my employee didn’t want the post-baby flexibility I arranged for her

A reader writes:

One of the people on my team announced she was pregnant. I was thrilled for her and wanted to be a supportive manager. Our company is too small to qualify for FMLA but we do have our own program that allows for 12 weeks of paid medical leave. I went beyond that and allowed her eight extra weeks of paid leave on top of that, plus as much vacation time as she wanted to use. We’re too small for this to be required by law, but I was able to convert one of our old spaces into a pumping room with a locking door, chair, sink, and outlet and we told her we would pay her for her pumping breaks. I also set up a flexible schedule for when she returned to work. I looked into our insurance plan and found out she could get a pump covered and I sent her info on that.

I was surprised that she chose to come back to work at eight weeks and not take the full medical leave or the extra time I arranged for her. She didn’t use the pumping room because she didn’t breastfeed at all, and she wouldn’t use the flexible schedule I got her. She worked her normal hours. I’m disappointed that I set all this up for her, only for her not to use any of it.

I reminded her several times about the flexible schedule and let her know breastfeeding and pumping was still possible. She says her husband works for himself and the plan was always for her to go back soon while he had the baby part-time and the baby was in daycare part-time. She said she never planned to breastfeed and formula was fine, and she told me she doesn’t feel bad for choosing to work when she could afford to stay home and not breastfeeding even though she could have.

I don’t understand why she wouldn’t want the perks I worked so hard to set up. I am disappointed in her and having a hard time getting over it. I had to quit my job when I was pregnant because there was no support for working moms. I’m having a hard time understanding why she wouldn’t want the perks I would have killed for back then. She went right back to work like she never even left. I admit I’m at a loss.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 259 comments… read them below }

  1. LTR FTW*

    Hooo boy. Yeah, you can’t get mad at someone else for not breastfeeding, OP. I know people get very judgy about this, but I would be beyond livid if my *boss* acted like I was doing something wrong for not breastfeeding my kid. That’s waaaaaay crossing boundaries.

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      There are so many reasons why a parent isn’t breastfeeding. At one extreme is a history of sexual trauma, mastectomy, or other breast surgery. At the other end is “I choose not to”. They are ALL valid and none of them are anyone else’s business.

      1. Jolene*

        Or also, I have to take a medication that I can’t take with breastfeeding. (E.g., my cousins had to take anti-seizure medicine)

        Or also, breastfeeding just didn’t work for the family. That was the case with my son – he was tongue timed, and it couldn’t be fixed until 3 days after birth, and we never really caught up. Formula gave him the food he needed, and he is not perfectly healthy and happy. I watched my friends who weren’t able to produce enough milk struggle and feel guilty and literally STARVE their babies bc the breastfeeding politics had convinced them that they might as well drop their baby off at prison if they were going to feed formula.

        Basically, mind your own business, OP.

        1. Jolene*

          *Tongue tied
          *now perfectly healthy

          (This is what happens when I try to comment on iPhone!)

          1. Lizzy*

            Me again. My son also had a tongue tie that we didn’t discover until he was about 6 weeks ago. My baby was super frustrated bc it was hard for him to eat – and breastfeeding for me = INTENSE pain and bleeding. I couldn’t understand why my friends said it was the best feeling ever / allowed them to bond. It doesn’t work for everyone. And that is ok.

            1. works with realtors*

              I thought I was a complete failure as a mom the first 8 weeks – then it turns out my kiddo had a lip tie, and we also never “caught up.” The amount of sleep I lost because I thought I had to pump all the time to make sure kiddo was 100% breastfed was my biggest regret – even though I told other people all the time that fed is best, I didn’t feel I could apply it to myself.

              OP – support her, no matter her choice. Otherwise you just are going to add to all the pressure she’s already put on herself. There’s always something we beat ourselves up about that first year of a kid’s life as their parent, don’t add to it please.

        2. Lizzy*

          This! OP doesn’t know if she’s on a medication that might not be safe to take while breastfeeding. Or maybe she just doesn’t want to breastfeed which is totally fine.

          Also – OP please tread very carefully. Not saying this is the case with your employee / but I had severe PPD with my first son. People in my life (relatives, friends, coworkers) were surprised that I was as “gushy” as they expected me to be and that I wasn’t doing things that supposedly every new mom would want to do. That just made me feel even worse and more depressed. It didn’t mean I didn’t love my baby – I was just experiencing motherhood in a different way. Please be careful about projecting your views onto someone else. I was able to avoid some of the people who made me feel bad – but she can’t avoid you if you are her boss.

        3. Teach*

          Yep, great point and I wanted to note that many of the decisions you cite here could have a number of medical reasons behind them. The baby could also have a medical need for formula and not milk (as I did). There could be post-partum mental OR physical issues at play that make it a good idea for her to be up and out of the house. Hell, her husband may even have a medical thing keeping him home. Point is, stop speculating on her personal business. If for no other reason, you might start to look discriminatory.

      2. Magenta Sky*

        “I choose not to”

        This is the only reason that matters. Why someone chooses not to is irrelevant to anyone else (except, I imagine, their partner). Getting into reasons why even speculatively is over line.

        1. Jolene*

          I agree that “I choose to” is sufficient and as valid a reason as any.
          But also think it is important for people to recognize that it’s often not even a choice – even women who would choose to breastfeed are not always able to do so. Which makes the judging what someone else is going even more absurd.

          1. Ayla*

            And even more hurtful! The “breast is best” activism is really damaging to people like me who tried desperately to breastfeed but were unable. Hey look, I made this whole room for you to pump in, now you get to worry about MY disappointment in addition to the judgment from the pediatrician as you cry over an empty pump ten times a day!

            1. Turtles All the Way Down*

              Indeed. Would have loved to breastfeed. Ended up having a kid in a way where I did not grow them in my body. :) It’s still a painful thought.

          2. SpaceySteph*

            Yeah, one possibility is the manager pressuring her employee to make a different choice, but the other possibility is that the employee actually WANTED to breastfeed and for some reason it didn’t work out… so manager is rubbing salt in the wound.

            I was sad when my 2nd kid quit the boob at 6 month, even though formula was a perfectly fine choice and worked well for our family. It wasn’t how I planned it and someone constantly telling me I could be pumping would not have helped.

          3. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            “I would prefer not to” also works. ;-b

            Seriously, I understand where this o.p. was coming from. I had my daughter back in 1985 when pumping rooms were absolutely not a thing, and I would have killed for the setup o.p. offered to her employee. I managed to breast feed exclusively for only a short time, because it was so hard racing home to pump at lunchtime every day (the only time I could do it).

            I ended up letting her have formula at daycare sooner than I would have preferred. Everything worked out okay, and breastfeeding was a great experience for me despite the challenges, but a pumping room at work would have been a dream come true for me.

            BUT everyone is different, as Alison said. O.P. erred in assuming her employee would want and appreciate all the things she would have liked to have as a new mom, and doesn’t even seem to have had a conversation with the employee to find out what HER plans and preferences were. Oops!

            Alison’s advice is great, as usual. I hope O.P. was able to benefit from it at the time.

      3. mairona*

        Talking about the two extreme ends of the spectrum, some people may even say “I choose not to” as a cover for not wanting to talk about their actual reason. The possible judgement from that statement may be more bearable than reopening old emotional wounds from trauma or illness, so someone pushing and prodding over it like OP could wind up not just being rude, but downright cruel.

        (But to be clear, simply choosing not to is perfectly valid! Do what works for you and your baby)

        We just need to let our coworkers/employees do what’s best for their own lives and families, especially when they’re new parents. That’s stressful enough without having to work with Judgey McJudgeypants.

    2. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      So much this. I had a really hard time breastfeeding even though I desperately wanted to and was trying really hard. It was a sensitive topic for a while and I would really not have taken well to my boss adding to the pressure.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          I just stayed with friends who had their firstborn 3-4 months ago. She said that even though she is exclusively feeding her baby breastmilk, people still get mad that she’s not breastfeeding directly and using bottles instead. It’s insane how involved people feel they need to be in our reproductive and child-rearing decisions.

    3. Meep*

      OP crossed the line all over and now wants a pat on the back for doing basic things everyone should have options to. Some women are not all that maternal. Maybe her husband wanted a kid and she agreed if she could continue her same lifestyle? Some women are workaholics. Maybe she likes being at work rather than with her baby?

      There is a lot going on here outside of OP’s judgement on breast feeding and it all boils down to OP being too involved in this woman’s childrearing.

      1. Sally*

        Just want to gently point out that the choices the employee made her have nothing to do with how maternal she is.

        1. Books and Cooks*

          That’s true, but…after reading the original post, it seems like maybe this employee actually *isn’t* especially maternal. IMO the issue comes in where we imply there’s something wrong with that, instead of just saying, “Yeah, some women aren’t all that ‘maternal,’ but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them or that they don’t love their children or shouldn’t have had children.” I mean, it seems to me like that’s a big issue the LW has: this employee isn’t as “maternal” as LW is/would like, so learning this is kind of the crux of the lesson the LW should take away: not all women are the same as you and want what you want, not all mothers would give anything and everything for another day at home with their baby, not all women meet your expectations or idea of “maternal,” and that’s okay and not your place to judge or expect to begin with.

          Women don’t *have* to be “maternal.” Mothers don’t *have* to be “maternal.” There’s nothing wrong with being a mother who isn’t especially “maternal,” and it shouldn’t be an insult.

          YMMV, of course, and I don’t mean to derail or to be rude or argue; I just don’t think it’s offensive or insulting to say that a particular woman/mother doesn’t meet some societal stereotype or expectation of how mothers feel or behave.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I don’t think the point is that it’s offensive to say that someone isn’t maternal, but that you shouldn’t make that assumption based on how long they are interested in staying home with their child or whether they choose to breastfeed. There is nothing to indicate that the employee in this case “isn’t as ‘maternal’ as LW is/would like” just that she’s making different choices (which have nothing to do with how maternal she is). Think of it this way: there’s nothing wrong with being gay, but it’s still not okay to make an assumption that someone is gay based on the way they behave/dress/talk/etc.

          2. Avril Ludgateau*

            The idea that she’s not “maternal” simply because she goes about it – or, more appropriately, she showcases it a different way from what you’ve been socialized to believe is hugely offensive. It is borderline gender essentialist (the idea that there is only one way to be “maternal” extends from an idea that there is a correct way to be “female” or “feminine”). Beyond that, we don’t even know how “maternal” she is by your limited, boxed-in definition because we (nor OP) don’t have that window into her life. She could be a wholly “traditional”, doting, live-for-my-kids mother at home who happens to compartmentalize very well at work.

            1. Books and Cooks*

              Fair enough. I was going by the line where the employee said that even the eight weeks she had at home with the baby were too long, and was just trying to point out that that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with her.

        2. Rose*

          And if the gender roles were reversed and dad and gone back to work after 8 weeks no one would ever say he wasn’t paternal. He’s prob get a pat on the back for spending so much time at home.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            Agreed. And “maternal” or “paternal” isn’t all or nothing. I am not a parent, so don’t know how I’d feel if I was one, but certainly as an aunt/family friend, etc, I have no interest in babies and…don’t really know how to relate to them. I don’t have that instinctive “aw, isn’t she/he gorgeous?” that a lot of people do. It’s…just a baby. My first thought is often “how long until we can have some fun together?” Once they get to about 3 though, I’m mad about them.

            I am sure I would feel differently about my own child, but…I don’t think not wanting to stay at home with a baby means she’s not maternal at all or that she wasn’t that anxious to have kids. Maybe she just enjoys older kids more. As you say, it’s very normal for dads to go back to work within days of having a baby and it’s often assumed that “dads aren’t that mad about babies. They’ll be more involved when the kid is older.”

            Or maybe it’s primarily the dad’s choice. Maybe they both wanted a kid but the dad was really excited about going part-time so that he could spend as much time as possible with the child and the mother was happy for him to do it. Or maybe it’s just a practical thing. If the dad’s business is a start-up, it might not be earning that much or might be kinda insecure, so it might make more sense for her to prioritise her career as she might need to be the sole earner if his business doesn’t work out.

            There are a whole load of reasons. Yeah, maybe she’s more a “career person” than a “parental person” and that is OK too. Traditionally a lot of dads were on that end of the spectrum and it didn’t mean they didn’t love their kids. But I don’t think it’s the only reason for the situation described above. If one changed the genders, it would seem totally normal and I don’t think we should have higher bars for being seen as “maternal” than being seen as “paternal.”

      2. Susanna*

        The point is, she doesn’t need to explain anything. I get that you agree with that but… there’s a bit of a whiff of judgment here. “Maternal?” What dos that mean? That she spends every hour of every day pumping breast milk and tending to the baby? Where did people get the idea that all women, given the financial freedom, would stay home with a baby and breast feed. It’s just not what everyone wants to do.

        Me, eve n if you gave me paid leave for a year, I would not want to be home all day. And it’s not about being a “workaholic” any more than women who stay home are “babyholics.” Just a personal choice.

    4. mairona*

      Agreed 100%. I get the motives behind the whole “breast is best” thing since formula companies have been known for some truly horrible business practices and marketing tactics to make a buck, causing vitriol toward breastfeeding moms in public spaces and in the worst case scenarios, malnutrition and even death of babies in developing countries. However, let’s save that wrath for the formula companies and let new moms feed their babies in peace! There are multitudes of reasons for using formula instead of breastfeeding ranging from lactation issues to adoption to just not wanting to breastfeed. All of these are valid and none of them are anyone else’s business. In the end, *fed* is what’s best for baby, regardless of whether it’s boob or bottle!

      1. Books and Cooks*

        “…in the worst case scenarios, malnutrition and even death of babies in developing countries.”

        Not just developing countries. I’m aware of at least one baby death in the US (or UK? I can’t recall offhand, but I could find the story if need be) caused by lactivists browbeating some poor new mother into not formula-supplementing her starving baby.

        As you said, “Fed is Best.” (That is the name of an actual campaign, and I urge anyone interested to check it out.)

    5. Chelsea*

      I know. I can’t believe it’s 2022 and women still have to put up with constant judgment about whether they breastfeed or formula-feed. Any reason is valid!

      I know a 50-year-old guy who thinks it’s awful if women don’t breastfeed, like they don’t love their children enough to sacrifice, or they don’t care about their children’s health. But isn’t it always MEN with these strongly-held opinions, when they aren’t the ones making ANY of the bodily sacrifices? And haven’t countless studies shown that formula is just as good as breastfeeding? People need to just live and let live.

      1. Books and Cooks*

        “But isn’t it always MEN with these strongly-held opinions, when they aren’t the ones making ANY of the bodily sacrifices?”

        It is not remotely “always MEN.” Most (if not all) of the big public and/or internet lactivists I’m aware of are women. I know a number of women reduced to tears by other women on this subject; I actually made a formal complaint when the female instructor of the mandatory “new baby class” at the hospital where my second was born told all the “new moms” that their babies would probably be autistic if they didn’t breastfeed, and if they weren’t they would definitely not be as smart or healthy as breast-fed babies and if they truly loved their babies they would breast feed. (And I *was* breastfeeding, and continued to do so for seventeen months with my second–after only doing it for about a week with my first. I was so furious that I could barely contain myself, and literally turned around every time she made a comment like this to loudly announce that was not true.)

        And yes, countless studies have in fact proved that formula is just as good as breastfeeding.

        1. Susanna*

          I would have been so tempted to say oh, good – I don’t love my baby, so I’ll use formula.

        2. Dr Sarah*

          On top of all the other awfulness in this instructor’s comments (I am *so* glad you spoke up and also made a formal complaint), I also just want to point out how terrible it is that she’s talking about autism as a) a bad outcome and b) something that can be part of problematic attitudes against autistic people that are already way too frequent.

        3. lou*

          I was breastfed for the first year of my life and I’m still autistic, so joke’s on her!
          (I’m fine. Being autistic is not the worst thing that can happen to a child or their parent.)

      2. LilPinkSock*

        Not even close. The girl I went to high school with who said “You’re stupid in math because your mom fed you poison in a bottle” certainly wasn’t a man. The lactivist nurse who nearly caused my sister to check into behavioral health when she wasn’t able to bf her son after a traumatic birth experience wasn’t a man either.

    6. Hats Are Great*

      I would quit, and I would be very vocal about why I quit, and I would probably file a complaint with my state civil rights office, which covers breast and bottle feeding issues due to state statutes.

  2. Alex*

    It is awesome that you wanted to provide all that support for her! And it isn’t really work that is lost–it is possible that another one of your employees, or someone else at your company, will sooner or later be appreciative of the precedent you set by setting up pumping rooms and making arrangements to support working moms.

    But the truly most supportive thing you can do is to lay off of judging a new mom for her parenting choices. She is showing you she wants to jump right back in as she was before, so support her in that!

    1. cheeks76*

      This! Letter writer, if you’re still reading this, you can still take pride in your work and will hopefully have a chance to roll it over for the next mom out there (and maybe even use it to attract future employees), so don’t get too caught up in this particular mom’s choices.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      It sounds like LW did everything in their power to support the employee, but the employee’s needs are more modest. There’s nothing wrong with going above and beyond and exceeding expectations.

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        It sounds like LW did everything she wished someone did for her but never once spoke with employee about what she actually needed/wanted/expected.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          This is the biggest problem right here. This letter reminds me of the person who came back to work after a medical leave and needed to use a wheelchair, and their office threw them a party, put their face on an accessible parking sign, etc.–generally did all kinds of things that made them super uncomfortable and unhappy instead of things that would make their working life easier, all while scolding them for not being grateful enough. It’s not that bad, but I imagine the mother in this scenario is feeling a little bit of what that person felt.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          LW also shouldn’t see this as a wasted effort. She now knows how to access all those supports and can offer them to the next pregnant employee

          1. Etti*

            She should do no such thing. What should happen is that she should be dragged into training to prevent:

            A) Bullying employees
            B) She should commit to training so she doesn’t bully someone again
            C) If A and B don’t work she needs to be demoted so she is no longer a manager.

          2. Jen*

            Exactly! These policies should be formalized and offered to (but not forced upon) any future pregnant/nursing employees.

        3. Mother hen*

          I also wonder how many first time parents truly know what they need. I have 2 children and my needs were wildly different between the two. I actually returned from my (unpaid) maternity leave earlier than planned with baby #2 for a whole host of reasons, but my husband was home with baby and it was the right choice for us. I have breastfed, formula fed, and pumped breast milk. All 3 have their own stresses, and just when I think I have something figured out life tends to change. The best management is someone who can work with me about what my family and career need and accept that is changes

      2. JD*

        There IS something wrong going above and beyond when you cross the line between being helpful and being intrusive into someone else’s very personal decisions and making assumptions about what someone else wants/needs based on what you wish you would have had available to you. And then actually being upset and offended that your employee didn’t share in your wants is what is above and beyond.

        1. Oolie*

          Exactly this! It’s not help if it’s help that the recipient doesn’t want and didn’t ask for. A truly supportive manager would have ASKED the employee if a longer paid leave, a more flexible schedule, or breastfeeding facilities would be helpful, not simply TOLD them that’s what they were getting whether they wanted it or not. All the “nice-ness” of setting up these perks were negated when LW got their nose out of joint when the employee didn’t want them.

          Side note: I would have LOVED to have been able to nurse for longer than 8 weeks but because of medications I was on I could not. It would have been absolute salt in the wound had my boss bought me a breast pump and repeatedly insisted I use the provided pumping room.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            WTAF? No manager should ever buy an employee something designed to touch their nipples unless it’s a company shirt.

    3. Always a Corncob*

      Completely agree. The other problem I see here is that LW arranged significant extra benefits for the employee based on LW’s own values, which opens up a lot of potential for unsustainable precedents and unfair treatment. What happens when a different employee needs medical leave for something that LW doesn’t feel personally invested in and they ask for 8 extra weeks of paid leave? Will LW go above and beyond to arrange that? Is this something LW can make available to all eligible employees even if she wanted to?

      1. Books and Cooks*

        I had that thought, too! Why does Employee A get eight extra weeks of paid leave, when Employee B doesn’t? I’d be pretty annoyed if I was, say, mother of a two-year-old at that office who was given the standard company leave for my baby, or the father of a newborn who would have loved even just a week or two of extra time at home with my wife and new baby, or someone struggling to balance caring for a sick relative with work after using all my mandated leave, or even just someone who’d hoped for a little more vacation time for an important event or because of burn-out or something but was denied…but then all the sudden Lisa from Accounts is offered all this extra stuff (TWO extra MONTHS of paid leave!!)–and our manager is even annoyed that Lisa isn’t using it! And Lisa didn’t even have to *ask* for it!

      2. AnonymousReader*

        ^ I was wondering the same thing! Why did LW favor her employee and gave her all this perks but does not offer it to all employees? I wonder if LW has a pseudo motherly relationship to her employee and her employee does not reciprocate? I would feel uncomfortable if my employer made such a big deal about my leave but didn’t offer the same benefits to others.

    4. Lizzy*

      This! I think OP should be happy that she put these things in place for all expectant parents to use in the future – if they chose to. Please don’t be mad at your employee because they are experiencing motherhood in a different way than you did.

  3. Jessie J*

    It’s also her choice to do what works best for her and her family (not what worked once for you) right?

    1. Jora Malli*

      That’s what hit me as well. The letter writer made this situation more about herself than about her coworker. She planned her own dream-scenario for what she would have loved to have when she was a pregnant professional, but she forgot that not all people need or want the same things, and the plan she made wasn’t what the employee would have requested for herself.

      1. Observer*

        The letter writer made this situation more about herself than about her coworker.

        I’d go further than that – she made it ALL about herself. So much so that even after HR came down on her like a ton of bricks, she was still basically seething and asking Alison to at least validate her and judge that her employee was a bad mother and bad employee.

          1. COBOL Dinosaur*

            I replied with a link to the original story but it probably didn’t get posted because of the link. Take the title to this post and search the site and you will find the original story from 2018.

            1. Maverick Jo*

              Honestly, after reading the original post, I’m more aghast about the LW reaction. If HR had to get involved, the returning mother must have been severely creeped out. Like the returning mother needed any further pressure!

            2. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

              Oof, I had to step away from that comment thread after it devolved into like 3 anti-formula fanatics arguing with basically everybody else.

              The level of YOU’RE NOT PARENTING RIGHT in our public discourse is one of the top reasons I don’t have kids, and this LW is contributing to the problem.

              1. Observer*

                Most of the discussion there was totally not about that. Yeah, it’s unfortunate that the fanatics tend to come out of the woodwork. But by and large, the comments were pretty much telling the OP what they had done wrong, and why it was wrong.

        1. Wendy*

          I think OP has good intentions but it crosses the line. I agree with all comments that breastfeeding is a personal choice and not the boss’s business. I was surprised to read OP had made this offer ‘several times’ – once is more than enough! It is bordering on rude. The employee explained they had an arrangement with their husband and it kicked off after 8 weeks – hardly a big deal. They both seem very organised to have this plan. Why shouldn’t the husband be at home with the baby – what’s wrong with that and when they opt to use childcare? Especially if it’s not infringing on the employee’s hours. The only one here that seems to have a problem is OP.

          1. Observer*

            I was surprised to read OP had made this offer ‘several times’ – once is more than enough! It is bordering on rude.

            I would say that the OP’s behavior went WELLL past “bordering” to EXTREMELY rude.

        2. Etti*

          Exactly this. The attention-seeking lot always makes it about them. The idea you would do all of this without even asking the other person first is ridiculous.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        This kind of situation is why my mother won’t be involved when/if I have a kid. She spent so much time making decisions for me as a child that reflected how she wished she’d been raised, when in fact her strategies only made me miserable.

  4. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    I know it’s a revisit, but LW…you owe her another apology. This is hella intense of a reaction and very much comes across as wanting accolades for ‘going above and beyond.’ I’d reason that you haven’t gone above and beyond if not because the point of the lower limit for employer size on this is to make it not cost-prohibitive…if you’re small and can afford it you still should.

    As an employer you know at some point you’re going to need to deal with maternity leave. Develop your program and revisit it every few years to update as appropriate. After that, make sure your employees know what the program is and remind them once they announce. Don’t shove it down their throats, just give them their options and let them tell you how they want to go forward.

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    I agree with Alison: You started with good intentions, but then crafted the maternity support that would have been ideal for you a number of years ago–and that dream is not what your employee wanted. I think this pattern is particularly likely to emerge when you are very emotionally invested in how things Should Work in this context–you can see how different people want different things when the thing isn’t close to your heart.

    Your employee is doing what is right for her. That is fine. If another employee has a child, it would be great to offer them the same, while listening to what they could really use. (Though for the love of the flying spaghetti monster, do not tell someone who has been using formula for three months that they could start pumping breast milk.)

  6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    This falls under the “why won’t you let me love you/help you?” umbrella. Like, “I’m being a nice person, therefore you must…

    I’m sorry that your efforts didn’t work out the way you wanted this time. Honestly, be proud of yourself for doing a lot of leg work for your staff. You found a lot of great information and put a lot of good things in literal place (a pumping room).
    Now pretend you did this preemptively for anyone who has a baby. Let go of feeling you “did everything for her!” and sit back and wait for the next person.
    (although, you should apologize for being overzealous and critical. Then move on.)

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      I was going to file it under, “Nothing about me, without me”. OP could have saved themselves a lot of effort by asking what the employee wanted, rather than just arranging it without consulting them.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Pretty much. She got so lost in arranging the things SHE would have liked when she was pregnant rather than ASKING her employee what was needed. She made it all about her.

        I remember this letter originally, the comments were pretty blunt about how lost the OP got in trying to “help.”

      2. Meep*

        Or even do the leg-work to set it up as needed and then let the woman choose what works for her would be helpful, because sometimes things happen during and after birth.

    2. BRR*

      It reminds me of when a gift giver places more importance on what they want than what the recipient wants. I mean this more politely than it will sound but it’s not about you.

    3. Snow Globe*

      I am suddenly reminded of the great song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “After All the Things I’ve Done for You (That You Didn’t Ask For)”

    4. Etti*

      She should be proud of herself for bullying an employee based on harmful sexist expectations?. As well as the harm done to a mother who is being badgered for her choices?

  7. Jenna Webster*

    I absolutely want to say that you did a great job at making things happen that would make having a baby so much easier for a lot of people, removing so much of the stress related to finances, pumping, time off, wow!! That’s great, and future employees will likely be ecstatic to be so strongly supported.

    That said, since that’s not what this employee needs, you need to step back and let her make her own choices, and definitely don’t suggest she isn’t doing the whole having-a-baby thing right.

  8. Lone Wanderer*

    I think there is one upside here – this sets a precedent for other employees who might become pregnant and you already have a nursing room set up.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yes, this. Don’t think of it as “I am disappointed in her and having a hard time getting over it”, think of it as having done the legwork in advance for the next employee who may want to take advantage of these perks.

    2. Delta Delta*

      This was exactly my thought, as well. Now there’s a space created in case another person needs it. The fact of its existence might also help attract new job candidates, too.

    3. Sad Desk Salad*

      I almost wrote a separate comment to that effect. OP has done the legwork already and someone else may indeed need all that they’ve set up for the employees. Now she won’t have to go through that in the future when it’s really needed. People get pregnant ALL the time–it’s not unreasonable to assume your generous resources will be enjoyed in the future.

      I do hope OP backed off from the personal intrusion, and is able to get over their resentment of this individual. You wanted to be welcoming and kind to a new mom, and your resentment of her is not the way to do that.

    4. MicroManagered*

      This is true! Just because THIS mom doesn’t want everything OP got in place, doesn’t mean that another mom in the future won’t.

    5. tamarak & fireweed*

      Yes – piggybacking on here.

      I’d go quite a bit beyond “people are different”. If we want to build a better world for everyone then having several months of paid leave, pumping room and flexibility would be a matter of course, and not because each individual employee fights for getting it. The LW is totally to be commended for arranging it pro-actively!

      But it’s still the employee who gets to decide how much to use, unless there’s a law that requires it. Now in the pursuit of the overarching goal of changing the world, I can see why the LW would have preferred the employee to actually make use of all she arranged and thereby set the norm in this direction. But that’s not the employee’s duty to do – her main duty is to do what’s right for herself and her family in whatever parental-leave-unfriendly world they have adapted to.

      As for the pumping room, if she doesn’t need one she doesn’t need one. They really needed to have one ready though! (And now they know what space to designate next time this comes up, which it will, and how.)

      The main problem is that the LW needs to extricate her personal feeling of gratification from the employee’s course of action. The employee did nothing wrong. It would be particularly bad if the LW now strikes a pose of having suffered a huge insult and overcorrects in the other direction (“phfff if everyone is so ungrateful then I will not lift a finger any longer!!”). Codifying the perks she has fought for in the company’s compensation and benefit structure would be good.

  9. Nobby Nobbs*

    Breastfeeding is such an intimate and vulnerable thing for a boss to stick their nose into- I’d put it on a level with sex, pregnancy, and blood/organ donation in that regard. Of course, we’ve had bosses here who were determined to butt in on all of those things. Hopefully OP just lost sight of the forest through the trees and backed off instead of doubling down.

    1. Polly's perks*

      Never did I expect to see “Nobby Nobbs” giving advice on where to draw the line when it comes to personal matters.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        This username has turned out to be so much funnier than I could’ve imagined when I picked it, Polly’s perks! (I see what you did there.)

    2. Meow*

      On the other side – when I revealed I was pregnant and my boss went out of his way to find a place for me to pump without asking, it was an enormous relief, because I was extremely stressed at the thought of discussing it with any member of our all male management. But he just said “If you’re considering pumping at work, I can arrange for you to use the free office and make sure everyone is aware it’s off limits while you need it”, and that was it.

      To me the line crossed is OP being pushy about it. I think everyone would benefit if management could have a matter-of-fact “pumping facilities can be made available if you need it” script so that employees don’t have to go out of their way to ask.

  10. Hiring Mgr*

    I would look at it as you’ve just implemented a great maternity/parenting program at your office – sooner or later someone will make use of it!

    1. Lizzo*

      ^^This. OP, these are great resources that are certainly attractive to current and future employees who wish to make use of them, but as others have already pointed out, PLEASE stop making this about you. If you feel defensive because people are pointing this out, your options are 1) dig in your heels and further alienate the people you want to help, or 2) take a moment for self-reflection, humble yourself and apologize to the employee, and change your future behavior around “helping” others.

  11. JMac*

    How someone else chooses to raise their child is literally none of your business. It doesn’t matter if you think she should be breastfeeding or should be spending more time with the baby. If dad wants to be the primary caregiver while mom advances her career, that’s just fine. Get over your 1950s gender roles

    1. CoveredinBees*

      Deep breaths, JMac. A lot of women don’t feel 100% at 8 weeks after giving birth. Lack of sleep. Hormonal changes that generally continue through 12-16 weeks post partum. Physiological changes. That’s a significant part of maternity leave. Not just child care.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        No need to be condescending, CoveredinBees. The whole point is that OP’s employee isn’t “a lot of women,” she’s an individual who made the best choices for her family and shouldn’t be hassled for that.

            1. Jolene*

              That’s the point. JMac is spot on: it’s not anyone’s business how someone else raises their child.

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            Not to OP’s employee, clearly, and they shouldn’t be forced on her. On the whole, people who long for a return for 1950’s gender roles are not as oppressed as they think they are and need to learn to leave the rest of us alone. (And they clearly didn’t work all that great for OP either, given what she said about being forced to quit.)

            1. a tester, not a developer*

              Could you post the link to that? I can only find the original 2018 post.

              1. DoubleTime*

                It’s literally right there in the post: “I had to quit my job when I was pregnant because there was no support for working moms.”

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Ah, all those 1950s moms and their Valium prescriptions. Those were the days.

          2. Observer*

            I think it was warranted. 1950’s gender roles are wholly acceptable to some of us.

            That’s not the point though.

            The point is that no one should be FORCING 1950’s gender roles on anyone. Nor should they be forcing gender roles of the 2020’s on anyone. Or their version of the “correct” side of the Mommy wars, or whatever they perceive as “THE ONE right way to be a mother”.

          3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            And honestly, it bothers me quite a bit that basic things like a maternity leave longer than 8 weeks, a pumping room, and a flexible schedule are being shot down by JMac as “1950s gender roles”, with the implication being thrown out that a woman who would use those things is not interested in advancing her career. Staying with the baby for an extra couple of weeks because your body is still healing isn’t the same as giving up on professional development forever, or wanting to be a submissive 50s housewife. No one will remember those extra missed weeks when the kid is grown. And I would’ve been livid if it was me in that position and my coworkers had been, “Bathroom is pumping again? oh well, guess she does not want that raise/promotion then.”

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              it bothers me quite a bit that basic things like a maternity leave longer than 8 weeks, a pumping room, and a flexible schedule are being shot down by JMac as “1950s gender roles”

              Those things aren’t being shot down as 1950s gender roles. What’s being shot down is the idea that the employee isn’t a good mom because she’s choosing to return to work early and to not breastfeed. If someone wants to stay with the baby longer that’s absolutely fine! But choosing not to doesn’t make them a less devoted mother.

              And I would’ve been livid if it was me in that position and my coworkers had been, “Bathroom is pumping again? oh well, guess she does not want that raise/promotion then.”

              Literally no one is saying/advocating for that?

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                If these two sentences weren’t in the comment, I would’ve been in total agreement with it: “If dad wants to be the primary caregiver while mom advances her career, that’s just fine. Get over your 1950s gender roles”.

                The rest of the comment is great – it really is nobody’s business how anyone raises their children. This last part though sounds to me like the old mommy wars in new packaging.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  But what is wrong with those two sentences? If dad wants to be the primary caregiver while mom advances her career that IS just fine. I agree maybe “advances her career” wasn’t the most elegant phrasing, but I think it was specifically meant to be a contrast to the idea that a woman should just stay home with the baby.

                  I also think it’s important to note that rejecting 1950s gender roles isn’t saying that a woman SHOULDN’T stay at home with the baby (longer or as a career) but that it shouldn’t be the expectation and that a woman isn’t a bad mother for choosing not to go that route.

              2. Julia K.*

                Let’s pause for a second to remember history correctly. In the 1950s, breastfeeding was discouraged, and there were rarely paid maternity leave, FMLA, pumping rooms, or flexible schedules. These things are significant improvements on the 1950s.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  I don’t think anyone is saying things haven’t improved? The point is that a woman isn’t less of a devoted mother because she’s choosing not to stay home with the baby.

                2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Exactly, I cannot understand where the “1950s” phrasing came from. To me, OP came across not as “wanting to pigeonhole all women subordinates into the SAHM role”, but more like “my own career was derailed because my workplace didn’t offer XYZ, so I am going to offer XYZ to my subordinate so she can continue working”, but OP didn’t take it into account that our lives have now evolved and there are more choices available for new parents than a simple “either new mother gets XYZ through work or she will have to quit work and stay at home whether she wants it or not”.

                  Maybe I’m seeing where OP was coming from because my own career was derailed after my children were born, because of nonexistent work protections? But I realize that this was a long time ago, and in my case, on a different continent, and times have changed.

          4. Quelli*

            Then that’s your choice. But you have no business enforcing them on anyone else, and nor does OP.

          5. HoHumDrum*

            Really? 1950s gender roles? Because being happy with focusing on raising a family isn’t 1950s gender roles, that’s 2022 gender roles where you get to choose what feels right to you. 1950s gender roles mean you are ok with not being able to own your own credit card or access money without your husband and believing spousal rape isn’t a real thing.

        1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          Removed. We can’t know what’s best for another family. – Alison

        2. Alanon*

          The problem with the whole “choice” angle is that not all decisions occur in a vacuum. There are wider implications in play here because her choice affects the perception of other women that choose to work and perpetuates the balance of women in the workforce and in leadership. When a woman chooses to stay home, it reinforces the patriarchal norm that women stay home with the kids while the men work. As much as I want the luxury of consequence free choice, the fact of the matter is that we are not even close to being there.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            While I agree we’ve still got a lot to do to in the name of equality, I don’t think it helps anyone to put the onus of the patriarchy on a woman who has made a choice to stay at home with her children.

          2. Observer*

            There are wider implications in play here because her choice affects the perception of other women

            This OP’s behavior had nothing to do with this. It was all about allowing her to replay her own situation with the outcome she wanted.

            Also, as Alison pointed out in another letter, somehow we expect WOMEN to make their career choices based on what is “good for women”, with “what is good for my family” a very distant second. And “What is good for me” not at all. Somehow no one expects MEN to take / not take this, that or the other benefit because it’s “good for gender equality.”

          3. Susie Q*

            Absolutely not. It is not responsibility as an individual to make choices for my family in regards to the patriarchy. I recently made the choice to leave my job and stay home with my young kids due to an overseas move for my husband’s job. That is my choice to make with my family. No other opinion matters.

            In all honesty, we should stop caring so much working ourselves to death because no one wishes they worked more on their deathbed.

          4. Avril Ludgateau*

            There are wider implications in play here because her choice affects the perception of other women that choose to work and perpetuates the balance of women in the workforce and in leadership.

            If you’re going to go that far, the employee’s presence so soon after birth also reinforces the idea that women who choose to take a longer maternity leave (or need to recover longer) are doing harm to themselves and women as a whole. It denies women the opportunity to put themselves/their health/their families first on the basis that women have a moral obligation to be present in the office. I

            (I’m not going to get into how capitalism benefits from/relies on patriarchy, but the idea that “an individual’s most important value is their productivity” is also problematic.)

            I need you to understand how that is a bad take. Yes, anti-feminist choices exist. No, we do not live in a vacuum free of patriarchy. No, it is not reasonable to ask women to make specific choices beyond their individual needs and requirements “for the greater good,” because no matter how you spin it, inside of a patriarchal frame work, EVERY decision a woman makes has far-reaching anti-feminist consequences, and it is therefore absolutely ludicrous, counter-productive, and ineffectual to police the behaviors of individual women trying to survive in a system designed to both exploit and subjugate them.

      2. anonymous73*

        All of that is irrelevant. Not every woman is the same and has the same needs and wants. Period. Everything JMac said is 100% valid.

      3. Jennifer Strange*

        That’s incredibly condescending, and unnecessary. JMac didn’t say that it’s never the case that a woman isn’t ready to go back to work after 8 weeks, just that the boss has no say in what her employee does.

      4. Observer*

        Deep breaths, JMac

        Maybe take your own advice? Nothing you said responds to anything JMac said.

        JMAc is right. I would not have made the same choices that this employee made, but that would have been MY CHOICE. And that employee has the EXACT same right to make HER CHOICE. And the OP would have absolutely ZERO business getting involved in either set of choices.

        The fact that what the OP did would be really good for a lot if people is not the issue. The issue is that the O decided that THIS employee “needs” to do things this way. And, JMac is 100% correct that it is NOT the OP’s place to make that determination.

        1. Meep*

          I am more impressed by the gall CoveredinBees hasd to say this when women’s reproductive rights are being ripped away from them in the current political climate.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      If they were 1950s gender roles she probably wouldn’t be working at all, or maybe manning the bon bon conveyor belt :)

      1. Julia K.*

        That’s the upper class white 1950s stereotype, yes. Lower income and BIPOC women have more often been forced to work rather than care for their own babies – then and now.

  12. Ámelia*

    You can’t force your beliefs onto someone else. Breast feeding is a very personal decision that shouldn’t be judged or discussed with her at all. While it is sad that she wouldn’t prefer to spend that extra time with her newborn when given this generous amount time off, it is nothing you should be involved with, it is between her and her husband. All you can do is assure her one time that her job is not at risk if she chooses to take more maternity leave, but don’t pressure her and keep bringing it up.

    1. anonymous73*

      Why is it sad? You don’t know this woman or her family dynamic. That part of your statement is no different than what OP was doing.

      1. Jolene*

        Yeah, why is it “sad”?
        I went back to work after 8 weeks. 100% my choice. Financially, I could have taken 2 years off if I wanted to. But, that would have wrecked my mental health. (I thrive on routine, and would quickly slip into depression if I had to stay at home – 8 weeks was pushing it.) By going back, I was in a much much better place to be a wonderful mother to our son.
        My spouse took several months of leave after I went back to work – that worked for our family.
        And it’s NO ONES BUSINESS!

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Same. I just had my first in December and PPD hit me HARD. Going back really helped me (plus, you know, Lexapro).

          1. Lizzy*

            This! Part of the plan to help me with PPD was medication, therapy and returning to work. If I had a boss like OP, in all seriousness, I may not have made it.

        2. Nanny*

          I worked as a nanny for a mother who went back to work after 8 weeks. It wasn’t because she didn’t love her baby – she loved her baby AND she loved her job. She was bored at home, missed her job, and missed being around adults.

          She looked really ashamed when she told me why she was going back to work, expecting me to judge her. I didn’t judge her at ALL!

          I think that her kids seeing her doing a job she was passionate about was wonderful. Happy mom = happy kids.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. Every mom is different, every baby is different, what works for one family wouldn’t work for another. Granted, I’m in a country with decent maternity leave as standard (at least for full-time employees in “permanent,” i.e. not fixed-term employment, and we also have a very good and cheap public daycare system (fees for parents max out at about 500 dollars per month, there are income-based tiers). But because standard maternity leave for the birthing parent is about 9 months, there’s very little public daycare available for kids younger than that. Things are more difficult for people in “atypical” employment, because they aren’t entitled to long maternity/parental leave in the same way, which is why the creches for babies tend to prioritize single parents.

            Admittedly there’s also a lot of judgment of parents who want to return to work earlier, “why did you have a kid if you don’t want to spend any time with them?” is typical. In practice, the only birth parents I know who’ve returned to work before their kid was 9 months old are entrepreneurs who are wealthy enough to hire a full-time or live-in nanny.

            I went back to work when my son was about 2 years and 3 months old, and by that time, I was more than ready to do so, even if I had (and still have) a supportive husband and a great network of friends and relatives to help.

    2. Susanna*

      Sad, how?
      This is exactly the sort of judgment LW was putting on the employee. You don’t get to decide for other people how much time they spend with a newborn. And would it have been “sad” if the father went right back to work while the motor stayed home and nursed the baby?

    3. Etti*

      Why is it sad when dad is at home a lot of the time? We need to start treating men and women equally as parents.

      1. Etti*

        Nope. Daddy is applauded if he takes 3 days off. We have paternity leave for men in England and a report found only 27% of of eligible fathers took it.
        Paternity leave is just 1-2 weeks!

    4. Not usual name*

      When I went back in to work drowning in PP+PPA, people telling me how sad it was that I didn’t have extra time at home was a kick in the guts.

  13. Fikly*

    You know what you forgot to do while you were arranging all of this stuff? Ask your employee what she needed/wanted.

    That’s step 1.

    Giving someone something without their consent does not obligate them to use it, and it does not obligate them to do something for you. That’s a false premise.

    1. Here we go again*

      +1 a lot of effort could’ve been saved if you had a simple conversation with her about what kind of support she needs.

    2. Florida Fan 15*

      This, exactly. LW frames it as being supportive, but it’s NOT supportive to cram your choices down someone else’s throat.

  14. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    I went back to read the original letter, and the woman actually reported the manager to HR for making her feel uncomfortable about it. HR told her to back off (good for them)! Of course Alison had to keep people from derailing the conversation by turning it into whether women are obligated to try to breastfeed, le sigh! But I am actually glad the worker advocated for herself, because well intentioned or not, she really acted in a way that comes across as judgmental of her employee’s personal parenting decisions.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, this. I’ve maxed out my free articles at Inc. this month, so I went back and looked at the original post. Apparently the OP was persistent enough that the employee felt she had to escalate to HR. Yet another case where I wish that, in addition to the OP’s version, we had had a parallel post from the employee.

      It’s very, very easy to project your own needs/feelings into someone else’s situation — which may be entirely different for reasons to which you don’t have access. The best advice I could offer to any manager in this situation is to ask “What do you need from me?” And then to go with what they tell you.

      1. anti social socialite*

        Removed. Please do not post ways to get around paywalls here. This site believes in people being paid for their work. – Alison

        1. Sara without an H*

          I typed the title into the “Search This Site” box at the top of the page. It’s the second item, the one dated 2018.

    2. Heidi*

      Not only did HR tell the OP to back off, they specified that it was a mistake to not consult with the employee before implementing all those changes. I guess there were reasons those parts were omitted from the letter, but I sometimes feel that HR doesn’t get any credit when they get it right.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’m curious why Alison removed those details, personally. I think the fact the employee felt harassed and HR intervened is very relevant.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Inc. has a word count for letters and generally just wants the overall gist of a situation rather than every detail that I might include when publishing here.

  15. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Alison I know you think about this stuff preemptively but I’d just like to flag how wild the comments got on the original post and suggest a pinned comment about not debating breast feeding? I know the Inc posts get less direct comment traffic so I understand either way, the original post was just a lot.

    1. kittycontractor*

      Hoo boy, I just read through some of those. +300 and I don’t think the person still got why others were upset.

  16. Rain's Small Hands*

    I got done with my eight week maternity leave and was so relieved to be BACK IN THE OFFICE. Staying home with very young children was not my thing at all. I’m glad I had the time to recover from the physical stress of giving birth, and get through those first sleepless weeks, but I would not have wanted to stay home more than I did. I was craving adult conversation and problems to solve that didn’t involve sleep, diaper rash, and how to fit the removeable carseat onto the cart at Target.

    And breastfeeding – oh boy – not everyone turns out to be built for successful breastfeeding – even if they want to and try really hard it doesn’t always work. ANY guilt about it from any direction at all is inappropriate to a mother who may already be suffering from PPD or lack of sleep or have their own guilt about how latching didn’t happen.

    1. allathian*

      It has to be said, though, that every birth parent is different. I slept very poorly for the last trimester of my pregnancy because I had to get up to pee once an hour or so, so I was already sleep deprived by the time I gave birth. I’m glad I took a lot of photos on my phone when our baby was small, because the first 6 months are a blur and I don’t have a lot of memories from his first year. There’s no way I would’ve had the brain capacity to work, and I’m glad I didn’t have to try.

    2. AnonymousReader*

      YES! It should be accepted that not everyone is a baby person. I don’t find anything appealing about feeding and changing diapers all day. I hope to be able to afford childcare so I can get back to being me as soon as I’m physically able. I will be happy to bond and make great memories with my future children when they can talk and interact with me.

    3. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      “I would prefer not to” also works. ;-b

      Seriously, I understand where this o.p. was coming from. I had my daughter back in 1985 when pumping rooms were absolutely not a thing, and I would have killed for the setup o.p. offered to her employee. I managed to breast feed exclusively for only a short time, because it was so hard racing home to pump at lunchtime every day (the only time I could do it).

      I ended up letting her have formula at daycare sooner than I would have preferred. Everything worked out okay, and breastfeeding was a great experience for me despite the challenges, but a pumping room at work would have been a dream come true for me.

      BUT everyone is different, as Alison said. O.P. erred in assuming her employee would want and appreciate all the things she would have liked to have as a new mom, and doesn’t even seem to have had a conversation with the employee to find out what HER plans and preferences were. Oops!

      Alison’s advice is great, as usual. I hope O.P. was able to benefit from it at the time.

  17. Cat Tree*

    I think this is a great example to highlight that not everyone wants the same thing, and different options are important. Some of us want to work and don’t like being home full time with the baby. I had 20 weeks of paid leave, that I could spread out over the first year. But honestly, I’d rather have affordable, accessible, reliable childcare. I took the first 12 weeks in a row but honestly I was ready to go back sooner. I wanted to go back around 8 weeks but didn’t have a spot reserved in childcare until 12 weeks. Plenty of parents want more paid leave, but some of us want to work with better childcare. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all and managers especially need to understand that there’s more than one right way. Offer as many options as possible then let the employees decide.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Also, I really admire that employee for unapologetically not breastfeeding. I did a combo of breastfeeding and formula early on because my supply was low. I mostly liked directly breastfeeding, but pumping is a completely different experience. My plan was to give it a try and see how it goes, but I ended up trying far longer than I should have because I worried I would be judged for “quitting”. It never worked well for me no matter what I tried, and when I finally stopped doing it around 7 months I mostly felt relief.

      1. allathian*

        My son was born hypoglycemic and underweight, meaning that he wasn’t allowed to lose any of his birth weight. This meant that he spent his first two days in NICU, rather than by my side, and he got glucose as well as donated breast milk. When we went home, we supplemented with formula, and he weaned himself at about 3 months when he wasn’t getting enough milk from me. The thing I loved best about formula was that my husband was able to do about half of the night feeds. He’s a good sleeper so he got up in the middle of the night even when he was working and I was on maternity leave. He fell asleep again almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.

        I’m so glad I didn’t have to try pumping, and even gladder that nobody ever gave me a hard time about not breastfeeding. Some people tried, but they desisted quickly when they realized that I wasn’t going to be guilted into it. I guess it helped that I was 37 when my son was born, and wasn’t shy of telling people to STFU.

  18. Miss Information*

    This is a great example of why the Golden Rule many of us had drilled into us growing up is so problematic. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” assumes that everyone’s needs and desires are the same as yours. If you shift that, OP, to the Platinum Rule “Treat other the way they want to be treated” you’ll be less likely to make a similar mistake in the future.

    1. Fikly*

      Well, generalizations are generally bad. The OP would likely argue that she was treating the person how the OP wanted to be treated.

      Change the whatever rule to “treat others with the kindness and respect you would wish to be treated with” and it works much better than “treat others with the exact options you would wish for yourself.” But humans are generally not that open minded, so the golden rule is not clear enough for most humans.

  19. ENFP in Texas*

    “I’m disappointed that I set all this up for her, only for her not to use any of it.”

    She didn’t ask you to set it up for her, and if you had asked her what support would have been helpful for her instead of making assumptions, you wouldn’t have reason to feel disappointed.

    Trying to guilt trip her into appreciating all your unasked-for efforts tells me you weren’t doing it *for her*, you were doing it for what *you* would get out of it (gratefulness, appreciation, self-satisfaction).

    1. Lizzy*

      I agree. What I got from this letter – is that it sounds like the employee would “owe” OP in some way if she *had* used all the benefits she arranged. It feels like OP did a favor that she would expect some kind of “payment” for in the future? Like extreme loyalty or something along those lines.

  20. Delta Delta*

    Oof. I have two thoughts here:

    1. OP should have asked her what she wanted, rather than assuming every mom is the same.

    2. OP really has (had – this is an old letter) to get over the fact they aren’t the same, and could benefit from re-framing the work she did in terms of future investments. Lots of people get pregnant and someone else could use the benefit from the work OP did for this employee. It may also be a plus when looking for new job candidates to tell them about the flexibility and the pumping space – that might help attract/keep quality candidates/employees.

  21. Don*

    A person who is resentful when someone doesn’t react The Right Way (meaning, the way the person wants them to) in response to A Good Deed isn’t really doing anything good or being nice, even if they started out with good intentions.

  22. WFH with Cat*

    It’s great that your company offers 12 weeks of medical leave — but, if you want to provide additional benefits for your team members, please do so in a way that supports everyone at the company, not just this employee and not just pregnant employees. If I worked there and realized someone in management was going this all-out for a particular employee and not everyone, I would be pretty upset — questioning their priorities and why the same benefits weren’t being offered to others. There are undoubtedly other employees who would like/need additional paid time off whether it’s for paternal leave, taking care of sick family members, or handling their own medical needs. If you think it’s appropriate to offer additional time off for maternity leave, establish a *parental* leave policy that allows any parent/parent-to-be the extra time they need when adding someone to their family by birth or adoption.

    1. anti social socialite*

      That is an excellent point. If LW only extends that time to pregnant employees, does that leave the company open for cases of discrimination? (I’m asking because I genuinely don’t know)

      1. metadata minion*

        I would be surprised if it did, given that there are existing laws granting leave only to pregnant employees. I would absolutely encourage the LW to see if leave policies could be reexamined across the board, but there’s a lot of precedent for pregnancy and childbirth being treated pretty uniquely.

      2. C4T!!!*

        Not a 1:1, but if the resentment translates to treating her differently they may be open to an ADA claim as they “regarded” her as disabled.

        1. Avril Ludgateau*

          There is a separate Pregnancy Discrimination Act that protects pregnant women without classifying them as disabled.

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      Maternity leave is at least partially a medical necessity. I am not against paternity leave at all but this comment reads a lot like “I can’t benefit from this, therefore I feel contempt” with no compassion or understanding of the fact that you don’t have to go through pregnancy, either.

  23. After 33 years ...*

    IMO, the principle involved here extends beyond paternity leaves and accommodations. Offering any accommodation is great, but not everyone needs or wants the same arrangement – paternity, bereavement, holidays, whatever. Respect that people make choices for their own reasons: what works for you may not work for someone else.
    Signed: person working in the office during today’s staff holiday, by choice.

  24. kiki*

    But somewhere along the way, you lost sight of your goal — to support this particular new mom in the ways that worked best for her.

    I really like Alison’s framing here and think it applies to sooooo many situations I’ve seen. It’s really easy to get caught up in all the doing and forget to check back in on your initial goal.

  25. anonymous73*

    I hope this person got a reality check with Alison’s response and changed her attitude about the whole thing. I don’t agree with the first part of Alison’s advice…that OP should have checked with the employee to see what she wanted because some women may not want to share their plans and it’s really not anyone’s business what they decide. Doing all of the work to see what you COULD provide was all that was needed, and then it’s up to the employee to decide what to do with those benefits. You don’t get to be disappointed in her choice to come back earlier or work without the flexible schedule and you don’t get to judge her for not breastfeeding. Assuming every woman wants the exact same thing, or wants the same thing that YOU would have wanted was your first very big mistake.

  26. fort hiss*

    Employee: *is a different person than her boss, with different hopes and goals*
    Boss: *surprised Pikachu face*

  27. Ellena*

    I can understand how OP feels. Sometimes when we go through a difficult situation we promise ourselves that we’d make sure someone else doesn’t have such hard time. We want to play a fairy Godmother for them and get overly invested. The personal experience with having to go through childbirth and quit a job at the same time has likely left a mark and she’s trying that much harder to make it easier for someone else in the same position. I’m sure after reading Allison’s response she’ll understand her employee’s position and her own mistake but I think we shouldn’t be too harsh on her in addition in the comments.

    1. anonymous73*

      Disagree. Doing something nice for someone that they didn’t ask for, and then being disappointed in them for not taking advantage of that nice thing that again they didn’t ask for negates all the nice that was done. OP started with good intentions by seeing what she could provide for the employee. She should have gathered all of the information, provided the employee with the benefits and then stayed out of it. Instead she chose to judge her for not making the same decisions as OP would have made if she had had the same options when she had a baby. And according to the original comments (mentioned above) the OP basically harassed the employee about it so much that the employee had to report her to HR. I have zero empathy for someone who makes good deeds all about themselves.

    2. Observer*

      I’m sure after reading Allison’s response she’ll understand her employee’s position and her own mistake but I think we shouldn’t be too harsh on her in addition in the comments.

      I kind of agreed with you – till I saw that she had been called in to HR and been told explicitly that she needed to let it go. And then wrote to Alison, because she was still so bent out of shape, upset with HR and really looking negatively at her employee. If she couldn’t hear her own HR, what makes you think she’s hear Allison?

      1. metadata minion*

        I sympathize with the mental groove the LW is clearly stuck in (“I did an Obviously Good Thing! Why is everyone telling me it’s bad?? Why don’t they appreciate me??”), while also thinking that she needs to be knocked out of that groove and that at this point it’s going to take an uncomfortable shove rather than a gentle redirect.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep. This was explained to her. She either didn’t understand or chose to ignore the feedback.

    3. GrooveBat*

      I’d agree with you except for the stridency around breast feeding that OP exhibited. The employee knew the facilities were available to her and chose not to use them. Why did OP have to belabor it to the point her employee had to go to HR?
      New mothers face enough nagging and judgment from the outside world. They shouldn’t have to deal with it at work, especially from their boss.

  28. The OTHER Other.*

    Whenever someone tries to do good for someone else, whether as an individual or a charitable organization, it’s a really good idea to ASK the intended beneficiaries what kinds of accommodations or help they want as opposed to assuming they want the same things you do.

    I was involved with a kids’ charity and we (adults) were trying to decide what activities to put our resources into and I said wait a minute, how do we know this is what THEY want? We did some digging and found out no, they don’t care about X, they want Y. Good thing we asked.

  29. Steph*

    Good news #1: You now have a pumping room, extra paid leave, and flexible schedules to offer to employees–way to make your workplace more friendly for working parents and let them know you’re in their corner. That this mom didn’t take you up on your offer and never appears to have shown interest in pumping accommodations doesn’t diminish the work you did and the benefit it may offer to someone down the road. (key word: offer)

    Good news #2: It sounds like baby and mom are healthy and thriving. Good for this family for being fortunate enough to carry out the plans for work and childcare that they made together.

    As for breastfeeding, let’s all trust women to make their own decisions about whether they have the capacity/physical ability/desire to take on the second full time job (1,800 hours a year) that is breastfeeding. And walking up to a woman and telling her she can (should??) just take up breastfeeding after months of formula feeding like it’s TV show she quit watching and can just start again? No. Never. Breastfeeding was so difficult for me that it contributed to PPD. Any whiff of judgment or unsolicited advice from others made it so much worse.

    1. CLC*

      The TV show analogy made me laugh out loud. Actually you are not alone—breastfeeding does really does contribute to PPD for many, many people—it’s just something that is never talked about or studied in a scientific way because nothing about female hormones ever is. I have a common hormonal disorder and my doctor told me months before birth that I could try breastfeeding if I wanted to, but she didn’t recommend for me as I was already experiencing perinatal anxiety and severe insomnia. It’s also weird that someone who had borne children themself doesn’t know that you can’t just turn breast milk on and off like a spigot at any time. This letter is just so strange to me.

      1. Steph*

        …you can’t just turn breast milk on and off like a spigot at any time.

        I almost sprayed my computer screen just then. With my drink, not with breast milk. Because I’m not lactating. And can’t do so at will.

      2. Avril Ludgateau*

        It’s possible that LW had a very easy time breastfeeding (I know some women who have, and for them it may well have been “turn it on and off as needed”) and she projected that onto her employee. From the content of the letter alone, she already seems to be imposing her needs and desires onto her employee, so it stands to reason she would assume her employee’s experience was the same.

        1. Observer*

          It doesn’t matter how easy it was for her. Once a woman has gone a few weeks without nursing it becomes extremely difficult to start it up.

    2. Observer*

      And walking up to a woman and telling her she can (should??) just take up breastfeeding after months of formula feeding like it’s TV show she quit watching and can just start again? No. Never.

      Yes! This is one of the things that sent me round the bend. I nursed all my children – and it was quite hard with one of them. Which is only relevant to make the point that it’s not just people who “don’t understand about nursing” who are freaking out about this.

  30. CLC*

    Ooo boy, this is a gem of a letter. Way to make the birth of someone else’s child all about you. (1) some women very much appreciate their maternity leave but also cannot wait to get back to the office to some structure and adult time and some may not use all of it. It’s just a matter of what feels right for them and their family (2) the breastfeeding stuff is appalling. This manager seems to think the *only* possible reason for not breastfeeding is not being able to pump when you go back to work. That is just beyond unbelievable. It’s also a couple month out—you can’t just magically start breastfeeding months after delivery because your boss wants you too (3) none of these things are “perks.” It bothers me that this manager really seems to think they are. It doesn’t matter if it’s legally required, any employer that is able to offer parental leave, flexibility, and pumping space should do it because it is the right thing to do. They are accommodations, not perks (4) the good news is now when the next employee has a baby all these accommodations are in place for them to use if they want to and it will be less work for you, manager, the next time.

  31. Former Retail Lifer*

    The employee probably wasn’t expecting so many accommodations and came up with a plan that would work for her and her husband. It’s likely that at least some of these accommodations will be appreciated by someone else down the line.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Mmmm not a fan – this kind of implies that the employee would have accepted if she only knew. Also not all pregnant women are married or have partners.

      She did know. She was told.

      She didn’t want the accommodations for any number of reasons none of which matter.

      1. Observer*

        She didn’t want the accommodations for any number of reasons none of which matter.

        I added the bold – because that is the key. The employee made her choices and it was utterly inappropriate for the OP to try to insert herself.

        1. Former Retail Lifer*

          I know none of them matter. 100% agree. I was just saying that another employee in the future may not have the support system that the current employee has, so someone else may appreciate the accommodations the OP put into place. The OP tried to be proactive in accommodating, but I’m not arguing that she overstepped her boundaries by a mile here.

  32. A Wall*

    I don’t know why but I’m extremely tickled by this woman having an ideal arrangement where she gets to prioritize what she wants most in her life and a husband whose career allows them to do that somewhat easily and they’re all presumably happy, and her boss sees this and says “how the f*** dare you.” It’s just so uncalled for that it comes full circle into being funny to me.

  33. ElizabethJane*

    It’s entirely possible that I’m overly sensitive to this stuff but honestly I’d have been speaking to a lawyer about workplace harassment based on pregnancy/childbirth/sex if my boss tried this crap with me. Because I do not have the patience for people who police women’s decisions.

    1. Observer*

      Well, the thing is that you wouldn’t have a case. Because HR reacted quickly and appropriately. Whether it’s because they are sensible people or because they understood the legal risk is an interesting question. But undoubtedly, the fact that they jumped on the OP right away certainly protected the company in either case.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        “Whether it’s because they are sensible people or because they understood the legal risk is an interesting question.”

        Why not both? (insert gif of cute girl shrugging)

        1. Observer*

          Could definitely be both.

          Like I said, it would be interesting to know which it is. But ultimately the main thing is that they did respond appropriately.

  34. Zennish*

    This feels like an attempt to retroactively address the slights the OP experienced as a new mother, rather than support the current employee. I suspect the OP meant well, but lost perspective because of the emotions surrounding her own past experience.

    At any rate, it might benefit the OP to think through who she was really doing all this for, and realize what a severe overstep it was. The first step to supporting an employee is asking them what they need, and it doesn’t sound like that happened here at all.

  35. Canadian Librarian #72*


    Ahem. Sorry. LW, it’s not about you or what you had to (unfairly!) deal with when you were pregnant/a new parent, or what you wish you had had. You went out of your way to provide unasked for services of your own volition, so you really don’t get to be resentful when your employee (who, again, you didn’t consult) has needs that are other than what you thought they would be. She is doing things her way, and that’s fine. If and when there’s a conflict in some business area, that’s relevant to you – otherwise, MYOB.

  36. Veryanon*

    Oh boy, file this one under “good intentions gone horribly awry.” OP would have done better to ask the employee what, if any, accommodations she wanted or needed, rather than make assumptions about what the OP did or didn’t want. Yeesh.

  37. Fluffy Fish*

    Oh my OP. I think this can be summed up by you didn’t do this for your employee. You did it for you. You were caught up in what a good manager and business should offer and committed to being that “good manager”.

    So when your employee didn’t partake, you took it as a personal affront – YOU did x and YOU did y and z and YOU went above and beyond what is legally required or even offered. But it’s not about you.

    In the future, by all means say the company can offer xyz. Present it as let me know if/what options/supports you would like and if there’s something you think you need that isn’t listed, let me know and I can see what the options might be.

    And then let it alllllllll the way go. It’s not about you and never was.

  38. JustAnotherJedi*

    As parents, we all make the choices that are best for us. You have no business getting in HER business about her parenting choices. I used to teach childbirth, parenting, and breastfeeding classes, and I can tell you that breastfeeding isn’t easy even when one is 100% committed to it. What matters is that the baby is fed and mom is happy, and beyond that nothing else matters. In any case, it isn’t any of your concern. You made certain options available, and whether or not she chooses to avail herself of those options is completely her concern.

  39. ZK*

    There are so many reasons for not breastfeeding, all of which are legit. OP needs to tone down the judgey about that, and everything else and LET WOMEN MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS.

  40. sara*

    I feel like this is also the downside of this flexibility not being policy (either at the company or at a government level). The flexibility then is done as a “favour” rather than just being available to all who might need it when returning to work after having a baby. Hopefully this company keeps all the adaptations etc available to the next parent…

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      ^ This * 1000. Rather than harassing the one new parent who happens to not want any of this, why not make these changes a company policy, available to everyone?

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Yes – my concern reading this was that the next time someone in the company gives birth, there might be pushback from LW or other management, along the lines of “because Employee was so ungrateful, we’re cutting our maternity provision right back to the statutory minimum”. So someone who does actually need a pumping room or flexible hours or longer paid leave won’t get it, because LW has been so weird about this particular instance.

      I’m reminded of the employee returning to work after a life changing accident, whose coworkers had gone to great lengths to reno the building for her wheelchair *but without asking what her actual needs were* so she ended up sidelined and patronised, compounded by their then taking offence at her “ingratitude”.

      1. Sharpiee*

        I still think about that letter and the awful position that the employer put the LW in and then made her feel bad about her reaction.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I missed that letter when it first came out, found it after reading your comment, and was absolutely horrified for OP. Was there an update?

        1. Hlao-roo*

          The letter is “I had a meltdown during an office welcome back party in my honor” for anyone who’s curious. As of right now, there is no update.

  41. Herber*

    The op is everything that’s wrong with the world today. While I applaud the lengths she went to to try and accommodate what might be helpful for her employee. The fact that now she’s judging her choices and on top of that has taken the time to write in that she doesn’t understand the choice is the employee made is absurd. Sounds like she is looking for a pat on the back.

  42. Yellow*

    No where in this letter does it say that you asked your employee if they wanted to use any of these perks. I would have been thankful for them, but not everyone thinks the same way or WANTS the same things.

  43. MicroManagered*

    Talk about moms in the workplace being damned if they do and damned if they don’t…

  44. Someone*

    I am apparently a lazy slacker, so I would never leave paid time off unused. But this boss is wayyy too invested.

  45. Alanon*

    One thing I feel like most people here are overlooking is that not all birthing/ breast feeding parents identify as women. Can people keep this in mind when commenting so we can keep the language more inclusive?

  46. I'm Not Phyllis*

    It really is lovely that you set all of that up and wanted to be supportive, but part of that means asking and respecting what the employee wants.

    I also think it’s worth pointing out that becoming a new parent can be a bit of an identity crisis. I live in Canada where 12-18 months of parental leave is the norm, but I have witnessed in friends of mine actually wanting to come back to work sooner … not because they don’t love their kid, but because they are anxious for a part of their life that doesn’t completely revolve around being a new parent. Parenthood can be a really, really difficult transition no matter how much you want it or how happy you are about it.

  47. Lizzianna*

    I recently had this conversation in a totally different context, but it’s important to step back and ask if you’re doing something because you want to *be* helpful, or because you want to *feel* helpful. Because those are sometimes (often) different things.

    It’s good business practices to have these flexibility in place, and I hope OP puts them into policy so that the next employee to have a baby benefits from them. But it seems she got too caught up in doing this as a favor for *this employee* to stop and figure out what *this employee* actually needed.

    (This also raises the issue of figuring out HR policies on the fly – it makes sense if you’re a small company, you’ve never had an employee get pregnant before, but that should prompt development of a policy, not just figuring something out for that specific employee.)

  48. Bast*

    While it is commendable that you provided the choice for your employee to remain out longer on paid leave, at the end of the day it’s a CHOICE and that is what it should be. Having a choice doesn’t just mean doing things the way you might want her to or the way you would.

    For what it’s worth, I went back to work 6-8 weeks after each of my kids were born because I got stir crazy. While money played a part in returning for the first two, with my last child, I technically could have stayed out another 2 weeks and gotten partial disability and financially been okay. For my own mental health, I needed to get out of the house and be around other adults even if it was at work. I still think women should be able to take a whole 12 weeks paid even though it wasn’t the best choice for me.

  49. mc*

    A similar thing happened to me. While I was on maternity leave our COO built a lactation room, at great expense, in our office. She clearly expected me to be thrilled with her efforts. It was very awkward. I felt I was supposed to be thrilled that she complied with federal law.

  50. This Old House*

    While the OP’s attitude is problematic, and they obviously should have knocked it off when told to, the idea that “you were doing what you would have wanted, not what she wanted” seems a little off the mark. The messaging around how Americans need more maternity leave, American maternity leave policies are inhumane, etc. is strong. She probably didn’t feel like she was doing her employee a favor, she felt like she was righting an injustice and providing the minimum of what should be accessible. (But “accessible to” all people doesn’t have to mean “utilized by” any given person.) And I don’t even think it’s harmful to emphasize to someone – ONCE, and nonjudgmentally – that there’s more leave available and they can take it, if they haven’t, or that there are lactation facilities available, if they’re not being utilized. With one of my kids, I had a year of maternity leave available, and while I did take 9 mos, I felt guilty, like it was an unacceptable luxury, especially once I wasn’t physically healing anymore and just got to, like, take my baby to story time and playgrounds and make homemade baby food. If I were newer at my job, or didn’t have the job protection I do, I would have hesitated even more to use the time available. Countering those cultural messages is valuable itself.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Sure, but then the framing is “now that we have a pregnant employee I realize our facilities and benefits could be better” and a one-time conversation on what benefits are accessible to the employee, not a crusade in the name of someone who didn’t ask for it and this reaction when she didn’t want it.

    2. Observer*

      the idea that “you were doing what you would have wanted, not what she wanted” seems a little off the mark.

      Nope. It is completely supported by the facts. Keep in mind that the OP did NOT agree with you that the idea that “you were doing what you would have wanted, not what she wanted” seems a little off the mark. . Worse, she went waaay beyond your suggested “emphasize to someone – ONCE, and nonjudgmentally that these benefits exist. She repeatedly pushed her employee, told her to “reconsider” her decision to not nurse, left materials on her desk, etc. To the point that HR had to be called in. And at that point the OP *STILL* refused to accept that her employee had made her choice and she needed to accept it.

      In fact, in the original, unedited, letter the OP says “I am disappointed in her and having a hard time getting over it. Given the small size of the company and low turnover and my few years left before retirement, I am not likely to have a pregnant employee again.

  51. Marisa Mayer fan*

    She wants to lean in when you want her on the mommy track. I hope she becomes your boss one day.

  52. Elizabeth West*

    This is not a favor. This is an accommodation. Accommodations shouldn’t come with an agenda. The point is to help their employee do their best work in the way that works best for them.

    OP, the things you set up might not have worked for this employee and that’s okay. She has the right to arrange her baby’s care and feeding in the way that works best for her and her partner. For female-identifying people especially, becoming a parent tends to eclipse other parts of their identities. Maybe this employee likes her work and wants to keep being seen as a professional rather than just a mommy. It doesn’t matter; that’s not your concern.

    However, you might hire someone else in the future who will be extremely happy to have these things. You said you’re too small for it to be required by law, but willingness to accommodate makes your business more attractive to good prospective employees whether they’re reproducing or not.

    Something to keep in mind about setting up accommodations: it’s always better to ask what people need before you do anything. Don’t butter the cat!

    1. Lizzo*

      Had to look up buttering the cat, and am now adding this useful (and also strangely delightful?) saying to my lexicon. Thank you!

  53. Tin Cormorant*

    When I had my daughter, my husband’s company was really very generous with paternity leave and he could have stayed home much longer than he did. Luckily the birth went very smoothly and the baby was very easy to take care of, so he got really bored staying home with me watching our daughter sleep all the time (I had things more than handled and spent most of my time at home playing video games while she slept next to me) and ended up going back to work after about a week. He took the rest of his leave 6 months later when she was more fun to spend quality time with.

    It’s important to have flexible policies for people who need them. What if something went wrong and we needed to spend that time in the hospital or figuring out a new routine for some difficult treatment? But you shouldn’t be offended when everything goes well.

  54. C4T!!!*

    Be careful… if your resentment translates to treating her differently, you may be open to an ADA claim as you “regarded” her as disabled.

  55. StressedButOkay*

    As a manager who seems to be getting a bumper crop of pregnant staffers, I get wanting to go full out for them. But each person is different – you’ve been projecting the difficulties you experienced. If you find yourself in this again, sit down and ask them what they’re looking for – walk them through the policy as it stands, help them find ways to make things work.

    For them. And not how you would have liked it or done it. And even if you don’t understand, be empathic.

  56. OhNoYouDidn't*

    She crossed the line from supportive to judgmental and doesn’t seem to have realized it.

  57. H3llifIknow*

    Wow boss lady. Way to make someone else’s pregnancy and recovery ALL ABOUT YOU. Yes, you did VERY NICE THINGS in order to accommodate your employee, but she didn’t ASK you to do any of it. She knows what works for her and her family. You need to lay off and let her do her job and raise her family HER WAY! Wow.

  58. MyMantaRaysOK*

    The best support anyone can give a new parent is to respect that parent’s decisions and choices. If unsure what these decisions and choices were, OP could’ve just simply asked. Intentions are irrelevant.

  59. Cyndi*

    Great answer. I was thinking the same thing. The employee should have been consulted. I think the LW wishes this had been done for her. This is not just a breast feeding vs bottle issue- it’s a boundary issue. Each childbirth journey does lend itself to some commonality but unique in its own situation. The LW overstepped.

  60. CatMintCat*

    The whole point of all these regulations and conventions and maternity leave and pumping rooms and time and all of it are so women have CHOICES that don’t drive them out of the workforce. When I had my kids (late 80s early 90s) I had no option but to resign my job and hope I found another when the time came. And that’s still a choice many make. But there are now other choices as well.

    Just because your co-worker hasn’t chosen as you would have, doesn’t make her wrong.

  61. McS*

    My question is if the OP would have or had done all the same things for an expectant father, and felt the same resentment if he indicated he preferred to be in the office to caring for a newborn. If the answer is no, this is gender discrimination. OP is expecting the employee to step back from projects and career advancement. And she is implicitly expecting the same from the partners of her male employees.

  62. Hart*

    A thing I sometimes say when I offer some kind of help or gift or advice or otherwise thing that was not an expressed want/need, is, hey, I wanted to do this, so I did, but me offering it doesn’t mean you gotta want it. It’s a useful mindset. In the same way I don’t want someone else to buy me something that they would like and I would not, and then expect me to use it ostentatiously to perform my love for them because that is the only kind of evidence that is acceptable? I don’t get to decide what other people want. So I can ask before I offer, or I can offer with no expectation this is wanted assistance.

  63. Luna*

    Just because you set up and offered these accommodations doesn’t mean she was obligated to take them. It’s great that you were supportive, as well as willing *and able* to get things to go this way. She chose to not use them, as she already had plans for how to handle childcare and work balance. If it remains possible to do these things, go ahead and offer them to the next parent-to-be employee in your office.

  64. DrunkAtAWedding*

    Awwwww…I know the boss overstepped and behaved completely inappropriately, but her intentions were so good. I hope she backs off from this employee and respects her choices, but I also hope another employee is really happy about these arrangements somewhere down the line. It’s great that she thought back on her own experience and got so invested in making things better for those coming up behind her. Getting too invested and being too overbearing with it was the problem, but it started out so well.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I actually disagree that her intentions are good. If this had been a “I set up these perks without asking my employee, and now I feel I overstepped because she didn’t want them” that would be one thing, but she specifically shames the employee for not wanting these perks.

    2. Etti*

      If you think her intentions are good, read the full article. Type in ‘Ask a manager’ then the title of the article

  65. Irish Teacher*

    It is awesome that the LW wants to support working mothers and OFFERING those perks was a great idea, but it’s also great that the employee and her husband have a system that works for them. And I think “reminding” somebody who chooses to formula feed that “breastfeeding is available” is going too far. It implies a judgement of the choice she and her husband made.

    While I believe the LW really did mean well, there also seems to be an expectation that the mother is responsible for childcare. The father is equally responsible and in this case, it seems like it makes sense for the father to be the main carer. I wonder would the LW feel the same way if the employee were a new father whose wife worked for herself and could work her schedule so that the baby only had to be daycare part-time and she could care for it the rest of the time. Would she be at a loss as to why the father didn’t want a flexible schedule or didn’t take paternity leave? If not, then there is a certain amount of assumptions about gender underlying this. Fathers can well be the stay-at-home parent or do the majority of childrearing.

    It sounds like the LW had a very difficult time when she was a new mother and I think it is great she wants to ensure other people have an easier time, but people are different and it sounds like this employee doesn’t have the same requirements she did.

  66. ccb*

    I was never able to breastfeed my now 9 month old. there is a lot of shame and self guilt about that. LW is contributing to the culture of shame around that. yes what they did for the new mom is great but they should bring it up then drop it. LW doesnt know if their employee has struggled with breastfeeding. or maybe the mom didnt! formula is wonderful and amazing and as my pediatrician said “thank god for formula, its saved so many lives of both moms and babies”.

  67. Etti*

    I can’t believe you are trying to push her into breastfeeding. You need some serious help before she files a complaint (I would)! Go immediately to your own manager and say you need training to ensure you don’t end up bullying staff. Or stop being a manager.

  68. Sarita*

    Maybe it’s because I’m a Mom of littles, but this letter was really triggering. You had the audacity to question your employees baby feeding decisions?!? I probably would have handed in my notice and gotten a new job right then.

  69. J.B.*

    I have two full time jobs right now, one of them is taking my daughter to specialty appointments all over the area and fighting with her school to get the accommodations she needs. My boss knows that is what I use flexibility for but it’s not common knowledge at my workplace nor do I wish it to be. My daughter deserves that privacy.

    Employers should always remember that medical information is private and let employees decide how to share that information. Even though my boss knows my big picture I don’t tell her every step of the way because it’s up to me what to say and when.

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