeting with his dad, the dad told me that the kid would be at school the next day, and I quote, “even if I have to wake him up myself.”

          The kid was 8. The fact that the dad was just now coming around to the option of not just letting the kid wake up whenever he happened to wake up mayyyyyy have been one reason for the attendance issues.

                1. nonegiven*

                  Or maybe dad had to make a quick trip home from work to do that because mom was the one falling down on the job. You never really know what is going on in someone else’s house.

      5. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        But if the issue is availability or COVID issues, it honestly sounds like LW’s workplace WOULD work with her (since they have so far). The problem is, she thinks that if all things are equal, she shouldn’t have to pay the money. So if the issue is availability – absolutely, there are ways to work with that, and she should discuss with her company the best way of following their policy. But if the issue is “I don’t want to pay for childcare”, that’s a less understandable position for the childless folks who do pick up the slack when things like availability, last minute issues, and, of course, a worldwide pandemic ARE a factor.

      6. Vacyum*

        Wow, Lost Academic is getting a lot of flak. I think Lost Academic is probably an exhausted parent, and it might behoove us to remember that for the world’s adults, being a parent is very much the norm, and it is the U.S. social policy that fails to appreciate reality.

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          I think a lot of the flak aimed at Lost Academic lie in their “check your attitude and assumptions” demand at the end of their list of attitude and assumptions towards Viki and their situation. Because we’re all struggling, and parents and non-parents are struggling in different ways, I think each side is feeling extremely defensive and as if the parents vs non-parents is the issue, when it’s a symptom of a system that was ill-prepared for a global pandemic that was going to linger for this long.

          1. Anon for this*

            Yeah, I am approaching this from a standpoint of being someone with no children on a team with people with children. I don’t have any problem with either parents or non parents saying they’re exhausted, but what I do take exception to is the people who say they’re exhausted so whatever the other side is should give them a break (the fact that in my personal experience this is usually parents saying non parents should give them a break is quite telling).

            People without children aren’t superhuman, and shouldn’t be expected to take on parents’ workload indefinitely, with no end in sight, and with no hope of eventual reward for doing the work of two people at least part of the time.

            1. Cringing 24/7*

              Yeeeeesssss, this!

              As a non-parent, I’m fine with occasionally picking something up for a parent and running with it when their kid is home sick – and I assume that they’d feel the same whenever I’m out for w/e also legitimate reason. But doing this for a year and a half is absolutely untenable. Being essentially told that I must have more energy and free time (or that my free time is less valuable because it’s not spent raising a child) because I chose not to have kids is rude, presumptuous, and categorically false.

              1. MissBaudelaire*

                ‘(or that my free time is less valuable because it’s not spent raising a child)’

                This is the implication that pisses me off. I have two kids. I worked at a place where I was one of the only ones without children or other dependents. They assumed that my schedule was wide open and that I could pick up all the shifts or do all the work everyone hated or–, you get the point. Because I didn’t have kids.

                Ridiculous. Even now that I have kids, I don’t feel that way. Also, if one of my childfree coworkers is sick, of course we’re going to make it work! Stay home, get better. But just like I couldn’t have them giving me free shrugs for a year and a half and having everyone else pick up their work, we can’t have people with kids not doing their duties.

                Doesn’t mean that we can’t work with them. Doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be flex time and understanding and compassion. does mean that something is going to have to give.

          1. Environmental Compliance*


            Many, many of us are exhausted for a variety of reasons, none of which are more important than the other.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            I got no problems picking up the work providing there are two conditions:

            1. There is an end date to this, I’m not doing it forever
            2. There’s reciprocal arrangements, like if I need time off to deal with something then they’ll cover for me.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*


              I had a coworker out for six months on medical leave and I had no issues picking up the extra work until they were healthy enough to return.

              And since their return, they have helped me and the other person who picked up their workload. That’s what a team does. But it has to go both ways.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                Yup. There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t want kids but one of them is that I don’t have the time for them. My schedule can’t take it.

                It can’t take the increased workload forever either, which is why I’m glad none of the parents on my team are having (well, I’m not hearing about) any problems slowly returning to the office and getting childcare etc sorted. It’s a weight off a lot of shoulders since we can’t hire more people to make up the shortfall.

          3. Bamcheeks*

            But it’s not parents who are making you pick up the slack! I am not *choosing* to have no access to childcare because afterschool club is shut and nursery is working half days and the government says it’s not OK for my kids to play at their friends’ houses. If the demand is “same amount of work performed by the team despite the decreased availability of 50% of the workers”, that is not a choice I am making but one our managers are making.

              1. Chantel*

                Well, yeah. That’s the point – except management isn’t necessarily going to do that. Honestly, some of the conversation seems to blame co-workers for management’s decisions. Makes no sense.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              Then hand over whatever your percentage of your pay to your co workers. If you can’t do 50% of your work, then you shouldn’t be paid as if you are working 100%

              1. Soon to be She-Cessed*

                Wages are set my management and no worker is obligated to hand over their wages to a coworker.

              2. bamcheeks*

                I totally get why that seems like a logical option. But the reason employers who could afford to keep paying their workers did even when we had less availability to work is because it makes it easier to rebuild after the pandemic and lockdowns finished. We got a message from our nursery the other day (currently operating normally) saying that they were very close to closing, and listing all the other childcare providers in the area who have had to shut because so many people weren’t able to keep working and paying fees during lockdowns. Wherever possible, employers and governments have tried to preserve incomes and cashflows so that less stuff breaks and has to be rebuilt from scratch.

                Again, this is not to deny the ways that it’s been hard for people who haven’t had to deal with the loss of childcare options and who have consequently had to pick up slack from colleagues who were less available. But simply demanding that those colleagues who have caring responsibilities but no access to normal childcare options suck it up and work full-time or lose income doesn’t get you back to normal any quicker.

        2. Black Horse Dancing*

          No one should be expected to carry a co worker indefinitely. “Normal” or not to have kids, it’s not on your co workers to do your job without being paid your wages.

          1. Chantel*

            Tell it to management, then, who are making the decisions about work distribution. Isn’t that obvious?

        3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          They’re getting flak not for the subject matter per se, but for the ‘check your attitude’ and associated commentary.

          Being exhausted is no excuse to be hostile or belittling to others. I’m exhausted, I’m in pain 24/7, I have a brain that put me in the hospital last year etc. the list goes on but I would not assume that someone else isn’t struggling just as bad as I am – and I wouldn’t use it as an excuse to be rude.

    5. Stitch*

      My son was a year old when everything shut down and his daycare was closed for months.

      My employer is one of those places that had a “you must have childcare/dependent care” explicitly part of the telework agreement and waived it during the pandemic. We are back at daycare now.

      I do think there’s a big difference between blanket not having daycare and dealing with absences. Even pre COVID my employer was more understanding about times when my kid was out sick, but still required actual care. I’ve had my kid COVID tested twice in order to get him allowed back to daycare when he had cold symptoms. But it’s still a minority of work time.

      Even with a good napper and a flexible work schedule (and a spouse who also had a flexible schedule and could split the load), it was very difficult to get my work done.

      1. AVP*

        Yeah, the problem the OP has described is not that childcare doesn’t exist in their area due to Covid, it’s that it’s too expensive compared to their current salary. Covid helped them kick this particular can down the road and because they’re new to a staff job, they didn’t realize what the usual rules and expectations around this are.

        Childcare prices are the real issue here, but the economics don’t work without some form of subsidy from the greater society, and hahaha we live in America so we don’t believe in that at all, as a group.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Childcare prices are the real issue here

          This. When I first started working, I applied for a daycare voucher from Welfare (and fortunately got it), because otherwise, my take-home pay from my entry-level job was adding up to exactly the total of our rent (in a low-cost neighborhood) and the price of the cheapest daycare for two children. I was the only one working. My husband was looking for work, but it took him a long time to find something. That was 20+ years ago and childcare prices were already unreasonable, I am afraid to even ask what they are now.

          1. A*

            The moment I decided against choosing to become a single parent (I wasn’t pregnant or anything, was just planning ahead in case I don’t meet someone in the next few years) was when I discovered the average full time childcare cost in my state for ONE kid is ~$33k/year. And with my work schedule I would also need before & after programs…. chose not to look into what those costs are because it doesn’t matter, my poor kid would be sitting on the floor in a burlap sack eating ramen. It’s a huge issue! The vast majority of people I know with kids have help from their family either directly with childcare, or finances. I can count on one hand the number of people I know that have kids in full time child care that are financially independent / without assistance.

          2. Rara Avis*

            If my daughter had been twins, infant care would have been more than my salary. But I provided healthcare for my family so I had to work. And daycare staff is woefully underpaid. It’s a mess.

    6. Cat Lady*

      Echoing the comments here as a working parent who had to make up the time in the night while my child was asleep. Daycare is not back to normal. You get a surprise call and your kid is out for 10 days — it was not like this before. And that can happen again in a month. What are we supposed to do? Nevermind the fact that these policies ignore that there are no vaccines for children this young. At this rate, none will be available by Q1 2022. This is pushing working mothers out of the workplace with impossible choices. Believe me, I so desperately want a vaccine for kids and to be able to be in a normal childcare cycle and doing my 40 hours during the workweek. But pretending we can do that now ignores the reality children still face from this pandemic. It sucks. It sucks a lot. But these policies don’t focus on the reality we still face.

      1. JB*

        The policy being advocated for is that you have childcare in place, not that your child is in childcare every single day. As you pointed out – that’s impossible, and if a company doesn’t understand that, that’s a different issue.

        But surely you understand why management and coworkers would see ‘I’m choosing not to get childcare at all’ differently from ‘there was a COVID exposure at daycare so the kid is home for the next two weeks’.

        1. Texas*

          But the LW isn’t “choosing not to get childcare at all,” it’s that she can’t afford it. Also, we have no idea how old LW’s kids are and if the company is saying she has to pay for childcare for kids that are old enough to be fine with supervision being having an adult on site

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            LW chose to take a job with a steady salary and work so LW needs to figure out how to meet the requirements of that job. If it doesn’t work, she is welcome to go back to freelancing and have more flexibility over her schedule.

            It seems very unlikely that LW is talking about school age children that only need an hour or two of supervision before/after school.

            1. onco fonco*

              Yeah – this is why I still freelance around my kids. I tried going back to an office, and the cost of childcare ate up almost all my salary. I wanted to try it anyway, to fill the resume gap with something a bit more solid, but the added pressure on everyone’s schedule made it ultimately not worthwhile for a tiny financial gain when I could work from home.

              The pandemic is one thing, and a lot of parents had no choice then. But LW can’t have this as their long term plan, because you cannot do consistently good work and provide consistently good care to young children at the same time. It’s two people’s work.

              1. myswtghst*

                “you cannot do consistently good work and provide consistently good care to young children at the same time”

                Yes, this. It’s one thing to temporarily flex in both areas so a kid gets a little extra screen time and some work gets done at odd hours, but the vast majority of jobs aren’t that flexible, and the vast majority of kids under a certain age need more interaction than that.

          2. Yorick*

            No matter what, LW is choosing to work full-time while not having childcare. Employers have the right to say you can’t do that.

        1. AnotherSarah*

          Exactly. I have childcare, my kid is somehow always home from childcare these days, it’s expensive…but you can’t say you’ll never send a kid to childcare! We’re still in the pandemic and I think companies need to be flexible, still, but–the OP’s question is different.

    7. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Pre-COVID, I worked for an all-remote company, and many of my colleagues had kids. Only one, call him Bob, had kids who were regularly audible on work calls and frequently had kid-related reasons not to be in his scheduled meetings or getting his work done. Bob’s WFH office was also the playroom, for whatever reason.

      I absolutely salute anyone who is juggling work plus kids, especially over the last couple of years. I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through and you have my respect. But LW, don’t be Bob.

    8. BabyElephantWalk*

      I feel like the OP is being unreasonable. Maybe she has an older child (say 10 or older) and is misinterpreting the policy, but it is perfectly reasonable to expect parents of young children to have childcare in place while working.

      My kid did online schooling for about half of last year based on local closures. Grandma was home supervising online schooling and providing childcare, but simply working in the same house and my child was in was a huge distraction and I constantly felt like I had to put in extra hours off schedule just to make up for the normal week. To expect a boss to just accommodate a parent with young or youngish children with no childcare as a long term scenario is just unreasonable.

      1. ggg*

        I had a pretty flexible job during the pandemic. I was also lucky enough to have flexible kids (7 and 12), who knew not to bug me during meetings unless it was an emergency, and could mostly handle their own online school schedules.
        I do not think I could have handled care for one or more smaller children while simultaneously working, even with all the flexibility my job afforded. It would have been too much. Even the 7 year old needed a good deal of hands-on care, and the 12 year old was not always doing what she should be (and I couldn’t always deal with that in the moment while working).

    9. Librarian1*

      I totally hear you. I don’t have kids either and I’d be frustrated too if I had to take on extra work for this reason. (I haven’t because that’s not the way my job is set up.) Buuuuutt, the pandemic isn’t over and kids under 12 still can’t get vaccinated. And even for older kids who can be vaccinated, it sounds like schools are still doing contact tracing and quarantining students if they have an exposure, which means that kids could be sent home from school or daycare for 2 weeks w/no notice. So, it definitely sucks and it will be nice when kids can get vaccinated and this isn’t such a big deal, but I think it’s a little premature to expect things to change right now.

    10. LastChanceLibrarian*

      Same! I hate that people get away with having their kids in the office! You can’t tell me they’re just as a productive. Part of having children was taking a chance that you’d have to, you know, actually care for them, which should come first.

    11. not that kind of Doctor*

      This is so hard. I lost an employee this year because she couldn’t find childcare. I gave her all the flexibility she needed, and she did great work, but it took a toll on her. None of it was sustainable for the long run.

      It’s true that childcare is expensive, and increasingly unavailable – many daycares in our area have closed permanently since the pandemic. I’m not sure there’s a short-term solution.

    12. Chantel*

      I don’t understand such firmly set expectations. It’s not like virus is a person that a company can force to obey, or else.

    13. Dancing Otter*

      There’s a basic difference between freelance and employee status. As a freelancer or independent contractor, you can set your own hours as long as your contracted deliverables are delivered on time, whether that means working standard business hours or in the middle of the night. Client meetings excepted, of course, but it’s mostly about the work product.
      As an employee, your employer sets your hours. Flexibility is a blessing, not a standard. If you are supposed to work eight thirty to five, then you are expected to work eight thirty to five, not any combination of hours that add up to forty per week. Availability during scheduled hours is part of the job.
      If LW #1 needs the flexibility of being a freelancer, they need to BE a freelancer.

    14. CoveredInBees*

      In my area, there’s a shortage of people to work in daycare, so even if they’re open the hours and overall availability are probably limited. My kids’ daycare only goes until 4pm at the moment, which is manageable while we WFH, but eventually my partner will have to commute again and it is going to be really rough. The local YMCA usually provides on-site aftercare in our local schools. Due to a shortage of staff, half the people who’d signed up were dropped pretty close to the start of the school year. Schools are open but it’s still a shitshow, even if you don’t get a call in the middle of the day that your kid’s entire class has to quarantine for at least 5 days.

  3. DTIBA*

    “This isn’t your wedding. It’s your daughter’s. She gets to decide who will officiate, and she’s decided her stepmom will. Whatever you think of the decision, it’s hers and her fiancé’s to make, not yours.”

    Except, the letter-writer’s phrasing implies that the -stepmom- made the decision, not the stepdaughter. If LW is misinterpreting things, then yes, they need to back off. But if the stepmom has brute-forced her way into the position without regard for the daughter’s preference, then LW should be helping their daughter push back against that decision.

          1. JB*

            Why? Because ‘has never been a part of my daughter’s life’ is a direct contradiction to ‘[she] has tried to separate us’. LW contradicts herself within the same sentence.

          2. Greg*

            I believe that this is the way she sees things. I also believe that this could be a very different story from the perspective of the daughter or the step-mom.

      1. JB*

        Doesn’t it? Given the hostility LW shows towards the step-mom, you don’t think it would have been mentioned if she were doing this against the bride’s wishes? There’s no mention of the bride being unhappy about the situation, just that it offends LW.

        1. Greg*

          Stepmom: “Hey, I’d be willing to be the officiant.”
          Daughter: “You know, that’s a really great idea!”
          Mom: “She barged in!”

    1. Simply the best*

      Only if the daughter asks for help pushing back. The daughter gets to decide if that is a battle she wants to fight, not mom.

      1. Van Wilder*

        This is 100% the mother’s interpretation. Nobody can “force” themselves into being an officiant at someone else’s wedding. That’s literally not possible. Your daughter is an adult. She can decide who officiates and, however it went down, by allowing her to officiate, she has chosen her stepmom to be the officiant. Let it go.

        Will be interesting to see all the family baggage that commenters bring to this post. I know that I’m lucky that my stepdad and my dad get along swimmingly but it wasn’t always that way.

        Remember, LW, your daughter doesn’t have to choose between you two. When my mom had to work and we had babysitters as kids, my mom always said “the more people in your life that can love your children, the better.”

    2. august*

      OP also didn’t mention anything regarding her daugher’s POV. Is the bride to be upset by it? annoyed? All OP said was that she was offended which is a moot point in determining whether she needs to step in or not.

    3. Daffodilly*

      And of course, the LW cannot POSSIBLY hate the stepmother so much that she maligns her and assigns negative motivations for everything. That sort of thing never, ever happens.
      I mean how can the stepmother simultaneously have “never been a part of her life” and ALSO “tried to separate us”?
      Alison is 100% right. This woman needs to sit down and shut up and stop trying to control her daughter’s wedding, or she may very well find herself uninvited.

      1. Beth*

        I had the same thought about the juxtaposition of “never been a part of her life” with “tried to separate us” and “wants to officiate her wedding.” Nothing is totally outside the realm of possibility, of course, but those don’t typically go together. I’m betting that the daughter figured out telling her mom about things she did with her stepmom just led to drama, so she stopped talking about that part of her life with her mom.

      2. KateM*

        “I mean how can the stepmother simultaneously have “never been a part of her life” and ALSO “tried to separate us”?”

        By trying to convince her father that what mother is doing is harmful for daughter (and so shouldn’t be let to meet her mother (as often)), for example? I mean, aren’t we trying to convince the LW of the same here, and we have never been part of their lives (until now, anyway).

        1. Kevin Sours*

          I can’t speak for anyone else but I’m trying to convince LW that her daughter is a grown ass adult who can make her own decisions. I’m not trying to keep her from meeting her mother as often because see point one.

          1. KateM*

            I meant the non-bracketed part of convincing LW that raising a fuss about her daughter’s wedding would be hurtful to her daughter.

        2. JB*

          And if daughter wasn’t allowed to meet her mother as often…that would mean spending more time at dad’s house…where presumably stepmother also resides…meaning stepmother would be in her life. No?

          I mean it’s possible that the stepmother refused to speak or associate with her stepdaughter while also conniving to keep the mother and daughter apart, but that seems really unlikely given the daughter chose her as officiant.

      3. lailaaaaah*

        Also the “tried to separate us” part makes me think that maybe there’s a good reason why stepmother’s presence in the daughter’s life has led to the daughter spending less time with LW.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        As I read the letter I kept thinking, “uh… You are STILL her mom NO matter who officiates.” She acting as an officiant, her roll as an officiant is but a moment in the daughter’s life. This would lady could redo the wedding ceremony for these two every day for a year and OP would still be “mom”. Stepmom can never take that mom title away by performing a wedding ceremony.

        As pointed out, Mom (OP) can take away from her own “mom title” by creating upset here. Often times in life our power is not stolen from us, but rather we give away our own power by overestimating someone else’s power.

    4. GammaGirl1908,*

      I agree, that’s how the letter writer has written the letter, but it also sounds like LW5 and Stepmother have a LOT of friction, such that LW5 will see any suggestion or action on Stepmother’s part as negative. We obviously don’t know, and I know we are asked to believe the letter writers, but it is very possible that Stepmother offhandedly mentioned officiating as a possibility, or it came up because she did it for a friend, or something similarly toothless, and LW5 took it the worst possible way. Meanwhile, Daughter thought it was a pretty neutral way to include Stepmother in the wedding. After all, the MoB usually gets her own spotlight aisle walk, and often a speech, so it’s not as if she isn’t included.

      Note: Like many others here I’m sure, I also read Carolyn Hax (in the Washington Post), and in the comments over there, any time Wife Number 2 is getting a tough rap from Wife No. 1, one of the very first questions is whether she was The Other Woman in the divorce, because that frequently explains a lot of the hostility.

      1. allathian*

        Absolutely. And maybe Alison could diversify into non-work advice as well, at least when a particularly odd letter lands in her inbox? (This one’s pretty standard as these things go.) This is solid advice.

        Yeah, and I must say, that any woman who believes the old saw about the husband having checked out of the marriage and only staying with the family for the kids has only herself to blame if the family/ex is hostile. Ask to see the divorce decree before you start a relationship with him. The husband may have checked out of the marriage mentally, but the breakup will still be a shock for the wife unless he’s actually applied for a divorce. Sure, the blame falls squarely on the husband who’s breaking his marriage vows (I’m assuming a monogamous marriage with the expectation of fidelity), but the woman who helped him do that is unlikely to be popular with the wife. I also think that a man who’ll cheat on one wife will be very likely to cheat on the next as well.

        In any case, the daughter is old enough to decide who she wants to officiate at her wedding.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, I think the mother would be even more unhappy if the stepmother was included in the bridal party in some way. So the daughter may be trying to side-step that issue by having the stepmother officiate. The mother should realise that the daughter’s wedding is about the daughter and her future spouse. Not about the mother, the father, the stepmother and their feelings towards each other.
        Be the bigger person here – take a deep breath, take a step back and accept that it is your daughter’s day and she and the future spouse get to have whoever they want do the officiating. Just put your feelings aside for the duration of the event and go and scream into a pillow afterwards, if necessary. If you make it all about you and your feelings, you risk alienating your daughter, at best.

        1. JustaTech*

          Exactly! I can completely see the daughter asking/accepting the stepmother officiating so that she’s involved but not in anything that looks like a “mother of the bride” position.
          And honestly, who really pays attention to who the officiant is anyway? Or their relationship to the wedding party?

          MOB needs to choose to let this day be about her daughter and let it go.

      3. Smithy*

        Another dynamic with divorces and/or weddings is who has the money to pay and therefore more of a voice in decisions.

        It may very well be that Dad/Stepmom are in a position to foot most/all of the bill and that is contributing to feelings of friction and being left out. All sorts of very genuine contributors to angst and frustration, when it still won’t ultimately solve or or sooth hurt feelings.

    5. PollyQ*

      If the daughter’s enough of an adult to get married, she’s enough of an adult to say “No” to the stepmother, and she’s enough of an adult to ask her mother for help if she wants. But LW5 summed up her position quite well with “I’m the mother of the bride and this offends me.” She says absolutely nothing about her daughter’s thoughts and feelings on the matter.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      Well, no. She can’t officiate a wedding without the couple’s permission, even if that permission is gained through threats/money/manipulation/obligation/etc. The fact that the letter says “this offends ME” and nothing about the daughter’s feelings is pretty telling.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Uh, I’d have to check on legalities here but I am pretty sure that people who officiate for weddings have ethics that they must follow. Threats/money/manipulation would probably work into reportable offenses.

        I would be very surprised if stepmom would want to put herself in that kind of jeopardy. But, who knows.

        1. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

          This is not true. I am a lawyer. You can go online, pay some money, and become ordained to perform a wedding instantly. There may be codes of ethics associated with membership in certain professional wedding officiant organizations, but there is no universal ethics code that carries any sort of *legal* ramifications for failure to follow it.

          1. Joielle*

            I *accidentally* became ordained through one of those online things – that’s how easy it is.

            (Backstory: I was trying to figure out how much it would cost for a friend to get ordained to officiate our wedding, so I just started the process assuming I would get to a payment page at some point, and nope – a few screens later it was just like “congratulations! You are an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church.” Turns out it’s free to get ordained, you just have to pay for the certificate that you have to send to the state.)

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Yup. My sister got ordained so she could officiate my wedding. It was free, online, and took less than 10 minutes.

        2. I edit everything*

          Not if you get an online “officiate your friend’s wedding” certificate. I haven’t looked into it, but it’s not hard and quite common, and I strongly suspect it doesn’t come with any ethics requirements.

        3. Dark Macadamia*

          I doubt she’s a professional officiant. I’m talking about this behavior in the context of a familial relationship: Your father won’t attend the wedding/we won’t pay for the wedding/after everything I’ve done for you?/It would mean so much to me to be included/I guess I’m not really family since there’s a role for your REAL parents and not me/sob sob sob.

          Of course, the bride could also have a wonderful relationship with stepmom, which is threatening/upsetting/confusing to the LW who may or may not ALSO have a wonderful relationship with her. All we know for sure is that the LW doesn’t like this plan and doesn’t mention what the bride thinks.

        4. Liz T*

          That’s pretty over the top. Even aside from internet Church of Dudism ordainments, I’m sure plenty of pastors feel comfortable using mild guilt trips on their immediate family.

          None of which is in the letter but let’s not spin stories off of stories off of stories.

    7. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Ahh weddings. Family drama generators par excellence.

      I didn’t invite any children to my wedding (husband agreed). One of our parents went completely ballistic over this and was convinced that someone had coerced us into doing this, or that we were just being evil. Neither was true, but it took months to convince them that actually yeah we did know what we were doing.

      OP may not like her daughter’s decision, but the best way to maintain harmony AND ensure you are a safe sounding board if there are in fact problems is to leave your personal feelings aside and just be supportive.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have never seen a complaint-free wedding yet. No matter what people do, someone is right there complaining.
        Eh, if it bothers them that much then don’t go to the wedding, I say. My wedding was new layers of misery with all the complaints I had to deal with. The reason we had a wedding is because a family member of my husband’s would have made us miserable for years to come if we eloped. And of course that same person was one of the first people to complain about the service we did have FOR HER.

        If there ever is a next time, I will definitely elope.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          We were close. Nobody had any complaints that came back to us. Okay, I think someone said that since the church aisles were a bit narrow and I sent my Mom, who was supposed to be giving me away, in front of me, they didn’t get as nice a photo of the dress.

          Of course, I forgot his ring in the car and my brother had to run out to get it back to my Maid of Honour before the key moment, and the paid for DJ never showed up at all… but those weren’t *complaints*. Those were the stories we get to tell to make it interesting.

          (The bar of the place the reception was held had a CD player and the Best Man picked through the CDs for stuff that would go over well. Meant a pause between songs but not a big deal.)

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Memories of people saying that they’d boycott our wedding if we didn’t let them bring their babies and children along! I guess they weren’t expecting ‘ok we’ll mark you down as not attending then?’ as a response :)

          1. DataSci*

            Hey, as long as you’re willing to accept that some people won’t come, that’s great! What gets me is when people want a child-free wedding and then get angry when parents don’t want to fly cross-country and spend a few days to attend.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I’m in the UK and no guest would have had more than 100 miles to travel. And yeah, totally fine with people staying away if it meant there were no screaming babies or children at our wedding.

              One of our parents didn’t agree though – there was a lot of ‘but it’s about family’ shouting. Mind you that’s over 16 years ago now and we’re all ok with each other these days :)

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          My “wedding” was complaint free. Also one step up from elopement… the only guests were my mom and our roommate, my sister officiated, it took place in the living room, and the “reception” was going out to dinner at a fancy diner nearby.

        4. Liz T*

          “I have never seen a complaint-free wedding yet. No matter what people do, someone is right there complaining.”

          Yep. Every decision is somebody’s feelings. If you don’t care about something, somebody else very much does. It’s alarming to experience.

        5. generic_username*

          My great-aunt asked me if I would move my wedding to her hometown so she didn’t have to travel to it…. My now-husband still makes fun of the presumptuousness of that.

    8. Beth*

      No one can officiate this wedding without the daughter and her future spouse accepting them as the officiant. If LW’s daughter doesn’t want that, all she’d need to do is say no.

      If she feels she’s being pressured into accepting this and asks for support as she stands up to that pressure, then LW can offer that, of course. But my guess is that that’s not what’s happening. My guess is that LW’s daughter actually is on board, and LW simply doesn’t want to accept that. The fact is, it doesn’t matter if LW is offended by this. Unless their daughter asks for help, they need to suck it up and move past their feelings, or they’re going to cause a lot of unnecessary drama and probably damage their relationship with their daughter all on their own.

      1. JustaTech*

        This feels like something that the daughter and the step mom organized (step mom being the officiant) to make sure she was included but avoid offending the mom. At least, it sounds like the kind of thing I read on the wedding advice/story/horror story boards back when I was planning my wedding.

    9. Akcipitrokulo*

      TBH – doesn’t matter. Answer is still the same.

      If it is daughter’s choice, accepting gracefully with “I support your decisions” and being there for her is right thing to do.

      If stepmother has bullied daughter into it, accepting gracefully with “I support your decisions” and being there for daughter will give daughter security of someone on her team if she needs it.

      Doing otherwise pushes daughter away in either scenario.

      Also, daughter gets to weigh up the options – maybe not daughter’s first choice, but she’s decided that this isn’t hill to die on, but she did insist on (other thing). Or she just shrugged and thought whatever makes them happy – needed someone anyway, why not stepmother?

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, even if it was originally stepmom’s idea I bet it felt like a great solution for the bride – a role for stepmom to play without encroaching on Mother of the Bride territory.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        People do try to involve others in their big life moments such as a wedding or birth of a baby. One way of including others is to allow them specific roles. OP already has mother-of-the-bride role.

        People can use roles in these events as olive branches or as a time to rebuild relationships that are broken. Personally, my godparents were two people that my father did not like. They became my godparents because my parents really wanted to try to build something. Sadly, nothing happened next. The relationship got worse and my godparents left my life. I did not reconnect with them until I was in my 20s and even then that connection was brief.

    10. Rainbow Brite*

      If the daughter is going along with it, she’ll have reasons (good or bad), and it doesn’t sound like LW has tried to understand what those could be. As for the stepmum … most charitable reading, she and the bride are actually closer than LW thinks, or she’s trying to make up for “never being a part of her life” by being part of this. Least charitable, she is in fact a manipulative shrew and this is just another attempt at driving a wedge between LW and her daughter — which LW overreacting to it will surely do. Either way, the best response is to let her daughter make her own choices.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My least charitable goes the other way, that our letter writer sounds a wee bit overbearing, which opens the possibility that stepmother may have done nothing to “drive them apart”, but simply provided a supportive non-judgemental environment…and the daughter found that healthier to be in. By now I’m writing fan fiction, but I’ve seen that play out all too many times.

        1. Rainbow Brite*

          I meant least charitable towards the stepmother — that kind of situation was partly what I meant by my most charitable/they’re closer than LW thinks.

        2. Just Another Zebra*

          I’ve worked in bridal, and I’ve done wedding consultations. This is 100% what I thought. Some moms use their daughter’s weddings to have the wedding THEY always wanted. It’s pretty heartbreaking. I definitely got super controlling mom vibes from LW5.

          LW5 – let it go. Weddings are stressful enough under normal circumstances. You DO NOT want to be source of stress. I can promise your daughter will remember that.

    11. DTIBA*

      You guys realize I DID acknowledge that LW could be in the wrong here? I’m not automatically assuming that LW is being neutral about this; I’m just trying to make sure all the bases are covered. Here, let me rephrase my comment in AI script format so I can be as concise as possible.

      -current situation: StepMother = WeddingOfficiant
      –If DaughterConsent = false
      —action: offer Support
      —-If SupportWanted = true
      —–action: dissuade StepMother
      —–action: find WeddingOfficiant where DaughterConsent = true
      —-If SupportWanted = false
      —–action: seek Popcorn
      –If DaughterConsent = true
      —action: accept DaughterConsent
      —action: avoid Drama

      1. Malarkey01*

        Nope, this is a grown woman. If support is wanted you lend an ear and be sympathetic, you can suggest scripts daughter can use to talk to stepmom if she is struggling with how to refuse, you can suggest alternatives for the engaged couple to consider if they want your advice.
        You as the third party, non involved in this person, do not dissuade stepmom or find another officiant for the couple.

        1. DTIBA*

          Agh, stupid me. Both actions were supposed to be parsed as offers, not absolutes. I originally wrote that section of the script as…
          —If SupportWanted = true
          —-action: offer Aid: dissuade StepMother
          —-action: offer Aid: find WeddingOfficiant where DaughterConsent = true
          …but after seeing way too many poorly-written titles or passages that involve the use of multiple colons, I automatically try to negate that in my own writing. Which apparently overrode my “this is an AI script” thought process.

          Kind of obvious I’m a prose writer, not a code writer, isn’t it?

      2. ecnaseener*

        Not if SupportWanted. If SupportRequested. And we have to assume the LW would have mentioned it if her support was requested.

        1. DTIBA*

          Do enlighten me, then, on what the mother should do if her support is wanted but not requested. And what sort of circumstances you think the daughter might be in that would result in “SupportWanted = true | SupportRequested = false”.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I wasn’t trying to suggest a situation where the daughter secretly wants support but says no — my point is LW needs to *wait to be asked* before assuming she knows what her daughter wants.

            Pedantry aside, I think you and I just disagree about whether the LW should offer to do anything on the off chance her daughter secretly wants help. I believe no, you believe yes.

            1. Liz T*

              I’m curious–what’s wrong with an offer? I think we’re probably all agreed that LW shouldn’t *go ahead and do things without the daughter’s consent,* but why shouldn’t she ask, “Would you like me to do X?”

              1. Allonge*

                If one is offering to pick up some extra bread for dinner? Nothing.

                But they would be offering to rearrange somebody else’s wedding here (see also: happiest day of their life TM, etc). You don’t do that unless you are asked.

                1. ecnaseener*

                  Basically this. It is possible to make such an offer delicately enough not to be an overstep (I see other commenters suggested good scripts), but the LW doesn’t seem to want to approach this delicately. If there’s going to be a whiff of “I know what’s best for you and I would love to kick stepmom out,” don’t do it.

          2. Allonge*

            As daughter is an adult (getting married), I would take the following and only the following signal for help wanted: daughter says ‘Mom, I need your help with getting out of this – stepmom offered and I accepted without thinking’. Every other situation stands for Mom, this is how I want things to go, deal with it.

            Adults communicate.

      3. Reba*

        I lol’d at “seek Popcorn.”

        In this scenario, I think “avoid Drama” is going to return an error, unknown parameter.

    12. Dust Bunny*

      It’s still not the LW’s problem to handle.

      If the daughter feels steamrolled by the stepmother and asks the LW for assistance, that’s different, but there’s nothing in the letter about that. Right now it’s between the daughter and the stepmother and the LW has no place in it.

    13. Beth*

      The LW describes it that way. That doesn’t mean the daughter would do so. The LW could easily be projecting her own anger into a situation that isn’t hers to define.

    14. Susie Q*

      LW#5 needs to ask her daughter if she wants stepmom to officiate. If she says no, then dad needs to tell his wife to back off because if mom does, it is seen as a power/control issue.

    15. DeweyDecibal*

      You also have to remember that there’s a strong bias against stepmoms by a lot of birth moms. I might take her perspective with a grain of salt.

    16. JB*

      ‘Except, the letter-writer’s phrasing implies that the -stepmom- made the decision, not the stepdaughter.’

      Sure it does, in that it implies the stepdaughter/bride doesn’t have the agency to make any decisions at all.

      If you were in a situation like you’re imagining (someone trying to force their way into the wedding of a loved one and you were looking for help in supporting them), would you really write a letter that sounds like this one? Go back and give it another read. What the bride wants or doesn’t want or how she feels about all of this is never ONCE mentioned.

    17. Librarian1*

      We can’t trust the LW on this one. She’s clearly bitter towards the stepmom. there’s no reason to think the daughter *didn’t* make the decision.

    18. Snuck*

      Except the daughter is old enough to get married, and thus legally an adult I presume…. So she can make her own mind up. If she’s bludgeoned or bullied into it by her step mother then let that pressure and misery be between them, and instead by a kind, caring, supportive mother to your daughter and let the chips fall where they will.

      If the daughter resents being bullied it will end on the side of the fence that does it. If it’s on the step mother – oh well! If it’s on the mother’s – it’s a shame!

  4. Britt206*

    #4 you could also try something along the lines of “Thank you for the apology. No hard feelings.” This would convey that you appreciate the apology and that you would like to move forward without condoning what happened.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Eh, I think “no hard feelings” kind of minimizes it/let’s them off the hook. For me at least, getting misgendered causes some hard feelings! Not the end of the world, but getting your dysphoria triggered at work definitely sucks.

      1. KateM*

        Yes, it seems to me that “I appreciate it” says it best: “you did indeed say something hurtful and I appreciate you understanding that”.

      2. Well...*

        I would take it to mean there are currently no hard feelings, not that there never were. To me that reads as a status update/let’s move on message. Which at work is a fair thing to establish, if one is in fact ready to move on.

      3. I'd Rather be Eating Dumplings.*

        I disagree that it minimizes it, but it’s also not necessary. “No hard feelings” is typically something I see used if the apologizer is weighing the offense more than the apologizee.

      4. Stitch*

        I will note if OP recently transitioned, you do have to be patient with people. When a close friend transitioned I 100% was trying to be conscious of his names and pronouns but if you’re not totally focused on it, the old name can just slip out (and of course I would correct and apologize). My friend fortunately was chill about it and it happened less and less as my unconscious brain got message.

        1. ecnaseener*

          OP *is* being patient with this person. They just don’t want to lie about how it affected them.

          Honestly, trans people hear your side if the story often enough – OP doesn’t need to be told this when they’re clearly doing their best to graciously accept the apology.

          1. Stitch*

            This comment is more for other commenters. People who haven’t had a loved one transition often assume misgendering is deliberately done or malicious. You can support someone 100% and still slip up.

            1. JB*

              No, we don’t. Trans people regularly misgender ourselves when first transitioning. We’re not somehow immune and we absolutely understand that people make mistakes. We don’t need to be ‘on the other end’ to get that.

              If you find people often assuming that you are misgendering maliciously, you may want to think about why.

            2. pancakes*

              I don’t think many people are so obtuse as to how humanity works as to be unaware that not every mistake is deliberate or malicious.

            3. Atalanta0jess*

              This is not my experience of the world/conversations about pronouns/transitions, as a cis person. I see lots of conversations about what to do if you accidentally slip up. Lots of acknowledgement that it isn’t always malicious.

        2. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

          Uhhh yeah, I am pretty sure that OP, a trans person, is fully aware of this. OP’s coworker reached out to *them* to apologize, not the other way around. There is no indication that OP is being anything but patient with their coworker.

          1. These Tiny Keyholes*

            So tired.

            The second-worst type of misgendering apology is when the person clearly expects me to absolve and reassure them that ‘it’s ok!’ when it’s not. “I appreciate that” is great because it provides positive reinforcement without minimizing the harm done.

            (The worst type of misgendering apology is when someone apologizes for misgendering me when I wasn’t there, like “I was talking to a friend about you and I just realized I called you She, I’m so sorry!” – I don’t need you to report that to me, just make a note to yourself and resolve to do better in the future, please.)

        3. Gerry Keay*

          Cis people stop telling trans people how to manage their feelings challenge. We KNOW. We ARE patient. It STILL hurts. Every f’ing time this conversation comes up, some cis person chimes in with this “advice” and it makes me want to rip my hair out.

    2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      I think it would depend on the sincerity of the apology and the reason OP was misgendered. Was it an honest mistake and a real apology? Or was it a blatant FA-Q to the OPs gender identity and the apology is worth the bits it is made of? I think thats for the OP to decide on.

      1. I edit everything*

        I don’t think the coworker would have emailed the apology if it weren’t sincere. A public apology can be done for show, not meant, been required by the boss, or whatever. But a email as described is much more likely to be real.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I agree, maybe because I was the cowoker once. I was chatting with someone after a meeting, went back to my desk, and 15 minutes later realized I used the wrong pronoun at least once, so I immediately emailed, “Oh hell, I just realized I used the wrong pronoun! My apologies, I’ll be more conscientious about it in the future.” My coworker didn’t reply, but we maintain a really good working relationship, and I have been more conscientious, so I think it was all OK in the end.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I agree. If you do accept the person truly made a mistake and wasn’t trying to be snide or snarky, it would be nice to add the softening “no hard feelings.” And if not, “I appreciate the apology” is perfect.

        1. Sapphire (they/them)*

          But there are hard feelings in being misgendered, and I don’t like the notion that I need to be nice or soften the message when someone did something that’s not okay.

          1. Nicholas Kiddle*

            Yeah, it can be a genuine mistake that they’re sincerely sorry for and still a really hurtful moment that you’re not able to instantly forgive. I run into this a lot with my teenager, who has the bad habit of blurting out whatever is on her mind and then apologising. I do the bare “thank you for apologising” a lot, because it’s kinder than “sorry doesn’t erase the harm you did.”

      3. BethDH*

        Yeah, the hardest apologies for me to respond to are ones where it wasn’t okay, but the person is going overboard on the apology. I don’t want to say it was okay, but I do want to just move on.
        A lot of apologies have an implicit expectation that you reassure the offender and the person will keep upping the apology until they get that.

        1. Reba*

          Yeah, it’s a frustrating dynamic. I wonder if saying something like what you wrote here would help. “Thank you for apologizing. I would like to move on” or “let’s move on.” I feel like as the apologee you should be in charge of driving the conversation and ending it when you want to!

      4. Shad*

        I missed the “in a meeting” part on first read; my boss has a nongendered name, as do a couple of the people we regularly interact with only via email. It’s not uncommon for people to guess wrong and get a lowkey correction.
        But that kind of mistake is harder to make face to face.

    3. Clorinda*

      If I mispronounce someone’s name or misgender them, I don’t expect anything in return for my apology. I say I’m sorry because I was wrong, and they don’t owe me anything; the apology itself closes the circle.

      1. Renata Ricotta*

        Sure, but as with apologies for any number of offenses, a gracious response can only be a positive thing in terms of fostering a genial, comfortable relationship, which most of us want in a work setting. OP isn’t obligated to respond, but it can be mutually beneficial and smooth the road ahead. It makes sense that they’re interested in a good script for that.

    4. Gumby*

      I also want to suggest “Thank you for the apology. I forgive you.” It might be kind of awkward to start with but at times it is both merited and true. (My family uses ‘I forgive you’ more than most because of exactly the initial problem in the letter. At times “that’s okay” was specifically banned as a response to an apology in our house because it does minimize the hurt.)

    5. SnappinTerrapin*

      Regardless of the offense, it is important to acknowledge an apology. It is also appropriate to avoid saying “it’s ok” or “no big deal,” unless that is actually true. “Thank you” is an appropriate response.

      Depending on the level of harm, it may take time to heal the relationship, assuming it is possible. As we observed yesterday, merely acknowledging that a mistake was made did not heal the harm Sally caused to Ted.

      The person who is wronged is entitled to take time to consider whether the wrong-doer has actually repented, and any other factors that matter to the person wronged, before deciding whether to forgive and how to manifest that forgiveness.

      Human relationships are complex. The person who is wronged is absolutely entitled to consider both intent and effect in deciding how to move forward after acknowledging the wrong-doers apology. Frankly, I think the wronged party’s assessment of his/her/their personal best interest is rightly at the core of the decision whether to forgive. If that isn’t considered, I’m not sure real forgiveness or healing is possible.

    6. Sapphire (they)*

      I use they/them pronouns and get misgendered frequently as a result, and saying “no hard feelings” would make me feel like I was trying to console them, which I hate doing.

      In general, I’ve noticed cis people really overreact when corrected on pronouns, and it triggers that same feeling of being obligated to console or soothe someone who just ignored a big part of who you are, and it’s really unpleasant, at least for me

  5. otters*

    LW 1, pre-pandemic my team all worked from home and I had a colleague who we all knew was lying about having childcare for her 3-ish year old. If asked about it she would claim a family member was just downstairs, or today was a singular exception and they couldn’t take the kid just this once, but during every single zoom she ever had with anyone, the kid was right there in the room with her. It definitely had an impact on the rest of us. We all got tired of having to spend 5-10 minutes per video call talking with the kid either at the beginning or during his constant interruptions. The colleague was often unresponsive for long blocks of time and would blow off meetings or ask to reschedule at the last minute. I’m not sure what our manager ever said to her about it, but her focus away from work so often *definitely* had an impact on the rest of our team’s perception of her competency and attention, especially because we all knew she was lying to us about her childcare arrangements.

    It’s a little different if your kids are older, as Alison said. A couple of other colleagues have middle or high schoolers, and apart from occasionally having to step away to drive one of them somewhere or something, those kids are old enough to be independent for most of the day and there’s no effect on the rest of the team.

    If your kids are young enough that they require constant or even frequent attention, they need another caregiver while you’re working.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      This is a good reason not to have a rigid policy that says “you must have childcare,” or people are going to get stuck hiring a babysitter for a teenager.

      1. Midwestern Scientist*

        Every policy I’ve seen re: childcare while working from home has an upper age limit consistent with local laws (e.g. in my current town you can leave a kid older than 10 for x hours alone therefore the work policy is you must have childcare for kids under 10)

      2. Irish girl*

        Childcare typically only goes up to a certain age unless you are in after school or camps. So a rigid policy of you must have childcare for young children makes sense. Most policies do not require child care for school age children pre-pandemic.

      3. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Sidenote: I’m glad our policy here is “appropriate childcare for age”. Because my (loophole finding, I suspect leaning towards the lawyerly but he is only..) 12 year old would likely inform me that I could hire *him* to babysit his 11 year old sibling during the work day. I’m sure his rate of pay would be reasonable (insert eye roll here) and I’m sure that there would be absolutely no fights during the day (again, insert eye roll).

        I was really quite thankful that they were in upper elementary school when the world inverted. I don’t know how any of this would have been manageable if I’d had to do much more than politely remind them to pop into whatever online thing they needed for school. They were old enough to set a schedule, with alarms, and abide by it. Honestly, the only flexibility I utilized while WFHdP (WFH during Pandemic Orders) was to scoot out to the grocery store based on their freaking shipment arrival schedule so that I could actually GET food that didn’t contain allergens. (When dealing with food allergies, if you cannot get Safe Brand A, you can’t necessarily substitute other Brand B. So you go without, or you’re figuring out how to make something from scratch. Imagine months on end of this.)

        1. Friend zone*

          I was hired at 12 to babysit an 11 year old friend! But it was because she had a younger brother at home that she wasn’t deemed old enough to be left with. Lots of makeup try-outs and rock n’ roll playing. Having a slightly older sibling “in charge”? Fraught.

          1. TiffIf*

            Yup–as a teen (maybe 13?) I was hired to babysit for a family that had a kid a year or two younger than me–because there were two younger siblings that needed more supervision than older kid was able to (or perhaps wanted to) provide. So when I was there I just left older kid to his own devices (literally–I think he played GoldenEye 007 the entire time I was there) and focused on the younger kids.

            1. SweetFancyPancakes*

              When I was 12 I had a regular Friday night gig babysitting a neighbor family in the same situation. I don’t remember interacting much with the oldest, because I was really there for the littles. A couple of years ago we caught up on Facebook and I said something about how it was strange because I was only a year older than him and he said “Yep, you were 12, and I was 11 and had a crush on the babysitter”. Aaaawwww.

          2. JustaTech*

            Lawd yes. I might be four years other than my brother but every single time I “babysat” my brother once I was old enough involved at least some screaming. (Oh, and I didn’t get paid.) Very strongly do not recommend.

            1. nym*

              There’s five years between me and my brother. My parents’ solution was to pay BOTH of us for “babysitting each other”, starting when I was about 10. He got a buck or two, I got maybe five, and the dollar figure increased over time until I went to college and he was deemed mature enough not to need a babysitter anymore. The deal between the two of us was that I handled anything involving the stove, and he stayed in the TV room and didn’t bother me, and we ignored each other until mom and dad got home.

              We didn’t burn the house down or kill each other, so, win?

          3. Nicholas Kiddle*

            I was expected to babysit my sibling (unpaid) when I was 13 and they were 11. I thought since I was in charge they should obey me. They did not agree with this. We had a lot of fights. Now that we’re 42 and 40 our relationship has mostly recovered.

        2. American Job Venter*

          Because my (loophole finding, I suspect leaning towards the lawyerly but he is only..) 12 year old would likely inform me that I could hire *him* to babysit his 11 year old sibling during the work day. I’m sure his rate of pay would be reasonable (insert eye roll here) and I’m sure that there would be absolutely no fights during the day (again, insert eye roll).

          I dunno, you might want to do a trial run for an evening, make a big bowl of popcorn, and refuse to intervene unless life or limb are in danger. ;D

      4. Bagpuss*

        It’s common to have a specific age limit as part of the policy – so ‘you must have childcare for any child under the age of 12’ or whatever age is felt appropriate by the employer

    2. Cat Tree*

      And see, I’m a new parent and thinking of this from the perspective of the child, not the coworkers. My 4 month old had a cold and was excluded from daycare until we got a negative Covid test. I understand and agree with this policy, but it meant working from home with her for a couple of days. We managed it but I would not want to do that on a regular basis. I don’t need to spend every second entertaining her, but she needs some individual attention and I can’t just leave her on a shelf all day. When I was caring for her I felt like I was neglecting work, and when I was working I felt like I was neglecting her. I’ve heard the advice to work while she naps, but that’s only 2-3 hours a day. Honestly she deserves better than to just be a “side hustle” while I’m working.

      1. zebra*

        Exactly. Kids require a lot of attention! It’s not fair to plop them in front of the tv all day, every day, or whatever else can allow you to get your work done, *all the time*. I think everyone understands that sometimes kids get sick or something happens and you get stuck at home with them for a couple of days, but the baseline expectation can’t be “I will try to do two jobs that require my full attention all day, every day, forever.” It’s just not possible to do both well all the time.

      2. Midwestern Scientist*

        My closest coworker has a toddler and has really struggled with guilt over the pandemic re: WFH/minding the kid. Kid was 3 (now 4) and has a decent attention span for playing alone but coworker still feels an enormous amount of guilt when WFH when the kid is home

  6. Matt*

    #2 I’d start taking calls in the bathroom and then present her with the toilet flush and all kinds of, let’s say, other bathroom noises that might occur …

    1. Redd*

      Your reply is the last one for me right now, so directly below your comment is the link to the letter about explicit whispering in the restroom. Which I guess is a less-anticipated bathroom sound in its own right.

    2. bunniferous*

      I came here to say the exact same thing. Heck, I would just walk to the bathroom and flush the toilet during the next call.

      But in all honesty don’t ever ask us real estate agents if we ever take calls in the porcelain office. We don’t want to tell you..

      1. Professional Lurker*

        During the workday I monitor our company’s 24/7 help line, which has to be answered promptly. If I do not answer, the call transfers to my boss, and failing that, to the CEO. I would very much like to avoid the latter, so I take calls during lunch and, yes, I also bring the phone to the bathroom…

        1. WellRed*

          Well, the bigger problem here is staffing level or an unreasonable policy of immediately answering the phone instead of calling back.

          1. ecnaseener*

            It’s a 24/7 help line. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that it must be picked up. (Agreed on staffing though, can’t it be someone’s job to cover bathroom breaks?)

            1. Matt*

              Oh yes, a 24/7 help line staffing should consist of at least six persons. Two for each eight-hour-shift to cover each other’s bathroom breaks. Better more since someone could be sick or – OMG – on vacation …

              1. CmdrShepard*

                I disagree that two people per shift is always required. If the 10pm to 6am shift only receives 3 calls a night, it is unreasonable to expect the company to have two people working the shift full time. The solution professional lurkers company has, the call rolling over to the supervisor makes since. In a way they have 3 people monitoring the help line.

                1. ecnaseener*

                  It sounds like it should work, but professional lurker feels pressured to take calls in the bathroom, so something’s not working. If letting a call go to the boss is to be avoided at all costs, that doesn’t really count.

                2. Mizzle*

                  Yeah… but you don’t want to be the employee who caused the CEO to be woken up in the middle of the night, just because you needed to go to the bathroom. (Or maybe you do, in which case, good for you! :D )

        2. lilsheba*

          They need to figure out a way to cover those, to answer the phone in the bathroom is completely unreasonable.

    3. lilsheba*

      When it comes to taking calls in the bathroom, that’s a big HELL NO. That is private time, and it’s gross to talk to someone in the bathroom.

    4. Smithy*

      While entirely a joke, the time I answered a work call while in the bathroom – I knew that remote work had officially caused my brain/work-life balance to completely break. This was not a call I should have been expecting or where anyone would have minded or cared had I called back in a few minutes. But there I was….prompt as ever!

      Just a real sad day.

    5. Golden*

      At my old job, someone from another department would regularly take calls in the bathroom and didn’t seem to have any shame about others’ or her own “bathroom noises” while on the call.

      The strange thing was that her boss was a pretty lenient guy, and had no problem with employees using their personal phones during business hours.

    6. Lady_Lessa*

      What about just getting a flush sound on your computer, and activate when desired.

      Sounds less messy for the LW.

  7. Viette*

    LW #1 quit freelancing and took their job “for the pay, benefits, and stability.”

    Well, the tradeoff for that pay, those benefits, and that stability is the exclusive right to your time during working hours, with no other massive responsibilities like childcare happening simultaneously.

    As Alison says, requiring childcare during remote work has been normal and expected and has only recently been waived due to the pandemic. If you want to continue to not have childcare during your core working hours, then you should probably return to freelancing.

    1. Nela*

      Exactly what I wanted to say. You get better pay, benefits, and stability, but you’ve lost flexibility and the ability to call your own shots (about having children in your work environment, and in general). There’s pros and cons to both. I know several mothers who switched to freelancing because the cost of childcare was more than their job paid.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I was just getting on here to point this out. Freelancing, yes, means you pretty much get to work your own hours. You trade that in when you hire on somewhere with core hours or where other people’s work is attached to yours.

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

      I’d like to know how old her kids are. If they are like 10 years old they don’t need constant supervision that a 3 year old would. I can see the point of, I’ve been working with my 10 year old doing online classes and it hasn’t affected my work why now?

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        And that would be something for the LW to clear up with their supervisor. Is there an upper age limit for the requirement? Does it apply only or mainly to kids under the traditional school age who are home for the entire day, or does it also extend to the 3-5 time slot when older kids are out of school? Can the LW plan to take their break when the kids get home from school and get them settled in before going back to work?

        All families are different and all kids are different and I think LW needs to have a meeting with their supervisor about their specific situation to determine whether and how the childcare requirement would apply.

    4. I edit everything*

      Yep. And I traded being a full time employee for freelancing for the flexibility, lack of commute, and not having to pay for childcare.
      Freelance expectations and remote expectations are different.

    5. Yvette*

      All of this. You freelanced for years, you were essentially an independent contractor. You were your own boss. You answered to the client yes, but you set your own hours, you cherry-picked your assignments, you dictated the terms and conditions of how, when, and where you worked. You are no longer in that situation, and you have to get out of that mind set. You have a boss now and it is not you.

      “I feel like they can’t tell employees how to spend their money and raise their children, period, but especially not when it doesn’t affect our job performance and they’re not offering a financial contribution to childcare.” Yes, they can. It is not unreasonable for them to expect basically your full attention while you are working. (Yes I know people take time to go to the bathroom and get a cup of coffee and even make the occasional personal phone call, but that is not the same.) Alison gave the example of working a second job. Similarly, if you were office based, you would not expect to be allowed to have your children with you there all day every day.

      1. LITJess*

        Similarly, if you were office based, you would not expect to be allowed to have your children with you there all day every day.

        I think this is the heart of it and how LW1 should frame the issue for herself. Additionally if we are talking about a school age kid(s) who can keep themselves occupied with little to no supervision from the parents, that’s a clarifying conversation for LW1 to have with their manager/HR.

        But as others have said, this is a totally reasonable request for an employer to make.

    6. Generic Name*

      Exactly. OP, it’s perfectly fine to decide that you don’t like being accountable to anyone else and want to choose to fit in working around childcare. Think about whether the trade off is with it to you. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. You have choices, and your employer’s expectations are normal and reasonable.

    7. Birdie*

      I had this thought, as well. OP took a full time role for stability, but the employer is looking for stability in her, too – it sounds like they (understandably) expect her to be consistently available and focused on work during work hours. That’s just not realistic if you’re simultaneously responsible for small children. Some companies might allow very flexible scheduling where OP could set her hours in a way that allowed her to work around kids’/partner’s schedule more effectively, but that’s not the norm.

    8. Bee*

      Yes. They can’t tell you how to spend your money or raise your kids, but they sure can tell you what your work responsibilities are.

    9. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yep, I have an employee who’s switching over to a consulting arrangement for greater flexibility in life. We were reviewing the changes in expectations with the status change, and they had a lot of questions about logistics, work time/hours, lunch breaks, etc. – and the answer to most was, well, you’re freelance now, so we hire you to do certain projects and you have a ton of flexibility to figure out how/when to do them. Want to take a two hour lunch? As long as it doesn’t impact a deadline, go for it. Want to start work at noon? Your prerogative, again, as long as the work gets done well and on time. Want to work five hours instead of a full day Thursday? No problem. When they gave up the benefits of full-time employment, they gained a lot of autonomy over their work.

  8. netlawyer*

    With regard to LW1 and the question about expecting employees to have child care – as a former supervisor, I agree that pre-COVID full-time WFH did mean that your home was your workplace and that you would have child care during your work hours, just as you would if you were coming into the office. And Alison is correct that COVID blew that up – and it was up to employees to figure out how to manage around everyone being home and how to juggle that. (Related, I was in government in the DC area and when Obama eliminated admin leave for “snow days” and folks had to shift to either telework or leave and had their kids home from school – it was just a preview because lots of people wanted to telework so they didn’t have to take leave but kids were home, there were snowmen to be built and hot chocolate to drink – so there was a lot of conflict around expectations.). That being said, moving from being freelance, where the juggle was up to you and invisible to your clients, to a salaried full-time gig – does mean that the LW needs to discuss the juggle with their employer because full-time child care and full-time employment don’t mix.

    And I’ll comment also on LW2 because I’m not a supervisor anymore and work for a supervisor who expects to reach you instantaneously during work hours. Even pre-COVID, my coworkers told me to make sure I had my cell phone with me at all times during the work day because one person had gone to lunch and wasn’t reachable, and it was an “issue.” (My supervisor is one of those people where no news is good news, but if he has an issue he goes off – so the goal is just stay below the radar.) Since I’m still WFH most of the time, I have my phone with me 100% of the time so I can ensure that I respond to his emails within minutes and pick up as soon as he calls. That seems to keep him copacetic and we don’t have any issues. Is it my preference? No, but I like the work and the folks I regularly work with so if I have to do that to keep the peace, I don’t mind much.

    1. allathian*

      What do you do if your supervisor calls you when you’re in the bathroom? I know lawyers work insane hours, so do you have any official hours off the clock at all when you’re not expected to answer the phone?

      1. netlawyer*

        I’m in-house now after leaving the government, so my “regular” hours are like 8:30-6 – so in almost two years don’t think I’ve gotten an actual call after hours, but I will respond to emails and will call someone to talk after getting an email anytime. People have my direct number but they don’t call at night or over the weekend. I’ll work late when I get an issue at the end of the day and there’s a meeting in the morning (that happens a fair amount). But after two years, my supervisor has never tried to call overnight or on a weekend but if he sends me an email late or over the weekend, I’ll get on it. I have answered the phone in the bathroom before, but honestly I’ve also had to pee talking to my mom on the phone sometimes. (The mute button is your friend.)

    2. netlawyer*

      Oh and I’ll just add that I started my current job in 11/2019, so was only in person 5 months before we all went home and now coming up on almost two years in my job – so understanding that I need to lean forward be 100% available and responsive to my supervisor (as well as my colleagues) while WFH has been important to establish myself as part of the team.

      1. Mid*

        Oh hey! I started my job 9/2019, and have been remote more than I’ve been in person. I’m a paralegal though.

    3. Kay*

      Agree that full time childcare and work don’t mix. Childcare is a full time job, and it’s very difficult to do any 2 full time jobs well, but especially when one of those jobs is being 100% in charge of another human. Making an assumption here based on the verbiage used, it’s likely the child is younger and not of school age. Having a 3 year old myself and having worked from home, I strongly back the policy that childcare is required for employees (outside pandemic considerations). I’ve had a few times where I couldn’t move a meeting to a time I had childcare. From those times, I know I cannot focus on work without knowing my child is safe, nor did I feel secure in my child being virtually unsupervised. Perhaps this is not everyone’s WFH experience but it’s fair to raise the question of how a child is being watched during work hours.

      This conflict also leads to the discussion of affordability of childcare. LW mentions childcare would bankrupt them, which is a discussion many families have about a spouse/partner being able to “afford” to work. I certainly feel empathy for this LW because it is a legitimate financial struggle.

      1. Hapax Legomenon*

        You said the verbiage made you think the LW has a younger child, why is that? I actually got the opposite impression, because they said they have been freelancing for most of their career–implying they have been at this for more than a few years–and were able to make that work. My assumption was that LW’s youngest child has started school, so they moved away from freelancing and into a more stable job, only to find the stable job is now in jeopardy because of a policy that wasn’t outlined up front for them. My guess is the policy isn’t clear about things like virtual school, what if there’s a few hours overlap in the afternoon when the kid is home and the workday hasn’t ended, if there’s a middle school sibling watching their kindergartener in the home, etc. Unfortunately, it sounds like LW may have to go back to something less stable because childcare is so absurdly expensive, but maybe they will be able to talk to management and get some clarification if they just have the fringe-childcare issues and not the “I need to work eight hours while my kid is here and requiring supervision from me” issue.

        1. Kay*

          The verbiage being simply “childcare” rather than “school, online school, after-school hours, etc.” This implied to me options like daycare or nannying, though you could be correct that the ages are older based on the freelancing career. It is interesting how this discussion does depend heavily on the age of the child/children in question and the care needed!

          1. londonedit*

            Absolutely – ‘childcare’ to me makes it sound like they need someone to look after the child during the day, so a nursery or preschool or childminder or similar. Whereas if the children were older, they’d be at school from 8am until 3pm so the OP would only have to worry about doing the school run and having them around for a couple of hours after work.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I will add the caveat that in some areas kindergarten is only half-day (for me that is 2 1/2 to 3 hours depending on which school you could find a seat at (because kindergarten is also not mandatory in my state either – so there aren’t always enough seats at your zoned school, yes it’s a mess).

        2. Malarkey01*

          I assumed younger as well since it’s only an issue if you are interacting and providing care (plus daycare doesn’t bankrupt independent age school age parents). If the kids were older, as in between 3 pm and 5 pm we will both be in the same house but my door is closed and you are not to disturb me unless there is actual blood or a home invader, then this isn’t an issue of childcare and no one knows you have kids home (just like having your spouse also in the home during work hours).

        1. Intent to FLOUNCE*

          My four year old will just witter at me like an over-excited budgie. No one can get anything done with that going non-stop…

        2. Ash*

          Yup. After a year plus of WFH with a toddler, anytime I answer the phone even on the weekend he goes, “mommy no be on a call!”

        3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          I have a 16 month old and can barely manage to throw dinner into the IP while watching her (after work and daycare), let alone try to do a job all day long. She cries if she’s not held or played with anytime she’s not sleeping.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Thank goodness for my boss encouraging us to use the “be right back” status on our MSTeams phones.

  9. Gregory S Capozzoli*

    For LW2 Ill be honest im of the mindset that anytime a manager expects you to answer your phone while in the bathroom…answer it and let her regret her decisions. Malicious Compliance is the best kind of compliance

    1. liquidus*

      A friend of mine who remote worked would answer his phone while in the bathroom but would immediately say “Can I call you back in two minutes?” I don’t think I ever asked what he did if they said “no”, but knowing him, I assume that if the person said “No”, he’d just flush the toilet.

  10. Casper Lives*

    #2 Your boss isn’t thinking this through. That said. Does your boss tend to call around the same times every day? I mention it because many people’s bodies have a bathroom schedule. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you could proactively say that you take a 5-10 min break at such-and-such times.

    Now I’m not saying you won’t need to take breaks at other times. But regular breaks could reassure your boss if she gets you almost all of the rest of the time.

    1. Malarkey01*

      I agree that boss is most likely not saying you cannot go to the bathroom. My guess is that you already work a shortened workday and by crummy coincidence the two times she recently called you, you weren’t available which may have made her wonder what was happening. It could very well be that as a newer employee she thought this might be a pattern, I don’t know what LW is doing, and I want to make sure expectations are clear that you need to be available and answer calls, but would have clarified if asked that of course she understands about bathroom breaks.

  11. Double A*

    I think “It okay” as a response to an apology doesn’t mean the action was okay, it’s that the relationship is okay. But it is rather ambiguous and can definitely feel off to say, even if you do want to assure them that everything is okay between you two. Allison’s response is good. If you do want to assure them about the relationship, you could add something like, “No hard feelings.” If that is true.

    1. Simply the best*

      Or say “we’re okay” as opposed to it’s. “It’s” really does seem to imply that the action was okay. But “we’re” would just refer to the relationship.

  12. John Smith*

    #2 your boss is being completely unreasonable. I’m tempted to suggest asking whether you need to be handcuffed to your computer and phone during works time.

    If Alison’s suggestion doesn’t work, take your phone to the toilet and ensure you have had a fibre rich diet the day before. Let your boss hear every strain and fart your innards can proudly and loudly muster, the plop! of every stool that hits the water. And, when finished, how about a second flush on account of floaters (or monsters that won’t break up) followed by the rustling of the toilet brush to remove adhesive poop. All with, of course, an apologetic running commentary. I’m sure your boss will soon change their mind.

    1. Matt*

      That’s what I suggested too (except that I didn’t dare to write it out that explicitly ;-) but on the other hand, a boss that would demand answering your phone on the loo would probably also demand to hold it in until the call is finished …

        1. Starbuck*

          Yeah I’d bet part of the issue with expectations is that since it’s a short work period each day (3 hours?) they think LW should just deal with business before and after and work straight through that time. Not reasonable!

    2. Wandering*

      I worked with a woman whose boss required that she take a phone with her to the bathroom. He called her every.single.time. and insisted she answer the call and his questions. He didn’t care at all about the background noise, just about her constant availability.

  13. Sue Wilson*

    OP5: have you considered that your daughter is actually trying to look out for you and your feelings while balancing her affection for her step-mom and/or her father (even taking you on faith that step-mom has done harmful things to your relationship with your daughter does not mean that your daughter doesn’t care for step-mom and/or dad and want to honor that care in her wedding. Feelings are rarely so straightforward). If step-mom is officiant then you know what step-mom isn’t? Mother of the bride. Maybe you should thank your daughter for giving step-mom a role that means she want try to horn in on yours. Grace here can only make your experience of your daughter’s wedding better, I promise.

    If you will convulse if you don’t say something AND you feel like you can listen instead of telling or push (and I am not convinced of that at ALL so I don’t recommend this): ask your daughter “hey I know you had a different plan for your officiant and now that’s changed. Or you okay with that?” and then l i s t e n to what she says. And if she says yes or yes and explains then you say “okay I was just checking in on you. I know your wedding is going to be amazing!” And if she says no, THEN you can ask her IF there’s anything she wants from you. If that too is a no, then you say “I think you’ve handled this the best anyone can do and I’m sure your wedding will be amazing!” I promise you step-mom won’t win best mom if you handle it like this.

    1. Former Employee*

      That’s a good point. Many people might not even know that the officiant = stepmother. Perhaps the daughter decided that if the stepmother wanted that role it made life easier for her because then the stepmother is not part of the wedding party.

    2. Prof Space Cadet*

      This is an excellent point. It hasn’t occurred to me that the daughter might have given her stepmother a clearly-defined role like officiant to avoid friction with the LW during the wedding, but that makes perfect sense.

      One of my close friends is the child of divorced parents, and though everything went fine at her wedding (her mom and stepmom have always gotten along well), my friend and her husband later commented how lucky they felt that there wasn’t any drama in that regard.

    3. NewYork*

      I think on AAM, we accept that posters are telling the truth (unless really strange). IMHO, given that the poster has said the stepmom barged in, to me it is just as likely the dad has said make room for my wife or I am not coming or paying for the wedding. But at end of the day, all poster can do is support her daughter. If the stepmom is barging in, it will only make the relationship between the stepmother and the daughter more distant.

      1. ecnaseener*

        LW could be right that it was stepmom’s idea (read: she “barged in” by offering to officiate without being asked), with Sue also still being right that the bride liked the idea.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Nah! LW clearly has a bias and is very emotional about this. She says that “stepmom has never been a part of my daughter’s life and in fact has tried to separate us.”

        Those two statements can’t exactly be true if the stepmom were not part of daughters life then she wouldn’t have had opportunity to separate them.

        I suspect that daughter is forced to censor herself about her relationship with stepmom to keep the peace.

        Anyway it’s the bride and groom’s wedding. They get to choose. They chose. The mother of the bride just needs to accept their decisions. Assist if needed but this isn’t the daughter asking mom for help with stepmom. This is mom trying to keep usurper stepmom out of the ceremony.

      3. kiri*

        I do really appreciate that Alison’s advice works regardless (and, as the child of two contentiously-divorced and re-partnered parents who recently planned my own wedding, it hit pretty close to home). The daughter and her partner are ones who get to make the call, and even if the daughter is feeling unhappy or pressured about the decision, her mother is probably the last person who should help intervene on that front.

    4. Not really a Waitress*

      I think a lot of this depends on the relationship between your daughter and her step mom. If one of my children (Almost at marrying age but not quite) said this was happening, I would know something was up because their stepmom has not treated them well… at all. She has been cruel to all of them, went out of her way to make my life hell, and has driven a wedge in their relationship with their father.

      In somewhat functional relationships, I think this would be a lovely idea. There is no “role” for a step-mom in a wedding ceremony. She is the 5th wheel. Giving her a role is a lovely way to include her in the ceremony without being awkward.

      Always err on the side of kindness

    5. Lacey*

      I wondered about that too. The officiant isn’t generally someone particularly special to the bride or groom. It can be, but no one would assume that they were. It’s entirely possible this is just a convenient role to have the step-mom fill to avoid friction.

      And probably the bride is just trying to avoid friction – even if she doesn’t care for the step-mom herself.
      A friend of mine bent over backwards to avoid upsetting her step-mom at her wedding, more-so because she disliked her and didn’t want that to show. Meanwhile, her mom was feeling unloved because my friend felt comfortable freaking out in front of her – and sometimes at her, but was sweet as pie to the step-mom.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Even if it’s not to avoid friction, it could be to save some money. Officiants aren’t usually free. Maybe they didn’t really care who officiated and if step-mom were already certified to do so, they basically said sure fine saves $500. The language in the letter (“barged”) makes this seem unlikely, but since the letter is also absent any statement on how the couple feels about this (or what “barged” even means in this context) leaves it possible. Maybe the mom assumed she must have forced it, when really the couple was more on the fine, whatever, it doesn’t matter end of things.

  14. raida7*

    #5 What you do: Politely and when you are helping your daughter with the wedding planning (if you are), tell her “I’m only going to bring this up once, if you would like a different celebrant just let me know and I’ll help you tell your step-mother your decision on the officiant you’ve selected. I don’t want to cause you any stress and if you’re fine with it, no prblem.”
    Then she can tell you if this IS an issue or not. THEN you can work on fixing it. And don’t bring it up again unless she does.

    1. Former Employee*

      I commented above about the stepmother as officiant. This my have let the daughter off the hook in terms of the stepmother because if she is the officiant she can’t also be a member of the wedding party.

      If I were the mother, I don’t think I would say anything or I might inquire as to how stepmother ended up in that role. However, I suspect that this OP already knows how it happened, i.e., the stepmother announced that because she is licensed she will volunteer to be the officiant.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        How do you mean, she can’t be a member of the wedding party? Do you mean she can’t sit at the bridal table and has to sit with the photographer, musicians and lesser acquaintances because she’s on the clock?

        1. londonedit*

          I took it to mean she can’t *watch* the wedding because she’ll be *doing* the wedding. She won’t be able to cause a fuss about whether she gets to sit one row further forward than the bride’s mother because she’s the one who’s married to the bride’s father, or wear a giant hat to obscure the bride’s mother’s vision, or create any other sort of drama during the wedding itself, because her job will be standing at the front officiating.

          1. Fish Microwaver*

            Ah yes, I see. I think it’s kind of nice that the Stepmom can officiate, if that’s what the daughter wants.

        2. Simply the best*

          Yeah, I wondered about this too. My sister-in-law officiated my sister’s wedding. She was definitely still part of the wedding party. She sat at the big table. She was in all the pictures. She walked down the aisle. Her outfit matched everybody else’s. Her relationship to the couple was listed in the program. She got to make a speech as part of the officiant duties and it was very clear how she was related to the bride and groom. Being the officiant in no way left her out of the wedding party.

    1. Allonge*

      I don’t think there is an objective hard line at, say, 10. For me the way it can work is, the parent would need to be able to be comfortably tell the kid ‘I am working, please leave this room, I can help you when I am done’ for any issue not involving blood/fire, and expect the kid to comply.

      This is not saying that this has to be done every time and for every interruption, but for meetings, deadlines, for people who / work that cannot handle interruptions well, it needs to be a realistic option.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          How long will your 3yo stay away for? I have a 6yo and a 3yo, and when the 6yo was isolating off school last term, we could put a film on if we had an hour’s meeting and needed no interruptions at all. But the three-year-old can’t really got for more than twenty minutes without attention. Even if the television’s on and I’m in the room, she’ll come over asking for a snack or want to watch something different and need the channel changed or whatever. I can get *some* work done with her around, but I would try very hard not to have any important meetings or work that needs real concentration.

          Plus, of course, there’s also what it means for the child! My 6yo theoretically LOVES a day of mostly watching television by herself, but in practice she’s cross and miserable by the end from not having enough attention or food or movement. OK for the occasional day off school, miserable for us all as a long-term solution.

          1. H2*

            Yeah, I mean… What a kid can do for a day or two when they are sick at home or whatever is very different from that being their life. Three-year-olds need a lot more care and supervision than 13-year-olds do. They just do. Even if they’re mature ones. And most importantly, there comes a point where a kid is happier at preschool or daycare getting some human interaction and stimulation then they would be at home parked in front of the TV all day every day. And if the intent is for them to not be parked in front of the TV, then we’re back to the point where you’re spending time with them while you’re on the clock.

            I think a good rule of thumb as to age would be a kid who could reliably, every day, ride the bus home from school, let themselves into the house and stay there for three hours or whatever until the parent gets home. That for me would be the guideline for a kid who wouldn’t need childcare. For most kids, around 3-4 th grade.

            I think you also have to consider how many kids were talking about here. If we are talking about one mature third grader, that’s extremely different from talking about three kids between the ages of eight and 12, or whatever. Even if one or two of the kids are technically old enough for the arrangement to work on their own, at some point it’s just too much to focus on work.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              Your first point is spot-on here. Occasional days or just a couple of hours after school are a very different issue than all day, every day.

              I have 7 year old twins, and I can work at least 80% of a regular day on a snow day, can easily tell them the important times to leave me alone for meetings, and could probably do more if we let them watch enough TV to turn them into total monsters by dinner. But when they were home all day every day with the pandemic, we really had to structure things differently – my spouse and I took shifts, structured our breaks, and scheduled TV so that the kids weren’t playing entirely on their own for more than a couple hours at a time, because they really aren’t old enough to be on their own all day every day. Telling a kid to go away because you have a meeting is fine sometimes, but it’s really not developmentally appropriate for most kids under about 12 as their primary mode of existence for 40 hours a week.

              Interestingly, my office has dropped the formal child care requirement from our telework policy post-pandemic, and leaves it up to managers to assess whether a situation is working. The one instance of this I’ve seen is actually great – my manager has found that his early elementary age kids play pretty well independently, so a couple times a week he picks them up after school and then logs back in from home instead of relying on aftercare or a sitter. He flexes his hours a little, but overall it seems to work just fine, and he really values that flexibility.

            2. Bagpuss*

              I think that’s hugely important.
              A kid who is home for a day or because they are sick or there’s a temporary school emergency is one thing, every day is different – both for the child and the parents. I think most parents would be OK to let their child watch tv/videos for several hours if kid is home sick, or if they have to work late so there is a gap after school with no child care, but would be much less willing to leave their child in front of the TV for hours and hours every day, and similarly, a child might be find with that on and off, particularly if they are unwell or have already spent most of the day at school or nursery.

              I guess it also depends on the nature and flexibility of the parent’s work. if you need to be focused or available for long periods of time then it’s going to be much harder t also care for a child than if you can break your work up into smaller chunks and only need to be unavailable to your child for 15-30 minutes at a time, even if that means that you have to spread your working day out over a longer period.

          2. KateM*

            Fully agree with your last paragraph!

            We don’t show kids TV in real time, but either DVDs or TV-provider-provided films/cartoons. They watch until either the movie ends or, if a series is really long, until TV switches off (2-3 hours), and then they usually start playing something by themselves, all their toys being in the same room. During TV-time, they’d indeed just sit quietly and watch, even the 3yo – but they do get their TV according to what they choose, not whatever happens to be on a chosen channel.

          3. WulfInTheForest*

            My 4 year old can be set up with a snack/meal, a juice box, and PBS or disney plus and will basically be happy for hours if you let her (obviously we don’t do that often, it’s more of a Saturday morning cartoons deal). But it really depends on the kid.

            1. Bamcheeks*

              My older child is basically switched off if you put the TV on: she can literally watch TV for hours. Handy for work, but she’ll literally not notice that she’s hungry / thirsty / needs a wee. And she’s been like that since she was 2. Smaller one can only really watch 25 minutes if anything before she needs cuddles / a chat / a snack. Sometimes it’s incredibly handy to have the “child you can switch off”, sometimes it’s incredibly handy tk have the “child who will always always remind you what she needs”!

              1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

                My older child was like that for a long while. Eventually she got into reading and… well, now she’s like that about reading. Last year when schooling was still remote, if we didn’t steal her book (or e-reader) she would stay up reading until she fell asleep on top of it.

                1. Bamcheeks*

                  Yes! Reading has JUST clicked for our 6yo and we are literally three weeks into, “STOP READING and PUT YOUR SHOES ON” territory. :D I foresee the next decade…

        2. Colette*

          How long would it be before one of them fell, spilled something all over the floor, or had to tell you a story? The vast majority of kids those ages can’t be left unattended for any length of time. They can entertain themselves in bursts, but not for most of the day.

        3. ClaireW*

          I’d be really shocked if a 3yo is genuinely old enough that you could reliably sit through an hour long meeting and/or an hour long period of working on something without your child needing checked on or needing anything from you.

          If you can close the door at the start of a meeting, not open it until the end of that meeting (even if that meeting was say, 2 hours or 2 meetings in a row) and you don’t have to think about what the kids are doing while you’re in the room with the door closed, and don’t feel the need to rush out as soon as it’s over to check on them, then they’re old enough. The point is that you can effectively put all your attention into your work and not into looking after your kid. I’ve never met a 3yo that would apply to, even most 5yo kids that would be a stretch.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I used to do volunteer work with a group of 5 year olds, and I couldn’t turn my back for a minute to talk to another leader because someone would trip or run into a wall.

        1. Allonge*

          Sure! I know you are kidding but in exterme cases I could also see talking to a WFH-er about distractions from adult family members, it’s just that childcare involves a lot more responsibility by default.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Sure! I know you are kidding but in exterme cases I could also see talking to a WFH-er about distractions from adult family members, it’s just that childcare involves a lot more responsibility by default.

            That is my experience, actually. Working while the kids play is easy. Working when my spouse is on PTO is when my productivity suffers.

            1. uncivil servant*

              This was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go back to the office! When the pandemic started, my husband and I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment. I worked regular office hours but he worked a rotating schedule as a healthcare worker. It was hard for me to work while he played video games or watched TV quietly behind me, but probably harder for him to relax after a night shift with me sitting right there, using him for all my water cooler chat needs.

        2. Anonymity*

          Oh man, Covid WFH in the same house as my retired parents who were also now confined to the house instead of their fairly active social lives… was an experience.

          I multiple times had to interrupt my work day because my (mentally competent but extremely bored) dad was making a poor decision with a chainsaw or a beehive, not to mention the number of “extremely urgent” questions about nonsense.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        When it’s a regular thing, I think a good judgement call is “could I leave the child at home alone for the period of time involved”.

        So a ten year old could be okay for an hour or two after school on a regular basis, but not all day every day. A 15 year old would be generally be old enough to look after themselves for a whole work day.

        Home schooling is a slightly different issue – a child quietly amusing themselves while the parent works can be quite different from making sure a child is doing school work, and doing it effectively, without supervision. There were many, many kids well into their teens who were old enough to babysit younger child, but still needed fairly close supervision to actually do remote learning during the pandemic.

    2. Former Employee*

      At least old enough so that they are in school fulltime. It sounded as if the OP’s kids are daycare age as opposed to fulltime school age.

    3. Hapax Legomenon*

      That’s dependent on a number of factors, but mostly the kid in question. They have to be the right mix of responsible and independent to feed themselves, get their own work(chores or virtual school or whatever) done, and not burn the home down. My kid was old enough at eight; my former roommate’s kid was not old enough at eleven.

        1. H2*

          I think there’s a really big difference between “not burning the house down” and thriving in a situation, though!

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely depends on the child. I was quite happy from an early age to sit and read quietly and didnt require attention if I had a good book. Neither parent worked from home but I was expected from age 11 to get myself to and from school and do homework until parents returned.

        My best friend had a very adversarial relationship with her brother so I could imagine her parents not leaving them alone because the consequences were not great.

        1. bamcheeks*

          When I was 13/14, my parents were out for an evening and they’d have left me by myself, but weren’t happy leaving me in charge of my two brothers (12 and 9) because they knew they wouldn’t listen to me. So they asked a local girl to babysit, who delegated to her younger sister WHO WAS ONLY A YEAR OLDER THAN ME AT SCHOOL. The absolute INDIGNITY of being 13 and babysat by a 14 year old has never left me!

          1. CarR*

            My former job in academia had a retreat for faculty members and their families and we offered babysitting. One faculty member had two kids who were, I think, two years apart in age. She got a babysitter until her oldest turned EIGHTEEN. She was 17 with a 19 year old babysitter. I hope she rebelled a lot in college.

            1. Jamie Starr*

              Wow, that seems a bit over protective…

              I started babysitting maybe around the age of 13 or 14 for a family of three boys (the oldest was probably 7 and the youngest was probably a year?). When I was 17 I was hired to spend a week as a live in babysitter for 2 year old twins. Just me and them, alone, all week. It’s kind of wild to think back on it now, being 13 and responsible for three kids…

            2. UKDancer*

              That strikes me as a bit over protective. I had a university friend whose parents got her a babysitter until she was 18 and they were over-protective in other ways too (not liking her getting the train on her own). My parents stopped getting a babysitter for me when I was about 14-15. When they went away overnight (rarely) my aunt would ring up about 9pm to check I was ok and if I needed anything.

              I should say I think in many ways it’s easier being left alone as an only child as there are no siblings to fight with so it’s fairly easy, especially as I was fairly low maintenance.

            3. JustaTech*

              Honestly I might have liked that when I was in high school. For a while after I was old enough to be home alone but too young to babysit we got sitters just for my brother (who reduced a few to tears, he was a real jerk). When I hit the minimum babysitting age it was all “We’re leaving you in charge of your brother”, which could have worked with other people, but he never, ever listened to me and we fought constantly, so I would have loved to be able to just close my bedroom door and let someone else entertain/deal with him.

        2. KateM*

          There was a time with my now-teens when we would leave either of them home alone but not both at the same time! Two heads are better than one, especially when it comes to thinking of “fun” things to do.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            I babysat for a family with a 12, 8, and 4 year old when I was a teenager. I would have left the 8 year old home alone before leaving her in the care of the 12 year old. These things really really depend on the kids and their individual dynamics, personalities, and maturity levels.

          2. H2*

            This, for sure! I think the letter writer has more than one kid, and I think that really changes the situation. I have an 11 and a 13-year-old, and individually they would be completely fine, but together, I wouldn’t be able to work from home with them here on a regular basis (I am in academia, and summers are in fact a huge part of the reason why I don’t leave).

          3. Le Sigh*

            This reminds me of one of my sister’s babysitting clients — 18 month old twins, combined with a 3 yo (in retrospect, I think that mom should have maybe hired an extra person!). It would take her forever to get the twins in their chairs, only for the 3 yo to get into the toilet water in the 30 seconds she wasn’t looking. She’d have that under control and then the twins somehow found their way to a 2 liter soda bottle and tipped it over to go “swimming.”

            I declined to sub in when my sister couldn’t babysit.

    4. WS*

      I was a responsible kid living somewhere we knew every family in the street. I was babysitting my younger brothers (including a toddler) while my parents worked, from age 8. My nephews aren’t left alone in the house now and they’re teenagers, but they live in a city and couldn’t run to their neighbours’ houses if needed. Also, they’re very vague and tend to wander off while cooking!

    5. Kevin Sours*

      No hard and fast age, but you should legitimately be comfortable with the idea that they can look after themselves without interrupting you for anything short of a bona fide emergency. They should also be able to recognize when you are in meeting/otherwise heavily engaged in work tasks and be able to understand that you should not be disturbed at that time. If you are regularly needing to go check up on strange noises, assist with changing movies, help with tasks, or referring disputes then they aren’t old enough.
      (Note that if you have older children able to to successfully ride heard on younger children so that the above pertains to the lot that is sufficient)

      1. ecnaseener*

        And part of that is, old enough that they won’t HAVE a bona fide emergency often. If your kid likes to play on the stairs / with fire / in the street / with sharp objects / etc etc, and needs supervision to PREVENT emergencies, they’re too young.

        1. Anononon*

          I mean, sometimes fire just happens…. When I was young (maybe around 12?), I was at my friend’s house, and we decided to bake cookies. It was something both of us had experience in, so it’s not like we were completely dumb. But, we used parchment paper on the baking sheet, and when we took the cookies out, it slide off onto the heating elements in the over. Whoosh! Fortunately, her older sister was home, so I ran to go get her, and she dumped a cup of water on it, putting it out (probably not the smartest idea, but she was only several years older).

    6. Green great dragon*

      It depends on the work as well as the children, and to some extent the office. Is caring for them meaningfully interfering with the work? If they need to interrupt you for a few minutes a few times a day, is that an unnoticeable delay in your email-answering, an amusing interruption to a team meeting, an annoying interruption to a team meeting, or are you needing to put angry customers on hold to deal with it? Or is it throwing off your concentration and it takes you 30 mins each time to get back into the flow?

    7. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I have a seven year old who I can comfortably leave to do his thing and trust to respect a ‘do not disturb’ sign. BUT I could not trust this child to sit for five minutes with his schoolwork. So, that child would need care if he wasn’t at school outside of holidays. I have a ten year old, who has special needs I would need care for her because her separation anxiety would have her interrupting constantly. All to say – age is an imperfect measure of this.

    8. German Girl*

      For what it’s worth: German health care deems kids from age 12 “old enough” to not need an adult staying home with them when they are sick (there are exceptions for special needs kids).

      That said, it’s also very common to give kids from age six a copy of the house keys and expect them to get home from school and entertain themselves for the afternoon until the parents come home from work.

      So I’d say it’s anywhere from 6-12 depending on the kids.

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Our remote work policy requires that while on the clock one cannot be the immediate primary caretaker for children under the age of 12.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (That said, if your kids aren’t popping up on your camera during meetings and your productivity isn’t hampered, I don’t know how anyone would be able to tell, it’s not like we’re going around surprising people in the middle of the day to check on them.)

    10. Malarkey01*

      For me, and for the “normal expectation”- not the very occasional snow day- I think old enough is the age they can watch themselves and not interact with you short of blood/fire. At nine, my son would get dropped off by his carpool, open the door, get his snack, do his homework/read/watch TV from 3 pm-5 pm, and wouldn’t disturb me. I was onsite if there was a literal emergency but I wasn’t doing any parenting duties including conversations or entertaining.

    11. Lynca*

      Depends on a combo of age and the needs of the kid. I think we’re talking solidly school aged and not high needs/supervision kids.

      I know I was probably well suited not to interrupt my parents working starting at about 7. But I knew other kids that weren’t able to do that until 8-10. I remember being at my aunt’s house with my cousins and having an argument about not needing an adult to help to get a drink from the fridge. They were insistent that I wasn’t allowed to do that (I was and so were they) and while they were busy searching for my aunt, I was getting glasses from the cupboard.

    12. Aqua409*

      My WFH agreement, specifically said until the age of 13. Once, my child was in school full time, that helped. However, you still had to enroll them in camps for the summer. So, accommodations had to be made to allow for drop off and pickup.

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Totally kid-dependent.
      One of my friends had an incredibly independent well-behaved pair of children who by age 4&5 kept each other entertained for hours at a time even on weekends.
      Mine wasn’t that independent until age 13. (And still prefers a parent’s company as much as possible… which is kind of flattering if awkward for getting things done.)

    14. anonymous73*

      I think it honestly depends on the kid and the situation. It depends on why they’re home – is it full time because you have zero options for childcare? Is it for a few days because they’re sick? Some kids can entertain themselves, while others are constantly bouncing off the walls or need constant attention. I would say any child elementary age or younger is questionable. I don’t know that there can be a black and white rule without some flexibility. And if it starts affecting your productivity at work long term, it needs to change.

    15. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Some kids can manage this at 8 or 9. Some make it well into adulthood and still interrupt their spouses/colleagues/roommates on calls.

    16. Just Another Cog*

      Historically, our workplace policy set that line at “when it is legal to leave them home alone without childcare in this state.”

      1. Yvette*

        That is the perfect answer. The decision/cut-off age has been predetermined for them. Of course then you get into situations where cut-off age is 12 in NY where company is located and 11 in NJ where parent works from home. (Totally made up the numbers/places just as an example.) I would guess the WFH state would set the age.

    17. Generic Name*

      I would say that you don’t need childcare if you work at home for a child who would be old enough to leave at home unattended for a few hours. How old that is, as others mentioned above, depends on the child themselves and also local law. Some states have age minimums for a kid being left alone, while others have “suggestions”. A good rule of thumb is how old daycares go up to. Daycares in my area accept children as old as 12. Middle schools and high schools do not offer any after-care, so in my area, 12/6th grade seems to be the minimum age. When my son was 10, I did leave him home alone after school for about an hour and a half, and now that he’s in high school, he is home alone during the work day in the summers.

    18. Just Another Zebra*

      Before the pandemic started, my boss decided that parents could bring children of “sufficient self-sufficiency” to the office if school was closed/ they had a minor illness/ childcare fell through. The general consensus has been that around 4yo is the earliest this is truly feasible. The pandemic has made this a bit more lax, but in general your kid needs to be able to sit for a couple hours without intense interaction.

      Even if that means parked by my desk with PJ Masks on a tablet.

    19. female peter gibbons*

      Maybe a stupid question, but can’t you just NOT tell your workplace that you have kids, then do whatever you want.

      1. JustaTech*

        The OP could, but if they signed something that said “I will have childcare” and then don’t, and someone finds out, that could be grounds for firing. Or even just if the company says “you must have childcare” – again, if the OP gets found out it could be grounds for termination.

        And, you know, it’s lying to your boss and all your coworkers, which isn’t a great way to build trust.

      2. Allonge*

        One of my closest colleagues has three kids, with the youngest 14 now. I could definitely tell during the last year and a half of WFH when the kids were at home too. I am sure there are children / houses where they can be efficiently separated, but in most cases it’s really obvious.

        Also, lying to your employer is normally not a good idea.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        You don’t need to tell you workplace you have kids, but if one walks into the room while you’re on a call and is either visible on screen or audible on the call, expect to be reminded that you’re expected to have childcare during work. Which is usually how it makes itself obvious that you don’t.

      4. Colette*

        You can. You might get fired for it, and will almost certainly torpedo any references, but you can do it.

  15. pcake*

    The only person who can really answer the wedding question is the daughter. She knows whether she has her stepmother officiating because she wants to – whether to please her father or for some other reason – or if it’s being foisted upon her.

    I’m concerned that the letter writer may be letting their own feelings get involved here. If I was concerned that something my son might not be happy about was going to be part of his wedding, I’d simply ask him if this was something he wanted or if it was being pushed on him. And the letter writer could do the same with the daughter.

    That the letter writer apparently hasn’t asked the daughter – or long shot, isn’t taking the daughter at her word – I find concerning.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      “I’m concerned that the letter writer may be letting their own feelings get involved here.”

      Ahem. Yes, I fully agree.

    2. Ali G*

      I’ve read enough AITA to say #5’s letter is dripping with “missing reasons”. I think this is a LW problem that she should not make her daughters problem to deal with.

  16. ZucchiniBikini*

    Re LW1, I actually very much understand where they are coming from. Back in 2013, lo these many moons before the pandemic, I took a salaried job after an extended period of freelancing. I had been running a busy freelance business while I was the primary caregiver for my three children. The job was advertised as flexible, with an embedded one day a week WFH and ability to flex start / finish times on the 4 office days.

    When I started the job, I had two kids in elementary school and one preschooler at kindergarten 3 half-days a week. My partner was able to drop his workload to 0.8 for six months and cover one of my work days, and I patched together friends / family to cover the other half days of my youngest’s three days at kinder. That left me with one day unaccounted for. Frankly, I did not want to organise childcare for one day a week just for the 6 months until she started school, and I didn’t see why I should have to. I already knew how to do a full day’s work around her – I’d been doing it as a freelancer for years, with success (including when I had other kids at home too!) I explained as much to my new boss when I was doing the start paperwork.

    My new boss was reluctant, but ended up allowing a variation to policy on a 3-month trial basis, whereby I did not have to organise childcare on my WFH Thursdays provided my productivity remained good. At the end of the three months, she confirmed it was going better than her expectations, and so it continued until my daughter started school (indeed, the WFH day continued after that, but in a nice empty house with all kids away!)

    This is all to say that a) I completely get why this feels like an impost to someone who has been used to successfully juggling all responsibilities as a freelancer and b) there might be some prospect of proposing a trial arrangement, or a compromise, to avoid it being an all or nothing proposition. I think it also massively depends on how many kids and how old they are, as well as the nature of the job (my position was very document-heavy and I often had no phone meetings or ad hoc phone calls on my WFH day at all).

    1. rl09*

      I mean, your situation sounds completely different than what LW1 is proposing though? You were the primary caregiver for one child, one day per week – but your other kids were in school full-time and you had alternative childcare the other four days of the week. It sounds like LW1 is wanting to WFH full-time, while simultaneously being a full-time primary caregiver for more than one child.

  17. Bamcheeks*

    LW3, are your expectations for your employee “9-5 Mon-Fri, no work outside that” or “~40 a week, predominately during normal working hours”?

    For me one of the major benefits of working from home is that I can start a little later, finish a little earlier, and do an hour in the evening to make up the difference. If I got told off for sending an email in the evening because the expectation was that I was always available between 9-5 and never looked at work evenings or weekends, that would be majorly detrimental to my life/work balance because it would remove so much flexibility and put tons of pressure on the before-school and after-school parts of the day. That would not at all support my quality of life!

    So before you speak to your employee, clarify with yourself whether you actually NEED her to be available traditional business hours, and want her to limit her work to then, or whether it’s ok to be flexible about when she works as long as she’s not working more than 40 hours. And then have a discussion about how she manages that, and if you want her to set her email up so that any emails written in the evening don’t send until 9am the next day or whatever, enforce that.

    But please don’t assume that 9-5 Mon-Fri is better for everyone’s work/life balance— it’s really not!

    1. Rainbow Brite*

      I’d also add, as a freelancer, that I do work a mostly traditional work week but know a *lot* of freelancers who don’t, by choice. Given absolute freedom over their hours, many people prefer to work split shifts, very early or very late, over weekends, etc. If LW’s concern is that her employee working odd hours is bad for the business or other employees, that’s of course valid and it’s fine to insist on core hours. But if at least part of it is stemming from the concern that her employee is overworked or otherwise unhappy because of the hours she works, she should consider that *maybe* (not definitely, but maybe) the employee actively prefers it this way.

      1. Bamcheeks*

        Right, that’s exactly where I’m coming from too.

        “Work-life balance” policies like “take your full lunch hour” and “only work between 9-5” are incredibly unhelpful for me. That means a crazy rush in the morning to get the kids to school at precisely 8:50 (school gates don’t open earlier, any later and I’ll miss my bus); followed by a mad rush in the afternoon to not leave my desk before 5pm and still get back to after school club AND then nursery by 6pm, when both shut. Give me the flexibility to get to work at 9:15 and leave at 4:30pm and answer a few emails after bedtime and I have a far more relaxed and happy morning and evening/bedtime with my kids. As I don’t have a coverage based job, it makes 0 difference to my employer or my colleagues but dramatically improved my quality of life!

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yes! My team of 12 has literal 24-7 flexibility to work their 40 hours (they are paid hourly, so it is precisely 40 hours), though they all choose to do M-F most of the time. Something like 8 of them work their hours starting between 5-7am and ending between 1-3pm. If we said they had to work 9-5, I’d have a riot on my hands., except that I’d probably be leading it because that’s way too late for me too :P

        1. Bamcheeks*

          If I had 24/7 flexibility I would literally never be awake during most of your team’s working hours. :-P

          (I don’t, and that’s why!)

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Which would be fine – the only standing time requirements we have is that everyone has a 1:1 with me once a month, and I’m willing to schedule that anywhere between 6am and 9pm if that’s what really works for people :) (I’m not hourly, but I do turn into a pumpkin by 10pm :) ) Otherwise, pretty much everything we do can be asynchronous, barring the occasional mandatory training session. One of our sister teams has someone who does all her hours between 10p-6a.

    2. WellRed*

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable though to have a more set schedule during an employee’s second week. If the company culture is more 9 to 5 that’s their prerogative. At the very least, however, I’d prefer to be sure the new employee is fully up to speed on the job before talking flexible hours. (Saves having to redo things done wrong).

      1. Bamcheeks*

        I think it’s fine for the company to work either way, but very good to have an explicit conversation about those expectations rather than assuming that working evenings/weekends means overwork or that everyone *knows* that is working hours are 9-5 until alternative arrangements are granted.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      But even if the expectation is “~40 a week, predominately during normal working hours”, you might still need to explicitly a tell a new employee that they aren’t expected to continue working on work stuff after their work day ends.

      When I was training a new hire during the pandemic, I first told him that we don’t generally work beyond our normal 8 hour day. The next day, he complained to me that while he was exploring our test environment, it stopped working on him. Our test environment shuts down overnight to save money, so I knew he’d been working more than a little late. That was when I told him explicitly “Stop doing that. We don’t work more than 8 hours a day except in very unusual circumstances, and we will tell you when that’s happening. This is not one of those times. If we were in the office, our boss would be telling you to go home.” He protested that he really liked what we were doing, so I told him if he wanted to keep coding after business hours he should do some more work on the side projects he’d shown us during the interview.

      (I don’t know the current status of the side projects, but I do know he’s stopped working late for the sake of working late.)

      1. Sea Anemone*

        I think a better response to your new hire would have been “I’m glad you like the work! The test environment shuts down at 8, though, and that’s a business decision, so it won’t change. If you really really like working late, just understand that you won’t be able to work on that, and the rest of us don’t like working late, so we won’t be around to answer questions or anything.”

    4. Hoping for Harmony*

      OP3 here – Thanks for your note! I didn’t want to overwhelm the original question with detail, but I’ll add a little more here.

      My intended message is that I don’t expect people to work EXTRA outside of traditional working hours – more like your second scenario. We need to perform most of our work during traditional work hours because that’s when the on-site people in the company are available. The “traditional work hours” conversation was part of the interview process, and isn’t a surprise. (The flexibility comes in, for example, because my new employee is gone every day from 2-2:40 for a school pick-up.)

      I hope it didn’t come across that she would be “told off” for working extra. I just want to contain it now for her work enjoyment and for the culture of the team.

      1. cubone*

        I had to tell an intern to knock this off and actually had to be quite explicit/stern about it. I suspect they were told to “impress” the boss by always working the most, but they would constantly tell me they had done work all weekend or would finish up a project tonight. Like you, I did a few gentle “hey, that’s really not expected of you” but it became very clear that it was a point of pride to this person and they thought it was an admirable, hard working quality.

        I sat them down and said “if you need flexibility, that’s okay and we can discuss that. But if you keep doing more work in the evenings and weekends, that means I don’t have an accurate picture of how long work is actually taking you. You’re being paid for 9-5, M-F and I need to understand what is reasonable in that time frame. When you keep doing work in your non-work hours, then I get the wrong information about how long that work actually takes, which means I’ll make poor estimates for this work in the future. I also need you to be operating at a good level of efficiency, and an important part of being able to do that is resting and taking breaks from work. It’s much more important and helpful to me that we discuss how to prioritize or manage your time, than it is that you keep working “until the job is done”.”

        granted this was pre pandemic so remote work wasn’t really a factor (and the intern didn’t have a company laptop, so there was a whole other level of “please stop doing work on your personal devices”). But it did the trick and I needed to be really explicit, because I really think they were interpreting every “please don’t work more than your hours” with a wink wink nudge nudge thing.

      2. Sea Anemone*

        You are making assumptions about her work enjoyment. A better conversation to have would be about how she likes to work so you can discover how her preferred work style meshes with your preferred work style. Establish a team culture where individual work styles can be accommodated, whether that means doing extra work that they enjoy or not doing extra work bc they don’t enjoy it.

  18. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP5 is a work question ;)

    “An acquaintance works as a wedding officiant. Is it OK for her to take on her stepdaughter as a client, with potential drama, or should she avoid mixing personal and business?”

    (That’s how I would ask it if I were of Mother of Bride’s mindset… which I’m not! I think MoB needs to back right off and let daughter make her own decisions.)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Really. This is not a road to start down because many things will come up as life unfolds here and OP does not want the role of questioning the motives for anything that happens. My vote is to nip this now before it gets to be a habit. Every daughter needs her mom. No one else can be mom, but just about anyone can officiate at a wedding.

  19. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    LW5 reminds me of the line from Frasier when Daphne was getting married. She told Frasier that her mum had promised her she could have exactly the wedding she wanted. Then walked off mumbling “as soon as I have a daughter who gets engaged”!

  20. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: you’re phrasing it as though the company has an obligation to pay for the childcare because it requires it. It’s not really viable. As a comparison think of taking a job that requires you to drive there every day (no public transport, arse end of nowhere etc) and expecting the firm to buy you a car/insure it/fuel it.

    There are some very rare firms that *might* do that, and there are some very rare firms that might give you financial coverage for daycare but they are like panning for gold dust in a sewage works.

    One of the great things about being freelance is being able to arrange your time, your location, what hours you work and when to suit your life. Of course this comes with the massive downsides of no paid sick leave, no paid holiday, I’m guessing healthcare coverage issues if you’re in the US and the knowledge that your earnings may not be constant.

    One of the great things about being salaried is having things like a steady pay that you know is going to be amount A on day B, knowledge that you’re not the one having to go out and look for the next contract to get paid, mostly higher job security and sometimes pay. On the downside, you can’t just schedule your days however you like anymore without agreement with the firm, you are expected to be focused on your job while on the clock and they do have the right to insist upon things that you may consider to be ‘personal life’ (like e.g. vaccinations).

    It all boils down to what you consider suits you better. If it’s the benefits of a full time job then arrange the daycare. If it’s the ability to look after children and work at the same time then look into freelancing again. There’s sadly no magic button that gets you everything in this world.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Okay, that was a little harsh upon rereading, I didn’t intend it to be like that.

      I’ve got a member of staff who has 2 kids, both too young to be left unattended. Pre-pandemic if he wanted to work from home he had to have daycare/childminder coverage – basically whatever he had in place normally for when he was in the office (can’t bring kids to here).

      When this whole lockdown business started he of course couldn’t get that help anymore, so the company worked around it as best it could – he got the ‘doesn’t require a trip to site’ calls and could supervise his kids in between.

      Now he’s returning to the office like we all are (so far it’s 3 days on, 2 days off) and he’s gradually building up from one day in the office and getting childcare sorted, to two, then three etc. He’s been pretty grateful for this slow return to normality – maybe suggesting a gradual buildup like that?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I think the ‘there’s no magic button’ bit sounded rather condescending upon a second read!

      1. BethDH*

        I have small kids and don’t think that’s harsh. It’s a reminder that your stability and consistency on the job is bought by their stability and consistency paying you.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Not at all harsh! My immediate response to the letter was”Wow! LW doesn’t understand work norms around childcare at all because she’s up in arms about a very normal requirement.”

      The one uncertainty here is the age of her kids and if the business rule has an age limit on requiring childcare. But my org says no childcare or elder care while you’re on duty and everyone’s on duty hours are fully spelled out.

    3. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      like panning for gold dust in a sewage works….
      You might be surprised at the amount of money we find…

  21. Jopestus*

    4# “I accept your apology. Honour is satisfied.” or, in case the honour is not satisfied, throw a glove.

    1. KHB*

      Tongue-in-cheekness aside, “I accept your apology” actually is a good way to say that, well, you accept the apology, while still making clear that you think the apology was warranted and necessary.

  22. I should really pick a name*

    #4 You might also want to let them know how you would like them to handle accidental misgendering in the future (for example, if you don’t want an email every time it happens)

  23. NewYork*

    Poster 1 — noticed that the poster said the stepmom barged in. If I assume that is the truth, I am thinking dad is helping pay for the wedding and insisting on this . Very unfortunate.

    1. anonymous73*

      I know that we are supposed to take LWs at their word, but to me it sounds like a bitter woman who hates stepmom and doesn’t want her involved in the wedding. And by butting in, all she’s going to do is hurt her daughter. It’s not her business and she needs to back off, unless daughter ASKS for her help.

  24. Rafflesia Reaper*

    I would LOVE to see Alison answer more very non-AAM questions like #5.

    When am I obligated to provide ketchup to my houseguests?
    Should I cut my own bangs?
    Is cast iron really worth it?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          *I* don’t think it’s worth it personally, but my husband has an enameled cast iron dutch oven that I do use a couple times a year. He got it because it was cast iron, but I use it because of its shape/form factor – that’s just the only dutch oven type pot we have. :)

        2. Run mad; don't faint*

          I don’t know if Le Creuset is worth it, but I find my inexpensive enameled iron skillet and dutch oven to be very useful and worthwhile. They’re easy care as long as you don’t mind hand washing.

        3. Two Dog Night*

          I adore my Le Creuset dutch oven–it cooks great and is very easy to clean. But I wouldn’t buy their skillets.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Cast iron really is worth it, FWIW. Learn how to season it properly and it’s the best non-stick pan you’ve ever used.

      (p.s. A metal spatula is your friend!)

      1. Reba*

        I’d say that vintage cast iron is really worth it. My grandmother’s skillet from a now-defunct manufacturer is smooth as silk, whereas I got rid of the Lodge pieces I tried due to their coarse surface. To be clear the Lodges are fine, they are plenty non-stick, just less pleasant to me to cook on and clean. (I think long term use would smooth them out a bit — is that what you are referring to wrt to the metal spatula?)

        But the vintage ones can be really really nice. There are also some premium new cast iron options that are machined smooth, I have not tried.

    2. Heidi*

      For all of these questions, my answer is “Are you willing to deal with the consequences?” If your houseguests will ruin your life over the ketchup, it might be worth it to buy some (or get better friends). If you’re willing to possibly have messed up bangs for awhile, go for it. I’m can’t think of anything really bad that will happen if you don’t have cast iron right now, unless someone is really giving you a hard time about not having one. It’s heavy.

    3. not owen wilson*

      My aunt and uncle gave me a Le Creuset dutch oven as a housewarming gift and it’s 100% worth it. I love that thing. But I also got a cast iron frying pan as a gift from an ex and ended up giving it away. I know theoretically that cast iron pans are great, but also I would never use it because a. washing it would always stress me out and b. I have a copper pan from Ikea that’s the same size, I know it’s nonstick, and I don’t have to think about how to wash it. Whereas with my cast iron pan it would always be like — is it seasoned enough? Can I wash it with soap without removing the seasoning? What if there’s a crust left on it and it gets moldy? And so it just sat on my stove (because I didn’t have room for it in with my other pans), and the seasoning layer ended up with a nice layer of cat hair on it. Which just made me want to use it less. I don’t miss that pan.

      Anyway, I know your question was tongue in cheek, but man. I have a lot of opinions about cast iron frying pans.

    4. James*

      When am I obligated to provide ketchup to my houseguests? Put it out when serving things that normally get ketchup (burgers, fries, that sort of thing), but make it available when they ask. I don’t judge culinary choices. That said, my wife’s third-generation Italian, and has slightly different views.

      Should I cut my own bangs? Unless you’ve been professionally trained or have experience at it, probably not. I’ve seen people do it a few times, and never once has it gone well.

      Is cast iron really worth it? If you take care of it properly. We’re talking a multi-generational investment here. My sisters and female cousins got my grandmother’s cast iron cookware when she passed. It’s no harder to care for than any other dish once you’re used to it, it’s better for you than and just as non-stick as Teflon if seasoned properly, and just about the only thing you have to worry about is it getting run over–it’ll survive just about anything else. I’ve seen cast iron used to make ingots of copper and aluminum in the morning and supper in the evening (THOROUGHLY cleaned between). Older really is better, though.

  25. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I remember eating at a restaurant once. The food was great, but the place was tiny, only room for two tables indoors and two more outside on the pavement. There was just one guy doing all the work there. We were waiting and hungry, but could see him working flat out in the kitchen and producing beautiful plates of food, several different dishes all timed to perfection. And every half-hour, his boss called to ask what was going on. As he was at last finishing up our order, it rang again, and I picked it up (the chef had left it near our table). An angry woman started asking who the hell I was, and I told her “look, your chef is working flat out here, I’m answering so he can get on with his job and feed us. Your constant calls are actually hampering him and slowing him down, and otherwise he’s doing a great job even though he’s all by himself, nobody to wash up or serve the dishes. I’m disconnecting the phone now, he’ll call you back once he’s finished cooking. Just so you know, there’s one more table after ours which he’s just finished since I’ve been talking to you.”
    (I was surprised at myself, I don’t usually think of what to say till the next day)

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I’d have suggested that if she needed so many updates, she should get her posterior in there and help.

    2. BluntBunny*

      I think OP could bring this to their university supervisor or programme manager. They can feedback that their work supervisor is harassing them everyday if it isn’t resolved it maybe that next year they may not look at partnering with them. Also if you are also studying full time I assume some of the time you aren’t just in the loo but in a lecture so wouldn’t be able to just take a call.

    3. 3DogNight*

      I wonder how much business that restaurant lost because of this? If I saw this, I’d be thinking and saying: This is too much for one person, we’ll go somewhere else.

      1. A Library Person*

        Yep, I was recently out at a restaurant (outside and distanced, to be clear) and it was obvious that the waitstaff and bar staff was incredibly thin. It took us long enough to get our drinks that we decided to get food elsewhere. We did tip VERY well, more along the lines of what we would have tipped with a full meal, as it wasn’t the waitstaff’s fault that management left them in the lurch.

  26. Ash*

    LW1 brings up a very good point: many people, even those making middle class salaries, essentially pay to work based on the complete inadequacy of subsidized childcare in the US. Companies who are interested in worker productivity and overall happiness should join the many others who are clamoring for real childcare solutions for working parents.

    1. Ding ding*

      Thank you!! A lot of commenters are framing this as a fight between parents and non-parents due to who ‘picks up the slack.’ So many countries have childcare systems that don’t make it essentially unaffordable to have childcare (including the US at different points in history). Everybody will win when there is sustainable childcare. And if the country can’t do it, (won’t), then a lot of big companies have plenty more options than just making those without children do more work. They just don’t want to because it would cost them money.

      Also – right now affordable childcare is PARTICULARLY out of reach because even though some daycares are opening up, it’s still not necessarily easy to find covid-safe spots. Babies and kids under 12 still aren’t vaccinated. Some daycares aren’t requiring workers to be vaccinated. Surely we’re not asking parents to put infants, for example, in that situation just so some companies can generate more revenue?

      1. anonymous73*

        So what’s your solution? Clearly the main problem isn’t going to be fixed overnight, so what’s going to help in the mean time? And yes, when it is EXPECTED that those without children will pick up the slack then it becomes a parent vs non-parent issue. It can only be sustained for so long.

        1. Ash*

          Joe Biden is already proposing universal childcare for all kids over age 3. In much of Western Europe, there is government subsidized childcare available for infants through school-age children. Plus of course, actual paid parental leave. There’s no reason why the US couldn’t accomplish this in a few years’ time, if there was a political will to find funding for it. When 75% of our federal taxes go to the military, you can certainly find a fraction of that to go towards caring for and educating children.

            1. Ash*

              Now, everyone needs a lot of grace and flexibility because we are in the middle of a pandemic. Honestly, yes, if you do have capacity to do a little bit extra than your coworkers who are caregivers (for children, elderly, sick relatives, anyone), it’s a good thing to do so. If you don’t have that capacity, hopefully your company can make do with as much as everyone is able to give right now.

          1. KateM*

            I’m in Eastern Europe and we need to pay only for food – three meals a day (breakfast; warm lunch of 2-3 courses; tea), allergies and such are taken into account. This is for children 3-7y in kindergarten that’s open 7am-7pm.

        2. Pennilyn Lot*

          Subsidizing childcare for employees who need it is in no way inherently expecting people without kids to pick up the slack. If you want a better, more just world, then you also have to accept that there are differing needs within that. I believe childcare should be free and accessible for all, but while it isn’t, yes I’m fully down with employers paying for childcare in some capacity, or at least subsidizing it significantly. I am never going to have kids and I have no problem with people with kids getting this perk that I do not need. These are things that far more meaningfully impact gender equality in the workplace than filling some CEO board with women.

          What’s your solution to all this? It seems like you’re rejecting any proposed solution but also acknowledging that there’s a problem.

          1. American Job Venter*

            Well said.

            The subtextual requested solution in many of these discussions is that parents, disproportionately female parents, drop out of the workforce, with concomitant raised risks of poverty and domestic abuse and drops in household stability, lifetime earning power, and societal status for both these specific women and women in general.

            1. Soon to be She-Cessed*

              Yea, it’s good to make that trade off explicit because otherwise it often gets hand-waved away. I can see how an individual manager or company would say “well, I can’t adjust for that, I’m running a business” because it’s not a problem that can be solved by an individual. But when it’s the norm then we’re accepting certain downsides and it’s good to be realistic about that.

        3. pancakes*

          Why can’t it instead become a parents and non-parents vs business owners and legislators issue? We all have the personal agency to make a choice about how to see this. Finding it more familiar or comfortable to see it as parents vs non-parents doesn’t oblige you to continue seeing it that way.

    2. WulfInTheForest*

      YES. Salaries are NOT at all what they need to be in order for parents to get by and pay for childcare. Half of my monthly salary was going to childcare before my kid aged into the state subsidized preschool program. Now a quarter of my pay goes to it, but rent has raised as well! It’s the main reason I’ve decided to be “one and done” with children, because we (like most of the country) can’t afford it.

      1. Ash*

        Not to mention, the childcare workers themselves are paid absolute peanuts. Most of them need childcare for their own kids. It’s fiscally impossible to have high quality childcare that is affordable to parents and also pays the childcare workers a living wage without government subsidies.

      2. AVP*

        Mine s about half of my take-home pay too, but I kind of think of it as a placeholder because I don’t think I’d be able to take a few years off and get back to the same level of my career.

        Luckily I live somewhere with free 3K so I only have a few years to deal with this! I kind of do want a second but I’m literally planning it around my kid getting that free preK spot the year he turns 3 because we can’t have two in daycare at the same time.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      While I don’t disagree, the LW asked about workplace norms and was informed that she was outrageously off base. She made an assumption that she could do both when it is not the norm. She’s justifying by saying business should pay for childcare if they expect me to not care for my child myself when working. That’s a basic assumption at at least 99% of jobs in the US. Can’t bring your kid into the office, the shop, the kitchen, restaurant, call center, the classroom with you while you work instead of finding childcare.

  27. Vermont Green*

    A close relative had a combination of mental health issues and (now recently diagnosed) ADD. I am proud of her for supporting herself for 30 years doing records management for the federal government. However, in order to complete her work she had to stay after hours most days, as the comings and goings in the daytime made it harder for her to focus. She did good work, and now is retired on a decent pension. If she had not been allowed to work late, she couldn’t have held her job.

    1. cubone*

      I respect this, but really this just tells me her workplace didn’t understand or offer the appropriate accommodations for someone with ADD/mental health challenges. She shouldn’t have had to “stay after hours” to get her work done if a medical condition impeded her ability to work during the daytime (being affected by the comings and goings). They should have made an accommodation for flexible working hours or a private/less busy space. Not had her work more hours.

  28. WellRed*

    My goodness OP. Your work isn’t telling you how to spend your money. They’re telling you how to spend your work time. That’s pretty normal. PS, lot’s of people have lots of non children expenses. Yeah, work does not subsidize those expenses.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      My job can’t really “tell me how to spend my money” but they’re going to demand I show up on time, reliably, appropriately dressed, and groomed correctly, so…yeah, I guess they are going to tell me how to spend my money and they’re perfectly within their rights to do so. Goodness.

  29. Pinky Pie*

    Letter writer 5

    My father and my husband father were both preachers. They preformed the ceremony for us when we got married. Both have passed away. That picture is the a cherished memory.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Same, or similar: we were married by an ordained close friend (I am now his son’s godmother) and an ordained member of my family led the prayers. It was a Big Deal to us to involve them, and keeps us close.

  30. agnes*

    I can see a requirement for a remote worker to have childcare if the employee is expected to be totally available at specific times of the day. That’s no different than being required to be in the office at specific times. Otherwise, I hope this pandemic has opened up new possibilities for how a lot of us can work.

  31. Not just work*

    I love the fact that Alison answered letter 5 anyway. You are great!!!
    If you open a subsection for not-really-work-related questions, I have one as well. XD (This is meant mostly joking, but who knows…)

  32. MissDisplaced*

    #1. Childcare is a normal expectation even if WFH!
    It’s incredibly difficult to focus on both things full time, every day. That said, some places might be more flexible about this than others.

    #2 Talk to you manager. I usually tell people something like: I’ll be available between office hours of 8-4. But if for some reason I don’t immediately pick up your call or respond to your ping, I will get back to you within about 10 minutes.

  33. Lizy*

    Op 5 – I’m kinda the opposite. I’m stepmom and bio-mom has never really been in the picture, but she will tell anyone and everyone (including me) that she raised him “all by herself” and make it out to seem like I’m nothing. This is to the point that my 16YO has proclaimed that I should stop “acting like a mother figure”. To be entirely clear, he’s lived with us since he was 4. During that entire time, he’s seen his bio-mom MAYBE 4 weekends a year, total. And it sure as hell isn’t from our lack of trying.

    Sorry, but stepmoms aren’t all out to get you. Sometimes, we just love your kids, too.

    1. Sambal*

      Yeah, when one of my friends got married, her husband’s mother was the pain in everyone’s butt. She would constantly make the wedding about her, and act like she was a saint for contributing the tiniest amount. Her husband’s stepmother, on the other hand, was a lifesaver to my friend. She listened to my friend to see what see needed, and was extremely generous with her time and money without ever receiving praise.

      Like you, Lizy, the mother barely played a role in the kids lives. But she acts like her kids owe her something because she gave birth to them.

      OP5, I’m not saying that you’re exactly like my friend’s mother-in-law, but listen to these comments. Let your daughter be, and don’t make this event about you. It’ll be better for everyone in the long run.

  34. Dwight Schrute*

    LW one it’s totally a normal expectation during non pandemic times that you would have childcare during working hours. The trade off to being a freelancer and setting your own hours is having childcare while you are on the clock and working regular hours for that stable pay and benefits. I’ve got a puppy right now and it’s hard to maintain focus on work with her home, I can’t imagine being focused on work during my hours if I had a younger human child to care for!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I have two adult cats and they act up so much when I’m working from home that childcare for them seems like a terrific idea!

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        Agreed! Between my 3 dogs acting up and being wild during the day I feel they need daycare at times too

  35. Dust Bunny*

    “I’m just wondering if a company can legally require childcare without subsidizing it?”

    I sort of get the idea behind this emotionally but it’s still not logical. If the employee is working in an office they’re probably paying for childcare, too, but it’s just called . . . getting paid. They pay it out of their wages/salary. Why there would be the expectation of subsidization for WFH childcare . . . ?

    The only other explanation is that somebody was hoping to WFH specifically because they thought they could do both at once, which was off the table long before COVID.

      1. Person from the Resume*


        So parents should make more money than non-parents? (BTW the US military does this (sort of) by paying people with dependents more money than people without. Not really fair.)

        How about every employee be paid a living wage and they choose what to spend their money on?

        And/or the government subsidize much of child care instead of the employee or employer?

        1. Nia*

          Yes some people get more benefits than other people because their needs are different. You’re not seriously suggesting a healthy employee should be paid more because someone with a chronic health condition is utilizing more benefits than the healthy person?

            1. Nia*

              So if someone gets lung cancer because they smoked a pack a day for 20 years they shouldn’t get benefits because that was their choice and it would be unfair to all the people who didn’t smoke and didn’t get lung cancer?

        2. Nia*

          The more I think about the stupider that line of reasoning gets. Are you suggesting parental leave shouldn’t be a thing? Or are you saying that for every coworker that takes parental leave that everyone who didn’t take it should get to take a matching amount of time off?

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Nobody is suggesting that. Parental leave doesn’t last for years on end, for starters.

            Unless you mean parental leave, only, and not family leave applicable to caring for an ailing parent, say, in which case, yes, parental leave specifically is unfair in that parents aren’t the only people who might need it.

            1. Nia*

              I mean parental leave only. In other better countries parents get a year of leave are you saying that that should be taken away if those countries are not also willing to let non-parents take a year of leave?

              1. James*

                I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s a remarkable amount of hostility towards parents in these blog comments (speaking generally, not necessarily this thread specifically).

        3. Anonymous Koala*

          It’s about what outcome the company wants. If the company wants to spend as little money as possible, then sure, they shouldn’t pay for childcare, healthcare, or parental leave, and they shouldn’t be surprised when qualified people who want those perks choose to look elsewhere for jobs. If a company wants a diverse, well-qualified workforce, they should invest money in enabling all kinds of people to work for them, including parents – and that means paying for childcare.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Well, to be fair, some employers offer on-site childcare with a discount for employees. But that’s a perk not a requirement.

    2. braindump*

      “Why there would be the expectation of subsidization for WFH childcare . . . ?”

      Public transportation is often subsidized by companies when a majority of employees use it, even though it could be considered something an employee “should” pay for to get to work. It would be nice to see the same done for childcare. In my area, my large employer actually created space in a new building for an on-site daycare.

      (I’m childfree, in case one thinks I’m a parent on the side of getting “extra perks”. My perk would be parents that can devote time to work, and less time for me picking up after them.)

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yes, but public transport can be used by almost everyone and the subsidy, at least at my job is much smaller ($50 a month). It’s really not at all comparable to a childcare subsidy. It also has the obvious direct benefit of freeing up parking spaces for patrons and for the few employees who can’t use public transport.

        1. James*

          Companies often donate to charities. It’s for PR, but it still does good. Something similar could be done here. A company could decide to subsidize a daycare, on the premise that the daycare reduce prices (not enough to lose money, or even break even, though). It would be remarkably good PR this day and age–it would be a way to say “See, we care for our employees” in a concrete and practical way. Plus, there are economies of scale to consider (it’s easier to subsidize a daycare than to pay for one child in a daycare), and a multinational company is in a better negotiating position than an individual family. Couple that with the company allowing generous leeway for employees leaving to take care of sick children, and it could make a company look really, really good for a comparatively small investment.

          The company gets good PR, the employees have one burden lessened, and the community at large benefits. Ideally this notion would spread, too.

          The downside is that I need to let my company have a certain amount of control over the daycare I send my kids to. That would get…interesting. The company I work for has a rather rigorous safety program (read: onerous), and it would be entertaining to see how it plays out in the childcare arena. Construction managers and small children tend to get along like lit matches and old gunpowder. Regardless, it’s a consideration–another inroad the company is making into your personal life.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            But unless you provide a needs-based subsidy, you run into “Jane makes twice as much as I do but she gets this nice perk just because she decided to have kids!”

            1. James*

              That’s why I’m thinking the subsidy should be given to the daycare, not the worker. At that point Jane isn’t getting a nice perk, the company’s doing something good for the community that Jane happens to live in. Everyone–including non-employees–would be able to take advantage of the benefit. If you choose not to, that’s on you.

              Further, I’d say that anyone who views such a situation as unfairly favoring parents (and I’ve seen a lot of such comments on this board) isn’t going to be happy with anything the company chooses other than a giant sign saying “Breeders Need Not Apply”. Trying to make such people happy is impossible, so I don’t spend a whole lot of mental energy on it. Putting up with the griping is just part of the cost of doing business.

              1. JustaTech*

                My friend is a director at a daycare/preschool associated with a hospital, and the hospital specifically subsidizes the cost of sending kids there at least in part because they recognize that their employees (doctors and nurses and janitorial staff) have non-standard working hours and need childcare that can work around those hours. The easiest way to do that is to pay at least part of the cost of childcare at a specific location.

                It’s a benefit to the hospital because they can get staff who otherwise wouldn’t be able to work there because of childcare requirements.
                (As far as I know the subsidy goes directly to the childcare center and not to the employees.)

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      The company requires you to come to work clean in the morning, but they don’t pay for soap or subsidize your hot water bill. However, if you’re a surgeon or fire fighter or coal miner, and your work means that you get really dirty on the job site, then they ought to provide showers, etc.

      Most responsibilities can be divided between the employer and the employee using this kind of common-sense logic.

  36. Philly Redhead*

    I’m a parent, and completely in support of requiring childcare when working from home in normal times. When my son was a year old, I had a VERY part-time contract job, working 10 hours a week. They knew I had a child, and for the most part, could work during his naps and at night when my partner was home with him, with the occasional rare jobs coming in that needed to be turned in by the end of the day.

    IT. WAS. SO. HARD.

    Even last school year (he’s 9 now), supervising him during virtual school was SO stressful.

  37. Philly Redhead*


    “I feel like they can’t tell employees how to spend their money and raise their children, period, but especially not when it doesn’t affect our job performance and they’re not offering a financial contribution to childcare.”

    How does she know it’s not affecting her job performance?

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Especially since it sounds like the child was never in care so there’s no basis for comparison.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      How does she know it’s not affecting her job performance?

      How do any of us know it’s only harming her job performance, and never helping it?

      Especially in creative roles, sometimes a distraction or interruption can result in a different way of seeing things afterwards. Sometimes, that even results a breakthrough. It has a lot in common with visiting a coworker at their desk, getting a fresh cup of coffee, etc.

    3. Atlantic Toast Conference*

      Yes. This isn’t a good argument. Job performance aside… my job requires me to wear business clothing, but doesn’t offer a financial contribution towards shopping or dry cleaning. My job is not reachable by public transportation which requires me to have a vehicle, but doesn’t offer a financial contribution towards car costs. Maybe you could argue that it *should* contribute towards those things, but it’s pretty normal for employees to need to handle expenses that enable them to work.

      As a parent, I’m very sympathetic to OP’s statement that childcare is expensive! But also as a parent… I don’t find simultaneous work+childcare to be tenable, and I have no problem with an employer requiring childcare (unusual COVID-related exceptions notwithstanding, etc etc).

      1. Sambal*

        Yeah, I mean honestly, if OP has only ever worked freelance jobs, I can understand her frustration as we function with a weird set of arbitrary rules, distinguishing what a job should and shouldn’t cover. You raised some good ones, like dry cleaning and transportation (that in my option should overwhelmingly be covered).

        But isn’t this something, we as workers, have always been struggling with? Yes, in theory, a company should provide us with the basic needs to do our job. However companies (or the bourgeoisie, depending on your leanings), especially smaller ones, will try to get away with as little as possible.

        1. Boof*

          I mean, I think employeers can give equipment to work, but asking them to cover clothes, transport, housing, and bascially everything required to sustain us as workers ON TOP of a salary doesn’t make sense – won’t it lead to huge differences in payment for people who have more caregiver needs, like fancier clothes, live father away, etc? And I’m a bigger fan of “equal payment for equal work” over “so and so needs the money more than you so you can work for less”

          1. Sambal*

            Well, lots of companies have partially-funded or fully-funded childcare, transportation, and other perks that acknowledge that their employee’s existence is more than just of a worker. I don’t see why that can’t be the norm? I understand that it doesn’t read well with what our markets deem appropriate, but that’s another topic for another day.

            “Equal pay for equal work” is a great fundamental, but not if the pay makes it prohibitive for those with lesser means/more obligations to take the job.

  38. anonymous73*

    #1 – while there should always be exceptions to the rules, you can’t have it both ways. It is 100% reasonable for a company to expect you to have childcare even when you work from home.
    #2 – your boss sounds like one who thinks when you’re working remotely, you’re just sitting on the couch, eating bon bons and watching Netflix all day. I would ask him if there’s a problem with your productivity (assuming he says no), then ask him if you were on site, would he expect you to carry around a phone with you 100% of the time, even to the bathroom? If he says yes I would push back and set boundaries. Nobody should be chained to their desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week nor should they be expected to do so. I get up and walk around my house every once in a while to stretch my legs. People need small breaks throughout the day to function.
    #5 – butt out unless your daughter asks for help. Weddings are stressful enough without relatives inserting themselves into the decision making process.

  39. Salad Daisy*

    #3 Take your phone into the bathroom. The next time your boss calls, answer the phone, then hold it near the toilet while you flush. Then use the sink, again with the phone nearby. I guarantee your boss will change their tune.

    1. Pam Poovey*

      The true power move would be to call her back using FaceTime while sitting on the can.

      (Joking, in case that’s not obvious)

  40. my 8th name*

    Hmm. I feel like all pandemic, on this platform and others, parents have been telling us that it’s unreasonable to expect them to be as productive and responsive without childcare compared to with childcare – and I believe them! And so, it’s hard for me to accept LW1’s assertion that their productivity is not at all impacted by their children being home (assuming their children are young). I am empathetic to the expensive and inaccessible nature of childcare, but I am having trouble reconciling these two messages!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Well, there’s two messages because … different people have different experiences? I suspect the people saying “I can’t be as productive while caring for my children” are probably not also the people saying “I’m just as productive when my kids are home as when they’re not.”

  41. Busyness of Ferrets*

    LW1 sounds like they need an attitude adjustment not LW2.

    Companies aren’t telling you how to raise your kids by expecting you to put them in care during work hours. I’m so tired of people twisting this stuff into “they’re telling me how to parent”.

    No, they’re telling you they expect you to be focused on work. Period.

  42. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Joining the chorus of folks suggesting explaining to the manager that you’ll call back in a few minutes, because you may be answering the door, on another call, or in the loo. A reasonable manager would understand and might even do a little bit of a facepalm. I had a similar situation with a manager who, when I explained about using the bathroom (there was a whole thing also about the distance to the bathroom, the bathroom cleaning schedule, and also a weird problem with our floor’s phone system that all made all this understandable) she backed off and agreed she’d call back if she didn’t get an immediate answer.

  43. eons*

    “I write a work advice column but what the hell, I’ll answer this.” Thank you for this chuckle omg lol

  44. RagingADHD*

    LW2: Flushing. Lots of flushing. “Sorry, can’t hear you! Why don’t I call you back?”

    LW5: If your daughter said to you something like, “Stepmom put me on the spot when she volunteered to be the officiant, and I said I’d think about it, but now she assumes it’s definite and I don’t really want that, how do I get out of this?”

    Then you can give her advice about how to handle it and get the officiant she really wants. But unless she’s asking for your help, you have to assume Stepmom is the one she wants.

    Besides, if Stepmom is up in front, it eliminates all the other potential awkwardness of who sits where, who walks in when, who has the bigger corsage, and the million other petty details that people get offended over.

  45. LondonLady*

    #LW2 – you could try being ‘super-present’: DM your manager “I’m just taking a 2 minute bathroom break” “Back now”. “Submitted this morning’s reports, about to answer the door to the postman”. “Back now”. etc They may rapidly back off from all the ‘Back Now’s.

    #LW3 – just bear in mind that Jolene may prefer to work that way eg doing something gently over the w/e rather than in a rush end Friday, or taking time for a lunchtime walk or meetup and finishing work after dinner. I do my best writing work in the evening, and leave mornings for admin, quick replies, as my brain works best that way. I do try to send emails only in conventional working hours. As long as I get good quality work done on time, my employer does not interfere.

    1. Hoping for Harmony*

      Thanks, London Lady – I’m LW3. You make a good point about what Jolene’s preferences may be, and getting the work done is the most important thing. The other part of my concern is worrying if she will make other people feel like working at night/weekends is a shift to our culture.

  46. ICanRelate*

    LW 5, I understand your feelings towards the SM (believe me I do). I think many people here can kinda understand, especially if the SP isn’t very liked. But as Alison and others have said, this is your daughter’s wedding. But as much as you don’t like it, it’s about your daughter not you. Just go to the wedding, smile politely at the SM then make sure you’re busy the rest of the evening as the bride’s mom….mingling and avoiding SM.

    1. anonymous73*

      As a stepmom, I think your statements about her are unfair. We don’t know the details of the situation, and while we are supposed to take LWs at their word, to me the letter screams bitter. There are 3 sides to every story…and the one she’s telling contradicts itself. Stepmom can’t “never be a part of daughter’s life” while “trying to separate mom and daughter”.

  47. SJ (they/them)*

    LW #4, what I try to do in this situation is limit my response to “thank you”, “thanks”, “thank you for apologizing”, “gotcha, thanks”, etc. I see some commenters above have suggested “no hard feelings” but if that doesn’t feel good to you (it wouldn’t to me), you don’t have to say that. Sometimes if you don’t bend over backwards to accept an apology, people will come back with more apologizing/explanations; even in those cases I try to stick to either “thanks again” or “ok” or in person I lean A LOT on various “mmm” noises. I try never to appease the other person even when it’s what it feels like i SHOULD do to close the conversational loop.

    Also, you didn’t necessarily bring this up but I want to acknowledge anyway that being misgendered really, really sucks. Even if they mean well, even if it’s new and you’re trying to be patient, even if you wish it didn’t hurt. It will throw me off for a whole day sometimes and like… this is something that happens almost every day so that’s… just a lot. It’s a lot! You’re doing great and ALSO it’s okay to be polite to the person in the moment but also really angry and hurt in your own feelings.

    Sending you lots of love.

    1. SJ (they/them)*

      I forgot to mention, emojis can be your friend here too! Email back just a thumbs up emoji, or if something similar happens over Slack or whatever you can just thumbs up the message to show you saw it. (TBH this also works in person if you want to acknowledge the apology but don’t trust yourself to open your mouth without “it’s okay!” coming out.)

      Good luck

    2. Gerry Keay*

      Yeah want to expand on that second paragraph, mostly for any cis folks reading. For me, when I’m misgendered, my biggest feelings aren’t anger or offense, they’re sadness and dysphoria. Being misgendered, even accidentally, is a reminder that people don’t see me the way I want to be seen. I’m very rarely mad at people who misgender me (unless they’re being malicious), but I’m always deflated, sad, self conscious, and filled with loathing for my own body. It sucks, and so much love and solidarity to every trans person who has to put up with this stuff.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I’m pretty conservative, in most senses of the word, but I have learned that things I don’t understand can hurt someone I love. It doesn’t matter whether I “understand,” much less whether I “approve.”

        What matters is whether I respect the people I come in contact with, and especially those I love, and show them that I respect them.

  48. hungryeyass*

    LW #5

    My family’s been there… When my nephew was born, my mother was extremely upset that my brother decided that my stepmom would also be called “grandma.” My mom complained and complained about it and refused to let it go. Even when everyone explained that it was my brother’s decision and she needed to just accept it.

    I can tell you that I personally lost a lot of respect for her over this situation. You don’t want to go there, it’s not worth damaging your relationship. Just let it go and accept your daughter’s decision.

    1. Boof*

      Yeah my mom got upset at another person being called grandma because she wasn’t actually related or much involved in our lives (she was basically a step-grandma, and the grandpa she was married to was somewhat estranged from his son). But it was… the least complicated thing we could call her at that particular time? It caused needless stress over something that didn’t really matter, of COURSE we knew who the people we could really count on (and would make sure to do the same).
      Just don’t make mountains out of molehills, don’t sweat the small stuff, focus on the good things in life and being a positive force in the world.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I’m a big fan of the “whatever noise comes out of the first grandchild’s mouth when they recognize you” system of naming grandparents. In my family, we’ve had Gigi, Nanny, Mimi, Nana, and Grammy (probably started as gammy or something, but the first grandbaby was a long time before ours).

      No conflict, no problem, and the grandparents get all the warm and fuzzy feelings about their very own special name.

  49. mythopoeia*

    For #4, another approach I like is to just say the words “Apology accepted” or “Thanks, apology accepted.” Maybe with a :) at the end, if that’s your style over email.

  50. Just Another Cog*

    My employer, pre-pandemic, required that anyone with a flex-place agreement for working from home had to show evidence that they were not the primary caregiver for a child under 12 during their working hours. Without a flex agreement, I couldn’t even work from home during blizzards when both kids were small.
    This requirement was waived as of 3/20/20, when they sent us all home and the schools and daycares closed.
    They’re now moving to put it back in place, with a lot of flexibility for those whose children get quarantined. The problem is that a lot of employees who were not WFH before the pandemic were never aware of that requirement and think that its new and targeted at them personally.
    My experience has been that there’s been a huge amount of flexibility around the topic, and grace extended to caregivers, who have been stuck in a truly crappy situation for nearly 2 years now. Most of the parents within my division made the best of a crappy situation, and as a division we got all our work done. But the policy remains on the books and the movement to re-instate is is absolutely being driven by the fact that a few people took negative advantage.

    1. Soon to be She-Cessed*

      Out of curiosity, what was considered sufficient evidence? I could easily provide a daycare invoice in the before times but I’m not sure how I could prove my partner was a stay at home parent if that was our situation.

      1. Just Another Cog*

        Currently, the form says “Remote work is not a substitute for ongoing child care” and “If applicable” the employee will provide a “general description of caregiving arrangements.” I have no idea how much that was scrutinized in the Before Times, but I imagine that it was scrutinized *if* it appeared to be becoming a problem. Basically, trust is extended until you start doing things to show its not working, and then they start asking more questions about “what the hell are you actually doing all day?”

        The amount of grace I see for parents WFH with young children is definitely declining, and by the time schools and daycare are running more normally I’m expecting there will be a backlash. There’s always a backlash, sadly.

      2. Overeducated*

        My employer has this requirement, and it relies on trusting employees not to lie. You would, in that case, just tell your boss your partner is a stay at home parent.

  51. WulfInTheForest*

    I think the real issue in LW 1’s question is that their salary is clearly not enough, as childcare would bankrupt them. In fact, the vast majority of our salaries are not enough, as most people in the US are underpaid. Rent is rising, childcare costs are through the roof, and wages have been stagnant for far too long. The US wants to know how to get a larger workforce? Subsidize daycare, and it’ll open up millions of opportunities for women and single parents.

    I feel for LW 1, since I’ve been in a similar boat before.

  52. I should really pick a name*

    Did you actually tell your boss that you were in the washroom?
    It sounds like you may have let them think you just weren’t answering the phone.

  53. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – I found when my children were small, that it was pretty impossible to get work done and take good care of them. I was working remotely then, and have been for over 10 years. I absolutely had to have childcare so that I could work productively. Small children need constant attention and supervision, not to mention snacks, cuddles, park outings, etc. etc.

    As they got older, they became more self-sufficient. It sounds like you are in the same situation – ie. that your kids are somewhat older. I would say that after age 9 or so, you really don’t need childcare if you’re in the home and available. Depending on the kid, of course.

  54. KoiFeeder*

    #2, I see your graduate advisor is the teacher for one of my classes last semester. For the class, honestly, I just let her go to voicemail even though she hated it. I’m not answering the phone at 5am or 11pm or while I’m eating or using the bathroom. I never apologized or gave excuses, just emailed her back saying that it looked like I missed her call but to discuss what was on the voicemail [xyz].

  55. hola my peeps*

    I have a 5 month old puppy and my goodness, she’s made it almost impossible to focus while teleworking. My husband and I have arranged our schedules so either one of us is available for her or she goes to the puppy daycare she loves. I can’t imagine trying to work and care for multiple children simultaneously. I understand the covid flexibilities but it’s not crazy to expect an employee to focus solely on work during work hours.

  56. Sea Anemone*

    (And working nights and weekends does not impress me.)

    Well, working standard 40 hrs/week doesn’t impress me.

    To your concerns, there are ways to communicate to the other workers that they are still not expected to work extra hours, and burn out is not a simple formula of if hoursWorked > 40 then burnOut. I have always worked at places where there is that one person (or two or more) who worked crazy hours bc that’s who they were. Management made it clear that That Person worked those hours by choice, and we were not expected to do the same.

    And some people do like working a lot. It’s not that they don’t have work life balance, it’s that their fulcrum is in a different place than yours. Burn out is at least as much about feeling supported as it is about hours worked. When you forbid someone who likes working extra from doing so, you are not supporting them, and you are likely to cause them burn out.

    Just let Jolene be Jolene, and continue to make sure everybody feels supported in working 40 hr/week. Jolene might even start emulating them on her own as she settles in.

    1. bumbleblue*

      I adore this answer. I put my time and energy to my work because I like doing it. It doesn’t mean I’m burning out – letting me work on projects the way I want to and at my pace is what GIVES me energy. I relax by learning, planning, organizing and I love that I have a job that gives me these things

    2. RagingADHD*

      Since Jolene is a new hire, and the projects are not high priority or rush status, I would think there might be some concern over whether she’s working effectively.

      I think it behooves the manager to discourage all those extra hours until they get a sense of how Jolene is actually performing and managing her time and energy. If it just takes her 60 hours to do the work that her peers are doing in 35-40, but she’s constantly bringing it up to her manager for brownie points, that indicates a pretty significant mismatch of expectations.

  57. bumbleblue*

    LW3: Does your team have an expected/agreed upon schedule or routine? Because I’m not sure if your idea of work/life balance is the same as your new hire.

    I am not a morning person, and I prefer to change my schedule based on when I can focus best. I have found that I focus and work best from 2-7, so I’ll put in a few hours in the morning and then take a long break before coming back. Other members of my team prefer a 7-3 schedule or a 9-5. We’re still working from home. My manager has made it clear that he doesn’t expect me to be online when when he starts his day, and my other team members know they aren’t expected to work late because I want to. As it gets darker outside, we’ve talked about adjusting our schedules so we can make sure we get enough sun during the day because it will be pitch black by 5pm.

    Sometimes I put in a few hours over the weekend because there are no interruptions. I do have ADD and I’m taking medication for it, but my medication isn’t intended for ‘and I will work just like everyone else and have a 9 to 5 schedule, and fit in everyone else’s business norms.’ I HATE the idea of trying to match what everyone else does at work if I just really can’t. That’s a lot of pressure to put on myself and it’s not fair to me. My work is measured in terms of quality and meeting deadlines, it’s not about how many hours I put it in or if I’m always available to my team. And when I’m in ‘project mode’, I want to go full in when I have the energy and focus. I don’t want to make myself stop because of what other people might think – that’s the opposite of how I can make progress. My work/life balance won’t look like my coworkers and I’ve accepted that is okay.

    From your letter, it doesn’t sound like you’re considering what flexible is for your employee. Is she putting in extra hours, or is she adjusting her schedule to suit her needs? Are ‘traditional’ hours a requirement for the team? if they are full remote, is that important?

    1. Hoping for Harmony*

      These are all great questions. Thank you. I’m LW3…
      During the interview process, we talked about how the role fits within traditional work hours. We are a collaborative team and we work with the on-site staff for a manufacturing organization, too. So there does need to be a preponderance of overlap of our schedules. During the interview process, we talked about scooting hours up or back based on an occasional appointment. We also agreed about a daily school pick-up that we can incorporate into her day. Otherwise, I was clear throughout the interview process that she needs to be available in general from 9-4.
      Mostly, I want to make sure that she doesn’t feel obligated to work a lot of extra hours – especially during a training period when there really is no emergency to deal with. And I want to preserve the culture that I don’t expect my team to put in extra hours just because they’re remote and *could* do the work.

      1. Amaranth*

        You may have to spell it out a bit more clearly to Jolene. The instruction to ‘be available in general’ could mean she needs to be reachable and ready to work *if needed* between 9-4 but she is using some of that time to do other things and catches up the workload later.

      2. bumbleblue*

        That makes a lot of sense – is she exempt or non exempt; if she was hourly I would be concerned that she was putting in time when she wasn’t on the clock. But if she’s putting in the hours because she thinks she needs to catch up with the rest of the team, maybe you just need to cover expectations again.

        Maybe your new hire is trying to impress you with her imitative or she thinks she needs to document that she is trying to learn about the role or be prepared – I once had a manager who thought “if you don’t tell me about it or I don’t see it, you’re obviously not doing it it.”

        Do you think she feels pressure to catch up to the rest of the team and prove her worth? We hired two new people to my department six months ago and while they don’t report to me, they are filling positions that I managed for three years. Even with my documentation, there is a huge learning curve and a lot of office politics to be aware of. My department changed a lot since I started and my responsibilities adjusted to newly identified needs, and even more when the pandemic hit.

        I could tell that the new team members felt like they were stepping into huge shoes, and they really wanted to contribute and prove they were valuable members of the team. Since it took me at least a year and a half before I felt settled in, I try to reinforce that there isn’t an expectation for them to know everything right away and that it’s normal for it to take time. I’ve scheduled regular check-ins with them to address any questions and I’ve been conscious of including them in our department decision making. I meet with their managers as needed to make sure they’re not being overloaded. They were hired in a slow period, and we’re only now approaching our busiest time of the year; I’ve been picking up on their anxiety so I make an effort to remind them that not everything is urgent and we don’t handle any literal emergencies. I remind them that I’m salaried and my role was created with specific goals and assignments, so the expectations for myself are different than them. I want them to feel empowered to define their roles based on what they need and what they and their managers think the expectations should be, and not “This is what Bumbleblue did.”

        Maybe Jolene will settle in as she really gets to know the role and what the expectations are, especially if she learns there is no immediate pressure to know everything. Are the priority levels clear cut? I’m good at guessing the priorities at work now, but it wasn’t clear when I started. I kept asking about priority levels and deadlines until it just became a normal part of our workgroup. Do you know what her previous workplace environments were like? I mean, if you and the rest of your team keep enforcing work/life balance as an expected norm and part of the culture that will probably take care of it over time (but definitely speak up if it is a pattern). The one thing I do miss from the office is that our building lights started to shut off at 6pm – the message of work/life balance from the Executive level was always very clear.

  58. RB*

    #3 — Maybe Jolene is NOT working extra hours, she is just spreading her hours out over the day differently than your standard 9-5 shift. Was she not supposed to be doing that? I thought everyone who works from home does a little of that, some people more than others depending on the job and their home situation.

  59. Britt*

    LW #1: “I feel like they can’t tell employees how to spend their money and raise their children, period, but especially not when it doesn’t affect our job performance and they’re not offering a financial contribution to childcare.”

    They’re not telling you how to spend your money and raise your children– presumably you can choose any child care arrangement you like (including having a spouse or other relative care for your children.) They are just telling you one thing you *can’t* do, which is for *you* to be the person providing child care to your children while you’re supposed to be working. Would you be this upset if they told you that you couldn’t work a second job during the hours that you’re supposed to be working this job? Because that’s basically the same thing.

    (And if there is some way that you manage to care for young children full-time and simultaneously work full-time and it truly “doesn’t affect [your] job performance,” this parent would love to hear about that magic…)

  60. the great whodunit*

    For the misgendered LW, I think “Thanks. I appreciate it” is perfectly concise.

    I’ve had people make casually racist remarks at work and somewhere in the day, either by my rxn or someone else calling them out or personal reflection, they apologize. It still hurt, but I’m not “mad” and don’t wanna say “it’s ok.” It really sucks to be confronted with bigotry when you least expect it. I appreciate them correcting quickly and reflecting, and yeah, maybe long-term I get their intentions weren’t bad, but it’s not ok.

Comments are closed.