working parents with little kids: how can your coworkers help you?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question.

Thanks for posting the letter from the overwhelmed mom last week. It obviously got a lot of traction. And it’s great that there were plenty of folks in the comments who are not in the same boat (no kids, older kids, etc.) expressing “silent solidarity” or sympathy or whatever.

However, solidarity doesn’t get any of us moms more sleep, food on the table, clean clothes on the kids, etc. We don’t need warm fuzzies, we need workplaces that recognize we exist.

Can you do a post asking moms of young kids what would actually help them right now (both at work and at home)? Our daycare has only been closed for three weeks total since September 2020 due to Covid, so we’re super lucky, but many other parents are not as fortunate.

Let’s do it. If you work and have little kids and are struggling, what can your colleagues do to help you right now? What can others do to help you outside of work? To be clear, the crux of the problem is that the system has catastrophically failed working parents, and individuals can’t change that — but what help can individuals offer you?

{ 687 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    This is a post about how we can help parents at work. Frustrations of non-parents are a valid topic too, but that’s not what this post is about. Comments on this post outside of the topic above will be removed.

  2. Cameron*

    working hybrid with a 4 month old. we need y’all to be understanding that we cannot just “jump” on a call at the last moment. for calls and meetings, I have to schedule someone to come sit with my son while I do those so they cant be last minute. understand that I may respond to your email in 5 minutes or in 5 hours.

    1. FridayFriyay*

      To add to this, parents of the smallest kids often do not have predictable schedules. If you expect new parents to work around nap times, please know that those times will almost certainly be inconsistent throughout the day and day to day.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Also, even if the baby was on a schedule for the past month, this morning he might cackle like a tiny supervillain and launch into a whole new developmental phase that ignores half the stuff his tired parents thought they had figured out.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            Oh my god I thought it was just me that my kid was changing it up every 2-3 days! We’d figure something out and BOOM NEW THING!

            It gets kind of easier as a toddler, my kids 18 months old now and we have a set routine but there are times she wakes up late or early or her nap is delayed etc.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Ha! We were just telling a coworker who’s working part time for a couple of weeks with his newborn the same thing. You can’t count on those naps to be timely!

          I’ve been tackling anything that needs to be done during business hours and leaving him tasks that can be done anytime (2am? Why not?!). I send him messages throughout the day to let him know what I’ve accomplished, but he knows he’s not expected to respond right away.

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yup. Oh look, time to drop a nap. Oh hey, time to start adding in solid foods, which means that before long, the kid is needing three meals, two snacks, and probably 2-3 bottles for a while.

        3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Exactly. Every time I figured anything out for more than 3 days, my son entered a new development phase.

      2. turquoisecow*

        Oh yeah this. My one year old was on a good nap schedule for several months, then randomly decided to change. My work has been super flexible and I can work when I need to but yeah, I can’t schedule things during naps because I honestly can’t tell you when they’ll be!

      3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        When my baby was little (in fall 2020) he had a 6th sense for when I had a meeting coming up and really needed him to nap…those were the days he would fight going to sleep, wake up after 20 minutes, and just be a terror all day!

    2. Pop*

      100%. My printer delivery guy keeps trying to come to the office with no warning to drop off our new printer (we are still remote). I can go to the office any time, but calling and saying “I’ll be there in ten minutes” isn’t it – I’m breastfeeding and need to make sure I have a bottle in the fridge or adjust her feeding schedule.

      1. Momma Bear*

        In general, breastfeeding mothers need consideration and support. Pumping is not something that can be done any old time or skipped for the sake of something that comes up. There can be serious consequences to skipping a session or not pumping long enough. Yes, you can cry over spilled milk. When my kid was a baby and I was newly back to work, lack of support for nursing/pumping was one of my biggest hurdles. I once pumped in a restroom at a client site while my manager (a woman!) was nagging me to hurry up. I should have gone to HR about that. Having that bottle, having frozen reserves, having enough for another outing….all considerations that people need to bear in mind that first year.

        1. Loolooloo*

          Since the USA parental leave policy is quite inhumane, an employer who is at least willing to make some accommodation for breastfeeding moms is so key. Designated lactation spaces (a locking, private room without windows which is not a toilet, closet, or common break room), reasonable time accommodated for pumping, a place to store breast milk, and a supervisor who will hold your pumping times sacred and not knock, call, or email you with urgent tasks during pumping is so key.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Can I throw on some more things:

            – a place to store the pump that is sanitary
            – storage for extra clothes (in case of spills/seepages

            Also, support and respect your weaning employees just the same as the pumping/nursing mom. I remember the employer with my first child was great – even had some mini reusable hot/cold packs that were kept in the pumping room for when you were at the drying out and in pain phase. Those were an amazingly kind (and useful) touch.

            They also gave you a larger locker (that was in a private area and didn’t have holes in the locker doors) to keep extra clothes at work for that phase of the parenting cycle. You signed out the key for the larger locker as part of the return from Mat Leave, signed it back in whenever you were done. The locker key also opened the pumping room door.

        2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          I work at a community college with an onsite daycare and an extension with a daycare. My son is in the extension daycare downtown. When I was pumping I was not allowed to use the onsite daycare lactation room. My boss offered me the family toilet in another building (not his fault, he didn’t have an office that closed, his was the computer lab in our small division). One of my friends in my small division had an office so we would close her door and she would have lunch while I pumped. The first time or two it felt weird to hook up while she was in there. but after that, well, it was just how things were. My son exclusively pump-fed so I got really comfortable with just hooking up to the milk machine – I didn’t have a choice.

          1. Smurftacular*

            When was this? Because it seems like it may have been a violation of the federal employment law. I vaguely remember lactation rooms being the single concession to working mothers the Obama administration managed to squeeze into the ACA.

    3. a lawyer*

      Is “call me when you have a chance” an okay way to set up a time? I figured it gives the parent-coworker flexibility to call when their little one is asleep or otherwise occupied, but on the other hand I could see it being annoying that I’m putting the onus on them to remember to call me.

      1. President Porpoise*

        Yes – provided that you’re giving an indication of what the call is about so there’s time to prepare anything needed in advance.

      2. Green great dragon*

        Yes, but let them know when you’re likely available. Starting off a game of phone tag is less helpful.

      3. NoNotNan*

        I would prefer, “can you put time on the calendar to chat about X when it is convenient for you?” Because it allows me to do the calendar schedule and leaves it to their discretion. Then you both get reminders. Alternatively, if you want to give them 24-48 hours notice and do the invite yourself, then add, “feel free to adjust this time when it works best for you!” to the invite, that will help too.

      4. Snuck*

        Yes! But put some context on it. “Can you call me when you have time to chat about the budget figures? I’m free after 3pm today, and can take a call in the evening until 9pm” gives an idea what level of attention/concentration will be required for the call, and a nice wiiiide window for ringing back.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        I’m 19 months in and still trying to train my mother to do this. She thinks because she doesn’t mind if I don’t pick up it doesn’t matter, but it matters when the call wakes the toddler/vibrates my phone into the bath/is while I’m in the middle of a work meeting. I’m first! Let me know if it’s important! Let me give you a timeframe to call in!

        1. Pikachu*

          I’ve been working from home since before the pandemic and my mother still thinks I just sit around watching tv, answering emails, doing puzzles, who knows. Pre-pandemic she’d literally ask me to go do things randomly during the day. I’d obviously decline, only to hear, “Why? I thought you were working from home?”


          1. SpaceySteph*

            My dad called me Wednesday for my wedding anniversary at 2pm. Neither he nor I WFH full time (he’s still practicing medicine part time so works in the office for that, I work about 40% remotely but not on a predictable schedule).

            I wasn’t even thinking about it being my anniversary in the middle of a workday, and I definitely thought he was calling to tell me someone died.

      2. Indigo a la mode*

        After two years at WFH, I feel rather affronted if someone just calls me out of nowhere on Teams instead of IMing first to see if it’s a good time. It’s nice to mentally shift ahead of time.

        1. allathian*

          I wouldn’t say I feel affronted when this happens to me, but it’s certainly a minor annoyance, and I vastly prefer people to IM me first. Oh well, at least on Teams I can see who’s calling me, unlike the phone (I don’t have my whole organization in my contacts, we’re more than 2,000 people). Unless it’s someone I talk to regularly, I’m unlikely to know them by their voice, and I don’t remember names unless I see them in writing.

    4. Avril Ludgateau*

      Honestly, recognizing that anybody may already be occupied at any given moment is the bare minimum of respect we can give to each other in a workplace. Even if you didn’t have to work around your child, it can be very disruptive to workflow for somebody to expect you to drop whatever you are doing to ‘just jump on a call’… Doubly so when that call could be an e-mail in the first place.

      I think it’s totally fine to ask, so long as you are receptive to whatever the answer is – especially if that answer is, “no I cannot right now, could you give me an idea of what you need and I will respond to it when I can?” or “now is not good, how about _____?”

      If we can normalize setting these kind of boundaries and cultures based on compassion and mutual respect, it will benefit everybody, parents and non-parents alike.

      1. no sleep for the wicked*

        I manage a service point that recently got its own phone line (instead of my desk extension) and I had it set to go right to voicemail when we were 100% remote because I tend to wander a lot and not be ready to grab the headset. Now that I’m onsite a lot of the time, I ‘forgot’ to change the ring time setting and it is such a help to know someone will just leave a message and I can do some quick research on their question/problem before calling/emailing them in a calm manner.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          This is a great example of the “curb cut effect.” Curb cuts (where the curb slopes down to street level at a crosswalk) are often put in for ADA compliance… but it turns out they also help people pushing strollers, kids on scooters, people who take those foldable rolls carts to the grocery store… and basically no one is *worse* off because the curb slopes down.

      2. Alexander Graham Yell*

        I’m a big fan of a “Got a sec to talk about X/for something not work related/for something silly?” – check in, give context (including if it’s actually relevant or just blowing off steam – which can be necessary, but not always the best use of time).

      3. Polecat*

        So many of these requests from working parents are for things that everybody would welcome having. I honestly think that everything that’s being requested here are things that should be extended to everyone in the workplace. It would make every workplace more humane. It would also take away any stigma that parents are asking for something special or receiving something that other people aren’t receiving. I understand the focus here is what parents need but in some dreamworld all of these things could be extended to the whole workforce, imagine how much happier people would be and by extension how much more productive.

        1. BeenThere*

          This! As someone who goes to pieces with too many interruptions during a day a lot of these suggestions would help me and things I already do for all my coworkers to set the example.

    5. ophelia*

      And, if you could please help me out by letting me know when you need an answer quickly, or when something can wait, that will also be extremely useful. Literally every task I do, all day long, is a constant set of triage and scenario planning. If I know you don’t actually need something until tomorrow, I can manage it more effectively.

    6. Rolly*

      Hybrid with a child in primary school – I will say that asking to “jump on call” is not a problem to me if the other person can accept truly “not now” as an answer. I sometimes have unexpected free time and sometimes not.

    7. Allison*

      I’ll bet that along with that, people should try their best to keep their meetings with you in place, yeah? As a child-free person, even I get a little irked when people move meetings around, seemingly willy-nilly, especially around lunchtime or when I’ve tried to schedule deliveries and appointments around those meetings, I’m sure it’s way more annoying when there’s a child in the picture who needs to be watched during those meetings, and you don’t have consistent 9-5, M-F care.

      1. Sweet Christmas!*

        I mean, on the other hand I feel like a lot of parents have had to move meetings around because of cancelled childcare, emergencies, last-minute needs that come up, etc. If a person is consistently moving meetings around willy-nilly then that’s annoying, but if people just do it occasionally – especially now – I try to be forgiving. We all have things come up.

      2. Never Boring*

        Amen! I have a co-worker who constantly tells me that she’s calling “right now.” Which turns out to be in 2 minutes, or an hour, or not at all. Or she schedules a meeting, then tells me she’s busy and bumps it back 5 times and then to the next day. It’s extremely disruptive to concentration. We all need to be considerate of each others’ time and need to get stuff done.

    8. Shannon*

      OMG the “jump on a call”. I’m having flashbacks to the “start” of the pandemic when hubby and I were both suddenly home with our at-the-time almost 2 year old and oh, by the way, had full time jobs. And suddenly without childcare. Just jumping on a call is not, like, a thing. Then throw in managers with a mindset of: well, you’re home so it shouldn’t be hard and now you’re BOTH home, blah blah. (Hubby had a boss and grandboss with piss poor boundaries…assuming the wife (me) could just cover whatever was needed…and they had absolutely zero sense of a work-life balance, it wasn’t pleasant).

  3. Carolyn*

    At work – no meetings if at all possible. Synchronous meetings are the absolute hardest to manage with children at home. For the love of god if it could be an email, a slack thread, a quick phone call – please I beg of you no more hour long meetings.

    1. Polopoly*

      At work : Asynchronous communication is huge. Meetings should be short, planned in advance, and have a strict agenda. Written followup for meetings in case a parent needs to step away to keep kids intact. Patience and flexibility.

      At home : assuming someone can’t come in to help with house or kids – zoom in and play with the kids virtually. Drop off meals. Send treat of choice (for the parents). Listen to them vent with patience.

      1. a tester, not a developer*

        Is it helpful if meetings are recorded/transcribed in full, in addition to follow up emails? I know Teams has that functionality.

        1. Yaga*

          Yes!!! Notes are not always great, I read really fast, and I hate watching an hour-long meeting. Transcripts would be amazing!

        2. Sharon*

          Nobody wants to listen to a recorded meeting. Send around notes instead, unless it’s something like a training everybody is required to take, in which having the recording is kind of having unlimited alternate meeting times and can be helpful

        3. A*

          I think this is a matter of preference, but personally I’ve taken the route of recording in case anyone wants to watch it – but primarily communicating action items via minute meeting notes sent out to the broader group and individual action item followups via email to specific individuals (once the pandemic hit I stopped requiring attendance for all the reasons this thread speaks to). The recordings are rarely utilized. In my experience, if someone is struggling to find the time to attend the meeting, chances are slim they have the time to be watching it later. Good to have as an option, but I would recommend having alternatives as well.

          1. ivy*

            also in the minutes – tag the time (approx) each agenda item starts in the recording. So if there isn’t enough information about xx in the minutes, I can easily watch just that section of the recording rather than the whole shebang

            1. A*

              Oh! That’s a brilliant idea! So simple, but hadn’t occurred to me. Implementing this starting this afternoon. Thanks for the suggestion!

            2. Momma Bear*

              This is a great idea. Some projects require meeting minutes and I appreciate that. I would go with whatever works for the team. I sometimes recorded more important meetings to transcribe later.

              For us, no one needs to be on video except the people running the show and if we hear kids in the background, no one cares as long as they aren’t too disruptive and the speaker can be heard. Never fails that a kid is silent until the parent goes off mute.

    2. NW Mossy*

      Along the same line – if you have to have a meeting, look at the other attendees’ schedules and try to avoid creating back-to-backs if at all possible. A huge part of why I had to stop managing people 6 months in is that I couldn’t sustain having my kids at home and wall-to-wall meetings with zero breaks.

      This is good advice for everyone, really. Schedule for 25 or 45 minutes and stick to it. People need to eat, to pee, to be able to take 5 minutes to reorient to the next topic.

      1. hamsterpants*

        This is a great thing AND I have found that the only way to get this to stick is 1) start every meeting 5 or 10 minutes “late,” don’t try to wrap up “early,” there is something psychological that makes the former much easier than the latter; and 2) this needs to come from management including explicit permission to join every meeting “late” even if the meeting organizer scheduled a full hour.

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

          This is at least partially personal preference. I find it way easier to start a meeting on time and end it five minutes early (if everyone sticks to that plan) vs. if I am going to a meeting at 10:05, I’m not going to be able to accomplish anything from 10:00 to 10:05.

        2. Mr. Shark*

          I don’t quite get that. Are you saying schedule meetings for 9:10 or are you saying meetings start at 9:00 but everyone shows up at 9:10? That doesn’t work.
          I’d much rather start a meeting on time, and then end a meeting 10-15 minutes early to get some time back before the next meet. Or as many have pointed out, schedule the meetings from 9-9:25 or 9-9:50 so that the intent is to end early and give people time to use the restroom or prep for the next meeting.

          1. Shannon*

            Yes, big fan of this type of scheduling. When managing my previous team, in a job with A LOT more meetings, I always made our team meetings and one-on-ones structured in this way. Hour team meeting – it was 45-50 minutes, etc. Blocked out for the full hour on the calendar, so everyone had that chunk of time to breathe, take a walk, grab coffee, etc., before the next thing.

          2. Sweet Christmas!*

            At my company I’ve worked with teams that do both. They never actually end at 9:50, but they will start at 10:10. I greatly prefer the 10 or 15 minutes late approach, and my whole org plus one of my partner orgs switched to that and it’s great.

      2. Karl Havoc*

        My organization has a policy of scheduling “one-hour” meetings for only 50 minutes for this reason. It’s great. Sometimes people do allow meetings to go long, but there’s an expectation that should be rare and the policy makes it easier to say you need to drop off at the 50-minute mark even if others are still wrapping up.

        1. Brooks*

          Yup, my company does that, though around my part of the office it tended to become more a thing of “okay, it’s 50 minutes, we should wrap up” and spending the next 10 minutes wrapping up, rather than people actually planning to be done in 50 minutes.

          A coworker of mine was irked at this, and started threatening to schedule a 10-minute team standup in the supposedly-available time slot after 50-minute meetings. Because, see, another bit of company culture/policy is that if you’ve booked a conference room and the previous meeting is running late, you get to kick them out. He never actually did it (that I know of), but it was an appealing thought.

      3. a heather*

        If you’re using google for calendars, you can set it to automatically end meetings early — it’s in settings, called “Speedy Meetings”. One of my previous project managers used it and I really liked it.

      4. EJ*

        100% agree with mtgs not taking the full 30/60 minutes… there should always be time to reset physically and mentally (and check in on child chaos) between mtgs. Keep them to 25/50 minutes

      5. DataSci*

        I would say “ask the other attendees if they prefer back-to-back meetings or not”. When my kid was in virtual school and needed supervision (ADHD meaning that as a first grader he couldn’t do virtual school unsupervised) it was far easier for my wife and I to manage schedules if we had big blocks. “I have meetings from 9 to 11 tomorrow” was easier for us than “I have a meeting at 9, then one at 10:30, one at 1:00, and one at 3:30”. I can certainly see the spaced-out meetings being better for some people, but it’s not a universal preference! “All day meetings” is of course awful, but that’s different from “space two hours of meetings randomly through the day rather than having them back-to-back”.

        Even now with kiddo back in school, the worst possible meeting schedule for me is to have half-hour breaks between meetings again and again (like yesterday, grrr). That’s not enough time to get any actual work done, too much for it to be a “use the bathroom and grab some water” break.

    3. Biology dropout*

      Oh my gosh YES. My husband is in constant meetings and anytime I need him to take a kid, it’s basically impossible. Yesterday I had to drag the toddler out in -12 wind chill for 45 minutes to pick up the older kid, just because he was on yet another meeting and I couldn’t even ask him what he wanted me to do with the toddler. The constant meetings are maddening! (Thankfully my work has few meetings and people understand if kids interrupt.)

      1. turquoisecow*

        My husband is in constant meetings from about noon on. (We’re in NY and a lot of his coworkers are in California, so there’s a delay.) I’m lucky that he can watch the kid in the mornings and let me work or do something else, but in the afternoon it’s basically impossible. He can keep half an eye on the baby monitor while I run to the store if she’s napping, but often I have to tend to her as soon as I get home. If I had to have an afternoon meeting, I’d be the one dropping off to deal with her.

        1. Shannon*

          This was us at the start of Covid. My husband’s work was not flexible or understanding, and they were freaking the hell out since he covered the US for sales and usually traveled weekly. So upper-upper management’s thought was to have an absolute TON of meetings with their salespeople to “figure out” how to handle this huge shift in strategy and execution. Which just clogged up the sales teams and created a mess. And offered zero flexibility or understanding – and I was always the one shifting my schedule because my boss wouldn’t freak out. It creates a domino effect in a number of ways, because it did ultimately end up affecting my work for a bit (how could it not?). But it’s what you do when you’re in a partnership and trying to muddle through such a vast unknown. But goodness, I am so glad he’s not in that overall toxic dumpsterfire of a workplace. It was hell.

      2. Mizzle*

        Assuming that he’s in a different room: would it work to send him a text message of some kind? I have plenty of meetings for which checking a browser tab would not be an issue. (Though if we’re in the middle of a discussion, the notification might go unnoticed.) That’s what my husband and I do for communication during the work day.

        If these are meetings that he actually has to pay constant attention to, this won’t work, and you both have my sympathy…

    4. Hybrid Mom*

      Being conscientious with meetings is absolutely key. Husband and I are incredible fortunate. He works from home, I am hybrid and we have had very few daycare closures. But it is important that our end of the day stops times are respected. They are set up so that we can rush to daycare and collect our son before they close. We are charged $10 when late plus $1 per minute. Going 5 minutes over a meeting might not seem like much – but it literally costs us $15. My husband just had to expand his “pick up son” appointment because colleagues kept going long.
      If it can be an email or quick phone call – do so. I can chat to you on the phone and problem solve as my son watches Bluey. Try to avoid last minute meetings and end of day meetings (which truthfully should be a courtesy extended to everyone, parent or not).
      Also personally – by now I have figured out systems so that I can complete my job fully and raise my son within the new normal of COVID. When daycare is closed unexpectedly or my son it sick – my husband and I scramble to figure out who can cover at what time and we piece something together. Our parenting those days are really sub-par, and our work may not be at 100%; but it is honestly no worse than the days I came in hungover in my 20s. Please don’t assume we need extra help, just give us the curtesy to work it out in a strange slap-dash way. Also don’t assume we cannot help you if you are approaching burn out simply because we have young kids. Talk to us and if we can help we will.

      1. DeathToZoom*


        Yes, can we end 5pm, 4pm, heck even 3:30pm meetings? I get that some folks may work past 6pm, but just because they do, doesn’t mean everyone else does…especially with kids in the picture.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Or any other caring responsibilities, for that matter.

          Absolutely +1 for keeping meeting times in the core of the day which also means no 8am starts please…

          1. Calpurrnia*

            Seconding this. My East Coast colleagues are NOTORIOUS for scheduling 8am meetings. Even if my day officially “starts” at 8am, I am definitely not 100% awake and energized and ready to dive into advising a client at 8:00 in the morning. Most likely I won’t even have read my emails yet before the meeting, and you’ll have to remind me what it’s about. Can we PLEASE stop acting like 8am is a reasonable hour for meetings??!?!

            Occasionally they schedule stuff even earlier than that, which necessitates a “friendly reminder that I’m in California and you’ve scheduled this meeting at 6:30am, would you prefer to run the call without me or reschedule?” email. It bugs me to have to remind people multiple times. It’s not like I put stuff on their calendars for 7pm their time, maybe they could try showing me the same courtesy. GRRRR. (Sorry. This really irritates me.)

            1. Mr. Shark*

              Yes, unfortunately this is becoming more of a problem, especially with world-wide companies. We have meeting scheduled at 6:30am on the west coast, but given that it’s 7pm in India, it’s difficult to ask other people to have a meeting at 9pm just so I can have an 8am call. It’s a compromise for everyone in those cases.
              But I do push back on some of those early morning calls and try not to schedule anything past 1pm California time for those people on the East coast.

              1. Shannon*

                I think it’s understandable when it’s worldwide. This happens in my work as well since we represent Swiss companies. There are still options that we should be able to figure out in some way, I would think. But it’s unacceptable when the calls are just North America and we’re disregarding the lives of our West Coast colleagues.

              2. Dragon*

                One suggestion I’ve heard for international multi-time zone recurring meetings, is to rotate the meeting times so that the same participants aren’t always stuck with the extreme local time.

                1. SpaceySteph*

                  We do work with an international community and ran into 2 problems with this– 1. countries with labor laws that are very strict on working hours and overtime, such that its prohibitive for them to staff after a certain time of night and 2. countries where majority of the staff relies on public transit that doesnt run to all hours of the night, such that many of their people literally cannot stay beyond a certain point or they have to sleep at work.

                  The US’s lack of worker protections strikes in some very surprising ways!

            2. irritable vowel*

              If you have the standing to do so, block off 8-9 am (or whatever makes sense for you) every day on your calendar, so people know you’re not available for meetings then. When I got to a certain level in the organization in my previous career, I did this and it was a lifechanger. If you otherwise share details of your calendar with others, make this recurring event private so they don’t get to know you’re just blocking time off.

            3. Another h*

              Why don’t you block off the time in your calendar ? I live in Washington and block off the early morning hour so people on the east coast don’t schedule me for something too early. It works great!

          2. Momma Bear*

            I had a job where people got in at like 6AM to beat traffic and wanted to meet at 8 and I was still on the train at 8. I could call in, but don’t expect me to be settled. IMO mid-morning to mid-afternoon, with a break for lunch, is best for anybody.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Addendum – I could not get in any earlier because before care/daycare didn’t open before 7 or 7:30. Even if I was waiting in the parking lot it was opening time + a few minutes to walk the child in, get them settled, and get back to the car/on the road.

            2. LittleMarshmallow*

              I get to work around 6:30 am, but my 6:30 to 8:30 time is for getting contractors going on jobs (tradesmen mostly… they start early) so I get super annoyed when someone schedules a meeting in that time because it takes me away from my daily prep responsibilities. Not all jobs require morning prep like that but even though im there very early I still don’t think that’s time for meetings. Haha!

          3. DataSci*

            This is great if everyone is in the same time zone! But right now my team has people in US Eastern Time, US Pacific Time, and GMT. So that’s an eight-hour time difference, for people working closely together who do sometimes need to be in synchronous meetings. Either it’s 5 PM for the London folks or 8 AM for the Seattle folks (the former works better in our specific case, meaning a lot of noon meetings for those of us on the East Coast). The key for these non-core meetings is to schedule them well in advance, and then STICK TO THEM. There’s nothing worse than rearranging school/daycare pickup and dropoff times to accommodate a 8:30 meeting, and then sit down only to find it got moved ten minutes before it was scheduled to start.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I so feel you on the attention to work schedules when scheduling a meeting. I totally get that sometimes a meeting may be early or late because you’re dealing with multiple time zones – but in that case be understanding if somebody has to join late or leave early (no mater the reason).

      3. Momma Bear*

        So does he schedule a meeting to block off the pick up time? That is a good idea. It helps when people are looking at calendars to schedule. Not only can it be $15 but too many of those can result in you being kicked out of a daycare/after school program.

        1. Hybrid Mom*

          My husband has had a standing appointment in his shared calendar everyday since fall 2020. The issue is colleagues who schedule meetings and calls 30-15 minutes before that appointment and then going long. I do not want to dox him – but he is in a position where most of his day is answering questions, advising and putting out fires. That is why my main point is to respect the time of your colleagues. If you need to schedule a meeting and you only see 15 minutes free at the end of the day – make sure you wrap up within 15 minutes.

      4. Sweet Christmas!*

        I don’t understand the culture to jump to meetings rather than an email or chat message anyway. I work in a culture like this – people will be like “do you have five minutes?” and then take 20 minutes to ask something that would’ve been better as an email. This is especially frustrating when I’m asked to edit copy or create talking points…dude I need to write that. (The one upside is I’ve gotten better at editing copy out loud because people ask for this so frequently.)

      5. RoseGarden*

        I’m in Denmark. All my colleagues with children, including me, have “Pick up children” in our calendars, and people schedule around that.

    5. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I don’t know about this, it depends what level you are at and what type of work you do. If I have five potential projects that involve four departments and I can push one to next year, and think one is an emergency but don’t know what other departments are doing, and I have a hunch one will be a huge hurdle for another department but they’re minimizing it – a meeting is a hell of a lot easier than 30 emails where people don’t respond to the current one or ignore half of the questions

    6. Just Another Techie*

      Yes yes yes. I don’t mind the 15 minute daily standup, but right now I have three standing weekly meetings I’m expected to attend, I only ever have anything to contribute to one of them, they are all redundant, and it’s just demoralizing to have to spend that time on WebEx trying to look engaged.

    7. Allison*

      Adding to this, I can imagine it’s important to be mindful about which meeting they really need to attend, and which meetings are largely informative for the overall team (“I just want us all to be on the same page about some upcoming changes . . .”) and can maybe be skipped, as long as there’s an email recap and someone to direct questions to after the fact.

    8. Gb*

      My children are in elementary school, but my boss always texted before calling to see if it was a good time. If it wasn’t I would tell her and she would try again later, no questions.

    9. BabyElephantWalk*

      I’d love to agree with this, however my job is about 1/4 to 1/3 meetings, most of which I do need to attend to do my job well. Some positions there is just no getting around it. But I would appreciate if the meeting schedulers would avoid scheduling meetings exactly at start to day (many people in my office start before 9, I do not … 9 am meetings leave me no leeway at all for things to go wrong in my morning), and would actually look at my calendar and not schedule when I have a conflict.

  4. Yupyup*

    A focus on my output, not my hours available/”on.” I’m trying desperately to preserve some semblance of work-life balance, and we need to all realize that 40 hours is not the minimum. I am doing an excellent job at my job, but I’m doing it in 30 hours a week and THAT IS OKAY.

    1. Engineering Mom*

      This!! Let me tell you I can get a LOT of work done in fewer hours when I work from home. I know that when I do have time to sit down at my laptop, I’ve got to really make it count.

    2. seconded*

      Absolutely. I was doing great at my job, but was told “we may have to do something about this” because my kids were distance learning at the time. Parents need some understanding from coworkers and management. This isn’t something we CHOSE, it is something we are reacting to as best as we can. As much as being a parent can be a choice, we didn’t chose a pandemic that forced these options on us. I just had a general lack of empathy from my coworkers.

    3. Vin Packer*

      Yes, and please do not act like you have done me a huge favor by allowing me to work for you. It’s hard to explain but I’m starting to resent being treated like I have been the recipient of some huge charity when I have been able to work from home. It has made my work life much more feasible, yes, and prevented me from having to quit for lack of alternatives, so that’s great. But it’s not like it’s an all-expenses-paid vacation. You pay me to work; I worked. The gratitude anybody should have to perform in this transaction is pretty limited.

      This might be different for jobs where having someone work from home is a huge logistical hurdle or creates bottlenecks. But if an employee worked from home for a day and you barely noticed because their output and workflow was the same, then there’s really no call for their colleagues to feel that they have let her get away with something.

    4. LittleRedJen*

      I got 10x more efficient once I had a kid to be responsible for. I promise you, my work is for sure getting done.

  5. Evonon*

    Being conscientious of school/daycare pick up and drop off times has been a great stress reliever. When I book meetings for my bosses I make sure to block off 30 minutes before the official time so there’s no risk of a call going over. There is no such thing as “just a quick call”!

    1. DataGirl*

      I finally set a reoccurring, private meeting every Mon-Fri for 30 minutes at pick-up time on my calendar so that people can’t schedule me for a meeting during that time, it has really helped.

      1. NicoleT*

        I have a recurring meeting at the end of the day to go eat dinner/socialize with my family. Hubs and I are both working from home, and it is WAY too easy to just work all day and all night.

      2. Evan Þ.*

        As someone without kids, but whose coworkers have kids – Thank you. I’m happy to help parents make their school pickup times. But, sometimes I’ll forget when they are when scheduling a meeting, unless you make them visible like this!

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          I definitely don’t expect my colleagues to remember – across my department there are people with kids in several different school districts, with kids of different ages, and different commutes to school. Remember which person has to leave at 2:25 and which at 3:40 is not workable, so I block the time on my calendar on those days.

        2. Noblepower*

          I second this – I don’t intend to schedule things during school pick up, but if it’s not on your calendar, I sometimes forget! Putting the times you know you won’t be available is super helpful in preventing we the childless from accidentally forgetting when you won’t be available. :-)

          1. Zephy*

            “Have your calendar accurately reflect your availability” seems like pretty basic etiquette for anyone using a shared calendar to schedule things, whether there are kids involved or not.

            1. Overeducated*

              It is, but I have also gotten questions about why I had a block of unavailability every afternoon Mon-Fri, so this is one of those “parenting is inherently unprofessional and there’s no way to win” things. (I was working a full time but early schedule due to limited pandemic childcare, and people on later schedules still like to meet at 4. It’s tough to look “professional” when schedules vary that much.)

              1. Overeducated*

                Addendum: I guess the tip for people wanting to support parents is to avoid saying things like “are you REALLY busy EVERY AFTERNOON?” Yes, and my workday started at 7 AM, thankyouverymuch.

              2. Dasein9*

                “Parenting is inherently unprofessional. . . . ”

                THIS is the attitude we, as a culture, need to wrap up into a tidy little bundle and jettison from the planet. Parenting is human. Employees are human.

                We do have it in our power to change the norms to suit people.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          This is why I love our availability by type calendar and I’m not even a caregiver. We block out when and how (e.g. video, voice, text/IM, email) we are available and, crucially what we call “not for love or money” times when we are free to ignore any and all work communications. It makes scheduling so much easier. We also have a rule that 1 hr blocked off for a meeting = 55 minutes. No running over allowed. However, it only works because we all respect it, including managers. They even back you when an external stakeholder’s meeting runs over and and you drop off if your next block is “not for love or money”. I’m hoping this outlives the pandemic

        4. Hippo-nony-potomus*

          Like many of the other suggestions (focusing on output, don’t have meetings for the sake of meetings), this is something that I hope will become a bigger part of the workplace. If a childless person has a therapy appointment or needs to bring their dog to the vet, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be blocked off on their calendar and everyone else just works around it.

      3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        One of my coworkers has this on his calendar, and I love it. It makes it so easy to tell when he’s not going to be available when I’m scheduling a meeting, instead of trying to remember it. (He also updates his status on Slack, so I know he won’t be responding quickly if I have to send him a message during the pickup/dropoff times.)

        1. sofar*

          YES, as a non-parent, Slack statuses are SO helpful. I’m not always going to wander over to our team calendar and see that you’re unavailable. But a snoozed Slack with the red “slash” icon and/or a status that says “Unavailable 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.” tells me, “Do not bother this person.”

      4. J*

        I do this too. My kids are school aged, but even when the school isn’t closed because of Covid/ice storm/other, there isn’t any wraparound care this year, and there’s also no school bus, so we have to walk them to and from school. (Hopefully next year they will walk by themselves but they’re just not ready yet.) Complicating things further: my spouse and I have coordinated so that I do some dropoffs and pickups, he does others. If it wasn’t on my calendar I wouldn’t even remember where I have to be and when, let alone expect my coworkers to remember.

        And even with that I have DEFINITELY done the walk to and from the school with the meeting running on my phone and my earbuds in.

        1. Long Time Reader*

          Yep, I literally have a phone alarm set to go get my kiddo- there are definitely lots of parents on work calls at elementary school pickup

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I have the “wrap it up” alarms 10-15 minutes ahead of the actual “go get kids” alarms.

      5. Quinalla*

        Yes, I have school drop off and pickup on my calendar (my kids are elementary & middle school, so I’ve got it pretty good right now in comparison to folks with under 5s) , have ever since we started in person school again. When it was remote learning, I had the time I needed for that blocked off too. I also have been very firm about when I need to log off for dinner and I’ll come back on later that night as needed, that sort of thing.

        I also sometimes just hop on meeting when in the pickup line (dropoff is pretty fast so usually no need there), if they are internal meetings, it is NBD if someone hears a kid talking when I unmute. I know that isn’t possible for everyone – some folks are talking about confidential, sensitive or other topics – but if it is possible, continue to extend grace for minor interruptions.

        I agree with above, giving deadlines or when it needs to be worked on. I work in a deadline driven job, but I still deal with people that are wishy washy about when they need something. I tell them ASAP with no date or whenever will go to the back of my priority list and that means right now it will likely never get done as my priority list is too long :(

      6. no sleep for the wicked*

        My hybrid schedule can be all over the place so I make sure to block the hour commute time when it falls in a normal workday.

        1. sofar*

          I do this too. Because it sucks when you’re planning to go to the office, and then someone schedules you for 8 a.m., so now you gotta commute in at 7 to get in by 8. So I block before 9 a.m. on days I am commuting.

          1. kt*

            What I’ve encountered as well is that I was planning to come in, but someone schedules me for an 8 am, but daycare doesn’t open early enough for me to drop the kid off before the meeting and commute in, so I must stay home because it’s a 40 min drive to the office/it’s a 30 min window between daycare open and meeting start/etc.

      7. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, please do this. I don’t know the school schedule, but I am going to look at your calendar when scheduling meetings.

      8. Sad Desk Salad*

        This is so helpful. I wouldn’t even know where to begin trying to figure out when someone else’s kids get in and out of daycare. You put it on your calendar, I will know about it. I don’t even need to know it’s your kids’ school time. You have a conflict, full stop, no questions asked.

      9. BabyElephantWalk*

        Joining to say – pay attention to people’s calendars and start times. I cannot tell you how often I am scheduled for a prompt 9am meeting, when school starts at 9:10 (my husband does drop off, but it’s still tight to be logged in, all set up and ready for 9). Or a last minute meeting is scheduled during time I already have blocked off in my calendar for something else. Then people get mad at me for not making a last minute meeting I had no notice about and for a time that my calendar indicated I was otherwise occupied. This should apply whether or not there are kids in the picture.

    2. Pop*

      I also do this for my pumping/feeding baby times. We are not a meeting-heavy culture so I didn’t think to, but my first week back from maternity leave I had four hours of meetings in a row. Not possible! Fortunately I can shift my pumping times, but it helps me remember hey, I need a break.

      1. Milksnake*

        Im 22 weeks right now and this is one of my biggest concerns when I get back from leave. I’m not going to be available every second of my work day, my body won’t allow it…

        1. Pop*

          Everyone has been really understanding, they just don’t think of it! I have an appt on my calendar every day at 10:30 and 2:00 called “Feed BabyPop.” I have in the notes (and have told team members) that I can easily move it, I just can’t do several hours of meetings in a row. (We are also an on-camera culture, I would totally be able to pump if it was listening in on a meeting or audio-only.) Personally, I move them day to day which helps me keep track of when I actually pumped, etc. I read the short book Work Pump Repeat which was overkill and way more information than I needed, but was helpful to think through some of the things I would need. You will be just fine!!

        2. Momma Bear*

          And IMO, make those breaks be breaks, especially at first. Stress will only make it more difficult. Plenty of people take long walks around the building, smoke breaks, coffee breaks, etc. You should not be made to feel like you’re doing anything wrong on a pumping “break”. Also, make sure you know local laws, if necessary. Have discussions before you go on leave about your return and needing pumping space, time to pump, etc.

          1. Linnet*

            Yes! A colleague of mine was expected to keep working, in a room without a lock, while she pumped (typing with one hand, holding the pump with the other). This DOES NOT WORK, people.

      2. Sparrow*

        Yup, I do this too. I normally have 3-4 hours of meetings in the afternoon, so I’ve just blocked in a half hour where I am not available so I can pump. My assistant knows that that time is somewhat flexible if necessary, but she also knows to check with me if she needs to move it by more than half an hour in either direction.

    3. Rock Prof*

      Our daycare has cut it’s open hours (used to be 6), so my days get cut short too! So, no I can’t make a 4:30 meeting and still try to get to daycare by 5 when I have a 40 minute commute. (Also, being a professor, I do so much work throughout the evenings and on the weekends, I at least don’t feel much guilt about leaving my physical work at 4 pm).

      1. StephThePM*

        I have a 7yo and a 5yo. I can only ask my colleagues to extend grace. I WFH FT (or do a very bit of travel). What would be helpful for me specifically:
        1) if my kids freak on a call that I’m leading, try to take over to give me a minute to calm the feral. Take better notes in that time frame. Offer that – you’ve got it.
        2) recognize that I might need to pick up the kids at a specific time of the day. For me, that means that 5-6pm, I need to get the kids. I might not mind picking up that call again at 6pm or 7pm – or even taking a bit 3-4pm to get the kids before a 4pm mtg that is going to go over.
        3) recognize that I might not be regularly able to do nights or work late on a nightly basis but I might be the first person raising her hand for a Friday night or Saturday morning when my spouse can deal with the kids. Consider the options when considering how to get the work done.
        4) tell me I’m doing a good job (when I am)
        5) realize that, while I chose to have kids, I didn’t fully appreciate that school schedules and daycare options and pricing are an absolute shitshow. A flexible schedule (like being able to pick up a kid for an hour in the middle of the afternoon) could save me thousands of dollars and a lot of logistics nightmares. Please know in your heart that I feel the same for anyone with or without kids- as a manager, I’d give my team the same flex with someone with a pet or a class or a hobby or anything.
        6) take my lead and roll with the noise. :)
        7) please understand that I’ve got my own barometer for quality delivery of work. If I feel like I am not delivering, I’ll do extra to make sure I am. I might do it late at night or early in the morning…but I’ll do it.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          I will sometimes offer to record the meeting so the parent who’s distracted can listen later.

      2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        Yes! Even though my daycare has been shockingly reliable over the last year (we only had one COVID closure last year, we’ve been very, very lucky) my hours aren’t what they used to be.

        Before 2020, I didn’t have to stick to a super strict pickup schedule. I usually got my kids at 4:30 but if I had a late meeting or something I needed to knuckle down on longer I could get them as late as 6 and it wasn’t a big deal. But now I HAVE to get them at 4:30. No exceptions. The operating hours of my center changed + state DCFS rules mean that for safety and tracking the schedule needs to be rigid.

        My colleagues know I have a “hard stop” at 4pm, and if there’s a meeting or something after 5pm they’re going to have some Bean Counting kids bouncing off the walls in the background.

        1. CoveredinBees*

          Starting this summer, my kids’ daycare is extending from 4pm to 5:30pm and I was so thrilled. There will also be some flexibility to pickup, rather than a 5 minute window.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Perhaps it is because my big boss is a parent of a 3 year old (so kid has lived longer in the pandemic than out of it), only 2 of us don’t have kids under 5, and I am the only one with no human caregiving needs, but we have some good practices that help all of us manage around all the additional stuff that hit plates since 2020. For example we have a shared calendar where everyone’s availability by different methods (e.g. Zoom+video, voice only, IM/text only, e-mail only, unavailable). It seems to be working great and thus far everyone is good about honoring it. We also have a crisis back-up plan, so if Jane has a last minute emergency and can’t make a meeting that can’t be cancelled (usually with outside stakeholders or clients) she reaches out to John, who reaches out to me, etc.. We’ve all needed to utilize it at least once and it has worked really well. Thus far, we are this far into the pandemic and there isn’t any resentment floating around. As the only person who isn’t a caregiver, and therefore most likely to end up with dumped tasks if it was happening, I feel like it is working and everyone else seems to be hanging on OK.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve picked up someone else’s habit of sending meeting invitations on the quarter hour for a half hour meeting: 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after become a buffer for the unexpected.

    6. Gnome*

      Yes! This. For that matter, this is good outside the pandemic!

      My kids are older (middle school and high school), but one has some special needs, so there’s still more help than you’d typically be giving at these ages. Also, one school has no bus/aftercare and I sometimes have to work in the office… on the other side of the city, so when I have school pickup, I have to allow for as bad as traffic could possibly be, not how long it should take.

      The only thing that makes this possible is flexibility on my employer’s end. Even on days I have to go in, I typically either start from home or finish at home.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Along with this I’d say don’t assume that age = independence. Older kids are still struggling with virtual school (our district took away snow days…), there are busing issues across the country, etc. A lot of kids are stressed and have anxiety. My kid might need less direct time right now but if I’m there and the Chromebook forgets how to use wifi I will need to quickly become tech support.

    7. Unicorn Parade*

      Yes, please do this. I don’t have kids, I don’t like kids, I don’t think about kids nor do I want to. It would not occur to me that someone might be unavailable anywhere from 3pm-6pm for pick-up when scheduling a meeting. I schedule based on availability. Childless people are not psychic.
      Although tbh the basic message I’m getting from this entire thread is no meetings ever, because they can’t start before 9am, shouldn’t be scheduled during lunch times from 11am-1pm, then school pick-ups start at 3pm. That’s…a lot of restrictions on meeting times. Ironically the person in my office with three young kids between the ages of 4 and 9 is the one person who constantly schedules pointless meetings.

      1. Clare*

        Yeah it is a lot of restrictions on meeting times, that’s part of what makes working with young children during a pandemic so difficult.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        What I’m taking away from the thread is that different parents have different needs, not that all parents require no meetings at all those times. For the parents you work with – and the non-parents you work with! – you could ask them “are there times of day that would be better for our standing meeting?” Or offer several choices of time for one-off meetings.

        No one is asking you to like someone else’s kids, but this is specifically a thread about what coworkers can do to help parents of young children especially during the pandemic. If you’re not interested in that topic maybe this isn’t the thread for you?

  6. Cheap Ass Rolls*

    Be mindful of meetings. If a meeting can be an email, make it an email. If a phone call can be a ping, make it a ping. When you have kids needing diaper changes or yelling in the background, it’s helpful to have that flexibility and to not feel like I spend the whole day going “Sorry if you hear background noise.

    Ask your coworkers what are good hours for them to meet/collaborate. Sometimes there’s a reliable hour or half-hour when they will be free/at their best.

    And, just acknowledge that things are hard for them! Ask them what you can do to help them out for a little bit! If it’s as simple as “I’ll respond to that email from Jane” or “Can I take on running the XYZ meeting for you while your daycare is closed?” can go a long way. Young mothers especially feel like they have to do a lot to preserve their reputation as a professional and keep their home and work separate, so offering taking on some little things can be more helpful than just saying “Let me know if I can help.” Specific help is always better than non-specific help.

    1. Erin F*

      Totally agree about meetings! I’ve been lucky with covid (knock on wood) but school got switched to Zoom school for the last few days because of weather. Fortunately I was able to clear my schedule of most meetings and actually found I was able to still be extremely productive with Teams and email. Maybe even more so than if I’d been in so many meetings. Managers make it okay for your teams to skip non essential meetings and really evaluate what needs to be “live”. I’m sure it would be appreciated by even the employees without caretaking duties at home.

    2. STEMprof*

      Good meeting hygiene! I can’t tell you how infuriating it was to make sure someone else (partner, babysitter, pbs kids in a pinch) was on call for my 4 year old during a call, only to get on zoom and hear “So, I don’t really know what we’re going to talk about today…” THEN WHY ARE WE MEETING?!? Also, at least 20%-30% of the calls I am on I don’t need to be on because I am only slightly involved in the project and the agenda isn’t relevant to my piece. But the lead wants the whole team on. I raised this and nothing changed, so I’ve started just deprioritizing these calls. Sorry, I’m only coming to your meeting if it’s useful. (I am senior enough to do this. Not everybody is)

      1. STEMprof*

        All meetings should 1) have an agenda (and follow it), 2) involve only people for whom the agenda is relevant (don’t invite the whole team because you can’t take the time to figure this out), 3) involve actual discussion/decisions/troubleshooting (if only one person talks for the entire call, it could have been an email), and 4) END ON TIME.

        1. J*

          Preach. My team (sadly, not the organization as a whole) got really good at this really fast in March 2020. We were a “block the morning to brainstorm in the conference room, then call in for lunch” team. We tried it exactly once over Zoom. It was terrible. So we pivoted to Slack, file sharing, and targeted meetings once a week. I do miss hanging out with everyone, but honestly….we’re more productive now.

          1. Cheap Ass Rolls*

            My team has done working sessions with smaller project groups – we are heavily project-based. This worked well but ONLY because it was explicitly stated “You do not have to be here. You do not even have to come to check in. If you have a conflict, just decline the meeting occurrence. If we need you to know something from the meeting, the project lead will reach out to you.”

            And then we just…let it happen and it worked great! It was a great balance between “Here’s an opportunity to work collaboratively in synchronous time” and “You don’t have to be a part of that if it isn’t helpful or doesn’t work.”

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t have kids but I hear you on the meetings!
      It’s gotten so bad lately for me that it’s all meetings from 9am until 4 or 5 pm which is only leaving me 1-2 hours for actual functional work (planning, researching, writing, designing, proofreading, uploading and submitting invoices).
      No way to get that work done unless you work later or weekends. Meetings have a place, but it’s overboard lately.

  7. Justin*

    Now that our son is in daycare that hasn’t closed much, it’s okay these days. But back before this, I would say, stick to any times things are planned so we can tell our partners, okay I’ll be doing this for 30 or 45 or whatever minutes. I kept having calls run past alloted time.

    And just… no butts-in-seats management (even if working from home), which is the real BS. Tell us what work we need to do and trust us to do it (or ask if we need help) rather than any time-tracking sort of things.

    1. Forgot My Name Again*

      Seconded – I had a great line manager at the start of lockdown, then structural reorganisation meant I ended up with someone else who has for the 9th time cancelled our monthly 1-2-1 at short notice. If I’ve got that meeting in the calendar, I have arranged what will happen to children, whether it’s a partner pulling their weight (I have a good one) or daycare or an expensive emergency sitter. Particularly if I’m paying for someone to cover that time so I can have that meeting, it sucks big time to have it cancelled. I’m aware emergencies happen to everyone, but be mindful of the hoops some of us have had to jump through to be there!

      1. Justin*

        Exactly. And my job has been… less good about keeping me on clearly laid out projects. That sort of chaos (which isn’t really their fault as it’s our clients) is extra stressful.

        But yeah, it’s not so bad now that he’s older and out of the house.

    2. Betty*

      Oh gosh, so much yes to keeping meetings to scheduled times. Especially in the early days of nursing, a call running 20 minutes long and delaying a feed was agony for everyone in the house. Even now, I may have expected that I can tag in at the end of a call and if it runs long I’m late getting someone down for a nap, or going off camera with a toddler storming through my home office because my partner had to leave for an appointment, etc.

      Also– please be OK with people keeping cameras off. Sometimes I’m taking the call from the playroom and my laptop is positioned so that it’s out of toddler reach; some days a shower did not happen.

      I’d also urge you to be kind about the safety concerns of parents, particularly with kids under 5 (and especially under 2, who can’t even safely mask).

      For context: My kid was born in March 2020 and I’ve been able to work remotely (other than for about 3 weeks last summer) his whole life while my partner is our primary caregiver (which we’re incredibly lucky to be able to so).

    3. Cheap Ass Rolls*

      Yes! Don’t switch meetings. I have a manager who will reschedule a meeting fifteen minutes before it’s supposed to start. I know that’s sometimes unavoidable, but when it happens weekly with my weekly check-in, it’s really hard to be able to organize my day and tell my spouse “I’m free from noon to 2 and then I have a meeting I need to focus on.” Having the ability to coordinate our schedules is sometimes the only thing keeping me holding on to sanity.

  8. glitter writer*

    I have children who have spent days, weeks, months, and even years at home with me since March, 2020 while my spouse and I are both trying to work. What has helped me most is that all of my bosses and all of my coworkers have been INCREDIBLY patient and understanding (at two separate jobs, no less; I changed employers in 2021).

    I know my productivity has absolutely not been what it should be, for large stretches of the last two years, and grace from employers has been key to my survival. Flexibility is great and all but frankly I cannot be working from after kid bedtime to midnight every night either just for the sake of an eight-hour day, I am exhausted and burnt out, and so I appreciate that my employers have basically been willing to let me do the minimum when I need to. I try hard to fill up my favor bank again when day care and school are open and I do have full bandwidth back, but… it’s just grace, all of it, that’s how I’ve gotten by.

    1. Ali + Nino*

      “I know my productivity has absolutely not been what it should be, for large stretches of the last two years, and grace from employers has been key to my survival. Flexibility is great and all but frankly I cannot be working from after kid bedtime to midnight every night”

      Totally agree.

      1. NicoleT*


        To that end, let us TAKE VACATION. It feels so weird to take days off when I can’t actually go anywhere, but my brain needs it.

  9. Catthulu*

    Not to be a downer, but the whole problem with this issue is that it’s not one that will be solved with individual action. It requires govt action- free/low cost childcare via government subsidy, changes in the perception of working moms and dads, reducing/flexing hours for everyone across the board, etc. Most individual solutions work only for that individual (family who can provide childcare, an individual company with good policies etc).

    1. Catthulu*

      Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t do our part to help ourselves and our colleagues! Be considerate about meeting times, keep after hours items to a minimum, give people as much flexibility as you can.

    2. BJP*

      Yes. It says that in the post.

      AAANNNDDD there are things people can do to help their fellow humans in a difficult time. I bet you know at least one person who would be so grateful for some small act of kindness or help right now.

    3. FridayFriyay*

      To build on this, ADVOCATE FOR THOSE THINGS. Do it even if – and especially if – you aren’t someone who needs it yourself.

  10. GrumpyZena*

    Two solid things, both of which need to come from the employers:

    1) A RAISE. Money would help with a lot of these issues. Hire a cleaner, hire a babysitter (if safe where you are), send the laundry out to a service… It’s not a silver bullet but money allows outsourcing of a lot of things which would help to reduce the burden.

    2) FEEDBACK. Regular feedback so that we’re not always wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. If I’m getting continual, honest feedback about how I’m doing, I’m not worrying I’m about to be put on a PIP (or at least if I am, it’s justified, not just my brain gremlins talking).

    1. L-squared*

      I’m all for raises in general.

      Not to be a jerk, but a raise just for parents? No, I’m not down for that. As someone without kids, I don’t think your personal situation should factor into things like raises.

      1. FridayFriyay*

        There’s no reason employers can’t consider raises for everyone though. Pandemic circumstances, not to mention record inflation, have made finances more challenging across the board.

      2. Ingrid*

        Yes, absolutely raises for all.

        If companies want to do something to help out parents in particular, one way to do that would be to donate a certain amount to a DCFSA (in the US). Those funds can be used only for dependent care.

        1. Rosemary*

          “If companies want to do something to help out parents in particular” – no, they should not just be helping parents. If they are going to be putting something in an account for parents, they need to do the equivalent for non-parents. You cannot have unequal compensation based on family/dependent status.

          1. New ED*

            But a lot of companies provide health insurance for dependents which is a benefit that extends only to those with dependents and is perfectly permissible despite the fact that it can amount to thousands of dollars a year.

            1. Snuck*

              This is a bit of a straw man though.

              The presence of family friendly health plans or not does not change the access to a benefit for someone who does not have children.

              You aren’t giving more to one party (parents with kids) and less to another (no kids). Both are getting coverage. It’s not like you are saying “Parents with Kids don’t get covered”.

              Where it might get a bit murky is if there’s a cost difference in the premiums for families with children vs families without (vs single /couples?) …. And whether that cost is passed on to everyone. I’m not sure how health insurance is paid for in the US (I’m not a resident there), so there could be some disparity if it’s a shared cost by the staff. But if the company is paying it then the benefit for each individual is the same, and the cost is the same, so there’s no unfairness?

          2. Ingrid*

            Yeah, a DCFSA contribution isn’t compensation: it’s a benefit. There are all sorts of benefits at companies that only some people can/want to use, like healthcare for dependents, or student loan forgiveness, or adoption assistance. There’s lots of other examples. Accepting that part of the company’s profits go to benefits that may not directly benefit you, but benefit others, is part of working at a company that (hopefully) values a wide-range of experiences and backgrounds.

          3. Snuck*

            Agree whole heartedly.

            Before I had kids I was caring for others all the time as well. There’s a LOT of people who can’t just drop everything in a pandemic, and look after only themselves. A great many people have picked up a great load of extra caring work during this pandemic that has nothing to do with kids. They are looking after elderly family (who may not be able to go into nursing homes for a variety of reasons), they are looking after quarantining families who need groceries and medication runs regularly, they are picking up small community support roles such as delivering meals to people who cannot shop, or cleaning public areas in their buildings more regularly. Some of these are more able to be scheduled outside of their ‘work hours’ but they take a lot from the person performing them. A great many people have extra people staying in their homes, on couches and in other temporary arrangements, making a dramatic impact on their household ‘flow’ and ‘peace’. Working from home may not be a refuge for them, and there may be no refuge at work either.

            If you are going to give a benefit to one staff member, give it to them all. You don’t know the personal situation of staff members, and setting parents up vs non parents is going to cause drama. Do I get more leave because I have a medically complex child? Should someone else get less leave because their child is 16 and able to stay home alone? What about the person who has a child in split custody – should they get half leave? Ugh. Just pay more leave to everyone, and flexibility, don’t tie it to their current parenting status. This is how you retain good staff in a pandemic.

      3. Florida Sands*

        Agreed, raises should absolutely not be given out based on personal situations. I’m the only one among my peers of similar titles to not have kids; I should not be paid less than everyone else when we’re all doing the same work.

      4. Susan*

        I agree. Getting a raise for doing less work doesn’t seem appropriate. I think the fact that employers are continuing to pay you a full-time salary when people are often working less than full-time is already generous. And the employees without kids are often taking on the additional work. Your company is trying to run a business after all.

    2. TreeFrogEditor*

      Re: FEEDBACK —

      Working mom (WFH since March 2020) with a 2-year-old, whose daycare has closed for numerous two-week periods over the last two years. I’m lucky to work for a company/team that has always let people be flexible with their schedules. At the same time, I worry that my pandemic-parenting situation has forced me to lean on that flexibility too hard, and that it might be quietly impacting my manager/team’s perception of me.

      It may not be! No one has said anything! My work performance has still been steadily good. But I genuinely don’t know, and sometimes companies/managers only give feedback when there’s something “wrong” or noticeable in performance. Even if I’m doing just fine in my company’s eyes, I would love it if my manager or any given team proactively said something to indicate that my pandemic-induced struggles are being taken in stride. It would put my mind at ease, and would be way more encouraging/comfortable than me having to ask/check in and reveal my anxieties in this area.

    3. Anonymous4*

      There’s a lot of people who would benefit from better pay. But we also don’t want to go back to situations like, “Well, he has a family, so he needs a bigger paycheck” a la 1965.

      Yes, adequate access to babysitters — or daycare — would help a LOT. The Build Back Better legislation includes funding for starting more daycare. Contact your legislators and pound on them to get that passed!

    4. This Old House*

      I don’t need a raise. My kid’s daycare teachers need raises. If daycare workers got better pay, there would be fewer staff shortages, and fewer closures, more backup available if someone is out sick or in quarantine, etc.

    5. Golden*

      I hope it’s OK for a pregnant woman (this will be my first child) to chime in, but along these same lines, flexibility in benefits would go a long way!

      I’m thankful to work at a place with student loan assistance, but I don’t have student loans and can’t use the benefit. I know it’s kind of tied up in tax laws, but it’d be awesome if everyone could opt to use that money for childcare assistance (or elder care, health/exercise stipend, etc.) instead. It seems like it would benefit everyone.

    6. anonymous73*

      As was discussed in a previous letter this week, raises should not be given based on an individual’s financial circumstances. If people are being underpaid that’s one thing, but advocating raises for only parents who are struggling to take care of their kids and work at the same time is BS.

    7. Momma Bear*

      Yes – it’s easy to be forgotten when you WFH all the time. Regular check ins with your manager can help you stay aligned with their goals and give them insight into the things you ARE doing.

  11. StressedButOkay*

    As a childless manager, I do whatever I can to support those I manage who are juggling with kids. Our work is very much of the mindset that flexibility is key and I lean into that. While there are deadlines that need to be met, I encourage them to flex if they need to – baby was up all night and now decides that 11 a.m. is perfect time for a nap? Nap with the baby and just make up your hours later.

    Doctor’s appointments that aren’t all day things? Don’t take leave, just work earlier or later if you need to.

    Kids want to be in the background (sometimes foreground) on internal Teams calls? Okay!

    You need us to pinch-hit a call or a part of a project for you because of x, y, z? Of course!

    Bottom line is, my virtual door is always open. I’m here to listen and accommodate as much as I can because my team is wonderful and this is a stressful time.

    1. JB*

      I think that the best thing you may be able to do is to be vocal about it with your management if/when you can if they’re not as flexible as you are. If they’re only hearing from other people where it’s not working out then they’re less likely to be flexible. If they see and hear from you positive things, that helps.

      1. StressedButOkay*

        We’re very lucky in that, overall, the company advocates for flexibility (everyone’s encouraged to flex if you need to – when COVID was really bad and grocery shopping a nightmare, we were told, shop whenever you can and just get your work done, it’s fine). But I always advocate for my team to other teams – if one of them can’t get to x right this minute or can’t jump on a call right this minute, I either tell them they’re allowed to reschedule/say no or I do it for them.

        We have governmental deadlines we can’t move but internal ones we can manipulate.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yes — as a manager, I’m happy to be as flexible as you need me to be, and I don’t want to grill you on on the specifics of why you need the flexibility — you just gotta keep me at least vaguely enough in the loop so I know if there’s balls I need to be prepared to dive under to keep them from hitting the ground.

      1. StressedButOkay*

        Yes! Unless my staff want to chat, I do not press for specifics. They need help/time off/need to flex? They almost always have my approval without details. Keep me informed on the work flow and when I need to step in but if they need to go, I don’t know, scream in a field for two hours and need me to handle a call with a client, I am a-okay with that.

        1. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

          Where do you find these open fields where no one looks at you strangely for screaming? I need one.

    3. Sweet Christmas!*

      I love people’s kids on Teams calls, lol. Most of the time with the older ones if you just let the parent handle whatever they need to handle we can keep going. But the kids humanize my folks, and they are usually pretty entertaining. (Mostly I am just looking for some kind of cue about whether you want me to engage your child or not…I am usually good to let your 7-year-old derail this meeting to tell me about his latest Minecraft project, lol!)

      I keep reminding my folks that we’re still in a global crisis and it’s OK if we take things slowly or not at all.

  12. Jessica*

    I’m on the luckier end of the spectrum with our schools and daycares rarely closing so for me the biggest things are giving grace and understanding if I need to cancel something last minute or if my kid walks into the room behind me and no judgement when it happens. I am grateful that my workplace and manager are very supportive already.

  13. teachingtime*

    Might sound weirdly basic, but I’d like to just not have it held against me in performance evaluations that my performance kind of sucks this year (and last year). I know it has to be noted in some fashion, but sometimes when I’m talking to colleagues who are like “wow, the pandemic has been oddly productive for me,” I realize how huge the gulf is between myself and people who don’t have kids, and then I get super anxious about the fact that they’re maybe performing extra well while my performance is flagging, and that I therefore look even worse by comparison. (And yes, I realize that plenty of people who *don’t* have small children are also struggling under these conditions because of the tolls on mental health and for many other reasons. I just know a subset of people who are finding the shift has helped them focus. But none of the parents I know seem to be feeling that.)

    1. My Cabbages!*

      Since the pandemic my university has changed our Annual Performance Review from a report (where we detail exactly how much class time/research/advising/service hours we put in and specific evaluation numbers) to a brief summary of how we feel things went and what we learned from it. And it has been a literal lifesaver.

    2. Dotty*

      This seems like it would undermine parents even more though. I mean, if there is going to be a separate evaluation process for them, or some amount of a “free pass” for their poorer performance during these times, then the very fact of there being that different system is formalizing the idea that being a parent inherently makes one perform less well. This will go a long way toward branding parents as less good workers.

      If anything I’d like to see the opposite happen: parents should be evaluated specifically on how their parenthood is impacting their job, and held to very high standards in that regard, in order to recognize that it’s possible to be an excellent worker and a parent at the same time. Companies should be flexible in all the many ways discussed throughout this thread, but absolutely unyielding on the excellence of the end product.

      1. Ismonie*

        Hard disagree. I don’t think someone’s parenting should be a subject of evaluation. I do agree that employers should give people a break for pandemic-related work struggles, regardless of their source or perceived source.

      2. Dutchie*

        That seems overly harsh. I don’t think it’s fair to expect *anyone* to have been an excellent worker over the last two years, seeing as we were (and are still!) living through a *literal* traumatic event. And I do mean literal. There are studies up for peer-review that point to neurological changes in the brain of otherwise healthy individuals because of the pandemic.

        Add to that the logistics of the last two years: not being able to see friends and other loved ones, it being much harder to get your groceries or other necessities (non-essential stores were closed for some time where I live and something broke in my house, I got it fixed but it was a hassle), not having your normal ways to relieve stress, etcetera.

        Now do this for an extra person who doesn’t quite understand the world like you do. Oh, and you also have to be their teacher, a job people normally have to get a degree for. If you are unlucky, double or triple this responsibility.

        It’s wild to me that you would even dare to speak about excellence in the workplace after the years we had, but especially on this thread. Unless you would be talking about the performance of healthcare and other essential workers and teachers since the beginning of this pandemic.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          The person above said they don’t want bad performance held against them. Dotty is saying that’s not a great idea.
          How is that “overly harsh”

          1. Ismonie*

            Because Dotty is saying they should be evaluated on how well they are balancing parenting and working—which is creating additional hoops for parents, for one.

      3. Green great dragon*

        Um. What exactly do you mean by ‘held to very high standards’ here. Expected to absorb supervision of young kids all day every day with no impact on work? No. Not gonna happen. Not for everyone, anyway – some may have tons of local help and do fine (especially your senior managers with a stay-at-home spouse and dedicated office) but that really shouldn’t be the expectation.

        What on earth is the point of dinging your long-term best employee because she’s temporarily underperforming through no fault of her own?

      4. Spencer Hastings*

        If performance evaluations were modified, presumably they’d be modified for everyone (see, e.g., My Cabbages’ post above).

      5. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

        I think this is one of those where “everyone could benefit from a tool that could be very helpful for parents.” I’ve been quite lucky in that my productivity hasn’t dipped because of the pandemic, but especially as the mental toll mounts, I’m working some absolutely nutty hours to make that work. Right now, if you have an employee who is normally a good employee, but is struggling for any reason, there should be a way to accept that we’re in the midst of traumatic and challenging times, and some people just aren’t going to perform as well under those circumstances.

      6. STEMprof*

        First of all, everyone should be given grace right now, not ONLY parents. We are in the middle of a pandemic.

        But second, “evaluating parents on how parenthood is impacting their job” would do the following: favor people with stay at home partners (ie, mostly men), people with more resources to hire childcare, and/or people with nearby family who can help out. I have colleagues who could afford to hire full time nannies ($2000/month) to sit with their children while them did virtual school. We could not afford this, so we juggled and I worked till 12-2am every night. Those colleagues were absolutely more productive than me, but it’s because their partner is a high earner or their parents were able to help support the costs of a nanny. While I kept projects moving in 2020, my output in terms of papers (I’m at a university) was abysmal. Thankfully, my 5 year old went back to school mid 2021, my 2021 output was above average, and I am likely going up for promotion. How would giving me a negative “parenting” evaluation in 2020 have benefitted my employer long term?

        1. Librarian*

          “First of all, everyone should be given grace right now, not ONLY parents. We are in the middle of a pandemic.” THIS! I’m a parent, but a firm believer that we should really just be making everyone’s life easier (all the time, but especially now). I don’t care if it’s a kid, a parent, a friend you count as family, or your pet turtle, if you need some flexibility, I work to provide it, and I wish more managers were that way; life would be much better all around.

        2. Dotty*

          Yes I agree that everyone should be given grace right now. But that’s not what teachingtime is saying. They’re specifically concerned about how their performance looks when directly compared to those coworkers who have found the current situation conducive to their focus. Teachingtime is saying that they were previously a higher-performing employee, compared to these people who are doing well now, but the tables have turned because of teachingtime’s role as a parent, and therefore they want to be evaluated differently from those other coworkers.
          Everybody being evaluated less stringently than usual is fine.
          Parents specifically being evaluated less stringently than non-parents is only going to hurt employers’ and coworkers’ overall impression of parents as workers.

      7. junior*

        LOL working moms are already held to a higher standard
        And you wanna raise those standards?

      8. Tali*

        LOL what. If parenthood is not impacting someone’s job that is because they have external systems in place to allow them to focus on work (someone else is caring for the children, preparing food, cleaning, also a big enough space for a dedicated quiet work environment). None of those have anything to do with work.

        I think everyone would benefit from a bit of grace on their evaluations by acknowledging the inherent stress and difficulty of working and living during a pandemic. This thread and the previous one are showing how parents have had unique struggles and been especially let down during all this… it is almost impossible to be an excellent worker and a parent at the same time in these conditions.

    3. Elysian*

      This is my biggest fear/concern/frustration with the current state of affairs. My job is measured by billable hours. My childless colleagues: “With everything closed for omicron, all I am doing is billing hours. I don’t have anything else to do, so I’m working. I’m gonna get a huge bonus!”
      Me: “With everything closed for omicron I’m at half my normal billable hours and I’m more exhausted than ever before. No, I can’t take on an extra project. Yes, I know my hours report suggests I should be able to.”

      There isn’t a winnable solution here – my org makes money by billing my time – it doesn’t even matter if I’m more efficient/productive on my projects. If I’m not billing they’re not making money on me. I can’t ask them to just… forget that I’m billing less and ignore that my colleagues are billing more. But it would be nice to be less forgotten by all the people who are talking about how much more productive the pandemic has made them.

      1. Smurftacular*

        But that’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it? Caregivers are doing socially valuable work, that isn’t especially proftable to the organizations they work for. That’s why pregnant people are a legally protected class – children are a societal good with high costs to the individuals responsible for them.

        Of course, in other OECD countries, that doesn’t hold true – the social welfare system subsidizes a lot more of the care, education, and health of children. But even there, you see the damage to their careers. Look at Germany, where women can take three years leave without losing their jobs, but don’t advance professionally as a result.

        In the end, there is no perfect solution. The closest thing I can think of is simply doing less work for everyone. There’s a nice HBR study where they talk about a group at a top consulting firm that works very efficiently, and just doesn’t do overtime. That way, every one has time for a life without work. Of course, they have to keep it quiet, to avoid annoying everyone else at the firm who thinks that long work hours are necessary. And that is socially true – high-paying professions like finance, law, and management consulting justify their salaries in part by the long hours they work. But I’m beginning to think America’s winner-take-all society will have serious disadvantages in the long run,and would prefer a more equitable distribution of both work hours and wages.

  14. Ann Perkins*

    Somewhat related, but even if you don’t have kids, please advocate for your employers to provide at least 12 weeks paid parental leave. I’ve also been fortunate that our daycare hasn’t had many covid related closures, but the hardest part for me during the under 5 phase has been burning through all my PTO for maternity leaves (most employers will not allow you to take unpaid leave before your PTO/sick time is exhausted, leaving particularly moms to have zero PTO in the bank while also having a young baby). Covid and general sickness absences would be much easier if it were easier for me to just take a day off here and there.

    1. FridayFriyay*

      And make sure that leave is eligible to be used when quarantining from covid exposure in addition to actually being ill. People keep mentioning intermittent FMLA for those who qualify and in addition to that not being paid (absent additional state laws or company policies that provide pay) you also have to qualify, and as far as I am aware quarantining after a covid exposure does not qualify.

      1. Long Time Reader*

        This. And maybe expand sick leave days for everyone- no more coming to the office with the “I’m sure it’s just allergies” cold- and for parents, we’re home with sick kids more than we were when a recovering cold was no big deal

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          And also allow people to take sick leave to care for family members (my job just changes a policy to cut down on “faked sick days”), and now I can’t take sick days for a sick kid – I have to use my minimal vacation time for that………

          (And the people who put in the change all have stay at home spouses, so the policy change doesn’t affect them at all. I guess I would say look at how your policies and policy changes will affect all of your employees, parents/caregivers and non alike.)

      2. MsSolo (UK)*

        Some form of caregivers leave would cover a lot of covid and related scenarios, both for parents but also for people with sick parents and other family members. We got offered a handful of days for the first year of the pandemic, for nursery closures/quarantining for in-office roles/caring for sick family members (I think it was a week paid and several weeks unpaid, so you didn’t need to use holiday – you can only use sick days in the UK for your own sickness, and they’re legally separate from holiday).

        Even better is if they don’t have to be taken as whole days, so you can at least take mornings off while your kid is at home with you, or take long lunches to help a family member eat theirs, etc.

      3. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

        I agree with increases in overall sick leave, especially to allow for quarantine leave. We’ve been passing covid very…very…slowly through our house. One child stayed home sick (Day 0). Child 2 immediately had to come home from school after we got the confirmed test (though she tested negative at school that day), but she didn’t test positive until two days later, and can’t go back until tomorrow (despite the fact that she’s been fine for 3 days–school policy says 5 out regardless). Today (Day 7) my husband got sick. I’m still not, so at minimum, we’re home for six-ish more days (even if I were to get a positive tomorrow); and if I follow strict quarantine guidelines, I have to stay home for 10 days after today (unless I get sick somewhere in that timeframe; and theoretically, I could end up home for longer than that, if I do get sick). Luckily, I’m a freelancer, so I’m not punching a time clock and no one cares where I am while the work gets done; but quarantine can be a wicked bear when you’re waiting on very slow progression through the house. I can’t imagine if I had to burn sick leave or go unpaid for three plus weeks while we battle this.

      4. Insert Clever Name Here*

        YES. My employer gave us a bank of time in 2020 to be used for time off if we were caring for someone with covid or caring for someone who couldn’t go to their regular care due to covid exposure…but that bank of time only applied in 2020. I didn’t need it in 2020, but now I have a spouse with covid and a 4 year old who can’t go to daycare until 10 days past his exposure to my spouse and what the hell am I supposed to do?

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      A friend of mine’s employer just got acquired by a larger corporation. IIRC they went from having 8 weeks dedicated parental leave (really not much at all, BUT sadly more than many employers offer in the US, including my own) to – I wish I were joking – 80 hours. Two work weeks. She said when they announced the change they really tried to blunt the blow, emphasizing that you were free to… apply for short-term disability. I’m not even sure the legality of that (maybe it would be approved for 6 weeks if your doctor signs off for recovery?) but disability is pennies on the dollar. But hey! Good news! They don’t have to take the 80 hours consecutively!


      I was aghast. She was resigned to it and “thankful she already had her kid before this acquisition”. I don’t work for that organization. I don’t even plan to have children of my own. I was still livid for her and all of her colleagues who had planned on having children.

      My employer doesn’t offer any parental leave, BUT we earn 15 days dedicated sick time (separate from vacation and personal) every year, and we can carry it over indefinitely, so if you start young, are blessed to be healthy, and plan ahead, you can build up something of a makeshift parental leave for yourself. It does not compare to true and protected maternity leave, but at least it is something. During the first year of the pandemic, we had even better policies, some of which have been mentioned here as especially helpful to parents: Remote work, flexibility with schedules, child care subsidies, results-oriented productivity measures, and even a special pool of “COVID leave” that had restrictions but was separate from our normal PTO, so you wouldn’t have to dip into your own sick time if you or a family member got COVID. (Unfortunately they have been rolling back many of those COVID policies in the year since.)

      Meanwhile that friend already only gets a single pool of 15 days undifferentiated PTO per year, and AFAIK it does not carry over, so you can never amass more than 15 in one year. Her child has been sick like weekly since starting daycare, plus the daycare has had a spate of COVID exposure closures, so she’s running low on PTO already. Every time I speak to her, she sounds closer and closer to breaking. I don’t know how she copes, frankly. And the sad thing is, relatively, she is probably in a better situation than at least 50% of working parents in this country.

      All of this to say… The more people at all levels (parents or not) that we have to advocate for maternity leave/paternity leave/parental leave, and better overall sick leave policies to boot, the better we will all be. This is yet another situation that calls for labor solidarity and collective action, as well as focused legislative pressure to codify these needs into law.

      1. Nikki*

        Per the legality of the parental leave offered at your friend’s company: in most situations, parental leave is not required to be paid. There are some states require paid parental leave, but in most situations where paid parental leave is offered, it’s because the company has recognized it’s the humane thing to do and are doing it of their own volition. If you don’t work for one of those companies, you can use FMLA to take up to 12 weeks unpaid. If your company has less than 50 employees, even FMLA doesn’t apply and the company is technically not required to offer you anything. It’s terrible and hopefully the country is slowly changing that reality, but for now perfectly legal.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Short Term Disability is frequently used in place of actual maternity leave for working moms…if you’ve paid into it for a year before the birth. They also usually cap at 6 weeks, after a 2 week waiting period.

      3. Momma Bear*

        I had to use 2 weeks of my PTO before short term disability kicked in. I don’t recall having to prove that I was allowed back to work after 6 weeks, but it was 6 or 8 weeks of disability at a % of your pay, depending on what kind of birth it was. Then I took 4 weeks unpaid, where my job was held per FMLA but obviously not everyone can afford LWOP. My coworker came back exactly as soon as she was medically able. 80 hours is….horrible.

        Family leave/more PTO of all kinds is a benefit most people can appreciate. If you’re not taking care of a kid, you might be taking care of an adult family member (spouse/parents). People forced into corners quit.

    3. Chris Traegar*

      Twelve weeks? The norm where I am is (literally!) eighteen months. I hope you can get more paid leave soon, Ann Perkins!

      1. Ann Perkins*

        LOL at the user name, and thank you – my employer when I had my first two children was awful about paid leave, but fortunately I changed jobs last year and my new employer is much better. I’m 32 weeks pregnant and fortunately will have an almost entirely paid for leave this time since I have much more generous PTO and company paid for short term disability.

    4. Mallorn1564*

      I came here to say this. I don’t know if my company is just incompetent or if it’s really allowed, but when I went out on FMLA for babies, I stopped accruing pto BUT THEY DIDN’T MAKE ME USE ANY OF IT. Yes, that mean the only income I had for that 12 weeks was the 8 weeks (c-section) of 2/3 pay from short term disability (and I am INCREDIBLY privileged that that was okay for us), but it also meant that I had some PTO when I came back. Because working == kids in daycare = they’re sick every other week (and back home) + you’re sick in the off weeks (and working through it anyhow). On top of sleeping in 3 hours chunks and still being in a lot of pain. And that’s if you didn’t have any complications.

      Even with that, it’s been 3.5 years since my last kid and only now do I have enough of a PTO cushion that I can consider taking a day for myself (just to sleep…oh sleep I miss you…) – and that’s really only because we haven’t taken any family vacations due to the pandemic.

      So managers-with-influence and HR people out there – can you choose to interpret FMLA such that the employee has the CHOICE to take their PTO or to just stop accumulating it but keep whatever they currently have?

      1. Ismonie*

        It’s really allowed, my state government agency lets us do that too. We can either use PTO, or use it to top up disability payments, or not use it at all.

  15. Accounting Gal*

    Working mom of an 8-month-old, who due to COVID exposures and snow days was out of school more last month than in. The biggest thing is understanding that I’m not working normal hours, I might be answering your email at 5 AM or 9 PM. Related to that, if you want to ask me to take on something extra, it is way more likely to be possible if it’s not deadline specific – calling me at 10 AM to ask if I can take something on due that day at 3PM? Not likely. I’m working around nap times and bedtimes here!

  16. Erwin*

    Same goes for in person meetings. Everyone is used to zoom meetings and expects them. If you would like to try and meet in person please give everyone ample time to schedule.

    1. Momma Bear*

      And/or continue to allow people to dial in because kids under 5 can’t be vaccinated yet. People may need to be extra cautious.

  17. straws*

    I think understanding is the best that can be done on either side. This is a no win situation – there are no good options. But being understanding can go a long way to making the parent employee feel like they aren’t quite as inconvenient (we’ll still probably feel inconvenient… but maybe a little less so?) I’ve been lucky like the OP, our daycare and school has only been closed for a few weeks last year and so far so good this year. But my bosses have been tremendously understanding about everything. It doesn’t give me the time back to get things done, but it does take off some of the pressure. I’ve literally had a child throw a tantrum while meeting with our CEO, and he simply smiled sympathetically and said “let’s just reschedule and try again – these things happen and we can take care of this later today/tomorrow”. Did it fix my kid? no. Did it delay my action on the task? yup. Did I have a panic attack over it though? nope! And that’s probably the best we can do right now.

    And the parent can return the understanding as well! I may have to reschedule a meeting due to children, but I can also offer to do a little more legwork prior to the meeting or take on a little more that I typically don’t to make up for the time delay – things like that so the coworker my kids are now also affecting can be less impacted. Being able to do this makes me feel better about being the recipient of so much understanding as well.

    1. Erin F*

      I made a similar comment in another thread but as a working parent one of the major things that helps me is for my manager and team to really evaluate what meetings need to happen at all. The default during the pandemic seems to be towards more “live” conversations. I think it would be beneficial to everyone not just parents to make it okay for work to be asynchronous when possible. As several people mentioned, everyone has stuff going on and the reality for many is coworkers in different time zones.

  18. PrgrmMgr*

    I have a diabetic six year old who was home most of last year, and can’t yet go to the afterschool program (until they hire a nurse, who knows when that will be). It also limited options for us last summer. What’s been really helpful is for team members to realize that I can’t take a call and focus until he’s off to school (which is 3 hours after some of my coworkers start their day), and for the handful who are working late in the afternoon, understand the TV may be on in the background, or they may get to see his latest lego build, or get roped into a conversation about Star Wars or Spiderman or who knows what else. When my son is home all day, a few minute warning for unscheduled calls is really helpful (send a chat message or email), so I can set him up with something to occupy him and move someplace where I’m less likely to be interrupted, and realize that when I move, I give up my second, large monitor. I’ve been lucky to have a supportive and understanding team, but it took a while to “train” people on these limitations.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      My 8yo was diagnosed with diabetes in the fall. Solidarity – we’re lucky that his school nurse is great, but it sure does complicate care on school closure days, summer camps, etc.

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      I have a diabetic six year old who was home most of last year, and can’t yet go to the afterschool program (until they hire a nurse, who knows when that will be).

      Is this a public school’s after care? Is it not an ADA requirement for there to be a nurse?

      1. Anon for this*

        No, a lot of aftercares are run by private operators like the YMCA. I worked for a private camp and YMCA for years and at the most their childcare staff is required to have is Adult/Child CPR and Basic First Aid. If your kid requires an aide as part of their IEP/504, the school district is supposed to provide it.

        The private camp I worked for had a nurse/EMT on site because camps have a lot of medical events, mostly injuries. But the YMCA never did.

      2. just a random teacher*

        There’s not even an ADA requirement for there to be an actual nurse on-site during the school day in most cases. I’ve been to zero years of medical school and have been trained by the school district’s central office nurse (who works in a different building with the superintendent and other district-level adults rather than on the same site as a school) in how to administer two different kinds of emergency injectibles (epi-pen for allergies and glucagon for diabetes) due to students with 504s/health management plans in my classroom or because I might see that kid as part of some other school activity. This was the case pre-pandemic, too. I’ve never worked in a school that had a full-time nurse on site, although I did once work in a low-income-area high school that had a county-run (rather than district-run) health clinic on campus. Routine medications are done by a “health aide”, which is a school office employee who has been to some district trainings from the school nurse.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          The district my children are in hire health aides based on that year’s 504’s. Typically they start the process AFTER the school year starts. I think our district has one full time actual nurse, and she’s at the central administration building.

          I too attended a high school with a county-run health office for teens on the campus. It was wonderful, and I really do wish that this was a bigger thing. We actually HAD medical assistance there when it was required. We didn’t have to miss huge chunks of school for appointments, we could make them there (they were equivalent to our pediatrician’s office). Sure, our parents had to fill out “consent to treat” paperwork, but overall it was an incredible convenience to families AND it kept us all healthy.

    3. Kodamasa*

      I have to say, I love those little moments on Zoom meetings where I get a glimpse into my coworkers’ lives. I will totally help kiddo debate with parent on why Spiderman is better than Batman, and that lego build IS awesome.

  19. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    I’m a working parent of a toddler, and what’s helped me most is that virtually everyone else here has a young child (it helps that I work in a school). It’s understood that any meeting can be switched virtual at the last moment, and we’re accustomed to having hybrid meetings with one or two (or more) staff calling in on Zoom. Most importantly, there’s no judgement or second guessing – if you need to be home, you need to be home. We understand that meetings might get interrupted by a quarantined kid asking for juice or something, and just roll on by these little interruptions.

    We also know the laws and regulations around quarantine periods really well (since we have to enforce them) so there’s no pushing back of “well can’t you come in after 5 days instead of 10”? when my daycare is closed for ten full days.

    Mostly, though, it comes down to having a pre-existing culture of trust, respect, and being willing to step in to help out a colleague.

  20. I don’t post often*

    For me, flexible working hours has been crucial. So I can work from 6-7am and it’s normal. You can get emails from me at 10pm and it’s normal. This allows me to do things like make sure my child has signed onto her Google meet, but also I can do more “normal” things like take her to dance and watch the class.
    I work from home. My company also offers a “emergency” childcare service for people that must be in an office due to job responsibilities. This service covers elder and childcare. I’m torn on this- it’s not something I would ever use as I’m just terrified of leaving my child with strangers. But I could also see if she were older where I might find this service valuable.

    1. By Golly*

      I was also terrified of the “emergency” childcare for a long time, but finally bit the bullet at the end of a long lasting virus when the kids were maybe 3 and 5. We’ve used it maybe half a dozen times, and have in that time had mostly stellar experiences, with one nanny that was just not that into my kid, but not harmful or anything. I asked around on a company facebook group for parents to hear other’s experiences first, and they were also positive. I found it to be a really helpful perk IN ADDITION to flexibility and understanding from my team. There are times when I just really want to be able to do the work that I have committed to on the day that I committed to doing it (usually I’ve used this for facilitating workshops or big presentations or things that I can’t just do whenever). I think that if this benefit were like “well, you have to come to work because we have this emergency childcare so they can just take care of your kid”, it would suck, but as an added support so you can maintain some sanity and meet professional goals, it’s pretty nice.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Employers should also keep in mind that emergency child care may work great for some families – it would have for us at various times in the past – but many special needs make it unworkable. I would not be able to leave my diabetic elementary schooler with an emergency child care provider, for example – maybe for a couple of hours, or to entertain the kids in my home while I worked remotely, but not as the only source of all-day care.

        1. Anon for this*

          When I worked at camp, we were specifically cautioned that the highest rate of accident/injury/medical event happens on days when the children are not known to the caretakers and vice versa. So the first few days of camp, or the days there is a substitute counselor. So it definitely is higher risk than a normal childcare situation.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            So much depends on the kid. Aside from my son’s diabetes, my two elementary schoolers are pretty flexible – starting a new camp or having a new sitter is generally something they can roll with pretty easily. But there are so many personalities, developmental stages, and special needs where that is not the case – many kids thrive on routine and familiarity, have a fear of strangers or anxiety around new places, etc. Dropping off an autistic preschooler at an emergency care site is probably not going to be a great option in many cases.

            Which is not to say companies shouldn’t offer emergency backup care! It works great for some. It’s just not a fix for everyone.

        2. FridayFriyay*

          And it may not be an option if the child in question is quarantine timing due to exposure or is sick with covid. There is only so much risk that childcare workers can be reasonably asked to take on during this pandemic, and some backup care companies have rules about these things (and the ones that don’t may not give a shit about their employees which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence as a parent.)

        3. Tired.*

          This! My toddler wouldn’t be thrilled but he’d be OK. My 6 month old is just coming around to my mom who watches her 3x a week for the last 3.5 months. She has made my mom cry 3 times, and a babysitter we were trying out – she is….intense.

  21. 3Toddlers60HrWorkWk*

    My workplace is full of parents juggling daycare/school closures, but the whole org overall and individuals have been amazing about flexibility. The most helpful:
    – Be understanding! Calls will be canceled. Deadlines will be pushed. No one says anything but “I understand. I’ll email you or follow up later.”
    – Examine your true needs. We’ve pushed publication delivery. We’ve said “not right now” to great ideas. We can only do what we can do. Of course, this requires prioritization–not all can be pushed–but scale back or delay what can.
    – Devote budget for and help onboarding freelancers. We’ve tapped a larger network, which isn’t a zero-cost experience. But others have jumped in to articulate request, connect with resources, etc.
    – Set up room to vent on the struggle and celebrate the sweet moments within the chaos. We have a team chat for parents (and others welcome!) at the org. It’s usually full of asks about sippy cups and sleeping habits, but also for photos of quarantine weeks and “we’re here for you!” cheers.

  22. LizM*

    In my job, meetings are sometimes necessary, but please don’t schedule back to back meetings if possible. Last week, I had a morning meeting and afternoon meeting, with a 2 hour block in between. A coworker set a meeting for that time “because it was the only time you had available.” So now I had 5 straight hours with no breaks. And then when I declined, she got snarky about me needing a lunch.

    I would have been annoyed pre-COVID, but yeah, with my husband and I both working from home and juggling childcare due to a school closure, I needed to actually make my kids lunch and couldn’t just foist them on my husband for his whole workday.

    In hindsight, I should have blocked that time out, but it was really frustrating to get the push back when I said I didn’t have that time available. It wasn’t an urgent meeting, she could have scheduled it for a different day without impacting the project schedule.

    The most helpful attitude has been when I’ve had to ask for flexibility, and my boss or coworkers have just said, okay, we’ll make it work, with zero judgment. Like, I can’t have anything scheduled before 9 or after 4, because our before and after care is so unpredictable. I’ll still get my hours in, but I can’t guarantee when outside of those hours. And I may have to deal with a last minute school closure or quarantine.

    I know this is hard for them too, but I’m not doing it *at* them, any more than a coworker calling out with a migraine is getting sick *at* me. It sucks for everyone, but the implications that I’m a flake and this is some kind of character flaw is really challenging.

    1. President Porpoise*

      If you do have to schedule back to backs, start or end them 5-10 minute off the normal time, for bio beaks etc. That little break helps a lot.

    2. Ama*

      Ugh, your coworker sucks. I have coworkers who will blindly send meeting requests if my schedule looks free but they’ve at least always been willing to move the meeting if I point out I won’t get lunch that day — and I’ve made sure my reports know they can do the same no matter who is requesting the meeting.

    3. Coffee Bean*

      I feel your pain. While I don’t have kids,hi have had days where I have had eleven calls scheduled, then someone schedules yet another the one remaining half hour I have. I have taken to blocking time in my calendar as “busy” so I don’t get scvheduled for a call. Not sure if your email system or company allows this, but it has helped me. I have also told my boss that when I have days like this, it’s really difficult for me to get anything else done outside of the calls.
      It’s hard for me without kids. I commend whatever you are able to do with kids at home.

    4. A Penguin!*

      Eh, I wouldn’t have been snippy about it, but I too would have been frustrated if you told me that you didn’t have that time available when your calendar showed otherwise. “Lunch” doesn’t happen for everyone at noonish – especially nowadays with highly flexed schedules for some people – and so I wouldn’t assume that open space was your lunch. I can only avoid times that don’t work for you if there’s some way for me to know what they are.

      1. LizM*

        I guess that’s my point, though. Alison asked what is helpful, what’s helpful is a little grace if I my calendar isn’t 100% up to date all the time, because life happens, and it tends to happen more right now with small kids at home.

        I don’t really mind that the meeting got scheduled (although we all work in the same time zone, so maybe this varies by org, but in mine, generally avoiding the 12-1 block when possible is fairly standard), it was the push back when I said I couldn’t have 5 hours of back to back meetings, and asked to reschedule something that wasn’t time sensitive.

        1. DiplomaJill*

          Why the heck wouldn’t you assume the only open block in the middle of the day is for lunch? That’s ridiculous and that’s part of the problem. The right answer is to find another time, or at a minimum, ask first before sending the invite.

    5. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

      Your coworker sucks. Anyone who schedules a non urgent meeting during standard lunch time sucks. I have had to block that window just to get a break in meetings and I still get people booking during it. I do push back though because people DO need a break! We do need to eat! We do need to get up from our desks for a few minutes!

    6. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

      Meetings are bad, but back-to-back meetings are worse. Even if you just give a kid up to the electronic babysitter, after an hour even the couchiest little potato is going to need a snack or help with the potty or your advice on what show to watch next or frankly just a minute of your time and attention. Our kids are in school now but when they were home schooling the worst times where when both my spouse and I ended up in back-to-back meetings. We would strategize each morning on which of us could afford to be interrupted in any given meeting.

  23. Forrest*

    For managers: be very clear on the difference between “you need to be available / at work / on the end of a phone / etc between 9-5pm because That’s Just How Work Works” and it being a requirement of the job. Be clear about the difference between coverage requirements and just a general expectation that 9-5 are working hours. If there are coverage requirement, there are coverage requirements. But be explicit about them.

    Realistically, you may have to decide between accepting that some of your employees are only available for 20-30 hours of work at the moment and having them not available at all because they’ve quit working. If they do leave, it may not be as simple as replacing them with someone who can work 40 hours a week. Choose wisely.

    Take responsibility for ensuring work is shared fairly between your employees who are struggling with childcare and those who aren’t. Be realistic about what your employees with caring responsibilities are capable of, but don’t just dump that work on employees without caring responsibilities. Long-term, it does nobody any favours if you assume that half the office can simply do the work of 75% of the office.

    Advocate for your employees, for flexibility at every possible level, and caution your leadership against the assumption that there are any short-term fixes or that we’ll be back to normal soon. There are some long-term structural shifts going on in the labour market, and your industry will need to adapt them if you want to stay viable as a business. If that means shortened working hours, hybrid and remote working, hyperflexibility, more staff to cover the same amount of work, that’s the conversation you should be pushing.

    1. Sarah*

      100% YES to this, especially to your second paragraph. I was incredibly blessed when I was pregnant with my first child in pre-pandemic times – in late 2019, I started discussing plans with my boss and basically said “Is there anything we can do so I can stay here but still be home with my child,” and his response was “I’d rather change your role and keep you than lose you and all of your knowledge in its entirety.” This was so beneficial in ensuring I felt valued as a person, as well as an employee in good standing. At the time, the plan was I would work from home part-time through the end of 2020, and then we would evaluate me possibly increasing my hours and coming back to the office. My daughter was born 5 weeks before COVID shut down our entire area (I’m in New York), so I’ve just been home at part-time hours ever since. I KNOW that I am so much more lucky than most, but it’s still beyond exhausting, because I don’t have any breaks in my day. I’m either trying to be 100% “on” as a mom, or 100% “on” as an employee, from 6am to 7:30pm every single day, and even though I’m only working 20ish hours per week, the workload itself has not actually decreased from when I worked 40 hours. I just keep getting more and more behind. So I’d emphasize that it’s incredibly important for managers to make sure that, if you have someone intentionally working fewer hours (like, took a pay cut/changed a job description from full- to part-time, not just “I’m struggling to hit my regular schedule), make sure the workload reflects that! It can be so disheartening as I work and work during my 4 hours a day, only to see the tasks just continue to pile on until the mountain is higher than when I started.

  24. Hazelrae*

    Seriously, take care of your own stuff. I am trying to do my own job and watch a toddler and monitor senior parents. I cannot proof read the email for you. Or, make sure that you are understanding correctly. Just do your work. Do some of mine too if you feel like it. But don’t slack off cause you think I am. It’s rude.

    1. Abcdef*

      I understand not loading anything extra on to anyone, but I’m assuming that even people without children can have caring responsibilities or other complications. What may be seen as slacking off could be elder care responsibilities causes the same issues as parents or a chronic or even life threatening condition wearing someone down. I think empathy goes both ways and the assumption should not be that just because someone doesn’t have children they don’t have a valid reason for struggling, or that much less they should do your work on their own.

      1. no sleep for the wicked*

        My partner’s sister recently died, leaving her the main caregiver/driver for her disabled mom & brother. I am luckily able to flex my schedule all over the place to cover for her usual duties at home (no kids, but plenty of critters both pets and livestock and a farm to manage).
        It’s incredibly stressful and the absence of a regular schedule is wearing on my mental health issues. I honestly don’t have any bandwidth to deal with coworkers’ childcare challenges and can barely keep up with my own workload some days.
        Slack off?

    2. AnotherSarah*

      YES. I’m re-sending things constantly because people aren’t doing their job…it’s not okay.

    3. Rosemary*

      “Do some of mine too if you feel like it.” Wow in one breath you say take care of your own stuff…then suggest someone else do some of yours? As Abcdef pointed out, parents aren’t the only ones with caring responsibilities. Heck, even if someone DOESN’T have caring responsibilities, it is not on them to pick up your work.

  25. Pats*

    Remote work is extremely important to have available as a option. I recently asked my supervisor if I could occasionally work remotely like some of the higher-ups do, and she said we are “moving away from that” (said days before a zoom meeting in which I continued to see several coworkers’ living rooms in the background), yet I’m also supposed to be okay working in a place that’s following the dangerous new CDC five-day quarantine guidelines while my child still isn’t eligible to be vaccinated. My job absolutely can be done at least 50% remotely, but instead I’m being forced to put my family at risk every single day of the workweek.

    Additionally, please take colleagues’ concerns seriously when they ask if the workplace could please maintain the mask mandates after the CDC gets rid of them. Higher-ups at my workplace keep saying, no matter what anyone says to the contrary, that they will do whatever the CDC says. I work with the public. No way in hell am I continuing to work with the public after masks are gone, with a child who still isn’t vaccinated. I’m quitting immediately once that happens, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

    1. JelloStapler*

      Or still having huge super spreader events and the only response to “What mitigation efforts will be used to make sure participants are masking?” is a response of “We follow CDC”. Yea, ok- but will you enforce it? Because I don’t want to get COVID (and therefore have to isolate and then quarantine my kids without help because I don’t want to expose grandparents) because of an event I didn’t even want to be at but had to be.

    2. This Old House*

      Yes, remote work is so important. I get that parents at home with kids are not as productive, but I know you don’t want me to miss that deadline, and I have no choice about when I/my kids are going to be sick or sent home for something.

  26. Aerie*

    Unless you are my boss, please don’t comment on the weird times I send emails. Yes, I’m quite aware of how early/late I’m sending this email. No, we don’t need to talk about it.

    (I’m aware of delaying the send time in Outlook, but admit sometimes at 11 PM I don’t remember to set it)

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Adding to this statement (sort of): don’t make jokes about being “being on vacation” when I’m not physically butt in seat. Its annoying at best. It can be trouble causing.

      Just don’t.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Oh god yes. And please don’t tell me that I’m being overly cautious/paranoid about Covid. I know I’m being cautious; I have two young kids, and my priority is to keep them healthy and in school. If my family gets Covid, I’m probably going to lose 2-3 weeks of work to illness and quarantining.
        Would this be the end of the world? No.
        Is it going to happen eventually? Almost certainly yes.
        Is it still worth avoiding for as long as possible? For me, that’s a big yes.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Oh, that’s another of my frustrations: Covid getting into my house, even with everyone fully vaccinated, will cause a ton of headaches that I don’t think even I fully know the scope of.

          My own work’s policy’s regarding Covid/testing/when I can return to the office.
          My spouse is a small business owner, dealing with quarantines and illness have been a big enough struggle and he doesn’t need the added aggravation of me getting it from work from someone being a dumb-donkey-backend (which is coincidentally how I got back in November of 2020, btw).
          The quarantine and testing policy for return to school for my kids.

          Avoiding as much of that headache as possible sounds great to me. Upending my world for 2-3 weeks because you’re (checks notes) “over it”? Nope.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          My household got hit twice – once in spring 2020, and once in autumn 2021. Only one person got sick twice, but everybody got disrupted twice. It’s absolutely 100% worthwhile trying to keep the Plague out of your house. You could think of keeping it out as often as possible rather than as long as possible if that helps.

        3. Elysian*

          Agreed! Don’t complain about how cautious I am being or say “but aren’t you vaccinated?” etc. My child-free coworkers think the pandemic is over now that they’re vaccinated. It isn’t for me! So yeah, I can’t go to that business lunch indoors.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    One thing they can do is to just accept the fact that colleagues with young kids might not be going at 100% consistently for a while.. Of course most of these things that we’re talking about need to come from the bosses/mgmnt

  28. dresscode*

    Be an ally/advocate for us when we need back up. Push back when you hear things from folks looking down on us or being passive aggressive about how annoying it is that we need flexibility. Having someone say, ‘actually, I’m sure she’d love to be here, but I know she’s in an impossible position with daycare/COVID/etc. so lets give her slack’.

  29. Shiny Firefly*

    I hope to see some actual practical tips in here. I am very sympathetic to parents struggling durning the pandemic but the solution can’t be ‘force non-parent coworkers to do everything’. At my job, my workload is towering because breaks are being cut for people with kids at the expense of single and solo people to burn themselves out taking on all the work. Perhaps it’s the bitterness of my own situation coming through but there’s only so much I can do to help without further drowning myself.

    1. Forrest*

      totally agree, and I really think the solutions here need to come from management, not co-workers at the same level. For a short-term flex of up to six weeks, co-workers without caring responsibilities can make a huge difference by taking on a little more (and mine did, which was wonderful!), but nobody can do that for two years. Now it’s about cultural change and different expectations which should apply to all workers, and that’s got to come from senior leadership teams.

    2. no sleep for the wicked*

      I hear you. As someone who chose not to have kids because I was born already shouldering a heavier load, childfree does not equal struggle-free. I’m all for supporting my colleagues that are parents, and I work on a committee that helps my employer do so, but please don’t assume that anyone without children has the bandwidth to pick up any slack, or that we aren’t because we’re jerks.

    3. Ali + Nino*

      You raise a very good point – but isn’t that on the managers, not your colleagues who happen to be working parents?

    4. L-squared*

      Yep. There seems to be some of that already going on.

      I’m sympathetic, but don’t make the child free people suffer in order to do this. I’m happy to be “flexible” on meeting times. I’m not going to meet after I’m supposed to be done with work because its easier for a parent.

    5. lemonade*

      EXACTLY this.

      I’m a working parent. My son’s daycare closes so often, my coworkers just assume he’s home with me on any given day. My business has given me a raise, unlimited PTO, the flexibility to work any hours I want, and more understanding and compassion than I could ever expect. I am so lucky.

      The truth is our clients are still impacted because I can’t work on a normal schedule and can’t respond to urgent issues in real time. Our projects don’t have the level of oversight they need from me unless my colleagues do my job and theirs. We take financial hits because I can’t take on as many new projects as our investors demand. People have questions for me I can’t answer until 9 pm, when my kids are asleep, and then they have to respond at weird hours just to keep the work going.

      I love my colleagues and supervisors. This level of accommodation is just not sustainable for them.

      You know what businesses can do?

      Demand employees mask and vaccinate. We will see more strains and COVID as a whole isn’t going anywhere, but get everyone to do the bare minimum so we all have a chance because the solution is NOT to force businesses to take on financial strain and to force colleagues to take on more work. Universal, government-subsidized daycare? We need it, but what would that do for us on days when young, unvaccinated toddlers, for instance, had to quarantine because they were in contact with someone who tested positive? Nothing. They’d still need to stay home, so that sort of institutional change is desired but not helpful for COVID unless the solution we’re talking about is the one where all parents leave the workforce en masse and then are able to afford their children by subsidy because they can’t make money.

      There is no good solution and it all sucks. I’m sorry you’re impacted this way, Shiny Firefly.

  30. Interrobang*

    I work for a huge behemoth of a company. This company has been “experimenting” for the past 2 years or so with letting employees work when and where it is best for them (within reasonable constraints). My boss embodies these principles and takes it quite seriously. This freedom is a godsend for this super stretched mama. My partner works outside of the home and I have been able to stay 100% remote. I work in the mornings when I have many meetings, take a break midday to pick up the kids and help them with homework, and then sign in later in the afternoon to wrap up projects and loose ends.
    It’s really my boss and the company itself that allows this flexibility that helps keep me (sorta) sane. I don’t think there is anything my coworkers could do. In fact, even when I have a coworker that is scheduling meetings at unreasonable hours, my BOSS is the one to say I don’t have to attend. Push back. You can say no!

  31. Guving*

    I would say the ability to work from home without additional oversight (I had to keep a running list of things I did during the day it was insane spent more time on that then actual work) flexibility to work outside normal hours if a need arises that I need to go into the office. And also don’t penalize me because I have no daycare when it closes due to illness it’s not my fault.

  32. Knope Knope Knope*

    – Flexible schedules
    – Work from home
    – Focus on results > face time
    – Good insurance plans
    – Perks that help subsidize childcare > “fun” stuff
    – Compassion

    I get a lot of these things at my current job. It’s still hard, but it’s not impossible. I have been able to excel at work even when I feel like I’m drowning in life. These things really help.

    1. not feeling like i wanna get lit*

      “Perks that help subsidize childcare > “fun” stuff”
      While I think we can ALL agree that actual useful perks are better than useless random “fun”, limiting that to childcare is thoughtless. If you take away a perk that is for everyone, no matter how useful, and change it to something that is only useful for SOME of your employees, that’s super uncool.

      Give everyone extra PTO so they can use it as needed for their specific circumstance. That will benefit all employees and give parents extra time to accomplish tasks instead of spending time doing “fun” perks.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        I agree we don’t want to take perks away from anyone. But I want to push back, gently, on the idea that all benefits need to be universal. As the thread last week illustrated, being a working parent of young children right now is uniquely challenging. It’s not wrong to offer additional benefits specifically to alleviate that burden—emergency childcare, e.g., or PTO for parents when there are school or daycare closures.

          1. Clare*

            If companies aren’t willing to expand vacation leave (which may need to be paid out), they could offer more sick leave hours to everyone and allow them to be used for school closures, offer unlimited sick leave, or offer caregiving leave. All of these policies would likely make parents’ lives much easier and aren’t technically limited to parents. One thing coworkers can do is advocate for these sort of extended/flexible leave policies, especially coworkers with longer tenure or who are higher in the org chart.

        1. Fushi*

          I agree with this, and also I think that limiting benefits to ones that work exactly the same for everyone is short-sighted. Would I personally get extra money from a childcare stipend? No, but it would allow my coworkers with children to finish their work more reliably, which would be a huge help to me in the end.

      2. another_scientist*

        I don’t think this point is as logical as it may sound at first. Isn’t every perk only relevant for SOME employees? All the way to independently rich people who don’t need the paycheck.

      3. ophelia*

        Sure, but there are some specific assistance programs – like a dependent care FSA (which would also be useful for staff with adult dependents) – which can do a lot of offset some of the overwhelming load that working parents are currently facing.

      4. turquoisecow*

        I think we’ve covered in the past that not every perk is considered a perk by every employee, and not every fun thing is considered fun by all of them. Some people want holiday parties and bowling nights and zoom (or in person) happy hours, and other people want subsidized childcare or tuition reimbursement or more sick time. And some people might want both.

        Obviously if the company is limited in how much they can spend on perks than they should choose the ones that make the most people happy. But I don’t think not offering a benefit or perk because not everyone can use it is the right way to go.

      5. Joielle*

        Or even if straight up extra PTO is untenable, at least make it perks that subsidize all caregiving, not just childcare. I have a couple of friends caring for an elderly parent or disabled sibling who would benefit so much from assistance with respite care or adult day programs.

    2. JelloStapler*

      Especially when “fun” stuff is not fun for us or only complicates everything on our plate. I may not want to go to a virtual happy hour, I want to be done working and with my family.

    3. NervousNellie*

      So, I live next to a daycare, and due to state rules, I would say it’s been shut more than it’s been open in the last two years, therefore throwing more money at childcare seems like it won’t solve the underlying problem, because the issue is that there aren’t options to be purchased for a reasonable amount of money. I had a friend who looked for a nanny, and it was just infeasible because the expense is equal to her pay per hour (and she is not woefully underpaid for her position.) Even if there was an army of nannies, there wouldn’t’ have been enough to fill the need.

      My company took the unusual step of telling EVERYONE, parents and childless, that we could block off time in our schedules for childcare, so as to help friends and family. The childless were asked to keep it to twice a week (with the implication it should be no more than half a day each time.) I thought that was a nice approach, but also uncommon.

  33. KareninHR*

    I have a 4 month old and my return to work has been so hard! I have started coming into the office earlier so that I can leave at 5:00 on the dot. Inevitably, my coworkers need something big from me at 4:45, or want to stop me on my way out for a lengthy discussion because they forgot to ask me something during the 8+ hours I was here (in the office full time). It’s SO nice when coworkers understand that anything after 5:00 is cutting into my family time. Luckily my boss is VERY understanding. If she sees me here late she says “What are you still doing here? Go home!” It’s so nice having that support!

    1. anonymous73*

      Can you push back? If you’re allowing them to stop you at 4:45 and not being able to finish by 5 you need to start setting boundaries. They may not realize what they’re doing (or they may not care). If you tell them you HAVE to leave by 5, and make them aware that receiving anything after 4 (or whatever time you set) may not get done until the next day, then they may be more cognizant of your time.

  34. FridayFriyay*

    Stop telling me that covid is not that bad and “doesn’t affect kids.” I am aware of the data and I don’t need your commentary on my risk assessment for myself and my family.

    1. Pats*

      Thank you! I am having the same problem. Supervisor says things like “Sweden isn’t doing vaccines for kids” and “they’re saying kids aren’t really affected.” The people who write these headlines will end up being responsible for too many cases of MIS-C and long covid.

      1. Jake*

        Screw those people. My two year old got Omicron from daycare and had a 103 degree fever for 48 hours, with Tylenol just to mention a single symptom! Just because she is still alive doesn’t mean she didn’t get brutally sick.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Tell that person they’re more than welcome to head to Sweden, then. What a glassbowl. I don’t care if a ‘mild’ case of COVID is like a cold, I still don’t want a cold.

        1. Never Boring*

          And a “mild” case of COVID can still make you feel like crap and infect other people, any of who may end up with long COVID symptoms even if they aren’t seriously ill with COVID.

    2. Pop*

      Yes, the US just passed 1,000 pediatric deaths from COVID. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a small number. To those 1,000 families, it’s heartbreaking.

      1. FridayFriyay*

        People on this site said that to us literally last week when the original post about the unique challenges of having unvaccinated children ran. Comments section was full of them.

    3. Tuckerman*

      And on the flipside, don’t catastrophize when I say I need to work from home because someone in my household has COVID. I don’t need a reminder that COVID can be unpredictable and terrifying. We’re taking things day by day.

      1. LizM*

        Yup. And also don’t judge me for having my kid in daycare.

        I’m aware of the risk. I’ve made the best decision for my family, including mental health considerations. I don’t need commentary on whether this is the choice you would have made 30 years ago when you had toddlers (and a stay at home wife).

        The risks are real. Parents are doing the best they can to weigh those risks for their families. We need help, not judgment.

        1. FridayFriyay*

          Agreed. My kid is in daycare too. We are incredibly cautious about covid but we have to work and we can’t do our jobs reliably without childcare when it is available to us. That said, the fact that we are taking on increased risk due to our childcare risks makes me even less willing to take additional unnecessary risks and I wish people would stop trying to weaponize the fact that I send my kid to daycare to guilt and shame me about not doing other things that carry additional risk.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Humpf. I am aggravated on your behalf. Are they planning on coming over and helping out if your kids do get sick? No? Then they need to shut it on your prevention activities.

    5. CoveredinBees*

      Yes! I have gotten that and I could tell that at least some people were trying to be reassuring. It really doesn’t land that way. It feels so dismissive. I happen to know someone whose child was hospitalized for some time from COVID and still has more recovery ahead with no idea what the long-term impact will be.

      Also, people calculate risks differently and, unless it truly impacts you directly, just let people do what they need to. I nearly died from an extremely rare variation of an already rare medical condition and it was caught in time solely on accident. As a result, I’m probably more cautious than other people who haven’t have that experience. Neither of us is necessarily wrong or right.

      1. FridayFriyay*

        Exactly. I very purposely do not comment on other peoples’ covid risk tolerance and decisions unless it impacts me personally or is otherwise detrimental to public health. I understand that other people see the same data and weigh their individual risk differently. Like you, I’ve been the unlucky person caught in the infinitesimally small percentage of likelihood when it comes to another health issue and I’m not planning on gambling my child’s health even if the risk is what other people would consider “small.”

    6. turquoisecow*


      Numbers of hospitalized children are increasing and I don’t care what the odds are, I’m not putting my kid in danger if I can help it. She was in the hospital over the summer (not for Covid) and it was terrible and scary and I don’t want to put us through that again.

      They’re saying the 6 months+ vaccine might be available in March. I hope so!

    7. Sarah*

      YES. You are not my kid’s parent, so you don’t get to make the call on what I consider “not bad” is.

    8. Zombeyonce*

      This one is so frustrating. I know they’re trying to make me feel better by saying I shouldn’t worry if my kid gets COVID, but a sick kid is still a sick kid. And it also means that now I have to have them home for 10 days (or more) and manage my schedule around that.

      An article about this annoying habit:

    9. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I mean, I know an otherwise entirely healthy eight-year-old with covid lung damage but I’m sure he’s literally the only one.


    10. Mallorn1564*

      Oh! This! And also “we’re all just going to have start getting used to living with covid”. Because that’s one thing if you are only responsible for yourself. But “living with covid” with small kids (or other dependents) means that : 1) I am worried about their health, especially my heart kid and my lung kid, and the potential for “long covid” disabling them (or us) their entire lives. 2) Having to figure out how to wipe butts and pour cheerios if I’m too tired/sick to get out of bed and all kids have to stay home for that duration (and have 15 minute attention spans). 3) Being responsible for my kids NOT infecting family/others. 4) Having to navigate the infinite and ever-changing decision trees of who can do what, when and with what precautions. Not to mention who needs a PCR test to resume life, who can get by with a rapid test, where can I get said 5 tests (each time), and will I get the results back in time for them to mean anything.

      So maybe getting covid means you feel terrible for a few weeks and have a chance of a long-term disability (which both sound awful!) but it stops my entire life for at least a month (given potentially cascading quarantines), even if no one gets seriously sick.

    11. Mom of Boys*

      I had to gently explain to a (older, male, dependent-free) coworker, that yes, while data seemed to show younger children got mild cases of covid, my children were not going to be the guinea pigs to test that theory.

    12. Tali*

      Couldn’t agree more. Almost every case at my company has started with kids picking it up in daycare or schools and spreading it to everyone else in the family. We haven’t gotten boosters rolled out yet and young kids aren’t vaccinated. People are still getting sick and dying from this.

  35. lost academic*

    If you’re at at level where you can do something for your entire company, please push it, but spend time talking to real parents before just enacting what seems like a new benefit that might help. Like, ok, cool, credit on – that’s nice but that involves someone actually being able to FIND a sitter, who will probably be a stranger, who might ghost you, and then pay for them. If something like that is all you can do, fine, but realize that it isn’t going that far. Think of other ways you can help staff claw back not just time but the mental and emotional capacity to engage at a minimum level at work. Credits for meals, housekeeping, you name it – for the company it’s just money, but these are things that I don’t just spend TIME on every day, I have to spend a lot of organizational effort on.

    Adjust downward your productivity expectations and adjust upwards your timelines. This is a business environment hitting all of us and you are not losing your edge in the market by doing so. Build that into your projections.

    Recognize that at this point in the pandemic, it’s about more than just saying “get your work done whenever”. I have 2 kids under 3. Even after cutting back on sleep and cutting every single optional thing out of my life, I don’t usually have the ability to reengage with work late at night just to pump out a few more hours. We aren’t just tired, we’re truly weary and our maximum capacity is way down. If you have never experienced this, don’t disbelieve it and don’t just compare it to a rough week you once had. Accept what people are telling you as the truth.

    1. Jake*

      The biggest thing here I want to emphasize is the continuous nature of this.

      I once had a job where we worked 7 12s all summer, followed by 4 or 5 10s throughout the rest of the year. There was light at the end of the tunnel. There were months of rest. The current situation is WAY more draining and exhausting than that because it is unplannable, random and there is no end in sight.

      1. ophelia*

        YES. I realized belatedly that while I have had days off work in the past two years, because of COVID, I have had precisely two days of vacation (before Omicron, my mom watched the kids for a weekend). That is two days–only two–since March 2020 where both my husband and I could just veg out and read trashy novels, watch TV, and sleep.

        1. Forrest*

          Me and my partner had our first ever night away from the kids together in the middle of February 2020– and it remains our only one. They were 5 and 2 then, they are 7 and 4 now.

          1. TechWriter*

            I have an almost-3-year-old. I have never spent a night away from her. I definitely did not intend for that to be the case; was looking forward to leaving her with the grandparents for weekend trips with my spouse in summer 2020, maybe a weeklong overseas vacation that fall… Oh well.

            (I *am* finally planning a trip by myself in May!)

            1. Double A*

              I spent 2 nights away from my (now 3 year old) daughter for a work trip in 2019, which wasn’t really a vacation. And 3 nights away from her when I have birth to our second, which is even less of a vacation, and come to think of it, not even kid free because I had my baby before the end of the first day!

        2. Sarah*

          My daughter is about to be 2 (she was born in February 2020, 5 weeks before COVID shut down Western New York), we have never yet had a night away/without her, and the only lengthy day away was when we went to a wedding in June 2021 (so not exactly relaxing). And now we have twins coming in June 2022, so our “vacation time” is decreasing even further.

    2. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

      Yup honestly this is it “Adjust downward your productivity expectations and adjust upwards your timelines.” Do this for everyone so folks without kids don’t get slammed with the work I cannot do. My kids are up at 5am and asleep by 9 and get up multiple times at night. Flexibility with meetings was helpful in 2020 but I’m so burned out I actually can’t improve my work. It’s moving deck chairs on the Titanic at this point.

      Give me a heads up when I’m going to be fired, I’m resigned to it at this point. I don’t even know if things will get better once all my kids are eligible to be vaccinated, I kinda think every winter for the next 5 years will be terrible. Parenting small children in America was pretty hard before COVID and it’s frankly been traumatizing for the last 2+ years.

      1. M2*

        As a parent please know I am not judging but “the more you sleep the more you sleep.”
        What I mean is try and push your kids bedtimes earlier. I read extensively and if your kid is 7 and under they should be asleep by 7/7:30 latest. This sounds crazy right? It took me some time but my preschooler is asleep by 7/7:30 PM and wakes up around 7/7:30AM. And my kid has never been an easy sleeper. Yes that means we have to start bath and bedtime latest by 6 and they need to be in their bed by 6:45 latest but if we get into bed even at 7:00 they won’t be down until close to 8 (or later) and then up earlier the next day. We did it gradually and took a few weeks but works great for our family.

        We have nights where our child wakes up and comes to our room but we bring them back and say nothing sometimes but a hug/ kiss. They still sometimes wake up at night maybe 1-2 times a week and some weeks don’t wake up at all at night. It is usually if they have to go to the bathroom or have a cramp/ growing pain/ and if it’s one of these 3 we help them with it then back to their own bed.

        It is about quality time. You’re a better parent with a break. If you miss the sleep window (if they start yawning or eyes bat around it’s the window and put them to bed ASAP) it turns to hell and they don’t sleep well. My spouse used to think I was too strict and now they appreciate me since we have hours at night together alone or get work done or workout or read, etc.

        You gotta figure out what works for you. Telling our child a story from our childhood while they were in bed stopped them coming out right away. I have a friend who only reads two books then song while child is in bed.

        Good luck, truly.

        1. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

          No it doesn’t sound crazy, we’re getting ready for bed by 6 every night. My older ones were like that and got progressively better at sleeping. Not every kid takes to training. My baby has a variety of health issues that make it more challenging for him to sleep independently. Their respective bedtimes are 7 and 7:30 (staggered bc I do bedtime alone, other parent works long hours) but the baby needs help settling after the bigger ones are down so I’m not “free” (like to get back to work) until around 9.

  36. Jake*

    Dad here, but offer us a little slack when we have to stay home from work with an hours notice.

    Understand that just because I successfully worked from home for over a year without a productivity dip doesn’t mean that when daycare closes I can still work from home now. I had full daycare with no lapse during that year, whereas now my daycare is closed almost a third of the time. When I’m home because of daycare issues, you’re getting phone calls during the day and then I’ll work from when my wife gets home from work until I have to go to bed, but that still is only an hour or two of phone calls during the day and 5ish hours of work at night. I’m not going to be fully productive, and I’m going to need others to jump in and take care of things that come up during the day.

    1. Jake*

      Also, as dad of a 2 year old, please be aware that I feel like an absolutely shitty coworker AND parent when I’m on the phone with you, and I’m trying to have two conversations at once. I don’t need you to do anything about that other than realize that for all the sacrifices the workplace is feeling, my family is feeling the same sacrifices.

      1. glitter writer*

        A thousand times this, over and over. I have absolutely given my kids the short shrift basically constantly in order to keep showing up for work (remotely, thank god), the iPad and Disney+ have done as much of the parenting as can be managed so that my spouse and I can tag-team showing up for meetings and who is working mornings and afternoons and all the times in between, I am absolutely failing my family as much as I am failing my job.

      2. NervousNellie*

        I have now met all of my coworkers kids via Zoom. It’s actually kind of funny. One thing I’ve noticed is that if I speak to them from the computer and explain that I need to “borrow Dad” for another 15 minutes, that seems to hold more weight with them than Dad saying he’s on another meeting. The voice from elsewhere rules Supreme!

      3. Baroness Schraeder*

        Yes to this. My daughter’s school has been closed since last August (coming up 6 months now!) and although she is 7 and can entertain herself for a few hours at a time, I am under no illusions about my lack of productivity. And I already feel guilty enough for my shortcomings on both the work front and the home front. Especially when I get the rare opportunity to take off from both and spend an hour at the gym lifting heavy stuff because it’s the only thing keeping me sane. Nobody is a winner here.

  37. WulfInTheForest*

    Parent to a kid who just turned 5 (yay, we can get vaccinated finally!) and here are the most glaring things:

    1. We all need a raise. Cost of living (and especially rent) has gone up more than 200% in my area, and I moved jobs because my old pay was just not cutting it anymore. We were in the red more often than the green until I job hopped.

    2. Managers that understand and actually allow parents to WFH when needed, offer more sick leave, and have adjustable schedules for unexpected changes. My whole family caught covid one by one during the holidays despite everyone over 5 being vaccinated, and if not for my boss allowing a few days of WFH before and after our holiday days off, I would’ve gone unpaid due to running out of sick leave.

    3. Stop acting like Covid’s gone away just because you’re vaccinated. Wear your mask and please for the love of god stay 6 feet away from us in the office. Parents can’t afford to have a quarantine because you’re not willing to wear your mask for our weekly face to face meeting.

    4. Frankly, just no more in-person meetings or calls when things could be an email instead. I don’t even care if it’s paragraphs and paragraphs, I would rather read that instead of trying to schedule a 5 minute phone call.

    We’ve had more covid tests and quarantines than I can count since 2020, and I’m sick and tired of employers who treat covid like it’s disappeared. Just because the employee is vaccinated, doesn’t mean their family is, and with Omicron even vaccinated people are catching it.

    1. JelloStapler*

      Plus, even if you don’t end up in the hospital or even moderately ill, quarantining/isolating is a bear and only complicates things more. The inconvenience of wearing a mask (and oh wah! about that anyway) =/= inconvenience for others if they are a close contact or catch it.

    2. Sled dog mama*

      I have to agree completely with #3.
      My dad finally got to visit us last year after getting his vaccine (18 months after we moved away) and he was floored by how few people were masked where we live. I don’t feel comfortable making a quick stop at the store if we need something when I’m on the way home from work because I don’t know what kind of crazy I’m going to run into.

      1. WulfInTheForest*

        Yep I live in FL and getting people to even just wear a mask or stay a few feet away is absolutely impossible. >:C

    3. CoveredinBees*

      I had to take a leave of absence from grad school because the university has decided COVID is over enough to pack us into small classrooms for two hours at a time. Students are required to be vaccinated and mask indoors, but there are multiple exceptions to the former and no enforcement of the latter. They have specifically said there are no accommodations for students whose health means they have a heightened concern about COVID or having unvaccinated members of your household.

  38. By Golly*

    My kids are mostly in school now, but when they were home at the beginning of quarantine, it was really helpful to have clear expectations of how important the time for a meeting was. I had enough capital to ask, but I really appreciated when my boss said “I have from 3-4 reserved to talk to you, just call me when you are available.” So I wasn’t rushing to get to a call RIGHT at 3 pm when she didn’t really care–I could get kids settled with whatever and then call at my leisure. Likewise, the opposite “We need to have a meeting with 5 people and it’s going to take an hour–when is the best time for you to do that?” was really helpful because I could plan and organize my day around that one hour being sacred or whatever. and YES to being totally comfortable/unphased/even excited when kids come in the zoom background to ask a homework question/show an art piece/whatever. I work in an education-adjacent field, so my colleagues are generally “kid people” which is really great and helpful, but it doesn’t require liking kids to just accept that they exist and sometimes interact with their parents during the work day.

  39. JelloStapler*

    Higher Ed here. While I have older kids (elementary), I still have to pivot if their school goes virtual for COVID or weather (and not all schools give a lot of notice). My partner cannot work from home but at times can take the kids to their office. If at home though, my kids are thankfully fairly self-sufficient. Understanding from others (my students and colleagues) that I have to switch to remote at the drop of a hat is very appreciated.

    Two of my colleagues have toddlers – what we have all tried to do is allow them to be flexible with needing to be home and in the office, we remind them that we understand (many of us have older kids or adult kids and have been there) and do not fault them for things out of their control – daycare, quarantines, childcare. We reassure them that they need not apologize if kiddo is in the Zoom meeting or carrying on in the background (in fact, we often want to say hi. LOL).

    We offer to pitch in if something needs to be done quickly or in person if they have to be home. and they have their hands full. We have been very vocal as a team and across the organization to advocate that staff/faculty need to be given grace and flexibility when we hear otherwise (thankfully not a widespread problem).

    1. JelloStapler*

      to add: There have been times they have been able to and offered to help with something if they could and someone else’s hands were full. One of my favorite things about my team is that we all help each other so no one person gets everything all the time.

    2. WulfInTheForest*

      Oh man I love that you guys say hi to each other’s kids when they accidentally crash a zoom meeting. One time my kid refused to sit anywhere but my lap while she was coloring, and I felt so bad because I thought she might have been distracting to my coworkers with her occasional noises or movements.

  40. Rae*

    Oh boy! I would love 2-3 stable teleworking days for let’s say the next 2 months. My office is all everyone-back-into-the-office and everything-is-back-to-normal. Recently my coworkers have been GREAT about like at the beginning of the week collective handing out teleworking. “Hey, Tuesday is a slow day. It looks like two people could telework” But admin/management is doing nothing. Just not commuting 2 days a week would give me 2 hours.
    I’m exhausted. I’m f@$king exhausted.

  41. Kelly*

    Parent of a toddler and a baby here! I’m lucky enough to have consistent daycare and a generally understanding boss/employer. As others have pointed out, what we need most is flexibility from bosses and employers. However, there are still a few things coworkers can do!
    1. Don’t schedule meetings for the first 30 minutes of the workday or the last 30 minutes of the day. Please. I block the time off, but it often gets scheduled over anyway. For those of us with kids in daycare, this can seriously complicate picking up kids on time, especially since meetings so often run over. While we can accommodate late meetings occasionally, it’s really hard when they’re scheduled last minute.
    2. Be diligent about meetings ending on time. It’s hard always being the one who says they have to drop to deal with kids, and we worry it makes us look less committed. If it’s your meeting, please try to manage it to ensure it ends on time.
    3. Ask about our kids! Granted, this might depend on the parent. However, I know that personally I rarely bring mine up because I don’t want people to think I’m not committed. I appreciate when people acknowledge that I do, in fact, have children and a life outside of work.
    4. Be conscientious of how you talk about parents at work. I sometime hear jokes about moms (and occasionally dads, but usually moms) seeming overwhelmed with their kids, or having lots of kids, or any other parent-related joke. That may be fine coming from a friend, but frequent comments/jokes like that can contribute to a perception of the person being less engaged or less on top of their work.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Number 2 was the absolute BANE of my existence at OldJob, and that was pre-Covid times! Used up every bit of capital I had enforcing a hard stop to my day (it was literally built into my job offer that I was done at time X:XX, and it was still a thing with some people)!

        As such, if I’m running the meeting now? I try to keep it on task, brief, only if its actually needed….and “to not to” at the end of the day if at all possible.

    1. Sad Desk Salad*

      For #1 and #2–I’m not a parent so I hope you won’t mind me jumping in here, but if you (general you, not you in particular, Kelly), parent or not, have the social capital at your job to enforce these two things it can go a LONG way toward meeting hygiene. If you have a conflict or a hard stop, enforce it, vocally and consistently, and you’re empowered to do so by your company, other people see you doing it and may feel empowered to do the same. I understand not everyone feels safe to do so or they feel held hostage by meetings that run over or conflict with something, but if you can–parents and childfree alike–you can go a long way toward setting a corporate culture that respects others’ time.

  42. Andjazzy*

    Unfortunately, there’s not much anyone can do. We’re having my husband quit and downsizing to a way cheaper house and getting rid of a car. Daycare has been constantly closed, and when it’s open he’s sick. He’s 5 months old, neither of us can get anything done when he’s home. We give up

    1. lemonade*

      Just offering my sympathy. 5 months was one of the toughest time periods for me with both kids. Everything in my life was ruled by a crying, irritable blob and we had no money. My son is a bit easier to care for at home now that he’s older and can play by himself (or–I admit it–watch a movie) even though he jabbers all day long, and I now know my daughter will get there too. So so sorry.

    2. turquoisecow*

      I’m sorry. I wish I could promise it gets better. The parenting part does – but it gets harder in other ways.

  43. Dana*

    As much as possible, avoiding last minute requests helps a lot as well! I work with a lot of data reporting, so having a few days heads up so I can pull the list after traditional working hours if I need to is huge. I have a 3 year old and 1 year old, and we’re often needing to quarantine or having daycare closed. When I’m asked for a report by the end of the day it can cause a lot of added stress or derail my existing to-do list for the day. Time and flexibility when possible are key.

  44. bureaucratte*

    1. Be flexible/take leave offered as needed: I work for a Federal agency that gives 10 hours of admin leave a week for COVID-related needs including but not limited to child care. (i.e. I use it mainly for child care, but anyone can use it to go to the supermarket when it’s not crowded, to recover from a vaccine, to disinfect something or set up a workspace etc.). This is invaluable, and is made more so by managers who actually allow/encourage the leave to be taken and colleagues who are flexible/understand.
    2. Consider your deadlines:If you are asking for something by close of business, but you really won’t look at it until 9 a.m. the next morning, set the deadline for 8:30 in the morning, so that parents who are working after bedtime know that this particular task can wait until the evening.
    3. Consider if the meeting can be an e-mail: I have so many standing meetings that are nice when we can have them, but not 100% necessary. When my kid was out for COVID exposure, I said no to one of those standing meetings and my colleague got annoyed. I pushed back, and she apologized, but “I don’t think I can make it” during COVID for a non-essential meeting should be enough.
    4. Normalize childcare (especially if you are a man at any level or a manager of any gender): My boss who takes his meetings from his kid’s room, my colleagues who say “I can’t make this because I don’t have childcare.” or “I can’t take meetings after 4:00 because there is no aftercare” or my boss who says “I have to pick my kid up from soccer” all make a difference. The person whose signature says a version of “my meeting will be full of kid noise/I will respond to you after bedtime” makes a difference.
    5. If it was up to me, I’d offer some additional (and flexible) days off to everyone. Parents could use a guilt free day off when their kid is in school. Everyone is stressed and could use time off.

    1. StressedButOkay*

      The thing about the the deadlines is something I’m going to start using. We always use 5 p.m. COB but with the knowledge that we won’t look at it until morning. I’ll implement 8:30 deadlines!

    2. Policy Wonk*

      I hear you on the government deadlines, and think this is a good suggestion, but also note that this may be a matter of the culture of your workplace. Where I work COB generally means we need it first thing in the morning. (I almost never get such things at COB.) If we really need it by COB. we say we need it by 2:00PM. I understand the difference this makes to you, and wish everyone was this conscientious! If I put a deadline of 8:30 AM, I’d probably get it by noon. Please confirm with your boss whether COB really means they want it at OOB.

      1. bureaucratte*

        Oh, for sure! But in my line of work, OOB and COB seem to be used pretty interchangeably. I think it’s totally ok to BOTH use COB when needed (for example, in addition to your examples) if a parent needs to review at night then they DO need it by COB) AND to encourage people to ask. I’ve totally sent e-mails that said “Can I get this to you by 9 pm? Or… I’ve just done it at 9 pm if I know it’ll be fine.

    3. Joielle*

      Yes to 4! The head of my state agency has a couple of elementary-aged kids, and she leaves meetings early for kid reasons pretty frequently. No matter how important the meeting, no matter who is there, she will just announce at the beginning “I have a hard stop at 2 pm for gymnastics camp, so if we’re not done by then, Tom will take over as chair.” Even as a non-kid-haver, it makes me feel like the agency understands that they employ humans, not robots, which is good for everyone.

  45. Blymey*

    Be understanding and flexible – where I live, schools have been closed on and off since the start of the pandemic which means I’m scrambling to find playdates, nanny shares, and bubble group options which don’t always have consistent hours the way schools do. My boss is a godsend and basically says she doesn’t care what my hours are as long as I get my work done – that kind of support is what I find the most helpful.

  46. cindy*

    Block out your child care pickup/dropoff times or arriving-home-from-school time buffers on your calendar. Make sure to emphasize to your team that those times are not available and they are not flexible. My employer encourages us to block focus time or work time during the day – we have now become used to reaching out to each other to ask about flexibility around blocked times, and child care times are the kind of thing that cannot be moved, so we have all had to adapt.

  47. Caroline Bowman*

    I think just generally it’s a case of genuinely and completely not minding *and saying so* if and when there’s kid / baby interruption to even the most carefully-laid plans. If your colleague was always a solid, reliable colleague and now, because of this situation, they sometimes are pulled in different directions, accept that it is what it is (within reason – yes this is subjective) and be clear with them that this chaos is finite and that everything will be okay in the end.

    Very often these interruptions and issues are actually not big deals in the overall scheme of things. Very few of us live lives that are never, under any circumstances, interrupted by stuff. Anyone who’s ever met any children knows that they are… a lot. Sometimes, when everything’s working well, it’s great, other times, not so much, and with daycares shut / not properly or fully operating, these things are going to occur more frequently.

    Anyone who is in a position of power, consider what your company / team could do to help each other, parents or anyone else who is dealing with lots of competing stuff related to the pandemic and implement that, whether it’s more flexible hours, fewer mandatory zoom meetings, whatever.

  48. Large Hippo*

    Working mom here who works for a company with multiple locations and also works with clients. Please understand I cannot easily go to visit another location that is 40 miles away because I cannot be that far away from my child’s daycare (I want to add here that these requests are not for useful meetings but just for the visual of “being together” while we all work separately on our own projects). Please understand that I usually cannot work when I am off (evenings and weekends). When I was single and child-free I would make this sacrifice but now it’s near impossible and I also have no motivation or reward to work on my days off (maybe if I were making more money my stance on this would be different but that’s a different thread!). In short, please be understanding!

  49. President Porpoise*

    My suggestions? For colleagues: Really think through the urgency of your requests. If it’s truly time sensitive and must be dealt with post-haste, make sure to indicate that in the subject of your email. If it’s not time sensitive, and it can keep for 24 hours, let the recipient know especially if they’re juggling a kid situation. Avoid meetings and phone calls where possible, and if you do need to have one, try to give advance warning and a rundown of what will be discussed.

    For parents dealing with this: With your management’s knowledge and permission, BLOCK YOUR CALENDARS during times when you need to deal with your home life (and that includes some time for just you, and to work on actual work projects). Hold that time sacred. Accept that you won’t accomplish everything all the time, and work with your management team to set reasonable priorities.

    Managers of parents with small kids: Strive for flexibility and understanding. Stuff is hard right now. Adjust your priorities and expectations accordingly. And, if you can, look into offering a subsidized dependent care option or stipend for your affected team. My employer does this – subsidized emergency backup care – and it can really help people.

  50. ChemistryChick*

    My son just turned two in November. My work has been pretty decent about support, but I still had to take PTO when he was exposed to COVID at daycare and tested positive. So more flexibility/options when it comes to that would be nice.

    For me personally, I wish co-workers would respect that I have a child who can’t be vaccinated and wear a mask around me. My employer is “following CDC guidelines” but not really and aren’t enforcing masking of any kind. Obviously I’m still wearing one, but the number of people who come into my space un-announced and unmasked is driving me up the wall.

  51. Manders*

    Not a parent, but working at a company with a lot of parents of young kids: I wish management would be clearer on what’s actually a crucial project vs. what’s busy work. I feel like we spent all of 2021 in crisis mode, picking up and dropping lots of different projects, and ended up with very little to show for it even though everyone did a lot of work. A lot of it was processes that probably weren’t too bad when people had 40 hours a week of office time to fill, but were totally not worth the time when every hour was precious.

  52. Anony*

    Aside from general flexibility….
    1) Stop doing video calls when video is not necessary. I am a HUGE audio-only phone call advocate. Turn off your video so I don’t feel pressure to put mine on. Seriously, we really don’t need to see each other most of the time to communicate. This is beneficial for parents and pretty much everyone else too!
    2) Other parents might not agree, but at this point in the pandemic… please don’t comment on the sounds my kid is making in the background, even if you’re trying to be understanding or “say hi.” Honestly, I’d prefer to just get to the point on whatever we’re discussing and pretend we don’t hear anything in the background.

    1. The Rafters*

      Please then make sure your colleagues know that. My supervisor has an infant who sometimes chooses that moment to start “talking.” I usually say hello to him and talk to him for a few seconds. My supervisor so far hasn’t said anything and in fact sometimes speaks for him.

    2. Sarah*

      YES on the no-video thing. Half of my meetings are done on my phone, walking around the room and chasing after my toddler. I promise that if I keep my video on, everyone will end up seasick. If my toddler decides to start the meeting sitting calmly on my lap, I’ll pop video on so she can see herself and everyone can see her, but once she’s down, it goes off.

  53. BA*

    I would agree with those who have mentioned meetings. Do we really need to meet, or could this be a phone call? An email? And if so, let’s stay on topic, keep it succinct and let people get back to their day. There are studies out there, I believe, that show that our attention span fizzles at about 45 minutes in a meeting.

    Second, I’m fortunate that people can’t just add to my calendar, but I know plenty of people who work in places that allow for others to add a meeting, call, appointment to their schedule without asking for permission first. That has to stop. Even if you’re not caring for children, you should have the ability to get up from your desk and use the restroom, or make a sandwich, or even just finish work that you couldn’t do during a meeting! I find that practice to be almost disrespectful. If you’d like to schedule time with someone, you owe it to them to get confirmation that the time works.

    1. Hmmmm*

      I dunno about this one. I honestly don’t have time to confirm my availability. That’s why I have a calendar. I have 7 or 8 meetings every day, sometimes more. If I had to add an email chain for each one, I’d be drowning.

      If I can’t make it, I just use the Propose New Time feature.

      I also HATE random phone calls because I’m always busy and usually my phone rings whileI take a minute to pee. Then the onus is on me to call back.

      I think this is dependent on company culture.

      1. t-vex*

        Yeah exactly. If I’ve accepted the meeting, consider it confirmed. If not, it’s not. No need for a discussion about it, just use the tools that are there.

  54. Massive Dynamic*

    Currently remote FT worker with a preschooler and gradeschooler. Flexibility about when work happens is the most critical thing for spouse and I right now. Also COVID safety in the office when we go back – I have a good number of childfree coworkers who have been looser with the mask restrictions the whole way through. Just because you can’t see my unvaxxed young kid with asthma doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      Heck, I also have some coworkers with older, vaxxed-and-boosted kids who’ve been loose on masks too. I get it – if your whole household is vaxxed up that’s great and I want the pandemic to be over as much as you! But our realities are not the same and as a member of the same society, I need you to think about the little kids who are not yet protected.

  55. The cat's pajamas*

    When you do have to be in a video meeting, what is best way to handle when your kid(s) come up in the background? I don’t mind if you need to tell your kid something quick but I don’t know if it’s helpful or not to say hi to them, ask if you need a minute etc, is there a general guideline that is helpful to start? I don’t want my co-workers with kids to feel awkward or self conscious about interruptions but it can be hard to convey that I have empathy and am not judging on a video call.

    1. Ash*

      Personally, an acknowledgement of my kid’s presence is not necessary. But grace over interruptions is very helpful.

    2. QA Peon*

      My son often interrupts my video calls; if we’re having a small team meeting – like 5 or fewer, my coworkers will wave, my son will be excited and wave back, and done. It’s friendly and he feels acknowledged while I answer his quick question.

      If we’re in a departmental meeting, I’d prefer they ignore him, and that seems to be the trend everyone follows. But god help us if a cat or dog shows up on anyone’s video; goodbye meeting while we all do the “who’s a good doggie?” thing.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Our team greets the kid, ask them how they are doing, then ask them if they are going to help with the TPS reports Then the parents turn off the camera and deal with whatever it is and get back to video if they can. If they can’t they just stay on audio or hop off.

      1. The cat's pajamas*

        Thanks, in team meetings it’s not as much of an issue at my office, thankfully, but is more awkward for me in one on one meetings.

    4. CoveredinBees*

      I’d generally follow the parent’s lead. If they don’t try to introduce the kid or have them say hello, then just give them a minute to deal with something if they need to and then continue. If it helps, treat it like someone got an urgent call that they truly had to take despite being in a meeting.

    5. Mizzle*

      First, you may want to check whether the parent is wearing a headset, in which case the kid won’t hear you. In that case, waving is probably a good option. (I’ve had *so* many people attempt to talk to my son while I was wearing a headset…)

      Other than that, I think it depends both on the type of meeting and on the kid/parent. If you ever speak with the co-worker one-on-one, you could check to see how you both feel about it. I’m saying both of you because I tend to assume that a two-minute chat between my son and one of my colleagues brightens both their days. Other mothers may view this entirely differently. If my colleagues don’t actually enjoy it, I would hope they would mention it to me.

      As for the ‘hard to convey’, I think a quick positive remark when you continue the meeting could work rather well. “Your kid is so cute! Now, for those leaky teapots, I think we should…” That would go a long way to reassure me that you didn’t mind the interruption.

  56. Guacamole Bob*

    For managers, more senior folks, and people with political capital: make use of the flexibility that your company offers in visible ways and don’t try to smooth over the bumps. If a more senior person has a kid show up on screen, or does call-in only and has kid noise in the background when they unmute, or has school pickup blocked off on their calendar, it makes it that much less stressful for the parents with less seniority or standing when those things happen.

  57. TiredMom@Work*

    Be an advocate for their career! Leading a team of people, plus having a two year old in and out of day-care thanks to closures means my own professional development and ambitions have taken a back seat. I’m treading water trying to stay afloat, but I’m not getting anywhere. Getting an over-abundance of sympathy from my colleagues, while well intended, makes me feel like my work-future is being defined by my current realities at home, and I will have to work twice as hard to undo those impressions later. Colleagues who want to help can do so by talking up my work to others, CCing my VP on an appreciative email, and elevating my voice in meetings. My manager can help by removing low-level work from my plate, recommending me for high-visibility initiatives, providing MORE than enough resources to get the job done, and advocating for raises and promotions that are in line with my non-parenting peers.

    In short, take steps to make sure this short-term crisis does not have long-lasting impacts on my career.

    1. Persephone Mongoose*

      I’m sorry but no, a lot of this is overstepping for a co-worker. I agree that people should absolutely recognize and call out co-worker accomplishments, especially if that work has helped them, but career management should remain solely the individual’s responsibility.

      Also, if I were your manager and knew you were struggling to stay afloat, the last thing I would do is replace low-level work with high-level initiatives. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

      I know it’s frustrating to not be where you want to in your professional life and that things are extra hard right now. I am sympathetic to that. But career advancement takes a temporary backseat to raising young children all the time. It’s not unique to the pandemic.

      1. LilyP*

        I totally disagree. TiredMom isn’t asking anyone to take over her career management, just to highlight work accomplishments, which you actually literally agree is reasonable. I think that’s a great suggestion of how to support overwhelmed parents right now — make sure they’re getting acknowledgement for the work that is getting done well, and also making sure your evaluation of their skills, accomplishments, and future potential takes into account that they’re juggling an impossible situation right now.

        And as a boss, if you have a high-level employee you know is smart and motivated but is in a time crunch right now, taking routine or low-level work off their plate so they can focus on the things where they’ll have the highest impact absolutely makes sense.

      2. Tali*

        In normal times, career advancement SHOULDN’T have to take a backseat to raising children. Parents could drop their child off at daycare or school and still focus 100% on work during work hours. There’s no real reason to “mommy track” someone on the assumption that they can’t work now that they have children.

        But now parents have lost that extra support of childcare, and in some places of people even remembering it’s a pandemic and they should continue to take precautions! This is a societal failing, not a moral or individual one. Why shouldn’t we highlight our coworkers’ contributions and achievements despite all of society letting them down?

        Lastly the “I’m sympathetic but this problem happens all the time so we shouldn’t do anything about it” comment is not really helpful on a thread about how we can support working parents.

  58. Kate in Scotland*

    This is a small thing but my colleague (dad of 4 year old) and I (disabled non-parent) got ourselves set up so that we have full access to each other’s email. This is not the norm at my work even though email coverage is essential, people normally set up email forwarding when they’re out. But this way, we don’t even have to open the work email if shit happens, we just send a quick text to say ‘ugh, can you cover my email’, and we also have access to the full inbox for context.

    1. Viki*

      Question, how does that work without violating your company’s privacy and confidentiality policy? Maybe yours is not as stringent as my company is, but that’s a huge violation for us. At most, I could have my email forwarded to my manager who has to have the same clearance as I do.

      1. Kate in Scotland*

        Viki, that’s really interesting regarding your policy and a good reason why it doesn’t work everywhere! My colleague and I work on almost entirely the same clients, and we are expected to file everything into shared files once it comes in, so it hasn’t been an issue (and we’ve cleared it with management). I guess it’s extremely job dependent.

        1. Esmeralda*

          We have a couple of office-function email addresses in our dept – this is pretty common around our campus. Access to the account can be given to whomever needs it. For example: english-dept-advising AT, registrar AT, AT

          Some of these were set up to protect employee privacy, others to allow a team to manage a large influx of email around a focused area. Always handy when an employee leaves or is on vacation. A lifesaver these past two years.

  59. TimeTravlR*

    There are so many great thoughts here. I don’t have small children at home but I’d like to be able to help our office be more aware of what we can all be doing to make this work for everyone. I will be taking some time to go through each one so I can share this with out leadership.

  60. TotesMaGoats*

    No emails/calls after 5pm and the weekends. In my job, no one has their life on the line, given that there are no actual emergencies. It can all wait until the next morning or Monday. If the building is burning down, I hope you called 911 first because I can’t do anything.

    This advice doesn’t apply to jobs where lives are literally on the line, of course.

    And since I’m in higher ed, give me my damn snow days back. My kid will be stuck home with me and while I can work a 12-2 snow break would be great.

  61. Ash*

    Advocate for your employer to add subsidized childcare as a benefit. Remove the huge additional premium that is added for spouses or dependents to employer sponsored healthcare.

    1. Tuckerman*

      Yes! We’ve used the subsidized back up care several times. We can even hire someone we know. We used it more when we pulled our daughter from daycare early in the pandemic and worked opposite shifts. It gave us a little bit of breathing room.

      1. Ash*

        That surcharge is only applicable if your spouse has insurance options through their job/school etc. If the spouse does not have any insurance coverage options, the surcharge does not apply. My point is, for dependents the employer contribution is usually minimal and the majority of the premium must be paid by the employee. My job has totally free in-network health insurance for the employee and all dependents. It’s not a small organization, but it’s not huge (250 employees). It can be done.

  62. Jo*

    I agree with everything that has been posted so far. A few other things:

    1. If we have to meet, be OK with me having my camera off. I likely have my kids running around in the background.

    2. Recognize that the 5 day quarantine + 5 days mask wearing only applies to anyone that is vaccinated. For those of us with kids that cannot be vaccinated, we have to quarantine for 10 days past last known exposure. It sucks, and there is currently no more covid leave pay so we are burning through our vacation/sick leave unless our company offers it.

    3. I can’t speak for others, but I am burnt out. Recognize that I may not be at 100% everyday. I’m trying my best.

  63. The Rafters*

    My supervisor has an infant. Most of the time, I really don’t have anything that can’t be answered with a quick e-mail. I’ll just text her and ask if she really needs the call. If not, great, we’ll speak in a couple of days/weeks/whatever. If we need the call but the baby isn’t settling down for his nap, just call or text when you’re ready.

  64. Biology dropout*

    I think just coworkers and managers just being really really explicit that it’s okay to need to watch kids during the workday. I work an opposite schedule from my husband and my work has been really good about kids generally, though meetings that don’t need to be meetings while I’m letting my toddler destroy something in order to do said meeting are sometimes a problem. BUT every time I need my husband to watch the toddler because I have to go to the doctor and they forbid all kids to come with (what the heck do they expect us parents to do to get to the doctor!?) or need to talk to him for a minute, it feels impossible for him/he feels like a bad employee because he’s in constant meetings and doesn’t feel like he should be taking so much time away from those meetings.

  65. Skippy*

    This is for management rather than the rank-and-file, but for the love of God, please hire more people. We’ve set up too many systems where we have so little slack that if someone has to be absent or step back from some of their duties, whether it’s because of child care or other issues, the work either waits for the employee’s return or it gets dumped on their colleagues, who get understandably frustrated. I know hiring is tough right now, but if people’s workloads just keep growing, they’ll leave and you’ll have to fill even more positions.

    1. Manders*

      Yes! I’m currently trying to convince management at my small company to work with some contractors. Even if a full-time employee isn’t in the budget, there are ways to make sure crucial tasks get done by people who know what they’re doing. Trying to fill in the gaps of a working parent with a specialized skillset with people from different departments just isn’t working.

    2. sofar*

      Yes. My boss has two little kids who were home for two weeks recently. And I KNOW she had to watch them during the day and was therefore working again until midnight and then waking up at 4 am to work again. Which is RIDCULOUS. A person should be able to easily step aside and work less or not work at all for a week or two, and the company should be set up to absorb that. But we are spread so thin, and she needs to keep things moving somehow. And all of us (although we try to take ono all we can) are spread thin ourselves and would need to work 14-hour days to absorb all her work.

  66. LMB*

    Just be proactive and upfront in letting them know (in advance even) that you understand what is happening. Tell them you know none of this is their fault and you are not judging them for any negative effects on work. When you join a meeting ask how it’s going and if there have been any recent exposures or quarantines. If there’s an assignment up for grabs and a colleague has a toddler home in quarantine, do them a solid and offer to take it on. And just be kind—when our toddlers are in home in quarantine we are triaging work and addressing only what absolutely needs to be done because we have a total of about 3 hours to work in the day (less if our children are home because they are sick with something, which we probably have too). We are skimming our inbox on our phones while watching Frozen and Bluey AGAIN. If we don’t get back to you as quickly as usual, send a text or chat just politely saying “hey I sent you an email that needs attention—it’s no problem just let me know when you have time.” Obviously a lot of this applies to more flexible office-type jobs, but the principles of being understanding, kind, and letting coworkers know you are on their side applies to everyone.

    1. LMB*

      Oh and obviously, if you are a manager all of this applies ten fold. Talk to the rest of the team/customers and make sure they understand why you are allocating work differently or just make sure they are aware of what colleagues are trying to deal with and that you support them 100%. If you are an executive/senior leader and have power to change or influence policies, do it. And it honestly wouldn’t hurt to send a company wide email acknowledging that there is still a pandemic and people are still struggling.

  67. Fabulous*

    Don’t schedule meetings at 4pm. Like seriously, please. 4pm is a bad time all around.

    On days that I’m in charge of daycare pickup, I need to leave the house by 5pm and I usually make dinner beforehand, which means I need to be wrapped up with everything at work by 4:30. Like my computer is locked and I’m in the kitchen at 4:30, if not earlier. And when my husband is in charge of pickup, he goes earlier in the day so kids are already home at 4pm and it’s hard to concentrate because no matter what we do, they keep trying to come in the room because my office is in one of their bedrooms.

    4pm is a hard time. Don’t do it please.

      1. Fabulous*

        I’ve given up doing anything productive at work before 9/9:30am – I forget those times even exist LOL

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Our team tries to limit meetings to Tu-Th on the best overlapping hours for our time zones where no meeting starts before 9 am or after 3 pm for anyone unless there is a crisis of “FIRE!!! ALL HANDS” proportion. I absolutely love it because it makes everyone think through meeting vs email, create tight agendas, and be thoughtful. Unfortunately our external stakeholders and partners don’t have the same rules, but in general only one of us needs to be on those calls so we can juggle amongst ourselves to keep everything reasonable.

  68. Canuck Gal*

    My camera being off doesn’t mean I’m not engaged.

    I may be on mute and only contributing selectively, but that does not mean I am not engaged.

    Last minute, non-urgent, requests may not be possible for me to deliver for you. I have carefully planned out, and bargained for every minute of work time that day, and there’s no room to do a deep dive on a data set 15 mins before a meeting.

    The GUILT of not being a productive team member takes an emotional toll. Hearing positive feedback or even a thank-you from managers, colleagues and direct reports helps offset that guilt.

    The feeling that I have to place my career aspirations on the backburner is DEVASTATING. And no, this won’t have a short-term impact. I understand that this will be an impact I feel for years. That’s always a weight on my shoulders and it’s hard to feel that while simultaneously feeling like you have absolutely nothing left to give, and are exhausted to your core.

    It can be really hard to hear colleagues talk about boredom, increased productivity or an abundance of time. Time has become the most precious resource, and I never have enough of it. I’m the very last thing on the priority list, and there is absolutely zero room for anything but survival. It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your own experiences with me, but be mindful of how much you may be unloading on someone who would view your predicament as a luxury.

    Love this thread. Thank you for posting this!

    1. Sarah*

      I also think an important element of the guilt too is that I feel guilt for falling down as a PARENT, as well as an employee. Like, the workload is too high for the amount of hours I have to dedicate to it, but I also feel terrible when my daughter is being parented by Bluey or Cocomelon so I can take a call, or that she spends an hour every morning just pulling things out of drawers in her bedroom because that’s the only way I can get an hour of work in. I’m in a constant state of giving 130% of myself, but it not being 100% for my job OR 100% for my kid.

    2. Unicorn Parade*

      Having people to talk to, hug, kiss, or even just be with, even if you gave birth to them, has frequently seemed like a luxury to me. A lot of childless people have/had abundant time to do things because there is a global pandemic and we literally were not allowed to see people in person, or chose not to in the hopes of ending it sooner. I went like four months without talking to a real human person face-to-face in 2020. My parent got sick and I couldn’t be there when they died alone in a hospice last year. I went over a year without a hug from another person. I don’t like or want or have kids, but there were moments when having a human being to talk to, or hug, or kiss, or just be with was an incredible luxury I didn’t have.
      But it would honestly never occur to me to ask my coworkers with children to not talk about their lives because it reminded me of how alone I was or felt like they were “unloading” on me.

  69. NicoleT*

    – Slow your roll with regard to returning to the office. I need time/fair warning to plan for changes in childcare/transportation if I am going to have to be back in the office. (NB: I’m still fully remote. My work is all electronic, so there is NO REASON I can’t do it somewhere that is not my office building. I worked at home 2 days out of 5 before the pandemonium, so I haven’t found it quite as hard as some to adjust my workspace.)
    – Give me some grace that my brain is more focused on my kid being okay after a COVID exposure than it is on work during the week of quarantine he’s home with me. (Ask how he is too! I was freaking out about him, myself, and the spouse getting sick.)
    – Stop scheduling meetings at lunchtime.
    – Encourage breaks and taking vacation time.
    – Push for “family sick leave” to be an acceptable use of “sick leave” if it’s not already.
    – Be vocal about the parental leave (i.e., father and mother) increases the company makes. As in, make sure HR and managers know how awesome it is.
    – Push for additional flexibility for everyone – we need to create a culture of life/work balance not work/life balance. I am a better mom when I’m a mom who works for a company outside the home, but I work so that I can have a life and live it.
    – Have a company-wide expectation set about meetings. Our VPs set this last year, and it is FANTASTIC. (i.e., Friday afternoons are designated “no meeting” time; everyone has been encouraged to make meetings emails if at all possible; stop meetings at 5-10 min before the hour or half-hour to allow for breaks; be clear about what a meeting is for (and why it couldn’t be an email).) That sort of top-down culture shift is really helpful for everyone, but I find it really helpful as a parent to be able to step away from my desk and check that my child is not burning the house down every hour or so.

    1. LMB*

      The return to office thing omg do I hear you on that. I haven’t been to the office in almost two years (I was 9/10 months pregnant in March 2020, so I had already been WFH for three weeks by the time we were told not to come home)—I can’t just turn on a dime and come in. And also—yes, I am vaxed and boosted and though my toddler isn’t, yeah they will most likely be ok if they get covid. But health risks aside, if I go to your in person lunch meeting and catch covid, my child can’t go to daycare for AT LEAST 10 days, meaning I can’t work for at least 10 days.

  70. Turanga Leela*

    Things people have done that have really helped me as a litigator with young kids:

    Coworkers have offered to take over some of my cases/briefs and have agreed to cover time-sensitive stuff when I have to leave the office early or be out.

    My boss has been fantastic about letting me take time off, work from home, flex hours, and take partial days, all on short notice, without complaining, contacting me while I’m out, or putting pressure on me to work more. (I have plenty of time off that I can use, but not everyone does, so I wish my office would authorize new parental leave the way we had at the beginning of the pandemic.)

    My opposing counsel—meaning people who don’t work in my office and are fighting against me on my cases—have generally been very gracious about agreeing to extensions.

    1. Lizzo*

      May I ask: was this sort of flexibility common in your specific area of law pre-pandemic? Or has there been a culture shift–in your area and/or across law in general–necessitated by the pandemic?

      1. Turanga Leela*

        In my particular office, there was a lot of flexibility pre-pandemic, but it’s gotten more flexible. It was always the kind of workplace where you could flex your hours slightly to go to an appointment, or work from home if you weren’t feeling well, but basically you were supposed to be in the office unless otherwise specified. Since the pandemic, that expectation has completely gone away. Now the expectation is just that we let people know what’s going on—are we working from home? just taking off? etc.

        As far as I can tell, my office is an outlier, and even in my field (appellate work, which is mostly writing rather than court appearances), most offices are not this flexible.

  71. MomOf3*

    A great, very basic thing people can do is simply acknowledge that these issues exist and give some grace. My children were home for more than a year beginning in March 2020 and became fixtures on my Zoom calls, despite my best efforts to ensure they’d be occupied while I was in meetings. Most of the time, coworkers waved and said hello, then we went back to business and I did the meeting with a child on my lap. Occasionally, a kid emergency would arise (e-learning issues, etc.) and I’d have to cut a call short. No one ever complained. Everyone understood I was doing the best I could and doing good work and that my having to change a diaper in the middle of a staff meeting was not indicative of my dedication to my work.

    One thing I like (but others could be different) is also that everyone from coworkers to leaders treated me first as if nothing was different. I love my job. I work hard. And I can do that with a child coloring on my lap. So if your coworker tells you they have a sick kid, ask if you should cancel today’s call–don’t proactively cancel it. Don’t assume you know what your coworkers need or want.

  72. Re'lar Fela*

    This may have already been covered; apologies if so! I’m scrolling through AAM during my lunch.

    My biggest ask for colleagues/my supervisor is to not assume that someone else can help. I’m a single parent–truly single; my child has never met their bio-father–and I cannot tell you how many times someone at work has assumed that I can have someone else cover my kid while I work. I can’t. There is no one else.

    I ended up leaving a job in early 2021 because of the lack of flexibility for working parents. Every colleague I had at that job with a kid under age six ended up leaving around the same time. My child was not school aged when the pandemic started and is just now in kindergarten….except now we both have COVID and the school system mandates a 10 day quarantine. It has been SO HARD, especially now that a solid half of my work is client facing. My supervisor is doing her best to be understanding, but she does not have kids and doesn’t get it. My colleagues all have older kids or babies (which are their own challenge, but the benefit is that they mostly stay where you put them and don’t have as many opinions/demands as toddlers and younger school aged kids).

    Anyway, I appreciate this post and look forward to reading through the comments later to see if there are any ideas I can bring to my workplace.

    1. WulfInTheForest*

      “My biggest ask for colleagues/my supervisor is to not assume that someone else can help.”

      YES TO THIS. I’ve had coworkers and bosses ask if I can have a grandparent watch my kid for Saturday shifts on a regular basis and I’ve had to straight up tell them that “No, my kid only has one grandparent left, and that grandparent needs their weekends for errands, or work shifts, or relaxing too. I might be able to swing the occasional Saturday shift with enough notice, but I can’t make a commitment to regular weekend shifts.”

      1. no sleep for the wicked*

        I tell my manager/employers that every minute I’m not on the clock is booked by default, because it’s true. I have no time that isn’t already full of plans, even that 10 minutes the 4pm meeting ran past quitting time.

      2. Re'lar Fela*

        Right! My kid’s grandparents live more than an hour away and my mom is a COVID long-hauler who has been warned that another bout of COVID could be deadly. My kid and I have COVID now despite both being fully vaccinated and boosted (me). So even if they were easily accessible, I very likely wouldn’t be able to use them as backup.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      I had a version of this, although my situation is different. I’m in a three-adult household: two parents and a grandparent. I used to have a boss who thought that meant I could take on extra tasks on short notice. He once told me Friday afternoon that we’d have a last-minute meeting on Saturday, then got mad when I said, “I’ll have to see if I can find a sitter.”

      …because even in my three-adult house, we all built our schedules around each other. My mom worked weekends so she could pick up the kids during the week, while my partner and I worked. My partner was getting his master’s degree, and he did that on the weekends. On Saturdays, childcare was my job. If I was going to do a Saturday meeting, I needed advance notice.

    3. LMB*

      I have a partner/co-parent it’s extremely frustrating when this assumption is made, even for me. My job is very flexible but my partner’s is less so– he can’t take off as easily as I can and he has to cover communications with clients as they come in. I make a lot more and my job is much more important for our family, but I usually have to be the one to say sorry, my toddler is home again today. And I will point out that if a child is sick or has had a covid exposure (or your home because of a snow/ice storm and it’s not safe to drive), it’s pretty unacceptable to ask family or paid babysitters to step in. Not to mention you still have to pay full price for daycare even if you’re not there that day, so even if you wanted to hire a babysitter you probably can’t afford to.

  73. Katie*

    I have school age kids. However two are extremely disabled and can’t do anything for themselves. When they are out of school, I block my calendar when I know they will need me (lunch primarily). If I don’t my calendar will be blocked and I won’t be able to get away.
    I am also very honest with everyone of my situation at work. Normally it’s a non issue as they usually are in school or daycare but when school is out, the onus is on me.

    Also I have made a rule that if my kids are alive at the end of the day, then the day was a success.

  74. Really?*

    Stop scheduling early morning or late afternoon meetings. Please. I beg you. I’m either putting someone on the bus, dropping another off at day care, or getting someone off the bus or picking up from daycare.

    Please assess priority. Not everything is a hair on fire situation. Does it need a meeting/response right now or can I wait a half an hour because the threenager is melting down because it’s nap time?

    Please stop insisting we all be on camera for meetings. As a parent of a child straight out of Where The Wild Things Are, there’s a good chance pants are not being worn here.

    1. New Mom*

      +1 about the early and late meetings, I actually just block that time on my calendar with “meetings” so that it’s not booked over. I had a 9am in person meeting yesterday so my SO had to do both drop-off and pick-up because the commute just doesn’t allow for that time.

  75. lemonade*

    I did just post about how accommodating my work is, but I thought of something.

    If one more of my colleagues makes a sanctimonious comment about how much screen time my son gets in comparison to their much older, Montessori-schooled kid got when they were a toddler and there was no pandemic, I will travel through the laptop screen and END that person.

    “Oh, is your son watching Paw Patrol? How interesting. I didn’t allow Wiley any screen time and he only had wooden blocks, and he learned to investigate things for himself and invent new toys, and now he’s a Stanford graduate and engineer, but I guess you’re going a different way.”

    Yes, I am allowing my son to watch crappy TV I hate while playing with junky light-up toys so he’s distracted and I can do all the documentation and client work I would otherwise need to hand to you, ungrateful cows!

    1. Fabulous*

      OMG SAME! My kids are essentially permanently in front of their tablets (we call them TVs, haha) because it’s just easier sometimes. I can’t even fathom how we’d survive without them.

    2. Really?*

      “Oh thanks Mary for your not requested feedback on how I parent my child but your son didnt grow up with technology. My second grader can write code, your kid cant balance a checkbook but thats none of my business.”

    3. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

      I had a hard line on TV before the pandemic. My older son barely got an hour of video game time a day until he was well into high school.

      My ten-year-old? Has been known to spend the better chunk of a day playing video games.

      Listen. Between covid and…everything else…he went to school a grand total of 4 days in January, okay, Karen? I’m drowning. I don’t have the energy left to argue about the video games.

    4. Important Moi*

      I don’t have children, but I’m convinced these people are lying.

      It has to be same people who only insist the only television they watch is PBS (in the United States). Not the fundraising concerts, though, just the “classy” stuff.

      1. We are among you*

        ?? I was one of those kids raised without TV. We definitely exist. Or does the fact that we could watch up to 1 G rated movie per week, with special permission, disqualify me lol.

    5. Anon for This*

      Trust me, they are lying. I got this all the time when my kids were younger. Oh, I never let my child watch X. Really? Then why does he know all the words to the theme song, and quote dialogue when he’s playing with my kid? If that person feels the need to talk down to you about this, it’s probably because their kid isn’t as perfect as they are trying to project – given that this one is grown, I’d guess he never visits them or calls! (And is still ticked she prevented him from watching Power Rangers or whatever it was.)

      Sorry you have to deal with it, but please, just laugh at them. (They won’t mention it again if you aren’t upset by it – they need you to be impressed.)

    6. Blueberry Girl*

      These people are lying. I mean, I didn’t watch much TV until I was 5, but here’s the thing- we literally didn’t have consistent electricity while homesteading in rural Alaska. But like, that’s a pretty weird exception to the whole rule and as soon as we got to a place where we had it- I still remember my Mom happily sitting me down in front of Saturday morning cartoons for the first time. So, yeah, these people are awful and let your kid watch Paw Patrol if they like Paw Patrol.

    7. H.Regalis*

      Your coworkers are a bunch of elitist pricks who are also full of shit. I grew up watching a ridiculous amount of TV, and I have a master’s degree. My partner is the same, plus played a ton of computer games, and they have a PhD in a STEM field and teach at an R1. My friend’s kid watches TV and has a huge variety of toys, and she’s the most hyper-verbal kid I have ever met.

      However you can shut this down (rude is fine! they’re already being super rude), I hope you can make it stick. I am enraged on your behalf and I don’t even know you.

    8. SnowyRose*

      My kiddo has better gaming mouse/keyboard control than me (she’s elementary school age). Oh well.

      1. Baroness Schraeder*

        You should see my 7 year-old wield a touch screen. I’d swear she’s making up some of those multiple-finger gesture/swipes, but they all seem to accomplish something different!

    9. LMB*

      We were pretty strict on TV until my daughter was a year old–and this was TOUGH because the first year of her life coincided exactly with the first year of the pandemic and all of us were in the house 24/7. She started daycare at 15 months last summer and immediately started catching every childhood disease known to man. We let her watch Moana on a sick day once and there was no going back. She was singing along to all the major Disney movies by Thanksgiving and thank god she loves Bluey. I don’t know how PARENTS don’t go insane living in total silence for two years.

      1. lemonade*

        Oh man, my kingdom for a child who loves Bluey!! Sometimes I force mine to watch my favorite episode (The Creek) if I feel he’s too revved up but otherwise he prefers really horrible trash with lots of talking cars.


    This is a great follow up question. As the parent of four kids with two that are young enough to demand/need more of my attention, I saw a lot of our situation in the letter writer’s situation. Two key differences in my situation being my husband works shorter hours so I can rely on him more than the letter writer and my employer has been awesome with accommodations.

    The following list is specific to my situation and wouldn’t necessarily help last week’s letter writer. When the lockdown started, I was one month into being employed at my company. I asked to work an alternative schedule (working 12 – 8 PM vs the traditional 8 -5 PM) and it was allowed. If my kids are home because they are sick, my manager usually tells me “Go…be with your sick kid.” If my healthy kid on quarantine interrupts a meeting, nobody says anything. If I am “yellow”, nobody is going to say “I saw you were yellow for three hours today”. I can have conversations with leadership about not being able to get as much done as long as I communicate what I can get done and stick to it.

    These accommodations should be the norm, but I realize how privileged I am to have them. The whole attitude of “Do what you can. We will work with you.” is awesome. Parenting is still hard and still a 24/7 job, but knowing that I won’t be punished for trying my best when life throws the impossible at me, takes a huge weight off of my shoulders.

  77. Preschool Mom*

    At minimum: When we say we can’t make something (a shift, a deadline, a meeting), assume good intentions and assume that we’ve already exhausted available options like trying to find a babysitter, rearranging schedules, or we’ve just evaluated it’s in the child’s best interest to have a parent with them for whatever reason.

    Trust me, we’re already stressed out that we can’t be 100% at work. Suggesting that we have not tried other avenues before calling in is adding insult to an already stressful time.

    Next level: Be flexible when you hire a parent. Know that work will not always come first for them and sometimes things are gonna be weird.

    1. Florida Sands*

      But also ‘be flexible when you hire a parent’? We all have obligations in our lives that take priority before work. Maybe I need to rush my elderly mother to the hospital or pick up my sister who broke down in a bad neighborhood. My schedule got weird for a week when my friend’s mother was murdered so I could support her through that difficult time. Parents are not special that way; we all have people we care about that need assistance at a moment’s notice.

      1. lemonade*

        Yes, I am scared that the requirement workplaces be flexible when hiring parents would lead to workplaces just . . . not hiring those of us who are parents.

        Be flexible when you hire anyone, workplaces. Just extend the same flexibility to everyone. I am dealing with parenting. My boss has no kids, but has two parents in treatment for cancer right now. If we’ve all learned we can extend more grace and flexibility to parents who need it during this extended emergency, the lesson is we also could’ve extended it to EVERYONE this whole time, and businesses have been pretending they can’t.

        1. Preschool Mom*

          Right, businesses should be flexible with everyone. But when I became a parent I got a lot more pushback when things came up that were kid specific issues as opposed to when it was just a me problem. The assumption was often that I should/could find someone else to handle my kid’s problem.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Especially when people think “parents” what they are picturing is “moms”, so we’d be back to the good old days when women weren’t hired because they had or could have kids.

      2. LizM*

        You’re right, but I had a job in the past where I got more flexibility to take time off to take care of an injured dog than I did to take care of my sick kid. Apparently vets’ offices only being open during work hours was more understandable than pediatricians ‘ offices.

        Yes, everyone should get the flexibility to take care of commitments. But we can also see your eye rolls and subtle (and not so subtle) push back when we ask for flexibility when it’s for our kids.

        1. LizM*

          *you’re should be the. I didn’t mean for that to come across as personal as it did when I read it. I’m just tired of dealing with the judgment.

  78. Jenny*

    Acknowledge that meetings will be interrupted. If it something really important or I am leading, I retreat to my master “cloffice”, so don’t expect me to have the camera on. And if a kid makes an appearance, either say hi (if it isn’t an big interruption), or at least don’t let it derail the meeting. My kids are curious as to what is going on, they’re not always trying to disrupt. That said, let us keep our cameras off – kids like seeing themselves on camera.

    IM before calling, or set up a meeting for all but the briefest call. I can’t just pick up the phone at any time to answer a call coherently. I may be wiping a tiny butt.

    No shame if employees have to work from home, or have to shift their hours because of daycare. My daycare is still on limited our due to staffing, so I had to shift my schedule by 20 minutes to make pick up.

    But really, we need to do better about society. Childcare is expensive. We’re lucky to be able to afford quality reliable childcare. But there has been a lot of turnover because salaries are awful. Subsidies would go a long way to raise salaries and keep childcare affordable. Also, having options for drop in care would be wonderful. Sometimes as parents, we just need a break, or an alternative.

    And, allow us to take snow days. After 3 weeks in January with kids at home due to Covid, we’re now back to everyone at home due to snow. I’d love a snow day, but I have work to do.

  79. Florida Sands*

    I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of this topic. It should be on management and supervisors to help their parental employees, not colleagues. I can be flexible all day long on meetings and virtual interruptions but I can’t bring my productivity to a screeching halt for all the parents I work with. There’s very little I can do other than be sympathetic and flexible to parents which I’m already doing; I’m in no position to change how my company handles this stuff.

    1. ecnaseener*

      The question posed here is what CAN we childfree non-managers do, not what SHOULD we do. I agree it’s not on us to solve this, but I still want to know if there’s something I can do that I haven’t thought of — if it’s a hardship then I don’t have to do it.

    2. Daisy Gamgee*

      If you’re not a fan of figuring out ways to help working parents, why are you reading a discussion about how to help working parents? Especially since, fortunately, you can’t wipe this one off the face of the earth.

    3. junior*

      If you’re not a fan of the topic why did you comment? And honestly, there are some very basic things my coworkers could do to help me, and maybe you could do them for your coworkers:

      Be kind(er) – just, be more pleasant all around, this includes – don’t be snide, rude, condescending, disrespectful
      If you tend to vent about your problems, maybe try and vent to someone who isn’t juggling toddlers and work and lack of childcare, etc. Doesn’t have to be permanent, and I love to know what’s on my coworkers’ minds and going on in their lives, but some (most) days I’m really and truly out of spoons.

    4. FridayFriyay*

      On the last post on this topic a lot of people expressed a desire to help in this way. If that isn’t you, feel free to keep scrolling.

  80. bureaucratte*

    My husband’s work schedules meetings in 4-hour, camera on blocks DON’T DO THAT. Even two 2 hour blocks would be better.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      This is cruel and unusual punishment to parents, non-parents, people who have once seen a parent, and parakeets. There is zero reason for this for anyone.

  81. Yoyoyo*

    I am in a different situation than most because my spouse stays home with our child. So given that we are not subject to daycare closures, I am one of the more reliable members of staff and also one who spends more time in office (every day) than anyone else at my level. We are short staffed, plus have people out with COVID all the time, so due to all the coverage (long hours) plus commute, I get to see my child for one to two hours a day max. I would appreciate an acknowledgement of that sacrifice and maybe feeling like I didn’t have to be the only reliable one all the time and could work from home occasionally. I have started feeling resentment toward my colleagues with and without kids and have found myself wishing at times that I would also get COVID so I could have a break. I know that’s an ugly thing to think, but it’s the truth.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      My coworker and I were saying a similar thing yesterday. Could we get some sort of illness that would take us out of commission from work for a few weeks? Not hospital level but just the completely cut off from work level. Neither of us are willing to have another child but it’s almost that tempting.

  82. OrangeSage*

    I’m seeing a lot of comments about allowing flexible hours and remote work, which is totally reasonable. How do we help with parents who have jobs that don’t allow for that like retail, food service, medical providers? There are lots of jobs that do require someone to be present for specific hours… Thanks for any thoughts.

    1. Cat.*

      Offer to be a back-up babysitter! And mean it. You have no idea how hard it is to get someone, even with notice. Trying to get a last minute sitter is a nightmare and, quite frankly, completely impossible in my area right now.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        How does that work if you work together? Is the person without kids picking up a sitting shift after or before work? What if it is a place that is in-office but everyone works a standard 8 hrs together? Would the parent pay for babysitting? I’m not saying this is a bad idea, just not a particularly doable one. Hell, I am close enough to the other coworker in my city (we have been friends for years) to do it if she and her wife wanted some downtime, but I’d only be able to do it when we are all off work anyway

    2. New Mom*

      If there is budget for it, it would be nice for the employer to give them a gift certificate to Uber Eats/Instacart to help with an additional chore?

    3. Ash*

      Honestly, I don’t know that we can. There are some jobs that are shift work (like being a doctor, nurse, or server) and rely on you being there at certain times of the day. The best interventions for parents in these jobs are free childcare, and of course lots of paid time off for illness of parent or child. Several unions have set up free childcare for essential workers where I live (NYC), and have expanded them to people outside of the union.

    4. HBJ*

      I appreciate you bringing this up. I enjoy Alison’s advice and this site, but I often get frustrated reading the comments section because it is SO white collar. It gets irritating seeing “work from home” along with flexible hours so often brought up as a solution to anything and everything (including pre-covid times), when that’s literally not possible for so many people. In fact, studies show it’s a *minority* of people who can work from home – less than 40% (I will link in a reply). And a lot of people think a lot more people worked from home during the early Covid days than actually did (will also link).

      1. HBJ*

        Misconceptions about how many people are/were actually working from home during the height of covid (less than 40%) –

        Reports on studies that less than 40% of people can work from home –

      2. HBJ*

        “everything (including pre-covid times), when that’s literally not possible for so many people”

        And to add to this, seeing commenters speculate on whether it’s really true when a letter writer says that work from home is impossible, including pre-covid, is super annoying. Again, it’s a MINORITY of workers who can.

        1. Ash*

          Well and of course, who has time in the middle of the day to read and comment on AAM? Not a factory floor worker, or a custodian, or a medical assistant, or a bus driver, or a warehouse shipment worker, or…

      3. AnotherLibrarian*

        I don’t think its just a blue collar/white collar issues. I work a white collar job that I can not do remotely. I’d love to close down and let my staff all work from home, but that’s just not possible. I do want to support folks with kids though I am super limited in what I can do to do that.

    5. Cardinal*

      You really can’t. That’s why I just quit my retail job and I’m working on expanding my side business into a full time business. Between a too-young-to-vax kid and a recently disabled parent (who used to provide childcare for me), I just don’t have it in me to work for someone else right now. At least if I work for myself I can turn the tv on for the kid or take a call while waiting for my mom at the doctor or whatever.

    6. WS*

      Being in healthcare, which staff member can do which tasks is very specific and legally limited, and it’s really hard and expensive to get more higher-qualified people in…but some of them are parents and had to deal with school from home and no daycare etc. For example, if one of the three bosses had to be out there was literally no way to replace them with a similarly qualified person.

      So my workplace put two extra less-qualified people on the roster, meaning that if someone had to be out or cut their day short, the rest of us could take over the stuff that needed to be done by a more qualified person and throw our other tasks to the less-qualified people. It was a scramble sometimes but by three months in we got things really, really organised and no matter who was out we could re-organise tasks up and down the ladder. And one of them is now undertaking qualifications, which is great!

  83. Just drowning, that's all*

    The work stuff is well covered here, so on the non-work front, when I’ve got kids home on quarantine and am working, I would love if someone dropped off food. Easy to serve. Like you might for a new parent. We still have to eat and I grow weary of delivery and often don’t have the energy for making a decent meal. Maybe snacks for the kiddos to give them a treat. Feeding everyone is a necessity, but also just so hard sometimes.

  84. Cat.*

    For the love of all that is holy– please stop loudly proclaiming how you miss being in-person and how we all really need to get back in-person for the office to run best and how you’re BORED working from home and need people to talk to. I’m a single parent with a toddler and zero childcare options. None. So if the powers that be hear your complaints and decide we do all need to be back in the office, I’m without a job.

    Just. . . please be aware that not everyone has the luxury to go back to the office right now or even in the foreseeable future.

    1. Forrest*

      We had a presentation about changing work attitudes since the pandemic recently and one survey has found that the people most positive about home- and hybrid-working are mothers of young children, and the group least positive about it are fathers of young children. :-/

  85. officeparent*

    A flexible definition of what counts as “professional.” A lot of times, people define professionalism based on behaviors that have nothing to do with work skills or productivity.
    Example 1: I like to take walks outside during zoom meetings (on the rare occasions when I don’t need to take notes or share my screen.) Because of all the demands on my time as a working parent , those are some of the only times I can get outside and get a tiny bit of exercise. I have been told that is not professional, but it has no impact on my work and only a positive impact on my ability to handle the stresses of job and life.
    Example 2: My kids occasionally and briefly interrupt zoom meetings, especially when the meeting is taking place during their bedtime and they want to say good night. I know people judge this, but its work impact is really no different from a co-worker poking their head into your office while you’re on a call. I wish those two types of interruptions were equivalent in everyone’s minds.

  86. Malarkey01*

    I come from a company that supported telework pre-pandemic but with the very strict rule that there could be zero childcare, zero noise, zero laundry doing. So for the first month of the pandemic I tried to follow that by shushing my then 2 year old constantly and running myself haggard. Having my leadership come out and say we all know you have kids at home and it’s fine to hear noise, cancel meetings, have to suddenly step away, etc helped so much. It went from feeling like I had to basically lie all the time if someone caught me away from IM to feeling comfortable saying oops sorry was away for 30 minutes trying to get everyone fed. My leadership was very supportive but hadn’t actually let me and others know. So make it a point to openly say we know you are juggling things, that’s okay, it’s fine for you to do x,y, and z. And, make it a point to explain what the basic expectations are because having to guess “is it okay if I -“ is exhausting and makes you feel like a horrible employee instead of knowing I have to be in at this time everyday or this report must get done, etc.

    1. Anonyparent*

      Oh, this would be awesome. I’ve gone a bit quiet with my job because I don’t want anyone to ask about my childcare arrangements. I get everything done and I’m still getting nothing but positive feedback, so everything seems fine. I’m still flexing my schedule like crazy to accommodate my 2-year-old, but I don’t talk to anyone about it, because I think I’m the only person in my immediate division with an under-5 who has no free in-home childcare (grandparents or nonworking spouse), and technically daycares are open, I just don’t want to send my kid if I can avoid it. So I don’t talk about my kid or especially my lack of childcare unless someone specifically asks and I downplay difficulties… The comments on various posts on this site (among other things) have made me wary. I don’t want to raise the issue and risk management not being supportive, when benign neglect is working okay for me so far…

  87. New Mom*

    If there are parents who are coming into the office less than the hybrid model requests, don’t make comments about it unless it is impacting your work. I feel like whenever I go into the office at least one person will loudly comment, in a joking way, how they “never see” me or “it’s been so long” since they’ve seen me. That makes me feel like I have to start explaining the daycare closures and then the household sicknesses and it makes me nervous and double think if they really are joking or not joking. And even makes me wonder if people are talking about it behind my back, basically it makes parents, who are already stressed, paranoid.

    This does not apply to people who may be impacted by a coworkers absence, that’s a whole different thing. But if you are not impacted by it and THINK it might be a funny, office-banter type comment it’s really not.

    1. L-squared*

      I mean, I get this one. If I HAVE to come in X times a week because “reasons”, I’m going to be a bit annoyed that parents don’t. If they don’t need to be there, neither do I.

      Now they shouldn’t take it out on you, but I don’t have a problem with someone being upset at unequal treatment

      1. Clare*

        New Mom specifically said that it’s helpful if people don’t make comments when it doesn’t affect them. Be upset without making comments or address your concerns with your manager without referencing your coworker who’s schedule isn’t affecting yours.

      2. emmers*

        Its not that I don’t need to be there, I can’t be there when my kids daycare is closed. Equality vs equity ya’ll.

    2. let's be supportive!*

      And to take that one step further, if you witness those kinds of comments being said to parents, please call the offender out (kindly or bluntly, publicly or privately, your choices) if you have the capital/bandwidth. Especially if you don’t have kids or aren’t experiencing that problem yourself. It can help recalibrate these peoples’ thinking and make it more acceptable for parents to take advantage of workplace flexibility without being seen as “performing less than” or “not as committed.”

    3. mje*

      Yes!! I work in a school (non-teaching role) and we are fully in person, but I’ve had to work remotely a ton due to my kids’ exposures at preK and daycare. I have gotten so many “hey, you still work here!” comments on the days I actually able to come into the office. It’s so discouraging, especially because I am keeping up with my work and making an important contribution to our school.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Ugh, even aside from childcare issues, if my coworker’s toddler might have covid then I would rather not share breathing air with that coworker for the moment if they can work remotely! Stay home for everyone’s good and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  88. agnes*

    If you are working closely with people with small children be flexible about your own schedule so that you are available to them. Some of our employees with small kids tell me it would be easier (and they are willing) to talk at length about a project at 8 pm or on the weekend because kids are in bed or a partner is there to take over the supervision duties. Yet, their colleagues won’t be even a little bit flexible about meeting times.

    Consider being flexible yourself to support your colleagues/staff’s need for flexibility and access to you.

    1. L-squared*

      I mean, no. Sorry. I’m compassionate at all, but I’m not working at 8pm or on a weekend because you have childcare issues. I didn’t sign up for a job like that. If its asking me to stay on an extra 15 minutes, sure. But I think this is asking too much of people.

      1. junior*

        If you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it. But your comments here are coming across as rigid, lacking in compassion, and really, reeeeaaallly personal. Would you bristle this much if a coworker were dealing with a chronic health issue and asked for some help? If not, then I think you have some soul-searching to do. If so, then just don’t help. That’s fine, but please don’t take up SO MUCH SPACE from people who are actually interested in helping their colleagues.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yeah, not happening. 3 of 5 of my team are in a different time zone. I am not starting a work call at 10 pm and I have other responsibilities on the weekends. Not having caregiving duties doesn’t mean I have no other responsibilities.

    3. let's be supportive! ...but not unrealistic!*

      That’s… asking a lot! Even childless colleagues have families and commitments outside of work hours that are still important (arguably more important than being available to a colleague for work matters). If someone is willing to do this as a favor and it works with their schedule/commitments as well, great, but I strongly feel it shouldn’t be an expectation or even encouraged. That’s going to cause everyone to burn out. As a manager I would be horrified if someone on my team was pressuring employees without small kids into working nights or weekends to fit in with the flexibility I was giving to them as parents.

    4. Florida Sands*

      Oh definitely not. I can rearrange meetings around naptimes, fine. Stay til 5PM rather than 4:00, I can do that. But I’m not doing a meeting late in the evening like 8PM. Something that late should be reserved for stuff that doesn’t require collaboration. Writing emails, doing expense reports, that stuff. I’ve caught up on that work late in the evening on busy days.

    5. no sleep for the wicked*

      My workplace would not go for that for the majority of staff. We’re hourly and cannot just decide to work overtime, and public-facing folks have set schedules anyway. On top of that, we’ve spent the past 2 years being bombarded with self-care messages about *not* trying to pretzel ourselves for work, so nights & weekends are absolutely off limits. I need every second to manage my chronic illness and anxiety.

    6. Really?*

      As a parent with children, I disagree. I would not expect my colleagues to take time out of their personal lives to chat with me at night about a project.

    7. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

      I think it’s important to remember that employees without small children probably aren’t flexing their schedules in the same way, and so this is just asking them for more time at work. Like, if Jane’s childcare responsibilities mean she’s working hours outside the standard workday, her day is going to shake out to the same amount of time “at work” as her coworkers. If I, her childless coworker, have to take meetings at 8 in the evening or on weekends, odds are good that this is coming with the expectation that those don’t count toward my work time, so it’s an additional hour after I’ve worked 7 to 4. I’d probably take the meeting if it were a one off or only like once a month, but weekly, or multiple times a week? Only if that time gets deducted from the time I’m already working so I can leave early. (And even then, it impacts out of work time, so I would be very reticent and I think many would draw a hard limit.

    8. Blueberry Girl*

      This is asking a lot of people and it assuming that people who don’t have kids have that sort of flexibility to give, which many don’t. 6pm meeting? Sure, I don’t like it, but I can do it. 8pm meeting? Weekends? No. I have other obligations.

    9. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      No, that is not reasonable. Generally, I would not agree to an 8 pm or weekend work meeting with anyone, parent or not.

    10. Nancy*

      Asking someone to be a little bit flexible means asking them to occasionally schedule meetings a little but earlier or later than usual, or sometimes rescheduling last minute if something unexpected comes up. It is not scheduling a meeting at 8pm or on weekends when that is not typical for their field/job. Everyone has responsibilities and commitments outside work.

  89. Sled dog mama*

    I have 1 child who is in 2nd grade and I’m lucky enough that my husband is a stay at home dad (had planned to go back to work once kiddo was in 1st grade and then pandemic). Last year hubby homeschooled our daughter on top of everything else.
    I’m in healthcare and can only do about 30-40% of my job from home.

    Please understand that when I get home my first priority is being mom/wife. That means I’m focused on giving my husband a break from having to be on all day with our daughter and usually I’m doing something with her.
    I know that you (my coworkers without children or with grown children) have stresses too. I don’t expect my crisis to be your crisis but please don’t tell me how bad it is To be you. I have things I’m not sharing at work because I know they will blow over or only irritating because of extra pandemic stress. I don’t have the bandwidth right now to care about your stresses and I don’t expect you to have the bandwidth to care about mine. Please don’t make it a contest.
    On that same note I may have preexisting stresses that you don’t know about, don’t assume my issues are going to get better as the pandemic does
    My husband is worse than my daughter about interrupting work so grace for all interruptions is huge.
    If you are someone who has the bandwidth to care about others problems and wants to sometimes just the acknowledgment that you are seen is huge.

    1. Sled dog mama*

      Something else I just thought of. Schools and daycares are still having regular closures for COVID but parents who live in areas where schools sometimes close for weather have that to contend with as well.
      We were out for a week 3 weeks ago because the school didn’t have enough staff to be in person (fortunately that aligned me already being off work due to hubby being out of town) but today/tomorrow my kid is in remote school because of weather. Remote school is almost worse than a snow day because now parents have to make sure the kid gets her work done on top of their own work. And when you have a kid who would rather be sitting in her snow fort than anything else that’s tough

  90. Green great dragon*

    So much of this is just being a good co-worker for everyone. Be flexible when you can, let the unimportant go.

    If your meeting is interrupted for a moment by a child/doorbell/pet/sandwich accident, smile and move on. Make it acceptable to block out time in a calendar, for focused work/school run/having lunch/going to the gym. Be explicit about deadlines, give flexibility when you can, accept people work different hours. If a usually-great colleague is suddenly underperforming, give them a break, offer to assist if practical, but at least frame it in your mind as x is struggling a bit this week and be nice.

    Very few of us haven’t had a bad patch at work for some reason – and if that’s you, thank your lucky stars and maybe extend some grace.

  91. AnotherSarah*

    Two thoughts to add:

    -it’s amazing to me that many seem to not know that schools and daycares are (still) having regular closures. I don’t know anyone in a nursing home right now, but I know the numbers. I don’t work at the hospital, but I know the capacity. Schooling and care are community issues–be a community member and read up on what’s happening. Not to become an expert but I’m sick of ignorance at this point.
    -this is a bit different from lots of the suggestions above, but: if a non-traditional meeting time works, or meeting space, let the parent know. For example, it’s much easier for me to do a post-7pm meeting when my kid isn’t in daycare, because he’ll be in bed. If we can do a walking/coffee meeting rather than Zoom (if that’s ok w/ office culture and health protections), that’s better too, because I hate being on the computer all day with my little one running about. If he’s in the stroller, we’ll actually get a lot done. I don’t expect everyone to be able to do this, but I know there are some night owls among my coworkers….

    1. B*

      I know, right? This December my child’s school closed for three weeks due to COVID. They announced the closure and virtual learning literally three days before it was implemented. And there’s no fix for that. I can’t just go to my child care provider and say, “Surprise!” and expect to have a place for the next three weeks.

  92. L-squared*

    What I’m seeing here is that most of this stuff are things that would make EVERYONE’S life easier. Less emails that could be meetings? Caring about output more than hours? Flexibility? Most of this isn’t parent specific

      1. Daisy Gamgee*

        To judge by some of the comments, parents are parasites who exist for no other reason than to make their coworkers’ lives harder.

        1. almost there*

          I don’t see many comments to this effect. (And when it comes to deleted comments, those numbers look pretty small too!) Not saying this to be unkind, just to reorient your thinking.

        2. A*

          I don’t see that theme on this thread much at all. A few deleted comments, but the vast majority have been the opposite. People are trying to be supportive and find out ways to help each other out, comments like this really undermine those efforts. It’s demoralizing to be engaged in active, constructive conversations about how to better offer support to colleagues with children and then read that those effort are apparently not ‘good enough’ and treating parents like parasites.

          I know there are people and employers out there that have extreme views on this, and I don’t doubt that it might feel like the world is judging working parents harshly – but I honestly think you’re projecting pretty hard here.

    1. Someone On-Line*

      This is sort of the same concept as universal design. The physical accommodations you make for disabled people generally make everyone’s life better.

  93. higeredadmin*

    Here’s my two cents – for offices that are struggling to cover flexible work, HIRE MORE PEOPLE. For example – can you hire some administrator roles like in ye olden days so that staff in senior roles aren’t spending hours fighting with expenses and billing. If jobs can’t be done in a 35-hour flexible work schedule, could it be because there is too much in that job for one person? Can you band up with your colleagues and advocate for more hiring?

  94. B*

    My biggest problem is finding before-and-after school child care for a variety of reasons. My child is old enough that conventional child care centers won’t accept her, but she’s so handicapped that she still requires constant supervision. (And TBH she’s be perfectly content hanging out with younger kids.) I had to use a state agency to help locate someone who would provide the care she needs before and after school, which causes a host of other problems related to transportation. Which brings me to my point…

    The single biggest thing I need is flexibility in the morning. If I start my commute and run into a traffic jam or a car crash, I will be late. Most people’s advice is to just leave earlier in the morning, so that you have time to spare. But that’s the problem. I literally c-a-n-n-o-t leave my child before a 7 AM. So my commute absolutely, positively, cannot start earlier. Once I get on the road, no matter what I intend or want to happen, I’m going to be at the mercy of the traffic gods and there’s nothing I can do to change it.

  95. Lacey*

    Helpful reading here! Four of my coworkers are having babies in the next 6 months, so I’m going to try and be mindful of these things!

  96. Now what*

    I’m working really really hard to get the “meat” of my work done. If there are more typos than usual or I overlook something, please don’t judge me. When I don’t have two kids literally jumping on me, I’ll have more bandwidth to proof read internal emails.

  97. bowl of petunias*

    Honestly the main thing I want is for people without children to give me the benefit of the doubt and just believe me when I say I need something or can’t do something. Small childrens’ needs and the reality of caring for them are not always obvious from outside – if something I say or do challenges your preconceptions of what parenting involves, PLEASE don’t write me off as an entitled/coddling/stupid mother who thinks the whole world revolves around her children. Please take a moment and recognise that I do this every day and as a result I know more about doing it than someone who does not do it and is not interested in doing it. If a young child needs something, they cannot wait very long or very quietly for me to sort them out. I need to ping back and forth between work and childcare. I don’t want to do it like this, I have no choice. Believe me, I am not trying to mess up your day by being unavailable or having noise in the background.

    1. Ann Perkins*

      “Honestly the main thing I want is for people without children to give me the benefit of the doubt and just believe me when I say I need something or can’t do something.”

      This, so much. My husband deployed after my first was born and I still fume when I think about how my boss at the time kept pushing me to go to an optional conference when I was solo parenting with a 6 month old. One “nope, sorry, can’t do that” should have been enough. Of course, this was the kind of place that will also claim to be military and family friendly.

    2. Now what*

      This is so important. I have a kid with an largely invisible disability. A lot of the “tips” that were shared at the begining of the pandemic were not possible. I had a manager imply my kid should be watching a lot more TV so I could work more. I totally get if that works for your kid, but please trust me when I say that doesn’t work for mine.

  98. La Triviata*

    I don’t have children and I don’t think most of my co-workers have young children, but as far as I can tell, our management is being good about this. Almost everyone is working remotely – two or three people have moved out of state and are getting their work done. The organization is having some financial problems, so no raises and some cost cutting, but we’re still funded and as far as I can tell, we’re not in danger of closing. We have Zoom meetings every couple of weeks, so we keep each other up on what’s going on.

    Not to praise myself a lot, but I am voluntarily working in the office. I’ve offered to help out as much as possible, cover some additional responsibilities such as doing a weekly download that can’t be done remotely, dealing with mail and getting checks deposited. When something arrives that needs to be dealt with – such as small amounts of supplies or important papers – I take care of that. Any hard copies are scanned and emailed to the person responsible. I deal with files the same way. I answer the main office phone and direct callers to email the people, since they aren’t here. And if I need something from someone, if the matter’s not urgent, I’ll put it in the subject line. Some things are needed routinely and I remind people of the deadlines. There are some routine things that support others’ work I take care of; recently, someone was surprised to know that it was going on all along. People have expressed that having so many routine matters taken care of, even if they weren’t aware of it.

    The one thing we haven’t been able to get is a calendar that (1) everyone is able to see the same one and (2) people actually use.

    1. no sleep for the wicked*

      That is so awesome!! I am always so appreciative of the folks who work onsite who keep things moving for everyone. Not everyone in my workplace can work remotely, but instead of being annoyed, they pitch in when they can, and it makes a huge diff in everyone’s productivity and chill.

  99. Gnome*

    One thing that has been a big help is being on projects with some folks who don’t have similar issues. Obviously that’s not always possible, but this allows me to go “Hey Sam – can you sit in on the 3:30 meeting and debrief me after? I just found out they are closing school now because the whole 2nd grade started coughing.” Even if it’s just folks with different age kid, different school schedules, or whatever – it gives a bit more flexibility for creative solutions.

    Also, I have paid coworkers to help with my drop-off and pickup. If you happen to live near or drive by your coworker’s daycare/school and would be willing to do a pickup in a pinch, or even weekly, the offer might be more appreciated than you know!

    Are you flexible to meet at 6AM? Mention that! Like, “yeah, I can meet next Tuesday – my calendar is up to date so feel free to pick a time, but in case it’s helpful, I want to let you know I can do a call between 6:30 and 7:30 AM even though I’m not in until 9, if that’s better for you. If not, let me know if those other times work.”

  100. Seeking Second Childhood*

    A side note for dads. Months ago, a prominent manager left a meeting that had gone over time, and he clearly said his next appointment was with his child, because he is the homework parent. After he broke the ice, other parents became more open about child care challenges. The dads who casually spoke about their parenting roles made it easier for other parents to speak up because sexism is still rampant.
    There is a valid fear that needing flexibility around child care will make management think you have less dedication to your job. Seeing a rock star male manager talk about child care really broke the stereotypes.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      YES this is an excellent point! There’s an assumption that only women are dealing with these issues but I see a bunch of men suffering because they feel that they can’t let on that they’re struggling.

  101. KACKEM*

    I have a (just turned) two year old and a two month old. And I’m health care worker. I’ve never known parenting outside of the pandemic. I will say this – I am incredibly fortunate to have family close by that help (at times significantly) with childcare. I was also the primary earner in the family until recently and am now significantly scaling back at my job because of childcare needs (my oldest has been on three daycare waitlists since May… we’re live rurally and there aren’t other options). On one hand, I’m grateful to spend more time with them. On the other, I’m deeply mourning this phase of my career and a big promotion I gave up to do this. What I could use at work is more money. Remote work isn’t an option for me. My boss is generally as flexible as he can realistically be. But money helps. Money makes life easier. Oh, I’d also love PAID time to work on continuing education and development projects, but paid time in healthcare almost always means patient care/billable hours. I can’t do it all – be a good clinician, be a good mom, push my skill set, etc.

  102. Anonarama*

    My job has been great – I’ve been fully wfh, we still have pandemic leave for closures, meetings are always camera optional. One thing that would really help us paradoxically later evening meetings. 9pm is actually much easier than 7pm because my toddler is in bed by then. I know that doesn’t work for everyone but the assumption that earlier evening is better is not necessarily true

  103. Savanna*

    Most of the things that people are missing are things that should be considered for everyone, not just parents. Flexibility in scheduling, no work after hours, no meetings running over, sending an e-mail instead of scheduling a meeting, these are things that should just be standard in the workplace.

    1. Rebecca1*

      I have a teenager, but the colleague I work most closely with has little kids.

      1. For WFH, provide wireless headsets with good directional microphones. That way meetings are easier.

      2. Sometimes my colleague and I are able to swap certain tasks where I do something that’s at an inconvenient time for her, and she does one of my equivalent tasks on her own time.

  104. Clare*

    Don’t make comments about how working parents aren’t being fair to the company and it’s time for us to quit. Seriously. Don’t assume we can “just” anything – just hop on a call at the last minute, just switch on the TV, just find childcare that doesn’t close, just hire a nanny, just survive on one income.

    Also if someone is coming back from being a stay at home parent, it’s not a good time to make comments about how privileged or lucky they were. A lot of people (women) were not “lucky” to lose careers.

  105. Sciencer*

    Please, please think twice before rescheduling something with a parent of young kids. Even when my baby is at daycare, I have a pumping schedule that I have painstakingly wedged into the spaces between my immovable obligations. If my boss needs to last-minute budge a meeting even by 20 minutes, it is likely to run into my pumping time and mess up my whole system; no matter how I resolve it, I end up with less milk and a lot of stress. My boss (like many I’m sure) is SUPER busy and over-committed, so I try hard to be flexible for her, but this is a big difficulty when I really need our meeting to happen and end up having to prioritize work over biology.

    When major disruptions happen, please expect that the parent(s) will simply lose out on work time and not be able to recover it. Example: snow day yesterday. All my colleagues and TAs were happy for the day off and time to catch up on things. I fell FURTHER behind because daycare was closed so I got just 3ish hours to try to get work done, which was mostly spent on adjusting lesson plans and sending emails to account for missed class/meetings, rather than the 6 hours I would normally have had outside of class time to take care of other obligations. My husband also only got about 3-4 hours of work done. And baby is having some mega sleep issues so we are both exhausted; evening catch-up is simply not possible right now.

  106. kristinyc*

    On days where my (almost 3yo) son is home due to snow days/covid closures (we had about 10 days of this in January) – I can’t do a last minute meeting. My husband and I are starting our day looking at our calendars and dividing up as “Okay, I don’t have any meetings until 1, so I can watch him while you work, and then we can switch off after nap time.” It’s a juggling act. My boss scheduled a meeting 15 minutes before it was supposed to start (while I was watching my son) and I didn’t even see it until it was almost over. She said it was fine, but it was very stressful for me.

    Also: if a child runs into the room during a video call – I love it when people comment on it in a nice way (even if just in the chat/ on slack so as not to interrupt the meeting), like “Oh, Kristin your adorable intern’s here!” or something like that. I also like pet cameos.

    Overall – flexibility is so important. At any moment I can get The Call saying someone at daycare has covid and they’re closed for two weeks. It’s stressful.

  107. Anonymous Poster*

    Father of an infant and a toddler. Wife stays home with the infant and the toddler goes to daycare.

    Please stop holding it against me as the working parent that I’m still busy at night helping take care of our children. Yes, my wife does the heavy lifting there. Yes, she’s amazing. I’m responsible for my children too so stop raising eyebrows that I won’t work late or that I’m tired during the day because I’m also raising my children.

    Please stop cutting me out of professional development. “Oh, Anonymous is some white father whose wife doesn’t work, he’s just one of THOSE kinds of men…” is gross. Stop it. Those kinds of men exist, but my wife’s dream job was to be a stay-at-home mom and I work to help her realize that dream. Let me develop professionally too.

    Have some grace and give me the benefit of the doubt. Yes, I’m a straight married white male. I’m also trying to raise my kids and am not out to somehow keep my wife in the kitchen (fun fact: we split the dinner cooking task). All these gross assumptions out there are, frankly, offensive. Stop it.

  108. Someone*

    I’m a working mom, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask more of our co-workers right now. They are just as burnt out as we are from all of the days they’ve had double work while I stayed home on PTO. Vote Democrat and support schools with your tax dollars.

    1. 2020storm*

      I’ve read through a lot of comments, and none of these things seem like unfair things to ask for. Most of them seem easily given.

  109. ElizabethJane*

    Be realistic about which deadlines matter. I have one coworker who insists that things need to be finished by close of business (which is 4:00 my time because they are an hour ahead of me) but actually won’t look at them until the next day. There’s absolutely 0 reason I shouldn’t be able to continue to work on these things after my kids go to bed. Most of my coworkers are excellent at realizing I may need to work non-standard hours but some of them are sticklers for the traditional work day and there doesn’t appear to be a point to it.

  110. Ann O'Nemity*

    Coworkers, please don’t blame or resent me for the flexibility I’ve been given as I’m struggling to be a working parent of two young children during a pandemic. Instead, take it up with your manager and negotiate for what you need right now – lower workloads, mental health days, flexible scheduling, etc.

  111. ERJ*

    If you’re a colleague / individual contributer:
    No offhand comments / jokes about hard it is to get ahold of the parent or how the parent isn’t ever on their zoom (this was mentioned in the last letter). If you have a real problem getting ahold of them and it’s affecting your work, schedule a meeting and talk to them directly, or escalate it to their manager if you’ve already done that. Offhand jokes are cutting and destabilizing to working parents right now who literally never feel at ease or confident that they’re doing ok at work.

    Always ask yourself if this is a question for an email or a meeting, and if this meeting should be 30 min or 1 hour. Really consider. This honestly would benefit everyone, not just parents! Zoom meetings are a nightmare from which we can never awaken.

    For managers (if you’re happy with your direct reports output):

    If you havent done it yet check in with your direct reports who are parents. DO IT THIS WEEK. Speak with them, tell them they are valued and that you know that this has been tough. Ask them what they need in their day to day at work that they’re not getting. Let them know that what they’re giving at work right now is more than good enough. Ask them if they’re feeling too much pressure from any particular source. Is there a time of day they need meeting-free for kid stuff? Do they need the ability to come in later and stay later? Do they just need a pass on having the kids appear in zoom calls when daycare is closed? Saying all this stuff out loud will really help diffuse a lot of pressure.

  112. Losing My Mind*

    1. Be proactive about flexibility. If you’re a manager, set and communicate (reasonable) expectations. Don’t give the parent another thing to worry about by making them come up with the plan themselves in a vacuum.
    2. Be flexible with everyone. People with the least resources often receive the least grace.
    3. Acknowledge that it sucks. The kindest thing one of my coworkers did last week was let me cry in their office about how I feel like a failure because my kid has gone feral, and then looked me in the eyes and said, “Toddlers are a**holes. You’re doing a great job”

    1. Losing My Mind*

      Oh, and don’t generically suggest they “look for a nanny”, “look for a babysitter”, “check out”, or “have family come down.” Comments like this just imply they aren’t trying hard enough to find solutions. I promise they have already tried every option within their price range/comfort level.

      1. Jo*

        it makes me laugh when people suggest hiring a nanny… a full time nanny here runs about $20-25/hr vs. daycare which is about 1500/month for a kiddo under 2.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yup. Childcare in my area is scarce, it’s more expensive than anywhere else in the country, and it’s inconsistent during a pandemic even if you can find an open slot and can afford it, because of closures and quarantines!

      3. FridayFriyay*

        Yes and then openly argue with you if you mention whatever the limitations are that you’ve encountered seeking alternate forms of care. I would LOVE to have a nanny right now. Believe me when I say we have done the legwork to determine that is not an option.

  113. Scarlett Johnson*

    I have three school-age kids. Between 8-3:30, I am good. They usually aren’t home. When they are though…understand that you may see them next to me on Zoom and they might want to be acknowledged by me or show the group something. Be decent humans and acknowledge that and give me a second to handle it. Also, 5:30-7:30 is the worst possible time to try and get anything out of me. We are dealing with dinner and bedtime then and my focus is 100% in them and no, my spouse just can’t handle it alone, just like he doesn’t leave it for me to handle alone either.

  114. Ismonie*

    I’ve got a few:

    1. The 3/2 hybrid schedule means parents or caregivers are hosed. At least one day a week we will have to get some kind of magical floating aftercare arrangement. Maybe more if my hybrid days are the same as my partner’s. Really, even if you’re doing hybrid, make it flexible hybrid. If I really only need to be in one day a week, please let me only be in one day a week.
    2. Last minute meeting changes are poison. My husband has meetings too; one of us has to pick up the kid.
    3. If my camera isn’t on, there is a good reason, that may or may not have to do with me being a parent. Please don’t joke or comment about it.
    4. Plan ahead. The more advance notice I get of things, the better I can do to meet my obligations (my workplace is actually great about this.)
    5. If there are cool speakers/events that always happen when many of us pick up kids, please record them so we don’t miss them!
    6. Don’t press people to meet in person or come into the office if they don’t need to. Sure, this helps parents like me with unvaccinated littles, but it also helps people with high risk housemates/family members/frequent contacts.
    7. Please don’t ask me how I’m doing, unless you really care and we have that kind of a relationship. I’m tired of performing “wellness” for so many people I cross paths with. I am not doing well, and most of the time, it is actively unhelpful for me to either share that or fake being ok.

  115. Tag Team Parenting*

    I wish my husband’s company would stop insisting he “have his wife take care of the kids” because his boss doesn’t want to see/hear kids around during the hours and hours of “let’s silently work together with our cameras on!” every day. Hello! I have a job, too! The sexism bugs me SO much.
    The stupid “silent work together with cameras” is awful. That needs to stop.
    If kids are there, it’s because we are tag team parenting while we work. Trust us that we are doing the best we can, and stop assuming the wife will take care of the kids. It’s not the 1950s. We share the responsibility.

    1. CoveredinBees*

      The stupid “silent work together with cameras” sounds horrendous. I’ve done something similar with a friend for accountability, but it was my choice, a friend who worked in a totally unrelated field, and only lasted about 2 hours. Being required to do it for work is awful. Also, I like wearing headphones and sometimes I pace or fidget when I work. Having that broadcasted onto my colleague’s screens sounds so inhibiting.

    2. Ruby*

      (a few years ago pre-COVID)
      My friend had to pick up a sick kid from daycare. His boss asked “why can’t your wife do it?”
      Friend’s wife is a surgeon. A little more important than your random spreadsheet, boss.

    3. Ismonie*

      That’s so sexist. Once, before we were married, my husband’s boss said “have your girlfriend do the laundry.” I don’t know what his deal was, because his wife worked at a major international consulting company and often wasn’t in-country let alone participating in household chores. His boss was kinda a jerk in other ways too.

  116. GarlicMicrowaver*

    It’s rude as hell to tell us to “mute it.” Maybe I was in the middle of contributing an idea while my kid started a tantrum. Make sure you tell those with whiny cats and dogs to mute it as well if you’re going to go that route. You want us to work. Get over it or find a way to end this mess.

  117. berto*

    – schedule meetings in advance, during normal working hours
    – don’t make snarky remarks about my work hours
    – generally, mind your own business

  118. Lazy Cat's Mom*

    I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but my colleague tries to inform everyone on our team about possible delays on a daily basis.
    We have a daily email about what’s going to happen that day and she’ll include info like ‘I have to take child to school this morning,’ or ‘it’s a snow day here so I may get interrupted,’ or ‘I have to take child to doctor tomorrow between 1-4pm.’
    Knowing that your message isn’t being ignored helps ease some of the frustration/tension when you are trying to reach them. It also reminds folks to ask questions or turn in work by a certain time or there will be a delayed response.

    1. Daphne C.*

      Yes! We use a Teams channel for this in our office. Sometimes I, Mom with Kids, also benefit from seeing that childless single coworkers have appointments and pets and car trouble and other pop-up concerns, so it helps us all give each other a break.

  119. Amesip*

    As a single parent of a toddler, frankly the best things my job could do for me are:

    1) Either give me a raise large enough to cover the astronomical childcare fees I need to pay every month or provide a low-cost/free daycare at my business’s campus.

    2) Give me a raise anyway. Kids are expensive.

    3) Implement a parental leave policy that isn’t just the “use-12-weeks-of-FMLA-and-use-up-all-PTO-if-you-want-to-be-paid-during-it” policy. (It’s been years and my sick time accrual still hasn’t recovered.)

  120. KareninHR*

    Yes, usually if they give me something late in the day, I tell them I’ll get to it first thing in the morning. There is nothing in my job so urgent that it HAS to be done after normal business hours, and usually people are understanding. The worst culprit is a fairly new coworker (to whom I am sort of a mentor) who isn’t great at social cues and has poor time management skills. She seems to do her “best work” late in the day and at least once a week when I walk past her office to leave, I hear “Ohmygosh, is it 5:00 already! Wait! I just have one quick question on this thing I HAVE to get done today!” Initially I tried to help because I didn’t want to leave her hanging and often she is in full on panic mode, but that set a precedent and she started doing it more and more.

    One evening when I stopped her and told her I needed to go home to see my family she said “When your baby squeezes your finger, just think of me. I’ll be here. Working.” After that, I stopped trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. Now when she tries to stop me, I give her a quick “We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” and I do make sure follow up with her the next morning.

  121. Massive Dynamic*

    So as expected, we’re seeing many folks chiming in with the “fairness” of it all… we’ve chosen to have kids and don’t deserve perks beyond what the childfree deserve. You know what, you’re right. And I don’t doubt that many childfree folks have born the brunt of boss saying that “so-and-so can’t do X project because of a kid obligation so congrats, now it’s YOURS.” That’s wrong and will always be that way.

    But there’s a bigger issue here and it’s rooted in our current late-stage capitalist existence. We’ve been conditioned to accept more work, late hours, less flexibility in general, because That’s What the Job Requires. We put these things before our own health and wellness, and have for some time. Until one day when some of us take on parenthood, all of a sudden there is finally ONE THING that is undoubtedly more important than the job. Make no mistake, we systemically suffer for that – women especially – as we are then seen as less dedicated to work and are paid less, promoted less, etc.

    And on some level, most everyone can understand that Bob’s daycare pickup is always more important than Sally’s afternoon workout class, because Sally will lose a deposit if she skips class, but Bob runs the risk of his child being turned over to the state if he’s late. But instead of the Sallys of this world flaming at the Bobs, or at their bosses that are asking more of Sally than Bob, we really do need to stand together here and focus on the root of the problem – work needs to CHANGE. ALL of us need to work less hours, work regularly-scheduled hours, take home more pay, have more flexibility, and have a bigger say in what’s really important in our jobs and what will wait until the next day.

    And also, Sally and Bob should unionize.

    1. Someone On-Line*

      Hear hear. And also, we spend so much time asking, “What about what’s for me?” that we stymie genuine progress on things like paid parental leave, better disability accommodations, etc. and those things make for a better society, even if they are not necessarily going to impact me directly.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Agree! We are asked to sacrifice our personal lives for the job in a way and on a scale that didn’t exist 50 years ago. And the pandemic has cut both ways. While it has provided a huge number of people with WFH opportunity and flexible scheduling, I have found that the expectations of working hours increased, and work is now day and night, with emails coming all night long, based on the assumption that since we are at home anyway, we should be available for work until we go to sleep. It’s a little nuts.

  122. Pikachu*

    Not a parent but 100% in support of the “who cares about video!@?” thing. Part of my former company’s staff was fully remote, and everyone got by on old fashioned conference calls for years. We even managed to stay productive and profitable without video calls!

    We aren’t all Zoom shareholders. Nobody is getting paid for turning on their camera. Video is nice to have, but it doesn’t make or break output. Let it go.

  123. WantonSeedStitch*

    Remote work. I found out I was pregnant right at the start of this pandemic, and my whole pregnancy and the first year-plus of my kid’s life have taken place while I’ve been working remotely. This allows me to spend five minutes here and there throwing in a load of laundry so I have clean clothes for him, or whipping up some instant polenta so I can give it to my son at lunch time, or emptying a diaper pail. Working remotely means that when my kid has a 7 AM wake time and a 7 PM bedtime, I’m not leaving the house when he wakes up and coming home just an hour before he goes to bed. My office commute is LONG, as is the case for most people in major metro areas who can’t afford to live in the heart of the city where they work. Remote work is the only thing that has allowed me to actually parent my child.

  124. Fellow Traveller*

    I very much agree that while this has been a special brand of he!! for working parents, a lot of these practices are just about creating a humane and decent working environment – and in truth life- for everyone.
    One thing I think of a lot is the difference between flexibility and autonomy. I think what I really want is the latter.
    Also- I would love to see more people in upper management and leadership roles be visible as parents or caregivers. So many upper managers I know have stay at home spouses and can work unending hours. Even they say they want to give us flexibility to take the time when we need it, if we don’t see them taking time off to prioritize non-work things (be it kids, parents, relatives, what not…) it going to create an environment where we feel like we are less valuable workers when we need to prioritize those things.
    Dial down the urgency. i think we need to re-set the pace of things when possible. This is of course a bigger issue about the pace of the global marketplace and rat race.
    In terms of tangible things- back up child care resources would be great. I know one work place that offers childcare subsidies and another that has a membership at one of those “last minute nanny” services. If my job absolutely needs me to be on site then it would be great if when childcare emergencies come up they can also help provide some kind of support. Or… my work should be structured so that I’m not the only one who can do that specific on-site task. I realize that this probably isn’t feasible for many small businesses, but i think all workplaces should have solid contingency plans in place. Not even just for parents, but if I’ve learned anything these past two years it’s that everyone is vulnerable and workplaces need to have plans so that people don’t feel like the option is coming in to work and spreading COVID or losing their job. Someone having to be out should not be an emergency situation.

  125. HomerJaySimpson*

    When the pandemic started, I had a one year old and we both got the flu literally the first week of lockdown , and my boss was NOT cool about it. I got pestered twice daily demanding to know what my temperature was, bullied into going to Urgent Care (when most of the medical facilities in the area were saying not to come in with flulike symptoms), and it was over a week before anyone remembered that I was a single mother at home sick with a sick kid and reached out to ask if I needed anything. F**k them people. When I got better, I had a new direct supervisor (who reported to my old boss) who I had to make reports to every other hour about how much work I got done. Spoilers: Not much! But that supervisor was great, because even though he was required to report to the boss every other hour, he would aggregate the work done by his reports, to keep me out from under the microscope (ie our numbers were a little bit lower than other groups, but it wasn’t so clear that I was seriously behind, so I didn’t get in trouble). The boss still sucked, because when I pointed out that the targets we were set were optimistic under ideal circumstances, he shrugged and basically said that I needed to figure it out.
    Good supervisor, bad boss.

  126. Green Banana*

    I thought my approach of “silent solidarity or whatever” was actually helping working moms in this situation. I’ve been cancelling meetings, rescheduling as needed, only asking for information if I absolutely have to, acknowledging how difficult it must be – a lot of the tactics that are posted in other comments actually. But what I find is that I still get snapped at and impatient sighs because I can’t possibly have any understanding of how difficult it must be. So I guess my suggestion is just to as a childfree worker – outright tell me what’s helpful and I’ll do it.

    1. Overeducated*

      Hey, I’m sorry people have been snapping at you – it probably doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong, just that people are really frustrated and not great at keeping it to themselves. I DO appreciate that “silent solidarity” in the form of flexibility and acceptance without questioning from my colleagues. I bet at least some of yours do, too, because you’re being empathetic and we all need that. Please take this validation from a stranger if you don’t get it from your coworkers!

      1. Green Banana*

        Thank you for this. I will also keep my frustration to myself as I know it’s not personal. Hoping these crazy times are coming to an end.

    2. Daisy Gamgee*

      I just want to agree with Overeducated so you have two appreciative strangers validating you. When one day (we hope) this is all over and your coworkers have room to breathe they’ll realize how much you did not contribute to their stress and they’ll appreciate it. *cheers you on*

  127. Catie*

    Just realizing that life is a bit crazy, especially when daycare is closed for weeks AND THEN your entire family gets Covid. I am so lucky my childless co-workers are amazing and supportive. My boss does not expect me to work a traditional 9-5 when my 2.5 year old daughter is home because daycare is closed. I answer emails at 4am, sometimes 10pm etc. I haven’t missed a deadline yet, but I sooo appreciate that the normal “business hours” are not a concern as long as my work gets done at some point. My job is also fully remote which really helps, although I realize not every job can be done from home.

    I’ve also come to realize that just because someone doesn’t have children doesn’t mean that Covid isn’t affecting them and causing stress. I have to admit at first I used to think “what do they have to complain about!” but actually everyone has different stressors and have needed different types of support when it comes to work over the last couple years. I now try to be super flexible/ open-minded when I know my co-workers have things going on outside of work that are stressful, regardless of family status. If I’m able I also try to help with work if it’s needed. I think it works both ways. Also, we should normalize taking mental health days…for all!

    1. junior*

      omg so much this.
      It is so incredibly out of touch when our leadership says “just hire a nanny!” Even nanny-shares are too pricey for my family, and we’re doing pretty well.

  128. Swingbattabatta*

    Currently balancing urgent work deadlines with a 2 year old home because of COVID exposure. In the name of all that is good, please do not send an email asking a question and then move on that question before I’ve had a chance to answer (especially if it has only been 10 minutes). Sometimes I’m in the middle of making mac and cheese or putting the kid down and need to not worry that somebody is about to do something that will require a ton of unraveling just because I couldn’t respond immediately.

  129. RG*

    Great thread. I haven’t read through all the responses yet, but one thing I’d really love would be for organisations to hire enough people so that if staff are off – for childcare closures, illness, etc – it is not catastrophic for the organisation. Right now whenever someone on my small, overstretched team goes down – which is inevitable – it’s chaos. Hire more people, so we can each do less, and when folks have to be off they can genuinely be off instead of keeping impossible wheels spinning.

  130. Castle Librarian*

    1. Let me leave my camera off for meetings–now I can pump/nurse during a call.
    2. Help to take my urgent tasks.
    3. You know those things I like to volunteer for? Like staffing a booth or setting up a display? Volunteer to do those things first/instead
    4. Organize literally anything. A lunch, a meal, etc.
    5. End meetings on time
    6. Flexible schedules obviously help me, but as a coworker, I need you to get your things done on time so that I can actually work on them during my flexed schedule.
    7. Standing meetings are a blessing
    8. Please please please recognize that 1 30 minute wellcheck for my child means 1.5 hours out of the building. I have to drive to daycare, drive to the doc, have the appointment, drive back to daycare, and then back to work. Likely, I need to use the restroom, pump for my other baby, and maybe eat. And then catch up on whatever I missed while I was gone.
    9. Trust me to know my capacity. If I say I can take something on, trust me that I can. I know my workload down to the minute. I know what I have time for.

  131. Sparrow*

    I haven’t read every comment yet so apologies if this has been said already, but: respect parents’ risk tolerances for their families! I have an unvaccinated 3-year-old and an infant, so yeah, I’m going to be more cautious about coming in in-person and masking and distancing than my coworker who has vaccinated teenage or adult children. I’m tired of feeling like I’m living in a totally different world from everyone else.

    And there are going to be some things I just can’t do – like, I was asked to staff an overnight family retreat recently and with an unvaccinated infant who is exclusively breastfed, there is just no way. I’d need to bring the baby with me, which I can’t do because she’s unvaccinated, but I can’t just leave her home either.

  132. Too Old for Mom Jeans*

    I would say that for me, the biggest thing is trying to truly get yourself to have some grace and to push aside your annoyance. Most parents know when they’re dropping balls at work and this month has been a particularly hard one with Omicron surging. So if a parent who’s usually a high performer says ‘ i’m so sorry I haven’t gotten that to you yet’, or ‘I’m so sorry I am behind on this report’— I think a huge gift you can give is to just take them at face value and say ‘no worries. I know you’ll do it when you can’ and truly mean it. Even if, to be honest-it is something that’s causing you worry and stress. Just give them the gift of acting unperturbed. It can truly help!

  133. Public Sector Manager*

    My son was 5 when the pandemic started and several of the people I manage have had kids during the pandemic and right before. Here is a summary of the different things we’ve done that have worked well for people (plus we’re all salaried, so flexibility is easier):

    1. Allow a split shift. I have one person on my team who only has child care until noon. So she works 8 am to noon, takes the afternoon off, and finishes up work in the evening when her spouse is home.

    2. Allow a reduced schedule. I’ve had two of the new parents on my team, after they came back from maternity leave, take Mondays or Fridays off for 6-7 months to bond with their newborn.

    3. As some people have noted above, avoid scheduling meetings during school pick-up and drop-off times. A lot of us have this problem, so we just block out half-hour chunks during the day on our office calendar. It works well for everyone.

    4. Let people be off camera for Zoom. Whether it’s kids mugging for the camera during Zoom (my son’s favorite) or a Zoom meeting is a convenient time to nurse or pump, any sort of requirement that people need to be “seen” on Zoom is ridiculous.

    5. Schedule even quick calls or be patient for a return call. For the first year of the pandemic, my son was home attending school through Zoom. Nothing was worse than getting a call for a quick question and then having to go in another room or outside because on-line school was too loud! It was great to be able to schedule a time to talk or return calls when school was quieter than other times.

    6. If you have time, send an email rather than do a quick call. All the parents on my team love this. It allows them to respond when the baby is down for a nap, while at the store, or when they’re in the school parking lot waiting for their kids to get out.

    7. If there is a demand, schedule informal outdoor get togethers with the rest of the team working from home and allow everyone to bring their kids and babies. My team has done this multiple times and we will meet up at a park, in someone’s yard, or on their back deck. It’s a great way to connect with coworkers without commuting into the office and employees with little ones at home don’t have to feel physically trapped at home during the workday.

  134. Mom of Boys*

    I was JUST having this conversation with a coworker yesterday. Mom of a 2 and 5 year old here. What would help us working parents IS – 1. the flexibility to work from home when our kids have to quarantine from school, and for us to be the judges of when that’s necessary, 2. to not be threatened to continually have to use our own leave when circumstances – like a school exposure – are out of our control, because teleworking while providing childcare is *impossible* (it’s not, we did it the first few months of the pandemic), 3. to not default to moms bearing the brunt of these working parent burdens because career inequities are still a thing, 4. grocery/meal/cleaning service vouchers (we are surviving, not living), 5. vaccinations for children under 5 to ease the worry of parents of tiny unprotected children, 6. raises/promotions/bonuses for all, not just working parents, because who has ever tried to navigate a world like this one……that’s just a short list.

  135. Stalking Sarah*

    -don’t schedule meetings at the beginnings and the ends of days, when we are running to and from pick-up/drop-off
    -don’t judge us for being off camera, or if the camera is on, what we or our backgrounds look like
    -ask about our kids periodically! bonus points for saying things like, “How is little Arya doing after the bout with Omicron?”
    -when we have a last minute schedule change, say things like, “I totally get it. We’ll take care of it/reschedule/punt until next week.”
    -Wear your fucking mask!
    -Let employees work a flexible schedule whenever possible, shifting hours or days as needed to cover childcare
    -Let employees use sick time (or better yet, COVID leave) to be home with kids whose school is virtual or daycare is canceled
    -While we’re at it, just go ahead and increase your PTO for everyone.
    -Allow people to flex their FTE down if they want to, even if it’s just temporary.
    -Pay attention to when your local school system goes virtual, and reach out to parents to ask how they’re doing

  136. LMG*

    My brain is beyond fried. Please, if you already have a project management system in your organization please USE it to schedule tasks you need me to do. Don’t count on my remembering something from a meeting like I did pre-pandemic.

    Echo 1000x the comments on evaluating whether you really need a meeting—especially weekly standing meetings. And please don’t call directly after meeting to “just follow up quickly”—these are never less than 30 minutes and should be a meeting.

    1. Clare*

      Yes! We pay for this expensive project/workflow management software, please use it. I imagine it would be helpful for many employees regardless of parental status, but I’m trying to juggle so many things it’s really helpful if people put to dos in the system that was designed for them.

  137. acallidryas*

    There are so many great comments here. I want to add a couple things:

    For work, a lot of people have mentioned that we can’t just jump on a call and need to work around a lot of other schedules right now. If the kids are doing virtual school, that lunch time is non-negotiable. I was fortunate that my direct supervisor understood when I said “The virtual school lunch is from 11:45 to 12:30 and I have to get food on the table then, and Mondays and Tuesdays I’m in charge of snacks and getting the youngest to nap, so I will have that blocked on my schedules.” But not everyone did, and it was impossible to try have a meeting and do a nap routine at the same time. So just honoring the schedules that have been agreed to outside of an emergency.

    For general assistance, this isn’t a work requirement at all, but I will mention that all of us parents feel like we are failing at everything right now and feel so bad for kids who have had their interactions with other people thrown out of whack, even where school is in session. I had a work friend offer to listen to a kid talk about Doc McStuffins for 10 minutes while I finished fixing a presentation and it was everything. I don’t expect that of anyone, and it’s not a sensible work policy, but if anyone is thinking through how to help a good work friend struggling with young kids during a meeting, that can be *amazing*.

  138. junior*

    Be kind. It’s as simple as that, be kind.

    I’m not expecting anyone to pick up any of my slack (there is none, I’m rocking it), I’m not expecting to be able to work less, I’m not expecting anything.

    But when you are rude, short, curt, and unhelpful, and I’ve been averaging 12 hour days with 4 hours of sleep and 8 hours of childcare for WEEKS, it starts to get to me.

    It costs you LITERALLY NOTHING to just NOT be mean. That’s all I’m asking. I don’t expect respect, or help, or time, or money. If y’all could just be a little nicer, that would do it for me.

    1. The Rat-Catcher*

      ^^ this, right here. Yeah, maybe I left at noon the other day because school closed unexpectedly. But I also covered for you when you went to all those doctor’s appointments with your mom. And I got up early the day you were scheduled early but got sick. And I worked extra when you went on vacation so you wouldn’t come back to a mess. And not once did I say anything like “guess I’m being punished for being healthy/having a healthy mom.” So just…stop.

  139. AnotherSarah*

    OOOH. Another one. If it is not your responsibility to give/deny accomodations (WFH, flex time, whatever), don’t chime in when someone says “I’m going to request x.” I do not need to hear my non-supervisory colleague’s opinion on how things are going to be different in a month or I shouldn’t worry or or or.

    1. Clare*

      Yes, seconding this. A peanut gallery (especially a negative one) is never helpful. If it affects you or you want to work from home as well, then speak to your manager! But I don’t manage anyone so I can’t set WFH schedules and I don’t need anyone complaining about mine/opining about when quarantines will finally end when I’m trying to discuss how I’m getting through this week with my manager.

  140. Chuggachoochoo*

    I suppose this is a general management comment and not specific to parents, but avoid passive aggression. In December my boss said to me, “I’m just worried you won’t have any sick time left when you really need it” and I am still stewing over it. I’m not taking sick time because I want to, I am taking sick time because I am quarantined at home with a 2 year old! I do really need it right now, and frankly, more would be great!

  141. Laetitia*

    I need you to know that when I quit, it had nothing to do with you. I genuinely love my job and my team but the workload and pay are not worth the excruciating stress I am under.

  142. Maybe not.*

    Don’t require on-camera online meetings (or put on pressure to be on camera). I am doing great. My work is fine. But I am lucky if I get 10 minutes to myself to take a shower until after bedtime. So I will not be on camera looking professional and ready for work. But I am working. Hard.

  143. Bob Loblaw's Law Blog*

    Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility! I have one kid who got covid two week before his 5th birthday (and eligibility for the vaccine) and have been through one daycare quarantine for my toddler. Both happened with zero warning or abillity to plan in advance beyond the general notice of “we’re in a pandemic still and this can happen at any moment.” I’ve been able to email my co-workers that I am suddenly mostly unavailable and people have generally been very understanding, but it sucks. While it’s not ideal parenting, I can at least stick my now 5 year old in front of a screen if I need a few minutes for a call or to work on something but the toddler is in full “eat a random speck of dirt off the ground or otherwise severely injure myself if you take your eyes off me for a second” mode and truly cannot be left unsupervised if he’s awake. I feel bad for the burdens it shifts onto coworkers and clients but my productivity drops to like 40% (if I’m lucky) when I have the kids home from school/daycare and this is *with* my husband taking a lot of the care on himself (you can’t use emergency care if you’re in quarantine because of covid or an exposure). His work has family/covid leave that he can use but mine does not. On the one hand, my bosses and coworkers have all been pretty understanding so far, but it also sucks because I know it’s setting me back professionally. I work at a law firm and billable hour goals are what they are with not that much flexibility. I can and do get grace in the moment, but it doesn’t affect the somewhat binary yes/no of whether or not I make my hours. I don’t want there to be a different standard for parents because that’s unfair to other people, but part of me also wishes I weren’t being penalized for being in such a tough situation. So basically, a ton of flexibility and understanding is what I need but also maybe some generosity in the evaluation/compensation/promotion discussion.

  144. AlsoMom*

    Please acknowledge we exist! And it’s hard! And it’s gendered!

    Most of my co-workers don’t have young children. Company seems more concerned about upsetting them than anything else. I am worried about my job and health, and frazzled, and living in filth. Yet company line is “pandemic is hard for everyone! Take care of yourself!” even in direct response to questions about school closures. Not only is there no support, there is no discussion or acknowledgement.

    There is genuine gaslighting going on at some workplaces about the state of being a working mother in 2022.

    1. NervousNellie*

      I wonder if it could make sense for the company to put aside 2, 1.5 hour blocks each week for “workspace management” which would really translate to “walk the dog, clean up the laundry, vacuum home office, unfuck habitat.”

  145. Bookworm*

    I haven’t had to deal with this too much but if it helps: I really do enjoy seeing your kids on the call. Maybe it’s not so fun for you (and I get that!) but it’s not something I mind at all. If it helps them or you, it doesn’t matter if they’re babbling away unless it gets to the point where we can’t understand each other or you can’t focus on the meeting because they’re throwing things at you or their siblings, etc. No pressure of course and wouldn’t want them to be on camera if they don’t want to but interruptions are fine. You want to do audio only or calls? Fine. Prefer email/text? Fine. Happy to work within reason.

    1. Lizianna*

      A few months ago, I had to watch my friend’s daughter in a pinch, she got called into an emergency in-office meeting so I picked her daughter up from school along with my son, and kept her for a couple hours until my friend could come get her.

      While I was on my weekly 1-on-1 with my boss, my son and my friend’s daughter went flying by in batman masks and capes. It felt so chaotic and stressful to me, but he found it delightful.

      He still laughs about it (in a kind way). When I had to recertify that my home work environment was safe for telework, he mentioned that he feels especially good signing mine because I have 2 batmen there to protect me.

      The good humor really does make a difference.

  146. Idaho'n*

    Please only schedule meetings that are needed. On my calendar is long-standing weekly one-on-one on-camera meeting at 8:30am. To get to this meeting on time I get up extra early to shower/dress appropriately and rush to get my kids to daycare/school. Several times 5 minutes before the meeting I have received a message that says something along the lines of, “I don’t have anything specific to meet about and I have other work that I need to get done today, so let’s skip this week’s meeting.” While it may feel like a gift to cancel a meeting, it is super irritating. I took time to prepare things to share, got my family out of bed earlier than usual and pretty much threw my kid out the window while I passed their school so I could be on time. Be respectful of my time.

    Second item, don’t assume that since everyone without family responsibilities is more available and willing to be inconvenienced are better candidates for promotion and raises. Nothing stinks more than finding the ability to work smarter (out of necessity) and be skipped over for opportunities because it’s easiest to find someone else. Just because I am currently confined by the state of the world doesn’t mean I don’t want to advance my career. Anyone who has taken maternity leave can tell you it pauses your career progression in most cases. Having a family during a pandemic has the same effect of eternal maternity leave.

  147. Shannon*

    Realize that we’re not the best version of ourselves right now. We’re hanging on by a thread and everything is getting the absolute required output. There’s not a lot left in the tank. So if we’re not jumping at excitement for a cool new project or don’t seem as creative – understand that we’re still in survival mode. Survival mode doesn’t allow for extras. We’re aware of it, we hate it, and we want it to change. We already feel super shitty about it and know we’re not doing anything particularly well right now. Understand that we’re all just waiting to find enough time to have the mental breakdown we deserve (lol).

    And, if it’s little shit, like, truly little shit – don’t bring it up. Just please let it go and know that when we’re back to a more refreshed and balanced level, we’ll have the space to discuss. Don’t add anything extra right now, no rotating duties for various things that seem fun. And please for the love of god, no extra required time for teambuilding.

  148. AlsoMom*

    Honestly some of the comments here make me despair. We have to have kids in our society. I made the personal choice to have kids. I have a great stable career, home, money, family, everything to do it “right” in our society where only those who want children and can support them should do so.

    Right now I cannot pay for someone to watch my kids (quarantined) and they are too little to be left alone unsupervised. So what do we do now? Government has abandoned us (no more Covid leave!). Science got it wrong (oops vaccine was TOO little!). Individuals are protecting their own health by not watching potentially sick children. The last line of support is the parents.

    There is no one and nothing else left to help many of us. Parents work. And many don’t now because companies don’t support parents, who are in crisis.

    Should co-workers have to pick up slack? No. Should companies need to give extra leave to parents? No. But no other help is available.

    Since parents are on their own, and they work, companies and coworkers are affected. That’s terrible. What individuals can do is encourage and vote for policies that take companies and coworkers out of the equation. I don’t want to have favors from my company. If society needs children it should be set up to support those children. Just as health insurance has become entwined with employment so too has childcare.

    1. AlsoMom*

      Tl;dr individuals please don’t be mad at your parent coworkers or managers or company, be mad that society has failed parents and made it an employer problem

      1. Paperdill*

        Yes yes yes.
        Children are part of society. They are part of the community EVERYONE lives in. And while personal choice to have children is a thing, these children will grow up and we want them to be useful members of society that will work, contribute to the economy, do our taxes, provide our groceries, prescribe us medicine and shower us when we can’t do it ourselves – not steal our tv. Children and their parents are WORTH investing in.

  149. meagain*

    Hi! I think a topic on being an involuntary childless person in the workplace would also be a really helpful, often not discussed, and such an important topic. Jody Day of Gateway Women (a network for women worldwide who are childless not by choice, either through infertility or social circumstances) is a psychotherapist and great expert on this topic. She has a Ted Talk where she states that “women without children in the workplace is the biggest diversity issue HR hasn’t heard of.” I think Jody would be an amazing resource to do a Q&A with on this topic, as it’s often so invisible in the workplace and so many workplace policies are focused on being “family friendly” instead of “woman friendly.”

    Jody’s Ted Talk:

    And this a great post about how mothers can be allies to childless – the same way the want support as well:

    The blog post is very poignant:

    Anyways, I think Jody could be an amazing resource to present the other side to the blogpost today and also about bridging the gap. She is on Twitter @gatewaywomen and really an international thought leader on this topic

  150. Former Young Lady*

    Childless remote worker here in the cheap seats, with two ideas:

    – Let me sell my excess accrued vacation hours back to the company. If I don’t have to worry about burning up “use it or lose it” days, I’ll be that much more available to help cover for people with family obligations. We’re short-staffed anyway, and I’m not going anywhere. Get that liability off the company’s books and let me do the same with a few of my own.
    – If it would let me donate my excess accrued sick leave to my coworkers, I could help cover their time off to care for sick kids. Let me give some of those days to the new mom on our team and the dad with three kids doing in-person school during a pandemic.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I love your second idea in particular. We can sometimes donate leave when someone has a medical emergency—it would be nice to be able to donate to people who are out of paid leave but need to be with their kids during quarantines and school closures.

  151. Sam*

    Be flexible. I work in a service profession that requires coverage on evenings and weekends. I have two kids under 3 and can’t jump in when someone calls out. I wish those with more flexibility in their lives would pitch in more.

  152. Chilly Delta Blues*

    Stop requiring me to travel for things that really could be handled over the phone. I have to fly three states away to meet with 4 sites next week. In 2020 this was done on video calls I could schedule but suddenly when things are worse it’s decided that I have to physically go in person even when I have a high risk husband and a two year old at home. Also it’s more risk for the sites because they have to brave some crazy winter weather to come see me at the office when most are already working from home or are seriously limiting essential staff.

  153. Paperdill*

    Mum of 3, the youngest of which just started school this week (sob), working part time for a government service with very well regulated rules and benefits.
    Things that I am grateful for:
    – understanding that I can’t take the “weird” shifts often (evenings, weekends) because of childcare and I am massively grateful to my colleagues who take on extras (and they prefer sleepins anyway)
    – flexibility flexibility flexibility – times, places, formats, all the things
    – I love that you offer a work from home option, but I can’t work at home with my kids so being able to come into a relatively empty and safe office is better for me.
    – colleagues and managers understanding and enforcing finish times so that I could get to day care pick ups on time
    – the general understanding from people above and below me that I am not in a place for career advancement and hustle, right now. Not everyone wants or needs to ascend the professional ranks – working well and hard in the position you are in is 100% ok.

  154. Lizianna*

    Be willing to trade projects that allow for more flexibility if you don’t need it.

    At the beginning of the pandemic, our team was looking at our workload. Some of the work had to be done by a certain date, and involved a lot of work that had to happen during regular working hours.

    Other projects were just as much work, but didn’t have as tight of deadlines and/or could be done in off hours if needed.

    One of my colleagues who doesn’t have kids volunteered to take on some of my less flexible projects if I could take on his more flexible projects.

    It was the same amount of work for both of us, but it was such a help to have the more urgent, time sensitive, things-fall-apart-if-they’re-not-done-this-instant work taken off my plate, and be given work that was longer term, it’s-okay-if-it-sits-for-a-few-days-as-long-as-it-gets-done work.

  155. EAC*

    I have told my own coworkers this but one of the things I really need is for them to give me a deadline when they ask for help/need to discuss a situation/want me to review something. I can usually find enough time to get everything done, but the stress of worrying about whether I’m getting back to someone too late or whether I can prioritize other things gets to me. Telling me, it’s non-urgent or can wait until next week when you send me the question allows me to get to everything in the right order and lets me know when I TRULY need to work a little late or whether I can go give me kid some of the attention he deserves.

  156. Anon for this*

    I just did a solo presentation in front of our entire department (including my boss) that was repeatedly interrupted by my kid having a total screaming meltdown. As a working parent, there is nothing more mortifying, stressful, and humiliating, because you have to choose between:

    a) being a professional and carrying on with your presentation, meaning you ignore your kid and pretend you (and everybody else) can’t hear the screaming and pounding on the door, while worrying that your coworkers are now judging you for being a terrible parent

    b) pausing the presentation to attend to your kid, meaning you leave your coworkers staring at a frozen screen and your boss trying to cover for you until you return, while worrying that your coworkers are now judging you for being a terrible presenter

    Coworkers can help the working parent by providing verbal and written encouragement in the chat when this happens. I was nearly in tears, but a few kind colleagues sent chats about “You are an amazing parent” and “You handled that with as much grace as possible,” “You’re doing great!” etc. That type of on-the-spot encouragement can help someone recover and move forward with the presentation.

  157. Anna*

    I think throughout this pandemic, it became so clear to many of us parents who were lucky enough to work from home, that spending upwards of 5-10 hours a week away from our kids, was never a reasonable expectation when for many of us, remote work was so much more efficient. Obviously not everyone feels this way, and I’m not saying anything against the parents who need to get out, just to have some time to themselves! But employers need to be a lot more flexible with accommodating different working styles and preferences as long as the same output is the result. If I have to commute an hour, pick one kid up at daycare and another at school, what does that leave for me at the end of the day, as a mom or as an employee (and as a human!)

  158. imtiredyo*

    Just… don’t be a you-know-what. We are people too. We are also frustrated. We hate canceling meetings, rescheduling, or pushing out deadlines. It’s hard to ask for help. We are tired.

    Many have said it but GRACE. Give it to get it. You never know when you are going to be in someone else’s shoes.

  159. Inge*

    Be clear about boundaries, and what you are and are not able to do. I always felt sooooooo guilty running out of work before my coworker… until one day she said something like “oh I don’t mind, except Fridays, I like to make sure I get out on time to meet my friends”. Speaking of going out, my coworkers would go out a lot… impromptu. I was always invitited, but couldn’t swing the last minute child care. It’s a big ask… but consider planning ahead sometimes. (I solved this myself by just arranging a drink night in advance a few times)

  160. Laura*

    Please just show up. I am a manager and so many people call in each week because of last minute schedule changes etc. that can be pre-planned and if you are sick, please stay home! You will most definitely get everyone else sick.

  161. Lps*

    Working mom of 2. My coworkers have been great at taking and sharing notes for meetings that just don’t work with my schedule. Having a flexible start and end time has been a lifesaver. Mornings are just too hectic in my house but everything’s calm in the afternoon and evening. Also, please look at my outlook calendar before scheduling anything. I live and die by it.

  162. Marian*

    My work turned out to be really supportive and helpful. We lost daycare for 14 months but I kept my job thanks to my company / coworkers’ support. And because I was able to be in a mostly remote position, which of course not everyone can do.

    #1 – encouraged people to work remote
    #2 – near-complete freedom for flexible hours (I worked weekends and nights for over a year in a consultant position. I had some really stellar coworkers too who were willing to meet me after their normal hours to help me with mentoring)
    #3 – ability to go below 40 hours and keep my position (as a consultant I’m paid hourly anyway)
    #4 – general kindness and support from coworkers – no rolling eyes when my kid is banging on the door in the background, asking me if I’m ok, checking in on workload.

    I’m planning to stay with my current company longer than I would have otherwise – I just don’t want to sacrifice good coworkers and flexible hours, even though I could probably up my salary if I looked around.

  163. Danielle K.*

    I have a 4 year old daughter and a remote full time job.

    For me, it helps when co-workers show some grace.

    Like, when my daughter was home sick this week, they proactively offered to reschedule meetings that day.

    If my daughter pops up while I’m on an internal meeting, they say hi to her and I let out the breath I didn’t even realize I was holding.

    This whole pandemic feels like constantly bet told everything is fine when the house is on fire.

    And honestly, ask your co-workers what you can do to help if anything.

  164. Never Read the Comments*

    I’m on the trying to help end of this question.

    My company has always been fully remote, and really family friendly. However, the pandemic has just been rough on parents, particularly single parents.

    While my kid is school aged and vaccinated, during the beginning of the pandemic when we were remote schooling and my kid’s father wasn’t picking them up and I had literally no help though I probably had the best working conditions, I felt like I was drowning.

    Now that things are mostly back to normal for me, someone I work closely with (think llama groomer to llama handler), has an under one with all of the nursery closings, no help and it feels like she’s where I was a year ago.

    I was really honest with her about what I went through and what helped me like just hearing I was doing a good job, people acknowledging the situation was impossible, taking advantage of our free counseling.

    I’ve also told her that I’m aware she’s trying to get things done at odd hours and to text me if she needs to for work product she needs answers for. I may tell her I’m busy with family or can’t get to it or I may know the answer off the top of my head, or I may not mind hopping on really quick to help out, but at least she’s not waiting on me to do what she can at whatever time she’s able.

    1. Late as usual*

      Your experience helps remind me that if you are a parent please don’t compare your parenting your under 5 child 10-15 years ago to what those of us are dealing with now. My boss is wonderful in many ways, and she means well, but I find it very challenging listening to her offer advise to me, when it’s things like hire a nanny or au pair, hire a cleaning service, etc. One, as if I want strangers in my home, and two as if any of those options are even remotely affordable to me.

      1. Never Read the Comments*

        So true. And even though what I went through with trying to homeschool an 8 year old and work and take care of life stuff was horrible.

        I can’t imagine trying to be there with a kid who needs to be fed and changed and held on the regular.

        I think I’m going to message her tomorrow to tell her she’s doing a good job.

  165. Ask a Manager* Post author

    All comments on this post are now going through moderation so there will be a delay before they appear (and comments not following the request at the top of this page will not be released).

  166. Maestra*

    Teacher here who had a pandemic baby (and 2 older children too).

    What helped me the most when I was working from home and on zoom was when colleagues would jump in and take over if they saw that I was getting distracted/interrupted by a small human. I did the same for my colleagues.

    Once my daughter started to have a tantrum during an IEP meeting that I was leading; the speech pathologist noticed my nonverbal cues and just took over the meeting seemlessly. My stress level in the moment decrease so much

    Once during a committee meeting after hours I was very active during a breakout session. When we returned to the main committee, our breakout chair asked if I could present, not noticing the small head that had just popped up in my video. (The small head that appeared to be talking and talking and talking.) At least two other, nonparents by the way, jumped in and offered to present instead.

    I, like many people, don’t like to ask for help so people reading the room and seeing when I needed help was a lifesaver.

  167. Late as usual*

    Late to the party per usual, but aside from flexibility and remote work (which I am very fortunate to have), offer paid caregiving leave. I am the single parent to a two year old. Last fall my mom had a stroke and died a few weeks later. I burned through almost all my PTO and I ended up working as she was dying simply because I knew I couldn’t afford to be completely unpaid when my sons daycare had a COVID closure. Especially knowing that my mom would no longer be around to help with childcare. I was not covered by FLMA.

    I think many employees whether they have children or not would benefit from knowing that they had a bank of leave to use specifically for caregiving of some type. Be that for a parent, grandparent, child, or partner.

  168. Woah*

    I have a really good work place, and one thing I appreciate is that I havent had to use all my vacation and sick time to care for my kids. I get sick too and I’d still like to go camping for a few days in summer. We’re all trying to build a new normal and the new normal shouldn’t be “every drop of PTO goes to caring for your kids because all of other systems failed.” I work some strange hours trying to fit everything in, but I appreciate that too.

  169. Cheapassrolls.*

    How about this. Don’t schedule meeting when you know it’s going to be a hardship. Boss schedules meeting for 830 when she knows I have drop off. I arrange someone else to drop kid at school so I don’t have to ask her to move meeting. At meeting boss says surprised you didn’t complain since I know this is when you drop off. Simply put, do not make things harder than they have to be and be a decent human.

  170. moss*

    Part of the systemic problem with business is the idea of cutting any spare capacity to the bone. The pandemic showed how fragile the “just in time” mentality is. Having no inventory and no excess capacity because you think the supply chain will continue to function perfectly is the reason we are now seeing chips shortages which leads to automobile manufacturing problems.

    From a human resource perspective the trend in the past has been to squeeze out every drop of capacity from each individual. There’s no business model where you hire enough people to make sure everyone can give a good 75% so that if something unexpected pops up there’s still capacity to handle it.

    Instead, business wants everyone to give 110% , 110% of the time. Then when there’s a hitch in the way society operates, the whole thing breaks down. It’s a lack of planning and foresight that leads to everyone–caregiver or no– feeling exhausted and drained all the time.

    I think we need to redefine at least for ourselves what it means to be a good employee and bring humanity’s frailties back into the equation not because it’s a weakness but because working together is our greatest strength.

    Zero excess capacity means zero flexibility and that’s no way to plan a future for your business.

  171. greenius*

    Thanks for this thread.
    For me, it is incredibly valuable when my coworkers acknowledge how difficult and bizarre this situation is. I have a 4 year old and a 6 month old. There have been exactly 7 days in 2022 where they both had a full day of childcare.

    It’s 6:00 am where I am. I’ve been up since 4:30 when my sick baby puked on me. I have an especially long work day ahead of me, because a technical issue was discovered yesterday that resulted in my team suddenly having two hours of mandatory overtime today. I was able to extend my preschooler’s hours at daycare, but the baby isn’t allowed back until next week. My husband had already contorted his work schedule as much as he could to cover my normal working schedule. So I’ll just be taking care of a sick baby for a few hours while I cover the phone lines and start working through this massive backlog of work that was just unstuck. I don’t know how I’m going to get through today, except that my coworkers have a rough idea of what’s going on, and they’ve been gentle, and I’ve gotten through every day before.

    So yeah. Tell your caregiving coworkers that you understand that it’s harder than ever. Give them as much grace and patience and assistance as you can. Be as specific with feedback as possible (your goal is X, you only did Y, but I wouldn’t be concerned unless you had slipped as low as W). Acknowledge the noise their kids are making briefly to say it’s not a problem, and if it IS a problem excuse yourself and try again later.

  172. ObserverCN*

    For those of you who could use meal support, I’m part of a great organization called Lasagna Love that has volunteers provide free meals for anyone who needs/wants them. (It’s usually lasagna, but it doesn’t always have to be, depending on the cook.)
    You can request one here:

  173. Linnet*

    I’m home with a sick child right now and my colleagues are being fantastic.
    – understand some calls / online meetings are going to include “please can you email me that because my notes from this meeting aren’t as thorough as I’d like” or indeed “I want to understand this properly and I can’t give my full mind to it today: would it be possible to reschedule?”
    – offer to stretch your own job description a bit to cover tasks you know the parent can’t right now: time-critical client meetings? Physical access to buildings they can’t bring their children to?
    – offer swaps of regular tasks, like “why don’t I oversee the teapot production this week and you can cover my slot next week when you’re out of isolation”

  174. Not that Leia*

    These are somewhat structural (or at least company policy) suggestions, but honestly, that’s what would help. Also, these 100% should apply to everyone. I have two kids under 5, a high intensity job, reasonable childcare (minus the quarantines), and shared responsibility with my spouse and I still feel like I’m drowning—more so even than last year. I am assuming others (parents and not) are also feeling that. So:
    1. 32 hour work weeks. Seriously. It’s hard enough to fit regular life around 40 hours even in normal times.
    2. Unlimited sick/vacation. I think most people won’t try to take advantage but it would make it easier if every kid cold or daycare closure (or other life emergency!) wasn’t actively subtracting from the possibility of future time off.
    3. Workloads to match. My company is super flexible but it doesn’t matter if I still have 60 hours worth of work to do.

  175. Grotesque*

    Extend all deadlines. Any deadline that is at extendable, even by just a few days, extend it proactively. Don’t wait to be asked. Tell your colleagues to do the same. Don’t hold on to arbitrary deadlines right now, and help your colleagues with kids prioritize the little focused time they have on what truly needs doing.

  176. Anonny non*

    It is ridiculous that coworkers with older kids or with no kids are the assumed bearer of this responsibility. We have been giving extra leeway and having patience for 2 years. While dealing with our own pandemic horrors, all of which are summarily ignored by management, coworkers with young kids, etc. We don’t have anything else to give.

    The real problem is the American workplace and the absolute failure of our governments to HELP us, ALL of us. Instead of pointing fingers at each other or trying to get childless coworkers to do more work for no more money, we should be aiming this anger squarely at the government and our elected representatives- many of whom are facing reelection this year.

    1. Clare*

      Alison asked what would help working parents of young children, and we’re answering. I don’t know why a direct question of “what can your coworkers do to help you?” is being met with people being surprised at the audacity that people will answer the question in the comments.

  177. Workingmom*

    Normalize keeping cameras off during calls. Being a working parent means multitasking and juggling, whether it’s dashing out while someone else is speaking to switch a load of laundry, or taking calls while driving to the pediatrician. It is so much easier to be on equal footing with my colleagues if I don’t have to explain every time my camera is off, and the pressure to keep it on makes my life harder.

  178. Daphne C.*

    I haven’t tracked the whole long thread, so apologies if this has come up – but if you’re a manager or supervisor, it can help a lot if you explicitly let the moms-of-small-kids on your staff know that you know life is insane right now and you appreciate all they’re having to juggle. Two weeks ago I had a crying meltdown in front of a coworker because since being hired to a new job some months ago, I’ve had to spend a ton of days home with my small kids because of daycare’s (understandable) Covid protocols, given that my kids get sick a lot and the school itself has also had three rounds of quarantine closures since summer, and it’s made it hard to do parts of my (not that easy, for various reasons) job. I had been thinking daily for the previous few weeks about whether I was going to last out my whole first year or whether I should quit, but post-meltdown (the next day) my boss asked for a Zoom because she heard I’d been upset and wanted to talk it over. She was super nice about it, and basically said she really appreciated everything I was trying to do, and that she was all right with some triaging of what things really needed to happen and what might need to take longer. And, importantly, that she thought I’d been doing fine on the job. I really appreciated all of that. It’s been easier to stay calm when we get yet more closures and home-sends, knowing that my situation is understood. That’s a privilege I don’t take lightly, but if you can verbally offer your people that kind of affirmation, maybe that’s not a total solution by itself, but it’ll still help some.

  179. Ronnica*

    All I want from coworkers is to recognize I’m not being flaky, but doing the best I can not knowing when I’ll have childcare. Keep meetings short and fruitful and send out an overview for those that missed.

  180. Mrs Magnus*

    Mother of a 17 month old but I feel like this is for everyone. Please give us the courtesy of giving us your attention when we update you on projects and hand off to you or reference back to shared calendars and project files first. Once upon a time sure once I was home it was no big deal if you shot me a quick text asking “what did you say I should do with X” or “can you send me the reference materials for Y again so I don’t have to log in” or “where do we keep Z, I know you told me but I wasn’t paying attention”. If I’m off the clock and with my son I’ll do my best to get back to you but it won’t always be as instant as you’d like. I’m not trying to be mean but while leaning on me might be easier for you it takes a toll on me. Obviously there are genuine times you need to check in but if the information you need is available via others means take that route first.

  181. Rural WA*

    I’m in Western Australia, a place with notably zero COVID until the last few weeks (Omicron has snuck through) but we’ve had lockdowns each time a community outbreak has threatened. (We’re at 20 cases a day-ish right now, and the ‘official border opening’ has been indefinitely delayed – we are a small island within a big one.)

    We sat down with our staff recently in August and asked them what they wanted. Flexibility to get kids from boarding schools in the city (3hr drive each way), flexibility to manage their workload, ability to come and go as they need to, leave to go for vaccinations and if they get sick (vaccination clinics and hospitals are hundreds of kilometres away).

    Our staff have had to endure lockdowns and work from home etc across the last two years. Our staff work in rural central wheatbelt in towns without doctors or hospitals or ambulances. They send their children to boarding school for high school and local town schools have a couple of dozen families and a few dozen kids. If anything happens they have to literally drop everything and dash the hundreds of kilometres to Perth to pick their boarding kids up (Gastro, flu, covid scare etc all closes the boarding houses immediately), and then live in near quarantine conditions with them in a community that does not want whatever plague they might be bringing back. (And the boarding schools are single-sex, so they often have to go to one, and then another, as sister school arrangements are great at spreading plague one week apart!)

    So we’ve offered a range of supports and flexibility. We’re currently in negotiations about how to pay them “COVID leave” – about 1/3 of our workforce is casual and entitled to leave – and the way the awards and working conditions are managed and legislated in WA makes it difficult to give them ‘leave’ without significant long term legal repercussions. So we’re looking at offering a ‘COVID Pandemic Incentive’ instead. It’s tricky because the casual workforce earns money based on an hourly wage and then a very healthy balloon incentive payment based on volume of work (number of teapots processed). The hourly wage is only about 1/4 of their take home pay, so obviously not something attractive to offer. Trying to work out how to keep this fair, equitable and attractive enough to retain staff is the real question. Office staff don’t earn volume incentives (but have very good employment wages and conditions), non office staff earn significantly high incentive payments but if they aren’t working then the volumes aren’t there/but can be rebooked for another time/may be lost to another staff member.

    We’ve agreed to the office based staff ‘organising themselves’ to get the work done. They know their job best, and are mature adults who can resolve any issues. They are currently working different days in the office so they don’t have to come face to face, and have separated to different workspaces as well to spread themselves around (helps with the no face to face). I’m forever thankful that they are able to sort these sorts of things out themselves, and thankfully our business rarely has “this must be done within 24hrs” as a requirement, so they can flip and move their hours around. The one with boarding students can bring those youth into work on the days she works as she’s able to isolate them from other staff. (All these staff work part time and have flexible hours.)

    We’ve given staff power to manage their own schedules – they can decide when they work on condition that they take a mandatory (legally required) 10 hour break in 24. If they want to work 10pm onwards they can (good in the heat of our summer! This is rural work in large sheds ‘sorting teapots’)… They can then arrange themselves around any other commitments they have. If they want to work less hours they can so long as we don’t lose customers (and may lose pay for this if they are casual, but we are paying three times the award rate when they are working, and customers can go to another nearby 100km location if they wish). Giving them flexibility has meant that most aren’t needing to use leave etc to get through our lockdowns. Staff who need to go for a work related COVID appointment (ie we are part of the vaccine mandate to stay open) can be paid for the time including travel hours (if that’s the only reason to go, most tie in a shopping trip and a weekend with the kids etc at the same time… that isn’t work related).

    Thankfully we’ve been able to avoid the worst of it so far, but COVID is here now, and not going back in the box (and we don’t really want it to, we need to learn to live with it – we’re going to have to run the gauntlet), and it will be good to see if these measures are enough, and I eternally grateful that our staff are capable of resolving and working with whatever comes. I am sure we will have to tweak more and more – the staff’s youth can’t come into the office and do school from home on our internet (we just don’t have the bandwidth!), but they can work from home around their youth. I have the youngest kids (not yet boarding age, firmly in primary school) and we swap stories but generally I can organise as best I can them out from under foot and then work at night knowing that the staff will pick up my emails in the morning and ring if it’s urgent. It’s worked well enough through the six weeks of lockdown we’ve done so far. Who knows what it will be like as the future unfolds. One week back at school and eight schools already in 14 days quarantine for exposures.

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